Tour de Suisse 2021 – Stage 4 preview

By David Hunter

St. Urban > Gstaad 171km

A sprint stage?

Only two things can stop this being a big sprint, the weather and the hill.

Weather

More rain! The current forecasts suggest that the heavens will open near the end of the stage. The sprinters will hope it’s a quick stage and they get home before the rain starts.

The Hill

6.6km at 4.6% and it crests with 10km to go. There will be a light tailwind on the climb, and it takes place on a relatively nice road. The nice road is good news for the sprinters, the tailwind and potential rain is bad news.

The van der Poel Effect (Formerly the tactics section)

At times it looks like he’s playing with everyone. Attacked from far out today, then dominated the sprint, he can do it all. He’s now in the yellow jersey and Alpecin-Fenix will be wanting a third victory, can anyone stop them? They will control the break, but will they ride for a sprint or let van der Poel attack on the climb? If it’s raining, I think he’ll go on the climb as not many will want to follow him down the descent. If it’s dry, and he has a few teammates left, he’ll wait for the sprint. It’s up to the others to try and stop the inevitable from happening.

There are faster finishers in this peloton, but will they survive the climb? You might remember this finish, it’s where Chris Juul-Jensen won in 2018. That day it was also very rainy and the front group had only 65 riders in it. Sprinters dropped on the climb included Démare, Kristoff, Degenkolb, Theuns, Gaviria and Greipel. The climb doesn’t look that hard, but it can be. That year there were roadworks on the climb, which narrowed the road and made it hard to chase. This year we’re back to two lanes, which is better for the peloton.

Some will also be lining up an attack on the climb, especially if the peloton is reduced and we don’t have men to chase. That move almost worked today, it should have a better chance of success in this stage. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Alaphilippe try something, he’s looking frisky!

Finale

It’s in an airport. Big, wide corners.

Contenders

Mathieu van der Poel – the man they have to beat, I don’t need to tell you anything you already know about him.

Christophe Laporte – the nearly man, that first world tour win surely isn’t far away. The finish is good for him, he’ll easily cope with the climb, but he needs to start the sprint close to van der Poel. If he can get on his wheel, he has a chance of beating him. Start further back and it’s game over.

Michael Matthews – I’m struggling to see him beating van der Poel in a sprint.

Jake Stewart – now that FDJ aren’t having to control the race, he should get some support in the closing stages. Winning against these sprinters is going to be very hard, but I wouldn’t put it past him.

Edward Theuns – he’s not had a chance to really show it yet, but he’s climbing well, he almost made the front group today. This is a climb he’ll hope to survive, but it does depend on how fast they race up it. If he survives, he can challenge for the win.

Julian Alaphilippe – it wouldn’t surprise me to see him attack on the climb. It’s unlikely he’ll get a gap, but he could force a small group away and they fight it out for the stage win.

Late Attack – if you don’t have a sprint then what are you waiting for? There are so many riders who’ll want to attack near the top of the climb, especially if the descent is wet. I’m thinking of Tolhoek, Rui Costa, Cosnefroy and Fraile.

Prediction Time

That man, Mathieu van der Poel, to take another win. I think he’ll attack on the climb, take a few with him, then win the sprint.

David Hunter

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