95th Tour de France - GT
France, July 5-27, 2008
Results & report
Stage 4 - Tuesday, July 8: Cholet - Cholet (ITT), 29.5km
Complete live report
The first time trial of this year's Tour comes earlier than usual, perhaps
because of the absence of a prologue. The stage is also just over half the distance
as usual, being just 29-kilometre in length. The stage route, as well as being
short, is very flat so – weather permitting – speeds should be high. The stage
should appeal to the specialists, but gaps should be small so none of the favourites
for the overall classification will be able to take too much time out of their
The Tour has visited Cholet just twice before, the last time
when Dutchman Jeroen Bliijlevens (TVM) out-sprinted Italian Nicola Minali (Riso
Scotti) and Ján Svorada (Mapei-Bricobi). By picking up time bonuses throughout
the stage, Australian Stuart O'Grady (then GAN, now CSC) took the first maillot
jaune of his career. The town sits on the banks of the Moine river and is most
famous for the production of linen fabrics.
Welcome back to Le Tour stage four,
the first individual time trial of the race. Today will have the overall favourites
come out of their hiding spots in the bunch and show their current form. With
only 29.5km to cover, however, time gaps won't be huge, but the race against
the clock will definitely give us an indication of who's hot... and who might
The first rider on the course this
morning was Wim Vansevenant (Silence-Lotto). As last rider on GC, he had the
honour to inaugurate the parcours at 11.02am.
Good news for all the
Colombians out there: Barloworld's Mauricio Soler has decided to give it another
shot, despite the fact that he got some more x-rays last night which revealed
a fracture of one small bone in his right hand. He will thus continue the race
and hopefully feel better once we arrive in the mountains.
Race conditions are currently overcast.
There is a breeze blowing from the south west at about 25 km/h and the temperature
is around 20 degrees Celsius. A few drops of rain keep falling now and again,
but the roads are still essentially dry, as the sun also comes out of the clouds
every now and then.
At the moment, just over 60 riders have already
started or finished the time trial. The best time is currently clocked by Stef
Clément (Bouygues Telecom), who with 37'18 is eight seconds faster than Christophe
There are two intermediate time checks
on the course. The first is at Saint-Andre de la Marche (at the 11km mark),
the second is at Les Vignes (19.5km).
The wind will be playing a
major role on the stage today. On the first part of the time trial, it's a headwind.
But with about 10 kilometres to go, the course changes direction back to Cholet,
and the wind becomes a tailwind. This will have a major impact on the speeds
of the riders, who will choose their gears carefully.
Magnus Backstedt (Garmin) is currently
ranked fifth with a time of 37'39.
Magnus Backstedt is already done for
the day, currently ranked fifth
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
Today is the 52nd birthday of the
manager of Bouygues Telecom, Jean-Rene Bernaudeau. The Frenchman was the winner
of the youth classification in the 1979 Tour de France. His son, Giovanni, is
part of his team’s roster but is not competing in the Tour.
Tiralongo of the Lampre team is also celebrating today, he is 31.
Fabian Wegmann is on his way. He
likes to wear his German Champ jersey (now for the second year running) so his
girlfriend can recognise him better on TV. In time trials that is not necessary,
which is why he didn't become champion in that discipline. He wears his regular
Gerolsteiner outfit. The other time he is not visible in his distinct white
jersey is when he the weather is bad and it is rain coat time. We don't know
if he protects himself from the rain or the white jersey from becoming dirty.
The German time trial champion is
Bert Grabsch, but the Columbia rider is not in the Tour this year. His brother
Ralf, riding for Milram, started at 12:58. We expect him at the finish in a
Jonathan Vaughters, the DS for Garmin
Chipotle - H30, has two hot irons in the fire: David Millar and Christian Vande
Velde. Or are there even others? Vaughters told Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes
that "[Today] is a big day for us, for sure. I think it has yet to be determined...
we are a new team, we have got five riders who have never ridden the Tour before.
I don't know what will happen - heck, Danny Pate could end up going faster than
David tomorrow. We don't know."
And as we say this, Danny Pate sets
a new best time! He clocks in with a 36'54!
Pate was not in the top five at check
one, but two seconds faster than Bertogliati at the second check and smashed
Clement's time by 24 seconds!
Vaughters also said, "Of course,
we came into the race with the thought that if David could get a little bit
of time on Cancellara, which he has, that we could go into the time trial with
the possibility of getting the yellow jersey. And even if he didn't get it tomorrow,
you have the stage six hilltop finish to Super Besse. In my opinion, and we
will have to see how David is climbing on the day because he is a little bit
inconsistent in his climbing, but on his day he will be able to stay in the
first group there, the first 15 or 20 guys, whereas I don't think Cancellara
So I think he has got two shots at the jersey, one is in
the time trial and the other is at Super Besse. And Christian, the same thing
- I think he has got two shots, one in the time trial, and maybe even a better
shot on Super Besse.
