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Paris - Nice 2017: Stage 7

The peloton is gathering on the start line in Nice for stage 7 of Paris-Nice. The neutralised start is at 12.15 local time, and a lengthy procession out of the city follows before the race hits kilometre zero at around 12.35. The finish today is the highest ever at Paris-Nice, atop the 1,678-metre high Col de la Couillole, and it could prove decisive in the battle for final overall victory.

The general classification with two days remaining is as follows:


1 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors 21:58:22
2 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal 0:00:36
3 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky 0:00:46
4 Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:57
5 Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors 0:01:20
6 Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin 0:01:31
7 Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek-Segafredo 0:01:34
8 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott 0:01:37
9 Jon Izaguirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida 0:02:04
10 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Sunweb 0:03:08

 

The peloton is still navigating the lengthy neutralised zone. The temperature is a pleasant 17 degrees at sea level, but will undoubtedly be chillier atop the Col de la Couillole at the finish. There are four climbs on the agenda today:the category 2 Côte de Gattières (4.5km at 4.8%), the category 1 Col de Vence (9.7km at 6.6%), the category 1 Col Saint-Martin (7.5km at 7.2%), and the finish atop the Col de la Couillole (15.7km at 7.1%).

 

177km remaining from 177km

The peloton reaches kilometre zero and the penultimate stage of Paris-Nice is underway.

 

The climbing begins early on the day's stage, with the peloton facing immediately into the category 2 Côte de Gattières. The road levels off but doesn't drop afterwards, and category 1 Col de Vence follows.

 

171km remaining from 177km

An early group of escapees punch clear on the first climb. Jan Polanc (UAE-Emirates), Axel Domont (Ag2r La Mondiale), Omar Fraile (Dimension Data), Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) and Delio Fernandez (Delko-Marseille) have established a lead of a minute over the peloton.

 

Domont leads the king of the mountains classification, and he is looking to pick up points on the early climbs to buttress his slender advantage over Simon Yates (Orica-Scott).

 

167km remaining from 177km

Calmejane beats Domont in the sprint for the maximum 7 points atop the Cote de Gattieres. Polanc, winner at Abetone on the 2015 Giro, is third over the summit. The break's advantage stands at 1:05.

 

161km remaining from 177km

The five leaders maintain their advantage of a minute as they head towards the intermediate sprint at Vence. Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) gives chase alone in between the break and the peloton.

 

168km remaining from 177km

Delio Fernandez leads the escapees through the intermediate sprint at Vence. Their advantage has now extended north of three minutes.

 

152km remaining from 177km

The five escapees are tackling the Col de Vence with a lead of 4:45 over the peloton. Perichon continues to give chase alone, but he is two minutes down on Domont et al.

 

Richie Porte (BMC) is well out of the battle for overall victory, but the Australian was aggressive during yesterday's hilltop finish at Fayence, and he has predicted 'absolute war' among the GC contenders as Paris-Nice take on its most mountainous stage this afternoon. 

 

Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step) is looking to become the first French winner since Laurent Jalabert took the third of his Paris-Nice victories some twenty years ago. The maillot jaune - insert annual lamentation at ASO's decision to discontinue the famous white jersey here - leads his fellow countryman Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) by 36 seconds, with Sergio Henao (Sky) a further 10 seconds back in third. 

 

140km remaining from 177km

At the head of the race, Calmejane and Domont are locked in a battle for the king of the mountains points atop the Col de Vence. The break's lead has dropped slightly to 4:10.

 

138km remaining from 177km

Calmejane escapes alone on the upper slopes of the Col de Vence. The Frenchman is first to the summit, 30 seconds clear of Domont and 4:10 up on the peloton.

 

135km remaining from 177km

Calmejane, who won a Vuelta a Espana stage in his debut season last year, has carried that form into the beginning of the current campaign. The Etoile des Besseges winner commits to pressing on alone here. He now has a 50-second lead over his erstwhile companions, while the bunch is 4:10 back.

