- The race 2011
- All about the race
Cadel Evans can no longer be seen as a perennial runner-up. He’s been close to victories at the Tour in the past but never before has he celebrated a victory in a stage. He held off a strong challenge by the defending champion at the Mûr-de-Bretagne and proved once again that he is one of the finest cyclists on the planet. This was a day “for the Ardennes Classics specialists” and sure enough it was the winner of last year’s Flèche Wallonne who took a victory by just a matter of millimeters in stage four. So far this year, he’s won a stage of Tirreno-Adriatico (and the title of the Italian stage race in March), he’s won the Tour de Romandie (for a second time)… but they were considered just training races for his main objective, the Tour de France. He might not have taken the yellow jersey but the Australian will be pleased about that. Thor Hushovd and his Garmin team have the responsibility of defending the GC lead and Evans can be content with his second place in the general classification after a stunning start to his sixth Tour de France.
The Progress Report
The 172.5km fourth stage of the 2011 Tour de France, from Lorient on the coast to Mûr-de-Bretagne in the middle of Brittany, began at 1.09pm. There were 198 riders still in the race. The stage featured two categorized climbs, the cote de Laz (cat-4 at 79km) and the final ascent, the first cat-3 of the 98th Tour. The intermediate sprint was in Spézet at 92.5km. The start was wet with temperatures of around 17 degrees Celsius. The first attack came from Roy (FDJ) at 9km; he was joined by Erviti (MOV), Izagirre (EUS), Kadri (ALM) and Hoogerland (VCD). The peloton allowed the move plenty of leeway and by 15km, the escape was 2’50” ahead. The maximum gain was 4’55” at 24km. BMC assumed position at the front of the peloton and by the 31km mark, the escapees were 3’30” ahead. The average speed for the first hour was 41.7km/h. Jurgen van de Walle (OLO) was the first rider to abandon the 2011 Tour. He quit the stage around the 50km mark. The average for the second hour was 36.5km/h.
Hoogerland Takes Climbing & Sprint Points
Just before the Laz climb, Hoogerland surged ahead of his escape companions and took the one point for the cat-4 climb. The Dutchman also led the escape over the line for the intermediate sprint. Meanwhile the Movistar team dominated the front of the peloton as it prepared a lead-out for Rojas who was strong in the sprint but couldn’t match the pace of Farrar (GRM) who claimed sixth place points, 2’30” behind the escapees. The average speed for the third hour was 41.2km/h. Omega Pharma-Lotto and BMC did the most work at the front of the peloton. At the 108km mark, Liquigas and Leopard-Trek moved forward and started to set the pace.
Ending the Escape
Omega Pharma and BMC did most of the work at the front of the bunch but with 10km to go Leopard-Trek also moved forward with Cancellara helping to reduce the advantage of the escapees. Izagirre attacked 7.8km from the finish and was matched by Hoogerland but they regrouped at the 5km to go mark. The capture was at 4km to go and then the GC riders took command of the stage.
Cadel Claims Tour Stage Win Number Two
Hincapie (BMC) was one of the first at the front after the capture and his pace prompted the likes of Cavendish and Farrar and the other sprinters to lose contact. Even Cancellara couldn’t hold the pace after doing a strong turn to reel in the escapees. Once on the climb it was Vanendert who set the pace ahead of Gilbert but then Contador tried an attack down the left of the road. This disintegrated the front group to just a handful of favorites… a moment of hesitation then allowed Hushovd to fight his way back into the lead group. At the top of the climb – and with about 500m of flat – there was an easing in the speed as the favorites looked to see who would start the sprint. In the end, Evans found himself at the front Van den Broeck tried to gain an advantage. This prompted others into action and it was the runner-up and winner of the 2007 Tour who reached the line virtually alongside each other.
Evans took the win by a matter of centimeters and claimed his second stage win of the Tour de France – after being retrospectively awarded the TT victory of stage 13 in the 2007 Tour.
Hushovd finished in sixth place, with the same time as the stage winner and he will wear the yellow jersey in the fifth stage.
You never know what’s possible if you never try. This appears to be the ethos of Jérémy Roy a rider who has been in escapes in two of the three road stages of the 2011 Tour de France…
"The day promised to be complicated with lots of rain, slippery roads and cold condtions. So I thought it would be better to be up front and I managed to cause the break after about 10km although it was quite a battle at first. I would have preferred that there were a dozen riders in the escape so we might have had a better chance to defend our advantage against the peloton but at least the five of us tried. At any rate, I’m aware of my form and I know that I cannot beat the big names so if I want to win stages, I have to go in breakaways and toy with the peloton.
“The goal was to win but it’s been postponed. We never had much of a lead but when we start to surge again in the latter part of the stage I thought, ‘Ah, this could do it…’ But eventually we were caught four kilometers from the finish when, really, we need a lead of a minute at the base of the final climb."
