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Tour de France 2012: Stage 4

Welcome to our live coverage of stage 4 from the 2012 Tour de France. After yesterday's undulating finale today's 214km stage from Abbeville to Rouen is pretty flat and likely to suit the pure sprinters. The odds are stacked heavily in favour of another bunched finish.

Despite a highest point of just 150m, the riders will face four categorised climbs. There's bound to be breakaways and with a large proportion of the stage taking place along France's northeastern coastline, the wind is likely to a factor. There's also quite a lot of varied terrain on this route, so it won't be quite as straightforward as it looks on paper.

As the riders prepare to set off, take a look at our preview page for today's stage. It includes a video preview from former yellow jersey holder Chris Boardman.

214km remaining from 214km

And we're off and underway on stage four...

You can find a recap of yesterday's stage right here, including video highlights. Liquigas rider Peter Sagan took his second stage in three days and strengthened his grip on the points classification. Here's how they finished:

 

TOP TEN FINISHERS - STAGE 3

 

1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale 4:42:58
2 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling 0:00:01
3 Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
4 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan
5 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team
6 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
7 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale
8 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
9 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
10 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale

And Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara held on to the yellow jersey, which he took at the prologue:

 

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 3:

 

1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan 14:45:30
2 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:07
3 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
4 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:10
5 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling 0:00:11
6 Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team 0:00:13
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:17
8 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:18
9 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Sharp
10 Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:19

197km remaining from 214km

After a blistering start, we already have our first breakaway. Just confirming details now...

Arashiro (Europcar), Moncoutie (Cofidis) and Delaplace (Saur-Sojasun) are the breakaway riders. They've already put almost two minutes into the peloton.

200km remaining from 214km

This trio is blazing away here. Already over five minutes clear of the peloton...

Moncoutie is easily the most experienced rider of these three. The 37-year-old has already confirmed that this will be his last ever Tour and he won stages in both 2004 and 2005.

In 2009, Arashiro finished the Tour alongside his compatriot Fumiyuki Beppu. They became the first Asian riders to finish the great race.

At just 22 years old, Delaplace is the youngest rider of the leading trio. He won the French Junior Championships in 2007 and earlier this year he won the young rider classification at Etoile de Bessèges. At the start of today's stage he was in 18th position in the young riders standings here.

195km remaining from 214km

And the gap is now over seven minutes...

Today's finishing city of Rouen is one of France's most historically significant. Throughout the past few centuries it enjoyed the status of the capital of Normandy and is perhaps best-known as the place of Joan of Arc's execution. The city also surrendered to Henry V of England in 1419 in the middle of the Hundred Years War.

The peloton are showing little interest in stablising the gap. It's now over eight minutes and still widening.

Back in the UK, the final five-man British team for the London 2012 road race has been announed. Four of those chosen are racing here, and four of the five are Team Sky riders. The other one is a somewhat controversial choice. Full details right here. Mark Cavendish is the favourite for the event on July 28.

Sorry folks - technical hiccup there. Back online now...

Lotto-Belisol appear to have decided that enough is enough in terms of this gap. They have surged to the front and the gap has now dropped below eight minutes, after peaking at the 8:40 mark.

Today is the first stage where Michael Morkov hasn't featured in the early breakaway. The Saxo Bank Tinkoff rider is on top of the mountains classifications and has delighted his team with his early form here. Find out what they had to say about him right here.

177km remaining from 214km

And the leaders have started the day's first categorised climb. It's a category 4 that runs for 2.1km and has an average gradient of around 4%.

STATS FOR THE FIRST HOUR:

 

Distance travelled: 37.5km

Distance from finish: 177km

Average speed: 37.5km/h

Gap from leaders to peloton: 7:30

Moncoutie takes the solitary point on offer on the first climb. It's the first mountains point of the Tour for the two-time Vuelta KOM winner.

Moncoutie takes the solitary point on offer on the first climb. It's the first mountains point of the Tour for the four-time Vuelta KOM winner.

Earlier in the season Moncoutie revealed that he wasn't planning to ride the Tour as he intended to focus on another tilt at the Vuelta. His change of heart is paying dividends today as he enjoys yet another moment in the sun.

