Stage 4 of the 2014 Tour de France is the first to actually take place on French soil after three days of racing in England kicked of this year's proceedings.
A short stage at 163.5 kilometres—the organisers were mindful of the move from London and the cobbles coming up in Stage 5—it is likely to be dominated by the sprinters.
Marcel Kittel has taken both sprint finishes in the Tour so far—at Stage 1 and Stage 3—and will surely be in the mix come the end of Stage 4 in Lille Metropole.
Date: Tuesday 8 July
Distance: 163.5 km
|2||Peter Sagan||Cannondale||+2 secs|
|3||Michael Albasini||GreenEdge||Same Time|
|4||Greg Van Avermaet||BMC Racing||st|
|9||Jurgen Van den Broeck||Lotto||st|
|10||Romain Bardet||AG2R La Mondiale||st|
|5||Greg Van Avermaet||BMC Racing||40|
|8||Jose Joaquin Rojas||Movistar||30|
|2||Blel Kadri||AG2R La Mondiale||5|
Tuesday's stage runs along the French border with Belgium, starting from Le Touquet-Paris-Plage and finishing in Lille Metropole.
Although a relatively flat stage, there are two category-four climbs, the last of which comes at Mont Noir, over 40 kilometres away from the finish.
In between the two climbs comes the intermediate sprint at Cassel, just over halfway through the stage, and it will likely be a bunch sprint finish come the climax.
From the starting point, the stage heads north-east to Saint-Omer and then hugs the Belgian border as it moves towards Lille.
Something of a calm-before-the-storm stage with the much anticipated cobbles to face on Stage 5, the yellow jersey contenders will conserve their legs during this relatively straightforward stage.
Giant-Shimano's Kittel is the favourite to pick up yet another win on Stage 4 in France, as it will be another sprint finish.
The German would not be beaten on The Mall in the climax of Stage 3 despite having green jersey wearer Peter Sagan locked behind him towards the finish, per ByTheMin Cycling:
Kittel just completely out sprinted Sagan, he couldn't get anywhere near Him— ByTheMin Cycling (@ByTheMinCycle) July 7, 2014
Kittel was just too strong and looks to be in fine form heading into Stage 4, and if his team-mates can put him in a good position once again, look for him to take another win.
However, the likes of Sagan, Lotto-Belisol's Andre Greipel and Omega Pharma-Quick Step's Mark Renshaw—stepping into the injured Mark Cavendish's shoes—are all likely to be competing for podium spots.
The stage is short enough for the potential of an early breakaway, which could throw a spanner in the works if the wind is favourable.
However, as proven in Stage 3, it is very difficult to make an early breakaway stick, and the stage is flat enough that the main sprinters' teams should be able to reel in any potential riders and put their men into the best position to win the stage.