Top ten for Gerrans in fast finish to stage four of the Tour de France

Tue 5 Jul 2016

Stage four of the Tour de France climaxed in another hectic sprint today with Simon Gerrans finishing in 10th place for ORICA-BikeExchange and the Australian squad retaining their lead of the team classification.

2014 Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Gerrans was in a good position for the finale alongside teammate Michael Matthews after excellent work from Daryl Impey and Michael Albasini in the battle for position.

The sprint was crowded, chaotic and very fast with ORICA-BikeExchange going for a two-pronged attack with Gerrans and Matthews attempting to break through against the pure sprinters.

In the end Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quickstep) powered to the victory with race leader Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) finishing in third and retaining the yellow jersey.

Matthews crossed the line in 14th place and moves up to ninth on the general classification going into stage five.

Sport director Matt White explained the team’s tactics for the finale and the difficulties of competing against the out and out sprinters.

“We did a recon of the finish in the morning and it wasn’t as difficult as we expected,” said White. “There was only a slight gradient which resulted in the biggest sprinters in the world making it through and going head to head to the line.”

“It was a very fast run in and the guys carried a lot of speed into the finale, but it didn’t really suit our capabilities and we didn’t have the power to match up with the big guns.

“We had decided before hand that tactically we were going in with two approaches,” explained White. “We had Simon (Gerrans) just behind Daryl (Impey) and they were going to try and hit out early but unfortunately couldn’t get through." 

“Then we had Michael (Matthews) following the favourite Peter Sagan and trying to match him but despite our efforts it wasn’t to be today.

“Tomorrow could be a good day for the breakaway, the racing has been fairly negative at the start of the stages, but the hilly profile could certainly suit the breakaway.”

How it happened:

Stage four began under blue skies and sunshine in Saumur with large crowds waving off the peloton for a long 237.5 kilometre day in the saddle.

South African time trial champion Impey was one of seven riders who tried to escape early on in today’s stage four before being immediately brought back by the attentive peloton.

Eventually four riders including Markel Irizar (Trek-Segafredo) and Alexis Gougerard (AG2R-La Mondiale) managed to create a gap and after 40kilometres of racing they had a lead of five minutes.

The breakaway quartet maintained their five-minute advantage for another 100kilometres before the peloton began to steadily reduce the deficit.

With 90kilometres to go the gap to the leaders had fallen to three and a half minutes.

The final 50kilometres of the stage climbed steadily up towards Bannac-La-Cote before following a technical descent down to the rolling winding lanes towards the finish in Limoges. The four riders out front had two minutes on the peloton as they began the ascent.

The breakaway was caught with ten kilometres remaining after strong work by ORICA-BikeExchange, Lotto-Soudal and Team Katusha on the front of the chasing peloton.

The run into the finish was anything but simple with a short but sharp incline to negotiate before the long drag up to the line. The tension was beginning to show inside the last five kilometres as the fight for position intensified.

Impey was right at the front battling for position with Gerrans glued to his wheel and Matthews tucked in to the right behind the yellow jersey of Sagan.

The approach to the sprint was chaotic yet again with Lotto-Soudal leading the charge before Etixx-Quickstep and Kittel appeared on the left hand side.

Kittel went early and just held on to take the win with the second successive photo finish of the race so far. Gerrans crossed the line in 10th with Matthews close behind.

Stage five heads into the hills and covers 216 kilometres from Limoges to Le Lorian. The stage includes six categorised climbs with the three most difficult coming in the final 40kilometres. It could be an interesting day for the breakaway or the climbing opportunists.

Tour de France stage four results:

1. Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quickstep) 05:28:30
2. Bryan Coquard (Direct-Energie) ST
3. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) ST
10. Simon Gerrans (ORICA-BikeExchange) ST 

General classification after stage four:

1. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) 20:03:02
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quickstep) 00:00:12
3. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) 00:00:14
9. Michael Matthews (ORICA-BikeExchange) 00:00:18