Egan Bernal (Colombia/Sky) is well-poised to win his second WorldTour stage race, as he assumed the race lead from Polish teammate Michael Kwiatkwoski after Saturday’s queen stage of Paris-Nice. Another Colombian, EF Education First’s Dani Martinez, won the day, out-climbing the likes of Simon Yates and Angel “Superman” Lopez. Sunday’s hilly route around Nice is the race’s finale.
🏁 @danifmartinez96 était trop fort. 💪
— Paris-Nice (@ParisNice) March 16, 2019
The riders faced six climbs spread out evenly over 181-km, with the 14.9-km, 7.3 percent summit finish Col de Turini as the day’s big battleground.
It's a sunny day in France, where stage 7 of #ParisNice will soon get underway. Six classified climbs, including Col de Turini, will play a big part not only in today's fight for victory, but also in the final outcome of the race. pic.twitter.com/m4Xunt4UVy
— Deceuninck-QuickStep (@deceuninck_qst) March 16, 2019
The GC Overnight
Sky was in the enviable position of having the first two positions on GC, with Kwiatkowski leading Bernal by 18-seconds. Astana’s LL Sanchez was the only rival withing a minute of Kwiatkowski, +0:22. Bob Jungels and Wilco Kelderman were a minute back and Nairo Quintana +1:04.
The Big Breakaway
On the first climb of the day, Cat. 2 Côte de Gattieres, King of the Mountains leader Thomas De Gendt nabbed the full points. By the next Cat. 2, De Gendt and Thursday’s time trial winner Yates were part of a 38-rider escape. Lotto-Soudal’s man took the maximum points on Côte de Gourdon and Côte de Coursegoules as well, cementing his KOM position.
⚪🔴 @DeGendtThomas est passé 🥇 des 3 premières côtes du jour et empoché 21pts. Il conforte son maillot à pois avec un total de 5⃣0⃣ points.
— Paris-Nice (@ParisNice) March 16, 2019
Sky led the peloton, 4:10 back as the stage reached its midpoint. De Gendt tipping over Cat. 3 Côte de Gillette in the lead came with the breakaway mob 5:00 ahead.
Côte de Pelasque and Col de Turini
Peaking just 5-km from the start of Turini was Cat. 1 Côte de Pelasque, 5.7-km of 6.2 percent. The breakaway hit the foot of Pelasque nearly 6:00 in front, which made the day’s winner likely to be a fugitive. Stage 4 winner Magnus Cort worked at the pointy end of the group for his Astana teammate Lopez, who, like Yates, was buried in the GC in the hectic first two stages.
De Gendt led the way over Pelasque. Soon after Turini began, Pavel Poljanski (Bora-Hansgrohe) attacked his breakmates.
— ProCyclingStats.com (@ProCyclingStats) March 16, 2019
A dozen riders including Yates, Lopez and virtual race leader Philippe Gilbert joined and dropped Poljanski. Yates bolted with 9-km to go and Superman Lopez and another trio of riders were able to match him. Lopez was able to go solo with 6.5-km remaining.
Back in the peloton, third place LL Sanchez and fourth place Kelderman fell back under Sky’s pressure. Up front, Martinez found compatriot Lopez’s wheel and as soon as Yates came back he attacked.
Kwiatkowski crumbled in the streamlined peloton. Bernal was now Sky’s main man.
In the final kilometre it was Yates, Martinez, Lopez and Cofidis’ Nicolas Edet vying for the win. Martinez skipped away and Lopez found his wheel. But the rider clad in purple and pin tie-dye would not be denied, winning by six-seconds.
Team principal Jonathan Vaughters could only mash his keys in delight.
The most eloquent reaction of them all. https://t.co/9hmmEHWdbn
— EF Education First Pro Cycling (@EFprocycling) March 16, 2019
Bernal thrust up the road and Quintana followed, the two finishing together. Bernal now leads Gilbert by 45-seconds and Quintana is a second slower than the Belgian.
Canadian Hugo Houle, who had been in 11th place for three days, slipped outside the top-20 after coming in 47th.
2019 Paris-Nice Stage 7
1) Dani Martinez (Colombia/EF Education First) 4:55:59
2) Angel Lopez (Colombia/Astana) +0:06
3) Nicolas Edet (France/Cofidis) +0:20
47) Hugo Houle (Canada/Astana) +12:09
2019 Paris-Nice GC
1) Egan Bernal (Colombia/Sky) 26:35:26
2) Philippe Gilbert (Belgium/Deceuninck-Quick Step) +0:45
3) Nairo Quintana (Colombia/Movistar) +0:46
21) Hugo Houle (Canada/Astana) +9:46