Julian Alaphilippe climbs in Paris-Nice GC
Third in Vence, the 25-year-old grabbed important bonifications ahead of the race's queen-stage.
Beautiful Sisteron – dubbed by many the gateway to Provence – was the start town of Paris-Nice stage 6, and the riders left it behind under blue skies and sunshine for a 198km-long stage to Vence, which featured for just the second time on the parcours. Multiple attacks came from the peloton as soon as the flag was dropped, but it took more than 30 kilometers for the breakaway to form, and when it did, twelve riders put three minutes between them and the bunch.
The escapees got to stay in the lead and fight for the KOM points until with 25 kilometers to go, when the peloton – under the impetus of several teams, including Quick-Step Floors – reeled them in and began setting up their leaders for the 1800m-long Côte de la Colle sur Loup, a grueling climb averaging 10%, where the race was blown apart once Dries Devenyns drove a fierce tempo for Julian Alaphilippe.
Julian was prominent at the front and followed the numerous moves launched by his rivals on the steep ramps, before Astana took over for race leader Luis Leon Sanchez, setting the pace behind Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott). The duo got caught with three kilometers to go, but the attacking didn't stop there and the Izagirre brothers (Bahrain-Merida) each tried their chance. Alaphilippe was the one to respond, closing the gap as the flamme rouge approached loomed on the horizon.
That was the moment that Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) tried his chance and taking advantage of the lack of copperation behind, soloed to victory, two seconds clear of Wellens and Alaphilippe, who sprinted from the chasing group to round out the podium. With Wout Poels (Team Sky) out of the race, after crashing on the descent, and four bonus seconds in his pocket from Friday's third place, the 25-year-old Quick-Step Floors rider will line up at the start of the queen-stage in second place overall.
"The final climb was very hard, and the subsequent descent tricky, making for a nervous finish. I felt good and covered many attacks, but when Molard went there was nothing left to be done, as I had already spent a lot of effort", Julian said in Vence. "I would have loved to win, but it wasn't possible today. Third is a good result, one that wouldn't have been possible without the help of my teammates, who were fantastic today, riding for me from the outset. I also want to send my thoughts to Poels, who crashed on the downhill, I hope he'll have a smooth recovery."
Photo: ©Bryn Lennon/ Getty Images