Schachmann from start to finish
March 14 th 2020 - 15:03
Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) gave everything he had to win Paris-Nice on Saturday at the top of La Colmiane at the end of a grueling 166.5-km mountain stage won by Nairo Quintana. The German champion, 26, who had seized the reins on the very first day in Plaisir, became the first German since Tony Martin in 2011 to win the Race to the Sun, and also the first since compatriot Jorg Jackshe in 2004 to have retained the leader’s jersey from start to finish. It was not an easy task however for Schachmann, attacked on the last climb by Belgium’s Tiesj Benoot (Suneweb), who bravely tried to topple him but failed by 18 seconds. Third overall was Sergio Higuita (EF Pro Cycling), who was never in a position to challenge the German and take over from compatriot Egan Bernal, the winner a year ago in Nice.
Six in the lead
The real start was given at 10:13 to 92 riders. Nils Politt, Jenthe Biermans and Tom Van Asbroeck (all Israel Start-Up Nation), Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), Roger Kluge (Lotto-Soudal) and Ben O’Connor (NTT Pro Cycling) did not start. Anthony Perez (Cofidis) and Benoit Cosnefroy (Ag2R) attacked from the gun. At kilometer 15, the main contenders in this Paris-Nice tried to break clear and join the two escapees. After a tense moment, six riders found themselves in the front at the foot of the 1st category Col de Vence – Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) , Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Ag2R), Antony Perez (Cofidis), KOM leader Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) and Alberto Bettiol (EF Pro Cycling). Romain Bardet (Ag2R), Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Fabien Doubey Circus Wanty Gobert) and Quentin Pacher (B&B Hotels) chased behind them with the peloton on their heels but were reined in in Col de Vence.
Edet secures polka-dot jersey
At the top of the 1st category ascent, Edet collected ten more points for the KOM classification ahead of De Gendt and Alaphilippe. The peloton was 3:05 down. The six maintained a stable lead over the pack, led by Bora-Hansgrohe riders and at the top of Col de la Sigale (km 79.5), Edet had secured enough points to clinch the polka-dot jersey. He still added seven points to wrap it up on Cote de St Antonin (2nd cat). With 45 km left, Perez was dropped by his former breakaway companions as the gap gradually decreased. Nans Peters (Ag2R) crashed and was forced out with a shoulder injury.
De Gendt goes solo
At the foot of the last climb, Alaphilippe, Paret-Peintre, De Gendt and Bettiol only retained 1:10 over the chasing peloton, led by Max Schachmann’s team-mates. The breakaway group blew up as soon as the road went up and De Gendt went on his own while Alaphilippe and Paret-Peintre tried to limit the damage before faltering with 10 km to go. While Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) chased on his own behind the Belgian, the peloton was soon reduced to a 13-man group comprising Max Schachmann and Felix Grossschartner (Bora), Kenny Elissonde, Vincenzo Nibali and Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), Tiesj Benoot and Soren Kragh-Andersen (Sunweb), Sergio Higuita and Tanel Kangert (EF Pro Cycling), Nairo Quintana, Thibaut Pinot and Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) and Romain Bardet (Ag2R).
Schachmann by 18 seconds
While Bardet briefly tried to move with 7 km to go, the group lost Elissonde and Kragh-Andersen. Richie Porte led for most of the climb, Nibali and Schachmann in his wheel but nobody could react when Quintana attacked with 4 km to go. The Colombian was a class above the rest of the contenders, who all attacked in turn – Nibali, Higuita, Pinot – without being able to topple Schachmann. Benoot was the last man to try his luck, hoping to make up his 36-seconds deficit in the final kilometer. It was a brave attempt, but Schachman, exhausted, managed to retain 18 seconds and snatch his most prestigious victory to date. Benoot had the consolation of clinching the green jersey while Higuita was by far the best young rider in this 78th edition.