Schumacher Wins Tour Time Trial, Takes Maillot Jaune
Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) has won Stage 4 of the Tour de France. Schumacher powered over the flat, 29.5-kilometer course in Cholet, winning in 35.44. Kim Kirchen (Columbia) and David Millar (Garmin) finished second and third, respectively, at 0:18. Schumacher is the new maillot jaune.
Rubens Bertogliati (Saunier Duval) set the early standard with a 37:20. Danny Pate (Garmin) bettered this time with a 36:54, and Jens Voigt (CSC) lowered the standard further with a 36:19. Denis Menchov (Rabobank) pipped Voigt by 0:01.
Thomas Lovkvist (Columbia) took the lead with a 36:32. Fabian Cancellara (CSC), the favorite to win this stage, had a subpar day. He got off to a slow start, and despite a strong finish, the Swiss time trial specialist would settle for fifth at 36:17.
Christian Vande Velde (Garmin) and Schumacher started within two minutes of each other. Schumacher served notice that he intended to win. His time at the first time check was the fastest of the day (13:54), and the same was true at the second (24:42). The German crossed the finish line with the day's fastest time.
Cadel Evans (Silence) and Millar, one a GC contender who can time trial and the other a time trial specialist, turned in strong performances. Evans was faster than all of his GC rivals, putting 1:07 into Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), 0:07 into Menchov, 0:59 into Damiano Cunego (Lampre), 1:02 into Andy Schleck (CSC), and 1:16 into Carlos Sastre (CSC). The Australian finished fourth on the day.
Winning was probably more important for Millar, who has no GC aspirations. He failed to win, but he came within 0:18 of doing so. Millar confirmed that he is a man to watch in the Tour's long time trials.
Kirchen turned in a very good ride. The Luxembourger, who is not on the same level as Millar in the time trial, finished in the same time as the Scot and took the runner-up spot. He has become a rider to watch when the Tour turns skyward in Stage 6.
In the overall, Schumacher leads Kirchen and Millar, respectively, by 0:12. Stage 5 will not change this state of affairs. The 232-km run from Cholet to Chateauroux will be the longest stage of this year's Tour. However, the stage will be flat, which should allow a sprinter to shine. Who will win? Robbie McEwen (Silence)? Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!