Thibaut Pinot and Rudy Molard enters the top 10 before the final showdown

The Paris-Nice riders only have one day left to win fame. Due to the restrictions announced to slow the spread of the Coronavirus epidemic, the race will end after stage 7, tomorrow afternoon, on the climb of La Colmiane. Before this last showdown between the favourites, Tiesj Benoot (Team Sunweb) took a solo win in the first – very – hilly stage of the week, while Rudy Molard and Thibaut Pinot placed 7th and 9th on the line, which allowed them to slip into the top 10 of the general classification with one day to go.

“I was not in a great day” Stefan Küng

It was quite a strange atmosphere at the start of Sorgues this Friday morning, while Amaury Sport Organization had just announced that its race would conclude earlier than expected, on Saturday, at the top of La Colmiane. Despite the circumstances, the riders still went full gas once the start was given and a tough fight started to get in the day’s breakaway. Stefan Küng got himself involved and eventually managed to get away after an intense hour of racing. Though, he only led the race with a small gap on the bunch led by Julian Alaphilippe’s Deceuninck-Quick Step. “Initially, I wanted to go up front and have fun, explained the Swiss rider after the race, but I was not in a great day. Besides that, the course did not really suit me. At least, once I got in front, it was more peaceful than in the bunch. Sometimes, you also hope that you’ll have your good legs back after an hour or two, but that was not the case today, and the stage was very hard.”

After having spent about a hundred kilometers in the lead, with six other riders, Küng was eventually caught with 40 kilometers to go. A new race then began, mainly directed by Team Sunweb, who successively launched Nikias Arndt, Soren Kragh Andersen and Tiesj Benoot on the attack. The latter was the one to make the decisive move. Behind him, Rudy Molard and Thibaut Pinot were able to follow or even attack a very small group of favourites. Benoot then went on to win the stage and the two Groupama-FDJ’s leaders finished 22 seconds later, after avoiding the crash of the leader Maximilian Schachmann in the last kilometre. “It’s a shame, otherwise we would have played second place and we could have tried to go for the stage podium,” said a slightly disappointed Rudy. “The feelings were ok today. There was a high pace all day long and a nice fight at the end between all the GC riders. We were there when Julian [Alaphilippe] attacked and it was a good stage for us”.

“We could have some big surprises tomorrow” Philippe Mauduit

Seventh on the line, two places ahead of his teammate, Thibaut Pinot was also satisfied enough with how this special day went. “We stayed in our own bubble,” he said at the finish. “We felt there was a weird atmosphere at the start, but once the stage is started, we don’t think of the rest and we are focused on the race. It has been a very hard day for everyone. It went ok for me, even if I can’t say that I really gained much confidence. I was able to follow Julian when he attacked in the last climb, and that is at least a positive sign”. Despite new regulations this Friday, March 13 across France, and for sports competitions in particular, Paris-Nice should still be able deliver its outcome on the slopes of La Colmiane, tomorrow. Rudy and Thibaut will therefore have a last opportunity to seize, both for the stage win and as for the general classification. They now are 7th and 8th overall. “It’s interesting ahead of the last stage,” confirms Philippe Mauduit. “They are now only surrounded by climbers in the GC, except for Matthews. Tomorrow, there will be a big fight on the last climb of this Paris-Nice. After observing the race’s density and intensity today, we can even imagine that some riders will take big risks, and we could have some big surprises in this Paris-Nice’s finale”.