Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) allayed doubts over his fitness at Orcières-Merlette, claiming victory on the first summit finish of the Tour de France as Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) kept hold of the yellow jersey.
Roglic, who had to abandon the Criterium du Dauphine two weeks ago after a heavy crash, produced a strong acceleration in the final 150 metres of the climb after his teammate, the Milan-San Remo champion Wout Van Aert, had set the pace for much of the upper section of the final climb.
Fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) was not far off in second place, while Alaphilippe looked to be on terms but had to settle for fifth, behind Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) and Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) after fading in the final metres.
The Frenchman missed out on bonus seconds but remains in yellow, with Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) finishing 10th. Yates remains second overall at four seconds but Roglic, who helped himself to 10 bonus seconds for the win, is now third at seven seconds.
"I'm coming back, eh," Roglic said. "We can see that I can race and every day I feel a little better. It's nice to be able to ride again. I already got proof that I was ready for the start. Now we need to continue the whole team with a good job.
"It's the news I have to accept," he said of Alaphilippe keeping yellow. "I don't really care. It's a nice day, we stayed safe and we won, so even better. Let's continue like that."
The 160.5km stage contained four minor climbs but the first-category ascent to Orcières-Merlette, 7.1km long at a steady average gradient of 6.7 per cent), was hotly anticipated, given the rarity of major summit finishes this early in the Tour. In the end, the climb didn't produce anything spectacle like when Luis Ocana put eight minutes into Eddy Merckx here in 1971, as the general classification contenders largely looked to make sure they were present and correct in the first true test of the Tour.
Fifteen other riders were awarded the same time as Roglic at the line, providing the first real clues as to who might challenge over the coming weeks, and who's already looking shaky. On the latter, the prospect of Richard Carapaz adding another option for Ineos Grenadiers took a knock as the Giro d'Italia champion lost 28 seconds, along with the EF duo of Dani Martinez and Sergio Higuita, although EF's third leader Rigoberto Uran did finish in the front group. Movistar's two leaders, Enric Mas and Alejandro Valverde lost nine seconds and 21 seconds, respectively, while Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) – another with fitness doubts after a Dauphine crash – also lost nine seconds.
Egan Bernal was solid enough in sixth place on an explosive climb that was always going to favour the likes of Roglic, although there were cracks in Jumbo-Visma's multi-leader strategy as Tom Dumoulin, despite finishing in the lead group, seemed unhappy with his performance. Bonus seconds moved Pogacar and Martin into fourth and fifth overall, while Bernal in sixth leads a group of 10 riders at 17 seconds from Roglic.
The Tour continues on Wednesday with a dangerous stage 5 and a tricky punchy finale into Privas, while another summit finish awaits on Thursday at Mont Aigoual ahead of the mountainous weekend in the Pyrenees to finish the opening week.
How it unfolded
For the second day in a row, a small breakaway formed almost as soon as Christian Prudhomme had waved the start flag from the sunroof of the race director's car. There was a brief counter-attack that was swiftly snuffed out by Jumbo-Visma, but otherwise, six riders went clear with a minimum of fuss, and no others tempted to join them, despite the mountainous terrain on the menu.
Israel Start-Up Nation were keen on the escape, putting Nils Politt up there with Krists Neilands, and they were joined by Tiesj Benoot (Sunweb), Quentin Pacher (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept), Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R La Mondiale), and Mathieu Burgaudeau (Total Direct Energie).
Vuillermoz was the chief threat to Alaphilippe's yellow jersey, starting the day 3:53 down, and Deceuninck-QuickStep kept them on a short leash all day, their lead never rising above the four-minute mark.
The first real piece of action came at the intermediate sprint in Veynes after 51.5km. Politt led the break across but back in the bunch the green jersey contenders came to the fore, with Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) taking the maximum remaining points after a strong lead-out. The Irishman moved level on points with Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), who crossed five places further back, but the green jersey would stay with the Slovak due to his superior position on GC.
It was soon time for the first climb of the day, the category 3 Col du Festre (7.6km at 5.3 per cent), where Pacher attacked at the top to take the maximum two mountains classification points. However, it was the descent where a more concerted attack was made, this time by Politt, who hung out for 15 largely downhill kilometres before being joined by his former companions ahead of the second climb of the day, the category 4 Côte de Corps (2.2km at 6.3 per cent). Pacher was unthreatened for the sole KOM point, while Deceuninck-QuickStep led the peloton - which had fractured briefly on the previous descent and left Pogacar with a short chase - over the top 2:30 in arrears.
