March 07, 2013 (St Vallier, France) – Swiss Michael Albasini timed his move perfectly to surge in the final stretch of the 199.5-kms 4th stage of Paris-Nice in St Vallier and take the day’s laurels on one of the trickiest courses of this edition. The Orica-Greenedge rider, one of his country’s greatest cycling talents, outwitted Kazakh Maxim Iglinskyi and Slovak Peter Velits on the line to add another prestigious line to a personal record already including stage wins in the Vuelta and the Tour de Suisse.
On a nervous day with seven treacherous hills, Andew Talansky stayed calm and collected and retained the race leader’s Yellow Jersey despite finding himself without a team-mate in the final ascents. He kept his three seconds lead over Ukraine Andryi Grivko while Velits climbed to third overall, four seconds adrift.
On a great day for the Swiss, Johann Tschopp seized the polka-dot jersey after leading the way uphill in the long breakaway of the stage.
The start was given at 10:58 to 176 riders. Angelo Tulik (EUC) quit in the first climb of the day when three riders, Johann Tschopp (EUC), Javier Moreno (MOV) and Gianni Meersman (OPQ) broke clear (Km 8). They were joined by Thomas Voeckler (EUC), who finished second at the top of Cote de Lachaud (2nd cat) behind Tschopp. Moreno was dropped in the descent.
While Tschopp was again first at the top of the 2nd cat. Cote de Condat (Km 27.5), four riders chased behind the leading trio. They were Hubert Dupont (ALM) and Romain Sicard (EUS), later joined by Michael Morkov (TST) and Warren Barguil (ARG). At the first intermediate sprint (Km 40.5), won by Voeckler, the peloton was four minutes adrift. The four chasers caught the break at kilometre 45 when the lead topped at 4:55.
Tschopp kept collecting points along the climbs, finishing first on top of Cote de la Chomasse (km 87.5), Cote de Laprat (km 105.5) and Col du Rouvey (km 136) to take the polka-dot jersey away from Martijn Keizer (VCD). In the ascent of Col du Rouvey, teams Sky and Astana increased the pace at the front of the peloton and the gap stabilised around 1:30. Voeckler won the second sprint in the descent (km 157)
The break split in the penultimate Cote de Talencieux (Km 176.5) when Voeckler and Dupont went, sensing the pack was on their heels. Voeckler was first at the top but Meersman and Tschopp came back in the descent. While the four held for a while, they were reined in 14 kms from the finish line as BMC riders decided to up the tempo.
The big battle took place in the final Cote de la Sizeranne when most of the leading contenders fought to stay in the front. While Michele Carponi (LAM), Sylvain Chavanel (OPQ), Jerome Coppel (COF) and Robert Gesink (BLA) attacked in turn in the finale, the laurels finally went to Albasini, who pipped Maxim Iglinskyi on the line for the stage win. As for Andrew Talansky, he rode safely at the front all day with the calm of an experienced leader to retain the Yellow Jersey ahead of a potentially decisive ride to Montagne de Lure in stage 5.
Among the casualties of the day was Colombia’s Nairo Quintana, who will probably want to lift the gauntlet on his favorite terrain on Friday.
1. Michael Albasini (Sui) Orica GreenEdge 4:55:41
2. Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
3. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team
4. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana Pro Team
5. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida
6. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin Sharp
7. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
8. Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica GreenEdge
9. Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack Leopard
10. Xavier Florencio Cabre (Esp) Team Katusha
GC after Stage 4
1. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin Sharp 19:35:17
2. Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team 0:03
3. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:04
4. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team
5. Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Esp) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:05
6. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:06
7. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 0:07
8. Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana Pro Team 0:13
9. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
10. Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Belisol 0:15