9 Big Photos from Stage 4sirotti

Stage 4 Results

1 Astana                   0:46:29
2 Garmin-Slipstream      +   00:18
3 Saxo-Bank              +   00:40
4 Liquigas               +   00:58
5 Columbia-HTC           +   00:59
General Classification after Stage 4:

Full Results: Team Astana asserts its dominance in TTTcyclingnews
Full Results (click on "Stage Standing") —
  Last 6 Km of Astana's Ride (06:10 dutch) — nos
  Saxo Bank Last 2 Km (02:27 dutch) — nos
  Denis Menchov's crash (00:49 dutch) — nos
  BBox Bouygues Telecom crashes into a field (01:45 polish) — eurosport
Astana haalt hamer boven in de
  Silence-Lotto's Van den Broeck careless crash (02:34 Flemish) — sporza
Cancellara keeps the jersey by a fraction of a second over Armstrongvelonews
Astana on top but Armstrong misses yellow by 100's of a
Graham Watson Stage 4 Photosgrahamwatson
Stage 4 Highlights Part 1 (01:41) — eurosport
  Stage 4 Highlights Part 2 (02:12) — eurosport
  Lance Armstrong Post Stage Interview (01:41) — eurosport
  BBox riding through a field on their TT bikes (01:49) — eurosport
  Stage 4 Recap (03:17) — versus
  Stage 4 Recap/Highlights (03:12) —
Armstrong admits attaining yellow jersey, overall victory harder than expected: "apologizes" for disrespecting Sastre & Vande Velde — cyclingnews
Menchov unsatisfied after team time trialcyclingnews
Riders unhappy with Tour’s TTT coursecyclingnews
  Stage 4 Highlights, Interviews, Analysis (multiple clips) — versus
  ITV stage 4 podcast with Matt Rendell, Ned Boulting and Chris BoardmanITV
Armstrong Moves Into Second Placenytimes
Why Contador's chances rose when Armstrong missed
9 Big Photos from Stage 4sirotti
  A well edited montage of video highlights set to music (02:14) — eurosport

Post Stage Analysis

Astana Wins the Stage, but not the Shirt
Cancellara keeps the Yellow Jersey after near-miss by Armstrong

Team Astana won today’s team time trial raced on technical roads around Montpellier. The team led by Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong finished 18 seconds ahead of the crono specialists at Garmin-Slipstream and 40 seconds ahead of the Saxo Bank team of race leader Fabian Cancellara. The race lead came down to fractions of a second, today, as Cancellara and Armstrong finished the stage tied on time. On the count-back, Cancellara came out ahead, and rides another day as the leader of the general classification.

The Story

Today’s team time trial resembled Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride as teams tried to maneuver through the windy, technical course in Montpellier. Stéphane Goubert of AG2R-La Mondiale compared the team time trial to driving a big truck with limited maneuverability. Certainly, many teams would not have passed their driving tests today. Bbox-Bouygues Telecom suffered one of the more spectacular mishaps which sent four of their riders off the road and into a field. The general classification riders were not immune, and Denis Menchov of Rabobank crashed in a tight right-hand bend. The Russian finished the stage, but dropped precipitously down the standings.

Caisse d’Épargne set an early fast time, which stood until late in the day. Liquigas-Doimo, who frequently ride well in the team time trial, soon surpassed them. But the big battle of the day was among Saxo Bank, Astana, and Garmin-Slipstream. Garmin-Slipstream shed riders early in the stage, but the remaining five soon passed the best time then held by Liquigas-Doimo. Bradley Wiggins, David Zabriskie, David Millar, and Christian Vandevelde powered through the course, with Ryder Hesjdahl hanging on for dear life. Hesjdahl took his turns in the early kilometers, but by the end, could not match the tempo of his four team-mates, all specialists against the watch. It was a big ride from Garmin-Slipstream, and it looked for a time as if they might take out the stage win.

But out on course, Team Astana, also stacked with time trial specialists, was steadily knocking down the time standards set by Garmin-Slipstream. With their lead in the teams classification, Astana departed last and had the advantage of knowing the other teams’ times. The team of Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong were chasing not only the stage win, but also the Yellow Jersey of the race leader for Armstrong. At the second time check, Armstrong was the race leader on the road by just one second.

Saxo Bank, meanwhile, was nearing the finish. Determined to defend the Yellow Jersey, Cancellara measured his efforts in the early going, so as not to leave any of his team-mates behind. His otherworldly bike handling nearly led Andy Schleck astray, as the big Swiss took the Cancellara Line through a turn, leaving only centimeters of road to spare. Schleck recovered quickly, and Saxo kept all nine of their riders until the final kilometers. In the straight, flat, finale of the stage, Cancellara did the majority of the work, including a kilometer straight on the front of the team. Saxo Bank finished 22 seconds behind Garmin-Slipstream, and the wait began for Astana to finish.

