Second straight win for the Australian fastmen in Tour de Suisse teritory. After Brad McGee was the toughest in a small bunch sprint of a dozen riders Monday, today's fourth stage, from Vaduz (capital city of the tiny state of Liechtenstein, one of the smallest countries in the world, with a population of some 30,000) to the Swiss hamlet of Bad Zurzach, over 208.2 km, "peppered" with just three third category climbs, ended in a bunch sprint. And Robbie McEwen
showed who's the best sprinter in the field as he comfortably took the stage win as he pipped young Italian Daniele Colli (Liquigas) and local favourite Aurélien Clerc (Phonak Hearing Systems) at the line. McEwen's presumed chief rival Tom Boonen couldn't finish off the huge chasing job done by his teammates and didn't place higher than fourth, while Baden Cooke was sixth and Roger Hammond made the top 10, right ahead of Chris Horner. Jan Ullrich finished 19th and easily retained the overall leader's yellow mantle.
How it unfolded
The earliest part of the stage was quite similar to yesterday's, with several breakaway attempts going, and Jens Voigt (CSC) and Gregory Rast (Phonak) among the protagonists, but none of them coming to fruition. As the bunch hit the Kerenzerberg third category climb, a small group tried to make a decent gap, with Koldo Gil, looking for some more precious KOM points that would help him increase his advantage in this classification, very active. But the first one across the top was Italy's Francesco Bellotti (Crédit Agricole), who also attacked on the following descent, along with Spain's José Luis Arrieta (Illes Balears) and Russian Vladimir Gusev (CSC). Needless to say, it took just a while for the peloton, unwilling to let anyone go, to bring'em all back however.
After more failed attempts put in by Mirko Celestino (Domina Vacanze), Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile), Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Gregory Rast again, an apparently more significant move came, featuring about 20 riders, some big names like Cancellara, Paris-Nice overall champion Bobby Julich, and the same Celestino included. But even if they quickly gained some 30 seconds, their move ended up like all previous ones, as they could stay away for a dozen kilometres only.
But when it was the turn of Belgian Bart Dockx (Davitamon-Lotto), Denmark's Allan Johansen (CSC) and Italy's Lorenzo Bernucci (Fassa Bortolo), that had a go at km. 66, things went differently: none of them represented a real GC threat to Jan Ullrich and his peloton-leading squad - the best-placed escapee, Bernucci, being 07'53" down on the GC -, so that the trio was allowed to go and open up a gap of more than a minute in the space of about five kilometres only, and close to two mins as they hit the town of Eschenbach, with 130 km remaining. And more than five minutes about 20 km. later, on the way the Wintherthur; and six minutes at the feeding zone, with the frontrunners working very well together and T-Mobile still taking it easy (differently than yesterday).
As young Dockx, Bernucci (whose best result so far in the season is a top five finish in a Volta a Catalunya stage, when he got into another breakaway) and Danish veteran (aged 33) Johansen achieved a maximum lead of seven and a half minutes by km. 130, with the Italian really close to take the yellow jersey off Jan Ullrich's shoulders, the bunch put in some kind of reaction. First cutting the gap down slightly, later being more serious about the chase. But more than the magentamen, it was Tom Boonen's Quick Step that took up the chase. The advantage dropped to 04'52" as the leading trio reached the line at Bad Zurzach with 36k (two laps of a circuit of 18 km., with as many passages over the Zurzach third category climb) to go.
The peloton made further gains on the escapees in the first lap, bringing the gap down to 03'40" with 27k remaining, after Johansen took the Hot Spot Sprint at Klingnau, and a mere three minutes six kilometres later. As the bell signaling the last lap was ringing - e.g. with 18k to go -, and McEwen's Lotto-Davitamon domestiques were first seen at the front of the bunch helping the chase (a clear sign that they didn't believe in Dock's chances anymore) the three fugitives were holding a lead of 02'20".
The passage over the last climb of the day saw the gap fall well under the one-and-a-half-minute mar k, and some changes take place both the in the chasing group (with three Illes Balears replacing Quick Step at the front) and the leading trio, where the truce came to end and Bernucci's attack resulted in Johansen getting dropped. It was Dockx that won the last mountain prime though, with the Italian in second, Johansen third and Phonak's Alexandre Moos sucessfully attacking the bunch to pick up the only other point at stake there.
The front trio regrouped on the descent afterwards, but the breakaway was doomed to failure. With a dozen km. left, and Phonak driving the chase, the gap fell under the minute. Bernucci (the last one to wave white flag), Dock and Johanen were caught 4-5 km. from the finish, after they stayed clear for clos to 140 kilometres. Kudos to the brave trio, but the last part of the stage was all about the fastmen and their teams.
Clerc's Phonak remained the most active squad up front, while Jan Ullrich was staying in the top 15-20 places in order to avoid any risks. But as the man is not new to, Robbie McEwen came out from nowhere at sensational speed in the last hundred metres to pass all of his rivals and claim an easy victory over them all.
Bart Dockx has only one victory since his career started with Bodysol- Brustor last year , at Oostrozebeke. Indeed the rider who has an A1 Diploma in Logistics had a bad career start when he broke his wrist in April last year. However he has been riding very well in this years Tour de Suisse and was away for 130 kilometres before being caught with just 5 kilometres to go .
