Michael Albasini delivered Orica GreenEDGE a well deserve stage win in the fourth stage of Paris-Nice into Saint-Vallier. The 32 year old Swiss rider blew his rivals away with a scintillating sprint finish, flying past Astana’s Maxim Iglinskiy with 100 metres left and cruising to a comfortable victory. Peter Velits of Omega Pharma-Quick Step was third.
Wave after wave of attack came as the riders made their way up the Côte de la Sizeranne, a Category 2 climb which peaked just 5 kilometres before the finish, but it was Albasini who proved the strongest rider when it mattered. After 7 categorised climbs on the stage, it was an incredible effort to still have that turn of speed at the end.
Overall leader Andrew Talansky of Garmin-Sharp finished in the lead group to retain his yellow jersey, a brilliant effort from the young American who was attacked relentlessly in the closing stages as he found himself without team mates and his rivals went for the kill, with BMC and Sky Procycling the main agitators.
With Talansky and Teejay van Garderen of BMC doing so well at Paris-NIce, the American public can hopefully move on from the tainted Lance era and embrace these talented riders who possess unlimited potential.
Talansky holds a 3 second advantage in the General Classification over Andriy Grivko of Astana. Peter Velits is a further second back in 3rd, while his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team mate Sylvain Chavanel is in 4th and young Euskaltel-Euskadi prospect Gorka-Izaguirre in 5th spot.
When asked how he felt about today’s stage, Talansky acknowledged it had been a tough day, stating that “we (Garmin-Sharp) brought a strong team but not a strong climbing team. I just had to follow a couple of teams like Sky and BMC who are riding to win this race”. He also added that he “was a little surprised” that he was able to keep the yellow jersey.
Johann Tschopp of IAM Cycling rode himself into the polka dot jersey after a successful day in the breakaway. Tschopp picked up 29 points on the stage to shoot to the top of the Mountains Classification, leading Thomas Voeckler of Europcar, who was also in the breakaway, by 12 points.
Looking ahead to tomorrows Stage 5 from Châteauneuf-du-Pape to the finish at the summit of La Montagne de Lure, Talansky feels that the longer climb will really suit his style and said that “on paper it (tomorrow) is a really good day for me, so tomorrow’s up to me to just do my job on the climb. I’ll do everything I can”
The last person to win up La Montagne de Lure in Paris-Nice was Alberto Contador in 2009, who went on to win the Tour de France that same year, so whoever prevails tomorrow should take a lot of confidence from the result. 13.8 kilometres at an average gradient of 6.6%, this won’t be an easy climb and will have a major bearing on who wins Paris-Nice 2013. There are 5 other categorised climbs ahead of the riders on the 176km stage tomorrow in what promises to be a real test for the riders legs this early in the season.