 

Simon Yates' stage victory yesterday was enough to move him up to 8th place overall, 1:37 off Alaphilippe's lead, but within striking distance of a podium berth. You can read his thoughts on the lie of the land at Paris-Nice here.

 

132km remaining from 177km

The descent off the Col de Vence is a long one, and Calmejane sits up to wait for the rest of the break. Meanwhile, Perichon's lone chase has paid off as he bridges up to the escapees. There are now six riders on the front with a lead of 3:40 over the peloton.

 

A reminder of the names in this break: Pierre-Luc Périchon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Jan Polanc (UAE-Abu Dhabi), Axel Domont (Ag2r La Mondiale), Omar Fraile (Dimension Data), Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) and Delio Fernandez (Delko-Marseille).

 

Nobody in this break poses the merest threat to the general classification. The highest placed rider is Delio Fernandez, who is some 36:19 down in 57th position overall.

 

124km remaining from 177km

The escapees have come through Buyon at the base of the descent with a lead of 3:40 over the peloton. They are some 80 kilometres from the day's next categoirsed climb, the category 1 Col Saint-Martin.

 

Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) moved up on GC but lost seconds to Alaphilippe yesterday and now lies 7th overall, 1:34 down. "I don't know why but the feelings weren't good. When we went up the Col de Bourigaille for the first time I said to myself, 'ok we just need to get through today as best as we can and tomorrow will be another day.' You never know why you have this feeling, but it's important to get back, eat well and then recover for tomorrow," Contador told Cyclingnews afterwards. "Victory will be difficult, but we'll look towards tomorrow."

 

80km remaining from 177km

Team Sky have led the peloton in recent kilometres as the road continues to drop and the pace ratchets upwards. The gap to the break stands at 3:35.

Dave Brailsford insisted at Tirrreno-Adriatico yesterday that he will not quit as Sky manager and also denied that he was attempting to hide from journalists' questions. It's purely by chance, of course, that over the years he has  regularly happened to field long phone calls from remarkably loquacious speakers just as reporters arrive at the Sky bus. “Of course I’m not hiding. I’m fine in myself and I’ve got confidence in my team,” said Brailsford. 

 

Dave Brailsford insisted at Tirrreno-Adriatico yesterday that he will not quit as Sky manager and also denied that he was attempting to hide from journalists' questions. “Of course I’m not hiding. I’m fine in myself and I’ve got confidence in my team,” said Brailsford. 

 

There is, of course, a major summit finish at Tirreno-Adriatico this afternoon also. Susan Westemeyer has live commentary on the Terminillo stage here, while Stephen Farrand has written this excellent preview.

The gap between the break and the peloton remains stable at around 3:35 for the time being. Our man at Paris-Nice Dan Benson has driven the day's final climb, the Col de la Couillole. "It’s a steady slog with a varying gradient that should suit attacking riders," he reports. "It's hard to see anything but Sky or BMC setting a fast pace on the lower slopes with a vastly reduced group contesting the final 5 or 6 kilometres." 

 

Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) was a non-starter on today's stage due to illness. Reportedly suffering with a cold since the beginning of the week, the Dutchman lost more than quarter of an hour yesterday and had dropped to 18th place overall.

 

On a stage of his length and difficulty, the pyrotechnics were always likely to be concentrated in the finale, but it will be fascinating to see whether any of the overall contenders show their hand as early as the Col Saint-Martin.

 

At 1678 metres, the Col de la Couillole is the highest summit finish ever to feature at Paris-Nice. The race has featured mountain finishes at Mont Ventoux in the past, of course, but never at the summit, and never as high as 1678 metres. Cadel Evans won at Mont Serein on the northern side of the Ventoux in 2008, while the Chalet Reynard finish that featured at last year's Tour has often appeared at Paris-Nice. Thirty years ago, Sean Kelly won at Chalet Reynard en route to the sixth of his seven successive overall victories. 

