Tour de France Stage 4 Preview

Another sprint stage but this time much flatter.

Les Jambes en Bayonne: Neilson Powless took off early to get more points for the mountains competition and Laurent Pichon joined him for the ride, neither raced hard and the race was well behind schedule. Powless is building up a small lead in the mountains competition but he’s on 18 points and the first to the top of the HC-rated Col du Soudet tomorrow collects 20 points. The oddest moment was Victor Lafay attacking mid-stage, he went clear to get some more points for his green jersey at the intermediate sprint and it worked as he’s in green today, just.

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We got a sprint win for Jasper Philipsen, with help from a majestic leadout from Mathieu van der Poel which capped off a hectic finish in Bayonne, no crashes as many teams tried to set the pace but it felt like nobody could quite control things. Philipsen won but had to wait for a moment before he could celebrate on the podium as the race jury reviewed the images of him and Wout van Aert but if the Jumbo-Visma rider was up against the barriers and had to stop sprinting, Philipsen didn’t really put him there, it was more the slight curve in the road and a bulge in the barriers so the result stood. Philipsen finished ahead of Bauhaus, Ewan, Jakobsen and then Van Aert which matters for the points competition as it gives the Alpecin rider a buffer on his main rivals.

The Route: 182km and 1,400 of vertical gain, the flatest stage so far. It’s across countryside more used to slow cycling, racing here feels too urgent and intense, especially on a summer’s afternoon after lunch as the race passes the home of Armagnac and foie gras. There’s not so much to write home about, the day will celebrate André Darrigade, the best sprinter of the 1950s, and then there’s the Notre Dame des Cyclistes chapel, a nice touch as it gives all the TV commentators something to talk about during the stage and on a smaller level, once upon a time in the comments section of this blog two readers discussed this place, found a common interest, met in real life… and got married. Hopefully it’s happily ever after.

The Finish: it’s on the Paul Armagnac motor racing circuit with its runway-wide tarmac track but to get there it’s through the streets of Nogaro, and after a right turn in the town the route funnels into a smaller road and there’s a small drag up, nothing steep and almost ideal given it’s not wide as it’ll calm things down but it will bother the sprint trains. Then comes a right turn for the circuit and it’s onto a big road for the final 3km. Motorsport circuits have a thrill about them but what’s dicey for cars and motorbikes at 200km/h is plodding for a peloton at 60km/h and the bends are wide.

The Contenders: another sprint finish but today is flatter as a whole so it should suit the dragstrip sprinters more. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) is an obvious pick. Fabio Jakobsen (Soudal-Quickstep) should do well here, he’s got a solid lead out to help.

Philipsen, Jakobsen
Groenewegen, Ewan, Van Aert
Cavendish, Welsford

Weather: sunshine and a few clouds, 25°C and a 15km/h breeze from the west, so a tailwind until 40km to go where the race starts to loop back.

TV: KM0 is at 1.20pm and the finish is forecast for 5.20pm CEST.

46 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 4 Preview”

  1. Nice touch…
    “once upon a time in the comments section of this blog two readers discussed this place, found a common interest, met in real life… and got married.”

    • Can’t help thinking it’s a subtle hint to discuss more interesting things than Eurosport commentators too.

      +1 for Jambes en Bayonne

    • Well Gabriele and Larry have been noticeable by their below the line absence.

      I can only assume they’re enjoying their honeymoon.

          • ^___^

            I’d been having more fun indeed than in the last couple of stages, whereas the first two were good enough.
            Watching the race, riding my bike myself, lurking here from time to time (and enjoying comments 😉 ) but, as I noted back then, still not in the mood to write much about the sport after Mäder’s death which happened the same days a cyclist was killed by a car on my usual roads, 1 km or so away from my very doorstep, a friend of friends, even, although didn’t know him personally. So also suddenly very busy on the activist side of course, which is quite demanding, but really it’s more about feelings than actual lack of time to spare writing here.
            Hope to be back writing about the racing before the TDF is over…

          • Sorry to hear that. We had a cyclist killed locally a couple of days before Gino. He was my age and taken out by a 17 year old who went through a red light. Always hits home in some way or other.

