Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) managed to make it through stage 4 of Paris-Nice unscathed and without losing any time, despite a crash on the final climb. Thomas was one of three Team Sky riders to come down on the Côte de Saint-Uze after a touch of wheels near the front of the peloton.
Thomas had his title hopes dashed by a crash at Paris-Nice two years ago, but there were no such problems on this occasion. The Welshman was unhurt and managed to make it back to the main group, finishing on the same time as the stage winner Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis).
"There was no problem for G after the crash," directeur sportif Nicolas Portal told the team website after the stage. "It was on the climb it was not high speed. He was able to stand up straight away and get back on the bike. Almost all the team stopped with him. We had Sergio [Henao]and Swifty [Ben Swift] continue ahead, but it was quite comfortable. They managed to bring him back to a good position.
"Because it was quite a steep climb and there was quite a bit of crosswind over the top Ian [Stannard] and Luke [Rowe] were not able to get back on again, but it was okay."
Thomas goes into stage 5 sitting fifth overall in the general classification, 19 seconds down on race leader Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge). Stage 5, from Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Salon-de-Provence, takes in some five classified climbs, including the formidable Mont Ventoux. The race will not go all the way to the top of Ventoux and with the ascent coming less than 60 kilometres into the near 200km stage, Portal doesn’t think that it will have too much of an impact on the pointy end of the overall classification.
Instead, it is a chance to shake some of the pure sprinters and go for a stage win. "For the GC guys, I think the climb is too far away from the finish. It would be a big risk for a team to try to go full gas, break the peloton and then try to commit for another 120km,” explained Portal. “For the sprinters it will be interesting, and we will be watching what happens. If the pace is not too hard, some of those guys can get over the climb and continue.
"If the race is hard it suits Swifty but certainly it will be very hard to drop a guy like Michael Matthews."
Paris-Nice continues into the weekend with Saturday’s summit finish on La Madone d'Utelle set to be a decisive one for the GC hopefuls. The final stage from and to Nice is a simpler one than its predecessor, but the two first category climbs are a chance for someone to escape and upset the applecart.