If yesterday’s race was predictably unpredictable, today’s was dead, dead calm and ran entirely to script – almost.Â An early break, with the French leading the smaller teams, was allowed away from the gun, and the rest of the peloton sat back to enjoy the short, flat, windless stage that snaked through Champagne country.
Only a series of tricky roundabouts in the lead in to ReimsÂ gave the breakaway any hope and the snaking peloton any trouble, but – an early fall by Euskatel-Euskadi’s Amets Txurruka aside – there were no unscheduled meetings of flesh and tarmac, and the promised bunch sprint was assured.
HTC-Columbia was well placed until the 1km-to-go banner, and seemed likely to give Mark Cavendish his first real points, but a well timed intervention by Danilo Hondo broke up the HTC train and the Manxman found he simply did not have the legs to compete. Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) went past him to claim a second stage victory, Julian Dean (Garmin), deputizing for a still-injured Tyler Farrar, took second, and Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen was third.
The GC remains unchanged, as do all the jerseys. Tomorrow’s stage, 187.5km fromÂ Epernay to Montargis, promises another bunch sprint. Can Cav or Robbie McEwen challenge Hushovd then, or Petacchi, at 36, nab the green jersey?
GC after 4 stages:
1. Fabian Cancellara (SAX)
2. Geraint Thomas (SKY) + 23″
3. Cadel Evans (BMC) + 39″
4. Ryder Hesjedal (GRM) + 46″
5. Sylvain Chavanel (QST) + 1’01”
6. Andy Schleck (SAX) +1’09”
7. Thor Hushovd (CTT) +1’19”
8. Alexandre Vinokourov (AST) +1’31”
9. Alberto Contador (AST) +1’40”
10. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (OLO) +1’42”