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Photo ©: Sirotti

90th Tour de France - July 5-27, 2003

Main Page    Stage Profile    Start List    Latest live report    Results

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

Stage 4 - Wednesday, July 9: Joinville - Saint-Dizier, TTT, 69 km

Complete Live Report

Time conversion guide: GMT = CEST - 2 hrs, AEST = CEST + 8 hrs, EDT = CEST - 6 hrs, PDT = CEST - 9 hrs

Start time: 14:00 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:00 CEST

Welcome to the Cyclingnews coverage of stage 4 of the Tour, brought to you in association with T-Mobile. Today's stage is the one and only team time trial in this year's Tour: 69 rolling kilometres between Joinville and Saint-Dizier. It's an important stage for the GC riders, who don't want to lose too much time to each other, but some teams will definitely concede a few minutes to the favourites, like US Postal-Berry Floor and ONCE (last year's winners).

Also expect to see Jan Ullrich and Bianchi put in a very solid time.

For those of you want to know more about the rules pertaining to the marvellous and spectacular TTT, please visit our Team Time Trial feature on tactics, strategy and rules.

14:00 CEST    
Teams start in reverse team GC order, which means that the first team off the ranks will be Alessio, followed (at an interval of five minutes) by Brioches la Boulangere. Then Lotto-Domo and Fassa Bortolo. The top teams go last, with Euskaltel, FDJ, Team Bianchi and USPS the final four teams. Favourites ONCE will start 6th last.

14:10 CEST    
Weather report: It's hot (30 degrees) and sunny in Joinville, as Alessio sets off for its ride from the super-wide starting ramp, specially imported from Spain for the stage.

For trivia/history buffs, Joinville is a garrison town where the French army bases its elite sportsmen doing national service; the Bataillon de Joinville runs an elite French amateur team and a fair number of the French riders will be familiar with the roads round there.

14:17 CEST    
Brioches la Boulangere, the second team to go, is now on its way, riding a double pace line and looking very quick.

14:25 CEST    
Damien Nazon (not yellow jersey Jean Patrick) has to dig deep to hang onto the back of his Brioches team on the small hills. They're really hammering along across the rolling French countryside, with French champion Didier Rous leading the way.

Saeco has started, and now Jean-Patrick Nazon's Jean Delatour team is about to go. Nazon looks resplendent in yellow (no yellow shorts though...) but will probably lose it today.

14:34 CEST    
Saeco is now into its rhythm, and even the sick (but improving) Danilo Di Luca is coming through for his turn. It's crucial that they don't lose too much time today to USPS to keep Simoni in contention for the GC. Their goal is not to lose more than 2 minutes. On the first hill out of Joinville, Simoni did a really hard turn to keep the speed up. He's riding his pink time trial bike that he rode in the last stage of the Giro.

Fassa Bortolo is 5 minutes up the road ahead of Saeco, so these two top Italian teams are engaging in an interesting pursuit match.

14:39 CEST    
We have a time check at the 18 km point, with Fassa Bortolo going through in 21'46, 7" faster than Alessio, 8" faster than Brioches, and 1'07 faster than Lotto-Domo.

Telekom is on the road now, as is Vini Caldirola.

14:46 CEST    
Jean Delatour, with the Maillot Jaune of Jean-Patrick Nazon, is working well together. Nazon is coming through for his turns, and the team looks quite smooth.

Credit Agricole, with Christophe Moreau, Stuart O'Grady and Thor Hushovd, has just set off.

14:55 CEST    
Vini Caldirola has gone through 18 km in 21'32, that's 14" quicker than Fassa Bortolo. So far, Garzelli's team is looking good in their fluoro yellow and black skinsuits.

Cofidis has left the start ramp now.

15:01 CEST    
Team CSC is about to start. The race of truth for Tyler Hamilton, who will try to give his utmost for the team. The team order (in theory) is:


Sean Yates told Cyclingnews that Tyler's condition doesn't really change the team's plan, but if he's suffering he'll perhaps sit on. As for guys doing shorter or longer pulls, he said that would be decided on the day.

