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5 things to know about Tour de France

July 1, 2013

CALVI, Corsica (AP) — The Tour de France enters its fourth stage on Tuesday. Five things to know:

1. TTT ... FOR TUESDAY — After three sunbaked days in lovely Corsica, the Tour heads to mainland France for the first expected shakeout among the race contenders in Tuesday’s fourth stage. It’s a team time trial: The 22 squads set off one at a time in whirring formation in a race against the clock over a mostly flat 25 kilometers in the Mediterranean coastal city of Nice. Look for Sky, led by pre-race favorite Chris Froome of Britain, plus U.S. squad Garmin-Sharp and Spain’s Movistar to be among the favorites to win the stage.

2. BAKELANTS BASKS IN YELLOW AGAIN — Belgium’s Jan Bakelants kept the yellow jersey after Monday’s jaunt along jagged, winding coastline over azure Mediterranean waters of the western Corsica in Stage 3. He kept the leader’s shirt he captured a day earlier by clinging onto the main pack that crossed just behind Australian stage winner Simon Gerrans — who won a photo-finish sprint ahead of Peter Sagan. But the Slovak captured the green jersey given to the race’s best overall sprinter — a prize he took home last year.

3. A MERE SECOND — The Belgian bioscience engineering graduate may need to come up with some luck and skillful cycling if he plans to stay in yellow after Tuesday: Bakelants acknowledged his RadioShack team has not really trained for the team time trial, and his overall lead is just 1 second ... over 71 other riders. So pretty much any rider among them whose team beats RadioShack’s time could bump him off the lead. Perhaps tipping off his resignation, he admitted: “It’ll be hard to keep the jersey, but I’ve already had it two days, and that’s special ...it’s extraordinary to have worn it.”

4. CIAO, CORSICA — Some competitors expressed relief to leave Corsica, where mishaps, crashes and nervous racing marked the debut of the Tour on the French island where Napoleon was born in the 18th century. Cadel Evans of Australia, the 2011 Tour winner, said he felt relieved to have emerged unscathed from several crashes in the first stages, and Tuesday “starts a new chapter of the race.” Luxembourg rider Andy Schleck, who won in 2010, said he was “happy that we’re heading to the real France.”

5. CORSICAN COLOR — Corsican fans got their first colorful taste of the Tour de France, and they didn’t disappoint — adding to the roadside creativity that often welcomes the riders as they speed by, even if it’s really aimed for TV cameras because the competitors are too preoccupied to enjoy the scenery. One fan defied the heat and dressed in a full Napoleon outfit, saluting from the roadside. One man hoisted the Corsican flag — bearing in black the face of a bandana-wearing man — as he rode on horseback alongside the pack. One banner read “Freedom for Patriots” — in a clear allusion to the low-grade, mostly nonviolent rebellion against France’s control of the island. But Tour director Christian Prudhomme hailed the Tour’s debut on Corsica, saying the three stages offered “a very nice race in absolutely sumptuous country” on the so-called Isle of Beauty.

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