Thursday, July 06, 2006

Tour de France 2006 Stages 4 and 5

Stage 4 is a 207 km sprint from Huy to Saint-Quentin.

The stage starts with an early cat 3 climb and then cat 4 bump about 40 km later. Then it’s flat to the finish about 150 km later.

The only interesting part of most of this stage was that the Spanish Discovery Channel rider Egoi Martinez got into a breakaway with 4 other riders. Egoi jumpd on several of the sprint bonuses and managed to work his way all the way up to 5th place in the overall classification which helps Discovery Channel keep their lead in the team category.

Late in the stage there were two surprising incidents both involving Thor Hushovd. Thor’s race finale escapades continue. So far he had his elbow sliced open by a spectator, he has lost a pedal in the final sprint, then today his lead-out man for the sprint Julian Dean crashes in the last 200 m. Hushovd was swerving to avoid running over Dean and he ended up squeezing another rider against the baracade. Since Hushovd did make and maintain contact with the other rider the race officials had him relegated.

Relegated means he was put in last place for the stage. This cost him 20 green jersey points and makes his repeating as the Points leader a much tougher task. I think the relegation was pretty strict after seeing the incedent on video, so did a couple of the announcers. But we’re not in charge and Thor is just going to have to get those points back wherever he can.

The stage was one rather convincingly by Australian Robbie McEwen.

Stage 5 was a 225 km fairly flat stage from Beauvais to Caen. There are 4 small cat 4 clmbs and several sprints.

Two riders got out early on a breakaway and stayed there until inside the last 2 km. The big boys of the race seemed to take a day off. There was very few attempts to get any of the intermediate sprint or climb points.

Late in the race Egoi Martinez crashed with only 10 miles left to race. He got back on the bike and finished the race but he lost over a minute that dropped him all the way back from 5th in the overall classification to 88th.

At the end Oscar Freire from Spain out sprinted the sprinters to win a Tour de France stage for the second time in his career. Boonen finished second and retained his yellow jersey.

So how are our Americans cyclists doing after today’s stage?

Pos. No. Name Nat. Team Gap
4 003 HINCAPIE, George USA DSC 00:00:17.000
8 071 LANDIS, Floyd USA PHO 00:00:28.000
16 018 ZABRISKIE, David USA CSC 00:00:35.000
20 011 JULICH, Bobby USA CSC 00:00:37.000
23 016 VANDEVELDE, Christian USA CSC 00:00:40.000
25 041 LEIPHEIMER, Levi USA GST 00:00:40.000
141 064 HORNER, Christopher USA DVL 00:08:34.000

Chris Horner is racing with a damaged hand that makes holding the handlebars difficult. But he is staying with it. The other six Americans are all within 40 seconds of the lead which is a good place to be.

Norwegian Thor Hushovd is still in 5th place only 19 seconds back, but he trails the in the points jersey by 41 points.

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