10.07 - stage 4: Epernay - Château-Thierry Team Time Trial 68 km
Still in Champagne country Epernay is the proud start point for the most decisive stage so far in the race. The towns website http://www.epernay.net/tdf/ gives a great insight into the atmosphere the race creates in rural France. The site points out that the "ticket d'entrée" to be granted the honour of staging the start of the stage was 47 500 euros, whereas a 30 seconds a commercial would cost nearly 91 000 euros - obviously better economic sense to stage cycle races. Every hotel is fully booked for miles around and with tongue firmly in cheek the site advises “For the private individuals who seek to place Tuesday evening, I advise to them to show ingeniousness and to pass by somewhat different ways... Certain wine growers have grape baskets and could perhaps make use of it to accomodate visitors in July.”
The teams will leave from the Esplanade Charles de Gaulle from 14.15 at five minute intervals. The course is flat, except for a nasty 3.5 kilometre, 200 metre climb in the middle. Unskilled teams may well loose men on this drag and will loose vital seconds trying to regroup.
Once over the Igny-le-Jard the teams then have a dead flat 20 kilometre run into Château-Thierry - a small town of 16,000 inhabitants which stands as the entrance to the Champagne vineyards. Charles Martel built a castle here, and Napoleon won one of his last battles here - just before the battle of Waterloo.
So very apt, then, that the battle between the cycling teams of the world should take part in what is nicknamed the Cockpit of Europe. Always a beautiful and riveting sight - the team time trial can lead to disaster for any would be contender - last year the Postal Service lost time when Roberto Heras and Christian Vandevelde touched wheels in the pouring rain. It is the first time that the main contenders will have to show their strengths - a day of high drama in Champagne country.
Daily Peloton’s Stage Prediction
On current form the it would be foolish not to bet on the US Postal team powering to glory. Last year's winners Credit Agricole still look very strong - as do the Once team. However - the Rabobank, with in form Levi Leipheimer, look like the surprise package that may well steal the honours today.
“Contre la montre par equipes” - the team time trial
In 1963 the Belgian rider Eddy Pauwels won the stage into Marne-Epernay and wore the yellow jersey. Born on 2/5/1935 in Bornem he turned professional in 1959 - and wore the yellow jersey in his first ever Tour, he was a remarkably consistant rider in the Tour gaining 4 stage wins and good overall finishing positions.
Results in the Tour
2 stages Tour de France 1961
1 stage Tour of France 1962
1 stage Tour of France 1963
9 th Tour of France 1961
10 th Tour of France 1962
11 th Tour of France 1959
13 th Tour of France 1963
20 th Tour of France 1964
It is interesting to look at results of the 1963 stage -
Paris/Nogent sur Marne-Epernay, 152.5 km
1. Eddy Pauwels en 3h30'03"
5. Van Tongerloo à 1'23"
6. Van Looy à 1'28"
10. Van Geneugden
You wouldn’t expect to see Bahamontes in a four man escapee break over this sort of terrain - and what a great ride by Alan Ramsbottom (who moved up to third on Overall as a result) - Alan eventually finished in 16th place - one of the best British rides ever in the Tour de France.
11.07 - stage 5: Soissons - Rouen 198 km
Once again the peloton regroups and starts out from the Place de l’Hotel-de-Ville in Soissons heading ever westward towards Rouen. In 1983 the team time trial left Soissons
and it was the Coop-Mercier team who triumphed.
Soissons is another town steeped in Merovingian history, and Clovis is famed for his revenge on one of his soldiers who broke his vase and also for his conversion to Christianity in the midst of a battle with the Alemanni tribe.
Today's battle will be between the sprinters, the stage is as flat as a mill-pond and it is hard to see any sort of break being allowed the freedom for victory. However the wind may play it’s role - and if the conditions are right echelons could form along the long straight roads with little protection from the elements. Expect the Domo, Lotto and Rabobank teams to take full advantage if this happens - and the Postal Service team have shown themselves to be very tactically aware in such circumstances too.
