Good afternoon and welcome to stage 3 of Paris-Nice and the first venture into the mountains. We've got seven classified climbs on the menu today.
The race is already underway and with so many climbs to come a break has been quick to form. There are 14 men out front who lead the peloton by 3:30 with two men trying to chase them down at 1::04.
The riders out front are: Marcus Burghardt (BMC), Luka Pibernik (Lampre-Merida), Ben Swift (Sky), Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-La Mondiale), Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge), Yuri Trofimov (Tinkoff), David De la Cruz (Etixx-QuickStep), Kevin Reza (FDJ), Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Alexei Lutsenko (Astana), Dylan Van Baarle (Cannondale), Laurent Didier (Trek-Segafredo), Alexandre Pichot (Direct Energie), Delio Fernandez (Delko).
The two chasers are Paul Martens (LottoNl-Jumbo) and Roy Curvers (Giant-Alpecin).
Michael Matthews remains in the leader's yellow jersey for today's stage. He's only got 14 seconds over Tom Dumoulin at the moment so it's likely to be all change at the finish today. Here is how the top 10 looks at the moment.
1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge 9:41:46
2 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:00:14
3 Patrick Bevin (NZl) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:00:19
4 Jon Izaguirre (Spa) Movistar Team
5 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
6 Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Astana Pro Team 0:00:24
7 Dries Devenyns (Bel) IAM Cycling 0:00:25
8 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
9 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff Team 0:00:27
10 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team
News coming through that Arthur Vichot has climbed off and abandoned. Vichot was one of the riders dropped earlier in the day.
Curvers and Martens have joined forces with the leading group, boosting their number to 16 now. The escapees have an advantage of 3:35 at almost 40km gone.
The race jury will be hoping to play less of a role in today's stage. They were busy post-stage yesterday after a controversial sprint into Commentry. They deemed that Bouhanni had veered off his line in the sprint and relegated the Frenchman, which handed Matthews the win.
You can watch the highlights from yesterday and make up your own mind on that sprint right here.
As to be expected, Bouhanni vehemently defended himself after that sprint. Read what he had to say.
The riders have been subjected to the elements in the earlier stages of the race and it continues today. It is raining over the peloton at the moment, and at the finish there is snow.
The peloton are not happy with having such a big group at the front and they've cut down the advantage to 2:25 as we approach the first of many climbs today.
This is what today's stage looks like and you can see that they will make one ascent of Mont Bouilly before the finish, so they will get a chance to scope it out before the real thing.
117km remaining from 165km
The gap to the 16 riders out front continues to decrease. They now have just 1:45 on the bunch and it continues to drop. They're going to have to shed a few riders if they want a little longer out front today.
Romain Bardet is one of the pre-race favourites for the overall classification. He had this to say before the stage.
"We would have preferred better weather conditions. It's a tough stage with two ascents of Mont Brouillly and rain forecast. But we're used to this. It's not the hardest stage of the week but threading contenders will have to be present."
110km remaining from 165km
As the gap comes down by another 15 seconds, the leaders are on the first ascent of the day the Côte de Vernay. A short 2.3km climb that averages 4.6 per cent.
Away from Paris-Nice, there is some good news for the Giant-Alpecin team. Ramon Sinkledam is back to racing today and John Degenkolb could be back in action by May, despite almost losing his finger in a training crash in January. Read about the news here.
We've got a second abandon for today. Daniel Teklehaimanot (Dimension Data) has climbed off. From Eritrea, Taklehaimanot is not a fan of the cold conditions that the peloton has faced in recent days.
Along with Teklehaimanot and Vichot, Philippe Gilbert will be on his way home. Gilbert was a DNS this morning, citing a respiratory illness for his decision to abandon.
The Belgian said after his abandon that he is hoping to get back to full health for Milan-San Remo.
101km remaining from 165km
Some movement in the leading group as Fernandez suffers a mechanical and Reza is dropped. The two riders work together though and make it back. The advantage to the 16 men out front is 1:35.
Earlier we brought you the news that Arthur Vichot had called it a day. His directeur sportif Thierry Bricaud told the official website that Vichot has been ill.
"Arthur had been unwell for the past two days, he has gastric problems. He had no legs this morning and given the weather conditions, it was better for him to stop. It will be stage for warriors. With the rain and snow if it keeps falling, it should be a battle with some surprises. Some riders will have lost their GC ambitions tonight."
Gougeard has had enough of the status quo and has decided to attack the leading group. He now has a small advantage on the escapees.
AG2R-La Mondiale posted this picture earlier with the caption welcome to the race to the sun.
Gougeard's multiple attacks has split the leading group. He has taken Didier and Lutsenko with him and they have a 42-second lead on the 13 chasers.
