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Tour de France Stage 4 Preview: Looking Sprinty

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Le-tour_mediumAfter today's chaotic stage, the Tour will likely return to a more routine pattern. The Tour field and classics-style narrow roads are always a rough combination, and the race split to pieces, thanks to several crashes.

A number of favorites went out the back today. Among the casualties were Konstantin Sivtsov, who suffered a broken tibia. Team Sky will miss Sivtsov in the mountains, for sure. José Rojas of Movistar abandoned, too, with a likely broken collarbone. Tom Danielson, meanwhile, separated his shoulder in one of the stage's many crashes, but still made it to the finish. Thomas Voeckler also finished well down in the standings, putting an almost certain end to a repeat of last year's long run in yellow, and Christian Vande Velde lost around two minutes.

Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Ryder Hesjedal, and Vincenzo Nibali, meanwhile, were among the race favorites to reach the finish safely in the front group. Tejay van Garderen kept hold on his lead in the white jersey classification by just one second ahead of Edvald Boasson Hagen. The 3km rule saved the day for several riders, including Wiggins, as there was yet another crash at 500 meters to go.

Tomorrow, the Tour departs from Abbeville, runs south parallel to the coast, the turns inland to finish in Rouen. At 214.5 kilomters, this is one of the longest stages in the race. A chance of rain could make for a long day out.

There are four categorized climbs on the menu, but none is especially difficult. They offer a nice prize for a rider like Michael Morkov, who leads the mountains classification and is willing to go out on the breakaway every day in pursuit of points. Expect to see Morkov in the break again tomorrow. But the climbs should not cause anyone in the main field a great deal of trouble.

There is one potential obstacle tomorrow. The course runs along the coast for much of the stage. Yes, kids, that does mean there's a chance of crosswinds. The yellow jersey favorites will want to stay alert and ride at the front. Though the course turns away from the coast with around 60 kilometers to race, a section of road not far from the finish turns again parallel to the coast. An enterprising team could use that twist to their advantage if the weather offers the opportunity.

Just outside ten kilometers to go, there is a short uncategorized climb, but in the main, this stage looks sprinter-friendly with a dead-flat run-in.

On Monday, André Greipel came close to an upset win over world champion Mark Cavendish, but Cavendish was simply too fast for the German. Even without a lead-out Cavendish proved capable of surfing wheels to the front. He started somewhere around 20 riders back, and still took the stage victory. It will be a hard task to beat Cavendish tomorrow. Watch for Greipel, Oscar Freire, Tyler Farrar, and Matt Goss to give it their best shot.