Wout van Aert led a Jumbo-Visma podium sweep in the Paris-Nice time trial on Wednesday.
The Belgian, who won a time trial on last year’s Tour de France, powered uphill to the finish to complete the 13.4-kilometre ride in Montlucon in 16min 20sec and take the overall lead.
Slovenian Primoz Roglic, the Olympic time trial champion, was two seconds slower with Australian Rohan Dennis, twice winner of the time trial at the world championships, at six seconds for the second Jumbo top three lockout in just four stages.
“I hope to wear this jersey as long as possible, before Primoz takes it,” said Van Aert.
Swiss rider Stefan Kung of Groupama-FDJ was the first rider from a rival team, 10 seconds slower than Van Aert. Englishman Simon Yates of Bike Exchange was another second back.
Van Aert took the overall lead from another Jumbo rider, Christophe Laporte, who had been in yellow since Van Aert and Roglic waved him across the line first following a three-man Jumbo breakaway on the opening stage.
Roglic trails Van Aert by 10 seconds overall, with Laporte, who was 11th on Wednesday, next at 28sec. Yates is fourth at 49sec.
“The hardest stages are coming,” said Van Aert.
Yet, apart from the 15km ascent to the Col de Turini finish on Saturday, which should suit Roglic, the rolling profile of the other three stages should be suited to the Belgian.
But, Roglic is the team leader and has unfinished business. Last year he started the final stage comfortably ahead, but fell twice as Maximilian Schachmann took a second straight Paris-Nice.
Schachmann, a German with Bora, withdrew before the start, as did Australian Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citroen), who was suffering from a fever.
Thursday’s 188.8km stage five follows the Loire to the Ardeche and then climbs the Col de la Mure, 33 kilometres from the finish in Saint-Sauveur-de-Montagut.