Iván García stormed to victory over Peter Sagan on stage three of Paris-Nice 2020, after a crash in the closing metres took out two of the sprint favourites.
A relatively subdued day of racing closed out in a full-gas bunch sprint in La Châtre, with all of the big names still present in the final kilometre.
But a major incident around three hundred metres from the line took out Sam Bennett (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), as Spaniard García capitalised on the chaos and launched his sprint.
Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) looked to be in a strong position to move round but he just couldn't catch Bahrain-McLaren's Garcia, who claimed the second win of his career.
Bora's Max Schachmann finished safely in the peloton to maintain his lead heading into the stage four time trial.
How it happened
After the opening two stages, labelled as potential sprint opportunities, turned into chaotic general classification racing in the crosswinds around Paris, stage three was looking to be another unpredictable stage owing to the undulating course.
The longest stage of the race at 212km, from Châlette-sur-Loing to La Châtre in the centre of the country, the peloton faced a lump opening 120km, with the day’s only classified climb falling around 90km into the day.
Riders then took on a gradual rise into the final 30km, before a lumpy final and a short rise to the line.
Just one rider risked a day riding into the expected headwind, as Tom Devriendt (Circus-Wanty Gobert) settled in for a very long day in the saddle solo.
Early in the stage, the Belgian was pushing his advantage out to near 10 minutes, as the peloton were satisfied to have an easier day after the manic opening two stages.
But inevitably the gap began to wind down and Devriendt lost a chunk of time when he was caught at a level crossing in the closing 100km.
He was eventually caught by the bunch around 26km from the line, with the peloton all together despite the catalogue of small crashes throughout the day.
Quick-Step were determined not to leave the stage empty handed, after a disastrous stage two that saw them finish with no riders in the top ten and Julian Alaphilippe lost time on GC.
The relatively slow pace of the day meant all the sprinters were in the bunch with 10km to race, as Groupama-FDJ held the front of the bunch for much of the final.
A crash at the rear of the bunch with 5km to go took Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept) out of contention, as it looked like spliyd might form at the front of the race, but after a nervous moment the peloton remained whole with Sunweb taking control.
Quick-Step were the dominant team into the final 2km and they led with 500m to race. The Belgian squad looked to have put their man Bennett in the perfect position as the line rapidly approached, but Hugo Hofstetter (Israel Start-Up Nation) found himself caught between two wheels and dismounted his bike at high speed, causing Bennett to fall in the process, while Caleb Ewan’s bike was brought to a halt in the melee.
García was nowhere to be found at the point, but he surged along the right hand side of the road to sneak past Sagan and hit the front, as the former three time world champion was slower to launch his attack.
After a long drag on the front García held onto the front and denied Sagan, with Circus-Wanty Gobert’s Andrea Pasqualon rounding out the podium.
Sagan’s team-mate Max Schachmann hold’s the leader’s jersey with a 13-second advantage over Giacomo Nizzolo before tomorrow’s TT.
Paris-Nice 2020, stage three: Châlette-sur-Loing to La Châtre (212km)
1. Iván García (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, in 5-49-55
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
3. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Circus-Wanty Gobert
4. Cees Bol (Ned) Sunweb
5. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Arkéa-Samsic
6. Rudy Barbier (Fra) Israel Start-Up Nation
7. Anthony Turgis (Fra) Total Direct Energie
8. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) NTT Pro Cycling
9. Mads Würtz Schmidt (Den) Israel Start-Up Nation
10. Oliver Naesen (Bel) Ag2r La Mondiale, all at same time
General classification after stage three
1. Max Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 13-12-01
2. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) NTT Pro Cycling, at 13s
3. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo, at 24s
4. Mads Würtz Schmidt (Den) Israel Start-Up Nation, at 25s
5. Sergio Higuita (Col) EF Pro Cycling, at 26s
6. Nils Politt (Ger) Israel Start-Up Nation, at 28s
7. Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Start-Up Nation, at same time
8. Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 31s
9. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at same time
10. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 36s
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