Tuesday, July 07, 2009

TDF 2009 Stage 4; Astana wins, Cancellara stays in Yellow

Astana, the team stacked with Armstrong, Leipheimer, and Contador won the 39 km team time trial course at Montpellier with a 10 seconds lead over the second place team, Garmin Slipstream.

Team Saxo Bank was third, pulled by Fabian Cancellara to the finish to retain his Yellow Jersey by one tenth of a second.

The second place finishers had some heavy hitters in their midst, including time trialist David Millar, Christian Vande Velde, Bradley Wiggins, and David Zabriskie. They carried most of the course with only five riders after losing a couple along the way.

The results have changed the placements of the top standings under the leader, with Armstrong still second, but now his teammate Alberto Contador is third.

Tony Martin of Columbia HTC who was second yesterday has slipped down to 8th place. Andreas Kloden and Levi Leipheimer of Astana climbed to 4th and 5th places overall.

The event was not without it's problems on an 82 degree Fahrenheit day with the five climb twist and turn course.

For one, the team's time was measured by the fifth rider to come in, so even if the first two riders came in early, they would lose if their slowest 5th rider was not there. That called for strategic riding by the faster riders, so they would keep their slower riders with them.

The team to beat early on was Team Katusha, with a time of 47:52:38. But the setbacks started almost right away, with Denis Menchov of Team Rabo Bank who crashed on a left turn at about the one kilometer mark. He quickly remounted and rejoined his team, but they lost valuable time, ending at 48:49.

That was followed by three riders from the B Box Bouygues team, Bonnet, Arashiro and Rolland, who crashed on a turn, two of them going off the road into the dirt.

Then Jurgen Van den Broeck of Team Lotto Silence, the team of Cadel Evans, touched wheels with the rider in front of him, leaving the team without one member to complete the course.

Lampre also had a crashed rider in the difficult, narrow course.

This morning on Versus Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel was asked whom he favors for the tour in his own team--Armstrong or Contador. His answer, there can be two horses to pull the cart. The big question is if both riders are high in the rankings, who works for whom?

Some experts are predicting that Contador will do well in the Pyrenees which are coming up in the next 4 days. But the Alps which come in the final 6 days of the Tour could be decisive, possibly placing Armstrong in a better position.

But all that is too soon to predict. Tomorrow's very flat stage is still in the South of France from Le Cap d'Agde to Perpignan, a course that will again test the sprinters, and could well bring a third win for Mark Cavendish of Team Columbia HTC.

The final numbers for the team time trial Stage 4:

1. Astana - 39km in 46’29.320
2. Garmin-Slipstream - at + 18"
3. Saxo Bank - at +40"
4. Liquigas - at +58"
5. Team Columbia-HTC - at +59"

Final Standings in the G.C.
1. CANCELLARA F. SAX 10h 38' 07"
2. ARMSTRONG L. AST 00' 00"
3. CONTADOR A. AST 00' 19"
4. KLĂ–DEN A. AST 00' 23"
5. LEIPHEIMER L. AST 00' 31"
6. WIGGINS B. GRM 00' 38"
7. ZUBELDIA H. AST 00' 51"
8. MARTIN T. THR 00' 52"
9. ZABRISKIE D. GRM 01' 06"
10. MILLAR D. GRM 01' 07"

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