Hello and welcome to live coverage from stage 4 of Paris-Nice.
Today's stage is 201km from Nevers to Belleville and features several categorised climbs in the finale. To bring you right up to speed, we have 110km of racing remaining with a four man group up the road. They currently have an advantage of 4'30 over the peloton
The four leaders came together after 18km of racing, with Agnoli (Astana), Quemeneur (Europcar), Didier (Trek) and Herrada Lopez (Movistar) in the move. Thomas Voeckler had been active earlier on in the stage but the peloton saw him as too big a threat and brought him back after several attacks.
109km remaining from 201km
Both Lopez and Didier are 40 seconds down on GC coming into the stage but the Trek rider picked up three seconds at the first sprint and currently sits as the virtual leader of the race. It's a bit of welcome relief for his team after Andy Schleck has struggled in the race so far.
But today we should see a shake up in the overall with enough climbs to certainly split the field.
First up is the Cote de la Clayette at km135, followed by tthe Col de Champ Juin at 156km and the Col de Crie at 164 km. They're all 3rd cat climbs but then we have the Mont Brouilly at 187km of racing. It's a second cat climb and should see a number of overall contenders and climbers attempt to split the field.
After three stages of racing, here's how the GC looks:
1 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano 13:14:01
2 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:00:08
3 Moreno Hofland (Ned) Belkin-Pro Cycling Team 0:00:12
4 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:18
5 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:21
6 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Team Europcar 0:00:22
7 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
8 Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff-Saxo
9 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
10 Marco Marcato (Ita) Cannondale
Rojas is well placed and can climb, and Geraint Thomas, who leads Sky after Richie Porte was shifted to Tirreno is also in a good position. It's been such a tight and tense race so far though and any mistake will be exploited by the riders hoping for a strong GC position.
The gap to the leaders has now pushed out to 5'30 but news has reached us that Matti Breschel has pulled out of the race. The Tinkoff rider was using this race as build up to the Classics but there's no news on whether the Dane is sick or whether he took a tumble.
The leaders have added another ten seconds to their advantage. Giant-Shimano continue to set the pace behind them but they're willing to let the gap drift out a little further. The Dutch team will be hoping that the likes of Sky and Astana will join the chase once the climbs begin.
As up ahead Quemeneur takes a turn on the front of the break. He was of course on the attack yesterday and picked up 3 KOM points. He's in with a chance of taking the jersey today. Laborie currently leads that competition with 9 points.
On a sad note, today marks the 11 year anniversary since Andrei Kivilev lost his life. The former Cofidis rider crashed during this race and fell into a coma as a result. He tragically died a day later. His death sparked action from the UCI who made helmets compulsory within the peloton.
82km remaining from 201km
Back to today's action and the gap to the four leaders continues to rise. It's drifted out to 6'20 with 82km to go.
In other news Tirreno starts today and you can join us later for full coverage from the opening team time trial.
leTour.com have reported that Breschel quit the race due to injuries he sustained and is still suffering from due to a crash at the Tour of Oman.
The four leaders are closing in the first climb of the day with their advantage back down to under five minutes.
Onto the Cote de la Clayette with Agnoli setting the pace.
It's only a short climb, at 1000m in length with the average gradient at just over 5 per cent.
59km remaining from 201km
And it's Agnoli who leads over the top of the cliimb with Quemeneur second and Didier third. That gives Quemeneur five points in the KOM race so he's four points off the leader. The gap to the peloton is down to 2'50 though.
And all the work is being done by Sky and Orica GreenEdge as they lead the chase.
54km remaining from 201km
It's caused the break to drop a few more seconds as they start to head towards the second climb of the day. They're currently out in front by 2'15.
47km to go and the leaders have 1'40 over the peloton. The final climb has some seriously steep sections but it will be interesting to see if any of the GC contenders take things up on the third category climbs that are coming up. Giant Shimano have now moved back to the front of the peloton.
The leaders are on the next climb and Agnoli looks down the slope to see just where the peloton are as Quemeneur takes a turn on the front.
They're losing time rapidly though as they climb, with the gap now at 1'35
As there's a crash in the bunch with four or five riders on the groud. They all look to be ok and are on the their feet.
Sky and Lampre have both moved to the head of the bunch as the leaders are 500m from the summit.
There are gaps starting to appear though already in the bunch, a sign that a number of riders are allready struggling on this third cat climb.
That looked like Andy Schleck near the back of the bunch.
Agnoli leads over the climb so he's now on 6 KOM points, just three off the lead.
Bouhanni is struggling off the back of the peloton as well.
Team Sky are all over the front as the lead drops to 55 seconds.
It's a short descent to the base of the penultimate climb as the four leaders press on with their 55 second advantage. It's hard to see them lasting to the top of the final climb.
Agnoli is top at the next climb, correction to before, he now has 12 points and is the joint leader in the KOM.
It's still Sky on the front of the peloton with Astana and Vincenzo Nibali intent on following. The Astana leader won Tirreno last year and he's remained in contention so far this week.
The leaders have just 50 second though with 34km and the main climb of the day to go.
Agnoli comes through and takes a long pull on the front, the aim for him now is to make Sky work in order to bring this move back.
Herrarda is just off the lead group but only by a couple of bike lengths so he should be fine.
