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Paris - Nice 2011: Stage 3


Paris-Nice, Stage 3: Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire - Nuits-Saint-Georges - 202km

We pick up the action at the midway point of the stage, and a five-man break has a lead of just under 4 minutes on the peloton. Cédric Pineau (FDJ), Blel Kadri (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Jussi Veikkanen (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Cyril Gautier (Europcar) and Romain Hardy (Bretagne-Schuller) are the men at the head of affairs.

The break formed as soon as the flag was dropped this morning, when Cédric Pineau (FDJ) accelerated and he soon found four willing accomplices. By the 5km point the quintet already had a lead of 2:00 and this stretched out gradually to four minutes over the first hour of racing.

Shortly after the 50km mark, their lead reached 4:35, but soon afterwards Vacansoleil-DCM came to the front in defence of race leader Thomas De Gendt.

After 74.5km at the first sprint in Cervon, the lead was 3:50. Pineau took the bonus seconds there ahead of Gautier and Hardy, but Vacansoleil began to warm to their task.

97km remaining from 202km

There was one non-starter on today's stage. French talent Romain Sicard (Euskaltel-Euskadi) didn't take the start in Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire as he is suffering with a new injury.

After 3 hours of racing, the average speed is 35.3kph. The wind is again a factor on today's stage, although so far it hasn't wreaked the same chaos on the peloton as it did yesterday.

Simone Ponzi (Liquigas-Cannondale) abandoned the race 35km into today's stage, but otherwise the peloton behind is fully intact. Vacansoleil-DCM continue to keep tabs on affairs at the front of the race in defence of the yellow jersey Thomas De Gendt. The five men in the break were all within 14 seconds of the Belgian this morning, although at this point one would imagine that the sprinters lined up just behind him on the overall standings will pose a greater threat to his lead.

Yesterday's stage winner Greg Henderson (Sky) is just 4 seconds behind, while Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad) is at 8 seconds. Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo) and Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) are 10 seconds down, while the in-form Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) is at 0:14.

Of course, the tricky 3km climb of the Côte de Bécoup could well upset the sprinters' trains, but they can take heart from the fact that a sprinter triumphed the last time Nuits-Saint-Georges hosted Paris-Nice. He won the third of his four stages there in 1977.

85km remaining from 202km

Bretagne-Schuller directeur sportif Emmanuel Hubert told that his squad had targeted this stage and that Romain Hardy is well-suited to this kind of rolling terrain.

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The pace is still relatively calm back in the main field as they ride through some quiet tree-lined roads.

Meanwhile, the five in front are still collaborating well with one another. FDJ's Cédric Pineau in particular is looking comfortable, but they'll have their work cut out to hold off the peloton in the finale.

70km remaining from 202km

Romain Hardy is putting in a fine afternoon's work in the break. His Bretagne-Schuller team will be delighted to have been invited to Paris-Nice and will be hoping it might be a springboard to bigger things to come. They're the only team at Paris-Nice who haven't been invited to the Tour, however. Saur-Sojasun, who aren't here, will be at La Grande Boucle, and their star man Jerome Coppel delivered an impressive display in Murcia at the weekend.

Damien Gaudin (Europcar) is near the front of the peloton now in the king of the mountains jersey. He will be looking to defend those polka dots on the day's sole climb, though he might have his work cut out for him.

Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) had dropped back to his team car but has safely made his way back up to the peloton. The pace is still quite manageable.

60km remaining from 202km

Pineau is again on the front driving the break. FDJ have been very aggressive in this Paris-Nice so far, without any reward. Jeremy Roy was second on Sunday and Yoann Offredo gave further notice of his fine form with a sortie off the front yesterday, while we can doubtless expect to see more of Sandy Casar and Pierrick Fedrigo later in the week.

Vacansoleil-DCM are taking full responsibility for the chase here. After receiving so much negative publicity for their contentious decision to hire both Riccardo Ricco' and Ezequiel Mosquera, the Dutch team will doubtless be glad of the timing of De Gendt's spell in yellow.

54km remaining from 202km

Breaking news reaching us from the Court of Arbitration for Sport - Franco Pellizotti has been handed a two-year suspension. The Italian fell foul of the biological passport system in May of last year.

