Livin' the Dream

Livin' the Dream

About Me

I am a sophomore at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, majoring in journalism. My passion is cycling. I am a category 4 bike racer and my absolute dream would be to turn pro one day. My more realistic goal is to become a journalist for the sport of cycling and eventually move on to become a broadcaster for the sport.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Hat Trick: Marcel Kittle Wins Stage

            Marcel Kittel won the fourth stage of the 101st Tour de France, a 163.5 km jaunt from Le Touquet-Paris-Plage to Lille Metropole. The riders stormed into the finish with Team Katusha leading the peloton into the finishing straight. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) launched his sprint early, but faded late as the other sprinters swarmed around him. He held on for second place with the French National Champion Araund Demare (FDJ) in third.

            The win today was much closer than yesterday with the top 5 GC contenders all finishing within a bike length of Kittel. Kittel had to hold his sprint for a long way and was too exhausted at the finish line to raise his arms in victory. Completely cooked at the finish, he explained how the sprint played out, “It was really exhausting. I think the last 30 km we road really with high speed, always 60 [kph] or more. I went really long. It was everything I had.”

Action Early

            Attacks came right at the start of the day just as with the previous days. Luis Mate (Cofidis) and everyone’s favorite Frenchman Thomas Voeckler (EuropCar) made up the breakaway in pursuit of a stage win, spoiling the day for the sprinters. As the miles passed, the attack appeared to be going nowhere, with the peloton reeling them back in until a crash occurred in the peloton. Defending champion Chris Froome (Sky) went down along with Bauke Mollema (Belkin) and Spanish National Champion Jon Izagirre Insausti (Movistar). Froome appeared the worst off with quite a bit of his shorts on his left hip missing.

Since the defending champion had crashed the peloton slowed up to allow him a causal return and at the same time allowed Mate and Voeckler to open up a bigger gap over the peloton. This was a case of one of the unwritten rules of cycling. It is proper etiquette to wait for a general classification contender if they have a crash not during a key point in the race. The feeling is that everyone wants to win the Tour fairly and not just because someone crashed. Chris Froome was later seen wearing a splint of his left wrist during the race.
            The peloton has kept a close leash on the breakaways this year with Mate and Voeckler never gaining more than three and half minutes. Mate took the first KOM point at the Cote de Campagnette (category 4), just 34 km into the race. Back in the peloton it was status quo, with Astana setting the pace on the front.
Nervous Energy
            Everything remained quite calm in the peloton until about 71 km to go. The intermediate sprint point in town of Cassel was taken by Thomas Voeckler with Peter Sagan (Cannondale) leading the peloton across two minutes behind. Beyond the sprint point, the descent was cobbled, giving the riders a taste of what is to come tomorrow. A few riders were hesitant on the cobbles. causing a split in peloton. About 30 riders found themselves upwards of a minute behind. Most notable was Arnaud Demare, the strong sprinter on FDJ, and Michal Kwiatkowski, who placed a strong 11th place overall last year.

            Knowing key names had been left behind, the peloton drove the pace toward the finish. With 58 km to go the gap to the two leaders was tumbling down and hovered just above 30 seconds. Disaster struck for Luis Mate as he suffered a front puncture and was forced to rejoin the peloton as the Voeckler charged on solo.

            At around 50 km-to-go the chase group finally rejoined the peloton and simultaneously Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) hit the deck at the back. He jumped right back up and began riding again right away. With just one rider left out front the peloton was satisfied to let Voeckler dangle a little bit, allowing his lead grew to back over a minute.

Flying to the Finish

            At the 30 km to go mark the peloton began closing in on Voeckler with Lotto-Belisol leading the charge. Disaster struck the team as Greg Henderson slid out as he made his way around a roundabout at the front of the peloton, causing two of his teammates to veer off their lines and crash into the grass. As the camera zoomed by Henderson, he was seen waving his hand in the air. We soon learned he abandoned the race on the spot, citing damage to his knee. His other two teammates finished the stage behind the peloton.

            The catch was made with 16.5 km to go with the teams of the GC contenders, Tinkoff-Saxo and Garmin-Sharp, leading the peloton in order to stay out of trouble. The damp roads on the run-in to the finish did not help the stress level of all the riders. Peter Sagan crashed with his teammate Ted King (Cannondale) with just 15 km to go. He was up and riding again immediately, but was alone and with the peloton going over 55 kph it was a tall order to get back. Just before the 10 km-to-go banner he caught the peloton, which was riding single file. Sagan would keep his second place overall, but would he be able to get to the front to contest the stage finish?

            As the finish line drew close, 5 km to go, Omega Pharma-Quick Step seized control. They looked destined for the stage win with eight riders at the front and Mark Renshaw in last position, taking over the sprint duties from Mark Cavendish who abandoned after stage one.

            But, as the riders flew under the red kit signaling the final kilometer no team had pure control of the peloton. As the peloton coasted around the final corner it was Team Katusha leading the field with Alexander Kristoff sitting second wheel. Katusha seemed to come to the front a bit too early forcing Kristoff to launch his sprint from about 300 meters out. It was not be for Kristoff as Kittel came around him at the last moment. The other standout for the day was Peter Sagan, who finished fourth after having a hard chase back after a crash and being at the tail end of the peloton with 10 km to go.

Stage 4 Results:

Stage Winner: Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano)
Yellow Jersey: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
Green Jersey: Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
White Jersey: Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
Polka Dot Jersey: Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis) 

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