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Tour of California 2018: Stage 4

Welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the 2018 Tour of California! We are in Morgan Hill, just outside San Jose, where the riders will face a 34.7km time trial. It's going to be a fast, flat, power-rider's course.

It's a pleasant temperature for the time trial, with no breeze yet - though it will pick up though the afternoon, possibly affecting the later riders.
 

You can see the start times for the peloton here.

Juraj Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) is our first rider to head down the ramp today. He's been working for his world champion brother this week, and is last on the GC.
 

In case you didn't know, stage race time trials always start in reverse GC order, with some riders shifted around to keep teammates from starting near each other.

Most of the riders in the first wave are sprinters or their lead-out men - riders like Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin), Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Iljo Keisse (Quick-Step) or Roger Kluge (Mitchelton-Scott). They will be riding for the time cut today.
 

The first rider to keep an eye on is Mikkel Bjerg, the U23 ITT world champion who says he wants to show himself here.

Other riders to watch include Taylor Phinney (EF-Drapac) who starts at 1:13PM; Rally's Evan Huffman (1:31PM), although he may be tired from yesterday's breakaway. US champion Joey Rosskopf is off at 2:25pm, Brent Bookwalter at 2:34 (Both BMC) and former junior world champion Brandon McNulty (Rally) at 2:39.

Aside from the GC contenders, Filippo Ganna (UAE) is a dark horse for this test, as is Paddy Bevin (BMC), the former New Zealand champion.

Bevin told Cyclingnews:

"I'm here to mostly work for the GC guys, but my time trial has been coming along well, and that's obviously going to be a stage where we can have a go. It's not going to influence too much outside of that. So for me, personally, I'd say that's the big day, and the rest is here for the team."

Mark Renshaw - the lead-out man for Cavendish, is out on course. Then it's Kluge, the Madison world champion on the track and Daniel Oss. All powerful riders, but perhaps not targeting the stage.
 

Will this be the day for Rally's Danny Pate to show his prowess in the discipline? He's the latest rider off.

The course today heads out from downtown Morgan Hill, a small town midway between San Jose and the garlic capital of Gilroy. It's the home of bike manufacturer Specialized, their HQ is just a block from the first turn.

BMC's Taylor Phinney is off for his race. The former US national ITT champion showed that he's made huge progress in recovering from that devastating leg injury by nabbing a fine top 10 finish in Paris-Roubaix this spring.

 

The route today favors a rider like Phinney - the length, at 34.7km, is longer than most we see in races like this. It will be the longest test Phinney's done since the 2016 world championships, where he was 15th.

From the start, the riders head toward the hills and turn onto Oak Glen Road - the site of many a hotly contested lunch ride by the locals - past the Chesbro resevoir. The riders then turn onto McKean where they'll have a sharp little climb to the intermediate check.
 

After turning back toward town, they'll have a brief respite in the form of a short descent - though care should be taken as there's a couple hairpins. Then it's flat back to the finish.

Currently Iljo Keisse has the fastest time at the check - 23:01, with Ruben Companioni  at 17 seconds. Cavendish didn't do too poorly, he's third best at the moment.

Daniel Oss has put in a brilliant ride in this first half - 22:51 and the quickest time at the check, topping Keisse by 16 seconds.

But Oss' ride is eclipsed by that of our motivated U23 world champion Mikkel Bjerg, who has smoked the first 16km in a time of 21:16.

Bjerg has clocked an average speed of 45.7kmh - that's a good ride. You can read more about him here.

Bjerg's DS Axel Merckx had this to say about him earlier:
 

"He's super motivated, that's for sure. He's really excited about it. He just did Bretagne four days and then he came here because he's just recovering from injury [a broken hand -ed], but I think he can do well. How well I have no idea. It's also the first time I really get to see him in a time trial because he was supposed to do the time trial in Tryptique, but he was injured so he couldn't race. It's going to be his first big time trial the year, so there are always question marks for the guys to see how they do."

When asked if a good result would motivate Bjerg for the coming races, Merckx said. "That will give him confidence in the next one coming up, because we have the Baby Giro after this. The main target is to defend his title at the end of the year, but we'll see what happens today."

Phinney has come through the check 29 seconds down on Bjerg.

Bora's Maciej Bodnar is second at 12 seconds, with the rest more than a minute behind Bjerg at the first check.

Bodnar is rocking and rolling on his way toward the finish, passing vineyards on this wide open road.

Out on course is another rider who can put in a decent time trial when he wants to, Michael Hepburn (Mitchelton-Scott). He's a former Oceania champion and multi-time world champion in the pursuit and team pursuit on the track.

