March 12, 2015

CROIX DE CHAUBOURET, France (AP) Climbing specialist Richie Porte won Thursday's hilly fourth stage of the Paris-Nice race, and Polish rider Michal Kwiatkowski finished third to take the overall lead.

Porte and his Sky teammates dominated on the first climbs of the week-long race, with Geraint Thomas placing second on Thursday.

''Two years ago I won this race on a mountain stage and now we have two hard stages ahead of us before Col d'Eze,'' said Porte, a 30-year-old Australian. ''I love Col d'Eze, I did very well on it two years ago. I hope to do it again. I love Paris-Nice, it's a very important race for me.''

Porte, the 2013 champion, completed the 204-kilometer (126.8-mile) ride from Varennes-sur-Allier to Croix de Chaubouret in 5 hours, 19 minutes, with Thomas recording the same time and Kwiatkowski eight seconds behind.

Kwiatkowski, who won Sunday's prologue, took the race leader's yellow jersey from Michael Matthews, the overnight leader from Australia.

Porte just missed out on the yellow jersey and is one second behind, with Thomas three seconds back.

''I'm a little bit surprised to take back the jersey,'' Kwiatkowski said. ''I had good legs today and the team did a great (job) to take me to the final climb.''

Thursday's stage was the longest of the race and featured a hilltop finish. Sky stepped up the pace about eight kilometers (five miles) from the end and the peloton struggled to keep up.

Kwiatkowski stayed with the two Sky riders until Porte's second burst of acceleration proved too much for him.

''I just couldn't react,'' Kwiatkowski said. ''My condition is good and Saturday is a very hard stage. Given my condition, I might have chances to try and attack.''

Friday's fifth stage is another hilly route, taking the riders on a 192.5-kilometer (120-mile) trek from the industrial city of Saint-Etienne to Rasteau in the Rhone wine region of France.

Matthews is 14 minutes behind overall.

''It was tougher than I expected,'' he said. ''They didn't show much respect for the yellow jersey. There was a lot of shoving and pushing in the build up to the last climb.''

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