Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) takes the win and general classification lead on Stage 7 of Paris-Nice 2018. The young Lancastrian put in a stellar performance on the final climb, supported by his colleague Romain Kreuziger he blew up the leaders’ group, taking out GC favourites Julian Alaphilippe (Quickstep) and Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana).
The rain fell down as forecasted on Saturday’s queen stage of Paris-Nice 2018. After several unsuccessful attempts, a breakaway formed on the first challenge of the day; the Côte d Gattières. It was clear that Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) had his eye on the polka-dot jersey from early on when he took maximum points available at the summit, followed by seven other riders with whom he built the leading group.
The Belgian from Lotto-Soudal was joined by Rory Sutherland (UAE Team Emirates), Tony Gallopin (AGR-La Mondiale), Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo), Amael Moinard (Fortuneo-Samsic), Nicolas Roche and Alessandro De Marchi (BMC). The octet had taken two minutes on the peloton before the colleagues of yellow jersey wearer Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) decided to take control. Bahrain-Merida and Mitchelton-Scott joined forces with the Kazakhstani team soon afterwards. Together they work to keep the break on a tight leash, the gap never reaching too far beyond the 2-minute mark in the early stages of the race. After 100 kilometres of racing, along with the coast of Sainte-Baume, the peloton gives them a little more breathing room – three minutes to be precise.
It was at this point the day’s casualties came due to uncomfortable racing conditions. Beginning with Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) and his colleague Alexander Kristoff, several riders would decide to throw in the towel. A tricky descent through the fog saw Spanish champion Jesus Herrada distanced from the breakaway. De Gendt took maximum points once again on the Col Saint-Raphaël. In the descent that followed, 60 kilometres from the finish line, Bahrain-Merida accelerated on the front of the bunch causing it to break in three.
Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), Sergio Henao (Sky Team) or Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energy) were caught-out and left struggling to get back into the bunch of General Classification favourites. The Izagirre brothers’ team-mates kept pulling on the front, having noted the absence of these GC favourites and were supported by Mitchelton-Scott in their endeavour. At 45 kilometres from the finish, Wellens and Henao were 30 seconds behind, in a second peloton, looking to regain their place in the yellow jersey group. Finally, on the penultimate climb of the day, the Côte d Villars-sur-Var, the peloton is back together and is less than a minute behind the breakaway. Wellens and Henao working together to make their way back alone. The gaps are reduced during subsequent descent and the junction is made.
Disaster struck for Alessandro De Marchi on the descent of the Côte d Villars-sur-Var; a misjudged corner saw him launched over the barriers and into a ravine, while Jarlinson Pantano hit the deck. This accident slowed the pace of the peloton somewhat, who, at the bottom of the climb was more than a minute away. It was at this point Gallopin, Roche and Moinard took the lead in the breakaway.
Thomas De Gendt was swallowed by the Astana-led peloton at 1’30 from the leading trio shortly before the last twenty kilometers of racing. Then, on the approach to the final climb of La Colmiane (16.3 km at 6.2%), the Astana team accelerated back to top speed. Luck had run out for Moinard, here. Lilian Calmejane was also victim to the pack. In the front, Tony Gallopin put a little distance between himself and Nicolas Roche but only managed to prolong his adventure by a few minutes. He is caught by the bunch at 12 kilometres from the summit finish.
Astana led the bunch thereafter, looking strong, and protecting the interests of their leader Luis Leon Sanchez. It was a little over six kilometers from the finish line when things went wrong for the Kazakhstani team. Roman Kreuziger (Mitchelton-Scott) launched a sudden increase in tempo causing numerous casualties. The Czech rider cuts the peloton in half, putting the leader Luis Leon Sanchez is taken off the back. A second acceleration from Kreuziger was enough to launch a successful attack from Simon Yates. Only Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) could keep up but it was the Mitchelton rider from Lancaster who would take both the stage win and general classifcation that day.
Results Stage 7 Paris-Nice 2018
1 Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)
2 Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing Team) +0’08
3 Ion Izagirre (Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team) –”
4 Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team) +0’13
5 Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) –”
6 Patrick Konrad (BORA – hansgrohe) +0’20
7 Sergio Luis Henao (Team Sky) +0’46
8 Marc Soler (Movistar Team) –”
9 Jakob Fuglsang (Astana Pro Team) +0’48
10 Sam Oomen (Team Sunweb) +0’54
General Classification after Stage 7
1 Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)
2 Ion Izagirre (Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team) + 0’11
3 Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team) + 0’12
4 Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) + 0’13
5 Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing Team) + 0’27
6 Marc Soler (Movistar Team) + 0’37
7 Patrick Konrad (BORA – hansgrohe) + 0’39
8 Sergio Luis Henao (Team Sky) + 0’57
9 Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) + 1’48
10 Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R La Mondiale) + 1’49