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Schumacher's stage victory garners yellow

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German Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) on his way to a stage victory

German Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) on his way to a stage victory (Image credit: AFP)
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Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto) is in his aerobars

Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto) is in his aerobars (Image credit: AFP)
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Frenchman Romain Feillu (Agritubel)

Frenchman Romain Feillu (Agritubel) (Image credit: AFP)
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David Millar powers along

David Millar powers along (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara (CSC-Saxo Bank) rode powerful as ever

Fabian Cancellara (CSC-Saxo Bank) rode powerful as ever (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Kim Kirchen (Columbia Team)

Kim Kirchen (Columbia Team) (Image credit: AFP)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) during his ride.

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) during his ride. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Schumacher waves to the crowd

Schumacher waves to the crowd (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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German Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) on his way to a stage victory and a yellow jersey.

German Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) on his way to a stage victory and a yellow jersey. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Rabobank team leader Denis Menchov of Russia

Rabobank team leader Denis Menchov of Russia (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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German Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) grimaces in concentration on his way to a win.

German Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) grimaces in concentration on his way to a win. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Italian Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) takes a corner.

Italian Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) takes a corner. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Luxembourger Andy Schleck (Team CSC - Saxo Bank) put in a performance good enough for 20th place.

Luxembourger Andy Schleck (Team CSC - Saxo Bank) put in a performance good enough for 20th place. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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American George Hincapie (Team Columbia) time trials in stage four.

American George Hincapie (Team Columbia) time trials in stage four. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Luxembourger Frank Schleck (Team CSC - Saxo Bank) finished 46th for the stage.

Luxembourger Frank Schleck (Team CSC - Saxo Bank) finished 46th for the stage. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Spaniard Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) in the aero position.

Spaniard Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) in the aero position. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Italian Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas)

Italian Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto) finished fourth for the stage.

Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto) finished fourth for the stage. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto) is in his aerobars as he powers to the line.

Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto) is in his aerobars as he powers to the line. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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David Millar (Garmin-Chipotle) gives it some gas to the finish line.

David Millar (Garmin-Chipotle) gives it some gas to the finish line. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Great Britain's David Millar (Garmin-Chipotle) demonstrates his time trialing prowess.

Great Britain's David Millar (Garmin-Chipotle) demonstrates his time trialing prowess. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Kim Kirchen (Columbia Team) makes his final push.

Kim Kirchen (Columbia Team) makes his final push. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Columbia team leader Kim Kirchen sprints to the line.

Columbia team leader Kim Kirchen sprints to the line. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Frenchman Romain Feillu (Agritubel) started the day in yellow.

Frenchman Romain Feillu (Agritubel) started the day in yellow. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Frenchman Romain Feillu (Agritubel) wasn't able to keep his leader's jersey.

Frenchman Romain Feillu (Agritubel) wasn't able to keep his leader's jersey. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Silence Lotto team leader Cadel Evans of Australia

Silence Lotto team leader Cadel Evans of Australia (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) Barloworld had a good ride yesterday but was too tired today.

Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) Barloworld had a good ride yesterday but was too tired today. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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David Millar powers along and posted the third fastest time today.

David Millar powers along and posted the third fastest time today. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Kim Kirchen finished second and is now 12 seconds away from yellow.

Kim Kirchen finished second and is now 12 seconds away from yellow. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cadel Evans put in a good ride to climb up to fourth on GC.

Cadel Evans put in a good ride to climb up to fourth on GC. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) had a good ride

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) had a good ride (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Romain Feillu (Agritubel) enjoyed the day in yellow.

Romain Feillu (Agritubel) enjoyed the day in yellow. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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David Millar (Garmin Chipotle - H30) had hoped for the stage win and or yellow, but a third place is nothing to be ashamed off.

David Millar (Garmin Chipotle - H30) had hoped for the stage win and or yellow, but a third place is nothing to be ashamed off. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Kim Kirchen (Columbia) defended his green jersey and is now within reach o yellow as well.

Kim Kirchen (Columbia) defended his green jersey and is now within reach o yellow as well. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Even the handle bar tape was yellow on Feillu's machine.

Even the handle bar tape was yellow on Feillu's machine. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara (CSC-Saxo Bank) rode powerful as ever put some were stronger today.

Fabian Cancellara (CSC-Saxo Bank) rode powerful as ever put some were stronger today. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) produced a good ride and is lying fourth overall.

Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) produced a good ride and is lying fourth overall. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Juan José Cobo (Saunier Duval-Scott) lost more time today in addition to the 38 seconds yesterday.

Juan José Cobo (Saunier Duval-Scott) lost more time today in addition to the 38 seconds yesterday. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Feillu didn't win the stage but may have taken out the prize for most interesting colour

Feillu didn't win the stage but may have taken out the prize for most interesting colour (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) during his ride.

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) during his ride. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Jimmy Casper (Agritubel) gets aero on a descent.

Jimmy Casper (Agritubel) gets aero on a descent. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Damiano Cunego (Lampre) did a decent ride.

Damiano Cunego (Lampre) did a decent ride. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cunego is not a specialist but he managed to end up in 16th, 1'26 back.

Cunego is not a specialist but he managed to end up in 16th, 1'26 back. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Feillu enjoyed being the last rider on the course today.

Feillu enjoyed being the last rider on the course today. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Feillu in the French country side.

Feillu in the French country side. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) looks good

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) looks good (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cunego in the French wheat fields

Cunego in the French wheat fields (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The Italian can still dream of a good overall performance.

The Italian can still dream of a good overall performance. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Schumacher went all out and took every corner at full risk.

Schumacher went all out and took every corner at full risk. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Schumacher wants to keep the yellow jersey as long as possible.

Schumacher wants to keep the yellow jersey as long as possible. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Kim Kirchen (Columbia) gave it his all and finished second.

Kim Kirchen (Columbia) gave it his all and finished second. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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David Millar close to being done for the day.

David Millar close to being done for the day. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Feillu in the final kilometre.

Feillu in the final kilometre. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Schumacher waves to the crowd and walks off with the lion firmly in his hands.

Schumacher waves to the crowd and walks off with the lion firmly in his hands. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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A happy stage winner.

A happy stage winner. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Schumacher in yellow and a "dream come true."

Schumacher in yellow and a "dream come true." (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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This jersey is either new or washed with Perwoll.

This jersey is either new or washed with Perwoll. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Schumi II looks happy in his yellow outfit.

Schumi II looks happy in his yellow outfit. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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There go the flowers but I will keep the lion.

There go the flowers but I will keep the lion. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The Aussie are out to support Evans, McEwen and the other seven.

The Aussie are out to support Evans, McEwen and the other seven. (Image credit: Perwoll)
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Crepes are the bets pre- and post-race food

Crepes are the bets pre- and post-race food (Image credit: Perwoll)
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If you can't race for the yellow jersey you can at least buy the official T-shirt.

If you can't race for the yellow jersey you can at least buy the official T-shirt. (Image credit: Perwoll)
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A sand version of the Tour de France

A sand version of the Tour de France (Image credit: Perwoll)
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Crash of the yellow jersey!

Crash of the yellow jersey! (Image credit: Perwoll)
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The mini Tour.

The mini Tour. (Image credit: Perwoll)
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Garmin's bikes never get lost

Garmin's bikes never get lost (Image credit: Perwoll)
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Martyn Maaskant (Garmin Chipotle - H30)

Martyn Maaskant (Garmin Chipotle - H30) (Image credit: Perwoll)
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Denis Menchov (Rabobank) warms up

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) warms up (Image credit: Perwoll)
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Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas)

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) (Image credit: Perwoll)
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Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas)

Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) (Image credit: Perwoll)
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Stijn Devolder (Quick Step)

Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) (Image credit: Perwoll)
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Time trial bikes are Specialized

Time trial bikes are Specialized (Image credit: Perwoll)
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Barredo's machine

Barredo's machine (Image credit: Perwoll)
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Christophe Moreau (Agritubel)

Christophe Moreau (Agritubel) (Image credit: Perwoll)
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Yaroslav Popovych (Silence-Lotto)

Yaroslav Popovych (Silence-Lotto) (Image credit: Perwoll)
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Thomas Lövkvist (Columbia)

Thomas Lövkvist (Columbia) (Image credit: Perwoll)
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The finish

The finish (Image credit: Perwoll)
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Prizes await

Prizes await (Image credit: Perwoll)
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McEwen relaxed before the start

McEwen relaxed before the start (Image credit: Perwoll)
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Voigt tired after his all-out effort

Voigt tired after his all-out effort (Image credit: Perwoll)
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Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre)

Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) (Image credit: Perwoll)
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Christian Vande Velde (Garmin Chipotle - H30)

Christian Vande Velde (Garmin Chipotle - H30) (Image credit: Perwoll)
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Vande Velde kept control in the time trial

Vande Velde kept control in the time trial (Image credit: Perwoll)
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Andy Schleck (CSC-Saxo Bank)

Andy Schleck (CSC-Saxo Bank) (Image credit: Perwoll)
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Schleck was OK with his ride.

