Hello and welcome to live coverage from stage 3 of Paris-Nice from Saint-Amand-Montrond to Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule.
Good afternoon. To bring you right up to speed we have a two man break up the road and we've covered 65km of racing. There's still 114km to go with Philippe Gilbert and Florian Vachon 2:10 ahead of the peloton.
The leading duo broke free in the early stages of today's action and Antoine Duchesne (EUC) and Bradley Wiggins (SKY) were also on the attack but were soon caught by the bunch.
Gilbert took the maximum number of points at the top of the first climb - the Côte de la Croix du Chêne and he stretching his legs and building his Classics form with a long break today. He of course went on the attack in Kuurne too with a dangerous attack in the final 5km.
108km remaining from 179km
108km left of racing and the gap to the leaders is down to 1:35 with a number of team swapping turns at the front of the peloton.
There are two more third category climbs left in the stage, and slight rise before a drop down to the finish. It should - in theory - be another day for the sprinters with Greipel and Kirstoff both with a stage win each in the race so far.
Here's a reminder of where we stand coming into the stage.
1 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Etixx - Quick-Step 9:53:16
2 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team
3 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:00:02
4 Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:00:07
5 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica GreenEdge 0:00:09
6 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana Pro Team 0:00:10
7 Lars Boom (Ned) Astana Pro Team
8 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM Cycling
9 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:00:13
With the gap down to 1:15 Voeckler has jumped clear of the peloton and joined the break to make it three men in the front group. The Europcar car rider is on the attack again after his stage 1 move.
The presence of the Europcar leader has already had an affect with the gap to the trio up to 1:55 over the chasing bunch. We're less than 20km from the start of the next climb, the Col de La Bosse - our second third cat of the stage.
Away from the Race to the Sun, Josh Edmondson has made news after signing with the AN post team. He was at Team Sky last year but failed to settle. You can read about his recent move, right here.
At the Tour de Langkawi Guardini has picked up his third win in the race. That's three out of four for the Astana man. Caleb Ewan continues to lead the race for Orica GreenEdge. Results, photos, and the report can be found just here.
Over the boarder in Italy, Tirreno starts today with an individual time trial. We'll have live coverage from that race too a little later. On the eve of the race we went out training with Trek Factory Racing, and you can watch an exclusive video of the riders including Cancellara, right here.
The three leaders now have three minutes over the peloton with 89km to go.
Vachon takes a turn on the front. The Bretagne - Séché Environnement rider had a decent year in 2012, with wins in Paris-Bourges and a stage in the Criterium International. The 30-year-old has been with Bretagne since turning pro in 2010.
And it's Vachon who leads the break onto the lower slopes of the Col de La Bosse with the gap to the peloton stretching out to 4:22.
While they take on the short climb, lets have another quick scan of the biggest news headlines. Formolo is in the press today with the Cannondale rider set to race in Tirreno. You can read our interview with the talented young rider, here.
The former head of anti-doping at the UCI - Anne Gripper - has given an exclusive interview to Cyclingnews on the state of doping during her time in Aigle, Pat McQuaid, and the CIRC report.
@DanMartin86 Wed, 11th Mar 2015 13:10:10
And we're off in Tirreno with CN's Barry Ryan on live coverage duties for the Italian race.
On the start line this morning with our race leader. photo by Getty Sport Images.
75km remaining from 179km
Meanwhile Gilbert is first over the top of the climb and brings his tally in the KOM to 11 points. No matter what he'll wear that jersey in tomorrow's stage. The gap to the bunch has gone out to 5:20.
At the front of the peloton all the pressure is coming from Etixx at the moment. Voeckler is pushing the pace too though and the gap is holding at 5:00 as Gilbert comes through and takes a turn.
Porte sit just off the front, occupying places just behind the Etixx train with Porte, Thomas and Wiggins all tucked in.
Gilbert is calling for his team car and Vachon takes the chance to remove his arm warmers but there's no let up from Etixx, the entire squad on the front in a bid to protect Michał Kwiatkowski.
The gap has dropped a few seconds, down to 4:45 with 65km to go. The reaction from the bunch is because Gilbert is 15 seconds from the race lead, although there's still a long way to go.
1km to until the summit of the final climb with Gilbert currently leading the break.
Etixx are just holding the gap at 4:45 at the moment as Voeckler picks up the pace once more.
The Côte de Vicq is a gradual climb as Gilbert moves on in a bid to soak up the four points available. Vachon thinks about missing a turn but Voeckler isn't have any of that and he ushers the Bretagne rider through.
Giant have put a man on the front in a move to contribute to the chase. Degenkolb could take the lead today if things go his way but the gap to the leading trio is still at a rather handy 4:45 with 60km to go.
@Vaughters Wed, 11th Mar 2015 13:34:32
The peloton crest the top of the Côte de Vicq and the lead is at 5:00 with 57km of racing remaining. At the back of the bunch Haussler is calling for his team car as Etixx continue to control the field.
Rolling terrain and that will suit the break given their firepower and expertise. Voeckler has really made the difference though and with 56km to go the gap is still at five minutes.
52km remaining from 179km
The gap creeps up to 5:05 with 52km to go.
Katusha have put men on the front too, so that three teams setting the pace in a bid to catch the three man break of Thomas Voeckler, Florian Vachon and Philippe Gilbert.
The extra impetus at the front of the field is starting to have an affect, the gap to the leaders now at 4:35 with 46km to go.
@stephenfarrand Wed, 11th Mar 2015 13:51:40
The gap is under four minutes for the first time in some while. The leading trio continue to share the workload but with Katusha helping with the chase the peloton have moved up a gear. Near the front is Wiggins, who leads the Team Sky train.
