09/07/19 - 11:25
Reims - Nancy
Tour de France • Stage4

Reims - Nancy

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The provisional result gives Ewan the third place over Sagan. Great to see Mike Teunissen in the mix, too.


It's two from two for the Belgian team, and Viviani now has stage wins in all three Grand Tours. Alexander Kristoff was second and Peter Sagan third. Caleb Ewan and Dylan Groenewegen completed the top five.


Victory for Elia Viviani of Deceuninck-QuickStep!


Photo finish! Viviani, Kristoff and Sagan all came across in a blur!


QuickStep have a great train here and Kristoff opens up early.


Sagan, meanwhile, is freelancing - and here are QuickStep and the yellow jersey Alaphilippe, pulling for Viviani.


Wout van Aert on the front working for Groenewegen, with Boasson Hagen just behind for Nizzolo.


Deceuninck-QuickStep strangely absent...


The road is wide and then narrows into the 3km zone, so many of the GC riders will breathe a sigh of relief now. Still Ineos keep up the pressure - until dropping back for Bahrain, Dimension Data and UAE.


UAE now riding up for Kristoff but it's still Ineos keeping their GC men out of trouble ahead of the 3km marker.


Ineos, Bahrain and Lotto are all on the front in this mass jostle for positions.


The carrots are cooked for Calmejane. Game on.


Sagan takes a large swig from his bidon and then puts it back in his holder. He's that confident. It's Lotto who are leading the chase on Calmejane.


Calmejane, a stage winner in 2017, is still ahead but his advantage is small and he won't last much longer.


The peloton zips through the 10-to-go barrier with a slight deficit of Frenchman Lilian Calmejane after the Total-Direct Energie rider pinged off the front following the conclusion of Sunweb's lengthy pull.


One of the Sunweb riders takes the single KOM point over the top as they continue to set tempo for their man, Matthews.


Nico Roche is doing the pace-setting on this climb for Sunweb, and he rebukes a teammate for peeling back and stopping his pull early.


It's Bora and Sunweb who are doing the damage - primarily Matthews' teammates - and they reel in Michael Schar, who will take the combativity award, but not that final KOM point.


But the Swiss may struggle to hold on because the pack is closing in...


We're onto the Cat.4 Cote de Maron (3.2km at 5%). And Schar has ridden clear of Backaert in pursuit of the polka dot point...


Just 23 seconds now for our two leaders as they hug the river Moselle ahead of the next climb, which is coming right up.


Oh, and Michael Matthews, too. The Australian is better suited to the ramped finishes but he has a good kick on him and so should get a top 10, as should Christophe Laporte of Cofidis.


Who else? Well, you can never rule out Peter Sagan, the man in green, while the likes of Sonny Colbrelli, Giacomo Nizzolo, Matteo Trentin, Alexander Kristoff and Greg Van Avermaet could all be in the mix.


The other pure sprinters in the frame are Elia Viviani of Deceuninck-QuickStep and Caleb Ewan of Lotto-Soudal. Viviani has done well in the intermediate sprints but has struggled in bunch sprints since his disqualification in the third stage of the Giro. Ewan won twice on the Giro and looked strong in stage 1 in Brussels. Yesterday's hilly finale didn't suit him but today's flat approach could see him win a maiden Tour stage.


So, who are the favourites today? My tip is the Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen, whose crash in stage 1 opened the door to Jumbo-Visma teammate Mike Teunissen. On his day, Groenewegen is a match for anyone and he picked up a brace of wins last year. There are question marks over his fitness after that fall, but he'll have a good lead out and could well deliver Jumbo their third win in four days.


Offredo is caught by the peloton on a slight uphill rise. His two companions still have 40 seconds to play with after their increase in tempo.


Offredo calls it a day after his teammate Backaert checks an acceleration by Schar.


Puncture for Thibaut Pinot! The Frenchman has ridden a flawless race so far and thankfully he has a quick wheel change and will get back into the fold before the business end of the stage.


It's now just a fight to be the last man standing and the right to wear the red bib number tomorrow as the day's most combative rider. 25 seconds for the trio now.


The inevitable is almost afoot. Just 45 seconds now for the leaders - and for the first time we see some UAE Team Emirates riders come to the front to help lead the chase for their man Alexander Kristoff.


The gap is under a minute now for the three leaders, who have been out since the first kilometre today.


Fifty clicks to go now and things should start to pick up as the finish approaches and the nerves set in.


CRASH! Michael Woods hits the deck as the road bottlenecks entering a narrow bridge. It's nothing serious - just a touch of wheels and kerplunck. The Canadian debutant is back on his bike and on his way soon.


