The French champion was caught in the final 50 meters an swallowed up by the sprinters. The top five in the longest stage of the 2008 Tour de France is:
1. Mark Cavendish (GBR) THR
2. Oscar Freire (ESP) RAB
3. Erik Zabel (GER) MRM
4. Thor Hushovd (NOR) C.A
5. Baden Cooke (AUS) BAR
He promised that he could and now he has: Mark Cavendish has beaten Zabel and Freire to the finish of stage five.
Vogondy’s last minute effort was valiant but became void when Mark Cavendish burst into the lead in the last 200m.
Vogondy is holding off the peloton in the final kilometer...
With 1km to go, Vogondy is trying his luck. He has attacked his escape companions but the peloton is breathing down his neck.
Vogondy, Brard and Jegou have been able to stay ahead of the peloton. With 2km to go they are 8" ahead. It looks like it’ll be a capture in the final 1,000m.
With 3km to go the peloton is 10" behind. Columbia had been in control but now there are some Milram riders also putting themselves near the head of the peloton.
With 3km to go, the leading trio has a lead of 15". The rider voted most aggressive in the stage is Nicolas Vogondy of the Agritubel team.
Haussler has crashed on the right turn just after the 4km to go banner. He is still lying down and doesn’t appear to be in a good way.
With 5km to go, the Columbia team is now in charge of the peloton. It is 20" behind Vogondy, Brard and Jegou.
Saunier Duval’s Passeron has just slammed into a spectator on the left side of the road. The rider is back up and about to remount his bike but the spectator appears to be hurt.
The Liquigas team is now in charge of the peloton which is 30" behind Vogondy, Brard and Jegou.
The peloton is 35" behind as it passes under the 10km to go banner.
Sylvain Chavanel recently came to the front of the peloton and appeared to attempt to ease the pace of the chase as his team-mate Brard is in the escape. Simon Gerrans of the Credit Agricole team was having none of it, a gentle push to get him off the front of the pack was a gesture that suggested, ’Yeah, I know what you’re doing but get out of the way Sylvain...’
Vogondy, Brard and Jegou have continued to cooperate since joining forces at the front of the stage at the 11km mark. They have not attacked each other at all. They are now just 35" ahead of the peloton with 12km to go.
The candidates for the win should it come to a sprint finish are a fairly obvious selection. Here’s a quick summary of who we should look out for if the stage concludes with a bunch kick.
Thor Hushovd who has already proven his speed by winning stage two.
Robbie McEwen led the peloton home for fifth place in stage three although he was pushed all the way to the line in Nantes by Erik Zabel.
Mark Cavendish said before the Tour that he wasn’t here just to make up the numbers. "I’m here to win a stage. I’m the fastest guy in the bunch at the moment, so I don’t see why I can’t make an impression."
Gert Steegmans has won a stage of the Tour before and he’s got a committed lead-out train from his Quickstep colleagues.
Filippo Pozatto was strong at the finish in St-Brieuc and he has the support of Francesco Chicchi who is perfectly suited to this sort of finish.
Robbie Hunter became a father only days before the Tour de France and was fast in the finale of stage two, finishing fourth in the stage.
The peloton has just passed under the 20km to go banner. It is 1’15" behind Vogondy, Brard and Jegou.
Going on tradition, we should see one of the leading trio try and attack soon. They are 1’20" ahead of the peloton and there is less than 22km to go in the stage. Of Vogondy, Brard and Jegou, who would you bet on being the aggressor of the leaders?
Right now Team Columbia is swapping off with riders from Gerolsteiner at the head of the peloton that is 1’05" behind Vogondy, Brard and Jegou with 25km to go.
The leaders are now less than 25km from the finish. They have been at the front of the stage for 196km and reached a maximum gain of 8’15" at the 52km mark.
Of the teams at the head of the peloton, the one that has done the most work in the last 10 minutes is Credit Agricole. The team of stage two winner has had riders at the front of the pack that’s now 1’20" behind the escapees for 45 percent of the time in the last 10 minutes.
