After three spectacular days on Corsica, Tour de France now continues on the mainland. The surroundings in Nice are not bad at all but for the TV-viewers Corsica will be missed. Before the Tour started, Omega Pharma Quickstep were the big favorite for this stage. However, the three days on Corsica have changed that fact a little.
Looking at the map this is a stage for the big powerhouses. The 25 km in Nice take place on big roads and only include nine corners. Furthermore, the profile is as flat as a pancake. The first 1.5 km are the most technical with three 90° corners before the riders get on Promenade des Anglais. There is a split time after 13 km and from here on there are only two corners to overcome. This means that fastest team at the split time won’t necessarily win the stage.
15:19 Omega Pharma Quickstep
16:11 Team Saxo-Tinkoff
As stated in the beginning Omega Pharma Quickstep came to the Tour as the big favorites for this stage. The Belgian team won the World Championship last year and bring strong time trialists like Sylvain Chavanel, Tony Martin, Michal Kwiatkowski, Niki Terpstra and Peter Velits. Add to that list Mark Cavendish who always delivers a top performance in these disciplines. Unfortunately, Omega Pharma Quickstep haven’t had much luck so far. Tony Martin went down hard in the big crash on Stage 1 which also ended Mark Cavendish’ chances of the Yellow Jersey. Cavendish himself has been suffering from bronchitis lately and on Stage 3 Niki Terpstra crashed on a descent. I still think Omega Pharma Quickstep will make podium on this stage but they are not the big favorite anymore.
The way I see it, Garmin-Sharp is now the new favorite. The American team has always had high ambitions for the team time trials and they have an incredible strong team. All nine riders – except for Dan Martin - are good against the clock and David Millar will be eager to take the yellow jersey after he missed out with just one second on Stage 2. Garmin-Sharp won the team time trial in the Giro d’Italia last year and took the leader’s jersey and I wouldn’t be surprised if they do same thing in Nice.
Orica-GreenEdge also bring a very strong team for this TTT and the course really suits them with strong motors like Cameron Meyer, Brett Lancaster, Daryl Impey and especially Svein Tuft. The Australian team don’t have any riders for the overall classification and this is surely one of their key stages in this year’s Tour de France. The moral is high after they got their first ever stage win in the Tour de France and they are one of the few teams not worried about getting the Yellow Jersey “too soon”. The other GC teams would like to save energy for the last week but without a GC rider, GreenEdge will enjoy it to the fullest, should they win this team time trial.
|The map of Stage 4. Click for larger view.|
Originially Team Sky were one of my favorites for this stage but they too have been suffering from crashes. Geraint Thomas rides with a fractured pelvis and Ian Stannard is not doing great either after his crash.
Chris Froome, Richie Porte and Edvald Boasson Hagen are all among the best time trialists in the race and even without Thomas on his best, they should be able to do a top performance. Still, I doubt they can pull of a win like they did in the Giro earlier this year.
It wouldn’t be fair not to mention Movistar. For unknown reasons the Spanish team are always considered underdogs for the team time trials. However, they have been among the absolute best teams the recent years. They won the opening TTT in Vuelta España last year and they took 2nd place in Giro d’Italia this year. On paper, Movistar don’t bring many good time trialists but their really know how to make it work when it counts. Most people will probably be surprised should Movistar make Top3 but if you take a minute to think about, it shouldn’t really surprise you.
I’ve already named the teams I think will make Top5 on this stage, therefore it’s difficult to pick a joker with a chance of surprising. Still, I have a good feeling about the Belkin team. Lars Boom has been very active the first two stages and he’s great against the clock. Like the Movistar the individual riders are not among the best time trialists in the race but together they make it work. Bauke Mollema, Robert Gesink and Lars-Petter Nordhaug are known for being good in the mountains but they also know how to ride a good time trial. It seems to me that the Dutch team is super motivated after Belkin took over as team sponsor and I think they will put in strong ride in Nice.
Favorites: Garmin-Sharp / Omega Pharma QuickstepJoker: Team Belkin
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Just like during the Giro d’Italia this year, I once again have the chance to bring you daily “Fly Through” previews from Global Cycling Network. Here is Stage 4: