Five talking points from stage four of the Tour de France

Here's what we're talking about from stage four of the Tour de France

Third time lucky for Tony Martin

Tony Martin after stage four of the 2015 Tour de France (Sunada)

Tony Martin after stage four of the 2015 Tour de France (Sunada)

Twice in a row, on stages two and three, Tony Martin was denied taking his first ever yellow jersey by the time bonuses on offer for finishing in the top three.

Firstly Fabian Cancellara pipped Mark Cavendish to third place on stage two to take yellow, then Chris Froome gained enough seconds to take the maillot jaune ahead of him once more.

The German knew today that he just had to beat Froome by two seconds to take the jersey for himself, but he went one better by winning the stage three seconds ahead of the Team Sky rider.

With the win came a precious time bonuse, leaving him 12 seconds ahead of Froome with some relatively straightforward stages to come in the next few days.

He’s won five stages of the Tour de France, but never worn yellow until now. Now, he heads into stage five with the famous jersey on his back and could keep hold of it for a good few days…

…although I wrote that about Cancellara ahead of stage three, and look how that turned out.

Where was the carnage?

Nicholas Roche on stage four of the 2015 Tour de France (Watson)

Nicholas Roche on stage four of the 2015 Tour de France (Watson)

We were promised carnage, but there was no carnage. Not that we’re keen to see crashes, injuries or massive disruptions, but almost none of the main contenders seemed bothered by the cobbles at all!

Last year Froome crashed out before reaching the cobbles and Vincenzo Nibali’s assault pretty much won the title for him. This year, all the contenders kept themselves in the front group, mostly surrounded by teammates and even attacking off the front.

There was little thought given to just ‘surviving’ the cobbles, but more putting the hammer down and trying to distance their rivals. Even Joaquim Rodriguez, who lost 22 minutes on this stage last year, kept up with the leaders.

In reality I am, and I’m sure all cycling fans are, glad that everyone came through unscathed and the Tour de France title is still very much up for grabs.

Pinot’s petit petulance

Thibaut Pinot during the Team Presentation of the 2015 Tour de France (Watson)

Thibaut Pinot during the Team Presentation of the 2015 Tour de France (Watson)

One person who may have seen his chances of the win slip away is FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot, but he can only blame bad luck to a certain extent.

The Frenchman, who finished third overall last year, suffered a mechanical on one of the final cobbled sectors, slowing up to wait for his team car.

Due to the narrow roads and trailing riders, Pinot’s car was some way back and he had to wait a while for some assistance – much to his displeasure.

Then, a little way up the road he needed a whole new bike. He stopped at the side of the road and looked as if he was going to produce one of the best ever bike throws, before simply dropping it to the tarmac.

Instead of taking his teammate’s bike, which was offered on a plate to him, he threw his toys out of the pram and waited for his car again to get one of his own bikes.

Together these two incidents, as well his general struggles on the cobbles, cost him nearly three-and-a-half minutes on his general classification rivals, which even an excellent climber like Pinot will struggle to regain.

What’s more, simply taking his teammate’s bike would have surely been a perfectly fine thing to do – look at Tony Martin, he took Matteo Trentin’s machine and powered it to victory.

Saying that, Matthieu Ladagnous is reportedly five centimetres shorter than Pinot, meaning it would have been an awkward bike fit, but beggars can’t be choosers, Thibaut.

Cavendish competes for the intermediate sprint

Mark Cavendish at the 2015 Tour de France (Sunada)

Mark Cavendish at the 2015 Tour de France (Sunada)

It was a day of firsts, or nearly anyway, as we saw Mark Cavendish compete for and win an intermediate sprint on stage four.

Normally the Manxman is content to simply gain his green jersey points through stage wins, allowing the likes of Peter Sagan to rack up the small points for the whole three weeks.

But on stage four Cav decided to have a pop, and guess what? He won! Granted it was only five points, but still it’s progress on his quest for green.

He didn’t seem too impressed when Sagan then joked about forming a breakaway while they were out front, nor when the Slovakian took a load of points on the line by placing third.

What’s more, Cavendish even took a turn on the front on the first sector of cobbles, not only to keep himself out of harm’s way, but also to help his teammate Martin set the pace.

Andre Greipel still leads in the green jersey competition thanks to his stage two win, with Sagan and Degenkolb in second and third respectively.

Froome looking good on the cobbles

Ian Stannard protects Chris Froome on stage four of the 2015 Tour de France

Ian Stannard protects Chris Froome on stage four of the 2015 Tour de France

As we mentioned before, all of the contenders made it over the cobbles in one piece and all in a group. Some of them, though, looked almost competent on the pavé. Not competent enough to win Paris-Roubaix, but just competent enough to dictate this stage of the race.

Froome missed the cobbles last year, having abandoned just before he reached them, but he made no mistakes this year, getting himself to the front of the pack as it thinned out on the pavé sectors and generally keeping out of trouble.

His ‘elbows-out’ style may not be the best way to attack the cobbles, but it worked well enough – mostly to keep anyone from getting close enough to knock him off.

Froome even found time and energy to make a little attack after the final sector, hoping to drop Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana, who were towards the back of the group, but it wasn’t to be.

Everyone got through and finished pretty much together, meaning we should get a cracking showdown in the mountains in the next two weeks.

 Cycling Weekly’s experts look ahead to stage 5-9 of the Tour de France, which won’t feature that man pictured…