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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tour de France 2011: Cadel Evans pips Alberto Contador to stage four win

Cadel Evans edged out Alberto Contador in a dramatic sprint for the line to win stage four of the Tour de France.

Evans triumphed in a photo finish at the end of the 172.5km rain-affected ride from Lorient to Mur-de-Bretagne.

The Australian withstood a late charge from defending champion Contador of Spain to pick up a second Tour stage win, with Alexandre Vinokourov third.

Thor Hushovd retained the race leader's yellow jersey as Bradley Wiggins finished 11th and Mark Cavendish 150th.

"I'm pretty happy," said Wiggins, who moves up from 10th to sixth in the overall standings.

"It's still early days - these stages are about staying safe and not giving too much away. The real stuff is still to come."

David Millar crossed in 22nd and drops from second to fourth overall, while Geraint Thomas was 29th and falls from fourth to seventh but retains the white jersey for best young rider.

"Those last 500m were hurting, I just had to hold the wheel in front of me," said Thomas. "It was a decent day for the team.

"This stage goes up, down, left right and there was a lot of stress in the bunch, a lot of fighting and it was a hard day with weather.

"I feel good. I've just been getting stuck in every day and doing my job. I'm enjoying it."

The stage came to life when a five-man breakaway began after 9km, with Johnny Hoogerland of the Netherlands leading the escapees over the intermediate sprint.

Cavendish took ninth place as Tyler Farrar - the winner of stage three - led the peloton over the line to take 10 points in the race for the green jersey.

BMC Racing and Omega Pharma-Lotto, riding for Evans and Philippe Gilbert respectively, were leading at the front of the peloton for much of the day, with Garmin-Cervelo - working for Norway's Hushovd - doing a turn in the final 30km.

Evans, like Wiggins earlier in the day, suffered a mechanical problem and had to be paced back to the bunch - an extra effort which may have affected the finale.

The breakaway was caught with little more than 4km remaining before the squads then battled for position at the foot of the final ascent out of Mur-de-Bretagne.

Contador attacked with 1.3km remaining and accelerated again in the finishing straight, but Evans overtook him to snatch victory on the line.

Contador punched the air in celebration, only for the still image of the finish to show it was his rival's success.

"It was so close I couldn't see who won it myself," stated Evans. "It was a really calm start considering the conditions and course. Towards the end it became really nervous.

"I had to change bikes with about 15km to go but my team carried me through and I managed to finish off the job. It was the other guys who won the stage today.

"My job here is to do classification but I'll take this very gladly. I'm so happy with the guys today."

Hushovd added: "I really had to fight, I dug so deep to stay with the climbers. I'm really happy I managed to keep the yellow jersey.

"What the team has done until now is incredible. It's a dream start and it's not stopping. We have to keep on going."

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