Robbie McEwen must also be a favorite for the stage win if it comes to a bunch sprint. The Australian’s parents have attended the first few days of the 2008 Tour but this is their last day before they return home to Brisbane.
The finish for the fifth stage comes at the end of a long, straight 1,500m section of dead flat road. It is a finale similar to the end-of-seaon Classic Paris-Tours. If Vaughters’ appraisal of the form of Francesco Chicchi is anything to go by - where he belives the Liquigas sprinter could surprise - then it’s worth nothing the result of last year’s Paris-Tours race.
The winner was Alessandro Petacchi but the runner-up was Mr Chicchi.
The peloton is destined to catch Vogondy, Brard and Jegou. With 35km to the bunch is just 1’35" behind the French trio.
Jonathan Vaughters, the head honcho of the Garmin-Chipotle team is in the LeTour.fr headquarters at the finish right now. When asked for his pick for today he said, "I think the finish is perfectly suited to Cavendish. But look out for Chicchi of Liquigas. I’ve seen him race in a number of places and on a day like today when it’s not too hard and there’s no too much wind, he’s got a real kick for the last 150-200 meters.
"Julian is our best candidate but Maggie can roll pretty well in these kind of sprints. He’s good at positioning himself and can get some momentum coming.
"What I’d love to see is Mr Millar give it a go in the last two or three kilometers. It’s going to be hard for him to do that and he’s not quite as punchy as Cancellara, but it’d be cool to see him have a go."
The bunch has just passed though Paulnay which is at the 183km mark. That means it is less than 50km from Chateauroux. It is currently 2’00" behind Vogondy, Brard and Jegou.
Alejandreo Valverde crashed at the 85km mark of today’s stage. He has been at the back of the peloton of late and has even just dropped back to consult his team director in the Caisse d’Epargne car. He doesn’t appear to have any skin missing but he has had a few consultations with the race doctor during the stage.
The bunch is 2’20" behind the leading trio, it’s almost a procession to a sprint. The latest to lead the pack Marcus Burghardt of the Columbia team.
As the bunch passes the 171km mark, it is 2’40" behind Vogondy, Brard and Jegou.
The average speed for the fourth hour is 38.3km/h. The average for the first four hours combined is 41.7km/h.
Marcus Burghart of the Columbia team is now on the front of the peloton. He is starting to set the pace of the bunch that’s now 3’00" behind Vogondy, Brard and Jegou.
With the advantage of the leading trio down to 3’30", the peloton is now in cruise mode. Credit Agricole riders are in discussion with some Gerolsteiner recruits at the front of the peloton. If they catch the escapees too soon, then counter-attacks are sure to come. The team of the race leader doesn’t want this as it will have to police the moves; while Credit Agricole will be hoping to limit the risk of another escape as it wants the stage to end with a bunch sprint.
A round of the French Cup is contested each August in the city that hosts the finish today, Chateauroux. The most recent winners of this 200km one-day race are:
2007: Chris Sutton (AUS) - the son of of former points race world champion Gary Sutton (and nephew of British track cycling coach Shane Sutton) was riding for Cofidis last year. He’s now with the Garmin-Chipotle team
2006: Nicolas Vogondy (FRA) - he’s currently in the leading trio of stage five
2005: Jimmy Casper (FRA) - he too raced with Cofidis at the time of his win in Chateauroux (and is now with Agritubel).
2004: Aleksandr Kuschynski (BLR) - who was with Amore & Vita at the time but now races for Liquigas.
The line of Gerolsteiner riders that has led the peloton for most of the day has received extra support. There are now two men from Thor Hushovd’s Credit Agriole team in the mix.
Vogondy, Brard and Jegou are now 75km from the finish of the 232km stage from Cholet to Chateauroux. Their advantage peaked at 8’15" with 180km to go, it’s now down to 4’40".
The peloton is 4’55" behind the three leaders as it passes the 151km mark.
