Wiggins takes Paris-Nice lead
Mon, 05 Mar 16:15:00 2012
Crosswinds sorted the men from the boys and put the Team Sky rider in a group of 21 riders who crossed the line with a 2:29 lead over the peloton and helped Tom Boonen snatch his 100th career victory.
Wiggins now holds the yellow jersey with a six-second lead over American Levi Leipheimer while former world champion Boonen is third, a further second adrift.
"The objective is (the Tour de France in) July," Wiggins said.
"It may not be important for me to win Paris-Nice but it is for the team, to (see how we) defend the jersey. It's also good that the others see that I'm well.
"The test was today, you had to be there, have a bit of luck, stay out of trouble."
Wiggins is now setting his sights on Thursday's fifth stage ending with the demanding climb to Mende.
"It will be a race of truth," he said.
News : Paris Nice
There was no doubting his ambitions on the windswept roads to the Loire Valley as Wiggins even won the only intermediate sprint of the day to secure his overall lead.
The changing weather conditions - drizzle and hailstorms followed by sunny spells - accounted for a slow start in Mantes la Jolie outside Paris/ Hostilities started after the feeding zone at the halfway mark when Boonen's Omega Pharma team mates split the peloton.
The 21 riders to emerge included Wiggins, Leipheimer, Boonen and other favourites American Tejay Van Garderen and Spain's Alejandro Valverde.
They increased their lead steadily to nearly 2:30, a gap they maintained until the finish line.
His job done in the finale, Wiggins left the final say to the sprinters in the break and there were some topflight contenders with Boonen, Spaniard Jose Joaquin Rojas and Germany's John Degenkolb, who were second and third respectively.
Boonen's team mate Sylvain Chavanel, the French champion, led the way in the last two kilometres to avoid any last gasp attacks and set up the Belgian for the final surge.
The 31-year-old Boonen was not to be denied his sixth stage victory on Paris-Nice as he easily held off Rojas and Degenkolb to the line.
"It was not easy today with the crosswinds. It was a great battle. We rode at full speed all day with Sylvain (Chavanel) and Levi (Leipheimer). It's great to end a day like this with my 100th victory," Boonen told reporters.
Back in splendid form this season after winning the Tour of Qatar last month, Boonen will again be among the men to watch in Tuesday's 194 kms third stage between Vierzon and the Lake of Vassiviere.
News : Wiggins reac