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Live coverage

Tour de France 2019: Stage 4


Good morning and welcome to the Cyclingnews coverage from stage 4 of the Tour de France. We're in Reims this morning  - where we left off after stage 3 - and ahead of the race, 213.5km to Nancy. On paper this should be another day for the sprinters but as we saw on stage 1, anything can happen at the Tour de France. 

The riders will roll out in around 25 minutes from now and they have about 15 minutes of neutralized roads before the stage officially starts. Here's how things look in terms of the maillot jaune heading into today's action.


1 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep 9:32:19
2 Wout Van Aert (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma 0:00:20
3 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma 0:00:25
4 George Bennett (NZl) Team Jumbo-Visma
5 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb 0:00:40
6 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Ineos
7 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Ineos 0:00:45
8 Enric Mas (Spa) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:00:46
9 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team 0:00:51
10 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb


The race will head eastwards and 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.


Some news from this morning is that Kasper Asgreen can start the stage. He was involved in a high-speed crash yesterday. His bike split in two as a result of the fall but the Dane, who was second at the Tour of Flanders earlier in the year is going to continue after passing medical checks last night and this morning. You can find more on that story, here,


The sun is out and most of the peloton have free-wheeled to the start line. We'll be underway in around six minutes. Tom Steels has told the media this morning that Asgreen will have a day off in the peloton and will not be tasked with his usual team duties. There should be a headwind in the finish today, so that will make the finale very interesting.

All of the jerseys are on the startline, we have a Frenchman in yellow, and he's all smiles as he talks to Wout van Aert. The man in green, Peter Sagan, gives a big wave to the crowds when his name is called out as Tim Wellens makes some final adjustments to his jersey. 


Sagan at the start this morning: It's a chance for me to win but for many other riders too. I'm going to try my best." 


The riders set off from the centre of Reims. There's a slight tailwind at the moment but generally the conditions are perfect. 



So most of the attention was directed towards Alaphilippe yesterday, understandable given his win and the fact that he's now in the yellow jersey. But below the hype we saw Bernal and Pinot gain a few seconds on their rivals in the GC. Doesn't sound like a lot but at this point in the race that's a very precious number, especially with the first summit finish coming up in a few days. Here's our story on Bernal, Ineos and the defending champion Geraint Thomas.


Still in the neutralized zone for now and the pace is relatively gentle. 2.2km before Prudhomme sticks his head through the sunroof and drops the flag. 


Morkov and Alaphilppe are deep in conversation at the front of the bunch and they're likely talking about who to mark and who they can let go when it comes to the formation of the break. Don't expect a Lotto Soudal rider to go on the attack today. 


Prudhomme does his duty and so do Wanty, kicking things off with a two man group. 


A CCC rider joins the fun and we have three riders in the break. First attack and it looks like we have the break of the day. 


That's the break of the day. On behalf of cycling, I apologise. 


Quintana is on the front of the bunch and is in fits of laughter. Not sure what's so funny Nairo but please tell us because there's little else going on for the next few hours. 


By the way, Schar, Offredo and Backaert are the three riders who have remembered they're in a race. 


The three leaders have 1'21 over the peloton with 208km to go.


Have you read Carlton Kirby's book? I have. 


"Jogging along without apparently breathing is the fitter, younger half of the Grand Tour lead team, Rob Hatch. He does shave his legs. And they are impressive."


Stayed tuned for more.


201km remaining from 213km

Just over 201km to go and the gap has gone out to 3'02. Lotto Soudal had a man in the break on stage 3 but today is perfect for their sprinter Ewan, so it's all hands on deck as the Australian looks to win his first Tour de France stage. CCC are here for stages so that's why they've put Schar in the break today. Wanty are in the same position although they have Martin, who could be a factor in the mountains. A very underrated rider.


The peloton line out, so they're keeping the break under control for now. They probably realise that Schar is a bit of danger given how much of an engine he is. He's currently driving the break along with 199km to go. Offredo in the break for the second day in a row. 


He's in yellow and he's riding with yellow bar-tape, but click here to check out Alaphilippe's race bike.


On the front of the peloton we have a gaggle of teams - mostly those with a sprinter in their ranks - but Ineos are also towards the front as they look out for Thomas and Bernal. 


