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Paris-Nice stage 4: No doubting Thomases as Voeckler and de Gendt grab glory

Stage 4: Crêches-sur-Saône to Belleville, 191km

Two Thomases – Europcar‘s Thomas Voeckler and Vacansoleil-DCM‘s former race leader Thomas de Gendt – grabbed the glory as, for the second time in this year’s Paris-Nice, a breakaway survived to battle it out for the stage win in Belleville. Voeckler took victory on the day, while de Gendt reclaimed the yellow jersey from Matt Goss.

The day’s break formed after six kilometres, as Voeckler and de Gendt escaped alongside Rémi Pauriol (FDJ), Rémy Di Gregorio (Astana) and Francis de Greef (Omega Pharma-Lotto), establishing a lead of 5:15. Pauriol was targeting King of the Mountains points and led over most of the climbs, while de Gendt gained two three-second bonuses by winning both intermediate sprints. De Greef dropped back into the peloton with 15km remaining, unable to sustain the pace.

Sky and Garmin-Cervélo led the chase, with the latter hoping to set up points classification leader Heinrich Haussler for the stage win. However, driven by the single-minded de Gendt, for whom time was more important than victory, the remaining four escapees kept the peloton at arm’s length all the way to the finish.

Voeckler finally won a stage at Paris-Nice, having twice finished second in the last two years

De Gendt was happy to drag the others to the line, setting up a four-up sprint and launching himself for the line from 200 metres out. Voeckler, sitting second wheel, was in prime position though, and the French champion made no mistake in timing his own burst and establishing a clear advantage which Pauriol behind him could not dent. De Gendt hung on for third and four more bonus seconds ahead of the exhausted Di Gregorio.

The peloton arrived 13 seconds after the lead quartet. Haussler tightened his grip on the points competition by winning the sprint for fifth, holding off the fast-finishing Peter Sagan, seemingly recovered from his spectacular crash in yesterday’s final sprint.

As a result, de Gendt regains the yellow leader’s jersey from Goss. Voeckler jumps up to second, ten seconds behind. Pauriol is now third, while Goss slips to fourth, 21 seconds off the lead.

Voeckler was delighted to finally win at Paris-Nice:

I had been waiting for this since 2003. I was second twice in the past [two] years and I tried again yesterday. Today, I said to myself to try my luck far from the finish as the last climb was far from the line. I had good riders with me. It was close, but it was good enough.

In the Tour de France 2004, I swapped the French champion jersey for the yellow jersey and it would be good to do it again on Paris-Nice. But with the time trial on Friday I don’t have the slightest chance to win Paris-Nice. I’m already happy to have won a stage for the team. I will try to win another one. Our week is already good.

De Gendt admitted he had only got himself into the break initially in pursuit of sprint bonuses to reclaim the yellow jersey:

Initially I just wanted to go to take the intermediate sprint bonus seconds. I thought I’d end up with Goss in the bunch, but that I could recover the yellow jersey. Finally we continued to race, and they didn’t succeed in bringing us back.

And he said that if he can survive the climbs tomorrow he will target a place in the top ten:

I hope I’ll recover from that [the effort of driving the break in the closing kilometres] by tomorrow. Stage five is a very serious one. When the climbs have a gradient of 6 or 7%, that’s no problem for me, but we’ll face 10%, so I don’t know if I can survive. I hope I will. I’m also confident of doing a decent time trial. If that’s the case, then I’ll target the top ten.

Stage five to Vernoux-en-Vivarais, which overlooks the Rhône valley, should see some potentially decisive time splits among the leading contenders, with seven categorised climbs including a pair of category ones. The Col de la Croix de Chaubouret, a 9.8 km ascent at an average gradient of 6.6%, features early on. But it will be the Col de la Mûre (7.6 km at 8.3%) which will expose any weakness in riders’ climbing legs. The summit is only nine kilometres from the finish, leaving little time to recover any lost time, and most of the last 5km is uphill too.

Stage 4 result:

1. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) 5:04:20

2. Rémi Pauriol (FDJ) same time

3. Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) s/t

4. Rémy Di Gregorio (Astana) s/t

5. Heinrich Haussler (Garmin–Cervélo) +0:13

General classification:

1. Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) 19:26:46

2. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) +0:10

3. Rémi Pauriol (FDJ) +0:16

4. Matt Goss (HTC–Highroad) +0:21

5. Rémy Di Gregorio (Astana) +0:24

Daily live coverage and highlights of Paris-Nice are being broadcast by British Eurosport.

Links: Paris-Nice official website, Steephill.tv

Paris-Nice posts

Stage 1: De Gendt wins cat-and-mouse finish

Stage 2: Henderson escapes crashes, dedicates win to earthquake victims

Stage 3: Goss swerves and sprints to yellow

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

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