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Tour de France Stage 4 Preview

A day for the sprinters but with a climb thrown in the end as a late fitness test. With few opportunities for the sprinters in this year’s race today’s a crunch day.

Stage 3 Review: the stage and the yellow jersey for Alaphilippe. It was the expected scenario with Alaphilippe having planned this in advance including a visit to the region to ride the climbs and descents several times… but that only made it harder, especially as Alaphilippe was solo. He burst out of the pack like a champagne cork – obligatory wine reference – and soon had 50 seconds’ lead on the approach to Epernay but this dropped to 30 seconds in town and it was looking close but the chase went out of the bunch and Alaphilippe was able to complete his masterpiece. He’ll keep the jersey today but even at 62kg risks surrendering it on the slopes of the Planche des Belles Filles the day after tomorrow, although not without a fight. There was a tiny split on the climb to the line with Thibaut Pinot and Egan Bernal gaining five seconds, anecdotal probably with real losses for Ilnur Zakarin, Simon Yates and Fabio Aru. Bernal looked agile in the final and for a split second almost followed Alaphilippe before holding off.

The Route: 213.5km east by south-easy to Nancy and very similar to Stage 7 from the 2014 Tour de France although that had two climbs in the finish rather than one, and Matteo Trentin won while a couple of GC contenders lost time after tangling in crashes. Today’s stage won’t be as hectic but it’s still tiring with more rolling roads than the profile suggests.

The Côte de Maron starts from the scenic Moselle valley and climbs up through woodland. It’s a large road and a steady gradient, 3km at 5% and there’s nothing to catch riders by surprise here- they did it in 2014 too – and the bad climbers should be fine if they’re tucked into the slipstream. Nobody fighting for the stage win should be dropped here but they can lose position. It’s followed by a regular ride into the finish town of Nancy.

The Finish: flat boulevards around Nancy and roads that don’t help the town to show off, the loop passes the cemetery, railway yard and then a small retail park but these are wide roads and it’s flat with a finishing straight of 1.4km so long the danger is “finish arch fever” where sprinters see the finish from afar and launch too soon.

The Contenders: Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) came close on Stage 1 and is the prime pick for today but like Saturday Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) and Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quickstep) should come close only by now Groenewegen’s had a crash and Viviani’s got icy treament from his team manager for losing his lead out train. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) will be close as ever and Giacomo Nizzolo was a useful fourth place in Brussels, it’s hard to see him winning but he’s scoring precious UCI points for Dimension Data’s to stay in the World Tour.

Caleb Ewan
Dylan Groenwegen, Elia Viviani
Peter Sagan, Alexander Kristoff

Yellow story: after yesterday’s visit to Epernay there was no champagne on the podium. France passed a law in 1991 forbidden the use of alcohol and tobacco promotion and so it can’t be used in podium ceremonies. The tradition of podium champagne begin in the 1950s with French Grand Prix which took place in Reims and seeing as the city is the champagne capital of France, the winning driver Fangio was awarded a bottle of bubbly as a prize and a tradition of giving the winner a bottle of champagne started. Fast forward to 1967 and the Le Mans 24 hour race. The winning driver Daniel Sexton Gurney stepped onto the podium and was given his now obligatory bottle of champagne. Accounts differ, one says he was so excited that he just decided to spray the crowd; another suggests that the bottle was not chilled and the driver was overheated, so instead of sipping, he sprayed and creating the modern ceremony we see today. The podium itself is modern invention in the Tour de France, for years the yellow jersey was given to the rider at the finish line as a practical gesture so they could take it with them for the next day before it became instrumentalised.

Weather: sunshine and clouds, a top temperature of 24°C.

TV: the stage starts at 12.10pm CEST and finish is forecast for 5.20pm CEST / Euro time. Today’s not the stage to sit back and watch from start to finish, the action is unlikely to be wild and the countryside is pleasant but not postcard time.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • cp Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 7:04 am

    Was it expected that Teunissen would fail to hold the jersey today even if Alaphilippe was destined to win? I was only able to catch the last 10k, missing Alaphilippe’s move as well as not seeing if Teunissen got into trouble.

    • Chris_SK Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 8:41 am

      Yes, Teunissen just didn’t have enough… probably after over reaching in the TTT and not able to fully recover. He was already getting distanced well before the final 10K. I suspect Jumbo-Visma had already switched tactics as Van Aert was virtual yellow jersey when Alaphilippe sprung his attack.

