Paris-Nice: Geraint Thomas out of Paris-Nice after crash as Carlos Betancur retains lead
Last Updated: 16/03/14 11:17am
Geraint Thomas crashed out of Paris-Nice race
Geraint Thomas has been forced to abandon Paris-Nice following a crash 5km from the finish line on stage seven.
The Team Sky rider, who had been eight seconds off the lead in second place, was one of three men who fell heavily and slid into barriers on a downhill, left-hand turn in the Sophia Antipolis technology park.
After taking a long time to get back to his feet, Thomas remounted and eventually crossed the line 7min 13sec behind the winner, but it was decided afterwards that he will take no further part in the race.
A Team Sky tweet read: "Unfortunately, as a result of his injuries sustained today, Geraint Thomas has been forced to abandon. He should return at Milan-San Remo, on March 23".
Tom-Jelte Slagter (Garmin-Sharp) sprinted to victory on stage seven's uphill finish, narrowly edging world champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) into second and Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) into third.
Betancur stretches lead
Betancur consequently retains the leader's yellow jersey and will take a 14-second advantage over Costa, who replaces Thomas in second, into Sunday's final stage. Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) is a further 12 seconds back in third.
Slagter, who also won stage four, said afterwards: "The first day was unbelievable, but today is even better. To win again today is the best feeling ever."
The 195.5km seventh stage contained no fewer than five categorised climbs, but with them all coming in the first two-thirds of the route, the day once again promised to be decided by a rolling finale.
Tom-Jelte Slagter sprinted to the stage win
After all but one member of the original breakaway had been swallowed up heading into the last 45km, the door was opened for fresh attacks and Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling), David Lopez (Team Sky) and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) were among a first small group to break clear of the bunch and build up a small lead.
They were soon hauled back, though, and a subsequent group, again containing Chavanel, also tried and failed to shake off a vigilant peloton led by Betancur's Ag2r-La Mondiale team.
Chavanel, who had promised to animate the race, darted off the front of the pack twice more in the final 15km, and while he was brought back both times, his moves served to reduce the main bunch down to about 40 riders.
As the road swung downhill towards the finish line inside the last 10km, Lampre-Merida hit the front of the pack and set a fierce pace as they looked to lay a platform for Costa - and it was that upping in speed that prompted Thomas's unfortunate fall.
Slagter was the first to launch his bid for the finish line and although Costa and Betancur both came back at him strongly, there was no denying the Dutchman a second victory of the race.
Britain's Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) finished strongly to take 15th.
Stage seven result
1 Tom-Jelte Slagter (Ned) Garmin-Sharp, 5:00:05
2 Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida, same time
3 Carlos Betancur (Col) Ag2r-La Mondiale, st
4 Jose Joaquin Rojas (spa) Movistar, st
5 Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ, st
6 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Belisol, st
7 Stefan Denifl (Aut) IAM Cycling, st
8 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, st
9 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, st
10 Peter Velits (Svk) BMC, st
66 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky, +7:13
1 Carlos Betancur (Col) Ag2r-La Mondiale, 32:04:49
2 Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida, +14
3 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, +26
4 Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar, +27
5 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, +29
6 Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ, +31
7 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Europcar, +35
8 Stefan Denifl (Aut) IAM Cycling, same time
9 Peter Velits (Svk) BMC, 39
10 Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha, st