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ASO / Kåre Dehlie Thorstad
It was third time lucky for John Degenkolb in Magny-Cours on Tuesday, when the German powered his way to his first victory on Paris-Nice in the 180-kms third stage after two second places in the previous finishes of this edition. Already winner of a Vuelta stage on a racing-track in 2012, the Giant Shimano big engine also stole the race yellow jersey away from France’s Nacer Bouhanni after another show of strength form his Giant Shimano team-mates. Degenkolb was too fast and too strong for second-placed Matt Goss (OGE) and Jose Joaquin Rojas (MOV) and finally was rewarded for his consistency since the start in Mantes-la-Jolie on Sunday. Overall he now leads the two other stage winners so far, Bouhanni by eight seconds and Moreno Hofland by 12.
The start was given to 164 riders, three riders involved in the previous day’s crashes – Belgium’s Gianni Meersman (OPQ) and Kris Boeckmans (LTB), Dutchman Lars Boom (BEL) and Kris Boeckmans (LTB) – having given up. After 2.5 kms, the break of the day took shape and involved three Frenchmen, Perrig Quemeneur (EUC), Julien Fouchard (COF) and Romain Feillu (BSE). The trio maintained a three-minute lead for most of the stage but the gap – a maximum of 3:10 at kilometer 16 – never increased as the escapees and the bunch were playing hide-and-seek.
Romain Feillu was first at the top of the only climb of the day, Cote de la Chapelle-Saint-Andre (km 74, 3rd cat) while Quemeneur was fastest in the first intermediate sprint of the day in Varzy (km 78). Fouchard took the second sprint in La Machine (Km 141). But unlike in previous days, the results had no impact on the respective classifications. The tempo in the first four hours of the stage was quite leisurely at under 38 kph but it raised steadily as the peloton was nearing the Magny-Cours racing track.
With 11 kms to, as the gap had melted down to 30 seconds, Quemeneur decided to go on his own and drop his companions. The Frenchman fought bravely but was finally reeled in two kilometres from the line as the sprinters teams, led by Degenkolb’s Giant Shimano, moved up a gear. The Dutch team move, already impressive in stage 1 and 2, was irresistible and their leader surged early never to be seen again by his rivals. After Bouhanni, it was Degenkolb’s turn to celebrate on the Grand Prix podium and snatch all the jerseys on offer except the polka-dot one, still on the back of Frenchman Christophe Laborie (BSE).
Paris-Nice Stage 3
1. John Degenkolb (GER/Giant) 4:27:26
2. Matthew Goss (AUS/ORI) @ s.t.
3. Jose Joaquin Rojas (ESP/MOV)
4. Borut Bozic (SLO/AST)
5. Tom Boonen (BEL/OPQ)
6. Alexander Kristoff (NOR/KAT)
7. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA/FDJ)
8. Thor Hushovd (NOR/BMC)
9. Gert Steegmans (BEL/OPQ)
10. Moreno Hofland (NED/BKN)
General Classification After Stage 3
1. John Degenkolb (GER/GIA) 13:14:01
2. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA/FDJ) @ :08
3. Moreno Hofland (NED/BKN) @ :12
4. José Joaquin Rojas (ESP/MOV) @ :18
5. Geraint Thomas (GBR/SKY) @ :21
6. Bryan Coquard (FRA/EUC) @ :22
7. Alexander Kristoff (NOR/KAT) @ s.t.
8. Nikolay Trusov (RUS/TIN)
9. Samuel Dumoulin (FRA/ALM)
10. Marco Marcato (ITA/CAN)