Saturday was a big day for the first two WorldTour stage races in Europe as summit finishes awaited the pelotons of Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico. In France, Simon Yates ( earned his first win of the season to capture the race lead on Stage 7. In Italy, Mikel Landa (Spain) took his first triumph in Movistar colours, while Geraint Thomas’ unfortunate mechanical saw him lose the race lead. Vicenzo Nibali finished 26-seconds back while Chris Froome was 1:10 in arrears.

The penultimate stage of the 76th Race to the Sun would end on the 16.3-km, 6.2 per cent average Valdeblore La Colmiane after four other categorized climbs over 175-km. LL Sanchez (Spain/Astana), red hot so far in 2018, brought a 22-second lead over Julian Alaphilippe (France/Quick Step) into the day.

Team buses got stuck on the Cat. 2 Cote de Villars-sur-Vars and had to untangle themselves and back down.

When the race hit the Voldeblore La Comiane the remnants of the crash-ridden breakaway had just been brought to heel. LL Sanchez couldn’t handle the pace and finished 4:22 back. Yates’ victory propelled him from 15th place to the top of the heap. Bahrain-Merida’s Izagirre brothers, Jon and Gorka, finished third and fourth respectively. Jon is Yates’ closest rival, 11-seconds back with one stage to go, and Gorka is one second further back.

Although he has won a stage of Paris-Nice before, along with stages of the Vuelta a España and the Tour de Romandie, 25-year-old Yates has never won a stage race before.

Canada’s Hugo Houle (Astana) placed 55th on the day while helping Sanchez.

The field in Italy faced a longer course of 219-km with three categorized climbs packed into 40-km just past the middle of the route. The final ascent was the 12.3-km, 6.3 per cent Sassotetto, with 2-km of 8 per cent coming after a mild opening 2.5-km. The two climbs leading to the Sassotetto, 8.2 per cent Gauldo and 6.2 per cent Penno San Giovanni, were natural places to attack.

Sky’s Thomas led going into the stage on the same time as Greg Van Avermaet and three-seconds ahead of embattled teammate Chris Froome.

Canadian Antoine “Tony the Tiger” Duchesne got into the day’s breakaway.

Giro d’Italia champion Tom Dumoulin is having a tough start to the season. Sitting 9th after beginning the race with a cold, an early crash forced him to abandon.

There were no attacks on the Gauldo or Penno San Giovanni, as Duchesne’s fugitive sextet remained 4:24 in front of the Team Sky-led peloton with 30-km remaining. Heading onto the Sassotello, with Astana wielding the whip in the peloton, Duchesne tried to surge away.

Friday’s winner Primoz Roglic (Slovenia/LottoNL-Jumbo) crashed on the ascent. The last of the breakaways were sopped up with 7.5-km to go. Astana’s Angel “Superman” Lopez made a dig at 5-km remaining. Lopez found company in Fabio Aru (Italy/Bahrain-Merida), Rafal Majka (Poland/Bora-Hansgrohe) and Ben Hermans (Belgium/Israel Cycling Academy). Nobody in the top-10 was in the move so Sky just kept a steady pace.

Majka was solo with 3-km until the finish. Twelfth place Landa dashed away from the reduced peloton. In the peloton, Froome began to drop away. Landa, Aru and Hermans made it back to Majka and Kiwi George Bennett, LottoNL-Jumbo’s Tour of California title holder, made it a quintet. Thomas then had a mechanical with 1-km to go.

Landa outmuscled his companions for the win. Damiano Caruso, who led the race after his BMC squad won the opening stage team time trial, is back in the race lead. Thomas, now 26-seconds back, will eye the final stage individual time trial as the opportunity to grab the blue jersey for keeps.

Paris-Nice GC after seven stages

1) Simon Yates (Great Britain/Mitchelton-Scott) 27:29:02
2) Jon Izagirre (Spain/Bahrain-Merida) +0:11
3) Gorka Izagirre (Spain/Bahrain-Merida) +0:12
83) Hugo Houle (Canada/Astana) +51:15

Tirreno-Adriatico after four stages
1) Damiano Caruso (Italy/BMC) 17:14:49
2) Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland/Sky) +0:01
3) Wilco Kelderman (The Netherlands/Sunweb) +0:11
4) Mikel Landa (Spain/Movistar) +0:20
61) Antoine Duchesne (Canada/Groupama-FDJ) +19:44
102) Guillaume Boivin (Canada/Israel Cycling Academy) +28:20

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