Stage 4: Nice (TTT) -
Return of the team time trial
Team time trials have tended towards shorter distances in the Prudhomme era, as the Tour de France director is keen to avoid teams that aren't blessed with a strong group of rouleurs being dumped out of the contest for the GC with the race only a few days old. That said, this is a flat course with plenty of long straights where stronger teams will be able to sustain very high speeds. There are also some tight-ish corners, so those outfits that have been working on their strategy should be able to gain some useful time.
It is instructive to look back at the time gaps recorded in the Tour's last team time trial at Les Essarts in 2011. The course that day was 23km long and similar to this in terms of profile and number of corners. Garmin won it, putting Thor Hushovd in yellow, while six other teams finished within 12 seconds - Katusha and Movistar were among seven teams losing more than a minute.
Joaquim Rodríguez and Alejandro Valverde will be hoping their line-ups are a lot more competitive this year. Wearing the colours of the US time trial champion, Dave Zabriskie leads the Garmin line ahead of Tyler Farrar at Les Essarts in 2011
Stephen Roche: "This stage was going to go along the seafront but the start's been moved into the city, which means more corners, giving the better organised teams an edge. They've resurfaced the Promenade des Anglais, which is great, as it was really rough when I used to drive Nicolas home to Monaco."
Garmin-Sharp have got a fabulous record in team time trials at Grand Tours, winning on two occasions at the Giro and at Les Essarts during the 2011 Tour. One of the keys is their ability to field a number of strong and experienced rouleurs. All know what is required from a test that takes each rider right to his limit.
Maps and profiles courtesy of ASO
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