Will this Tour produce the anticipated fireworks? Can Jumbo-Visma really challenge the unstoppable Ineos express for GC honours? And, most importantly, will the race even reach Paris before Covid-19 intervenes?
The Rouleur panel will be taking it one day at a time, making sometimes sensible – and often well wide of the mark – punts on stage winners, which top tipster Cycling Mole will mercilessly dissect before offering his own thoughts on the day’s likely victor.
Eyes down for three weeks of tense action with the Mole in control.
Stage 4: Sisteron - Orcières-Merlette (160.5km)
Sergio Higuita (EF Education First) Too early for a break to stick, I feel, so plumping for the nippy Colombian champion to be the best in the sprint of contenders.
Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) Having surprised me with an excellent show of force, joining Alaphilippe at the point end on Saturday, I think Adam Yates could have the pistons to take honours today. The climb doesn't represent the Tour's steepest ascents, but it will be enough to split the men from the boys, if someone lights the fire. I think Yates could be that match.
Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates) How is a 7.6km, 5.3% climb a cat 3, and a 7.1km, 6.7% climb a cat 1? 🤷♂️ Regardless, the first summit finish of seven is a tough one to call. It feels like the winner has to come from the GC group but it probably won't be one of the favourites. Let's see what the non-ski jumping Slovenian can do.
Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) Hard to fathom whether Quintana is out of sorts, past it, or just keeping his head down. But nobody’s talking about him, so I will. He’s good for at least one stage win this Tour. This might be a bit early though.
Sergio Higuita (EF Education First) Right, definitely not picking an unlikely sprinter today... The favourites will all be watching each other and I don’t think there is quite enough fatigue in the peloton for the two super teams to totally dominate, so I fancy Rigoberto Uran to guide his compatriot and protégé Sergio Higuita to a surprise victory today.
Cycling Mole says...
Well, that’s two in a row for me, can I make it three? It’s our first mountaintop finish of the race, but this isn’t as difficult as in previous years. We have under 3000m of climbing in the whole day, that’s not particularly difficult for any of the GC riders. They’ll arrive at the final climb with fresh legs, ready to go to war. The organisers have classified it as 7.1km at 6.7%, but you can also say it’s 10.1km at 5.9%. It’s a tough climb, but not that hard for the best climbers in the world. I would imagine we’ll see a mountain sprint, a sight to savour.
The worst of the picks has to be Nairo Quintana, even at his very best this isn’t his type of climb. The rest of the selections all make sense to me, but I’m surprised by some of the riders who haven’t been selected. Miles is going with form, and Adam Yates certainly has it. With the yellow jersey on the line, you can bet he’ll do everything to try and surprise Alaphilippe, but that won’t be very easy. Yates lacks a sprint, winning with a late attack is complicated. Nick’s choice of Pogačar is a good one, he packs a mighty fine sprint, and is a brilliant racer. Andy and Ben also favour a climber with a punch, Sergio Higuita. The little man known as Higuita Monster, I think he likes Sugar Puffs, is very fast in a sprint and starts the day as one of the big favourites.
What about the missing riders from the list? I’m surprised to see no Roglič, Alaphilippe, Dumoulin, Bernal, Carapaz, Pinot, Buchmann or López, but what do I know? So, we have a relatively easy mountaintop finish that ends in a sprint, I’ll be the one taking Julian Alaphilippe. Allez Julian!