Tuesday, 5 July 2011
2011 Tour de France: Stage 4: Lorient to Mûr de Bretagne – some reflections
Just like the first stage, today’s stage provided another exciting uphill finish. However, the result was rather different on the steep two kilometre climb up the Mûr de Bretagne. Philippe Gilbert was widely expected to win and although featuring prominently and apparently well placed on part of the climb he came in 5th.
The big difference today was that Alberto Contador featured strongly today – in the first stage he had been delayed by a crash and lost 1.14 mins on his rivals like Andy Schleck. He put in a strong attack was caught and momentarily appeared to have blown but this was clearly not the case as he nearly snatched the stage victory from Cadel Evans. Cadel has featured strongly on both of these uphill finishes – he was a strong second on the first stage.
On Monday L’Equipe ran an interview with Cyrille Guimard, who suggested that Contador wasn’t fully engaged in this Tour. Was the pressure of the positive dope test and the criticism getting to him? Well today Alberto made it clear that he is going to fight hard. Getting a few seconds on Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins and other overall contenders will have been a psychological boost for him.
Short of crashes close to the finishing line, there appears to be little chance of Alberto getting substantial time back at least until stage 8 with the uphill finish to Super-Besse Sancy. He may look for another few seconds on Thursday at Liseux although it is not as steep and vicious as the Mûr
Thor Hushvod did a great ride to stay with Contador and Evans, so finishing on the same time and depriving Cadel the chance to take the Yellow Jersey from him. Cadel remains just one second behind Thor. Even though the gap is tiny, Thor may remain in Yellow at least until stage 8 and the first really hilly stage. He will, however, be under threat with the uphill finish at Liseux on Thursday.
Mark Cavendish isn’t having much joy in the Green Jersey competition missing out today on the intermediate sprint as he did on the first stage with Tyler Farrar leading in the bunch. Obviously being docked, along with Thor, the points he gained in yesterday’s sprint hasn’t helped. Still there ought to be opportunities for him to win sprints tomorrow and on Friday