Yesterday’s monotonous affair felt like it stretched on for days at times, so many are unlikely to be looking forward to this even longer course which forms Stage 4. The 237.5km journey from Saumur to Limoges is the longest stage of 2016’s Tour de France, another long day in the saddle required to lead the peloton back down from their northerly beginning in Normandy. The most rolling of days so far, the sprinters shall have looked at this as another great opportunity to take a win, but once again an uphill ride to the finish line could cause an upset.
Mark Cavendish collected his second victory of this year’s Tour de France and has subsequently drawn level with the (in)famous Bernard Hinault in overall stage wins at La Grande Boucle. There is little to suggest that he cannot pick up another win here, though he will once again require a successful run to the line and today’s power based sprint does favour less so. Regardless, the diminutive fast man has already won twice thanks to his immense guile and enviable ability to always find the right wheel to follow.
André Greipel came so close to winning Stage 3 that he even thought he had done it, yet he had to endure the painful reveal of a slow-motion replay which displayed Cavendish beating him by the width of a tyre. The finale here is much less technical than yesterday, is slightly uphill and all plays to the strengths of the immensely strong German rider who is expected to get the best out of his team today.
Peter Sagan has looked in brilliant form thus far and you cannot help but feel that he has not even started to leave his mark on 2016’s edition. This drag to the line does favour Sagan somewhat, but a few extra percentages of incline would have genuinely marked him out as the favourite to win in Limoges. As ever, the lack of support afforded to Sagan in these bunch kicks often leaves him isolated, requiring him to do that little bit extra which can leave him short at the line.
Marcel Kittel is likely to remain in contention once again here, though the finale itself does not exactly suit him as well as anyone wanting to back him would like. There is little as of late to suggest he will be the man to beat today, but if his Etixx team finally clicks efficiently, then Kittel could once again return as a frontrunner.
Michael Matthews came unstuck during Stage 3’s technical run into town, but today’s simplified finish and uphill stretch should suit him much better. Given the distance and rolling nature of the stage, Matthews should feel confident of being in the mix come Limoges and has a strong line up to help him do so.
Bryan Coquard was not far from matching the best on Stage 3 and dropped a definite hint of his condition heading into this grand tour. The Frenchman enjoys these uphill finales greatly and has established a reputation in recent years as the man to beat on such terrain; today could prove to be a strong reminder of this.
1st Michael Matthews 2nd André Greipel 3rd Bryan Coquard