The Tour Continues…

Can I just start this post by saying that I feel their pain?! Because I do! My body hurts just watching the riders in this year’s Tour de France as they push through every stage, and even more so as they continue to crash in every stage. So much carnage… 😦

The fourth day of racing in the Tour de France (Tuesday July 6, 2010). Stage Three – Wanze Arenberg Porte du Hainaut or in other words, “The Hell of the North” because of the cobblestones (part of the road was from the race Paris-Roubaix) . This stage was 213 km.  There are three intermediate sprints – in Saint-Servais (Namur, at 35km), Nivelles (71.5km) and Pipaix (151.5km) – and one climb, the cat-4 cote de Bothey (at 48km). But the real talking point was the seven sectors of ‘pavé’ totally 14.15km. The first of these came with 85km to go. The final six sectors were from 44km to 10km to go.

Canadian Hesjedal Instigates Escape at the 13km mark. He was joined by five others, though Hesjedal was the virtual leader until the last 6.5 km. The real drama began with a crash that took out Frank Schleck on the fourth sector of pavé. This splintered the peloton and ended the Tour for the rider who was fifth overall last year. It prompted Cancellara to speed ahead with Andy Schleck on his wheel. This Saxo Bank pair was joined by Evans (BMC), Thomas (SKY) and Hushovd (CTT). By then Hesjedal had left the others from the break away in the dusting and was steam rolling ahead at the front of the stage. Armstrong (RSH) and Contador (AST) were in a group that was 30 seconds behind on the exit of the fourth sector.

By the start of the sixth sector, Armstrong was in a group that was 50 seconds behind the stage leader and Contador’s group was at 1 minute. And then the Texan punctured his wheel. He was quickly given a wheel by a team-mate but his pursuit began, with the assitance of Popovych. Shortly after Chavanel punctured (for the first time) and his tenure in the yellow ended almost as quickly as it began. The Frenchman would finish 95th, 3 minutes 58 seconds behind the stage winner Thor Hushovd.

Hesjedal was caught just after the last sector of pavé and he rode to the finish with A. Schleck, Cancellara, Evans, Thomas and Hushovd. Evans set the tempo for much of the finale and used the situation to put time between him Armstrong and Contador. In the final kilometer Hesjedal tried one last attack but that simply prompted Hushovd to start his sprint. Hushovd easily won the stage. Cancellara finished sixth from the group of six but took back his yellow jersey.

Armstrong dropped from fourth overall to 18th after losing 2 minutes and 8 seconds in the stage. Contador lost less time than Armstrong but dropped from seventh to ninth, at 1 minute 40seconds. The stage winner also took charge of the points classification and Hushovd will wear the green jersey in stage four.

Today was the fifth day of racing. Stage Four: Cambrai Reims. This stage was 153.5 km. The route featured only one small climb, the cat-four côte de Vadencourt (at 40.5km) and three intermediate sprints: in Walingcourt-Selvigny (12.5km), Flavigny-et-Beaurin (49.5km) and Brienne-sur-Aisne (128.5km).

Today’s stage was a flat and quite relaxing one. Thank goodness! There was a break away right at the beginning… at the 1.5 km mark actually, but the peloton let them go without a second thought. They were however, caught with four kilometers to go. But they put on a great fight to fend the peloton off as long as they could. By then all the sprint teams were already in position for the lead-out. In the end, Alessandro Petacchi had to took on all the best sprinters and beat them for the stage win. Fabian Cancellara will again wear the yellow jersey in stage five.


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