Tour de France Stage 4 Preview

Tour de France Stage 4

After the Corse thrills, spills and bellyaches it’s time for the race to step on the French mainland. A team time trial awaits to shake up the overall classification.

The course is fast and injuries sustained in recent days are likely to affect the results. We’re likely to see yellow jersey change shoulders too.

Stage 3 Review The TV images probably had many wanting to visit Corsica. Go but go in June or September when the weather is good but the island is not crowded by tourists. Prices are better and the locals are touch more friendly. The riding is like coastal Italy: stunning but you’re watching out for the rough roads and German motorcyclists. For more on a visit to Corsica, see

Tour de France Corse

As for the racing it all came down to the final corner. Orica-Greenedge have Robbie McEwen to visit every stage finish ahead of the race and he relays info on the finish back to the team. It’s hardly a unique strategy but other teams rely on soigneurs whilst McEwen was an acrobat on the bike and perhaps his eyesight counted. Either way Daryl Impey barged into the final roundabout to fit through a gap that must have terrified the team bus driver. But it was perfect and the South African earned his annual wages in one go as he took Simon Gerrans into the perfect place as they came up the finishing straight.

A late charge from Peter Sagan led to a photo-finish and for once the Slovak was out-sprinted. It’s a memorable win for Gerrans and the team, their first stage in the Tour. Don’t underestimate this fact, the team has won many races but success in the Tour is so valuable for a squad riding with the Orica-YourNameHere name.

As for the winner, I agree with Spanish radio’s @BorjaCuadrado, Gerrans is a “cult cyclist.” He doesn’t win often but he often wins big.

The Route
Nice and the surrounding area is home for many cyclists – Simon Gerrans included – so today’s route is on familiar roads although in most unfamiliar conditions given the normally busy roads are cleared of traffic. With a flat route and straight roads, local intelligence won’t make any difference.

Tour de France Stage 4 Nice

The course starts in Nice and heads west out along the seafront using the Promenade des Anglais – the large road famous in cycling as it’s often the finish line for Paris-Nice – before passing the airport. The race then heads north up the Var valley where the road will start a loop around the Allianz Riviera stadium that’s under construction for the intermediate time check. The race heads back to rejoin the same roads to the finish in Nice on the sea front.

It’s not a technical course, it’s flat with long straight sections. But the team time trial remains a technical exercise and a moment savoured by team managers especially.

The Scenario
Normally Team Sky would be the obvious choice but they’ve been suffering in Corsica with injuries to Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard, vital engines. I’m not sure why Thomas is still riding, after all a pelvic fracture won’t heal in a few days. Others have been dropped on the climbs too. Expect to see Chris Froome and Richie Porte take long turns but they can’t carry the team. If the stage win isn’t for them then a good time is crucial. Instead I see four teams:

Omega Pharma-Quickstep would be the other pick but their strongest rider Tony Martin is struggling which discounts their chances. However he’d be good with one leg and for all the talk of injury, he made it to the finish with the front group. With Sylvain Chavanel, Michał Kwiatkowski and Nikki Terpstra they’ve got just what’s needed to keep it flowing, although Chavanel used up a little power yesterday. I think they’ve got a great chance to put Kwiatkowski in yellow.

BMC Racing should do well, in fact if the team lacks mountain helpers for Cadel Evans and Tejay van Garderen it’s because they’ve got the riders to help today.

Orica-Greenedge could surprise. They’re on a roll, several riders live nearby and they’re a cohesive team used to riding in formation whether in lead-outs or on the track.

Garmin-Sharp are next the prime pick. Injury free, the team’s won a team time trial before in the 2011 Tour and David Millar describes the team time trial as “part of the team’s DNA” in his L’Equipe column. Five riders from that day are here and with Rohan Dennis and Andrew Talansky on board they can put David Millar in yellow.

The course is so short and fast that a mistake or a misjudgement can disrupt rhythm or momentum. And with the short distance the time gaps should be small.

Amongst the others Radioshack-Leopard will fight to keep Jan Bakelants in yellow but I can’t see it happening because of the slender lead. Lotto-Belisol have slick sprint trains as well as strong riders. Saxo-Tinkoff by contrast might look to shed some of Contador’s Alpine guard as they head to the finish line. People often underestimate Movistar for team time trials but I can’t see them winning as the level in the Tour is so high and this is a course for the power riders, if it was on a hilly course then they’d be there. Meanwhile the likes of and Europcar are on damage limitation exercises for Thibaut Pinot and Pierre Rolland respectively. Spare a thought for Cofidis who, according to French commentator Patrick Chassé, saw eight of their nine riders crash in Corsica.

