Tour de France Stage 4: The First Summit Finish Looms

Joe Lindsey
·3 mins read
Photo credit: MARCO BERTORELLO - Getty Images
Photo credit: MARCO BERTORELLO - Getty Images

From Bicycling

Stage 4 – Sisteron to Orcières-Merlette – 160.5km – Tuesday, September 1

Let the sorting begin. It’s rare for the Tour de France to have a significant summit finish so early in the race, but Tuesday’s stage carries the riders into the Haute-Alpes region for an uphill finale at the Orcières-Merlette ski area near the Écrins National Park.

It’s not one of the hardest stages—those are mostly reserved for the race’s final week—but it does have almost 3,000 meters of ascent across five categorized climbs.

Expect an early breakaway. The composition is a little difficult to predict. Anthony Perez of Cofidis was locked in a tight battle with Ag2r la Mondiale’s Benoit Cosnefroy in the best climber standings, but Perez crashed out on Stage 3’s big descent, leaving Cosnefroy with a lead that he should easily defend since most of the climbs except the finish are lower-category (and carry smaller point totals). So we’d expect the break to mostly be made up of riders hunting a stage win, and it may not go until after the intermediate sprint, 51km in, as that competition is tight right now.

Unlike Stage 1, the weather shouldn’t be a factor: The forecast is for partly sunny skies and, at most, a light breeze. If the breakaway is big enough and motivated enough, it could stay away to the finish. But the final climb also offers an early test for the general classification.

Like a lot of Alpine climbs, the switchbacked ramps to Orcières-Merlette are fairly steady. And the climb isn’t long (7.1km) or steep (6.7 percent average) by Tour standards. So don’t expect big gaps between the GC contenders. There might be a few attacks in the final kilometer or so that yield a handful of seconds, but the big question will be whether there are prerace favorites who can’t follow the pace because of injuries or just a day of bad form.

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Riders to Watch

Yellow jersey Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) said he will defend the race lead as long as he can, and this climb may not pose huge difficulties for him. But the GC is tightly packed; there are 34 riders within 17 seconds of his lead. Since there are time bonuses for the first three riders (10, 6, and 4 seconds) across the line, he’ll have to be attentive to closing gaps. Among the GC contenders, watch Groupama-FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot, Astana’s Miguel Ángel López, and Bora-Hansgrohe’s Emanuel Buchmann, who all crashed on Stage 1. This will be the first indication of whether their injuries are serious enough to be factors. With the contenders all eyeing each other, it’s a prime chance for a talented teammate to slip away for the win: EF Pro Cycling’s Sergio Higuita, Astana’s Alexey Lutsenko, and Movistar’s Enric Mas all merit watching.

When to Watch

A breakaway will likely spend much of the day off the front, with DQS maintaining a reasonable time gap. Check a live feed to see whether anything truly unusual is afoot (like a 20-rider break or something), but we’d expect the action to mostly wait for the final hour. If you pull up the live feed at 10:30-10:45 a.m. EDT, you’ll catch the approach to the final climb (and its fight for position) and the finish.

How to Watch

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