Good morning. It's stage 4 of Paris-Nice and we're in for a real treat today as the GC battle goes up a notch and we head for our first summit finish of this year's race. We're in Chalon-sur-Saône with the stage about to roll out in just a few minutes.
Ahead of the riders are 187.5km of undulating terrain with seven ascents including the climb to the line at Chiroubles, with its first cat ascent. It's a day for a break, possibly, but we'll certainly see the GC standings change complexion too.
Here's how the overall standings looking heading into today's stage:
General classification after stage 3
1 Stefan Bissegger (Swi) EF Education-Nippo 8:37:11
2 Rémi Cavagna (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep
3 Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma 0:00:06
4 Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:09
5 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team BikeExchange
6 Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team DSM 0:00:10
7 Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:12
8 Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis 0:00:13
9 Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers 0:00:14
10 Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:00:15
Le rose et le jaune vont bien ensemble. 😉Pink and Yellow goes well. 😉#ParisNice pic.twitter.com/XHyzQnjMZ4March 10, 2021
It's pretty chilly out still and most riders are in arm warmers as we move through the neutralized zone with the flag about to drop. The first climb comes around 20km into the stage and the second cat Col des Chèvres should be a great launch pad if the break hasn't formed by then.
4km into the stage and we've already got a break up the road with six riders clear and holding a 45 second advantage over the peloton. No immediate reaction from EF and the riders in the move are Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Fabien Doubey (Total Direct Energie), Jose Rojas (Movistar), Oliver Naesen (Ag2R-Citroen), and Oscar Riesebeek (Alpecin-Fenix). There's a lot of horsepower in that escape.
175km to go
This is the break of the day with the gap at 4:30 for the six leaders as they head towards the first climb of the day.
The six leaders stretch their advantage to 4:25 as we reach the foot of the Col des Chèvres.
Bernard is one of the most underrated riders in the bunch. I once asked the team's manager who the squad's unsung hero was and he instantly replied Bernard. The Frenchman is so versatile and can fill a number of roles within a WorldTour team from climber to domestique, and he's also reliable in Grand Tours. He won his first race last year with a stage of Haut Var and a lack of wins is probably the only gap on palmares.
The leaders are now on the upper slopes of the 2.3km Col des Chèvres. It's got an average gradient of 7.6 per cent. 160km to go in the stage.
La classe suisso-américaine 😎💛#ParisNice #MaillotJauneLCL pic.twitter.com/NMHqvv7vUMMarch 10, 2021
Fabien Doubey (Total Direct Energie) leads the KOM competition and this is an excellent chance for him to bolster that lead with the rich list fo climbs on today's menu.
Only two points though for Fabien Doubey at the top of the climb though with Perez taking five and and Bernard 3. Early days though and plenty of climbs still to come.
-155km to go
It's up and down all the way now before we reach the next climb of the Col de la Pistole. We'll hit the summit of that ascent with 140km to go. We've got 155km to go and the lead for the six riders in the break is at 5:30.
Naesen is powering the break along right now and he's picking up some valuable training ahead of the Spring Classics and their return to Belgium - via San Remo. AG2R have split him and Greg Van Avermaet up with the former Paris-Roubaix winner about to race in Tirreno Adriatico, which starts today and we'll have complete live coverage for.
Ahead of Tirreno we've compiled this list of riders to watch in the Italian race. Here's the link.
And here's the official start list for Tirreno, with Peter Sagan making his long-awaited comeback since his positive test for COVID-19.
We're about to start the second climb of the day and during that last descent the peloton have just started to chip away at the race lead. It's down to 4'55 now.
So I'm on live for a couple of days in a row and I'm going to start posting a few pictures from some of the weird and wonderful ads I've got from my collection of 90s cycling mags. Don't worry they'll all be work safe (so a few Saeco ones won't be shared). First up is this from a copy of Cycle Sport back in 1997, this and was a full page from the back of the summer edition from Trek/US Postal.
This was another favourite and whoever came up with this in marketing meeting is either a genius or was sending out a cry for help but Berzin in a bag, who wouldn't want to then go out and purchase his saddle? That's again, from 1997. Maybe Marc Madiot looked at this and thought 'I can buy a Berzin' because he promptly signed him for the next season.
136k to go
136km to go and we're over the second climb of the day with the gap at 4'30 between the break and the peloton. The riders in the break are: Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Fabien Doubey (Total Direct Energie), Jose Rojas (Movistar), Oliver Naesen (Ag2R-Citroen), and Oscar Riesebeek (Alpecin-Fenix). =
Okay. Maybe one of the best cycling ads of all time coming up in a second. Hold on...
Just look at this. Points if you can name the riders without looking at the text.
Over the top of the climb Perez took 5 points, Bernard 3 and Doubey 2 so Perez is just two down in race for the KOM jersey.
