Preview: Stage 4-6

Cycle//Tour de France

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After an enthralling first three days, it's time we moved on to the fourth, fifth and sixth stages of the Tour de France.

Stage 4 - 7 July: Seraing - Cambrai (223.5km)

Day four sees the Tour de France enter its native land. Stage 4 sees the peloton leave Seraing in Belgium as riders cross the border into France. 

This stage also brings the dreaded cobblestones, seven to be exact, six of which come in the final 50km. The corresponding stage last year forced Team Sky's Chris Froome to abandon the race with rainy conditions making the cobbles even more treacherous. It was also the stage that Vincenzo Nibali take control of the Tour, gaining time on his nearest rivals. 

It is largely flat with just the one fourth category climb coming early on in the stage. At 223.5km long, the cobblestones will make this stage a tiring and potentially very difficult one. Favourites for the win are one-day Spring classic specialists like Alejandro Valverde or Fabian Cancellara. 

Stage 5 - 8 July: Arras - Amiens (189.5km)

Barring anything crazy, this should be a fairly straight forward stage for the riders as they make their way through the battlefields of the Somme. A breakaway will try to attack from far out, while the sprinters will set up their teams to try to create a bunch sprint finish. That makes the likes of Mark Cavendish, Andre Greipel, Alexander Kristoff and Peter Sagan favourites for the stage win. 

Given its simplicity, this isn't a big day for the GC riders. It's highly unlikely that any of those fighting for the yellow jersey come the end of the Tour will gain or lose any time on their rivals. There are plenty of short, sharp hills across the 189.5km route, but none big enough to warrant a categorisation, so there are no King of the Mountain points up for grabs. 

Stage 6 - 9 July: Abbeville - Le Havre (191.5km)

Like stage 3, stage 6 offers a few categorised climb and an uphill finish. But the climbs start much earlier along the route. The first is just 72km into the race with another on 77km. And even before that, there are a few sharp uncategorised hills to navigate. The sprint section comes at around 50km before the finish. The uphill sprint will favour the likes of Peter Sagan and Michael Matthews, rather than pure sprinters like Cavendish and Greipel.

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