Rémi Cavagna spends more than 150 kilometers in the break on the final day of the race.
Stage 4 of the Tour de la Provence rolled out from Avignon – the former trading post founded by the Greeks which in the 14th century was used as official residency by six popes, boasting at that times the largest library in Europe – and took the peloton to Aix-en-Provence, a city that has featured also on the Tour de France, first time in 1913, when Gustave Garrigou took the win after 325 kilometers in the saddle.
On Sunday, the riders had to cover only 162.2 kilometers, but the frantic pace and the numerous hills sprinkled over the route made up another tough day, one which Philippe Gilbert started by picking up three bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint. That was the cue for teammate Rémi Cavagna to attack and instigate a breakaway that ended up counting nine men, who worked well together and eked out a three-minute advantage.
In the run-in to La Cride (3.7km, 4.3%) – the day’s final ascent – Cavagna accelerated from the reduced front group and despite their gap having plummeted to 30 seconds, he put in a brave effort which forced the bunch to turn on the gas in order to bring him back. Over the top of the climb, a couple of riders, including Pieter Serry, tried their chance, but the sprinters’ teams were keen on seeing the stage come down to a bunch gallop and rode accordingly, nullifying the moves with two kilometres to go.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step placed two riders, Yves Lampaert (6th) and Philippe Gilbert (8th), in the top 10 of the sprint won by John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and was represented by the same Gilbert in the upper echelon of the general classification. Tenth thanks to the bonifications notched up early on the stage, the 2012 World Champion finished in the top 10 overall of a stage race for the 35th time in his career, a performance only nine other active riders have achieved.
Sports director Brian Holm was satisfied with how the week went for Deceuninck – Quick-Step in the team’s first European race of the season: “We started with a solid prologue, where we had three riders in the top 10, were active in the break with the likes of Kasper and Rémi, and had Philippe take a stage victory and finish today tenth in the rankings, so we can be happy, it’s been a good week all-around. These results will give us all more confidence for our next appointments, starting with Algarve, next week.”
Photo credit: ©Luc Claessen/ Getty Images