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Elia Viviani sprints to victory on stage four of Tour de France as Alaphilippe retains yellow jersey

With Thursday’s first big mountain climb of this year’s Tour de France looming large, defending champion Geraint Thomas made it safely through Stage 4 to Nancy, as ex-Team Sky sprinter Elia Viviani made it two wins in a row for Belgian team Deceuninck-QuickStep.

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In a fast snaking finish in which speeds nudged almost 60mph, Thomas and Ineos team-mate Egan Bernal stayed out of trouble as Viviani was led to the line by team-mate and current race leader Julian Alaphilippe of France, winner of Stage 3 in Epernay.

‘I enjoyed every kilometre today and at the end we got a beautiful victory,’ Alaphilippe said of Viviani’s win.  

Thomas, after losing time in Epernay and crashing on Stage 1, was relieved to get through incident free.

‘It was a nice day until the last 50km, when it went a bit crazy, manic and stressful,’ the Welshman said, ‘so I’m happy to get it out of the way.’

Thomas refused to respond to the speculation over his form, saying: ‘I avoid all that stuff. 

‘Despite my lack of racing, the schedule probably works in my favour because most of the big mountain days — apart from Thursday at La Planche des Belles Filles — are loaded towards the back end. It will be interesting, a nice little test, but so far, so good.’

Ineos team principal Sir Dave Brailsford dismissed the gap as irrelevant.

‘I think way too much has been made of it if I am honest,’ he said.

‘If anyone understands the sport, you watch the sport, there is a 30-metre gap. G sat up a little bit, he thought people were trying to come over him and that is it.

‘People are trying to make out that it is a five-second gap and it is not. It makes no difference.’

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