Yesterday was the first time in history that an American component manufacturer had a rider using its equipment to lead the Tour de France. SRAM is the company that supplies Agritubel with its shifting and braking equipment and, thanks to Roman Feillu, it can now state that the rider in the yellow jersey has used their new ensemble, dubbed ’Red’.
And today, Stefan Schumacher is racing with the new release of Shimano’s flagship ensemble Dura-Ace. The system which includes the denotion ’STI’ (Shimano Total Integration) was the first to incorporate a gear shifting mechanism in the brake levers. That made its debut back in the late-1980s. Until this, year, the levers from the Japanese component giant have had shifting cables that protrude forward. The new generation version has hidden cables.
At the final intermediate sprint of the fifth stage, the points were won by:
1. Nicolas Vogondy (AGR) 6pts
2. Florent Brard (COF) 4pts
3. Lilian Jegou (FDJ) 2pts
Schumacher has decided it’s time to take a break and answer the call of nature. The peloton was 5’20" behind the escapees but that will grow in the next little while as the race leader and his Gerolsteiner team-mates tend to matters other than setting the pace for the peloton.
Directeur sportif from the Quickstep team Wilfried Peeters has just said that he’s certain the fifth stage will end with a bunch sprint. "The escapees only have a lead of five minutes," the Belgian told France Television recently. "We are prepared to work but we’re not going to waste energy before we have to."
In the meantime, the Gerolsteiner team is the only squad taking responsibility for the pace setting of the pack that is now 5’15" behind Vogondy, Brard and Jegou.
Chateauroux has only ever hosted one stage finish of the Tour de France prior to today. The winner back then was Mario Cipollini in a sprint at the end of a 228.5km stage which is essentially the same course as that used today.
The top 10 back in 1998 was:
1. Mario Cipollini (ITA)
2. Erik Zabel (GER)
3. Christophe Mengin (FRA)
4. Andrea Ferrigato (ITA)
5. Philippe Gaumont (FRA)
6. Robbie McEwen (AUS)
7. George Hincapie (USA)
8. Fabrizio Guidi (ITA)
9. FrĂ©dĂ©ric Moncassin (FRA)
10. Alessio Bongioni (ITA)
Only three of these riders are in the race today, two of whom have 12 stage victories to their name: Zabel and McEwen.
Almost 35 percent of respondents to LeTour.fr’s survey of the day believe that the escape will be caught before the 10km to go mark. That appears to be the right prognostic on a day when the escapees haven’t been given much leeway. The latest check has Vogondy, Brard and Jegoy ahead by 5’25". They had reached as much as 8’15" but Gerolsteiner is keeping the pace of the pack high as it nears the halfway mark of this long stage.
The riders who joined forces at the 11km mark are now all back together again after two of them - Vogondy and Jegou - recently stopped to answer nature’s call.
Vogondy and Jegou have just pulled to the side of the road to answer the call of nature. Brard, it seems, is now just soft pedaling on his own at the front of the stage. He is waiting for his escape companions who were 5’45" ahead of the peloton at the last check.
LeTour.fr recently contacted Martial Gayant to get his thoughts on the stage and ask if he thought the escape with Lilian Jegou had a chance to succeed. âSeveral teams have only one candidate for the stage victory, and itâs a sprinter,â said the Frenchman from Francaise des Jeux. âSo it is certain that they will do their utmost to reel in the escapees. But from the moment you decide to race, you must get down and work. And thatâs what Jegou has done: heâs complying with the guidelines we set out.
âNow the break has been in excess of eight minutes had and weâll try to play with that time. You never knowâŠ
âAnyway, I know that Lilian Jegou enjoys trying his luck and showing what form he has. Whatâs more, heâs expecting a phone call from his wife any moment now to say that sheâs on the way to the hospital to give birth to their first child.
âIn the meantime heâll continue to cooperate with Vogondy and Brard who are serious riders.â
The peloton has just passed the 114km mark. It is 6’00" behind Vogondy, Jegou and Brard. It seems that a lesson was learned by allowing the escape of stage three to gain so much time. Today, the maximum advantage was 8’15" and since then the Gerolsteiner boys have been working well to keep the French trio honest.
