Belgium's Ypres to be Tour de France battleground

THE Belgian city of Ypres may have been the scene of some of the most deadly attacks in the first world war, but it will be attacks of a different kind that capture the attention of the world tonight.

After three days in England and one back in France last night, the Tour de France peloton will leave Ypres for the first time to launch stage five, a potentially-dangerous 155.5km stage across nine cobbled sections (totalling 15km), to the French city of Arenberg Porte du Hainaut.

The stage, leaving from Ypres to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the first world war, will not be for the faint-hearted and should suit powerful riders like Fabian Cancellara (Trek) and Geraint Thomas (Team Sky).

Both men were less than one minute behind general classification leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), after the third stage that ended outside Buckingham Palace in London yesterday.

The Italian maintained his two-second lead from a group of 20 riders that included race favourites Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).

Slovakia's Peter Sagan (Cannondale) extended his lead in the race for the sprinter's green jersey in stage three, finishing runner-up behind Germany's Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) for the second time in the first three days.

Richie Porte (Team Sky) was the leading Australian rider, sitting 18th after the sojourn in England.