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Mark Cavendish out of race as Arnaud Démare wins Stage 4 of the 2017 Tour de France

Peter Stuart
4 Jul 2017

Cavendish reportedly breaks his shoulder in treacherous crash-filled sprint finish into Vittel; Sagan is disqualified from the race

Arnaud Démare of team FDJ won a chaotic sprint to win Stage 4 of the Tour de France from Peter Sagan, after a sequence of crashes took down Mark Cavendish and substantially delayed Marcel Kittel.

With Kittel out of the picture from an early crash, and the sprint was left to Cavendish, Bouhanni, Demare, Kristoff and Sagan.

Sitting tight on the wheels of Démare, Cavendish looked in a strong position for the sprint finish, as Lotto-Soudal led out Andre Greipel at the front of the small sprinters' bunch.

The group moved dramatically to the right of the road. Cavendish and Peter Sagan clashed elbows and Cavendish was pushed into the barriers, taking him out of contention and leaving him with a suspected broken shoulder.

He earlier spoke with Eurosport about the difficulties of the final 'narrow' stretch of the sprint, where erratic movements from the sprinters resulted in a crash into the barriers. Early speculation was been unable to determine who was at fault for the crash.

Many unsurprisingly questioned Sagan's elbow movement, with Cavendish himself saying he would like to 'know about the elbow'. Other commentators have criticised Démare for following the leading wheel too aggressively and shifting the front group across the road too quickly.

Fault was eventually determined, and just before 6pm Sagan was officially disqualified from the Tour de France. Philippe Marien, the president of the Tour de France's jury explained that this was because he was deemed to have 'endangered some of his colleagues seriously'.

A clip of the final sprint has been tweeted from ITV below.

Démare also took the Green Jersey as a result of his final sprint win, stretching out a lead of 29 points over Peter Sagan. There was also an upset to the general classification, although Geraint Thomas remains in yellow, Peter Sagan moves into second 7 seconds behind, followed by Chris Froome and Michael Matthews both 12 seconds behind Thomas.

How Stage 4 panned out

The stage was always going to be one for the sprinters, with only a single category 4 climb 35km from the finish to fragment the pack. Speaking about the finish with Eurosport’s Laura Meseuger, Mark Cavendish (Team Dimensions Data) said, ‘It’s a little bit more technical, it’s still a traditional tour finish in the sense that we do have a long last kilometre. There’s a little kink in it. It’s one that can get the lead out trains going. The last 3km does go narrow, and that might affect a lot of teams.' The first attack of the day proved to be the most effective, if slightly doomed. Guillaume van Kiersbulck of Team Wanty-Groupe Gobert undertook one of the longest solo breakaways we’ve seen for some time in the Tour, staying away for nearly 190km.

He attacked immediately after Prudhomme released the neutralisation, sprinting beneath the white flag of the race director. Many felt slightly sorry for van Kiersbulck as no-one seemed to be interested in joining his breakaway effort, so he was left alone.

Commentators pointed out that prospects were slim for van Kiersbulck, with the last successful solo break all the way back in 2000 with Christophe Agnolutto. Still, the exposure was good for the 26 year-old Dutch rider. 

Team Sky were active on the front of the peloton throughout the morning as the pack moved from Luxemborg to France. Sky had a relaxed approach to the day’s solo break, which many deemed a ‘suicide break’, allowing the advantage to swell to nearly 13 minutes.

As the race progressed, a mixture of the sprinters teams of Quick-Step Floors and Lotto-Soudal began to dominate the front of peloton. Katusha-Alpecin was also pulling hard on the front through the day, which drew some later criticism to their form in the final kilometres.

By consequence of his solo break, van Kiersbulck took all of intermediate sprint uncontested, Damare took second ahead of Peter Sagan (Team Bora-Hansgrove) and Andre Greipel (Team Lotto-Soudal). The second place put Damare just one point behind Kittel in the green jersey competition.  

As much as we may have hoped for a break in the 17 year streak of, at 40km to go, the advantage was down to only 2 minutes and 30 seconds. By the 38km mark it had been dramatically cut down to 1.50.

Impressively, van Kiersbulck kept that margin at hand for a further 10km. The 4th Category climb that sat at 35km did little to change the overall KOM standings, with van Kiersbulck winning only a single point for crossing the summit first.

Home straight

The pace was quickly ratcheted up as the 20km mark approached. The peloton cut van Kiersbulck advantage down to below a minute, leaving him in sight of the group as the pack tracked the river Vair toward Vitel.

Van Kiersbulck was caught with 17km to go, and consequently the balance of power for the sprinters teams began. 

Over the next few kilometres, Dimensions Data, Katusha and Bora-Hansgrove competed at the front of the peloton for space.

Cofidis gradually moved to the front of the group, and were a decisive prescence by 6km to go. There were even signs of a dispute between Sagan and Nacer Nacer Bouhanni (Team Cofidis).

At 2.5km there was a sharp turn in the road, which meant that competition was fierce in the preceding kilometres for a safe position at the front of the group.

Into the final 2km, Dimensions Data lost ground, only for a major crash to take down many major sprinters and hold up Kittel substantially.

The final 1km looked like a showdown between Greipel and Cavendish, only for the resulting crash to put Cavendish out of contention and out of the Tour with a reported broken shoulder. Démare sprinted against Sagan and Kristoff in a straight three-way sprint.

Update 18.06pm

Sagan has been disqualified from the Tour de France. More to follow...