Tour de France 2013: Stage 4 preview

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Tour de France 2013 stage four
Tuesday, July 2
From Nice
Distance 25km
Stage type Team time trial

Yellow jersey 3/5
Green jersey 0/5
Polka-dot jersey 0/5

It’s only a short distance as the crow flies from Corsica to Nice, but culturally they are far apart. The Tour swaps the rural wildness of Corsica for the sophistication and surly waiters of Nice.

Assuming the logistics of getting 200 cyclists, plus the thousands of roadies, techies, hacks and groupies who hang around them, back from Corsica have gone to plan, we’re back on mainland France.

Nice is a cross between Brighton and Kensington, only with nicer weather and palm trees. With Nice being the main tourist centre on the French Riviera, we’re not likely to pay as much for a coffee again until we get to Paris, nor enjoy it as little.

After two days in the hills, the good news is that today’s course is short and flat. The bad is that the team time trial is one of the least forgiving disciplines in cycling, and what it lacks in length, it makes up for in burning, excruciating leg pain.

The act of riding at almost full capacity on the front of a line of riders is hard enough, but then riders have a brief respite before having to sprint back on to the back of the line. Small gaps opened here have an annoying habit of becoming first persistent, then permanent.

Garmin and Sky will do well. So will BMC. And somebody, probably Sojasun, will have a nightmare. At 25 kilometres, however, the damage will be more significant to morale than to overall chances.

The science of team time trialling has evolved so much that the best teams are all bumping up against a glass ceiling, having worked out that the tactics aren’t simply a matter of everybody banging away on the front of the line until they drop, and the gaps between the top teams will be no more than a handful of seconds.

The interesting question will be, who’s in the yellow jersey now? There’s no one single rider favoured by the opening four stages – the sprinters will have been thwarted by the mountains, while the GC candidates will probably have ridden defensively in the hills, since it’s too early to start spending energy on big attacks.



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Tour de France 2013: Coverage index