Søren Kragh Andersen caught all the time trial favourites off-guard on stage four of Paris-Nice 2020 to take the stage.
The Danish Sunweb rider stormed his way around the second half of the 15km course in Saint-Amand-Montrond to beat the likes of Victor Campenaerts, Kasper Asgreen and race leader Max Schachmann to stage honours.
Bora-Hansgrohe‘s Schachmann fired around the testing and technical course with enough power finish second on the day and extend his general classification lead by a considerable margin over the race favourites, with the mountain stages fast approaching.
How it happened
Stage four’s time trial in the 2020 Paris-Nice looked to be the first time we’d see the general classification develop, after the opening days in the crosswinds had kept the race wildly unpredictable.
The 15.1km course around Saint-Amand-Montrond, birthplace of Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), featured two short but noteworthy climbs in the technical and winding opening 10km, before a fast closing section to the line.
Early in the day, it was Lotto-Soudal’s Thomas De Gendt who set the benchmark time, showing his ever-consistent form in the solo tests.
The Belgian set the fastest time at the intermediate time check 7km into the course and crossed the line a time of 19-04, clocking an average speed of 47.517km/h.
Next on the list of potential stage winners was World Hour Record holder Victor Campenaerts (NTT Pro Cycling), but he trailed his compatriot De Gendt at the 7km mark and eventually crossed the line four seconds down on De Gendt.
Bahrain-McLaren’s Pello Bilbao looked surprisingly strong out on the course, setting a new fastest time at the intermediate check, but eventually fading to cross just two seconds down on the provisional leader.
Kasper Asgreen (Quick-Step), fresh from victory in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, was next to smash the course, setting the fourth fastest time at 7km but then pulling back an advantage on the closing half of the course.
The Dane sprinted for the line and stole the race lead by just .8 of a second, finally knocking De Gendt out of the hot seat with a time of 19-03
Despite being among the favourites for the stage, Alaphilippe was off the pace for his ride.
While the Frenchman matched Asgreen’s time at the mid-way point, he began to slip back on the second half, setting the 11th fastest provisional time, 24 seconds down his team-mate.
It was another Dane who put in a staggering ride to knock Asgreen out of the number one spot, as Søren Kragh Andersen blasted the leading time by 12 seconds, finishing in 18-51.
The 25-year-old had done enough to secure the stage and even move up into second overall.
As we moved into the general classification contenders, Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) finished 51 and 50 seconds respectively down on the stage winner, leaving them both outside of the top-10 on GC as they lost time to Schachmann. Quintana now sits 25th overall, 2-38 down on the leader while Pinot is 14th at 1-30.
Sergio Higuita (EF Pro Cycling) put in a formidable performance for a small climber, finishing 24th on the stage, 46 seconds off the pace, but maintaining his fifth place overall as he now sits 1-06 behind Schachmann.
Meanwhile, Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) lost two places overall after he finished two seconds slower than Quintana on the stage.
But it was Schachmann who stood out among the race favourites, as he was by far the fastest GC rider and has now extended his race lead to 58 seconds, with Higuita now his nearest overall rival.
Paris-Nice 2020, stage four: Saint-Amand-Montrond to Saint-Amand-Montrond (15.1km ITT)
1. Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Sunweb, in 18-51
2. Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 6s
3. Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 12s
4. Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at 13s
5. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, at 15s
6. Victor Campenaerts (Bel) NTT Pro Cycling, at 17s
7. Michael Matthews (Aus) Sunweb, at 18s
8. Stefan Küng (Sui) Groupama-FDH, at 26s
9. Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Groupama-FDJ, at 27s
10. Lawson Craddock (USA) EF Pro Cycling, at 29s
General classification after stage four
1. Max Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 13-30-58
2. Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Sunweb, at 58s
3. Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-01
4. Nils Politt (Ger) Israel Start-Up Nation, at 1-05
5. Sergio Higuita (Col) EF Pro Cycling, at 1-06
6. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-McLaren, at 1-10
7. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Sunweb, at 1-11
8. Mads Würtz Schmidt (Den) Israel Start-Up Nation, at same time
9. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) NTT Pro Cycling, at 1-15
10. Michale Matthews (Aus) Sunweb, at 1-16