Companioni beat Juraj Sagan to the finish, and is sitting in the hot seat now.

Phinney has not lost focus - he's got Rick Zabel (Katusha) in his sights. The German started three minutes before him.

Zabel's teammate Kittel came through the line quite slowly - last place 1:53 from Companioni. Six riders have finished so far.

Daniel Oss is our latest man to earn a place in the 'hot seat' - he's quickest at the finish until Bjerg comes across.


The U23 champion crushed it with a 41:40, over two minutes ahead of Oss! That's going to be a really long spell in the hot seat.

And Bodnar JUST missed it. Three seconds slower than the U23 world champion.

Phinney's at the 1km to go banner. Can he unseat Bjerg?

The answer is no - Phinney comes in nine seconds down, that's good for third at the moment.

We're hearing that the wind has picked up along the course, but the course itself is pretty straightforward. Right now, on that very straight road, is Peter Sagan.

Back at the intermediate check, Filippo Ganna (UAE) has the third best time.

We asked UAE team Director Philippe Maduit about the rider's chances:

"You know with Filippo we never know. I think the time trial is little long for him. He's a guy who can go fast over 4km on the track, but here it is 35km. But he will try and then we will see at the end of the day what the classement is. But he's good, and he's feeling good and motivated. The legs will do the talking"

Ruben Campanioni - Holowesko-Citadel (started second)

"The course for me I think is beautiful. It's a little windy. It has some little climbs, some very nice descents and long flat sections. It's nice course.
For me TJ [Eisenhart] is always the favourite."

Huffman is putting in a respectable ride, he's 30 seconds down on Bjerg at the first check, good for about sixth overall.

Heppy is actually sixth, Huffman fifth, both within 30 seconds at the check. Lawson Craddock just came through that split with a strong ride - 15 seconds down.

Ian Garrison must have gotten a good warm-up for today in that day-long breakaway: he's fifth best at the finish, but 2:01 behind Bjerg.

Craddock is really moving, his cadence noticeably higher than his teammate Phinney, who was grinding a big gear.

Craddock has caught and passed his minute-man Reto Hollenstein (Katusha-Alpecin).

Coming to the line is Yousif Mirza Al-Hammadi (UAE Team Emirates), the national champion of the UAE was well down, over five minutes, on Bjerg's time.

Next to come in in sprinter John Murphy (Holowesko) 4:45 down.

Woah! The individual pursuit champion Filippo Ganna has taken the fastest time off Bjerg by four seconds!

The UAE rider finished off the cameras, so fast they couldn't capture him.

That's heartbreak for Bjerg, but he's still in a podium position for the stage.

The top 10 after 42 riders

1 Filippo Ganna (Ita) UAE Team Emirates 0:41:36
2 Mikkel Bjerg (Den) Hagens Berman Axeon 0:00:04
3 Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:08
4 Taylor Phinney (USA) EF Education First-Drapac 0:00:13
5 Michael Hepburn (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott 0:00:26
6 Evan Huffman (USA) Rally Cycling 0:00:45
7 Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:01:49
8 Ian Garrison (USA) Hagens Berman Axeon 0:02:05
9 Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team Sky 0:02:06
10 Alvaro Hodeg (Col) Quick-Step Floors 0:02:12

Craddock is now speeding toward the finish, on a very good time.

1km to go for Craddock - it's going to be a long shot if he overtakes Ganna, but he still looks smooth and strong.

Oh we are so wrong! Craddock smoked it.

Craddock was in with a 41:33 - three seconds quicker than Ganna.

Very nice riding by Craddock who has clearly recovered from his overtraining issues. Slipstream were smart to give him another chance this year.

We spoke to Rally DS Eric Wohlberg, who described the course for us:


"It's great course. it's got some little rolling stuff in it. It's got one technical descent and alit bit of win. So I think it's got little bit of everything. It's a good course for our guy. I think Brandon (McNulty) is going to rock it pretty good out there."

When asked about the wind he said:

"On the way out you got a little bit of cover. The wind is coming out of the north, so you have a little bit of headwind on the way out, but there are a lot of turns and a little more tree cover. But on the way back, this final 10km run to the finish, it's a pretty strong cross-tailwind and win open. No cover out there at all. It would be great if it was a headwind coming home, but in a tailwind guys are gonna be able to roll pretty much the same speed when they're on it. I think the race is going to be won more on the way out where you've got a little more headwind conditions."

As strong as Craddock's ride is, we've got Paddy Bevin really moving out there. He was fastest at the check a full 25 seconds quicker than the EF-Drapac rider.

The last wave of riders are now getting underway, TJ Eisenhart (Holowesko-Citadel) has rolled down the ramp.

