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Degenkolb wins stage 3, takes lead in Paris-Nice

John Degenkolb won stage 3 of Paris-Nice Tuesday on the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours in central France. Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) took advantage of a commanding leadout to win the bunch sprint in the 180-kilometer leg from Toucy.

Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) was second and J.J. Rojas (Movistar) was third.

“We tried it two times before and again today and it was perfect,” said Degenkolb. “Everything went really well and today everything came together.”

Overall leader Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) finished seventh and ceded the overall lead to Degenkolb, who moved into first on the strength of the finish-line time bonus. The German leads Bouhanni by eight seconds.

Three escapees went clear moments into the stage: Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar), Julien Fouchard (Cofidis) and Romain Feillu (Bretagne-Seche). The French trio never established a large advantage, but nevertheless held off the chasing peloton into the final 12 kilometers.

Quemeneur went on his own with just over 10km remaining, leaving his two companions behind. Fouchard and Feillu gave way with 9km to go, under pressure from Astana, Movistar, and Sky from behind.

The lone leader chased the first victory of his professional career, pushing his advantage out to 45 seconds with 8km to go. With 5km to go, the sprinters’ teams pushed to the front and Quemeneur’s advantage shrank away. With 4km to go, he held 25 seconds. Giant-Shimano took control of the peloton with 3.5km to go and strung the bunch out on the motor racing track.

“We kept our nerve in the last few kilometers, taking control on the race circuit,” said Degenkolb. “We weren’t worried that the race wouldn’t come back together so we waited until the final few kilometers to hit it hard.”

With 1.5km to go, the Dutch squad pulled the bunch past its target, using every inch of the winding tarmac to keep Orica at bay. The Australian squad made a last-ditch effort on the final corner, but Degenkolb took a decisive sprint victory over Goss.

Paris-Nice continues Wednesday with the 201km fourth stage, from Nevers to Belleville. With four categorized climbs in the final 65 kilometers (three Cat. 3, one Cat. 2), the stage is ripe for an escape to make a raid on the leader’s yellow jersey.