The last chance for the sprinters as the race heads to the foot of the Alps. Sam Bennett made it look easy last time, can he play it again?
Stage 4 Review: Wout van Aert was the surprise winner but left nobody in doubt, he was over thirty seconds ahead of the next placed rider, Tejay van Garderen, and only six riders were within a minute of him. Jumbo-Visma announced van Aert was picked for the Tour de France earlier this week and you wondered why, was it to go for those punchy stages in the opening week that Dylan Groenewegen couldn’t win? No, it’s because he’s going like a train and if he might be able to get a stage win in the first week, he’ll be a valuable locomotive for the team time trial on the opening weekend. Adam Yates is the new race leader.
But the news of the day was Chris Froome’s crash. He was riding the course as recon and on the fast descent through Saint-André-d’Apchon – a completely straight road – reports say he went to clear his nose with one hand just as a gust of wind caught his bike. He clipped kerb and then collided with a wall. First treated on the scene for some time to stabilise the apparent heavy injuries, then taken to hospital in nearby Roanne, then later airlifted to Saint-Etienne: the diagnosis is a fractured femur, a fractured elbow and cracked ribs too. Fractures can come in all shapes and sizes but often recovery from a femur fracture takes many months. The team were quick to report he’s out of the Tour de France and frankly it’d be miraculous if he starts the Vuelta, he’d have to be back on the bike within 4-5 weeks just to get ready for that, most unlikely. It puts an end to Froome’s steely record of finishing races, his last DNF the 2015 Vuelta when he broke his foot on the stage in Andorra.
It can feel a touch unseemly to speculate on events as soon as a rider crashes out with heavy injuries but the Dauphiné’s leitmotif is as a pre-Tour test, each moment is parsed for what it says about July. What this means for the Tour is a hard question to answer because we never got to see Froome in the time trial, let alone in the Alps. Ineos still have ace cards to play in Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal.
The Route: 201km east to Voiron and the foot of the Chartreuse Alps, a pleasant summer’s day ride past lazy countryside of woodland and cereal farms. There’s not too much to decrypt about the course, it’s got hilly and lumpy roads at first with more climbs than the marked ones and the second half mainly sticks to flat roads which help a chasing peloton. There is one sharp climb out of Rives with about 13km to go but it’s on a wide road.
The Finish: some urban street furniture to negotiate, it pays to have a strong team to guide a sprinter here. The final kilometre has three sharp turns before a 300m final straight.
The Contenders: Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) is the obvious pick given the way he made it look easy the other day in Riom. But no two sprints are the same, opportunity and misfortune intervene all the time. Alvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-Quickstep) can try again but he’s not got the usual wagons of his team’s sprint train. Clément Venturini (Ag2r La Mondiale) could be close. André Greipel (Arkéa-Samsic) could be close and his move to a smaller team has dented his win rate but remember it’s got them an invite to the Tour de France. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) could try too but will his team risk it?
|Colbrelli, EBH, Venturini|
|Hodeg, Greipel, Debusschere, Theuns|
Weather: warm and sunny, 27°C with a 5-10km/h tailwind.
TV: the finish is forecast for 4.30pm CEST / Euro time.