Bonjour and welcome along to the penultimate stage of Paris-Nice. We've survived the cold, windy conditions of the north and we've now reached the south in the 'race to the sun', where the final weekend often serves up some fantastic racing.
We have a slightly altered parcours today, but what hasn't changed is the marquee summit finish at La Colmiane. There's room for manoeuvre on the final day tomorrow but this is, on paper at least, the most decisive stage of the race.
The scene at the start in Le Broc. The race to the sun lives up to its name.
Bonjour Le Broc 👋#ParisNice pic.twitter.com/2adYR7BsoGMarch 13, 2021
We're about to get underway. Many, many riders warming up on the rollers this morning. That's because of the uphill start, with the route tackling the Côte de Gilette from kilometre-zero. It's 6.6km at 4.9% and it's sure to be a fast and furious start to the day.
The Gilette was not originally on the menu, but the final two stages have had to be altered due to COVID-19. Not because of new restrictions, but actually the opposite - Nice is easing restrictions and the mayor doesn't want a bike race blocking the streets and access to the seafront.
Anyway, today's stage has been reduced from 166.5km to 119.2km. Besides the distance, the big change is the lack of the first-cat Col de Vence, for which the Gilette doesn't really make up. After that, it's the same parcours from km 71, with a pair of cat-2 climbs followed by the approach to the big final climb, which measures 16.3km at 6.3%.
The riders have reached the end of the neutral zone and the race has been waved underway. Immediately we're climbing.
Three non-starters today: Maximilian Walscheid (Qhubeka Assos), Patrick Bevin (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix).
Neilson Powless (EF-Nippo) has a dig off the front. Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) is looking lively too. No break yet but plenty of riders being spat out the back of the bunch.
We've got a group of around 15 with a gap. De Gendt is among them.
The riders reach the top of the Gilette. The gaps are still small.
These were the first four to the top of the climb
1. Anthony Perez 5 points
2. Julien Bernard 3 points
3. Thomas De Gendt 2 points
4. David de la Cruz 1 point
David Gaudu (FDJ) is back after a mechanical. We have a story on the Frenchman this morning. He's been suffering from that crash with Tao Geoghegan Hart but is hoping to do something today. Here it is.
Over the top and this breakaway attempt has found a little more ground. Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) is in there...
Here are the 13 riders in this break
Neilson Powless (EF-Nippo), Andrey Amador and Laurens De Plus (Ineos Grenadiers), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Julien Bernard and Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), David de la Cruz (UAE Team Emirates), Sam Bennett and Mattia Cattaneo (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Dylan Teuns and Gino Mader (Bahrain Victorious).
The group has a lead of 50 seconds, but this is one that Roglic and his Jumbo-Visma team need to keep a close eye on. Cattaneo is only 2 minutes down on GC, and Teuns, Mader, and Powless are all within 2:30.
For the full results and standings following yesterday's stage, here's the link you need.
Jumbo-Visma are indeed on the front of the peloton, pegging this break at 1:15 for the time being.
Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) had launched a solo bid to get across to the break, and he's still stuck in the middle.
98km to go
1:30 is the gap now. It has edged out but this break isn't being 'let go'
A huge day at Paris-Nice but also a huge day at Tirreno-Adriatico, with a summit finish at Prati di Tivo. Can Wout Van Aert hang with with the climbers? My colleague Daniel Ostanek has live coverage of that one.
90km to go
The gap is holding at around 1:25 as we approach the pair of cat-2 climbs. It's the Col de la Sigale (6.6km at 5.5%), shortly followed by the Côte de Saint-Antonin (6.2km at 5.3%).
Given this break is little more than a minute up the road, we could see some more attacks and action from the bunch on these climbs. It's a shorter stage, but the intensity could make up for the loss of distance.
We're on the climb and the break have actually found some more ground. 1:45 is the gap now. Pedersen is still in no man's land!
Nearing the top of Sigale and the gap is 1:50.
Here's a first shot of the break.
Bennett up there in green, as if it's nothing. The Irish sprinter has already won two stages but fancies a day out today, and the way he made it into this move at a time when the likes of Démare were getting dropped says a lot about his form. He's started the season really well and looks in really good shape for Milan-San Remo, as do his team, who will also have Alaphilippe and Ballerini next Saturday.
Over the top of Sigale and it's Perez who once again gets there first. The Cofidis man is already in the polka-dot jersey and is looking to cement his lead in that mountains classification today.
1. Perez 5 points
2. De Plus 3 points
3. Bennett 2 points
4. Teuns 1 point
78km to go
1:50 is the gap as we head onto the Saint-Antonin climb. Pedersen's counter is over - he's back in the bunch now.
The gap reaches two minutes on the Saint-Antonin. Jumbo-Visma are leading the peloton behind the 13-rider break.
