Sylvain Chavanel (Quickstep), burst from a seven man break to win the 178Km third stage of Paris Nice from Juan Antonio Flecha (Rababobank) was second and Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank) was third. Alberto Contador finished 1:10s back and surrendered his over-night lead.
It was all change in the rain at Paris Nice today as Sylvain Chavanel riding for Quickstep pounced at the death to profit from the decisive work done by the Rababobank team which attacked 43Km out from the finish taking Alberto Contador's Astana team by surprisie and shattering the peloton in the process.
Rababank's reward for such an aggressive display was two riders on the podium for Stage 3: Juan Antonio Flecha and Sebastian Langeveld; and two riders filling second and third spots in the overall standings too: Juan Manuel Garate and Flecha again.
Alberto Contador slipped to sixth overall while Bradley Wiggins, who lay second overnight dropped out of the top 10 entirely in fact he dropped out of the top 100… not to put too fine a point on it they might just as well have printed the results in alphabetical order as Bradley crashed to 117th place 11:35 down on Chavanel.
Mind you he wasn't the only big loser on the day Cadel Evans, one of the pre-race favourites finds himself in 94th place 10:33 down and Rinaldo Nocentini and Frank Schleck are in 19th and 20th places respectively over a minute and a half back on Chavanel.
On paper today's stage did not look that different from yesterday's save for being slightly shorter and slightly lumpier. The main break of the day came as early as the 15th kilometre when and was launched Maciej Bodnar (Liquigas), and joined by Belgian champion Jurgen Roelandts (Silence Lotto), Christophe Le Mevel (FDJeux) Tom Veelers (Skil Shimano) plus Stepahane Auge (Cofidis). The latter mopped up the points in polka dot jersey competition over the day's three climbs. The break moved away and was six minutes to the good after 40Km and again got as far out as seven minutes before action was taken.
Astana had controlled the pace of the chasing pack and it was they aided by the Cervelo Test Team in particular who initially moved to up the pace and reel the break back in. However, with the 43Km to go Rabobank suddenly upped the pace, maybe they just wanted to get in out of the cold and rain, or maybe they just saw their chance to do some damage. Their bold move broke the peloton and resulted in a 15 man group: Gilbert (Silence Lotto), Flecha, Garate, Hayman, Langeveld, Tankink, Tjallingii (Rabobank), Chavanel and Seeldrayers (Quick Step), Burghardt (Columbia), Taaramae (Cofidis), Colom and Steegmans (Katusha), Haussler (Cervelo) and Timmer (Skil Shimano) setting off to chase down the break and leaving Contador stuck in a second group back down the road, and riders like Wiggins and David Moncoutie even further back down the road.
The final escapees were reeled in with 31km to go at that point a 10 man group at the front (Roelandts, Flecha, Garate, Roelandts, Flecha, Garate, Langeveld, Chavanel, Seeldrayers, Le Mevel, Burghardt, Auge and Veelers, Chavanel, Seeldrayers, Le Mevel, Burghardt, Auge and Veelers) had a 20 second lead over the chasing Contador – that lead was to be extended by the finish.
On the run in Veelers, Le Mevel, and Burkhardt were all dropped the latter with a puncture just a few kilometres out from the finish. In the final kilometre the Rababobank riders Flecha and Langeveld both attacked but Chavanel had the legs of them both to take the win.
Tomorrow's fourth stage is the 173.5Km from Vichy to St Etienne and takes the riders over six 3rd category climbs with two intermediate sprints.
Top 10 Paris Nice Stage 3
1 Sylvain Chavanel Quick Step4h 33' 12"
2. Juan Antonio Flecha Rabobank 4h 33' 12" + 00' 00"
3. Sebastian Langveld Rabobank 4h 33' 12 + 00' 00"
4. Stéphane Auge Cofidis Le Credit En Ligne 4h 33' 12" + 00' 00"
5. Kevin Seeldrayers Quick Step 4h 33' 12"+ 00' 00"
6. Juan Manuel Garate Rabobank 4h 33' 12" + 00' 00"
7. Jürgen ROELANDTS Silence - Lotto 4h 33' 12" + 00' 00"
8. Marcus Burghardt Team Columbia - High Road 4h 33' 52" + 00' 40"
9. Heinrich Haussler Cervelo Test Team 4h 34' 21"+ 01' 09"
10. Sébastien Turgot BBOX Bouygues Telecom 4h 34' 21" + 01' 09"
Top 10 General Classification Paris Nice after Stage 3
1. Sylvain Chavanel Quick Step 9h 29' 24"
2. Juan Manuel Garate Rabobank 9h 29' 57" + 00' 33"
3. Juan Antonio Flecha Rabobank 9h 30' 00" + 00' 36"
4. Kevin Seeldrayers Quick Step 9h 30' 01" + 00' 37"
5. Jürgen Roelandts Silence - Lotto 9h 30' 04" + 00' 40"
6. Alberto Contador Astana 9h 30' 27" + 01' 03"
7. Luis-Leon Sanchez Caisse D’Epargne 9h 30' 36" + 01' 12"
8. Stéphane Auge Cofidis Le Credit En Ligne 9h 30' 38" + 01' 14"
9. David Millar Garmin - Slipstream 9h 30' 41" + 01' 17"
10. Antonio Colom Team Katusha 9h 30' 46"+ 01' 22"
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.