Sylvain Chavanel seized the Paris-Nice lead in the first moment of truth of this Paris-Nice in St Etienne, taking the yellow jersey on the eve of an exciting stage up the Mount Ventoux on Thursday.
At his best since the start in Amilly, Chavanel proved he could attack when it mattered, showing brilliant form on the climb of the Col de la Croix de Chaubouret, the first big test in the race this year.
The 165.5-kms third stage went to Kjell Carlstrom, who became the first Finn to win a stage in the Race to the Sun.
On the line, the Liquigas rider outsprinted Clement Lhotellerie, who had broken with him since the 8th kilometre. The Frenchman earned the best climberâ€™s polka-dot jersey as a fine consolation prize.
Sylvain Chavanel takes the Paris-Nice overall lead, with a two second lead over Karsten Kroon and three second over Luis Leon Sanchez.
The top five placings:
3. Pierre Rolland(France, CA)
Carlstrom outsprints Lhotellerie and wins the third stage in St Etienne.
The gap is stable with 2 kms to go : 1:05
The two escapees lead the chasing group by 1:07 with 4 kms to go.
Christophe Moreau, one of the most active riders in the chase today, has punctured. Monfort punctures too!
Cunego,Chavanel and Kreuziger have been caught by the Rebellin grouo (km 154).
Lhotellerie and Carsltrom lead Cunego, Chavanel and Kreuziger by 1:30. The Rebellin group are 1:40 adrift in the descent.
Results at the top of the Col de la Croix de Chaubouret (1st cat, km 147):
1. Lhotellerie 10 pts
2. Carlstrom 8
3. Chavanel 6
4. Cunego 4
5. Kreuziger 3
6. Rebellin 2
7. Gesink 1
Clement Lhotellerie was first at the top of the Col de la Croix de Chaubouret (1st cat, km 147). The Frenchman will take the best climber’s polka-dot jersey off his team-mate Thierry Hupond’s shoulders.
Bradley McGee, who broke with Lhotellerie and Carlstrom after eight kms, has been caught and dropped by Cunego, Chavanel and Kreuziger.
Lhotellerie and Carlstrom in the lead
Cunego, Chavanel and Kreuziger 1:40
Rebellin group 2:25
Sylvain Chavanel and Damiano Cunego caught Roman Kreuziger. Three men are chasing behind the early escapees (km 146).
Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) is gradually making it back on the two leaders. He is now 2:15 behind them. Damiano Cunego and Sylvain Chavanel are joining forces 20 seconds behind the Czech rider.
Situation of the race at kilometre 143:
Lhotellerie and Carlstrom, followed by Mc Gee
Kreuziger 2:40 behind
Chavanel, Gonzalo Ramirez 2:50
Barredo, Cunego 2:55
Rebellin group 3:10
Bradley McGee has been dropped by his two breakaway companions, Clement Lhotellerie and Kjell Karlstrom.
Gonzalo is joined by Roman Kreuziger in the chase behind the three escapees. A group of some 20 riders, including the main favourites, has reformed behind them.
As the Rebellin group caught the Moreau group, Eduardo Gonzalo (Agritubel) attacked behind the three leaders.
Lhotellerie has made a couple of attempts to part with his breakaway companions on the Col de la Croix de Chaubouret, so far unsuccessfully.
The latest gap between the three leaders and the Moreau group is 3:25 (km 136).
As the peloton is scattered, a second group of favourites takes shape, including Davide Rebellin, Luis Sanchez, David Millar and Marco Albasini. They lie some 25 seconds behind the Moreau group, which has dropped Husovd and Lequatre.
A group of favourites started to chase in St Chamond, comprising yellow jersey holder Thor Hushovd, Moreau, Geoffroy Lequatre, Alberto Losada Alguacil, Damiano Cunego, Enrico Franzoi, Yaroslav Popovych, Maxime Monfort and Carlos Barredo.