One of the riders in the escape today - Lilian Jegou, who instigated the move at the 11km mark - is due to be a father soon. His wife is due to give birth any day now. Perhaps this explains the urgency he’s shown at the start of the first and fifth stages when he’s been chomping at the bit to establish an escape.
The pace of the peloton has been set by the Gerolsteiner team for most of the day. They have had a few riders from Milram also contributing to the effort and the latest check has seen the advantage of Vogondy, Jegou and Brard grow again. The latest check has the leading trio 7’15" ahead.
The peloton has just passed through the feedzone and is currently at the 102km mark. It is 6’40" behind Vogondy, Jegou and Brard.
At the site of the second sprint, Gerolsteiner and Milram riders led the peloton over the line 6’55" behind Vogondy, Jegou and Brard.
On the Saturday prior to the Tour de France one of the riders in the escape today won his second national championship road race. The results of the French titles were:
1. Nicolas Vogondy (Agritubel) 239.2km in 6h03â02â
2. Arnaud Coyot (GCE) 36â
3. Julien Loubet (A2R) 42â
4. Dimitri Champion (BTL) 50â
5. StĂ©phane AugĂ© (COF) 1â02â
6. Pierre Rolland (C.A) 1â59â
7. AurĂ©lien Passeron (SDV) 2â00â
8. Laurent LefĂšvre (BTL) 2â04â
9. Francis Mourey (FDJ) 2â11â
10. BenoĂźt Vaugrenard (FDJ) 2â17â
The points for the sprint in Richelieu were won by:
1. Florent Brard (COF) 6pts
2. Nicolas Vogondy (AGR) 4pts
3. Lilian Jegou (FDJ) 2pt
The peloton is currently 7’05" behind the leading trio.
Vogondy, Brard and Jegou are now at the 93.5km mark. The second intermediate sprint is in Richelieu at the 98.5km mark. They are currently 7’40" ahead of the peloton.
After his crash and wheel change, the former yellow jersey wearer Alejandro Valverde has rejoined the peloton. His accident was at the 85km mark. He is now consulting the race doctor.
There has been a crash in the peloton including Valverde, Gadret and a rider from the Garmin team. All are back on their bikes but Valverde is now waiting for a new rear wheel after sustaining a flat tire.
One of the riders in the lead of the stage has enjoyed success in the city which hosts the finish of today’s stage. The two-time French champion, Nicolas Vogondy, won the Classic de l’Indre in 2006. The top 10 of that 200km race in August two years ago was:
1. Nicolas Vogondy (FRA) 200km in 4h18â00 Â»
2. Stefano Cavallari (ITA) at 2â
3. Shinichi Fukushima (JPN) 6â
4. JĂ©rĂ©my Roy (FRA) 13â
5. Ivan Terenine (RUS) 31â
6. AmaĂ«l Moinard (FRA) st
7. Mathieu Claude (FRA) st
8. CĂ©dric HervĂ© (FRA) st
9. Timothy Gudsell (NZL) 1.06
10. Alessandro Maserati (ITA) 2â07â
The average for the second hour of racing in stage five is 42.2km/h. The average speed for the first two hours combined is 44.0km/h.
The maximum gain for Brard, Vogondy and Jegou so far today was 8’15" at the 52km mark. That has recently dropped to 7’15" before the end of the second hour of racing in the longest stage of the 95th Tour.
One of the riders in the escape today has previously worn the white jersey as best young rider in the Tour de France. At 28, Florent Brard is no longer eligible for the youth classification but he is trying to put himself in contention for his first stage win. He last started the Tour in 2006 when was the French champion but didn’t make it to Paris. He was forced to abandon after the penultimate stage because he crashed and broke a finger in the time trial of stage 20.
