With an important fifth stage looming at Paris - Nice on Friday, Sky general classification hope Richie Porte maintained his position in the top-10 by finishing in the front group on Thursday. The Australian remains at seven seconds behind leader Andrew Talansky.
Last week before Paris-Nice got underway, Porte told Cyclingnews that he didn't believe that Friday's Queen Stage mountain-top finish on the Montagne de Lure was "that hard" but noted that it was crucial not to give away valuable seconds on the flat stages. So far, Porte has been attentive to any potential threats and once again found himself at the front of the race on Stage 4, finishing on the same time as winner Michael Albasini (Orica GreenEdge).
"Again the plan was to make sure we didn't lose time with Richie," said Sky sports director, Nicolas Portal on the team's website. "We knew full well that it had the potential to be a tricky finish. It was a shame that David [Lopez] got held up by the puncture. Kiri [Vasil Kiryienka] was nice to give him the wheel in the spur of the moment. Richie was comfortable up there and he is growing in confidence.
"It was tricky start and the peloton went really hard up the first climb. Lots of riders were dropped straight away and lots of other riders wanted to go up in the break. When it's that hard it's only the really strong riders who can go so we needed to be careful who went up the road.
"Danny [Pate], Xavi [Zandio Echaide] and Kiri did very well at the start today. Then when the break went the guys stayed towards the front with Kosta also there. Heading into the finish Xavi helped put Richie in a perfect position and then we had guys with him until the puncture."
Ahead of Porte on general classification after Stage 4, remains Talansky, Astana's Andriy Grivko (+3sec), Omega Pharma - Quick-Step pair Peter Velits and Sylvain Chavanel (+4sec), Euskaltel's Gorka Izaguirre (+5sec) and Vacansoleil-DCM's Lieuwe Westra (+6sec).
BMC's threat, Tejay van Garderen, moved up three places on GC on Thursday with his teammates particularly aggressive in the finale indicating that there will be plenty more to come on Friday. Porte will have his hands full.
"Any rider who wants to fight for the GC will need to be up there on tomorrow's stage," said Portal. "All the teams know this so we are expecting a big fight."
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