Schleck was OK with his ride. (Image credit: Perwoll)
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French legends Bernhard Hinault and Richard Virenque rode the TT course around Cholet.

French legends Bernhard Hinault and Richard Virenque rode the TT course around Cholet. (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)
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George Hincapie (Columbia) piloted his new stealthy looking TT bike to ninth place.

George Hincapie (Columbia) piloted his new stealthy looking TT bike to ninth place. (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)
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Race favourite Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) showed that his form is right where it needs to be.

Race favourite Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) showed that his form is right where it needs to be. (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)
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Kim Kirchen (Columbia) took a surprise second today and now sits in second overall.

Kim Kirchen (Columbia) took a surprise second today and now sits in second overall. (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)
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Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) struggled against the TT specialists and lost 1'34.

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) struggled against the TT specialists and lost 1'34. (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)
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Will Frischkorn (Garmin-Chipotle) started the day third overall but lost four minutes in the TT.

Will Frischkorn (Garmin-Chipotle) started the day third overall but lost four minutes in the TT. (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)
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Paolo Longo Borghini (Barloworld) slid down the classification after being in the break yesterday.

Paolo Longo Borghini (Barloworld) slid down the classification after being in the break yesterday. (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)
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Yellow jersey Romain Feillu (Agritubel) really gave it everything but finished well down.

Yellow jersey Romain Feillu (Agritubel) really gave it everything but finished well down. (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)
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Feillu slipped to 41st overall after today's time trial.

Feillu slipped to 41st overall after today's time trial. (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)
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Kim Kirchen (Columbia) maintained his hold on the green jersey.

Kim Kirchen (Columbia) maintained his hold on the green jersey. (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)
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Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) enjoyed another day as mountains leader.

Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) enjoyed another day as mountains leader. (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)
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Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) accepts the yellow jersey as Bernhard Hinault looks on.

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) accepts the yellow jersey as Bernhard Hinault looks on. (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)
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The German will hope to keep yellow until Thursday's stage to Super Besse.

The German will hope to keep yellow until Thursday's stage to Super Besse. (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)
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Riccò was faster than expected thanks to some extra EPO.

Riccò was faster than expected thanks to some extra EPO. (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)
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Riccò warms up for the time trial.

Riccò warms up for the time trial. (Image credit: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com)

Evans hits fellow classification contenders hard

Germany's Stefan Schumacher bettered the cream of the time trialing crop to capture the 29.5-kilometre Tour de France stage around Cholet and move into the race leader's maillot jaune. The 26 year-old Gerolsteiner rider recorded a time of 35'44" that stood against the hammering of Luxemburger Kim Kirchen – second at 35'54" – and Briton's David Millar – third at 36'02".

"It's extraordinary to be on the podium in this jersey," noted the same rider who captured the pink leader's jersey of the Giro d'Italia in 2006 by winning stage three. "Because this is the Tour de France and everybody dreams of wearing this jersey. Also, the moment on the podium, you see it 1,000 times on television and then you're there yourself, it's impossible to imagine."

Team Silence-Lotto's Cadel Evans delivered a blow in the windy Loire countryside side to his fellow general classification rivals. He finished third place, 27 second back on Schumacher, but more important was the distance he put on competitors like Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Christian Vande Velde (Garmin Chipotle - H30), Stijn Devolder (Quick Step), Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Andy Schleck (CSC-Saxo Bank) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne). He put seven seconds into Menchov, around a minute into Cunego and Schleck, and 1'07" on Valverde.

"It is a good start but it is a long, long way to Paris," said Evans in a media scrum. "In my mind this is the first appointment for the GC favourites. So far so good. Super Besse will be the next big showing for the GC riders."

Despite the 21-second displacement in the overall, Evans now leads his nearest serious contender, Russia's Menchov, by 51 seconds. Devolder is 57 seconds back from the second place finisher in last year's Tour de France. Cunego, Valverde and Andy Schleck are all at about one minute, and Carlos Sastre is at 1'22" while Fränk Schleck is at 1'47".

