Stage 4: Nice to Nice, 25km team time trial
On a stage where the smart money was on Sky, Garmin-Sharp and Omega Pharma-Quick Step, only OPQS came close to delivering that top spot. Close – 0.75 of a second close, the winning margin of Orica-GreenEDGE as they sprung a minor surprise in Nice.
Second off the ramp, OPQS set the best time at 25:57 – a time that held under the pressure of Sky (who finished third overall) and Saxo-Tinkoff (fourth) – until Orica-GreenEDGE came down the ramp fifth from last. By the time they went under the flamme rouge, it was going to be nip and tuck to beat the Pharmas’ time, which they did by a mere 0.75 of a second.
The only threat left was BMC, the penultimate team off the starting ramp, but it wasn’t their day as they came in 26 seconds down. RadioShack-Leopard, with Jan Bakelants in the yellow skinsuit, were last off the ramp and rode with valour but to no avail, finishing 11th.
VeloVoices rider of the day
I’m going to do a Tim and pick not one rider of the day, not two, but three. They are Tony Martin (OPQS), Geraint Thomas (Sky) and Ted King (Cannondale). All three rode with injuries that would have laid lesser mortals up for a month: Martin with a concussion, Thomas with a fractured pelvis and King with a separated shoulder, sustained in stage one crashes.
The wisdom of riding with such injuries is obviously up for debate, considering no doctors have ordered them off their bikes, but you have to admire the grit and determination of each of them.
If I had to pick just one, it would be the Maple Syrup King of Cannondale. He had to use his road bike today as due to his shoulder, a time trial bike was just too painful to ride. He dropped off the train in the first kilometre and rode to the finish, just seven seconds on the wrong side of the time cut. Ted leaves his debut Tour almost before he started. We’re heartbroken for him.
Opinion & analysis
With the team time trial so early in the Tour, the length (or lack of it) and flatness of the parcours and the fact that 71 riders were all just one second off the yellow jersey, today was never going to blow the GC apart. It was more a gentle shakedown. That doesn’t mean there weren’t high hopes, particularly for David Millar who, if Garmin-Sharp had won the stage, would have donned the maillot jaune 13 years since he wore the yellow after winning the Tour’s time trial in Futuroscope in 2000.
Simon Gerrans taking over the yellow jersey suits the favourites. The Aussie – only the sixth of his countrymen to don the maillot jaune – is a strong classics rider but not a GC contender. Orica-GreenEDGE have already said they will ride to defend the jersey, which they should be able to do until the first summit finish on Saturday, affording the contenders’ teams a few more relatively easy days before the big battles ahead.
Does today’s result make a difference in the grand scheme of things? Well, if Chris Froome is on the top step of the podium with a mere six-second advantage over Alberto Contador or 23 seconds over Cadel Evans then yes. Otherwise, we didn’t really learn anything we didn’t know – we knew that OPQS and Sky were stronger than strong. Contador showed that his crash injuries were not going to stop him fighting every inch of the way. One thing’s for sure – we still have a lot of racing to go. And it will be full of surprises.
Stage 4 result
1. Orica-GreenEDGE 25.56
2. Omega Pharma-Quick Step +0.01
3. Sky +0.03
4. Saxo-Tinkoff +0.09
5. Lotto-Belisol +0.17
1. Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) 12:47:24
2. Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) same time
3. Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t
4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:01
5. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:01
6. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) +0:03
7. Chris Froome (Sky) +0.03
8. Richie Porte (Sky) +0.03
9. Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) +0.09
10. Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) +0.09
Green jersey: Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
Polka dot jersey: Pierre Rolland (Europcar).
White jersey: Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).
Team classification: Orica-GreenEDGE.
Link: Official website