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"The story of Tuesday's sprint in Commentry disturbed me , I had trouble sleeping that night. It cost me lots of energy. I wanted this victory to forget about it. I felt so good since the start of Paris-Nice tha...

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AG2R LA MONDIALE

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ALBERTO CONTADOR

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ALEXANDER KRISTOFF

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ANDRÉ GREIPEL

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ARNAUD DEMARE

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BOY VAN POPPEL

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DAVIDE CIMOLAI

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DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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DELKO-MARSEILLE PROVENCE KTM

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DIMENSION DATA

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DIRECT ENERGIE

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EF EDUCATION FIRST

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EDWARD THEUNS

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EVALDAS SISKEVICIUS

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FLORIAN VACHON

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GERAINT THOMAS

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GROUPAMA-FDJ

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ION IZAGIRRE

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KATUSHA ALPECIN

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LIEUWE WESTRA

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LOTTO SOUDAL

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MARCEL KITTEL

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MICHAEL MATTHEWS

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MITCHELTON-SCOTT

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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NACER BOUHANNI

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NATHAN HAAS

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NIKOLAS MAES

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PARIS - NICE

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PATRICK BEVIN

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RICHIE PORTE

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ROY CURVERS

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SEP VANMARCKE

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SYLVAIN CHAVANEL

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TOM DUMOULIN

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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YOUCEF REGUIGUI

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11.03.2016 @ 00:03 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Two days after his painful relegation, Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) got his revenge by winning the reduced bunch sprint on a surprisingly hard fourth stage of Tirreno-Adriatico. The Frenchman benefited from a great lead-out from Christophe Laporte to easily come around Edward Theuns (Trek) who narrowly held off André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) in the battle for second. Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) had to settle for fifth but retained the lead.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Nacer Bouhanni: I have felt so good in this race that I couldn’t leave without a win

"My teammates did a fantastic job,” Bouhanni said. “There were still four of them with me in the finale. I was a little bit revengeful after my disqualification. It was at the back of my mind. I had been disappointed so far. In the first sprint, Arnaud (Demare) had outwitted us. The next day I was disqualified. That's sport. We all want to win stages.

 

“I'm really glad to have won especially after the work done by my team-mates. My form is growing little by little and Paris-Nice is the ideal preparation for my big objective, which is Milan-San Remo.”

 

“The win makes Paris-Nice successful,” he told Velopro. “It was an important event for the team and I really wanted a stage win, at least. I am very happy for me and Cofidis. My condition is improving. Deliberately, I did the beginning of the season at 75% of my ability to ramp up for three big targets, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo. The condition is there.


“I was very disappointed to have been disqualified in Commentry. In the first sprint in Vendôme, I waited too long. The legs were there but I made ​​a mistake. In Commentry I started early to choose my own path. The error was not to have stayed close to the barrier. I was criticized because my body touched Matthews but it was him who touched my arm and I almost crashed and he did too. I really wanted to win today. In the end, I was only thinking this: win!

 

“Last year, it was my first participation in a classic since I have not done any with FDJ. I finished 6th in San Remo but now I feel better mentally. Remember that last year, I didn’t win anything before mid-April. I am more confident and I know that my team is very strong physically. Last year we crested Poggio with 20 or 25 riders and I was too far back at the start of the sprint. I missed me a teammate and I know that this year I will have at least one. I will not say names. We will not predict things, but if a guy is with me, it will always be better than last year. At Cofidis, everyone is motivated and going in the same direction. 


“Christophe Laporte is very intelligent and he is a big engine. Behind him, I feel 100% confident. I know he will bring the speed up and drop me off in the right place. It took me time to find my lead-out man but now I have him. It was in mid-April last year that I understood who he is. In addition, he is good against the clock, he is very strong physically. When I'm behind him, I do not want to know where the other sprinters are. On Monday, he suffered a puncture in the final and it was a big loss.


“I am who I am. People like me or not but I do not care. I do not care if one does not like me.

