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Tuesday’s stage 4 of the 103rd Tour de France (#TDF2016) heads southeast from the Loire Valley to the Haute Vienne region, threading its way through historic towns on a 237.5-kilometer journey (the longest of this year’s Tour) between Saumur and Limoges.
#PelotonShorts by John Wilcockson/Photo by Yuzuru Sunada
This image from stage 7 of the 2000 Tour shows the peloton, including yellow jersey Alberto Elli, in the town of Loches, where kings of France lived in the Middle Ages and imprisoned their enemies in dungeons dug deep into the rocky foundation of the fortress. On Tuesday, the race will pass through nearby Châtellerault (75 kilometers into the stage), which has a place in cycling history.
It was in Châtellerault that the riders in the now-defunct French classic Bordeaux-Paris picked up their pacing motos, or dernys, some 300 kilometers from Paris. // The last 75 kilometers of Tuesday’s stage become increasingly hilly, a factor that will hurt the legs of the likely long-distance breakaway riders.
The sprinters will have to be on constant alert in the final 25 kilometers, on a succession of country roads, especially on a fast downhill to a bridge over the Vienne River that’s followed by a short, steep climb cresting 7 kilometers from the finish.
The last kilometer into central Limoges is wide and straight, but the final 500 meters is uphill, which might favor a solo attacker—especially as the last two times a Tour stage finished in Limoges it was won by a rider on his own: Frenchman Christophe Agnolutto (by a 1:11 margin) in 2000, and a pre-cancer Lance Armstrong (by 33 seconds, in homage to fallen teammate Fabio Casartelli) in 1995. In the likelier case of a mass finish, the uphill sprint will again favor Mark Cavendish, André Greipel, Bryan Coquard and Peter Sagan.