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Stage 4 Winners & Losers

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Sorry to be so predictable, but I think you know where we start here...

  • Thor Hushovd... winner!! In fact, I will say that no stage win has meant more than this one so far. Thor needs a result in July, it's his whole season, and only Robbie McEwen - winner of stage 1 - is in the same boat. Except McEwen has a few wins already this season, such as his stage of the Giro, and McEwen is well positioned for a run at the maillot vert. Hushovd, through no fault of his own, missed the points one day and has had to claw his way back into contention, a desperate maneuver for a guy with no wins in 2007 before today. Now, not only is he a stage winner, he's within 7 points of Erik Zabel for second in the Green Jersey comp, and second overall on GC! What a difference a day makes.
  • Robbie Hunter... winner! While some people continue to ignore him, Hunter is now sandwiched between McEwen and Hushovd in the green jersey standings, and is getting closer and closer to stealing a stage from the big money boys. Actually, he's arguably been the most consistent sprinter, at least of the guys who didn't crash on stage 2, and the only reason he isn't in green today is his mad dash on stage 1, where he launched himself from, what? 700 meters? Had he not panicked, there's no telling how high up he'd have finished that day. Presumably better than 21st. Since then Hunter's finishes: 4th, 5th, and today's 2nd. Whatever... had he timed his sprint earlier today, he had the speed to win.
  • Robbie McEwen... loser. This was his day, right? A completely chaotic finish with a right-hand turn at 500 meters that Boonen claims wasn't on the program. But Robbie came in 16th, losing ground to Boonen and now Erik Zabel too. I'd like to see some post-race quotes, but it appears he isn't 100% right now.
  • Cofidis... winners! Sylvain Chavanel's classy move to take second in the last KOM, instead of first, left the maillot pois on the back of his teammate Stephane Auge (a/k/a OJ). They're the karma winners today.
  • People who love orderly sprints... Losers!! Welcome to life after Petacchi, where sprints are complete and utter chaos contested by about 65 riders. Milram keeps running the train like a ghost limb, only nobody takes them seriously or gives them any room. Quick Step imperiously refuses to yield the front -- as well they should -- but the boys in blue don't get Milram-respect either. So rather than a single team lining it out for the other elite sprinters to play off of, you have numerous other teams (T-Mob, Lampre, Liquigas) sending up scads of riders in their own attempt to take over the last KM. Now, I'm not going to point fingers (at, say, Liquigas), but not all of these teams have any business trying to launch a full train. The mayhem that results has been interesting so far, and means that victory goes not merely to the fastest but the guys with the nose for the line too. But it's a little depressing seeing Boonen and McEwen boxed in by nobodies, and if things get more hectic, we could see more carnage. Not good.
  • Danilo Napolitano... winner! Everyone talked about his illustrious teammate Daniele Bennati before the Tour, and 22 of us felt that Benna was a hidden gem at 7.5 points in the Tour VDS competition. Benna has gotten sidelined, but even beforehand he missed the sprint entirely in stage 1. This is not a huge criticism, and Bennati's leadout of Alessandro Ballan at the decisive moment of the Tour of Flanders is one of the year's most unforgettable moments. But I wonder whether Benna has a nose for the line in the mass hysteria of a Tour de France stage sprint? Instead, it's Napolitano who seems to worm his way into position more often. And with his kick, he might bag a win too.