Polka-dot Perez there in the break. With the points at the those first two climbs, he has indeed won that jersey for good - there simply aren't enough points left on the road the rest of today or tomorrow for anyone to catch him. All he needs to do is stay upright.
70km to go
At the top of the Côte Saint-Antonin, the 13-rider breakaway has a lead of 2:25 over the Jumbo-Visma-led peloton.
He didn't need to, but Perez bagged maximum points there as well.
Now for a downhill section. Even without Tony Martin, Jumbo-Visma appear to have this under control.
Blockbuster stages today in France and Italy, but the shockwaves continue after yesterday's blockbuster news from the UK. Richard Freeman, the former doctor for Team Sky and British Cycling, was found guilty at his medical tribunal of ordering testosterone (a banned substance) "knowing or believing" it was for a rider.
Some follow-up headlines after the Freeman verdict. This is undoubtedly a major blow to the reputations of both Ineos Grenadiers and British Cycling, and there is still much left unexplained, plus new charges of course from UK Anti-Doping.
Dave Brailsford should be suspended following Freeman verdict, says DCMS member
Shane Sutton: Freeman case has cast a shadow over Team Sky and British Cycling
Ineos Grenadiers distance themselves from Freeman after guilty verdict
61km to go
Back in the race, the break have found some more ground as we zip downhill. 2:40 is the gap now.
47.5km to go
The leading group has been brought back to just over two minutes as Jumbo-Visma raise the pace on the flatter ground.
This is a preamble to La Colmiane now. The climb is fast becoming a fixture of Paris-Nice, used here for the third time in four years. In 2018, Simon Yates won, while last year it was Nairo Quintana.
In 2018, Yates put 46 seconds into eventual winner Marc Soler, while Quintana last year put the same margin between himself and second-placed Tiesj Benoot, with Max Schachmann hanging onto his overall lead despite losing almost a minute.
It's hard to see past Roglic today, given his imperious form. However, climbers like David Gaudu, Guillaume Martin, and Alexandr Vlasov should be in with more of a shout against the Slovenian.
A reminder of the overall standings in advance of the final climb
1 Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma 23:22:53
2 Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe 00:00:41
3 Ion Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech 00:00:50
4 Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech 00:00:51
5 Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar Team 00:01:08
6 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Team DSM 00:01:14
7 Lucas Hamilton (Aus) Team BikeExchange 00:01:16
8 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech 00:01:21
9 Pierre Latour (Fra) Total Direct Energie 00:01:21
10 Aurélien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team 00:01:23
11 David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 00:01:25
12 Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious 00:01:25
13 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma 00:01:30
14 Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis 00:01:41
15 Ben O'Connor (Aus) AG2R Citroën Team 00:01:46
43km to go
The road now begins to tilt uphill as we head towards the first intermediate sprint. The gap has come down to 1:30 and the pace is strong in the peloton now.
Bouhanni and a few others are being dropped here as the pace increases. It was a fairly calm Jumbo line but other teams like BikeExchange and DSM are heading to the front now.
Here's Roglic in the Jumbo train a little earlier.
Jumbo have slipped right back now, though, as DSM and BikeExchange dictate the tempo on this uphill section. It's not a categorised climb but, at this pace, it hurts. A sizeable gruppetto now.
38.5km to go
The gap continues to fall. 1:15 now.
The first intermediate sprint is coming up in around 7km. There are bonuses of 3-2-1 seconds for the first three across the line. It's too late to catch this break by then, and it looks like DSM and BikeExchange are looking to make this hard ahead of the final climb.
BikeExchange are working for Lucas Hamilton, who's 7th overall. DSM have Tiesj Benoot just above in 6th - the Belgian was second at La Colmiane and second overall last year.
35km to go
Perez is dropped from the break. Job done for him already, though.
Perez dropping is a further indication of Sam Bennett's form. The green jersey has been pulling this break for a good while now. His teammate Cattaneo is the best-placed on GC, at two minutes. The plan would have been to try and propel the Italian for the final climb but at this point it looks like our stage winner will be coming from the bunch.
The gradient stiffens now as we approach the intermediate sprint.
Bennett drags it all the way to the sprint line, where Cattaneo nudges forward to get involved. First place and a helping of points for Bennett, who crosses the line first, and two bonus seconds for Cattaneo.
Bennett's three points take him three points off Roglic's lead in the points classification (Bennett's only wearing green on loan from yellow jersey Roglic). There's another intermediate sprint weirdly near the top of the final climb, so it's unlikely Bennett will be able to get any closer today or tomorrow. Still, all good training for next weekend.
A short descent now before the road goes false flat again on the approach to our long final climb.
Problem for Warren Barguil. He's 17th overall and has Arkea-Samsic teammate Connor Swift towing him back to the bunch.
