French rider Arnaud Molmy pulled the double Saturday, winning the fourth stage at the l’Etoile de Bessèges and moving into the overall lead in what proved to be a controversial finale.
Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis) crossed the line first, but race judges relegated Friday’s stage winner after they say he rode to the inside of a traffic circle with 300 meters to go, giving him an advantage over his rivals who went the long way around. (Click for Graham Watson Gallery)
Dumoulin wasn’t the only rider who had problems with the final round-about.
Cervélo TestTeam’s Ted King, who helped instigate an 11-man breakaway early in the stage, said race marshals accidentally indicated that riders could go either way around the traffic circle.
“Approaching the final round-about and the course marshal indicates we can go either way. Some guys go left, others go right, and all three (Cervélo) riders who go left are almost immediately slowed to a halt by a crowd of fans and barriers, since we’re all on the wrong side of the barriers,” King wrote in an e-mail. “Race over.”
That opened the door for Molmy to claim the victory and slip into the overall leader’s jersey with just one stage left to go in the season’s first French stage race.
Overnight leader Borut Bozic (Vacansoleil), who won the opening two stages, struggled over the Col de la Baraque climb earlier in the 140.5km stage starting and finishing in Alès. Bozic slipped out of the top 10 overall.
The group barreled in for a mass sprint when Dumoulin took his short-cut to what he thought would be a stage victory and the overall leader’s jersey. Instead, he was quickly relegated in the sprint and slotted into second overall at 10 seconds back.
The 21-year-old Molmy, of the modest Roubaix-Lille-Métropole team, was the top benefactor of the jury decision. Coming through behind him were Anthony Geslin (FDJeux) and Pieter Ghyllebert (Sean Kelly), with Dominique Rollin crossing the line fifth for Cervélo TestTeam.
The race concludes Sunday with the 145km finale between Gagnières and Bessèges.