Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) came into Paris-Nice as the leader of his team for the general classification - a big ask for a second-year WorldTour rider - but the American lived up to his team's expectations on the first summit finish to Chiroubles on Wednesday. He took 14th on the stage won by Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and moved into third overall, also taking the white jersey of best young rider.
McNulty survived the vicious pace-setting by Jumbo-Visma's Steven Kruijswijk in the final kilometres but missed the acceleration of Roglič which split the group into three with 3km to go.
McNulty finished 21 seconds down on the new race leader Roglič, but with stage 3 winner Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo) left behind and Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck-QuickStep) suffering a mechanical, the UAE rider climbed over them, with only defending champion Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) now standing between him and Roglič on the standings.
"It was a very intense day, quite sharp and steep climbs but I had really good legs," McNulty said. "I had problems positioning in the last climb before the sprint. I went relatively too early and I didn't have the acceleration I needed."
McNulty earned his shot in the WorldTour thanks to his 2019 victory in the Giro di Sicilia and a third place in the U23 World Championships time trial while racing with Rally Cycling.
His first season with the UAE Team Emirates was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic but he still managed to turn in numerous top results - a fourth place overall in the Vuelta a San Juan, seventh in Ruta del Sol and two top-three finishes on stages of the Giro d'Italia, his first Grand Tour.
Now settled into life in the sport's top tier, McNulty is aiming high in Paris-Nice. His fourth place in the stage 3 time trial was the first indication of his ambition and a solid ride on the first mountain stage only added to his confidence.
"I'm happy with my form now. I sure came for the overall and it's nice to be on track for that for sure. After today, it's obvious Roglič is in quite a good form as well but we will see how the next big days go."
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