July 11, 2007
Stage 4 on the road
A five-man breakaway, including Sylvain Chavanel of Cofidis, Matthieu Sprick of Bouygues Telecom, Juan Antonio Flecha of Rabobank, Gorka Verdugo of Euskaltel, and Christian Knees of Milram, is away. Their lead has yo-yoed out to 4 minutes, back almost to 2 minutes, and is gradually extending beyond 3 minutes to 3:15 with about 100 kilometers/63 miles to ride.
With 80 kilometers to ride, the gap is 3:49. I doubt the peloton will let the capture go to the last kilometer today, but this is a high-quality break. Flecha won a stage in 2003 out of a 3-man break.
With 55 kms, the gap is 1:55.
Sylvain Chavanel has been picking up bonus time at the intermediate sprints, and will move up the leaderboard tonight. He's also kept the polka-dot jersey of teammate Stéphane Augé from being attacked over 4 minor climbs, and moved up in the competition himself.
At 33 kilometers, it's 1:37. I don't think the sprinters' teams will wait until the last kilometer today, not after yesterday's surprise attack by Fabian Cancellara.
With 25 kms/16 miles, the gap has fallen under a minute.
At 15 kms/10 miles the leading 5 are almost in site, just 50 seconds ahead of the chasing pack. Predictor-Lotto, Lampre, and Quick Step are leading the chase for their sprinters.
With 10kms/6.2 miles, the gap is only 20 seconds. A few hundred meters later, the break splinters, as Matthieu Sprick attacks. Flecha and Knees match him, and Sylvain Chavanel and Gorka Verdugo are reabsorbed by the peloton. Knees attacks, matched again by Flecha, but the two can't hold out against the field, and with 7 kms to ride, they're captured.
It's a classic sprinters finish, with a wide boulevard to finish, and the teams with a sprint threat all make an appearance on the front of the field in the last kms. Quick Step is the last to drive the field, with around a kilometer to ride, and then, the field fractures into 3-4 little trains, and there's Julian Dean leading the fastest of them, and he pulls off, and Thor Hushovd goes hard for the line, Robbie Hunter closes in, and it's Hushovd at the line! Hunter 2nd, Rabobank's Oscar Freire 3rd.
The best way to follow the stage and the site in real time is to subscribe to my Tour de France Twitter feed, which you can route to your IM client or cell phone. It's also being featured at the Ubilabs Tour de France tracker which brings together heart rate, GPS, and Google Maps data on each stage.
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