It was close, but it was still a bunch sprint in Fougères in stage 4 of the Tour de France on Tuesday. However, Arnaud Démare was unable to contest it as he was too far back in the final hundreds meters. Mark Cavendish eventually took his 31st victory on the Tour while David Gaudu proved careful once again and crossed the line in 22nd position. He now sits 10th overall before the first big test of the Tour with Wednesday’s time trial.
“We did not manage to impose ourselves on the road”, Arnaud Démare
The start of the fourth stage of the Tour – the last in Brittany – was given from Redon this Tuesday under special circumstances. Following the numerous crashes of the previous days, all the riders stopped for a few moments after the real start in order to raise the alarm amongst cycling stakeholders regarding their security. The race then resumed, but very slowly until the attack of Pierre-Luc Périchon (Cofidis) and Brent Van Moer (Lotto-Soudal) 140 kilometres from the finish. The sprinters’ teams, including Groupama-FDJ with Bruno Armirail, then slowly took control, making sure not to leave any room to the day’s fugitives. That’s the reason why the gap remained of about two minutes for the entire day. The fight got more serious in the last fifty kilometers of the race, when the breakaway and more specifically Brent Van Moer decided to go all in. In the bunch, Arnaud Démare and David Gaudu stayed in the top positions with the support of their teammates up to the last ten kilometres.
“In the final, Arnaud slipped back a bit and it was hard to get things back in order afterwards,” added Yvon Madiot. The whole peloton also panicked quite a bit in the last ten kilometres, as Brent Van Moer seemed set on denying the sprinters. The chase wasn’t the most organized one and the lead-out trains struggled to set up. Back in the wake of Miles Scotson and Jacopo Guarnieri approaching the last kilometre, Arnaud Démare could not find the right space to sneak in and his chances were drastically reduced. “It was a mess,” said the former French champion. “The team worked a lot but we did not manage to stay at the front when it got lively in the crucial moments. I couldn’t follow my men. Already in the intermediate sprint, we got a bit boxed in. We did not manage to impose ourselves on the road, and we need to fix that. Physically I was fine, but I have to be more aggressive”. Too far back to hope for a convincing result, the former double stage winner on Tour then sat up in the last 400 meters not to take any risks.
“We have three goals on the time trial”, Yvon Madiot
“All the riders did a good job until the last 500m,” noted Yvon Madiot. “Bruno chased the whole day, Valentin was also there in the final. Jacopo and Miles launched the sprint perfectly but it didn’t go very well… We also have to say that the day after a crash is never easy. Now the facts are there: we were not involved in the sprint. Of course, it’s a bit disappointing. We would like Arnaud to win, he probably wants it even more himself, and there aren’t a dozen chances either. For him, the next chance will be the day after tomorrow”. On the other hand, David Gaudu did not suffer any trouble and he even crossed the line in the very first part of the bunch, in 22nd position. He climbed to tenth place overall, fifty-two seconds behind the yellow jersey’s Mathieu van der Poel. “I felt I had good feelings in the final,” said the young man. “Personally, I’m happy. The goal for me was not to suffer any split, and the mission was fulfilled. This is good. Let’s now head to one of the first big tests of the Tour with this time trial. We’ll do the math tomorrow night but my goal is to lose the least possible time on the favourites”. On home soil in Mayenne tomorrow, Yvon Madiot surely knows what to expect. “I have done a recon of the course several times”, he said. “The beginning is very difficult with climbs, certainly not very long, but still tiring. There is not too much flat on this time trial. There is only a slightly descending one in the second part of the route, and then we have a last climb to finish the time trial. It’s a demanding one where you’ll need to manage your effort very well. For us, there are three goals tomorrow as we aim for the stage win with Stefan, we want to limit our losses with David and we want everyone to do it well, although it will be an opportunity for some to recover a bit”.