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Tour de France 2017: Stage 4

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Full live coverage of stage 4 of the Tour de France, which is, on paper, destined for a bunch sprint in Vittel. 

 

Hello there, and welcome to Cyclingnews’ live race centre for another day at the Tour de France. We’re already on stage 4 and in store we have 207.5 kilometres from Mondorf-les-Bains, in Luxembourg, to Vittel, back in France. From a spa town to a natural source of mineral water, this is an opportunity for the sprinters to wash away the disappointment of Sunday or, if you’re Marcel Kittel or Peter Sagan, to keep the victories flowing.

Vittel has previous when it comes to the Tour and washing clean. In 1968 it was chosen as a symbolic location for the Grand Départ, the year after Tom Simpson, amphetamines and alcohol in his bloodstream, died on Mont Ventoux. 

The sun is shining in Mondorf-les-Bains, where the coffee is flowing in the village départ, riders are starting to sign on, and our reporters are buzzing around the team buses. 

Let's quickly catch up on yesterday. Peter Sagan did what Peter Sagan does - astound us, and make the astounding appear routine. A foot slipping out of the pedal in the thick of an uphill sprint would be curtains for most riders, but the world champion calmly clipped his back in and surged clear once more to claim his eighth Tour stage win. Here's the full report:

The disc brakes are back today for some of the sprinters. Here are Michael Matthews' and Marcel Kittel's bikes. 

The GC and the jersey wearers

There's a resident barber in the village départ every morning and he gets a surprising amount of business. Here's Romain Bardet, who does like to look after his image. 

If you'd like to see how this stage will unfold geographically, check out our preview video, which traces the route from Luxembourg, over the French border, and south towards Vittel. You can find that here

Plenty of riders are late to sign on, which could see the roll-out delayed by a few minutes. 

Colombian club better get a move on...

Here's Arnaud Démare (FDJ), the French champion who is one of the big favourites for today. He's in form, he has one of the strongest leadouts of the whole peloton, and he was a close second to Kittel on Sunday. 

They're off

Christian Prudhomme pops his head out of the red car and waves his flag, which means the stage is officially underway.

Wow, what a situation we have here. The break has already gone and, here's the catch, there's only one rider up there. 

There is one very small climb on this flat and long stage, which was always almost certain to culminate in a bunch sprint. We wouldn't have expected a big fight for the break, but this is something else. 

Fair play to Van Keirsbulck, who looks over his shoulder, almost in disbelief. He has a lonely day ahead of him, but he has the cameras to himself for over 200 kilometres, and his team won't be complaining about that. 

Van Keirsbulck comes into Schengen, which has political significance as the Schengen Agreement of 1985 led to the abolishment of border controls across Europe. 

198km remaining from 207km

On a day like today you'll have plenty of time to listen to our latest Tour de France podcast. Ed Pickering joins Daniel Benson for a show that features Porte, Froome, Contador, and Raymond Poulidor with a man with a cat on his head...

187km remaining from 207km

Running through the breakaway riders and their backgrounds won't take long today, but Van Keirsbulck is certainly an interesting rider to discuss.

171km remaining from 207km

Our lone leader is riding at an average speed of just over 40km/h, while the peloton is trundling along at just under 30km/h. 

Yesterday's stage winner Peter Sagan was riding the new Specialized Tarmac with a custom paint-job. We checked out his bike, which you can admire in this gallery, complete with the full spec sheet. 

Speaking of Sagan, we have a special feature today. Pat Malach sat down with Juraj Sagan, brother and teammate of Peter, to explore the fraternal bond and a career lived largely in the considerable shadow of the sport's biggest star. Here it is:

Team Sky, with the maillot jaune on the shoulders of Geraint Thomas, lead the peloton, with Luke Rowe on the front at the moment. They'll perform their duties in the early phase of this stage but then the sprinters' teams will be expected to come to the front when it comes to reeling Van Keirsbulck back in. 

153km remaining from 207km

Cyclingnews editor Daniel Benson has his finger firmly on the pulse of the transfer market and, along with some news on Contador that you'll soon be able to read on the site, he has this update from the buses this morning. 

