Bernal for a Colombian one-two

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Harassed all day by a formidable Nairo Quintana, Egan Bernal (Sky) kept his cool to win the 77th edition of Paris-Nice at 22 on Sunday. While some expected Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-Quick Step) to challenge the young Colombian in this finale around Nice, it is Quintana who led a fierce battle, à la Contador, to try and topple his compatriot.

But Team Sky were too solid and won the Race to the Sun for the 6th time in the last seven years. Quintana was rewarded of his efforts by a second place at the end of the final stage won on Promenade des Anglais by Spain’s Ion Izagirre (Astana)

De Gendt takes polka-dot

129 riders started at 14:06 from Nice. Four riders did not start, Tony Gallopin (AG2R), Alexander Kristoff (UAE), Daniel McLay (Education First) and Christophe Laporte (Cofidis). Into the first climb of the day, on the heels of Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-Quick Step), a group of 37 riders emerged. They were Soler, Annacona, Carretero (Movistar), Yates, Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott), Lopez, Houle, Ion Izagirre, Sanchez (Astana), De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Pozzovivo, Colbrelli, Garcia, Teuns (Bahrain-Merida), Konrad, Grosschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe), Naesen (AG2R), Sergio Henao (UAE), Bernard, (Trek-Segafredo) Madouas (Groupama-FDJ), Jungels (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Zakarin, Politt, Spilak (Katusha), Gesbert, Moinard (Arkea Samsic), Martinez, Van Garderen (Education First), Kelderman (Sunweb), Edet, Perrichon (Cofidis), Antunes, De Marchi (CCC), Calmejane, Hivert (Direct Energie), Pacher (Vital Concept), El Fares (Delko-Marseille-Provence). At the top of the Cote de Levens, Thomas De Gendt, picked seven points and strengthened his KOM leader jersey.

Quintana attacks

In the descent Matteo Trentin broke clear and reached the top of Cote de Chateauneuf (2nd cat, km 36.5) with a 10 seconds lead over his former breakaway companions. Tejay Van Garderen (Education First) and Julien El Fares (Delko-Marseille-Provence) chased behind him in the 2nd category Col de Calaison and reached the top alongside the European champion with a 30-second lead over their former breakaway companions. On the 1st category Cote de Peille, as Tejay Van Garderen went on his own, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) surged at the front of the peloton and joined forces with team-mates Marc Soler and Hector Carrretero to try and upset Team Sky and his compatriot Egan Bernal. At the top of the climb, the hyperactive Quintana was leading a group of 12, comprising himself, last year’s winner Marc Soler (Movistar), stage 5 winner Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Van Garderen, Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), Ion Izagirre (Astana), 2009 winner Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida), Felix Grossschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe), Oliver Naesen (AG2R), Stage 7 winner Daniel Martinez (Education First) and Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb).

Izagirre wins stage

With a 50 seconds lead over the Bernal bunch, Quintana found himself the virtual leader of the Race to the Sun and he moved closer by winning the intermediate sprint of La Turbie (km 78.5) to cut his gap with Bernal to 43 seconds.In Col d’Eze, while he lost team-mate Soler, Quintana took the race into his hands, reaching the top in the front with a 55 seconds lead over the yellow jersey group. In the descent, the former Giro and Vuelta winner joined forces with Education First Daniel Martinez and Tejay Van Garderen and the gap remained around 55 seconds. In the descent to Nice, Quintana expressed discontent at his breakaway companions for not working with him and Ion Izagirre, 4th in Paris-Nice last year, responded by attacking on a road on which he crashed a year ago. The Spaniard went on his own to clinch a brilliant stage win, yet another for his Astana team. Behind him, the Bernal group controlled and limited the damage, allowing the young Colombian to cling the most prestigious win of his career with a 39 seconds lead over Quintana and 1:03 over his team-mate Michal Kwiatkowski, who worked for him all day.

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