As the man responsible for Radio Tour, Sebastien Piquet, scoffs down a sandwich for lunch, he’s taken time out to remind us that the advantage of Brard, Vogondy and Jegou has remain unchanged for the past six kilometers. With the peloton at the 69km mark, is it 7’30" behind the three fugitives who went on the attack at the 11km mark.
On a day devoid of climbs, there is still something to celebrate for a specialist in the mountains of the Tour de France. The ’Eagle of Toledo’ Federico Bahamontes - who won the polka-dot jersey six times between 1954 and 1964 - turns 80 today.
At the 52km mark the peloton was 8’15" behind the leading trio. That has dropped to 7’40" at the 60km mark.
âI canât remember a time when any GC rider took it easy in a time trial,â said Cadel Evans after finishing fourth in the stage four test against the clock. He beat world TT champion Fabian Cancellara by five seconds and admitted he was pleased with that effort. âThere are plenty of things that you need to consider but itâs not like thereâs anything complicated about the tactics that you need to employ. Itâs a simple theory: start fast, go fast and finish fast.â
The Australian is now ranked fourth in the general classification and is pleased with how he felt after the first major test of the 2008 edition. âIâll have a quick check for any tightness in my gluts from the osteopath but I donât feel nearly as bad as I have after some time trials in the past. I remember doing a time trial in 2005 when I wanted to ride back to the hotel but could barely turn the pedals after the race my legs were that tight.
"I feel good. So far, so good. I’m looking forward to the stage to Super Besse when phase two begins.â
âWeâve got to enjoy all the success we can get," said the manager of the Columbia team, Bob Stapleton after the time trial yesterday. He had reason to be happy with two of his riders wearing leader’s jerseys - Kirchen in green and Lovkvist in white. "Weâve done a good job and couldnât be more proud of Thomas; weâve been telling people what a real talent he was and heâs showed it already again.
âWeâre trying to keep enough powder dry so that we can fire when it matters. Hopefully weâll get a tactical situation that favors us. It would be great if Mark Cavendish could go for a stage win in a sprint. On the day to Nantes we felt it was a good stage for us but we couldnât get any other teams to cooperate so we just kept our guys ready.
âWeâre happy with the way the time trial went and Iâm confident that weâll be able to show ourselves again in the next few days.â
With the peloton at the 50km its deficit to the three escapees has blown out to 7’20".
There have been three retirements during the first five days. There are, however, still 28 nations represented. Here is a summary of how many riders per nation are in the 95th edition of the Tour de France:
39: France - originally 40, but Herve Duclos-Lassalle fractured his left wrist in stage one and was forced to abandon.
29: Spain - originally 30, but Angel Gomez (SDV) abandoned in stage three after a crash.
10: The Netherlands
4: USA, Russia and Switzerland
3: Great Britain and Luxembourg
2: South Africa, Austria, Belarus, Noway, Sweden, Ukraine and Colombia (Soler of the Barloworld team quit early in stage five because of injuries sustained in a crash on day one).
1: Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia
The advantage of the escapees has grown again. The latest check has Jegou, Brard and Vogondy ahead of the peloton by 6’15".
The escapees have covered 45.8km in the first hour of racing in stage five.
The team at the front of the peloton is that of the overall leader, Stefan Schumacher. Gerolsteiner has previously only won one stage of the Tour de France but after the victory in the team trial, it has new responsibilities. The German-registered team is not letting the escapees gain too much of an advantage.
Brard, Vogondy and Jegou got to 5’45" ahead but that has recently dropped to 5’25".
âWe still donât have a sponsor for next year," concluded the manager of the Gerolsteiner team when he spoke to LeTour.fr yesterday. "We started the Tour with a little less hope but I have some requests in the last few days because, before the Tour de France, and after the European soccer championships we made something of a German kick-off for the Tour to say, âOkay, we have a problem with sponsors. Weâre looking for a new one for next year.â
âWhen we won Paris-Nice with Davide Rebellin, I was asked if that would help to find new sponsors and I said, âYeah, sure it will not hurt.â But here itâs even more important. I think itâs really obvious that we have a good infrastructure and a committed team. And the capacity this team has is immense and the sport offers a great return for a sponsor committed to investing in cycling.â
The maximum gain of Brard, Vogondy and Jegou so far was 5’45" at the 38km mark. That has dropped slightly to 5’35" one kilometer later.