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Peter Sagan is chasing back through the cars after a mechanical. It's not a bad time to have one, and he's duly taking his time over it, making sure to exert no unnecessary effort that he might be able to use at the end of the day. 

After the opening-day time trial, yesterday's uphill finish saw the first direct skirmishes between the overall contenders, with Richie Porte riding away in the final kilometre. He didn't gain any time, but it certainly seemed like a statement of intent. Here's what the Australian, the favourite in the eyes of some, had to say. 

124km remaining from 207km

119km remaining from 207km

They will be glued to the television screen in the Brasserie Arend in Roeselare, which houses the Guillaume Van Keirsbulck fan club. The bar is situated in Polenplein, which is where the team buses park ahead of the start of Dwars door Vlaanderen. During Van Keirsbulck's time at QuickStep, the team management made a point of going inside for a coffee ahead of the race. 

The general classification contenders will be very pleased with how this stage has quietly unfolded thus far. Tomorrow's leg to La Planche des Belles should be their next major rendezvous, and they will be glad to spare all the energy they can ahead of it.

113km remaining from 207km

Fuglsang penned a new two-year deal with Astana on the eve of the Tour, and the Dane has been enjoying life on and off the bike in recent weeks. "June has been a very good month and of course winning Dauphine, having my first child, and signing a contract for the next two years makes we relaxed and calm," he said. "It has given me the abilitiy to just focus on the race now and give it my maximum. I don’t think I’ve had a time in my life like this. It’s going to be hard to beat."

110km remaining from 207km

Alberto Contador is on the verge of extending his stay with Trek-Segafredo for another season. Dan Benson spoke to Trek-Segafredo manager Luca Guercilena for the latest on the Spaniard's contract situation and his plans to target one final tilt at the Giro d'Italia in 2018. You can read the full story here

106km remaining from 207km

FDJ and Cofidis have joined the chase effort at the head of the peloton. Eleven years have passed since Jimmy Casper became the last Frenchman to win a bunch sprint at the Tour de France, and in that period, no one has come much closer than Arnaud Demare did on Sunday, when he took second behind Marcel Kittel.

101km remaining from 207km

Just one of the factors making Van Keirsbulck's life difficult today is the stiff headwind, and the road never really changes direction. He has a minor victory over the peloton, though, in that he has a team car up with him at all times to serve up drinks and snacks on demand. That means that while the other riders have to grab musettes at the feed zone, he doesn't even have to carry a second bidon on his bike. 

88km remaining from 207km

This photo tells the story of the day so far

Extra motivation for Nacer Bouhanni

75km remaining from 207km

Coming up with 50km remaining is today's intermediate sprint, followed by the only categorised climb - the cat 4 Col des Trois Fontaines, topping out with 37km to go. Van Keirsbulck will be allowed to stay out to mop up the points at both, but it won't be long before the sprint trains get organised and his solo adventure comes to an end. 

Another Frenchman who's well up for it is Démare. Have a read about what he had to say about his second sprint opportunity. 

58km remaining from 207km

Olivier Le Gac, one of Demare's key teammates, is back at the medical car receiving treatment. It's unclear what the problem is. 

Van Keirsbulck is coming up to the intermediate sprint point. He won't sprint but he'll collect the maximum 20 points. 

Le Gac, it seems, is ill rather than injured. There were doubts about whether he would start today's stage.

The fight in the peloton for the remaining points is winding up now. 

Demare, who Sagan says is his biggest rival for the green jersey, shows his intent and is the first to launch his sprint. Sagan is on his wheel and runs him all the way to the line, but Demare holds on. Greipel was third there. 

Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) took heart from his fourth place on stage 2 and hopes to do even better in Vittel, even if his form is not as he’d like due to his recent bout of Glandular Fever.

40km remaining from 207km

37km remaining from 207km

Le Gac is back at the medical car again. He's enjoyed plenty of time without having to pedal but this doesn't look great for him. Intestinal problems, we're hearing. 

More from Cavendish

26km remaining from 207km

A reminder that we're podcasting regularly from the Tour, and that you can find our latest episode - featuring Porte, Froome, Poulidor, and cats - at the following link. 