      We all missed Alaphilippe’s initial kick, by the time cameras caught up to it, he was already half way across the gap to Wellens. Looked to me like Woods was the first able to react, but he also looked around and didn’t fully commit. It drew out Landa too… hopefully that means we can expect Movistar to be active on Thursday.

      • Davesta Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 10:24 am

        They showed a replay of Alaphalippe’s attack, and whether by luck or judgement, he timed it perfectly – he jumped as two Ineos riders (Bernal & Thomas?) were on his wheel, and whilst they had no interest in following, they blocked the road for anyone else. Schachmann and Woods both looked like they wanted to follow but had to wait for space, which gave Alaphilippe time to pull out the gap and go it alone. Brilliant!

        Although I did enjoy the moment at the top of the climb, where it looked like Alaphilippe was hoping to link up with Wellens, only for Wellens to climb off his bike with a puncture having collected the KOM points!

        • noel Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 10:32 am

          was it me, or was that a classy move from Alaphilippe to back off slightly over the top to let Wellens get his well deserved polka dot points…?

          • Davesta Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 10:42 am

            It did indeed look like it – “You take the points then work with me to get me to the finish…oh, you’ve dismounted”

  • Larrick Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 7:14 am

    Good point on the “finish arch fever” but then you pick Caleb anyway. 😉

    Maybe the easiest prediction on this stage will be for Robbie Mac to get excited about echelon action before being bitterly disappointed. I’ve got that happening at 31k to go in the office sweep.

  • jc Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 7:20 am

    Do have to wonder if the small split was a sign of things to come, Egan Bernal v Thibaut Pinot for yellow? Five seconds is probably irrelevant but…..

    Agree something does not seem right with Elia Viviani, perhaps he has been distracted by all the transfer talk, though if he wants big money he needs some wins to justify it all.

    • IAN ANDERSON Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 7:38 am

      To me it looked like the five second split happened because Thomas couldn’t hold the wheel of Bernal at the close opening a gap and creating a time split. That will IMHO become more significant than the time. The PdBF will tell what form G is on

      • Rich Zesty Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 7:55 am

        Yeah ITV showed this in the UK on their highlights last night. The gap between Thomas and Bernal was probably only a couple of bike lengths but because it was more than a second it was recorded to the front of the group Pinot and Bernal were sat on.

      • Anonymous Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 8:45 am

        It was a bit lucky for them both… as per the rule book Pinot and Bernal were given s.t. As the first rider from the group they finished with (the punchy sprinters Gva/Sagan/Matthews) yet clearly the footage shows a similar 2 bike lengths gap in front of Pinot.

        Gap between Bernal and Thomas at the end was just a bike length or two… not 5s, but because of the above… Pinot and Bernal received s.t. as Matthews and Thomas crosses line 5s after Matthews had done.

        • KevinR Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 9:53 am

          Yeah, I saw the finish gaps and thought 5 seconds was very harsh on Thomas. Struggling to work out how it was calculated!

          • plurien Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 11:56 am

            It’s done on the finish camera. The vertical line seen on images has a time code so as the operator picks a front line of each wheel, the system shows an exact finish time to the ‘000th of a second. If any two consecutive riders have a gap greater than one second the real gap from the bunch in front is given.
            Thomas slacked off too soon in the run to the line. Didn’t realise he’d done it so the GC wont have been a pleasing sight to him and those behind.
            Since the 1″ rule came in to replace tfe 3″ I’ve started to notice some mid bunch moves as teams deliberately try to impose a gap.
            Back when INRG was in wool;

          • J Evans Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 12:04 pm

            Top stuff, plurien (and IR).

    • J Evans Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 7:56 am

      ‘if he wants big money he needs some wins to justify it all’ – no, he doesn’t: he’s joining Cofidis.

      • qlimbing quaranta Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 8:21 am

        Brilliant! ……you win 🙂 lol

      • plurien Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 11:57 am

        Yer. Let’s replace Bouhanni, a problematic sprinter. Oh wait…

  • MattF Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 7:24 am

    I would substitute Van Aert for Groenewegen.

  • Ecky Thump Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 7:34 am

    Two stages to showcase the wine and champagne region, racing amid the vines, and yet the winner can’t be awarded a bottle on stage at the end?

  • Richpo Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 7:39 am

    In reality it wasn’t actually a 5 second gap to Bernal but it was to Pinot at the front of his group. I don’t think we’ll know its significance till Thursday.
    Keeping powder dry, not burning matches… And any other commentator cliche!

