Good morning and welcome to stage 3 of Paris-Nice. The riders have just rolled out of Bourges for the neutral start.
At 210 kilometres, today's stage is the longest of the whole race and takes in three categorised climbs along the course.
After no break for more than two hours yesterday, today sees a move go up the road right from the gun. Three riders have broken clear and they are: Jay Thomson (Dimension Data), Fabien Grellier (Direct Energie) and Przemyslaw Kasperkiewicz (Delko Marseille Provence).
The peloton seems more than happy with the make-up of that move and they've been allowed a gap of 1:55 and it's growing.
After Arnaud Demare took a surprise win on day one, the winner on day two was a little less of a shock to the system. Dylan Groenewegen took his fifth victory of the year with a strong sprint finish to beat Elia Viviani.
1 Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo 4:51:31
2 Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
3 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal
4 Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Team Sunweb
5 Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
6 Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Sunweb
7 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
8 Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team
9 John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
10 Ivan Garcia (Spa) Bahrain-Merida
There was a small gap in the slightly uphill finish yesterday but with the new three-second rule, the whole peloton was given the same time. Thanks to some bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint, Demare still managed to extend his overall lead yesterday.
1 Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 7:58:57
2 Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida 0:00:07
3 Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:00:08
4 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:10
5 Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:00:13
6 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
7 Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:15
8 Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott
9 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida
10 Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain-Merida
198km remaining from 210km
The advantage of the three leaders continues to grow. It now stands at 6:45. With such a long day, the peloton can afford to give them plenty of room.
@Cyclingnewsfeed Tue, 6th Mar 2018 10:49:01
It's only eight degrees out there but there is some blue sky and it's dry.
FDJ, or Groupama-FDJ as we should call them now, has turned up the pace on the front of the bunch a bit. They've let the escapees have their fun and now they want to bring them back to a much nicer gap.
Despite the little uptick in pace, the gap is now at 7 minutes for the three leaders. Enough time to make a cup of tea and carry on, if you so wished.
It has been a little more than 24 hours since the DCMS released a report on the findings of a two-year long investigation into doping in sport. There continues to be fall out from it and yesterday evening Bradley Wiggins spoke to the BBC to give his side of the story. The former rider, and 2012 Tour de France winner, categorically denied any cheating. Read the full story here.
Floyd Landis also weighed in on the DCMS report, saying that he believed Wiggins should lose his Tour de France win - as Landis did after testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone. Read Landis' full comments here.
Back to the race in hand and Delko Merseille DS Andy Flickinger - who previously worked at Direct Energy - says that the plan was always to get Kasperkiewicz into the breakaway today. Although, he's not so sure that they'll get anything from it.
"Przemyslaw was one of the riders we had picked to go in a breakaway with Romain Combaud who is arriving on home turf. The break is probably doomed to fail but you never know and the KOM jersey is an important goal for today and for the rest of the race if there is a chance. Przemyslaw is an all-rounder. He is fast and he can climb well. It's good for a young rider like him to shake the race and ride in the front," he said."We did not come here to show ourselves in breakaways but with real ambitions. Remy Di Gregorio is in great shape and even if he lost time in the first stage, we are confident he can show himself in the harder stages, go for a stage victory and make significant progress in the GC,"
The gap to the breakaway is holding for now.
While much of the peloton is here in France, a large portion of it is also out in Italy for Tirreno-Adriatico. The race of the two seas begins tomorrow with a team time trial and we will have both Daniel Benson and Stephen Farrand over there covering events. See what we might expect over the next week of racing with our preview.
172km remaining from 210km
In the meantime, we've had an update on the time gaps and FDJ has cut the lead down by close to a minute to 6:30. After yesterday's snail's pace, the average speed in the first hour was 39kph.
The first 'difficulty' of the day will be the intermediate sprint in Le Brethon in around 20 kilometres. With three riders out front, there won't be any points, or seconds, available for the peloton behind. Yesterday we saw Julian Alaphilippe mop up some bonus seconds in the two intermediate sprints, while Arnaud Demare added to his overall tally.
1 Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 24 pts
2 Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo 15
3 Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida 12
4 Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors 12
5 Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Sunweb 11
6 Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 10
7 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal 9
8 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors 8
9 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal 7
10 Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Team Sunweb 7
Coming with 19 kilometres remaining, the second intermediate sprint of the day could be an opportunity for the peloton to take points and seconds. However, it comes just after the top of a third category climb so that could change the complexion a little bit. The sprinters shouldn't get dropped on the climb, in theory, but it levels the playing field for someone such as Alaphilippe.
