André Greipel of Lotto-Belisol has won Stage 4 of the 2012 Tour de France in Rouen, his first victory of this year's race, with 2010 green jersey winner Alessandro Petacchi second. A big crash a little over two and a half kilometres from the line brought down a number of riders including world champion Mark Cavendish, who looked dazed as he sat on the road immediately afterwards before remounting his bike to ride slowly towards the finish. Team Sky colleague Bernie Eisel also hit the deck, but completed the stage and seemed in reasonably good spririts as he confirmed that he would head to hospital for tests. Fabian Cancellara retains the race lead by seven seconds from Bradley Wiggins; both were also involved in that incident, but neither loses time with it occurring inside the last three kilometres.
It was the second day running that the end of a stage had been marred by a crash, although the one yesterday in Boulogne-sur-Mer came within sight of the line as Peter Sagan cruised to victory.
The main danger on today’s run-in had been predicted to be a bridge over the Seine that had a right-hander at its entrance and a left-hand turn at its exit, the flamme rouge to signal one kilometre to go placed in the middle.
However, some big names were missing from that group that rode as it those potential pitfalls, with many riders having come down or being delayed by that crash a little under two kilometres earlier.
Among those still in the front group was points classification leader Peter Sagan, the 22-year-old Slovak finishing fifth to amass further points to increase his lead in the competition for the green jersey.
Cavendish, the man who won that classification in last year’s Tour, had earlier managed to close the gap slightly on the Liquigas Cannondale rider as today’s stage followed the pattern of the previous road stages with a hard fought intermediate sprint.
It was the Team Sky rider who picked up the maximum 13 points on offer once there breakaway riders had gone through that intermediate sprint in Fécamp, at the point where the route swung inland after hugging the coast for more than 100 kilometres.
Missing from the break today for the first time in this year’s race was Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank’s Michael Morkov, wearer of the polka dot jersey, but one man perhaps with his sights on that prize this year, Cofidis rider David Moncoutié, in his last year in his peloton, was there.
The attack had been instigated by Yukiya Akashiro of Europcar, who would finish the day as the first Japanese rider to win a combativity prize on a Tour de France stage, with Anthony Delaplace of Saur Sojasun also getting across and the trio build up a big lead before being reeled back in ahead of the closing phase of the race.
Going under the ten kilometre to go banner, as the race headed up the day’s final uncategorised climb, their advantage had been slashed to mere seconds, and they were swallowed up as a series of attacks came from the peloton including one from Sylvain Chavanel of Omega Pharma-Quick Step, trying and failing for the second day in succession to get the eight seconds that would put him into the maillot jaune.
RadioShack-Nissan, fighting to keep Cancellara in the jersey, led the chase and Chavanel and his fellow attackers were swept up with around five kilometres to go, the stage seemingly heading for a bunch finish including all the star sprinters until that chute as the stage neared its conclusion.
Stage winner André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol):
"A victory in the Tour cannot be compared to anything. The victory this year or the one from last year is completely different. We're here with a real group of friends and then it's easier to set good performances, to fight for each other. It's an incredible team performance, a reward for the whole team for the amount of hard work today on the one hand, but also in the stage from the day before yesterday. When you see how long Francis De Greef was pulling on the head of the peloton and all the guys have led me perfectly to the front. The train has worked perfectly, just like Monday."
"I heard the crash, but we are riding 60 km an hour, so you don't have the time to look behind. I didn't know exactly what had happened. I hope the guys that crashed aren't hurt badly and can start tomorrow."
"I consciously didn't take part in the intermediate sprint. Sunday I did because it wasn't an arrival suited for a real sprint and I decided to test the legs for a moment. Monday and today I consciously didn't battle for it, Sagan has such a big lead that it isn't simple to race him out of the green jersey. Winning a stage was always the first goal and that was realised today."
Team Sky Sports Director, Sean Yates:
“It was certainly not what we wanted to see. The lead-up to a sprint is very dangerous and we see this kind of thing time and time again. Nobody wants to see crashes for anybody and we were among the victims again today.
“There wasn’t a lot of room there in the bunch. At that speed with a touch of wheels, before you know it you are lying on the deck. The guys are battered and bruised but they will fight on. These guys are tough. We saw Cav jump back up after his accident at the Giro.
“Up to that point the day had been relatively straight forward and a lot calmer than yesterday. But it’s never over until it’s over. The crash was inside the 3km and so the rule applies and Bradley held station on the GC.”
