(Nogaro, France) At 94 years old, André Darrigade could probably have followed the peloton that left Dax on Tuesday afternoon.
Red scarf around the neck, symbol of the local feria, the Greyhound of the Landes was presented to the public of the village-start before the launch, in the shade of the arenas, of the fourth stage of the Tour de France.
Considered one of the greatest road sprinters of all time, the former world champion and yellow jersey took the microphone to say how he was “moved” to welcome the Tour in what is “almost” his hometown.
This is Narrosse, the first town to the west, where you enter by a roundabout named in his honor. A tall iron statue sits in the middle. On his bike and with his fist straight in the sky, Dédé celebrates one of his 22 stage victories, which places him fourth in history.
Unlike the followers of the non-race route, Mark Cavendish, leader at 34, and his colleagues did not see her, branching off a fork earlier.
Direction: the tiny village of Nogaro and its old Paul Armagnac motor racing circuit, where Jacques Villeneuve set a course record in the spring of 2000 during tests in his first season with BAR.
If the 175 cyclists were aiming for another record, it was perhaps that of the most boring start to the stage. OK, at an average of 38 km/h for the first two hours, Darrigade would have fizzled, but on an e-bike, who knows?
After one or two aborted breakaway attempts, a hilarious Mikkel Bjerg (UAE) urged the vanguard of the race to accelerate, under the impassive gaze of Guillaume Boivin.
The peloton closed the curtains until the intermediate sprint of Notre-Dame des Cyclistes (yes, yes).
After a hundred kilometers, just before entering the Gers, Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R Citröen) got tired. He fled looking for help. This one came from Anthony Delaplace (Arkea Samsic), his Norman friend.
It was a breakaway for form, so much so that Cosnefroy approached the motorcycle camera in the hope of getting a little head start in his work.
“If we can do the post-race interview now, we can do it, it’ll save me the press area!” “, he launched before questioning himself: “Why did we do that? I don’t know. »
The outgoing winner of the Grand Prix de Québec seemed disappointed to realize he was only addressing a lens. “What a cameraman, not a journalist then?” “, he resigned himself before resuming the wheel of Delaplace. For his trouble, he received the fighting spirit award at the end of the stage.
At the press room, a representative greeted us with a small bottle of Armagnac, the local specialty, and two more of Floc de Gascogne, a white and a red, made from young Armagnac.
“It’s more full-bodied,” explained the young man before sliding deadpan, “Given the race today, you’re going to need it. »
Fortunately, the legs loosened after the hill of Dému, the only “difficulty” of the day, after which Cosnefroy and Delaplace were caught.
Approaching the circuit, the sprint trains began to position themselves, side by side with the Jumbo-Visma team. Little Jonas Vingegaard, defending champion, was even the second to turn on the track, driven by Matej Mohoric (Bahrain), potentially the best driver in the peloton.
Things got tough in the wide curves of the autodrome, with three successive falls from the 2.5 km, including that of Fabio Jakobsen (Lotto Quick-Step), one of the favorites, apparently mowed down by Jasper Philipsen, its direct rival. The Dane got up, his European champion jersey all torn on the right shoulder and his bike broken into three pieces.
Philipsen (Alpecin) managed to avoid all these pitfalls. Once again put into orbit by Mathieu van der Poel, who dropped him off at 150 meters, the 25-year-old Belgian narrowly resisted the return of Caleb Ewan to clinch his second consecutive victory after that of the day before in Bayonne.
The German Phil Bauhaus (Bora) completed the podium, while the little Bryan Coquard (Cofidis), 4th, brilliantly slipped through despite the violent fall of a teammate. Fifth, Cavendish came a little closer to a record 35th success.
Questioned by a Dutch journalist, Philipsen denied having caused the loss of Jakobsen, stipulating that he had only followed in the wake of his teammates.
“I felt Fabio was there,” explained the new green jersey. In my eyes, he slipped into too thin a space. There was also someone on the right. I didn’t exactly see what happened because it happens so fast. But I want to make one thing clear: it’s not my intention to bring anyone down. »
So much for the small controversy of this day at the end of which Adam Yates (UAE) kept the yellow.
Philipsen added that such a mess in the finale was “a bit to be expected after such an easy run”. “It was the most boring Tour de France stage for a long time. »
Hoping Mr. Darrigade didn’t fall asleep before the fireworks.
67. Hugo Houle (CAN/IPT) 16 : 52. 115. Guillaume Boivin (CAN/IPT) 28 : 13.