 

“This time there was no controversy, I won. It has not been easy so far, the day had been hard but I always had a strong team who took me to the sprint in ideal conditions. We had planned to wait until the final kilometers to launch all our forces. Everything worked well this time, I saw that Kristoff was on my wheel but I stayed focused on the line. There was only thing that mattered to me today. 

 

“Obviously, I wanted a little revenge. The story of Tuesday's sprint in Commentry disturbed me , I had trouble sleeping that night. It cost me lots of energy. I wanted this victory to forget about it. I felt so good since the start of Paris-Nice that I could not miss a victory.
 

”It is the world's top sprinters that are present in this Paris-Nice. We are missing only Mark Cavendish. It is also very important to beat riders like them.

 

“I am especially happy to follow the plan I set this winter, namely to start the season at 75% of my ability to get on top at this time. My two goals for the early season are Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo, the first is reached, it is a huge satisfaction. It will allow me to now think of Milan-San Remo. 

 

“I was ​​6th in 2015 at my first participation. I felt isolated after the Poggio and I lacked experience. This year, I'm sure I can count on a good Cofidis team. Given the job the guys are doing for me, like today, it is clear that before the Via Roma I will have the team with me. At least one team member will be there.”

 

Another near-miss for in-form Edward Theuns at Paris-Nice

Teamwork proved to be the energizing force behind Edward Theuns' strong sprint as he finished in second place in a tough finale of stage four at Paris-Nice Thursday.

 

After the 195.5-kilometer stage, Theuns sought out his final lead-out, Boy Van Poppel, and shaking his hand said, "How strong you are, man! Thank you sooooo much!" 

 

It was a reduced bunch that survived a tough climb with 32 kilometers to go, and a dangerous trio dangled ahead of the bunch all the way home, only caught inside the final kilometer. 

 

The sprinters were chomping at the bit as the three riders were steamrolled over by the fast-charging bunch with 500 meters to go. Thuens, led into prime position by Van Poppel, was the first to jump.

 

"We survived the last climb well, I was fairly comfortable in the front," explained Theuns of the tough run-in to the fast finish. "We had to be there 5kms from the finish because that's when the technical part started.

 

"I think we came to the front at the perfect moment. The guys brought me to the front, and then Boy [Van Poppel] took the final 2-3kms and kept me out of the wind and put me on Greipel's wheel. He was so strong! 

 

"I tried to surprise at bit in the sprint. I went from pretty far; I  think 300 meters, and yeah, just in the last 70-80 meters Bouhanni came over me. It's a pity – again close. But I am really happy we are doing this well, and we are playing every day for the win. I think that's very important."

 

"First of all: the team brought me perfectly forward," he told Het Nieuwsblad. "Boy van Poppel kept me perfectly out of the wind until I could catch Greipel’s wheel. I came out of that last corner with a little more speed than the rest and immediately tried to make a little surprise. That gave me two victories in a mass sprint last year. I then started too early and they caught me back. I tried but 300 meters was perhaps too early to win. The last 70 meters Bouhanni caught me.

 

"I've tried it, but he is quite fast, everybody knows that.  I am particularly happy that I'm here in such a strong race. In the Tour of Algarve I was still with doubts, I did not feel so well, but then the opening weekend was a lot better than expected and now it's also good. That is fine and food for the Flemish races.

 

"I was close again. It is too bad, but I like the very good feeling. I knew the condition was good and that is confirmed here. This morning I received the confidence of the team and my card could be played in the sprint. I was glad as that gives confidence. On the last climb, I hit the front quite quickly and then we chose the perfect moment with the team to come forward, with five kilometers to go, just before the technical section and then I was perfect in front. Then Boy (Van Poppel, ed) did at least two or three kilometers of work and he kept me out of the wind. In that way I was still fresh for the sprint. It’s impressive by Boy, because he had said that he did not feel so good.

 

"Whether I go to Milan-Sanremo? No, not normally. I'm not doing it. For the time being I focus on the Flemish classics. I think I cannot do too much and just need to do what is scheduled for this season. "

 

Nacer Bouhanni's (Cofidis) speed allowed him to overtake Theuns, who held on for second as he narrowly edged out Andre Greipel [Lotto Soudal] and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) on the line.

