After yesterday’s impromptu rest day, the peloton were back in action at Paris-Nice today with another mountain top finish at Col de la Couillole laid ahead of them. It was a fierce start to the racing with lots of attacks and an infernal pace on the opening climb, before a large 19 rider group managed to escape, with Team DSM in the peloton, looking to support GC finisher Romain Bardet.
The gap to the break was never allowed to grow much further north of the three minute mark, making for a fast and hard day in the saddle. Heading into the final 40 kilometres an ill-timed mechanical for Bardet saw him forced to chase back on with the help of Kevin Vermaerke and Matt Dinham, just as the screw was being turned at the head of the peloton. Fighting their way back excellently, the guys returned Bardet to the reduced bunch where Chris Hamilton was to shepherd him onto the final ascent.
Making their way up the climb the pace remained high and the bunch thinned down with Bardet riding strongly to make the front ten riders. Passing the five kilometres to go mark the breakaway was caught and the attacks started. Bardet fought hard alongside the other GC riders, pushing all the way to the line to take a solid seventh place on the stage, after the energy that had to be expended earlier. It’s also the place he now holds on GC ahead of tomorrow’s final explosive stage in and around Nice.