Taking place among the rolling hills of Hertfordshire, Stage 4 begins at Broxbourne Borough Offices (51°42’10.33″N 0° 2’54.09″W) – which is in Cheshunt, hometown of double Olympic gold medalist Laura Trott (she was born just over the Essex border in Harlow) rather than Broxbourne – the closest the Tour comes to London. It ends after 87.8km and a 5.4km neutral zone at Howards Park Gateway in Welwyn Garden City.
After heading north along Churchgate and Flamstead End Road for 1.7km the riders turn right at a mini roundabout onto Brookfield Lane West, which leads onto Halfhide Lane and under the A10 to a roundabout where the second exit takes them onto the A1170 (in the technical guide, it’s called the A170 – the A170 is in North Yorkshire!) or Great Cambridge Road. The second exit at the next roundabout takes them through Wormley to Broxbourne, where the neutral zone comes to an end and the race begins. 1.3km later, they arrive at Hoddesdon and negotiate two roundabouts, taking the second exit at the first and first at the second to join the Dinant Link Road. 0.36km ahead, the third exit at a roundabout leads onto Amwell Street; 0.17km after that the first exit at another roundabout takes the riders onto the B1197 leading uphill and out of town via Woolensbrook and back under the A10.
QOM, 10.8km: beginning at The Oak Veterinary Practice on “Post Hill,” actually Port Hill, in Beford. It’s a considerable climb, reaching 8% before coming to an end 0.5km later at a junction.
Hertford Heath is 5.9km from the start; it lies on high ground, which is why it was once a settlement of the Catuvellauni tribe (the same ones that were led by Caratacus, who was captured by the Romans and made such a good impression on the Emperor that he was permitted freedom to live in Rome). The race passes just left of the village and continues to Hertford where it joins the A414, taking the first exit at one roundabout and the third at another to pass right through the centre of the town on the B158; the right-hand bend by the red-brick church leads to Port Hill which, as outlined above, is a considerable climb with an average gradient of 5.75% but reaching 8.6%, making it one of the steepest climbs in the entire race. After travelling through Bengeo, a suburb of Hertford, the riders head out into open countryside along Wadesmill Road.
Passing by the villages of Crouchfields and Paynes Hall, the route arrives at Wadesmill after 16.9km – in the centre of the village, a traffic island restricts space going onto a mini roundabout where riders turn right onto Anchor Lane which has one section with a gradient of 6%. 0.7km ahead, a potentially slippery left turn leads onto the much narrower Cold Christmas Lane, crossing a bridge over the A10 where crosswinds may be strong 0.5km later. The lane is very narrow with several stretches overhung by trees; any rider getting a puncture from a prickly twig will have difficulty finding a way through the peloton to regain their position, and the bends should be taken with care. 1.94km from the bridge and concealed by hedges (a row of cottages on the left gives advance warning – the first is white with a gravel drive) is a very tight left hand bend, where it would be all too easy to accidentally end up on the rough track leading off to the right and losing time as a result. The lane continues, just as narrow, for 2.72km until it reaches a crossroads at 23.1km, and the riders turn right towards Hadham Cross. Due to a gravel track on the opposite side, there may be loose stones on the road surface. In Hadham Cross, a brick wall on the left side of the road can scrape elbows as riders turn left at a T-junction to take the B1004 to Much Hadham. This village, home to fewer than 2000 people, has a big claim to fame – near to the church is a palace where, in 1430 or thereabouts, Catherine of Vallois gave birth to Edmund Tudor. Edmund’s son Harry was victorious at the Battle of Bosworth Field and thus became King Henry VIII, the first Tudor monarch of England. The palace still stands, but is privately owned and is not open to the public.
The B1004 turns right towards Bishops Stortford on the outskirts of Much Hadham; the riders do not, continuing north past a mansion called (somewhat unimaginatively) The Hall to an often slippery left turn at 28km leading onto Bromley Lane – the lane climbs steeply enough that the first few bends aren’t technical; however, once over the summit and past a T-junction, the road begins to descend quite steeply, nearing 5% as it approaches the tight right/left 0.65km from the junction – the overhanging trees make this section especially hazardous and care does need to be taken. 0.33km after the left, the road bends much more gently to the right and enters Standon at 31.8km where a left turn at a T-junction takes the race off the narrow country lanes and onto the wide A120 for 0.1km to a right turn onto Station Road; then at 34km in Puckeridge it turns right onto the High Street. Half a kilometre ahead, a right leads onto another Station Road taking the race uphill past Braughing, through Hay Street and Dassells and on to Hare Street where the riders turn sharply left at 40.9km to remain on the B1038. 0.59km from the corner, following a climb, is a tight right-hander bend with loose gravel along the left verge; 53m later an equally tight left-hander reverses the situation and is made even more technical in the wet by a metal drain cover on the left. Just after the left, the road starts to descend; the left/right bend just ahead is less tight but often has loose gravel.
