Before starting your day's Tour de France betting action, take a look at our extensive preview of Stage 4. Which riders do we expect to lead the pack, and how does this translate for sports bettors?
A return to the cobbles after the drama of last year will spark divided opinion among fans and riders alike. Many riders were very much against the cobbles last year, Chris Froome even threatened not to ride the Tour because of them. After some riders complained as to how hard a stage was, but some riders, and most fans declared the stage a classic.
What a stage it turned out to be though with Chris Froome crashing twice before they even reached the cobbles and abandoned (maybe he should have stayed away after all) and Vincenzo riding brilliantly to take a load of time on his main GC rivals. And as for Lars Boom? A career defining victory for him, almost as big as winning Paris-Roubaix.
A big factor in the drama last year was the weather - the rain, mud and cold made for a day reminiscent of the tortures of Paris-Roubaix in April rather than the Tour de France in July. The forecast for Tuesday is better than last year though as there is no rain forecast in the morning, but there is a possibility of rain late in the afternoon, possibly right around the time they hit the last sections of cobbles.
As they leave Seraing they pass through Huy and head south-east towards Namur and hit the Cat 4 Côte de la Citadelle de Namur, a 2km climb at 4.8%, shouldn't cause any problems. After a flat and open run for the next 50kms they hit the first cobbled section (section 7) from Pont-a-Celles to Gouy-Lez-Pieton, an 1800m section. They then carry on heading south-west and pass through Binche (of Binche-Chimay-Binche fame) and the intermediate sprint point at Havay.
40kms later, at the 177.5km mark they hit the next cobbled sections, six sections that come thick and fast over the next 30kms. Section 6 from Artres to Famars is 1200m long, Section 5 from Querenaing to Verchain Maugré is 1600m long, Section 4 from Verchain-Maugré to Saulzoir comes almost straight after Section 5 and is 1200m long.
There's a break then for about 10kms until they hit the last three sections, the first two of which come in quick succession over 2.5kms. Section 3 is Saint Python and is 1500m long, Section 2 is from Fontaine au Tertre to Quievy and is the longest section of the day at 3700m long, and that's followed 10kms later by the final section, Section 1, which is Auvesnes-Les-Aubert to Carnieres, a 2300m section.
Once they are over the last section of cobbles of Section 1 there's only 11.7kms left to the line. The run in to the finish is pretty straight forward until about 1600m to go when they turn left and under a railway line where it's a little tight but shouldn't cause too many problems.
Then after a jink right with 1km to go they go through almost a U-turn with two sharp left-handers over cobbles, but the finish is slightly uphill for 500m on a 7m wide road
Although it's easier than say a day at Paris-Roubaix, the distance of 223km is going to make this a very hard day in the saddle.
John Degenkolb is a likely winner of a stage like this given his heroics in Paris-Roubaix this year. He looked so comfortable all day on the cobbles and easily took the sprint in the velodrome. He was second in Paris-Roubaix in 2014 too, winning the bunch sprint behind Terpstra, another excellent result over the cobbles. He's got Curvers, De Kort, Timmers, Geschke and Sinkledam to look after him and I think they will be one of the strongest teams on the day. It is his big target for the Tour, and with Kittel out, these are the kinds of chances the team will be desperate to win and I think he has a big chance of a big result on an uphill sprint finish that will suit him perfectly. He opened at 4/1 with PP, which was way too short, but Betfred went 13/2 paying out 4 places and that will do for me.
Alexander Kristoff looks the obvious danger given his strong performances in recent years over the cobbles, particularly in the Tour of Flanders. He hasn't a great record at Paris Roubaix though, he doesn't seem to have as much luck on the flatter cobbles as the Hellingen of Flanders. His results are three DNFs, 57th, 9th and 10th, the 10th coming this year when he missed the move by the group that fought out the finish. He did win the sprint for 10th place though. He'll have to make sure he isn't badly positioned again though like Sunday or he could miss the big move. No doubt though, if he comes to the finish at the front of the race he has a big chance of winning. He rolled home 5th last today with only the bloodied and the wounded behind him. Not sure if that is ultra energy-conserving out of him or if he actually wasn't feeling great today. I don't think he came down though in a crash.
Peter Sagan showed he's in good shape with an excellent 19th place in the Time Trial on stage 1 and his great ride in stage 2 where he almost won the sprint. He was many people's pick for today but faded badly on the steeper sections of the Mur and came home in 27th position.
Paris-Roubaix was supposedly a big target for him this year but it almost went to shit for him with stomach problems that forced him to make an emergency toilet stop with 100km to go. Despite these problems he showed incredible power to get back on to the front of the race, despite having to squat in a ditch for probably a minute, he eventually finished a very respectable 23rd, in the group just 31" back on Degenkkolb. 6th in 2014 in PR, 5th in the sprint, he should go well again, but if he finds the likes of Degenkolb or Kristoff in the same group he will have a tough job winning the sprint.
Sep Vanmarcke is a candidate for the late breakaway, possibly on the last two sections of cobbles. 11th this year in PR, 4th in 2014, 2nd in 2013, he's built for a day on the cobbles. He has trained many times on these roads and says that no other rider will know the roads better than him. He rode well in the cobbled stage last year but punctured at the worst possible moment. We could see him look to force a selection late on - at 11/1 with Skybet paying 4 places he was worth a go.
Greg Van Avermaet - Mr Consistency, he loves a good classics-like day, as he showed once again with a great ride to be in the mix on Sunday, finishing 6th, but he did look totally spent at the finish. Daniel Oss led him out for the sprint but he couldn't come around Oss and instead finished behind him. He should be more comfortable on this stage though and I expect him to go well again after his fantastic 3rd place in PR this April.
He has finished 4th in PR also in 2013 and has finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 7th and 8th in Flanders. With a very strong BMC team around him he should go well. He is sounding very confident ahead of the stage too: "The cobbles suit me a little bit better and it is also not totally flat, which is good for me," he said. "There is a little bit of uphill on the cobbles, so I am looking forward to tomorrow. The main goal is Tejay for sure, but I hope to go for a stage victory." 10/1 with Skybet for 4 places was worth a bet.
Zdenek Stybar is another 'Classics' rider who could go well here for EQS. Winner of Strade Bianche for us at 14/1, 2nd in Paris-Roubaix to deny me the 100/1 forecast (grrr), we haven't seen a lot of him since, as he did 5 weeks away altitude training in Sierra Nevada (right). He has looked in good shape so far though, finishing in 28th in the TT and 22nd in stage 2, making the move of the day. He could be a real dark horse here for this stage and might be worth keeping onside if he's not tasked with looking after Cav, Uran, Kwiatkowski or Martin!
Stijn Devolder, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Tyler Farrar, Martin Elmiger, Florian Senechal - all good classics guys who could go well here at huge prices, but I'm a little annoyed with Elmiger, he went off in the break of the day today wasting energy, I was thinking of having a small bet on him each-way for this stage as he finished 5th in this year's PR and was very strong all day.
1pt each-way on John Degenkolb at 13/2 with Betfred, paying 4 places
0.75pts each-way on Greg Van Avermaet at 10/1 with Skybet paying 4 places
0.5pts each-way on Sep Vanmarcke at 11/1 with Skybet paying 4 places
One at a big price for fun - Florian Senechal - 0.25pts each-way at 100/1 with PP