Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quickstep) won the 4th stage of the Tour de France, just edging ahead of the Frenchman, Bryan Coquard (Direct Energy). The race leader, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) finished 3rd and in doing so, took back the lead in the green points jersey competition from Mark Cavendish.
At 237km, stage 4 from Saumur to Limoges was the longest of this year’s Tour de France. Once again it was a predominantly flat stage, with the main challenge being in the final 500m of the stage, where the road rose to the line at a 5% average gradient. After a few early kilometers where teams were looking to see who would make the first break, the attacks finally started after 20km. It took another 15km before 4 riders eventually slipped clear.
Race leader, Sagan, sent his team up to control proceedings from the peloton and Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were the first to lend them a helping hand as Natnael Berhane began assisting the Russian team with the chase. The gap was pretty much locked at around the 4-minute mark, and the peloton was confident that it would be able to bring the escapees back.
As the race came into Limoges, and after Natnael Berhane had done a sterling job together with the Tinkoff and Etixx-Quickstep domestiques, the break was caught at 7km to go. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had all grouped around Mark Cavendish and Edvald Boasson Hagen for the finale, but a small hill at 6km to go disrupted the rhythm of the peloton somewhat.
With 4km to go there was a precarious intersection that caused a bottle neck and from thereon it was a slightly disorganised sprint. With 500m to go, Boasson Hagen tried to move Cavendish up to the head of the peloton but the Norwegian was pushed into the barriers and no longer in contention from that point.
Cavendish, slightly boxed in on the right side of the peloton, was never really able to find a clean bit of road to start sprinting. Kittel and Coquard went shoulder to shoulder with the German taking the win in the photo finish. Cavendish had to settle with 8th position on the stage.
Bernhard Eisel – Rider
At the start we knew it was going to be another long, long day just like yesterday, probably even half an hour longer. Nobody wanted to attack, nobody wanted to ride in the beginning. Then in one moment there was an attack of 7 riders, we had Natnael there, with a total of 5 sprinter teams represented in the move so that mixed up everything. The next 15km was chock-o-block full gas. That changed the situation and 4 guys got away. It was a good rolling day, not too hard, it was a nice day. It was not a recovery day at all but the fatigue didn’t get too much worse. It was a little breather before a big hard day tomorrow and as we can see, the sun is out so it’s going to be interesting the next few days as it gets warmer and warmer.