Our rider animated stage 7, which brought to a conclusion the cycling season for the time being.
Julian Alaphilippe said before the start of the final day at the “Race to the Sun” that he just wants to have fun and the Frenchman stayed true to his words, being at the heart of the first attack, which came early. That move took the peloton by surprise and forced a response from the other GC contenders, who sensed an opportunity of putting pressure on the yellow jersey by going in the breakaway.
The situation at the front kept reshuffling until the first climb of the stage, Col de Vence, when another group extricated itself from the bunch, Alaphilippe being again the main instigator. Joined by several other men, the former Paris-Nice best young rider opened a three-minute margin over the chasers, which put him into the virtual lead, some 100 kilometers from the end of the stage. A new split occurred when the Milano-Sanremo champion attacked again, only five riders being capable of remaining with him, as the gap continued to hold at two minutes and a half.
Only inside the last 25 kilometers, the advantage began to come down, but only after a number of teams sent representatives at the head of the bunch and injected a different tempo. Julian kept pushing unfazed by this and another acceleration narrowed the group to just two men on the slopes of La Colmiane (16.3 kilometers, 6.3%), but his beautiful effort eventually came to an end with ten kilometers remaining. As the gradient stiffened, he was caught by the reduced yellow jersey group, from where Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) took the win, while Max Schachmann (Bora-hansgrohe) sealed the overall victory.
Sports director Tom Steels made a review of Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s week at the French race, which Luxembourg Champion Bob Jungels concluded as our best placed rider: “We raced Paris-Nice under very special circumstances, but the riders did their best every day, they fought, and were always prominent at the front, shaping the stages. Julian kept attacking and went three times for a stage win, always giving his best, Bob also showed his good condition and tried something, Kasper took a solid top 3 finish in a hard individual time trial, while Sam was unfortunately put out of the race by a crash. We are content with the way we rode, but now we go home and wait to see what the rest of the season brings.”
Photo credit: ©Luc Claessen / Getty Images