Paris-Nice's highest-ever finish provides plenty of action as the general classification is shaken up to set up a grand finale on Sunday
Richie Porte (BMC Racing) salvaged his 2017 Paris-Nice in the best possible way on Saturday, winning the race’s big climbing stage. Sergio Henao (Team Sky) moved into the overall race lead after a strong performance.
After the frustration of the previous week, where he had lost over 15 minutes overall, double Paris-Nice winner Porte attacked solo in the final four kilometres of the stage to Col de la Couillole to net the victory.
In the fight for overall honours, Henao and Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) battled it out, with Contador finishing second on the stage but not gaining enough time on Henao to prevent him from wearing the yellow jersey.
Having led the race from the opening stage, Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) cracked on the climb with 10km to go, losing two minutes and 40 seconds to stage winner Porte.
Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) moved into the team leadership role as Alaphilippe faded, and put in a good performance to finish third and move up to second overall at 30 seconds. Contador is third overall at 31 seconds.
The day’s stage featured four classified climbs, including the final ascent. Several riders put themselves into the day’s early break with King of the Mountains points in mind.
The break of Axel Domont (Ag2r), Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie), Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates), Omar Fraile (Dimension Data), Delio Fernandez (Delko-Marseille) and Pierre-Luc Périchon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) formed right from the start. KOM holder at the beginning of the stage, Domont, and challenger Calmejane fought for the day’s mountain spoils, with the latter coming out on top.
Calmejane was the last remainder of the day’s escape as he scooped up the maximum points on the Col Saint-Martin before getting caught before the final climb of the day.
A group of contenders quickly assembled on Col de la Couillole, with Jarlinson Pantano setting a fierce pace to aid Trek-Segafredo leader Contador. Alaphilippe got in trouble 10km from the finish and was dropped, but bravely battled on, eventually finishing 14th.
Porte was the most aggressive, attacking several times before Contador and Henao appeared to let him go, more concerned with the overall victory than the stage win. It was Contador who looked the stronger, forging ahead of Henao in the closing kilometre.
“It was a really tough climb,” said Porte after his win. “It’s really a great victory for me after my misfortune earlier this week. I tried to show that I had character. My teammates really did a great job today. I love Paris-Nice, it’s important for me to win here.”
The previous day’s stage winner Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) lost some ground, finishing 21st and losing 4-20 to Porte by the finish. The British rider now sits in 10th spot overall.
There were several notable abandons before and during the stage, including green jersey Arnaud Démare (FDJ), Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), Dan McLay (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale-Drapac).
The 2017 edition of Paris-Nice concludes on Sunday, with the final stage running to and from Nice in a loop and including five categorised climbs. There is still opportunity for those with aspirations of a high placing overall to make their mark on the race – particularly with the podium positions only 31 seconds apart.
Paris-Nice 2017, stage seven: Nice to Col de la Couillole, 177km
1. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, in 5-01-35
2. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, at 21 secs
3. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, at 32 secs
4. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky, at same time
5. Jon Izagirre (Esp) Bahrain-Merida, at 55 secs
6. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 1-07
7. Pierre-Roger Latour (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 1-11
8. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin, at 1-21
9. Marc Soler (Esp) Movistar, at 1-21
10. Gorka Izagirre (Esp) Movistar, at same time
14. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors, at 2-40
21. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 4-20
General classification after stage seven
1. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky, in 27-01-15
2. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, at 30 secs
3. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, at 31 secs
4. Gorka Izagirre (Esp) Movistar, at 1-00
5. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors, at 1-22
6. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin, at 1-34
7. Jon Izagirre (Esp) Bahrain-Merida, at 1-41
8. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Soudal, at 3-22
9. Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Sunweb, at 4-07
10. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 4-39