LATEST ACTION (all times BST)
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Stage four standings:
1. Stefan Schumacher - 35 minutes 44 seconds
2. Kim Kirchen - 36 minutes 2 seconds (18+)
3. David Millar - 36 minutes 2.530 seconds (+18)
4. Cadel Evans - 36 minutes 11 seconds (+27)
5. Fabian Cancellara - 36 minutes 17 seconds (+33)
1640: Wednesday's fifth stage is a nice, flat 232km ride from Cholet to Châteauroux, so a good opportunity for the front runners to gain valuable time over their rivals. Thanks for all your efforts, look forward to tomorrow's stage.
"Schumacher had a brilliant ride today and will where the yellow jersey. Cancellara just didn't look in form which is suprising but David Millar looked really determined today and has put in a good result!"
kuzfan on 606
1636: In comes Feillu in the final stages of a thoroughly fascinating time trial, the French faithful urging their young tyro over the finishing line. The Agritubel rider crosses the line in 40:43 secs, which means his day in the limelight is over - for now.
1630: Alejandro Valverde loses valuable overall time after clocking 37 minutes 18 secs, while William Frischkorn, one of Monday's protagonists, finishing way down the pecking order.
1623: Feillu comes into the second time check over three minutes behind Schumacher, meanwhile Kim Kirchen nabs second spot from Millar by 0.53 seconds. Looks like the top three in the time trial will take the top three overall places on the podium. Both Kirchen and Millar had six seconds on Schumacher, so the pair trail the Gerolsteiner rider by 12 seconds overall.
1620: That ride from Millar looks to have assured him a place on the podium. Looks like Schumacher will take the yellow jersey, now that's something I wasn't expecting to type this morning.
1618: In comes Millar and he is rocking all over the place, but he manages to record a time of 36 minutes and two seconds, 18 seconds behind Schumacher. Fantastic ride from the Garmin-Chipolte rider.
1616: Top ride from Cadel Evans, who crosses the finish line in 36 minutes 11.97 secs, putting him in second place.
1614: David Millar is heading towards the finish line, but does he have any reserves to haul past Schumacher's time?
1612: Oooof! Romain Feillu's dalliance with the yellow jersey looks over - he is one minute 48 seconds behind the pace after the first checkpoint.
1607: David Millar is still on course for the yellow jersey, clocking 24 minutes 57 seconds at the second time check point, 15 seconds behind Schumacher. We're on for a rip-roaring finale amigos.
1605: Cadel Evans picks up speed over the second phase, registering the third fastest time at the 19.5km La Romagne checkpoint.
1603: More impressive times, this time from Kim Kirchen, who goes through the first checkpoint 11 seconds slower than Schumacher, two seconds faster than Millar.
1556: Romain Feillu, the yellow jersey holder, is the final rider out on the course. More encouraging news for British fans, David Millar has crossed the first checkpoint at Saint-Andre de la Marche in second place, 13 seconds behind Stefan Schumacher.
1555: Millar is coming up to the first checkpoint, while Cadel Evans is in eighth place after the first time check.
"Anyone know when Stefan Schumacher discovered how to TT? That's quite some time he's set. Did not see that one coming neither did Graham and Peter it seems. There's always one rider who pulls off something unusual in the ITT, looks like it's Schumacher's turn today."
Alex - 5 Live on 606
Lots of tremendous song-related Tour de France chat on 606 today, The girl from (Marco) Marz is my personal favourite.
1550: Some handy maths from 5 Live's Peter Slater - if Romain Feillu finishes within one minute 52 secs of Schumacher's time, he will retain his yellow jersey.
1546: German Stefan Schumacher rides into the closing stages and chops over 30 seconds off Cancellara's time of 35 minutes 44 secs. Now who was expecting that? the Gerolsteiner's performance has thrown quite a few commentators off, not to mention world time-trial champion Cancellara. So what will Millar, Evans, Valverde and Feillu have to offer?
1542: David Millar, wearing his national champion's jersey, is out on the course.
1540: Things are really hotting up now as the leaders prepare to join the rest of the field. Cadel Evans, clad in pinky/black of the Silence-Lotto team pedals out for his turn.
