|British climber Simon Yates had a phenomenal ride on the Queen stage of Paris-Nice today, taking a solo stage victory and moving into the overall race lead with just one stage remaining.
The 25-year-old attacked inside the final four kilometres on a first category climb and took with him Jon Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida). With less than one kilometre to go, Yates attacked again away from Izagirre to claim his first ever summit finish victory and now leads the race by 11seconds.
The parcours of the 175kilometre Queen stage was challenging enough with three second-category climbs and two first-category climbs, and the weather added to the difficulty. With cold temperatures and rain at the start in Nice, the day didn’t get any easier for the riders, with fog and snow lining the road along the final 16kilometre ascent up to the finish line in Valdeblore la Colmiane.
Like yesterday stage, Mitchelton-SCOTT took control of the race after a breakaway of eight riders, which formed in the early stages, hovered around two minutes ahead for the majority of the race. Australian champion Alex Edmondson contributed to a lot of the early work, controlling the distance to the leaders before Matteo Trentin and Chris Juul-Jensen took over on the penultimate climb and helped bring the breakaway’s advantage down to one minute with 30kilometres to go.
Once the final riders of the breakaway had been caught, the front group continue to shrink before Roman Kreuziger lifted the pace with five kilometres remaining, which allowed Yates to launch his attack and ride away from the depleted front group.
With his head down battling solo in an attempt to win the stage, Yates was able to distance his rivals, crossing the line eight seconds ahead of second place Dylan Teuns (BMC) and Izagirre which proved to be enough to give him the yellow jersey.
Simon Yates – Stage winner and race leader
“It was a really great job by the boys today, we were always in perfect position and I never wasted any energy throughout the day which I think is what really helped me in the final there. Of course, it’s my first victory on a real summit finish so I’m really happy. Obviously really tired now but we need to defend tomorrow.”
“I don’t think anybody likes these conditions but I don’t mind racing in the rain. For sure it’s very waring on the body and adds an extra element to the race but with the boys there, they looked after me perfectly and I never wasted any energy throughout the day and that really gave me an extra bit in the final.”
“The plan was to be in good position from the start because it was a very difficult Paris-Nice stage – never a straight bit of road, twisting and turning on really difficult terrain and you save so much energy at the front. Normally I don’t like to sit at the front, I prefer to sit back and relax a bit but today is one of those days that you really need to be there. Once we got to the climb we just had to see how we were feeling.”
“It’s going to be difficult to defend tomorrow, it’s still close, I didn’t have much of a gap at the finish there so we will see how it goes. It’s the last stage. The last couple of years it kicked off early and I expect the same again tomorrow. I like that stage, we’ll have to see about the weather, but we’ll see.”
Paris-Nice stage seven results:
General classification after stage seven: