Daniel Martinez (EF-Education First) won a four-way battle on the Col de Turini to take the penultimate stage of Paris-Nice, Saturday. Martinez jumped away from fellow Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) in the final kilometer of the climb, with Nicolas Edet (Confidis) and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) taking third and fourth respectively.

Further down the mountain, overnight race-leader Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) cracked, leaving teammate Egan Bernal fighting Nairo Quintana (Movistar) all the way to the line.  The pair finished on the same time, enabling Bernal to take the leader’s jersey from his Polish teammate.

The stage had been highly-anticipated throughout the race, with a rolling course over 182km climaxing in the 14.9km,  7.3 percent average gradient climb of the Turini.

A breakaway of nearly 40 riders formed early in the stage, and included Martinez, Lopez, Yates, Edet, Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-Quick Step), and Alessandro De Marchi (CCC Team). They were allowed a lot of leeway by the bunch, which was controlled by Team Sky, Astana, and EF-Education First. As the lead group hit the lower slopes of the Turini, they had a six-minute lead over the peloton.

As the climb started, Yates and Lopez attacked, with only Edet and Martinez matching their pace. The four leaders attacked each other throughout the ascent, which featured ramps of over 10 percent. However, none were able to gain a significant advantage until Martinez attacked with 1km to go. The acceleration was too much for Yates and Edet, who were both distanced, though Lopez held his compatriot’s wheel.

Martinez was strong enough to sprint from the front and drop the Astana man in the final few hundred meters, taking victory.

“I thought Martinez and Lopez were bluffing,” said Yates, regarding the four-way battle to the line. “I thought I was going to win but they were better.”

Behind the leaders, several minutes down the climb, it initially seemed that Gilbert was going to be able to hold a pace which would have allowed him to move into the overall lead at the end of the stage, however, the length of the climb took its toll and he faded.

When Kwiatowski cracked in the final kilometers of the climb, Bernal set the tempo through to the finish. Quintana battled to hold his wheel, and the pair finished on the same time.

With Bernal now holding a 45-second advantage over Gilbert in the overall, and with Quintana only a further second back, there is still much to play for in the final stage.  The race will be decided Sunday in the traditional final-stage romp around the hills of Nice. The 110km route is littered with short climbs and typically makes for dynamic racing.

“Even if I’m in a very good position with a very strong team around me, we need to be extra vigilant on Sunday,” said Bernal regards Sunday’s battle.

Paris – Nice Stage 7 Results