Paris-Nice Stage 4: Courageous Kwiato Back in Yellow!
Etixx - Quick-Step rider Michal Kwiatkowski stayed with an elite group going into the Cat 1 summit finish of 204km Paris-Nice Stage 4 on Thursday, and took back the yellow jersey by finishing only 8" down in 3rd place to stage winner Richie Porte (Team Sky) and 2nd place finisher Geraint Thomas (Team Sky).
On the 10km, 6.7% Croix de Chaubouret summit finale Tony Martin and UCI World Road Champion Kwiatkowski remained in good position on the front, led by Michal Golas. A high pace set on the front from Team Sky shed riders all the way until the final kilometer, but Martin was able to stay with the group until 4.1km to go, and Kwiatkowski was constantly near the front anticipating attacks.
The first major attack was Thomas at 2.9km to go. He was eventually joined by Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Simon Spilak (Katusha). Kwiatkowski, Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team) and Porte were intent on getting back up to the leaders. Kwiatkowski, in a group of about 9 riders, accelerated with 1.4km to go, but both Porte and van Garderen stayed with the Polish rider.
Porte eventually took on the pursuit, with Kwiatkowski and van Garderen following. Porte then went over the top of the group once the three leaders were caught. Initially Kwiatkowski stayed on the wheel of Porte, but he eventually lost contact. Porte's teammate Thomas was the only rider able to stay with him until the finish.
As a result of the big effort from Kwiatkowski, he took back the race lead from Michal Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE), who lost contact with the peloton earlier in the stage. Kwiatkowski holds a 1" advantage over Porte, and a 3" advantage over Thomas. Kwiatkowski was only out of yellow for one stage so far after his prologue victory.
"For the first time in competition on a mountain stage I felt good, and wanted to try to stay in the select group and fight for the GC," Kwiatkowski said. "When Thomas went I was waiting for an action of Porte. When he first went in order to catch the three ahead I was with him. When he accelerated one last time to go over the top I tried to stay with him, but I couldn't really follow. Porte and Thomas were both strong today, but at the same time I think I had a strong performance. I finished 3rd, only 8 seconds down, and I am so happy to have regained the yellow jersey after this difficult finish. As for the next stages, tomorrow will not be as tough as today, but for sure the stage on Saturday will be another demanding day. I will do my best to defend my race leadership with the support of my teammates, who also did a good job taking care of me today going into the last climb."