Garcia Cortina defies Sagan in Paris-Nice sprint

LA CHÂTRE (AFP) – Spain’s Ivan Garcia Cortina of the Bahrain-McLaren team took advantage of a late crash to emerge as surprise winner in a bunch sprint on stage three of the Paris Nice cycling race on Tuesday.

Germany’s Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-hansgrohe), the winner of the opening stage win last Sunday, retained the overall lead after coming home 13th.

He swore to keep the yellow jersey as long as possible.

“I showed in the past I could ride good time trials,” he said in reference to stage four yesterday.

“I want to defend this beautiful jersey and I’m going give it my best in the time trial and then in the showdown in the hilly, mountain stages.”

The late fall on Tuesday caused a ripple of panic as Garcia Cortina and Slovak superstar Peter Sagan reacted quickest, speeding across the line first and second after a long 212.5km ride in wind and rain.

“I was surprised to beat Peter Sagan,” the fresh-faced 24-year-old Garcia Cortina said of beating the peloton’s highest-paid rider.

“I managed to find the right place to go and just went full gas,” he explained.

Garcia Cortina, a stage winner on the Tour of California, zipped past Sagan with relative ease, winning in five hours 49 minutes 55 seconds after most of the best speed finishers were caught out by the last fall on a day of crashes.

Irish sprinter Sam Bennett banged hips with another sprinter a couple of hundred metres from home, bounced into a barrier and, as he fell, became tangled up with Hugo Hofstetter dragging the French rider down and causing problems for those around them.

The early action on Tuesday was dominated by Belgian rider Tom Devriendt of Circus Wanty Gobert, who embarked on a 180km solo break. He led by over seven minutes but was reeled in with 30km to go.

Yesterday’s fourth stage is a 15.1km individual time trial around the town of Saint-Amand-Montrond, birthplace of French ace Julian Alaphilippe.

The race then heads south into hilly terrain before culminating with two mountainous stages round the Mediterranean city of Nice at the weekend.

McLaren Spanish rider Ivan Garcia Cortina celebrates on the podium. PHOTO: AFP