20 more riders left to start.
 

Meanwhile, Peter Sagan is doing a pretty strong ride.

Although Sagan passed a few riders, he's still over two minutes down at the check, so not a contender.
 

Brent Bookwalter (BMC) is getting started on his ride. His team is looking for a title sponsor, but general manager Jim Ochowicz denies there's any stress. You can read the story here.

Sagan comes through to the delight of the crowd, but he's not blazing - he's in almost three minutes down in 19th.

A rider to watch, Brandon McNulty (Rally) is about to get underway.

The Rally team have Acura NSX sportscars as their team cars in the race. Without a back seat, we question how practical a choice this is.

We think that McNulty could give the NSX a run for its money - it's only 500hp.
 

Caleb Ewan comes across 5:26 down with the green jersey on his shoulders.

Ewan is tied on points with race leader Egan Bernal (Team Sky), but Bernal of course has to wear the yellow jersey.


Let's remind ourselves of the overall situation:
1 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky 12:09:08
2 Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:25
3 Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott 0:00:31
4 Antwan Tolhoek (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:00:40
5 Kristijan Durasek (Cro) UAE Team Emirates
6 Daniel Martinez (Col) EF-Drapac
7 Mathias Frank (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:50
8 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC 0:01:00
9 Rúben Guerreiro (Por) Trek-Segafredo 0:01:11
10 Laurens De Plus (Bel) Quick-Step Floors 0:01:14

McNulty looks like he's running out of gears he's going so fast - he whips around the turn and quickly back into his very narrow aero bar position.

Alex Howes (EF Drapac) comes across outside the top 10 in 16th, 2:18 behind his teammate.

The style of McNulty is in sharp contrast to that of Bevin, who turns such a big gear, it looks like he's hardly moving at all. But he's moving, for sure. Fastest at the first check by 10 seconds on Bjerg, let's see if he can go faster on the second half or if he runs out of steam.

Woah! Bevin crushed that second half - 40:54, and there goes Craddock out of the hot seat.

Our current situation at the finish is as follows:
1 Patrick Bevin (NZl) BMC Racing Team 0:40:54
2 Lawson Craddock (USA) EF-Drapac 0:00:39
3 Filippo Ganna (Ita) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:42
4 Mikkel Bjerg (Den) Hagens Berman Axeon 0:00:46
5 Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:50
6 Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin 0:00:52
7 Taylor Phinney (USA) EF-Drapac 0:00:55
8 Michael Hepburn (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott 0:01:08
9 Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Sunweb 0:01:12
10 Evan Huffman (USA) Rally Cycling 0:01:27

Just six riders still to start, as at the finish we've seen a few notable rides - Nils Politt in sixth at 52 seconds, and Nikias Arndt in the top 10.

Jack Bauer, the current New Zealand champion, is doing a strong ride, 34 seconds behind his compatriot at the check.

McNulty has caught his minute man.

Just Yates, Majka and Bernal left to start.
 

At the finish, Lachlan Morton is well down, 6:30 behind the leader. That's not what we'd expect from the Australian.

Morton won't have to worry about missing the time cut, however. The limit is quite generous at 25%. That's 10 minutes.

Majka takes one last swig from his aero bottle and a few deep breathes as the referee counts down.

Bauer slotted into the top 10 in fifth.
 

Now it's time for Bernal to have his moment, he smiles as the crowd cheers.

McNulty started fast but is 38 seconds down at the check, while Geoghegan hart is putting in a storming ride, 27 seconds down on Bevin.

Bernal passes a herd of cows. There once was a time when cow sightings was a big thing in the Cyclingnews blimp, but now that there are tractors and inflatables, cows are pretty insignificant.

Now, mountain lions - that would be something.

Pavel Sivakov has snuck into the top 10, pushing Arndt down. 

Tejay van Garderen is powering toward the check, but his rear skewer is pointing down - clearly not very aerodynamic.
 

Up the road, McNulty has had to take a bike from the team car. Too bad for the former Junior world champion.

Van Garderen possibly is actually helped by the forward momentum of his skewer because he's only three seconds down on Bevin at the check!

Though skewer position is very much worth three seconds over 16km.

There have been some good rides while we've been obsessed with Tejay's skewer - Neilson Powless slotted into sixth at 49 seconds from Bevin, and Serghei Tvetcov pushed Phinney to 10th, coming in ninth at 53 seconds.

Van Garderen powers around the turns on the descent, just missing the pothole where McNulty punctured.

Tao Geoghegan Hart has passed McNulty, but luckily the wide road allows both riders to keep a fast pace.