The lead is just bobbing under the five-minute mark at the moment with 137km to go in the stage. There's still a huge amount of climbing to come but right now the GC riders are all saving their powder - although it's interesting to see Trek and AG2R have both posted riders up the road. Before the GC battle kicks off it's worth checking out Barry Ryan's analysis after yesterday's TT and ahead of today's events. Here's a link.
I know he's not here in France right now but we've managed to get a first look at Vincenzo Nibali's bike ahead of Tirreno. Here's the write up and the gallery.
The leaders are around halfway up the third climb of the day, the Côte de Croix de Montmain. It's 3.6km in length.
125k to go
The lead is holding steady at four minutes but it's increasingly unlikely that we'll see a winner come from the break today. They've simply not been given the needed wiggle room.
Our man on the ground at Paris-Nice, Peter Cossins. You can check out all his stories from the race, just here.
Well this is rather nice. Three bottles each from a different point on today’s stage through the beautiful Beaujolais hills #ParisNice pic.twitter.com/83gzcj6uPNMarch 10, 2021
Perez was first to the top of the climb, and now he leads the KOM battle by a single point.
Like Bernard, Perez won a stage in Haut Var last year and the Cofidis rider has been with the same squad since he turned pro back in 2016.
Away from the world of pro cycling on the road, we caught with Ted King to talk about gravel and bikepacking with this exclusive for our sister site Bikeperfect. If you're interested to know what he's up to these days, please click here.
115km to go
115km to go here in Paris-Nice and the gap is out to 4'30 as we take on a long section of valley road before reaching the next climb of the day.
Classement provisoire du @maillotapois : KOM provisional classification:🥇 🇫🇷@PerezAnthony1 - 17 pts🥈 🇫🇷@FabienDoubey - 16 pts🥉 🇫🇷@JulienBernard17 - 12 pts#ParisNice pic.twitter.com/WmOiDtUkRmMarch 10, 2021
The break are about to hit the lower sections of the next climb, the Côte de la roche de Solutré. At 4.1km it's the longest climb of the race so far but the gradient isn't going to trouble either the riders up the road or those in the main field.
Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Fabien Doubey (Total Direct Energie), Jose Rojas (Movistar), Oliver Naesen (Ag2R-Citroen), and Oscar Riesebeek (Alpecin-Fenix) have 4'15 over the peloton with 106km of the stage remaining.
If Perez can pick up ten points over the next two climbs he'll end the day with a decent return and a nice lead in the KOM race. It's unlikely that he'll be in a position to pick up any points on the final climb though, as the gap between the break and the peloton isn't really large enough.
History repeating itself with Perez again first on the climb with Bernard and then Doubey.
1. Perez 5 points
2. Bernard 3 points
3. Doubey 2 points
99km to go
We're into the final 100km of the stage and the gap is holding at 3'55.
Some more news coming from Tirreno with confirmation that Dan Martin didn't start today. They were already racing without the ill Michael Woods. Story is here.
You can also stream Paris-Nice via VPN services. Just click here to find out more.
The next climb on the stage is Mont Brouilly. We had a time trial back there in 2017 and according to the site I was there. Anyhow, Alaphilippe won the stage and moved into the yellow jersey. Here's the report. The only recollection I have of that race was asking eventual winner Sergio Henao when the paper into his Bio Passport was coming out. He didn't know. That was a great race though and it went down to the wire in Nice. Here's the report.
87km to go
87km to go on the stage and the gap is at 3'30, so the main field are in complete control at this point but Mont Brouilly is a tough ascent and even though it comes a long way from the finish we could see action towards the top of the 3km climb.
Evenepoel made the comments in an interview with Humo magazine, saying that he and his teammates would not speak to Groenewegen due to him causing Fabio Jakobsen's crash at last year's Tour de Pologne.
The full story is here.
This was interesting from Plugge:
"The question is whether Patrick Lefevere should not be better off knocking on their door. Now there is no longer going to be a sprint on that finish in Katowice, I understand. That is to say that something was wrong, and it was not safe enough there. But to my knowledge the organisers in Poland have not been punished at all. I find it bitter to see that action is only taken after such an accident."
Back to Paris-Nice and we're almost at the foot of Mont Brouilly with 69km to go and the gap at 2'45.
Onto Mont Brouilly which we climb again later in the stage. The fans are out - most wearing masks - and the break are riding well together up these steep and narrow slopes.
Back in the bunch and there's no organised chase but Astana and Jumbo Visma have men on the front with 66km to go and the gap at 2'18.
A few riders from ISN are struggling near the back of the bunch as we continue to climb.
Trentin is at the front and setting the pace at the moment for UAE Team Emirates as we see Roglic near the head of affairs too.
Sam Bennett is another one of the riders slipping back but he'll be fine on the descent.
Another five points for Perez, who extends his lead in the KOM race as we crest the top of the Mont Brouilly for the first time.
