Paris-Nice: Alaphilippe lights up the final stage
Yves Lampaert climbs with the best in the pouring rain and shows promising form ahead of the Classics.
Nice wasn't so nice on Sunday, when a 110km-long stage jammed with six classified climbs – Côte de Levens, Côte de Châteauneuf, Col de Calaison, Côte de Peille, Col d'Eze and Col des Quatres Chemins – took the riders around the French Riviera and delivered a major shake-up of the general classification, helped also by the inclement weather.
Just a few kilometers after the start, the yellow jersey group was narrowed to 23 riders, from which Julian Alaphilippe and the Astana duo of Omar Fraile and Jakob Fuglsang attacked on the day's second ascent. They opened a 1:30-gap after 40 kilometers, but Fuglsang's crash on a descent dealt a blow to their chances, as the Dane sat up and waited for the peloton, leaving the two in the front with a small gap.
Alaphilippe – a double podium finisher at this edition – put in a valiant effort, but the freezing conditions and the previous day's effort eventually took its toll on him, and the Frenchman found himself distanced on the 6.6km Côte de Peille. Swallowed by the main group, who upped the pace with 50 kilometers remaining, Julian continued to fight until the very last ounce of energy on the lumpy course and finished the stage several minutes down on Marc Soler (Movistar), who took the spoils in the general classification.
"In the morning I knew Fuglsang would try something, because he was aiming for the GC, so I stayed attentive and joined that move. Unfortunately, he crashed, and that didn't help our cause. I am happy for getting into the break and for fighting through the race. I would have liked to do more, but I was still tired after yesterday and couldn't cope with the weather conditions, as today was colder then on Saturday. Can't say I am leaving disappointed, on the contrary, I'm drawing from this race a lot of motivation for Milano-Sanremo", said Julian, who last year, at his debut in "La Primavera", finished third.
Belgian ITT Champion Yves Lampaert was the one to carry the flag for Quick-Step Floors in the closing phase of stage 8, climbing with the best and being part of the elite group until with 12 kilometers to go, when a series of accelerations spelled an end to his time on the front. Despite that, the stage finish found 26-year-old Yves satisfied with his outing and condition ahead of the season's most important period for him.
"I have always dreamt about having a great day on the climbs, and today was that day, one during which I felt good and could follow the wheels of the pure climbers. On the final ascent, when they began riding full gas, I had some difficulties, but at the end of the day I am super happy with the legs I have and with what I showed, because it comes as confirmation of a good winter training and gives me confidence for the Classics."
Photo: ©Bryn Lennon/ Getty Images