Slagter Takes Second Stage Win of Paris-Nice
Yesterday, Tom Jelte Slagter (Garmin-Sharp-POC) was crestfallen. The Dutchman’s GC hopes faded away when he suffered a mechanical during Stage 6 of Paris-Nice. Today, however, the Garmin-Sharp-POC rider gained a measure of recompense. Slagter sprinted home to win Stage 7, a mountainous, 195.5-km ride from Mougins to Biot Sophia Antipolis, in 5:00:05. Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) finished second, and Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) took third. With one stage remaining, Betancur remains the yellow jersey.
Hostilities began at the gun. Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Pim Ligthart (Lotto-Belisol), Laurent Didier (Trek), Sylvester Szymd (Movistar), Albert Timmer (Giant-Shimano), and Florian Guillou (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) jumped clear, and Mathias Frank (IAM Cycling), Brice Feillu (Bretagne-Seche Environnement), Marco Marcato (Cannondale), and Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis) attempted to bridge up to the move later. Marcato was dropped, but the chase group joined the leaders at 38 km. Feillu began the day a little more than a minute behind Betancur on GC, so Ag2r-La Mondiale had to chase the break. The escapees’ advantage maxed out at 4:25, but at the summit of the day’s first climb, the Category 1 Col de Vence (49 km), the peloton had reduced the break’s advantage by one minute.
Feillu was dropped on the Category 1 Col de l’Ecre, and the break pressed on. The escape split into two groups, with Westra, Guillou, and Lemoine in the front. The peloton reeled in the second group and then snared what remained of the break with 40 km left.
Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling), Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale), and Fabio Felline (Trek) got clear. Ag2r-La Mondiale and Europcar patrolled the front and reeled in the escape. Another move that got clear with 25 km left included Chavanel, De Marchi, Felline, Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp-POC), Francesco Gavazzi (Astana), Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), John Gadret (Movistar), Yuri Trofimov, Angel Mate (Cofidis), and Nicki Sørensen (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank). The latter move was also snuffed out.
With 4.5 km left, Geraint Thomas (Sky), who led the race for two days and who began the day in second place overall, crashed along with Frank Schleck (Trek) and Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ.fr). The Welshman lost seven minutes and might have suffered a collarbone injury.
Ag2r-La Mondiale led the charge up the Category 2 climb to the finish. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Dries Devenyns (Giant-Shimano) made attacks that the French squad reeled in. Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) attacked, but Slagter attacked from the final corner to overtake his countryman and win the stage.
In the overall, Betancur leads Costa by 0:14 and Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) by 0:26. Betancur faces one final test in his bid to become the first Colombian to win Paris-Nice. It is Stage 8, a mountainous, 125-km ride in and around Nice. The stage will feature five categorized climbs, including two Category 1 ascents in the last 40 km. Will Betancur be equal to the challenge? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!