Vande Velde will start at 16:08,
Millar at 16:42. Both are likely to be a bit nervous now, which is perfectly
normal a few hours before a race. And it is not necessarily bad, as it brings
the riders into the right state of mind - be focused on the task at hand. On
the other hand, you don't want to be so nervous that your wobbly, shaking legs
can't push the pedals. But both are experienced riders and know how to handle
the stress. Three more hours to wait for them!
Stef Clement is a good time trialer
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
Pate is currently 24 seconds ahead
of Clement. Clement is a very good time trial, so Pate has a good chance of
staying close to the top. Clement finished
third in last year's World Championships in Salzburg, behind Fabian Cancellara.
The Swiss is a favourite for today. The organisers will let him loose at 15:50.
Romain Feillu, who wears the yellow
jersey since last night (as he possibly slept with it, speculated L'Equipe),
will be taking on the course last, at 4.56pm. He hopes to be able to defend
his overall lead against the likes of Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne),
1'45 minutes back, and David Millar (Garmin), Cadel Evans (Silence), who are
both 1'46 minutes adrift. George Hincapie (Columbia) is 1'52 behind. Ans so
is time trial world champ Fabian Cancellara (CSC) - the young Frenchman will
have a tough time against the Swiss, that's for sure.
We just hit our calculators and found
out that Pate's average speed was 48 km/h! We wonder what a powerhouse like
Cancellara will be able to do today.
Columbia's Mark Cavendish is
next on the start ramp. The Manxman missed out on a bunch sprint finish yesterday...
too bad the windy weather, the determined break and the speculating peloton
ruined Cav's chances. Then again, it was good to see that - very rarely - breakaways
even on pancake-flat courses can actually go through.
At the moment, the roads are dry
and the sun has gotten the better of the clouds. Many spectators line the course
amidst the French wheat fields and cheer the riders on.
Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) has
just rolled out. The Frenchman wore the yellow jersey two years ago, but was
taken down by toxoplasmosis last year. He hopes for another moment of glory
on the Tour now that he's healthy again. Dessel won a stage in the Volta a Catalunya
and in the Dauphiné Libéré recently.
Samuel Dumoulin, who won the stage
yesterday, just came in in 76th place. He's not a rouleur in the first place,
and after those efforts in the break yesterday, we didn't expect him to achieve
any miracles today. In any case, he's already achieved what he came here for...
Polkadot jersey Thomas Voeckler comes
into the finish after 36'37 minutes, 28th at the moment, while Mark Cavendish
gets to the second intermediate time check: 27'40 minutes.
Robert Förster (Gerolsteiner) just
took on the race against the clock, as French TT champ Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis)
gets himself in racing mode on the ramp. It's always impressive to see the riders
concentrate before taking the start. Behind the start ramp, in a fenced-in stretch
of road, they ride in circles as if in a cage, waiting to be let loose. As a
journalist, even if you have access to that area, they seldom want to speak
at that moment.
Dessel digs in deep on a climb, shoulders
and head swaying to the sides with every pedalstroke. Campervans are parked
along the road and the crowd is huge.
Stuart O'Grady is now underway,
The sky is getting darker again.
Let's hope the riders and the road stay dry. There are not many corners to tackle
on the course - where you'd have to brake - but they could still prove fatal
to some. In any case, if it starts raining, it would have an impact on the riders'
Stijn Devolder is currently warming
up. He has been sick the last few days and had a slight fever. His DS Dirk Demol
told Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé that "Stijn did a good job to
control the damage in the last few days." He will continue to try limit his
losses for now and hope he can recover before the mountains.
McEwen has just hit the road.
Chavanel lost only 6 seconds to Bertogliati
at the first intermediate time check. If he maintains this rhythm, he could
ha a shot at the next best time.
Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner) is off.
He sprints out of the saddle for a 200 metres, then adjusts his gear and gets
into aero position on his TT handlebars.
The weather looks stable for now.
We can't promise anything, though. The wind is still blowing from the front
on the first part of the parcours, while it's a tailwind for the return to Cholet.
Incoming riders all agree that it's hillier than they thought, especially on
the first part. The final 10 kilometres are straighter, and with the tailwind,
Jens Voigt(CSC) takes a few deep breaths before being
sent off on the course.
French TT champ Chavanel clocks a
new best time at the second check: 25'39. Still, for the moment, Danny Pate
remains atop the leader's board. He is sort of a 'domestique' for David Millar
today, trying to give info for the course.
Brown talked to Pate after his stellar ride. The US American said that "I was
working with David since the Giro. We went to a training camp in St. Moritz
[in altitude]. Afterwards, we went to another training camp northwest of Gerona.
David is very focused. He is a bit nervous [as Cyclingnews suspected]
but he is handling it well. My aim today was to help out David. It is better
to have a time trialer than a climber to help David and Christian [Vande Velde].
It'd be good if I could get a top five."
But this wasn't the main
objective. "David can get yellow if he can get a few seconds on Cancellara."
A yellow jersey would be great for the Garmin team in its first Tour de France.
A few drops are coming down now.
O'Grady comes through the second time check after 27'40 minutes.
Denis Menchov (Rabobank) has left the starting block. He lost almost 40 seconds
on the other overall contenders yesterday - precious time that will be hard
to get back.
The roads keep dry, though, it's
just a few drops.
Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott) will be
the next rider to start. Either you love or you hate him... The Italian has
his own style and will do anything for a good controversy.
comes into the finish... 36.52! Two seconds faster than Pate!
But Jens Voigt is also having a good
day today, clocking 14'09 at the first time check!! 27 seconds faster than Chavanel
at this point. The German from Berlin could well be out for another best time...
Australian Simon Gerrans (Crédit Agricole) is now getting ready on the ramp.
Voigt now passes Julian Dean (Garmin),
a fierce, masochistic grin on his face. The German's absolutely flying!
Just to answer a reader's question:
It was Sylvain Chavanel, the French TT champion, who posted the best time. His
brother Sébastien, who rides for FdJ, posted a 40'21.
Riccardo Riccò, who started a few
minutes ago, was spotted by Cyclingnews earlier as he was preparing his
muscles to race. Saunier Duval-Scott is the only team that has not a team bus
but a monster truck. It allows the riders to warm up on a platform atop the
bus, some two metres above the ground. It also allows the riders to warm up
without getting disturbed by the public or sharing their pre-race thoughts with
the media - hence we cannot tell you how the young Italian feels.
Voigt now has more than 30 seconds
on Chavanel. Will he be able to hold his speed until the finish? He started
strongly, and could pay for his efforts in the end. Then again, we know how
well he can handle the pain.
Now, the race is really starting
to get interesting. Menchov comes into the second time check: 25'11, second
Voigt finishes his ride... In pain,
and stomping. But his efforts pay off: 36'19!! We have a new man on the "hot
30k is a good distance for Voigt, but
can he hold on against the TT favourites?
Photo ©: AFP
Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) is
also out on the course. His pedaling looks very smooth compared to Voigt. But
is it as effective? It's amazing how his upper body is completely stiff. Not
moving at all - he looks like a machine.
World Champ Fabian Cancellara (CSC)
is riding up and down behind the start ramp now. Damiano Cunego (Lampre) just
started before him. By many, the Swiss is expected to win here...
And Menchov sets another best time,
as Cancellara takes on the race. The Rabobank rider clocked 36'18, one tiny
second faster than Voigt!
Cunego's position is far from being
aerodynamic. His shoulders remain quite high compared to other riders, whose
handlebars are extremely low. In this position, even if his power output is
good, he will be held back by the wind.
Young Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas)
is doing well: 25'25 at the first intermediate time check. The Italian is rated
as a huge talent.
Ricco gets into the finish and sprints... but he
is three minutes back on Menchov already. He will lose a lot of time against
the favourites today. But then again, does he care? The Italian said he came
to the Tour for a stage win, not for the overall classification.
Lang now shows the first signs of
exhaustion. Shoulders still completely blocked. He's 40 seconds back on Menchov,
though, so his time trial style might look perfect, but in fact it's not.
Cancellara's hips follow the movement of his pedaling - he comes through the
first check: 14'11. Two seconds slower than Voigt! The Swiss has his back number
- 13 - pinned upside down on his jersey for better luck...
José Ivan Gutierrez comes into the
finish, after almost touching wheels with Simon Gerrans as he passed him on
the finishing straight. The Australian hadn't heard him coming and moved towards
the barriers. The Caisse d'Epargne rider clocks 36'43.
comes in third in Cholet (36'31) - that's a very impressive performance.
Cancellara is powering up a climb
in front of a huge crowd. He's reached a plateau now and gets out of the saddle,
again. Let's see if he can improve his rhythm towards the finish - Menchov and
Voigt are still to be beaten.
But 'Spartacus' clocks only 25'12
at the second time check, third behind Voigt and Menchov at that point! What
a surprise... Still, we can imagine that the Swiss will strike back on the last
ten kilometres, when the wind and the profile is more favourable. We heard that
he has put on a 54 chain ring, which would have made it more difficult for him
on the first part of the parcours, with the headwind.
Cancellara is now on his way back
to Cholet, while George Hincapie (Columbia) takes off.
to go for Cance.