 

It was a good result for Theuns - who downplays himself as a top sprinter and rather as someone "who can hold his own" when it comes to a bunch finish -  and it was all made possible through selfless teamwork.

 

Boy Van Poppel talked his team’s website through the final kilometers of stage four, showing not only how important teamwork is, but also the selfless work he does, quietly and with little fanfare, each and every race:

 

"When we turned onto the last climb I felt immediately that I had good legs, " said Van Poppel. "It's strange because the first three-quarters of the race I felt awful. I was even thinking about stopping in the feed zone, but Kim [Andersen, director] told me to just try and make it to the finish. When I saw Kittel and other sprinters dropping on the last climb that gave me motivation. 

 

"I was close to Edward all the time, and I helped Niccolo [Bonifazio] on the climb, too, to help close gaps and keep him out of the wind because I thought I would not be able to do much in the finale, so I just tried to help everybody. 

 

"Then in the last 20kms, I told Edward to stay calm because it's still 20k and everybody was really nervous. At the end Gregory [Rast] brought us from the left side all the way to the front. Then it was my job in the last 3kms to keep Edward in the front, and I found my good legs again, and I could stay all the time next to the train of Lotto [Soudal] and Bouhanni.

 

"I knew there were a lot of corners in the last two kilometers, so I just tried to stay in the wind all the time, next to the big sprinters, so that Edward was out of the wind. And then the moment came for me to switch off, I knew he had a good position; otherwise I am just slowing him down and annoying everyone by being in the way. It was better for Edward to have the free way to choose - for me, the best I could do was already over. Then I could see him going in a good wheel; he  was really strong. 

 

"This is my job, my specialty. And this is also a preparation for me for the Classics, of course, which is my main goal.  It is good to see the team going well."

 

Andre Greipel: I am happy with third place after my injury

“I'm happy for 2days performance -not what I expected to be honest after the injury but happy to get 3rd with a good support of @Lotto_Soudal boys,” André Greipel tweeted after his third place

 

Alexander Kristoff: We have to use my lead-out too early to catch the break

The fourth stage in the 74th Paris-Nice ended in a sprint and Team KATUSHA’s Alexander Kristoff was in front fighting for the win, but big efforts to catch the break and perhaps some bad luck along the way made winning a step too far on Thursday’s stage. 

 

“The team worked so hard today to try to win the stage. We pulled all day and at the end the whole team tried to catch the break. Even Ilnur Zakarin was working and he’s our guy for GC. We had to use Michael Mørkøv a little before we wanted to because we were running out of guys. Finally, Cofidis came up and passed us near the end, so I had Jacopo bring me to the front next to Cofidis, but we weren’t really able to pass them. It was kind of messy and I lost Jacopo’s wheel a little bit. Then a Trek guy started and I went on his wheel. But after Bouhanni blocked me in and I had to crash into the barrier or crash into him, so I had to brake at 200 m to go and there was no chance for me then. But, I felt good today – I did have a puncture on the last climb so maybe without that I would have been a bit fresher at the end,” said sprinterAlexander Kristoff. 

 

The race action on the 193,5 km stage featured a long breakaway that was carefully eyed by KATUSHA riders. The team riders gave everything they had to bring back the break, using up every rider with little-to-no help from other teams along the way. It was only in the last 2 km that Cofidis finally began to work, setting up their man Bouhanni to take the win.

 

Michael Matthews: Alberto Contador is still the favourite

Two-time Paris-Nice stage winner Michael Matthews placed fifth on stage four of the WorldTour race today, successfully retaining his lead of 14seconds in the general classification.

 

Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis Solutions Credits) took the stage honours in a fast bunch sprint after the 195.5km lumpy stage from Juliénas to Romans-sur-Isère.

 

"Today was about saving energy," Matthews said. "I was really tired after yesterday. It was only 100 km but it was really tiring. So today was about saving strength and keeping out of trouble as there were several crashes in the bunch.

