Izagirre finishes 9th in Madone d'Utelle, now sixth in Paris-Nice GC before tomorrow's showdown; Moreno makes final splits in Foligno's chaotic finish, claims 4th on Tirreno stage four - racing cancelled for Sunday
Geraint Thomas, Contador, Zakarin, Porte, Tom Dumoulin… and Ion Izagirre. Several of the names who have written history on Grand Tours during the last few years are the only riders ahead of Ion Izagirre in the overall classification of Paris-Nice, just one day -an explosive (134km), unpredictable one- away from the end of the ‘Course to the Sun’.
The Queen stage on French soil – 177km without a single meter of flat, which was still covered at an average exceeding 41kph – left suffering for pretty much everyone: from former leader Michael Matthews (OGE), dropped back as Sky put an immense pace into the ascent towards Duranus (Cat-2), to Ion himself, losing some meters on the tail of the favourites’ group when Rafal Majka (TNK) picked up the pace to prepare an attack from his team leader. Supported until the Madone climb by Erviti, Jesús Herrada, Rubén Fernández, José Herrada and older brother Gorka, the younger of the Ormaiztegi saga bounced back to keep chasing relentlessly, as an acceleration by Contador, Henao and Thomas took him down to the second echelon of favourites.
Ion eventually crossed the line in 9th spot, 31” behind winner Ilnur Zakarin (KAT), and sits now 17” away from the coveted top-3 overall, in a race that will decide, as many other times before in the last decade, at the ascent and tricky downhill of the Col d’Eze (Cat-1), the last obstacle before the prestigious Promenade des Anglais.
Tirreno: Moreno surges from chaos… before weather chaos takes Sunday’s racing down
Over in Italy, the Movistar Team was particularly active during stage four of Tirrneo-Adriatico, sort of a final rehearsal before next Saturday’s Milano-Sanremo over 222km towards a final circuit in Foligno. The riders directed by Jaimerena and Chente put much energy on the table to pick up the pace into the bunch, with Oliveira, Amador and Dowsett chasing down the day’s early break and freeing pressure out of his team-mates. This attitude would led to two moves from the Blues: Giovanni Visconti’s, into the descent following the last climb of Montefalco, 15km from the finish, and Dani Moreno’s, already into the flat run-in towards the finish, 4k from the end.
Moreno reached the leading break as Stephen Cummings (DDD) jumped away to take the victory, the Spaniard finishing in fourth place at 13”, into the pursuit group’s sprint. The GC remains otherwise unchanged and will unfortunately continue so until Monday: snow covering the course, bad weather forecast and unavailability for an alternative schedule forced the organisers to communicate, this very evening, that tomorrow’s stage five towards Monte San Vicino would be cancelled. The race will resume on Monday, with a 210km flat course to Cepagatti.