Five talking points from stage four of the Tour de France

THAT crash between Sagan and Cavendish; Finally a French sprint win; Britain in yellow; and more of the day's talking points from the 2017 Tour de France

Peter Sagan disqualified after Mark Cavendish clash

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Beyond doubt, the biggest talking point of the stage is the incident involving Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) in the finale of the stage.

After both had managed to avoid a crash just moments earlier, the two riders clashed in the final 500 metres as they hit speeds nearing 60kmh.

Sagan appeared to move to his right, squeezing Cavendish against the barriers with his elbow. It left the British sprinter with nowhere to go, and he was brought down very heavily onto the road. Fellow British rider Ben Swift (UAE Team Emirates) and German John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) were also brought down.

>>> Arnaud Démare wins Tour de France stage four as Mark Cavendish taken down in crash

Although Cavendish stayed on the ground initially, he was up and walking within five minutes, his back and right shoulder badly scuffed and his hand injured. He went on for x-rays to determine the extent of his injuries and have a cut on his finger stitched.

Sagan went straight to the Dimension Data bus at the finish to apologise after the stage. Cavendish told reporters at the finish: “I get on with Peter well, but I don’t get the elbow. I’m not a fan of him putting his elbow into me like that.”

The race jury evidently thought Sagan was at fault, and disqualified him from the race for ‘seriously endangering’ another rider.

Arnaud Démare – a rare French sprint win

Arnaud Démare wins stage four of the 2017 Tour de France. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

It’s been 11 years since a French rider took a bunch sprint victory, when Jimmy Casper won in Strasbourg in 2006, so it was fitting that the Arnaud Démare (FDJ) should take the win in the French champion’s jersey.

Démare did not inherit the win due the misfortune of others – the 25-year-old was ideally positioned to take the victory even before Cavendish’s crash and the ensuing mayhem.

>>> Tour de France 2017: Latest news, reports and race info

As Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) was held up by the crash, Démare’s win – his first in the Tour – also netted him the green jersey of points classification leader.

It will be a crowd-pleasing result as the race delves deeper into France… although one rider who may not be pleased is Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), who missed out on victory in his home region.

A slow burner of a stage

There are eight stages in the 2017 Tour that go beyond the 200-kilometre distance. That’s a long way to ride in an escape group when you’ve got company but it must seem like a painful eternity if you are on your own: as stage four’s lone escapee Guillaume van Keirsbulck (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) will likely attest.

Van Keirsbulck launched his move virtually from the gun as the race left Mondorf-les-Bains in Luxembourg in the morning. It is a bit of mystery as to why no-one bridged over to join him on a day when team sponsors could have enjoyed some easy TV airtime: as it stood, Wanty-Groupe Gobert got all the coverage.

The peloton was very happy to let him go – he posed no threat to the overall classification and would be easily reeled back in when the time came.

Sure enough, the Belgian built up a lead of over 13 minutes before his advantage was slowly but surely chipped away and he was caught with 16.5km to go. No one imagined that those peaceful 206.5 kilometres would be topped off by the carnage of the final kilometre.

Great Britain in yellow

Geraint Thomas in the race lead, Tour de France 2017

When Geraint Thomas received the yellow jersey after stage four, Britain equalled Germany in the number of days its riders have spent in the Tour race lead. Each country now has 75 yellow jerseys in the 104 editions since the race began in 1903.

The past five years of the Tour have been dominated by British riders: out of the 109 yellow jerseys presented, British riders have received it on 63 occasions.

>>> Tour de France 2017 route and profiles

However, Thomas and team-mate Froome were both brought down in a crash in the final kilometre of stage four, and Thomas appeared on the podium with a bandage on his knee.

It remains to be seen, therefore, whether Thomas or Froome will be wearing the yellow jersey after the race’s first summit finish on La Planche des Belles Filles on Wednesday.

The Tour will kick off properly tomorrow

Tour de France 2017 stage five profile

The day that the general classification contenders have been waiting for will arrive on Wednesday. Stage five of the 2017 Tour de France starts from Vittel and steady builds, and the terrain becomes more lumpy. The third category Côte d’Esmoulières is tackled first, but that is a minor bump compared to the summit finish to La Planche des Belles Filles.

Many of defending champion Chris Froome’s rivals will be all too aware that the climb was the scene of his first Tour victory – and he will be the man that everyone will be watching. With a final ramp of 20 per cent, the climb is the first real test of the climbers’ form – the four days leading up to this point have been an extended prologue.