Maes comes 7th in Paris-Nice
Riding "The Race to the Sun" for the seventh consecutive year, the Belgian notched his first top 10 of the season.
Matthew Brammeier (Dimension Data), Evaldas Siskevicius (Delko Marseille Provence), Florian Vachon (Fortuneo Vital Concept) and Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) felt in the mood to go into the break on Thursday's stage 4 of Paris-Nice (Juliénas – Romans-sur-Isère, 193.5 km), and opened a 5-minute gap, which helped them stay in the lead until after the last climb of the day. On that ascent, some of the teams came at the front and rode full gas, not only to make sure they'll catch the escapees, but also to drop the sprinters, and their plan succeeded, as Marcel Kittel and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) were among those to lose contact.
After the group was caught, three other riders tried their hand, but they too were reabsorbed. In the last 300 meters, Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) was the first to open the sprint, but Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) proved stronger and took the win, ahead of the Belgian and André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal). Nikolas Maes was the Etixx – Quick-Step rider to get involved in the finale, where he managed to put in a solid sprint, which eventually helped him come home 7th, a result which proves the good condition of the 29-year-old ahead of the big appointments of this season.
On Friday, the race will head to the mountains for a 198-km long stage between Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux and Salon-de-Provence, which will put on the table five categorized climbs: Col de la Madeleine, Chalet Reynard, Col du Pointu, Côte de la Roque d'Anthéron and Col de Séze. From the top of the last one there's only 30 kilometers left, on flat and fast roads.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele