Binck Bank Tour Stage 4 Preview
It was a rough day in terms of weather but out on the road most of the riders managed to keep it upright and without any losses. It was the case mainly as the cobbled sector was hampered as a big berm wasn't covered and made it a lot easier for the riders, the teams were still very compact so it lead to a sprint finish, where once again, Sam Bennett emerged the winner in front of Dylan Groenewegen who looked good again today and Jasper Philipsen.
Positive: Bennett taking the win, it wasn't exactly an eventful day and there were no real winners, just survivors.
Negative: Meurisse a big casualty for Wanty, Oliver Naesen and Sep Vanmarcke reveiled their so regular bad luck but both managed to keep themselves in contention of the race.
Stage 4 may be the first where we see actual individual attacks, it's a circuit around Houffalze and it sums up modern cycling very well. It's a very short stage, only a mere 96 kilometers in lenght in a circuit that will be ridden three times. In them will be the iconic Mur de Saint-Roch, a climb made famous as a regular presence in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and one that's very hard. It's last summit will come with 29 kilometers to go, following there are rolling roads with some steep inclines in the middle, with the Golden kilometer in an uphill section that will further trigger. A stage that's designed to be attacked from far, in a circuit but very well designed taking into acount it's circumstances.
Saint-Roch is a wall, it's first 800 meters at 13%, a straight-line climb where accelarations won't go that far but the pack will completely split, as the puncheurs and lighter riders will take advantage of their favourable terrain.
If there's a group or a small bunch heading for the line they will have big complications in the end, the road leading back to Houffalize is wide but winding, and there's a turn leading into the final slight uphill stretch with a mere 300 meters to go, suiting for a rider to antecipate his move.
Harsh as it's been all week. Continuous rain, wet and cold weather with very slippery roads, tomorrow can be chaos even without any major attacks. And as for the wind the same can be said, as it's going to be storming at almost 30Km/h with 60Km/h gusts from the west, the Saint-Roch has a particularly open summit where crosswinds will blow, it is a decisive place in the stage, not exactly the bulk of it, attacks must come over the top. The run-up to the line, that one will also be in a tailwind most of the way, but it doesn't really matter where the wind will come from the attacks are bound to come in such a brutal (yet short) stage.
It's lenght is in a way good for a breakaway win but lots of teams will be interested in attacking from far tomorrow, so I'd say there will be a lot of intent into putting teammates in front as they make come in very precious in such conditions and profile.
Some will try to defend themselves. The way the race has been so far I would consider Bennett and Philipsen to give their all tomorrow, their not puncheurs but they're no slouches and the teams will be behind them. It is more important in such a day and the truth is that despite the tension the last few days haven't exactly been the hardest. Some riders will be looking forward to the final two days so tomorrow is a day of riding conservative, the time-trialists and the cobbled classics riders mainly, of course always be looking for an opportunity but trying to resist the climbs is what I mean. Trek with Theuns and Pedersen, Kung and Démare of FDJ whilst having Madouas as a rider to cover moves, Sep Vanmarcke although Simon Clarke is a very viable option in the team for tomorrow and I would expect from Direct Energie some work aswell if needed, I keep stressing on how they have a strong team but not for the hilly terrain.
On the other hand some riders will be licking their lips tomorrow, more noticeably Lotto Soudal really as the hills are their domain and, Tim Wellens specially will love the weather, Deceuninck will also have the obbligation to move, they have done so already but the stages so far easily all leaned towards the sprinters so they can't be blamed, tomorrow they finally have a chance to really make the difference, Phillipe Gilbert and Zdenek Stybar look the best but Bob Jungels himself as won LBL on these roads so there's no discounting. Greg van Avermaet will surely be trying to set his own moves as usual, from teams as Sunweb and Astana there's some potential, Marc Hirschi and Davide Ballerini mainly, also Dylan van Baarle is a very dangerous rider to have attacking in the final kilometers. Oliver Naesen isn't a rider to attack on the climb but on the rolling roads I have no doubt and I would have Aimé de Gendt as another man to watch.
I will finally mention Jumbo-Visma too, with Laurens De Plus, Paul Martens and Timo Roosen there's a lot of potential and options to go on the offensive, and in case Mike Teunissen resists the climbing he's a solid bet for the finish.
⭐ Teunissen, Hirschi, Madouas, Jungels, van Avermaet, van Baarle, Ballerini
You heard it right, wind, rain, Belgian roads, this has Wellens written all over. Storm conditions are like summer for him and I expect nothing less from him
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