Paris - Nice 2014: Stage 8
January 1 - March 16, Nice, France, Road - WorldTour
Welcome to live coverage of stage 8 of Paris-Nice
97km remaining from 128km
Welcome to the final stage of Paris-Nice and the shortest stage of the entire race at 128km
The riders are about to hit the top of the first of five climbs today. With 32km ridden we have a large break of 17 riders, who hold a 52 second advantage on the peloton.
I hope you're sitting comfortably as we bring you the names of the 17 men that have managed to make it up to road this afternoon. They are: Greg van Avermaewt (BMC), Jerome Coppel (Cofidis), Jerome Pineau (IAM Cycling), Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne-Séché Environnement), Marco Marcato (Cannondale), Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEDGE), Francesco Gavazzi (Astana), Matthew Busche (Trek Factory Racing), Michel Koch (Cannondale), Moreno Hofland (Belkin), Elia Favilli (Lampre-Merida), Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Jerome Cousin (Europcar), Xavier Zandio (Sky), Danilo Hondo (Trek Factory Racing), Steele von Hoff (Garmin-Sharp).
Gavazzi took the full 7 points at the top of the first climb. At this moment, he is of no threat to Pim Ligthart's lead in the mountain's classification.
The big new today is that Geraint Thomas didn't take the start. He crashed on the final descent of yesterday's stage and chose not to ride today.
Thomas was one of five riders who didn't sign on this morning. His teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen also called it quits, as did Steven Cummings, Michael Matthews and Julien Simon. Matthews had a strong finish yesterday, but saddle sores put an end to his race campaign.
We have three abandons too. Fabio Sabotini of Cannondale and the two Giant-Shimano riders Koen de Kort and Albert Timmer
84km remaining from 128km
After dropping a little, the gap to the leaders has gone back out to 1:05. With so many riders in the group, the peloton are being fairly cautious.
With Thomas out of the race and no more ambitions in the general classification, Sky said yesterday that their intention would be to get a rider in the break on this stage. They've done just that with Zandio.
It has been a rough 24 hours for Sky. Over at Tirreno-Adriatico, Richie Porte was forced to abandon after he fell ill overnight.
Tinkoff-Saxo are leading the chase. They are one of the few teams who have missed the break today. Their best lace man in the general classification is Rafal Majka who is in 32nd place, over 3 mintues behind Carlos Betancur
75km remaining from 128km
With this being the last stage we're seeing a lot of riders packing it in. Three more have climbed into their respective team cars. Garmin duo Tyler Farrar and Fabian Wegmann and BMC rider Taylor Phinney have all abandoned today.
As we said earlier there are five climbs for the riders. The first three of these are second category, with the final two being first category. The last ascent of the day will be the Col d'Eze, which is known for being the site of the crucial time trial traditionally. The leaders are about to crest the Côte de Châteauneuf
73km remaining from 128km
As the peloton keep the 17 escapees at close quarters, Jerome Pineau has decided to go it alone. He has a slim 10 second advantage.
Pineau is now back with the other leaders, now that they're on the descent. The advantage over the peloton continues to dwindle, it's now at 40 seconds.
Jimmy Engoulvent becomes the latest rider to call it quits and he probably won't be the last. The Europcar rider was hanging off the back on the first climb.
World Champion Rui Costa is still looking for his first victory of the 2014 season and of his title reign. The Portugues rider took his fifth second place of the year, but he's on the hunt to go one better today.
Another abandon to report. This time it is Thomas Voeckler. The Frenchman's form has been off at Paris-Nice, although he did attack on stage 6. He is joined by Adrien Petit. How many riders will make it to the finish today?
65km remaining from 128km
The leaders are about to hit the valley and will be climbing again fairly soon. Hondo took the points at the top of the last climb, with Pineau being caught before he could grab them. Their lead has extended to an minute.
There has been a split in the front group once again. Four riders have an advantage of eight seconds now. They are Pineau, Keukeleire, Favilli and Zandio.