There's a bit more urgency now in the break as they can feel the peloton bearing down on them.
There's a long winding descent now before the final intermediate sprint and the final climb before the finish.
As Herrada followed by Agnoli trade turns on the front of the break.
Inside the final 30km as we rapidly head towards the final climb.
Voeckler is right at the back of this main field as Bouhanni makes contact after being dropped.
Degenkolb is stil in the main field too. Can he hang onto his lead today?
There's a tight set of corners for the peloton with a number of riders opting for the curb as they navigate with speed.
And Chavanel has changed bikes. Not sure if that was due to a mechanical but he's got a teammate with him as he looks to regain contact with the bunch.
The Team Sky car blows by him but the Orica car slows a tad and gives him a short draft. A short one, mind.
The French rider came into the race as a possible title contender. He's about to make contact with the bunch just before the climb, with most of his team having dropped back to pace him.
The leaders are now just 25 seconds clear and they've yet to reach the intermediate sprint.
Andy Schleck is back in the team cars. He's really struggled this week and it's not getting any better today.
Didier is first over the line at the intermediate sprint but the leaders have only 20 seconds on the Sky-led peloton.
20km remaining from 201km
Majka is also off the back but his team are pacing him back, Trek aren't doing that for Schleck.
Only a couple of kilometres until the start of the climb with Thomas sitting behind his Sky teammates.
The break has been caught with 17.8km to go, as Didier is the last man to resist.
Boonen has sat up at the back of the bunch.
Degenkolb is sitting just behind Thomas at the moment so he's clearly intent on defending his lead as Hushovd slips off the back of the bunch.
That's a bit of a surprise with Gerrans off the back.
Bouhanni is dropped again as AG2R join Sky on the front of the peloton.
Onto the climb proper and AG2R are ripping the race apart. Nibali is there though, and Thomas.
Laborie has been dropped.
Degenkolb is starting to drop down the bunch, Rui Costa too and Voeckler has popped too.
There's an attack from AG2R as the gradient goes up to around 20 per cent. It's Betancur but he's quickly brought back.
Thomas and Nibali are both sitting on the front now with less than 20 riders left.
It's coming back together though as more and more riders make contact as the gradient evens out.
A couple of attacks coming and it's a move from Garmin.
Boasson Hagen has done his work for the day as Slagter is clear.
The Garmin rider has a small gap with 5km to go until the summit of the climb.
He's looking good, is the former TDU winner, as Chavanel has been dropped.
Thomas has made a move.
Thomas has about three seconds on the next rider but with 14km to go Slagter is leading.
Out of the saddle, and the Garmin rider is looking good but he has Thomas chasing him as they go over the top of the climb.
Thomas has caught Slagter but the rest of the field aren't too far behind.
Degenkolb is still in the mix is seems and this could all still come back together on the long run-in to the finish.
Thomas and Slagter have a group of around 30 riders chasing them down.
Degenkolb is in a group just off the main field, it seems but he still has time to rescue his lead. The tight roads are certainly helping Thomas and Slagter at this stage.
Degenkolb is at 35 seconds according to race radio. So Thomas right now is moving towards the race lead.
Thomas is 21 seconds down on GC, Slagter 39.
There's an attack from Bardet and a rider from Astana though as Thomas and Slagter trade turns.
There are groups all over the road at the moment but the two leaders have around 5 seconds with 8km to go.
It looks as though Bardet has been brought back with lotto, Lampre and Katusha leading the chase.
Degenkolb is at 30 seconds. He's going to lose his lead unless he can come up with something special. He's leading the chase as if he's sprinting for the stage but it might not be enough.
If Rojas is in the chase it could become very interesting because he's just 3 seconds ahead of Thomas in GC.
6.3km to go for the leading pair though as Movistar lead the chase. Rojas must be in there, surely.
Slagter and Thomas are working well together though
Inside the final 4km and Degenkolb has clsoed the gap to 18 seconds.
More attacks from the second group and that's Nibali clear.
That's not going to work and he's brought back.
There's an attack from Omega though and this one has a gap. 2km to go for Slagter and Thomas.
Degenkolb is still at 18 seconds.
I think the two leaders might make it because the chase isn't working that well together.
Now race radio says that Degenkolb is at 26 seconds so his lead is probably over.
Now there's an attack from Belkin but with less than 1km to Thomas is racing towards the lead.
Slagter on his wheel.
Slagter goes for the line.
Slagter takes the win, Thomas has to settle for second.
And Degenbolb comes over the line around 20 seconds later. This is going to be close.
Thomas started the stage 21 seconds down.
That's a first win for Slagter in his new team colours though.
It was Kelderman in third.
We're waiting for confirmation on the GC but Degenkolb came back from 36 seconds to close in on the winning break. Has he done enough to keep his lead?
1 Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Garmin Sharp
2 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
3 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
4 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge
5 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
6 Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ.fr
7 Peter Velits (Svk) BMC Racing Team
8 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team
9 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar
10 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
Thomas leads GC, Degenkolb at three seconds.
1 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
2 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano 0:00:03
3 Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Garmin Sharp 0:00:04
4 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:08
5 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:12
6 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:15
7 Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:17
8 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:19
9 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar
10 Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ.fr
Thanks for joining us today. You can find our report, results, and race images, right here.
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