The break briefly split after the climb, with Vuillermoz, Politt, and Pacher going clear before Benoot exchanged words with Vuillermoz once they were back together. The road titled uphill ahead of the category 3 Côte de l'Aullagnier with just under 40km to go, with Pacher once again taking maximum points. The road continued as a false flat for 7km before a drop down towards the penultimate climb, the category 3 Côte de Saint-Léger-les-Mélèzes (2.8km at 6.8 per cent). On the descent, the breakaway dropped to five members as Tiesj Benoot misjudged a left-hand bend and crashed into and over a guardrail, snapping his bike in two but fortunately still able to ride a new one, albeit back in the peloton. Things had already intensified back there on the climb and false flat, and QuickStep proceeded to tear downhill with the gap down to 1:45 with 25km to go.
Politt had been in front of Benoot on the descent and proceeded to once again carve out of an advantage before being caught and quickly dropped when they hit the Saint-Leger-les-Melezes. Instead of Pacher, it was Neilands who attacked near the top – not for the KOM points but as a bid for freedom and a shot at the stage win. He carved out a lead of 25 seconds as Pacher and Vuillermoz gave chase, with Burgaudeau dropped.
Kasper Asgreen set a strong tempo on the approach to the final climb, catching Pacher and Vuillermoz with just under 10km to go, whereupon Jumbo-Visma took the reins. Neilands dangled out a couple of kilometres longer but was swallowed up just as the final climb began with 7.1km to go.
The final climb
Jumbo-Visma looked to set the tempo on the lower slopes but Alaphilippe quickly ordered Dries Devenyns and Bob Jungels to the front. Devenyns' turn did damage to Jumbo-Visma's numerical advantage, before Jungels took it up with 5.5km to go. The first attack came from Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept) with 4.4km to go, the Frenchman sensing the need to put pressure on a bunch that still contained some 50 riders. Yates' teammate Mikel Nieve came to the front and snuffed out Rolland's attack with 3.9km to go.
Nieve continued to set the pace before Van Aert took over with 3.3km to go, Alaphilippe tucked in behind Ineos' Michal Kwiatkowski and Jonathan Castroviejo. It was a waiting game as Van Aert led all the way to 1.5km to go, as Jumbo-Visma climbers like George Bennett and Robert Gesink fell away. Kwiatkowski then found himself on the front before Sepp Kuss came forward to up the pace, Roglic now in his wheel in second place, just ahead of Bernal, whose Ineos back-up rider Richard Carapaz was dropped.
Kuss led Roglic into the final kilometre, grimacing to take him as far as possible. Guillaume Martin then attacked with 500m to go, with Roglic clawing his way across and Alaphilippe sitting in the wheel. With 200m to go, Martin went again, but Roglic opened up for the line and got a convincing gap as Pogacar and Alaphilippe also sprinted for the line. Alaphilippe appeared to fade in the dying metres and was pipped by Martin and Quintana, but there was nothing to disprove suspicions he might once again carry the maillot jaune deep into this race.
However, it was Roglic who delivered the most resounding statement of intent and, after being surrounded by so much doubt ahead of the race, reinforced his favourite status, although this was just the first encounter of many to come in the battle for yellow.
