Finally we depart the shores of the heart of the empire and land back on territoire français. And while I salute the English hosts of the first three stages for an excellent show and fanatical support, it has had consequences. The muppet who caused Aschleck (Andy) to crash has also caused him to pull out of Le Tour. Aschleck can’t buy a trick at the moment and seems to be cursed. I just hope he can recover and get back to learning how to time trial so he can win a grand tour.

In a bizarre twist of roles, it was not until we left English soil that we have had bad weather – just in time to polish the cobbles of tomorrow’s stage 5. But this is about stage 4…

The Moment I was Dreading Would Happen

No it was not the Froome-dog crashing in the middle of the peloton because he was looking at his stem. But while I pick on Froome, I have to say “Ouch!” At least he has Gerraint Thomas in his team to teach him the finer points of Rule #5.

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It was that the gurning champion of the peloton, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), getting in a breakaway where the camera would be focused on his facial contortions. He was hoping that he would be joined by a few others, but in the end there was only one companion (much to his disgust) – Luis Mate (Cofidis). Now these two were able to talk to each other, albeit in French. Their initial conversations were captured on the race coverage. For those of you who don’t understand French here is how the conversation went:

Voeckler – “We can make this break stick if the two of us work together.”

Mate – “There would have been more riders joining us if you didn’t pull so many faces.”

Voeckler – “I promise that I won’t pull any today, let’s hammer.”

… the Cofidis team car pulls alongside the two

Cofidis DS (head stuck out of his car window) – “Hey Thomas, can you pull that funny face from stage 17 last year?”

Voeckler – “But I promised Mate that I wouldn’t”.

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So the two of them continued until they hit the town of Cassel, then Voeckler couldn’t help himself and BAM! – Mate has a mechanical. Mate was able to catch up on his new bike, but not before giving his breakaway companion a serve.

Mate – “You promised you wouldn’t pull faces!”

Voeckler – “I thought your bike wasn’t looking.”

Meanwhile, back in the peloton, for the fourth day in a row there was cement being laid out by the first Chinese rider to ever ride Le Tour. Cheng Ji (Giant-Shimano and newly adopted Argonaut) for the fourth day in a row was pulling massive turns at the front of the peloton. I suspect Jensie learned a Chinese dialect in the off-season so that he could tutor Cheng. Now I realise that as a domestique rider you have got to do your duty for the team, but c’mon Giant Shimano give the little guy a break. Maybe he can have a rest on stage 5, riding on cobbles.

Voeckler and Mate continued with their breakaway riding well together when Voeckler did it again, he contorted his face. Same result I am afraid – Mate’s front wheel punctured. Now it was left to Voeckler to ride by himself which he did so until 16km to go.

On with the Sprint

So the sprint trains formed, and Omega-Pharma-Quickstep and Giant Shimano were signalling their intent to win this drag race. It was in the final kilometers where the second big demonstration of cement laying for the day was shown. The Panzerwagen, Tony Martin (Omega-Pharma-Quickstep), got to the front of his sprint train and… proceeded to drop everybody. He turned around and realised he was riding too fast and that was naughty, so he slowed down to let the slow pokes catch up. The peloton kicked on and I thought there was going to be a change in the script when Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) jumped with over 300m to go. But he went too far out, and Vanilla Ice (Kittel) reeled him back in again. No change in the script, win number three for the leader of the Argonauts.

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Now I am salivating in anticipation of the carnage of Stage 5. There may even be some cement laying over the cobbles.

The Cement Ladder – The Grey Jersey

Watching the toughest sportsmen in the world, I have decided to start a “cement” ranking that reflects truly great feats of endurance and the overcoming of pain (basically a bit of HTFU and a demonstration of adherence to Rule #5). Former winners include Jens Voigt (multiple times) and Johnny Hoogerland. Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category.

4pts – Cheng, 1 point for every day he has pulled the peloton.

4pts – Panzerwagen, for dropping the entire peloton in his leadout.

3pts – Voeckler, would have got 5 pts but he caused two mechanicals.

 

The competition is certainly heating up, the current table is:

6pts – The Jensie (Voigt)

5pts – Kadri and Barta

4pts – Bideau, Cheng, Panzerwagen (Martin)

3pts – Lemoine, Voeckler, and Spartacus (Cancellara)

2pts – The Shark (Nibali)

1pt – The Hornet (Horner)

 

For a more serious look at the first stage of racing check out.

Cycling NewsStage 4 Report

SBS Cycling CentralStage 4 wrapup

VeloVoicesTour Stage 4

N.B. the photos of the racing have been sourced from Cyclingnews.com and the copyright obviously remains with the copyright holder.