Slagter Takes Stage 4 of Paris-Nice; Thomas Grabs Yellow Jersey
Tom-Jelte Slagter (Garmin-Sharp-POC) has won Stage 4 of Paris-Nice. The Dutchman took a two-up sprint from Geraint Thomas (Sky Pro Cycling) to win the hilly, 201.5-km ride from Nevers to Belleville in 5:00:09. Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) finished third at 0:05. Thomas is the Race to the Sun’s new yellow jersey.
Good weather greeted the riders, as it has throughout the race. At 18 km, Valerio Agnoli (Astana), Laurent Didier (Trek), Jesus Herrada (Movistar), and Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar) sallied off of the front. The quartet forged a six-minute lead before the peloton, led by Giant-Shimano, started chasing.
With 45 km left, at the summit of the day’s second climb, the Col de Champ Juin, 0:45 separated the bunch from the break.
On the ascent of the Col de Champ Juin, Sky took over. The British squad’s pacemaking cut the escapees’ lead to 0:20 with 22.5 km to go. Five km later, the bunch reeled in the break as the day’s final climb, the Category 2 Cote du Mont Brouilly, approached.
Ag2r-La Mondiale led the field up the Cote du Mont Brouilly on behalf of Carlos Betancur. The Colombian attacked 1.5 km from the summit, but a large chase group snuffed out the move. Slagter countered, and Thomas followed him. The two joined forces on the descent. A 20-rider chase group set out after the fugitives, but the pursuers’ cooperation was wanting.
Behind, a chase group composed of Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) tried to animate the chase by attacking, but both were reeled in. Ahead, Thomas started the sprint, but Slagter passed him for the win. Kelderman attacked from the chase group in the last km and just hung on for third place.
Garmin-Sharp directeur sportif Geert Van Bondt said that the team’s stage win occurred because of aggressiveness and teamwork. “The plan today was to ride aggressively from the start and cover breakaways,” he explained. “All the guys did a great job. We had some critical points with small roads and climbs before the important last climb. Everybody was there all day and they rode perfectly as a team, which makes it a great team victory."
"We knew the last climb at 15 km from the finish was on very small roads, so we had to be at the front because the descent stayed on small roads. Tom executed perfectly and attacked with a few hundred meters to go as he wanted to be the first at that point and descend first.”
In the overall, Thomas leads John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) by 0:03 and Slagter by 0:04. Stage 5 will be another hilly one that could change this state of affairs. The 153-km ride from Creches-sur-Saone to Rive-de-Gier will feature four categorized climbs, the last of which, the Category 2 Cote de Sainte-Catherine, crests 12.5 km from the finish. Will Thomas keep his yellow jersey? Will another rider take it from him? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!