1535: Impressive times from Gerolsteiner's Stefan Schumacher, who posts the fastest times in the first and second time checks, crossing the latter in 24 minutes 42 secs, 23 seconds faster than Jens Voigt. Now, can he maintain that pace in the last 10km?
1526: Cancellara is off his saddle frantically pushing his body to its limit approaching the finishing line - and his lung-busting effort pays off as he takes first place with a ride of 36 minutes 17.22 secs, one second ahead of Denis Menchov.
1524: Italy's Damiano Cunego crosses the line in eighth place as Cancellara comes into the last straight. We also have coverage from 5 Live's Peter Slater out on Cholet:
1519: Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas has crept in under the radar thanks to a great ride of 36 minutes 32 secs to sit in third place.
1515: Hmmm, interesting. Cancellara is seven seconds down after the second checkpoint with 25 minutes 12 secs.
1504: Cancellara is second fastest at the first checkpoint, just two seconds down on his team-mate Voigt's time.
"I think Millar has a good advantage with his late start time, he will know Cancellara's time before he sets off. I'm tipping Millar, weather (and legs of course) permitting he could do a ride here and take yellow."
toffeesteveo on 606
"I always thought Cholet was a Womble!"
66dazman66 on 606
1450: The lead has changed hands once again - Russia's Denis Menchov has taken the lead off CSC's Jens Voight with a time of 36 minutes and 18 seconds. And world time-trial champion Fabian Cancellara is out on the course. Menchov had been trailing Voigt by six seconds at the 19.5km checkpoint, which tells you something about how much effort he put into the last 10kms.
"Cloud Appreciation Society member no 11838 here (see 1302). Thanks for mentioning us. Is this the cycling equivalent of spotting spectators with funny costumes?"
Anon via TEXT 81111
Sadly there is a lack of Supermen and Hulks charging up and down in Cholet, however I'm sure they're saving it up for the mountain stages.
1442: Brilliant ride from Jens Voigt, who smashes Sylvain Chavanel's leading time by 33 seconds. The CSC rider crosses the line in 36 minutes and 19 secs, setting an intimidating marker for the likes of Cancellara, Valverde, Millar and Evans.
1437: We could be in for a fast time from Jens Voigt, who tops the times in both time checks. Denis Menchov has also made a fine start, trailing CSC's Voigt after the first check.
1432: Impressive riding from South African sprinter Robert Hunter, who finishes in 37 minutes 39 secs. Don't think too many people were expecting that from the Barloworld rider.
"Interesting that Cav is talking about 'surviving the mountains'...I thought he was packing in early to focus on the Olympics."
toffeesteveo on 606
1425: Italy's Riccardo Ricco, one of the leading contenders for the King of the Mountains jersey, is out on the course.
1423: We have a new leader - Cofidis's Sylvain Chavanel crosses the finishing line in a time of 36 minutes 52 secs, shaving two seconds off Danny Pate's time.
1420: Some quotes from Mark Cavendish: "Every chance of a break is welcome because I will need to be at full gas to survive the mountains." The Manxman also admits he is not in the hunt for the sprinting jersey this year: "I'm not consistent enough yet to go for the green jersey. Maybe in years to come."
1412: A few specks of rain in Cholet, the leaders will be staring at the heavens imploring the skies to stay clear for their runs.
1407: Rabobank's Denis Menchov is set to hit the course at 1414 BST. The Russian - a two-time Tour of Spain champion - has not exactly matched up to pre-race predictions as one of the leading favourites, so he will be keen to make an impression.
1355: Cavendish admits he didn't give it the full gun in Cholet, trying to hold energy in reserves for the sprints in future stages. But because of the pace of the specialists, he couldn't treat the ITT as a "rest day".
1351: Cavendish crosses the finishing line in 39 minutes 49 secs, which sees him fall to 73rd place. The 23-year-old will probably be disappointed with that, although the big chase on Monday may have taken its toll.
1341: We have seen 87 riders go through the 29.5km course, but no-one has managed to topple American Danny Pate at the top of the standings. Samuel Dumoulin, who won Monday's dramatic stage between Saint Malo and Nantes, is currently in 78th, finishing three-and-a-half minutes behind Pate.
