This is a guest post by Mr.Q, a professional quizmaster and an ardent Tour de France fan who is reporting his 4th tour
“I’m so happy today, my guys, they supported me really well,” said a slightly out of breath Greipel after the finish. “I’m just so happy to have these guys on my side, such strong riders to lead me out. Its what we wanted to do, winning a stage. I’m so happy.”
That perhaps sums up the delight of the German rider from Lotto-Belisol team, known as the Gorilla for his huge frame, who saved himself for the final sprint in the course of the day, without going for the intermediate sprint, which was hotly contested by all the Green Jersey aspirants of TdF 2012.
The 4th road Stage of the 99th Tour de France started of from Abbeville to Rouen, a distance of 214kms, with 195 riders still riding this year.
At the very start of the race the lone Asian rider in the peleton Yukiya Arashiro of Europcar shot out like a bullet and started to make it up the road. Soon he was joined by couple of riders David Moncoutie of Cofidis, a veteran in his 11th TdF, having won 2 stages here before, who also been 4 times King of the Mountains in his favourite race the Vuelta a Espana and debutant rider Anthony Delaplace of Saur-Sojasun. With Moncoutie making it clear that he wants to go for the King of the Mountain title here, all the climbs were uncontested amongst these three. The breakaway went its way and tried for a long time to increase its gap, but the RadioShack Nissan led peleton was always in their shadow, never letting the gap go too big.
The intermediate sprint was hotly contested by the peleton and Cavendish gave a master class on how to put in just the minimum effort for maximum results, bagging the remaining points for the Green Jersey. Sagan, an overwhelming favourite now, to bag the Green Jersey title, was also among a few points.
As the race progressed, the peleton coolly and clinically knocked off the lead the breakaway had made for them selves. From a gap of over 7 minutes with 70kms to spare it was just 2 minutes to spare with 30kms to go. Every time the peleton slowed down, either Jens Voigt or Yaroslav Popovych of RadioShack Nissan were there to jump to the front and kick up the pace a bit more.
As the pace increased, so did the nervousness inside the peleton. The roads were very narrow at times and the road furniture’s and fixtures were kicking into the space equation severely. Several times we saw the BMC Racing team aiming hell for leather to come upfront and lead the peleton, inspite of the fact that it does not have a sprinter and were not contesting the stage, just to keep Cadel Evans safe and out of trouble!!
With the final straight being a 900m stretch with no turns, it was destined to be a bunch sprint. In the final few kms, the peleton gobbled up the breakaway, as was destined, and it was time for action. The Lotto Belisol team with 5 riders were the most impressive delivery train. Cancellara with his teammates and Evans with his team were just about managing to hang on to the front at this pace. And with 2.5km to go, the incident, which everyone dreaded, happened.
South African sprinter, Robbie Hunter of Garmin Sharp was seen tumbling away and this took out Cavendish too. Seems that Bernhard Eisel, the leadout man for Cavendish, touched a wheel upfront and tumbled. Quite a few riders were caught out in this crash. Fortunately no casualties were reported. Sagan who was at one time riding the wheel of Cavendish somehow had managed to escape the carnage.
Up ahead, the Lotto Belisol team was steam rolling the rest, upping the ante with 4 riders, as they hit the final stretch. Alessandro Petacchi of Lampre ISD and Matt Goss of Orica Greenedge along with Peter Sagan of Liqigas-Cannondale were the other sprinters vying for the stage. But Greg Henderson, who was pulling Greipel along, put in tremendous sprint and with 200m to go, there was only one winner, Greipel unleashed all his sprint prowess and easily took the win, his 15th of the year and his 2nd stage in the tour.
In the end, since the crash happened within the final 3km, as per the rules of the race, all the riders held up by that were given the same time. Thus a smiling but highly relived Fabian Cancellarain the Yellow Jersey made it another successful outing for his team and stretched his reign into a career high 26th day in the Yellow Jersey, something, which is unmatched amongst current professional cyclists.
The leader board and the Jersey owners all continue unchanged for another day. The Yellow Jersey of the race leader continues with Fabian Cancellara of RadioShack Nissan. The Green Jersey for thepoints leader continues with Peter Sagan of Liqigas Cannondale. The White Jersey, for the best young rider continues with Tejay Van Garderen of BMC Racing team, while Michael Mørkøv of Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank retains the King of the Mountain Polka dotted Jersey.
Cancellara in the Yellow Jersey commenting on the crash after the race said, “In my opinion, it seemed that a crash could have happened at 30km to go. Something like that is always possible. We were going 60kmh, we had the wind at our back, there were thousands of spectators, there’s a lot of road dividers, and the whole peloton was going fast, it was already hectic a long way before the finish. But the riders know that the closer we get to the end, the more risky it gets – only the smallest thing can happen and riders will fall and crash.”
The good news is that inspite of the rough crash, both the Team Sky riders, Bernhard Eisel and road race World Champion Mark Cavendish are fit for racing tomorrow’s stage, which again shows promise of a bunch sprint.
The finishing town of Rouen is also the historic capital city of Normandy, the city where Joan of Arc was burnt. The pubs of the city will be alive the whole night as the tour stops here for the night tonight. For the avid book lovers, Madam Bovary written by Gustave Flaubert was written by the author with this city as the background and if you have read that book, chances are that you will find many a location very familiar to you as you take a city tour.
And for the foodies –try the Duckling à la rouennaise. Also the city is famous for its Normandy style of cooking, so do try your luck with other highlighted recipes in the local eateries. Apple juice, Cider, Pommeau, Calvados as well as specialty beers both alcoholic and non alcoholic, are there to taste from. A visit to one of the Rouen areas distilleries such as the Brasserie du Chant du Loup in Canteleu or the Cidrerie Ponpon in Darnétal will definitely bring you more cheers!
Tomorrow, the 5thStage of this year’s TdF is from Rouen to Saint-Quentin, a distance of 197kms. Me thinks, it will be a bunch sprint again. With Cavendish having missed out on a sure victory today, it will be an angry world champion on the roads tomorrow. For pure speed there is no one to beat Cavendish apart from Greipel, but will Greipel’s delivery train work tomorrow? Or will the craftier Ale Jet fire away? Or can Sagan spring away once more? Bar incidents, I would put my money on Cavendish.
Like Composed Volcano on Facebook. to get to read travel stories or simply subscribe to the blog!