Meersman Wins Sprint, Wiggins Keeps Yellow in Paris-Nice Stage Four

March 7, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Gianni Meersman (C) sprints to victory in Stage Four of the Paris-Nice cycling race. (Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images)
Gianni Meersman (C) sprints to victory in Stage Four of the Paris-Nice cycling race. (Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images)

Lotto-Belisol’s Gianni Meersman won the uphill sprint to win Stage Four of Paris-Nice, beating Lampre’s Grega Bole and Vacansoleil’s Lieuwe Westra, while Sky’s Bradley Wiggins fought hard to stay in the top ten and protect his yellow jersey.

“I was third yesterday, and today the team worked all day. That gave me confidence and I’m really glad there was a victory,” Meersman told cyclingnews.com. “Today I was fast but I’m just happy I could win, and I’m happy with the victory.

“We had a little roundabout with roughly 200 meters to go and I was in fifth position. I thought I was too far back and I was waiting and waiting and then I sprinted.”

Stage Four, 183 km from Brvie La Gaillarde to Rodez, featured five categorized climbs, but nothing even mildly troubling to the leaders, though some riders who were not on form or suffering illnesses (bronchitis and stomach flu seem to be common) fell off the back.

Expected attacks from the General Classification leaders never materialized—or were never allowed to. Omega Pharma-Quickstep set a very high pace at the end, and Movistar kept Alejandro Valverde in striking range, but the terrain simply wasn’t tough enough to slow Wiggins.

An early five-rider break lasted until 20 km from the finish line. Seven km later, Vacansoleil’s Thomas de Gendt launched a late charge, trying to capture King of the Mountains points; he stayed away for six or seven kilometers but faded.

Andreas Klöden of RadioShack-Nissan, who lost his chance at an overall win when he missed the break in Stage Two, took a shot at a stage win, attacking three km from the line, but he was swallowed up in the final kilometer.

Movistar, led by José Joaquin Rojas, set a huge pace over the final few kilometers, perhaps hoping to tire the pure sprinters and give Valverde a shot at a second stage win and the bonus points, but the field hung tough.

Bradley Wiggins could be seen working hard to stay near the front as the sprinters fought for position; he wasn’t going to let a rival gain even a second on him. Despite Wiggins saying after Stage Three that he was willing to give up the yellow jersey, it was clear that he wasn’t going to give it up easily.

Lampre’s Greg Bole started the sprint, but Gianni Meersman, who finished third in yesterday’s uphill sprint, got his timing right today and pulled ahead in the final 50 meters to take the stage.

GC is unchanged with Wiggins leading Levi Leipheimer by six seconds and Tejay Van Garderen by 11.

Stage Five, 178 km from Onet-le-Château to Mende, is the first really steep stage of the race, with six categorized climbs including a 3-km, 10-percent-grade mountaintop finish. This stage offers the best chance for Wiggins’ rivals to gain a few seconds back.

It is a tough choice. The way Wiggins is riding, it could be equally dangerous to burn out one’s legs attacking futilely in Stage Five as to gamble everything on the Stage Eight uphill time trial.

2012 Paris-Nice Stage Four

 

Rider

Team

Time

1

Gianni Meersman

Lotto Belisol

4:21:01

2

Grega Bole

Lampre-ISD

 

3

Lieuwe Westra

Vacansoleil

 

4

Xavier Florencio

Katusha

 

5

Jonathan Hivert

Saur-Sojasun

 

6

Simon Geschke

Project 1t4i

 

7

Nicolas Roche

Ag2r-La Mondiale

 

8

Alejandro Valverde

Movistar

 

9

Francesco Gavazzi

Astana

 

10

Bradley Wiggins

Sky

 

General Classification after Stage Four

1

Bradley Wiggins

Sky

13h:30:52

2

Levi Leipheimer

Omega Pharma-QuickStep

0:00:06

3

Tejay Van Garderen

BMC

0:00:11

4

Sylvain Chavanel

Omega Pharma-QuickStep

0:00:14

5

Maxime Monfort

RadioShack-Nissan

0:00:18

6

Lieuwe Westra

Vacansoleil

0:00:18

7

Alejandro Valverde

Movistar

0:00:20

8

Jose Joaquin Rojas

Movistar

0:00:29

9

Simon Spilak

Katusha

0:00:33

10

Robert Kiserlovski

Astana

0:00:36

 

2012 Paris-Nice Stage Four

 
Rider
Team
Time
1
Gianni Meersman
Lotto Belisol
4:21:01

2

Greg Bole

Lampre-ISD

 

3

Lieuwe Westra

Vacansoleil

 

4

Xavier Florencio

Katusha

 

5

Jonathan Hivert

Saur-Sojasun

 

6

Simon Geschke

Project 1t4i

 

7

Nicolas Roche

Ag2r-La Mondiale

 

8

Alejandro Valverde

Movistar

 

9

Francesco Gavazzi

Astana

 

10

Bradley Wiggins

Sky

 

General Classification after Stage Four

1
Bradley Wiggins
Sky
13h:30:52

2

Levi Leipheimer

Omega Pharma-QuickStep

0:00:06

3

Tejay Van Garderen

BMC

0:00:11

4

Sylvain Chavanel

Omega Pharma-QuickStep

0:00:14

5

Maxime Monfort

RadioShack-Nissan

0:00:18

6

Lieuwe Westra

Vacansoleil

0:00:18

7

Alejandro Valverde

Movistar

0:00:20

8

Jose Joaquin Rojas

Movistar

0:00:29

9

Simon Spilak

Katusha

0:00:33

10

Robert Kiserlovski

Astana

0:00:36