Tour de France 2021 - Stage 4 as it happened - Mark Cavendish claims emotional win
Stage 4 of the Tour de France will see the race travel 150km from Redon to Fougères, and represents an opportunity for the first bunch sprint of the race after yesterday's crash-strewn day. Follow the action live with Felix Lowe. You can watch the Tour de France live and ad-free on the Eurosport app and Eurosport.co.uk. Download the Eurosport app for iOS and Android now.
'What a hero!' - Cavendish claims stunning win on Stage 4
Arnaud Demare was nowhere to be seen so the Frenchman must have had some issues for the second day running, which is a huge shame. That win puts Cavendish in the green jersey, too, which he takes from his teammate Alaphilippe. Meanwhile, no change in the general classification with Mathieu van der Poel retaining the yellow jersey.
Note Bouhanni's second place - that's his best ever in a Tour stage, coming one day after his previous best (third). The Frenchman is clearly on good form. But the day belongs to Cavendish, now just three wins short of Eddy Merckx's all-time stage record of 34.
31st victory for Cav
You can not get more emotion than that... Cavendish is in floods of tears after his 31st victory on the Tour - hugging each of his teammates one by one, lingering long on the green jersey of Julian Alaphilippe, who put in a huge pull to help reel in Brent van Moer on the home straight.
"I don't know what to say. Just being here is special enough. I never thought I'd get to come back to this race. So many people didn't believe in me - but these guys do," Cavendish said before praising his team for the opportunity they gave him to return to the fold. "They have some of the best riders in the sport and the stars aligned for me. After so many years it's nice to have some good luck for a change. F***! I'm sorry."
VICTORY FOR MARK CAVENDISH!
What a finish from the Manx Missile! Emotions run high in the Eurosport commentary box with Carlton Kirby and Sean Kelly - and this is perhaps the most emotional win you will see all year. Absolutely incredible - the last man to win in Fougeres has done it again, six years on - and five years after his last Tour stage win.
Van Moer was swept up with less than 200m to go before Alpecin-Fenix powered though. It looked like Cavendish was a bit boxed in as the riders took on the final sweeping right-hander - but he came through to deny Jasper Philipsen, who was also pipped by Nacer Bouhani to the line.
Brent van Moer has the peloton breathing down his neck as he goes under the flamme rouge... Groupama and QuickStep are leading the chase now with Trek... he may just hang on!
3km to go: Van Moer dying a thousand deaths
The shoulders of our lone leader are starting to slump as he passes under the 3km to go banner with 30 seconds. Trek, Bahrain and DSM are now doing all the work behind. And the gap is down to 20 seconds with 2km remaining. It's real touch and go!
5km to go: Perichon caught
Now the teams of the sprinters show their hands as Pierre-Luc Perichon is swept up. Deceuninck-QuickStep and Alpecin-Fenix, as are Team DSM, but Lotto Soudal are doing their best to disrupt by blocking, what with their man Van Moer still 40 seconds up the road.
7km to go: Team TotalEnergies take it up
Finally the French team come to the front working for Edvald Boasson Hagen and Anthony Turgis but no one else seems prepared to chip in - and this is madness! Van Moer still has a minute and "it's looking good for him" says Sean Kelly.
10km to go: It's on a knife edge...
No one seems willing to take this up in the pack and as a result, Van Moer is now 1'05" clear. It's the GC teams near the front but they have no interest in catching the lone leader - and for some reason, the teams of the sprinters are yet to show their hand.
14km to go: Van Moer goes solo!
Brent van Moer kicks clear of Perichon and goes for a long one. He's done this before - just 30 days ago in the Dauphine - and his advantage is back up to a minute as the pace eases up a little behind in the pack. Could the Belgian debutant cause an upset and give Lotto Soudal a boost following Ewan's withdrawal yesterday?
17km to go: Tensions rise, the gap doesn't
Given the precedent, you worry for the riders' health here - it's got very tense on the front as they approach a tight right-hander, which Luke Rowe takes on the front of the pack for Ineos Grenadiers. The gap of the duo is down to 30 seconds now. Bunch sprint bonanza coming up - provided everyone can just stay up.
25km to go: Duo holding on
Brent van Moer (Lotto Soudal) and Pierre-Luc Perichon (Cofidis) have been clear for most of the day having attacked once order was restored following that damp squib of a protest at Kilometre Zero. Their gap is still 1'15" so they're doing well to put off the inevitable - but I'd eat my hat if they hold on. There are just too many top teams and sprinters invested in the finish today to let that happen.