After 43.1km from the start, the race reaches Buntingford. Arriving at a T-junction within the town the riders turn right onto the High Street, then 0.18km left onto Baldock Road which will lead them out of the town to a roundabout. The second exit takes the A507 uphill and through some easy bends to the highest point on the parcours at 145m above sea level, followed by a flat section into Cottered at 47.7km. The right-hand bend leaving Cottered marks the start of a fast 1km descent, reaching almost 6% in places so that the sharp right-hand bend 1.72km later could be risky, but the road turns uphill again before the tight left turn 0.24km further on. The road then continues to climb through several bends for 3.17km before beginning a fast 4km descent into Baldock. After crossing a bridge over the A505 just south-east of the town, the riders come to a roundabout on the edge of Baldock and take the first exit for South Road, then 0.4km later the third exit at a second roundabout for the High Street.
Intermediate sprint, 58km: little over 0.24km from the previous roundabout, outside the library.
Left at a mini roundabout just ahead takes the race onto Hitchin Street and under the A1 to Letchworth Garden City; there are two roundabouts after the underpass, at the second the riders take the third exit onto Pixmore Way (they really like roundabouts in Letchworth Garden City – Britain’s first was built there in 1909). Second exit at the next roundabout continues along Pixmore Way to a left at a T-junction by Broadway Gardens; the road then bends right and left before leaving the Gardens behind as it heads south-west along Broadway. The third exit at a roundabout continues on Broadway, then 0.34km later a deceptively sharp left rejoins the A505 for 0.21km running up to a right onto the narrower Letchworth Lane which carries the race away from the town centre to a T-junction at 64.2km. The riders turn left onto Willian Road, continue for 0.27km to a fast and slippery right turn onto Wymondley Road and follow it to Great Wymondley at 66.4km (fans from abroad who decide to explore the area may be surprised to discover that Great Wymondley is only about a third the size of its neighbour Little Wymondley; this is not at all a unique feature and not even nearly the strangest anomaly of English place names). Just beyond the village is a bridge over a railway then, 0.52km later, a mini roundabout where the road may be in poor condition with several potholes unless it’s been repaired. The second exit leads to a bridge over the A602, then around a sweeping right-hander bend and into a short, fast descent to St. Ibbs where left at a T-junction joins the B656. Passing by Rush Green (which is an enormous scrapyard rather than a village), Langley and The Node on the B656, the riders come to Codicote 78.9km along the parcours.
Intermediate sprint, 79.4km: at the Bell Motel.
At 82km, the first exit at a roundabout leads into Welwyn (Vincent van Gogh once visited Welwyn, walking there from London to see his sister); 0.26km ahead a right turn takes the race along Church Street for 0.36km to a T-junction where the riders turn left onto the High Street, which continues for 0.92km and becomes London Road before reaching another T-junction. At this one, the riders turn right.
QOM, 83.8km: 200m after the right turn, the second QOm begins by a traffic island and a layby on the left. It continues through the trees and bends left to cross a bridge over the A1 where the riders may experience strong crosswinds, then bends right and comes to an end by a junction on the left. 1.4km in length, it gains 38m; the average gradient is 2.7% and the steepest section just past the bridge is approximately 7%.
The road begins to descend after 85.3km, reaching a left turn (with “NO ENTRY” painted on the road) 0.5km later – because of the fast approach speed, tightness of the turn and narrowness of Brockswood Lane beyond it, this is a technical section. Brockswood Lane continues to descend and for the first 0.6km remains technical: with the finish line now only 2km, riders may try to use the descent to gain an advantage and take risks when doing so – there are a number of gravel tracks leading into the forest on the left and loss of grips on a fast bend here could be disastrous. Once the road reaches the houses on the way into Welwyn Garden City it becomes wider and far less technical, though the left-hand bend at 87.1km still requires care. It leads into a sweeping right skirting around the Adastra, a public park, then more tightly right onto Bridge Road. 71m later a fast left-hand bend leads onto Parkway for the final straight, slightly downhill and very fast sprint over 250m to the finish line.