Today's profile is an interesting one. Strictly speaking, it shouldn't be difficult enough to dispatch with the sprinters but the undulating roads and the rise towards the flamme rouge will make it a little bit harder. If the sprinters can remain at the front under the flamme rouge then they have a flat run to the line from there. In his current form, I wouldn't put it past Groenwegen to take another.
For reference, as you can't see it that well in the profile above, here is the profile of the final five kilometres. You can see perfectly how the road dips before rising up again for the final kilometre.
FDJ continues to work on the front but it is fairly relaxed in the bunch as riders chat and have a laugh. Demare in his yellow jersey is close to the front with his teammates. The gap has grown back up to seven minutes.
Away from the racing briefly and following the DCMS report, the UCI it will consider improvements to the TUE process.
Direct Energie DS Lylian Breton has indicated that their desire is to lay claim to the king of the mountains jersey today.
"It was in our plan to have a rider in the breakaway but we were hoping for more riders to join in. In such a break, the KOM is the main goal. We love the KOM jersey. We took it back from Nice two years in succession so it would be nice to still have it on Sunday. Fabien is in shape and he climbs well. Why not focus on the polka-dot towards the end of the race?"
The leaders have gone through the intermediate sprint, with Thomson passing through in first, Kasperkiewicz in second and Grellier in third.
The peloton is looking very relaxed out there.
@BMCProTeam Tue, 6th Mar 2018 12:16:28
Of the three riders out front, Dimension Data's Jay Thomson is the most experienced after turning professional in 2012 with UnitedHealthcare. Dimension Data has some good riders in their line-up for Paris-Nice but they're certainly not one of the big favourites. Paris-Nice stage winner Tom Jelte Slagter is their headline act, but they've also got guys like Ben King and Serge Pauwels who could get something out of this week.
Kasperkiewicz is the newest addition to the professional peloton after signing with Delko Marseille for this season. The 24-year-old Polish rider was a stagiaire with Quick-Step Floors at the end of last season.
Grellier is in his third season as a professional after signing with Direct Energie in 2016. The 27-year-old has previously finished fifth at the Paris-Roubaix espoirs.
After two hours of racing, the average speed is a modest 37.9kph. We're running a bit behind schedule at the moment but that should balance out in the latter half of the stage.
The feed zone is approaching quickly and the gap to the three leaders is expanding again. It is now 7:35, their largest gap thus far.
It might not be that sunny out there but there are still plenty of sunglasses on show in the peloton. LottoNl-Jumbo have the new Shimano S-Phyre range with them here in Paris-Nice. Take a closer look at them here.
Christian Pomer is the DS for Bora-Hansgrohe at Paris-Nice. He believes that today's finish is too hard for the pure sprinters but guys such as Demare could be in the mix.
"It’s going to be an open race," he said. "The last climb is 4.8km long and then it’s straight down to the finish line. Twenty kilometres from the finish line is the last KOM and I think that Demare in his current shape and with the team he has here has a good chance of arriving at the sprint. I also think that for the pure sprinters it will be too difficult. Maybe our riders can get up there and I think that we can have a better end for us today."
News just in that sprinters Phil Bauhaus and Sam Bennett have abandoned the race.
With nothing for the sprinters in the coming days, they perhaps have decided to save themselves for other things. No official reason from the teams as to why the pair has called it quits.
Bennett and Bauhaus climbed off as the peloton went through the feed zone. Meanwhile, the bunch has closed the gap to the escapees to 5:50 as they near the first of three categorised climbs.
@danroan Tue, 6th Mar 2018 13:07:33
Team Sunweb has confirmed that the reason Phil Bauhaus climbed off in the feed zone was due to knee pain.
Nairo Quintana will not make his European debut this season for another few weeks, at the Volta a Catalunya. The Movistar rider is at home training in Colombia and did an interview with the publication El Tiempo, where he said he's going to curtail his approach to racing in order to keep his best form for July and laid criticism at the door of Movistar for the way they've approached a lot of races with him. Read the full story here.
Under 100km to go for the riders and the gap still hovers at 5:45.
The breakaway is still plugging away and working together.
The riders are almost at the first ascent of the day, the third category Cote de la Bosse - a 2.3km climb that averages 5.1%.