1338: Cavendish's pace has dropped after crossing the second checkpoint at La Romagne (19.5km) at 27 minutes 40 secs, which puts him in joint 66th.
"The France Television coverage has informed us that there's 15 roundabouts and 12 road dividers to be encountered on the route today. As I've got a silly telly monitor I couldn't read the other two pieces of information about road furniture properly, which I think included how many bits are raised road (ie exposed) and which are cuttings.
It's not until you watch their coverage that you realise how big an event it is across France. Even compared to the Giro in Italy and the Vuelta in Spain it is a huge national event."
Alex - 5 Live on 606
1332: Mark Cavendish is equal 57th after the first time check, clocking 15 minutes 41 secs, one minute and 11 seconds behind Switzerland's Rubens Bertogliati, who leads the standings at the 11km checkpoint.
1320: "Cavendish is a decent time trialist so I reckon he will finish in at least the top 50 today, it depends on how much energy he wants to use with an eye towards future sprinter friendly stages."
SportingNonsense on 606
1317: "My colleague sitting directly across from me informs me that he got his sister-in-law a T-shirt from the Cloud Appreciation Society last Christmas."
TadpoleThe1st on 606
I could think of worse T-shirts to be given. Right now I can't think of any. Has anyone else ever been given a weather-based T-shirt? Remember those Global Hypercolor T-shirts that used to change colour in the heat? Thank the clouds above someone decided those things were utterly pointless. Did they make you look like you had massive sweat patches on a particularly warm day?
1314: A good ride from Kenyan Chris Froome, riding for Barloworld, who finished on 37 minutes, 33 secs and is currently sitting in sixth place.
1312: Quite a significant change from the Tour organisers this year - it is only the sixth time in its history that a ITT has been held in the first four days of the race. The last time this happened was in 1979, when the great Bernard Hinault won the time trial on the third day. If it's any sort of omen, the Frenchman went on to win the race.
1308: Team Columbia's Mark Cavendish is out on the course.
1302: The weather isn't too bad at the moment in Cholet, with patches of blue sky interspersed with fluffy, white clouds. A quick search on a well-known search engine tells me they are cirro-cumulus clouds. The same search also found a fascinating website:
1253: There's not a whole load to get excited about at the moment, but Garmin Chipolte's Danny Pate currently leads the standings with a time of 36 minutes and 54 seconds. He has a 24-second lead over Bouygues Telecom's Stef Clement.
1250: "Cancellara has to be favourite to take the stage win but I will be looking for a good performance from Miller - and I like his bike!!!"
kuzfan on 606
1248: The first time check is at 11km at Saint-Andre de la Marche, while the second is seven kilometres further at La Romagne.
1244: For all you Mark Cavendish followers, the Manxman will be out at 1308 BST.
1240: With the axing of the prologue for this year's Tour, it will be interesting to see who can set the benchmark in the first of two ITTs for this year's event. For those who are fairly new to the Tour and cycling, the individual time trial is a test of a rider's ability to maintain a steady, fast speed over a specified distance. It requires a different style of riding from the road stages, with the riders adopting more aerodynamic riding positions to shave valuable seconds off their finishing time.
The bikes are different too, as you've probably noticed if you clicked on David Millar's Union Jack-embossed effort (see 1230).
1230: "If you haven't seen it already, it's worth checking out the pic on Cyclingnews of Millar's uber-pimped TT bike:
"Even Westwood would think twice about going that far. My eyes are hurting just looking at it sat still."
Alex - 5 Live on 606
1221: Of more interest to you (sorry Wim) will the leaders and what time they leave, so here goes (all times BST):
- Fabian Cancellara: 1450
- Erik Zabel: 1528
- Thor Hushovd: 1530
- Cadel Evans: 1540
- David Millar: 1542
- Oscar Freire: 1546
- Kim Kirchen: 1548
- Alejanadro Valverde: 1550
- William Frischkorn: 1552
- Paolo Longo Borghini: 1554
- Romain Feillu: 1556
1205: Belgium's Wim Vansevenant has the dubious honour of opening up on the 29.5km (18.6m) course as the Tour's last-placed rider.
1152: Morning cycling enthusiasts, the bandwagon rolls in to Cholet, located in the Pays-de-la-Loire region of north-west France, for this year's first time trial.