Simon Yates took an unexpected time trial victory on Paris-Nice stage five, the first TT win of his career.
The Mitchelton-Scott rider spent a long day in the hot-seat having set a strong time early in the day.
Despite some near misses by general classification contenders, Yates’ time over the rolling course was enough to secure the stage win for the 2018 Vuelta a España winner.
How it happened
The 25.5km time trial starting and finishing in Barbentane, 100km north of Marseille, posted an enticing challenge.
A mid-point climb of 1km at four per cent average was the most notable feature, making the course suited to the climbers.
The course then ended with a short, sharp rise to the line.
Mitchelton-Scott’s Yates put in a strong TT effort to set a benchmark of 30-26, putting him ahead of the likes of 2018 winner Marc Soler (Movistar) and a TT winner this year Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data).
With riders including Bob Jungels (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and race leader Michał Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) still to race it looked unlikely that Yates, already out of GC contention after shipping time on the opening three flat, windy stages, would hold on to win the stage.
Jungels finished 39 seconds down on Yates at the line however, in a surprisingly poor showing for the Luxembourger.
As those still in GC contention took to the start ramp, it looked like the Team Sky duo of Kwiatkowski and Egan Bernal could be the only riders able to topple Yates.
When former Colombian time trial champion Bernal finished 15 seconds outside the time of the Brit, it looked increasingly likely Yates would hold on to take his first time trial victory.
A strong ride from Kwiatkowski saw him hit the final climb within touching distance of Yates’ time, but the Pole didn’t have enough to take the stage win.
After a long day in the lead, Yates could finally celebrate an unexpected maiden time trial win.
Finishing 11 seconds down on the winner, Kwiatkowski was able to extend his overall race lead to 19 seconds over team-mate Bernal.
Paris-Nice stage five: Barbentane to Barbentane (25.5km ITT)
1. Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, in 30-26
2. Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin, at 7 seconds
3. Michał Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky, at 11 secs
4. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) EF Education First, at 15 secs
5. Daniel Martinez (Col) EF Education First
6. Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky
7. Lawson Craddock (USA) EF Education First, all at same time
8. Tom Scully (NZl) EF Education First, at 27 secs
9. Marc Soler (Esp) Movistar Team, at 30 secs
10. Bob Jungels (Lux) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 33 secs
General classification after stage two
1. Michał Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky, in 17-23-00
2. Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky, at 19 seconds
3. Luis León Sánchez (Esp) Astana Pro Team, at 28 secs
4. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 1-01
5. Bob Jungels (Lux) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at same time
6. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team, at 1-05
7. Felix Großschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-09
8. Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 1-19
9. Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 1-22
10. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 1-25