Tour de France Stage 4 Preview

Stage 4 and its into the Alps… and over them with the mighty Galibier.

Le coup de Turin : the longest stage and a breather of sorts, intensity traded for distance. We got a brief flurry from Fabien Grellier that saw him get the combativity prize for the day but the stage was almost a sprint certainty. The only question was the winner.

As the price of real estate at the front rose on the approach to Torino there was a crash for Casper Pedersen. He was back on his bike but later diagnosed with a cracked collarbone, presumably a non-starter today leaving Soudal-Quickstep a man down.

Philipsen was the pre-race pick but his chances dipped when Mathieu van der Poel punctured in the streets, then dived when a crash caused a split in the field with 2.5km to go, Bryan Coquard wobbled, took out colleague Alexis Renard and a wave from this felled more behind. Other sprinters survived but no team was left in control. Lidl-Trek had a go and dropped off Mads Pedersen with 250m to go but this was long.

Biniam Girmay didn’t need his team; they’d been leading out Gerben Thijssen and presumably not as a decoy. Instead he had the perfect cocktail of power, timing and good fortune. He was able to launch on the right of the road just when an opening arose and if Pedersen moved right, he didn’t close the door. As he faded in the wind Girmay pulled out a lead, enough to sit up and celebrate.  It’s Intermarché-Wanty’s first win in the Tour and the first for an Eritrean.

Another sprinter was Richard Carapaz, 14th on the stage and with this came the yellow jersey thanks to countback. Just for a day it’s worth it for him, for his team it’s even bigger and it’ll be interesting to see if he keeps it because he could enjoy a long spell. He looks to be climbing well but it might not be decided by countback given the course and climbs, he’ll have to ensure no time gaps open up. As Romain Bardet knows “just follow Pogačar” is not easy.

The Route: just 140km but 3,600m of vertical gain. There are harder mountain stages to come and that’s fine given it’s only Tuesday. It’s up the Chisone valley where the river gradually turns to white water and then the climb to Sestriere, it’s all on a big main road and a gradual ascent with few difficulties. Likewise the Montgenèvre, 8km at 6% and a transport artery between Italy and France.

The Finish: the main road climbing continues with the Col du Lautaret, for 14km it’s a steady slog suitable for large trucks and with few surprises. Then there’s a right turn and it’s the Galibier and 8.5km at 7% with some sustained 9% sections, and all at altitude. At the top there’s the time bonus of 8-5-2 seconds for the first three. It’s an HC climb with 20 points but Jonas Abrahamsen has 24 points so winning the Galibier alone isn’t sufficient to get the polka dots.

It’s followed by a fast descent with some long straight sections down to Valloire and exactly the same finish as used in 2019, down into the resort and then a small slope back up to the line in the final kilometre.

The Contenders: Tadej Pogačar (UAE) both for his climbing ability and his sprint because he can hope to beat anyone with him in the streets of Valloire. Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-LAB) might fancy his chances, he matched Pogačar on the San Luca and if he can create a gap on the Galibier – scene of their duel in 2022, although the other direction – then the rehab is more than on trakc.

Primož Roglič (Redbull) would have been today’s second pick because of his sprint but events in Bologna make things harder. Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-Quickstep) might even be a better pick as when he’s in form he’s punchy too.

Giulio Ciccone (Lidl) is fast and so is Pello Bilbao (Bahrain) but the names before could be faster. This is the descent where Tom Pidcock (Ineos) was filmed on his way to the Alpe d’Huez stage win but he can win from a sprint, the question is can he show the climbing pace needed in order to be able to make a winning move?

Has the breakaway got a chance? Yes if enough riders fancy their chances at the start because if you are a climber down on GC already then you have an opportunity to seize, there are not many and ideally you can have a team mate in the move to help tow it clear. We’ll see if Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) can try or if he is rinsed from too much racing, likewise David Gaudu and if he’s over Covid. Cofidis trio Ion Izagirre, Simon Geshke and Jesus Herrada fit the bill, as does Wout Poels (Bahrain). Kévin Vauquelin (Arkéa-Samsic) can try too. It’ll be tough but we’ll see what big teams do, will UAE want to test Vingegaard today? Probably, it could be risky in case of a counter-attack so better to be delicate rather than smash it all day?

Pogačar, Vingegaard
Evenepoel, Vauquelin, Poels, Herrada, Roglič, Pidcock

Weather: mainly sunny and 23°C. The Lautaret is synonymous with an afternoon headwind but it’ll be a gentle one today. Cold at altitude, less than 10°C at the Galibier.

TV: KM0 is at 1.15pm CEST and the finish is forecast for 5.20pm CEST. There could be a lively start for the breakaway but if you’re rationing your viewing, the race reaches Briançon around 3.30pm for the start of the Lautaret and at 4.30pm the Galibier proper begins.

Postcard from the Col du Galibier
How high is the Galibier pass? 2,642m officially, even if the sign at the top says 2,645m. It’s been used by the Tour since 1911 but for most of the time the altitude was 2,556m because when the road was built this included the construction of a tunnel allowing travellers to go through the mountain rather than over it.

