Di Gregorio wins miserable stage 7 in Paris-Nice.

Tondo Slide in Paris-Nice.

“I’ve done Paris-Nice twice and I’ve done Tirreno twice, and I’d be perfectly happy never to go back to Paris-Nice again in my career.”

That was Tyler Farrar’s explanation for why he’s racing in Italy this week, not France. “Some of the coldest days I’ve ever had on a bike have been in Paris-Nice. You’re risking more crashes, you’re more likely to get sick,” said Farrar.

That harsh assessment is not shared by Frenchman Rémy Di Gregorio (Astana) who survived the miserable conditions and many crashes to win the seventh stage from Brignoles to Sophie Antipolis.

“This is beautiful,” Di Gregorio said. “This win comes after a lot of work and reconsideration of myself as a pro rider. I’m so happy for all the people who have believed in me, there are a lot of them!”

Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Rigoberto Uran (Sky) crawled in seconds later, just ahead of the soaked peloton. Hot showers and dry towels everyone.

It was not sunny Italy and overall leader Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) knows exactly what Farrar meant. “The most difficult thing was to avoid the crashes. This was one of the most dangerous days in my cycling career. Even when we went slow, people were crashing,” said Martin. “Two of my teammates [Tejay van Garderen and Konstantin Sioutsou] crashed, I hope they’re ok.”

It’s called the Race to the Sun but the sun was not evident. There were numerous crashes and plenty of near misses. Even Di Gregorio nearly lost everything. After launching his attack 13 kilometers from the finish, he almost went down, foot out of the pedal but miraculously staying upright.

Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervélo) smacked into a wall but still didn’t win best crash — that honor went to Robert Kiserlovski for his spectacular spill. He ended up under a parked truck, alive and by all accounts without major injury. Xavier Tondo (Movistar) touched wheels and slid across the finish line for extra style points. Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil) hit the road on a descent; Martijn Maaskant (Garmin-Cervelo) broke seven ribs and his Paris-Roubaix plans are hosed.

Remember what Farrar said about getting sick at Paris-Nice? Fränk Schleck (Leopard) quit after getting cold and suffering stomach issues. There were nineteen abandons including Nicolas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Sandy Casar (FDJ) and Peter Sagan (Liquigas).

The day’s break was brought to you at the 80k mark by Karsten Kroon (BMC) and Eric Berthou (Bretagne – Schuller) got away. They hit seven minutes at one point and given the crappy weather nobody was in a rush to catch them. They let them dangle, then roped them in.

In the final uphill kilometer, Tondo emptied the tank to catch Di Gregorio but never quite made it. The Frenchman himself almost crashed but managed to hold everyone off. “I’ve taken some risks, but with moderation,” he said.

No small task. And the reason Farrar is riding Tirreno-Adriatico this week.

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