After a win at the Ster ZLM-Tour Philippe Gilbert has shown that he has found his peak in form again for the Tour de France after all the stresses of the spring classics season. The most successful pro of the current season and also leader of the world ranking was again able to secure a place memorable victory by winning the 4th stage of the 5-day stage race. Despite an 18 second deficit following the prologue Philippe was able get the better of his rivals with the outstanding performance on stage 4. He opened up a narrow lead of 1 second on Niki Terpstra and took the yellow jersey from previous leader, the German Patrick Gretsch.
It looked like being a finale identical to 2009 between Gilbert and Terpstra, where the duo went into the final stage on the same time and Philippe then snatched first place from the Quick-Step rider right at the end thanks to a time bonus. In 2011 the tables were turned and it was Gilbert who went into the final stage as race leader and had to defend his lead. However his main rival from 2009 was just 1 second back in second place and well within striking distance and could still easily topple Gilbert’s lead by winning a time bonus. At the outset everything went positively for the Omega Pharma-Lotto pro. A 4 strong leading group broke away; however this group did not contain Niki Terpstra. These four riders fought out the first hot spot sprint of the day among themselves. When the 4 riders were caught, the race for the yellow jersey began again. The next hot spot sprint for bonus points was at the 160 km mark. Terpstra took 3rd place in the sprint allowing him to catch up the 1 second deficit to Gilbert, but it was the Belgian who snatched 1st place in that very same sprint, enabling him to extend his lead even further. All resistance now appeared to have been broken and it was the sprinters who decided the sprint finish amongst themselves. This did not have any impact on the overall outcome of the race.
The Tour de France starts in around 2 weeks and not only Gilbert, but also his teammate Jurgen Van den Broeck, are in scintillating form and it is quite possible that one of them could achieve the first victory on a Canyon at the big loop. However, Hürth born André Greipel has been training hard and is looking forward to his first participation in the Tour de France. In last week’s Tour of Switzerland Andre didn’t really get into his stride, but here there was no sprint finish of any real note and there was simply nothing doing for the man commonly known as the “Gorilla”.