The start of the stage has been rapid today. Before the end of the first hour, the leading trio has reached the 40.5km mark.
With the peloton 200km from the finish of stage five, it is 5’45" behind Brard, Vogondy and Jegou. Sit back, relax, and watch the time grow. What’s your forecast for the maximum gain - 10 minutes, 15... or more?
(PS. Be sure to fill in the poll on LeTour.fr which, today, asks when you believe The Escape of the stage will be caught by the peloton.)
At the sprint in Argenton-les-Vallees, the points were won by:
1. Lilian Jegou (FDJ) 6pts
2. Nicolas Vogondy (AGR) 4pts
3. Florent Brard (COF) 2pts
At the 28.5km mark, the peloton’s deficit to Brard, Jegou and Vogondy is 5’25".
The winner of the time trial yesterday was a surprise for many who follow the Tour. Stefan Schumacher has won 32 races in his career, including several stage races and stages of the Giro d’Italia in the past. But the victory in the 29.5km test yesterday was a major coup for his team. His manager, Hans Michael Holczer continued his appraisal of the rider. âI saw that he found his rhythm after two or three kilometers and then he was unbelievably strong," said the Gerolsteiner team’s manager. "Weâll see what happens in the next few days but it’s our intention to try and defend the yellow jersey.
âWe had a test with Ronny Scholz early in the day and we gave him a 56-tooth chainring. This was important because we saw that in the downhill sections he was pedaling very rapidly with the tailwind. There were times when he just wanted to let the bike go but I had to keep telling him, âCome on, you must turn the pedals at 120 or 130 revs.â"
âI think the most preparation that Stefan [Schumacher] had was mental because heâs definitely the one who has to be prepared in his mind to do what he did in the time trial." These comments from from the manager of the Gerolsteiner team, Hans Michael Holczer after the time trial yesterday. "He was preparing for the German time trial championships two weeks ago and thatâs because he wanted to be in the Olympic team â which he is now, after his second in the nationals â so he was making sure he was in good form for that.
âI think he can do this: he can time trial. I didnât expect him to be quite so strongâŠ
âI saw him at the start of the day and he started a little bit slow and the first thing that he told me before the race was that he only wanted to be told the intermediate times of Cancellara. âHuh? Okay. If thatâs what he wants, then fine,â I thought. Thatâs not bad for me, I could manage that."
At the 20km mark of the longest stage of the 2008 Tour, the peloton is 3’25" behind Jegou, Brard and Vongondy who escaped at the 11km mark.
The escapees have just reached the 21.5km mark, the town of Nueil-les-Aubiers which is where the former Tour de France race director Jean-Marie Leblanc was born.
Of the three men in the lead of the stage, the best placed in the general classifcation is Lilian Jegou. He began the day ranked 94th overall, 5’45" behind Schumacher.
The former French time trial champion Florent Brard is 117th at 5’56 and the reigning French road race champion Nicolas Vogondy is 119th at 7’02".
With the peloton at the 16.5km mark, it is 2’10" behind Jegou, Brard and Vongondy.
Jegou started the attack that’s now 1’00" ahead of the peloton at the 14.5km mark. He was joined by the French champion Vogondy and Cofidis rider Florent Brard.
Jegou (FDJ), Vogondy (AGR) and Brard are now 35" ahead of the peloton that’s at the 13km mark.
The winner of the polka-dot jersey in 2007, Juan Mauricio Soler Hernandez of the Barloworld team has succumbed to his injuries, stepped off his bike and abandoned the Tour de France. There are now 177 riders in the race.
There is a group of riders ahead of the peloton now. The move began at the 11km but we await confirmation of the names of those involved.