Results of the second intermediate sprint (Andrei Kivilev memorial) (km 131):
Results at the top of the Cote de la Croix Blanche (3rd cat, km 122):
1. Lhotellerie 4 pts
2. Carlstrom 2 pts
3. McGee 1 pt
Moreau, joined by team-mate Geoffroy Lequatre and Dutchman Marc de Maar, is about to be caught by the peloton. The latest gap with the three escapees is 5:30.
French champion Christophe Moreau and compatriot Christophe Le Mevel part with the bunch at the start of the Cote de la Croix Blanche. Moreau knows the course well, having won a Dauphine Libere stage in St Etienne last year.
Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) is one of two riders to have crashed in the descent of the CĂ´te de l’Aubepin.
Carlstrom and McGee are back in Lhotellerie’s wheel at the top of the Cote de la Croix Blanche.
Already the virtual holder of the prolka-dot jersey thanks to the 18 points grabbed since the start, Lhotellerie attacks in the 3rd category Cote de la Croix Blanche.
Km 115 - The lead of the three escapees now cut down to six minutes.
Belgian Gert Steegmans (Quick Step), winner of the first two stages of this Paris-Nice, is struggling at the back of the pack.
Rabobank and Caisse d’Epargne are the main teams leading the chase. They obviously have big hopes for their respective leaders, Robert Gesink and Luis Leon Sanchez.
Results at the top of the Cote de l’Aubepin (2nd cat, km 108.5):
1. Lhotellerie 7 pts
2. McGee 5 pts
3. Carlstrom 3 pts
4. Intxautsi 2 pts
5. Michiel Elijzen (Netherlands, Rabobank) 1 pt
The peloton 6:25 adrift at the top.
AG2R team chief Vincent Lavenu believes his leader Rinaldo Ocentini is one of the riders to watch in the finale today: "He is one of the big guys today, with Rebellin and some others. He is in great shape after winning the GP de Lugano and finishing 2nd in the Tour du Haut Var. The big fight will start on the Croix de Chaubouret, when a group of favourites should emerge. Rinaldo is pretty fast too so it could be his day if he is in the leading group at the finish," he told www.letour.fr
Results at the top of the Cote de St Martin-en-Haut (2nd cat, km 94.5):
1. Lhotellerie 7 pts
2. Carlstrom 5 pts
3. McGee 3 pts
4. Benat Intxautsi (Spain, Suanier Duval) 2 pts
5. Thierry Hupond (France, Skil Shimano) 1 pt
The peloton 6:35 behind the three leaders.
Clement Lhotellerie was first at the top of the Cote de St Martin en Haut (km 94.5)
Bradley McGee, Kjell Carlstrom and Clement Lhotellerie are in the 2nd category Cote de St Martin en Haut. It is raining on the course. The peloton are some eight minutes adrift.
The lead of McGee, Carlstrom and Lhotellerie was back up to nine minutes at kilometre 74.
Result of the first intermediate sprint in Brindas (km 79)
Riders in the race per nation:
France: 37 (38 at the start minus Fedrigo)
Spain: 23 (27 at the start, minus Pereiro, Duran Aroca, Albizuri and Gomez Marchante)
Italy: 19 (20 at the start, minus Cioni)
Netherlands: 14 (15 at the start, minus Curvers)
Germany: 11 (12 minus Knees)
Austria and Ukraine: 2
Belarus, Denmark, Finland, Britain, Ireland, Japan, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Norway, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia: 1
Km 59.5 - The gap is now under eight minutes: 7:55
Cofidis team chief Francis Van Londersele advised team leader Sylvain Chavanel to play the waiting game in today’s stage: "We’re not going to take all the weight of the race on our shoulders. Tomorrow’s climb to the Ventoux will tell us who the reference rider is. Today, it is to be expected that a small group of favourites will take shape near the top of the Croix de Chaubouret. Sylvain just needs to be in this group. He’s in great form, he’s confident but he’s not going for the overall standings yet."
Km 44 - The lead of the three escapees goes down to 10:55.
