Wednesday, July 07, 2010

TDF 2010 Stage 4: Boring Flats to Fantastic Finish

Pic: ASO (c) 
July 7, 2008
You can expect it almost any time when there's a stage full of flats: a breakaway in the beginning by some of the less well-known riders, until they are caught by the steam roller big teams to end in a spectacular battle between big name sprinters at the end.

Today's 153.5 km stage from Cambrai to Reims (pronounced Raince), was no different. Except this time the stakes on all sides were so high, it was bound to be an even quicker race with even less chance for holding a breakaway than ever.

But hold it they did until the last few kilometers of the race, when big sprinter support teams came to the front in succession to line up their best man for the win.

That man was 38-year-old Alessandro Petacchi who hasn't competed in the Tour de France since 2005. In 2006 he broke his kneecap in the Giro D'Italia and had to withdraw, and in 2007 he was not allowed to enter the TDF because of suspicion of doping--an accusation that was later overturned and deemed user error--too much of the asthma drug salbutamol, which ironically he had been cleared to use, according to Wikipedia.

Because of the field finish, Cancellara retained the Yellow Jersey, and there were no changes among the major riders in this flat stage, with Andy Schleck in 6th position, Contador in 9th position and Armstrong in 18th.

Until the final push at the end of this shortest stage in this year's Tour, an early break remained ahead of the peleton, a gap that didn't waiver for most of the stage until the last 28 km to go.

Yesterday some of the big names in cycling were behind the leaders due to mishaps in Stage 3: Lance Armstrong was 2 minutes 30 seconds behind Cancellara, while Alberto Contador was 1 minute 40 seconds behind.

Both riders would never be content to finish outside the field today, and might even have looked for an opportunity to take time away from the leaders, but that was impossible with the fast pace given that the big sprinter teams would want a win at the end.
At 28 km to do, ahead were the five riders of the breakaway, Dimitri Champion (FRA) ALM, Francis De Greef (BEL) OLO, Nicolas Vogondy (FRA) BTL, Inaki Isasi (ESP) EUS, and Iban Mayoz (ESP) FOT, but no longer did they have a one minute and 30 second lead over the peleton: it had narrowed to 30 seconds as team Cervelo came to the front with five riders with the intent of keeping sprinter Thor Hushovd at the front and in position to win the stage.

Soon HTC Columbia's white team presence filled the front pace, their muscle man presence, a familiar sight since last year's TDF, while ahead the break leaders picked up the pace, hoping to make it to the finish before the sprinters.

Several round abouts would greet the peleton as they entered Reims for the final finish, presenting challenges for the sprinters and their teams making their way around.

Despite efforts to hold them off, the gap narrowed to 34 seconds between the break leaders and the stampeding peleton behind them at 17 km.

Lining up behind Mark Cavendish was Thor Hushovd, Robbie McEwen, and Alessandro Petacchi, all ready to challenge him as the teams hit the narrow streets into Reims.  That would include 9 round abouts with other tricky turns as well.  Take the wrong side of the round about and you could end up losing a few places.

But it was inevitable that the big teams would swallow up the break, and so they did once inside the town of Reims.

Tony Martin of HTC Columbia was there in front with 5 km to go, then replaced by the Cervelo Team that this year has two riders from Great Britain, Roger Hammond and Jeremy Hunt. Lampre came to the front after the third round about some 3 km from the finish, as the breakaway leaders were swallowed by the peleton.

Again, Tony Martin came to the front for HTC Columbia along with Bernard Eisler and Mark Renshaw. But Petacchi came up from the right hand side, surprising the Columbia boys, and taking the line at the finish.

In the end Columbia started their lead out too soon, and other riders benefited from it. Cavendish stood up when he saw it was impossible to battle the final seconds with Petacchi.

Julian Dean of Garmin Transitions and Edvald Hagen Boassen of Team Sky were in second and third position at the finish. Hushovd was 9th and Cavendish was 12th.

General Classifcation Standings at End of Stage 4
1. CANCELLARA Fabian 13 TEAM SAXO BANK 18h 28' 55"
2. THOMAS Geraint 39 SKY PRO CYCLING 18h 29' 18" + 00' 23"
3. EVANS Cadel 121 BMC RACING TEAM 18h 29' 34" + 00' 39"
4. HESJEDAL Ryder 54 GARMIN - TRANSITIONS 18h 29' 41" + 00' 46"
5. CHAVANEL Sylvain 131 QUICK STEP 18h 29' 56" + 01' 01"
6. SCHLECK Andy 11 TEAM SAXO BANK 18h 30' 04" + 01' 09"
7. HUSHOVD Thor 95 CERVELO TEST TEAM 18h 30' 14" + 01' 19"
8. VINOKOUROV Alexandre 9 ASTANA 18h 30' 26" + 01' 31"
9. CONTADOR Alberto 1 ASTANA 18h 30' 35" + 01' 40"
10. VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen 101 OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO 18h 30' 37" + 01' 42"
11. ROCHE Nicolas 81 AG2R LA MONDIALE 18h 30' 37" + 01' 42"
12. VAN SUMMEREN Johan 58 GARMIN - TRANSITIONS 18h 30' 42" + 01' 47"
13. MENCHOV Denis 191 RABOBANK 18h 30' 44" + 01' 49"
14. WIGGINS Bradley 31 SKY PRO CYCLING 18h 30' 44" + 01' 49"
15. MILLAR David 57 GARMIN - TRANSITIONS 18h 31' 01" + 02' 06"
16. KREUZIGER Roman 44 LIQUIGAS-DOIMO 18h 31' 19" + 02' 24"
17. SANCHEZ Luis-Leon 161 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 18h 31' 20" + 02' 25"
18. ARMSTRONG Lance 21 TEAM RADIOSHACK 18h 31' 25" + 02' 30"


Stage Standings at End of Stage 4
1. PETACCHI Alessandro 208 LAMPRE - FARNESE 3h 34' 55"
2. DEAN Julian 52 GARMIN - TRANSITIONS 3h 34' 55" + 00' 00"
3. BOASSON Edvald Hagen 36 SKY PRO CYCLING 3h 34' 55" + 00' 00"
4. MC EWEN Robbie 75 KATUSHA TEAM 3h 34' 55" + 00' 00"
5. HUNTER Robert 55 GARMIN - TRANSITIONS 3h 34' 55" + 00' 00"
6. TURGOT Sébastien 158 BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM 3h 34' 55" + 00' 00"
7. ROJAS Jose Joaquin 169 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 3h 34' 55" + 00' 00"
8. OSS Daniel 46 LIQUIGAS-DOIMO 3h 34' 55" + 00' 00"
9. HUSHOVD Thor 95 CERVELO TEST TEAM 3h 34' 55" + 00' 00"
10. FREIRE Oscar 193 RABOBANK 3h 34' 55" + 00' 00"
11. CIOLEK Gerald 142 TEAM MILRAM 3h 34' 55" + 00' 00"
12. CAVENDISH Mark 111 TEAM HTC - COLUMBIA 3h 34' 55" + 00' 00"








 

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