The Tour de Frances heads for the hills of the Vosges
- Tour de France race hub
- Start list
- Stage 4: Viviani gets his win in Nancy
- Tour de France podcast: Viviani victorious as Thomas eyes first mountain summit
- No limits on Alaphilippe at the Tour de France
- Lance Armstrong: I'd have won the Tour de France if everyone was clean
Good morning. The first week of this Tour de France isn't simply a succession of sprint stages. After Elia Viviani's win yesterday, we head straight for the Vosges mountains in north eastern France. We know all about tomorrow's brutal stage finishing on La Planche des Belles Filles, but first we have this rather more subtle affair, which could go any number of ways - breakaway win, reduced bunch sprint, small group sprint, solo win... even GC action cannot be totally ruled out.
We're in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, where the sun is out and the riders are signing on ahead of the start of the stage. They'll be rolling out at 13.15 local time, with the stage proper to be waved underway 10 minutes or so later.
Here's a closer look at the stage profile. It's undulating for the first half but things get serious with around 70km to go. The combination of the Côte des Trois-Epis and the Côte des Cinq Chatueax form a rollercoaster ride, with a 10km run-in to Colmar ensuring suspense until the last.
The pure sprinters are unlikely to survive this, meaning we're looking at the likes of Sagan, Van Aert, Matthews, Van Avermaet, and, yes, even the maillot jaune himself Alaphilippe. However, this could just as easily go the way of a breakaway, and we are sure to see a big fight today to make it up the road.
Before we get going, here's what happened yesterday. Report, results, photos, highlights video... it's all in the link below.
Here's the man in yellow: Julian Alaphilippe. Many are questioning how long he can hold onto the maillot jaune. Many are also questioning whether he'll now ride to defend the jersey, or whether he'll continue to show the same sort of attacking verve that netted him it in the first place.
The riders are rolling and heading through the neutralised section.
Here's how the GC stands after four stages
1 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep 14:41:39
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 Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First
Christian Prudhomme emerges from the sunroof and waves that flag. We are racing.
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) immediately accelerates away. Don't say you're surprised.
The Belgian breakaway specialist is joined by riders from AG2R, Katusha, Sunweb, DiData, Trek, and Total Direct Energie.
It's Oliver Naesen for AG2R, Ben King for DiData. It's a strong move but there's no let-up behind.
EF Education First obviously want to be in there - they're chasing this down.
It's Lilian Calmejane for Total and Jasper Stuyven for Trek. Looks like Mads Wurtz Schmidt for Katusha and Chad Haga for Sunweb. So yeah, pretty strong.
171km remaining from 175km
EF fire a rider over but it's still full gas at the head of the peloton.
That's it. All over. Bahrain drag it back and the peloton is back as on. Now for round 2...
De Gendt goes again!
It's lined out behind De Gendt but no gaps at the moment. This could go on for quite a while.
Chad Haga rides behind De Gendt, Nils Politt (Katusha) looks interested, too. Rohan Dennis is up there for Bahrain.
A lull and now a bigger acceleration. But it does nothing more than string out the bunch once again.
Politt, those teeth somehow still shining bright on the sunniest of days, is on the move now.
CCC send a rider to join and now Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), wearing the polka-dot jersey, attacks in pursuit.
That's three. Anyone else? Yes, AG2R ping a rider up. Looks like Gougeard at first glance.
It is Gougeard, and it's Lukas Wizniowski for CCC, but it's coming to nothing. As you were.
It's still fluid, with brief accelerations and mini moves, but nothing getting away for now.
AG2R are determined here, and it looks like Cosnefroy on the move for them. De Gendt is on the case.
They're joined by Jan Tratnik (Bahrain) and are away as a trio for now, but they haven't got much of an advantage.
De Gendt has to go wide through a right-hander to avoid a traffic island. That knocks a little momentum off but they're starting to pull away now.
Cosnefroy, De Gendt, and Tratnik have around 10 seconds but they're not being allowed away. Total Direct Energie aren't letting this go.
155km remaining from 175km
More attacks now and the front of the peloton stretches and fragments. The leading trio are almost caught.
Back together again.
Almost immediately, the dice is rolled again, this time by Katusha. EF, and Trek send someone to follow.
This could be it. The peloton has bunched up and knocked it off.
Wellens followed that counter and is up the road. This is going clear.
It's Schmidt again for Katusha, Toms Skujins for Trek, and Simon Clarke for EF.
151km remaining from 175km
So four riders up the road, with 30 seconds and counting...
Mads Würtz Schmidt (Katusha-Alpecin)
Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal)
Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo)
Simon Clarke (EF Education First)
Wellens stands to extend his lead in the mountains classification, which he earned with his breakaway effort two days ago. There are two Category-2 and two Category-3 climbs today, so a maximum of 14 points on offer.