The gaps will stay equal in tomorrow's sprinters' stage, but we should see Evans playing defence on the Tour de France's first mountaintop finish of Super Besse. The final climb – rising nearly 500 metres to 1,289 metres – will allow a perfect opportunity for Kirchen to take the maillot jaune from Schumacher.

France's star, Romain Feillu of Team Agritubel, was quickly forgotten today as Schumacher and Evans took control. The overnight race leader is not noted for his crono skills and suffered a loss of 4'59".

"It was fantastic with all those people supporting me," said the charismatic Frenchman. "It was very special to wear everything in yellow: my shoes, short, shirt, helmet..."

Feillu surely was a little shy of his best as he admitted to only sleeping three hours the night before his run.

American Dan Pate (Garmin Chipotle - H30), 2001 Espiors World Champion, was an early leader and time setter for team-mate Millar. "I rode as well as I could today and I was happy with it. We will see how much better the other guys are."

Voigt was next to make a strong showing, with a time of 36'19". "Today, [Bjarne Riis] said that I could go for it. We are also keeping an eye on the team GC."

The time of Voigt was followed by the day's heavy hitters. Kirchen was a threat to the stage win and the maillot jaune, and in the end did well by adding 12 points to his maillot vert lead. "I'm in very good form," said Kirchen, resting on the Avenue Anatole Manceau finishing straight. "I've been trying to win stages every day and today as well, but although I didn't win I'm happy with my time trial anyway."

The Columbia rider's time just pipped that of David Millar (Garmin Chipotle - H30), who had been targeting this stage since the final time trial of the Giro d'Italia. "I just enjoyed it so much, being back to my best," Millar revealed. "It was fun. It's not a disappointment. I went one hundred percent, I could really push myself. I am happy. Second isn't bad, the person who beat me was better."

Behind Millar in third was Evans and time trial World Champion Fabian Cancellara (CSC-Saxo Bank). The 27 year-old Swiss had a disappointing run. The expectation was heavy, and he was tipped to be the rider taking the stage and the yellow, not Schumacher.

Menchov was the second best of the classification riders on the day, finishing sixth. "The [winning] time is not so important because I felt good," Menchov said. He looked ahead to Thursday's stage to Super Besse, "It is important, the first contact with the mountains is always important."

Voigt, Christian Vande Velde (Garmin Chipotle - H30), George Hincapie (Columbia) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) rounded out the top ten. "This has been the focus for us since the route was released," confessed American Vande Velde, who now sits 16 seconds behind Evans. "If I have some good legs on the mountaintop finishes I could be within the hunt. ... I am happy with how I rode today."

Stijn Devolder has been sick and was struck with back luck along the parcours. "I had to change bikes. I am happy, especially considering I had to change bikes," the Belgian said following his ride.

Italy's Damiano Cunego was pleased with his ride. "It was a decent time today," he said. "It is only the fourth day and I don't have all the energy to spend, as the days go on I will be able to use more of my forces. ... Tonight, I will have a good look at the classification and see what the combinations are."

"That's okay," when Andy Schleck saw his time of 37'13". "Three seconds to Cunego? I can make that up in the climbs I hope."

Tour de France top favourite Valverde suffered a setback. The rider who dominated the Dauphiné Libéré time trail lost ground to many of his rivals, but was not too concerned. "I am satisfied with my time," declared Valverde. "For me the most important [point] was not to lose time compared with the other favourites for the general classification and I achieved what I wanted to."

How it unfolded

The first rider off was Wim Vansevenant (Silence - Lotto) who is again competing for the lanterne rouge of last place in this year's Tour. He would end up with a time of 41'02, which wasn't quite good enough for last place. But the Belgian kept his "lead" over Matthieu Sprick (Bouygues Telecom) by more than two minutes.

Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) also took the start and, despite his crash injuries, was slightly faster than Vansevenant.

Rubens Bertogliati (Saunier Duval-Scott) went off the ramp the ramp at 11:10 and he was the one to set the tempo and the intermediate times. At km 11 he had a 14'30, at km 19.5 a 25'52 and he finished with a 37'30. The Spaniard was in the hot seat. But soon trouble was brewing, as Garmin's Danny Pate was two seconds faster than Bertogliati at the second check. And the American would eventually unseat the Saunier Duval rider ­ by over half a minute!

