SAN DIEGO, July 8, 2014 – As the Tour de France crossed the Channel back into France for its fourth stage, contenders for the overall lead were content to stay safe on the stage. As commentator Christian Vande Velde said today, Stage 4 was a pass/fail stage, not graded.
Tour favorite Chris Froome of Team Sky nearly got a failing grade when he had a mishap barely three miles into the race. He had a nice scrape across the left hip to show for it, but finished the race appearing not too much the worse for it.
France’s favorite son Thomas Voeckler took part in a breakaway attempt but could not hold off the peloton in the end. It was another day for the sprinters, and another day for Marcel Kittel to win a stage.
Kittel had to work much harder than on the previous stages during a long run into the finish. Rival Peter Sagan of Cannondale sat on his wheel, knowing he couldn’t beat Kittel and instead counting on him to put him safely across the line without losing any points in his quest for the sprinter’s green jersey. Alexander Kristoff of Katusha was in the lead until Kittel threw his wheel across the line with inches to spare to rob him of the stage win. Kristoff pounded his fist on the handlebars in frustration at being caught.
Kittel admitted it was a tough stage, giving credit to his team for helping pull him across the line for the victory.
Only one special jersey changed hands from Stage 4 to Stage 5, with Thomas Voeckler winning the most aggressive rider’s red jersey. Otherwise no changes: Vicenzo Nibali continues to wear the leader’s yellow jersey. Sagan kept the sprinter’s green jersey. Cyril Lemoine of Cofidis has the polka dot jersey, and Romain Bardet of AG2R wears the young rider’s jersey.
All of the top GC contenders remain in the hunt within seconds of the lead still held by Vincenzo Nibali, including Froome despite his crash.
This is likely to change after Stage 5 on Wednesday. If riders thought today’s stage was a little bumpy, it will be nothing compared to Stage 5 as the Tour hits the cobblestones. It is a treacherous stage that covers much of the same route as the one day classic race Paris-Roubaix. There are nine sections of cobblestones and they will test every single rider’s nerves and stamina.
To see what they are up against, take a look at this excellent preview along the route from Global Cycling Network.
The riders who do well on cobbles tend to be the more robust, larger riders with a little more ballast on board to help the bike grip the road. Mountain bike skills come in handy, too. It’s a stage made for someone like Fabian Cancellara, but riders like Marcel Kittel who is a large man for a sprinter and the versatile Peter Sagan could contend too. Most of the cyclists will simply want to get through this stage in one piece without losing too much time.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Follow the Tour de France daily in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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