Who do you fancy for the victory today? 

20km remaining from 207km

There is indeed a slight ramp in the final kilometre. Here's how it looks. 

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Van Keirsbulck drifts straight to the back of the peloton. His day is now about trying to hang on until the finish. 

13km remaining from 207km

Astana are up there. They're looking after their two GC leaders. Sky are doing the same. FDJ have set up shop through the middle for Demare. 

10km remaining from 207km

Quick-Step are still nowhere to be seen. No sweat here from Kittel. 

Sunweb are also quite far down. Michael Matthews seems to have his sights set on Kittel's wheel. 

Steve Cummings come to the front now for Dimension Data, working of course for Mark Cavendish. 

An Astana rider remonstrates with the Dimension Data train as the pace picks up. Not quite sure what his problem is. 

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Sky move up on the right as Katusha regain some control on the left. 

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Lots of movement now as a Quick-Step riders moves forward. They've lost each other for the moment. 

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Big left-hander and it strings out. DiData lead still.

2km remaining from 207km

Demare is behind Lotto

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Crash! Thomas down

Here we go. Kittel caught up in the crash i think

Lotto lead out

Kristoff goes first

Cavendish crashes!

Demare wins!

Wow. Cavendish went hard into the barriers. He's still on the deck. That looks bad. 

Thomas is rolling across the line. He looks ok. He won't lose any time 

Replays show that Cavendish bumped shoulders with Sagan and was forced into the barriers, which he bounced off before landing heavily on his shoulder. Cavendish is receiving medial attention on the road, barely 50 metres from the line. 

Amid the chaos, Demare galloped through for a victory for a famous win in the French champion's jersey. His surge was impressive, and he burst past Kristoff, who had to settle for third as Sagan came up for second. 

The overhead replay is not kind to Sagan, who appears to make a deliberate movement with his arm as he collides with Cavendish. Apparently he was angry with Greipel. There's going to be plenty of fall-out from this. 

Greipel took fourth in the sprint, Bouhanni fifth. There were only five in it, really, after such a hectic final kilometre. 

Sagan is paying a visit to the Dimension Data team bus. 

Top 10

Sagan has taken the blame for that crash and has apologised to Cavendish, who has his hand bandaged. 

Geraint Thomas appears to be unscathed. 

We'll be keeping this live blog open for all the post-stage fall-out and reaction, with plenty of quotes to come in from the main protagonists as we get them. 

"Greipel was angry with me but I don't know why, you'd have to ask him," says Sagan. 

General Classification after stage 4

So, bonus seconds take Sagan above Froome into second place overall. Demare is into the top 10, too. 

"If I was Sagan, I'd apologise for that," says Cavendish's DS Roger Hammond. 

Mark Cavendish speaks to a huge scrum of reporters

Geraint Thomas, still in yellow, speaks to ITV in the mixed zone. 

Also hearing that Lotto Soudal manager Marc Sergeant has spoken to the jury as well. He claims Sagan elbowed Greipel yesterday. 

Bora say they will review the footage before making a statement. 

This from Robbie McEwan on Twitter

We're hearing that Sagan has been docked 30 seconds. They complaints are ongoing, though, and that may be subject to change. 

It seems that Degenkolb and Swift, both also taken out as Cavendish fell into the road, are ok. 

Here is the revised top 10 on the stage after Sagan's demotion. 

Here is our initial story on the crash

This is the moment it happened. Cavendish is the green bike on the ground. 

Here are Lotto Soudal manager Marc Sergeant's full quotes to Eurosport

Amid the madness, it's easy to lose sight of our stage winner, Arnaud Demare (though there are question marks over whether he himself deviated from his line). Here he is celebrating his first Tour de France stage win. 

We're now hearing that Sagan has been docked points as well as seconds, moving him down the green jersey standings. 

Sagan started the day on 50 points and should have made it 95 thanks to second place at the intermediate sprint and again at the finish. 

Demare is currently sitting down for his press conference. His green jersey hopes just got a whole lot brighter, and he'll no doubt be asked about that. 

Mark Cavendish crosses the line with blood still pouring through his bandaged hand.