This is why the six metre high Henri Desgrange memorial is here, when it was built in 1949 in tribute to the Tour de France founder and director who had died in 1940 it was placed at the highest point possible at the time.

It was only in the 1970s that the pass as we know it today exists. The old tunnel was crumbling and so the road was extended to climb up to the ridge above where a portion was blasted away. This “new” road is 900m long with a vertical gain of 90 metres.

This is arguably the hardest part of the climb. For cyclists the tunnel is a tempting option, a short cut, a flat respite and some shade too. But cyclists are not allowed through under the traffic regulations. Is anyone checking? But those who have come this far might as well do the full climb. Still to be tempted is to be in good company as when it the Galibier was first crossed in 1911 the stage winner that day Emile Georget was asked about the tunnel and is said to have replied “they should have built it lower down“.

46 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 4 Preview”

  1. Love your work inrng! Really enjoy the profiles. I’m thinking Romain Bardet migh be worth a chain ring today. In three stages over the Galibier since 2017 he’s finished 4th, 2nd and 3rd. He loves the thin air!
    Similarly, in 2022 it was the Galibier where Vingy-go put Poggy to the sword.
    Does anyone have any analysis of stages that Remco has done over 2000m+ altitude? Will be interesting to see how he goes.

  2. The ever changing jerseys make it hard. I was thinking that Groenewegen had gone missing in action again only to realise that he was in disguise in his national champion colours.

    • I always check who’s wearing the national champions’ jerseys before the start of each grand tour. I personally like seeing them. They don’t change that often I think – just once a year 😉

  3. I wonder if Cav and other sprinters will try to get in the break. The intermediate sprint comes early before the climbs (though it is upwards from the start). It would get them a bit of a head start as with the short stage and difficult final climb the time limit could be fairly tight.

    • It should be a tactical feature; the contest for the points jersey is wide open and Girmay has a good chance of taking it at the intermediate spot, as does Pedersen so we could see the stage controlled so these riders can get to this point to contest it.

      • Great prediction, the result was indeed 1 Pedersen and 2 Girmay!

        This stage used the 5th set of time cut coefficients. As it was raced at quite a hard pace of 36.96 km/h, the 18% coefficient (for average speed over 36km/h) applies and the time limit for the stage was the winning time of 3:46:38 +40:48, a total of 4:27:26.

        The last group of sprinters and their merry men (perhaps not so merry after climbing the Galibier) arrived with a gap of 36:11 to the winner, safe by four and a half minutes.

  4. Anything other than Almeida pulling hard and long on the Lautaret, until he’s got only 3-4 guys behinf him at the deviation to the Galibier, would surprise me.

    • Almeida has got a lot of uphill power but I doubt he can pull so hard that there are only 3 or 4 others left.

      I suspect Pog will be cautious in his approach to testing Vinny on the climb but will probably throw caution to the wind on the descent.

      • Yeah, more like 9-10 I’d say… but surely not before the Lautaret. Drafting pays too much of a dividend until there, using up Almeida would make little sense. More probably Soler and Wellens and not to reduce the bunch as much as to wear out the legs of the rest before the grouo is thinned on Galibier.
        All that said as KevinR, I’m not very sure UAE will be so aggressive. Maybe yes, maybe not. We’ll know at least if Pogi was prudent until now because of the heat or because he didn’t believe fully to Visma’s trolling (or mind games or psychowar) on Vingegaard.
        I hope he won’t risk down the descent, he’s good but not exceptional and although Vingegaard himself might be a little more cautious than before, there shouldn’t be an exaggerate difference between the two barring the one derived from excessive risk-taking. Leave that for the sterrati, if anything.

  5. I wonder if Carapaz is likely to be present. He was the one trying to bridge initially when Pogi attacked on stage 2. He’ll have the extra legs and motivation the yellow jersey provides too.

    • Well he’s got history for jumping away on a climb while the two favourites watch each other (albeit in the Giro rather than the Tour!

          • I think he did, more or less. Now that we know better what’s Pogi & Vingo’s level, even admitting that they got better since then, those Pyrenaic efforts were among the most remarkable any rival was ever able to produce. 10 days later he won the Olympics. That 2021 season was probably his quality peak. Hard to defend it wasn’t “his best form”, even if his best result might be considered the 2019 Giro (which he won without being the strongest rider, athketically speaking)

  6. There were quite a few who seemed out of position on the tight lead-in to the climb on stage 2 including Roglic, Evenepoel and i presume Simon Yates (because he’s always out of position). Since this is a much more straight forward climbing situation i will be looking to see if their teams can position them better.
    Except for Yates who will probably be way down the group when the attacks go and have to solo back to whatever group he can.

  7. “exactly the same finish as used in 2018”
    Was it not 2019 when Alaphilippe got dropped on the climb but caught back up on the descent to keep the jersey? I seem to recall reading that he did it faster than Pidcock in 2022.

  8. The tunnel is pretty short so you can ride there no problems. Couple of weeks ago the last part up the north side was still closed due to snow so there was no other option than taking the short cut through the tunnel.