Team Order
Team Argos-Shimano
Omega Pharma-QuickStep
Cofidis, Solutions Credits
Belkin Pro Cycling
Sky Procycling
Katusha Team
Astana Pro Team
Movistar Team
Team Saxo-Tinkoff
Team Europcar
Ag2R La Mondiale
BMC Racing Team

The TTT Rules:
Some points to note:

  • Time is taken on the fifth rider to cross the line so a squad can leave four riders behind on the course
  • Dropped riders are credited with the time it takes them to complete the course
  • Any crash, puncture or mishap in the final kilometre sees the rider credited with the time of the rider they were with at the time of the incident

TV: teams go at four minute intervals, with the race starting at 3.15pm Euro time. The last team Radioshack-Leopard is forecast to arrive at 5.06pm.

If you’re a casual viewer then a team time trial rarely offers great suspense. However the short distance means time gaps will be close. The intermediate time check will only be indicative, plenty can change on the return section.

The idea of a time check at one point on the course is getting very dated. With GPS and other tracking technology it should be possible to measure a team’s progress against rivals real time but this seems unlikely to appear on screen for some time.

Weather sunny and a relatively cool 23°C (73°F) although so far each weather forecast has been outdone by the tarmac temperatures. A light 10km/h breeze coming in off the sea to make a tailwind going out and headwind for the return but nothing much to alter the race strategy.

The 10 Second Spin: fast and flat, the course shows off the seafront and sports stadium and suits big time triallists and team pursuit specialists. It’ll be close between OPQS, BMC Racing and Orica-Greendge but injury-free Garmin-Sharp could make it Millar time.

Pierre Rolland Polka Dot

Quote of the Day

“It’s pleasant, it’s nice aesthetically. I see myself… it’s beautiful”

If you’ve got it, flaunt it? There’s something about Pierre Rolland’s full polka dot kit that strays from pro cool to pyjama fool. Commercial pressures can insist a rider pushes the publicity to the max, it’s why he’s got gloves, frame and helmet all in spotted harmony. Riders and teams are competing to be seen in the race and visibility matters even more for Europcar given the team’s future is not yet secure, one of the motivations perhaps for Rolland’s riding. But when asked about his kit on French TV the Frenchman had no problem with the look.

78 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 4 Preview”

  1. Hi everyone. Thanks INRNG for the excellent coverage. I am going to use your own words (partially), “People often underestimate Movistar for team time trials…” I would give them a chance today. They have been training hard for the TTT on the Navarra motor circuit, had a good result in the Giro, and individually came t0 the tour with improving timetrialists: Costa (winner in Suisse), Quintana (impressive in Basque Country), Amador (3 in Tirreno and 5 in Suisse tts), Castroviejo (Spain champion) and of course Valverde.

    • Hi Victor, I give them a chance for sure but Costa’s win in Suisse was in part uphill, same for Quintana in the Basque country. They work well together but I think today is day for bigger riders, classics men or track pursuit backgrounds.

  2. Apparently Tony “Big Dog” Martin will be deploying the 58 tooth chainring today, so it should be interesting.

    I am going with Garmin and David Miller!

  3. Rolland’s look is appalling, tragicomically so. He’d be much better in black shorts. As for today, OPQS should win, but perhaps some “motomen” have been waiting on the mainland and we see surprises. Anyway the course is so ridiculously short that it won’t matter much. I’d like to see those 100km TTT again…

  4. One of my favorite cycling events. This looks like a course for the big power teams. You can pretty much throw in the names of Garmin, Sky, BMC, Movistar, and Radioshack. The question is how close can TST, Astana and Katusha stay on time ? Plus, how much firepower has Sky lost ? A number of their riders have been dragging home in the autobus including Gerraint Thomas.

    We could see 3/4 riders have their GC hopes dashed.

    • I wouldnt take too much from Sky having 4 riders trail in (inc the injured G). Saxo had 5 riders slip back too including some of Contador’s mountain lieutenants. Suspect that both teams may have told several of their riders to take it easy at the end there to keep something back for today.

  5. GreenEdge could surprise? Should be given more credit than that one of best TTT teams going around. Tuft and Meyer both very good, add in Goss, O’Grady & Lancaster all TP World Champions (as is Meyer). Impey and Alba as well both provide additional power.