167km remaining from 214km

The three leaders have turned up the power again and have pushed their lead over the eight minute mark once more...

Yesterday's stage included a number of heavy crashes and as a result we saw the race's first two abandonments: Kanstantsin Siutsou (Sky) and José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar).

 

This morning there were question marks hanging over two more riders. Rabobank's Maarten Tjallingii fractured his hip and pulled out ahead of this morning's stage, while Garmin-Sharp's Tom Danielson suffered a separated shoulder but has started today's race.

The next two categorised climbs, the Côte de Dieppe and the Côte de Pourville-sur-Mer come just five kilometres apart. The leaders are about 15km from the first one. Both are category 4s.

The peloton is almost exactly 5km behind the breakaway trio. The gap is up over eight-and-a-half minutes again.

Sensing, quite rightly, that the peloton has been easing off somewhat, RadioShack Nissan send their riders to the front to try and bring this gap down a bit...

155km remaining from 214km

And it pays instant dividends as over 30 seconds is taken out of the gap in the space of a few kilometres.

It's Jens Voigt who is doing the lion's share of this work for RadioShack. You wouldn't think he's the oldest rider at this year's Tour - he's 41 in September...

Brice Feillu (Saur-Sojasun) is in last place in the overall GC and now we know why - the Frenchman has been struggling with a 42-degree fever...

146km remaining from 214km

And the leaders have started the second categorised climb, the Cote de Dieppe...

And Moncoutie takes the point again. He is now up into joint second in the mountains classification. He could take second spot on his own in the next few minutes, with the third climb of the day fast approaching.

BREAKING NEWS: Reports coming out of Denmark suggest that Alex Rasmussen has been given an 18-month ban for whereabout violations. Read about it here.

135km remaining from 214km

Moncoutie takes the third climb of the day and moves into second place in the mountains standings.

Gap is back up to over seven minutes...

The wind hasn't been a factor today. The riders have enjoyed still conditions and warm sunshine.

Some dramatic cliff top scenery offer here. This part of the world looks beautiful in the sunshine.

Today's intermediate sprint should be interesting. It comes 70km from the finish and that point is still around 50km away. It's doubtful that the peloton will look to close down this breakaway before then, especially with the final climb coming hard on the back of it.

Gap is starting to tumble again now. Down under six-and-a-half minutes.

120km remaining from 214km

RadioShack back on the front of the peloton here...

Maybe they are looking to close before the intermediate sprint after all - gap has come down by a further minute in the last three kilometres.

The riders are set to turn away from the coast in the next 40 minutes or so. The temeperatures are significantly warmer inland and will test the riders as their legs get heavier near the finish.

There are plenty of supporters out on the streets, but perhaps not as many as there were in Belgium on the opening couple of days.

108km remaining from 214km

Speaking of turning inland, that point comes just before the intermediate sprint and the final climb. Could be the point where this race really starts to take shape.

And the gap is increasing again...

The port of Fecamp is the place where the riders will leave the coast. French literary legend Guy de Maupassant once lived there, and England's last Anglo-Saxon king - Edward the Confessor - spent some time in exile there.

And while we're on the subject of famous people associated with this region, let's not forget France's new President Francois Hollande, who was born in today's finishing town of Rouen.

100km remaining from 214km

We're now into the last 100km. Intermediate sprint is roughly 25km away. Gap between the leaders and the peloton is 6:15. Lotto Belisol and Orica-GreenEdge are trying to control the pace in the pack.

Multiple "comfort break" there back in the peloton. Nice.

Lost count of the number of chateaus we've seen in the last few days. Gorgeous architecture. No wonder it was one of Monet's favourite regions.

95km remaining from 214km

Gap back under six muinutes again. Katusha make their first appearance on the front of the peloton. Does Oscar Freire fancy his chances today?

Sun has gone in momentarily here. Still warm though.

Leaders currently hitting the 54km/h mark as they briefly sweep downhill.

Just caught a glimpse of Tony Martin at the back of the main peloton. He's taking things easy with his broken hand. Trying to stay out of further trouble.

