93rd Tour de France - Stage 4 Live
Another flat stage for the sprinters. Will world champion Tom Boonen and stage
favorite be able to find his good sprinting legs to add a stage victory?
last, another day for the sprinters. Probably. Today's 207 km stage between Huy
in Belgium and Saint Quentin in France heads in a southwestern direction, taking
in a Cat 3 and a Cat 4 climb in the first 60 km. That will probably be enough to
launch the opportunists of the day, and then it's pretty much a long day of
chasing for the sprinters' teams. It's not a flat day, with lots of little ups
and downs along the way, but the sprinters are hungry and this should come down
to a hot drag for the line.
© A.S.O. Amaury Sport Organisation
Here is today's poem of the day from Dancing on
the Pedals: The Found Poetry of Phil Liggett, the Voice of Cycling
by Doug Donaldson and Phil Liggett.
There’s a big sandwich out there
and a very nasty fall.
Stage 3, 2003
1449 CEST – Five men have gone on the
attack in this stage. They are Egoi Martinez (Discovery Channel), Cedric
Coutouly (Agritubel), Christophe Mengin (Francaise des Jeux), Laurent Lefevre
(Bouygues Telecom), and Bradley Wiggens (Cofidis). Their gap was up to almost
5', and the Quick Step squad of Yellow Jersey Tom Boonen have stepped up the
pace making in the peloton to bring the gap down.
The Vampires descended on the Tour de France this morning: the UCI's doctors
came with a random doping control and tested six teams (Discovery Channel,
Cofidis, Credit Agricole, Saunier Duval-Prodir, Agritubel, and Francaise des
Jeux). All riders were okayed to start the stage. Interesting that four French
teams were checked along with the American Discovery Channel.
Dave Zabriskie ready to start, stage 3. Photo © Tim DeWaele
1456 CEST - 104 km left. Egoi Martinez
wins an intermediate sprint and picks ups some more seconds with his time bonus.
This should help Discovery Channel in the teams competition. Discovery Channel
has a narrow 1" lead on CSC in that competition.
Martinez won the Tour de l'Avenir in 2003, and much has been expected of him
as he has developed. He rode with Euskaltel-Euskadi last year before making the
jump over to Discovery Channel. The five men in the break are working well
together. Their lead is 4' at the moment. Quick Step is all over the front
leading the chase. Interestingly, the Phonak squad with Floyd Landis is right
behind Quick Step, keeping an eye on the front.
Boonen is the favorite to win today, given that this is a flat day and the
race goes through Belgium. Boonen didn't look that great in yesterday's sprint,
but that was because he rode the last 2 kilometers yesterday with a rapidly
deflating tire! To get 4th in a sprint like that with a flattening tire is
Jean Marie Blanc at the start of stage 3. Photo © Tim DeWaele
1506 CEST - Coutouly is a strong young
rider; last year he had several 2nd places and no victories. He rode a good Tour
d l'Avenir, which shows that he is a strong developing young rider. He's done
well to get into this group, but I doubt if this break will make it to the
Chris Horner (Saunier Duval-Prodir) is in the race today. He went down in
that crash with Stuart O'Grady (CSC) yesterday. They were riding up the gutter
moving up the peloton and fighting for position. Then, suddenly, the pavement in
the gutter ended and both riders hit the deck. O'Grady has a mild fracture of a
vertebra, but he is still in the race today riding through the pain. Horner had
a dislocated finger, but today it is taped up and Horner will see how it goes.
1517 CEST - Martinez has a yellow race
number on his back. This year, the team that is leading the Teams Classification
gets yellow numbers. Back to Coutouly: he scored two second places in
Paris-Troyes and semi-classic Paris-Camembert, as well as third in the Trophee
Luc Leblanc and fourth at the Memorial Samyn earlier this season. Still no
victories, but he's been close.
15:20 CEST - Quick Step and Phonak
continue to marshal (sp) things on the front, with Axel Merckx protecting Floyd
Landis who is understandably nervous about crashing, especially after what
happened to Valverde yesterday. There are five Quick Steps in a row on the
front, led by Garate and Vasseur.
It's a big day for Britain. "Our" Bradley, one of only two Brits in
this year's Tour, has made it into a breakaway. Wiggins was the toast of the
nation two years ago at the Olympics, when he won gold, silver and bronze medals
in the 4000m pursuit, the team pursuit and the Madison.
Erik Dekker (Rabobank) went down and crashed out of the race yesterday. That
was very sad, because he was likely in his last Tour de France. He had severe
facial injuries and lost some teeth. Today he is having surgery to remove some
gravel from his face. So needless to say he didn't land well when he crashed.
