Betancur wins second straight stage at Paris-Nice

He may be, by his own admission, still a couple of kilograms over his ideal racing weight, but Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) made light of the short, sharp climb to the line at Fayence to claim stage victory and the overall lead at Paris-Nice.

On a finale that brought to mind the Mur de Huy – in length if not quite in difficulty – Betancur showed that he had digested the lessons of his third place finish at Flèche Wallonne last April, when he had bounded clear of the leading group on the lower slopes only for his charge to fizzle out in the final 300 metres.

This time around, the Colombian gauged his effort more cautiously, following the wheels on the steeper gradients and then overhauling world champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) as the road flattened out to take the stage win and divest Geraint Thomas (Sky) – who crossed the line three seconds down in 4th – of the yellow jersey in the process.

“It was a very hard stage with a lot of kilometres, but the team rode very well and did great work for me,” Betancur said as he waited to mount the podium, mindful that his chance of overall success had almost slipped away on the approach to the base of the final climb.

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) launched two separate attacks on the descent of the Col de Bourigaille, the second of which threatened to take a ten-man move clear and leave Betancur stranded in the third group with five kilometres remaining. Ag2r rider Mickaël Chérel’s stalling tactics up ahead, however, allied to a concerted chase from Betancur’s remaining teammates, helped to seal up the gaps just as the final haul to the line began.

Once on the 1.5 kilometre climb – which the peloton had already tackled at the foot of the Bourigaille – Ag2r’s Alexis Vuillermoz went on the offensive, stretching out the leading group with an effort that distanced a number of riders, including Nibali, as the gradient began to bite. After Simon Spilak (Katusha) and Arthur Vichot ( tried to get away on the steepest section, the impressive Tom Jelte Slagter (Garmin-Sharp) then joined Vuillermoz at the front of the shrinking leading group.

The pair led determinedly through the twin set of hairpin bends that preceded the finish, only for ill fortune to thwart both of their challenges almost simultaneously – Vuillermoz crashed as he zipped out of the second bend, while seconds later Slagter pulled over with a mechanical problem.

In the confusion, Rui Costa, who had appeared comfortable on the climb, appeared set to capitalise, jumping clear with considerable force, but Betancur summoned up the strength to make it across to the world champion, and then came around him in the final 100 metres to claim victory.

Just behind, Thomas was scrambling gamely to get back on terms, but he was unable to close the gap to the two leaders, and he ultimately had to settle for fourth on the stage as Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) – a rider pedalling with real facility ahead of the spring classics – nipped around him to lead the chasers home at three seconds.

Thanks to the time bonus he picked up at the finish, Betancur now holds a lead of eight seconds over Rui Costa in the overall standings, while Thomas slips to third, a further ten seconds back.

Betancur’s Paris-Nice stage wins are the third and fourth victories of his season after he landed a stage and the overall at the Tour du Haut-Var last month. The Colombian struggled in his first race of the campaign at the Tour de San Luis in January, but he has found form quickly since arriving at his European base in Tuscany, where he is coached by Michele Bartoli.

“I’m in good condition and you have to seize the moment,” Betancur said. “The plan now is to hold the overall lead and celebrate victory in the end.”

Fireworks on the Bourigaille

Paris-Nice’s longest day was played out in pleasant spring sunshine in the Vaucluse and Var départements, and the early exchanges were animated by a ten-man breakaway that included Steve Cummings (BMC), Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEdge), Pim Ligthart (Lotto-Belisol) and Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale).

Keukeleire began the day just 25 seconds down on Thomas’ yellow jersey, and as a consequence, the break was never allowed that much freedom, with their maximum advantage a very manageable three minutes. As Sky began to close the gap in the final 60 kilometres, the French pair of Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling) sensed their chance, punching clear on Côte des Tuilières and joining the leaders on the descent.

