Tour de France stg 4 – Gaviria second win, Van Avermaet defends Yellow
Colombia's Fernando Gaviria takes second win, holding off Peter Sagan and Andre Greipel in a thrilling sprint finish to win stage four of the Tour de France in Sarzeau.
Belgian Greg Van Avermaet successfully defended the yellow jersey after a day of racing that saw BMC Racing Team working together up at the front of the peloton all day to ensure all eight riders crossed the line safely in another hectic bunch sprint.
Four-time winner Chris Froome finished in the bunch now 52 seconds off the lead, in 17th.
Kiwi Dion Smith sprints to 9th and holds the polka dot jersey for another stage.
It was a gently rolling 195km course from La Baule to Sarzeau today with BMC Racing Team putting Kiwi Patrick Bevin, Tejay van Garderen and Michael Schär up at the front of the peloton to control the pace after four riders went clear almost as soon as the flag dropped.
The breakaway was allowed to go almost eight minutes up the road but with Schär and Bevin continuing to share the majority of the pacemaking over the first 80km of the day, the gap started to come down before stabilizing at around seven minutes.
With an almost entirely straight 3km run into the finish line, the possibility of a bunch sprint looked likely and so the sprinters' teams soon joined the chase and pulled the leaders back to inside 3 minutes at the halfway point of the stage.
BMC Racing Team continued to sit together in first part of the main bunch approaching the Côte de Saint-Jean-la-Poterie, the day's only categorized climb, and by the time they reached the top of the category four ascent, the breakaway was hovering 1'40" ahead.
With just under 60km still to race, the pace relaxed and the gap went back out to 2'55" before the chase restarted heading into the final 25km of the day.
However, the leaders were still holding onto an advantage of 1'40" at the 15km to go mark and with a more determined effort starting behind, nerves began to show in the peloton.
A crash in the middle of the peloton, which all eight BMC Racing Team riders avoided after holding their position at the front, slowed the chase slightly with less than 5km to go but in the end, the race came back together going under the flamme rouge and the sprinters got the showdown they were looking for with Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) taking the win.
Van Avermaet was kept well-positioned as the final battle for position began and he eventually crossed the line safely alongside Richie Porte and the rest of his teammates to retain the leader's yellow jersey heading into stage 5 tomorrow.
Van Garderen continues to sit second overall on the General Classification with the same time as Van Avermaet while Porte remains 14th, 51 seconds back.
"It was a nice day in the beginning but it got pretty hectic in the final." Quoted Greg Van Avermaet, "The guys did a really good job to protect Richie and me. They were always on the front and we spent a lot of energy in the wind but as we saw, anything can happen and by staying up at the front we were in the safe zone. We protected ourselves and with no time loss, it was a perfect day."
"I think tomorrow will be another hard stage. It will be important to stay in front and stay safe but in the end, I think we can do more in the final. We have a strong team. I will try to be up there and I would like to make a good result. I've enjoyed my day in yellow but I also came here to try and get a stage win and I think tomorrow is my first big opportunity. A win in yellow would be even more incredible."
Tour de France
Stage 4: La Baule > Sarzeau, 195km
Stage four result
1. Fernando Gaviria (Col/Quick-Step Floors) 4hrs 25mins 1sec
2. Peter Sagan (Svk/Bora-Hansgrohe) same time
3. Andre Greipel (Ger/Lotto-Soudal)
4. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned/LottoNL-Jumbo)
5. Marcel Kittel (Ger/Katusha-Alpecin)
6. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita/Wanty-Groupe Gobert)
7. Alexander Kristoff (Nor/UAE Team Emirates)
8. John Degenkolb (Ger/Trek-Segafredo)
9. Dion Smith (NZ/Wanty-Groupe Gobert)
10. Timothy Dupont (Bel/Wanty-Groupe Gobert)
General classification after stage four
1. Greg van Avermaet (Bel/BMC Racing) 13hrs 33mins 56secs
2. Tejay van Garderen (US/BMC Racing) same time
3. Geraint Thomas (GB/Team Sky) +3secs
4. Philippe Gilbert (Bel/Quick-Step Floors) +5secs
5. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra/Quick-Step Floors) +7secs
6. Bob Jungels (Lux/Quick-Step Floors) same time
7. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Sunweb) +11secs
8. Soren Kragh Andersen (Den/Sunweb) same time
9. Michael Matthews (Aus/Sunweb)
10. Rigoberto Uran (Col/EF Education First) +35secs