Team Time Trial Returns For Stage Four

Mike JonesCorrespondent IJuly 6, 2009

LA GRANDE MOTTE, FRANCE - JULY 06:  Lance Armstrong (R) of USA and team Astana on his way flanked by his teammate Alberto Contador (L) of Spain during stage three of the 2009 Tour de France from Marseille to La Grande Motte on July 6, 2009 in La Grande-Motte, France. The stage was won by Mark Cavendish of Great Britain and Team Columbia.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

For the first time in three years, the team time trial has returned to the Tour de France. But unlike previous years, the performance of the teams may have a significant outcome on the individual standings.

The 25 mile(39 km) stage set for Tuesday in Montpellier will feature a slightly more hilly course than stage three, but will still have it's fair share of twist and turns. Narrow roads will meet the riders in the initial portion, before leading into a heavy series of twisting roads with elevation changes and little room for error.

But the end of the stage will likely prove to be the most interesting and twisty part of the day. At the end of the team time trials, the aggregate time will be added to each individual rider on the team.

Several teams have looked strong in the first few stages, including the Astana team with Lance Armstrong, who currently sit third in the overall standings; 40 seconds behind the overall leader. Several other teams are looking to take the team crown, including Columbia HCT and Garmin-Slipstream.

The stage will certainly set the tempo for future rounds and may shake the standings up significantly. Early signs point to Columbia HCT as the team to beat for the team time trial, but a strong finishing ride by Armstrong and team Astana proved both are poised to take the 2009 crown.