 

"Today the plan was to save energy for me and my team in preparation of two big days ahead. We had to stay safe, rest and staying ahead without playing my card in the sprint. On Wednesday, I was looking forward to do the Mont Brouilly stage but the weather decided otherwise. The organizers have made ​​the right decision because it was too dangerous. I think my competitors thought the same thing.”

 

"Contador is the favorite, Porte has already won twice and seems strong, Geraint Thomas is strong as is Tom Dumoulin. Tomorrow will be a difficult day for the sprinters but it is a stage that I made a target before the start of Paris-Nice. It was a goal. I feel able to pass the Ventoux without problems and compete in the sprint in the final but as of now I have become a climber without forgetting my sprinting legs.

 

"Milan - San Remo is very popular in Australia, because we have two former winners (Matt Goss and Simon Gerrans) but it is especially the classic that suits me best. For me it is more important than the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. I will certainly not do Paris-Roubaix but the Tour of Flanders, yes one day. For now, I am focusing on Milan-San Remo and the Amstel Gold Race.

 

"Tomorrow is another hard day but I think I can get over the Ventoux. If that's the case and there's a few sprinters left, I'll be among those who stand a good chance. Between the GC and another stage win? I'm really going to take it day by day."

 

Sport director Laurenzo Lapage explained how today's stage was one of the last chances for the 'real' sprinters.

 

"After yesterday didn't change anything with the overall, the gaps were really small between riders going into today," Lapage explained. "So for a lot of sprinter teams it was the last chance to go for the win with the real sprinters.

 

"It was a hard stage, always up and down but through the stage the sprinter teams came to us to help and control it into the final."

 

Matthews will head into tomorrow's stage five in the yellow leader's jersey on a tough, hilly 198km stage.

 

"Tomorrow the riders go up Mont Ventoux, of course it's a big name but it's still a long way to go to the finish," contiuned Lapage. "I don't think that climb will make a difference for a rider like Matthews at the end. In fact the Mout Ventoux can actually be an advantage for us against the other sprinters."

 

"We will see how the race goes tomorrow, when it's not as easy to control anymore then we have Simon Yates, a good alternative for us. Then of course we have the other stages still to come on Saturday and Sunday."

 

No injuries for Geraint Thomas after Paris-Nice crash

Geraint Thomas held station in fifth place overall at Paris-Nice despite a late crash on stage four.

 

A frenetic pace leading onto the Cote de Saint-Uze caused a touch of wheels which saw Thomas hit the deck. The Welshman was quickly up and racing, surrounded by his Team Sky team-mates, to complete the second-category climb and chase back into the bunch.

 

A dramatic finale was intensified with the peloton almost stretched to breaking point, but the race came together just in time for a bunch sprint into Romans-sur-Isere.

 

Ben Swift pushed hard to cross the line in sixth place, while Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) claimed an emotional victory, 48 hours after he saw a win scratched off for what was judged a dangerous sprint.

 

Thomas finished an attentive 11th to remain in the top-five on GC, 19 seconds behind the yellow jersey of Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge).

 

"There was no problem for G after the crash," confirmed Sport Director Nicolas Portal after the stage. "It was on the climb it was not high speed. He was able to stand up straight away and get back on the bike. Almost all the team stopped with him. We had Sergio (Henao) and Swifty continue ahead but it was quite comfortable. They managed to bring him back to a good position.

 

"Because it was quite a steep climb and there was quite a bit of cross-wind over the top Ian (Stannard) and Luke (Rowe) were not able to get back on again. But it was okay and G is still fifth overall."

 

Friday's stage five sees the race tackle the infamous Mont Ventoux, but with the climb coming so early in the stage Portal believes it will not have a say in the general classification battle.

 

"Tomorrow for the GC guys I think the climb is too far away from the finish. It would be a big risk for a team to try to go full gas, break the peloton and then try to commit for another 120km. For the sprinters it will be interesting and we will be watching what happens. If the pace is not too hard some of those guys can get over the climb and continue.

