Astana proved that they have strength in numbers in yesterday's hard Paris-Nice stage when their pair of Vincenzo Nibali and Jakob Fuglsang took turns attacking race leader Geraint Thomas. In the end, Fuglsang escaped to take third on the stage and move himself into sixth on GC.
The Paris-Nice is a very tight affair with many riders within seconds of the race lead and this has made things rather uncontrollable and difficult to manage for race leader Geraint Thomas and his Sky team. Yesterday the Welshman suddenly found him isolated in the finale against a host of dangerous rivals that kept attacking him both up- and downhill.
The ones to create that situation was the Astana pairing of Jakob Fuglsang and Vincenzo Nibali. Fuglsang was the first to kick into action when he responded to an attack by Tim Wellens and Rafal Majka and when that move was brought back, Nibali gave it a go over the top of the final climb of the day.
Thomas closed it down but Nibali kept acceleration on the technical downhill, meaning that Thomas' final domestqiue Edvald Boasson Hagen was now far behind in the strung-out peloton.
Carlos Betancur exploited the situation when the road briefly went uphill and this was when Fuglsang made the next move in the Astana 1-2. The Dane joined Jungels to bridge across to the lone Colombian and that trio worked well together to stay away to the finish.
In the final kilometres, Fuglsang decided to go full gas for the GC, losing all hopes of the stage win but making sure that the break stayed away with a two-second gap. Due to the time gained and bonus seconds, Fuglsang moves into 6th on GC, 13 seconds off the race lead, while Nibali is 13th, 19 seconds further adrift.
“Part of our plan today was that we should try something one after the other," Fuglsang said. "First Vincenzo attacked, and then after Betancur made his move I went after. In the end it worked out pretty good, and once you are gone it’s head down and full gas to the finish."
The team's sprinter showed good form by making to the finish with the small peloton to take 9th.
The team also had its fair share of bad luck. Enrico Gasparotto crashed heavily mid-race and required one stitch to injuries on his hand, and Francesco Gavazzi slid on a sharp downhill turn in the final 25km but was able to ride to the finish after a bike change. Both riders will start Friday’s stage six.
You can read our preview of stage 6 here and follow our live coverage of the stage at 14.25 CET on CyclingQuotes.com/live.
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