Richie Porte (Sky) won stage 4 of Paris-Nice Thursday after surging ahead of teammate Geraint Thomas on the final climb in France.
Thomas had been at the front of the race with two others before they were caught by a larger chasing group just after the 1km to go banner. Shortly after, Porte provided the counter-attack, and Thomas jumped on his wheel. No one else in the front group could follow, and the Sky duo finished a comfortable eight seconds ahead of third-place finisher Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick-Step).
“That was a great performance from the team,” said Porte in a team statement. “We took it on from the bottom of that last climb — it wasn’t easy on there, so to finish first and second is fantastic.
“We’ve got two more hard days coming up now and then a time trial on the Col d’Eze. I love that climb, and I’d love to have a good ride there. I think I can, but as I said, there’s two very hard stages coming before it. I’m in a good position though, and having such a strong team here will definitely help.”
Kwiatkowski reclaimed the yellow jersey and now leads the GC by one second over Porte and three seconds over Thomas.
“For the first time in competition on a mountain stage I felt good, and wanted to try to stay in the select group and fight for the GC,” Kwiatkowski said on his team’s website. “I am so happy to have regained the yellow jersey after this difficult finish.”
The 204-kilometer stage started in Varennes-sur-Allier and ended with a 10km climb of Croix de Chaubouret, a Category 1 ascent that had piles of snow off the road and on the hillside surrounding the ribbon of pavement.
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Antoine Duchesne (Europcar) and Chris Anker Sorensen (Tinkoff-Saxo) jumped to the front of the race in the early kilometers of the stage. Their lead soared to 8:15 after 23 kilometers of racing, and De Gendt took the opportunity to snatch the mountains classification lead from Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing).
Duchesne was dropped on the second-category Cote de la Gimond after 152km.
The surviving duo had a 20-second gap with 14km left but were caught soon after, as the teams in the peloton positioned themselves for the final climb.
American Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin) suffered a mechanical coming into the base of the final climb with 15km to go, but he was shepherded back to the field by a teammate.
At the base of the Croix de Chaubouret, Giant-Alpecin’s GC hopeful Warren Barguil was caught up in a three-man crash at the back of the field. He looked to be in pain, testing his right arm, while sitting on the pavement.
BMC led the peloton at the base of the climb before Sky took over with 7km left.
With 2.5km to go, Thomas attacked and went to the front of the race with Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Simon Spilak (Katusha). American Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) attacked soon after as he tried to bridge the gap to the leading trio. Porte marked the American’s move closely. Van Garderen eventually came up short, finishing fifth.
As the leaders passed under the flamme rouge, the chasing group caught up to them. Soon after, Porte — who won the 2013 edition of Paris-Nice — made his move and surged to the front. Thomas let him take the win as Porte targets the overall win.
“With Geraint and I up there on the general classification now, it’s good to have two cards to play,” Porte said. “The dream is to hold the yellow jersey on Sunday evening. I love this race, and I’d love to win it again. It’s not over until it’s over, and we’ll have to see how the next three days go.”
The race resumes with Friday’s stage 5, a 192km route from Saint-Étienne to Rasteau.