 

"If the race is hard it suits Swifty but certainly it will be very hard to drop a guy like Michael Matthews."

 

Marcel Kittel: We knew it would be difficult in this stage

Marcel Kittel was dropped on the final climb. Nikolas Maes was the Etixx – Quick-Step rider to get involved in the finale, where he managed to put in a solid sprint, which eventually helped him come home 7th, a result which proves the good condition of the 29-year-old ahead of the big appointments of this season.
 

“Tough day in the saddle today with a lot of altitude meters for a flat stage. Disappointed to not have the legs for the final,” Kittel tweeted after the stage.

 

“But wanna thank my teammates from @Etixx_QuickStep for giving it a try although we knew it will be difficult in the end. #waytoride

 

“From now on it's only suffering till Nice. Good, hard kilometers for the upcoming races!”

 

No injuries for Nathan Haas after spectacular crash, Reguigui tries in the sprint

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were part of the action all stage as Matthew Brammeier jumped into the early 4-rider break of the day. It was a good situation for the African Team to have Brammeier in the lead as the team could concentrate on saving energy and protecting Youcef Reguigui for the final. With 35km to go, the peloton had brought back the break just before the race went up the category 2 Cote de Saint-Uze. It was on this 2.8km climb that the race would really spark into life as an injection of pace by Katusha caused a split in the peloton.

 

Dimension Data for Qhubeka were looking good with Nathan Haas, Youcef Reguigui, Jacques Janse van Rensburg and Serge Pauwels all in the front group. Haas then overcooked a corner and went crashing over a wire fence into a field. Unfortunately the Australian would have to abandon after taking this heavy tumble and was lucky to escape without any severe injuries.

 

The race went on though with Katusha driving the front pack to a sprint finish. Reguigui, with some good support from Janse van Rensburg, was in the mix once again and went up against the red sprint trains of Katusha and Cofidis. Bouhanni was fastest on the day while Reguigui held on for a credible 9th position.

 

Youcef Reguigui said:
 

“Matthew was in the break so there was no pressure for our team. We stayed in the front, all together and riding well. In the climb I was with Tyler, Jacques and Nathan. At the top there was a split when the wind picked up and Kittel dropped. Katusha then went to the front and really rode full gas which caused another split. I was lucky Jacques was with me and helped to keep me in the front group.

 

“I was fighting for the last 10km to get a good position but Kristoff had a lot of teammates and Cofidis also. It's not easy to fight them for a top 5 position, I had to ride the whole last kilometer at 100%. I am happy with my result and for the team because it is not easy to get a top 10 against the riders here at Paris-Nice. It was an incredible day, from the start to the finish it was hard.”

 

Giant-Alpecin hoped for time gains for Dumoulin in technical sprint.

Team Giant-Alpecin were happy to sit back in the wheels and let the sprinting team control the peloton. It was a nice sprint by Roy Curvers to take 10th place as Tom Dumoulin was well positioned in the front peloton and finished 15th.

 

Tom Dumoulin remains in second place 14″ behind the leader.

 

Roy Curvers said: “After the last climb we were a bit out of position but with 10km to go the team was together again. We managed to get Tom in the front with 1km to go. He lost my wheel but with 500 meters we managed to get in a good position again and I was able to bring us both to the finish line with the first 15 riders.”

 

Coach Aike Visbeek said: “The chance for a bunch sprint was very big so we focused on that the whole the day. The goal was to see if we could gain a few seconds again by positioning Tom Dumoulin in the front of the bunch. The guys did good work and Tom finished safely in the bunch.”

 

Arnaud Demare abandons Pairs-Nice as a precaution

Having been dropped 35 kilometers from the finish, Arnaud Démare preferred not to insist. He suffered from pain above the knee and before Milan-San Remo he was nor willing to take any risks.

