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91st Tour de France - July 3-25, 2004

Main Page     Stages & Results    TTT Rules    Stage Profile & Start Times    Results

Stage 4 - Wednesday July 7: Cambrai - Arras TTT, 64.5 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Tim Maloney and Chris Henry

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 14:15 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:12 CEST

14:16 CEST
Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of a wet and windy fourth stage of the Tour, a 64.5 km team time trial between Cambrai and Arras in northern France. Today's stage is a crucial one for the GC contenders, as none of them want to concede any time to each other. The time gaps will be interesting today, as the new rules introduced this year for the TTT change things, and no individual rider can lose more than 3 minutes to the winner. For a more detailed explanation, see our stage preview page.

The start times are decided on reverse team GC order, so the first cab off the rank today is Euskaltel-Euskadi, whose eight riders all missed the cut yesterday after Iban Mayo crashed before the first cobbled section. Mayo ended up losing nearly 4 minutes to the rest of the GC riders and his ambitions of yellow in the Tour are effectively finished. He could lose another 2 or 3 minutes today as well, depending on how his team rides.

14:26 CEST
Euskaltel warming up
Photo ©: Chris Henry/CN
Click for larger image
The teams are leaving at five minute intervals today, and Euskaltel will be chased by Credit Agricole and then Cofidis, who have just left the start gate.

Cyclingnews spoke with Cofidis' director Francis Van Londersele today before the start, and he didn't have high expectations for his team. "We're going to do our own race and ride it seriously but not worry about it too much," he said.

When quizzed about the new rules, Van Londersele added "Under different circumstances I might have objected, but today's it's to our advantage."

14:36 CEST   
Saeco is preparing to leave now, being pushed off by the girls on the start ramp. Actually they are not starting on top of the ramp because it's too slippery with the rain. Celestino leads out and they navigate the first few tricky corners out of Cambrai.

14:38 CEST   
Euskaltel are already having problems with the corners and the wet roads, but no crashes yet. The rain has almost stopped, but it might come back later.

Maillot Jaune for a day Robbie McEwen is just about to start with his Lotto-Domo team. He's dressed in a bright yellow skinsuit and yellow helmet. Hopefully it won't be too wet.

14:46 CEST   
Alessio-Bianchi is next to set off, and they're wearing special grey skinsuits as publicity for Bianchi's 120th anniversary next year. Yes we know it's 2004 and it's only Bianchi's 119th birthday, but the Tour is a good stage for publicity!

14:48 CEST   
Some time checks from 19 km: Euskaltel went through in 22'07, while Credit Agricole was 13 seconds slower and Cofidis was 15 seconds back. The Basque boys have got into a nice rhythm now and are riding a single paceline. Credit Agricole is opting for a double paceline, which is considered slower.

14:53 CEST   

14:56 CEST   
Brioches la Boulengere is now under way, followed by Quick.Step-Davitamon, with Paolo Bettini in red and white dots leading the way.

Credit Agricole is still battling away and it seems that the roads are fairly dry now. Thor Hushovd is doing a lot of work.

15:01 CEST   
Euskaltel is doing well so far, as RAGT comes through the first time check in fourth place.

Mario Cipollini's Domina Vacanze boys are just about to set off as the rain begins falling in Cambrai again. The holders are being sheltered from the rain by more assistants with umbrellas. Cipo makes a brief remark to his holder before he takes off. We need more sensitive audio equipment to catch that one ;-) Or maybe we'll ask Phonak to help.

15:03 CEST   
Euskaltel is now at the second time check at km 42 (Achiet-le-Grand), and has ridden well to clock 48'01, which will obviously be the fastest time of the day as they were the first team to go.

15:07 CEST   
Illes Balears-Banesto is the next team off as the rain gets harder. Mancebo is in his Spanish champion's skinsuit, and they're off to a fast start.

On the road, Brioches la Boulangere is battling the wind and the rain on this undulating parcours. There's still plenty of folks lining the roads, and umbrellas are out in force.

It's an amazing contrast to yesterday's weather, which was dry, sunny and warm.

