Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tour Preview - Stage 4

If the outcome of Tuesday’s stage seemed familiar to you, it might as well happen again on Stage 4. After an uphill ‘Tourminator’ sprint, it’s now time for a regular bunch sprint. The route goes alongside the sea and with rain and cross wind on the menu it could very well be another dramatic stage. Everybody wants to be in the front - both GC-riders and sprinters - so there won’t be any time to relax during the 214,5 km towards Rouen.

With Marcel Kittel out of the picture (he might be back later in the Tour, but not already) it’s up to Lotto and GreenEdge to take control. One could argue that Team Sky should take part as well, but with all focus on Bradley Wiggins and Konstantin Sioutsou already out of the race with a broken leg, they can’t really spare any riders at this point. Of course if the cross wind becomes a factor it’s another story. But then they will be pulling for Wiggins, not for Cavendish. He is, once again, on his own.

When Mark Cavendish won in Tournai he used first Oscar Freire and then the GreenEdge leadout train to get him back to the front after finding himself down in 25th position with less than a kilometer to go. I think the other teams will be more focused on not letting Cavendish reenter in the mix if he isn’t up there already and I expect Lotto to charge again. They have proven to have the strongest leadout train and with Sieberg, Roelandts and Henderson as the three last riders before Greipel they will be very, very difficult to overtake.

About 12 km from the finishing line the road kicks up for a few kilometers, but except from the very first part it shouldn’t have much influence on the outcome. On the top there is a long stretch of false flat before the riders slightly turn left and starts the real part of the descent. It’s a big road with only one or two corners before entering Rouen, so be ready for a super fast finish. Just before the last kilometer the riders turn right on a bridge crossing the Seine river - the ‘Last Kilometer Gate’ is actually placed on the bridge - and right after crossing the river there is a tricky left hand turn with about 700 meters to go.

It’s slight downhill the all the way to the line and if Lotto once again have timed it, Andre Greipel should be able to pull it off this time. As said it’s a super fast finish and those kind of run-ins actually suit Team Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank’s Juan José Haedo pretty well. If the Polka Dot beast Michael Mørkøv  and Tour-debutant Jonathan Cantwell can get Haedo placed around Greipel’s wheel he should be able to take advantage of his very high top speed.

Winner pick: Andre Greipel 
Top3 pick: Juan José Haedo

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