 

"He stopped as a precaution, reassures FDJ sports directorThierry Bricaud. “Yes, he has discomfort above the knee when he makes ​​a big effort and it was not worth the stress. There is no concern. The cold and exertion caused this little injury but it will go away. It is true that after the withdrawal of Arthur Vichot, we have lost our two cards, but fortunately we won earlier this week. What happens now before Nice is a bonus. Arthur suffered from gastric pain but it does not matter either. If he had to go to work at a factory, he would have done so but on a bike that was not possible.”


The FDJ team does not lose its moral either.  Mickael Delage is really fit and managed to get a place of honor (12th) in a sprint won by Bouhanni (Cofidis).

 

Patrick Bevin: We thought the Paris-Nice finale would have been harder

Five days into Paris-Nice, Paddy Bevin remains in third overall in his first European WorldTour race. The fourth stage of the French race ended in a large bunch sprint. Bevin reacts to the day:

 

"It’s been a really cool experience to come and jump straight into racing. I got amongst it today. We thought the finale was going to be a little harder than maybe what it was, and we tried to get on the front foot but it didn’t really happen. Still quite a big bunch sprint coming to the line."

 

Ion Izagirre loses mountains jersey in Paris-Nice

The peloton covering the route from Paris to Nice looks towards to the 18 rated climbs scheduled for the last three days of racing, from Friday to Sunday, in a mix of amazement and excitement. Stage five tomorrow will bring 'half' of the legendary Mont-Ventoux - riders to climb towards Chalet-Reynard (Cat-1) - plus two small, yet steep Cat-2 ascents en route to Salon-en-Provence.

 

Thursday's finish in Romans-sur-Isère brought another selected sprint conquered, this time without any shade of doubt, by Nacer Bouhanni (COF). In turn, Ion Izagirre comfortably kept his 4th spot overall, 19" behind Matthews (OGE), as his KOM jersey was taken over by Evaldas Siskevicius (DMP), present in the day's break. The Movistar riders stay, as they have done ever since Sunday, on top of the teams' classification.

 

Lieuwe Westra after late attack: I just saw a good opportunity

“I tried to escape in the final while there were still three guys away,” explained Lieuwe Westra after the finish.

 

“I was feeling pretty good, there was this chance and I jumped on it. We were about at 20km to go and I thought it could be good if we had caught the escapees.

 

“Then, when we were two, I thought it could be too hard, looking at the next stages, and the chances to win were really small. Tomorrow is one of the most important stages of this edition of Paris – Nice, the Mont Ventoux. Even if we will climb just10 km, it is a difficult climb. I feel good, let’s see how the race will develop.”

 

Lieuwe Westra kept the 6th position in the general classification, 24 seconds behind the leader.

 

Lampre-Merida sprinters miss out in difficult Paris-Nice stage

Lampre-Merida only had Rui Costa, Louis Meintjes and Tsgabu Grmay in the front group. Sprinters Marko Kump and Davide Cimolai were dropped.

 

“Our performance was not completely positive,” sports director Philippe Mauduit commented. The good feedbacks are the presence of Rui, Louis and Tsgabu in the front group while we missed a sprinter among the riders who fought for the victory.

 

”We had studied the course, we were aware of the fact that there was a crucial point where it was important to be in the front part of the peloton, however we were not united and we were surprised in that  precise moment.”

 

Sep Vanmarcke: I only wanted to train for the classics
Sep Vanmarcke held on to his chance of winning Paris-Nice stage four until the last 500 metres. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s Belgian was part of a breakaway group of three riders on Thursday and almost profited. The bunch crushed their move, however, and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) won the sprint.

 

It was the last chance of a bunch sprint in the French stage race, but the kilometres to Romans-sur-Isère weren’t completely flat. That gave Vanmarcke the courage to try.

 

“That was a strong move by Sep,” Sports Director Nico Verhoeven said. “If you don’t try, you never win. Sep had a chance.”

 

Vanmarcke was in a leading group with Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie) and Delio Fernandez (Marseille Provence) and held a 20-second advantage for a while. 

 

“It tells you how fast they were going in front when Katusha wasn’t able to close the gap. It could have been good enough today, so it’s a pity that Sep was only 500 metres too short.”

