Contador takes control of Paris-Nice cycling race
Mende: Spain's Alberto Contador secured a Paris-Nice double whammy by winning the race's fourth stage amid wintry conditions here, becoming the overall leader in the process.
The Astana rider attacked 1700 metres from the line to finish 10 seconds ahead of compatriots Alejandro Valverde and Samuel Sanchez after the 173.5 kilometre ride from Maurs-la-Jolie.
Another Spaniard, Joaquim Rodriguez, finished fourth, with Frenchman Thomas Voeckler 18sec off the pace in fifth.
"I didn't feel great," said Contador. "It was cold, really very cold, during the stage. I hope the temperature will increase.”
"Paris-Nice isn't over. I even think the hard part is just starting. There are three difficult stages remaining and you shouldn't forget that Paris-Nice is one of the most difficult races of the season to control."
Overnight leader Jens Voigt of Germany conceded 40 seconds to Contador after falling behind during the gruelling 3km climb to the finish line.
In the new overall classification, reigning Tour de France champion Contador is 24 seconds ahead of Valverde.
Contador's victory was his fifth stage win in the Paris-Nice race and the second time he has won the stage ending in Mende.
His first major professional race victory came with the 2007 Paris-Nice, which laid the foundations for his first Tour de France triumph later that year.
Friday's fifth stage is a 157km ride south from Pernes-les-Fontaines to Aix-en-Provence. The race finishes in Nice on Sunday.