SAINT-POURCAIN-SUR-SIOULE, France (AP) Michael Matthews took charge of the week-long Paris-Nice race after sprinting to victory Wednesday in the third stage.
The Australian, who claimed his first stage win in the Race to the Sun, edged Davide Cimolai and Giacomo Nizzolo in the hilly finale of the 179-kilometer (111-mile) stage from Saint-Amand-Montrond to Saint-Pourcain-sur-Sioule in central France.
''I wasn't sure what to expect before this Paris-Nice, but we had really good training with the team in South Africa and we brought very strong guys to help me here,'' said Matthews, who is competing in his first race this season. ''They did the hard work, mine was the easy part. To hold the yellow jersey is incredible. Before I left, my girlfriend asked me to bring back a yellow lion but a yellow jersey will top it.''
Matthews, who also wore the leader's jerseys at the Spanish Vuelta and Giro d'Italia, made the most of the bonus seconds to take over from previous leader Michal Kwiatkowski, who won Sunday's prologue. Rohan Dennis is in third place.
Former world champion Philippe Gilbert and Florian Vachon ignited the break of the day after 9 kilometers and were later joined by Thomas Voeckler. The group had a maximum lead of 5 minutes, 15 seconds over the main bunch before sprinters joined together to chase them down.
Gilbert was the first to be caught after stopping his efforts while Vachon and Voeckler were swallowed 9 kilometers from the finish. The Orica-GreeEdge train was the strongest in the sprint, delivering Matthews in perfect position before the slightly uphill finish.
Thursday's fourth stage takes the riders on a hilly 204-kilometer (126.8-mile) ride from Varennes-sur-Allier to Croix de Chaubouret. The race ends on Sunday.