The pivotal town of Fecamp, where the riders take in the sprint and move inland, was a start town in the 1995 Tour De France. The stage that day was won by Jeroen Blijlevens. The leaders are closing in on Fecamp now and are about 12km from the town.

85km remaining from 214km

Sun is shining here again. Gap is back up to 6:33. It's been like a yo-yo for the last 80km or so.

And up to over seven minutes for the first time in a while. GreenEdge, Lotto-Belisol and Liquigas up near the front - there must be an intermediate sprint coming up...

Lets' check out how the points classification stands right now, ahead of this intermediate sprint:

 

TOP TEN - POINTS CLASSIFICATION

 

1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale 116 pts
2 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan 74
3 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky Procycling 73
4 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling 67
5 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team 55
6 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol Team 42
7 Michael Morkov (Den) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank 40
8 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Rabobank Cycling Team 36
9 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team 33
10 Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quickstep 32

Nice wide and straight run in to the climax of this intermediate sprint.

TOP THREE - INTERMEDIATE SPRINT

 

1 Arashiro 20pts

2 Moncoutie 17pts

3 Delaplace 15pts

A good six minutes to go before the peloton reaches the finish of the sprint. Should be interesting...

The leaders have turned inland and are moving away from the coast for the first time today.

And they're already on the final categorised climb, the Cote de Toussaint.

CORRECTION:

1. Arashiro (EUC) 20pts

2. Delaplace (SAU) 17pts

3. Moncoutie (COF) 15pts

Back down the road, Cavendish comfortably leads the remaining riders across the finish of the intermediate sprint. Full results to come. Looks like Goss in second place within this group. Tight between Renshaw and Sagan for third.

Delaplace takes the point on the final climb.

65km remaining from 214km

INTERMEDIATE SPRINT - FULL RESULTS:

 

1. Arashiro (EUC) 20 pts
2. Delaplace (SAU) 17pts
3. Moncoutie (COF) 15pts
4. Cavendish (SKY) 13pts
5. Goss (OGE) 11pts
6. Renshaw (RAB) 10pts
7. Sagan (LIQ) 9pts
8. Petacchi (LAM) 8pts
9. van Hummel (VCD) 7pts
10. Hutarovich (FDJ) 6pts
11. Burghardt (BMC) 5pts
12. Kuchynski (KAT) 4pts
13. Lancaster (OGE) 3pts
14. Impey (OCE) 2pts
15. Ladagnous (FD) 1pt

So that's the sprint and all the climbs out of the way now. We can all focus on the journey inland to the flat and fast finish. The peloton has forced the gap back down and it's under five-and-ahalf minutes.

We're too early in the Tour for the peloton to allow this breakaway to go. Arashiro is only 2:03 down in the GC and so he's comfortably leading the virtual race at this point...

Riders heading out into the countryside now. Plenty of grey clouds in the sky but weather forecasters are playing down the chances of rain.

Just had a reading for the fourth hour of racing - it was the quickest of the day so far with an average speed of 39.2km/h.

Video: We caught up with Thomas Voeckler this morning, so click here to watch what he had to say about his troublesome knee...

55km remaining from 214km

Gap now under five minutes for the first time since the early part of the stage.

Looks like some spots of rain for the first time today.

The three leaders now have less than 50km to go. They have been out in front for over 160km now.

Rain getting heavier but plenty of blue skies so it's probably only going to be a brief shower.

Gap now down to four minutes. RadioShack controlling the pace in the pack.

And there's Cancellara. He's in about tenth place in the chasing peloton. Out of trouble and surrounded by his teammates.

Minor collision there between Jonathan Cantwell (Saxo Bank Tinkoff) and Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R-LaMondiale). Cantwell comes off worst.

40km remaining from 214km

We have 40km left to go and the gap is down to under three-and-a-half minutes.

Vincenzo Nibali was also involved in that crash. He's riding hard to make it back to the main peloton.

Arashiro has attacked from the front here. He's built up a lead of around 100m on the other two riders.

We've got more news on Alex Rasmussen. Garmin-Sharp have terminated his contract following his suspension. Full story right here.

