By Graham Jones
and Barry Boyce

CyclingRevealed Historians

 

 

 

 

Tour de France Champions Living and Dead

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CyclingRevealed's First Impressions '08

Stage 4 - (Tuesday) July 8th, Cholet to Cholet, 29.5 km Individual Time Trial

Battle of Cholet

Cholet is a modest town of around 54,000 people in the Maine-et-Loire département of the Pays-de-la-Loire region. In the 16th Century weavers settled here and it was from that industry that the town established its prosperity. Today linen, wool and cotton products still comprise an important part of the local industries.

During the French Revolutionary Wars there was a major battle fought in the town on 17th October 1793. The French Republican forces vanquished the French Royalist forces whose leader, Gigot d'Elbée, was captured and executed by Republican troops.


The 1793 Battle of Cholet
[ Artist ©: Paul Emile Boutigny ]

No Blood, Just Guts

Today's individual time trial was the first real test for the primary GC contenders. However the day was expected to be divided into battles between two factions. The mostly flat non-technical course suits pure TT power riders like Fabian Cancellara and David Millar and such a rider is expected to carry off the stage win. Meanwhile the GC protagonists will be looking to gain on their rivals.

This time trial deviated from the typical Tour pattern in that it was shorter and flatter than most. Unlike the 18th Century Battle of Cholet this one should not cause blood shed, but it will certainly demand guts. In the past Valverde has faltered in such tests but maybe today his plan was to relinquish the Yellow Jersey in order to take the pressure off of his team and let them recuperate for an onslaught later in the Tour.

Le Tour Stage 4: the Battle Begins

One by one the riders left the start house in reverse order of their GC standings. There are two intermediate time checks (at 11km and 19.5km) before the mad dash to the finish at 29.5 km.

Contender start times:

x Contender
GC Place
Time
Start Time
2 Minute Rider
x Denis Menchov
52nd
+2'30"
15:14
Alexandre Botcharov
x Damiano Cunego
35th
+1'52"
15:48
Egoi Martinez
x Fabian Cancellara
34th
+1'52"
15:50
Damiano Cuneo
x Carlos Sastre
31st
+1'52"
15:56
Stijn Devolder
x Cadel Evans
9th
+1'46"
16:40
Filippo Pozzato
x David Millar
8th
+1'46"
16:42
Cadel Evans
x Alessandro Valverde
4th
+1'45"
16:50
Kim Kirchen
x Romain Feillu
1st
Race Leader
16:56
Paolo Longo Borghini

Garmin Chipotle's Danny Pate was the first rider to break 37 minutes and set the early time to beat at 36'54. Pate set fast check point time for his team leader David Millar to chase.

Pate time began to solely tumble as the top TT riders completed the course. French TT champion Sylvain Chavanel was the first to beat Pate's time followed by CSC's Jens Voigt. With the times set the big stars approached the start house.

World Champion Fabian Cancellara left the start house wearing his race number (#13) upside down to shake the superstition of the unlucky number. Through the first time check he was 2 seconds behind Voigt.

The surprise of the day came from Stefan Schumacher. The Gerolsteiner rider posted a fastest time at 35'44. He fought all the way and threw the gauntlet down.


Stage winner Stefan Schumacher
[ Image ©: www.gazzetta.it/AFP ]

One by one the contenders took their shot at his top time. Cadel Evans, 5th at the first time check improved to 4th at the finish 27 seconds behind. Next David Millar straining from the all out effort crossed the finish in 3rd place, 18 second off Schumacher's time. Green Jersey wearer Kim Kirchen had a brilliant ride and battled to the finish less than a second behind Millar and 18 second behind Schumacher.


Fabian Cancellara

Cadel Evans

David Millar

Kim Kirchen

With Alessandro Valverde well off the average speed necessary to be competitive Stefan Schumacher claimed the stage win and captured the Yellow Jersey.

This was a superb stage with fabulous efforts and outstanding performances. The Tour has 17 more stages, but today's stage has given shape the general Classification. There will be more battles along the way, but time lost in the Battle of Cholet will be hard to get back.

 

 

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Tour de France 08

 

Stage 4 Profile (Click to enlarge)