With three third category climbs in the offing today, it is possible for one of these three to take the king of the mountains jersey for themselves. They would need to take the fill points in at least two of the climbs and a further point on the third, with Pierre Luc Perrichon the current leader in that classification on eight points.
1 Pierre Luc Perichon (Fra) Fortuneo-Samsic 8 pts
2 Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 4
3 Pierre Rolland (Fra) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale 4
4 Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida 2
5 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) BMC Racing Team 2
6 Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 1
@Cyclingnewsfeed Tue, 6th Mar 2018 13:50:33
As his DS hinted at a little earlier on, Grellier has gone for the KOM points and taken them. Kasperkiewicz took two points and Thomson the final one point.
72km remaining from 210km
The riders have completed the descent of the Cote de la Bosse and are about to begin the Cote des Boulards. The peloton has cut the gap down even further to 4:15.
FDJ is still the dominant force at the front of the bunch as they look to keep Arnaud Demare safe. A few teams have pitched in but it has been the French team manning the peloton for most of the day.
Over in the world of women's cycling, Canyon-SRAM team manager Ronny Lauke has spoken to Cyclingnews about his ambitions of winning the Giro Rosa this season. Read the full story here.
Grellier has gone on the attack on the second climb of the day as he hunts a few more mountains points. He's pulled out a gap of 35 seconds on his two companions with a kilometre to the top of the climb.
64km remaining from 210km
Lotto Soudal is now chasing on the front of the peloton with Thomas De Gendt, helping to bring the gap down to 3:53.
With that little attack, Grellier took the four points. He's now just one point shy of taking the king of the mountains jersey. He's currently equal on points with Perichon and has kept his attack going. With so far to go, he would be better off waiting for Thomson and Kasperkiewicz, but there we are.
De Gendt leading the bunch up the second climb of the day.
Alexander Kristoff struggling to keep in touch with the peloton at the moment. He's been sitting at the back all day. The Norwegian is reportedly suffering with illness at the moment.
After putting in a chase Kristoff has sat up. He just wants to make it to the finish. Right now though, he looks about the same colour as his European champion's kit.
At the other end of proceedings, Grellier has a 55-second gap on the two riders behind him. It's a good effort for the Frenchman but it's a long way to the next climb.
Groupama-FDJ and Lotto Soudal are working well together to try and bring the leaders back. Grellier is holding his advantage to the two chasers but the peloton is now just under three minutes back with 52km remaining.
The riders can see the Puy-de-Dome in the distance. The climb was once a giant in the Tour de France but it's last appearance was in 1988.
The final ascent of the day is not quite the Puy-de-Dome, but it could so a bit of damage to the peloton. It is 4.6km and averages 4.7%.
46km remaining from 210km
Thomas de Gendt continues to share chasing duties with Ignatas Konovalovas. They've got the gap down to just 2:09 now.
A big effort from Alexander Kristoff to get back onto the peloton. He really wasn't looking very well before but he's managed to work his way through the cars to tag onto the back of the peloton. He was dropped on the flat so he might have a tough time keeping in touch on that last climb.
Thomson and Kasperkiewicz have almost been brought back by the peloton. They're not fighting it and are just waiting for the peloton.
Christophe Laporte has dropped back to the medical car briefly.
42km remaining from 210km
Laporte has a teammate back with him to help him back to the bunch. No obvious signs of injury so not sure as to why he had to drop back. Will have to wait for the report from the doctor later on.
Grellier is carrying on alone and probably questioning his life choices right now. I know the feeling. With just over 40 kilometres remaining, and 20 to the climb, he has just 1:12 on the peloton behind.
Delko Marseille are among the teams working their way to the front of the peloton as the riders peel off the top layers ready for the most important part of the day. Grellier has seen his lead slashed to under a minute.
37km remaining from 210km
Grellier's lead is now just 25 seconds. His chances of making that climb to take the KOM points are looking slim right now.
Remember, the intermediate sprint comes just after the KOM so there will be plenty of teams interested in shutting this down and taking all the points available there.
There are a number of teams on the front, including Team Sky, Cofidis, FDJ, Trek-Segafredo and more. Meanwhile, Grellier has been brought back to the peloton.
The pace is high in the bunch and best young rider Marc Soler is sitting very close to the back. He needs to be careful not to get caught behind a crash in this difficult finish.
32km remaining from 210km
The peloton is about to hit the climb, which marks the start of a short circuit. At the back, Alexander Kristoff is struggling once again.