Here's hoping Erik has a speedy recovery.
84.5 km left. The five leaders are
on another little uphill section. It's not like those little hills they had
yesterday... more of a false flat. By the way, many of you may remember
Christophe Mengin from last year's race. Burying himself, going for a solo win
in Nancy in last year's race, the veteran Frenchman crashed on the tight last
corner, which was slick with rain. Then most of the bunch followed him. Then
Lorenzo Bernucci thought "Wait a minute, I've got a gap" and rode away to
victory. Mengin has worn the polka-dot jersey in the first week on previous
occasions though, and won a stage into Fribourg in his first Tour in 1997. He's
1533 CEST - The peloton is really strung
out single file, but the gap continues to go up: it is up to 4' 25" now, despite
the pressure of Quick Step. Martinez is likely giving us a glimpse of the
new Discovery Channel strategy this year. Instead of riding on the front all the
time, they will be flying off the front on attacks a lot.
A reminder, you can join other fans from around the world to discuss the race
in progress while you follow the ticker in the
Daily Peloton Chat room.
Commentary today is by Locutus, Andy McDobbin in London and Michael Akinde in
1541 CEST - Status quo in the race: Quick
Step still chases in the peloton, the five escapees still buzzing along working
well together. Erik Zabel (Team Milram) can relax a bit: he won't have any
problem with his Italian leadout men today. Italy beat Germany in the World Cup
yesterday, so his leadout will probably have a little extra gas today.
Martinez (DSC) leads through the second sprint of the day. Mengin cheekily
pipped Lefevre on the line as his other companions just rode along.
71 km left. Martinez is moving up the GC
with his wins in the intermediate sprints. He's into the top ten now, I think.
The gap has come down to 3' 55". The peloton is still single-file. This is a
dangerous stage potentially: if they hit some wind as they head for the coast,
it could split the field. The GC hopefuls must stay vigilant near the front.
Locutus, it seems to me that this is a stage tailor-made for Tom Boonen - not
only does it go through Belgium, but the headwinds and finish in Saint-Quentin,
not a world away from Roubaix, will also suit his style. Indeed it is Andy; He
just has to make sure he doesn't completely burn out his teammates before then.
Exactly, second will not be good enough for Quick Step today considering the
amount of work the rest of the team's riders have done for the world champion.
So does the curse of the World Champion's Jersey hold when he gets to
put on a different jersey? Davitamon-Lotto has moved some men up to help
with the chase. Of course, McEwen lost his leadout man from that squad: Fred
Rodriguez went down hard yesterday and abandoned with an injured shoulder. No
breaks, fortunately, but he won't be around to guide McEwen through the sprints.
Robbie McEwen could pick his way through a minefield, I reckon he'll be ok
without F-Rod, though it's still a blow.
Tom Boonen slips on the Maillot Vert. Photo © Time De Waele
66 km left. The gap is down to about 3'
33"Current standings for the green jersey:
Point Jersey G.C. Maillot Vert
1 BOONEN Tom QSI BEL 67
2 BENNATI Daniele LAM ITA 66
3 MC EWEN Robbie DVL AUS 65
4 HUSHOVD Thor C.A NOR 62
5 ZABEL Erik MRM GER 59
6 PAOLINI Luca LIQ ITA 57
7 FREIRE Oscar RAB ESP 54
8 O’GRADY Stuart CSC AUS 43
Looks to be a six man race at the moment with six time winner Erik Zabel
still in the mix; and Lampre's Daniele Bennati showing strong in second place.
Speaking of another Z, David Z (abriskie) is right at the back of the bunch,
just getting on some water.
1558 CEST - Well the gap is really coming
down -to about 3'. Phonak has dropped some riders back to pace Landis, who has a
flat and is off the back. Grabsch, Pena and Moos are the men helping him to get
Today could be a day for Daniele Bennati (Lampre), the young Italian sprinter
who has been threatening every day in the sprints but still hasn't done better
than 3rd. He's now in 2nd in the points classification, only 1 point behind
Boonen. He's wearing the Green Jersey today because Boonen in wearing the Yellow
Jersey. But he'll want to take the victory and earn the Green Jersey outright.
Cedric Vasseur and Juan Manuel Garate continue to tap out the pace for Boonen,
bringing the break back bit by bit.
