Magnus Cort Nielsen takes the longest

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Magnus Cort Nielsen outwitted his breakaway companions to clinch the longest stage of this Paris-Nice in Pelussin at the expense of Belgium’s Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), who earned the consolation of the polka-dot jersey.

The Danish rider, winner of a Tour de France stage in Carcassone last year, attacked 400 metres from the line to upstage De Gendt and Italy’s Giulio Ciccone and Alessandro De Marchi, who had broken away with him after 10 km.

Despite a long chase for the 212 km of the stage from Vichy, the peloton could not bridge the gap but Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) took advantage of the bumpy profile of the day to take the yellow jersey away from stage 1 and 2 winner Dylan Groenewegen.

13 in the lead

The start was given at 11:31 to 150 riders. After ten kilometres, seven riders broke clear. They were Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Christoph Pfingsten (Bora-Hansgrohe), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Olivier Le Gac (Groupama-FDJ), Mathias Le Turnier (Cofidis), Alessandro De Marchi (CCC) and Kevin Reza (Vital Concept). They were joined three kilometers later by Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana), Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo), Elie Gesbert (Arkea Samsic) and Damien Gaudin (Direct Energie) and then by Eduard Grosu and Evaldas Siskevicius (both Delko-Marseille-Provence). Polka-dot jersey holder Gaudin collected two more points in the first climb of the day (Km 18.5).

Level crossing

Le Gac the best-placed escapee overall, won the first intermediate sprint. At km 79.5, the peloton was halted for 3:30 by a level-crossing, forcing organizers to stop the breakaway group for the same amount of time. The gap still increased to reach 6:40 at kilometer 114. It then started to go down gradually to reach 3:20 at the top of the 2nd category Cote de Treves (km 152.5) on which Gaudin added seven points to his KOM tally. Kevin Reza was dropped on the hill.

De Gendt as usual

In the 1st category Cote de Condrieu, Thomas De Gendt surged to pick 10 KOM points as the leading group disintegrated. Only seven of the escapees were left at the top: De Gendt, De Marchi, Gesbert, Ciccone, Bernard, Le Turnier and Cort Nielsen. De Gendt, twice a polka-dot jersey winner on Paris-Nice, collected seven more points on Cote de St Michel sure Rhone (Km 183) and found himself only one point behind Gaudin. He overtook the Frenchman in the next climb, Cote de Chavanay (2nd cat, km 201.5) by clinching seven more points to take back the jersey he had won in Nice a year ago.

Another one for Astana

At the top of that last climb, the peloton, led by Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) for some 30 km, had come back within 50 seconds of the breakaway group, in which were only left De Gendt, De Marchi, Ciccone and Cort Nielsen. The four kept fighting and retained their 50 seconds lead until the red flame, when Cort Nielsen attacked unexpectedly to surprise his breakaway companions. On the line, he handed his Astana team their 16th victory of the season. 

Overall, Kwiatkowski leads Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) by five seconds and Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-Quick Step) by 10 seconds.

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