• Alberto Contador finished in the first group on Stage 4 despite a broken wheel. (AAP)Source: AAP
Broken wheels and fruitless attacks characterised a tense day for the overall favourites as the Tour de France hit the cobbles on Stage 4.
Cycling Central

8 Jul 2015 - 6:59 AM  UPDATED 8 Jul 2015 - 8:51 AM

Alberto Contador's attempt to complete the Giro-Tour double remains on track despite a broken rear wheel threatening to derail his ambitions over the cobbles of northern France.

The Tinkoff-Saxo rider finished 19th on last night's stage between Seraing and Cambrai, riding the last part of the stage with a damaged rear wheel.

"The objective today was to pass the day without problems," the Spaniard said. "The only problem I had during the race was with my rear wheel in the last 25 kilometres. As we entered the last three kilometres I thought about the possibility of changing my bike but I decided to continue. It would have been very risky to change bike in the last kilometres."

Contador was bullish about his form after suffering on the Mur de Huy on Stage 3.

"I’m very satisfied with today because my sensations were very good," he continued. "I had good legs today, much better than yesterday."

GC stalemate on the cobbles as Martin strikes it fourth time lucky
Anticipation was high that the Tour de France would experience another dramatic day of racing but all the major general classification contenders held their nerve as Tony Martin took the stage honours and his maiden yellow jersey.

Team Sky's Chris Froome remains the pick of the 'big four' contenders. Although he lost the yellow jersey taken on Stage 3 to Tony Martin, he retains second place in the general classification. An attack from Froome in the last few kilometres of Stage 4 also revealed further glimpses of his form.

“I wasn’t trying to show how strong I was on the cobbles today," said Froome. "It was about staying out of trouble. When it got over 200km it was more about who had the legs, and after the last section I had Geraint [Thomas] ahead of me so we thought, ‘Why not?’ and I had a little attack. My legs felt good but unfortunately it all came back together.

“We can all let out a big sigh of relief after today. It was a stressful stage and sketchy on the cobbles, and I know we’ll all be sleeping a lot better tonight.”

Defending Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) also attempted to animate the GC race with a number of attacks on the cobbles. However, his efforts only netted him the most aggressive rider prize for the day.

"I've tried to break the group on the last slightly uphill pavé section, hoping that someone it would get dropped," said Nibali. "But it was dry, so it was less dangerous than last year and it wasn't possible to create a difference. I couldn't do any more but I'm satisfied to not lose more time today."

BMC's Tejoy Van Garderen also continued his solid first week performance, coming in with the first group and claiming third place in the overall classification at 25 seconds behind Martin.