Pate was in the hot seat for quite some time. Then, it was Jens Voigt's turn to stomp on those pedals and get the lead. He dominated each check (14'09, 25'05) and ended the day with a 36'19.

Even Denis Menchov (Rabobank), one of the pre-race favourites for the overall, couldn't touch the German in the first two checks. However, the Russian turned around and managed to squeeze past the CSC rider by a single second.

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) looked like he was trying, but, in his own words, he is not here for the overall. He ended the day in 115th with a 39'20. Vincenzo Nibali took off at 15:20 and had a very good ride. While he couldn't touch Menchov, he only lost 14 seconds to the Russian by the stage's end.

Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) also had a decent ride, with a 37'13. He would end up in the vicinity of riders like Andy Schleck (CSC-Saxo Bank) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre). The latter had a good day and posted a 37'10.

A few riders before Cunego, it was the turn young Swede Thomas Lövkvist (Columbia), who was having a good day. He had 14'23 at the first check, 25'27 at the second and finished with a 36'32. This turned out to be good enough to take over the young rider classification.

But all eyes were on Fabian Cancellara (CSC-Saxo Bank). The Swiss was expected to win the stage, but the first check showed that it would be a difficult task - he was ranked two seconds behind Voigt. At the second check, Cancellara had drifted a further five seconds back. But by the finish the Swiss turned it around and was ahead of Menchov and Voigt ­ but just by one and two seconds respectively.

Shortly after 16:00 Christian Vande Velde and Stefan Schumacher took off in a two-minute span. Vande Velde had a good ride, but his 14'13 on the first check was blasted by Schumacher, who was the first rider under 14 minutes, with a 13'54.

After George Hincapie (Columbia) got underway, he clocked in at the first check with a 14'08. Vande Velde and Schumacher continued their drag race, with a 24'42 to 25'12 advantage for the German. Hincapie was four seconds slower than his compatriot.

Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) and David Millar (Garmin Chipotle - H30) were the next to rush out of the start house. Evans with a 14'16 couldn't quite match Millar's speed, who was nine seconds faster. The gap between the two remained virtually the same, with Millar the second rider under 25 minutes (24'57).

Everybody was on the road when Romain Feillu (Agritubel) set of at 16:56 in his yellow jersey. Valverde constantly lost time and couldn't quite repeat his stunning Dauphiné performance. Kirchen, on the other hand, looked pretty good in his green outfit. He had a 14'05 at the first check and was the only one somewhat within challenging distance of Schumacher.

Vande Velde had finished with a 36'21, but Schumacher kept his unbelievable pace, averaging almost 50km/h and scored a 35'44.

Hincapie hit the line with a 36'26, while Evans clocked a 36'12. Millar seemed to be catching up with Schumacher at the second check, but lost time on the return to town and eventually finished just outside the 36-minute mark ­ 36'03. Kirchen rode home one second faster. It turned out to be the podium was made, with Schumacher winning closely ahead of Kirchen and Millar.

Schumacher said "I didn't believe it until the end. It was darn close. I constantly calculated if it would be enough and was really nervous. I dreamt of the stage win and yellow. Both is a reality now. Unbelievable."

The riders who were in the break yesterday and mingled at the top of the overall were off last, but they could not challenge the leader and Feillu could not even dream to defend his yellow jersey. He had 1'46 on the contenders, but ended the day in 169th, almost five minutes down.

Stage 5 - Wednesday, July 9: Cholet - Châteauroux, 232km

This is the longest stage of this year's Tour. However, with no classified climbs it will be far from the toughest as it heads eastwards towards the centre of France. Once again, the flat straight roads give every advantage to the sprinters' teams in the last chance before the terrain gets decidedly hillier tomorrow. Aspiring breakaway specialists may have other ideas though, and those who took it a bit easy in the time trial yesterday might fancy a tilt at this one.

This is the third Tour de France to feature the town of Cholet, and the second stage of this year's race as it hosted both the start and finish of yesterday's time trial. Châteauroux has only hosted the Tour de France once before – in 1998 – when Mario Cipollini finally managed to open his account that year after a first week of crashes and bad luck.

The route is slightly different – and a few kilometres longer – but the stage start and finish are the same as those ten years ago. Apart from the Château Raoul, that gives the city its name, Châteauroux's big claim to fame is that it was the birthplace of French acting legend Gérard Depardieu.

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