 

70km remaining from 177km

A mild injection of pace in the peloton sees the escapees' lead drop inside three minutes.

 

65km remaining from 177km

The irrepressible Calmejane takes off alone once again as the break hits the false flat before the Col Saint-Martin.

 

Calmejane opens a lead of 50 seconds over the break. The peloton is at 3:40.

 

57km remaining from 177km

Calmejane leads through the second intermediate sprint at Roquebillière, with Domont and the chasers still 50 seconds behind.

 

53km remaining from 177km

Even before the Col Saint-Martin (7.5km at 7.2%) begins in earnest, the break is beginning to fragment as Fraile is left behind. Calmejane is 1:10 up on the chasers and 3:40 ahead of the bunch.

 

50km remaining from 177km

Into the final 50 kilometres for Calmejane, who pushes his lead out to 1:25.

 

Arnaud Demare (FDJ) has abandoned Paris-Nice. The Frenchman won the opening stage, wore yellow for three days and was still in the green jersey of points leader. Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) has also pulled out.

 

47km remaining from 177km

Calmejane begins the ascent of the Col Saint-Martin. Behind, the chasing group breaks in two, with Domont and Fernandez 1:45 behind and Polanc and Perichon going backwards.

 

All the main contenders remain in the peloton, which begins the climb 3:50 behind Calmejane.

 

42km remaining from 177km

Calmejane battles on alone on the Col Saint-Martin, where Domont and Fernandez have cut his lead to 1:15.

 

Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) attacks from the peloton on the Col Saint-Martin. The Dane is 18 minutes down on GC after getting caught out earlier in the week, but he finished alongside Alberto Contador and Ilnur Zakarin on yesterday's uphill finish.

 

41km remaining from 177km

The speed has soared in the main peloton on the upper slopes of the climb. They are now two minutes down on Calmejane.

 

Team Sky are setting the pace in the yellow jersey group, and Tony Gallopin is betraying signs of suffering at the back. The summit of the Saint-Martin can't come soon enough for the Frenchman.

 

Fuglsang has bridged up to Domont and Fernandez. 

 

38km remaining from 177km

Alaphilippe is not looking comfortable as Trek-Segafredo now pile on the pressure, with Jarlinson Pantano setting the pace.

 

Fuglsang pressed on alone after catching Domont and Fernandez, but all three have since been pegged back by the yellow jersey group. A kilometre of climbing remains for Calmejane, who has a lead of 1:15 over the reduced peloton.

 

Tony Gallopin is dropped near the summit of the Col Saint-Martin. He has Thomas De Gendt for company and he might well latch back on the descent, but this does not augur well for his prospects.

 

37km remaining from 177km

Calmejane leads alone over the Col Saint-Martin, 1:10 ahead of the reduced peloton.

 

31km remaining from 177km

Calmejane hurtles down the descent trying to keep as much of his lead as possible intact ahead of the final haul up the Col de la Couillole. His advantage has been pinned back to 50 seconds, however.

 

27km remaining from 177km

Mauro Finetto (Delko-Marseille) slips away from the bunch on the fast drop off the Saint-Martin. He closes to within 25 seconds of Calmejane. 

 

24km remaining from 177km

Finetto's brief cameo comes to an abrupt end when he punctures on the descent of the Col Saint-Martin. Calmejane is 43 seconds up on the peloton.

 

21km remaining from 177km

There are around thirty riders in the yellow jersey group on this sinuous descent - among them Tony Gallopin, who latched back on near the top of the descent.

 

19km remaining from 177km

Sky remain at the front of the yellow jersey group towards the bottom of this descent. The gap to Calmejane stands at 50 seconds.

 

17km remaining from 177km

Cyril Gautier (Ag2r La Mondiale) leads a counter attack with Diego Ulissi (UAE Emirates) and Quinten Pacher (Delko-Marseille) as the pace slackens in the yellow jersey group.

