Beyond the Peloton

July 7, 2010 10:18 AM

All Quiet on the Western Front

Stage 4's route traverses through the countryside of Champagne, scene of some of the fiercest battles in World War I. In fact, the road from Cambrai to Reims is approximately the same as the frontlines of the Second Battle of the Marne, a decisive battle in the summer of 1918 that ended all German initiative and pushed the war finally to a close.

marne1.jpgNinety-two years later, the landscape has healed from all the battle scars. And the peloton, mending from their own battles the first three days on the road, was more than happy to take it easy. There hasn't been a Tour like this in recent memory, with three days of hard racing that already caused nine riders to pull out, including two GC contenders in Frank Schleck and Christian Vande Velde.

After an early breakaway was reeled in in the final few kilometers, we finally have our first mass sprint of the Tour. Though Mark Cavendish had a perfect leadout from HTC-Columbia teammate Mark Renshaw, he just clearly didn't have the goods. We had speculated that his Stage 1 injury was more serious than he let on. And it would not be a surprise that he'd pull out of the Tour before the mountain stages. The same goes for Garmin's Tyler Farrar, who has a broken wrist.

So it was up to the oldies but goodies. Alessandro Petacchi, who dominated the 2003 Tour with four stage wins, is making a stirring comeback. He overpowered all the other sprinters, including Robbie McEwen and Thor Hushovd to easily take his second stage in this year's Tour. These three 30-somethings are now on top of the race for the green jersey, and barring injuries, it'll probably stay that way all the way to Paris.

Stage 5 Preview (Epernay to Montargis)

Another flat stage suited for a mass sprint at the end. After the inevitable breakaway in the opening part of the stage, which features two Cat. 4 climbs, the peloton will try to reel it in toward the finish.

Prediction: Alessandro Petacchi. Can't argue against his form. The 36-year-old Italian is back to being his dominant self, burnishing a career that already boasts 46 stage wins on the three grand tours. Fabian Cancellara will be safely in yellow until at least Stage 7, when the Tour heads into the Alps.

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