  2. “but if the Jumbo-Visma rider was up against the barriers and had to stop sprinting, Philipsen didn’t really put him there” – Nope, he didn’t and at no point was WvA level with Philipsen wich – per sprinting regulations (track, though, but often unwrittenly applied to road as well) – would have required Philipsen to give way for him. So the door was sealed off by JP on fair grounds.
    Well timed by Alpecin.
    Mørkøv said that SOQ lost Jakobsen when he couldn’t follow Asgreen over the late small hump and he (Mørkøv) had to drop back to pick him up again before guiding him through to the sprint.
    Bauhaus came out of nowhere, really impressive and the speed of Ewan too. It was a nice looking old school sprint.

    • If you look at where they both are when WVA makes his move they are both to the left of the centre line. Philipsen then moves across the road to put WVA next to the barriers. I think he said he was taking the shortest route. Am not convinced we found out who was better on the day but that is how it often is with sprinting.

      • Agreed, JP moves to close off one side, partly because that’s what a sprinter does to force opponents to take the long way around and partly because that is a natural movement when the road bends like that. JP basically kept his line towards the apex of the corner and could do so as WvA was not level with him.
        That was readily albeit with disgruntlement accepted by WvA because that was exactly what he would have done himself.
        Technically a clean sprint from all riders.

    • He’ll just be trying to hold it as long as possible, same as Powless. Great for the team and a bit of storytelling in the first week.

    • I don’t really know much about Lafay and was wondering what his aims were too. Everyone has him down as a puncheur because of his Fleche Wallonne result but even that is a broad field.

      Can he hang in the mountains like Alaphillipe or Valverde and aim for a top 5 in GC or is he more like Hirschi or Teuns – lose time and go for stages? I’d guess the latter but interesting to see.

  3. A reminder that a Tour bunch sprint is a great spectacle, especially in the first week. The preceding tourist itinerary is as much part of the race as the climbs to the Tourmalet etc. Cav seems to be not far away much better than he was at the Giro, certainly deserving of a chain ring.

    • I’m still not so sure he’s got enough in the tank to beat his rivals at the Tour. I’ll now probably be eating my words tonight…

      • I heard some talk pre-Tour that it was a weak sprint field but to me it’s a really strong one, albeit without a dominant rider like Kittel or Cipollini. Loads of names in the running everyday makes for exciting finales.

        A few will fall by the wayside come the mountain stages though and I think that’s when Cavendish’s best chance will be – if he isn’t one of those who misses a time cut of course.

      • Cav is clearly not on same level as FJ and JP but I reckon he’s in the next bracket down with three or four other riders. That gives him a great chance and I’m more confident now than I was a few weeks ago.

    • You are right, a good bunch sprint is exciting, though it would be nice to see a breakaway with some chance of staying away and some suspense. That won’t happen yet with to many hopeful sprint teams while the GC outfits are happy with relative rest.

  4. Chapeau to Philipsen on yesterday’s win and I’m not sure how there was no crashes – the last 30 km were “full gas” it seemed.
    Today’s stage looks to be a Tale of Two Sprints (and 1 kom point). If someone goes for the break, there’s 2,000 Euros for the day’s Combativity Award so it might tempt someone.
    Jakobsen said he’s got the legs so my 2 centimes are on him for today. (Happy July 4 to the US readers!)

  5. Crasy and aggresive in the last 40k yesterday. Should not have a turn that close to the finnish though. Rooting for Cav or Uno X today. Don’t think Werenskiold is slower than Kristoff so pherhaps change places in the train. Kristoff is a great

    • Some already have but remember not every poster here takes the English language Eurosport/GCN feed.
      Having said that, a big shout out for Jonathan Harris Bass on the same feed. Reminds me of the great ‘colour’ journalists from the 80s and 90s like the great Richard Williams. Salad days.

    • From memory, frequent commenter on this blog, J Evans, once had a petition to get him removed!

      Gotta say he’s kind of grown on me over time.

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