 

15km remaining from 177km

Calmejane starts the ascent of the Col de la Couillole, which has an average gradient of 7.1%. His lead is 48 seconds over the yellow jersey group.

 

Pacher, Gautier and Ulissi are 26 seconds down on Calmejane as they being the climb.

 

Calmejane's all-action style will inevitably invite comparison with Thomas Voeckler, though the facial expressions are a little more restrained as he tackles the early slopes.

 

15km remaining from 177km

Philip Deignan leads the peloton for Team Sky, 40 seconds down on Calmejane.

 

Pacher, Ulissi and Gautier bridge up to Calmejane. Immediately, Pacher puts in an acceleration that only Ulissi can follow.

 

Pacher isn't hanging around, and Ulissi is struggling to hold the Frenchman's wheel as he forces the pace.

 

14km remaining from 177km

Deignan's pace-setting in the 30-strong yellow jersey group has cut Ulissi and Pacher's advantage to 26 seconds.

 

Gautier and Calmejane are swept up by the peloton with a shade under 14 kilometres of climbing still to go.

 

12km remaining from 177km

Ulissi is now alone at the head of the race, while Deignan still leads in the yellow jersey group, 25 seconds back on the Italian.

 

Deignan's stint of pace-setting is done for the day and he swings off. The yellow jersey group is down to twenty riders or so.

 

11km remaining from 177km

Jarlinson Pantano takes over for Trek-Segafredo and raises the pace in the yellow jersey group.

 

11km remaining from 177km

Pantano's surge has cut Ulissi's gap to 17 seconds and has also forced Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) off the back of the yellow jersey group, which is now down to just 15 riders.

 

10km remaining from 177km

Julian Alaphilippe and Tony Gallopin have both been dropped by the Pantano-led group with more than ten kilometres of climbing to go.

 

10km remaining from 177km

Ulissi is caught by the group of favourites, which features 13 riders, including Zakarin, Dan Martin, Contador, Henao and Gorka Izaguirre.

 

9km remaining from 177km

Warren Barguil (Sunweb) has also been distanced by the select leading group. Alaphilippe has Carlos De La Cruz for company, but he trails by 25 seconds.

 

8km remaining from 177km

Pantano continues to set a fierce tempo in this leading group. Richie Porte (BMC) is also still in there, and in contention for stage victory.

 

8km remaining from 177km

Pantano swings over and Mikel Nieve (Sky) takes over on the front of the leading group. Sergio Henao is in third wheel. Others in here include Contador, Porte, Zakarin, Dan Martin, Ion Izagirre (Bahrain Merida), Gorka Izagirre, Victor De La Parte and Marc Soler (Movistar).

 

7km remaining from 177km

Pierre Latour (Ag2r) is also hanging on at the very rear of this leading group. Alaphilippe now trails by 39 seconds. Henao, 46 seconds down this morning, is almost maillot jaune virtuel.

 

Contador bobs from side to side on Henao's wheel as Nieve continues to tap out the rhythm at the front of the leading group.

 

6km remaining from 177km

Alaphilippe is battling to limit his losses, with Carlos De La Cruz setting the pace for him. His deficit is now 50 seconds. Henao is the virtual race leader.

 

6km remaining from 177km

A vicious acceleration from Pantano strings out the leading group and reduces it to around seven riders.

 

Henao, Contador, Martin, Porte, Fuglsgang and Ion Izagirre are all with Pantano. Zakarin, Latour, Gorka Izagirre and his two Movistar teammates have been distanced.

 

5km remaining from 177km

Pantano leads this elite selection into the final five kilometres with a gap of around 15 seconds over Gorka Izagirre et al.

 

4km remaining from 177km

Pantano swings over, his work done, and almost rolls to a standstill. Six riders left in front: Fuglsang, Ion Izagirre, Dan Martin, Contador, Porte and Henao.

 

4km remaining from 177km

Fuglsang makes a tentative acceleration that is quickly pegged back by Henao.