15:08 CEST   
Christophe Moreau leads his Credit Agricole team to the second time check at km 42 in a time of 48'30, so they've already conceded 29 seconds to Euskaltel.

15:11 CEST   
Now the very successful Ag2r team is starting, with JP Nazon in the green skinsuit. He wears it today as McEwen is wearing yellow, even though the Australian is leading both classifications.

Alessio-Bianchi has the fastest time now at the 19 km mark in 21'37, which is 30 seconds quicker than Euskaltel. That's some fast riding, and the special grey skinsuits are obviously having the desired effect.

15:15 CEST   
Gerolsteiner will be next off, as they roll up to the start in their raincoats.

Out on the road, the rain is still falling and the chance of any teams having dry roads has disappeared. Luckily it's a fairly non-technical course.

Cofidis is next through the 42 km mark, and true to Mr Van Londersele's prediction, they are not riding all out. Moncoutie leads them across over two minutes slower than Euskaltel in 50'02.

15:17 CEST   
Gerolsteiner sets off. The boys in blue should have a good chance today with riders like Hondo and Peschel in the ranks.

Up the road with Quick.Step, Stefano Zanini misses a corner and has to chase back onto his team, which waits.

15:21 CEST   
RAGT passes time check 2 in the slowest time so far: 50'20. They're not looking too happy out there.

FDJeux.com sets off in the pouring rain in their nearly all-white skinsuits. Oh dear.

15:24 CEST   
Saeco passes time check 2 in a time of 48'07, which puts them in second place behind Euskaltel - the fastest of the five teams through that point to date.

It's a fairly bleak stage today across the wind and rainswept northern plains of France, and although the riders won't be looking at the scenery they'll surely be happy when it's over.

15:26 CEST   
Liberty Seguros
Photo ©: Chris Henry/CN
Click for larger image
Liberty Seguros is next off in Cambrai, with Roberto Heras and Christian Vandevelde looking rather tense. The last time they rode in a Tour TTT together was in 2001 (on US Postal). It was also wet and they crashed. We don't think they'll be following each other today.

Liberty is one of the favourites today, being made up of Manolo Saiz's ONCE boys.

15:31 CEST   
Euskaltel is at the end of the road now, taking the last few corners very steadily on the finishing cobbles and ending in a time of 1.14.38 (51.85 km/h).

Meanwhile, T-Mobile has set off with Aldag leading the way. What can they do today? This stage is an important one for them but the predictions are that T-Mobile will lose several positions to top favourite US Postal.

15:33 CEST   
Illes Balears has the fastest time now at the 19km mark, passing in 21'22. That puts them 15 seconds ahead of Alessio and 45 ahead of Euskaltel.

Meanwhile Alessio is coming up to time check 2 (km 42) in the driving rain, with everyone working hard. But they have lost time to Euskaltel, and cross about 10 seconds slower.

15:34 CEST   
Liberty Seguros is flying along now on the open roads, using a single pace line as are most teams. These boys will push US Postal, CSC and Phonak all the way for the top time.

15:36 CEST   
Rabobank is next off the start and Erik Dekker looks pretty chirpy in his red, white and blue skinsuit, obviously relishing the challenge of riding in the wet at 55 km/h.

Credit Agricole finishes in a time of 1'15'35, 56 seconds slower than Euskaltel. Only two teams have finished.

15:41 CEST   
Brioches is past the second time check as Voeckler yells at them to wait for a dropped teammate. It's pretty hard though with this pouring rain.

Phonak is off now, and they are one of the top favourites with riders like Hamilton, Pereiro, Gutierrez, Gonzalez and Sevilla.

Liberty has got its excellent rhythm going, and Heras is certainly doing his turns.

15:43 CEST   
O'Grady, Farazijn and Tombak lead the Cofidis team home in a time of 1'17'37, nearly 3 minutes slower than Euskaltel which puts them in third place of three teams. It also means that Euskaltel is going to limit its losses today.

15:44 CEST   
Quick.Step passes the 42 km mark in 48'25, which is fourth best. Meanwhile Saeco has made a strong impression and is leading after 57 km.