The bunch relax a bit on the descent of the climb and that allows the break to move the advantage back out to 2'57. No work at all from EF at the front of peloton as they allow the GC squads to shoulder the responsibility.
55km to go
Bennett (Sam) and a number of other sprinters have made it back to the peloton after that climb but at the front Tony Martin moves his team to the front and now the chase is on with Jumbo Visma taking charge.
The gap is at 3'00 with 55km to go so lets see what Martin can do in the next 10km. At the back of the Jumbo line sits Roglic, who is a real contender for today. Behind him UAE, EF and Trek wait.
The break have responded, knowing that Tony Martin is leading the chase, and they've managed to bring the gap back to 3'02. The break have hit an unclassified climb with 51km to go with Bernard taking a long pull after Rojas.
The road narrows and the break start to struggle over the gradient as DSM join Jumbo Visma with the pace-setting.
50km to go and Doubey has been dropped by the break.
Ackermann has been distanced by the peloton as Pedersen takes a small gap on the main field.
Casper Pedersen from DSM... as the gap drops to 2'36.
The yellow jersey Stefan Bissegger is starting to lose ground too as we continue to climb the Col de Durbize, which we climb again for the finish. 48km to go and Pedersen (DSM) is still pushing on.
48km to go
48km to go and Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Jose Rojas (Movistar), Oliver Naesen (Ag2R-Citroen), and Oscar Riesebeek (Alpecin-Fenix) lead by 2'40.
For the first time we can see some of the Ineos riders start to move up.
Mads Pedersen is losing ground as we see the yellow jersey claw his way back. Casper Pedersen has sat up and Jumbo Visma move to the front once more and take on the pace-setting duties.
Bissegger, just 22, is riding out of his skin to keep his yellow jersey but we've still got over 45km to go. It's hard to see him making it over these climbs and remaining in yellow.
Quite a fast and technical descent as we see Bouhanni looking for a mechanic as he shakes his head and weaves his way off the climb.
After that climb, Perez has a seven point lead in the KOM competition and bar an accident he'll have the jersey at the end of today's action.
Jumbo Visma continue to set the pace and keep the pressure on at the front of the peloton as Roglic sits just ahead of Bennett in their train. The maillot jaune has made it back for now as we see Amador bring Ineos towards the front.
With Richie Porte out of the race it's all about Tao Geoghegan Hart for Ineos today and they have him well positioned at the moment as Jumbo continue to control the stage. Schachmann, the defending champion, is at the back and taking off his jacket but he'll move up shortly.
We've a brief flat section and Naesen takes a huge turn for the break with the gap at 2'39 with 32km to go.
We're heading back to Mont Brouilly for the penultimate climb of the stage.
View from the finish #ParisNice pic.twitter.com/gvtDZrn6UrMarch 10, 2021
Lennard Hofstede peels off after a long turn on the front for Roglic and the gap is down to 2'21 with 28km to go.
And now Amador goes to the front and settles into a position that will be banned in April. At least he's not hugging anyone.
The bunch is down to about 70 riders but the yellow jersey is still there as we head to the penultimate climb as Bora, Jumbo, ISN and Ineos control proceedings.
UAE have Brandon McNulty well positioned and today's finish should be good for his GC prospects.
Gaudu is sprinting towards the front with a teammate after some less than excellent positioning early on as the break see their lead cut to 1'49 with 25km to go.
The break have lost a minute in about 10km of racing as Trentin sets the pace for the peloton.
These roads are so, so narrow.
And now we're on the Mont Brouilly. It's only 3km but it's a real brute of a climb.
And Ineos lead with five riders as Jumbo slip back for now.
Just 1'23 for the break, and they could be caught by the summit.
Swift pulls over and will ride to the finish with Amador and Pedersen (Mads) as riders are dropped immediately.
And now QuickStep set the pace for Mattia Cattaneo. Almost every team has a card to play for the finale. 52 seconds is the gap with 23km to go.
Dennis has been dropped.
Sam Bennett dropped too.
Latour has been distanced and that's a bit of a surprise, same about Dennis really.
22km to go and de Plus has attacked.
DSM have chased and the move has been caught.
The yellow jersey is hanging on for dear life with 22km to go as De Plus sets the pace with Roglic in third wheel.
Steven Kruijswijk looks good but he's about to be overtaken as Bernard attacks from the break with a 40 second lead.
G. Bennett takes over from Steven Kruijswijk with about 1km to climb. About 40 riders still in the GC group.
Alexey Lutsenko dropped.
Roglic still has two riders with him but Hindley, Benoot and most of the GC riders are still here.
Bernard is well clear now though of the rest of the break and with 20km to go he has 43 seconds on the Roglic group.
Neilson Powless is hanging on a bit...