"Of course I wanted to go for victory myself , but on the other hand to be able to help Robbie McEwen made it a good days work. His victory crowned my efforts. The team had told me it was my day to make a move and after the early efforts of Boonen and Julich , which were always doomed to failure, my attack which was joined by Johansen and Bernucci was always going to be the one that would get away, a pity the sprinters teams were so keen to catch us in the end”
I hope to be able to help Evans in the Mountains and McEwen in the sprints now, who knows, I may even have another chance myself
Naturally the australian Road Race champion was pleased with his young team mates work during the stage
"This short of finish, with its twists and turns suited me very well. I also profited from Dockx’s long escape, which saved the team a lot of work. Today has given me a lot of confidence for the future, not only for the Tour , but I also want to win another stage in this race, tomorrow or possibly Saturday”
Allan Johansen – In the right Move
Team CSC report on the excellent ride from Allan Johansen,
Team CSC's Allan Johansen was part of a break away for more than half the 205-kilometer fourth stage of Tour de Suisse from Vaduz to Bad Zurzach. At the 70 kilometer mark, Johansen escaped with two other riders and they were not caught until five kilometers before the finish. After that, Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) had little trouble winning the bunch sprint.
"We did really well today. Jens Voigt attacked twice at the beginning, Vladimir Gusev was in a break away just ahead of and on the first climb, and after that it was Bobby Julich and Allan Johansen, who escaped in a group of 21 riders. When they were caught, Allan attacked again. It was really excellent team work, but of course a shame, that Allan and the two others didn't last all the way," said sports director Kim Andersen after the 205-kilometer stage.
Jan Ullrich – Happy in Yellow
T Mobile continue to be pleased with the way the race is going -
Jan Ullrich was in high spirits after the race in the finish area. He cheerfully analysed the race at the team bus, while finding praise for his team mates: "The lads gave it their best again today and really pushed the pace," said Ullrich, adding it was a "typical sprinter's stage".
So it was up to other teams as well to do some of the lead work. "So compared to yesterday, we saved some energy," quipped Ullrich. When the gap had risen to 7:30. at km 124 the T-Mobile Team started to lead the pack and pushing the pace. "We didn't want the gap to become to large and rode really hard," Ullrich described the situation. By this, we also animated the other teams to share the work."
The magenta pro was satisfied about his own showing: "Right now, it's going well for me. I feel my form getting a little better each day, yet clearly see what work is still left to do. If this tour starts to take too much out of me, I will take it down a notch, but right now, I'm not wasting any thoughts on it."
Stage 4 Results: Top 10 Places
1. Robbie Mc Ewen(Aus - Lotto-Davitamon) - 04h42'40"
2. Daniele Colli (Ita - Liquigas)
3. Aurélien Clerc (Swi - Phonak H.S.)
4. Tom Boonen (Bel - Quick Step)
5. Sebastien Hinault (Fra - Crédit Agricole)
6. Baden Cooke (Aus - Française des Jeux)
7. René Haselbacher (Aut - Gerolsteiner)
8. Fabian Wegmann (Swi - Gerolsteiner)
9. David Loosli Jeker (Swi - Lampre-Caffita)
10. Roger Hammond (GBR - Discovery Channel Pro CT)
...11. Christopher Horner (USA - Saunier Duval-Prodir)
19. Jan Ullrich (Ger - T-Mobile Team)
All riders credited with the same time.
GC after Stage 4: Top 20 Places
1. Jan Ullrich (Ger - T-Mobile) - 13h13'50"
2. Bradley McGee (Aus - Francaise des Jeux) - at 02"
3. Michael Rogers (Aus - Quick Step) - at 18"
4. Dario Frigo (Ita - Fassa Bortolo) - at 01'12"
5. Beat Zberg (Swi - Gerolsteiner) - at 01'14"
6. Fabian Jeker (Swi - Saunier Duval-Prodir) - at 01'25"
7. Georg Totschnig (Aut - Gerolsteiner) - at 01'31"
8. Frank Schleck (Lux - Team CSC) - at 01'41"
9. Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger - Quick Step) - at 01'47"
10. Aitor González (Spa - Euskaltel-Euskadi) - at 01'52"
11. Tadej Valjavec (Slo - Phonak H.S.) - at 01'53"
12. Koldo Gil Pérez (Spa - Liberty Seguros-Würth) - at 01'56"
13. Cadel Evans (Aus - Davitamon-Lotto) - at 02'02"
14. Kim Kirchen (Lux - Fassa Bortolo) - at 02'08"
15. Daniel Schnider (Swi - Phonak H.S.) - at 02'17"
16. Jens Voigt (Ger - Team CSC) - at 02'20"
17. Alejandro Valverde (Spa - Illes Balears) - at 02'21"
18. Vladimir Gusev (Rus - Phonak H.S.) - at 02'29"
19. Alexandre Moos (Swi - Phonak H.S.) - at 02'37"
20. Charles Wegelius (GBR - Liquigas) - at 02'47"
More to follow.
Tour de Suisse 2005 Links
Race Preview - Part 1
Race Preview - Part 2
Race Preview - Part 3
Stage 1 Live Ticker & ResultsStage 2 Live Ticker & Results
Stage 3 Results, Report & News