Paris-Nice: Alaphilippe animates stage 3
The 25-year-old will go into tomorrow's individual time trial in fourth place overall, three seconds off the podium.
Riding not far from his hometown of Saint-Amand-Montrond – the site of a Quick-Step Floors memorable stage victory at the 2013 Tour de France – Julian Alaphilippe was extra motivated for the third stage of Paris-Nice, which packed three categorized climbs and a small uphill sector before the finish, enough to make things interesting and give the GC favourites some ideas.
Three men rode away early on the 210km stage, the longest of this edition, and established a 7:30 gap which helped them stay at the front until with 30 kilometers to go, when a fast and furious peloton overhauled them. Quick-Step Floors sent Belgian ITT Champion Yves Lampaert and Michael Mørkøv to the head of proceedings to drive the pace, and the two did an outstanding job, pushing a huge pace and thinning out the bunch before Dries Devenyns stepped in and laid the groundwork for an attack of Julian.
Winner of the green and white jerseys at the 2017 edition, the Frenchman blew the race apart with a strong acceleration to which only a handful of riders could react, but a big chasing group made contact before the second intermediate sprint, where three riders slipped away. Despite some strong turns at the front of Julian and the fact that other riders joined the chasing group on the downhill, the trio stayed clear and Jonathan Hivert (Direct Energie) took the win over Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), the new leader of the race.
Alaphilippe arrived at the finish in the yellow jersey group and concluded the stage that ended in Châtel-Guyon in ninth position, cementing his fourth place in the general classification, where he lies just three seconds behind the podium.
"The team rode full gas once we approached the final 30 kilometers, and I must thank them for their amazing work. I attacked on the climb because I had hoped to make the difference, which I did, but the others managed to come back. When the three went away, I tried to close the gap, but nobody wanted to help. We did our best today, sticked to our aggressive tactic and I tried to win for the team and my family, friends and fans, who gave me a fantastic reception this week, but things didn't pay off. But I keep my spirits high and now look forward to the next stage."
Tomorrow, Paris-Nice schedules an individual time trial between La Fouillouse and Saint-Étienne, which will host a finish for the first time in nine years. The 18.4km rolling course should create some important gaps between the yellow jersey contenders and reshuffle the overall standings.
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