Race leader Michał Kwiatkowski drops to fourth overall after summit finish to Col de Turini
aEgan Bernal took over the overall lead at Paris-Nice 2019 from his team-mate Michał Kwiatkowski on stage seven of the race, as Daniel Martínez (EF Education First) took victory atop the Col de Turini.
Stage seven was the only major mountain top finish of the race, and it saw a large breakaway get away early on which included stage winner Martínez.
He broke clear of the group on the climb after an a move by Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) with 9km to go, along with Miguel Ángel López (Astana) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis).
Despite some attacking between the quartet up the climb, it was Colombian Martínez’s move under the flamme rouge that was the decisive blow, with only his compatriot López able to follow. Another powerful kick by Martínez in the final 100m then was enough to drop López, with the 22-year-old able to solo across the line to take his maiden WorldTour victory.
Behind, Sky had set the pace in the peloton, which started the climb over six minutes behind the breakaway, until eventually only Bernal remained with Nairo Quintana (Movistar), with the pair crossing the line together.
Race leader Kwiatkowski had been dropped with 3km to go and could only do enough to maintain fourth overall. Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) moves into second overall, having briefly looked like he could take the overall lead thanks to making it into the breakaway.
How it happened
Stage seven of the 2019 Paris-Nice looked to be one of the most decisive in the general classification, with a tough 181.5km route from Nice to a summit finish on the Col de Turini, a 14.9km climb at 7.3 per cent average gradient.
There would just be the small matter of five categorised climbs beforehand, with Lotto-Soudal controlling the peloton initially as they looked to give Thomas De Gendt the best chance at extending his King of the Mountains competition lead.
Eventually a breakaway was able to go clear with 150km remaining of the day, with around 30 riders getting away before more joined shortly after to form a group of 39.
Team Sky and race leader Michał Kwiatkowski seemed happy to let them go up the road, despite Philippe Gilbert (at 2-01 in GC) making it in to the group which quickly gained over five minutes advantage.
Gilbert also had team-mate Tim Declercq in the group, which also included the likes of De Gendt, Simon Yates and Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-Scott), Sergio Henao (UAE Team Emirates), Daniel Martínez (EF Education First) Miguel Ángel López (Astana) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis).
Things remained fairly settled for the most part of the stage, with break working well together over the climbs heading towards the final test of the Col de Turini.
They had a massive gap of over six minutes heading into the bottom of the climb with 15km to go, and Gilbert simply had to hold onto an advantage of over two minutes to give himself a chance at making it into the yellow jersey at the end of the stage.
He did the bulk of the work on the front after his team-mate Declercq had finished his efforts, but could do nothing when Yates made a move pursued by López and then Martínez and Edet.
Those four quickly gained enough advantage that it was clear the winner would come from one of them, with a number of attacks from López and Yates coming to try and break the group up.
Nothing would stick however, and the four eventually made it to the final kilometre together when Martínez made his decisive move. Only López could follow, but he could do nothing when Martínez then went again with just 100m to go.
The Colombian sprinted ahead of his compatriot to take the victory, with López taking second ahead of Edet and Yates a further 20 seconds back.
Behind, Gilbert was now struggling, and Sky had were setting a ferocious pace up the climb that had whittled down the group to just a handful of riders.
The pace was so high from the likes of Iván Sosa and Bernal, that race leader Kwiatkowski was dropped with 3km to go.
As the Bernal group reached the final kilometre, Sosa finished his effort and it was just left to two Colombians in Bernal and Quintana, with Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott) the last rider to be dropped.
Quintana and Bernal seemed happy to ride in to the finish together with both riders making gains in the general classification and having gained back time on Gilbert up the road.
In the end they crossed the line together less than a minute behind Gilbert, however the former world champion had done enough to move up to second overall, 45 seconds behind Bernal with Quintana a second back in third.
Paris-Nice concludes on Sunday with a short but climb-heavy 110km route around the hills of Nice.
Paris-Nice 2019, stage seven: Nice to Col de Turini (181.5km)
1 Daniel Martínez (Col) EF Education First, in 4-55-49
2 Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana Pro Team, at 6s
3 Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis Solutions Credits, at 20s
4 Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott
5 Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Direct Energie, at 55s
6 Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 2-03
7 Julien El Fares (Fra) Delko Marseille Provence
8 Sergio Henao (Col) UAE Team Emirates, at 2-08
9 Victor De La Parte (Esp) CCC Team, at 2-13
10 Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) CCC Team, at 2-15
11 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 2-50
13 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team, at 3-43
14 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky, at same time
22 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky, at 5-04
General classification after stage seven
1 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky, in 26-35-26
2 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 45s
3 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team, at 46s
4 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky, at 1-03
5 Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 1-21
6 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, at 1-45
7 George Bennett (NZl) Jumbo-Visma, at 2-20
8 Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin, at 2-52
9 Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 3-02
10 Bob Jungels (Lux) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 3-06