July 07, 2009
Preview: Stage 4 TTT - Montpellier
One of the expected early-Tour showdowns unfolds today in Montpellier.
As with Stage 1, the 2009 team time trial is being run over a shorter distance than normal, 39 kilometers or about 24 miles. The shorter distance helps equalize for the elimination of the tiered time limits, which kept the weaker TT teams (cough, Euskaltel, cough) from falling hours behind on a 90-minute ride. The leading riders on a team all receive the time of the 5th rider across the line.
The course twists and turns with some rolling country hills and some city streets, and the possibility of more stiff winds like we saw yesterday. This kind of course should favor smart and smooth teams over pure power.
Three time checks, at 9, 19.5 and 26.5 kilometers.
A number of GC contenders aren't looking forward to today's stage. Carlos Sastre's Cervelo Test Team is pretty thin, as is Silence-Lotto, riding for Cadel Evans.
Three teams stand out here, and each has US connections.
Columbia was the team that beat Garmin in the Giro this year, but at least two of their TT studs spent a lot of time driving the break yesterday. Columbia-HTC has the minor advantage of being totally invincible, seemingly winning everything everywhere the last month or so. They also could grab another leader's jersey, by beating Saxo Bank (and double TT world champion Fabian Cancellara) by :33 and keeping Astana and Garmin close, which would put their Tony Martin (already in white) in yellow, as well.
Finally, Astana is a psychic successor to the Postal Service, which won the last TTT in the Tour, back in 2005, on the way to Armstrong's 7th Tour victory. If they could put 40 seconds into Saxo Bank and 30 seconds into Columbia without giving up 30 seconds to Garmin, they could put Lance Armstrong into the maillot jaune.
Caisse d'Epargne rolls first, at 8:30 Eastern. Garmin-Slipstream departs at 10:22 Eastern, Saxo Bank 10:29, Columbia 10:36, and Astana last at 10:43.
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