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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

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

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

By Deena-Maree Faulkner

Starting at Cambrai, this year's Team Time Trial is a fairly flat course, heading southwest towards Metz-en-Couture (km 19) then west to Ayette (km 49) and finishing with a northerly run into Arras. What may make the stage hard are the expected strong winds and rain. A new rule for this year means that no team can lose more than 2:30 on this stage, but any dropped rider will have to finish within 25 percent of his team's time to avoid being eliminated.

Those team time trial rules explained

By Roger Hughes

Just to make life easier for everybody, the Tour organisers have produced a new set of rules to determine how much time riders can lose on the team time trial stage. In previous years, there has been a simple ceiling - no rider who finishes inside the time limit could lose more than X minutes. This year the system is a little more complex. So here goes:

  • The teams' times are taken on the fifth rider to finish, and all riders finishing together with their team are credited with that time. Riders who are dropped will be given their actual time, and there is a time limit of the winning team's time +25% to avoid elimination, which could be a tough call for a rider who gets dropped early; the rest of this spiel only affects the individual GC for riders who finish with their teams.
  • The maximum amount of time that a rider who finishes with their team can lose to the riders on the winning team is determined by the placing of their team: riders in the team that finishes second can lose no more than 20 seconds, 3rd - 30 seconds, 4th - 40 seconds and so on in ten second increments down to the 15th team, who can lose no more than 2.30, and then in five second increments down to the 21st team whose riders can lose no more than 3 minutes. If the team finishes closer to the winners than the maximum, the riders get the actual team time. Still with me? Good.
  • The actual team times are used for the overall team classification.

Now, as well as giving accountants something to do in their spare time, this system gives a little scope for slightly odd outcomes for the riders with a real interest in the general classification, particularly if the winners are a team without any serious GC contenders, since the limits are on what they lose to the winning team, not to each other. If, for example, Brioches La Boulangère unexpectedly power ahead, with T-Mobile finishing second a minute down and US Postal a couple of seconds slower still, Jan Ullrich would gain 10 seconds on Lance Armstrong, even though the actual difference between them was far less. And if another team finished between them, it would be 20 seconds difference, and so on (the reductio ad absurdum case would be if the teams in 2nd to 21st position finished separated by fractions of a second but more than 3 minutes down on the winners, in which unlikely event riders finishing in the same second could be credited with times up to 2.40 apart). So placings may well be as important as times here for the GC riders - they need to worry not only about each other but about the other strong time trialling teams as well.


Map & Profile


Start Times

14:15   Euskaltel-Euskadi
14:20   Credit Agricole
14:25   Cofidis, le credit par Telephone
14:30   R.A.G.T. Semences-MG Rover
14:35   Saeco
14:40   Lotto-Domo
14:45   Alessio-Bianchi
14:50   Brioches La Boulangere
14:55   Quick.Step-Davitamon
15:00   Domina Vacanze
15:05   Illes Balears-Banesto
15:10   Ag2R Prevoyance
15:15   Gerolsteiner
15:20   FDJeux.com
15:25   Liberty Seguros
15:30   T-Mobile Team
15:35   Rabobank
15:40   Phonak Hearing Systems
15:45   Team CSC
15:50   Fassa Bortolo
15:55   US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor