Tour de France: Stage Four Preview: Saumur – Limoges

The riders will face a long day in the saddle as they make the 237.5km  journey from Saumur - Limoges. 

There will be plenty of leaden legs at the end of stage four – the longest at the 2016 edition of the Tour de France. This comes straight after the 223.5-kilometre stage three and a day before our first real mountainous stage which runs for 216 kilometres.

Can Peter Sagan consolidate his lead atop the general classification or will one of the lesser-known riders spring a surprise on a tricky uphill sprint toward the finish?

To Win Stage
Peter Sagan 26/10 | Andre Greipel 33/10 | Mark Cavendish 13/2 | Bryan Coquard 7/1

The Contenders

Andre Greipel 33/10
After he was pipped at the line on stage three by Mark Cavendish, 'The Gorilla' will be desperate to claim his first stage win on the 2016 edition of the Tour. He'll have to do it all himself, however, as the sharp incline toward the end of the stage will render his Lotto-Soudal train useless - he'll likely target stage five more seriously.

Peter Sagan 26/10
Sagan demonstrated his ability on these tricky uphill sprints in stage two where he coasted to a simple enough victory. The Slovak is favourite to win this stage and for all money, should claim victory without too much hassle if there is a bunch sprint in the last few hundred metres. At the very least he should hang on to the Yellow Jersey as the riders head into stage five.

Michael Matthews 14/1
The Orica-GreenEDGE rider looked strong toward the end of stage two and should be mixing it up near the front of the bunch. While he's a bit of a long shot, he's definitely one to keep an eye on come the end of the stage.

The Route
While it’s a long slog for the riders, it’s a relatively benign route that should offer the field a simple enough ride before the real work starts in Le Lioran in 24 hours’ time.

That said, it’s another day for the sprinters and we can be sure the top sprinters will all be in contention in what should be a bunch sprint to the finish line. The Route 2000 was the last time that that Limoges hosted a Tour finish. Incidentally, it was also the last time that we saw a successful day-long solo breakaway in the race.

The victory on that day went to Christophe Agnolutto. While you never want to write-off the possibility of another solo breakaway win, it looks highly unlikely on such a non-threatening stage. That said, the profile for the 237.5km-long stage has a distinctly uphill look to it, although it shouldn’t cause any of the race’s top sprinters much discomfort.

There is one category four climb up the Côte de la Maison Neuve which will see the riders have to deal with 5.6% gradient along a 1.2-kilometre stretch. We could definitely see one or two of the boys near the top of the Polka-Dot Jersey standings hit the breakaway in order to claim the mantle before the serious climbers get down to business in the Pyrenees.

There is a single intermediate sprint 12km before the climb at the 170km mark. It shouldn’t be too hotly contested, although one or two guys in the breakaway will likely look to pocket a bit of prize money for getting over the line first. After 210km of constant climbing, the riders will enjoy a pretty straight-forward descent toward the end of the stage before it flattens out at around the 7km to go mark. Expect a bunch sprint toward the end of race provided the breakaway is reeled back in.

Verdict: Peter Sagan 26/10
Sagan is the favourite to win this stage, and for good reason too. While he doesn't possess the sort of raw sprinting ability as the likes of Kittel, Cavendish and Greipel; his ability to power up these inclined finishes is second to none. Back him confidently here at 3/1.

Value Bet: Michael Matthews 14/1
This is the sort of stage that the Australian would have targeted at the start of the tour. He isn't, by his own admission, a fan of bunch sprints; expect him the Orica-GreenEDGE rider to be in the mix.

Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets.

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