Here's how it currently stands:
1 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal 7 pts
2 Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Wanty-Gobert 3
3 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team 2
Of the quartet, Clarke is the best placed on GC. He's 73rd, 5:04 down on race leader Alaphilippe.
140km remaining from 175km
The breakaway aren't having this easy. The gap rose to two minutes but then stabilised and has now started to come down, as Bora-Hansgrohe set a strong tempo on the front of the bunch. 1:40 as it stands.
The latest episode of our Tour de France podcast is out. We discuss Viviani and his future, Alaphilippe, Sagan, and look ahead to La Planche des Belles Filles.
136km remaining from 175km
The four escapees are a couple of kilometres away from the first climb of the day.
Côte de Grendelbruch
The leaders are on the climb and Wellens is doing a fair bit of work on the front. 2 points on offer at the top.
130km remaining from 175km
The breakaway riders reach the top of the climb and there's no contest for the points. Wellens leads as they hit the KOM line and the others are happy with that.
129km remaining from 175km
Bora, with Burghardt on the front, lead the peloton over the climb, two minutes behind.
As they take on an interrupted downhill section, the peloton up the tempo again and begin to close the gap to the break. It's down to 1:30 now.
Important to note there's an intermediate sprint coming up at kilometre-71, so in just under 20km time. Sagan will be keen to pick up points there to extend his lead in the points classification. Sunweb are also working on the front now and they have Matthews third in those standings.
Lance Armstrong has opened his mouth again...
117km remaining from 175km
The gap continues to fall. 1:10 now as Bora crack on.
109km remaining from 175km
Bora move aside and the gap goes back out again. 1:40 now.
The breakaway will stay away to the intermediate sprint, which they'll reach in a few kilometres. There are points on offer for the first 15, so plenty on offer for Sagan and co from the peloton.
Here's how the points are distributed:
World champion Alejandro Valverde has to stop for a bike change. He'd already stopped a few minutes ago for a new wheel but that obviously didn't do the trick.
Time for the intermediate sprint, and Clarke skips away to collect maximum points. No real contest from the other three.
Here comes the peloton. This sprint is on a lightly uphill section.
Oss leads it out for Bora. Bahrain are keen too.
Richeze comes through to lead out Viviani....
And Viviani gets there first, ahead of Sagan and Matthews.
100km remaining from 175km
100km to go and the gap between the breakaway (Wellens, Schmidt, Skujins, Clarke) have a lead of 1:54 over the peloton.
How far can Julian Alaphilippe go at this Tour de France and future Tours? Barry Ryan delves in...
89km remaining from 175km
The gap has moved back out to 2:15. Sunweb are working on the front of the peloton for Matthews. We're around 15km from the foot of the Côte du Haut-Koenigsbourg, the second climb of the day, and the first of the two Cat-2 ascents.
Viviani said he owed yesterday's victory to his teammates, but he's leaving Deceuninck-QuickStep at the end of the year. Rumours have swirled in recent weeks but both he and QuickStep boss Patrick Lefevere have confirmed the exit. Full story here.
QuickStep have now sent Viviani's lead-out man Max Richeze up to help pull the peloton along. Kasper Asgreen would probably doing that work on a day like today but the Dane is still recovering from a very nasty crash on stage 3.
Here's how Asgreen's bike ended up as a result of that crash, by the way. Goodness knows how he came away relatively unscathed. He had to undergo two concussion tests before being declared fit to continue. Details here.
Bora, QuickStep, and Sunweb are trading turns on the front of the bunch and the gap to the four leaders remains stable at 2:18.
The quartet have come into Orschwiller and will soon be climbing the Côte du Haut-Koenigsbourg.
71km remaining from 175km
The escapees hit the climb. Here are the stats
Côte du Haut-Koenigsbourg
Caleb Ewan is already right at the back of the peloton.
The four leaders are trading turns. Wellens is arguably the strongest climber but it's a solid group. Skujins thrives on hilly terrain, and Simon Clarke has been quality in the last couple of seasons, notably finishing on the podium at Amstel Gold Race in April.
The first sprinter is dropped; Ewan loses contact with the back of the bunch. A teammate drops back to help him along but if he's already getting dropped here then it's fair to say he stands no chance of being in contention at the end of today's stage.
The leaders come towards the top of the climb and Wellens is set to take the points again.
Again, Wellens takes them over the top and no one dares to challenge him. Another five points for the Belgian, who extends his lead in the mountains classification and will be wearing the polka-dots again tomorrow.
Burghardt is still on the front for Bora as the peloton comes to the top of the climb.<