Stage 4: Reims - Nancy
Date: July 9, 2019
Stage type: Flat
There's not much to excite the pure sprinters on this climb-heavy Tour, so this is one stage that they will be determined to keep for themselves. It begins in the Champagne capital of Reims, from where the race leader will set out with his yellow jersey adorned with an image of the city's magnificent Gothic cathedral in which the kings of France were once crowned.
Heading eastwards, there are no significant difficulties at all, unless the wind begins to blow, although if it comes from the prevailing direction it will only serve to push the peloton along at an even faster rate towards the almost inevitable field sprint finale. In the meantime, the wild card teams will encourage their riders to infiltrate the break and keep it in front of the TV cameras for as many of the 215 kilometres as possible.
There are just two fourth-category climbs on route, each more of an inconvenience rather than a difficulty. The second of the pair, the Côte de Maron, arrives just 16km from the finish, but won't be enough to trouble either the sprinters' teams' quest to ensure a bunch sprint or the sprinters sitting within the pack saving every possible watt of power for the final few hundred metres.
Fausto Coppi may have taken solo wins in Nancy on the way to both of his Tour victories in the post-war years, but the contemporary yellow jersey contenders will only emerge at the front approaching the final three kilometres, hoping a place in the vanguard will help them to avoid crashes and the loss of vital seconds, before being overrun by the sprinters' trains. On the 1,500-metre finishing straight, these should be rocking along at 65km/h and more, the sprinters in the rear wagon eventually emerging at 70km/h and more.