Columbia, Garmin and Astana key favourites for TTT
STAGE 4: MONTPELLIER - MONTPELLIER
Tuesday, July 7
DISTANCE: 39km TTT
WHAT'S THE COURSE LIKE?
The riders head west out of Montpellier, through the suburbs, before looping south and back to the city to complete the 39-kilometre route – the shortest Tour team time-trial since 1992. It is a technical and lumpy course, with plenty of twists and turns to break up the rhythm.
Though there are several uphill drags in the opening half of the TTT, wind will be the major concern on this predominantly-flat offering. After yesterday’s frenetic finale, teams will be all too aware of the tricky mistral blowing off the Mediterranean and the havoc that it can cause.
There are three time checks on the course: at Grabels (9km), Murviel-lès-Montpellier (19.5km) and Pignan (30.7km).
The order of departure is judged on the team classification. Therefore, Caisse d’Epargne are the first to leave Montpellier, with leaders Astana last team off, two and a quarter hours later.
First team off – 1430hrs CEST
Last team off – 1643hrs CEST
WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN?
The first real rendezvous on the route, the team time trial may not decide any race-winners, but it could certainly spell disaster if there are any significant time differences.
With no adjusted time differences, as there were in 2005, every second will count and anyone losing three minutes or more will be saying au revoir to the yellow jersey.
The Giro d’Italia team time trial was a showdown between Garmin and Columbia; this time around, factor Saxo Bank and Astana into the equation as well.
Predicting a winner is tricky, but judging by how Columbia has controlled the race so far, they will take some beating.
TEAMS TO WATCH
Astana – This will be the one day for the rest of the Tour de France that Astana will have to adopt some form of unity. Armstrong is already staking his claim for team leadership but neither he, nor Contador, will want to lose any time and will be forced to work together.
Columbia – The Columbia team won the Giro d’Italia team time-trial, but worked hard yesterday to set up another win for Mark Cavendish. Will they be too tired today to complete a hat trick of wins?
Garmin – It is Judgement Day for Garmin. Months ago, directeur sportif Jonathan Vaughters earmarked this stage as theirs for the taking. Since then, no other team has invested as much time and energy into perfecting changeovers and riding in tight formation as Garmin. Will it be a case of practise makes perfect today?
Saxo Bank – Super-strong Fabian Cancellara will be hoping to hold onto the yellow jersey today, though it would be a surprise if Saxo Bank could take stage victory. However, with their great strength in depth, the Danish-registered team should finish inside the top four, adequately setting up the Schleck brothers for the Pyrenees.
CW'S TIP TO WIN
WHO'S WEARING THE JERSEYS?
Yellow - Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank)
Green – Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia-HTC)
Polka-dot – Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux)
White – Tony Martin (Team Columbia-HTC)
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