On a day that had the potential to be one for the breakaway, it was no surprise to see De Marchi attacking early to form part of the day’s 13-rider breakaway that went clear just ten kilometers into the 212-kilometer course, the longest of the race.
The group’s advantage rose steadily going over the top of the first of five categorized climbs, the Côte de Cheval-Rigon, and it continued to extend out to almost seven minutes after around 100 kilometers of racing.
However, it was the final 60 kilometers of the day, which included the remaining four climbs, that would provide De Marchi with the opportunity to show his trademark grit and determination.
At the top of the Côte de Trevès, with just under 60 kilometers to go, the breakaway was sitting a little over three minutes ahead of the chasing peloton before, on the penultimate climb, the category one Côte de Condrieu, De Marchi attacked to draw a select group of seven out at the front of the race.
After going over the top of the Côte de Saint-Michel-Sur-Rhône, the race crossed the finish line for the first time to start a 20-kilometer long lap around Pélussin, which included the day’s final climb.
At this point, the leaders’ advantage was sitting at one minute 30 seconds and it looked like they might be caught by the bunch, however, as De Marchi continued to drive the pace, the gap stabilized at around 50 seconds.
The top of the Côte de Chavanay came with just over ten kilometers to go, but from there, it wasn’t a straightforward run into the finish with the road continuing to rise to the line and a tricky double bend in the final kilometer.
De Marchi was one of just four riders from the early breakaway that went on to battle for victory, and the quartet worked well together to hold off the chasing peloton.
In the end, an attack from Magnus Cort Nielsen going under the flamme rouge saw the Astana Pro Team rider go solo to take the stage with while, De Marchi dug deep, giving everything he had left to cross the line fourth.
Meanwhile, Amaro Antunes finished in the reduced main bunch that crossed the line 48 seconds behind the stage winner.
Quotes From the Finish Line
Alessandro De Marchi:
“This was the first stage that I knew I wanted to target coming into the race. I could see that on paper, it was the perfect stage for the breakaway and in the end, that’s what we saw. The parcours was hard and it was a good opportunity for me. I am happy to have been in each important move right up until the end. We went from 12 riders, to seven and then to the final four, and everything was going well. It was just about the legs in the final kilometers and honestly, I just didn’t have the legs to fight for the victory when Cort Neilsen, who is more of a sprinter, attacked. Maybe with a different finish, I could have had a nicer result.”
“Looking back at the stage now, I can say that my only mistake was probably not going really deep on the hardest climb when Cort Neilsen was dropped. But, it was still quite far from the finish and I didn’t know what the others guys could do also. Overall, I am happy because Paris – Nice is a really hard race. It’s a fast race, everyone is already in strong form. The fact that we were able to keep our 45-second advantage over the bunch at the end was also a good sign. Sometimes you win the race not by standing on the podium but by the feelings you have when you cross the line.”
Paris – Nice
Stage 4: Vichy > Pélussin (212km)
Top 3: 1. Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana Pro Team) 2. Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) 3. Giulio Ciccone (Trek – Segafredo)
CCC Team Top 3: 4. Alessandro De Marchi 29. Amaro Antunes 53. Laurens Ten Dam