Thursday, July 06, 2006

Stage 4 - Wednesday, July 5: Huy (Belgium) - Saint-Quentin, 207 km

This stage, like so many during the first week, started out with a breakaway. The stage was, for the most part, thankfully uneventful. There were no major crashes and no one abandoned. At the very end of the stage, there was a crash involving Julian Dean (Credit Agricole), but he finished the stage. We'll see tomorrow if he was hurt badly. The crash only involved Dean, by some miracle no one else in the peloton hit him and fell. It was kind of surprising, considering how fast people were going. I think that they knew he was going to fall because he wobbled a bit before going down.

Boonen and Quick-Step did a good job protecting the yellow jersey. He finished the stage in fourth place, keeping his one second lead over T-Mobile's Michael Rogers.

The final sprint was confused, as usual, but more with Dean's crash. There wasn't really a battle, as Robbie McEwen just exploded out of nowhere, as usual. He took his 10th win and second of the Tour. Thor Hushovd finished near the top, but was later relegated (I have no idea what exactly he did) apparently cutting Bernhard Eisel (FDJ) off. Eisel said on cyclingnews that Thor cut him off, but he didn't want Thor to lose any points or anything so he didn't complain (unlike last Tour, when Eisel was all about being a bad teammate with Baden Cooke). But, upon further review, the Tour did relegate Hushovd. I didn't see what happened, but I suppose that's just the way it goes.

Neither the young rider jersey nor the king of the mountains changed hands. Next week those will probably change often, unless a lucky young rider ends up in a supurb break. None of these breaks so far have ended up being as spectacular as the one where Voeckler won the yellow. I don't know when we'll see another like that -- if ever. But for now, it's Tom Boonen topping the yellow jersey competition and hot on Robbie McEwen's heels for the green jersey. All Tom needs to do is win the stage and finish in the top and then make sure McEwen is boxed out. Of course, I don't see that happening, but this is the tour.

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