Jonathan Hivert outsprints fellow attackers Luis León Sánchez and Rémy di Gregorio after jumping clear in final 20 kilometers.

Jonathan Hivert (Direct Energie) snatched Tuesday’s third stage of Paris-Nice, proving fastest out of a three-man escape group in Châtel-Guyon.

Astana’s Luis León Sánchez finished second and grabbed hold of the GC lead, with Rémy di Gregorio (Delko Marseille Provence KTM) taking third on the day.

38 seconds back, overnight race leader Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) won the bunch sprint for fourth but relinquished his control of the leader’s jersey.

Stage 3, top 10

Top-10 overall

The lumpy 210-kilometer trek through central France saw a three-man breakaway get clear moments after the race rolled out from Bourges. Fabien Grellier (Direct Energie), Jay Thomson (Dimension Data), and Przemyslaw Kasperkiewicz (Delko Marseille Provence) comprised the early escape.

The break’s advantage grew up over seven minutes before evening out and holding there or thereabouts for a while. Eventually, the sprinters’ teams began to apply pressure at the front, slowly but surely eating into the gap.

Grellier left his two breakaway companions behind on the second of the afternoon’s three third-category climbs. He opened up nearly a minute on his Thomson and Kasperkiewicz, but none of them could stave off the peloton. The pack ultimately made the final catch with 35 kilometers to go. The regrouping would be short-lived.

Quick-Step’s Julian Alaphilippe kicked off the attacks on the final climb and managed to find daylight alongside Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) and Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang. The pressure at the front splintered the peloton behind into pieces, with multiple small chase groups forming on the road.

A small collection of pursuers – which included Hivert, Sánchez, and di Gregorio – joined up with Alaphilippe’s trio some 20 kilometers from the finish. Minutes later, di Gregorio spurred the decisive move. Hivert and Sánchez followed the attack, but the rest of the group hesitated. That was all the trio needed to open their gap. The three riders worked well together to maintain their advantage into the finale, while a regrouping peloton swallowed up the various groups behind the leaders.

In the closing kilometers, Di Gregorio made a bid to solo away only to be caught, recover his strength, and try once more. His fellow escapees reeled him back in to set up a sprint for the stage victory, where Hivert surged to a convincing win ahead of Sánchez. Di Gregorio settled for third.

Démare led the chasing pack across the finish line for fourth place.

Sánchez now sits atop the general classification with a 28-second advantage over Démare.

Stage 3 results

General classification