Paris-Nice’s Queen Stage was also the race’s grand finale, with the cancellation of Sunday’s racing meaning that it was all going to come down to the 166.5km of stage 7. Those kilometres were going to be the hardest the riders would face, with four climbs, all of which were first or second category, and the last of these being the first category summit finish on La Colmiane – 16.3km long at 6.3%.
Knowing it would all come down to the result on the finish line, the break today included riders who could threaten Maximilian Schachmann’s position in the GC. The break was made up of Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Fabien Doubey (Circus Wanty Gobert), Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis). With Alaphilippe in 10th overall and Doubey 11th, Schachmann had to be vigilant.
Riding hard on the front, Schachmann’s BORA-hansgrohe team mate Michael Schwarzmann protected the GC leader over the day’s first three climbs, and with 20 kilometres to go, the gap had come down from almost three minutes to a minute and a half, the whole BORA-hansgrohe team pulling together to keep the pace high and reduce the advantage.
The peloton had shed riders on the climbs, but Felix Großschartner and Austrian National Champion, Patrick Konrad, were riding in support of the yellow jersey in a select group. At the foot of the final climb, the reduction in the gap between the break and the peloton meant Schachmann was keeping hold of the GC lead, with the break’s advantage coming down as the stage moved into its final 5 kilometres.
De Gendt was the last of the break to stay clear but he was passed by Nairo Quintana (Team Arkéa Samsic) with 2.5 kilometres remaining. Tiesj Benoot (Team Sunweb) who sat in second place overall made a late bid for victory and did get clear of Schachmann. Quintana stayed clear to win the stage with Benoot in second. Schachmann crossed the line in sixth place on the stage, 12″ behind Benoot and the German National Champion knew that he’d won the biggest race of his career.
Max Schachmann – “It’s such a great feeling to win Paris-Nice but this was a very, very hard day. Felix Großschartner, Patrick Konrad and Michael Schwarzmann did a brilliant job today, they controlled the race by themselves. The finale was really hard for me, especially the last 3km were, honestly, very painful, like going through hell. But right now, I’m in heaven and every small pain in my legs is worth it. This is the fourth year of my professional career and this victory is certainly my biggest success so far and one of the most important steps. It feels so great because my whole life people were doubting I could be a GC rider and it was always my dream. Here I am now, having won one of the most prestigious one-week stage races.”