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92nd Tour de France - GT

France, July 2-24, 2005

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Stage 4 - Tuesday, July 5: Tours - Blois TTT, 67.5 km

Commentary by Hedwig Kröner and Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Tim Maloney and Anthony Tan

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 14:20 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:15 CEST

14:18 CEST   
Welcome back to Tours for Cyclingnews' live coverage of the fourth stage, a 67.5 km team time trial between Tours and Blois, over what is mostly a flat course until the final 20 km when it gets a bit lumpier. Today's stage is run under the same rules as last year (see TTT rules, which essentially means that the slowest team can only lose a maximum of three minutes, and the entire 21 team field will lose time in increments of 10 or 5 seconds, depending on their stage placing. Please read the rules for a full explanation :-)

Teams will start in reverse order of GC, which means that Euskaltel-Euskadi will be first cab off the rank, followed at five minutes by Lampre - Caffita, then Ag2r-Prevoyance. The full start order is:

Euskaltel - Euskadi
Lampre - Caffita
Ag2R Prevoyance
Saunier Duval - Prodir
Cofidis Credit Par Telephone
Davitamon - Lotto
Liquigas - Bianchi
Bouygues Telecom
Francaise Des Jeux
Domina Vacanze
Quick Step - Innergetic
Illes Balears-Caisse D'Epargne
Credit Agricole
Liberty Seguros - Würth Team
Fassa Bortolo
T-Mobile Team
Phonak Hearing Systems
Discovery Channel Team
Team CSC

14:30 CEST   
Thus, at the bottom of the list we have the main contendahs for the day...

In the blue corner, we have the Discovery Channel team, featuring Lance "Mr Six Time Tour Winner" Armstrong, Paolo "Mr Two Time Giro Champ" Savoldelli, George "There is No Chain" Hincapie, and Yaroslav "Future Star" Popovych, Chechu "Super Rouleur" Rubiera, Jose "Ace" Azevedo, Manuel "Triki" Beltran and I'm running out of nicknames so I'll cut to the chase, Benjamin Noval, and Pavel Padrnos.

In the red corner, and the slight favourites for today...Team CSC, featuring maillot jaune David "DZ" Zabriskie, Ivan "Don't call me Terrible" Basso, Carlos "I'm no dummy" Sastre, and I'm really running out of nicknames now...Jens Voigt, Bobby Julich, Luke Roberts, Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Nicki Sörensen and Giovanni Lombardi.

In the green corner with yellow bits, the Phonak Hearing Systems team of Santiago "2002 World's TT Master" Botero, Jose Enrique "Quique" Gutierrez, Nicolas "JaJa junior" Jalabert, Floyd Landis, Bert Grabsch, Robert Hunter, Alexandre Moos (or maybe he doesn't), Oscar Pereiro Sio and Steve Zampieri.

And finally, in the dark blue corner and maybe edging out T-Mobile's magenta camp and Gerolsteiner's light blue troupe as fourth favourite, is Liberty Seguros, with Roberto "Triple Vuelta" Heras, Joseba "Guess who's back?" Beloki, Alberto Contador, Allan Davis, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, Jörg Jaksche, Luis León Sanchez, Marcos Serrano, and Angel Vicioso.

Other salient info: It's a fine day, 21 degrees celsius, with a 20 km/h tailwind blowing the riders to Blois. Each team has nine riders and that means it'll be a very quick stage. Let's get it on!

14:30 CEST   
Euskaltel-Euskadi has already left, as has Lampre - Caffita, and now Ag2r-Prevoyance is on its way.

14:32 CEST   
Ag2r is straight into its rhythm, all nine riders in a line. Not many teams will be using a "double paceline" today, we think, because the wind is directly behind the riders.

Massive crowds cheer the blue and white clad Ag2r riders out of Tours.

14:34 CEST   
A weather update: There are showers forecast for this afternoon, with winds from the west blowing into the Loire valley. So it is probably a good thing to start early.

