Riders will get no respite after a boondoggle of a third stage at the 2015 Tour de France. Six riders abandoned following the crashes that took place Monday, and many more will carry bumps and bruises with them for what will be one of the most taxing stages of the Tour. Stage 4 features 13.3 kilometers of cobbles, most of them packed in the final quarter of the 223.5-kilometer route from Seraing to Cambrai.
With no significant climbs, general classification contenders will once again be trying to survive above all else. Last year, the pavé took out Chris Froome, who will be wearing the yellow jersey after summiting Mur de Huy just behind Joaquim Rodriguez on Monday. He will have a strong team of cobble riders with him, but still must conquer his lack of confidence on the surface.
Vincenzo Nibali navigated the cobbles expertly last year, and he may try to make big gains again this year to make up for getting dropped by the crosswinds on Stage 2. With Alberto Contador having struggled on cobbles in the past and Nairo Quintana seemingly ill-suited for the surface, Wednesday may be Nibali's day to rise up into the yellow jersey competition.
Those tuning in for the sight-seeing will get a good glimpse of coal-mining country. Chris Fontecchio at Podium Cafe explains why the cycling world calls the region "Hell":
You may not know the story of why the cycling world calls the Nord-Pas de Calais region "hell." That would be because of World War I, which devastated this area beyond what words can describe. Cambrai itself was notable for the Battle of Cambrai, in November 1917, where tanks were first used, to great "success." Paris-Roubaix returned in 1919, but only after its organizers took a trip up north to see if there were any roads left to use, and had various Hell-metaphors to offer on their return.
What better place for racing chaos?
NBCSN is once again your destination for live coverage. The broadcast will begin at 8 a.m. ET, cutting off the first two hours of the stage. Fortunately, viewers likely won't miss the cobbles. Those with mobile devices can use the NBC Sports Live Extra app to tune in. Laptop users will have to purchase NBC's special web package for the Tour de France.
Coverage begins at 8 a.m. ET. on NBCSN.
Announcers: Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen
Mobile: NBC Sports Live Extra app with an appropriate cable subscription
Computer: NBC's Tour de France web package is available for a fee