 

“When I was bridging to Fernandez and Chavanel, I wasn’t counting on anything,” Vanmarcke said. “Fernandez didn’t do anything from the beginning, but Chavanel was very strong. I wanted good training for the classics, but when we had only five kilometres to go, Nico said that we had a chance to win. The peloton barely edged closer and I started to believe in our chances. I didn’t to give it all just for a second or third place, but for the win. We started to look at each other a little bit and lost our advantage quickly. It’s a positive thing that we stayed in front while Katusha was leading the chase. My condition is where I want it to be and I know that Chavanel is very strong, as well, now. I learned a lot today.

 

“My coach asked me to go deep this week. It was a good workout for the classics. Actually it was the intention to do so in the stage on Wednesday, but the snow destroyed it. That's why I tried with an attack today. 

 

"Immediately I felt the wind was against us. That was a disappointment. And Sylvain Chavanel was a good partner, but that Spaniard did not help much. If he took a turn which was not often, the pace went down. So the work was primarily done by Sylvain and me. 

 

"When we still had nearly 20 seconds 3 kilometers from the finish, I started to believe in it. In the end, you start to look a little at each other, build your reserve for the sprint and then our lead dropped quickly. I did not want to ride to the finish for a second or third place, I wanted to win, but if you are riding on reserve, you do not make it.

 

"Somehow I'm a bit disappointed at this missed opportunity. On the other hand if I had gone full gas to the end, maybe we would have stayed ahead, but I might have lost the sprint. You have to hope that another continues to ride full but that did not happen and we were caught. Too bad, but I remember that this was a good training for me. The condition is good, I knew that for a while, but such a stage gives further confirmation and it never does any harm to the confidence.

 

The riders have to climb the Mont Ventoux during the fifth stage of Paris-Nice on Friday. They only climb to the Chalet Reynard, just above the snow line, and ride another 130 kilometres afterwards.

 

“I don’t think that the overall riders will go all-in on the Mont Ventoux,” Verhoeven added. “The pace will be high, though. It’s hard to predict the outcome of tomorrow’s race because the final part of it is flat. It’s our main target to stay in front with Wilco Kelderman. Besides that, we might make a move like Sep did today.”

 

Richie Porte: Tomorrow will be an interesting day

Another Bunch Sprint at Paris-Nice Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) made amends for his relegation from the stage 2 sprint to claim the win in a bunch sprint on Stage 4, holding off Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) and Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal).

 

Richie Porte crossed the line safely in the reduced bunch and sits in ninth place on the General Classification, 27 seconds behind race leader Michael Matthews (Orica GreenEDGE).

 

“It was quite a stressful day. On paper it was straightforward but there were cross winds in places and then some teams went full gas on the climbs to try and drop the sprinters. I was really happy with how the team were around me today and I think we did a good job,” Porte said about the stage.

 

The peloton will tackle the famous Mont Ventoux climb tomorrow early in the 198km stage from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Salon-de-Provence.

 

“It’s obviously going to be a hard start but we just have to see what happens. I think that some teams are going to want to go full gas up there and drop some sprinters too so it should be an interesting day,” Porte explained.

 

Alberto Contador: I have lost my best opportunity so I have to change strategy

With weather conditions improved, Paris-Nice was back on the road for stage 4. After a strong breakaway led the stage, the sprinters took over with seconds left. Alberto Contador finished with the peloton with no time lost and was ready to take on the mountain stages.

 

After the cancellation of stage 3 due to extreme weather conditions, riders were keen to begin racing again. Stage 4 took place under blue, cloudy skies, over an undulating course stretching 195.5km, with a breakaway forming after 5km that managed to stay away for most of the stage.

 

With the breakaway reeled in just under the Flamme Rouge at 1km to go, the stage was set for a bunch sprint. Alberto Contador came over the line with the peloton, taking the same time as the sprinters.

 

After the events of yesterday’s cancelled stage, Contador talked about the feeling in the peloton during today’s stage. “It was quite a tense stage after the one cancelled yesterday. We all are a few seconds from each other and everybody wants to be in the front, in order to launch the sprint. It was a very tense day and the wind produced a split. However, we were well positioned and crossed the finish line out of trouble.”