Ag2r is now up to speed, but not going super quick yet.

14:35 CEST   
Saunier Duval-Prodir, the fourth team to go, is now under way, clad in their yellow and white kit and looking tres coordinated.

14:38 CEST   
Ag2r is now on the open roads, where there are fewer crowds. The whole team is working well, with most riders staying on the TT bars from just before they do their turn until they get onto the back.

14:40 CEST   
Cofidis is lining up now, with Tombak, O'Grady, Vasseur, Chavanel, White, Moncoutié, Augé, Bessy, and Marichal. They're off! Chavanel is wearing his French champion's tricolore skinsuit, as he is the TT champ of France.

O'Grady leads them out.

14:47 CEST   
Ag2r is spread out along the road, with a slight echelon from right to left. They are riding smoothly together, with all nine still present.

Davitamon-Lotto is on the start ramp now, ready to roll. Robbie McEwen is still a bit miffed at being disqualified from yesterday's sprint after putting his head into Stuart O'Grady in the final 100 metres.

He explained his side of the story to Cyclingnews' John Trevorrow: "I didn't say anything straight off the stage, unlike Stuey. I waited to view the footage. To me, Stuey came in on me to get Boonen's wheel and he hit me very hard. I don't think he knew it was me when it first happened. But then he kept pressing me away and the only thing I could do because of the angle I was on was to move my head. It was the only thing I had to push him away. I was actually trying to stay upright. He had his whole bodyweight against me. I had Wrolich on the other side.

"I think the commissaires have overreacted to how much my head moved but that was because of how much I was angled the other way. I don't think what Stuey did deserved for him to be disqualified and I know that I should not have been disqualified. They should have just let it stand. I have been disqualified before and when I know there's something to it, I just accept it and say oh well, c'est la vie. But this time I feel robbed."

14:51 CEST   
Euskaltel should be near the first time check at km 25 (Amboise) soon. There are three intermediate checks today: Amboise (km 25), Onzain (km 45.8), Entry to Blois (km 61.5), and then the finish in Blois at km 67.5.

Liquigas-Bianchi is on the ramp now, with big Magnus Bäckstedt leading them out. Garzelli, Pellizotti, and Cioni should be the main motors in this team.

Cofidis has got a very nice formation going on the open road now, with O'Grady on the front again.

14:53 CEST   
An update from our guest diarist Behind the Blue Curtain Chris Brewer, who is reporting on the movements on the Discovery Channel team.

"Lance Armstrong noted recently that he has not pre-ridden the TTT course but that assistant DS Dirk Demol has scouted the course thoroughly. Lance also said that he did not think he would have passed his chief rival Jan Ullrich in the Stage 1 TT were it not for Ullrich's pre-Tour crash into a team car the day prior.

"Today, Lance and the team drove the first 20km and rode the final 47. They'll then warm up on their Tacx trainers for one hour before their 3:55 start. The entire Discovery Channel team will run Shimano Dura Ace 44/55 chainrings and 11/21 rear cassettes.

"The order of riders for the Discovery Channel team will be the same as last year, of course with Savoldelli and Popovych in the mix: Lance Armstrong, Benjamin Noval, Manuel Beltran, Jose Azevedo, Yaroslav Popovych, Paolo Savoldelli, Chechu Rubiera, Pavel Padrnos, and George Hincapie."

14:55 CEST   
Bouygues Telecom is the 8th team to leave, with Didier Rous, Walter Bénéteau, Laurent Brochard, Pierrick Fédrigo, Anthony Geslin, Laurent Lefèvre, Jérôme Pineau, Matthieu Sprick, and Thomas Voeckler setting off from the ramp.

14:57 CEST   
Euskaltel has gone through time check 1 in a good time of 26'47, with Lampre-Caffita next in 27'04. That bodes well for Mayo and co.

15:00 CEST   
La Francaise des Jeux is setting off now, with Brad McGee leading them out. This is not usually one of the strongest teams in the TTT.

