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Tour de France

Andrew Hood’s Tour de France Notebook, stage 4

Garmin party: Garmin-Chipotle was in a good mood today. The riders raced with a yellow dossard because they stood atop the team GC while Will Frischkorn raced with a red background on his number after winning Monday’s most aggressive rider’s prize. Frischkorn said he felt Monday’s effort in his legs, but admitted he didn’t go too hard in Tuesday’s TT.

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By Andrew Hood

Garmin party: Garmin-Chipotle was in a good mood today. The riders raced with a yellow dossard because they stood atop the team GC while Will Frischkorn raced with a red background on his number after winning Monday’s most aggressive rider’s prize. Frischkorn said he felt Monday’s effort in his legs, but admitted he didn’t go too hard in Tuesday’s TT.

“I didn’t go too deep. I just wanted to make sure I would make the time cut. Riders like Dave and Christian had to go hard, but it was more like a rest day for the rest of us,” said Frischkorn, who rode to 141st at 4:01 off the pace. “I felt it today a little bit in the legs from the effort from yesterday.”

David Millar and Christian Vande Velde both rode great races, with Millar tying with Kim Kirchen in both the stage and the overall. At just 12 seconds off the jersey, the team is hoping the yellow jersey is a possibility in Thursday’s summit finish to Super-Besse.

“That’s what we’re hoping for. We’ll be working for Dave the next few days and maybe he can do it,” Frischkorn said. “It’s pretty exciting for us to be here, for a new team to get into the Tour. Now we’re getting it rolling these first few days. We’ve got our fingers crossed.”

After putting Millar, Vande Velde and Danny Pate into the top 15, the GPS-led, argyle-clad burrito boys padded their lead in the team GC, now 1:44 ahead of Columbia.

Earpiece redux: Tour officials have discovered a unique answer to the ongoing debate about the appropriateness of earpieces.

Some believe they should be eliminated outright. Critics say they’ve sucked the life out of the race, creating a controlled, monotonous style of racing without any responsibility for the racers because all the orders come barking over the radio from the sport director watching TV in the following car.

Proponents say it’s safer and fairer to use earpieces, simply because it provides the best and most accurate information to the athletes.

Tour director Christian Prudhomme has introduced a unique compromise to the debate. Earpieces are being used in this Tour as always, but during the first 50km of each day’s stage, information about attacks will not be relayed until a rider has opened up a 30-second gap.

That means riders will have to keep their wits about them much more than in the past and could create some interesting twists in the race.

Cavendish in waiting: Columbia’s Bob Stapleton is optimistic for tomorrow’s longest stage.

“Except for Lovkvist, Kirchen and Hincapie, today is a rest day for everyone else. We’re confident for tomorrow. I think Mark (Cavendish) will win. He’s super strong right now. No one wanted to help us pull yesterday. I think the other sprinter teams are afraid of him.”

Columbia sport director Ralf Aldag said the team will expend some energy to help Cavendish despite the rising prospects of Kim Kirchen, now second overall at 12 seconds back.

“We hope to get some help tomorrow from the other sprinter teams because we’re not strong enough to control the entire stage,” he said. “That’s too bad for Mark, because I am sure he can win. We have Mark for the sprints and we’ll work for Kim in the mountains, but we cannot take responsibility for every day.”

Menchov revived: Before Tuesday’s time trial, Denis Menchov (Rabobank) expressed resignation after losing time in Monday’s stage.

“I always lose time in the first week of the Tour. Either in the prologue or in a crash or like yesterday when I was in bad position. I knew I should have been up front, but I wasn’t. Now I will have to wait for the mountains to try to attack to regain time. When your legs are good, it’s possible. My legs feel good.”

The polite Russian changed his tune in the afternoon when he blasted his way to sixth to climb into 11th overall at 1: 12 back. “My mistake from yesterday motivated me to take risks today. My legs felt good from the first moment and I went full-gas.”

Unlucky 13: Fabian Cancellara is a superstitious type and rode with his No. 13 dossard upside down. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to lift Spartacus to victory.

“I am not a robot. I cannot win every day,” he said. “I’m the defending world champion. I wanted to win. I’m not here just to show off the rainbow jersey.”

Riccò the stage-hunter: Saunier Duval’s Riccard Riccò wasn’t too worried about losing time Monday and coasted through Tuesday’s time trial, finishing a distant 115th at 3:36 slower: “My objective here is to win a stage, not the GC. My next focus is Thursday’s stage in the Pyrénées.” As one scribe suggested, maybe the Italian should sign with Garmin. Super-Besse is securely planted in the Massif Central.