58km to go - The gap is now 3'01", as
Lefevre offers some rut-juddered words and a grin to the cameramen. In the
break, Coutouly pulls through. He must be making the farmers proud as he rides
by their farms today, what with riding for the Agritubel squad. The Agritubel
site has the motto, Quand Agritubel "lève les bras" c'est le monde agricole qui
gagne... "When Agritubel raise their arms, it's the agricultural world
which wins" Well, that's a bit of inspiration for the sponsor when a rider
crosses the line with the familiar salute for the farm equipment company. So
between Credit Agricole (Farmers Bank), Agritubel, and Milram, we have the full
production cycle, for farming represented in the peloton.
53 km left. The gap is down to just
around 2' 45". Now, as the forecast rain begins to fall, the escapees are going
over damp roads.
The latest info regarding sponsors after Operation Puerto in the European
press; Spanish cycling has already lost Liberty-Seguros, Wurth, and Communidad
Valenciana. Latest news is that 3 Molinas and Kaiku will also be stopping by the
end of this year. The cameras focus on a guy in a comically-oversized sombrero
playing the French horn - impetus for the peloton to speed up if ever there was
any... is he playing Taps for the 3 Continental Teams?
The Quick Step men are followed by a long line of Davitamon riders. Evans and
Horner sit at the back of the Davitamon line. Horner's hand is wrapped up, and
he's grimacing a bit, but he's hanging in there. Evans is looking really good
for the GC.
1616 CEST - 50km left for the leading
quintet, their lead cut down to 2'36". These crowds in Le-Nouvion are huge!
Milram has sent a few men to work now as well in the chase. They are working for
Casar (Francaise des Jeux) is dropping back to the team cars. He was taken
down yesterday by another camera: just like Hushovd and Boonen in Stage 1, a fan
reached an arm way out over the barriers to try to get a picture and clipped
Casar. These kamikaze cameramen... His right arm is bandaged up around the
elbow, and he's holding his right leg massaging it a bit. But he's still in the
Away from the action, the news on Valverde are good. This morning, Unzue
informed the press that Valverde's fracture was mercifully uncomplicated, and
the chances seem good that he will soon be back on the bike, and will be able to
ride the Vuelta.
44 km left. The gap is 2' 40". Tornado
Tom Boonen is only the seventh rider to wear yellow on top of the WC jersey.
Unlikely he will be wearing it in Paris like Merckx did, though. Greg
Lemond was the last man to take the Yellow Jersey while wearing the World
Champion Jersey. Of course, Lemond was a bit better climber than Boonen. Will he
ride into Paris in green is the question, with less climbing this year he just
might; when Merckx rode into Paris in yellow as WC, he actually had both the
Green and Yellow.
The peloton, while having many teams working on the front right now, have
slowed down a bit. They seem to be waiting a bit before accelerating again to
really nail back the break. If they bring it back too early, they will have to
deal with a flurry of counter-attacks from men with fresher legs. By the
way, Filippo Pozzato is the race Lanterne Rouge:
not the type of rider you might expect to be in that kind of position, but he
has been working tirelessly for Boonen. Quick Step should be careful to not
leave it to the last four kilometres.
They should know what Bradley Wiggins' favourite track distance was... so who
is this Wiggins fellow, Andy? Brad Wiggins was one of Britain's best track
riders, but is making the transition into a roadman, the culmination of which is
riding the Tour de France. He writes a column for British paper "The Observer"
and has emphasized how he is riding "clean". He is looking good in the this
break, despite the fact that it appears doomed.
1628 CEST - Some farmers have built some
monuments out of hay bales to celebrate the race. The riders roll by two large
hay horses with lots of fans jumping up and down on them. I wonder if these
farmers are rooting for Credit Agricole, Agritubel, or Team Milram? Well, what
do they value more, Locutus? Farming equipment or a safe place to put their
37 km left. The gap is down to 2' 10".
Stuart O'Grady looking uncomfortable; well, he should be considering that he is
riding with a cracked vertebrae. Fortunately the fracture is so small that the
CSC team feels he should be able to recover.
"I won't gamble with my health," Stuey said in the morning, indicating that he
would not finish at any cost. Absents any more accidents, though, it looks like
he has got through today at least. By the way, in financial news, CSC is not
going to be sold to another company. They have bought back stock and will
continue with the current structure. If CSC had been bought, it obviously would
have had an impact on the cycling squad.
Davitamon-Lotto is no longer at the front because McEwen was off the back
with some sort of problem. Lampre and Quick Step and Milram and Credit Agricole
are working together at the front of the peloton. There are rumours circulating
that Sergio Paulinho is going to Discovery for 2007 McEwen is back in the
peloton, and his teammates will help him back up to the front now. Well,
the riders roll by a giant Zadane tribute. He does something in some other
sport, I think.
