At 237km, stage 4 from Saumur to Limoges was the longest of this year's Tour de France. Once again it was a predominantly flat stage, with the main challenge being in the final 500m of the stage, where the road rose to the line at a 5% average gradient. After a few early kilometers where teams were looking to see who would make the first break, the attacks finally started after 20km. It took another 15km before 4 riders eventually slipped clear.
Race leader, Sagan, sent his team up to control proceedings from the peloton and Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were the first to lend them a helping hand as Natnael Berhane began assisting the Russian team with the chase. The gap was pretty much locked at around the 4-minute mark, and the peloton was confident that it would be able to bring the escapees back.
As the race came into Limoges, and after Natnael Berhane had done a sterling job together with the Tinkoff and Etixx-Quickstep domestiques, the break was caught at 7km to go. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had all grouped around Mark Cavendish and Edvald Boasson Hagen for the finale, but a small hill at 6km to go disrupted the rhythm of the peloton somewhat.
With 4km to go there was a precarious intersection that caused a bottle neck and from thereon it was a slightly disorganised sprint. With 500m to go, Boasson Hagen tried to move Cavendish up to the head of the peloton but the Norwegian was pushed into the barriers and no longer in contention from that point.
Cavendish, slightly boxed in on the right side of the peloton, was never really able to find a clean bit of road to start sprinting. Kittel and Coquard went shoulder to shoulder with the German taking the win in the photo finish. Cavendish had to settle with 8th position on the stage.