    Probably the most likely team to challenge Garmin for the win given injury concerns for Sky and Omega Pharma QuickStep.

  6. Are there different rules regarding time cuts in team trials? I just wondered whether there was any measure to prevent a rider abandoning his team at the start and ambling round on his own. I know it’s not likely, but I’m thinking of injured riders who are currently struggling and can’t really contribute.

      • For the team time trial the scale goes from:

        13% for less than a 42km/h average
        14% for a 42km/h average
        15% for a 43km/h average
        16% for a 44km/h average
        17% for a 45km/h average
        18% for a 46km/h average
        19% for a 47km/h average
        20% for a 48km/h average or greater

      • So if the winning team does about 55 kph average, the finishing time should be just over 27 minutes. The time limit will then be at just under 33 minutes. So leaving the team from the start seems like a bad idea…

  7. I think Rolland looks pretty cool in his polkadot overall. As for today’s etape I’m definitely rooting for Garmin-Sharp. I like the team and I would like to see David Millar in the yellow for a day. Normally TTT is pretty uninteresting to watch, but not today.

  8. Interesting finish yesterday, looking at the overhead slow-motion shot, it looks like Sagan catches Gerrans just before the line. Then when level, lunges for the line a second too early (almost like he went for the wrong line on the road).

    • I think Sagan veered slightly as he lunged for the line – not sure if that made the difference, Gerrans was mighty strong to hold him off.

      • I noticed the early lunge too. Maybe a question of experience finally for Sagan.

        Also probable that he has had to shed some top-end speed for the ability to win climbing stages (eg. Tour de Suisse)

        • Maybe Gerrans was just a better rider on the day, there is that.

          OGE (Robbie McEwen) scoped it so well, telling Impey to barge that corner and he did exactly that. Sagan had to drop his team and latch onto Gerro, then when Impey was nearly gone Gerro let him go a little bit in the old track move to get a ‘slingshot’ (even though Gerro isn’t a track rider..).

          Credit where credit’s due, as they say. It’s not that Sagan lost it, Gerro won!

          • That is completely true. And he deserves this, if not only for his smile! But you have to admit that Sagan’s lunge was a bit off.

  9. I was in Nice last week at the Ironman. The course could barely be flatter – should be super quick.
    The day we left there was an official out at the big ‘Road Closed, Ironman Event’ signs, putting ‘Tour de France’ stickers over the word Ironman. Waste not…

  10. So what do Sky do with G? I guess he’s not in good enough shape to do within 25% solo. So does he just take his place in the line & do very short turns? Or can they shuffle the line to let him tag on the back until half-way, to make sure he beats the limit doing 2nd half solo? Or sacrifice someone like Pete K to pace him the whole way round in tandem? Or tell him to take his Mum’s advice and call it a day, on basis he’ll be a liability today, with little reasonable hope of him recovering enough to be a proper help in the mountains? Wouldn’t want to be the one to give him that news! If there’s a chance he’ll be ok for the Alps think they’ll find a way to get him through today. Even carrying a passenger they should only lose a few seconds at most in a short fast TTT.

    • My guess is that they’ll see how he’s doing this morning when they ride out for recce etc re whether he can contribute anything. I think Sky will do a lot of short rotations through the squad for the TT anyway. If he cant contribute – and I would imagine he wont be able to – it’ll be a question of him trying to hang onto the last wheel as long as possible, and then do an ITT to make the time cut.

      What they definitely wont do is hold back for him or sacrifice anyone to pace him around. He knows that. Just like he was on his own yesterday and the previous day. Harsh, but rightly they’ll do nothing that jeopardises chances of Froome and Porte (both, at this point).

      It helps that its not a long TT, and its pan flat.

    • Even if he just sits in a wheel and drops straight off as he hits the front he’s still helping the team by reducing the drag off the back. I think he’ll get through. I think he finished in the main bunch yesterday?

    • Go balls out to catch Euskaltel, then drop G off on their back. How long is the gap between teams leaving? Apologies if INRNG has covered it … I’m too lazy to check.

  11. Just wondering if you have any insight into why Geraint Thomas is continuing? It is very impressive that he is still riding despite the pain, but surely he isn’t likely to recover to be of any use to the rest of the team later in the Tour…

  12. Thanks for the great preview. I’m pulling for a Garmin win, but I know it will be tight.

    I kind of like Rolland’s committed “Measles Chic” look. You can’t miss him.

