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Paris-Nice, perhaps the last race of the season, goes out with a bang, not a whimper

Nairo Quintana takes third win of 2020, Schachmann earns GC victory

We all know the world has been cancelled because of the coronavirus, but what might prove to be the last top-tier European road cycling of the year, the final stage of Paris-Nice, made sure that if the season was about to end it would go out with a bang and not a whimper. Sunday was supposed to be the race’s conclusion, but it too was cancelled. Nairo Quintana, seemingly with new wings at Arkea-Samsic, earned Saturday’s summit finish triumph, and Max Schachmann won the race having led from Stage 1.

The Course

The final stage was 166-km long, with two Cat. 1 climbs and two Cat. 2 ascents. The climax of the 78th Paris-Nice would be the 16.3-km, 6.2 percent Valdeblore La Colmiane climb. The field was 92-strong, as Bahrain-Merida had gone home on Friday and Israel Start-Up Nation didn’t start up on Saturday.

The Breakaway

Attacks from the race principals came right from the start in Nice, but it was a six-rider breakaway including Julian Alaphilippe and Thomas De Gendt that led up the first climb, Col de Vence. Nicolas Edet was in the sextet to bolster his polka-dot jersey lead and was first to the top of the cols of Vence, Sigale and St. Antonin.

Enjoy this summit finish, because it’s going to have to last you for a while

On the final climb, Alaphilippe and De Gendt shed the others before De Gendt went solo. Areka-Samsic’s Winner Anacona, having shed Schachmann’s final teammate, then attacked. The reduced yellow jersey peloton caught and spat Alaphilippe out the back.

Romain Bardet skipped away from the favourites group, but he was no danger to Schachmann–only Friday’s winner Tiesj Benoot, Sergio Higuita, Thibaut Pinot and Vincenzo Nibali were worries. With 5-km to go De Gendt’s lead was under a minute and Bardet was back with the little yellow jersey group.

Quintana burst from the little group with 3.7-km to go. Again, the Colombian wasn’t in any position to usurp Schachmann’s lead. Quintana passed De Gendt with 3.1-km remaining. Schachmann could answer Nibali and Pinot’s questions, but Benoot, clad in the green points jersey, finally shook free inside the final 2-km.

At the crest Quintana raised his arms in victory. Benoot could only yank back 18-seconds of his 36-second deficit. Schachmann claimed the first WorldTour stage race of his career.

Paris-Nice was a fine race, as the peloton found the sun after three dreadful stages to start. But with Michael Woods’ broken femur and an uncertain future for the 2020 season, now there is cloud.

2020 Paris-Nice Stage 7
1) Nairo Quintana (Colombia/Arkea-Samsic) 4:27:01
2) Tiesj Benoot (Belgium/Sunweb) +0:46
3) Thibaut Pinot (France/Groupama-FDJ) +0:56

2020 Paris-Nice GC

1) Max Schachmann (Germany/Bora-Hansgrohe) 27:14:23
2) Tiesj Benoot (Belgium/Sunweb) +0:18
3) Sergio Higuita (Colombia/EF Pro Cycling) +0:59