Pellizotti was cleared to race by the Italian Tribunale Nazionale Anti-doping in October, but that decision has now been overturned by CAS, an important victory for the UCI's biological passport programme.

Pietro Caucchioli has also had his two-year suspension upheld by CAS.

48km remaining from 202km

The leading quintet are now approaching the second sprint at Essey.

Gautier picks up the 3 seconds ahead of Kadri, although the sprint was not contested.

46km remaining from 202km

Vacansoleil-DCM are beginning to pick up the pace slightly at the front of the peloton. Their teammate Ezequeil Mosquera is of course still waiting to hear if he will be able to return to the peloton. The Spaniard tested positive for Hydroxyethyl starch at last year's Vuelta a Espana, and has been sidelined by his team pending a resolution to the matter.

42km remaining from 202km

Read more on the Pellizotti suspension here. Send your reactions and comments on the case to

The peloton rumbles through Meilly-sur-Rouvres and the pace is beginning to rise as we draw closer to the finish. After negotiating this series of villages, the bunch will hit some rugged terrain.

Stijn Devolder is putting in a mammoth turn on the front of the peloton now and the gap suddenly drops by 20 seconds to 2:40. The real action is about to start here.

Devolder is a mercurial talent, but it will be interesting to see how he fares at Vacansoleil-DCM. He was hugely impressive in taking back to back Tours of Flanders in 2008 and 2009, and he'll be looking for a third in 2011.

36km remaining from 202km

When asked about his objectives for the season at the Tour of Qatar, Steegmans told Cyclingnews that they were "a secret," but we imagine crashing in Paris-Nice wasn't on the agenda...

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Yellow jersey Thomas De Gendt is five riders back and still looking comfortable.

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Uzbekistan's Sergey Lagutin has also done a lot of work for Vacansoleil-DCM today, and he's back taking command as the peloton hits the climb a little over a minute behind.

French champion Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) moves to the head of the peloton, on the shoulder of the Vacansoleil-DCM train.

Up ahead, Veikkanen launches the attacking for the king of the mountains points.

Hardy chases the Finn, and now Gautier is pulling the others back up to them.

27km remaining from 202km

Andreas Stauff (Quick Step) is dropped from the peloton as Vacansoleil-DCM continue to up the tempo on the climb.

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Remy Di Gregorio (Astana) puts in a dig on the front of the peloton and has Thomas Voeckler immediately on his wheel.

Jakob Fuglsang is dropped on the climb. The Dane is still suffering the effects of his crash yesterday.

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Voeckler had promised to go on the attack this week and he's been as good as his word here. The French champion is not the most stylish of riders, but he is effective. Kadri has also recovered sufficiently to take his turns on the front.

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Kadri is burying himself at the front here.

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A split on the front of the bunch as they enter the final bend.

Sagan crashes on that final bend...

And Matt Goss emerges from the chaos to take the win ahead of Heinrich Haussler. Denis Galimzyanov was third.

Geraint Thomas (Sky) was on the front of the bunch and as he swung across the road he seemed to sweep Sagan front wheel. Meanwhile a number of riders came down as they attempted to pick their way past the unfortunate Sagan.

Geraint Thomas eventually finished 5th behind. He didn't appear to be affected by Sagan's tumble behind, but Haussler, Goss and Galimzyanov managed to come around him.

Goss timed his sprint to perfection to come around Thomas in the final 100 metres. He went on the lefthand side, while Haussler chose the right. Haussler was closing fast too, but had to take a slightly longer route to the line, and that proved to be the difference.

The disheartened Sagan crosses the finish line dragging his bike behind him. He seemed to be in the ideal position before his crash.

Provisional stage result:

Provisional overall standings:

Thanks for joining us for today's coverage of Paris-Nice. Cyclingnews will again carry live coverage of tomorrow's action as the peloton faces the 191km between Crêches-sur-Saône and Belleville.


1 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) HTC-Highroad
2 Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Team Garmin-Cervelo
3 Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha Team
4 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team
5 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Procycling
6 Greg Henderson (NZl) Sky Procycling
7 Anthony Ravard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
8 Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Lampre - ISD
9 Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
10 Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale

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