TdF Stage 4: The Race That Showed The Truth

Sometimes it’s hard to get the adrenaline up for watching three hours of pacelines, but today’s was a revealing stage.  As usual, there was quite a variance between the top and bottom-tier teams.  What was not usual was that there were none of those lame “loss limits” that took the spine out of the event.

That’s right – if you get dropped, you lose time.  If your team stinks, you can’t make up for it all by yourself.

That being said, I took away several nuggets from today’s Team Time Trial.

Of course we know that there are teams that, while competing at the Tour, are out of the running even before the Prologue.  However, when it came to the TTT, there were those clearly not up to the task.  The comedy of errors that was BBox Bouygues Telecom came complete with 3 crashes and a flat tire.  Maybe they had Michael Rasmussen in the team car.

Poor Cadel Evans.  Who knows how he would have done with a better team.  He is always alone in the climbs, and now his team deserts him once again in the Team Time Trial.  They lost two and a half minutes.  Ouch.  Good luck making that one up in the mountains.

Garmin Slipstream went balls out on this one.  According to team captain Christian Vandevelde, it was definitely not part of their plan to shed the sprinters after 20K and let the 5 TT specialists put the hammer down.  Given that, they perhaps put out the hardest effort on the day, even if it only netted them second place.  Chapeau.

Columbia HTC.  Hmm.  They sure did talk a bit of trash when it came to this discipline.  And to be fair, they often backed it up.  That team seemingly does nothing but pile up wins.

But with that reputation comes some pressure.  If you’re supposed to be that good, you have to nail it when it counts and a 5th place today was the equivalent – on their level at least – of laying an egg.

CSC SaxoBank; you let me down.  They are one of the most solid teams out there – both in terms of talent and overall team chemistry (which counts even more in a TTT).  If it weren’t for the Olympic TT gold medalist towing you along in the last 10K, it would have been a disaster.  But you did have the Olympic TT gold medalist, and thanks to that you still have yellow.

Lastly, Astana finally showed some team unity.  They deserved the win they earned today.  Both Armstrong and Contador worked seamlessly with each other and the rest of the team.  It’s one thing to sign on a ton of talent, but quite another to make it work well and gain ultimate success (to my beloved Yankees, I’m looking at you).

Seeing at the end that the race lead is less than a second after all that made it worthwhile.  On its own, the team time trial is a novelty.  When done well in a Grand Tour, you can get a day like today.

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