The break aren't able to draw out any more time as Visma, QuickStep and Lotto Soudal post a man each on the front of the peloton. The gab is at 3'02 with 192km to go.


The riders in the break have a bit more of a cross-tailwind now as we see them drift from left to right. The conditions shouldn't really be a problem for those in the peloton, however.


Van Aert is riding at the back of the bunch for now, and so too his Alaphilippe, who went back to the team cars. 


There's more of a cross wind now though, and Ineos take over. Bad time to take a comfort break. 


QuickStep are concerned with the danger and they move the yellow jersey towards the front of the peloton. 186km to go.


Ineos peel off and Lotto Soudal and QuickStep get back to work as we see the maillot jaune take on some fuel. The gap to the three-man break remains at 3'05.


A bandaged Fuglsang is in conversation with compatriot Morkov, near the front of the peloton as we see Astana start to move up as well. We've a couple of level crossings coming up shortly. 


The three leaders haven't been afforded any room by the bunch with the gap still holding at around three minutes with 180km to go as we head through the village of Recy. 


We can see Thomas moving up on the far side of peloton but there's no real urgency in the peloton at the moment. Van Aert has gone back to the team car and is currently handing out bidons, even offering the TV crews a swig. 


Every time the CN blimp heads back to the break it's Schar on the front, driving the pace but the gap is still at 3'01 with 174km to go.


More from Kirby's book later.

"Meanwhile, I was stumbling around bollock naked shouting, 'My f--king computer! Where's my f--king computer?'"


Rigoberto Uran is about to eat a banana.


That's not from the book. That's actually about to happen. 


169km to go. The break has 3'00.

Visma have put another rider on the front of the bunch. They've dominated the Tour so far and they've done so with their new signings. Van Aert has played a big part in the stages so far, Tony Martin looks like a new rider since his move from Katusha and Mike Teunissen has had the week of his life. He was close to going to Bahrain Merida last year but in the end chose to move to Jumbo Visma. The Dutch team have been great in the transfer market over the last 12 months, it has to be said and they're still linked with Dumoulin and Kittel for 2020.


Egan Bernal and Thibaut Pinot gained five seconds yesterday in a small split at the line. An innocuous and largely insignificant occurrence, you might think, but actually these small things do count, adding up to that all-important concept of momentum. 


"Bernal, fresh from Tour de Suisse victory last month, has it in spades," writes Barry Ryan. "Geraint Thomas, who endured a truncated build-up, is a man still in search of it." 


Momentum still with Bernal as Thomas loses five seconds in fraught finale


153km remaining from 213km

With just over 150km remaining, the gap between the three leaders and the peloton has moved out slightly again, to 3:25. 

Here's a shot of our breakaway trio



Maxime Monfort is currently at the front of the peloton and setting the pace. He's tucked over the bars, holding a pair of imaginary Spinacis. 142km to go and the gap is at 2'52.

The feedzone comes up in around 20km from now as we see Tony Martin take up the pace-setting duties on the front of the main field. Some questioned his move when Jumbo Visma signed him after two quiet years at Katusha but he's been pivotal in the Tour so far - adding both experience and horsepower. 


Matteo Trentin won in Nancy, where today's stage finishes, back in 2014. This morning he spoke to Cyclingnews at the start:


"My victory in Nancy was a big thing. It was the first of several nice victories. The stage back then was hillier than this year's course. There's was a tough climb shortly before the finish too, if i recall. Today I'll try and mix in but it'll be more difficult. Next year? Nothing's decided yet."


He's been linked with CCC for 2020.


Who are you tipping for today's stage win? Let me know on Twitter and I'll reply here and tell you why you're probably wrong.

Sunweb have moved up and are just sitting behind the chasing teams. They're in a good position at the moment because few would expect them to chase and there are a couple of bumps before the finish. They might try and stretch the race and wear down the sprinters and after a tough TTT and three days of around 200km there are going to be some tired riders out there. Matthews could be in the frame come the finish. 


@dnlbenson im thinking caleb ewan to win todays stage

@George_cnp Tue, 9th Jul 2019 12:44:36

Crash and it looks like Gallopin is down. 


116km remaining from 213km

Yet another fall for the Frenchman in this race. AG2R have had terrible luck in crashes this year but there are number of riders involved here, including Konrad and Pauwels. Cofidis have a few riders held up too. 