36km to go: Van Moer wins sprint, Cav signals intent
Brent van Moer kicks clear of Pierre-Luc Perichon to take the intermediate sprint at Vitre. When the peloton comes through around 1'20" later it's Mark Cavendish who benefits from an expert lead-out from Michael Morkov to take the maximum remaining points ahead of Nacer Bouhanni. That was an example of expert piloting from the Danish veteran to set up Cav, who didn't really need to hit top gear there such was his magic carpet roll out. That bodes well for the finish in Fougeres for QuickStep and Cavendish fans.
40km to go: More teams join the chase
Israel Start-Up Nation, Team BIkeExchange, Arkea-Samsic and Bora-Hansgrohe have also come to the front section of a peloton that is already populated by EF Education-Nippo, Alpecin-Fenix, UAE Team Emirates, Deceuninck-QuickStep and Groupama-FDJ. There's a little bit of added tension because of the intermediate sprint, which is coming up in a few kilometres.
53km to go: Cavendish mechanical
If ever there was a time to have a mechanical it's when both the yellow and green jersey are also off the back. After a quick bike change Cavendish is in good company as he tries to battle back into the peloton. We're hearing it was a broken saddle that was the issue. Still an hour to go of this stage with the leaders 1'35" ahead.
60km to go: Two minutes
So, who are the favourites for today - given it's pretty much certain that this two-man move won't go the distance. In no particular order they are: Tim Merlier and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix), Mark Cavendish and Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Victorious), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Nacer Bouhanni (Arkea-Samsic), Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels), Cees Bol (Team DSM), Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange), Andre Greipel (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
Heart says Cavendish, head says Philipsen or Demare...
85km to go: The gap drops
Not much to fill you in, to be honest. Thankfully we've had no crashes or incidents today - probably because we're inland and on wider roads than those of the past few days. The advantage of the two leaders is down to 1'40" while the pink jerseys of EF Education-Nippo have edged towards the front of the pack while Tadej Pogacar's UAE Team Emirates are also heavily present. But it's still Alpecin-Fenix controlling matters with help from Deceuninck and Groupama.
Some good field art today, albeit rather rustic compared to the agricultural showstoppers of the opening weekend.
105km to go: Still 2'30" for the break
Our two leaders - Van Moer and Perichon - have not been given much leeway by the peloton, with the teams of the sprinters keen to keep a lid on this to ensure things result in a bunch sprint in Fougeres. Here's that rather half-hearted protest we saw at the beginning when Andre Greipel called rank despite Julian Alaphilippe's protestations...
'Angry' Greipel forces peloton to stop and protest
Cavendish at Fougeres: Six years on
Mark Cavendish's solitary win in the 2015 Tour de France for Etixx-QuickStep came at Fougeres, where today's stage finishes. In Stage 7 of the race, Cav beat old foe Andre Greipel with Peter Sagan taking third place and Arnaud Demare sixth. We could see all four of those riders back in the mix today, six years on.
Cav left QuickStep at the end of that season and many wrote him off. But the Manxman won four stages at the 2016 Tour for Dimension Data before withdrawing five days from Paris. He hasn't won a stage on the Tour ever since - his tally having stopped on 30 wins. Can he make it 31 today? Below is Cavendish celebrating his win in Fougeres six years ago...
Tour de France 2015, Stage 7, Mark Cavendish (Imago)
Image credit: Imago
120km to go: QuickStep & Groupama to the fore
Deceuninck-QuickStep have put Tim Declercq onto the front of the pack where he's joined by a rider from Groupama ahead of the Alpecin-Fenix train. Both teams will be hoping to put Mark Cavendish and Arnaud Demare into the frame for today's bunch sprint - if indeed one happens... It's worth remembering that Cav won here in Fougeres in the 2015 Tour back during his last stint at Etixx-QuickStep.
130km to go: Van Moer a recent winner
Brent van Moer won the opening stage of the Dauphine recently after a daring attack 17km from the finish caught the peloton out, with Sonny Colbrelli sprinting to second place in the Belgian's wake - his first of three bridesmaid's finishes on the race. Van Moer's win came six days after he led the Tour of Limburg going into the final kilometre, only to be directed off course by an official - scuppering any chances of a win. Tim Merlier went on to take the spoils.
All those protagonists are involved in this Tour so perhaps we could see a little bit of history repeating? By contract to Van Moer's victory 30 days ago, Pierre-Luc Perichon's last win came a whopping 1059 days ago in La Poly Normande. The duo's lead is 2'30".
135km to go: Alpecin all in for Philipsen
Mathieu van der Poel on Sunday, Tim Merlier on Monday... Jasper Philipsen on Tuesday? The Belgian came second yesterday and his Alpecin-Fenix team are apparently working for him at the finish in Fougeres today. What a story that would be: three successive victories for three different riders...