After the following Côte de Mont Meaulx, with 40 kilometres remaining, only four riders remained in front – Chavanel, Voeckler, De Marchi and Ligthart – while the Sky-led peloton whittled away at the leaders’ advantage. By the time Chavanel et al reached the finish line at Fayence for the first time at the foot of the Col de Bourigaille, their margin was down to just 25 seconds, and it continued to shrink as the gradient stiffened.

As Voeckler struggled, the king of the mountains Chavanel forced his way clear, but he was picked off shortly afterwards when Astana’s Lieuwe Westra wound up the pace in support of Nibali and Jakob Fulgang.

Closer to the summit, Fränk Schleck (Trek) launched himself off the front, and though short of the vim of old, it was enough to bring Stefan Denifl (IAM Cycling) and Vuillermoz clear with him. As they crested the summit, they were joined by Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida), Eduardo Sepulveda (Bretagne-Séché) and Yury Trofimov (Katusha), while behind, the yellow jersey group had been reduced to just 35 riders.

Once over the top, Nibali launched his first attack, which was enough to peg back the leaders, and presaged an intense assault on Thomas’ slender overall lead. Nibali, however, would not be the man to dislodge the Welshman, who covered the moves as best he could all the way to the finish, but ultimately had to give best to Betancur on the final kick to the line.


