Bernal moves into Paris-Nice lead

16 Mar 2019

Bernal moves into Paris-Nice lead

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Paris-Nice stage seven: Nice - Col de Turini, 181.5km

Egan Bernal moved into the race lead at Paris-Nice following a tense penultimate stage that finished atop the Col de Turini and as won by Daniel Martinez (EF Education First).

It was a day of mixed emotions for Bernal, who moved into the race lead at the expense of teammate Michal Kwiatkowski who was dropped on the final climb as the pace picked up to nullify the threat of Deceuninck-Quick-Step veteran Phillippe Gilbert, who had been virtual leader on the road for much of the stage. 

The Colombian youngster now has a 45 second lead over Gilbert and is 46 seconds ahead of Nairo Quintana (Movistar) ahead of Sunday's punchy 110km stage around Nice.

Earlier, Gilbert had escaped as the biggest GC threat in a high quality group of 39 riders which included a host of climbing talent including Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Martinez.

As the group's lead swelled, Team Sky combined well on the front to at first cap the escapees' advantage before slowly picking up the pace to reel in the breakaway. Large turns on the front from Luke Rowe and Jhonatan Narvaez helped control the breakaway's advantage leading into the final climb, where Sebastian Henao and Tao Geoghegan Hart worked hard on the Col de Turini to reduce the numbers of the break.

The stage win was being contested by Martinez, Lopez, Yates and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) at the head of the race, while Ivan Sosa picked up the pace to close the gap on the tiring Gilbert who was now isolated behind the leaders, but still ahead of the GC group on the climb.

Unfortunately this acceleration also proved too much for Kwiatkowski, who moved down to fourth overall, but it helped propel Bernal to the finish with only Quintana for company to setup a gripping final stage on Sunday.
Egan Bernal

Egan Bernal

It was a really hard stage, it was strange for the legs having had lots of flat terrain and wind to contend with earlier in the race to suddenly be in the mountains.
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Egan Bernal

"While I am very happy to be wearing the leader’s jersey, I have mixed feelings because my teammate Kwiato was in the leader’s jersey and lost it today. But I think he had the pressure [of being the leader] for a few stages and he did very well, but with Gilbert infront we had to go full gas today.

“It was a really hard stage, it was strange for the legs having had lots of flat terrain and wind to contend with earlier in the race to suddenly be in the mountains, but in the final I was in the front and able to do well.  

"Now we have kept the jersey in the team we have to give our best tomorrow. I have a good chance to win Paris-Nice, tomorrow but it will be a tough stage, it always is, and we will have to concentrate all day.  Now I have the pressure on me, I am really confident in this really good team and I will try my best to win the race.”
Ivan Sosa was key in helping both Bernal and Kwiatkowski on the final climb

Ivan Sosa was key in helping both Bernal and Kwiatkowski on the final climb

What's next?

Team Sky will be aiming to win Paris-Nice for a sixth time in eight years as the ‘Race to the Sun’ comes to a thrilling climax in Nice. The punchy 110km circuit around the capital of the Alpes-Maritimes department has produced enthralling finishes in recent seasons, with the race being decided by mere seconds for the past three years.    

Overall standings

1. Egan Bernal (Team Sky) 26:35:26
2. Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-Quick-Step ) +45"
3. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +46"
4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) +1'03"
5. Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott) +1'21"

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