Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) took a comfortable sprint victory on stage three of the 2019 Paris-Nice, beating Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) into second.
The Irishman opened up his sprint in the middle of the road clear in front of his rivals after the last lead-out man for race leader Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) finished his effort. Ewan was the only rider able to get close to his wheel as Groenewegen quickly gave up his effort.
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Bennett held his speed and Ewan was unable to gain on him despite jumping to the right off his wheel, and couldn’t do enough to stop the Bora man from crossing the line a bike length clear to take his second career stage win at Paris-Nice.
Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) came from behind with speed to claim third just ahead of Dan McLay (EF Education First).
Groenewegen, who eventually finished ninth, still retains the overall lead with six seconds over Michał Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) in second, thanks to his victories on stages one and two.
How it happened
The peloton of the 2019 Paris-Nice faced a long but flat day with 200km on the cards for stage three of the race.
Unlike the first two days of racing, the wind was predominantly in the faces of the riders, meaning things were kept at a relatively serene pace for much of the day, with an average speed around 31kmh in the first hour of racing.
After a flurry of attacks after the first hour, two riders looked finally managed to get out in the breakaway, with two Delko Marseille Provence riders Ramunas Navardauskas and Alessandro Fedeli going clear.
They managed to establish a maximum gap of 5-30 on the bunch, with their advantage then beginning to progressively fall and standing at just three minutes in the final 80km.
There was never any real chance of the breakaway pair making it to the finish and inevitably the catch was made with around 38km to go.
Things remained calm in the bunch for the most part, with the only notable incident a narrowing of the road through a bridge with 32.1km causing a crash that stalled almost half the group.
Despite some visible cuts to a couple of riders including Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-Scott), the group soon came back together with a sprint finish now looking like a dead cert.
At 18.3km to go, Sky leapt from the front of bunch to take bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint. Luke Rowe led Michał Kwiatkowski to a three second bonus and Egan Bernal to two seconds.
Polish champion Kwiatkowski also took three seconds at an intermediate sprint earlier in the day, in total halving his overall deficit to Dylan Groenewegen to six seconds from 12.
In the final 6km, Sky, like they had done in the previous two days, tried to split the peloton in a crosswind section with Rowe really pushing on.
Things came back together after a brief split, but with 3.4km to go Kwiatkowski was able to do enough to get a small group away, which included Caleb Ewan and Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ).
With twists and turns heading into the final 2km, a stretched group was back together, with Jumbo-Visma bringing Groenewegen back towards the front in the final 1.7km.
Groupama-FDJ were then the most prominent team on the front in the final kilometre trying to lead out Démare, with Bora and Jumbo-Visma also pulling for their sprinters.
It was Jumbo-Visma who had the last lead-out man on the front of the bunch, but it was Sam Bennett who gained most, launching his sprint clear in the middle of the road to take victory ahead of Ewan.
Paris-Nice continues on Wednesday with stage four, a hilly 221km route from Vichy to Pélussin that will likely see the overall lead change hands.
Paris-Nice 2019, stage three: Cepoy to Moulins/Yzeure (200km)
1 Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 5-16-25
2 Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto-Soudal
3 Fabio Jakobsen (Ned) Deceuninck-Quick-Step
4 Daniel McLay (GBr) EF Education First
5 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Vital Concept
6 Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Direct Energie
7 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
8 Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
9 Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
10 Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo, all same time
General classification after stage three
1 Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, in 11-47-44
2 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky, at 6s
3 Luis León Sánchez (Esp) Astana, at 11s
4 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 16s
5 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky, at 17s
6 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott, at 20s
7 Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, at 21s
8 Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 23s
9 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, at same time
10 Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale, at 24s