Quick-Step Floors in pole position for Paris-Nice overall

Philippe Gilbert, Dan Martin, Julian Alaphilippe in top 10 on GC

Quick-Step Floors may have missed out on stage wins in the opening two days of Paris-Nice, but the Belgian team sit pretty in the GC with three riders inside the top seven.

Yellow jersey Arnaud Demare has a slim six-second lead over Julian Alaphilippe, with Philippe Gilbert third at 17 seconds and Daniel Martin 7th, 23 seconds in arrears. With the individual time trial and the mountains still to come, the team is in a strong position, and with Richie Porte all but eliminated from the overall standing after losing significant time, Quick-Step are in pole position to at least finish on the podium, if not win.

"It's worked out pretty well for us with three in the top seven and second and third on GC," Dan Martin told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 3 in Chablis.

Quick-Step were key instigators on stages 1 and 2 when crosswinds and rain battered the field. Along with Lotto Soudal, they put the likes of Porte and Alberto Contador under immense pressure with two virtuoso displays of echelon riding.

"It's a nice position to be in, but everyone is tired after yesterday. Every day is important here, so we need to keep our concentration," Martin added, stressing that despite calmer weather on stage 3, the team could not afford to make mistakes.

With Alaphilippe and Martin in fine fettle, Quick-Step Floors have options when it comes to the second half of the race. The 14.5-kilometre time trial on stage 4 will be crucial and should, in theory, allow Contador and the well-placed Tony Gallopin and Ilnur Zakarin to put the Quick-Step double-act on the back foot.

"You have to keep your options open because one of us could lose time today," Martin said, "but we can play off each other pretty well and we learned how to race with each other last year. We really enjoy it."

"Off the bike, we have respect for each other. I know [Alaphilippe's] strengths, he knows mine, and we both understand that we can win races in different styles. It works well."

Martin had his fingers crossed for a less dramatic stage on Tuesday. The route and conditions suggested the first mass sprint of the race. Quick-Step has Marcel Kittel in their ranks, and the German has enjoyed a highly successful start to the season.

"Hopefully we can have a nice boring day. I think Marcel is the fastest guy here. Everyone is tired from the first two days, so it will be interesting to see how everyone copes."

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