1643 CEST - Laurent "Le Mullet" Brochard
(Bouygues Telecom) is back in the team cars now, probably coming back from
visiting his director. (or his barber?)
26 km left. The gap is down to 1' 30".
Some Davitamon-Lotto riders are visible near the front again. McEwen is probably
back in position then. Perhaps Lampre will try something today. This morning
Bontempo was almost bouncing with joy, and reported that spirits on the team
where high. Reason, of course, was that other sports event happening in Germany,
where Italy had a good evening yesterday. The finish is a bit of an uphill
sprint. Hard to say who this sprint will suit. Bennati did well on that climb
yesterday... maybe he will give Boonen a run for his money.
The peloton rolls under the 25km banner. It is a bit fat, which means the
pace isn't all out yet. That will change soon. The gap is down to 1' 15" for the
five men in the break. Once caught, it will be all out to the finish line.
1653 CEST - Boonen in Yellow grabs a
drink from a teammate. Last bottle before the finish line, that. He's up near
the front looking good. Bennati currently in sixth place on the G.C. at 15
seconds is expected to fade away in the challenge for the points jersey, but if
he keeps up his consistency, he could make the battle for green even tastier.
Well, Bennati did very well at the Tour de Suisse, even though he was mostly
spending his time taking second place to Boonen. One never knows - anything can
happen between here and Paris.
Big Bradley Wiggins gets onto the drops and stretches; doesn't look like
it'll be his day today, but still nice to see Britain represented. This moves
him further up the GC. He'll have to hold on to the peloton when they get caught
though. Through the third and final sprint in Bernot, it is again Basque
Egoi Martinez who leads the line through, ahead of Lefevre and Mengin; once
more, they don't break ranks to go for the bonuses.
18 km left. The gap is about 1' 10". An
AG2r rider, Arrieta, has a flat. He will have to haul his red number (for most
aggressive rider yesterday) back up to the peloton now. The pace is picking up
now in the peloton. Davitamon-Lotto have taken over the pace making. CSC are
flying the colors near the front of the peloton too. Not sure why they are up
Daniele Bennati, wearing the green jersey as Boonen is in yellow, is
currently on the wheel of Boonen. If O'Grady wins this stage, they should give
him a special award for being crazy tough.
Crash 5 riders down, There was a hard right hand turn, and the peloton
overshot that a bit. Mayo went down right in the middle of the pack. Luckily all
the riders are up and rolling with Mayo's Euskadi mates pacing him back to the
peloton. Vicente Garcia Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne) was also in that crash. He's
chasing back. Mayo has four Euskaltel mates pacing him back, but Acosta is on
his own. Caisse d'Epargne sprinter Galvez and teammate Acosta are also off the
1606 CEST- 13km to go, 59 seconds for the
break. After Beneteau, De la Fuente and Arrieta, this could be the first day
that a solo rider hasn't clipped off the front from an escape in the closing
kilometres. As I say that, Coutouly attacks on a drag and brings Lefevre
and Martinez with him. Mayo and his Euskaltel buddies are 22 seconds down on the
Mayo has come back to the bunch now thanks to his vigilant teammates.
Wiggins and Mengin have been caught, but Martinez, Lefevre and Coutouly are
pressing on, now under the 10km banner. The peloton is only about 35" behind the
9km to go - Credit given where credit is
due, the trio in front have resisted the charge of the cavalry superbly so far.
The peloton is surprisingly disorganized just now... the front is spread all
across the road, with no team wanting to take responsibility and string things
out. The peloton is surprisingly disorganized just now... the front is spread
all across the road, with no team wanting to take responsibility and string
things out; if this break succeeds, Martinez will take over the Yellow Jersey
for Discovery Channel. That would be the coup of a lifetime for Martinez.
7 km left. The peloton is 30" back. It's
Marzio Bruseghin pulling for Lampre. There's not a great amount of urgency
evident in the chase, but we will soon see some, surely. Liquigas now has four
men working for Paolini on the front. Paolini has been top ten in every bunch
sprint so far. Big Maggie Backstedt firing on the front.
6 km left. Martinez is hammering away,
with a new urgency. He can smell the Yellow Jersey! If one of these three
leaders hesitates though, it's over. They can't afford to play any cat-and-mouse
games. Rabobank is setting things up for Freire in the front. Boonen and McEwen
are hidden somewhere in the peloton. Coutouly, Lefevre, and Martinez are working
well together still. 22" is the gap.
