Two-time stage winner Michael Matthews successfully defended the yellow jersey again today in Paris-Nice taking third on a hilly stage five.
Matthews gained a four second bonus for the podium finish and retains his lead going into the penultimate stage of the WorldTour race.
Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Pro Team) took a solo victory in Salon-de-Provence, moving him up to second place in the general classification, six seconds behind the world championship silver medallist.
“It was a hard day for everybody but I feel good,” Matthews explained after the stage. “Not super but good. I don’t think anybody feels super after the first three days we had.”
“I had noted this stage down as I was hoping we could get rid of the sprinters along the way but as we didn’t, we sat back and let the other teams do the work. The priority was then the yellow jersey more than the stage win.
“I’m not going to say I can win Paris-Nice but I’m going to give it everything I have. It’s already over for the green jersey, I won it, so now it’s all for the yellow.”
Sport director Laurenzo Lapage is happy with the race so far for the ORICA-GreenEDGE team and the condition of the riders heading into the tough final two stages.
“It’s another day now we are in the lead and today the team was really great again,” Lapage said. “Matthews got over the climbs today in good position so it shows the form he has.”
“The next two stages are really the hardest ones. Today we also had Simon Yates who was in really great condition, so I think for the next two stages we have a strong situation with Michael in the lead and Simon ready for the action.”
How it happened:
A sunny but windy start welcomed the riders in Saint-Paul-Trois-Ch?teaux. Within the first two kilometres of the race, eight riders broke free and rapidly increased their advantage with the peloton seeming happy to let them go.
As the breakaway started the second main climb of the day, Mont Ventoux, the time gap had gone up to seven minutes 30seconds. It wasn’t long before three riders Jes?s Herrada (Movistar), Arnaud Courteille (Francaise Des Jeux) and Antoine Duchesne (Direct Energie) dropped their breakaway companions as they crested the top of the climb.
Lars Boom (Astana Pro Team) and Stijn Vandenbergh (Etixx-Quickstep) rode across to the front trio, and the riders began to descend with the gap at six minutes heading towards the next climbs.
With 45km to go the gap between the peloton and the five breakaway riders reduced significantly down to two minutes, when Duchesne tried his luck by riding away from the five man breakaway. ORICA-GreenEDGE set the tempo at the front of the peloton as the race rolled towards the important final climbs of the day.
On the C?te de la Roque d’Anth?ron, the penultimate climb, the day the pace caused splits in the peloton. Daryl Impey set a hard pace up the climb with Yates and Matthews comfortably riding behind him in the chase group.
Duchesne continued to dangle off the front over the top of the climb and down the descend, hovering around the 50second mark. Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Pro Team) tried to bridge the gap, successfully doing so with only 16km left to race.
The duo headed through the ten kilometres to go mark and Lutsenko attacked the tired Direct Energie rider and held a solo lead of 30seconds. Three kilometres remained and the Astana rider worked hard to maintain his advantage.
The chasing group sensed the danger and rode hard to bring the solo rider back. Unlike yesterday’s stage the timing didn’t work in favour of the sprinters and Lutsenko stayed away to take the victory on stage five.
Matthews continues to lead the eight-day race with an advantage of six seconds and with two days still to race seems to have wrapped up the green sprint jersey competition with a 20point lead.
Paris-Nice stage 5 results:
1. Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Pro Team) 5:00:26
2. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) +0:21
3. Michael Matthews (ORICA-GreenEDGE) +0:21
Paris-Nice general classification after stage 5:
1. Michael Matthews (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 19:24:58
2. Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Pro Team) +0:06
3. Tom Dumoulin (Team Giant-Alpecin) +0:18