Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) won stage 6 of Paris-Nice on Saturday and took the overall lead.
The 26-year-old Gallopin got away with 30km remaining and soloed to victory on the Promenade des Anglais at the conclusion of the 184.5km six-climb stage from Vence to Nice, winning by 32 seconds ahead of runner-up Simon Spilak (Katusha) and Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida).
“When I saw that Etixx-Quick-Step attacked in the descent I did my best to follow them. And then I saw that [race leader] Michal Kwiatkowski was unwell so I decided to go for it,” said Gallopin.
“It was bold with nearly 30kms to go but I know the descent very well. It was hard on the climb because there was a strong headwind and I was on my own. But when I heard that Richie Porte had crashed I gave it another go.”
Gallopin now leads the overall by 36 seconds over Porte (Sky), who with Geraint Thomas hit the deck on a descent during Saturday’s stage, and a further second over Kwiatkowski, who wore the yellow jersey on Saturday but could finish only 14th, more than a minute down.
The final stage is a 9.6km individual time trial on the Col d’Èze.
“It’s fantastic,” said Gallopin, who wore the yellow jersey in the Tour de France for 24 hours last year. “I came here to finish in the top 10 and now I’m in a position to win Paris-Nice. It’s more than I could expect. But the conditions were pretty favorable. When I saw it would rain this morning, I was rather happy.
“I don’t win a lot but when I do it’s often like that. It’s to live moments like that that we train hard. I took a lot of risk coming down when Michal attacked. I even gave myself a huge fright. But I’d done my homework and knew the descent well. That allowed me to deal with the difficult bits.”
As to whether he could defend the jersey on Sunday, he replied: “We’ll see. I’ll give my best.
“I know Col d’Eze extremely well. I must have climbed it at least 20 times in training this winter. It’s not too hard a climb — it’s not exclusively for climbers.”