At the line, Astana finished 21 seconds up on Garmin-Slipstream to take the stage win. Alberto Contador crossed the line first for the team, while Armstrong took the all-important fifth position. The time for the team is taken when the fifth rider crossed the line. The clock showed a 40 second gap from Astana to Saxo Bank, which put Armstrong and Cancellara equal on time for the general classification. From the might-have-been file, had Bradley Wiggins made the Columbia-created split during yesterday’s stage to La Grande-Motte, he would have taken the Yellow Jersey today.

In a rare coincidence, Lance Armstrong and Fabian Cancellara were now tied in the general classification. Head-scratching ensued as the officials did a count-back to determine the race leader. According to the Tour’s rules, in the event of a tie in the general classification, the fractional seconds achieved by each rider in his individual time trial will be added to the calculation of the general classification.

In the case of this Tour, the officials returned to the stage 1 time trial in Monaco. Fabian Cancellara recorded a time of 19:32.14, while Lance Armstrong finished in 20:12:36. To calculate the time gap, the officials subtracted 14 from 36. The official time gap between Cancellara and Armstrong is now 0.22 seconds. Surely, this is one of the smallest gaps in the Yellow Jersey race ever.

After the race, Cancellara joked that he credited “the precision of Swiss timing” for his defense of the jersey. He credited his team with working hard to prepare for the time trial. “It was not a very beautiful parcours for a team time trial, but we fight as much as we can,” he said in English after the stage. Cancellara compared his team’s performance in the final kilometers to the Tour lion. My team “gave everything. They were the lion.” “Any kilometer of this race, you can not make mistakes. I tired to give everything out to defend this jersey. This is the Yellow Jersey,” Cancellara explained. By defending the race lead successfully, Fabian Cancellara will celebrate his 13th day in Yellow in his career, which surpasses the previous Swiss record held by Ferdi Kübler. “I am proud to have another day in Yellow,” he concluded. Cancellara also hinted that his Saxo Bank team may not defend the race lead tomorrow, commented that it depended on the sprinters’ teams.

In his post-race comments to the press, Armstrong claimed that he was not disappointed to miss the Yellow Jersey, though the expression on his face suggested that he was playing a bit of poker with that comment. He called the team’s performance perfect, and said he had no regrets. The American also discussed his return to racing and admitted that it was “more difficult than I expected.” “I said to myself: Shit, this is more difficult than expected,” he told the press. “Today I have both feet on the ground. I know that I will not be last. But it will not be as easy as 2005, 2004, or 2000,” he said. Addressing the question of team leadership, he said that there are two ways to determine who leads a team. It is either the “rider who is the strongest, who can win” or “the rider who had the experience, age, and confidence.” Armstrong concluded that the second could be his role. This is not the first time that the American has suggested that his team mate Alberto Contador, who has won all three of cycling's grand tours, lacks experience and is in need of guidance. For his part, Contador expressed satisfaction with the stage. “We have distanced many rivals,” he said, but offered no comment on the leadership situation.

General Classification Update

Fabian Cancellara Saxo Bank
Lance Armstrong Astana 00.00 (actually .22 seconds down)
Alberto Contador Astana :19
Andreas Klöden Astana :23
Levi Leipheimer Astana :31
Bradley Wiggins Garmin-Slipstream :38
Haimar Zubeldia Astana :51
Tony Martin Columbia-HTC :52
David Zabriskie Garmin-Slipstream 1:06
David Millar Garmin-Slipstream 1:07

Though the top ten shows the dominance of Astana clearly, it only tells part of the story. How did the other team leaders fare? The race organizers kept this stage short in the effort to minimize the time gaps, but the results suggest that they miscalculated quite badly. Certainly, some teams will need to rethink their tactics after today’s events.

Christian Vandevelde, whose Garmin-Slipstream very nearly won this stage, sits 1:06 down on Armstrong. His team-mate Bradley Wiggins is 38 seconds down, but Wiggins has not traditionally thrived in the high mountains. Roman Kreuziger and Vincenzo Nibali also had a good day out, thanks to their strong Liquigas-Doimo team. Kreuziger sits 15th at 1:31, while Nibali is 19th at 1:36. Their team-mate Franco Pellizotti, who placed third in the Giro d’Italia, improved his position with today’s stage and sits 2:25 down in the general classification. Michael Rogers, meanwhile, whose Columbia-HTC team did a strong, but not exceptional ride, sits 16th at 1:32. Rogers is better against the watch than in the mountains, so may prove unable to advance too much further in the general classification. The next crono does not come until the final week of the race.