The bunch is at the 10km mark and still as one group despite a number of early escape attempts.
Thomas Lovkvist from Sweden is the latest rider to lead the youth classification. This is his fourth Tour de France and his advantage over second place in the category thatâs open to riders born after 1 January 1983 is just 11â. Vincenzo Nibali of the Liquigas team was the youngest rider in the top 10 of the time trial, finishing 10th, one place ahead of the Columbia recruit who had spent his formative years with the Francaise des Jeux squad.
Third in the youth classification is Belgian Cofidis rider Maxime Montford (at 37â), then comes Andy Schleck (at 42â) and Czech Liquigas rider Roman Kreuziger (at 1â42â).
The former leaders of this category â Roman Feillu (AGR) and Riccardo Ricco (SDV) â are no ranked seventh and eighth, respectively.
Thomas Voeckler of the Bouygues Telecom team only has to finish the fifth stage to be assured of another visit to the podium. With 19 points to his name in the climbing classification, the Frenchman is in the polka-dot jersey for the third successive day. He has eight more points than the best-placed French rider in the time trial, Sylvain Chavanel who is from Chatellerault, not far from the finish of todayâs 232km flat stage.
The peloton is still all together at the 3.5km mark. There have been a number of escape attempts but the rapid pace is limiting the chance of any attack so far succeeding.
The official start of the fifth stage was at 11.42am. It took all of four seconds from the flag falling to signal the start before an attack was announced on Radio Tour. We await confirmation to see if it succeeds.
There are 178 riders still in the race.
The winner of the polka-dot jersey last year, Mauricio Soler (BAR) has not had a good start to the 2008 Tour de France. He crashed on day one, sustained injuries to his wrist but is insisting on taking part in the race. He has, however, crashed again in the neutral zone this morning. He quickly remounted his bike and is back in the peloton before the flag has been waved to start the stage.
The bunch is currently rolling through the 3.3km neutral zone and on its way to the official start of stage five.
The Columbia team is in the lead of two of the four prize jersey classifications: points and youth. Kim Kirchen has been consistently well placed in the first four stages of the 2008 Tour. He has amassed a tally of 81 points in the race for the green jersey. Ranked second is the winner of stage two (and winner of the sprintersâ category in 2005), Thor Hushovd (C.A) with 64 points. The Norwegian was 116th in the time trial around Cholet which would suggest that he was saving some energy for today which many predict will conclude with a bunch sprint.
The three-time world champion Oscar Freire (RAB) is ranked third, with 55 points while stage one winner Alejandro Valverde (GCE) is fourth 49 points.
Stefan Schumacher is the third rider to lead the general classification in the 2008 Tour de France. The maximum number of riders to wear the yellow jersey in one edition of the Tour is eight (that happened in both 1958 and 1987). At this rate, itâs possible that this record could be eclipsed. The German replaces Frenchman Roman Feillu at the top of the overall standings. Schumacher (GST), the winner of the 29.5km time trial around Cholet has an advantage of 12â over yesterdayâs runner-up Kim Kirchen (THR). Third place is held down by David Millar of the Garmin-Chipotle team; he is also 12â behind Schumacherâs mark.
The runner-up in the 2007 Tour, Cadel Evans is ranked fourth at 21â and the world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara is fifth at 33â.
The longest stage of the 2008 Tour de France - 232km from Cholet to Chateauroux - is scheduled to begin at 11.35am. The sun is shining brightly and the conditions are considerably warmer than the first few days of the 95th edition. The temperature has barely crept above 20 degrees during the race thus far but already it’s above that mark before the start today.
There are no climbs on the itinerary that takes the peloton through five departments of France, starting in Maine-et-Loire and concluding in Indre. There are, however, three intermediate sprints spread rather evenly throughout the stage. They are in Argenton-les-Vallees (at 33.5km), Richelieu (at 98.5km) and in Le Grand-Pressigny (at 152km).
Live coverage of the stage will commence shortly.