Saint-Étienne (France) (AFP) – Wout Poels made a statement of intent by winning Wednesday’s individual time-trial at the Paris-Nice stage race as Luis Leon Sanchez took the overall lead.
Poels, who was second overall at last month’s Ruta del Sol, is gearing up for a potentially pivotal role with Team Sky this year.
The Dutchman could find himself leading the team at the Tour de France in July if reigning champion Chris Froome is banned over an abnormal doping test result he gave at last year’s Vuelta a Espana.
Poels finished the hilly 18.4km fourth stage from La Fouillouse to Saint-Etienne in 25min 33sec to beat Spaniard Marc Soler by 11sec with France’s Julian Alaphilippe a further five seconds back.
Poels is now second overall at 15sec behind Sanchez, who was part of Tuesday’s successful breakaway. Alaphilippe is third at 26sec.
Sky have won Paris-Nice in five of the last six years and reigning champion Sergio Henao was ninth on the day, 33sec behind Poels and now sits ninth overall at 48sec.
He and Poels are joint leaders for Sky in the race.
Thursday’s fifth stage is a 165km run from Salon-de-Provence to Sisteron.