Michael Albasini Wins at Paris-NiceFri 8 Mar 2013
Michael Albasini sprinted to victory on stage four of Paris-Nice. Part of a small group that formed on the descent of the final categorised climb, the Swiss rouleur perfectly timed his acceleration to take his 25th professional victory, the eighth win of the season for ORICA-GreenEDGE.
“I actually wasn’t sure of my condition when I came here,” admitted Albasini. “I was feeling good, but we couldn’t race Lugano and my last race before that was three weeks ago last Wednesday. Without racing, it’s hard to understand what’s going on with your body. I’m super happy to start the season with an early, important win. I’m a bit surprised, too.”
“It’s even nicer to win on a day when we also won with [Matt] Goss in Tirreno,” Albasini added. “It’s really perfect. It’s important to keep the wins going like we did last year.”
A frenzied first hour of racing eventually saw the formation of a seven rider breakaway. Michael Morkov (Saxo-Tinkoff), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Johann Tschopp (IAM), Warren Barguil (Argos-Shimano), Romain Sicard (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Hubert Dupont (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) solidified their advantage after the first two of seven categorised climbs. With the day’s break established, Garmin-Sharp assumed responsibility for setting tempo at the front of the bunch.
“It certainly was not an easy day today,” said Sport Director Laurenzo Lapage. “In the overall classification, the time splits are not very big for the top ten, so the teams with an interest in the overall are still fighting on every stage. We attempted to get into a certain breakaway, but the peloton didn’t allow it. When the break went and we weren’t in the move, we knew it was important to have numbers over the last two climbs.”
With assistance from BMC, Omega Pharma-QuickStep and Astana, the field reeled in the breakaway riders ahead of the last ascent. BMC put pressure on the pack, and the injection of speed caused splits in the peloton up the climb. A 30-rider front group formed on the final descent. Alongside Albasini, Jens Keukeleire had made the split.
“We don’t need to put pressure on a guy like Alba [Albasini] in a stage like this,” said Lapage. “We can count on him to do well if he’s there. Everyone knows when it comes to a small group in the finish, Albasini is one of the strongest. Alba spoke with Jens. He told Jens he had the legs for the win, and Jens was able to help him.”
“At first I thought I would try to get Jens up there in the sprint,” added Albasini. “Then, the attacks started. As I covered them, I knew I had a chance for the finish.”
A series of small attacks, all neutralised, kept the pace high as the reduced front group barrelled towards the finish.
“At the end, there was a roundabout 500 metres or so from the finish,” noted Albasini. “There were two guys about 50 metres ahead at the point. They started sprinting, and I knew I had to go. If I didn’t, it would have been too late. I opened my sprint and went full gas. Once I overtook them, I was able to maintain control all the way to the line.
“It was a long sprint,” he noted. “But it worked out in the end.”