John Degenkolb is making his way through the cars and there's a teammate on the back of the peloton waiting for him. He said last night that he hasn't been happy with his performance so far at Paris-Nice.
Race radio confirms that Degenkolb had a puncture. Not a great time for a mechanical problem.
Stijn Vandenburgh the rider on the front of the peloton now for AG2R La Mondiale. He's had a tumble this week and has a bandage on his right leg, just below the knee.
The bell doth toll. The riders have just passed through the finish line and are off on a loop around Châtel-Guyon. No attempts at a breakaway just yet.
Omar Fraile has taken to the front for Astana and he's setting a very high pace as they start the climb proper. It's doing some damage and Nacer Bouhanni is already in trouble.
Quick-Step push on too and Wout Poels has a mechanical problem.
25km remaining from 210km
Slagter has been dropped as Alaphilippe attacks
Wellens is going with Alaphilippe.
Demare has lost touch with the main group, but he could get back on the descent.
Wellens is now with Alaphilippe and there are three riders behind chasing. There is still a while to go.
24km remaining from 210km
The group behind has expanded and includes defending champion Henao and Gorka Izagirre. About 20 riders trying to bring back Wellens and Alaphilippe.
One of the Astana riders is between the front group and the main chasers. It looks like Fuglsang.
Alaphilippe crosses the KOM first with Wellens in his wheel and it is Fuglsang now with them. Meanwhile, Demare has lost a minute to those three.
In the chasing group Gallopin and Soler appear to be there. BMC has Dylan Teuns and Astana also has Sanchez.
21km remaining from 210km
Calmejane and Ion Izagirre have joined this front group. They don't have much of an advantage of te riders behind though.
The Alaphilippe group has been caught and Fuglsang has now gone on the attack. He's down on the GC after losing time on the opening stage.
One of the Direct Energie riders has joined Fuglsang and we've also for a Bora-Hansgrohe trying to get across. Behind, it is Mitchelton-Scott doing the grunt work.
It's all together at the front briefly as De Gregorio is the next to go on the attack. This leading group is still around 20 riders.
Hivert and Sanchez have joined up with Di Gregorio. They have 14 seconds on the chasers while the yellow jersey of Arnaud Demare is only 50 seconds back.
16km remaining from 210km
I wouldn't count out Demare just yet, but it's going to be a difficult chase.
I'd say there are about 40 riders in the main group with Demare, but the chase to the riders in front has stalled a little bit.
13km remaining from 210km
Other riders in the second group on the road, with Alaphilippe, are Bauke Mollema, Jesus Herrada, both Izagirre brothers and Dan Martin. Up front, Sanchez is drilling it down the descent.
It looks like Yates is in that group, which is why Kreuziger is pulling. Magnus Cort is also up there, what a ride from him. He waves the TV bike away, he doesn't want Sanchez's group to be caught.
9km remaining from 210km
The three leaders have 37 seconds on the group behind, which looks like it's about to be caught by the yellow jersey group - which contains Wout Poels.
Bahrain-Merida have no picked up the pace. They don't want to let this leading group away.
Only a few metres between groups two and three. Can these groups work together to bring the leaders back?
7km remaining from 210km
Kreuziger continues to pull but he's got two Astana riders behind him frustrating his efforts. 52 seconds for the three out front.
Finally Kreuziger is about to get some help from Machado. EF Education First also moving up towards the front.
They need more than one team to work at this if they have any hope at bringing them back because Astana are doing such a good job at running interference. Lotto Soudal come up but Astana remain the second team in the bunch.
AG2R La Mondiale coming in to help. The gap is still 56 seconds though. It is looking increasingly likely that these three could stay away.
As the chase comes together, we lose our time gaps. The peloton is now in a long line as they do their best to close this down. Can they do it?
2km remaining from 210km
The gap is not coming down. It's still 53 seconds and it seems like too little too late.
This is perhaps more about damage limitation because there is little chance that the peloton will be able to catch the three leaders.
1km remaining from 210km
Di Gregorio attacks
The Frenchman is quickly brought to heel.
1km remaining from 210km
Flamme rouge and Di Gregorio attacks again
Sanchez is being forced to chase because Hivert is not coming through.
Di Gregorio has been brought back again. Does he have any more energy?
Sanchez leads the sprint
But Hivert overtakes him and takes the win by a massive margin.
Sanchez is second and Di Gregorio in third.
Demare saves some face and takes the sprint from the peloton, beating Andre Greipel.
