Paris-Nice 2016: Nacer Bouhanni sprints to stage four win
Frenchman avenges stage two relegation after late break foiled
Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) made amends for his stage two sprint relegation by winning stage four in Romans-sur-Isere.
A three-man break was brought back only inside the final kilometre, but it did not deter Bouhanni who outsprinted Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal).
Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE), who finished fifth on the day, retained his yellow jersey once again.
Liverpool-born Irishman Matt Brammeier (Dimension Data) was one of the four riders to work their way into the day’s break.
Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie), Florian Vachon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Evaldas Siskevicius (Delko Marseille Provence KTM) ensured three of the four French UCI ProContinental teams were also represented in the break alongside him.
With Voeckler no stranger to a day’s breakaway, and Brammeier himself boasting quite an engine the gap went out beyond four minutes in no time at all but then held steady.
Etixx-QuickStep, Katusha, Cofidis and race leader Matthews’ Orica-GreenEDGE team all led the peloton behind them and as the gap dropped Voeckler struck out alone in typical fashion.
A crash brought down Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), while the sprinters also suffered – Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) losing contact at the back, alongside stage one winner Arnaud Demare (FDJ), while Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) suffered a mechanical.
Nathan Haas (Dimension Data) was the next to go down, over-cooking a corner and disappearing into a ditch to prove – even without the snow of stage three – the perils of pro racing.
Back at the front, a counter-attack by Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling), Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Delio Fernandez (Delko Marseille Provence KTM) set off in pursuit of Voeckler.
The trio caught and passed the Frenchman, with Katusha taking charge of the peloton behind – curtailing another counter-attack by Tim Wellens (Lotto-FixAll) and Lieuwe Westra (Astana).
Vanmarcke, Chavanel and Fernandez continued to hold a slender lead, however, which remained around the 15-second mark despite the peloton’s best efforts.
They still led under the flamme rouge, but the peloton were closing in fast – and it proved to be a case of late heartbreak for the escapees.
Instead, a bunch sprint ensued and Bouhanni – denied victory after his relegation on stage two – proved fastest, his win this time undoubted.
Paris-Nice 2016: stage four – result
1) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – Cofidis – 4.42.29hrs
2) Edward Theuns (BEL) – Trek-Segafredo – ST
3) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Soudal
4) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha
5) Michael Matthews (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
6) Ben Swift (GBR) – Team Sky
7) Nikolas Maes (BEL) – Etixx-QuickStep
8) Tony Gallopin (FRA) – Lotto-Soudal
9) Youcef Reguigui (ALG) – Dimension Data
10) Roy Curvers (NED) – Giant-Alpecin
1) Michael Matthews (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE – 14.24.15hrs
2) Tom Dumoulin (NED) – Giant-Alpecin +14”
3) Patrick Bevin (NZL) – Cannondale +19”
4) Ion Izagirre (ESP) – Movistar – ST
5) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky
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