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Tour’15 St.4: Tony Triumphs!

Race Report: On a day of tricky cobbled parcours which promised much – and did not disappoint – Quick-Step’s former World Time Trial Champion Tony Martin grabbed not just the stage but the yellow jersey too, having narrowly missed it for three days on the trot.

A bike change late in the day made it look as if Martin’s chances were gone – but the German proved that the snorting bull motif his time trial bike carries is wholly appropriate as he jumped an elite group at the eleventh hour to grab all the glory.

Today the Tour crossed into France for the first time; Seraing ‘en Belgique’ to Cambrai ‘en France’, 223.5 kilometres and seven ‘secteurs’ of pave for a total of 13.3 K on granite; Secteur 7 Pont à Celles (101.5km), Secteur 6 Artres (175km ), Secteur 5 Quérénaing (180.5km), Secteur 4 Verchain-Maugré (185.5km), Secteur 3 St Python (195.5km), Secteur 2 Quiévy (198km), Secteur 1 Carnières (208.5km).

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The break of the day went from the gun – Lieuwe Westra (Astana & The Netherlands), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal & Belgium), Perrig Quémeneur (Europcar & France) and Frédéric Brun (Bretagne-Séché Environnement & France) with their lead peaking at 8:25 some 60K in.

It was the ‘usual suspects’ showing most interest in pulling the escapees back – Sky, Etixx – Quick-Step, Tinkoff-Saxo, BMC and Katusha all near the front as the first ‘kasseien’ loomed large. Secteur 7 is dry as the four desperados continue to spell well; Westra in the break – déjà vu all over again, he was up the road for Nibali last year when the Italian laid his GC victory foundations.

The sets aren’t too severe and the peloton flies over them with Quick-Step showing their intentions early – that’ll be the stage for Stybar and Martin ‘en jaune.’ The break still has a minute and more out of the secteur but in no time it’s back over two minutes, then three, four – the peloton goes ‘tranquillo’ back on the smooth tar; the big fights are into the cobbles . . .

Tour de France 2015 - stage 4
The smooth road was about to end

The peloton feeds, the mussettes get chucked, the speed rises and the gap drops to below three minutes as the break churns onwards. Giant-Alpecin drive, this time – Degenkolb won Paris-Roubaix, after all . . .

De Gendt jumps for sprint points whilst Cav grabs the left overs – the Manxman, Coquard, Greipel, Sagan and Degenkolb open a little gap as a result of the ‘habble’ – Sagan suggest they start to spell and ‘go for it’ in a light hearted way but Cav and Le Gorille don’t get the joke . . .

Sky on point with BMC there too – this could be a day for Greg Van Avermaet – but it’s by no means full gas, ‘the race is the last hour’ as Billy Bilsland always says. Still the break sticks to the job in hand; with 2:30 at 50 miles then to go, then 3:00 minutes as riders stop to change bikes – fatter tyres and ‘slacker’ angles for the more gnarly cobbles. Movistar are keeping Quintana up front; he will not be looking forward to the final six Secteurs which come rapid fire in the finale.

Secteur six looms, the speed ramps on now damp roads and down goes Dan Martin on a bend – it’ll be tough to get back as the speed ramps even further into the Secteur. Astana drive as the gap to the break slides back to one minute, then 51 seconds, now 30 secs; the peloton is motoring with Nibali, Greipel, Degenkolb all there. It’s windy, dry, dusty as the break rattles in – Kwiatkowski turns on the warp drive for Quick-Step, then his team mate, Tony Martin. This is for real now and the break is on borrowed time with LottoNL-Jumbo, BMC and Astana all very frisky.

Tour de France 2015 - stage 4
Etixx – Quick-Step had a plan, Kwiatkowski rode hard for Martin

Sky now, as they blast in to Secteur five, 1600 metre of misery and it’s Stybar, Nibali, Boom, Martin – but Froome is battling hard and near the head of affairs. They clear the Secteur in one long, long line – QuickStep are plotting at the front but Sky are doing a job for Froome.

