Saint-Pourain-sur-Sioule - Australia's Michael Matthews took the overall leader's yellow jersey in the Paris-Nice cycle race on Wednesday with his Orica teammates helping him to victory in the third stage.
The 24-year-old Matthews, who has stage wins to his credit in both the Tour of Spain and the Tour of Italy, edged home first ahead of Italians Davide Cimolai and Giacomo Nizzolo with fourth place going to Norwegian Alexander Kristoff.
"The team did a perfect job. I only started my sprint 150m from the line," said Orica rider Matthews.
"The previous days we tried without succeeding completely. This time, the team took control of the peloton from 5km and finally it was quite easy."
Matthews continued: "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. They did the hard work, mine was the easy part. To hold the yellow jersey is incredible.
"Tomorrow is a hard stage and I don't know the final climb. But I will hold on to this jersey for as long as I can."
Polish world champion Michal Kwiatkowski had held the overall lead from his win in the prologue, but Matthews earned enough bonus points as the stage winner on Wednesday to take over.
The early going in the 179-kilometre run down from Saint-Amand-Montron was marked by a breakaway by French pair Florian Vachon and Thomas Voeckler accompanied by Belgian champion Philippe Gilbert.
But they were reeled in by the peloton with about 10 kilometres to go after which Frenchman Romain Bardet, Belgian teammate Jan Bakelants and Paolo Tiralongo of Italy went clear.
In turn they were caught with two kilometres to go, setting up the sprint finish won by Matthews.
Thursday's 204km fourth stage of the 'Race to the Sun' includes eight climbs with a final highlight up the Croix de Chaubouret pass overlooking St Etienne.
Results on Wednesday in the third stage of the Paris-Nice cycle race:
1. Michael Matthews (AUS/Orica), the 179 kms in 4 h 32:12, 2. Davide Cimolai (ITA/LAM) same time, 3. Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA/TRE) same time, 4. Alexander Kristoff (NOR/KAT) same time, 5. Jos Joaquin Rojas (ESP/MOV) same time, 6. Matti Breschel (DEN/TIN) same time, 7. Moreno Hofland (NED/LNL) same time, 8. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA/COF) same time, 9. Bryan Coquard (FRA/EUC) same time, 10. Arnaud Dmare (FRA/FDJ)
1. Michael Matthews (AUS/ORI) 14h25:27, 2. Michal Kwiatkowski (POL/ETI) at 0:01, 3. Rohan Dennis (AUS/BMC) at 0:01, 4. John Degenkolb (GER/GIA) 0:03, 5. Tony Martin (GER/ETI) 0:08, 6. Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP/AST) 0:11, 7. Sylvain Chavanel (FRA/IAM) 0:11, 8. Tom Dumoulin (NED/GIA) 0:14, 9. Geraint Thomas (GBR/SKY) 0:14, 10. Philippe Gilbert (BEL/BMC) 0:14.