Stage 4: Cahors to Rodez — 177.1 km
Date and time: Wednesday, July 26, 2023. Official stage start: 12:40. Start of live coverage: 15:00 CEST. Predicted finish around 17:27 CEST
Stage type: Hilly
What to watch for: A big move from a GC favourite and some attritional racing at the end of a very long stage.
Stage summary: Stage 4 is not only the longest stage of the race, it’s the longest stage in a women’s stage race since last year’s Femmes. Including the eight km neutral before the official flag drop the women will ride 185 km on Wednesday. Almost all the climbing is bunched into the back end of the stage, and the roads coming into each ascent are narrow and tricky to navigate.
The entire stage is full gas; there will not be a moment of let up for the peloton, so by the end of the stage only the strongest will remain at the front of the race. Throw in some tired legs and the stage will need full concentration to make it through unscathed.
The finish is atop a 500-meter ascent with grades of 15%, but it probably won’t be a large group that rides into Rodez.
Looking at how Demi Vollering was riding in the Ardennes and Spanish stage races early in the season, Annemiek van Vleuten will have a stage this hard bookmarked as her first opportunity to really take time on her main rival. Van Vleuten is not going to want to wait until the seventh stage to take on the SD Worx rider. It’s just like the world champion to go on a long-range attack to win the race and the fourth stage would be a great one to do it. Plus, Van Vleuten is one of those riders who loves a long day in the saddle.
But Van Vleuten also has current yellow jersey wearer Lotte Kopecky to think about. The Belgian champion is looking like she’s going to take the leader’s jersey all the way to the Col du Tourmalet.
There are really two ways the stage might go. Because of the length, it might be a bit of a slow burn with an exciting finish. But riders like Kasia Niewiadoma and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio are also looking for an opportunity to make the race aggressive, to take the fight to SD Worx, and there are plenty of chances on stage 4.
My pick: I am going with Ashleigh Moolman Pasio for Wednesday’s stage. After how she rode in the first two stages, and with a little easier day on Tuesday to prep, the AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step rider is at the top of her game. A win is coming. It might be in Rodez.
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