Stage 4 of the Tour de France, a flat and relatively short ride from Cambrai to Reims, France, was billed as a sprinter's race, and it did not disappoint. The long and straight roads were surely a welcomed a relief to the riders after they spent the past two days dealing with wet conditions and cobblestones, resulting in carnage rarely seen in the Tour. Indeed, Stage 4, the fifth day of riding, was set up perfectly for the sprinter's in the field, and they were quick to take advantage of the perfect conditions.
Team HTC-Columbia, led by Mark Renshaw, did its best to get their man, Mark Cavendish, into position for the final, furious dash to the finish line, but in the end it was Italy's Alessandro Petacchi (team Lampre-Farnese) coming from the outside with speed that was too quick to catch to win the stage, his second victory of the 2010 Tour.
SB Nation's excellent cycling blog, Podium Cafe, wrote that Wednesday was just another example that the veteran Petacchi still has plenty left.
Alessandro Petacchi, Lampre's veteran sprinter, showed the field that he has plenty left in his long, powerful legs as he stomped into high gear from 300 meters out and nobody could catch him. This was vintage Ale-Jet, forcing the high speed from early in the final sprint and daring anyone to try to come past. Among those who couldn't were Mark Cavendish, who gave up with 50 meters left; Thor Hushovd, who was glued to Cavendish and had nowhere to go; Edvald Boasson Hagen and Robbie McEwen, who gave it a go at least; and a duet of Garmin sprinters, Hunter and Dean, stepping into the void left by Tyler Farrar's wrist fracture.
The easy day will surely leave the riders in a better mood, and boost overall morale just days before the Tour enters the Alps. Unless, of course, you're on team HTC-Columbia.
[T]he HTC camp [has] seen their Tour plans crumble. Today they put their leadout train on the front in the final 5km, but not for long as Lampre's Danilo Hondo sprinted up alongside them inside of 3km and signaled the end of HTC control of the race. From there it was an uncontrolled run-in to Petacchi's eventual victory.
With the leaders and other main riders bunched together in the peloton at the finish, there was no change to the overall leader board on Wednesday.
General Classification After Stage 4:
1. Fabian Cancellara, Team Saxo Bank
2. Geraint Thomas, Sky (+ 00:23)
3. Cadel Evans, BMC (+ 00:39)
4. Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin-Transitions (+ 00:46)
5. Sylvain Chavanel, Quick Step (+01:01)
18. Lance Armstrong, Radioshack (+ 02:30)
The defending champion, Alberto Contador (Astana), is in ninth position, 01:40 back.
Wednesday's Stage 5 is another flat ride, stretching roughly 116 miles from Épernay to Montargis. A pair of fourth-category climbs present themselves early, meaning we should be due another sprint finish at the end.
For more on all things Tour de France, head on over to Podium Cafe.