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Paris - Nice 2017: Stage 4


An uphill time trial at Paris-Nice traditionally meant the Col d'Eze, but quite a few traditions went out the window at this race even before the leader's jersey switched from white to yellow. Today's time trial to Mont Brouilly is an interesting test. Just 14.5 kilometres in length, riders face a largely flat run of 11.5 kilometres from Beaujeu before the road kicks up for the final haul to the finish. The climb, 3km at 7.7% isn't the toughest, but could be just tough enough to provoke some significant gaps. Dan Benson previews the action here.

Andrea Guardini (UAE Emirates) was the first starter at 1.25pm local time, and the 166 riders set off at one-minute intervals, with yellow jersey Arnaud Demare (FDJ) the last man off at 4.10pm. The full start order is here. The final 25 starters are as follows:

Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) has been threatening a big win for quite some time, and it duly arrived on stage 3 of Paris-Nice, where the Carrick-on-Suir man beat Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step) to claim a fine victory. It was, he said, an important boost to his confidence ahead of the Giro d'Italia in May.

Guardini is the first rider to reach the slopes of Mont Brouilly. The Italian recorded 16:13 at the intermediate time check after 11.4 kilometres. Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale-Drapac) was the second man off.

Dombowski came through the 11.4km mark in 15:53, and he has since caught Guardini on the slopes of Mont Brouilly.

Dombrowski stops the clock in 24:43, the first rider to finish this afternoon. It remains to be seen how long he spends in the hot seat. Both Jose Mendes (Bora-Hangsrohe) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) were almost 50 seconds quicker than him at the 11.4km mark at the base of the climb to the line.

Nicolas Edet's time of 22:55 gives him the provisional lead, but he is superseded shortly afterwards by Nikias Arndt (Sunweb), who comes home in 22:50. None of the other early finishers are anywhere close to those two times. Jesus Herrada (Movistar) is 1:14 down, while Natnael Berhane (Dimension Data) is 1:17 back at the finish.

Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) was 25 seconds quicker than Arndt at the bottom of the climb but he fades on Mont Brouilly to come home with the provisional second best time, 1 second down on the German.

The temperatures today is a chilly six degrees on Paris-Nice, and though there is little by way of wind, there has been intermittent rain on the parcours.

Were this a road stage, Mont Brouilly would have been an ideal finish for Diego Ulissi (UAE Emirates). The Italian performs well on the climb in the time trial, too, clocking 22;55 for the third best time thus far. Curiously for a man whose best results tend to come in Italy, Ulissi has raced Paris-Nice more often than Tirreno-Adriatico in his career, however, and this year, it is anticipated that he will eschew the Giro d'Italia in order to line out at the Tour de France.

36 riders have now completed the time trial, and Arndt remains in the hot seat. Eduardo Sepulveda (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) is the next rider to start.

Philip Deignan (Sky) is among the riders currently out on the course. The Irishman told Cyclingnews before the start that his aim was to conserve energy to help leader Sergio Henao in the days to come. "I just need to get around and then be ready to do my job for Sergio over the next few days," Deignan said. "Sergio has come out of the last three days remarkably well. He’s stayed up there and out of trouble. He’s come into the TT in a good position. It’s maybe taken him a couple of years to get used to a leadership position, especially on this team as we have so many big riders. It’s not very often that you’re the selected leader. He’s improved a lot with his communication and adapted that role. It’s a TT that suits him."

Jan Barta (Bora-Hansgrohe) hits the 11.4km mark with the fastest intermediate time to date, his14:23 is some 10 seconds quicker than Victor De La Parte (Movistar) through the same point.

Jan Barta reaches the finish with the 5th best time, 6 seconds down on Arndt.

Sepulveda, meanwhile, crosses the line in 23:01. The Argentinian had set out slowly but appeared to recoup ground on the climb to Mont Brouilly. 