Ag2r is 47 seconds behind Euskaltel at the first time check.

15:01 CEST   
McGee nearly takes out one of his teammates on his way back, but they're all intact.

15:02 CEST   
A report from the CN car below us on the road: The wind isn't as strong as predicted, and actually coming from southwest, so it's more of a crosswind. But it's not too strong anyway. CSC will ride a double paceline today.

15:05 CEST   
Saunier Duval is through the 25 km check 53 seconds slower than leaders Euskaltel. Four teams have passed that point now. Impressive work from the Basque boys.

Domina Vacanze is setting off now, with Serguei Gonchar leading them out. He's a handy guy to have in a team time trial. Very powerful.

15:09 CEST   
An update on doping controls: The UCI has conducted blood tests of 45 riders from five teams earlier today. The squads involved were Cofidis, Illes Balears, Liquigas-Bianchi, Saunier Duval-Prodir and T-Mobile. No abnormalities were found and all riders were clear to contest the fourth stage of the 2005 Tour de France.

15:11 CEST   
Quick.Step took off now, the World Champion Michael Rogers leading out obviously, in aero position right away.

15:15 CEST   
Discovery is getting ready on their trainers, Lance Armstrong concentrating with his head down, as some hundred meters away Rabobank roll onto the start ramp. They, too, will be held at the back of their saddles by some nice-looking girls who have very probably been training for this event. It's not easy to balance out the riders standing still but they're doing fine. Off they go!

15:19 CEST   
The Rabos all look pretty sharp too, their result should be good. Ahead of them, Boonen is doing his turn in front of the Quick.Step train - and a long turn it is, too. Now he's dropping to the back again.

All teams are single-lined at the moment.

15:22 CEST   
Illes Balears is next on the ramp. Daniel Becke will be the leading force in this TTT for the Spanish team including Alejandro Valverde, of which we hope to see some interesting riding later on during the Tour.

AG2R has now passed the second time check after 50'47.

15:28 CEST   
Crédit Agricole have two national champs amongst them today, Thor Hushovd and Jaan Kirsipuu riding in their respective jersey. Traditionally, the squad is very strong in the TTT and we might se a very good time at the intermediate check.

Rabobank's Michael Boogerd is suffering already, but hanging on.

15:30 CEST   
Top5 at second check Onzain - km 45.8   1 Euskaltel - Euskadi 49.26 2 Lampre - Caffita 0.32 3 Cofidis Credit Par Telephone 0.37 4 Saunier Duval - Prodir 1.16 5 Ag2R Prevoyance 1.21

15:36 CEST   
Davitamon is getting there now too, and setting a new best time with Robbie McEwen: 48:41

The Orange team of the Basque country has arrived in Blois with six men, including Mayo of course. Well done. Their time: 1:14:38

15:40 CEST   
T-Mobile is getting prepared to leave. Stephan Schreck will be leading out his team, and we're are told that Jan Ullrich will ride a 55 x 46.

Liquigas are powering into Onzain, that should be enough for another new best time, Stefano Garzelli in second position.

And T-Mobile is on the ramp and adjusting their skinsuits. Ullrich looks focused, but he still has this bandage on the neck from his crash on Friday.

15:50 CEST   
An update from our reporters on the course: The last 20 kilometres are much harder as it's not only hilly but also the road surface is much rougher. The wind will not play an important part as that particular part of the parcours has a lot of trees to protect from it, but there is a little tailwind coming from right rear quarter. But this is definitely the spot where the race will be won - or lost.

15:53 CEST   
Phonak have departed, while Lance Armstrong is using those last minutes for some stretching. They'll be off soon too.

FDJ's Baden Cooke is sticking his tongue out. Man, this is hard!

15:55 CEST   
And Discovery is off! Will they be able to beat CSC? Will we see Lance Armstrong in Yellow again in about one hour and a half?

