Paris-Nice Stage 4 Preview
Another day another correct prediction. Makes it 3 in a row already. The peace didn't fully return to the peloton, but today was a much less nervous affair for the peloton as a strong headwind dashed most of the stage. There was once again a push by Sky in a crosswind section in the closing kilometers but it didn't have its success, and in the end Sam Bennett sprinted for an uncontested win ahead of Caleb Ewan. As we expected Gronewegen struggled in the sprint although having been a part of it.
A very slow start to the day and a breakaway only emerging 40Km into the stage meant a little bit of a rest before the riders get on the hills. Only two Delko riders in the break, Fedeli and Navardauskas, it was never a threat. The narrow roads and nervousness in positioning (alongside the strong headwind) had them reeled in with still 38Km to go. Kwiatkowski and Bernal ranked up even more seconds in an intermediate sprint, and then close to the end, alongside Rowe tried to cause havoc in the peloton again.
Once again with just over 5Km to go Team Sky set the alarms off with the usual trio. Although they made for a cracking finish no gaps were made, instead leading to a bunch sprint. FDJ lead in the final kilometer, Bora and Jumbo stormed by but in the end it was Bennett who had the strongest sprint, beating Ewan and Jakobsen.
The race moves on from the flatlands of central France and encounters it's first hilly stage in Loire territory. 212Km should make for a long day on the bike and the profile should suit some. The question here is if a breakaway will be allowed to take the win as Gronewegen still leads the race. The overall won't be shaken by such a profile, and there isn't really a stand-out rider to win the stage.
In the eventuality that the break doesn't succeed then the puncheurs are the riders to look at. A Colbrelli type of rider should still be the favourite to win unless some team has a ferocious desire to blow up the race. In that scenario there are also several riders who can benefit, Teuns/Kwiatkowski/Gilbert are an example of someone who wouldn't be any surprise in case of a win.
So we can conclude it'll be a very undefined day, lots of possible scenarios, but we should see the GC men saving their energies for the time-trial in two days.
Wind should have stopped the race-changing situations, wind will be a tailwind/crosswind for most of the day but much less intense so it doesn't threaten bordures. There might be some rain also marking presence.
Will it really be one for the sprinters though?
Well it shouldn't be one for the sprinters, but it should come down to a sprint as there are many fast riders who can climb. Kwiatkowski is hard to ignore although he doesn't exactly have the edge to compete with top-level sprinters.
Sonny Colbrelli is an obvious favourite, the route suits him like a glove and with a rider like Ivan Garcia Cortina also in the team it makes for two great options for the win. Edvald Boasson Hagen, Christophe Laporte, Matteo Trentin and Mike Teunissen are other riders who sprint very well and have a legitimate chance to fight for the win.
Plenty of riders who are experts in late attacks, Bob Jungels and Phillipe Gilbert obvious frontliners when it comes to that, Luis Leon Sanchez is another rider in great form and shouldn't be given much of a gap in that eventuality.
⭐ Jungels, Gilbert, LL.Sanchez,
I see a possible win coming from the breakaway. But in case it doesn't eventually happen then I think Colbrelli will take it. Such a finale is hard to predict but if with good legs the Italian should overcome the dificulties with the strongest, and with Matthews out of the race he is the one with the best edge when it comes to punchy sprinters.
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