Following a “bad day” on Monday, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team got back in the running on the third stage of Paris-Nice. Although they could not prevent a bunch sprint in Dun-le-Palestel, Quentin Pacher, Kevin Geniets and Olivier Le Gac did take their chance in the last thirty kilometres. The Luxembourger also tried to get involved in the final sprint, but unfortunately crashed before getting back up. Tomorrow, Stefan Küng will be fighting for the win in Montluçon’s time trial.

The riders who got through the second stage and its dangers found themselves in Vierzon on Tuesday for the start of the third stage of Paris-Nice. Everyone was there for the Groupama-FDJ cycling team despite yesterday’s crashes, and the rather calm start to the stage was probably a relief for some. Owain Doull (Education First-Easy Post), Alexis Gougeard (B&B Hotels-KTM) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) took the lead very quickly and got a maximum gap of about five minutes. The bunch then progressively accelerated after mid-race and came back less than two minutes from the trio at the first time on the finish line, forty-three kilometres from the end. Later, some took advantage of the hilly final to attack while others started to drop back. The Groupama-FDJ joined the party at the côte de Le Peyroux (2.5 km at 5.5%), with twenty-five kilometres to go, through Quentin Pacher and then Kevin Geniets. “We wanted to try to get back into a good momentum after the very rough day of yesterday”, explained Quentin. “We wanted to try to make the race more dynamic as we don’t have a pure sprinter in the team. We wanted to attack in the final and see how that would go, and if other teams were interested in joining us. We all had the opportunity to give it a go, but it wasn’t easy with the wind and the terrain that was not so difficult. Anyway, it shows that we want to move forward.”

“It creates a good momentum”, Philippe Mauduit

It all came back together at the top of this last categorized climb, then Olivier Le Gac also took his chance on the final hill, seven kilometres from the line. It did not prove successful either. It therefore all came down to the final sprint. “We said this morning that we had to give it a try”, added Philippe Mauduit, “but the speed was very high and it was well controlled by the teams that still had fast riders. We knew the hills were quite rolling, but if you don’t try, you won’t get anywhere. The riders wanted to give it a go this morning, and that creates a good momentum after the day we had yesterday. Just for this reason, it was the way to go today. And with no sprinter, we had nothing to lose. So, we have no regrets.” In the final sprint, however, Kevin Geniets was caught in a crash as Mads Pedersen took the win. “It’s a stupid crash 400 meters from the line,” added Philippe. “Fortunately, there is nothing serious. Overall, he’s ok, but it’s always annoying to end up on the ground like this”. Quentin Pacher was therefore the first team member to cross the line, in 29th position, while David Gaudu and Valentin Madouas got to the finish a little later. “The injured tried to get through the day well, in order to recover as much as possible”, said Quentin Pacher. “Tomorrow’s stage should allow them to further recover, and after the time trial, a new Paris-Nice will begin”. As for Stefan Küng, he will of course be looking for a victory on Wednesday, on the undulating, 13,4-kilometer route between Domérat and Montluçon.

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