Wout Poels (Team Sky) claimed victory on the stage 4 time trial of Paris-Nice to move within striking distance of the yellow jersey, which remains on the shoulders of Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana Pro Team).
The 18.4km test from La Fouillouse to Saint-Étienne was not a straightforward one, but Poels made light work of the hilly course to take the stage win, 11 seconds ahead of Marc Soler (Movistar Team), while Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) recovered well from a misjudged corner on the final descent to place third, 16 seconds down.
Sanchez, the day’s final starter, produced a solid ride to place seventh, 28 seconds down on Poels, though his overall lead has been reduced to just 15 seconds as Poels moves up into second place. Alaphilippe’s general classification challenge remains resolutely intact, and he lies third overall, 26 seconds down on Sanchez, and just ahead of Soler.
“It was quite a hard time trial, especially in the beginning with the uphill and at the end the little short peak. It was a really hard TT, but really good for me,” said Poels, whose victory comes amid an especially trying week for his Sky team, whose practices were called in question by the parliamentary select committee report on doping in British sport published on Monday.
“I’m focused on racing. Of course I support Dave [Brailsford] and the team,” Poels said when asked for his opinion on the matter after the stage.
Poels set out his stall over the opening part of the course, as he recorded the quickest time led through the first time check after 8 kilometres, following the steady climb towards Saint-Heand. The Dutchman was 12 seconds ahead of Felix Grossschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe) and 14 clear of Soler at that point, and he negotiated the final part of the course well to seal stage victory.
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