The roads have flattered and the bunch seem to be back on top. Voeckler picks up the pace once again as he leads the break through a corner but the peloton are hunting them down, second by second.
33km remaining from 179km
The lead is at just over three minutes with the peloton really pushing on. The roads are narrowing so the GC men are going to have their teams fighting on the front for position. It's going to be a frantic run into the finish, as we see the peloton line out.
Race radio crackles through and the gap is apparently down to 2:15. We're onto a finishing circuit, which we'll do a lap of. The undulations start again but with the riders out front losing time, that should give the bunch another advantage.
Inside the final 27km, the lead at 2:30. Etixx, Katusha and Giant set the pace. Tinkoff Saxo and Sky are near the front but haven't joined the pace setting at this stage. Former world champ Rui Costa is also in the mix and sitting right next to race leader and current world champion Michał Kwiatkowski.
Voeckler and Gilbert have short conversation as a calmer looking Vachon just quietly goes about his job at the front of the break.
Steegmans has punctured for Trek. It's going to be hard to come back at this stage with his former team, Etixx, pushing the pace.
1:40 is the gap as Gilbert calls for the team car once more. He sits up just to stretch is leg as he waits. He takes on a gel and is back with his companions just before feeding officially stops.
And now Wiggins and Team Sky hit the front and take over from Etixx. The gap is down to 1:29 with 22km to go.
Knees takes over from Wiggins as the peloton begin to line out once more. The gap, with Vachon once more on the front is down to 1:16.
The break head under the 20km to go banner but their lead is only holding at just over a minute with the pressure really starting to mount.
They're heading over the line for the first time, and the final run-in is far from flat. Vachon leads the break over the line and we've one lap to go. It's a rather technical finish, one where positioning is going to be key.
19km remaining from 179km
19km to go and the gap is at 39 seconds.
And Lotto Soudal have moved up with Greipel in mind. Gilbert has sat up so we have just two leaders in the front of the race.
Vachon the local lad comes through and takes another turn as Lampre, Cofidis, Etixx once more, and Lotto all move to the front of the peloton. Giant with Degenkolb have held back in the last few minutes.
16km to go and the two leaders have 32 seconds.
And Giant start to organise their train with Degenkolb neatly tucked in as Vachon and Voeckler exchange words. Their lead is at 27 seconds.
Vachon and Voeckler look like they're done for the day, as they draw alongside each other. Voeckler then moves to the front and with the lead at 15 seconds they have something to hold on for but it's not going to be enough.
12km remaining from 179km
Just 12km remain but with Giant now on the front it's only a matter of time before the two leaders are caught. Back in the bunch and Michał Kwiatkowski adjusts his shoes, as he prepares for the uphill finish.
It looks like Vachon has nothing left in the tank and it's all Voeckler on the front. Its all over for Vachon, who is caught with 10km to go.
There's an easing in the peloton and it's an attack from Astana.
The Astana rider sweeps past Vachon and then Voeckler. It's Tiralongo who takes a tiring Voeckler with him.
Two more riders from AG2R try and bridge the gap. That's a neat attack from the French team and now we have four leaders in the stage with 9km to go.
Voeckler cracks. So three leaders, two of them from AG2R.
Tiralongo won't work and it's Bakelandts and Bardet.
Not a huge reaction from the bunch at the moment as Bakelants takes a long turn on the front of the new break.
The gap is 16 seconds. Bardet is 35 seconds down on GC so his rivals really can't afford to let this gap grown. Etixx move to the front one more.
16 seconds with 7.5km to go.
Tiralongo has decided to work so that's three riders working well together now. The gap is holding at 16 seconds.
Astana move up near the head of the bunch and look like they're trying to slow the chase down but with Lotto and Etixx on the front that's a big ask.
Into the final 6km, the gap still at 16 seconds.
Giant roll to the front and have put the hammer down with 5km to go but have they left it too late?
Now we see Orica for the first time with Matthews in position. He's well suited to today's finish.
4km to go and the gap is still, still at 16 seconds.
The three leaders are working as if they're all on AG2R, all of them coming through and taking turns.
3km to go as we reach a slight incline. Kristoff and Swift also near the front of the bunch.
No time check but that gap is at around 7 seconds as Orica, Katusha and Etixx surge forward.
It's all over for the break.
All back together with exactly 2km to go.
Bouhanni is also in the mix as Orica and Giant duke it out for control at the front of the bunch.
Into the final 1km and onto the late climb.
Matthews hits the front just as the riders take the final corner.
He's in the lead and has a small gap but can anyone catch him? Nizzolo is on his wheel.
But its Matthews who takes the win. A first win for Orica in Europe this season.
He had an excellent lead out from his team, they set him up perfectly with Cimolai second and Nizzolo in third.
And confirmation that Matthews now leads the overall in the race by one second from Michał Kwiatkowski.
Today's top ten:
1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica GreenEdge 04:32:12
2 Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-Merida 00:00:00
3 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek Factory Racing 00:00:00
4 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha 00:00:00
5 Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar Team 00:00:00
6 Matti Breschel (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo 00:00:00
7 Moreno Hofland (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 00:00:00
8 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 00:00:00
9 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Team Europcar
10 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ.fr
General classification after stage 3
1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica GreenEdge 14:25:26
2 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Etixx - Quick-Step 00:00:01
3 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team
4 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin 00:00:03
5 Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx - Quick-Step 00:00:08
6 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana Pro Team 0:00:11
7 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM Cycling
8 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 00:00:14
9 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
10 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team
So a welcome win for Matthews and Orica here in Paris-Nice and another eventful stage. You can find our report, results, and photos, right here.
Thanks for joining us today. We'll be back tomorrow with more action from Paris-Nice, while you can follow the final action from Tirreno, right here.
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