All together again at the front, as they're climbing again. Little chance for respite today.
The pace is too much for Moreno Hofland. He's been dropped by the lead group. Hofland has had an excellent start to this season and won stage 2 ahead of John Degenkolb.
61km remaining from 128km
As Hofland goes backwards the advantage of the remaining 16 riders has shot up to 2:20 over the peloton.
There is still a lot to play for in the general classification and we can expect a lot of action on the last two climbs of today. Can Betancur take the biggest win of his career today? Here's a look at the general classification and the time gaps:
1 Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) AG2R La Mondiale 32:04:49
2 Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida 0:00:14
3 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:26
4 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:27
5 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:00:29
6 Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:00:31
7 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar 0:00:35
8 Stefan Denifl (Aut) IAM Cycling
9 Peter Velits (Svk) BMC Racing Team 0:00:39
10 Simon Spilak (Slo) Team Katusha
They're dropping like flies today. Three climbs done and another three riders have called it quits. They are Sébastien Cavanel (FDJ) and the Belkin pair Jetse Bol and Maarten Wynants. We wonder if they'll have the room in the team cars to fit all the abandoned riders today.
56km remaining from 128km
The points sharing continues today. Pineau takes the full 7 at the top, ahead of Busche, Cousin, Gavazzio and Zandio. This will be music to Ligthart's ears as he won't have to worry about someone stealing the mountain's jersey off his back.
Today's finish is a flat one along the Promenade des Anglais, which is where the team time trial was held during last year's Tour de France. There are unlikely to be any sprinters left by the end of the day so it will be down to who has the fastest sprint of the general classification riders.
49km remaining from 128km
Hofland is now back with the bunch, as the peloton continue to close the gap on the 16 leaders. The gap is now 1:35.
There are a number of teams taking control on the front including Astana and Movistar. The riders are onto the penultimate climb of the Côte de Peille.
Mountain's jersey Pin Ligthart and point's jersey John Degenkolb have been sent out the back of the main group. Degenkolb could be waving goodbye to his jersey, while Ligthart looks safe in his.
42km remaining from 128km
As the gap to the peloton falls to a minute, the lead group begins to dwindle. Busche, Zandio, Van Avermaet, Cousin and Coppel are the remaining riders at the head of the race.
Attack from Nibali
Vincenzo Nibali and Lieuwe Westra race off the front of the peloton and they've got a decent gap too.
Westra sits up and Nibali carries on alone. There's only 45 seconds to the break now, can he catch them?
Nibali has already caught the straggling memebers of the break. He leaves Favilli and Von Hoff behind.
Nibali started the day 1:09 behind Betancur. It's a tough ask to make up that time, but he's already got 20 seconds on the peloton.
41km remaining from 128km
Gavazzi has dropped back to help Nibali, they are joined by Simon Spilak and Wilco Kelderman from the peloton.
AG2R are doing their best to control the peloton, but there are a number of riders who have attacked off the front. Nibali and Spilak have now joined the group at the front
Spilak is the best placed rider in the group. He's only 39 second back on the race lead and with bonus seconds available at the sprint at the finish, he is a real threat now.
Nibali has nwo been caught, but Spliak is still driving on with this front group.
38km remaining from 128km
Several riders caught from this front group. We've still got Coppel, Trofimov and Cousin up front. The Katusha rider is really driving it down this descent.
Trofimov is now out on his own, he has a 25 second advantage over the peloton. Behind him he has Mate and Coppel at about 5 seconds back.
AG2R have taken up the chasing on this descent. Betancur still has a large number of teammates with his, although their struggling to close down Trofimov on this twisting section.
29km remaining from 128km
Trofimov is onto the final climb of the day and he's grammacing. AG2R have been joined by Lotto-Belisol at the front, no panicking in the peloton.
It's now just Trofimov up front with Mate and Cousin caught now.