 

There was a lot of racing still to come however. “Before coming here I had said there were two summit finishes – one for climbers and another for heavier riders. The first was the one that was cancelled yesterday and probably favoured me. There is still another one ahead, and we have to adapt our strategy and take advantage of it. It's a long climb, 15km, where it will be difficult to build differences. Nevertheless, we will have to try. Sunday is another difficult day and we will see what we can do.”

 

Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, was pleased to have the riders come home in one piece. “The team was all safe today. It was a long day, with a strong break finally brought back late on.”

 

“We wanted to just make sure we didn't lose time, and we did this well. It was quite nervous with twists and turns and there was a hard chase to catch the break. Today we focused on riding as a team.”

 

The climbers will be relishing stage 5’s climbs, taking in the Col de la Madeleine and the fearsome Mont Ventoux. Friday could be the day the GC standings really change shape.

 

Ag2r climbing talent pleased to be on home roads at Paris-Nice

Ag2r’s climbing talent Pierre Latour was riding on home roads.

 

"With the sun, I felt better than yesterday,” he said. It's nice to have a good time and get home. The sensations were better. It was a special moment to be back on my training roads, especially at a race like Paris-Nice. I've heard people and I recognized some faces. It was great.

 

“It's going to go pretty hard tomorrow, Ventoux is only after sixty kilometers and it will be a big day. Anyway, with the cancellation of yesterday’s stage, there will be no dead time before the finish in Nice. Ventoux is a mythical climb. It will be a first for me. We have to see what will happen.”

 

Strong Lithuanian takes mountains jersey at Paris-Nice

Evaldas Siskevicius (Delko) took the mountains jersey.

 

"It was one of my goals to ride Paris-Nice again (after 2013 with Sojasun). But to ride it again was not enough, I wanted to play a part in it. I'm really glad to have done it and to have taken this jersey. It will be a treat to sport that polka-dot jersey on Mont Ventoux,” he said.

 

Direct

"I wanted to have fun,” Sylvain Chavanel told Eurosport. “My turns were really strong compared to Sep Vanmarcke. We did not miss much and that's too bad. We were caught 600 meters from the line. I think they were cooked. Behind, Cofidis was very well organized.

 

"I think the wind made it difficult. With a rider more, it could have been possible."

 

"The peloton was too close to wait for Westra and Wellens. We did not take the risk and we re-accelerated. 

 

"My big disappointment of this Paris Nice is the stage to Vendome. It was planned that I should attack in the last sector and unfortunately bad luck was against me. I had more disappointments in my career than joy, this is cycling.

 

"It is a pleasure to be in this team, to be with Jean-René (Bernaudeau) and the riders that I I left in 2004.  There is a good atmosphere.”

 

Florian Vachon aims for mountains jersey at Paris-Nice

Florian Vachon was in the break all day.

 

"It's always good for the morale to spend most of the stage in front,” he said. “It was soon evident that he would not stay away. I wanted to aim for the polka dot jersey, I played the game thoroughly but I found a rider who was stronger than me. Then the strategy was to save energy. We knew that the peloton would keep usat  around three minutes and we tried to resist as long as possible. The goal was to get to the top of the last climb before the peloton. We went full gas in the final 15km before the last climb although the approach was not favorable. Tomorrow, we have to climb Mont Ventoux and then there will be two stages for climbers. If the GC is established on Saturday evening, there will surely be good chances on Sunday. "

 

Denis Leproux, Fortuneo-Vital Concept sports director, added:

 

"We are on the attack in every stage. Today Florian Vachon was in front for 150 kilometers. He tried for the polka dot jersey, unfortunately it was not enough. We knew it was going to be complicated, it was probably the last chance for the sprinters. They controlled the breakaway all day. They were caught in the final and the sprinters had their say. We do not focus on GC. We will attack again in the next stages and we do not give up. We will focus on our climbers for the last three days. "

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