  13. Even moreso because they have injuries it will be interesting to see how Sky go. They have only been getting minimal numbers home in the front group which I would suppose to be strategy but there is no place to hide today especially if Thomas and Stannard are below par. If they finish midfield then surely they are not looking like a team to control the race for a fortnight especially against a Saxo-Tinkoff team likely to be looking to recover time. Rodriguez to lose time too. Regret to say looks quite good for Valverde.

  14. Anyone no why Gerrans sprinted rather than Impey? I would have assumed the latter is more of a sprinter, though clearly my judgement is flawed as a Greenedge bus driver (to twist that knife just a little bit more, in revenge for his ruining my fantasy team and my enjoyment of the first four stages – TBF there were many others culpable for the debacle, and he’s the only one I’ve seen gee up and say sorry).

    • In an interview afterwards, Gerrans suggested that it was pre-arranged and part of OGE’s tactics. He’d led out Impey the day before and they were swapping to see if it would be more successful. And it was. Interesting sprint, Rojas unintentionally blocked a couple of other guys who were coming through (Simon of Sojasun).

      • Gerro’s coach said they’d been targetting this stage for 3 months. That decision seems to have been made before the start, not on the basis of listening to riders on the stage.

        Matt White earns his money all in one stage…

  15. I always think a team sponsor gets better publicity if a TdF wearer sticks with standard team issue shorts, helmet and gloves. It is difficult for the casual viewer to relate the full polka dot outfit with the corporate green and black branding of Europcar.

  16. Rolland’s Polka Dot outfit reminded me of Michael Rasmussen’s Polka Dot Time Trial outfit, not a good look for The Chicken and I hope Rolland has more luck than Rasmussen.

  17. While Geraint Thomas’ fracture won’t heal quickly, the associated soft tissue damage and bruising will hopefully settle down in the next few days which will reduce his pain and allow him to be more useful.

  18. Great win for OGE. Wonder whether the injuries to Martin and Steegmans cost OPQS 0.75 seconds over that 25 km course? Dishonourable assist to the driving capabilities of OGE’s tenth rider, if so? Still, haven’t seen the OGE jersey on the front of the peloton before the last 7 km this year, so it’ll bring some novelty value.

    • To be fair, which you clearly aren’t, why would you? It’d be very silly to lead the bunch if you don’t have a GC rider to protect. Sniping about them isn’t very gracious either.

  19. Is a team allowed to enter the team time trial if they don’t have nine riders, i.e one has dropped out on a previous day. I keep reading about teams of nine, but can they take part if they only have 8 or 7?

  20. BMC a big disappointment in the TTT. Looks like Evans will be out of the running for a podium finish unless luck is on his side. It’s a shame as I believe he’s in really good form and would be competitive against Froome and Contador if he hadn’t lost so much time in TTT.

    • It’s because it’s the team time trial and not a solo event.

      Ag2r’s J-C Péraud was even fined for wearing the French stripes on his sleeve as a former French individual time trial champion, I hope the UCI commissaires enjoyed that.

  21. Tx INRNG, great insight into the sport as always. That finale of etape 3 was spectacular.
    In 2011 the girls team sprint World Record was set by the Germans. 2 laps, 2 “babes”. The commentators, at 150m were all over the technique and discounting a result, but by 350, it was obvious something was going on. The Germans were employing something different to the standard regimen of team sprints and the Commentators, not being specialists couldn’t see the advantage. The girls left a 1.5 to 2 metre bike length gap between them, rather than the typical wheel to wheel setup. Their result was an awesome, awe inspiring half second defeat of the WR. And the lesson, with a slight gap between lead-out and trailee, the sprinter can ACCELERATE INTO THE “VACUUM” before hitting the wind. If the train is wheel to wheel, then the sprinter can’t, they hit the wind at the pace they were going and waste watts getting up to speed.
    Impey & Gerrans, used that simple trick, to give Gerrans an easier ride into the wind, with that 1k/hr advantage needed to hold of the strongest young mountain biker in the field, Sagan.
    Aside, Sagan never knew about the German manouvre, because he was too busy watching their backsides, not their cycling.

  22. “After the Corse thrills, spills and bellyaches it’s time for the race to step on the French mainland.” -Assuming this is a musical reference?

    Forgot to comment on this yesterday, but after a Loose Fit caused a Bummed Saturday, a Happy Monday turned into an even better Tuesday for the Orica-Greendge Ryders.

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