March 09, 2016

MONT BROUILLY, France (AP) Heavy snow and cold temperatures forced the third stage of the Paris-Nice cycling race to be canceled Wednesday.

Organizers said the front-runners were on the day's third climb when the race jury decided it was too dangerous to continue the hilly 168-kilometer (104-mile) stage from Cusset to Mont Brouilly in the Beaujolais wine region.

Television images showed concerned riders talking to each other as the snow fell on them, before heading back to their team cars with about 70 kilometers (43 miles) remaining.

Overnight leader Michael Matthews of Australia, who won Tuesday's second stage to go with Sunday's prologue, led Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands by 14 seconds, with Patrick Bevin of New Zealand in third place, 19 seconds off the pace.

The race ends on Sunday in Nice.

Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert (upper respiratory infection) and Frenchman Pierrick Fedrigo (bronchitis) pulled out before the stage.

''I really love this race so it is disappointing to have to stop racing,'' Gilbert said. ''But I have one of my biggest goals for the season, Milan-San Remo, around the corner and in order to perform well there I need to fully recover from this illness.''

Thursday's fourth stage is a 195.5-kilometer (121-mile) trek from Julienas - another region specializing in light red wines - to Romans-sur-Isere at the foot of the Vercors mountain range in the Alps of southeastern France, and features three small climbs.

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