What a day it was yesterday at the Tour, with so many crashes and incidents that unfortunately saw riders injured and having to leave the race.
Let's hope for less of that today on what should be another sprint finish.
There's a slightly later start today due to the shorter distance and lack of classified climbing on the stage.
Riders will depart at 13.25 local time (12.25 UK), with the finish between 16.52 and 17.10 (15.52 and 16.10).
(So plenty of time before kick off if you want to watch England v Germany!)
This is the profile for today... it isn't the most interesting one you'll see in this race.
So far we've been guaranteed Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe) would be in a breakaway as he tries to extend his overall lead in the mountains classification, but there isn't a single classified climb en route today.
Will we see a proper breakaway? In recent years this is the kind of stage we'd see the peloton take easy and potentially only one, or no riders go up the road.
The run to the line looks relatively uncomplicated today, save for the three roundabouts in the closing kilometres. Then it's a relatively straight run to the line in Fougères.
While we wait for the start of stage four, here's the news you may have missed last night
Sonny Colbrelli denied fault in Primoz Roglic's crash after Jumbo-Visma appeared to blame him for their race leader coming down.
There was also the news that Geraint Thomas escaped his crash without any broken bones. The Welshman will be reassessed this morning before the stage but could continue on today and hope to recover as much as possible before Wednesday's time trial.
Caleb Ewan was one of those riders unlucky enough to crash, but he unfortunately had to abandon the race with a broken collarbone. It looks like he's been back to the Lotto-Soudal bus this morning to cheer on his team-mates as the continue the Tour without him
Great leaders stand always, specially in bad times, in front of their loyal teammates to inspire them for the battles to come without them. That’s what @CalebEwan did too this morning @Lotto_Soudal #TDF2021 thanks Champ👌🏻heal well 👊🏻 pic.twitter.com/HrdmgR1FXrJune 29, 2021
Luke Rowe was among those who were fined by the race jury on yesterday's stage. He took to Twitter to clear up any confusion after he was sanctioned for 'assault, intimidation, insults, threats, improper conduct'.
Meanwhile, here's Primoz Roglic bandaged up before today's stage. Grim.
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We're just over an hour away from the start of the stage, which should finish with a bunch gallop to the line.
The list of favourites is a long one, even without Caleb Ewan.
Can Tim Merlier take Alpecin-Fenix's third stage in a row? Can Mark Cavendish make a dream return to the Tour with a 31st stage win?
Peter Sagan will be looking to make up for yesterday after being brought down by Ewan, and Arnaud Démare will aim to be involved after he was held up by the crashes on stage three.
Here are the odds for today, with Cavendish favourite alongside Démare at the moment according to Oddschecker:
Van Aert, 9/1
It's surprising Cavendish is still considered such a hot favourite in the field, but the man himself spoke yesterday about just taking things as they come after not expecting to be at the Tour at all
The riders' union, the CPA has released a statement on behalf of the riders and their concerns about the safety of yesterday's stage. It seems like protests on the start line won't go ahead, instead the riders are asking for discussions over the 3km rule. This is what the statement says:
"Following the crashes during the third stage of the Tour de France, CPA has been working with the riders to discuss how they wish to proceed to show their dissatisfaction with safety measures in place and demand their concerns are taken seriously. The riders have agreed this statement.
"Following the crashes during the third stage of the Tour de France, the riders have been discussing how they wish to proceed to show their dissatisfaction with safety measures in place and demand their concerns are taken seriously. Their frustration about foreseeable and preventable action is enormous.
"The riders wish to stress their respect for their sponsors, their sports groups, the organizer, their international institution. Supporters are very important to them – and this is why they will be riding today.
"In return, the riders of the Tour de France ask for the same respect – respect for their safety.
"For this reason they are asking the UCI to setup discussions with all race stakeholders to adapt the 3 km rule during stage races. This could avoid circumstances such as those which occurred in yesterday's stage.
"Through this course of action, the riders intend to show their understanding to all parties and to open up to a constructive dialogue rather than create difficulties for cycling and the fans. However, riders and CPA are determined to pursue changes for the safety and physical integrity of athletes. These changes are more necessary than ever."