"It's very hard to do a long pull at a very high speed... Unless you're Lance Armstrong or Jan Ullrich. The best thing is to keep it turning."


Photo: © C.Henry/CN

15:05 CEST    
Lotto-Domo come through the second intermediate check at km 44.5 in 54'09, that's over 2 minutes slower than Alessio (fastest to that point so far). McEwen leads the way in his green jersey, obviously telling them to take it easy.

At the 18 km point, Team Telekom is through in 21'25, a new top time.

15:09 CEST    
Fassa Bortolo comes through the 44.5 km check in 52'02, just four seconds slower than Alessio. However it seems as though they won't be contesting for the win today, but we'll see.

Hamilton is working in his CSC team, so that's a good sign.

15:20 CEST    
Saeco comes through 44.5 km in 52'33, conceding 35" to Alessio already. That doesn't look good for them against USPS.

Jean Delatour is through in 53'10, which means Nazon has lost his yellow jersey.

ONCE, the sixth last team to start, is on the ramp. They are big favourites for this event, having won it last year. Alessio (the first team off) finishes in 1'20'32, an average speed of 51.4 km/h.

15:31 CEST    
Telekom goes through 44.5 km in 51'25, but are surpassed by iBanesto.com, which comes across in 51'10. That's over 52 km/h.

The first two teams have finished now: Alessio in 1.20.32 and Brioches la Boulangere 25" slower.

15:34 CEST    
Lotto-Domo, led by McEwen, finishes in 1'23'20, still 49.68 km/h, but probably one of the slowest teams today.

Cyclingnews spoke to Quick.Step's Patrick Lefevere at the start. "We have a fairly good chance today. We have guys like Rogers and Bodrogi, who will have to carry a big load to make up for guys like Virenque."

"We like the TTT. In 1993, we won it by 15" and in 1994 we won it by 6" so we're keen to do it again. It's really crucial that the riders work together and no-one goes to the front and hammers too much."

Quick.Step's engine Michael Rogers said that "I'm feeling good and we should make at least top five today."

Currently, they're in fifth place at 18 km.

15:36 CEST    
FDJeux.com has now started, five minutes behind Euskaltel. Only two more teams to come: Bianchi and US Postal.

Ag2r is out on the road, preferring a double pace line today. There is a bit of wind, but not too much.

Credit Agricole is a little slower than iBanesto at 44.5 km, coming through in 51'32.

15:41 CEST    
Ullrich and Bianchi are away, looking very nice in their celeste jerseys. They have a strong team, and will hope for a good time today.

Fassa Bortolo has the new top time with 1'20'20. Saeco comes home in 1'21'29, which doesn't look great for them and Gilberto Simoni.

15:43 CEST    
US Postal is now going through its paces, warming up. If USPS wins today, then Victor Pena will be in yellow. It's his birthday tomorrow, so it would be a double celebration as no Colombian has worn yellow.

ONCE has passed 18 km in fifth place, 8" slower than Telekom. A surprise.

15:47 CEST    
Viatcheslav Ekimov leads US Postal off the starting ramp, followed by Lance Armstrong.

Cofidis passes the 44.5 km check in 51'52, a little off the pace. They are riding a single paceline.

Jean Delatour finish in 1'22.04, with JP Nazon crossing last, his short reign in yellow at an end.

15:52 CEST    
Vini Caldirola-So.Di beat Fassa Bortolo's time by 20" at the finish, crossing in 1'19'59, the new top time. That bodes well for Stefano Garzelli, who doesn't want to lose too much time at this point.

On the road, ibanesto is on track for the new best time, having held off the the Telekom and Credit Agricole teams, who are riding well.

CSC comes through 44.5 km in 51'48, 5th place so far. But Hamilton is still there, doing his work.

15:55 CEST    
US Postal-Berry Floor is lined out in the early part of the stage, choosing the single pace line approach.

Erik Zabel leads the Telekom team home in 1'19'57, just a couple of seconds quicker than Vini Caldirola.

