Stage 4: Saumur – Limoges
238km Flat Stage – Suited to bunch sprint
Stage 3 panned out as predicted, the only surprise being that Greipel was beaten in a photo finish by Cavendish, who now moves level with the great Bernard Hinault with 28 TDF stage wins. The Wolf is still not convinced that Cavendish is back to his very best but he is certainly taking his opportunities when he sees them! Back in his heyday, Cavendish was the master at using his lead out train to position him in the best possible spot for a stage win. His 2016, Dimension Data, team do not have the same ability as that but what they do have in their ranks is vast experience. Cavendish is using that experience to put himself in the right place, on the right wheel to launch these winning sprints against the two faster men in Greipel & Kittel.
The Wolf thinks it’s fantastic to watch. Greipel will come away frustrated for two reasons. Firstly his team messed up the train and left him isolated too early and secondly, Greipel himself has admitted that he chose the wrong gear for the uphill sprint. It happens, but it is definitely a rookie error and something he’ll want to rectify on Stage 4.
Onto Stage 4 and we should see a carbon copy of Stage 3. The parcours is pan flat so expect to see an early breakaway from one of the local French riders until that gets gobbled up by the peloton towards the finish of the stage. This will be the last chance for the sprinters to win a stage for a while, meaning that the race will be firmly controlled by the key trains of the main sprinters and it’ll be rather uneventful until the last 30km or so. Again we have an uphill sprint finish so that will favour the likes of Greipel, Cavendish & Sagan over some of the other sprinters
Greipel – $4.50
As mentioned earlier, Greipel should’ve won Stage 3 from Cavendish. He’ll be spurred on to win today and the uphill finish suits him. It’s at a slightly steeper gradient than he would want in a perfect world but he has won stages that are harder, Stage 5 of this year’s Giro being a perfect example. The Wolf is sticking with the big German to see out the stage win here.
Sagan – $4.00
What Sagan lacks in pure speed, he certainly makes up for in decision making and positioning. The 5% uphill finish suits him perfectly and his sprinting ability this season has been excellent. He will look to take the wheel of one of the main sprinters and launch an attack towards the finish, just as he did on Stage 2.
Cavendish – $7.00
What a tour so far for the Manx Missile. The uphill finish doesn’t play to his strengths but he’ll be riding high after his 2 previous stage wins and if he can position himself on the right wheel again he certainly has the ability to power for the line. He has won harder sprints, Stage 9 TDF 2009 & the World Champs in 2011 spring to mind but the Wolf is still not convinced he is at those levels this year.
Coquard – $7.00
The young French rider has improved his speed and positioning vastly this year and the uphill finish is exactly his cup of tea. His lead out train is a concern but if he can position himself on the right wheel he has a chance of winning the stage.
Roughie: Enger – $51
The Wolf is going to take a chance on this young Norwegian rider to maybe spring a surprise here. The final stage of the Tour of Croatia is a prime example of the talent that this man has and he could become a puncheur to rival Sagan in a few years. One drawback is his lack of experience, something that he’ll have to counter by hoping that his IAM team can deliver him at the front leading to the finish. He’s is in excellent form and has the speed to pull off a shock.