TDF’16 St.4: Kittel Leaves It Late!
Race Report: Another photo finish, but today it was the immaculately-thatched Marcel Kittel getting the win by what looked like a hair’s breadth ahead of Bryan Coquard. It was a slow-burner of a stage, with a four-man escape hogging most of the day’s spotlight. Then the sprinters got their chance.
The much-criticized Etixx – Quick-Step train stayed hidden in plain sight, leaving Lotto Soudal to do most of the work, and they dragged Kittel into contention just in time for the big German to do the rest… just.
How it went down: After yesterday’s pedestrian trawl south to Angers, there was a real danger the peloton could decide to take this fourth stage a bit easy, too. It was the longest of this year’s Tour at 237 kilometers, from Saumur to Limoges. With an extra 10k of a neutral zone before the start, that made it practically a Classics-length day. The first mountains loom tomorrow, so the sprinters’ teams needed to make sure there were no screw ups to affect any chance of a bunch sprint.
After a fairly calm start, seven got clear but it didn’t stick. A more acceptable quartet did get the green light from the peloton: Markel Irizar (Trek-Segafredo) and Bora-Argon 18’s Andreas Schillinger had been in the first escape attempt. They were joined by Ag2r’s Alexis Gougeard and Oliver Naesen from IAM Cycling.
The lead headed out towards six minutes but never got too big… no point in letting a breakaway mop up a sprinter’s chance of a stage win. Tinkoff for maillot jaune Peter Sagan controlled the pace with help from Etixx – Quick-Step, and there were strong delegations from Sky and Movistar up front to keep their leaders safe.
From halfway, the road gradually rolled heavenwards, the terrain heavier. The front quartet went through the intermediate sprint at Le Dorat with Schillinger getting the points; Sagan led his main green jersey rivals through a couple of minutes later. As the leading four hit 60kms to race, their advantage sat at just under two minutes.
There was one categorized climb on the road, the Côte de la Maison Neuve with 55 kilometers to go, taken uncontested by Markel Irizar.
With 40kms to go, and the race skirting the foothills of the Massif Central, the lead had dropped to 54 seconds, with Julien Vermote still doing the bulk of the work for Etixx – Quick-Step at the head of the peloton. Alexis Gougeard was the first to drop in the escape, struggling on the rolling terrain.
Irizar, Naesen and Schillinger continued a brave bid for success, holding 27 seconds with 20 kilometers to go, zipping cleanly through dipping, bending ups-and-downs.
Unusually, it was Direct Energie’s Thomas Voeckler on the front of the main field, working for Bryan Coquard, with a grimacing Lars Bak (Lotto Soudal) bravely grinding on after his recent horrendous injuries. They held the break at arm’s length, just close enough without catching them too soon. It was still a gap of 16 seconds with ten clicks to race.
Naesen and Irizar drilled it up the last uncategorized climb as Schillinger was caught; the GC teams appeared at the front with Sky and Movistar, Tinkoff and Astana. Irizar and Naesen shared a handshake as the field came together with only seven kilometers to race.
Inside four kms to go, a sharp right-hander with a generous sprinkling of road furniture caused a pinch-point, leaving the field strung out. Lotto Soudal got through well at the front, and barreled downhill before the final drag up to the line in the last 600 meters.
Riders ducked under the arms of the spectators hanging over the barriers as the sprint wound up. Cavendish was too far back, boxed out of it. Kristoff led out and faded. Greipel blew. Sagan came on the left, with Kittel in the center. Bryan Coquard lunged through behind Sagan, but Kittel hung on by less than a tyre from the young Frenchman.
No major changes in the overall, or for any of the jersey holders today. The hills proper await on tomorrow’s run to Le Lioran. Keep it Pez! Don’t forget you can watch live stage action over at Steephill TV.
Tour de France Stage 4 Result:
1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx – Quick-Step in 5:28:30
2. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie
3. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff
4. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNl-Jumbo
5. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
6. Sondre Holst Enger (Nor) IAM Cycling
7. Daniel McLay (GB) Fortuneo-Vital Concept
8. Mark Cavendish (GB) Dimension Data
9. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
10. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-BikeExchange
11. Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
12. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) LottoNl-Jumbo
13. Lawson Craddock (USA) Cannondale-Drapac
14. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-BikeExchange
15. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx – Quick-Step
16. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
17. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC
18. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal
19. Georg Preidler (Aut) Giant-Alpecin
20. Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) Cofidis
21. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff Team
22. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Cannondale-Drapac
23. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana
24. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana
25. Matti Breschel (Den) Cannondale-Drapac.
Tour de France Overall After Stage 4:
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff in 20:03:02
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx – Quick-Step at 0:12
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 0:14
4. Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Alpecin at 0:18
5. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky
6. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff
7. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar
8. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana
9. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-BikeExchange
10. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Cannondale-Drapac
11. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal
12. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-BikeExchange
13. Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx – Quick-Step
14. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) LottoNl-Jumbo
15. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC
16. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Katusha
17. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida
18. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
19. Adam Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange
20. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC
21. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin
22. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
23. Sergio Henao (Col) Sky
24. Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ
25. Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Sky.