The break, meanwhile, has quickly established a lead of two minutes over the pack.
140km to go: Two go clear!
With Alpecin-Fenix controlling the front of the pack, finally we have some action as two riders - Brent van Moer (Lotto Soudal) and Pierre-Luc Perichon (Cofidis) - zip clear. Given both team's lack of sprinters, it's not too difficult to get your head around this move. But it's going to be a long afternoon - and surely a hiding to nothing - for these two riders...
Message from the CPA
Most fans watching that half-hearted protest would be none the wiser. The riders' union have just confirmed that what we just saw - described as "laughable" by Brian Smith in the Eurosport commentary box (he's really not happy about the situation) - was to protest rider safety and the adaptation of the 3km rule.
145km to go: Peloton go-slow
The riders are back in the saddle but it's all plodding along at a sedate pace with no one willing to attack. To reflect this, both the yellow and green jerseys are currently taking it easy off the back. I imagine this will continue for the first hour before they draw a line under things and then start racing.
Riders stop after Greipel comes forward
Finally that protest comes to fruition but it's a bit of a farce and there seems to be no message whatsoever. Andre Greipel looked very angry as he came to the front and started arguing with Julian Alaphilippe, the green jersey. It was the Gorilla who then encouraged everyone to stop. But they didn't do anything once they did stop - and then an impatient Alaphilippe started riding again, which saw the rest of the pack follow suit.
Well, that was all a bit pointless.
150.4km to go: Stage 4 under way!
Christian Prudhomme waves his flag and the riders all look at each other. There was talk of a rider protest at Kilometre Zero but no one seems prepared to actually take a stand. There's a distinct lack of unity with no one taking on the mantle of "patron" of the peloton. And so they soft-pedal along looking rather sheepish...
Primoz 'The Mummy' Roglic starts
The Slovenian went down hard yesterday after a coming together with 10km remaining with Italy's Sonny Colbrelli. He hit the deck hard and is all bashed up - but managed to complete the stage and limit his losses. Last year's runner-up is now in 20th place at 1'35" and so it's far from unsalvageable - especially seeing that defending champion Tadej Pogacar, while not going down, was held up, too, and himself dropped three positions to sixth at 39 seconds.
Roglic posted a painful photo on Instagram this morning, together with the following caption: "The situation is far from good. But I had to smile, reading all the good wishes and positive thoughts you had sent me. The mummy will be on the start today and we will see how it goes."
Haig, Gesink, Ewan all out
Just a reminder that Jack Haig (Bahrain-Victorious) and Robert Gesink (Jumbo-Visma) abandoned yesterday. Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) did not officially withdraw - as his crash occurred in the last three kilometres he was entitled to start today's stage - but he's a DNS after breaking his collarbone. It will be interesting to see what Lotto Soudal do now for their team was build around the Australian sprint machine. Perhaps we'll see more of Philippe Gilbert, Thomas De Gendt and Brent van Moer in the breaks...
Following a post-stage scan and x-ray Ineos Grenadiers confirmed that Geraint Thomas had not suffered a fracture in his right shoulder. The 2018 winner was reassessed in the morning before today's stage and has been passed fit to race. The Welshman is currently 1'07" down on GC after being held up in the split following the crash with 4.5km to go yesterday, having battled back on following his crash earlier in the stage - where Gesink came down and was forced to abandon.
Thomas's teammate Richard Carapaz was the big winner on GC yesterday - the Ecuadorian is now third just 31 seconds down after emerging unscathed from all the spills.
Riders rolling through the neutral zone ahead of protest
The peloton has left Redon and is currently riding through the neutral zone. We're hearing that the riders will stop at Kilometre Zero for a one-minute protest about safety concerns following yesterday's finish, which saw many crashes and much chaos.
It's a tough one. There's no denying that the narrow roads on the approach to Pontivy were perhaps not suitable for a rampaging peloton ahead of a bunch sprint - especially the chicane blind left-hand bend with 4.5km to go where a big crash held up most of the field and ended the race for Jack Haig of Bahrain-Victorious. But that said, the earlier crashed involving Geraint Thomas, Robert Gesink and Primoz Roglic were caused by the riders themselves, while Caleb Ewan hit the deck with Peter Sagan after a touch of wheels and not something that could be blamed on the organisers.
Taking the GC times at 8km or 5km - as the riders apparently requested - may change things. But there's no denying that the riders must take some responsibility themselves. They are the ones racing and taking the risks. And when Haig went down with scores of riders, it was his Bahrain teammate Matej Mohoric who was really pushing it on the front of the peloton - perhaps a little recklessly in hindsight.
