Stage 4 – Bang! And down they go…

“Heart rates across Great Britain shot through the roof as Olympic favourite Mark Cavendish (Sky) hit the deck in Wednesday’s sprint finish at the Tour de France.”Velonews.com

Sprint finish, bore-off. Well, unless you’re Mark Cavendish (Sky) and your wing-man Bernie Eisel causes a mass pile up with 2.5km to go, bringing you down. “Mark lost some skin, but he’s not too bad off,” said Sky principal David Brailsford. And, breathe… Still, at least everyone now knows how to beat Cav…

In Cav’s absence, Lotto-Belisol‘s “Lead-out Train” did their job, delivering Andre Greipel to the line for a perfectly executed victory. Lampre‘s Allesandro Pettachi tried to come off his wheel, but didn’t have the legs with Tom Veelers (Argos-Shimano) rounding out the top 3. Eisel received stitches to his eye, and put the blame for the crash on Orica-Greenedge‘s Matt Goss (who finished 4th). Almost unbelievably Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) finished 5th. Earlier on, the stage followed the tried and tested formula. The breakaway featured Japan’s Yukiya Arashiro (Europcar), who attacked as soon as the flag fell to signal the start of the stage. He was followed by Frenchmen David Montcoutie (Cofidis) and Anthony Deplace (Saur-Sojasun), but the bunch never let them endanger the sprint finish, and they were reeled in with 10km. Arashiro will wear the red race number today, the reward for “most aggressive rider”, although arguably that could go to Eisel…

As expected, no changes in the team competition, although Argos-Shimano are tightening their grip on the Lanterne Rouge. Despite Cav’s crash, Sky still have a healthy lead in the consistency competition.

Today’s stage is 196.5km and flat, and on a west to east track could have a fast tailwind. Another sprint is on the cards, and again I don’t expect any changes in the team classification. As yesterday, Sky’s Cavendish, Orica-Greenedge‘s Goss, Lotto-Belisol‘s Greipel and Lampre’s Pettacchi will be vying for the win. Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) remain in yellow, and would expect to hold it again today.

Again, if you’re watching the highlights on TV (ITV4 7pm-8pm), probably only worth tuning in for the last 20 minutes

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