Britain's Bradley Wiggins safely overcame his first important climbing challenge in Paris-Nice's first hilly stage yesterday when he finished in the main pack and with his overall lead intact.
Spaniard Alejandro Valverde snatched the stage win with a late charge for the line, situated at the summit of a 5km climb near Lac de Vassivière.
"It was up and down all day, at a really tough tempo and it took its toll," Sky sports director Sean Yates said. "Defending the jersey and keeping Bradley out of trouble was our main objective, we did that and it was all good."
Yates is increasingly confident Wiggins can win the race outright.
"Looking at Bradley's form since the start of the race, you could almost say that if he stays upright and out of trouble, he should win."
An overall victory would be Britain's first in Paris-Nice since Tom Simpson in 1967, and only four GB riders have led it before.
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