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69th Tour de Suisse - PT
Switzerland, June 11-19, 2005
Stage 4 - June 14: Vaduz FL - Bad Zurzach, 208 km
Complete live report
Welcome back to the Cyclingnews' Live coverage of the Tour de Suisse! Thanks for tuning in and we hope you will enjoy the show today at the longest stage of the Swiss stage race, which began in the tiny state of Liechtenstein in the middle of Europe right on time at 12.30 CET a couple of hours ago in front of a nice little crowd.
There was one non-starter in Vaduz this morning, namely Serguei Gonchar, 13th on GC, 2.02 minutes behind Jan Ullrich. We don't know (yet) what happened to him but will let you know for sure if we find out. Therefore, 155 the riders are left en route to the finish line in Bad Zurzach now, where a circuit awaits them with a Cat. 3 climb as well as an intermediate sprint to pass before dropping in the arms of their soigneurs. Before that, the peloton will take on only one GPM at km 44.5 (also Cat. 3) so this relatively flat stage might well be decided in a bunch sprint finish if a break doesn't get through first.
Jan Ullrich, the race leader, has only a very tight advantage of two secs on the second-placed on GC, Bradley McGee. Michael Rogers isn't far off neither, so we know who T-Mobile will be watching. It's also possible that the team's management decides not to defend the jersey today and take it back later - we shall see.
The weather at the start this morning was fairly cloudy and cool, with temperatures around 15° Celsius. Weather forecasts say that there is a risk of scattered showers later this afternoon, maybe even some local thunderstorms. Let's just hope that this won't influence the course of today's stage.
And it looks likely to happen as the current situation on the road is a classic one: A three-man break with Bart Dockx (Davitamon), Allan Johansen (CSC) and Lorenzo Bernucci (Fassa Bortolo) has finally achieved to get away after 72 km of racing, after yet another breakaway attempt (a group containing Mirko Celestino, Fabian Cancellara, Bobby Julich and Daniel Schnider) failed to gain more than a 15 second lead due to the obvious threat to top general classification. The first 50 kilometres of the stage were nervous anyway with numerous break attempts, notably from Jens Voigt (CSC), Grégory Rast (Phonak) and Koldo Gil (Liberty).
The first climb of the day at km 44.5 was won by Francesco Bellotti (Crédit Agricole). On the way down that little mountain, David Navas (Illes Balears) dropped out of the race.
The peloton has passed the second feed zone in Höri after 130 km of racing. The situation is very stable with the three-man break in front, now leading by already 7 minutes.
The three are working well together despite their little age differences: Bart Dockx is only 24 years old, whereas the CSC man Johansen is already 33. Needless to say, none of them is a threat on GC. In the back, T-Mobile as well as Francaise des Jeux are taking things easy. Still plenty of time to chase them down - which will definitely happen as fast guy McGee has a good chance of slipping into the yellow jersey today.
Cyclingnews' Anthony Tan talked to Davitamon's directeur sportif this morning. Robbie McEwen is obviously looking for a win on this flat terrain that could suit him today. The Belgian team's strategy is clear: make the race end in a bunch sprint, so Francaise des Jeux could have an ally later on.
15:47 CEST 142km/66km to go
T-Mobile, on the other hand, shouldn't be that interested in the chase. If the three breakaway riders get to the next two sprints in front of the bunch, McGee won't be able to cash in any time bonuses - this applies also to the finish, of course. What's more, the German team's management has made it clear that the French yellow jersey is more important to it than the Swiss one, so the team will not defend the GC lead at whatever costs.
The break now still has an advantage of 7.20 minutes. 66 kilometres to go. We should be seeing some action soon!
Fortunately, it has been staying dry up until now, although the clouds are still covering the sky. The break is rolling comfortably on smooth two-lane asphalt as the Swiss really do care about the state of their roads. It is a well-organized and wealthy country... The countryside is beautiful here, with rolling green hills and neat little villages.
16:02 CEST 151km/57km to go
Well, at the moment T-Mobile is leading the bunch with three riders, and only one Francaise des Jeux rider in fourth position. But it is still taking its time: the riders are chatting, taking drinks out of their bidons and passing them on to their teammates. Baden Cooke and Brad McGee are sitting right inside the bunch, talking to each other. Fassa is moving up.
Antonio Colom (Illes Balears) has abandoned.
16:04 CEST 53km/155km to go
Phonak, T-Mobile and Fassa are sharing the work, with even on Quick Step rider now leading, and it looks like the gap has diminished a little to 6.45.
The break is still moving along pretty well, as the Fassa Bortolo team car comes by to look after Bernucci, who wants a drink. Behind, the bunch is gradually stretching out as the pace grows faster. The first intermediate sprint of today is coming up with 43 km to go, then it's into Zurzach for two loops before the finish line in that same town.