Team Sky won the rankings for the stage to Mur-de-Bretagne with an advantage of eight seconds thanks to the work of Rigoberto Uran, the Colombian who finished fourth, as well as Bradley Wiggins (11th) and Geraint Thomas (29th), the latter of whom clings on to the white jersey after four days of racing in the 2011 Tour de France. Still, the British team is misses out on leading the classification by a matter of seconds. Garmin-Cervélo retains the advantage… by just two seconds. There are other squads in close range after the stage in Brittany with Leopard-Trek only four seconds away from the TTT winners and last year’s title holder RadioShack only 10 seconds back.
Look at the top 10 of stage four and consider the names: in the midst of a bunch of general classification specialists – guys who climb steep hills for a living – is a man who can do just about anything on a bike. Thor Hushovd… he’s a sprinter, Classics specialist, prologue winner, and a more than capable climber. On top of it all, he’s a super nice guy!
“Our goal now is to defend the yellow jersey and also for Tyler to win another sprint. It will be hard to control the race because there are still a hell of a lot of attacks and a lot of riders like to win stages but maybe I’ll keep it until the stage on Saturday which is a hard finish.
“Today I think I did a perfect climb. I did all in my rhythm and I didn’t really follow the attacks. Then I put it in the big ring at the top of the climb and came back to the other leading guys and just had enough to stay there with them – so I’m a happy man here today.
“I really had to fight. I went so deep to stay with the climbers but I’m pleased that I managed to be there and keep the yellow jersey. There was a moment there on the steepest part, just before it got flat at the top, that I thought I’d lose a few meters but I was able to sprint up and close the gap and that was the biggest effort of the day so I had no chance of passing and doing the sprint for the stage win.
“What Team Garmin-Cervélo has done until now is just beautiful. It’s a dream start and it seems like it’s not stopping. We’re just loving it and we have to keep going.”
A bike change with around 20 kilometers to go was one of the only hiccups in an otherwise flawless start to the Tour de France for the 2007 and 2008 runner-up. Today Cadel Evans won his first road stage of the race with an impressive display that saw him beat Alberto Contador in a photo finish at Mûr-de-Bretagne…
“In the final sprint I was committed but I didn’t want to launch too hard because I knew the others could have come around me. I saw Contador closing in on me but I just had to hold him off. It came down to the throw to the line and right at the finish I couldn’t even see who crossed the line first. I honestly didn’t see it… I was just focused on reaching for the line. I really had to wait for the official result myself before I knew for sure that I’d won.
“With around 20km to go something happened. I think someone hit my derailleur so I had some problems with my gears. At that moment my bike worked but you have to have everything perfect for the finish so I took a moment and, George with his experience, told me: ‘Change bikes now!’ It was Marcus Burghardt who took me right to the front and thanks to him I could deliver in the end.
“I was only on my own for the last kilometer or so… I think everyone saw George there two or three kilometers to go and it was having him there to watch out for me and Burghardt there to deliver me to the front 15km to go after a quick bike change that made the difference.
“It was thanks to my team that I could do what I did in the final there. That was the first objective and if I could do something in the stage was extra. To win a stage here in the first week is a real bonus and I owe it all to my team.
“I’m here for the overall classification and I’m just very happy to get through today without too many problems and be in front. To try for the stage win – and get it – is already fantastic and now we’ll look towards tomorrow and beyond.
“As a bike rider you have to have confidence in yourself but you should exude this otherwise you’re considered arrogant so it’s important that I have the confidence of my team-mates and I have full confidence in them.”
The BMC team can celebrate its first stage win in the Tour de France. The top 10 in stage four is: 1. Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC - 172.5km in 4h11’39" 2. Alberto Contador (ESP) SBS - at same time 3. Alexandre Vinokourov (KAZ) AST - at same time 4. Rigoberto Uran (COL) SKY - at same time 5. Philippe Gilbert (BEL) OLO - at same time 6. Thor Hushovd (NOR) GRM - at same time 7. Frank Schleck (LUX) LEO - at same time 8. Samuel Sanchez (ESP) EUS - at same time 9. Jurgen van den Broeck (BEL) OLO - at same time 10. Andreas Kloden (GER) RSH - at same time
This is the second time that Cadel Evans has won a stage of the Tour - but the first time that he’ll go to the podium to receive the applause. He won the 13th stage of the 2007 Tour (retrospectively) but that was a time trial in which Vinokourov was originally the fastest... before disqualification.
Hushovd has finished sixth and he’ll keep the yellow jersey after finishing wiht the same time as Evans.
Evans is ahead of Contador and the pair will only be separated by a photo finish. Evans saluted the win. He won by a few centimeters...!
Now it’s Jurgen van den Broeck at the front. Evans has swung over to allow the Belgian to speed ahead. Now it’s up to Gilbert to respond. Contador is right on the wheel of the winner of stage one.