Orica-GreenEdge’s Swiss puncheur Michael Albasini deployed a perfectly timed and devastatingly effective sprint to win stage four of Paris-Nice after a volatile day through the Massif Central. 

Albasini jumped around Maxim Iglinsky (Astana) from a small group of favourites that broke away on the descent of the day’s seventh and final categorised climb, just 7km from the finish. In that group was race leader Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) who clung on to the yellow jersey for a further day. 

However at the end of the grippy and gusty stage just 22 riders remain within 30 seconds of the American, among them Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-Quickstep, 3rd), Richie Porte (Sky, 7th) and Tejay Van Garderen (BMC, 12th).

Classification begins to take shape

The feisty first hour of racing that followed the gun was unsurprising; two second category climbs came within 30km of the start in Brioude and showed who had taken care with their warm up routine. 

Michael Morkov (Saxo-Tinkoff) was the first to attack as the crack of the starter’s pistol still echoed, eventually making it into the day’s move with six other riders: Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Johann Tschopp (IAM), Warren Bargueil (Argos-Shimano), Romain Sicard (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Hubert Dupont (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quickstep).

Despite Voeckler’s typical heroics on the penultimate climb, gurning and leaning his way into the lead, the bunch came together under pressure from the chase as it crossed the River Rhône with 15km to go. BMC continued to drive the pace up to and over the final ascent, splitting the remaining bunch and leaving a group of around 30 to contest the finish.

Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) put his nose into the wind on a few occasions but failed tomake anything of it before the finish approached and the sprint opened up. 

Interestingly for a flat sprint, the top ten seemed to have a whiff of an Ardennes Classics about it; Albasini, Iglinsky and Gasparotto all have a first or second to their names from last year’s Amstel Gold Race, Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. 

Tomorrow’s stage, an enticing prospect up to Montagne de Lure after five earlier categorised climbs through the Vaucluse, should help crystalise the overall classification leading into the final weekend but with such small gaps between the front runners, it will be all to play for. 

Results

Paris-Nice 2013, stage four: Brioude to Saint-Vallie, 199.5km

1. Michael Albasini (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge in 4-55-41


2. Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) Astana

3. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quickstep

4. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana

5. Robert Gesink (Ned) Blanco

6. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp

7. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale

8. Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-GreenEdge

9. Andreas Kloden (Ger) Radioshack-Leopard

10. Xavier Florencio (Spa) Katusha all at s.t.

Overall standings after stage four

1. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp in 19-35-17


2. Andrey Grivko (Ukr) Astana at 3 secs

3. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quickstep

4. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quickstep at 4 secs

5. Gorka Izaguirre (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 5 secs

6. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM at 6 secs

7. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky at 7 secs

8. Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) Astana

9. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 13 secs

10. Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto-Belisol at 22 secs

Paris-Nice 2013: Race preview and information



Paris-Nice 2013: start list



Paris-Nice 2013: Who will win?



Paris-Nice 2013: The Big Preview

Paris-Nice 2013: Stage reports



Andrew Talansky takes third stage and Paris-Nice lead



Marcel Kittel wins in Paris-Nice as Bouhanni crashes out



Nacer Bouhanni wins stage one and takes lead in Paris-Nice



Prologue: Damien Gaudin takes surprise win

Paris-Nice 2013: Photo galleries



Stage three photo gallery



Stage two photo gallery



Stage one photo gallery



Prologue photo gallery