Tour de France 2024 stage four preview - GC fireworks on the Galibier?

Will it be a GC battle or will a breakaway be allowed to go clear?

Date: Tuesday July 2, 2024
Distance: 140km
Start location: Pinerolo
Finish location: Valloire
Start time: 13:05 CET
Finish time (approx): 17:05 CET

The Alps form the natural border between Italy and France, and so the riders will cross them during stage four to bring the Tour de France back home. In an edition so full of unusual quirks, from the Italian start to the finish outside of Paris, having a full-blown mountain stage this early into the race is yet another peculiarity that makes this race hard to predict. Usually the GC contenders have plenty of stages to ease themselves into the race and get their legs ready before the first proper mountain test, but the need to pass through the Alps so early in the race means they won’t have such a luxury this time.

Neither have the organisers held back in serving up the big, long, proper Alpine mountains for this stage. The road rises from the flag, before the official start of Sestrières 10km into the stage which, despite averaging just 3.7% for its whole duration, kicks up to 7.2% for the final 7km. A much shorter descent of just 11km takes them to the foot of the next climb, Col de Montgenèvre, the 8.3km climb averaging 5.9% on which the riders will finally cross the border into France, before another descent and valley road bring them to the day’s headline climb: Col du Galibier. This is one of the most commonly used climbs of the Tour, and its extreme length of 23km makes even its seemingly modest average gradient of 5.1% burn the legs. It’s usually used early in a stage to wear down the legs ahead of a shorter summit finish, but in the modern era of aggressive riding that hasn’t discouraged attacks, as in 2022 when Tadej Pogačar thrillingly traded blows with Jonas Vingegaard and Primož Roglič. And on the few occasions that, like today, it has been the final climb, drama has ensued — as in 2011, when Cadel Evans dug deep in response to a bold long-range Andy Schleck attack, limiting his losses enough to ultimately see him win the yellow jersey.  

Will this stage see GC fireworks as riders try to exploit their rivals’ weaknesses, or a damp squib raced conservatively? Although the stage won’t finish at the top of the Galibier, as it did in the aforementioned 2011 stage, the 19km descent from the summit to the finish in Valloire is fast enough to not neutralise attacks. The same finish was in fact used in a 2019 stage won by Nairo Quintana, and saw great drama as Egan Bernal made his first big move for overall victory with an attack on the climb, while a dropped Julian Alaphilippe tore down the descent to regain contact and save the yellow jersey for another day. 

The main difference between then and this stage is that this comes so early in the race, whereas that was just three days from Paris. Yet the way last year’s similarly early entry into the Pyrenees on stage five was ridden, when Vingegaard unleashed a massive attack on Pogačar, all while dangerous GC contender Jai Hindley slipped away during the early chaos to take the yellow jersey, set an encouraging precedent for how such early first mountain stages can be raced aggressively. Add to that the fact that this is the second shortest road stage of the race, which should encourage intense racing, and the signs are that this could be an early-Tour thriller. 

Tour de France 2024 stage four profile

Route profile sourced via ASO


We expect all the GC contenders to have this eye on this stage, or at least be very wary of one another and preempt any moves their rivals will make on the Col du Galibier. Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), in particular, will be one rider everyone will be looking out for as he is renowned for making stage-winning attacks on gradients such as these. Pogačar could aim to make the most of the first mountain stage and time bonuses up for grabs, getting as much time on his GC rivals as possible ahead of the more challenging stages later on in the race. 

Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-Lease a Bike) proved on stage two, however, that he is in good form, despite the lack of racing due to his crash in the Basque Country. When Pogačar made his attack on the stage’s final climb, the defending champion was the only rider able to shut down the Slovenian’s move, making the statement that this year’s Tour de France is not just a one-man race. And if Vingegaard is performing at his peak, we know the damage he can do in the mountains. 

Amongst the big four favourites in this race is Remco Evenepoel (Soudal–Quick-Step), who is currently in the white jersey. He has looked strong so far in the race’s opening stages and admitted to still finding his form in the race, but he’ll need to stick with any attacks if he is to keep the yellow jersey within reach. The same could be said for Primož Roglič (Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe), who, so far, is the only one of the big four 21 seconds behind. Roglič wasn’t able to jostle with his rivals on the final climb on stage two, but he is a real contender when in the mountains and we expect he could use this stage to limit the losses from stage two. 

With a long descent to the finish line, a rider with this stage circled may be Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), who has come to this race with stage wins in mind. He’s a demon descender (as he's shown on this exact descent before) and can climb extremely well, so will be a key contender for the stage win. If the GC contenders choose to let the breakaway go clear, we expect to see climbers such as Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech), Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious), Stevie Williams (Israel-Premier Tech), and Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) amongst those who could go for the stage win.

Stage four winner prediction

We think Tom Pidcock will take the first stage win in France. He has come here with stage wins in mind and with a technical descent right at the end of the stage, we think he'll be aiming for victory in Valloire. 

Cover image by Zac Williams/SWPix

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