With the potentially GC changing stage 3 of Paris-Nice cancelled due to snow yesterday, normality resumed on stage 4 of the 'race to the sun' from Juliénas to Romans-sur-Isère. One of the riders looking forward to the Mount Brouilly finale was Alberto Contador, a former two-time winner of the race, who has changed his tactics as a result in the quest for his third title.
"It was quite a tense stage after the one cancelled yesterday," said Contador who finished 29th, on the same time as stage winner Nacer Bouhanni, and improved his overall position from 17th to 18th.
The stage 3 finale up Mount Brouilly was expected to change the overall standings with Contador was looking to take time his rivals after a safety first approach in the prologue that saw him finish behind the likes of Richie Porte (BMC), Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin). However with the race organisers implementing the UCI's Extreme Weather Protocol, the GC positions remain virtually unchanged since the 6.1km prologue which meant a tough day in the saddle as the 33-year-old explained.
"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," he said.
Stage 5 of the race features the lower slopes of Mount Ventoux, the peloton will only climb as high as Chalet-Reynard, but following the "The Bald Mountain", the peloton still has 126km to cover and should have little impact on the GC with a bunch expected to contest the win in Salon-de-Provence. Unlikely to chance his arm to gain time on stage 5, Contador's best chance for moving up the standings is the La Madone d'Utelle climb at the conclusion of Saturday's stage 6 as he explained.
"Before coming here I had said there were two summit finishes – one for climbers and another for heavier riders," he said. "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."
With Rafal Majka sitting eighth on the GC, five seconds ahead of Contador, Tinkoff will have two cards to play over the weekend with Sunday's stage, featuring six categorised climbs, a final opportunity to secure victory on what will be the Spaniard's last appearance at the race.
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