Team CSC is ready to rock, definitely psyched for a good ride today.

15:48 CEST   
Just two more teams to leave: Fassa Bortolo and US Postal. It's still raining in Cambrai so there is no weather conditions advantage or disadvantage for teams starting last. It's raining fairly hard over the last part of the course.

RAGT-Semences finishes in a time of 1'17'40, managing to stay upright on the last cobbled corner. Two riders had their feet out of the pedals.

T-Mobile has to wait for Aldag, who has a flat.

15:51 CEST   
Saeco finishes hard led by Commesso, but lose a bit over the final metres and finish 1 second behind Euskaltel. Simoni loses a bit more, as he was just dropped off at the end.

Fassa Bortolo is under way now, led by strong man Marzio Bruseghin.

T-Mobile is back in formation after waiting for Aldag. They are using a single paceline too.

15:53 CEST   
Illes Balears is having a great ride, also looking to make up time after yesterday. They are past time check 2 (km 42) in 46'58 - impressive stuff! That's 1'03 quicker than Euskaltel.

15:55 CEST   
Armstrong's US Postal-Berry Floor team is ready now, and Armstrong hastily gives last minute instructions to his teammates. He looks very focused on the line.

T-Mobile is already 48 seconds slower than Illes Balears at time check 1 (km 19), after Aldag's puncture.

15:58 CEST   
The situation so far: Euskaltel-Euskadi is leading the TTT with 1'14'38 ahead of Saeco by 1 second and Credit Agricole by 57 seconds.

Lotto-Domo is finishing now in a time of 1'17'22, led by the yellow clad McEwen who will certainly lose his jersey today.

It does look as though that Illes Balears will set the best time, as they were easily fastest after 42 km.

16:01 CEST   
Ag2r Prevoyance is through time check 2 in 48'54, over two minutes slower than Illes Balears.

Alessio-bianchi is finishing now and has ridden well, losing three riders in the last 8 km. Backstedt and Sunderland are both there as they cross in third place - 1'15'00.

Giuseppe Guerini has a rear puncture and that will cost T-Mobile again. They will probably not wait for him. No, they don't.

16:03 CEST   
Jens Voigt punctures, but gets a quick bike change and is back in the chain. A lot of mechanicals today in this wet.

16:06 CEST   
Gerolsteiner hasn't lived up to expectations at time check 2 and crosses in 49'30, nearly 2'30 behind Illes Balears.

Nicolas Jalabert (Phonak) punctures, but they don't wait for him.

Thomas Voeckler is driving the Brioches train home with Sylvain Chavanel on his wheel. They navigate the last few corners and end in a time of 1'16'20 - fifth place so far.

16:07 CEST   
Phonak has seven riders left after Nicolas Jalabert punctured.

16:09 CEST   
Phonak is waiting for one of their riders - Jalabert? That will cost them a lot. Hamilton has almost stopped as he waits for Santos Gonzalez. Dommage.

16:10 CEST   
That would have cost them at least 20-30 seconds, but Santos Gonzalez is obviously considered a key rider. Phonak is back to eight riders.

16:11 CEST   
Quick.Step is finishing now as Tom Boonen leads across the cobbles. The fifth rider's team is 1'15'32, which is 4th best so far.

CSC is opting for the double paceline, one of the few teams to do so.

16:13 CEST   
Vicioso and Heras grit their teeth in the Liberty Seguros train as they pass time check 2 in 47'29, 31 seconds behind Illes Balears, which is just about to record the new best time. The Spanish teams are riding well today.

16:15 CEST   
The wheels come off the CSC train as Nicki Sorensen (CSC) crashes on corner, as do two of his teammates. Oohlalalala. They wait, and the chain is reformed. That will cost them 20 seconds at least.

Now Basso has to get a bike change. It's not going well at all.

16:18 CEST   
The six members of the Domina Vacanze team (including Cipo) finish in 1'16'25, which will give them 7th best behind Euskaltel.

T-Mobile is up to the second check with their eight men. Good riding, as they have conceded only 12 seconds or so to Illes Balears.

Speaking of which, the team formerly known as Banesto finishes in a time of 1'13'18. That could be the winning time!