16:16 CEST 164km/44km to go
Cancellara has a flat front tyre but is helped out but his team car very quickly and currently chasing the bunch inside the race caravan. Fassa teammates are ready to get him at the back of the bunch if he doesn't make it on his own.
Quick Step, T-Mobile and Francaise des Jeux are in front chasing down the break. The gap is down to 5.30 with 42 km to go
16:25 CEST 169km/39km to go
The peloton has passed the intermediate sprint in Koblenz, but as the break has taken the points nothing happens: the peloton continues its rally along a river, with Quick Step in the lead for Boonen, who is following Bettini in fourth position. Jan Ullrich is sitting comfortably inside the bunch.
The break has passed the finish line in Zurzach for the first time, in front of a substantial, cheering crowd. That will give them some energy!
16:36 CEST 175km/33km to go
And the gap is getting smaller: 4.30 with 35 to go. Of course, Davitamon-Lotto is not participating in the chase as they still have Dockx in front, but Robbie McEwen will very probably still get his chances to sprint today as the other teams are forcing the pace. Boonen arrived on top of the Cat. 3 climb in third position in the bunch, just behind Bettini. He looks good and motivated!
Cancellara is definitely not very lucky today: After the front tyre, it is now the back wheel that needed changing. He's back chasing in the car caravan... but will make it.
16:42 CEST 181km/27km to go
The bunch is stretched out as pearls on a string. Phonak is in front again, whereas the break seems tired. No wonder...
Erratum: It is not Bettini, but Moreni who is working together with the whole Quick Step team for their front man Boonen. Sorry about that.
The tempo is very fast and some riders in the back are in difficulty - not dropped yet, but they might once the riders get back to the climb on this circuit around Zurzach. A lone Liquigas rider is sitting in front of the Quick Step train as a few drops of rain are falling. Let's hope this won't be a real shower...
16:54 CEST 189km/19km to go
Davitamon-Lotto have now engaged in the pursuit as well, as a sprint finish is inevitable. The front three pass the finish line again with 19 km to go before attacking that climb again. The gap is 2.30.
Koldo Gil has a mechanical and is getting assistance out of the team car.
The finish line is only 100 metres straight, with a right hand curve before it. At least the road is quite large, but it's still pretty technical.
Now Illes Balears is hammering in the climb, with Valverde placed third just before a T-Mobile rider.
In front, Johansen has problems following as the other two battle it out at the GPM. Dockx takes the points in front of Bernucci.
16:59 CEST 193km/15km to go
The GC contenders are in front of the bunch now, and Alexandre Moos (Phonak) attacks, with Kim Kirchen on his wheel. The gap is down to 1.15.
In the descent, the bunch rolls back together again. With 14 km to go, it's still Quick Step in front, one CSC, two Phonaks. Illes Balears is up there too, as Commesso tries to attack.
17:04 CEST 197km/11km to go
But it's in vain as the sprinter's teams have made their mind up - nobody will get away at this point! The gap is down to a minute as the bunch speeds through the corners of a village. Luckily, it's still dry!
17:07 CEST 198km/10km to go
The break is looking resigned to its fate as I imagine they would feel. The chasers are not within sight - yet.
17:10 CEST 201km/7km to go
The yellow jersey of Jan Ullrich is also near to the front as he should now stay out of any possible trouble... as should the other riders but there's a stage to win here, so let's cross our fingers that all goes well without any crashes. Still some small drops of water fall out of the sky, but you can't really call it rain.
The bunch can now see the break in front, so it will soon be over for them.
17:13 CEST 203km/5km to go
Italian champion Moreni is doing a hell of a job today, still hammering in front. Three Phonaks are there too and take their turn now. Lorenzo Bernucci is attacking now in one impressive fight after so many kilometres in the break! The other two are caught.
17:14 CEST 204km/4km to go
Oh well, that's it for him too - he should still be relieved as his Fassa teammates take over.
17:17 CEST 206km/2km to go
Grégory Rast has done his deed in the front wind, now Quick Step takes over again and the sprinters look for their position. Chris Horner tries to attack, but doesn't have the necessary speed...
McEwen behind Boonen, here comes McEwen, and he does it!!!
Provisional 1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 2 Daniele Colli (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 3 Gregory Rast (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 4 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step 5 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) Credit Agricole 6 Baden Cooke (Aus) Française Des Jeux 7 Rene Haselbacher (Aut) Gerolsteiner 8 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Gerolsteiner 9 David Loosli (Swi) Lampre-Caffita 10 Roger Hammond (GBr) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team General classification after stage four 1 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile