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95th Tour de France

Stage 4 - Cholet to Cholet - 29.5 km (18.5 mi)

(Individual Time Trial)

08 July 2008



Route Map - Stage 4 (Time Trial)

Elevation Map - Stage 4 (Time Trial) 




There is no purer test of a cyclist's true form than the race against the clock. In contrast to the road stages, where the peloton can offer a windbreak or a wheel to draft for a rider who is feeling less than a hundred percent, the time trial The world champion could only muster fifth...affords no means of hiding one's weakness. If a cyclist is under duress, he can quickly find himself plummeting down the general classification... conversely, a strong rider in the time trials can easily regain time lost from crashes or weakness in the mountains...


Today's time trial comes early for the Tour de France -- early enough to have a profound effect on the general classification. While specialists of the discipline such as David Millar and Fabian Cancellara came into the race heavily favored to wrest the yellow jersey from overnight leader Romain Feillu of Agritubel, it was lightly-regarded yet wholly dangerous Stefan Schumacher of Gerolsteiner who impressively dominated the field to take both the stage win AND the yellow jersey.


The time trial course ran in a triangular pattern out from and back into Cholet, a town of 56,000 just east of yesterday's stage finish in Nantes. Relatively flat, the course allowed for riders to stay in their biggest chainring all day and churn through the countryside on a relatively-short course. There were few surprises for riders -- just head west out of town, loop north for a while before turning back eastward toward Cholet for the finish. The weather remained gloomy but held firm, the roads remaining dry for the competitors out on the course. The Atlantic winds still remained ever-present -- the riders were confronted with a headwind on the first leg of the course, a crosswind on the second short section and a tailwind on the final leg back into town.


The time trial began, as it always does in stage races, with the bottom of the general classification starting first, the big guns competing for the yellow jersey going last. Wim Vansevenant of Silence-Lotto, the two-time "defending" lanterne rouge (last-placed rider at the Tour... literally meaning "red lantern", the name comes from the red lanterns which used to hang on the cabooses of trains), rolled down the starting gate and stage four was officially underway.

 ... while shorter stage race threat Schumacher took top honors & the yellow...

Garmin-Chipotle started playing an early role in the race just as yesterday. The early fastest time on course came from Danny Pate, an American with the squad racing in his first Tour de France. He went around the course in 36:54, posting an average speed of 48.0 km/h (29.8 mph). Pate, getting his first experience of European stage racing after four years in the domestic peloton, came seemingly out of nowhere to surprise all the pundits. But he shouldn't have -- after all, Pate, back in 2001, was the gold medalist and rainbow jersey winner in the UCI Under-23 World Time-Trial Championships.


But his lead would not hold forever throughout the day. As the winds began to dissipate from their highest sustained point of 25 km/h (15.5 mph), riders were able to work more efficiently without fighting against the current, and the times began to fall. Pate held on to the lead for over an hour, until Sylvain Chavanel of Cofidis -- already so much an animator of this Tour -- bested the American's time by a single second.


Once Chavanel opened the floodgates, the times continued to drop. Twenty-five minutes after the Frenchman set the mark, Team CSC's Jens Voigt shatterd the mark, posting a 36:19 to take the lead by over a half-minute. The German's benchmark lasted for only ten more minutes, until general-classification contender Denis Menchov of Rabobank pipped Voigt's time by a second and a half. Menchov would sit in the hot seat for another thirty-five minutes, until Voigt's teammate Fabian Cancellara came through a second faster. Cancellara, the world time-trial champion, looked to be flying out on course...


... but would his time last? Several -- including Christian Vande Velde, the American who wore the maglia rosa (the equivalent of the yellow jersey) at this year's Giro d'Italia -- challenged the mark but could not best the Swiss rider, who was looking to take the yellow jersey again after winning it last year in the London prologue and holding it for the first week. Cancellara was indeed looking like a formidable opponent.


In cycling circles, some people will argue that Cancellara could be a Tour contender in the future; with his time-trialing skills he could follow the path of past greats like Jacques Anquetil to exploit that discipline for Tour victory. Detractors argue that his build is better suited for the one-day classics such as Paris-Roubaix, which Cancellara did indeed win in 2006. However, no less an expert than Bernard Hinault is confident that Cancellara could do some damage now. "The day he goes to the front and puts on the pressure in the mountains," five-time Tour winner Hinault writes in the official Tour de France guide, "he could do some major damage. Some say he's too heavy for the mountains. You must be joking. [Fellow five-time winners Eddy] Merckx and [Miguel] Indurain weren't lightweights, either, and you saw what they accomplished."


