The Tour de France organizers are doing their best these days. I’ll have to give them credit. Last year they had the Roubaix stage, and this year the Muur de Bretagne. It’s always good to see the GC contenders forced into play early as it builds drama for later in the race. Case in point today’s windy stage which ended with the steep Muur. Contador and Evans battled it right to the line, but we had some notable absentees.
In what looked like a day destine for disaster for Evans after needing service on his bike within the final 30km and a bike change within the final 12km, he closed the deal with a long, strong attack holding off Alberto Contador for the win by the narrowest of margins. Contador looked strong today, but not invincible, being the most active on the final climb launching two attacks. Everyone else looked more content to just wait on the others and watch Gilbert who faded to fifth. Alexandre Vinokourov came over the line in third place, with Jurgen Van den Broeck, Samuel Sanchez and Frank Schleck also showing they are on form. Thor Hushovd somehow was able to dig deep enough to preserve the yellow jersey, gain enough green jersey points to put him in fourth by staying with the lead group. Surprisingly, that lead group was missing Bradley Wiggins (11th, +6″), Ivan Basso (13th, +6″), Robert Gesink (17th, +8″), Ryder Hesjedal (19th, +8″) and Andy Schleck (23rd!, +8″), who lost a little time on the short climb.
Six to eight seconds isn’t much, and perhaps we are seeing a group who are saving their legs for the more decisive stages, but it will be noted that four of the main favorites were absent from the elite GC group. Is this a sign of things to come? Doubtful, especially with the Schlecks, as Andy seems to let Frank go when he thinks it isn’t important for him. We’ll see when the mountains come, but for tomorrow, it’s another sprinters battle.
Stage 4 Top Five
1. Cadel Evans (BMC)___________(45)___4h11’39”
2. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank)___(35)
3. Alexander Vinokourov (Astana)__(30)
4. Rigoberto Uran (Sky)__________(26)
5. Philippe Gilbert (Lotto)_________(22)
Complete Stage results: Le Tour
General Classification Top Three after Stage 3
1. Thor Hushovd (Garmin)_______13h58’25”
2. Cadel Evans (BMC)__________+1″
3. Frank Schleck (Leopard)______+4″
Complete Overall results: Le Tour
Green Jersey (points) Top Three after Stage 3
1. J.J. Rojas (Movistar)_______(82)
2. Cadel Evans (BMC)________(80)
3. Philippe Gilbert (Lotto)______(77)