Cavendish seems to be in a confident mood this morning, posting his win on the same finish as today in Fougères from 2015. With dramatic music as well.
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More injury news here: Steven Kruijswijk will go on despite a finger injury which caused a lot of blood loss yesterday:
Philippe Gilbert has confirmed on TV that the riders will stop at KM0 for one minute in protest of yesterdays finish.
He also said in a video on Youtube yesterday that riders had asked to take the GC time at 5km to go, but the UCI refused the request.
After stopping for a minute at KM0 there'll then be a ride slow for 5-10km
Right, we're about five minutes from the start of stage four
The stage's neutral start has started with no riders stopping for a minute, they set off immediately at the flag drop with the jerseys of Mathieu van der Poel, Julian Alaphilippe, Tadej Pogačar and Ide Schelling all at the front including most combative rider from stage three, Michael Schär.
The pause will be at KM0 apparently. They will stop for a minute then ride slowly after that for about 10 to 15 kilometres. 7km to go until the first kilometre of official racing.
On a lighter note, it seems that Ineos Grenadiers are calling Richard Carapaz 'Billy', we'll keep an eye on this and see what on earth is going on with that one.
One thing that is almost certain, unless he crashes out, is that Ide Schelling will be keeping his polka dot jersey as there are no points on offer today at all. Only an intermediate sprint to have some interest in the middle of the day before the finish in Fougères.
Some more stuff about the crashes yesterday, Philippe Gilbert reveals UCI intervened in neutralisation plans for stage three.
So the flag has been waved, no-one has stopped as of yet but there have been no attacks. They're just riding slowly with 150km to go.
André Greipel has come up and is not happy about the peloton now stopping. The German veteran has stopped the race to get the message of the protest. Alaphilippe was not keen to stop.
No jerseys coming to the front as Greipel leads the protest alongside Thomas De Gendt.
Alaphilippe set off again and now the peloton are back riding at a slow pace with the world champion leading the way. Roglič is currently out of the back but I think he just had a comfort break.
Roglič and Colbrelli looking to put events of yesterday behind them after the Italian national champion was blamed for causing Roglič's crash.
They're having a chat at the back of the peloton with 146km to go. Still no attacks as the 'protest' continues.
Alpecin-Fenix were setting the pace but now we finally have the first attack of the day after 12km with Lotto-Soudal sending Brent Van Moer up the road. He won the opening stage of this year's Critérium du Dauphiné.
Van Moer has been joined by Cofidis' rider Pierre-Luc Perichon
Even without the protest, this isn't exactly the sort of stage that was going to see a big break or anyone being too keen to get up the road as there are no mountain points.
Surprising to see the Brittany based teams of Arkéa-Samsic and B&B Hotels p/b KTM not going on the attack as this is the last day in the region.
But anyway, the duo up front have quickly got over two minutes on the peloton with 132km to go.
Afternoon CW gang, Alex Ballinger here covering the middle section of today's stage on live blogging duties.
For us here here at the cyclingweekly.com team it's been a case of trying to catch up on all the individual riders and their injuries, and there are no shortage of injuries.
Most notably, Geraint Thomas looks to be in decent shape considering he dislocated his shoulder yesterday, while Primož Roglič is looking mummified as he is bandaged up after his crash yesterday.
Steven Kruijswijk also had his middle finger stitched after he suffered a nasty cut yesterday.
So far today's stage has been nice and calm, the two-rider break has 2-48 over the bunch with 107km to race.
Yellow jersey Mathieu van der Poel has dropped back to the team car and is just rejoining the bunch, meanwhile his Alpecin-Fenix team are helping keep the breakaway within a comfortable range, along with Deceuninck - Quick-Step. That should be a clear indication of who is most motivated for today's stage.
While things are quiet out on the course, we've twisted the arm of our roving reporter Jonny Long, who is on the ground in France covering the race for cyclingweekly.com, into giving us a run-down of his day.
Jonny is currently in the press room in the finish town of Fougères, which has been set up in a sports hall around 600m away from the finish line.
