Frenchman Jonathan Hivert won stage three of the Paris-Nice on Tuesday as another rider from an escape trio that beat the peloton home by 40 seconds, Luis Leon Sanchez, took the overall lead.

Hivert, Sanchez and Remy Di Gregorio took advantage of a late climb followed by a sharp, tricky descent 20km from home to open up a break in the 210km run to Chatel-Guyon in Puy-de-Dome.

“It wasn’t so difficult at the end because I knew that Sanchez was interested in the overall,” said Hivert, 32, who now has four wins this season.

“It’s a dream come true for me to win a stage on this race, early in my career I just missed out here and had even raised my arm in victory before realising someone else had won.”

Sanchez, winner of the Paris-Nice in 2009, now tops the overall standings by 35 seconds in an eight-day stage race often clinched by just a few seconds.

“I want to try and keep hold of the lead as long a possible,” he said.

“The original plan had been to support (Astana teammate) Jakob Fuglsang. But he fell on stage one and lost more than a minute.

“The time-trial may see me take even more time. We’ll see what we can do in the last three days, whether it’s better to play for Fuglsang or for me.”

Frenchman Arnaud Demare was fourth as he won the bunch sprint in the chasing peloton.

Team Sky leader Wout Poels was involved in an accident and had to struggle to get back to the peloton.

“I’m relieved more than anything and I can’t wait for the time-trial tomorrow,” said the Dutchman.

Wednesday’s stage is an 18.4km individual time-trial around Saint-Etienne before several days of climbing culminate in Nice on Sunday. – Agence France-Presse

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