Maillot jaune, Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan):
“It was dangerous today. That’s the way it is in the Tour de France; it’s never easy. Especially when we saw how things played out at the end. We go slow for a while, then it’s so hectic at the end and the crashes come. I was very concerned today. We were going 60kph with the wind behind us, fans all along the side, road dividers…..
"it was a hectic day. Everyone knows as we get close to the end that anything can happen. You only have a millisecond to think about what to do. It’s like a wave that goes from one side to the other and sometimes you have no choice where to go. It’s a daily business, these crashes. But every day is different and I try to enjoy every day. I’ve had this jersey for 26 stages in my career and it’s always nice.”
Jens Voigt, RadioShack-Nissan:
“The crash happened on a really huge road,” explained team rider Jens Voigt. “I think riders were getting too close to the side of the road and perhaps lost their balance, setting off a chain reaction. I think there were at least 10 guys down on the ground and probably 20 were stuck behind while the rest of us could get around them.
“Luckily it was inside the 3km to go marker so everybody will have the same time. If it would have happened 300 meters sooner, we would have lost the yellow jersey. We were also lucky to not be in any of the crashes, so we defended the jersey and stayed safe. Once again, mission accomplished. It was a good day for us.”
Tweet of the Day:
"Seconds after the massive pileup with 2k to go: Eisel: "Who's fault was that!" Farrar:" F*ck it was you Bernie!" Oops" - Karsten Kroon, Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank
Tour de France Stage 4 result 1 GREIPEL André LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM 05h 18' 32'' 2 PETACCHI Alessandro LAMPRE - ISD All at same time 3 VEELERS Tom TEAM ARGOS-SHIMANO 4 GOSS Matthew ORICA GREENEDGE 5 SAGAN Peter LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 6 CANTWELL Jonathan TEAM SAXO BANK-TINKOFF BANK 7 IMPEY Daryl ORICA GREENEDGE 8 BOECKMANS Kris VACANSOLEIL-DCM 9 BOASSON HAGEN Edvald SKY PROCYCLING 10 PEREZ Ruben EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI 11 HENDERSON Gregory LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM 12 ROELANDTS Jurgen LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM 13 FOFONOV Dmitriy ASTANA PRO TEAM 14 VELITS Peter OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 15 DI GREGORIO Rémy COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE 16 BURGHARDT Marcus BMC RACING TEAM 17 GRETSCH Patrick TEAM ARGOS-SHIMANO 18 MARTINEZ Egoi EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI 19 BRAJKOVIC Janez ASTANA PRO TEAM 20 IZAGUIRRE Gorka EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI Last man home Stage 4 195 LANGEVELD Sebastian ORICA GREENEDGE + 07' 01'' General Classification after Stage 4 1 CANCELLARA Fabian RADIOSHACK-NISSAN 20h 04' 02'' 2 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 07'' 3 CHAVANEL Sylvain OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 00' 07'' 4 VAN GARDEREN Tejay BMC RACING TEAM + 00' 10'' 5 BOASSON HAGEN Edvald SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 11'' 6 MENCHOV Denis KATUSHA TEAM + 00' 13'' 7 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING TEAM + 00' 17'' 8 NIBALI Vincenzo LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE + 00' 18'' 9 HESJEDAL Ryder GARMIN-SHARP-BARRACUDA + 00' 18'' 10 KLÖDEN Andréas RADIOSHACK-NISSAN + 00' 19'' Points Classification after Stage 4 1 SAGAN Peter LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 147 pts 2 GOSS Matthew ORICA GREENEDGE 92 pts 3 GREIPEL André LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM 87 pts 4 CAVENDISH Mark SKY PROCYCLING 86 pts 5 BOASSON HAGEN Edvald SKY PROCYCLING 81 pts Mountains Classification after Stage 4 1 MORKOV Michael TEAM SAXO BANK-TINKOFF BANK 9 pts 2 BASSO Ivan LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 2 pts 3 SAGAN Peter LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 2 pts 4 DELAPLACE Anthony SAUR-SOJASUN 2 pts 5 MONCOUTIE David COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE 2 pts Young Rider's Classification after Stage 4 1 VAN GARDEREN Tejay BMC RACING TEAM 20h 04' 12'' 2 BOASSON HAGEN Edvald SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 01'' 3 TAARAMAE Rein COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE + 00' 12'' 4 SAGAN Peter LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE + 00' 13'' 5 POELS Wouter VACANSOLEIL-DCM + 00' 14''
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.