Tour de France stage 4 highlights - Video
|Place||Rider (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Primoz Roglic (Slo) Team Jumbo-Visma||04:07:47|
|2||Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates||Row 1 - Cell 2|
|3||Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis||Row 2 - Cell 2|
|4||Nairo Quintana (Col) Team Arkea-Samsic||Row 3 - Cell 2|
|5||Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-Quickstep||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|6||Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno (Col) Astana Pro Team||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|7||Egan Arley Bernal Gomez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|8||Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|9||Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Bahrain McLaren||Row 8 - Cell 2|
|10||Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott||Row 9 - Cell 2|
|11||Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma||Row 10 - Cell 2|
|12||Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott||Row 11 - Cell 2|
|13||Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo||Row 12 - Cell 2|
|14||Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo||Row 13 - Cell 2|
|15||Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Pro Cycling||Row 14 - Cell 2|
|16||Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R la Mondiale||Row 15 - Cell 2|
|17||Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe||00:00:09|
|18||Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar Team||00:00:09|
|19||Sepp Kuss (USA) Team Jumbo-Visma||00:00:09|
|20||Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Pro Cycling||00:00:15|
|21||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team||00:00:21|
|22||Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sunweb||00:00:28|
|23||Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain McLaren||00:00:28|
|24||Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers||00:00:28|
|25||Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) Groupama-FDJ||00:00:28|
|26||Daniel Felipe Martinez Poveda (Col) EF Pro Cycling||00:00:28|
|27||Sergio Andres Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Pro Cycling||00:00:28|
|28||Marc Hirschi (Swi) Team Sunweb||00:00:38|
|29||Pierre Rolland (Fra) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept||00:00:57|
|30||Davide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||00:00:57|
|31||Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic||00:00:59|
|32||Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R la Mondiale||00:01:05|
|33||Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis||00:01:10|
|34||Kenny Elissonde (Fra) Trek-Segafredo||00:01:15|
|35||Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) NTT Pro Cycling||00:01:15|
|36||Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||00:01:17|
|37||Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar Team||00:01:17|
|38||Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) Ineos Grenadiers||00:01:26|
|39||Ion Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Astana Pro Team||00:01:26|
|40||Romain Sicard (Fra) Total Direct Energie||00:01:38|
|41||Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal||00:01:53|
|42||Winner Anacona (Col) Team Arkea-Samsic||00:01:53|
|43||Pello Bilbao (Spa) Bahrain McLaren||00:02:06|
|44||Wout van Aert (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma||00:02:12|
|45||Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R la Mondiale||00:02:17|
|46||Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Ineos Grenadiers||00:02:54|
|47||David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||00:03:00|
|48||Mikel Nieve Iturralde (Spa) Mitchelton-Scott||00:03:04|
|49||Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team||00:03:04|
|50||Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||00:03:04|
|51||George Bennett (NZl) Team Jumbo-Visma||00:03:04|
|52||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team||00:03:04|
|53||Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation||00:03:09|
|54||Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) CCC Team||00:03:22|
|55||Harold Alfonso Tejada Canacue (Col) Astana Pro Team||00:03:22|
|56||Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe||00:03:22|
|57||Luis León Sanchez (Spa) Astana Pro Team||00:03:22|
|58||Niklas Eg (Den) Trek-Segafredo||00:03:22|
|59||Lennard Kämna (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe||00:03:59|
|60||Gregor Mühlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe||00:03:59|
|61||Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates||00:03:59|
|62||Neilson Powless (USA) EF Pro Cycling||00:03:59|
|63||Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb||00:04:08|
|64||Robert Gesink (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma||00:04:21|
|65||Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis||00:04:53|
|66||Bob Jungels (Lux) Deceuninck-Quickstep||00:05:12|
|67||Dylan Van Baarle (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers||00:05:55|
|68||Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe||00:05:55|
|69||Andrey Amador (CRc) Ineos Grenadiers||00:05:55|
|70||Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ||00:06:06|
|71||Michael Schär (Swi) CCC Team||00:06:06|
|72||Simon Geschke (Ger) CCC Team||00:06:06|
|73||Cyril Gautier (Fra) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept||00:06:15|
|74||Ben Hermans (Bel) Israel Start-Up Nation||00:06:47|
|75||Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Arkea-Samsic||00:07:06|
|76||Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) CCC Team||00:07:06|
|77||Tejay Van Garderen (USA) EF Pro Cycling||00:07:06|
|78||Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana Pro Team||00:07:06|
|79||Dayer Quintana (Col) Team Arkea-Samsic||00:08:48|
|80||Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team||00:08:48|
|81||Dario Cataldo (Ita) Movistar Team||00:09:13|
|82||Hugo Houle (Can) Astana Pro Team||00:09:13|
|83||Dries Devenyns (Bel) Deceuninck-Quickstep||00:09:23|
|84||Omar Fraile Matarranz (Spa) Astana Pro Team||00:09:50|
|85||Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo||00:11:39|
|86||Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Start-Up Nation||00:11:39|
|87||Tony Martin (Ger) Team Jumbo-Visma||00:11:39|