Jasper Asgreen is on the front despits his big crash yesterday, while Tony Martin is also there for Jumbo Visma. The gap is 1'30" for the trio ahead with just over one hour of racing remaining.


This was the spicy sprint for fourth place when the peloton zipped through. Interestingly to see that neither Dylan Groenewegen nor Caleb Ewan got in the mix there. They're two sprinters we'd expect to contest today's bunch sprint but they clearly don't have any designs for the green jersey. Michael Matthews, who won green two years ago when Sagan was booted out, was there but then checked his effort.


The gap is down to 1'20" for the three leaders, who are clearly beginning to wilt in the sun. They have put in a solid shift on the front of the race - and it's been a largely thankless task, save for avoiding the stress of the pack and the threat from those two crashes.


Talking of Matteo Trentin, it was the Italian who won when the Tour last came to Nancy back in 2014. The peloton was split in crosswinds and it was Trentin, then of Omega Pharma-QuickStep, who won the reduced sprint ahead of that man Peter Sagan and Tony Gallopin. Interestingly, the absent Tom Dumoulin was fourth. And look out for that nasty crash near the line from the Garmin rider - I think it was Andrew Talansky, if I remember correctly.


Backaert takes the intermediate sprint from the break but it's largely uncontested. It's behind where the action happens, with a fierce four-way tussle for the remaining points as Viviani pips Colbrelli, Sagan and Trentin for fourth place.


The peloton pass the 5km marker for the sprint with the gap down to 2'05". The yellow jersey is currently on the back so he's perhaps exempt from helping lead out teammate Elia Viviani for the green jersey points up for grabs.


The pace increase is no doubt because of the approaching intermediate sprint, which should see the green jersey rivals and today's bunch sprint hopefuls emerge from the pack to test their legs and pick up some points.


The roads are more rolling than during the first half of today's stage. the gap is still 2'30" as Schar takes on pacing duties ahead of Wanty duo Backaert and Offredo.


Romain Bardet has been off the back a lot today - nothing serious, just frequent visits to the Ag2R-La Mondiale team car. The pack is all strung out, though, with Ineos riding in team formation near the front.


The pace is getting a bit faster now as the gap comes down to 2'45". The riders were 10 minutes behind the slowest expected schedule because of that blustery headwind, but this may get the race back on track.


Lotto leading the peloton as they approach the summit of the climb, with Jumbo and QuickStep and Ineos all heavily present on the front. The gap is 3'30".


It's Michael Schar who darts clear to take the solitary KOM point over the summit. The 32-year-old Swiss is riding his ninth Tour and with that point he moves into joint fourth place - alongside Alaphilippe and Nairo Quintana - in the KOM standings which his CCC teammate Greg van Avermaet led until Tim Wellens and Zandro Meurisse leapfrogged him yesterday. Wellens will keep the polka dot jersey today provided he completes the stage.


Meanwhile, the yellow jersey Alaphilippe is off the back of the peloton with some QuickStep teammates. He's not the only one - numerous riders have dropped back. The gap is 3'30" and the racing is not aggressive yet and so now is the time to do your chores after all.


The leaders are about to hit the Cat.1 Cote de Rosieres (1km at 7%).


We're approaching the 100-to-go mark and still the gap is around three minutes as the riders pass through Bar-le-Duc. The fans are out in their droves to cheer on this three-man break. We're not far from the first climb, which is a relief.


The three escapees pick up their lunch musettes. Their gap is 3'28" but it's bound to stretch out a little when the peloton pass through the feed zone. Poor Michael Schar misses out after Offredo inadvertently gets in the way - the Austrian shakes his head in anger, while the Frenchman offers him a can of Coke as an apology.


CRASH: A dozen or so riders have gone down in the pack - most notably Tony Gallopin of Ag2R-La Mondiale, who hit the verge hard. The Frenchman shipped over eight minutes yesterday and is having a rotten Tour so far. He's back on his bike - as are the others - but looks to be in a bit of pain.


The gap is pushing 3'30" now which is the largest its been. I know these kinds of stages aren't for everyone, but you need days like this in a Grand Tour. In any case, tomorrow's testing stage to Colmar features numerous climbs, while Thursday's stage has the first summit finish of the race at La Planche des Belles Filles, which includes an extra 1km ramp up a goat track. So bear with us.


The peloton are approaching the feed zone and the world champion Alejandro Valverde - who doesn't need much to eat, by the look of him - leads the charge for a call of nature on the side of the road. The gap is still three minutes. You could set a metronome to it.