16:19 CEST   
Phonak is having more problems as Santiago Perez punctures and has to get a wheel change.

US Postal has lost Benjamin Novel already. After 19 km, they were 37 seconds behind Illes Balears in 5th place. Not the start they would have wanted.

16:21 CEST   
the top five teams after 19 km:

1 Illes Balears 21.22 2 Alessio - Bianchi 0.15 3 Phonak 0.30 4 Liberty Seguros 0.31 5 US Postal-Berry Floor 0.37

16:23 CEST   
Leipheimer's Rabobank team is past the 42 km mark in the fourth best time, conceding just over 30 seconds to Illes Balears.

CSC has its dual paceline going again, but the crashes and bike changes would have cost them at least a minute so far.

A weather update: It's still raining.

16:26 CEST   
In US Postal's train, Armstrong is sitting behind Pavel Padrnos, who should give him plenty of shelter from the wind! Azevedo is right behind Armstrong.

T-Mobile is doing much better than its insiders suggested to us, and will challenge Illes Balears for the best time today.

16:27 CEST   
Ag2r finishes in 1'16'08, with Nazon in sixth wheel across the line. Brochard leads them across the cobbles and wonders how he managed to drop them all in that final corner.

Phonak is riding very well, despite the disasters. They are down to six men as they reach time check 2 (km 42) in 47'20 - third best time! That's impressive.

16:28 CEST   
Aldag, Kloden , Zabel, Botero, Ivanov and Nardello are in one line in the t-Mobile train as Ullrich does a big turn. They are nearing the finish in Cambrai.

16:33 CEST   
Liberty is down to six riders it looks like in the last kilometres. T-Mobile has lost Ivanov too - they're down to seven. But there's not long to go.

Gerolsteiner finishes with five men after their lead rider crashes on the second last corner. Hondo leads them across in 1'16'39 for 10th place. Wegmann is there too.

Voigt is now powering the CSC train towards the second time check. They pass in 47'53, 55 seconds slower than Illes Balears. That's probably all the time they lost with mechanicals and crashes.

16:34 CEST   
Liberty Seguros is just about to catch FDJeux.com. That's a five minute gap!

16:36 CEST   
The Liberty Seguros dark blue train passes the white train of FDJeux.com and is en route to a good time at the finish.

Meanwhile US Postal is still riding along well with Amrstrong at the back. They have eight of their nine men left after losing Noval early. T-Mobile is with seven riders after losing Ivanov and Guerini.

16:37 CEST   
T-Mobile is 15 seconds slower than Illes Balears at time check 3 (km 57). That's not bad going at all, but they'll probably not take that time back in the last 8 km.

16:40 CEST   
Ullrich loses a bit of time on a bend and has to chase back on, missing a turn as he catches his breath.

Liberty Seguros with seven riders (not six) navigates the final kilometres with Vicioso leading into the second last corner. Then Igor Gonzalez behind him, Heras in sixth. They cross in 1'14'28 for second place behind Illes Balears.

FDJeux.com is right on their heels but has conceded another 5 minutes. Definitely the slowest time of the day.

16:41 CEST   
Marzio Bruseghin drives the team past the second check in 12th place, well off the pace of Illes Balears.

US Postal has picked up speed though and has set the new best time at km 42, passing in 46'30. Hincapie clenches his fist and urges the rest on.

16:43 CEST   
Ullrich and Kessler are leading the T-Mobile boys home and they are riding really well. Aldag takes the second last corner and they sprint for home. The final time: 1'13'22, just four seconds slower than Illes Balears.

16:45 CEST   
The top five at km 42, after all teams have passed through:

1 US Postal 46.30 2 Illes Balears 0.28 3 T-Mobile 0.39 4 Phonak 0.50 5 Liberty Seguros 0.59

16:47 CEST   
Phonak is just down to five riders now - that's the minimum they need to get a time today as the time is taken of the fifth rider. Phonak has been hammering and is well in contention for a top 3. They have 5 km to go.

