Former Russian national champion Alexandr Kolobnev gave his new team CSC an unexpected but well-deserved win in Paris-Nice?s stage three. Overall, Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) remains in the lead.

With just two victories in his palmares prior to Wednesday?s win, Kolobnev was the last survivor of a day-long break of four. The 25-year-old struck out on his own less than 12 kilometres from the finish at Maurs and managed to fend off the peloton on the ultra-fast, well-surfaced final descent.

?I just managed to do it.? Kolobnev told reporters afterwards. ?Normally, breaks like ours don?t work out, but that downhill finale was just what I needed to keep ahead. The bunch couldn?t really go much faster than me at that point, that?s partly why I suceeded.?

?It?s a very important win for me, my first in the ProTour.? the CSC rider, who took the final downhill at speeds of around 100 kmh, added. ?That makes it even more satisfying.?

Kolobnev and the three other breakaways, Nicolas Vogondy (Agritubel), Fabio Baldato (Lampre) and Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner) had taken off after just two kilometres of racing. With a further 213 kilometres to go to the finish – making stage three the longest of this year?s Paris-NIce – it seemed less than likely that they would stay away.

But the hilly terrain in the final hour meant the bunch miscalculated – and badly. Aware that the final descent would make it difficult for him to be caught, Kolobnev cleverly attacked the three just before the downhill run-in to Maux began. It was a move which paid off in spades.

One rider who clearly reckoned Kolobnev did not have a chance of winning was Boonen, who raised his arms when he crossed the line – in second place.

Laughing about it afterwards, Boonen said he had thought all the break had been reeled in. ?I just got it wrong.? he admitted to CW with a huge grin. ?That?s why I put my arms in the air.?

?Better here than in Milan-San Remo, in any case. It?s the first time I?ve ever done that in my career, I didn?t hear on the radio that Kolobnev was still out there because it was so windy on the descent and when the three were reeled in, I thought that was that.. He deserves a lot of congratulations, winning after a 200 kilometre break is a spectacular result.?

Boonen may yet get ?his? stage win, but it will almost certainly not be on Thursday, which ends with the only summit finish of this year?s Paris-NIce, at Mende. Classified first category because of its extreme steepness – its average gradient is 10.1 percent – Laurent Jalabert took a spectacular stage win on the same climb in the 1995 Tour de France. It has never been used before in Paris-Nice.

After losing the lead on Tuesday, 24 hours later David Millar slipped to third place overall when sprinter Daniele Bennati took a time bonus for third place behind Wednesday?s ?winner?, Tom Boonen – but Millar?s team are adamant that he is stil in the fight for the overall victory.

Speaking to CW, Saunier Duval team manager Sabino Angoitia said that ?we were almost glad to lose the jersey, the whole team was exhausted after working hard for two days.?

?David certainly hasn?t lost the race, Paris-Nice is an event which you can?t say you?ve won until it?s over – the time differences are always too small for that to happen.?

?Today [Wednesday] he got through fine, coming in with the main bunch. That?s what mattered.?

?Mende will be important, of course and – unless something very unexpected happens – will be where we see who can win the event. But the race is not over ?til Nice.?

Photo: Luc Claessen

PARIS-NICE: STAGE THREE RESULTS
1 Alexandr Kolobnev (CSC) 215.5km in 4.59.35
2 Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic) at 12secs
3 Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital)
4 Mathew Hayman (Rabobank)
5 Jean-Patrick Nazon (Ag2r)
6 Luca Paolini (Liquigas)
7 Mirco Lorenzetto (Milram)
8 Mikel Gaztanaga Echeverria (Agritubel)
9 Josep Jufre (Predictor-Lotto)
10 Romain Feillu (Agritubel) all same time.

PARIS-NICE: OVERALL AFTER STAGE THREE
1 Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) in 13.32.59
2 Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital) at 2secs
3 David Millar (Saunier-Duval) at 6secs
4 Roman Kreuzinger (Liquigas) at 7secs
5 Sebastien Joly (Francias Des Jueux) at 8secs
6 Luis-Leon Sanchez (Caisse d’Epargne) at same time
7 Francisco Ventoso (Saunier Duval) at 10secs
8 Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) at 11secs
9 Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) at same time
10 Murilo-Antonio Fischer (Liquigas) at 13secs

See Luc Claessen’s photos from today’s stage here.

For our Paris-Nice preview – including stage and TV coverage details – click here