Team CSC's Karsten Kroon came within two seconds of the leader's jersey during Wednesday's 165.5km Paris-Nice stage three from Fleurie - Saint-Étienne - at least for a little while. When the GC leaders from stage two fell off the pace during stage three, Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) and Kroon moved up near the top of the leader board by virtue of their stage three performances. However, about one hour after the finish, Kroon was assessed a time penalty of 20 seconds which dropped him to 22 seconds to ninth place behind Chavanel.
On the final climb, a category one climb near the end, Kroon came off the back of the main group which contained the race's favourites who were chasing the lead trio. Kroon lost 40 seconds on the ascent according to team-csc.com, but made almost all of it back up on the descent. However, Kroon was seen to be riding too near the team cars.
"It was okay spotted of the officials. Karsten did get a little bit too close to the cars on the final climb," admitted sports director Kim Andersen.
"I wanted to try and see if I could get the leaders jersey for just one day, which is why I gave everything I had today," said Kroon, "but it's not realistic for me to assume that I'm able to stay in the overall top-10 so my focus is still on building up my form for the April races."
Going into stage four, which will feature the challenge of a finish up Mount Ventoux, Chavanel is in yellow with Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) in second and third in the general classification.
León Sánchez, who finished with the first group behind the two leaders on stage three, said after accepting his best young rider award, "I have said that Paris-Nice is my main goal for the beginning of the season. I knew that I was in good condition but I feel even better than what I thought."
"The stage of today gave everybody the possibility to see if he is well or not but tomorrow's stage with the finish on the Mont Ventoux will be another story," he said, adding confidently, "I hope to recover and that my legs will be all right so that I can be ahead with the best riders."