Tour 2010: Stage 4 Goes To The Sprinters

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There were very few surprises in today’s fourth stage of the 2010 Tour de France, which probably comes as a relief to the peloton who have had a rough go of it so far this year. The first three stages (plus the Prologue) have been challenging, crash-filled affairs, with weather varying from warm and dry to torrential down pours. But today, the Tour moved to France for the first time, and the stage was mostly flat and fast, allowing the sprinters to do their thing.

Today’s stage is the shortest of the entire race, covering just 153.5 km (95 miles) between Cambrai and Reims. The profile didn’t show much in the way of difficulty, with just a couple of small category 4 and 5 climbs to slow down the riders. Today was designed to be a chance for the riders who survived yesterday’s carnage on the cobblestones to rest, regroup, and prepare for what is to come.

The sprinters were on full display however, with points being earned towards the Green Jersey. They also lined themselves up neatly for a sprint finish as well, and in the end it was Italian Alessandro Petacchi claiming his second stage win of the year.

Thor Hushovd stayed in the Green Jersey at the end of the day, and he looks to defend his title from last year. One of his biggest challenges was expected to come from Mark Cavendish, but so far the brash young rider form the U.K. has not had a good Tour at all, finishing out of place on all of the sprint stages so far. That won’t sit well with Cavendish for sure, and I’m sure he hopes to make some noise in the next few days, all of which will favor the sprinters.

As expected, there was no change in the General Classification today. Fabian Cancellara holds on to the Yellow Jersey and will likely do so now until there is either a dramatic and bold breakaway by some rider or the race arrives to one of the serious climbing stages.

Tomorrow’s stage five takes the riders from Epernay to Montargis along a 187.5 km (116.5 miles) route that will run through the beautiful French countryside. It’ll once again be a day for the sprinters, and there could potentially be a breakaway for some upstart to try to earn a stage win. Otherwise, expect the peloton to play it safe, with another frantic sprint finish much like today.

Kraig Becker