Matthews and Trentin are still in the mix as Bernard starts the descent with a lead of 40 seconds and 19km to go.
Tao Geoghegan Hart is involved.
Gaudu was also down.
Gaudu is chasing and it looks like Tao Geoghegan Hart is okay and chasing back. He was on his feet relatively quickly.
19km to go when that crash happened.
Tao Geoghegan Hart is in trouble.
He's soft peddling and doesn't look at all comfortable. That's a huge blow for him and his team. They have De Plus but the British team have lost a GC rider for the second time in this race.
Gaudu is struggling to make it back to the peloton.
Tao Geoghegan Hart isn't coming back from what we can see. There are no time gaps.
It looks like a wrist problem for Tao Geoghegan Hart but up ahead Cavagna has attacked from the peloton before the final climb. Perfect terrain for him to be fair.
Just under 15km when Remi Cavagna attacked with a really audacious move. Bernard has 1'01 on the stage.
LL Sanchez has attacked too.
Jumbo dont have the numbers to chase everyone and Ineos won't help.
13km to go and Remi Cavagna and LL Sanchez have made to each other.
Bernard has a really good chance I'd say, especially with how the race has unfolded in the last few minutes.
Matthews is still here. He can climb and they have Hamilton there too.
11km for Bernard and he's moved the lead to 1'04 but Remi Cavagna and LL Sanchez are closing fast. They're just 35 seconds down.
Remi Cavagna was second on GC coming into the stage and he's the virtual leader on the road at this point.
Inside the final 8km for Bernard as he races towards the final climb of the stage.
Remi Cavagna and Sanchez are only 14 seconds down on the Trek rider with 7.4km to go.
And we're climbing the final 7km are all uphill and Remi Cavagna has a mechanical. Incredible.
He can't change gear.
Game over for Remi Cavagna.
Sanchez has to carry on and he can see Bernard just ahead of him.
Remi Cavagna is stuck by the same of the road as the bunch ride by. That's awful luck.
6km to go and Sanchez and Bernard have 46 seconds as Trentin sets the pace for the main field.
Steven Kruijswijk takes over with Bennett.
Big ring from Bennett who even gets a gap and Hindley matches him for pace.
Bernard and Sanchez have 28 seconds with 5.7km to go.
Gaudu made it back and he's next to Roglic.
Jungels is there, Hamilton too and there's an attack from B&B and O'Connor chases him as Jungels pops.
Just 18 seconds for the two leaders with 5km to go.
Bennett struggles as well.
24 seconds for the leaders as the road flattens out as Steven Kruijswijk takes over.
The climb kicks up again to over 10 per cent as Steven Kruijswijk sets the pace. Martin is there for Cofidis, McNulty is there, and Matthews.
Bernard has cracked. Great ride from the Frenchman though.
Sanchez pushes on again but the gap is coming down as we see Latour attacked. He was dropped earlier.
Matthews is leading the bunch so he's helping Hamilton it seems. Roglic follows.
3.4km to go and LL Sanchez has about 18 seconds.
Just 10 seconds for the Spaniard from Astana-Premiier Tech and Latour attacks for a second time and with 3.1km to go Roglic attacks.
Roglic goes by Latour and then Sanchez, and then drops another rider from Astana.
Roglic takes three seconds at a bonus and Matthews counters.
2.7km to go though and Roglic is clear by about 8-9 seconds.
The gap to Roglic is holding and Astana are looking to chase with Vlasov but there's no consistent chase and Roglic has this in the bag.
There's not let up from the Jumbo leader and there's no cohesion in the group behind. 1.9km to go.
Hindley is chasing and there are numbers in the second group but Roglic is just too good.
1.4km to go and Roglic has 21 seconds.
Less than 1km to go for Roglic and Vlasov attacks.
Several riders can follow but there's no catching Roglic who has 15 seconds with 600m to go.
Three riders form a group but they then look back and that gives Roglic even more room. It's down to 13 seconds though.
Schachmann takes over with 300m to go.
Primoz Roglic wins stage 4 of Paris-Nice.
It looks like Schachmann takes second but that's a sizable gap for Roglic when you factor in bonus seconds. He takes yellow too.
Martin (Cofidis) was third on the line. Results to come.
Stefan Bissegger has just crossed the line, over eight minutes down on Roglic.
Here are the results from Tirreno.
Here's our report and results from today's Paris-Nice action.
Lets hear from today's winner:
"Definitely happy about the result, eh. Already yesterday was a nice one. I showed that I proved to myself that we were working good so yeah, it's beautiful and I'm super happy that we have two wins for our team today.
"It was a hard day, so it was something for me, definitely. It was beautiful that I had the legs and could finish it off.
"Definitely the goal is to have it in Nice, but yeah, we deserved it and I think we have a strong team here, so we go optimistic into the next stages. We'll do our best and we'll see what that means for the result."
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