Bookwalter slots in with a ninth place finish, 52 seconds down on his teammate Bevin. He passed Sean Bennett in the finish.

Just like Bevin, Van Garderen hardly looks like he's moving. He's churning a big gear, but not quite as big as Bevin's.

Yates is losing big time, already 54 seconds down on Bevin, but compared with the other GC men, it might not be too bad.

Geoghegan Hart crushed it - only 25 seconds down on Bevin, that's a very strong ride. 

Here's the top 10 as we wait for the GC men:
1 Patrick Bevin (NZl) BMC Racing Team 0:40:54
2 Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:25
3 Lawson Craddock (USA) EF-Drapac 0:00:39
4 Filippo Ganna (Ita) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:42
5 Mikkel Bjerg (Den) Hagens Berman Axeon 0:00:46
6 Jack Bauer (NZl) Mitchelton-Scott 0:00:48
7 Neilson Powless (USA) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:00:49
8 Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:50
9 Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin 0:00:52
10 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team

Majka lost 1:10 to Bevin at the check, so Yates will move ahead of him on GC unless he can push harder on the second half.

We're not sure Bernal is going to be holding the yellow jersey. It's going to be a tall order to keep Van Garderen to a minute.

Bernal has already lost 45 seconds to Van Garderen.

Woah! Van Garderen and his magic skewer get the fastest time! 40:47

Van Garderen celebrates after the line, quite effusively - not the Tejay we've seen over the past year.

1 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:40:47
2 Patrick Bevin (NZl) BMC Racing Team 0:00:07
3 Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:32
4 Lawson Craddock (USA) EF-Drapac 0:00:46
5 Filippo Ganna (Ita) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:49
6 Mikkel Bjerg (Den) Hagens Berman Axeon 0:00:53
7 Jack Bauer (NZl) Mitchelton-Scott 0:00:55
8 Neilson Powless (USA) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:00:56
9 Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:57
10 Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin 0:00:59

Majka is not looking great out there. He's given up 1:10 at the check and falling behind.

Bernal is shifting around in his saddle, and we're afraid he'll be giving up the yellow jersey today. He does not look comfortable.

Dani Martinez has put in a strong ride, 57 seconds behind Van Garderen. Relative to the rest of the time trial specialists, that's solid.

The figure of Bernal, so slight and bird-like, is sharp contrast to the lean power of Van Garderen. The punchy litheness of Yates is somewhere in between.

Yates is holding at over 41 minutes with 1km to go.

42:23 for Yates, not too bad, but it won't help his GC position.

Tolhoek was even worse, giving up 3:48 on van Garderen.

The top three on GC now looks like Van Garderen, Martinez and Geoghegan Hart. Let's see what Bernal and Majka can do.

42:51 for Majka as he sprints in.

Bernal is not going to hold off Van Garderen - the American will take the race lead!

42:10 for Bernal, that's a disappointment for the Sky rider.

By our calculations, Bernal does manage to keep second place on GC, at 23 seconds.

Looks like Martinez moves into third, with Geoghegan Hart in fourth

There's still a good chance for Bernal to get back those 23 seconds from Van Garderen in South Lake Tahoe.

Still awaiting confirmation of the GC...

Here are my calculations for the top five, let's see if they're right:
 

1 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 12:50:55
2 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky 0:00:23
3 Daniel Martinez (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale 0:00:37
4 Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:52
5 Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott 0:01:07

General classification after stage 4

1 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 12:50:55
2 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky 0:00:23
3 Daniel Martinez (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale 0:00:37
4 Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:52
5 Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott 0:01:07
6 Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:01:29
7 Brandon McNulty (USA) Rally Cycling 0:02:08
8 Laurens De Plus (Bel) Quick-Step Floors 0:02:13
9 Kristijan Durasek (Cro) UAE Team Emirates 0:02:15
10 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:02:34

Math isn't so hard after all.

And the final top 10 for the stage
1 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:40:47
2 Patrick Bevin (NZl) BMC Racing Team 0:00:07
3 Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:32
4 Lawson Craddock (USA) EF-Drapac 0:00:46
5 Filippo Ganna (Ita) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:49
6 Mikkel Bjerg (Den) Hagens Berman Axeon 0:00:53
7 Jack Bauer (NZl) Mitchelton-Scott 0:00:55
8 Neilson Powless (USA) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:00:56
9 Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:57
10 Daniel Martinez (Col) EF-Drapac

Signing off for today after an unexpectedly exciting time trial, please join us again tomorrow for a sprint-friendly stage from Stockton to Elk Grove.
 

Meanwhile, keep up with the full results, report and photos from the stage in our report here!

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