World time trial champion Lars Boom talked to Cyclingnews' Brecht
Decaluwé before the start. Boom is not riding in this year's Tour, but
was visiting to see what the riders are doing in his 'specialty.' Well, we are
not sure what his specialty is, since has also won the cyclo-cross World Championships
in the past...
Cunego finally doesn't lose that
much time at all: 37'10...
While 'Spartacus' comes in, too, and sets
a new best: 36'17!! But only one tiny second faster than Menchov. Cancellara
was not his usual self today, he lacked that supremacy that made him TT World
Champ twice. The course, finally, is not as easy as thought, and the wind makes
it even harder to tackle.
A quick note from another race: Ina-Yoko
Teutenberg of Team Columbia continues to dominate the Giro Donne. She won her
third stage in a row today!!! Teutenberg bested Monica Holler in the stage from
S. M. Maddalena Occhiobello to Altedo Malalbergo. She still leads the GC, 17
seconds ahead of Kirsten Wild.
And Stefan Schumacher, usually not
a TT specialist at all, now leads the intermediate ranking at km 19.5 with 24'42
minutes! Can you believe it. But will the German be able to hold his pace until
Cadel Evans is off! Next up is David
The sun is out - stay tuned for the finale! The race is not
over yet, with Cancellara, Menchov and Voigt so close together, and several
favourites still coming up.
An important information has just
reached us. Apparently, it is less windy in Cholet now, and temperatures have
gone up. This may partly be why Schumacher is going as well as he is, compared
to other specialists before him.
Schumi is coming in. He's pushing
a big gear. 35'44 - 33 seconds faster than Cancellara!! What a race!
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
now rolls down the start ramp. He will be trying to limit his losses against
Cadel Evans, hoping that he can make up the time again in the mountains.
We're still baffled by Schumacher's performance, and eager to find out what
he and Cancellara will have to say after the stage is over.
Millar is bent down impressively
on his bike, the chin lower than his saddle. He looks good, in the rhythm for
now, better than Cancellara on the first part of the course.
Evans came in 8th, 22 seconds slower
than Schumacher at the first time check.
Yellow jersey Romain Feillu
powers out of the start block, the French jubilating. All the riders have finished
or are on the course now. In 35 minutes, we will know the winner.
Millar still looks really effective.
Let's hope he can get a good result here today. He's 13 seconds back on Schumacher
at the first time check, currently in second position.
Feillu will be riding the time trial
of his life, surely. "The yellow jersey gives you wings", people say in France,
so we shouldn't underestimate his chances of actually preserving it. He's pushing
a big gear out of Cholet, on the climbing part of the course. He's suffering,
Feillu has an advantage of 1'45 minutes
on Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne). David Millar (Garmin) and Cadel Evans
(Silence) are both 1'46 minutes adrift.
Evans clocks 25'06 at the second
check. Millar comes in at 24'57... The Scot is only 15 seconds away from Schumacher,
and definitely on a very good day today!
Millar is speeding with a very high
George Hincapie (Columbia) finished after 36'26
minutes. Not a bad result at all. He is currently ranked sixth on the stage.
Three kilometres to go for Millar.
Evans is on the last 1000 metres.
Evans bites his teeth... second behind
Schumacher at 36'11!
And Millar beats Evans by a few seconds,
still: 36'02! That's an excellent result for the Garmin rider!
Ohhh... Feillu in trouble on that
climb. His gear is too big. He's glued to the tarmac. Poor him.
At the moment, German Stefan Schumacher
has won the stage and will take the yellow jersey, too.
Kim Kirchen comes in - a brilliant
performance by the Luxemburger. He clocks the same time as Millar.
Valverde finishes after 37'18 minutes. He lost 1'07 on Evans - not too bad!
Feillu is sprinting, doing all he
can. But it'll be in vain against such a strong performance that Schumacher
- and some others - put on today. He passes under the 5km to go-banner.
Will Frischkorn has arrived: 39'45.
Schumacher's average speed was 49.534
km/h. Not as fast as we could have expected in this rather short time trial.
Was it just the parcours, and the wind, or may we hope that the peloton is really
riding cleaner than in previous years?
Paolo Longo comes in, clocking
40'16. This is our provisional Top 3:
after stage 4
1 Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner)
Kim Kirchen (Columbia) 0.12
3 David Millar (Garmin Chipotle - H30)
A Frenchman lost the lead, a German
gets it - and the Swiss time trial favourite did not live up to his expectations.
What do we conclude? That this Tour de France is full of surprises, and definitely
Menchov and Valverde limited their losses on Tour favourite
Evans. Cunego is 1'05 back. Ricco lost out on GC.
Thanks for following the first Tour
de France time trial on with us. We'll be back again tomorrow with stage 5 from
Cholet to Chateauroux, the longest stage in 2008. Anther sprinter's stage, if
the bunch can control the breakaways. Until then, au revoir!
Back to top