Lotto Soudal are not on the front at the moment but they have been doing more than their fair share of the tempo-setting to keep the break in check for their sprinter Caleb Ewan.


It's definitely getting windier: the flags brandished by fans on the side of the road are really fluttering - although it's a headwind now that the road has kinked a little. The gap is 2'45" with Jumbo-Visma and Deceuninck-QuickStep doing most of the pacing in the pack.


The peloton just negotiated a 90-degree bend between fields. That's about as rowdy as things have got for the past hour or so. The gap, as ever, is around the three-minute mark.


Crisis over: Offredo is back. A futile first-week break isn't the same without him. Phew.


Offredo has disappeared form the break - either he's seen the error of his ways or he's dropped back to the Wanty car for a bidon or chat. Or there's always the old nature break chestnut. In any case, the gap is up to 3'25".


CRASH: Two Cofidis riders have hit the deck - Eritrean national champion Natnael Berhane and France's Pierre-Luc Perichon. Looks like it might have been a touch of wheels or a piece of road furniture which did the damage.


None of these three escapees are a threat to Alaphilippe's lead in the general classification, with Schar the best placed at 15'52". And with just two KOM points up for grabs today, none of these three leaders can take the polka dot jersey from the shoulders of Tim Wellens, who has 7pts in the climbers' classification.


The gap has dropped a little to 2'55" for our three escapees. It's blustery out there so there's always the threat of echelons and splits in the peloton, but the first of those two Cat.4 climbs is not for another 70-odd kilometres so bear with us.


The teams of the big sprinters - Jumbo-Visma (Groenewegen), QuickStep (Viviani) and Lotto Soudal (Ewan) - are on the front and keeping the break in check. The gap is still just above the three-minute mark.


We still have 176 riders left in the race despite a nasty crash suffered by QuickStep's Kasper Asgreen in yesterday's finale. The Dane was integral in chasing the break to tee things up for his teammate Julian Alaphilippe, although he hit the deck hard on one of the descents and snapped his bike in two. Asgreen was taken to hospital for checks after finishing more than 20 minutes down but he was given the all clear to continue his maiden Tour.


Ineos, Groupama and Movistar are edging forward because of the threat of crosswinds on these exposed roads. It's an odd situation because some riders have also decided to go for comfort breaks. The gap is 3'15" for the trio ahead.


Julian Alaphilippe today wears a yellow jersey adorned with the silhouette of Reims cathedral - its one of 20 limited edition custom maillot jaunes being dished out to the leaders each day this year in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the fabled jersey. Yesterday the race passed the cathedral ahead of those climbs towards the finish in Epernay, the other capital of Champagne.


Almost three minutes now for the escapees on today's snore stage. They're passing through agricultural heartlands with vast fields of corn blowing in the breeze. Talking of which, there could be some crosswinds later on as the ride heads east towards Nancy.


The gap is quickly up to two minutes for our three escapees. It's a bit of a suicide mission for these riders up the road, but someone's got to do it and that someone is usually a Wanty rider. More specifically, it's usually a Wanty rider called Yoann Offredo. The Frenchman was in the break yesterday, too. He's in many Tour breaks in a bid to upset the apple cart, although he's often given lemons for his troubles.


If you're having a bad day, remember things could be worse...


We have three riders off the front: Michael Schar (CCC Team) and Wanty-Gobert duo Frederik Backaert and Yoann Offredo.


They're off! Stage 4 is under way and we have some attacks from the outset...


A reminder of all the jersey wearers: Julian Alaphilippe is in yellow after his win yesterday; Peter Sagan is now definitively in green after merely keeping the jersey warm for the former yellow jersey Mike Teunissen for two days; Tim Wellens is in polka dots after picking up maximum points over all the climbs yesterday from the break - the Belgian also has the red number as the most combative rider; and Wout van Aert is in white after leapfrogging Caleb Ewan yesterday after the Australian was caught out by those succession of spicy ascents near the finish.


Here's what the riders have in store today with just the two Cat.4 climbs ahead of the expected bunch sprint in Nancy.

Stage 4 profile, Tour de France 2019

It's a sunny day in northern France with the temperature a kindly 20 degrees.


The riders are currently rolling through the neutral zone en route to Kilometre Zero.


And here is your yellow jersey, who has a 20-second lead over Belgian Wout van Aert in the GC.


Bonjour le Tour! Hello and welcome to live coverage of Stage 4 of the Tour de France - a largely flat 213.5km ride from Reims to Nancy which should culminate in the first proper bunch sprint of the race.