The defense of Fabian Cancellara’s Yellow Jersey helped Andy Schleck remain well-positioned for the general classification battle. The younger Schleck brother is currently 1:41 down, and is no doubt dreaming of the mountains. Fränk Schleck, who will also enjoy the mountains, is at 2:17.

Also looking forward to the mountains stages is Carlos Sastre of Cervélo TestTeam. Sastre, who won last year’s Tour de France on the final climb to Alpe d’Huez, now sits 2:44 down in the general classification. After the stage, Sastre called the team time trial “very technical” and “very difficult,” especially because of the strong winds. The classy Spanish climber called his team’s effort “very positive,” especially in relation to the stronger and more experienced teams at Astana, Saxo Bank, and Garmin. The good news for Sastre is that the worst is now behind him. Though he still faces the final crono in Annecy during the third week, he has a number of hard mountain stages ahead. A good day on Mont Ventoux could erase his current deficit.

Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto, meanwhile, will be considerably less optimistic after today. It was a rough day for the team, including a crash by climber Jurgen van den Broeck when he crossed wheels with a team-mate in the wind. Greg van Avermaet narrowly missed running over his van den Broeck, an impressive feat in the close quarters of a team time trial. Then Johan Vansummeren suffered a flat, which further broke the team’s rhythm. Evans has no choice but to attack now. The Australian, who has twice placed second in the Tour de France, sits 2:59 down in the general classification. Evans has often raced well from the back, when relieved of the pressure of expectations. Never one to give up, he’ll race now for every inch of road. Interviewed after the stage, the Silence Lotto sports director confirmed that the team would pursue “another tactic from now on.”

Rabobank also suffered a rough day at the races. Team leader Denis Menchov, who won the Giro d’Italia, crashed in the first corner. The Russian has not had a great start to the Tour this year, and drops further down the general classification today. Menchov, who had a less than stellar opening time trial in Monaco, now sits 3:52 down in the general classification. His team-mate, Dutch climber Robert Gesink, meanwhile, is at 3:36. Gesink will no doubt go stage-chasing when the Tour hits the mountains. If he rides well in the mountains, a top ten finish is still not out of reach for the young climber, who rides his first Tour this year.

Linus Gerdemann of Milram, who moved up in the standings yesterday, falls back down today. Niki Terpstra and Peter Wrolich both crashed during the stage. Gerdemann is now at 3:11 in the general classification.

Other General Classification riders: Kim Kirchen of Columbia-HTC @ 2:16, Vladimir Karpets of Katusha @ 2:31, Oscar Pereiro Sio of Caisse d’Épargne @ 3:03, Luis León Sánchez Gil of Caisse d’Épargne @ 3:18, Igor Anton Hernandez Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 3:48.

Other classifications: In the points classification, Mark Cavendish of Columbia-HTC remains in the lead with 70 points. Thor Hushovd of Cervélo TestTeam is second with 54, while Samuel Dumoulin of Cofidis sits third with 36. Jussi Veikkanen of Français des Jeux continues to lead the mountains classification ahead of Tony Martin of Columbia-HTC. Martin, meanwhile, wears the White Jersey of best young rider. Martin leads the two young riders from Liquigas-Doimo, Roman Kreuziger and Vincenzo Nibali. After their stage win today, Astana retain their lead in the teams classification.

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow’s stage between Cap d’Agde and Perpignan should be a day for the sprinters. Because the course follows the coast, there is again the possibility of winds, so the general classification riders will need to pay close attention to their positioning in the bunch. Two fourth category climbs enliven the proceedings about midway through the stage, but neither should cause any great distress in the field. The finish in Perpignan is technical, with several corners in the run-in. — Gavia

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Course Preview

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Previa Etapa 4: Montpellier-Montpellier (CRE)

El Tour de Francia recupera este año la contrarreloj por equipos, con una etapa de 39 kilómetros de longitud a en los alrededores de Montpellier que supone la cuarta etapa. El terreno es bastante llano y no hay dificultades montañosas a lo largo del recorrido, que presenta tres puntos intermedios cronometrados: a los 9, 19,5 y 30,7 km. Éstos servirán para que directores de equipo y aficionados puedan seguir la evolución de la carrera.

El tiempo que se marque en la etapa será el tiempo definitivo, no habrá ajustes de ningún tipo como ha habido en el pasado. El crono en meta marcará los tiempos definitivos en la etapa y la clasificación general, y se contará cuando llegue el quinto corredor del equipo.

