Who will win TdF Stage 4 from Sisteron to Orcières-Merlette?

Stage 4 into Orcières-Merlette will be the first proper shake-up for the overall contenders for the 2020 TdF title, with a Category 1 mountain-top finish.


The Bicycling Staff |

Stage 4

Sisteron to Orcières-Merlette

160.5km

Let the sorting begin, and what better place than the climb to Orcières-Merlette? It’s rare for the Tour de France to have a significant summit finish so early in the race, but Tuesday’s stage carries the riders into the Haute-Alpes region for an uphill finale at the Orcières-Merlette ski area near the Écrins National Park.

It’s not one of the hardest stages—those are mostly reserved for the race’s final week—but it does have almost 3 000 meters of ascent across five categorised climbs.

Expect an early breakaway. The composition is a little difficult to predict. Anthony Perez of Cofidis was locked in a tight battle with Ag2r la Mondiale’s Benoit Cosnefroy in the best climber standings, but Perez crashed out on Stage 3’s big descent, leaving Cosnefroy with a lead that he should easily defend since most of the climbs except the finish are lower-category (and carry smaller point totals). So we’d expect the break to mostly be made up of riders hunting a stage win, and it may not go until after the intermediate sprint, 51km in, as that competition is tight right now.

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Unlike Stage 1, the weather shouldn’t be a factor: The forecast is for partly sunny skies and, at most, a light breeze. If the breakaway is big enough and motivated enough, it could stay away to the finish. But the final climb also offers an early test for the general classification.

Like a lot of Alpine climbs, the switchbacked ramps to Orcières-Merlette are fairly steady. And the climb isn’t long (7.1km) or steep (6.7 percent average) by TdF standards. So don’t expect big gaps between the GC contenders. There might be a few attacks in the final kilometer or so that yield a handful of seconds, but the big question will be whether there are prerace favorites who can’t follow the pace because of injuries or just a day of bad form.

But who will win in Orcières-Merlette?

Yellow Jersey Julian Alaphillipe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) said he will defend the race lead as long as he can, and this climb may not pose huge difficulties for him. But the GC is tightly packed; there are 34 riders within 17 seconds of his lead. Since there are time bonuses for the first three riders (10, 6, and 4 seconds) across the line, he’ll have to be attentive to closing gaps. Among the GC contenders, watch Groupama-FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot, Astana’s Miguel Ángel López, and Bora-Hansgrohe’s Emanuel Buchmann, who all crashed on Stage 1. This will be the first indication of whether their injuries are serious enough to be factors. With the contenders all eyeing each other, it’s a prime chance for a talented teammate to slip away for the win: EF Pro Cycling’s Sergio Higuita, Astana’s Alexey Lutsenko, and Movistar’s Enric Mas all merit watching.

We have to choose one to spray the bubbly in Orcières-Merlette, so Higuita it is!

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