1. Alberto Contador (Spain, Astana)
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spain, Caisse dâ€™Epargne) 10 seconds behind
3. Samuel Sanchez (Spain, Euskaltel) 10 secs
4. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spain, Katusha) 12 secs
5. Thomas Voeckler (Fra, Bbox) 18 secs
Alberto Contador (Astana) won the 4th stage and took the race leader’s yellow jersey.
The front of the race are tackling the last climb. All the favourites are together.
Results at the top of the Cote de Chabrits (km 166)
1. Brice Feillu (Vacansoleil) 7 points
2. Daniel Navarro (Astana) 5 pts
3. Xavier Tondo (Cervelo) 3 pts
4. Alberto Contador (Astana) 2 pts
5. David Lopez Garcia (Caisse dâ€™Epargne) 1 pt
Laurent Mangel (Saur Sojasun), the polka-dot jersey holder, has been droped by the peloton.
Rolland has been caught and Brice Feillu attacks in turn.
One kilometre from the top of the Cote de Chabrits, Rolland leads the main pack by 9 seconds.
Pierre Rolland (BBOx), injured in a crash earlier on this Paris-Nice, attacks in the Cote de Chabrits.
The peloton have regrouped and all the favourites are tackling the penultimate climb, the Cote de Chabrits, with 10 kms to go.
11 kms to go and the break is over.
As the race tackles the penultimate climb, the Cote de Chabrits (km 164), the peloton are on the heels of the breakaway. Several riders are being dropped from the back.
The peloton’s tempo raises again as Team HTC Columbia seize the reins to set the stage for Tony Martin.
... and the lead is down to 45 seconds as the Lampre and Cervelo teams have taken the baton from the Astana.
... and the lead of Jerome Pineau (Quick Step), Amael Moinard (Cofidis), Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel), Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil) Jean-Marc Marino (Saur Sojasun), Albert Timmer (Skil Shimano) and Julien Loubet (AG2R) is now only 1:20.
The seven escapees rode past the 25-kms mark with a 2:10 lead over the peloton.
Km 142 â€“ Astana keep leading the chase and the gap goes down regularly and is now 2:45.
AG2R team director Julien Jurdie said his team had two cards to play in this stage, Julien Loubet, currently in the leading group, or Nicolas Roche if the peloton made it back on the break: â€śJulien Loubet is a good climber and he could play his own card if the break should go ahead but if it didnâ€™t, there is also a great team to help Nicolas Roche in the finale. We told Nicolas not to try to follow Alberto Contador in the last climb, not to fire all his bullets to soon. Contadorâ€™s acceleration is deadly and itâ€™s useless trying to follow him only to crack a few hundred metres later. But Nicolas has the means to do a great climb,â€ť he told France Television.
Astana team manager Yvon Sanquet told www.letour.fr Alberto Contador was ready for one the key moments in this Paris-Nice: â€śHeâ€™s very focused on his goal. The aim is to get to the foot of the hill in the best conditions before the final showdown. Itâ€™s a short but hard climb and a perfect terrain for a great sporting battle. Itâ€™s obviously a turning point of the race. There are other riders to watch like Jens Voigt, who is always in great shape early in the season, and the two Liquigas riders, especially Peter Sagan, who is the race sensation. But Caisse dâ€™Epargne cannot be counted out either.â€ť
Km 127 - Team Astana have taken over from Saxo Bank at the front of the peloton, who trail the seven escapees by four minutes.
The only stage finish in Mende on Paris-Nice was in 2007 when Alberto Contador won on the Croix Neuve. On the Tour de France, Laurent Jalabert won in 1995 and Spainâ€™s Marcos Serrano in 2005.
The average speed in the third hour of the stage was 34.6 kph for an overall average speed of 38.4 kph.
The main bunch are 2:35 behind the seven escapees at the top of the Col de la Crouzette.
Results at the top of the Col de la Crouzette (3rd cat, km 113.5)
1. Moinard 4 pts
2. Marino 2 pts
3. Nieve 1 pt
At the sprint in St Geniez d’Olt (km 106), the lead of Jerome Pineau (Quick Step), Amael Moinard (Cofidis), Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel), Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil) Jean-Marc Marino (Saur Sojasun), Albert Timmer (Skil Shimano) and Julien Loubet (AG2R) over the peloton was 3:45.