15:57 CEST   
Cofidis has arrived in Blois, with the last, fifth rider *just* hanging on to his teammates. They've lost the other four on the climbs...

16:01 CEST   
David Moncoutié is rolling over the line, as Cadel Evans is leading the complete Davitamon train into the finish.

CSC is on the ramp, DaveZ looking cool as always. And they've departed, with Bobby Julich in front and straight onto the aero bars.

16:03 CEST   
Discovery is out of town, but not on the TT clip on bars yet. There's a little false flat here, that's probably why. Armstrong is adjusting his helmet.

Liquigas in the finish: a new best of 1.13.05, which means an average speed of 55,42 km/h. And they're complete, too!

16:08 CEST   
That's a new record already! Gewiss-Ballan set the last one at 54.930 km/h in 1995. Liquigas has already beat that with 55.41 km/h...

16:11 CEST   
Bouygues is driving onto the finish line now too, and their team spirit probably helped keeping all nine of them together.

Illes Balears is powering to the Onzain time check! Not too bad, they've achieved second there so far with only two seconds off Liquigas!

16:16 CEST   
Armstrong is in first position of Discovery, still in the flat part of the parcours, and his team looks smooth. They're doing more than 60 km/h at the moment.

Gerolsteiner is riding with special handlebars today, as DS Christian Henn told us, "We tested the handlebars during training, when we reconnoitred the Tour de France TTT parcours. Two years ago, some of our riders had them already at the Tour. They're wider in the aero position, which makes steering easier. Clip-ons on the usual TT bars are very narrow. The disadvantage of this special set-up is that when there are many turns, it's harder to regain speed after the curve, because you lack the width of the usual TT handlebar. But when the course is pretty straight, the team tends to drive more steadily, and another advantage is that the brakes are right within reach - you don't have to change position to brake. You can ride wide curves flat out on in aero position and ride closer to the wheel in front of you, because you feel safer."

"Michael Rich especially is very much in favour of these bars. We hope for a good result at the Tour TTT - let's say top eight."

16:22 CEST   
Some intermediate times for the record:

Top 5 so far at 25 km:
1 Liberty Seguros - Würth Team 25.42
2 T-Mobile 0.09
3 Credit Agricole 0.27
4 Liquigas - Bianchi 0.31
5 Phonak 0.33

At 45 km:
1 Liberty Seguros - Würth Team 47.28
2 Credit Agricole 0.37
3 Liquigas - Bianchi 0.52
4 Illes Balears-Caisse D Epargne 0.58
5 Domina Vacanze 1.12

1 Liquigas - Bianchi 1.13.05
2 Davitamon - Lotto 0.07
3 Domina Vacanze 0.38
4 Bouygues Telecom 0.42
5 Euskaltel - Euskadi 1.33

16:25 CEST   
And T-Mobile and Discovery Channel have done exactly the same intermediate time at km 25, 9 secs off Liberty. Both team should get faster along the course though.

Quick.step is fourth fastest in 1'13'44 in the finish.

16:30 CEST   
T-Mobile is getting to the second check now, setting an new best with 47.15. And Guerini, Kessler and Klöden in front as it's now going up and down for the last 20 kms.

16:31 CEST   
Tobias Steinhauser (TMO) is dropped. Now, this is worse as being in the train!

The suffering is over for Rabobank, they're ranked third right now, 22 seconds off Liquigas.

16:34 CEST   
Liberty has lost one too: Marcos Serrano is alone on the climb now, while his teammates are still in a single pace line. The tarmac is wet on that stretch, but it's not raining now.

Illes Balears tops everything in the finish with 1.12.44 - not bad.

16:37 CEST   
Another Liberty rider is in trouble, but he has reconnected with his teammates... that definitely hurt! It was Contador.

16:37 CEST   
Another Liberty rider is in trouble, but he has reconnected with his teammates... that definitely hurt! It was Contador.

16:40 CEST   
1:12.20 at the finish for Crédit Agricole, that's almost 56 km/h. Today will blast all records, this is amazing!

