Tour de France Stage 4 Preview
Julian Alaphillipe took an astonishing win and took the yellow jersey after going the distance. The stage had an average speed of almost 46Km/h, the tailwind all day long adding to Tim Wellens' presence in the breakaway meant a very fast pace, Wellens went solo in the first of the climbs and all the way he went until the final categorized climb of the day, in the peloton Bora, Astana and Deceuninck pushed the pace, and when Alaphillipe attack in that same climb he quickly gained a very big gap that he kept until the finish. In the peloton there was no option other than fighting for secondary places, Michael Matthews and Jasper Stuyven completed the spots in the podium. Between the favourites they all survived the day, some names as Dennis, Zakarin, Simon Yates, Aru and Poels lost time but I wouldn't consider them genuine GC contenders.
Positive: Alaphillipe's win was one of those that you'll remember for a long time, rarely such display of power is seen, even proved me wrong. Other than him the GC riders were safe, no pinpointing but they all did good in general, Fuglsang showing very good signs of being back at his best, and Pinot and Bernal even managed to gain 5 seconds on their competition due to a split in the end.
Negative: Dennis. The others that lost time, I give some slack as they never really came with intentions but I was sure Dennis would at least try. His time loss, over 8 minutes and the lack of coverage in him is weird, either sick or had had a serious mishap, in normal conditions he would be up in the peloton at least.
Stage 4 is another stage for the sprinters. It's mostly flat but long with it's 213.5 Kilometers it won't be an easy day on the saddle. With 15 kilometers to the finish summits the Côte de Maron, a rollable climb but one that can really sting the legs of some sprinters if the pace is pushed hard.
The finish, it's completely flat and a bit more technical than the previous, but it shouldn't be much of a dificulty for the leadouts.
The wind is interesting, it's still moderately strong, enough to get the peloton very tense, it comes with around 15-20Km/h all day long from the northeast, it will mean a headwind for the final climb and run-up to the line but it will mean there will be some crosswinds aswell. I would definetely assure that the teams have to be 100% focused on the period between 70 and 60Km to go, clear crosswind in that period with the intermediate sprint, some small towns that can stretch things up and quite open roads coming out. The teams will hopefully know of this and be prepared.
Still with the headwind for the latter part of the stage, and the fact that I believe every team will be ready to react in the case of an echelon attempt it should come down to a sprint and the climb shouldn't affect it much, the pure sprinters should still have their legs with no issue for the final.
Dylan Groenewegen and Elia Viviani, the pure sprinters that seem the fastest on paper should like the conditions and will want to take their first win here despite their teams having taken all the stages so far, as in the first sprint they clearly have the strongest leadout but that doesn't mean much as we've seen, the sprint is set to be very messy with the crazy amount of sprinters and what really matters is to be in front, not mandatorily with teammates to launch.
Michael Matthews, Sonny Colbrelli and Matteo Trentin come as the more punchy sprinters, of course with Peter Sagan headlining it. It's a flat arrival so it shouldn't favour them but it's always something to consider, there's a need for some distinction between so many sprinters. Caleb Ewan should also be up there, but it is truly going to be a lottery as in stage 1, leadouts won't count for that much, the sprinters need the experience and need to position themselves even if without their leadout
Giacomo Nizzolo and Jasper Stuyven were very strong in the sprints so far, outsiders to consider, Alexander Kristoff always a name to consider but he should fancy his chances further into the race.
The odd names of Andrea Pasqualon, André Greipel, maybe even Greg van Avermaet can bundle into the finish, but it's a flat one unlike the opening stage so it should favour the faster riders more than the outsiders in any scenario. Rick Zabel has a very decent leadout but I can't expect much of him yet, there's also Cristophe Laporte inside a Cofidis that is looking good so far.
⭐ Matthews, Colbrelli, Trentin, Nizzolo, Kristoff
I'm still confident in him, Groenewegen and Jumbo have given me every evidence possible to go for him, he is very strong and his leadout men are too, they just have to find a way to make it work and the Dutch can easily take the win in the chaos.
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