Stage 4: finally a routine bunch sprint?
The fourth shortest stage of the Tour is a largely flat 150km ride from Redon to Fougeres devoid of any categorised climbs. As such, it's pretty much nailed on to be a bunch sprint - although nothing is set in stone, especially in this crazy Tour.
After two punchy uphill finishes on the opening weeknd - with victories for Alaphilippe and Van der Poel - yesterday did produce a sprint of sports, albeit a much reduced affair following a series of crashed in the technical run into Pontivy. As such, most of the big sprinters missed out: Arnaud Demare and Mark Cavendish were caught up in the crash while Caleb Ewan crashed out on the home straight with Peter Sagan.
But Alpecin-Fenix kept out of trouble as Van der Poel in yellow led out Tim Merlier and Jasper Philipsen, who duly delivered with a one-two. That means Merlier has now delivered at the first opportunity in both his debut Giro and Tour this season - chapeau. Let's see how they fare against the likes of Cavendish, Demare, Bouhanni, Coquard, Colbrelli, Bol et al today. But there's no Ewan after the Australian was forced out with a broken collarbone following his crash.
Big losers and winners after Stage 3
The third stage of the Tour de France was not supposed to have a big impact on the GC. In fact, it was expected to be dominated by the sprinters. Instead, while Tim Merlier's win was laudable, it was relegated to the back burner in light of a day of general classification carnage.
There were some riders who won small, in terms of seconds gained against their main rivals, while others lost big – but still have a shot. Some, like Jack Haig, riding his first Grand Tour in a leadership role for Bahrain-Victorious, have seen their races end before they ever got going.
Tom Owen rounds-up the main winners and losers from Tuesday's general crashification carnage...
'I would bottle it' - Wiggins on the 'nervousness' that leads to crashes
The spotlight is again on rider safety after a spate of crashes in the main bunch on Stage 3 at the Tour de France, with Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal), Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) and Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) among those to go down in separate incidents.
Ewan is out of the race with a broken collarbone after colliding with Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in a chaotic sprint, while Thomas was sent for an ultrasound after having a dislocated shoulder popped back in mid-race.
Thomas managed to get back into the peloton after working with teammates Luke Rowe and Dylan van Baarle to erode a 2'30" gap, but Roglic lost time in the race for the yellow after his crash with 10 kilometres remaining.
Roglic, sporting huge road rashes on his left shoulder and left hip, came home 1:21 down on stage winner Tim Merlier (Alpecin–Fenix) and, crucially, 55 seconds behind defending champion Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates).
Would this rule change make cycling safer?
Bradley Wiggins joined The Breakaway to discuss the action and the difficulty striking the balance between entertainment and safety.
“We don’t like sitting here, watching these guys scrape along the floor. But it is entertainment. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way,” said Wiggins.
I knew that was the risk when I was riding and I would bottle it sometimes – I was either on the front or the back. I never liked to be in that bit in between. You understand the risks of the sport.
“As I got older I drew away from it because I did not want to go home and see my children [looking like I’ve been] battered to death. And if you can’t do it someone else will. It’s why the sport is so tough and not everyone can do it. If it was easy, everyone would do it.
“That’s normal for a sprint, maybe not the rough and tumble, and it makes Mark Cavendish’s 30 stage wins look [more remarkable].”
STAGE 3 RECAP - written by Tom Owen
A day of carnage at the Tour de France concluded with Tim Merlier (Alpecin–Fenix) taking victory on Stage 3 and a worrying crash involving Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe).
The Welshman was guided back into the peloton by teammates Luke Rowe and Dylan van Baarle, after having his shoulder popped back in, before the race settled down. Briefly.
General classification hopeful Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) hit the deck with 10 kilometres remaining to spark a frantic chase – and impromptu team time trial – before Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) was among those caught up in another incident down the road. Roglic finished the stage over a minute down, putting him 20th on GC at 1'35".
And just when the action looked over, Ewan and Sagan collided metres from the line as Merlier swept to a victory on a day that will be remembered for what happened elsewhere.
It was labelled “one of the most chaotic days we have ever seen at the Tour de France” by Rob Hatch on Eurosport commentary. It was hard to disagree.
Ewan's teammate Thomas De Gendt gave a doomy pronouncement to Eurosport post-stage, saying: "I think his collarbone is broken and it's finished." And the bad news was later confirmed by their team's Twitter account.
Another rider whose Tour de France looks like it is over is Jack Haig (Bahrain-Victorious). The Australian rider was the main victim of the incident that waylaid Pogacar and is listed as a DNF in the official results.
Highlights: Thomas, Roglic, Pogacar crash as Merlier takes Stage 3
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