MONT BROUILLY, France (AP) — Julian Alaphilippe took the lead in the Paris-Nice race on Wednesday, beating two-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador to win a hilly time trial in the fourth stage.
The 24-year-old Alaphilippe, one of France's most promising riders, beat the renowned Spanish climber by 19 seconds in chilly and wet conditions.
"I've been thinking about this stage since last night. I knew my legs felt good and that I had a chance," Alaphilippe said. "I gave everything in the final kilometers and really went for it."
Alaphilippe completed the 14.5-kilometer (9-mile) trek up to Mont Brouill in 21 minutes, 19 seconds to take the overall lead from Arnaud Demare.
For winning the stage, Alaphilippe stands to receive a novel prize from the local organizers in Beaujolais: 48 bottles of wine.
"That's really great to hear. I will share them out among my teammates," Alaphilippe said on Eurosport. "I hope we receive them after the race, because if we get them tonight it won't be good for the rest of the race."
Tony Gallopin finished third, one second behind Contador, but moved up to second overall. The Frenchman is 33 seconds behind Alaphilippe, with Contador 1:31 behind in eighth place. Demare dropped to 10th.
Thursday's fifth stage is 199.5 kilometers (124 miles) to Bourg-de-Peage, situated in the gastronomic Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region of southeastern France. It is mostly flat and favors sprinters, which should not shake up the standings.
That is likely to happen, though, when race hits the high mountains over the weekend. There are three big climbs on Friday and Saturday, and two more on Sunday before a downhill finish to the southern city of Nice.
"Nothing's done," Alaphilippe said. "The end of the race is going to be very hard."