After Mathieu van der Poel and Tadej Pogačar had lit up Tirreno-Adriatico, Primož Roglič said hold my beer as he provided a counterpoint at Paris-Nice, but the drama was at his expense as the Slovenian fell out of the yellow jersey on a crash-marred final stage.
Roglič fell once but got back into the peloton before he was suddenly caught on the wrong end of a split in a bunch, a second crash adding a second rip to his shorts and costing him dearly as Bora-Hansgrohe turned the knife to set things up for Max Schachmann, usurping Roglič to defend his title. The German started the day 52 seconds behind but after 90km of racing found himself in the yellow jersey, Roglič having lost three minutes on the day and dropping out of the top 10.
Magnus Cort (EF Education-Nippo) took the stage, winning the sprint from the reduced bunch, holding off Christophe Laporte to cross the line first.
How it happened
The original 110km route had been shortened to just 90km as the race avoided Nice for a second year as the coronavirus pandemic persists, and Sam Bennett was also persistent as he tried to get into the break for a second consecutive day, but his move was brought back in as others also tried to launch up the road.
After Ineos’ Dylan van Baarle led over the top of the first categorised climb as the day, the Dutchman clipped off the front alongside the likes of Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Victorious) momentarily, while Movistar’s Matteo Jorgenson also tried a move.
It was disaster for David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) who crashed with a little over 70km remaining, his race ended, while race leader Primož Roglič also came down, the Slovenian left bloodied and his shorts ripped open.
Roglič safely made it back into the peloton, assisted by team-mates, as Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) abandoned.
With 60km to go a new breakaway formed, the quartet of Jonas Rutsch (EF-Nippo), Tim Declercq (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Sven Bystrom (UAE Team Emirates) and Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo).
As the escapees opened up a gap of 40 seconds, Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) launched a counter-attack, soon bridging across accompanied by a couple of others for company, while Laurens De Plus (Ineos) then also jumped across.
Up the next climb and the gap was brought down under 30 seconds, George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) then taking control of the bunch and the chase relaxing somewhat, inviting a new chase group to steal a march up the road containing Luis Leon Sánchez (Astana), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates) and Michael Matthews (BikeExchange) amongst others.
The leaders were 30 seconds of the Sanchez chase group, the peloton another half a minute behind with 25km to go, when Roglič was suddenly uncoupled from the peloton, team-mates dropping back to try and assist but the Slovenian needing to chase himself as Bora-Hansgrohe hit the front to exacerbate the situation. Another tear on the other side of his shorts indicated a second crash for Roglič as he started going backwards, the race and his yellow jersey disappearing from him up the road.
Barguil, Bystrom, Bernard and Rutsch pushed on at the front of the race as Roglič found himself 40 seconds in arrears with 16km to go, about to hand the virtual race lead over to Schachmann barring a miracle.
Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic) was on hand to offer some assistance to Roglič, the temperamental French sprinter not the ideal collaborator to chase back onto a bunch with before more suitable help arrived in the form of world hour record holder Victor Campenaerts (Qhubeka-Assos).
Astana were helping Bora on the front, though, looking out for Vlasov and Izagirre who were now moving up to second and third on the podium.
The break was caught with 10km to go as attacks started to spit out the front of the peloton, riders looking for final shots at stage glory, as Simon Geschke (Cofidis) lent a hand to his fellow German Schachmann, pulling on the front of the bunch.
At the top of the Côte de Duranus Roglič was two minutes down with 8.5km to go as Izagirre and Sergio Henao (Qhubeka-Assos) both tried to make moves stick up ahead. Roglič then nearly veered off the road, unclipping as Tim Declerq Deceuninck – Quick-Step), whose wheel he had been following, took evasive action on a grassy corner.
Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) and Gino Mäder (Bahrain-Victorious) then made their bids for the stage win, peeling off the front alongside Krists Neilands (Israel Start-Up Nation).
20 riders were still in the front group when it came back together with 2km to go, Jai Hindley leading proceedings for Team DSM.
Into the final kilometre and riders jostled for position, Max Schachmann just staying upright as the sprint unfolded. Magnus Cort proved too powerful for Christophe Laporte, the Dane holding off the Frenchman to take the final stage, as Roglič then came across the line three minutes later, well clear of the GC top 10.
Paris-Nice 2021, stage eight: Le Plan-Du-Var to Levens (92.7km)
1. Magnus Cort (Den) EF Education-Nippo, 2-16-58
2. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, at same time
3. Pierre Latour (Fra) Total Direct Energie
4. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Victorious
5. Warren Barguil (Fra) Arkéa-Samsic
6. Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers
7. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Astana – Premier Tech
8. Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar
9. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
10. Max Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, all at same time
Final general classification
1. Max Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 28-49-51
2. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana – Premier Tech, at 19 seconds
3. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Astana – Premier Tech, at 23s
4. Lucas Hamilton (Aus) BikeExchange, at 41s
5. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Team DSM, at 42s
6. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at 1-14
7. Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain-Victorious, at 1-18
8. Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar, at 1-29
9. Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Fra) Ag2r Citroën, at 1-31
10. Gino Mäder (Sui) Bahrain-Victorious, at 1-32