A four-man breakaway led from the gun to the Flamme Rouge, but ultimately it was Fernando Gaviria who prevailed in a bunch sprint

Fernando Gaviria and Peter Sagan have turned the first four days of the Tour de France into an enthralling duel of rising star versus world champion.

And Gaviria, the Tour newcomer, is winning so far.

Gaviria, a 23-year-old Colombian, edged Sagan at the finish line to claim Stage 4 on Tuesday and take his second stage win in his first participation at cyclingโ€™s greatest race.

Gaviria had already bettered Sagan in a sprint to take the opening stage, amid rising expectations since his four stage victories at last yearโ€™s Giro dโ€™Italia.

Sagan hit back by winning Stage 2 in an uphill sprint after Gaviria had fallen in a group pileup on the final corner.

Tuesdayโ€™s flat leg with its four-kilometer finish โ€” the longest straightaway to conclude a leg on this Tour โ€” was the perfect terrain for the budding rivals to break the tie.

After Quick-Step hunted down the breakaway to set up Gaviria, he powered ahead of the pack with handlebars swinging and crossed just inches ahead of Sagan and Andre Greipel in a close third.

Sagan was closing fast and seemed to be on pace to overtake him just when Gaviria hit the line.

โ€œHe is faster than me,โ€ said Sagan, the three-time defending world champion who excels in finishes on slight ascents.

โ€œWe will see. Maybe I will wait for some mistake. And maybe we will see the next days on the climbs. Every stage is different, every sprint is different.โ€

Gaviria finished the 195-kilometer (121-mile) leg from La Baule to Sarzeau that started and finished on the Atlantic coast in 4 hours, 25 minutes, 1 second.

โ€œIt was a very difficult sprint, but we knew how to pull it off,โ€ Gaviria said. โ€œWe didnโ€™t receive any help from the other teams to bring the breakaway back, but at the end my team deserves this victory and we can go to the hotel very happy with what we achieved.โ€

The defending champion Chris Froome of Sky, who remained 55 seconds back because of his fall in Stage 1, finished safely in the pack with the leader Greg Van Avermaet.

Riders were enjoying a calm sunny afternoon until a pileup near the front of the peloton with just over five kilometers left that sent several riders to the tarmac.

But there were no changes among the title hopefuls.

Van Avermaet, the 2016 Olympic road race champion who is support rider for the BMC leader Richie Porte, took the yellow jersey when his team won Mondayโ€™s team time trial.

A four-man breakaway opened up a gap of more than seven minutes early on, but they were slowly reeled in by the Quick-Step-led pack with two kilometers to go.

The Tour will spend three more days in northeastern Brittany, where fans waved black-and-white striped Breton flag on the roadside as the peloton rolled through the country villages.

Next up is Stage 5, a hilly 204.5-kilometer leg from Lorient to Quimper.

โ€œTomorrow is going to be a hard stage. It is a mini-classic in the Tour,โ€ said Van Avermaet.

The Tour works its way east before hitting the feared cobblestones of Stage 9 and then heading south and into the mountains.

Froome, who was cleared of doping allegations last week by the International Cycling Union, has been jeered by some skeptical fans since arriving in France. During Tuesdayโ€™s stage, several syringes were seen alongside the course route in an apparent protest by anti-Froome spectators.

Froome is trying to join the select group of Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain as the only riders to win the Tour five times.


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