Paris-Nice, Stage 3: Gilbert In The Mountains Jersey11. March 2015 — Road Team
Philippe Gilbert's (pictured) day in the breakaway Wednesday at Paris-Nice earned the past world road champion the King of the Mountains jersey while a part of BMC Racing teammates remain within striking distance of the lead with four days to go. (©Tim De Waele/TDWsport)
Gilbert said it was not his intention to chase the special classification. But the past world road champion seized the opportunity to escape in the first 10 kilometers of the 179-km race and went on to grab maximum points on the day's three categorized climbs.
"We started really easy, like the two previous days, and I wanted to do some efforts," Gilbert said. "So I just passed the bunch – not too fast – hoping someone would follow me. But just one guy (Florian Vachon of Bretagne Seche-Environment) came with me.
"I am proud to have this climbers jersey because Paris-Nice is one of the nicest races of the season. I think it is very important also for the BMC Racing Team to have this jersey."
Gilbert's breakaway with Vachon was far from ordinary. After nearly 70 kilometers of freedom, it appeared the pair would be brought back when their lead dropped to less than a minute. But Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar) used the opportunity to jump across to the two, and, with fresh legs in the escape, the trio rapidly built the lead back to more than five minutes.
"When the peloton first chased us, we thought we had no chance to go and we almost stopped," Gilbert said. "But when Voeckler came up, we decided to go faster and try. But it was a lot of headwind so it was not really possible to go against the bunch. But at least we tried and the good thing is I was able to get the points for the climber's jersey."
Eventually, all three riders were brought back in the final 20 kilometers. Michael Matthews (ORICA-GreenEDGE) won the uphill finish ahead of Davide Cimolai (Lampre-Merida) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) to take a one-second lead and the yellow leader's jersey from prologue winner Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick Step). Gilbert's teammate, Rohan Dennis, is third overall, tied on time with Kwiatkowski, while BMC Racing Team leader Tejay van Garderen, sits 12th overall, 15 seconds off the lead.
"Tomorrow is a stage for the general classification," BMC Racing Team Sport Director Yvon Ledanois said. "Philippe took the jersey and for us it is perfect. We do not have the pressure for tomorrow and Tejay is very motivated."