Europe’s brutal winter put the brakes on Saturday’s fourth stage at the Tour Méditerranéen along France’s Cote d’Azur.
Freezing rain and snow prompted race officials to neutralize the 160km stage from La Londe les Maures to Biot. The day began in fits and starts, with the race actually getting underway after some modifications to the course.
Julien El Farès (Cofidis) was leading the pack by little more than one minute with fellow escapees Jonathan Thiré (Auber) and Dominique Cornu (Skil-Shimano) when worsening conditions prompted officials to halt the race after 114km of racing.
The race began yet again, but the pack refused to sprint. As he crossed the line El Farès raised his hands in “victory” and as something of a protest of the officials’ decision to stop the race while he and his breakaway companions had a lead.
Race commissaries huddled for more than half-an-hour after the finish and finally decided to credit the Cofidis man with the stage win, but assigning the entire peloton with the same time.
“It doesn’t feel like a win,” said El Farès. “At this point, it’s just another day; like any other.”
Overnight leader Jussi Veikkanen (FDJeux) retained his leader’s jersey going into Sunday’s finale.
The stage is scheduled to finish atop the Category 1 Mont Faron, which towers nearly 2,000 feet above the Mediterranean Sea. Forecasters are calling for highs in the upper 40s with partly cloudy skies.
Results – Stage 4
(Neutralized at 114km)
1. Julien El Fars (F), Cofidis, 114km in 2:55:14 (39.034kph)
2. Jonathan Thiré (F), BigMat, s.t.
3. Dominique Cornu (B), Skil, s.t.
4. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne, s.t.
5. Juan José Cobo (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne, s.t.
6. Mathieu Drujon (F), Caisse d’Epargne, s.t.
7. Vicente Garcia Acosta (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne, s.t.
8. Arnaud Coyot (F), Caisse d’Epargne, s.t.
9. Francisco Perez Sanchez (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne, s.t.
10. Mathieu Perget (F), Caisse d’Epargne, s.t.
1. Jussi Veikkanen (Fin), Francaise des Jeux, 487.5km in 11:37:25
2. William Bonnet (F), Bbox, at 0:04
3. Mathieu Drujon (F), Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:06
4. Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz), Astana, at 0:06
5. Arnaud Coyot (F), Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:10
6. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:10
7. Anthony Ravard (F), AG2R, at 0:10
8. Johnny Hoogerland (Nl), Vacansoleil, at 0:10
9. Rinaldo Nocentini (I), AG2R, at 0:10
10. Jean-Marc Marino (F), Saur-Sojasun, at 0:17