Not sure what happened to Barguil. He's on a teammate's bike.
Jumbo have taken a back seat here but Roglic still has three men by his side. It's Steven Kruijswijk, Sam Oomen, and George Bennett.
So, with 25km to go, we have a 12-rider breakaway with a lead of 1:10 over a peloton being led by BikeExchange and DSM.
Neilson Powless (EF-Nippo), Andrey Amador and Laurens De Plus (Ineos Grenadiers), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Julien Bernard and Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), David de la Cruz (UAE Team Emirates), Sam Bennett and Mattia Cattaneo (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Dylan Teuns and Gino Mader (Bahrain Victorious).
Peloton - at 1:10
As I write that, we have a little lull from the BikeExchange-DSM combo. The break gain another 10 seconds.
Barguil is almost back but now stops to get a replacement bike. Back into chase mode.
Hamilton is back behind the cars too, which would explain why BikeExchange knocked it off. Matthews is there to help him back.
21km to go
A little calmer now in the bunch as Movistar, Ineos, AG2R, Total, and Israel set up mini trains. 1:30 is the gap to the break now.
The breakaway sense a little opportunity and the pace is lifted. Bennett begins to struggle.
Powless, Bernard, Lutsenko get a gap in the break.
Mader goes across, and Sam Bennett goes with him. Wow, he's really on a good day here. Nizzolo, a sprint rival, is getting dropped from the peloton behind.
Bennett drops back now to wait for Cattaneo. The gap is down to 1:15 again as the pace is lifted in the bunch.
We're climbing already but the final climb is yet to officially begin. The break is back together now.
And now Bennett is done. Or is he? It looks as though he's sitting up, but he springs out of the saddle again and claws his way back across.
No, he's done. He drops again and that looks like that for Bennett.
16.3km to go
Here we go!
Onto the final climb...
Amador immediately dropped from the break
The peloton hit the climb one minute in arrears.
The climb is 16.3km long and averages 6.3%.
Ineos are up there at the front of the bunch with Rohan Dennis. Bora as well, working for Schachmann.
Teuns the next to be dropped from the break. Bahrain still have Mader in there, plus Haig 12th overall in the bunch.
De Plus and De Gendt also dropped from the break ahead of the climb. They've been caught now.
Nils Politt leads the peloton on the lower slopes. The big German is followed by Rohan Dennis.
Ineos don't have much left after losing Amador and De Plus from the break, and after losing Porte and Geoghegan Hart entirely earlier in the race. Dylan van Baarle is the rider up there with Dennis. Ben Swift further back in the bunch if he's there at all.
14.5km to go
Lutsenko attacks in the break
Powless goes after him. Mader too. Gap to Elissonde and De la Cruz. Bigger gap back to Teuns and Cattaneo.
Cofidis take it up in the bunch. This is for Guillaume Martin.
Martin had an awful time trial and so finds himself down in 14th at 1:41.
Teuns, seemingly recovered, drags his way back to the front of the break, with Bernard on the wheel.
It looks like De la Cruz has blown and dropped though.
Bob Jungels is dropped. He's had a miserable week in his first major target for his new team. AG2R still have Aurelien Paret-Peintre and Ben O'Connor in the top 15.
In the peloton it's three Cofidis men, then Van Baarle, then Schachmann, then the four Jumbo riders (Kruijswijk, Roglic, Oomen, Bennett).
12.5km to go
12.5km from the summit and the remaining breakaway riders have 42 seconds in hand.
Mader attacks. Bernard sets about shutting it down for Elissonde. Lutsenko and Powless are there but Teuns has been dropped again.
Bernard falls away after that effort. That leaves Mader, Elissonde, Powless, and Lutsenko at the front.
Lutsenko dropped now. That's a surprising one. He's feeling the back of his left leg. Astana have Vlasov 4th overall so it's possible they've called him back now they've seen the break only have half a minute with 11.5km to go
Attack from Simon Geschke!
Cofidis aren't just pulling Martin, and looking to do something different. It's Geschke's 35th birthday.
Jumbo take it up in the bunch now.
Elissonde stretches the break but Mader and Powless are equal to it.
10km to go
10,000 metres from the top and the leading trio have increased their lead to almost a minute now. They're working hard as Jumbo tap out a more steady rhythm.
Around 30 riders left in the peloton.
There's the answer on Lutsenko. He's already out the back of the bunch, so clearly not feeling good.
8.5km to go
Geschke is 25 seconds up on the peloton but still 35 seconds down on the break.
Oomen is on the front of the bunch here but riding slower than our leading trio. The gap goes up to 1:05.
Oomen is done now
Mader attacks again!
The Swiss rider is looking really composed here and remains seated as he ups the tempo, enough to drop Elissonde. Powless is also distanced but gets out of the saddle to muster a response.