4 km left. This will be close! Boonen is
glued to Hushovd's wheel as a Credit Agricole train goes to the front to drive
the peloton. I make the gap 18 seconds. Tom Boonen leans on a Gerolsteiner rider
for balance before taking up Hushovd's wheel.
Lefevre attacks! Egoi Martinez is there after him! The peloton is closing this
down now with 2.5 km left. Only about 10" lead for the two leaders. There is a
lot of road furniture heading in toward the finish.
Zabel's punctured! Surely he's too far back now to do anything.
2 km left. The break is caught! Lampre
leading out now.
1km to go, Tosatto hammers it on the front
of the bunch. Hushovd, Boonen, Bennati, McEwen are all here. So is Freire. No
clear leadout... just a lot of men scrambling. The uphill is making this a slow
Crash! But most of the leaders are through.
Here comes McEwen he wins it!!
Hushovd went down I think! Or Dean his leadout man!!! Once there was a gap
with 120m left, McEwen had it easy. Boonen slams the handlebars in frustration.
There was a Credit Agricole rider, Julian Dean, who went down in the middle
while leading out. But all the other sprinters made it around him.
The Little Napoleon strikes again. Galvez and Freire were up there too, perhaps
second and third.
McEwen got a good leadout from a teammate right down the middle of the road.
McEwen came around him and just had a clear shot at the line. No contest. Boonen
faded, Freire made a go of it up the right, but nobody came close. McEwen,
Galvez, Freire, Hushovd, Boonen, Kopp. McEwen won by a country mile, in
Remarkably, everyone managed to avoid Julian Dean, who was wisely protecting
his head nonetheless. McEwen got an excellent, perfectly timed leadout by
somebody on his team. Considering Rodriguez and Horner are either out or
suffering, it was probably Gert Steegmans. And Robbie gets back "his" green
Will Boonen keep the Yellow Jersey? Probably. Bennati faded at the end, and
Rogers was nowhere to be seen. Looking at the replay, Dean was falling back
after leading out Hushovd and made contact with a Quick Step rider, subsequently
falling. Boonen keeps the yellow jersey, yes, though it's not the stage victory
he wanted; he looked to struggle in a too high gear underestimating the slope of
the uphill finish. McEwen won by about four bike lengths there. That was a real
Results Stage 4 (Provisional)
1. Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto)
2. Isaac Galvez (Caisse d'Epargne)
3. Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
4. Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole)
5. Tom Boonen (Quick Step)
6. David Kopp (Gerolsteiner)
7. Daniele Bennati (Lampre)
8. Francisco Ventoso (Saunier Duval-Prodir)
9. Michael Albasini (Liquigas)
10 Bernhard Eisel (Francaise des Jeux).
No change in the overall, except that Martinez is up to 5th on GC at 10" and
McEwen is up into 6th at 12". With two more flat stages, to Caen tomorrow and
then Vitre, McEwen could yet take yellow yet; however, so the winds could cause
some splits in the peloton.
Good results for Spaniards Galvez and Freire, especially considering Galvez was
off the back with Acosta with 15km to go, and had to make his way to the front.
Rogers of T-Mobile was 12th on the stage, so he did try to contest the sprint.
The problem is that he isn't a sprinter.
Erik Zabel will be annoyed at the timing of his puncture, the sheer
malheur to flat inside the last 3km. De Jongh was probably the Quick Step
man who brought down Dean. He was looking to his left, then turned back and -
bam - Dean was there.
GC After Stage 4 (Provisional):
1. Tom Boonen (Quick Step)
2. Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) @ 1"
3. George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) @ 5"
4. Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) @ 7"
5. Egoi Martinez (Discovery Channel) @ 10"
6. Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) @ 12"
7. Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) @ 15"
8. Daniele Bennati (Lampre) @ 15"
9. Floyd Landis (Phonak) @ 16"
10. Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne) @ 17"
Is it me, or have these flat stages been better than previous years;
breakaways a bit closer to succeeding
I think so how many years have you seen the favorites for the G.C. sprinting for
time bonuses? And the breaks have been closer because nobody wants to take over
responsibility for chasing... even strength amongst the sprinters.
Tomorrows Stage 5 Beauvais to Caen - 225 kms,
another stage for the Rouleurs and sprinters with a mostly flat 34.5 km
section after the last roller to the finish.
© ASO Amaury Sports Organisation
Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux) finished 137th in yesterday's third
stage after being taken out by a drunken spectator at the foot of the Cauberg.
The spectator then got into an argument with Casar's DS Marc Madiot, while
others tried to steal the Frenchman's wheels.
This concludes our live coverage, of stage 4. Thanks for joining us today. Discuss the race and cycling with Tifosi from around the world in the
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