The sprinters can put their ambitions away on Stage 4, as the 160.5km ride from Sisteron culminates in the summit finish of Orcières-Merlette, an almost unprecedented high altitude conclusion after only three days of racing. Some of the climbers have already stretched their legs to see what they have got, and while others are keeping their powder dry for a three week battle, plenty will see Stage 4 as their sole chance of claiming the yellow jersey en route to Paris.
Adam Yates came close to victory on the second day of racing, but was thwarted by Alaphilippe on the Frenchman’s favoured terrain, today’s challenge will play into the British rider’s hands much more beneficially. There is the opportunity of a debut grand tour stage victory and the yellow jersey itself, which for a rider as combative as Yates, will prove irresistible.
There is little reason to suggest Julian Alaphilippe will not defend his yellow jersey by winning the stage itself, as he has an undeniable penchant for winning in the most flamboyant fashion possible. He will have the joy of following wheels (if he chooses), and given his potent kick, he could wait until the death before snatching another win with a perfectly timed attack; if he can be patient on a day like this.
Swiss wonder talent Marc Hirschi announced himself upon the biggest race in cycling, though his statement performance on Stage 2 was a long time coming, the prodigal rider has plenty more to offer as previous victories as U23 World and Continental champion prove. If the belief that a moderate group of general classification contenders will decide the day’s outcome among their ranks rings true, then Hirschi is one rider with the ability and freedom to attack unopposed.
Primoz Roglic rarely turns down the chance to grasp a race by the throat, which given the undeniable fact he will be in the mix at the front of affairs, means the Slovenian is bound to put a dig in to test the waters. However, as a man who has ambitions for the overall victory, he needs to consider whether the efforts required to win Stage 4 will be worth it, as unlike others mentioned here, a win would not necessarily deliver the yellow jersey upon his shoulders.
Though somewhat banged up as result of the opening day’s misfortunes, Thibaut Pinot should have the kick required to fight for the win on Stage 4’s summit finish. In comparison to his performances at the recent Dauphiné, today does not appear testing enough to place him on the front foot, but that could simply offer him the chance to test his form without the risk of losing too much if he does fall short.
From the pack of other general classification hitters; Egan Bernal, Tom Dumoulin, Mikel Landa and Miguel Ángel López are more than capable of storming to victory, yet shall be more interested in the long game at Le Tour de France.
Rounding out the rest of contenders, from breakaway or late moves on the final ascent; Richard Carapaz, Lennard Kämna, Emanuel Buchmann, Guillaume Martin and Sergio Higuita are all seated awkwardly between GC goals, team orders and personal ambitions.
1st Adam Yates 2nd Primoz Roglic 3rd Guillaume Martin