30km remaining from 214km

It's been a brave ride today from Garmin-Sharp's Tom Danielson, who, as I reported earlier, started today's stage with a separated shoulder. He now looks to be feeling the pinch though and has fallen off the back of the pelton as RadioShack turn up the pace. Fellow injured rider Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) is also struggling.

Arashiro's attack was short lived and his fellow breakaway riders have caught him back up.

Today isn't an uphill finish but can Sagan strike again? He couldn't live with the pure sprinters on stage 2 but might things be different today?

There's a bridge that the riders need to cross 1km before the finish. It could cause problems as the charge to the line gets underway.

Arashiro's virtual lead has almost been eradicated now...

25km remaining from 214km

Gap under two minutes now. Won't be too long until the peloton swallow these three up, if they keep up this pace.

Every chance of course that they might just bide their time for a few kilometres before taking the leading trio. Tactics time here. Chin stroking in the team cars.

Rain has stopped now. Roads are a little greasy though.

Arashiro easily the best sprinter of these three breakaway riders. Plus he has the most to gain in terms of the GC. But it should all be academic in the next few kilometres.

Peloton has just passed through the 20km mark.

And they're snaking around the banks of the Seine river now. Beautiful scene.

These three have been in front for 195km now...

Sky conspicuous by their absence from the front of the peloton today. Both Boasson Hagen and Cavendish would definitely consider themselves contenders today.

14km remaining from 214km

And that's 200km raced today. Gap is now precisely one minute.

Check out @cyclingthealps preview of stage 4 from Abbeville to Rouen. Explore the route on a Google Map, with a Google Earth Tour or cycle it virtually! Watch profiles, Street View tours, detailed Google Earth tours and a lot more of each climb. Click here for more details.

Peloton pushing the 50km/h mark now. It's almost crunch time for the leaders here...

10km remaining from 214km

Gap under 30 seconds...

Grivko attacks from the pack and tries to bridge the gap to the leaders.

Two riders have gone with him.

They are Maxime Bouet and Jerome Pinot. Philippe Gilbert has also made a move. The leading trio are still hanging on though.

Chavanel has also made a move. He is only seven seconds down in GC.

6km remaining from 214km

And the pack has come back together now...

5km remaining from 214km

Now Chavanel, Poels and Dumoulin have broken clear and have a lead of a few seconds.

And once again the peloton is back together...

3km to go and the bunch sprint is imminent

MASSIVE CRASH involving Robbie Hunter. Cavendish on the floor...

1km remaining from 214km

Approaching the bridge. Greipel, Boasson Hagen and Sagan all there...

GREIPEL WINS

TOP THREE FINISHERS - STAGE 4

 

1 Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol)

2 Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD)

3 Tom Veelers (Argos-Shimano)

 

Lotto's leadout train was brilliant there. Henderson delivered Greipel perfectly.

TOP TEN FINISHERS - STAGE 4

 

1 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol Team 5:18:32
2 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:00:00
3 Tom Veelers (Ned) Argos-Shimano 0:00:00
4 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team 0:00:00
5 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:00
6 Jonathan Cantwell (Aus) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank 0:00:00
7 Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team 0:00:00
8 Kris Boeckmans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:00:00
9 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling 0:00:00
10 Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:00:00

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 4

 

1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan 20:04:02
2 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:07
3 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quickstep 0:00:07
4 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:10
5 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling 0:00:11
6 Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team 0:00:13
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:17
8 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:18
9 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Sharp 0:00:18
10 Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:19

That's all from our live coverage of stage 4 of the 2012 Tour De France. We witnessed a sprinting masterclass today - not from an individual but from a team - as Lotto Belisol's leadout train delivered Greipel to the line for a cosy victory. Cancellara remains in yellow for the fifth consecutive night.

 

The finish was marred by that huge crash in the finale involving several riders. We'll have all the results, reaction and video highlights right here as news starts filtering through to us, including details of any injuries.

 

Join us tomorrow for more live coverage. Stage 5 covers 197km from Rouen to St Quentin, and once again it will be set up for the sprinters.

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