So far the breakaways have had fared well, can they defy the sprinters again? Surely not because this is the last chance for the sprinters before the mountains appear.
Stage 4 Wrap: a win for Richie Porte who put 12 seconds into Tony Martin and 37 into Chris Froome. Thomas De Gendt made the top-10 to save his yellow jersey for another day and BMC Racing will be as delighted as Lotto-Soudal because it’s up to the Belgian team to lead the race tomorrow. This is a huge result for Porte on a course which didn’t seem ideal for him given the flatter sections. The Tasmanian seems to ride on confidence and this performance will boost him even more after a flawless season. Everyone will inevitably extrapolate to July and it’s another step closer the podium in Paris and possibly the top step, certainly the bookmakers have slashed his odds on winning. Yet there’s still time for Chris Froome but perhaps most excitingly it raises the prospect of a contest in July. But never mind that, there’s plenty coming up in the next few days including the Mont du Chat and Plateau de Solaison and more in between like Alpe d’Huez. Porte’s surprise win took the surprise factor out of Alejandro Valverde’s third place, himself ahead of several specialists.
Among those who fared worse Tony Martin was good but the story is him being beaten again, once the dominant time trial specialist where the question would be the size of his winning margin now he hasn’t won a time trial in the World Tour for 766 days. Lower down the results Romain Bardet lost 1m53 and Esteban Chaves 2m14s. Ag2r La Mondiale said they counted on losing a minute to their rivals but Bardet’s gap was much bigger. Bardet’s long been bad in the time trials but it gives him more room in the mountains now… if the legs are there although Pierre Latour did a decent ride. You can’t help wonder how the absent Julian Alaphilippe is faring with recovery from his knee injury, winner of the Paris-Nice time trial and he’d love a course like this.
The Route: 175km and a route to delight wine lovers as it tours the Beaujolais. Indeed there’s probably more to say about the wines en route rather than course because there’s nothing too significant along the way. The early climbs offer points for the mountains jersey so Thomas De Gendt and Lotto-Soudal will be wary of moves, especially if Koen Bouwman tries to collect more points. Later on the Col du Bois Clair is a gentle road, literally climbing beside the autoroute and a railway line even if it’s a long drag upa, all before a high speed run past more vineyards into Mâcon, long a city of wine trading.
The Finish: the final five kilometres are the most technical part of the day with a series of bends, roundabouts and more to negotiate but all on wide roads. It’s reminiscent of Stage 3 of Paris-Nice into Chalon-sur-Saône where Sam Bennett won because the finish lies beside the Saône river and also because the road rises to meet a bridge over the river before dipping back, it’s neither steep nor long but in Paris-Nice the small hump was enough to disrupt the sprint.
The Contenders: a sprint finish? A lot of riders are well down on GC so could get a ticket for the day but this is the last chance for the sprinters to win before the mountains appear. Katusha are bound to work for Alexander Kristoff, FDJ will have full confidence in Arnaud Démare after his sprint win on Stage 2 and his bunch sprint win on Stage 3. Direct Energie should still back Bryan Coquard and Dimension Data can try again with Edvald Boasson Hagen. Even Cofidis are making noises about Nacer Bouhanni still returning to form as a means to avoid working don’t want to work but what better test for his legs than a sprint finish? Démare has looked the most convincing so far.
|Alexander Kristoff, Bryan Coquard
Weather: warm and sunny with a top temperature of 30°C. A light tailwind for most of the stage until the final climb of the Col du Bois Clair when there’s a light 10-15km/h headwind to the finish, including on the finish line.
TV: the finish is forecast for 4.20pm CET. It should be on the same channel you watch the Tour de France and/or Eurosport.