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Tour de Suisse 2012: Stage 4

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Welcome to our live coverage of the conclusion to stage four at the 2012 Tour de Suisse. Peter Sagan (Liquigas) has won two of the first three stages and Rui Costa (Movistar) leads overall. How will things pan out on this 188km stage from Aarberg to Trimbach/Olten? Stay with us right here this afternoon to find out.

Liquigas rider Peter Sagan won yesterday’s opening stage, his second in three days after he also won the opening ITT on Saturday. You can read about how he did it right here, but let’s have a quick recap on yesterday’s top ten finishers on stage three:

 

TOP TEN FINISHERS – STAGE THREE

 

1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale 4:35:32
2 Baden Cooke (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team
3 Ben Swift (GBr) Sky Procycling
4 Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Pro Team Astana 0:00:03
5 Allan Davis (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team
6 Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) FDJ-Big Mat
7 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
8 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Barracuda
9 Daniele Colli (Ita) Team Type 1 - Sanofi
10 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team
 

Sagan’s win didn’t lead to huge changes in the overall GC. Movistar’s Rui Costa retained his slender lead ahead of RadioShack-Nissan’s Frank Schleck. Here’s the top ten at the end of stage three:

 

GC AFTER STAGE THREE

 

1 Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team 11:06:57
2 Frank Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:08
3 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Pro Team Astana 0:00:15
4 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 0:00:19
5 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:21
6 Thomas Löfkvist (Swe) Sky Procycling
7 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:23
8 John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:24
9 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:00:26
10 Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Barracuda 0:00:29
 

Today's fourth stage contains more climbing than yesterday and features the massive Scheltenpass (Cat 1). That huge challenge comes quite early on but there's also a category 3 and a category 2 in the final 40km of the race.

We're still awaiting live pictures here, but as we join the coverage with 85km to go there appears to be a breakaway group of nine riders who have a three minute lead on the peloton. Just getting confirmation of who they are now...

And here's the nine breakaway leaders: Martin Kohler (BMC), Grégory Rast (RadioShack-Nissan), Ruben Perez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Sébastien Minard (AG2R-LaMondiale), Sergio Miguel Paulinho (Saxo Bank), Javier Mejias (Team Type 1-Sanofi), Brian Vandborg (Spidertech), Dario Cataldo (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Mathew Hayman (Team Sky).

Hearing that the average current speed since the start of the race is 42km/h. Sounds a little sluggish, but let's not forget that they have already negotiated the huge Scheltenpass climb.

The leaders are into the village of Wolfwil and are still just under three minutes clear with 80km left to run in the stage.

80km remaining from 188km

The leaders are into the village of Wolfwil and are still just under three minutes clear with 80km left to run in the stage.

Just to recap on the Scheltenpass - Vandborg won the climb ahead of Hayman, Minard, Rast and Paulinho.

Race leader Rui Costa (Movistar) is at the front of the main peloton, dragging them along to reduce the gap. It's now down to under two minutes.

ROBERT GESINK VIDEO: Check out our exclusive video of Robert Gesink and his Rabobank colleagues training ion Spain ahead of their tilt at the Tour de France. Watch it right here.

And the leaders have now responded and have pushed the gap back up to 2:23.

As things stand right now, it's Cataldo who is the new leader of the Tour de Suisse. He is only 1:15 down in the general classification in 21st place, but is part of this breakaway group. But much can happen in the next couple of hours as the leaders pass the 70km mark.

Away from this race, it's all about the final preparations for the Tour de France. As I just said, Rabobank and Gesink are in the Sierra Navada in Spain. Liquigas, including Nibali and Basso, are staying at home in Italy and have started training on the Passo San Pellegrino. You can read more about all that right here.

63km remaining from 188km

We shouldn't be too far away from picking up the live pictures from the host broadcaster now, folks. Gap is creeping up again slightly...

It's now 55km since these nine leaders broke clear. They are all looking fairly comfortable at this point in time.

In case you missed the it, yesterday's big news was the retirement of the veteran BMC rider George Hincapie. Catch up on the full story here.

In case you missed the it, yesterday's big news was the retirement of the veteran BMC rider George Hincapie. Catch up on the full story here.

OK so we now have live pictures. As usual the live ticker from the organisers was a litle behind. The leaders have now passed the 50km mark. There's no change in the order and the gap is 2:39. It's raining at the moment as the riders make their way north.

50km remaining from 188km

OK so we now have live pictures. As usual the live ticker from the organisers was a litle behind. The leaders have now passed the 50km mark. There's no change in the order and the gap is 2:39. It's raining at the moment as the riders make their way north.

50km remaining from 188km

Cataldo is the only threat in the general classification of these nine. The other eight might try and drop him if they have designs on a stage victory. And in behind, his rivals will be looking to bridge the gap. The next 15-20km will be interesting as we reach the next climb.

Main peloton has just crossed a rather quaint bridge. The speed of the current in the river flowing beneath it is illustrative of the difficult conditions.

CRASH: Stuart O'Grady (Orica-GreenEdge) takes a nasty spill. Quite a lot of blood but he is back on his bike.

Rain is really coming down now

Gap is remaining steady at this point. Staying at around the 2:30 mark

In more Tour de France news, home favourite Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) has revealed that the knee injury he sustained in the Criterium du Dauphine last week is unlikely to keep him out of the race. Full story here.