 

4km remaining from 177km

Porte unleashes a rasping acceleration, but Ion Izagirre and Fuglsang combine to peg him back.

 

A second acceleration from Porte strings out the leading group. Contador sits on his wheel. 

 

3km remaining from 177km

Contador takes over on the front and his acceleration helps to split the group. Henao and Porte are on the Spaniard's wheel. Martin tries to latch back.

 

3km remaining from 177km

Porte accelerates and this time opens a significant gap. Henao and Contador mark one another behind.

 

Or more accurately, Henao is locked onto Contador's rear wheel. Dan Martin is chasing alone in fourth place on the road. 

 

2km remaining from 177km

Porte has 16 seconds on Contador and Henao, who looks destined to take over the race lead.

 

1km remaining from 177km

Contador and Henao are working together to distance Martin et al, but they trail Porte by 22 seconds.

 

Martin is riding well to limit his losses to Contador and Henao, though he can't get back on terms.

 

1km remaining from 177km

Porte enters the final kilometre with 28 seconds in hand on Contador and Henao. Dan Martin is chasing alone in fourth place, a further 10 seconds back.

 

Contador unleashes a sharp acceleration and opens a gap on Henao in the final kilometre.

 

Contador edges away from a struggling Henao, while Martin continues to claw his way back up to the Colombian.

 

Contador has opened a sizeable gap over Henao as he enters the final 300 metres...

 

Richie Porte (BMC) wins stage 7 of Paris-Nice.

 

Contador takes second place, 20 seconds down.

 

Dan Martin slips past Henao right at the death to snatch third place - and the bonus seconds - 31 seconds down on Porte.

 

Ion Izagirre takes 5th, Fuglsang and Latour follow across the line, a little more than a minute down.

 

Sergio Henao (Sky) will take possession of the yellow jersey. Alaphilippe is still making his way to the finish more than two minutes after Porte's victory.

 

Alaphilippe crosses the line 2:40 down on Porte, 2:10 down on Henao.

 

Simon Yates comes in 4:20 down on the stage.

 

We await confirmation of precise GC standings, but Henao will carry a lead of around 30 seconds over Dan Martin and Contador into tomorrow's final stage.

 

Indeed, we can confirm: Sergio Henao is 30 seconds up on Dan Martin and 31 clear of Contador. Gorka Izagirre is at 1:00, while Alaphilippe is now fifth overall, 1:22 down.

 

Riche Porte (BMC) on putting a different gloss on disappointing Paris-Nice. "It’s an incredible satisfaction. My teammates never lost faith in me, even if I wasn’t always easy to deal with this week," he says. “I had a couple of little goes at it but I wouldn’t say I attacked. Maybe it helped that the guys behind didn’t have to chase me for GC.”

 

Result:

1 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team 05:01:35
2 Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek - Segafredo 00:00:21
3 Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick - Step Floors 00:00:32
4 Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Team Sky 00:00:32
5 Jon Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Bahrain - Merida 00:00:55
6 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 00:01:07
7 Pierre-Roger Latour (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale 00:01:11
8 Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Team Katusha Alpecin 00:01:21
9 Marc Soler Gimenez (Spa) Movistar Team 00:01:21
10 Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar Team 00:01:21

General classification:

 

1 Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Team Sky 27:01:15
2 Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick - Step Floors 00:00:30
3 Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek - Segafredo 00:00:31
4 Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar Team 00:01:00
5 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick - Step Floors 00:01:22
6 Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Team Katusha Alpecin 00:01:34
7 Jon Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Bahrain - Merida 00:01:41
8 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal 00:03:22
9 Barguil Warren (Fra) Team Sunweb 00:04:07
10 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica - Scott 00:04:39
 

 

Thanks for joining our live coverage of Paris-Nice this afternoon. We'll be back with more from tomorrow's final stage. A full report, results and pictures from today's leg will follow here.

 

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