Clement Lhotellerie, who was 22 at the start of Paris-Nice on March 9, has been in great form lately. He finished second overall behind Pablo Lastras in last month’s Ruta del Sol after a long breakaway in the first stage. He was even overall leader after the second stage.
The average speed in the first hour of the race was 36 kph.
Results at the top of the Cote de Plantigny (3rd cat, km 28):
The peloton 11:30 behind.
Christian Knees (Team Milram) has given up.
The lead of the three escapees reaches nine minutes at kilometre 25.
Km 24 - The lead of the three escapees is now 8:40.
Km 20 - The gap reaches 5:40.
The break seems to gain momentum. Carlstrom, McGee and Lhotellerie now lead the peloton by two minutes.
The race will be back on the road on which Kazakh Andrei Kivilev died in 2003 after crashing in St Chamond, shortly before the Croix de Chaubouret climb. One of the two intermediate sprints of the day is dedicated to his memory.
The gap widens for the leading trio. They now lead the bunch by 45 seconds (km 10)
Km 8 - New break by three riders, Finn Kjell Carlstrom (Liquigas), Australian Bradley McGee (CSC) and France’s Clement Lhotellerie (Skil Shimano).
Following are the last 10 winners in St Etienne
1991 â€“ Andreas Kappes. 1992 â€“ Team Ariostea. 1993 â€“ Johan Museeuw. 1994 â€“ Fabio Baldato. 1995- Lance Armstrong. 2000 â€“ Bo Hamburger. 2001 â€“ Peter Van Petegem. 2002 â€“ Laurent Jalabert. 2003 â€“ Davide Rebellin. 2006 â€“ P. Vila Errandonea.
Km 7 - The peloton catches the 12 escapees.
Bouygues Telecom leader Pierrick Fedrigo will be out of action for two weeks at least after his crash in Mondayâ€™s first stage, sports daily lâ€™Equipe said. X-rays did not reveal any fracture but further tests will be necessary after his two-week break.
Twelve riders have parted with the main pack. They lead the bunch by 12 seconds.
1. Thor Hushovd (Norway, C.A)
2. Gert Steegmans (Belgium, Quick Step) 3 secs behind
3. Jerome Pineau (France, BTL) 23 secs
Green jersey :
1. Hushovd 69 pts
2. Steegmans 51 (wears the jersey)
3. Kroon 36
Polka-dot jersey :
1. Thierry Hupond (France, Skil Shimano) 14 points
2. Benat Intxausti (Spain, Saunier Duval) 7 pts
3. Juan Antonio Flecha (Spain, Rabobank) 7 pts
White jersey :
1. Trent Lowe (Australia, Slipstream)
2. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spain, Caisse dâ€™Epargne) four secs
3. Niki Terpstra (Netherlands, Milram) 7 secs
Paris-Nice is stopping in St Etienne for the 57th time this year and some of the sportâ€™s biggest names have won here â€“ Louison Bobet (1951), Rik Van Looy (1963), Rudy Altig (1965 and 1966), Eddy Merckx (1969 and 1970), Freddy Maertens (1976 and 1977), Sean Kelly (1982), Johan Museeuw (1993) or Lance Armstrong (1995).
France’s Freddy Bichot (Agritubel) was the first rider in action today, but he was immediately brought back to the peloton.
Km 28 â€“ Cote de Plantigny (3rd cat)
Km 94.5 â€“ Cote de St Martin-en-haut (2nd cat)
Km 108.5 â€“ Cote de lâ€™Aubepin (2nd cat)
Km 122 â€“ Cote de la Croix blanche (3rd cat)
Km 147 â€“ Col de la Croix de Chaubouret (1st cat)
Km 79 â€“ Brindas
Km 131 â€“ St Chamond (Andrei Kivilev memorial)
Km 79 â€“ Brindas
Km 131 â€“ St Chamond (Andrei Kivilev memorial)
Welcome to the 165.5-kms third stage of Paris-Nice between Fleurie and St Etienne.