    • Ian Anderson Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 7:58 am

      Indeed but still Thomas did not hold the wheel, and thus instead of getting the same time as Matthews (who it seems is given first position in that group not Pinot): Bardet, Fuglesang, Kruijswijk, Iran, Adam Yates, Nibali etc etc all lost 5 seconds to Bernal and Pinot. Intentional? or just a sign of Thomas’ lack of racing this year? ‘the road will tell’

      • Ian Anderson Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 8:01 am

        (Uran not Iran and Fuglsang not Fuglesang) The split affected all the way down to 54th placed Daryl Impey, that’s a lot of folk going to G and saying ‘where’s my five seconds fella’ perhaps??

        • Tomski Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 11:04 am

          Mention of Iran competing in a bike race casts my mind back to when the Orange on sponsored a bike race in the states and the tweets which would have followed said country sinning said race..

  • J Evans Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 7:54 am

    What a ride. Brilliant. I thought he was mad going where he did, seeing as he was the favourite to win the stage if he waited till the final climb (although that might well have meant losing to the faster guys as it turned out).
    This shows – again – that the TdF should have more classics-style stages and fewer flat sprints, and this Tour is more balanced in that regard than the last few years have been.

    I noticed yesterday on Cote d’Hautvillers (27.4km to go) Quintana sprinted for one KOM point against Fraille (couldn’t tell who won). That doesn’t suggest someone who has great confidence of winning overall (unless he feels utterly superb and fancies both jerseys…).

    • Larrick Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 8:28 am

      Alaphilippe won with a 170 points last year. If Quintana was going for just one point, I’ll take Bou on in a boxing bout.

      • J Evans Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 9:01 am

        But he did sprint – and beat – Fraille if you watch a video of it. It was a small effort, but perhaps telling – why else would he bother? He certainly wasn’t attacking.

        • Jeppe Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 9:31 am

          Perhaps he thought that was the hill with bonusseconds?

          • Rui Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 10:14 am

            I think it was exactly that, because he was behind Fuglsang when he picked up the pace to catch up with Fraile. So that may have messed up his mind a bit and, just in case he went for it

          • J Evans Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 10:16 am

            Good points both. That does seem more likely than NQ sprinting for 1 point.

        • Larrick Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 10:20 am

          Unless he needed a bottle. There was a Movi helper just past the line but the camera cut away so not sure.

  • Steve dean Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 8:17 am

    Thought Viviani looked like the little kid the big boys allowed to win in the intermediate yesterday. Watch the overhead on YouTube and Sagans reaction after they crossed the line. Viviani was going for it like it was the last stage, the rest seemed to have agreed the order….

    • Larrick Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 8:30 am

      All the others were saving themselves for the stage end whereas that inter line was Viviani’s finish.

  • DJW Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 8:21 am

    An West – East route across the open plains of the Meuse. Are the predicted 40km/h cross (North) winds enough to split the bunch, and who could be the instigators? Surely not the usual culprits, DQS, with yellow to defend and injury to care for.

  • not yoda Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 8:22 am

    Interesting comment on Nizzolo and DiData soon to be NTT.
    Makes the case bringing him instead of Cav ever so slightly.

    • Richard S Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 8:55 am

      I seem to recall in the year Cavendish won 4 stages for them DD still came last in the WT and our author noted that whilst winning Tour stages is excellent for sponsorship visibility it’s rubbish for points compared to grinding out a Mollema style 7th or a completely unseen podium in the Tour of Poland. So unless they have radically overhauled the points system I don’t see Nizzolo picking up a handful of 4ths and 5ths as being worth much.

      • Nick Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 1:35 pm

        Winning a stage of the TdF is worth 120 ranking points. Slightly less than finishing 12th on GC at 125 points. it’s actually the same as finishing 7th in the Tour of Poland, rather than on the podium, or winning the Green jersey or KoM at the TdF. A rider (and his team) gets more ranking points for winning a 1.1 level race (such as the Mallorca races at the start of the season) than winning a stage at the Tour.

    • KevinR Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 9:59 am

      Hmmm. More than slightly. Sadly I suspect he’ll get more points than Cavendish would have done.

