Brave ride in yellow on Paris-Nice queen stage

Thu 12 Mar 2015

After a textbook display to claim the stage and yellow jersey yesterday, Michael Matthews and ORICA-GreenEDGE put in another solid team performance in its defence on stage four of Paris-Nice today.

Despite starting the day with grand ambitions, Matthews was up against it on the Tour’s queen stage as the general classification riders lined up for their spoils.

Australian Richie Porte (Team Sky) won the stage whilst Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx – Quickstep) finished third to reclaim the leader’s jersey from Matthews.

“We had no other choice, we had to try to keep the jersey and the boys all did a good job to try that,” sport director Laurenzo Lapage said.

“Bling (Matthews) also tried really hard to fight on, but the climb was just too tough.”

ORICA-GreenEDGE rode the front of the peloton to keep the day’s break in check and as the peloton reach the final decisive climb, the Australian outfit still had three representatives, Matthews, general classification hope Simon Yates, and mountains workhorse Simon Clarke in the front group.

As Matthews began to lose contact with six kilometres remaining, Clarke attempted to assist as Yates continued with the job in the front group.

Eventually the intensity of the pace set by Team Sky was too much for Yates, who began to drop with three kilometres remaining. The 22-year-old finished 39th on the stage, three minutes three seconds behind Porte. Clarke and Matthews finished 77th and 78th respectively.

“We knew at this level that it was not going to be easy,” Lapage said of Yates’ general classification battle.

“His ride was good but not spectacular and you cannot expect that from someone who was sick three days before.”

The difficult 204km stage four from Varennes-sur-Allier featured no fewer than eight classified climbs – five category three, two category two and culminating with the category one finish atop Croix de Chaubouret.

The first breakaway attempt faced no resistance as Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Chris Anker Sorensen (Tinkoff - Saxo) and Antoine Duchesne (Team Europcar) moved away from the pack. 

After 50km of racing, the trio had eight minutes advantage and yesterday’s famous ORICA-GreenEDGE train was back in the front, this time with Matthews in yellow towards its rear.

As the breakaway entered the final 70km, the business end of the stage containing six of the eight climbs, the general classification teams started moving to the front.  First it was the Astana Pro Team who joined the Australian outfit, followed by Ag2r La Mondiale.

Gradually the peloton reduced from the back and those remaining finally made the catch to the two remaining escapees with 13km to go, just ahead of the decisive final climb. 

Astana were the first to send a solo attack up the road on the final climb but Team Sky hit the front and their fierce paces saw riders drop like flies from the back.

After a series of attacks and regroups, the stage concluded with a dominant Team Sky performance, who took out first and second with Porte and Geraint Thomas.