Gianni Meersman (Lotto Belisol) upgraded from third to first with victory on stage four of Paris-Nice, while Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) finished in 10th to maintain his overall lead.
The Belgian finished behind Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge) on stage three but stood on the top step of the podium 24 hours later, beating Grega Bole (Lampre-ISD) and Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) to the line in a bunch sprint.
FDJ-BigMat’s Pierrick Fedrigo, Ag2r La Mondiale’s Jean-Christophe Peraud, GreenEdge rider Leigh Howard, Luis Angel Mate of Cofidis and Lotto-Belisol’s Bart De Clercq attacked early on the 178km stage from Brive-La-Gaillarde to Rodez.
But the quintet were swept up with just over 20km remaining, while the peloton also reeled in Radioshack-Nissan-Trek’s Andreas Kloden after the 2000 Paris-Nice launched a solo bid for glory with two kilometres to go.
And that left Meersman to win the resulting bunch kick to claim his second victory of the season after triumphing on stage one of the Volta ao Algarve last month.
Wiggins’ advantage at the top of the general classification remains the same, with the British national champion holding a six second advantage over Levi Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
Stage five takes the peloton from Onet-le-Chateau to Mende, with a steep climb to the finish, where Joaquin Rodriguez beat Alberto Contador to victory on stage 12 of the Tour de France in 2010, providing the Race to the Sun’s general classification contenders with an opportunity to put time into their rivals.
Paris-Nice stage four
1) Gianni Meersman (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol – 4:21.01 hours
2) Grega Bole (SLO) – Lampre-ISD
3) Lieuwe Westra (NED) – Vacansoleil-DCM
4) Xavier Florencio Cabre (SPA) – Katusha
5) Jonathan Hivert (FRA) – Saur-Sojasun
6) Simon Geschke (GER) – Project 1T4i
7) Nicolas Roche (IRL) – Ag2r La Mondiale
8) Alejandro Valverde (SPA) – Movistar
9) Francesco Gavazzi (ITA) – Astana
10) Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – Team Sky
1) Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – Team Sky – 13:30.52 hours
2) Levi Leipheimer (USA) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep +6″
3) Tejay Van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing – +11″
4) Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep +14″
5) Maxime Monfort (BEL) – RadioShack-Nissan +18″
6) Lieuwe Westra (NED) – Vacansoleil-DCM – same time
7) Alejandro Valverde (SPA) – Movistar +20″
8) Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (SPA) – Movistar +29″
9) Simon Spilak (SLO) – Katusha +33″
10) Robert Kiserlovski (CRO) – Astana +36″