After a brilliant start in Denmark, the riders are now in France to continue the race. Tomorrow, on stage 4, we have almost 2000 climbing meters from Dunkerque to Calais for what should be another sprint finish.
There is a bit more climbing tomorrow, and six 4-cat KOM sprints, which means Magnus Cort is likely going in the morning breakaway to take a few more points for a few more days in the Polka Dots.
It will be a day where we are likely going to see the morning breakaway taking a long time to form, simply because it is a very hilly route. I think a few riders will hope the teams with a sprinter may take their foot off the gas as we have two climbs close to the finish.
The last 15 km.
Two kickers. The first of the is quite manageable by all.
The two climbs can be seen below.
The first climb is 900m at 5.6%. They are likely going very fast over it, as they are riding 50 km/h at the bottom.
The second climb is 850m at 8.5%. Steepest towards the top. It starts right after a corner, it will make some legs sore.
The second climb is all about being at the front and blocking the road. It sounds like a rude move, but that is what the sprinters should do. If you have a good position at the bottom, you should not be dropped at the top.
Will any teams try and change what I predict? You can be 100% sure.
The run-in. The last 5 km.
With two corners inside the last 1.5 km, it is once again vital you have a good lead-out. With a corner 500 meters out. With 250 meters out, the riders are forced “with the help of barriers”, to the right side of the road but there is some road furniture. You really want to be at the front here to see the little curb with 250 meters left.
It will be another day with calm winds. Do not expect any echelons whatsoever. Temperatures are around 20 degrees C and no rain. It will be a tailwind sprint, I could imagine a few opening up quite early.
How will the stage unfold?
It is a lumpy day, but it is still early in the race and we just had the first rest day. With almost every team intact, I would be very surprised if a big breakaway is allowed up the road. It will be the usual suspects going for KOM points and showing the jerseys. If we see a big break up the road, they can fool you. They have done so a lot of late.
The finale is the exciting part. The first team that springs to mind is Jumbo-Visma. They could really try to push it over the top for Wout van Aert, but I think they may want to ease off with the cobblestones Wednesday in mind. Lotto-Soudal for Ewan? I doubt it. They haven’t paced for him on climbs as I can recall this year. BikeExchange for Matthews? Would be unwise with Groenewegen. Trek-Segafredo for Mads Pedersen? I could see it happening. Making the sprint trains smaller in the finale for his rivals would be a good tactic.
I could ramble on, but I think most of the sprinters should be able to handle the climb if they are positioned well at the bottom. The corner with 500 meters left is the key point in the finale. If you don’t have a good sprint train, you are most likely doomed.
Jakobsen – he misread the last corner in Sønderborg and that was the end of his chances. He is the fastest man here and he should be able to survive tomorrow’s climb and the climbs before it. So far, Quick-Step have looked very good in the sprints, and I expect them to do the same tomorrow. They should try and hide a bit more, they took the front very early on stage 3, leaving Mørkøv alone with 700m left.
Wout van Aert – I expect him to fight for another win tomorrow but that means they need to drop some of the other riders. Laporte has been exceptional, and as long as he is that, Wout van Aert will sprint for top-3’s. Something just tells me they will not attack tomorrow’s climbs – but I could be wrong.
Phillipsen – they had MvdP as fourth the other day. I’m not sure why they don’t have him as lead-out man for Phillipsen, as they had for Merlier-Phillipsen in 2021. He is quite a decent climber, I expect him to do very well tomorrow.
Groenewegen – let’s see if all the climbing in the Dauphiné has paid off! I could see him drop tomorrow if his team does a poor job and does not bring him to the front at the foot of the climb. It was a big win for him the other day, I think he will be fighting for a lot of stage wins this Tour de France.
Ewan – no lead-out, no fun. Boxed in the last two sprints. They need to do a better job – Van Rensburg is currently his only sprint train. If he can start his sprint from a better position. We all know how fast he is, but it is different to outsprint everyone from position 10-15.
Mads P – a rider who will like the stage. The climbs are good news for him, it makes his chances better. Almost fell the other day as the sprint started, which left him with 12th in Sønderborg. I expect him to fight for another podium on a good day.
Who will win?
I will take Jasper Phillipsen. He can climb and is one of the fastest here. The team will have fixed the train and put MvdP right in front of him.