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Tour Stage 4 Preview: Montpellier TTT !!!

Stage 4 :: Tuesday July 7, 2009
39km :: Montpellier

Oh man, we've been begging for it, and had it delivered to us in races as diverse as the Amgen Tour of California and the Giro d'Italia (remember Christian's Maglia Rosa last year?). However, it's been four long languid years, almost to the day, since we've seen a Team Time Trial at the Tour de France.

It was July 5th, 2005 and the stage was from Tours to Blois over a somewhat lumpy (towards the end) 67.5km course. Zabriskie was in Yellow but Team Discovery won the day and Dave's crash caused him to arrive 1:26 down, giving the Yellow to Lance for what would eventually become his 7th GC victory. There was much rejoicing at the sight of train after train of teams hurtling along the French countryside.

For those of you that might be a little new to this sport, there are few things that will cheer the heart of even the most cynical, diehard, cycling fan.  They are, in order...

  1. De Ronde van Vlaanderen
  2. Duvel and Frites
  3. A magnificently executed Team Time Trial
  4. A Jens! Voigt breakaway
  5. Pork Belly served with Kimchi and Peanuts

Tomorrow's course is flat and only half as long as the 2005 course, but who cares, IT'S A FREAKING TEAM TIME TRIAL!


Gavia, dahling, layeth down the preview smack...

The team time trial returns to the Tour de France this year for stage 4. The teams will ride 39 kilometers around Montpellier on a mostly flat course. Indeed, the course is flat enough that there are no mountain points on offer during the stage. Three time checks at 9, 19.5, and 30.7 kilometers will allow fans - and the team cars - a chance to track the teams’ progress.

The stage will be decided on real time. There will be no adjustments to the teams’ finishing times as has sometimes been the case in the past. The time on the line will determine the stage and general classification standings, and will be taken when the fifth rider finishes.

Montepellier lies just inland from the Mediterranean coast and continues the sea breeze theme of the first week of this year’s Tour de France. The stage begins in the city center at the Jardin des Plants and follows a u-shaped course into the outskirts of the city before returning to finish at the Croix de Argent. Created in 1593, the Jardin des Plants in the oldest botanical garden in France. We can expect good weather for the stage, because Montpellier has the typically warm Mediterranean climate. The Tour de France last visited Montpellier in 2007 for the start of stage 12, a sprint stage won by Tom Boonen.

Courtesy of Gavia's Stage 4 Preview at

Now, this course is flat (as noted above) and close to the sea (as also noted above).  There's very little of direct interest, course wise, unless you have a sharp interest in Montpellier.  Here's a quick overview...

Unfortunately, the shortness and flatness of the stage just doesn't lend itself well to these terrain / topographical mapping feats that I perform using Google Earth; the mountain stages are obviously far more compelling. 

There is, however, one interesting aspect to this course I noted when I was mapping it out.  There are no less than 10 round-a-bouts en route.  You know these things, they are the funny little paved circles that appear to dot the French countryside (and city side) like Master Planned crop circles.  They cause absolute havoc in the peloton with half the riders taking one side and the others taking the opposite.  It totally reshuffles everyone.  Now, this doesn't necessarily matter to a Team Time Trial, except that you tend to barrel into this things at full tilt, and depending on the bend radius of the curve, it can "crack the whip" and might split off one or two riders off the back of the train, forcing them to catch back up.  Not so bad once or twice, but do it ten times and who knows.

Here's a sampling of some of the road furniture...