Results in the first intermediate sprint in St Geniez dâ€™Olt (km 106):
1. Timmer 3 secs, 3 pts
2. Pineau 2 secs, 2 pts
3. Moinard 1 sec, 1 pt
France has the most riders in the race (47), ahead of Spain (24) and Belgians (14)
47 : France
24 : Spain (25 at the start. Novoa Menedez -CTT- gave up stage 3)
14 : Netherlands and Belgium (16 at the start, Steegmans -RSH- gave up in prologue ; Van Impe -QST- gave up in stage 4)
12 : Italy (13 at start, Ponzi -LAM- and Napolitano -KAT- did not start stage 2)
7 : United States
6 : Russia
5 : Australia
4 : Britain, Slovenia (5 at the start, Bole -LAM- did not start stage 3), Germany (6 at the start, Sieberg -HTC- gave up in stage 3 ; Haussler -CTT- gave up in stage 4)
3 : Canada, Denmark, Ukraine
2 : Ireland, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg
1 : Argentina, Belarus, Colombia, Estonia, Finland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Switzerland, Sweden (2 at the sartt, Kessiakoff -GRM- gave up in stage 1), New Zealand (2 at the start, Roulston -HTC- gave up stage 2)
Km 94.5 : The peloton are 3:50 behind the seven escapees at the top of the Cote de Lassouts.
Results in the Cote de Lassouts (km 94.5, 3rd cat)
1. Marino 4 points
2. Moinard 2
3. Nieve 1
Cofidis team director Francis Van Londerseele told www.letour.fr Amael Moinard was only taking part in the dayâ€™s break with the mountains classification in sight: â€śIt was important to have someone in the break today as we knew it would be a break with several riders and not a break with only a couple of escapees. We had not necessarily thought it would be Amael but itâ€™s him and thatâ€™s fine. Iâ€™m not too optimistic about the chances of this break because the Saxo Bank are controlling the race well and if they didnâ€™t, the Astana would take over. Iâ€™m convinced the break will disintegrate but our goal is to score points for the mountains classification.â€ť
The average speed in the second hour of the stage was 42.8 kph for an overall speed of 40.3 kph.
Km 78 â€“ Jerome Pineau (Quick Step), Amael Moinard (Cofidis), Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel), Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil) Jean-Marc Marino (Saur Sojasun), Albert Timmer (Skil Shimano) and Julien Loubet (AG2R) now lead the peloton by 3:40
Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil) has been doing alright on this Paris-Nice so far, finishing 8th in the first stage and 10th in yesterdayâ€™s stage in Aurillac.
Km 65 â€“ The lead goes down slightly â€“ 4:05.
Daily Le Parisien-Aujourdhui carries the following horoscope for Alberto Contador, who is Sagittarius : â€śYou will be more focused than usual on you activities. Form: good.
Jerome Pineau, the man who launched todayâ€™s move, finished second once and third twice on Paris-Nice stages in the past. Can the Quick Step rider do just a little bit better today?
At the top of the Cote de Montsalvy, the seven escapees led the bunch by 4:30.
Results at the top of the Cote de Montsalvy (km 40):
1. Moinard 7 pts
2. Marino 5
3. Nieve 3
4. Loubet 2
5. Marcato 1
The average speed in the first hour of the stage was 37.8 kph.
Km 35 - The latest gap between the seven escapees and the bunch is 4:05.
Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo) has given up.
Km 20 - Jerome Pineau (Quick Step), Amael Moinard (Cofidis), Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel), Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil), Jean-Marc Marino (Saur Sojasun), Albert Timmer (Skil Shimano) and Julien Loubet (AG2R) now lead the bunch by 3:15.
Km 18 - The seven escapees now lead the peloton by 2:45. The main pack has relaxed a bit, content with letting the break go ahead for the time being.
The Saxo Bank team-mates of race leader’s Jens Voigt are taking the reins of the peloton.
Km 13 - The seven in he front lead the bunch by 50 seconds.
Kevin Van Impe (Quick Step) just called it quits.
Km 12 - The six catch Pineau. Seven riders are in the lead with a 30 seconds lead over the peloton.
Jerome Pineau (Quick Step) is now alone in the front. He is chased by six riders
Amael Moinard (Cofidis), Mikel Nieve (Esuklatel), Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil) Jean-Marc Marino (Saur Sijasun), Albert Timmer (Skil Shimano) and Julien Loubet (AG2R)
Km 10 - There is no stopping Albert Timmer. The Dutchman attacks again.