We await confirmation but Sanchez should be the new leader. He was only 15 seconds back this morning and by far the best placed ride in that move.
Hivert has had a very good start to the season with two stages and the overall classification at the Tour du Haut Var last month. This is by far the biggest win of his career so far.
This is confirmation of how it shook out at the end of the day.
1 Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Direct Energie 5:22:49
2 Luis León Sanchez (Spa) Astana Pro Team
3 Remy Di Gregorio (Fra) Delko Marseille Provence KTM
4 Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:00:38
5 Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Sunweb
6 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal
7 Magnus Cort (Den) Astana Pro Team
8 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott
9 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors
10 Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
As predicted, Sanchez has taken the race lead
1 Luis León Sanchez (Spa) Astana Pro Team 13:21:55
2 Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:00:29
3 Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida 0:00:36
4 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:39
5 Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:00:42
6 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:00:42
7 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Mitchelton-Scott 0:00:42
8 Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain-Merida 0:00:44
9 Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:44
10 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida 0:00:44
That gap is not terminal for the other general classification riders but they would not have wanted to give Sanchez a 30-odd-second advantage ahead of the time trial and the mountains at the end of this week.
Jonathan Hivert had this to say after his victory.
""After the last climb when I knew we would be a trio I was sure I would be involved in the mix at the end. I didn’t know what would happen though. I knew that we would have to play cat and mouse and when we came to the finish that was when I was able to strike.
"I wasn’t very happy in the stage 1 finish so this definitely makes up for it.
"I had an injury and then a surgery and then I’ve come back and it’s all going really well. I’m really happy with how it’s going."
And here is Hivert stepping onto the podium to receive his plaudits.
The climbs were only small today but the general classification riders really tried to put a grenade into proceedings. Alaphilippe was once again aggressive today, but it didn't pay off this time out. Yesterday we saw him picking off bonus seconds and he tried it again today, but perhaps his attack was just a little too early. Once he had been caught, not many were interested in trying to help him chase though. We can expect him to carry on in an aggressive manner over the second half of the race, however.
This was Alaphilippe's attack over the final climb with Wellens hot on his heels.
Arnaud Demare might have lost the race lead but he's still got a substantial lead in the points competition.
1 Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 31
2 Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Sunweb 17
3 Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Direct Energie 16
4 Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo 15
5 Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal 14
6 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana Pro Team 12
7 Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida 12
8 Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors 12
9 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors 10
10 Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 10
For full results, a report and a gallery from today's stage head over here. We will have brief highlights for you later once the elves over at ASO have finished cutting it.
Luis Leon Sanchez took control of Paris-Nice today, thanks to some good tactical work from his teammates. He might be a very experienced rider, but he admitted to being a little nervous coming into the finale.
"I was a little nervous towards the end after the team did such a great job. But the finale suited me, that's exactly the kind of finishes I like. I wanted to go for the stage win but the yellow jersey is a good consolation. I'm going first to try to recuperate and do my best to keep that jersey.
"Paris-Nice really starts tomorrow. The last two stages will also be extremely difficult especially Saturday's with a long climb. the favorites did not say their last word. Tim Wellens is very strong as he showed by winning in Andalucia, Julian Alaphilippe will be especially motivated. There is also Wout Poels, it's far from over."
And here is Luis Leon Sanchez in a passionate embrace with his new cuddly friend.
A little more from Hivert on his victory today.
"I did not calculate anything at all. I often wait for the end because I know I'm fast ... and I'm often having fun," he said. "I made a big start to the season and I really thought about my approach to Paris-Nice. I was annoyed to miss the first stage and today I saw that it was possible.
"I knew I had to sprint at the end and I tried to say that if I finished third, it was not that bad. I have 14 victories in my list but this one is the most prestigious, even if I have already won a beautiful also on the Tour de Romandie. Above all, I remember that on my first Paris-Nice, I almost won a stage, I even raised my arms before realizing that an escaped rider had already won. So since that day, I told myself that I had to win one here. It adds something else."
Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme is out at Paris-Nice at the moment and he spoke with the French media about the on-going case surrounding Chris Froome. He said that the lack of decision was "completely grotesque". Read his comments here.
@Cyclingnewsfeed Tue, 6th Mar 2018 16:56:54
I am going to leave you with this shot of Jonathan Hivert crossing the line.
That is it from our live coverage today. Tune in tomorrow for stage 4. If that wasn't enough, we also have live coverage of the opening team time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico.
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