APT, FRANCE (AFP) – Germany’s Maximilian Schachmann held on to the overall lead of Paris-Nice on Friday.
The final stage scheduled for today has been cancelled, with French rider Romain Bardet criticising a “lack of unity” in the peloton.
With a fine solo finish under bright blue skies, Belgium’s Tiesj Benoot won the 161.5km run through the Luberon hills to Apt in Provence in the south-east of France on Friday.
Benoot climbed to second in the overall standings, trailing 36 seconds behind Schachmann.
Two other key challengers also strengthened their bids as Colombian climber Sergio Higuita moved to within 1min 1sec and is third overall, while wily Italian Vincenzo Nibali is at one minute 18 seconds in sixth.
Yesterday’s summit finish atop La Colmiane mountain provided the finale to the race.
Benoot raced the final 13km alone after some lively competition on the slopes, with Bardet the last man to be dropped.
Bardet said he had mixed feelings about continuing with the race on Friday.
“We were racing flat out. I had fun out there, why not let yourself go a bit, even if it makes no sense racing in this context,” Bardet said.
“Some are leaving, others are not, we may end up with 30 riders. I wonder where the meaning is in there… We’rs out on our little ride as if nothing has happened.”
Schachmann had been in a group around 20 seconds adrift of Benoot but crashed on the final descent less than a kilometre from home.
“I crashed with about 800 metres to go when the race was full on and everyone was going full gas down,” said the Bora rider who emerged unscathed. “There is just one day to go and it’ll be all out.”
Yesterday’s run culminates with a 16.3km climb at a 6.3 per cent incline.