Cancellara, however, would not even end up even claiming this day's yellow jersey, in the end. Stefan Schumacher came in a half-hour after Cancellara finished, blazing through the course in 35:44 -- a full half-minute less than the world champion. Ultimately Cancellara would finish fifth. Schumacher's time looked like it might be threatened by former world time-trial champion David Millar (Garmin-Chipotle) and later Kim Kirchen (Columbia), though ultimately only the Gerolsteiner rider would finish in under thirty-six minutes. For Kirchen, the second-place finish gave him twelve points in the green jersey competition; as the only rider in the top ten of the points competition to gain any points from the time trial, Kirchen could easily dominate the green jersey all the way to Paris. Now we must wonder if Schumacher can do the same with the yellow...


"I will give all to defend the jersey," Schumacher told the press after the awards ceremony in Cholet. "When I was up there on the podium to receive the maillot jaune, my hair was standing on end. I felt good on the bike today and because the distance wasn’t so long, I was able to maintain a good rhythm throughout the course. Tomorrow is a stage for the sprinters, so I will try to defend the jersey at Super-Besse. I’m not climber, but that climb to Super-Besse is one that suits my characteristics."



Results - Stage 4



  1. Stefan Schumacher (GER) Gerolsteiner -- 35.44 (49.534 km/h)
  2. Kim Kirchen (LUX) Columbia -- +0.18
  3. David Millar (GBR) Garmin-Chipotle
  4. Cadel Evans (AUS) Silence-Lotto -- +0.27
  5. Fabian Cancellara (SWI) Team CSC -- +0.33
  6. Denis Menchov (RUS) Rabobank -- +0.34
  7. Jens Voigt (GER) Team CSC -- +0.35
  8. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle -- +0.37
  9. George Hincapie (USA) Columbia -- +0.41
  10. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) Liquigas -- +0.47


  1. Stefan Schumacher (GER) Gerolsteiner -- 14.04.41
  2. Kim Kirchen (LUX) Columbia -- +0.12
  3. David Millar (GBR) Garmin-Chipotle 
  4. Cadel Evans (AUS) Silence-Lotto -- +0.21
  5. Fabian Cancellara (SWI) Team CSC -- +0.33
  6. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle -- +0.37
  7. George Hincapie (USA) Columbia -- +0.41
  8. Thomas Lovkvist (SWE) Columbia -- +0.47
  9. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) Liquigas -- +0.58
  10. Jose Ivan Gutierrez (ESP) Caisse d'Epargne -- +1.01


  1. Kim Kirchen (LUX) Columbia -- 81 pts
  2. Thor Hushovd (NOR) Credit Agricole -- 64
  3. Oscar Freire (ESP) Rabobank -- 55
  4. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Caisse d'Epargne -- 49
  5. Erik Zabel (GER) Milram -- 46
  6. Samuel Dumoulin (FRA) Cofidis -- 43
  7. Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld -- 40
  8. Jerome Pineau (FRA) Bouygues Telecom -- 39
  9. William Frischkorn (USA) Garmin-Chipotle -- 38
  10. Romain Feillu (FRA) Agritubel -- 36

  1. Thomas Voeckler (FRA) Bouygues Telecom -- 19 pts
  2. Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) Cofidis -- 11
  3. Bjorn Schroder (GER) Milram -- 9
  4. David De La Fuente (ESP) Saunier Duval -- 4
  5. Lilian Jegou (FRA) Francaise des Jeux -- 3
  6. Christophe Moreau (FRA) Agritubel -- 3
  7. Geoffroy Lequatre (FRA) Agritubel -- 1
  8. David Le Lay (FRA) Agritubel -- 1
  9. David Arroyo (ESP) Caisse d'Epargne -- 1


  1. Thomas Lovkvist (SWE) Columbia -- 14.05.28
  2. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA Liquigas -- +0.11
  3. Maxime Monfort (BEL) Cofidis -- +0.37
  4. Andy Schleck (LUX) Team CSC -- +0.42
  5. Roman Kreuziger (CZE) Liquigas -- +1.42
  6. Iouri Trofimov (RUS) Bouygues Telecom -- +2.20
  7. Romain Feillu (FRA) Agritubel 
  8. Riccardo Ricco (ITA) Saunier Duval -- +3.21
  9. John-Lee Augustyn (RSA) Barloworld -- +3.51
  10. Niki Terpstra (NED) Milram -- +3.53


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