16:49 CEST   
Rabobank is now finishing and crosses with eight riders in 1'13'56. That's 3rd place to date and a good ride considering Leipheimer crashed earlier.

16:51 CEST   
Sevilla is sitting at the back of the Hamilton five man train, which also has Hamilton, Gutierrez, Grabsch and Gonzalez (I think). 2 km to go for the Swiss team.

16:52 CEST   
CSC has caught a couple of Phonak riders - Santi Perez and Nicolas Jalabert. They're not allowed to sit on of course. The rest of their team is in the last kilometre and will challenge Illes Balears for the best time.

16:53 CEST   
Hamilton does a big turn into the second last corner, checking to see if his teammates are there. All of them have to stay on their bikes and they do - new best time! 1'13'10. Incredible performance after all the bad luck.

16:55 CEST   
CSC still has nine of its riders as it reaches the 2 km to go mark, still riding a double paceline. Meanwhile, US Postal has reached the 10 km to go banner. Fassa Bortolo is in between them.

16:57 CEST   
With no disasters, Postal will certainly finish with the top time today, which means that Ullrich will lose no more than 40 seconds if T-Mobile finishes fourth. We'll leave the calculations until the end though :-)

16:59 CEST   
Peron and Voigt drive home the CSC red, white and black squad, finishing in a time of 1'13'49 (fourth). All nine finished.

17:01 CEST   
Armstrong is looking quite comfy behind the big torso of Pavel Padrnos, and US Postal's eight riders are well on track for the best time.

17:03 CEST   
Postal has just 4 km to go now and the rain has eased up at least. It won't really change things, as the roads are still wet and slippery. The time to beat is Phonak's 1'13'10, achieved with a bit of bad luck en route.

17:08 CEST   
It's Hincapie who does the last big turn with Padrnos and Armstrong in tow. Hincapie leads onto the cobbles and US Postal-Berry Floor wins the time trial in 1'12'03 - a whole minute and seven seconds quicker than Phonak. Let the calculations begin.

Lance Armstrong will take over the yellow jersey from Robbie McEwen, with Hincapie and Landis rounding out the top 3 on GC. Hamilton is now at 36 seconds while Ullrich is already at 56 seconds.

Intermediate timing

km 19 (all teams through)

1 Illes Balears                  21.22
2 Alessio - Bianchi               0.15
3 Phonak                          0.30
4 Liberty Seguros                 0.31
5 US Postal                       0.37

km 42 (all teams through)

1 US Postal                      46.30
2 Illes Balears                   0.28
3 T-Mobile                        0.39
4 Phonak                          0.50
5 Liberty Seguros                 0.59

km 58

1 US Postal                    1.03.27
2 Illes Balears                   1.08
3 Phonak                          1.15
4 T-Mobile                        1.23
5 Rabobank                        1.48

Finish km 64.5

1 US Postal                    1.12.03  (riders' loss on GC) 
1 Phonak                          1.07  (0.20)
2 Illes Balears                   1.15  (0.30)
3 T-Mobile                        1.19  (0.40)  
4 CSC                             1.45  (0.50)
5 Rabobank                        1.53  (1.00)
6 Liberty Seguros                 2.25  (1.10)
7 Euskaltel - Euskadi             2.35  (1.20)  
8 Saeco                           2.35  (1.30) (NB Simoni will lose about 2.50)
9 Alessio - Bianci                2.57  (1.40)  
10 Quickstep-Davitamon            3.29  (1.50)
11 Crédit Agricole                4.39  (2.00)
12 AG2R                           5.12  (2.10)

General classification after stage 4
1 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor    14.54.53
2 George Hincapie (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor        0.10
3 Floyd Landis US Postal-Berry Floor                 0.16
4 Jose Azevedo (Por) US Postal-Berry Floor           0.22
5 Jose Luis Rubiera (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor      0.24
6 Jose Enrique Gutierrez (Spa) Phonak                0.27
7 Viatchselav Ekimov (Rus) US Postal-Berry Floor     0.30
8 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Phonak                        0.36
9 Santos Gonzalez (Spa) Phonak                       0.37
10 Bert Grabsch (Ger) Phonak                         0.41

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