Order, or what passes for order, was on display on the Tour de France's fourth stage, the 214.5km (134mi) race from Abbeville to Rouen. A long break, a long chase, an intermediate sprint, and a finishing sprint. Orderly doesn't mean easy, even if the results don't show the strains of the day. And again, Peter Sagan in the thick of things, winning another best young rider competition and expanding his lead in the points competition.
Another day, another three-rider break. The move started at the very beginning of the race, kilometer zero as it is known, when the neutral roll out of town ends. Yukiya Arashiro of Europcar, David Moncoutié of Cofidis, and Anthony Delaplace of Saur-Sojasun rode away and weren't seen again until the final hill at 10km to go. Back at Fécamp, at 74km to go, was the day's only intermediate sprint, in which Mark Cavendish took advantage of the Orica-Greenedge team's lead out and Sagan tried to take advantage of Cav'. The World Champion, Mark Cavendish, won the sprint from the group, taking fourth place points, with Sagan snatching seventh place points thanks to finishing fourth in the group.
Orderly doesn't mean easy. With 42km left on the day, Liquigas-Cannondale team leader Vincenzo Nibali was forced off the road behind a crash. The off-road adventure necessitated a bike change. Federico Canuti, Kristjian Koren, and Sylvester Szmyd waited with him. Once aboard a new bike, the team chased back through the caravan and brought Nibali back to the peloton in six kilometers. A scare, for sure, but nothing that the team prepared for.
On to the finish. A crash just inside of 3km to go exploded the field. Cavendish and a number of sprinters tumbled to the ground, with Sagan, who was again marking Cav' with the help of Daniel Oss, miraculously getting by the falling bodies and bikes and quickly moved into position behind the Lotto team's train. Oss wasn't so lucky; he went down. The Lotto's were looking out for their fast man André Greipel. Lotto executed their lead out to perfection and Greipel delivered the win. In the final 200 meters, Sagan went on the right as Greipel went on the left, but the Slovak wasn't quite the match of the big German and faded a bit to finish fifth.
After the finish, Sagan was relieved that he survived the day with all his skin intact. "I'm happy I didn't crash today. It was very nervous. In the Tour de France, everyone wants to be in front. I'm happy to keep the lead in the Green Jersey competition."
Between fifth on the stage and seventh at the intermediate sprint, Sagan added another 30 points to his tally, bringing him up to 147 points thus far. Matthew Goss of Orica-Greenedge moves into second place with 92 points.
While the field was shattered by the crash, it didn't upend the general classification. Owing to a rule that states any crash in the final 3km that delays riders doesn't result in a time loss, most of the field, including all of the riders in the top ten places, received the same time as the stage winner. Radio Shack's Fabian Cancellara maintains his seven-second lead over Brad Wiggins of Sky Procycling. Nibali remains in eighth place eighteen seconds down on the leader.
Tomorrow's Stage Five is a 196.5km (123mi) ride east from Rouen to Saint-Quentin is one of the flattest of this Tour. With no categorized climbs, a field sprint, with all the fast men is virtually guaranteed.
Stage 4 Results Abbeville to Rouen 214.5km
1. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol Team 5:18:32
2. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre – ISD same time
3. Tom Veelers (Ned) Argos-Shimano same time
4. Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica GreenEdge same time
5. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale same time
Stage Results Liquigas-Cannondale
43. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) same time
47. Ivan Basso (Ita) same time
96. Dominik Nerz (Ger) same time
102. Federico Canuti (Ita) same time
107. Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) same time
108. Kristijan Koren (Slo) same time
169. Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) 0:02:21
187. Daniel Oss (Ita) 0:04:19
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan 20:04:02
2. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:07
3. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quickstep same time
4. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:10
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling 0:00:11
8. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) 0:00:18
15. Peter Sagan (Svk) 0:00:23
26. Ivan Basso (Ita) 0:00:29
65. Federico Canuti (Ita) 0:03:18
76. Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) 0:04:15
85. Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) 0:05:16
90. Kristijan Koren (Slo) 0:06:22
106. Dominik Nerz (Ger) 0:08:03
141. Daniel Oss (Ita) 0:10:57