Powless makes his way back to Mader. Two riders left out front with 6.5km to go.
The peloton, however, is now on the march after Oomen pulled off. The gap is down to 48 seconds again.
Intermediate sprint now. Somewhat irrelevant. Mader crosses first as his tempo puts Powless into difficulty.
6km to go
Pierre Latour (Total) is dropped. He was 9th overall. Fabio Aru (Qhubeka) also gone.
David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) gone now! Big disappointment for the Frenchman.
This damage is being done by George Bennett, who has really lifted the pace. Geschke has been brought to heel.
5.2km to go
Mader accelerates again!
Powless is gurning here but is equal to Mader so far.
Or not. As I write that, Mader eases away once more. This has been really impressive so far. No big accelerations or attacks, but he's just raised the tempo in the saddle time and again, and now he's alone.
4.5km to go
Here come Astana!
Fraile takes it up, Lule Sanchez second wheel. They're working for Vlasov.
Fraile pulls aside. Over to the Spanish champion.
Sanchez - himself in the top 10 - doesn't have much left. Bennett comes back to the front and the Spaniard quickly falls away.
Vlasov still has Izaguirre with him, but they've burned two riders there almost needlessly.
Mader still has 35 seconds with 3.7km to go!
Barguil and Meintjes are still there as the GC group thins.
Bennett, Vlasov, Izaguirre, Roglic, Schachmann. That's the order in the bunch at the moment.
Mader, we remind you, started the day in 27th place, 2:21 down overall.
3km to go
Mader goes past the 3km to go banner with a lead of 37 seconds. This is a great ride but we haven't seen any big attacks from the GC riders.
Bennett continues to lead. Roglic also has Kruijswijk by his side. Benoot has Hindley with him.
Bennett is done for the day. Good turn that. Kruijswijk takes it up with 2.5km to go.
Kruijswijk lifts it. Mader still has 35 seconds.
The GC group is really fragmenting now.
29 seconds now. The gap is starting to fall.
Just a dozen riders left in the GC group. Kruijswijk has really done some damage there. Into the final 2!
25 seconds for Mader now with 1.8km to go
Kruijswijk pulls aside, acceleration from Vlasov but Roglic hits the front now.
Roglic looks comfortable on the front here but backs off a little and Schachmann takes it up.
And Schachmann kicks now! Vlasov in tow
Hamilton, Roglic, Benoot also there. Gap to the rest.
17 seconds for Mader over that group with 1000m to go
There it is. The yellow jersey is on the move. Schachmann responds. Mader is in sight.
Heartbreak for Mader. 4 seconds now with 500m to go.
But Roglic stalls! He’s looking around at Schachmann! Chance for Mader...
Schachmann takes it up and Roglic is sitting in the wheel. Mader’s going to do it!
The others come back to that duo but Roglic kicks again!
He might catch Mader!!
Wow! Right on the line
Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) wins stage 7 of Paris-Nice
Remarkable stuff. Roglic wins his third stage of this Paris-Nice, and extends his overall lead with one stage remaining.
Heartbreak for Mader. What a ride. It looked like he was going to do it, then it didn't, then it did again, but then it didn't, as Roglic launched a devastating final kick. Mader lifts his arm as Roglic breezes past him as if to say, 'haven't you won enough'.
Schachmann was third there and retains his second place overall.
"Why not, eh?" says Roglic.
"The team worked really well. At the end there was a possibility and I went for it. It was hard all day, especially from the beginning. A short but sweet stage. In the end it was really tight but luckily I managed to come past on the finish line."
Quelle VICTOIRE de @rogla !!!🏅🏅🏅What a WIN for @rogla!!! 🏅🏅🏅#ParisNice pic.twitter.com/jDJ7DRSg0JMarch 13, 2021
1 Primoz Roglic (Slv) Jumbo-Visma 3:09:18
2 Gino Mader (Swi) Bahrain Victorious 0:00:02
3 Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:05
4 Lucas Hamilton (Aus) Team BikeExchange 0:00:08
5 Alexander Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech 0:00:10
6 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Team DSM
7 Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis 0:00:15
8 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech
9 Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:00:22
10 Jai Hindley (Aus) Team DSM 0:00:27
General Classification after stage 7
1 Primoz Roglic (Slv) Jumbo-Visma 26:32:01
2 Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:52
3 Alexander Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech 0:01:11
4 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech 0:01:15
5 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Team DSM 0:01:34
6 Lucas Hamilton (Aus) Team BikeExchange
7 Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis 0:02:06
8 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma 0:02:07
9 Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious 0:02:10
10 Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar 0:02:21
Here's our report page
Meanwhile, they're on the final climb at Tirreno.
Tadej Pogacar has won and taken the overall lead in Tirreno.
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