  • James Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 8:31 am

    I do enjoy it when there’s a bit of a lump close to the finish like today. It adds a bit more intrigue to an otherwise processional flat 200km sprint stage. I like the suspense of watching how the sprinters are doing on the climb – who’s dropping back, who can get back on the descent, who’s looking strong. There seems to have been a lack of these at the tour in recent years – the last year that Kittel won a few being a bad example of stage after stage on big flat wide boulevards with nothing to shake things up.

  • Richard S Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 9:01 am

    To me the most impressive thing about Alaphilippe is that when he is an overwhelming favourite 99 times out of a 100 he delivers. Weight of expectation seems to have no effect on him and being closely marked is pointless when no one can follow. The only fly in his ointment this year has been van der Poel.
    Today I reckon Sagan will take it, unless Groenewegen has bounced back. I’m not convinced that Viviani and Ewan are front rank.

  • KevinR Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 10:03 am

    Very good point Richard. I’m surprised ASO hasn’t ditched some of those big, flat, wide boulevard finishes for hilly ones over the last 40-50kms!

    • DaveRides Wednesday, 10 July 2019, 10:30 pm

      They have.

      This year’s Tour has only three proper flat stages.

  • jc Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 10:41 am

    A very similar stage five years ago saw lots of abandons and crashes, lets hope not the same today.

  • Anonymous Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 11:29 am

    Why Ewan over Groenwegen?
    I thought it was as widely accepted that for a straight up power finish that Groenwegen was the man. That said , I have a small personal investment in Ewan today, but that’s down to a combo of patriotism and decent odds 😉

  • Digahole Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 11:31 am

    ^^^ me above ^^^

  • jc Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 11:48 am

    Dylan Groenwegen could still be recovering from his spill the other day, not sure whether it was just a couple of cuts and bruises or whether he was a bit more bashed up.

  • irungo txuletak Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 12:05 pm

    That was a nice route yesterday: scenic with the vineyards and with many hills in the final k.
    For sure race scenario with this impressive JA’s ride also helped to make it great, but still. The region should be visited again in the comming years.

    • Steppings Wednesday, 10 July 2019, 12:40 am

      I second that, beautiful area.

  • noel Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 12:21 pm

    Ewan clearly has the speed, but does he have the nous and the controlled aggression to get himself in a clean spot for when it counts. Really only Kluge from his lead-out has a bit of heft for when the argy-bargy starts.

  • brent sword Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 1:45 pm

    Ewen suffers a bit from a team that seems to lack the firepower to keep him in position consistently.
    Sometimes they do but often they don’t.
    He does not seem the Robbie McEwen or Sagan type who can surf the wheels and use everybody else as a lead-out.

    • DaveRides Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 5:58 pm

      He’s also only 24 (25th birthday on Thursday) and still a young rider who has a good amount of development to come. He has 4 stage wins at grand tours from 4 starts (3 stages from 3 Giro starts, 1 stage from 1 Vuelta) where McEwen only got his first at 27 and reached his 4th at 30.

      I think he could benefit from going back to his track roots by riding some of the World Cup bunch events or a couple of six day races during the next off-season. It’s the best way for a sprinter to keep their race awareness in tune and avoid a flat-footed start to the season.

  • noel Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 3:18 pm

    what gives with Rohan Dennis… decent California and Suisse results and then ‘I’m not in shape for a 3 week race, not looking at GC..’ so what is he doing? (apart from losing 8 mins yday)

    • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 3:49 pm

      Very different to put his climbing performances from Switzerland on a couple of long steady climbs into repeat efforts in the Tour, especially as he can save himself and aim for the Pau TT. Longer term his Tour de Suisse should convince him to keep working on his stage racing with a view to a grand tour success but he himself says that’s a long project.

  • Larry T Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 4:55 pm

    Geez, I blamed the lack of spraying bubbly celebrations on the awful RAI TV coverage. Sad to learn they’ve been banned. And in the country where champagne was invented…what’s this world coming to (he typed with one hand shaking a fist at the sky)?

  • Cd Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 8:19 pm

    Is it just in the Champagne region where it would be considered advertising. Could it still be used for celebrations elsewhere when it’s just a victory beverage and not marketing for local vineyards?

  • Anonymous Wednesday, 10 July 2019, 12:39 am

    I am glad the Sock Length Check is in place. It should be made compulsory in all disciplines and areas of everyday cycling. Rotten cads who flout this law should be publicly outed as dirty disgraceful rotters and should be shipped off to far away islands to break rocks for the rest of their hideously unspeakable lives. Rotters I tell you!