As we wait for the main contenders to start, here's a closer look at the final three kilometres of today's stage up Mont Brouilly. The climb was, of course, due to feature on stage 3 of last year's Paris-Nice, only for the stage to be interrupted and then cancelled due to the freezing temperatures.

Tanel Kangert (Astana) was third quickest at the base of the climb, but still nobody can match Nikias Arndt on the slopes of Mont Brouilly. Kangert reaches the finish line in 22:56, good enough for provisional fifth best time thus far.

Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) is the next rider to start. Normally such a consistent performer across the season, the Dane finds himself 17 minutes down on GC following the crosswind drama of the opening two stages. This year, of course, is a different kind of season for Fuglsang. So often a deluxe domestique throughout his career, he will lead Astana's challenge at the Tour de France, as he explained to Cyclingnews at last month's Tour of Oman.

The furore concerning Team Sky and the tenability of Dropbox Dave Brailsford's status as manager continues, as both the Telegraph and Daily Mail report that Chris Froome refused to sign a statement in support of Brailsford’s position. A spokesperson for the team, meanwhile, told Cyclingnews that there is no substance to a report in L’Équipe today that Sky suggested might withdraw its backing at the end of the season. The full story is here.

The WorldTour's high-concept, Pynchon-esque season-long narrative sees two events taking place at the exact same time this week. Patrick Fletcher has all the action from the opening team time trial of Tirreno-Adriatico here.

A crushing new best time at the summit of Mont Brouilly, as David De La Cruz (Quick-Step Floors) stops the clock in 22:24, some 26 second faster than Nikias Arndt.

Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) comes home with the second best time thus far, 9 seconds down on De La Cruz. The Kazakhstani rider was quickest at the 11.5km mark, 15 seconds up on De La Cruz, but he couldn't sustain that tempo on the climb.

Lutsenko's teammate Fuglsang reaches the finish in 22:56 for the eighth best time so far. Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin), meanwhile, has the third best time at the 11.4km mark, 13 seconds down on Lutsenko at that point, but 2 ahead of De La Cruz.

Richie Porte (BMC) is in the start house ready to begin his time trial effort. The Australian is surprisingly out of the general classification battle, but he will hope to salvage something from his race, beginning with this time trial, which seems well-suited to his characteristics. 

Tony Martin, like so many, can't match De La Cruz on Mont Brouilly. The German clocks the fifth best time at the finish, 29 seconds down on De La Cruz.

Michael Matthews (Sunweb) has set out strongly in this time trial, and he reaches the base of Mont Brouilly with the quickest intermediate time, 12 seconds faster than Lutsenko.

Matthews grinds up the final ramps of Mont Brouilly and comes very close indeed to besting De La Cruz. The Australian comes across in 22:26, just two seconds down on De Le Cruz.

Richie Porte was 51 seconds down on Matthews at the 11.4km mark, incidentally. The Tasmanian has caught Jack Bauer on the climb, but he will need to produce something very special to trouble De La Cruz.

Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) has set out on his time trial, and is negotiating the flat early section before Mont Brouilly.

Porte did, in fact, make up a lot of ground in the final three kilometres, but he left himself with just too much to do. The Australian clocks the third best time thus far, his 22:29 is five seconds slower than De La Cruz and three down on Matthews.

Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) sets out from the start gate. Ilnur Zakarin is already out on the course, where rain is now falling steadily. The final starters are as follows:

Contador hits the 11.4km mark with the third best time to date, 16 seconds down on Matthews. 

Just three riders left to start: Alexander Kristoff, Julian Alaphilippe and yellow jersey Arnaud Demare.

Despite the sharp climb to the finish, riders are not changing their bikes to tackle it. Contador dances from side to side on his time trial machine as he battles the slope.

Steven Kruijkwsijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) comes home in 8th place thus far, in a time of 22:52. 

Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) records the new fastest time: 21:58, some 26 seconds quicker than De La Cruz.

Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) was only 7 seconds down on Contador at the 11.4km mark, but he concedes quite a chunk of ground on Mont Brouilly, coming home in 22:42, some 44 seconds down on Contador.

Warren Barguil finishes in a time of 23:26, 1:28 down on Contador.

Second best time at the finish for Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), his 22:12 is just 14 seconds behind Contador.

Gorka Izaguirre (Movistar) stops the clock just one second slower than Contador. His 21:59 might yet be enough to put him into yellow this afternoon, however.

Gorka Izaguirre has the quickest time at the intermediate check, and Julian Alaphilippe has scorched through that same point 6 seconds inside that time.

10th best time at the finish so far for Dan Martin, whose 22:42 is 44 seconds down on Contador.

Rudy Molard (FDJ) was one of the few riders to switch bikes ahead of Mont Brouilly, but the Frenchman can only manage the 18th best time so far.

Sergio Henao (Sky) clocks 22:27 at the finish, which puts him 6th, 29 seconds down on Contador.

Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) comes within a whisker of moving ahead of Contador, coming in just 0.67 of a second down on the Spaniard for the second best time to date.

Of the remaining finishers, only Julian Alaphilippe seems equipped to deny Contador stage victory or Gallopin the yellow jersey this afternoon. 

Demare, like Molard, switched to a road bike to tackle this final climb.

Julian Alaphilippe is going to win the stage and take yellow. He stops the clock in 21:39, some 19 seconds quicker than Contador. A remarkable display from the Frenchman.

Only Kristoff and Demare are left to finish, and neither man will trouble Alaphilippe's time. 

Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step) wins stage 4 of Paris-Nice and moves into the yellow jersey of race leader.

Kristoff soft pedals across the line more than three minutes down. Demare limits his losses to 1:40, but his tenure in yellow, as expected, comes to an end on Mont Brouilly.


Alaphilippe now leads Gallopin by 33 seconds in the overall standings, with Izaguirre third at 47 seconds. Henao is 5th at 1:05, with Contador 8th at 1:31.

General classification:


Julian Alaphilippe speaks as he waits to mount the podium: “I felt great coming in, my training went well and form was good. This time trial was made for me, it was really fast at start and it had the climb at end. I felt a bit of extra pressure. I knew I was going well on the course, but I had no idea I was going to win."

It's 20 years since Laurent Jalabert won his third and final Paris-Nice, the last time a Frenchman won the race. Alaphilippe knows that he is now in a strong position to break that particular drought. “When you’re in the yellow jersey, you can’t hide,” Alaphilippe says. “There are three or four hard stages left. There’s going to be a big battle, but I’ll need to take any chances when they come.” 

Stage result:

Tomorrow's 199.5km stage 5 brings the Paris-Nice peloton from Quincié-en-Beaujolais to Bourg-de-Péage. There are only two categorised climbs, the category 3 Cote de Givors and the category 2 Cote de Saint-Uze, but on the evidence of the first half of the race, the script is liable to be rewritten through the day.

Alberto Contador, second on the stage, paid tribute to Alaphilippe and suggested that the Frenchman and his fellow countryman Gallopinare the favourites for overall victory. "I rode a good time trial but the truth is that Alaphilippe was really impressive, especially in the first part which went better for him than for me. Now I have to look ahead," Contador said,according to "The two [Alaphilippe and Gallopin - ed.] are now the favourites but I will stay in the background and take advantage of an opportunity if there is one."

Thanks for joining our live coverage on Cyclingnews this afternoon. We'll be back with more tomorrow from stage 5 of Paris-Nice and stage 2 of Tirreno-Adriatico. In the meantime, we'll have all the news and reaction from today's stages at Mont Brouilly and Lido di Camaiore. You'll find a full report, pictures and results from stage 4 of Paris-Nice here, and our report on BMC's stage win on the opening leg of Tirreno-Adriatico is here.

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