Km 9.5 - The peloton catches the escapees.
Km 9 - Albert Timmer (Skil Shimano) and David Le Lay (AG2R) have joined Popovych and Verdugo in the break. It is the third day that Timmer takes part in a breakaway.
Km 6 - Two riders part company with the bunch, Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack) and Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel).
Km 3.5 - Several attempts are taking place at the front of the bunch, unsuccessfully for now.
www.letour.fr wishes a happy birthday to Astana team director Giuseppe Martinelli, who is 55 today. Victory by Alberto Contador would be a nice birthday present.
The start was given at 11:41 to 168 riders.
In lâ€™Equipe, yellow jersey holder Jens Voigt, 38, suggested the organisers create a â€śgrey jerseyâ€ť for the best old rider: â€śWhy not when there is a white jersey for the young riders?â€ť he said.
In local weekly La Lozere nouvelle, Benoit Malaval, organiser of the Tour du Gevaudan, said he believed in the chances of French time trial champion Jean-Christophe Peraud: â€śIn the French camp, the surprise could come from Jean-Christophe Peraud, the new recruit of Belgian Omega Pharma Lotto. In the Tour of Algarve, in Portugal, he attacked with Contador. Heâ€™s not impressed. On a finish likle Mendeâ€™s, he can really be with the best."
Alberto Contadorâ€™s press release about yesterdayâ€™s stage :
â€śThe legs are responding pretty well for the time being and we hope that tomorrow theyâ€™ll do well, too,â€ť said Alberto, referring to the arrival at Mende.
â€śMore than for having a go, it was to keep from losing time,â€ť he explained about his performance today. â€śI was able to stay at the front, but in the sprint I just touched a rider from Columbia (Tony Martin) and had to drag my foot on the road until I got it back on the pedal. I hope that those seconds that I lost get worked out,â€ť he said.
Alejandro Valverde on the Team Caisse dâ€™Epargne website :
â€śThe idea was to take advantage of the climb three kilometres from the finish but we were unable to achive our goal. On top of being badly placed at the foot iof the hill coming from a wide road going slightly downhill, I was not feeling as good as I should have to in a position to bridge the gap.
â€śIâ€™m really sorry I was not able to take advantage of the formidable work by my team-mates all day and I hope to feel better tomorrow (today) for a potentially decisive stage.â€ť
Director Dirk Demol on the Team RadioShack webiste, â€śAlberto Contador showed today that he is the man to watch. He took a few seconds, which is not so important, but he showed again that he has an acceleration no one else has. Tomorrow will be the important day. Levi and Jani look very strong. We are confident. The team works hard for them.â€ť
Km 40 â€“ Cote de Montsalvy (2nd cat)
Km 94.5 â€“ Cote de Lassouts (3rd cat
Km 113.5 â€“ Cote de la Crouzette (3rd cat)
Km 166 â€“ Cote de Chabrits (2nd cat)
Km 173.5 â€“ La Croix Neuve â€“ Laurent Jalabert climb (1st cat)
Km 106 â€“ St Geniez dâ€™Olt
Km 170.5 â€“ Mende.
Maurs was the start of two previous Paris-Nice stages, in 1996 when Laurent Jalabet won in Millau, and in 2007 when Alberto Contador won a similar stage to todayâ€™s in Mende.
Germanyâ€™s Jens Voigt (Team Saxo Bank) took the yellow jersey off Dutchman Lars Boom. The oldest rider in the bunch leads the youngest, Slovak Peter Sargan, by six seconds. Title holder Luis-Leon Sanchez retained third place, nine seconds adrift.
The green jersey is now on the back of Sagan, who finished three times in the top five in four stages including the prologue. Sagan has 63 points, eight more than Voigt while Sanchez is third on 40 points.
Sagan also holds the youngest riderâ€™s white jersey ahead of his team leader Roman Kreuziger of the Czech Republic and Lars Boom.
Francesâ€™ Laurent Mangel retained his polka-dot jersey with 18 points, followed by Yann Huguet who collected 14 points in his long breakaway.
Liquigas Domo leads the teamâ€™s classification.
Welcome on the 173.5-kms 4th stage of Paris-Nice between Maurs and Mende. Stay tuned to www.letour.fr