Montpellier se encuentra no muy lejos de la costa y supone una más en la sucesión de etapas mediterráneas que componen la primera semana del Tour de este año. La carrera empieza en el centro de la ciudad, en el Jardin des Plants y sigue un recorrido en forma de U a las afueras de la ciudad para luego retornar hacia la meta en la Croix de Argent. Este Jardin de Plants, creado en 1593, es el jardín botánico más antiguo de Francia y disfruta del cálido clima mediterráneo, del que esperamos ofrezca un buen tiempo para la etapa. La última vez que el Tour visitó Montpellier fue en 2007, en el comienzo de la etapa 12, que acabó en un  sprint ganado por el belga Tom Boonen.

Detalles del perfil

El terreno se presenta algo ondulado, sin ser especialmente complicado. La carrera pica hacia arriba hasta el primer punto cronometrado, subiendo 53m en 9 kilómetros. A partir de ahí, la subida continúa de forma gradual, y alcanza su máxima elevación en Murviel-lès-Montpellier, 143 metros. Aquí se encuentra el segundo punto intermedio, a una distancia de 19,5 km del inicio, muy cerca de la mitad de la contrarreloj.

Desde Murviel-lès-Montpellier la etapa desciende tan sólo 82 m durante los siguientes siete kilómetros, siendo este tramo prácticamente llano. El último punto de control de tiempos se encuentra a menos de 9 kilómetros del final, en Pignan. El resto es plano y pasa por Lavérune (7 km a meta). En los tres últimos kilómetros se da una vuelta para entrar de nuevo en Montpellier y terminar en la Avenue de Vanières.

Corredores a seguir

El manager del equipo Garmin-Slipstream, Jonathan Vaughters, ha insistido en cuánto le gusta esta contrarreloj, por sus características técnicas y el trabajo en equipo requerido para llevarse el triunfo. El Garmin perdió la contrarreloj inicial del Giro en Venecia, que se fue al Columbia después de una serie de comentarios cruzados entre ambos equipos. Sin duda Vaughters querrá vengarse por la derrota en Italia y dónde mejor que en el Tour de Francia para hacerlo. El equipo contará con grandes especialistas contra el crono en este Tour, entre los que están el campeón olímpico en pista, Bradley Wiggins, David Millar, el campeón americano de la disciplina David Zabriskie, Christian Vandevelde y Svein Tufo. Aunque la forma de Vandevelde quizás no sea la óptima, su rendimiento en esta etapa está fuera de duda.

Tendrán que enfrentarse de nuevo con la amenaza del Columbia-High Road, que trae grandes rodadores para apoyar a su velocista Mark Cavendish. Michael Rogers, un ex campeón mundial de contrarreloj, Thomas Lövkvist, Mark Cavendish y Mark Renshaw (que corre para Cavendish) formaron parte del equipo ganador de etapa en el Giro. Para el Tour, el Columbia les añade la experiencia de George Hincapié y a Kim Kierchen, que ya ha acabado dos veces entre los diez mejores en la clasificación general. El Columbia-High Road últimamente se caracteriza por ganar mucho en la primera semana de las grandes vueltas, luego podemos esperar más de lo mismo en esta edición del Tour de Francia viendo tal cantidad de etapas al sprint y contrarrrelojs.

El Saxo Bank presume de tener a los ganadores del oro y la plata en los Juegos Olímpicos del año pasado, Fabian Cancellara y Gustav Larsson. Jens Voigt, Nicki Sørensen, el capitán Stuart O’Grady y Kurt-Arle Arvesen son todos ellos buenos y experimentados motores para la contrarreloj. Sin embargo el Saxo Bank no debería lanzar las campanas al vuelo, pues la presencia de los escaladores Chris Anker Sørensen, Andy Schleck, y Fränk Schleck pueden restarle posiblidades. Con estas piernas, el Saxo Bank no debe ser subestimado, aunque sus ambiciones para la general podrían hacerle más difícil una victoria en Montpellier.

El equipo Astana tiene a tres potentes contrarrelojistas como Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, y Andreas Klöden. Alberto Contado, sin ser un especialista, ha demostrado sobradamente que puede estar a la altura de estos compañeros. El equipo buscará la victoria de etapa y buenos puestos en la general, por lo que podemos esperar un gran rendimiento. Incluimos a Astaná como favoritos, junto con Garmin, Columbia y Saxo Bank. La batalla entre estos cuatro se prevé intensa.

Los equipos que persiguen la clasificación general, como Silence-Lotto, Rabobank, y Cervélo TestTeam están obligados a hacerlo bien en esta etapa, aunque no llevarán gran cantidad de rodadores a la carrera francesa. De todas formas, la distancia es relativamente corta y no debe crear enormes diferencias, aquí no se va a decidir la victoria final. Sin embargo, esta etapa podría dar cierta ventaja a corredores con un equipo fuerte, como Contador o Andy Schleck antes de afrontar la dura montaña de los Pirineos.

Translated by Juan Bonilla (Spain)

Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)<-->