Porte Takes Stage 4 of Paris-Nice; Kwiatkowski Retakes Yellow Jersey
Richie Porte (Sky) has climbed to victory in Stage 4 of Paris-Nice. Porte surged away from the lead group in the last two km of the climb to the finish to take the hilly, 204-km ride from Varennes-sur-Allier to Croix de Chaubouret in 5:18:39. Geraint Thomas, Porte’s teammate, finished second, and Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick Step) finished third at 0:08. Kwiatkowski has retaken the overall lead that he lost yesterday.
The hostilities started early. At the gun, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Antoine Duchesne (Europcar), and Chris Anker Sorensen (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank) escaped. The trio had forged an 8:15 lead by 23 km. Eventually, Astana and Orica-GreenEdge took control at the front, and the gap narrowed. At the base of the Category 2 Cote de La Gimond, the bunch trailed the break by about three and a half minutes.
Ag2r-La Mondiale accelerated. The peloton split, and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank) punctured and found himself in the second group. He needed help from teammates to rejoin the lead group. Ahead, Duchesne was dropped. The escapees’ advantage dropped to two minutes on the next climb, the Category 2 Col de la Gachet, and to one minute on the day’s penulitimate ascent, the Category 3 Cote de la Croix Blanche.
During the run to the day’s last climb, Etixx-Quick Step paced the peloton. Sorensen and De Gendt were reeled in just before the base of the ascent. A crash removed Warren Barguil (Ag2r-La Mondiale) from contention and delayed Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), although the latter got back on. Sky took over at the front and accelerated.
Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin), Majka, and Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) were dropped. With three km left, Thomas attacked. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and then Simon Spilak (Katusha) joined the Welshman. Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Tejay Van Garderen (BMC), and Ruben Fernandez (Movistar) attempted to bridge up to the move, although Fernandez collided with Van Garderen and crashed.
Kwiatkowski led the chasers to the break. Porte then surged. Only Thomas found his wheel. Only Kwiatkowski could find the strength to chase. Porte and Thomas threw their arms skyward as they crossed the finish line.
According to Porte, Sky’s dominance on the climb enabled him to win. “That was a great performance from the team,” said the Australian. “We took it on from the bottom of that last climb–it wasn’t easy on there, so to finish first and second is fantastic.”
Porte added that Stages 5 and 6 will be difficult and that he and Sky have not yet won the race. “We’ve got two more hard days coming up now and then a time trial on the Col d’Eze. I love that climb and I’d love to have a good ride there. I think I can, but as I said, there’s two very hard stages coming before it. I’m in a good position, though, and having such a strong team here will definitely help.
“With Geraint and I up there on the general classification now, it’s good to have two cards to play. The dream is to hold the yellow jersey on Sunday evening. I love this race, and I’d love to win it again. It’s not over until it’s over, and we’ll have to see how the next three days go.”
In the overall, Kwiatkowski leads Porte by 0:01 and Thomas by 0:03. Stage 5 should not change this state of affairs. The lumpy, 192.5-km ride from Saint-Etienne to Rasteau will feature four categorized climbs, including a Category 3 ascent nine km from the finish. A small breakaway should fight for the win. Who will be in it? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!