27km remaining from 128km
Movistar are now drilling it on the front. They've managed to cut 10 seconds off Trofimov's lead. They have JJ Rojas in fourth place at the moment.
Movistar's efforts are bearing fruit and the gap continues to come down. The Katusha rider is no threat to the general classification, but he could provide a springboard for his teammate Spilak.
24km remaining from 128km
Rojas is not just a contender in the overall today. He has a pretty decent sprint on him and will be one of the favourites if it comes down to that. Movistar are doing their best to ensure this and Trofimov's lead is down to 22 seconds
Rui Costa in the main group, he's got no other Lampre riders around him. Nor does Tom-Jelte Slagter who won yesterday's stage
Trofimov's lead is almost gone as the peloton ride up the Col d'Eze.
The day's work has been done for Andy Schleck and he is dropped by the peloton.
18km remaining from 128km
Lots of riders going out the back on this final climb, including Trofimov and Sylvain Chavanel.
With Trofimov out the back it is the peloton that leacs the way. A number of teams sharing duties. AG2R, Omega Pharma-QuickStep and IAM on the front.
17km remaining from 128km
George Bennett (Cannondale) tries an attack, but he is brough back by Sky's David Lopez who immediately goes off the front.
Nibali cracks and is dropped
Nibali has launched attacks almost every day this week, but he has struggled when it comes to the crunch.
Lopez still has trhe lead, but there are a number of riders chsing him down. They only have a small advantage.
Zdenek Stybar has been dropped
It's all back together again for the main contenders, as Frank Schleck has a go
Rui Costa gives a big dig and brings the main group back to Schleck and it's all together again.
There is a lot of nervousness in the bunch as they try to keep an eye on each other. Schleck has been allowed to build a small gap again, as they near the top of the climb.
Spilak has joined Schleck out front. He's on the hunt for the bonus seconds.
Spilak takes the points at the intermediate sprint, which is just after the KOM on the Col d'Eze. He has taken two seconds off his deficit to Betancur.
The two leaders are defending. Schleck is riding very hard and keeps looking over his shoulder to see where Spliak and the peloton are.
12km remaining from 128km
Spilak and Schleck and a 10 second gap, but the peloton have now set to work. Can they catch these two?
With the two seconds fromt he sprint, Spilak is 37 seconds down on Betancur. There are 10 bonus second available for the victory. He might not take the overall win but it could certainly put him on the podium.
Movistar, Astana and AG2R are on the front of the second group, but Schleck and Stybar continue to extend their lead.
Lampre are also helping out on the front. There are a lot of teams worried about Spilak at the moment.
Stybar is pulling along the third group on the road, which contains Vincenzo Nibali.
5km remaining from 128km
The joint efforts of the teams is beginning to bring the two leaders back. The leading pair now only have 16 seconds on the small group of chasers.
The two leaders can almost see the fionish line. Their lead has been cut down to 11 seconds. It's going to be closely run.
1km remaining from 128km
It is Spliak doing most of the work in the lead group. He's got the most to win from making this a successful break.
1km remaining from 128km
Movistar still have two riders on the front. They're really putting in a lot of effort to bring this in and they can see the two leaders.
The two leaders are about to be caught, but Frank Schleck attacks, trying to take the victory
Crash in the peloton. Costa goes down
Arthur Vichot wins
Rui Costa almost stuck under the barriers and is still on the ground. Several other riders involved in that.
Costa is still down and it looks like he's hurt his leg badly.
Replays show that the crash happened when Maxime Monfort swings across the road and hits a Tinkoff-Saxo rider. All the others are up.
Costa is on his bike and riding to the finish. He looks like he's in pain.
Today's top 3 are Vichot, Rojas, Gautier
Vichot's win puts him into third in the GC. As Costa has managed to complete the stage he will keep hold of his second place and Carlos Betancur takes the yellow jersey. He is the first Colombian to do so.
That is it for the final stage of Paris-Nice.
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