40km remaining from 188km

And we've reached the 40km point. Next climb is getting close now. Gap is now down to two minutes, with Movistar doing a good job of dictating the pace for race leader Costa.

The leading nine are looking to break things up. Mainly to try and drop Cataldo. Paulinho has attacked and gone a few metres clear. Kohler trying to go with him, along with Vandborg. The gap back to the main peloton is down to 90 seconds.

37km remaining from 188km

Weather is getting worse by the minute. Leaders are now at the base of the next climb.

And we now have a group of four riders up front who have escaped from the other five: Paulinho, Kohler, Mejias and Vandborg. As we try to focus and see through the rain, they appear to be 20-30m clear.

The peloton have now closed the gap on the leaders to less than the 1:15 that Cataldo was behind in the GC at the start of the race.

And the gap from front to back is now less than a minute, as the main chasing peloton starts to break up on the second categorised climb.

Leading group down to six riders. Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) in hot pursuit of them in front of his home fans.

Leading group down to six riders. Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) in hot pursuit of them in front of his home fans.

And Albasini has now caught the front six as the leaders reach the third and final climb of the day.

And Cataldo has now broken clear on his own as the field head up the final climb. The other escapees have now been swallowed up by the peloton. Mountains leader Frank Schleck is moving towards the front of the main group.

Lars Petter Nordhaug (Sky) trying to get across to Cataldo. If he makes it, the pair of them could do some damage together here...

And Nordhaug has caught Cataldo up front. 25km to go. Gap is up past the 20-second mark.

In the main pack, Costa's Movistar teammates appear to be struggling. It's Astana who are look pretty strong and they are on the front. Their leader, Kreuziger, is in 3rd overall as we stand, just 15 seconds off the GC lead...

23km remaining from 188km

Nordhaug has now gone ahead of Cataldo. There's a few metres between them but the Italian his hanging on grittily.

22km remaining from 188km

And now there's two more riders trying to bridge the gap. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Martin Elmiger (AG2R).

Nordhaug is now clear and the main peloton won't be alarmed. He was over 12 minutes down in the overall GC this morning.

20km remaining from 188km

Elmiger and Van Avermaet have caught Cataldo now. 20km to go now. Movistar have now come back to the front of the main chasing group.

Still the riders are climbing and still the rain is coming down. Nordhaug still in front and looks strong at this stage. Conditions won't faze him.

And there's Costa. Right at the front of the main chasing group being led by teammate Valverde. His main GC rival Frank Schleck is right there too.

Rojas is there for Costa too. But that looks to be the extent of his support here.

Gap between Nordhaug and the main peloton is now up to 30 seconds.

And the riders have now gone over the top of the final climb. Fast descent coming up now for the next few kilometres.

Van Avermaet and Elmiger immediately drop Cataldo at the start of the descent. They are closing quite fast on Nordhaug up front.

Rain has stopped. But plenty of standing water on this descent.

Main peloton starting to get a bit strung out. Plenty of riders not wanting it to turn into a mass sprint. Just over 10km to go. Rain coming down once more.

10km remaining from 188km

Nordhaug is still looking strong enough in front at this point. Can Elmiger and Van Avermaet close him down?

And it looks like they are closing fast on Nordhaug now. They have him in their sights. The peloton look to be content to leave the denouement of the stage in the hands of these three.

In fact the gap between the leader and the main peloton is now up to 45 seconds.

Nordhaug is really digging in here. He looks desperate for the stage win but the chasing duo are only 100m behind him. And as I write this, the peloton seems to be pushing hard and closing the gap on the front three.

6km remaining from 188km

And Nordhaug has been caught by Elminger and Van Avermaet.

4km remaining from 188km

Gap tumbling down now, in a flash. 15 seconds is the gap. Looking more like a mass sprint than ever here.

3km remaining from 188km

Leading trio caught with 3km left

Liquigas bunched on the front. Sagan time again?

Last kilometre now...

Sagan wins comfortably

WINNER: Peter Sagan (Liquigas)

That's three wins out of four here for Sagan, and his easiest one so far.

TOP THREE FINISHERS:

1 Sagan

2 Rojas

3 Albasini

Doesn't look like there'll be much change to the GC. We'll have top tens for the stage and and the GC very soon here...

TOP TEN FINISHERS - STAGE 4:

 

1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale 4:36:55
2 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team
3 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team
4 Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin-Barracuda
5 Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Pro Team Astana
6 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Katusha Team
7 Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
8 Wout Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
9 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Katusha Team
10 Stephen Cummings (GBr) BMC Racing Team

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 4:


1 Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team 15:43:52
2 Frank Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:08
3 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Pro Team Astana 0:00:15
4 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 0:00:19
5 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:21
6 Thomas Löfkvist (Swe) Sky Procycling 0:00:21
7 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:23
8 John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:24
9 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:00:26
10 Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Barracuda 0:00:29

Another phenomenal performance by Sagan, who made things look easier than ever here despite the late climbs and the damp conditions. He had little in the way of support over the final few hundred metres but didn't appear to need it. His third win from four stages is mirroring his dominance at last month's Tour of California. For full results, reaction and pics from this stage as we get it, click here.

 

Sagan may not have things all his own way at tomorrow's 193km stage five though. The six categorised climbs might take their toll on him and suit a large and prolonged breakaway, but we have written off Sagan's chances in these situations before and been made to look foolish.

 

So join us tomorrow for our live coverage of stage 5, where we shall see if Rui Costa can hold on to the yellow jersey still further.

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