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Tour Stage 4: The Longest Day

Tour de France Stage 6 Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Stage 4: Saumur - Limoges 237.5 km

We keep dashing not so rapidly southeast across the country so we can have an early climbing stage in the Massif Central on stage 5.

What's It About?

Another day for the sprinters, this time with a finish in the French porcelain capitol Limoges. The town is synonymous with high quality and expensive tableware which you are likely to find on every American wedding wishlist ever. The Limousin region is familiar TdF territory, passing the Futuroscope theme park where we have seen many timetrials in the past.

AmyBC's Food and Wine Pairings

Each stage we bring you suggestions regarding the local fare from AmyBC. Check out her blog Winebookgirl for more.

Wine: Le Grolleau Thibault , From Selection Massale: Not from a winemaking family, but with degrees in biology and oenology, Marie Thibault began making wine in the early 2000s. In 2011, she founded her own 3.5 hectare domaine in Azay-le-Rideau, a lesser known environ of the Touraine appellation. Marie’s Grolleau (as an aside, Azay-le-Rideau is the origin of the Grolleau variety), is airy and low alcohol coming in at 10.5 degrees, and made using carbonic maceration. More so than her Grandes Vignes blend, Marie’s Grolleau is a vin de soif or a summertime gulpable wine.

Food: Blueberry Clafoutis

Tour specialty alert! Often made with cherries, we subbed blueberries because we had them on hand. A clafoutis is fruit, baked with a rich custard. We used the Julia Child recipe, which can be found here.

Course Features

This is another not very complex one. Once again a long day in the saddle, in fact the longest one in this tour with 237 km. This may unfortunately make it a carbon copy of stage 3, which none of us particularly want to see. We are in an area that sees a lot of bike racing and there is very little flat which might make it a painful day for whoever winds up in the breakaway.

The final kilometers offer a very straight finish by GT standards. I think the Giro would be ashamed to present a finale so completely devoid of hair-raisingly dangerous twists&turns. And then those final 500 m have a rise of about 5-6% to make sure that timing really is everything for those launching their final sprint It looks just a tad harder than stage 3 by the profile. With the descent into that last kilometer we should also see the peloton approaching at very high speed so rains may come into play more here than so far in the Tour.

Riders to Watch

If John Degenkolb had been 100% I would have given him and Giant a good chance on a day like this but he doesn’t appear to be ready to contest among the bigs yet this year. Otherwise it’s the same old names of course (read: Sagan) . The easy approach and the tough finish should perhaps give Greipel a bit of an edge but also Cavendish likes these as long as the gradients don’t go on for too long. It would be nice to see Direct Energie do a job and put Coquard in position for this one and give him a clean shot at it, the result could be splendid. It might even be worthwile for Greg Van Avermaet to try and have a go here now that stage 2 didn’t pan out for him. It’s likely not steep or long enough for him to have an advantage but what else is he going to do in this Tour? The guys who should really be gunning for this though are Michael Matthews and Alexander Kristoff. They may not get many better chances in this TdF.

Pick to Win

I have a feeling André Greipel and the Lotto train could get this right. Lots of teams do the train thing but few are as smart about it as Lotto. Their one weakness is Greipel still easily getting lost but that shouldn’t have to be an issue on a finale as this, and he had a good kick yesterday to finish in a narrow second.