Here's what he had to say:
"Long transfer this morning. The trickiest part of the day isn't trying to get the riders to say something other than 'they're taking it day-by-day' but figuring out how to navigate your way into the start and finish towns, there is one specific place you're allowed in, and you have to make sure you nod and say hello to each gendarme even in the rare instance you know exactly where you're going.
"Once you get to the press room you're usually already hungry again for even more meat, cheese and bread. Yesterday they had a full dead pig on the table, which spiced things up a bit, today they had 7.5 per cent beer as well but I didn't finish mine as I'm now 26 and three quarters and therefore a responsible adult who enjoys being gainfully employed.
"Only after lunch is it time to do some proper work! (what a life ey). Unless you've got someone else driving and you can get your laptop out en route to the press room (which I did today - just in case my editor is reading this) [He is - ed.]. These days you can upload your quotes from riders to an app that transcribes them for you, so they're pretty much ready to use.
"Then you're doing a bit of writing while watching the race, chatting to the other journalists, maybe getting some gossip, but today the main concern is if there is somewhere nearby to watch the England game. (I've tempted fate by wearing my England shirt today so if it all goes wrong later feel free to blame me."
Quick update on the race situation:
Our two riders our front are still doing their thing (there's no KoM points on offer today and only one intermediate sprint in the final 40km, so we're not exactly sure what their thing is supposed to be), but Pierre-Luc Périchon (Cofidis) and Brent Van Moer (Lotto-Soudal) are 1-36 ahead of the bunch with 77km left to race.
Alpecin still leading the peloton.
A less-discerning cycling pundit might call things slightly 'boring' as they currently stand, but of course we would never suggest such a thing...
Change of tactics for Alpecin-Fenix today, after they went back-to-back with wins on stages two and three (thanks to Mathieu van der Poel and Tim Merlier).
This time the team are going to be leading out for their young Belgian sprinter Jasper Philipsen, who finished second behind Merlier on stage three.
Speaking before stage four, Merlier said: "Today we're going to do the sprint for Jasper, so today I do the lead-out for him. The team came here to try to take 3 victories with three different riders, so we'll try today."
Belgian ProTeam Alpecin-Fenix have been phenomenal so far this race, taking two stages and the yellow jersey (on the back of Van der Poel), frankly putting some of the WorldTour teams to shame.
Mechanical for Mark Cavendish. He's had a bike change but the pace isn't on so it's no drama for him.
The Brit has slipped off the back of the bunch but is in no rush to get back on. He's linked up with a small group containing Mathieu van der Poel and Julian Alaphilippe, who are also chasing their way back up. They'll rejoin the peloton with no trouble.
Broken saddle for Cavendish we're hearing, but he's swapped bikes and back on his way.
Here's your breakaway on today's stage, Pierre-Luc Périchon and Brent Van Moer.
These two still have 1-18 over the bunch as the only intermediate sprint of stage four approaches.
I'm about to hand back over to Tim Bonville-Ginn who will be guiding you through the rest of the stage, while I go an write-up our post-stage analysis.
Keep your eyes on Cyclingweekly.com for all the latest news after the stage.
Cheers to Alex! Make sure to keep an eye out for all the reaction pieces and race reports from after the stage from Alex and the rest of the CW Web Team!
Back on the racing and we're about 1km to the intermediate sprint with several teams working hard for their sprinters with Chris Froome working hard for André Greipel, never thought I'd ever say that.
The break take 20 and 17 points but its about the riders behind. Van Moer does actually sprint for the points with Périchon in second.
15 points up for grabs behind with Bora-Hansgrohe leading the way for Peter Sagan. Matthews and Bouhanni there too, as is Cavendish.
Mark Cavendish takes some lovely points for the green jersey with Mørkøv potentially taking second in the bunch ahead of Bouhanni.
Now that the intermediate sprint is out of the way, why not head over to our Twitter feed and vote and who you think will win today. Maybe that intermediate sprint has changed your view?