15:56 CEST    
Quick.Step-Davitamon has picked up the pace, coming through 44.5 km in 51'31, third best time. Virenque is doing plenty of work.

15:59 CEST    
Here comes iBanesto.com, flying to the finish in St Dizier. They come home in 1'19'32, 25" quicker than Telekom. ONCE seems to be struggling, as are FDJeux.com, who are taking it a bit easy to look after Casper. Carlos da Cruz is dangling off the back, but gets back on. They're not killing themselves today.

16:04 CEST    
Bianchi is past the 18 km point in 21'41, the seventh best time at that point. They have lost 16" to Telekom at that point.

16:06 CEST    
Credit Agricole finishes in 1'19'59, fourth place so far and not too far off the pace.

Rabobank is not doing so well however, losing 43" at the 18km mark. Starting with seven men, minus Leipheimer, would have hurt them.

Cofidis is being driven along by David Millar, who is splitting the team with his big turns. They are all hanging on behind him.

16:08 CEST    
At 44.5 km, Rabobank has improved its position from 18th to 12th, in 52'14.

US Postal is past 18km in 21'39, 6" slower than rivals ONCE, but only in 7th so far. This will make things interesting later on.

16:11 CEST    
If iBanesto wins this TTT by a sufficient margin, then Russian Vladimir Karpets will find himself in yellow.

But look out, here comes ONCE. They have set the new best time at the 44.5 km mark, with 50'59.

16:13 CEST    
Kelme is home in 1'22.16, 10th fastest so far. That's not a good time for them.

Gerolsteiner is sitting in 8th at the 44.5 km check, nearly a minute off the pace of ONCE, who are now lined out en route to the finish.

16:16 CEST    
Cofidis is come in 1'20'33, losing a minute to iBanesto. That puts them in 7th at the moment. Millar was strong, leading them home.

Bianchi is cruising along well, with Ullrich doing a few more turns than the rest.

Ag2r comes past 44.5 km in 51'41, in 7th place.

16:20 CEST    
Team CSC is home now, in a good time of 1'20'12, 40" slower than iBanesto. Hamilton certainly did his job today.

16:23 CEST    
Euskaltel passes the 44.5 km check in 52'19, in 15th place. That's not too good for riders like Mayo and Zubeldia.

Quick.Step Davitamon is on track to posting the second best time, having picked up the pace in the last 15 km. They finish in 1'19'50, second best indeed. Virenque worked hard as well :-)

16:29 CEST    
Two teams still have to pass the 44.5 km point, Bianchi and US Postal. FDJeux.com come past in 53'22, the slowest time to date. They need to look after everyone though.

After Cofidis finished (9th at the moment), Cyclingnews spoke to David Millar. "I'm satisfied with my ride but you can't do it all on your own."

16:31 CEST    
Gerolsteiner finish in 1'20'16, which will put them in 7th at the moment.

Bianchi is flying towards the 44.5 km mark, and goes through in a good time of 51'18, third best so far, so they've picked up a little. ONCE is on track for the best time however.

16:34 CEST    
We're just waiting now for US Postal to come past 44.5 km. They are riding well as a team, with the single pace line in effect. But can they beat ONCE? Manolo Saiz is urging his boys along - they have four km to go and eight riders left.

16:36 CEST    
It's close between USPS and ONCE. At 44.5 km, the gap is about 7", with ONCE in front.

16:39 CEST    
ONCE hammers home, with Beloki leading the charge. Their time is clearly the best, finishing in 1'18'57. Five more teams to come, but realistically only USPS and Bianchi could beat them.

16:41 CEST    
In US Postal, Armstrong is still following Ekimov, who is behind Heras (the smallest rider) and Landis. The team is all together.

16:45 CEST    
Ag2r-Prevoyance has had a better second half, finishing in St Dizier in a time of 1'20'05, 7th fastest. ONCE still has the leading time, as expected.

In the Bianchi train, Ullrich slips in in front of Garmendia, who is in last wheel.