Secteur four and big Daniel Oss drives in for BMC, then the Astanas – Greipel gets the chop, Kristoff punctures and is chasing hard. BMC keep the gas on out of the Secteur, Greg must feel good; Astana take over then Giant – this is savage. Alberto is hurting as Froome narrowly avoids a chute, coming up the gutter – Geraint Thomas comes up to shepherd him as they hit Secteur three.

Tour de France 2015 - stage 4
Nibali and Froome both tried to split the peloton

This one drags up as Nibali is almost taken out by Gallopin – Froome’s revs look way too high for the pave but he’s still there as Giant put the heat on with Nibali looking strong. Tinkoff now, then BMC and into Secteur two with Sep Vanmarcke the man – Froome is still there despite his looking like a crash just waiting to happen. Oss drives again, Pinot is in trouble, he’s punctured – Oss is super impressive at the front – Pinot’s wheel change takes a light year, his heart is breaking, this could be the end of his chances.

On to smooth tar the peloton takes a brief breather – Tony Martin punctures and grabs team mate Trentin’s bike. Pinot has lost the plot, he’s off the bike and ranting – not the way it should be done. BMC bludgeon the head of the race as Tony Martin tries desperately to get on terms – he makes it back, nice work; and he doesn’t look too awkward on Trentin’s machine.

Into the last 15K with Sky the pathfinders – Bouhanni is still in the front group as BMC thrash it into the final Secteur, 2300 metres and now it’s Astana with Froome deserving major respect, right there with the big pave eating bears. Nibali jumps! But the elastic won’t snap as Stybar then GVA take it up – Geraint Thomas now with Froome right on his wheel as they fly under the 10K banner.

Froome attacks, flicks his elbow for someone to spell him, no dice, Cristopher. Thomas, Nibali, GVA, Froome, are clear, but the gas eases and Tinkoff-Saxo drag them back. Thomas leads a muddy, munching Froome, no one is keen to take it up – Sagan is still there, Valverde, Degenkolb all fast men – and so too is Quintana, a gutsy ride.

Tour de France 2015 - stage 4
Stage win and yellow jersey for Tony Martin

Tony Martin launches – Geraint Thomas doesn’t react, the gap yawns instantly; Giant leave it too long to take it up as the metres count down – 1400, red kite, cobbles, 90 degree left, 600, another 90 left, 400, 200, it’s won, it’s won!

He punches the air; it’s the double, stage and yellow – quality! Degenkolb takes second from Sagan – it’s irrelevant, the day is all about one team, one man. The Quick-Step boys grab Martin – who’s sprawled on the pavement – they hug, kiss, cry – bike racing at it’s beautiful best.

Tour de France 2015 - stage 4
2015 Paris-Roubaix winner, John Degenkolb got the better of Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) for second place

Gordan’s day on the cobbles up soon… Keep it PEZ!

Tour de France Stage 4 Result:
1. Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx – Quick-Step in 5:28:58
2. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Alpecin at 0:03
3. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo
4. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN-Qhubeka
6. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis
7. Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Katusha
8. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal
9. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx – Quick-Step
10. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Europcar
11. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
12. Mark Cavendish (GB) Etixx – Quick-Step
13. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx – Quick-Step
14. Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
15. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana
16. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek
17. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky
18. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
19. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo
20. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha
21. Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Alpecin
22. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky
23. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar
24. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC
25. Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Garmin.

Tour de France Overall After Stage 4:
1. Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx – Quick-Step in 12:40:26
2. Chris Froome (GB) Sky at 0:12
3. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC at 0:25
4. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal at 0:38
5. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo at 0:39
6. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC at 0:40
7. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx – Quick-Step at 0:46
8. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 0:48
9. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky at 1:15
10. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx – Quick-Step at 1:16
11. Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Alpecin at 1:19
12. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek at 1:44
13. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 1:50
14. Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 1:51
15. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo at 2:03
16. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
17. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 2:08
18. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 2:12
19. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 2:19
20. Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Garmin at 2:51
21. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 3:06
22. Jan Bakelants (Bel) AG2R-La Mondiale at 3:36
23. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana at 4:01
24. Mathias Frank (Swi) IAM Cycling at 4:07
25. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida at 4:10.

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