Today is expected to be a slow day but a sprint finish is a very likely outcome... So who are you going for? With @CalebEwan sadly out of the race, who are you picking? #TDF2021June 29, 2021
Very important signs pointed out by Israel Start-Up Nation
We agree:Under our #RacingForChange-banner, we are happy to see these billboards along the #TdF2021 today.We find it important to promote road safety for cyclists through education, especially for kids and motorists.These billboards help. Racing for Change.#YallaISN pic.twitter.com/6r9Pam4SxFJune 29, 2021
Don't try this at home, kids!
👟 Changing your shoe while riding? Easy! ✅👟 Changer de chaussure tout en pédalant ? Facile ! ✅👏 @LAPORTEChristop #TDF2021 pic.twitter.com/tiCOnqA4hzJune 29, 2021
All the teams are now in colour order on this wide road called the D178, so we have a ten rider wide peloton at the moment with 22km to go. It then widens more to a 14 rider wide peloton.
The duo up front still just about holding onto a minute gap but it is slowly being brought down as we are heading to a sprint.
Van Moer trying an attack to potentially take the red numbers for tomorrow but Périchon is holding on well. Road has narrowed for the peloton to just eight riders, this has pushed Groupama-FDJ further down the bunch almost causing a crash as Ineos Grenadiers forced their way through.
We now turn towards Fougères with Luke Rowe and Michał Kwiatkowski leading the Ineos Grenadiers train alongside Bora-Hansgrohe.
15km to go with Van Moer and Périchon holding 28 seconds.
Van Moer and Périchon continue to attack each other and Van Moer has finally snapped the elastic to the Frenchman.
Now then, Van Moer is very dangerous in this situation as he now has 44 seconds with 13km to go on tight roads that could see him travel faster than the bunch behind.
The pace has disappeared out of the peloton. Van Moer has 1-00 and suddenly the young Belgian is looking to strike again like he did in the Dauphiné. He has 11km to go as Mathieu van der Poel hits the front for Alpecin-Fenix.
7km to go ad Van Moer has 1-05 of an advantage on the peloton! The pace is not there behind with Ineos, Bora, TotalEnergies and Bahrain not putting in the chase.
Finally Arkéa-Samsic pushes to the front to try and bring it back for Nacer Bouhanni.
DSM now join the chase as do Groupama-FDJ and Alpecin-Fenix. Périchon has been caught but Van Moer has 55 seconds with 6km to go.
Can he pull off something amazing here? Such a dangerous rider from the breakaway.
Lotto-Soudal are blocking riders but Deceuninck - Quick-Step finally comes up with 5km to go as Van Moer now starts to rock all over the bike.
He has 49 seconds but can he hold off the power of Deceuninck behind? DSM have come back up en masse too.
Its coming down by around 10 seconds per kilometres as its 30 seconds with 3km to go as Lotto-Soudal continue to try and block the chase as Van Moer hits a bit of a uphill drag.
DSM and Trek-Segafredo are obliterating this gap. 2km to go and its 20 seconds gap!
Mark Cavendish currently a long way down the bunch but it being brought up bu Mørkøv at about 20th position in the bunch.
Flamme rouge for Van Moer with a 10 second gap as Cavendish suddenly appears on the front with Alaphilippe leading the bunch.
500 metres and he is holding on with the sprinters kicking hard behind! He's caught with 200 metres to go
Mark Cavendish wins stage four of the Tour de France 2021!!
Philipsen kicked very early, with Cavendish almost getting caught out by Van Moer plummeting down the bunch.
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, in 3-20-17
2. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Team Arkéa-Samsic
3. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
4. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team BikeExchange
5. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
6. Cees Bol (Ned) Team DSM
7. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis
8. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo
9. Boy van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
10. André Greipel (Ger) Israel Start-Up Nation, all at same time.
See who's where after stage four of the Tour de France including a certain Manxman back in the green jersey...
Our race report on an amazing day that saw Mark Cavendish take his 31st Tour de France victory
Fortunately no riders have joined the list of riders out of the race as we have had a very calm day for the vast majority of the stage with, as far as we know, no-one coming down.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Mark Cavendish didn't think he would be riding the Tour de France. Now he's won stage four of the race in 2021.
Here are the talking points from the day with the 'Manx Missile' back firing!
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