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Tour Méditerranéen stage neutralized due to weather

Snow!

Snow! (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The unusually harsh European winter called a premature end to the fourth stage of the Tour Méditerranéen due to a risk of freezing rain and snow, and Cofidis' Julien El Fares was declared the stage winner following a meeting of the race jury at the finish in Biot.

The race finished at the 114km mark near St. Paul en Foret after authorities in the Alpes-Maritimes department warned of inclement conditions ahead.

Leading up to that point in the race, Julien El Fares (Cofidis) was off the front by 1'15" on the peloton along with Jonathan Thire (BigMat-Auber 93) and Dominique Cornu (Skil-Shimano).

There was a long discussion of how to proceed. Initially it was thought that the race could continue to the final kilometres under the neutral flag, but then that plan was scuttled for an early finish line.

Race officials improvised a finish and had the breakaway sprint for the stage win with El Fares taking the victory. However, all of the other team directors protested the decision since it was likely the three-man breakaway would have been caught had the race continued.

The peloton rode en masse into the finish in Biot, safely passing through the final kilometres despite the warnings of icy roads, but the debate over the stage winner continued after the riders had come in.

The general classification remains the same heading into the final stage, with Francaise des Jeux's Jussi Veikkanen in the overall lead ahead of William Bonnet of Bouygues Telecom. The race's traditional finish on Mont Faron could also be affected by the unseasonably cold weather.

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