124km to go: The first climb has been completed, and Pierre Latour was first over the top, ahead of Sweeny. Nairo Quintana and Michael Woods were the other two riders to snaffle points.
125km to go: Very much no longer flat, they’re on their way up the Côte de Domancy. Ballerini and Sweeny remain at the head of the race, but they won’t be for long.
130km to go: Through Sallanches they go, nearing the end of the flat section that starts the stage. Davide Ballerini and Harry Sweeny have broken away at the front, and have a lead of around 45sec.
134km to go: They also just spoke to Geraint Thomas, another of the stage three crash victims, who didn’t sound like he was having much fun, and hinted that this might be his last stage.
136km to go: ITV speak to one of the Jumbo-Visma people about Primoz Roglic’s departure. “It’s hard to swallow,” he said. “He was literally banged out of the Tour de France, it’s hard to accept. The Tour lost a champion today, he was I think the only rider who could challenge Pojacar, but it’s cycling, it’s sport, highs and lows, and now we move on.”
141km to go: They’ve just gone through Magland, which sounds like a chain of newsagents but is in fact a commune in Haute-Savoie.
The stage is now officially under way. It didn’t exactly start in Cluses, but on a wet country road entirely lacking watchmaking museums.
ITV had a little interview with Van der Poel in which he said it was Alpecin-Fenix who decided he should leave the Tour today, that he would have continued for a bit (though it was never his plan to finish this year), but that he had “nothing to gain” from sticking around.
Mathieu van der Poel, who enjoyed six days in the yellow jersey on his first Tour, will not start today’s stage. Instead he’ll have a short breather before heading to the Olympics. Here’s some of what he said:
It’s in my best interest to quit the race. I’m going to take some time to recover from this week. I have some other goals. Due to corona it wasn’t possible for me to do the whole tour and then my at my top game in Tokyo. I think we’ve had an amazing week, and I’ll be back next year to go to Paris.”
The stage is due to get under way in about half an hour, at 1.10pm local time, aka 12.10pm BST. The town of Cluses, where it begins, is known for its watchmaking, and home to the musée de l’horlogerie et du décolletage. Don’t get excited, décolletage may be defined in English as “the low-cut neckline of a woman’s garment” or “a woman’s cleavage as revealed by a low neckline on a dress or top”, but Cluses’ museum is of clockmaking and screwcutting. It is, apparently, very good.
So it’s Tadej Pogacar, then. Yesterday the Slovenian pedal-pusher destroyed his rivals to emerge with a lead of nearly two minutes at the top of the general classification, and nearly five minutes clear of anyone generally considered a contender for overall victory. Today he’s back in the saddle for a stage that starts with 17km of almost complete flatness before hitting the riders with four categorised climbs, finishing with the really rather mean 21km-long ascent to Tignes, plus this year’s first HC climb, the 13.1km, 7.4% Col du Pré. It should be another dramatic day, though it may not be as decisive as yesterday’s. What is for certain, however, is that tomorrow’s rest day will be extremely welcome.
Some news this morning: Primoz Roglic has abandoned the tour, having failed to recover from injuries sustained in a crash on a chaotic stage three.
Here’s what Will Fotheringham had to say about today’s stage in his pre-race guide:
Unusually, this year the Tour bypasses the highest and most iconic Alpine passes, and today’s gloriously scenic Cormet de Roselend is about the best we will see of the massif. The long descents after the Col des Saisies and the Roselend will give weaker climbers a chance to get back to the front group before the final sort-out. The winner will probably come from an early move – the likes of Warren Barguil or Nairo Quintana are obvious candidates – but the draggy Tignes finish climb will suit a rider like Alaphilippe or Geraint Thomas rather than a lighter pure climber.