Michael Albasini of Orica GreenEdge powered away from a select group at the end of today's Stage 4 of Paris-Nice in Saint-Vallier to win by several bike lengths from Maxim Iglinsky of Astana, with Peter Velits of Omega Pharma-Quick Step third. Overnight leader Andrew Talansky of Garmin-Sharp finished in sixth place today and retains the maillot jaune.
Today’s 199.5km parcours was peppered with Category 2 and 3 climbs, the last of which, the Côte de la Sizeranne, was tackled twice ahead of an 8 kilometre run-in to the finish.
By the second of those ascents the peloton had been whittled down to a front group of around 25 riders including all of those who began the stage, ridden in sunshine in contrast to yesterday's rain, with hopes of winning the GC come Sunday.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step's Sylvain Chavanel, fourth overall ths morning, was one of the main animateurs in the closing kilometres but approaching the flamme rouge it was Blanco's Robert Gesink who unsuccessfully tried to get away. Iglinsky too took his turn at the front, but was unable to respond when Albasini, a winner of a stage of the Tour de Suisse last year and, in 2011, the Vuelta, accelerated past him.
“I actually wasn’t sure of my condition when I came here,” said Albasini afterwards. “I was feeling good, but we couldn’t race Lugano [the Swiss race was cancelled due to snow - ed] and my last race before that was three weeks ago last Wednesday.
"Without racing, it’s hard to understand what’s going on with your body. I’m super happy to start the season with an early, important win. I’m a bit surprised, too.”
“It’s even nicer to win on a day when we also won with [Matt] Goss in Tirreno,” he went on. “It’s really perfect. It’s important to keep the wins going like we did last year.”
Ahead of the final climb of the Côte de la Sizeranne, a seven man break had been reeled in, its members including Saxo-Tinkoff's Michael Morkov, Europcar's Thomas Voeckler and Omega Pharma-Quick Step's Gianni Meersman, with Garmin-Sharp setting the pace in the bunch to protect any potential threat to Talansky's lead.
Cannondale’s Ivan Basso, who lost three minutes on his rivals yesterday after getting distanced due to a puncture, struggled again today although this time there was no mechanical problem to provide an explanation.
One rider who did suffer the misfortune of a flat today was Team Sky's David Lopez, who punctured in the closing kilometres and despite being given a wheel by team mate Vasil Kiryienka, racing today despite his spectacular crash yesterday, was unable to get back onto the front group and drops out of the top ten overall.
Tomorrow’s Stage 5, which covers 176 kilometres from Châteauneuf-du-Pape to La Montagne de Lure with a long slog of a final climb, will see a further shake-up in the GC.
After that, there’s just one more road stage to come ahead of Sunday’s closing time trial from Nice up to the Col d’Eze. You can find details of the remaining stages here.
Paris-Nice Stage 4 result 1 Michael ALBASINI ORICA GREENEDGE 4:55:41 2 Maxim IGLINSKIY ASTANA PRO TEAM All at same time 3 Peter VELITS OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 4 Enrico GASPAROTTO ASTANA PRO TEAM 5 Diego ULISSI LAMPRE - MERIDA 6 Andrew TALANSKY GARMIN - SHARP 7 Romain BARDET AG2R LA MONDIALE 8 Jens KEUKELEIRE ORICA GREENEDGE 9 Andréas KLÖDEN RADIOSHACK LEOPARD 10 Xavier FLORENCIO KATUSHA TEAM 11 Arnold JEANNESSON FDJ 12 Tejay VAN GARDEREN BMC RACING TEAM 13 Wilco KELDERMAN BLANCO PRO CYCLING TEAM 14 Alberto LOSADA KATUSHA TEAM 15 Nicolas ROCHE TEAM SAXO-TINKOFF 16 Andriy GRIVKO ASTANA PRO TEAM 17 Jean-Christophe PERAUD AG2R LA MONDIALE 18 Sylvain CHAVANEL OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 19 Richie PORTE SKY PROCYCLING 20 Nicki SORENSEN TEAM SAXO-TINKOFF Overall standings after Stage 4 1 Andrew TALANSKY GARMIN - SHARP 19:35:17 2 Andriy GRIVKO ASTANA PRO TEAM 0:00:03 3 Peter VELITS OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 0:00:04 4 Sylvain CHAVANEL OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 0:00:04 5 Gorka IZAGUIRRE EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI 0:00:05 6 Lieuwe WESTRA VACANSOLEIL-DCM 0:00:06 7 Richie PORTE SKY PROCYCLING 0:00:07 8 Maxim IGLINSKIY ASTANA PRO TEAM 0:00:13 9 Jean-Christophe PERAUD AG2R LA MONDIALE 0:00:13 10 Bart DE CLERCQ LOTTO-BELISOL 0:00:15
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.