Date: Wednesday, July 27
Distance: 126.8 km
Stage 4 is when the real Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift begins. Sure, the first three stages set the scene and offered some incredible viewing, but stage 4 features gravel. The worst cycling cliche applies. The Tour can’t be won on stage 4, but it can definitely be lost.
The first gravel sector is a little over 68 km into the stage on the Côte de Celles-sur-Ource. A 1.1 km climb that averages 8.9% grades. From there the gravel (and the climbs) come thick and fast. It’s basically a mini-Strade Bianche to the line. Five categorized climbs, with the final ascent topping out 5 km from the finish. Three of the four climbs are gravel with an additional gravel sector in between climbs two and three. There are also a bunch of sneaky climbs thrown in there that aren’t categorized.
It’s going to be a challenging day not only for the general classification hopefuls but also for their teams. Domestiques will need to be at the top of their game in case their leaders get any mechanicals or have any slip-ups.
The final 4 km into Bar-sur-Aube are going to be wicked fast, with a descent leading the riders into town and a bunch of technical turns once the race enters the city. It’s a pretty straightforward final kilometer, but there is one sharp righthand bend with 1500 meters to go.
Who will win stage 4?
The last three days of racing have been incredible and a group of around ten favorites have emerged as the cream of the crop. Stage 3 winner Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig fought back after her FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope team had a nightmare day on stage 2. The fourth stage is another good one for the Danish champion. She might not win but she will be in the mix.
Canyon-SRAM’s Kasia Niewiadoma has shown fantastic form over the previous two stages and threw down one of the attacks that gapped race favorite Annemiek van Vleuten. The gravel on the fourth stage is right up her ally. Expect her to play to win. Likewise, the reigning Paris-Roubaix winning Elisa Longo Borghini has been in the mix but has yet to take stage honors. It’s a great day for the former Italian champion.
Who knows was SD Worx will do after another interesting day on stage 3. Their leader Demi Vollering went down just after the penultimate climb and although she made her way back to the lead group she was noticeably flustered. On the other hand, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio finished third on stage 3 and they also have the 2022 Strade Bianche winner Lotte Kopecky to throw into the mix.
Based on how she was riding on stage 3 it’s likely Marianne Vos will remain in the yellow jersey after stage 4. It will not be easy for her, but the Dutchwoman rode effortlessly to keep up with the GC favorites and finish second on stage 3.
With the general classification still wide open it would be a surprise if the fourth stage went to anyone but the favorites, but you never know. This race has been wild so far.