This race just keep on shuffling up the GC. Jay Vine now sits in the lead, as expected, but stage 4 should not be the biggest of his concerns. They stage will finish near Willunga, but not on the famous climb. This is an easier edition.
The riders do a lap with Lower Willunga Hill being a part of it three times – it is the climb they finish the stage on. Without knowing much about geography, it looks like flat vineyards or at least farms. If the winds comes out to play, it could have an impact.
This is a view at the bigger finale. I have included the hills simply to stage that it can get harder than it looks. Some teams may be desperate to attack far out, but they will have to bring their A-team if they are going to shake UAE Team Emirates.
Climb 1) 800m at 4.4%
Climb 2) 1 km at 4.1%
Climb 3) Lower Willunga Hill 2.5 km at 2.8%.
Lower Willunga Hill is a long drag to the line and it only gets steeper. It is the last kilometer, just before the left turn, where the gradients do go up. From the corner, we have 500m left and the gradient is 4.4%. The last 200 meters, the sprint, sits at 5.4%. On paper, it should not challenge the sprinters but it should be a mix between sprinters and puncheurs.
Well, the wind does come out to play! There are 6-7 m/s wind from the South again. That means we have a few sections of crosswind, which I assume can be used on the last lap. The section itself is 32.2 km long, starting right after Lower Willunga Hill. Let’s break it down.
The first one is right after the penultimate ascent of Lower Willunga Hill. It strechtes from 38 km – 33 km left. The best spot is with 35 km left. Two km of wide open landscape, but they turn into a harsh headwind right after. Unfortunately, this looks to be the only spot really after having checked from 29 km – 27 km left and 18 km – 9.5 km. The last two sections just have to many trees covering the riders from the wind. The vineyard farmers Down Under have shut off the show.
How will the stage unfold?
We have some bonus seconds in for grasp. I don’t think UAE wants them – they just want to keep the jersey. I think a few teams will try to be sneaky and making sure UAE can’t go for a coffee ride. I expect some roulers to get up the road, or try, high up in the GC. Nikias Arndt could be a name to throw up in the air with LLS, Rutch and Julius Johansen. A strong break could get going, but if they pose a threat, they will have UAE down their neck. The teams with a sprinter also knows this is the last chance, I think the break will be kept in check.
Who could try and force a selection on the short crosswind section? INEOS have a great team for it, it could also be a way of setting up Hayter for a win. They can not beat the others uphill, they might aswell try something different. Intermarché have good team for this too, and Quickstep rarely misses out too. Jayco-AlUla need to tell S. Yates to stay at the front, he is known for being out of position and missing splits. Alpecin have good team too for this type of stage and so does JV.
I hope we see a team try and split the group, but the most likely scenario is a sprint. The tricky part is not taking the front too early, the headwind will make a sprint train bleed.
Ewan – the team is down to just four riders and if you didn’t know by now, he struggles with positioning. He is in flying form but it does not matter if start your sprint 50m behind the ones up front. He will be relying on Drizners to do a very good job for him. Personally, I think he should just find the wheel of Groves or Bauhaus.
Groves – I like him for the stage tomorrow. The team is intact and he has plenty of rouleurs. His main problem is his positioning too, Alpecin-Fenix should have one of the stronger teams tomorrow. Take the front late and aim to be in the top-10 at the left bend before the last section. He is quick, I think only Ewan is quicker.
Bauhaus – he could end on GC duty, but as I said, the chance of a sprint is higher. He has one of the strongest teams, but some of them will look after Bilbao tomorrow. It could hinder his chances. He could in fact ride the sprint for Bilbao, who is quick enough to challenge for bonus seconds. Can he sprint uphill? I refer to 2021 Tour de Pologne – Stage 1. It is a finale that suits him, if they ride for him.
Matthews – Yates duty? I doubt it. He would like to get something out of this race and he could take vital bonus seconds of Bilbao, if he is the one sprinting for Bahrain – Victorious. He is very good at these sprints but I do not think it is steep/difficult enough for him to make him a clear favorite. Nonetheless, he will be challenging for the podium.
Hayter – he finished behind the trio today. If INEOS decide to try and rip off the race and they succeed, he should be in a good spot to fight for the win. If they fail, they are down a few riders that can cost Hayter his chances in the finale. I simply do not think he is in the kind of shape to take a stage win but you should count on him to finish in the top 10.
Coquard – on paper, a fantastic stage for him. Remember back to Paris – Nice 2022, he tend to do better when the gradients are around 4%. Cimolai is an experienced lead-out rider and Coquard is well-known for his art of positioning. With the timing tomorrow, due to the headwind on the run-up, I think Coquard will surprise a few tomorrow.
Strong – the man on everyone’s lips. I think tomorrow is the ideal stage. He won a similar finish at Tour of Britain (it was tougher, but with gradients around 5% for the last km). We saw at the intermediate sprint he is quick. Israel PT need to get their act together, Clarke and Impey should make for excellent riders in the finale. It might just be his day tomorrow.
Thijssen – crashed on stage 1, which is not ideal. Intermarché has a strong team and the reason Thijssen is still here is due to the fact, he still thinks he can win a stage. I will not write him off, especially since he has Hugo Page at his disposal. I think he is a serious contender tomorrow. The headwind favors the sprinters.
Hoffstetter – always flying under the radar isn’t he. I doubt he can win but he will finish in the top-10.
Schmid – a bit surprised he lost so much time today. He will likely sprint in hope of defending his 5th spot in GC. He has in the past beat some fast riders on the line but a top-10 is most likely.
Who will win?
A lot of riders in the mix for me tomorrow. A lot of riders want to try and get something out of this stage, meaning having a good lead-out is essential and if you have had trouble in the past with positioning, this stage may not be for you. Despite the logic, I will go for Caleb Ewan. Uphill drag, headwind. It may be good to start further back. And he is the quickest by a mile at the moment.