Phonak, meanwhile, is not living up to its expectations, only 7th at the first intermediate time check.

16:42 CEST   
Liberty is on the last kilometre. Heras is in front, then Galdeano. They're hammering away, knowing it's going to be a new best, screaming in pain: 1.11.32, that's 56.6 km/h!

16:42 CEST   
Liberty is on the last kilometre. Heras is in front, then Galdeano. They're hammering away, knowing it's going to be a new best, screaming in pain: 1.11.32, that's 56.6 km/h!

16:46 CEST   
Disco has one tiny second over T-Mobile at km 45. Interesting! CSC hasn't come through that point yet... waiting. Armstrong is having a drink in last position.

16:49 CEST   
Julich is making way for Zabriskie as CSC rolls over the second time check. They're the fastest here with 47'08!

Fassa just finished the race fourth-placed in 1'12'58.

16:52 CEST   
Bert Grabsch has lost his Phonak teammates on the road. The Swiss team wanted to do better, while T-Mobile is getting in the finish with six men, including Ullrich and Vinokourov of course. Their facial expressions say it all, they've given everything and made it to the top right now: new best with 1.11.15. Great ride!

16:56 CEST   
Benjamin Noval is taking over for Armstrong now as Discovery is rotating, while Phonak has lost another rider: Alexandre Moos. Robert Förster (GST) has also lost contact.

CSC is 15 km away from the finish, looking good.

16:58 CEST   
Spectators are cheering along the roadside. Fortunately, the weather is steady too: no sun, but no rain neither.

Gerolsteiner powers with seven men on the finish straight: 1.12.44 for the current fifth place.

17:00 CEST   
Sastre and Sörensen are at the back of CSC, the team's still complete at this point, hitting that last major climb before the end. As we write, Lombardi lets go. He's finished, as the pace is incredible.

17:02 CEST   
Phonak should come in for third in Blois. They're passing the "flamme rouge" now with six riders, Landis hammering in front, arms squeezed to his chest.

17:04 CEST   
6 km before the finish, Discovery is 24 seconds ahead of T-Mobile, placing first right now!

17:04 CEST   
6 km before the finish, Discovery is 24 seconds ahead of T-Mobile, placing first right now!

17:06 CEST   
It's between Discovery and CSC now, as predicted. With 1.10.40, that's 34 seconds faster then the German team, Discovery rode 57.31 km/h!!

And CSC just passed the 6 km mark with 2 seconds ahead of Discovery!

17:09 CEST   
Luke Roberts is suffering on the back, while CSC passes the 2 km mark. They're still circling fine, but Zabriskie crashed! Against a barrier in a curve, but he's back on the bike now....

17:10 CEST   
But the team is not waiting, going for the stage win still. What a sacrifice!!

17:11 CEST   
They have thirty seconds still, and hammering... but it doesn't last - CSC loses two seconds to Discovery...

17:13 CEST   
Zabriskie rolls over the line now, his right leg hanging down. He suffered a few scratches but looks OK. But he's lost the jersey, and CSC has not won the stage either. That's bitter!

17:19 CEST   
The time difference is exactly 1.79 seconds. Probably exactly the time it took the team to overcome that last shock of Zabriskie falling. That couldn't have been more dramatic.

But let's get our heart rate down again and wait for their reactions. We hope you will tune in again tomorrow and look forward to serving you with what will be happening at the Tour de France stage five from Chambord to Montargis. Until then, bonsoir!


