Tony Gallopin took the overall lead in the Paris-Nice race Saturday after a solo victory on the penultimate stage that was marred by crashes in rainy conditions.
Gallopin made his move about 30 kilometers from the finish to pull away from previous leader Michal Kwiatkowski in the last of six ascents on the 184.5-kilometer (114.4-mile) ride between Vence and Nice.
The French rider, who briefly wore the yellow jersey on the Tour de France last year and also won a stage at cycling\’s showpiece event, now leads Richie Porte of Australia by 36 seconds, with Kwiatkowski slipping to third overall one second further back.
Gallopin would become the first French rider to win the race since Laurent Jalabert in 1997 if he manages to hold off Porte\’s challenge in Sunday\’s 9.5-kilometer (5.9-mile) time trial from Nice to Col d\’Eze.
"It\’s fantastic. I came here to finish in the top 10 and now I\’m in a position to win Paris-Nice," said Gallopin. "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 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."
Kwiatkowski led Porte by one second and was three seconds clear of Geraint Thomas at the start of the stage, but knew he needed a bigger gap going into the time trial. He launched an attack with more than 60 kilometers to go and built a 40-second lead over the Team Sky riders with the help of teammates Tony Martin, Julian Alaphilippe and Michal Golas.
They were reined in on the climb but Kwiatkowski opened a new gap on the descent of the Col Saint-Roch. However, the Polish rider was unable to keep up when Gallopin attacked in the Cote de Peille and lost ground to Porte and Thomas too. The pair of Sky riders then crashed on the descent and were caught by Kwiatkowski as Gallopin triumphed on the Promenade des Anglais ahead of Simon Spilak and Rui Costa.