Another day exceeding the 200km mark, Stage 4’s passage from Mondorf-Les-Bains to Vittel is similarly rolling to yesterday’s terrain, though should provide a more suiting finish for the thoroughbred sprinters. Starting in Luxembourg and crossing into France around the halfway point, there is little of note during much of the 207.5km route, though there is an ascent of the Category 4 Col des Trois Fontaines on offer later in the day. The finish itself is a slight drag up to the line, perhaps looking favourably upon those who have the strength, but not quite the top speed to better the likes of Marcel Kittel on a normally level playing field.
Marcel Kittel performed well on the opening road stage, securing a convincing victory despite a rather below average leadout from his Quick – Step teammates. However, none of the sprinters’ leadout trains got it right on Stage 2 and today will be the first opportunity to remedy this factor for all the big names. Having clearly arrived at Le Tour de France in fantastic condition, it is easy to consider that Marcel Kittel could walk away with around five stage victories if everything goes to plan. Nobody looked particularly close to challenging him the other day, but the subtle increase in gradient to the line might be enough for some rivals to close the gap.
Arnaud Démare recorded an impressive second place behind Marcel Kittel on Stage 2 and will only be more of a threat to the German on a finale which rises slightly to the line. Enjoying the form of his life currently, the Frenchman has not only sustained great condition heading into his home grand tour, but is also backed by a competent leadout train to guide him into position. Assuming FDJ can execute an almost perfect final kilometre for their captain, then there is a strong possibility of seeing the first French win of 2017’s Le Tour de France.
André Greipel is confident of picking up at least one stage win at the race and has looked strong enough to achieve that ambition based on what we have seen thus far. His team were one of the few to produce a more organised leadout on Stage 2, but the ‘Gorilla’ was left a little short of being able to better his compatriot Marcel Kittel when it mattered most. Another rider who often performs well on moderate inclines, this is a convincing opportunity for Greipel to collect a stage win before the first week is even over.
Peter Sagan managed to unclip his foot in the decisive moments of yesterday’s finale and still succeeded in fending off a surging Michael Matthews by a considerable margin. Consistency has delivered him a green jersey at every Tour de France he has attended, making it certain he will be present in the kick for the line, but wether it suits him enough to win is a different question entirely. The World Champion rises to the top when contests get attritional, so today’s short and simple run into the finish line is unlikely to truly favour him, though nothing is simple after more than 200km of racing.
Dylan Groenewegen is another who could seize the day, using the final increase to launch himself to victory and take his first career grand tour stage win. The biggest deciding factor for the Dutchman is wether his teammates can navigating him a successful pathway to the front of the action, allowing him to focus everything on producing his best effort possible.
Those capable of challenging for the win and top 10 placings include Nacer Bouhanni, Mark Cavendish, John Degenkolb, Ben Swift and Sonny Colbrelli.
1st Arnaud Démare 2nd Marcel Kittel 3rd André Greipel