  9. Fantastic views from the top of Galibier make it worth avoiding the tunnel. Plus you’ve already come so far. Inrng’s roads to ride is a very accurate account of the Telegraph side.

  10. There are 4 leading riders on the same time so I think that it is Mexican stand-off time for the time being. Pogacar knows now that he can’t simply blast away from Vingegaard so is unlikely to try.

  11. The decent off the Galibier to Valloire is a rollercoaster of twists and turns until you reach Plan Lachat where it pretty much striaghtens and flattens out to around 5-6%. The top part of the decent isn’t really long enough to put time into less confident decscenders but it’s steep and tricky for sure. Riding up the other way in La Marmotte, as i’m sure plenty of readers can attest, is considered a harder climb too.. YMMV.

  12. The decent off the Galibier to Valloire is a rollercoaster of twists and turns until you reach Plan Lachat where it pretty much striaghtens and flattens out to around 5-6%. The top part of the decent isn’t really long enough to put time into less confident decscenders but it’s steep and tricky for sure. Riding up the other way in La Marmotte, as i’m sure plenty of readers can attest, is considered a harder climb too.. YMMV.

  13. Aaaaaand that’s this year’s race done

    Congrats to Pog on his tentative – barring crashes, COVID, other misc weirdness – double, hopefully next year we’ll get everyone healthy and in form for a real competition

    • Maybe. I’m going to wait until the ITT in Burgundy before crowning Pog.
      Have been impressed with Vingegaard so far, given his recent injuries and lack of racing – Jumbo LAB could be playing the long game as we saw in ’22. Also, outside chance the Giro catches up with Pog in the third week.
      Lots of cycling to go.

      • Exactly. Far too soon I think to guess whether Vingegaard will continue to improve post crash, if and when the Giro catches up with Pogacar, whether the UAE super domestiques can endure, is Roglic/Evenepoel/Rodriguez riding into form etc. etc.
        Less than a minute gap after the start we’ve witnessed is almost within the margin for error…

  14. Are there no questioning in cycling about a riders choice of riding for a authoritarian regimen with questionable reputation regarding human rights? I think it’s just sad to see that a regimen can come into the sport and generate at team that dominates like this (probably the 3 strongest riders on the day). Football fans and journalists ara also way too weak on this, but it is at least part of the discourse. I have not seen that in cycling. Has anyone ever asked Pog about that?

    Thanks a lot INRNG for making cycling even more interesting than it already is.

    • He would say, “I don’t know about that, but the team is super and my teammates are super strong and my coaches are super and we focus on the super side of sport.”

    • I find it interesting how, compared to the 2010’s, cynicism in general has completely evaporated, even though performances of the 2 top teams have been jaw-dropping over the last 4-ish years.

      • It’s only if Visma wins apparently. Pogs gets a pass because people like how he races. It doesn’t make sense but that’s how it is on here.

        • Good point. In fact, people who watched enough cycling to notice the difference from a mere athletical performance and other technical aspects might indeed prefer a cyclist who shows he’s actually able to race over some different figures whose profile appears to be less consistent in overall terms. Same for other details like the most common evolution of talent or the credibility of some *single*, *specific* performances.
          That said, from my POV the main red flag about Vingo is essentially that famous ITT plus the context of his team. However, a red flag means little to nothing unless a broader perspective can be built through different seasons (and information growing up) which is why is pretty much logical that ideas about, say, Sky in 2017 or 2018 can’t be compared with Jumbo Visma after a mere 2 years (not including the current season for obvious reasons) of “team effect” or UAE which showed something comparable (in a very different way) only recently – as a team.

          • “ people who watched enough cycling to notice the difference from a mere athletical performance and other technical aspects”. Stop flattering yourself. If you stopped for a moment trying to prove that you know more than anyone here about cycling you’d realize that others have valid views too.

          • I think I’ll do exactly as I please, unless I’m asked otherwise by our host, irrespective of your interpretation of it.
            Besides, from your comment I replied to above, I’d even say that it might be you to be struggling to cope with other people’s views “on here”.
            Finally, I must notice a certain lack of any answer about the specific points I made which, at the end of the day, confirmed what you observed, barring the “it doesn’t make sense part”

    • Is this for the other post about the sponsors?

      Gino Mäder is missed for many reasons, one is he was open to exploring subjects like this while riding for Bahrain. But in general there’s not much discussion. There are some cases where a rider might chose between similar offers because of the team but this is rare. Riders know they can’t change the world, plenty are not interested either.

      Or see Girmay’s win yesterday, great in many, many ways but as touched on during the Giro we have to be careful with exalting Eritrea, as well as place where people love cycling (yay) success like this is big thing for the authoritarian regime and exploited too (boo).

      • Actually, I wrote this before i read your newest post and felt a bit ashamed when I saw that…. I was just thinking about this when I watched UAE tear up the Galibier and went back to this post. It should abselutely been posted there and been part of the discussion in the other thread. I’ll leave a message there as well. Thanks for bringing up the topic!

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