16:48 CEST    
Ullrich is doing a lot of work in Bianchi, but all his teammates are doing their share still. Ullrich recovers quite quickly once he is on the back. They have 10 km to go.

US Postal has a bit further to go. Heras is suffering on the back, but hangin' in there.

16:51 CEST    
Bianchi passes the 59km check in second place, still 15" off the pace of ONCE. They are en route to a top three finish in this stage, but the gaps will be small. It's clear that Ullrich's team is strong however.

US Postal is pulling out all the stops now, trying to close the virtual gap to ONCE in the final 10 km.

16:52 CEST    
Euskaltel finishes in 1'21'59, having conceded 2'50 to ONCE. That's going to hurt their GC chances a lot.

16:53 CEST    
US Postal Berry Floor passes the 59 km check 17" quicker than ONCE!! They should now win this stage, as they've increased the tempo right to the end.

16:57 CEST    
Garmendia is dropped from the Bianchi train in the last 5 km. They are down to seven now, and Ullrich is driving them home.

US Postal is still with nine men, and most of them are still taking turns.

FDJeux.com finish their ride in 1'21'56, 17th fastest, with two teams to come.

16:59 CEST    
Bianchi power home, but will lose time to ONCE and USPS. Their finishing time is 1'19'10, only 13" slower. That's a very good ride by Ullrich's team.

17:00 CEST    
US Postal has just 3 km to go, and are on track to winning the stage and taking the Maillot Jaune. Could it be a big birthday celebration for Victor Pena?

17:02 CEST    
The strength of Lance Armstrong's team is clear as they reach the final kilometre, all still taking turns. How big will the gap be?

17:04 CEST    
It's substantial, as US Postal finish in a time of 1'18'27 - 30" faster than ONCE. Hincapie powers them home, pointing his finger in the air as they win. Pena takes yellow. It's a very happy team.

17:06 CEST    
US Postal has confirmed itself as the leading team in this year's Tour, as ONCE missed riders like Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano in this test. Team Bianchi in third lost only 43", and that bodes well for them. Not so good was Saeco, who lost over 3 minutes and will seriously damage Gilberto Simoni's chances on the GC.

Intermediate timing

18 km
1 Team Telekom                            21.25
2 Crédit Agricole                          0.01
3 Vini CaldirolaSO.DI                      0.07
4 iBanesto.com                                 
5 O.N.C.E.Eroski                           0.08
6 Quick.StepDavitamon                      0.13
7 US Postal presented by Berry Floor       0.14
8 Team Bianchi                             0.16
9 Fassa Bortolo                            0.21
10 Team Saeco                              0.22
44.5 km
1 O.N.C.E.Eroski                          51.00
2 US Postal presented by Berry Floor       0.06
3 iBanesto.com                             0.11
4 Team Bianchi                             0.18
5 Team Telekom                             0.25
6 Crédit Agricole                          0.32
7 Quick.StepDavitamon                          
8 Vini CaldirolaSO.DI                      0.34
9 AG2r Prévoyance                          0.42
10 Team CSC                                0.49
59 km
1 US Postal presented by Berry Floor    1.07.27
2 O.N.C.E.-Eroski                          0.17
3 Team Bianchi                             0.32
4 iBanesto.com                             0.35
5 Quick.Step-Davitamon                     1.00
6 Vini Caldirola-SO.DI                     1.08
7 Team Telekom                             1.09
8 Crédit Agricole                          1.10
9 AG2r Prévoyance                          1.16
10 Gerolsteiner                            1.19
Finish  69 km
1 US Postal presented by Berry Floor    1.18.27
2 O.N.C.E.-Eroski                          0.30
3 Team Bianchi                             0.43
4 iBanesto.com                             1.05
5 Quick.Step-Davitamon                     1.23
6 Team Telekom                             1.30
7 Vini Caldirola-SO.DI                     1.32
8 Crédit Agricole                              
9 AG2r Prévoyance                          1.38
10 Team CSC                                1.45

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