Paris - Irish sprinter Sam Bennett of the Bora team emerged victorious from an epic sprint finish on a long home straight at Moulins/Yzeure on Tuesday's stage three of the Paris-Nice cycling race.
Winner of the past two stages, flying Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen looked to be on his way to a third straight win and while ultimately he could not keep pace with Bennett, the Jumbo rider kept the overall leader's yellow jersey.
Fabio Jakobsen was third ahead of Briton Dan McLay in fourth with French sprinter Bryan Coquard fifth.
Bennett came to prominence at last season's Giro where he won three stages and the powerful Bora man was unstoppable once in front, leaving Australia's Caleb Ewan grimacing in second.
"I knew that the form was there and that I just had to keep on trying. Today the legs were a lot better, it was an easier day but I’m starting to get a bit more used to the cold," said Bennett.
"It's nice to come back here and win again," he said, referring to a stage win here in 2017.
Mark Cavendish pulled out of the strength-sapping windswept stage on Monday and the entire peloton appeared to be weary on a day when the average speed was a slow 38kph.
There were again several crashes and retirements after two brutal days and Tuesday's most notable victim was Italy's 2015 Vuelta champion Fabio Aru.
With 18km to race, Sky duo Egan Bernal and Michal Kwiatkowski made a concerted bid to get away, but the sprinters' teams galvanised a catch-up posse to set up the first real bunch sprint on the eight-day race.
Bernal picked up bonus seconds again in the intermediate sprint and is top of the white jersey rankings and a strong bet for overall victory in Nice with only a handful of seconds separating the top spots.
Wednesday's stage four features four climbs in the final section and ends at Pelussin in the Loire region.
1. Sam Bennett (IRL/Bora) 5hrs 16min 25sec, 2. Caleb Ewan (AUS/LOT) same time, 3. Fabio Jakobsen (NED/DEC) s.t., 4. Dan McLay (GBR/) s.t., 5. Bryan Coquard (FRA/VIT) s.t., 6. Niccolo Bonifazio (ITA/DEN) s.t., 7. Alexander Kristoff (NOR/UAE) s.t., 8. Arnaud Demare (FRA/FDJ) s.t., 9. Dylan Groenewegen (NED/JUM) s.t., 10. Edward Theuns (BEL/TRE) s.t.
1. Dylan Groenewegen (NED/Jumbo) 11hrs 47min 44sec, 2. Michal Kwiatkowski (POL/SKY) at 06sec, 3. Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP/AST) 11, 4. Philippe Gilbert (BEL/DEC) 16, 5. Egan Bernal (COL/SKY) 17. 6. Matteo Trentin (ITA/MIT) 20, 7. Tony Gallopin (FRA/ALM) 21, 8. Rudy Molard (FRA/FDJ) 23, 9. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) 23, 10. Oliver Naesen (BEL/ALM) 24.