The German rider moved into the lead of the classification after his strong breakaway performance on stage two and with no one threatening his position on the following two days, crossing the line safely as part of the main bunch in Aix-en-Provence was enough to secure the title.
Earlier in the day, a chaotic start to the 170.5-kilometer stage saw multiple unsuccessful breakaway attempts and some potentially dangerous splits in the bunch before finally, after one categorized climb and a little under 60 kilometers of racing, a four-rider group went clear.
The group’s advantage continued to grow going on the slopes of the day’s only category one climb, the Col de l’Aire de Masco, and approaching the 30-kilometer to go mark, it was still sitting at over four minutes 30 seconds.
If the peloton has any chance of catching the breakaway, they had to pick up the pace and so, as the leaders reached the top of the third and final categorized climb, the Côte de la Cride, their advantage was down to less than one minute.
With just 15 kilometers to go, an exciting race to the line began and. as a result of the further increase in pace, the peloton was whittled down with Koch and Fausto Masnada, who have both been racing well in France this week, the two CCC Team riders able to maintain their position in the first chasing group.
The breakaway was mere seconds in front of the charging main bunch as the finish line came into view but, in the end, they had just enough time in hand to battle for the stage win with Owain Doull (Team Ineos) taking the honors.
Koch was CCC Team’s first rider across the line, finishing just outside the top ten in 13th place and securing the win in the King of the Mountain Classification. At the same time, Masnada also came home safely in the group to claim 12th place on the General Classification, won by Nairo Quintana (Arkea – Samsic).
Quotes From the Finish Line
“I am happy to win my first King of the Mountain jersey and I am pleased that all of my effort and hard work on stage two was rewarded at the end. These two races in France have been a good way to start my season. I have felt like the shape is there and my base level is good but, I still have work to do and I feel like I can improve ahead of my next races.
Today’s stage was a really tough stage and it was a crazy start with the first categorized climb after 20 kilometers and so, everybody wanted to be in the move. The breakaway went clear really late so for the first 50 kilometers, we were going full gas. We tried to be in the move and Will Barta jumped a lot of times but, in the end, it wasn’t meant to be for us and the four guys went up the road.
Even after the breakaway was formed, the pace was still high and on the last climb, we were again going full gas trying to catch the leaders. I managed to be there and stick with the main chasing group but, in the sprint, I was not super happy. I was hoping to do a good result but, it wasn’t my day. It was really close at the end and we could see them in the last kilometer but, it was downhill so it was super fast and hectic and in the end, we weren’t able to close the gap.”
“I want to stay thank you to the guys for all of their work. Everybody did their job well especially Fausto, who was really helping me in the final in case of the chance to do something in a bunch sprint.”
Sports Director, Gabriele Missaglia:
“Overall, while we didn’t get a big result at this race, I am happy with the performance of our guys. Jonas Koch finished the race as the winner of the King of the Mountain Classification, our third of the season, and then we also had a good result on stage one with Jakub Mareczko finishing second and really looking strong in the sprint.”
“Today was a really hard day with the pace very fast immediately after the flag dropped. We wanted to try to do something and we were hoping that Jonas could do something in any potential bunch sprint but, unfortunately, in the end, the late breakaway was never caught. It was a very close finish with just a handful of seconds separating the escapees from the main bunch on the finishing straight.”
“When teams started to really push to try to catch the breakaway, we had only Jonas and Fausto Masnada there but, I am happy that both of these guys were able to stay up there even though it was a hard stage with a lot of stress. The start list of this race was a really strong so I think, to be able to compete at that level, as we saw all of our young guys do, at this point in the season is good.”
Tour de la Provence
Stage 4: Avignon > Aix-en-Provence (170.5km)
Top 3: 1. Owain Doull (Team Ineos) 2. Matthias Brändle (Israel Start-Up Nation) 3. Ian Garrison (Deceuninck-Quick Step)
CCC Team Top 3: 13. Jonas Koch 36. Fausto Masnada 74. Attila Valter
Top 3 on GC: 1. Nairo Quintana (Arkea – Samsic) 2. Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana Pro Team) 3. Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Pro Team)
CCC Team Top 3 on GC: 12. Fausto Masnada 28. Attila Valter 48. Jan Hirt