Intermediate timing

Amboise - km 25 (all teams through)
1 Team CSC                                  25.36
2 Liberty Seguros - Würth Team               0.06
3 Discovery Channel Team                     0.15
3 T-Mobile Team                                  
5 Credit Agricole                            0.33
6 Liquigas - Bianchi                         0.37
7 Phonak Hearing Systems                     0.39
8 Illes Balears-Caisse D'Epargne             0.51
9 Domina Vacanze                             0.55
10 Fassa Bortolo                             0.56
11 Gerolsteiner                              0.58
12 Davitamon - Lotto                         1.00
13 Rabobank                                  1.09
14 Euskaltel - Euskadi                       1.11
15 Bouygues Telecom                          1.13
16 Quick Step - Innergetic                   1.23
17 Lampre - Caffita                          1.28
18 Cofidis Credit Par Telephone              1.35
19 Francaise Des Jeux                        1.52
20 Ag2R Prevoyance                           1.58
21 Saunier Duval - Prodir                    2.04
Onzain - km 45.8 (all teams through)
1 Team CSC                                  47.08
2 Discovery Channel Team                     0.06
3 T-Mobile Team                              0.07
3 Liberty Seguros - Würth Team               0.20
5 Phonak Hearing Systems                     0.49
6 Credit Agricole                            0.57
7 Liquigas - Bianchi                         1.12
8 Gerolsteiner                               1.18
9 Illes Balears-Caisse D'Epargne                 
10 Fassa Bortolo                             1.23
11 Domina Vacanze                            1.32
12 Davitamon - Lotto                         1.33
13 Rabobank                                  1.46
14 Bouygues Telecom                          2.02
15 Quick Step - Innergetic                   2.08
16 Euskaltel - Euskadi                       2.18
17 Lampre - Caffita                          2.50
18 Cofidis Credit Par Telephone              2.56
19 Francaise Des Jeux                        3.23
20 Saunier Duval - Prodir                    3.34
21 Ag2R Prevoyance                           3.39
Entry to Blois - km 61.5 (all teams through)
1 Team CSC                                1.05.10
2 Discovery Channel Team                     0.02
3 T-Mobile Team                              0.26
4 Liberty Seguros - Würth Team               0.46
5 Phonak Hearing Systems                     1.15
6 Credit Agricole                            1.32
7 Illes Balears-Caisse D'Epargne             1.49
8 Gerolsteiner                               1.54
9 Liquigas - Bianchi                         2.03
10 Fassa Bortolo                             2.07
11 Davitamon - Lotto                         2.18
12 Rabobank                                  2.30
13 Domina Vacanze                            2.43
14 Bouygues Telecom                          2.54
15 Quick Step - Innergetic                   2.56
16 Euskaltel - Euskadi                       3.31
17 Lampre - Caffita                          3.55
18 Cofidis Credit Par Telephone              4.09
19 Francaise Des Jeux                        4.30
20 Saunier Duval - Prodir                    4.40
21 Ag2R Prevoyance                           5.05
Finish - km 67.5 (all teams through)
1 Discovery Channel Team                  1.10.39
2 Team CSC                                   0.02
3 T-Mobile Team                              0.36
4 Liberty Seguros - Würth Team               0.53
5 Phonak Hearing Systems                     1.31
6 Credit Agricole                            1.41
7 Gerolsteiner                               2.05
8 Illes Balears-Caisse D'Epargne                 
9 Fassa Bortolo                              2.19
10 Liquigas - Bianchi                        2.26
11 Davitamon - Lotto                         2.32
12 Rabobank                                  2.48
13 Domina Vacanze                            3.04
14 Quick Step - Innergetic                   3.05
15 Bouygues Telecom                          3.08
16 Euskaltel - Euskadi                       3.59
17 Lampre - Caffita                          4.09
18 Cofidis Credit Par Telephone              4.28
19 Francaise Des Jeux                        4.46
20 Saunier Duval - Prodir                    5.06
21 Ag2R Prevoyance                           5.23

General classification after stage 4

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel  9.59.12
2 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel     0.55
3 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC                   1.04
4 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC                 1.07
5 Jose Luis Rubiera (Spa) Discovery Channel   1.14
6 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel   1.16
7 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team    1.21
8 Benjamin Noval (Spa) Discovery Channel      1.26
9 David Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC              
10 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                         

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