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Full Results
1Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) AG2R La Mondiale5:12:11
2Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Lampre-MeridaRow 1 - Cell 2
3Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team0:00:03
4Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team SkyRow 3 - Cell 2
5Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ.frRow 4 - Cell 2
6Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar0:00:07
7Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro TeamRow 6 - Cell 2
8Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto BelisolRow 7 - Cell 2
9Stefan Denifl (Aut) IAM CyclingRow 8 - Cell 2
10Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar Team0:00:11
11Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) IAM CyclingRow 10 - Cell 2
12Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 11 - Cell 2
13John Gadret (Fra) Movistar TeamRow 12 - Cell 2
14Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 13 - Cell 2
15Jan Bakelants (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling TeamRow 14 - Cell 2
16Peter Velits (Svk) BMC Racing TeamRow 15 - Cell 2
17Simon Spilak (Slo) Team KatushaRow 16 - Cell 2
18Fränk Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory RacingRow 17 - Cell 2
19Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto BelisolRow 18 - Cell 2
20Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez (Col) Lampre-Merida0:00:17
21Bob Jungels (Lux) Trek Factory RacingRow 20 - Cell 2
22Maxime Monfort (Bel) Lotto Belisol0:00:21
23Brice Feillu (Fra) Bretagne - Seche EnvironnementRow 22 - Cell 2
24Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ.frRow 23 - Cell 2
25Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale0:00:25
26Andre Fernando S. Martins Cardoso (Por) Garmin SharpRow 25 - Cell 2
27Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 26 - Cell 2
28Eduardo Sepulveda (Arg) Bretagne - Seche EnvironnementRow 27 - Cell 2
29Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida0:00:28
30Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica GreenEdge0:00:32
31George Bennett (NZl) Cannondale0:00:34
32Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:00:35
33Dries Devenyns (Bel) Team Giant-Shimano0:00:40
34Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin-Pro Cycling Team0:00:41
35Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 34 - Cell 2
36Iurii Trofimov (Rus) Team Katusha0:00:45
37Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:01:15
38Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 37 - Cell 2
39Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Garmin Sharp0:01:34
40Jon Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar Team0:01:38
41Mathias Frank (Swi) IAM Cycling0:01:51
42Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC Racing Team0:02:11
43Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Belkin-Pro Cycling Team0:02:34
44Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Belisol0:02:55
45Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Belkin-Pro Cycling Team0:03:16
46Matthew Busche (USA) Trek Factory Racing0:03:20
47David Lopez Garcia (Spa) Team Sky0:03:24
48Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Garmin Sharp0:04:43
49Romain Zingle (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 48 - Cell 2
50Simon Yates (GBr) Orica GreenEdgeRow 49 - Cell 2
51Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 50 - Cell 2
52Anthony Delaplace (Fra) Bretagne - Seche EnvironnementRow 51 - Cell 2
53Sergei Chernetckii (Rus) Team KatushaRow 52 - Cell 2
54Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Garmin SharpRow 53 - Cell 2
55Peter Stetina (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 54 - Cell 2
56Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM CyclingRow 55 - Cell 2
57Andy Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing0:05:12
58Sander Armee (Bel) Lotto Belisol0:05:15
59Jérôme Pineau (Fra) IAM Cycling0:05:46
60Cédric Pineau (Fra) FDJ.fr0:06:00
61Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Astana Pro Team0:06:08
62Pim Ligthart (Ned) Lotto Belisol0:06:16
63Davide Villella (Ita) CannondaleRow 62 - Cell 2
64Marco Marcato (Ita) CannondaleRow 63 - Cell 2
65Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 64 - Cell 2
66Alex Howes (USA) Garmin SharpRow 65 - Cell 2
67Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar0:06:32
68Jerome Coppel (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:06:34
69Nelson Filipe Santos Simoes Oliveira (Por) Lampre-Merida0:06:49
70Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:06:52
71Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Astana Pro Team0:12:22
72Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 71 - Cell 2
73Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 72 - Cell 2
74Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 73 - Cell 2
75Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Team Sky0:12:37
76Christophe Laborie (Fra) Bretagne - Seche Environnement0:14:05
77Maarten Wynants (Bel) Belkin-Pro Cycling Team0:14:34
78Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling TeamRow 77 - Cell 2
79Aliaksandr Kuchynski (Blr) Team KatushaRow 78 - Cell 2
80Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Movistar TeamRow 79 - Cell 2
81Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 80 - Cell 2
82Michel Koch (Ger) CannondaleRow 81 - Cell 2
83Steele Von Hoff (Aus) Garmin SharpRow 82 - Cell 2
84Gert Steegmans (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling TeamRow 83 - Cell 2
85Cristiano Salerno (Ita) CannondaleRow 84 - Cell 2
86Mathew Hayman (Aus) Orica GreenEdgeRow 85 - Cell 2
87Bryan Coquard (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 86 - Cell 2
88Jerome Cousin (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 87 - Cell 2
89Florian Guillou (Fra) Bretagne - Seche EnvironnementRow 88 - Cell 2
90Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Garmin SharpRow 89 - Cell 2
91Jesus Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 90 - Cell 2
92Laurent Didier (Lux) Trek Factory RacingRow 91 - Cell 2
93Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Cannondale0:15:16
94Nikolas Maes (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team0:16:58
95Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 94 - Cell 2
96Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling TeamRow 95 - Cell 2
97Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 96 - Cell 2
98Fabio Sabatini (Ita) CannondaleRow 97 - Cell 2
99Jos van Emden (Ned) Belkin-Pro Cycling TeamRow 98 - Cell 2
100Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling TeamRow 99 - Cell 2
101Koen De Kort (Ned) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 100 - Cell 2
102Karsten Kroon (Ned) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 101 - Cell 2
103Danilo Hondo (Ger) Trek Factory RacingRow 102 - Cell 2
104Grégory Rast (Swi) Trek Factory RacingRow 103 - Cell 2
105Moreno Hofland (Ned) Belkin-Pro Cycling TeamRow 104 - Cell 2
106Luca Wackermann (Ita) Lampre-MeridaRow 105 - Cell 2
107Sébastien Hinault (Fra) IAM CyclingRow 106 - Cell 2
108Ivan Rovny (Rus) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 107 - Cell 2
109Alexey Tsatevich (Rus) Team KatushaRow 108 - Cell 2
110Romain Feillu (Fra) Bretagne - Seche EnvironnementRow 109 - Cell 2
111José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 110 - Cell 2
112Florian Vachon (Fra) Bretagne - Seche EnvironnementRow 111 - Cell 2
113Stephen Cummings (GBr) BMC Racing TeamRow 112 - Cell 2
114Jetse Bol (Ned) Belkin-Pro Cycling TeamRow 113 - Cell 2
115Thierry Hupond (Fra) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 114 - Cell 2
116Bryan Nauleau (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 115 - Cell 2
117Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Lampre-MeridaRow 116 - Cell 2
118Albert Timmer (Ned) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 117 - Cell 2
119Bert De Backer (Bel) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 118 - Cell 2
120Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin SharpRow 119 - Cell 2
121Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 120 - Cell 2
122Perrig Quemeneur (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 121 - Cell 2
123Armindo Fonseca (Fra) Bretagne - Seche EnvironnementRow 122 - Cell 2
124Egor Silin (Rus) Team KatushaRow 123 - Cell 2
125Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) FDJ.frRow 124 - Cell 2
126Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) FDJ.frRow 125 - Cell 2
127Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek Factory RacingRow 126 - Cell 2
128Sébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 127 - Cell 2
129Sébastien Turgot (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 128 - Cell 2
130Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica GreenEdgeRow 129 - Cell 2
131Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team KatushaRow 130 - Cell 2
132Julien Fouchard (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 131 - Cell 2
133Thor Hushovd (Nor) BMC Racing TeamRow 132 - Cell 2
134Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team SkyRow 133 - Cell 2
135Anthony Geslin (Fra) FDJ.frRow 134 - Cell 2
136Luke Rowe (GBr) Team SkyRow 135 - Cell 2
137Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) FDJ.frRow 136 - Cell 2
138Matteo Bono (Ita) Lampre-MeridaRow 137 - Cell 2
139Giovanni Bernaudeau (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 138 - Cell 2
140Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 139 - Cell 2
141Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro TeamRow 140 - Cell 2
142Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica GreenEdgeRow 141 - Cell 2
143Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 142 - Cell 2
144Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 143 - Cell 2
145Aleksejs Saramotins (Lat) IAM CyclingRow 144 - Cell 2
146Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 145 - Cell 2
147Nicki Sörensen (Den) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 146 - Cell 2
148Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica GreenEdgeRow 147 - Cell 2
149Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Lotto BelisolRow 148 - Cell 2
150Kevin Ista (Bel) IAM CyclingRow 149 - Cell 2
151Elia Favilli (Ita) Lampre-MeridaRow 150 - Cell 2
152Mitchell Docker (Aus) Orica GreenEdgeRow 151 - Cell 2
153Gabriel Rasch (Nor) Team SkyRow 152 - Cell 2
154Adrien Petit (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 153 - Cell 2
155John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 154 - Cell 2
156Xabier Zandio Echaide (Spa) Team Sky0:17:18
157Christian Knees (Ger) Team SkyRow 156 - Cell 2
DNFMarko Kump (Slo) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 157 - Cell 2
DNFVladimir Isaychev (Rus) Team KatushaRow 158 - Cell 2
DNSSimon Gerrans (Aus) Orica GreenEdgeRow 159 - Cell 2
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Sprint 1 - Lourmarin, 45.5km
1Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM Cycling3pts
2John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano2Row 1 - Cell 3
3Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team1Row 2 - Cell 3
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Sprint 2 - Fayence, 193km
1Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Cannondale3pts
2Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar2Row 1 - Cell 3
3Pim Ligthart (Ned) Lotto Belisol1Row 2 - Cell 3
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1Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) AG2R La Mondiale15pts
2Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida12Row 1 - Cell 3
3Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team9Row 2 - Cell 3
4Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky7Row 3 - Cell 3
5Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ.fr6Row 4 - Cell 3
6Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar5Row 5 - Cell 3
7Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team4Row 6 - Cell 3
8Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Belisol3Row 7 - Cell 3
9Stefan Denifl (Aut) IAM Cycling2Row 8 - Cell 3
10Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar Team1Row 9 - Cell 3
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Mountain 1 - Côte de Bonnieux (Cat. 3) 36.5km
1Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM Cycling4pts
2Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar2Row 1 - Cell 3
3Michel Koch (Ger) Cannondale1Row 2 - Cell 3
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