Meersman tops at Paris-Nice, Wiggins holds yellow

Belgian times long, uphill sprint perfectly

Race results

Stage 4 gallery

Complete coverage of the 2012 Paris-Nice

RODEZ, France (VN) — After coming up just short Tuesday, Gianni Meersman (Lotto-Belisol) took out a long, uphill sprint to win stage 4 of Paris-Nice on Wednesday. Grega Bole (Lampre-ISD) finished second, with Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) third.

“The team gave me a lot of confidence today and I’m very glad about this victory,” said Meersman. “Today I was faster, but I’m just happy that I could win today. I’ve very happy with this victory.”

As they did Tuesday, José Ivan Gutierrez and Movistar controlled the front of the peloton for Alejandro Valverde in the run-in to the uphill finish at Rodez. Andreas Klöden (RadioShack-Nissan) punched out with 2km remaining, but Lampre pulled him back at the 1km kite. Meersman sat a few riders from the front and said after the stage that he thought he had missed his opportunity.

“I was waiting, waiting, waiting until the right moment and then made my sprint,” he said.

Bradley Wiggins finished in the front group to retain his yellow jersey with four stages remaining in the “Race To The Sun.” Americans Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) sit second and third overall, respectively.

“Our objective today was to let a breakaway get away until the end,” said Wiggins. “But Rabobank went for it, because the gap was three minutes.

“It was perfect for us. We stayed on their wheels and we were able to rest the guys in the team for the next stages.”

Stay tuned for an expanded report and photos from Graham Watson.