The sun shone on Thomas De Gendt in Nice this afternoon as the Vacansoleil-DCM rider soloed to win the penultimate stage of this year’s Paris-Nice.
De Gendt, who also took victory on the opening day of last year’s ‘Race to the Sun’, was part of a two-man breakaway with Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) who escaped 48km into the longest stage of this year’s race.
The Belgian went solo on the first-category climb of the Col de Vence some 55km from the finish, and held on to take a comfortable victory on the Promenade des Anglais.
Race leader Bradley Wiggins enjoyed a stress free day, and finished within the peloton some nine minutes behind the winner.
De Gendt criticised Taaramae after the stage, accusing the Estonian of not wanting to contribute to the pace setting.
“I attacked, and he was 10 metres behind me. He came back into my wheel and said: ‘I cannot go faster’. I said we’ll go to the finish together,” De Gendt told the press.
“Then suddenly he attacked, so I closed the close and said ‘if you don’t work, you cannot attack!’.
“He attacked three more times. I got a little bit angry. I attacked again, got the gap and after one minute I knew it was possible to get to the finish alone.”
Leipheimer falls out of contention
Despite losing Christian Knees early on in the stage through illness, the day’s racing played out just how Sky would have wanted it. Neither De Gendt nor Rein Taaramae were threats to the maillot jaune, and the pair were therefore allowed a large lead.
It wasn’t as smooth running for Levi Leipheimer. The Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider, who began the day in third overall, crashed on three occasions and slipped down the GC. Having initally fallen after 100km, he came down again with a handful of team-mates on a right-hand bend 40km from the finish. With Movistar driving the peloton in order to get their team leader Alejandro Valverde ahead of the American in the standings, he crashed into a stationary police motorcycle on the fast run in to Nice.
Only tomorrow’s 9.6km individual time trial on Col d’Èze lies in the way of Wiggins becoming the second British rider – after Tom Simpson in 1967 – to win Paris-Nice.
Paris-Nice 2012: Stage seven – Sisteron to Nice, 219.5km
1. Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM in 5-11-48
2. Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis at 6-17
3. John Degenkolb (Ger) Project 1T4i at 9-24
4. Greg Henderson (NZl) Lotto-Belisol
5. Thor Hushovd (Nor) BMC
6. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar
7. Simon Clarke (Aus) GreenEdge
8. Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM
9. Xavier Florencio (Spa) Katusha
10. Gregor Bole (Slo) Lampre-ISD
31. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky all at st
101. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky at 9-41
General classification after stage seven
1. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky in 27-53-04
2. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM at 6 seconds
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 18 seconds
4. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha at 37 seconds
5. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC at 39 seconds
6. Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan-Trek at 46 seconds
7. Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat at 1-06
8. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step at 1-16
9. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Astana at 1-21
10. Angel Vicioso (Spa) Katusha at 2-24
Geraint Thomas and Bradley Wiggins
Thomas De Gendt and Rein Taaramae
Levi Leipheimer and Omega Pharma chase to re-gain contact with the peloton
Thomas De Gendt attacks Rein Taaramae
Thomas De Gendt wins
Stage six: Sanchez clinches breakaway win
Stage five: Westra wins in France but celebrations may prove costly
Stage four: Meersman wins messy stage
Stage three: Valverde wins, Wiggins keeps lead
Stage two: Wiggins rides into lead
Stage one: Wiggins second to Larsson in opening time trial
Stage six gallery by Graham Watson
Stage five gallery by Graham Watson
Stage four gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two gallery by Graham Watson
Stage one gallery by Graham Watson