Tour de France Stage 4 Tips: Demare can bounce back

Mark Cavendish at Tour de France
Mark Cavendish is now one of the strongest sprinters in the race

After the carnage of Stage 3, writes Jack Houghton, finding the winner here might be as much about figuring out which riders survive unscathed

For the sake of historical note, when a Tour stage last finished in Fougeres in 2015, Mark Cavendish won the bunch sprint.

What's the stage like?

A day for the sprinters, the stage is only 150km and features no categorised climbs.

The finish is uncomplicated, too, with the last 3km covering a gently sweeping right-hand turn with little in the way of road furniture to cause drama. Road positioning is likely to be decisive, however. The eventual winner will need to hug the right, before switching to the left for the shortest route through the last 400m.

Those last few metres also feature a slight incline. It's nothing that will handicap the speedsters, but anyone hitting the front too soon will likely get overhauled.

For the sake of historical note, when a Tour stage last finished in Fougeres in 2015, Mark Cavendish won the bunch sprint.

Who are the favourites?

After the dramas of Stage 3 - on what might well have been the most incident-packed stage in recent Tour history - it's taken a long time to unpick exactly what happened to who, and which riders will be in a fit state to compete here on Stage 4.

At the time of writing, not all that news is through, but what looks certain is that Tim Merlier will be favourite to take another win at around 4.003/1. Much like before Stage 2, though, we need to be careful not to overreact to what has gone before. Merlier might have taken a well-deserved win, but he did it against a bunch that was severely depleted of its best talent.

For the same reason, I would be nervous of backing Jasper Philipsen (8.007/1) and Nacer Bouhanni (25.0024/1), whose odds look more a reflection of the luck they had in surviving the stage, rather than an indication of their relative sprinting ability. They might win here, but they are not value.

Who are the most likely outsiders?

Not really outsiders, but not heading the market either, Mark Cavendish (6.005/1) and Arnaud Demare (6.5011/2) now look to be the strongest sprinters in the race after the departure of Caleb Ewan. Cavendish seems to have avoided hitting the deck on Stage 3 - although he was held up by one of the crashes and so couldn't contest the sprint - and although Demare went down in one of the later spills, he seemed to get up relatively unhurt. Of the pair, Demare looks the value call.

Expect Peter Sagan (18.0017/1) to be present at the end again, with Mads Pedersen (16.0015/1) and Cees Bol (20.0019/1) also in contention, but on this course expect the sprinters with the stronger teams to dominate.

What effect will it have on the overall markets?

On Stage 3, I said that the Yellow Jersey hopefuls only needed to survive the day, implying that they could use it to recover from the exertions of the opening days. With dislocated collar bones, suspected fractured coccyges, and lost time all over the place, it didn't really provide the recuperation that many were after. It certainly blew up the market for the General Classification and reminded us - if we needed it - that no stage is innocuous.

Elsewhere, the Mountains Classification guys have a day off, and we get to see which of the sprinters have survived to still contest the Points Classification.

*Odds correct at the time of writing

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