Expect a fast downhill finish into Rouen, a symbol of French nationalism following the exploits of Jeanne d'Arc. Images
The town first held a stage in 1949 (Stage winner: Lucien Teisseire) and, for the last time in 1990 (Stage winner: Gerrit Solleveldt). Start of the Tour de France in 1961 (stage winner and green jersey winner Andre Darrigade won that day) and in 1997 (Prologue, Stage winner: Chris Boardman).
Daily Peloton’s Stage Prediction
Close enough to Belgium to have big local support it could be the day for Domo and Fred Rodriguez - fully recovered from illness his teammates will ensure that he doesn’t miss the cut. He proved at this years Milan San Remo that he can take advantage of another team's lead out - so today could well be the day that Fast Freddy surprises the well drilled Telekom team.
“Echelon” - the vicious crosswinds that play across the fields of France mean that the flats offer little respite. A lone cyclist can be battered to a standstill. In these conditions, the peloton strings out into a diagonal paceline formation called an "echelon." Like a paceline, this diagonal line of riders is designed to let the lead riders fight the wind, while following riders are sheltered, awaiting their turn at the front. When an echelon forms, its length is limited by the width of the road, resulting in a fierce battle in the "gutter" for the final places in the echelon line. Since the riders in the echelon have a 15-30% advantage in the wind, a failure to make the first echelon can be the difference between a chance to win the stage and a long futile chase.
Born: 8-Jan-1934, Mont Saint-Aignan, France
Died: 18-Nov-1987, St. Hilaire Clinic, Rouen, France
Nicknames - "Maître Jacques", "Monsieur Crono", "L'Enfant-Roi."
5 victories in the Tour de France (Record with Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain)
Double Tour de France and Giro d'Italia victory - 1964 (Achieved only by Fausto Coppi, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Stephen Roche, Miguel Indurain and Marco Pantani)
9 victories in the Grand Prix des Nations (Record)
What can you say about a legend of cycling? Possibly let another legend say it for you - here is what Tom Simpson thought about the great man: "Jacques simply tries harder than anyone I have met. In a time trial you can hear him catching you, you don't have to look round, there is this hoarse sound of breath being drawn in gulps, and then he's past you. Then it's like being in a thunderstorm, with the sweat simply pouring off him as he goes by. And yet there's not a movement wasted, it's all concentrated in his legs, a beautiful motion."
12.07 - stage 6: Forges-les-Eaux - Alençon 199 km
Another long day in the saddle as the riders head westwards across Normandy. Leaving the Porte des Gisors in the tiny (pop. 3600) spa town of Forges -les -Eaux - The last time the tour visited was in 1997 when Super Mario - Cipollini - sprinted home to victory.
Two category 4 climbs after 61 and 71 kilometres and three metas volantes are the main features of what looks like being a long hard day in the saddle. After nearly a week in of racing and riders beginning to lose ground a breakaway could succeed - however if Lance Armstrong is clear favourite for the overall the race for the Green Sprinters jersey is a different matter. Zabel will have serious competition this year from O’Grady, Steels, Freire, McEwen, Ivanov and Rodriguez. With these teams pushing to keep the race together the peloton will more than likely be together as the race speeds into Alencon. The town famous for its lace production and cattle markets first held a stage in 1984 (Stage winner: Hoste) and for the last time in 1995 (Stage winner: Gewis Team). Images
Daily Peloton’s Stage Prediction
Fassa Bortolo bring a solid team and will be looking to pick up stage victories - Serguei Ivanov has already shown this season he is capable of beating Zabel, and Cipollini in a straight sprint when he took the Trofeo Luis Puig in February. A stage winner last year in Aix les Bains, Ivanov, is our man for the day.
“Bonification” Time bonus: This takes the form of a deduction of so many seconds from the rider’s overall time, so improving his position in the race. Bonuses are most frequently awarded to the first three riders at the end of the stage (20, 12 and 6 seconds). Time bonus sprints were introduced for the first time in 1978.
Frank Hoste won three stages of the Tour de France in 1984 (including the one finishing in Alencon which was enough to give him the overall Green jersey as well).
In 1982 he won the Ghent Wevelgem, the four days of Dunkirk and one stage of the TdF as well as the Belgian National road championship race. He also won 2 stages of the Giro d’Italia and a stage of the Tour of Switzerland in 1983. He continued racing until 1990 when his last major success was the Omloop van de Westkust.
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