Nairo Quintana won the summit finish stage seven of Paris-Nice as Bora-Hansgrohe’s Max Schachmann hung on to claim the overall victory.
The Colombian attacked with 4km to go the top, exploding out of the group of GC riders to claim another impressive win in 2020.
Only 36 seconds behind Schachmann in the overall classification at the start of the day, Sunweb’s Tiesj Benoot attacked with just 1km remaining to try and dislodge the German, but Schachmann ultimately survived.
Benoot finished 46 seconds behind Quintana, the Arkéa-Samsic rider taking his first ever Paris-Nice stage, with Pinot third 10 seconds later at the front of the chase group.
Schachmann was two seconds further back as Benoot’s six bonus seconds on the line meant he finished runner-up on GC, 18 seconds behind the German.
How it happened
Following the cancellation of stage eight, the final stage seven of Paris-Nice offered up a category one summit finish climb to Valdeblore La Colmiane, a 16.3km ascent with an average gradient of 6.3%.
World champion Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) failed to take the start, alongside five other riders, after his native Denmark announced they’d be closing their border at midday to try and halt the spread of the coronavirus. 92 riders therefore rolled out of Nice for what may be the last European bike race for quite a while.
The first breakaway attempt came from Anthony Perez of Cofidis and Benoit Cosnefroy (Ag2r La Mondiale) who jumped away from the peloton.
Soon, a strong group began chasing the two leaders and contained pretty much all the main players. Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Sergio Higuita (EF Pro Cycling), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) all getting involved.
There was then a split in this group as Alaphilippe and De Gendt broke away alongside Alberto Bettiol (EF Pro Cycling), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Aurelien Paret-Peintre (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Perez.
The remnants of the chase group were soon back in the peloton as the riders tackled the opening first category climb to Col de Vence, with the leaders opening up a 45-second gap on the bunch.
Edet was first over the summit, claiming 10 KOM points, as he looked to make his lead in that competition unassailable.
The leading group had a gap of 2-30 with 100km to go, with Bora-Hansgrohe on the front of the peloton for race leader Max Schachmann.
Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels – Vital Concept) abandoned just before his countryman Edet took seven more KOM points up the next couple of second category climbs.
The gap was holding around the two and a half minute mark with 50km to go as Nicolas Edet suffered a mechanical and needed to work his way back up to the break.
Ag2r La Mondiale’s Nans Peters had a near-miss as he avoided somersaulting over the mountainside barrier in a nasty crash alongside Lotto-Soudal’s Sander Armée, with Peters soon abandoning.
Alaphilippe’s virtual GC lead disappeared as the gap fell to under 1-30 with 25km remaining, with Arkéa-Samsic taking it up on the front of the peloton behind.
The break splintered as they began the final climb to the summit finish, with just Alaphilippe and De Gendt remaining up front.
However, after the first kilometre of the 16km, 6.3% gradient climb, De Gendt pushed on and dropped Alaphilippe.
Behind, Bora-Hansgrohe’s Felix Gr0ßschartner was also dropped from the bunch with 14km to go, the German having sat in fourth overall at the start of the day, leaving Schachmann with no team-mates in the group.
Arkéa-Samsic’s Winner Anacona and Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) jumped away from the peloton with 12km to go, as De Gendt looked to consolidate his 1-20 gap up front.
Alaphilippe was quickly going backwards and was soon caught by the peloton with just over 10km to go as De Gendt maintained a 1-3o gap. Martin was not looking like he was going to make it across, finding himself with just a 15-second buffer over the bunch.
De Gendt was just about holding his advantage, only losing 10 seconds and taking a 1-20 buffer into the final 7.5km before Romain Bardet had a dig with 7km remaining. Richie Porte took up the chase behind with team-mate Vincenzo Nibali in his wheel.
De Gendt’s advantage fell to a minute with under 6km to go as Bardet fell back into a thinned main bunch containing just the GC contenders.
As the gradient hit eight per cent with 4.5km to go, 48 seconds now separated De Gendt and the chasers, with Porte still leading the charge.
As the gap fell to 35 seconds with 4km remaining, Nairo Quintana put in an explosive attack, flying away up the road.
Only Nibali, Schachmann, Pinot, Benoot and Higuita remained in the chase group, as Nibali then made his move, with Pinot getting on his wheel.
Up ahead, Quintana had quickly made his way across to De Gendt with 3km to go as Higuita attacked the chase group with Schachmann responding.
Thibaut Pinot was the next to attack, which brought De Gendt back into the fold, as Quintana held a 25-second advantage with 2.5km to go.
Pinot had another go with 2km to the line but Schachmann and the others hung on as Quintana increased his gap to 37 seconds.
Tiesj Benoot the attacked with 1.2km to go and seeing as he only sat only 36 seconds behind Schachmann on GC the German was forced to respond.
Quintana sailed under the 1km banner towards victory as Schachmann could only follow wheels behind in pursuit of Benoot.
The Colombian crossed the line 46 seconds ahead of Benoot. Despite the six bonus seconds the Belgian collected on the line, he failed to take out enough of an advantage to usurp Schachmann, who clung on to take the overall victory by 18 seconds.
Paris-Nice 2020, stage seven: Nice to Valdeblore La Colmiane (166.5km)
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkéa-Samsic, in 4-27-01
2. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Sunweb, at 46 seconds
3. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 56s
4. Sergio Higuita (Col) EF Pro Cycling
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, both at same time
6. Max Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 58s
7. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at 1-19
8. Tanel Kangert (Est) EF Pro Cycling, at 1-22
9. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 1-32
10. Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at same time
Final general classification
1. Max Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 27-14-23
2. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Sunweb, at 18 seconds
3. Sergio Higuita (Col) EF Pro Cycling, at 59s
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 1-16
5. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 1-24
6. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkéa-Samsic, at 1-30
7. Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 2-03
8. Tanel Kangert (Est) EF Pro Cycling, at 2-16
9. Felix Großschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 3-39
10. Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Sunweb, at 4-36
Final points classification
1. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Sunweb – 43 pts
2. Max Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe – 38 pts
3. Sergio Higuita (Col) EF Pro Cycling – 28 pts
Final KOM classification
1. Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis – 53 pts
2. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Sunweb – 19 pts
3. Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto-Soudal – 18 pts
Final youth classification
1. Sergio Higuita (Col) EF Pro Cycling, in 27-15-22
2. Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 15-28
3. Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 25-57
Final teams classification
1. Sunweb (Ger), in 81-52-39
2. Groupama-FDJ (Fra), at 3-25
3. Trek-Segafredo (USA), at 9-19