Gougeard and his band of brothers are on the second ascent of the day the Côte de Châteauneuf. They've got an intermediate sprint not too long after the summit and then they're climbing once again.
A video from Team Sky shows that the now is falling pretty hard at the feed zone which is just at the top of the third climb of the day. Not nice conditions for the riders, who are layering up against the elements.
This is the second time it has snowed during Paris-Nice. Tom Boonen, who is still on the comeback trail since crashing at the end of last year, was very critical of the decision to allow the racing to continue. He's likely not to be too happy about it today either.
After the second ascent, the gaps between the groups has come down significantly. The three leaders have just 1:20 on the peloton and the chasers are only 35 seconds ahead of the group. With the weather as it is, it will be a tough day out for everyone but especially for the escapees.
Herrada has bridge the gap to the leaders while Alexis Vuillermoz has crashed on the descent of the last climb. He appears to be ok and is chasing back on.
After that crash on the descent, Vuillermoz is the latest rider to abandon the race. Further up the road, the peloton have caught the second group of escapees leaving only four in the lead.
It remains to be seen if the extreme weather protocol will be used today. For now tough, the riders carry on up the third climb of the day and close in on the halfway point.
78km remaining from 165km
Thomas De Gendt was dropped in the early stages of the race but he has now set off in pursuit of the four leaders. He has Lilian Calmejane of Direct Energie for company.
De Gendt has joined the front group but it seems that Calmejane is back in the peloton. Perrig Quemeneur is the next rider to make a move off the front of the peloton, he's got a gap of 1:45 to bridge.
With the help of De Gendt, the gap to the escapees has increased to two minutes. You have to wonder if the peloton are now just playing it safe in these conditions.
A few riders have joined Quemeneur, although we have no confirmation as to who they are. The leaders are about to hit the top of the Col des Écharmeaux where the snow is coming down pretty hard.
Passing through the feedzone, the gap to the peloton continues to grow. It is now 3:10 for our five intrepid escapees.
Lutsenko is the best placed of the escapees in the general classification. The Astana rider is just 33 seconds down on race leader Michael Matthews.
69km remaining from 165km
It has taken some time but the stage has been neutralised because of the conditions with 69km to go.
The riders will now climb off their bikes and be taken almost 30km up the road to resume the race. Once there, they will decide whether or not to resume racing.
The restart will be at km 125 in Villié-Morgon close to the foot of Mont Brouilly with around 40km to the finish.
The five escapees had 3:30 on the peloton when the race was neutralised and they will be given that as a head-start should the race resume.
Snow is also falling at the finish but it is nowhere near as hard as is was at the feedzone, where the race was neutralised. Needless to say, there will be plenty of discussion before they make a decision on racing again.
Trek-Segafredo reporting that the stage has been cancelled and there will be no restart. We'll wait for confirmation on that however.
Official confirmation from the race organisers that the stage has been cancelled with this brief statement.
"The race jury and direction decided to cancel today's third stage becauee of the weather conditions. The times will not be taken into account but the points scored at the first intermediate sprint of the day and on the climbs completed so far will count."
Keep with us and we will get you the latest reaction from stage 3. While this has been going on, BMC has won the opening team time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico.
Riders are wrapping up at the feedzone while they wait for the team busses to make their way from the finish.
You can also keep updated with the cancellation of stage 3 of Paris-Nice here. Michael Matthews will remain in the race lead with no time gaps taken.
If my memory serves me right. This is the second time that the extreme weather protocol has been used after Clasica Almeria was cut short due to high winds.
Former rider turned Sky DS Gabriele Rasch posted this picture of himself and Luke Rowe getting warm follow the cancellation.
The extreme weather protocol was brought in for this season after a number of incidents last year including the extreme heat at the Tour of Oman last February.
Reports that the temperatures have crashed to -4 at Paris-Nice. If you're not familiar with the new extreme weather protocol you can read up on it here.
Further reaction from the organisers following the cancellation of stage 3. "The road was extremely slippery and the safety was no longer guaranteed. We are sorry. That's Paris-Nice. We promise we'll come back to Mont-Brouilly. It's a pity but the riders will start again tomorrow from Julienas."
Another shot from the feedzone where the riders are getting into cars and making their way back to the hotel.
The riders will be hoping for much better weather tomorrow's stage from Juliénas to Romans-Sur-Isere which at 195km is the second longest of the race.
As well as Matthews keeping his yellow jersey, Jon Izagirre will retain the mountains jersey for another day.
Read the full details of today's cancelled stage here
That is it from us today. Keep turned to Cyclingnews.com for all the reaction from today's cancelled stage and come back tomorrow for more live coverage of Paris-Nice.
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