Everyone involved should make it back to the peloton but Tony Martin just keeps plugging away at the front of the main field. 3'26 with 115km to go.


Izagirre was also held up in that crash put he's being paced back to the peloton as our three riders head through the feedzone.


No lunch for Schar due to Offredo getting in the way. No hard feelings, however, as the Frenchman offers the Wanty rider a Coke. Schar will have to grab food from the team car. 


@dnlbenson I have Caleb Ewen for the stage win today. He's the only sprinter on my TdF Fantasy team so I need him to get me a win!

@cjrogers5150 Tue, 9th Jul 2019 12:52:46

The peloton come through the feedzone. Bernal is at the front but he's on the far side of road while Kwiatkowski does the dangerous work, and picks up the Colombian's lunch and effectively drops it off. It's a bit like watching Uber Eats, but live. 


Schar then drop back to the team car and is read the menu by the DS. Today's specials: energy bars, gels, and a bidon. 


Giro Rosa: Annemiek van Vleuten wins queen stage on Passo Fraele

@Cyclingnewsfeed Tue, 9th Jul 2019 13:02:00

100km remaining from 213km

100km to go, with the gap to the three leaders at 3'10. We're about 8km from the first 4th cat climb of the day, the Cote de Rosieres.


Just looking ahead it's a tricky finish for the riders today. A couple of tight corners, a narrowing in the road and then a headwind sprint. Positioning and timing are going to be key. If a rider goes too early in the sprint he's going to fade badly before the line so you almost only want to see the line with around 75m to go. 


Out front and the break continue to plough on. Their advantage has gone out slightly, to 3'26, as the bunch ease back and digest their lunch. We can see Barguil in the French champion's jersey. His team have done a nice job with the jersey, that's for sure. You can find our MEGA gallery of national champ jerseys, right here.


The leader trio are fast approaching the first climb of the day with their gap out to 3'30.

Schar takes the points for his team in the KOM.


Wout van Aert is once again at the back of the bunch. He's been there on and off a lot today but he'll certainly play a role later in the stage as he looks to set up Dylan Groegewegen for the sprint. The Dutchman crashed on stage 1 but still has the complete backing of his Jumbo Visma teammates. Coming into the Tour de France Groenewegen was the form sprinter.


There's fresh impetus from the bunch as we head towards the final two hours of racing. The gap has dropped to 2'42. 


A few more GC teams are getting involved in the action, and have posted riders towards the front of the peloton. That's simply to keep their assets protected and out of danger ,so we can see FDJ lead Pinot, while a pick of EF Education First riders surround Rigoberto Uran.


Tony Martin is back on the front and doing all the work at the moment. Luke Rowe is at the front of the Ineos pipeline of riders as he moves Bernal and Thomas into the frame. 


71km remaining from 213km

The intermediate sprint is around 6km away and as a result we can see a few sprinters - and their trains - start to organise themselves. As a result the gap to the break has been chipped back to 2'16 with 71km to go.


Martin's work is done and now we see QuickStep take over as they look to perhaps set up Viviani for the intermediate sprint. We'll have to see if the Italian will really give this ago before the finish or save his legs. 


Backaert winds things up and goes early for the intermediate sprint. He takes it ahead of Schar. Will he put his hands up to celebrate? 


Sadly not. Shame.


Schar isn't bothered. He picks up the Wanty rider and just settles the pace. Bahrain Merida are now leading the bunch for Colbrelli.


Viviani or Colbrelli took that one. Sagan was in the mix too. The break was small so there were more points on offer. Viviani was first over the line ahead of Colbrelli and Sagan. Matthews was in the mix but I don't think we saw Ewan. He's saving it all for the finale. Same with Groenewegen.


Kung and Bouet have a short but sharp conversation at the front of the bunch with the bigger-framed FDJ rider nudging his way ahead and towards the front. Best not to get in the way, Maxime. It's not worth it.


He's back. Tony Martin returns to the front of the main field as the gap drops to closer to one minute with 54km to go.


Another crash. Just as the rider narrows. Michael Woods. 


He's back up on his bike and is chasing.


It doesn't look like Woods did any real damage and he's chasing back to the peloton as we enter the final 50km of racing.


Monfort and Martin - teammates many years ago - continue to do all the work on the front of the bunch and with 46km to go the gap to the break is at 1'08.