LA BOLLENE-VESUBIE: Colombia's Daniel Martinez won stage seven of the Paris-Nice on Saturday (Mar 16), as his compatriot Egan Bernal of Sky emerged with the yellow jersey after a stunning ascent to the summit finish.
Bernal, just 22, leads the overall standings by 45sec from Belgian Quick-Step veteran Philippe Gilbert, after he crossed the summit way ahead of the main peloton which he dropped with a few kilometres remaining.
The stage ended with a steep 15km climb where several Colombian climbers had a field day, smashing the peloton's resistance with Martinez proving strongest on the day after surviving an early escape group.
A third young Colombian, Miguel Angel Lopez, was second with France's Nicolas Edet third and Britain's Vuelta a Espana champion Simon Yates in fourth.
"I thought Martinez and Lopez were bluffing," said Yates. "I thought I was going to win but they were better."
On last season's race Yates went into the final day in the lead but lost it on a descent in dreadful weather, although Bernal holds all the aces.
The leader holds a 45sec lead on Gilbert while his friend and compatriot Nairo Quintana, with whom he made Saturday's ascent, is third at 46sec.
Overnight leader Michal Kwiatkowski looked strong until about 10km into the climb, where he dropped to 1min 03sec in the overall standings.
"Michal (Kwiatkowski) was straight up about it when we had to up the tempo and told us to leave him," said Bernal, praising the spirit of his Polish teammate.
"He's our leader and carried us this far into the race," he said.
"We had to go because we were worried about Gilbert taking the jersey."
Serious beyond his years, Bernal was taking nothing for granted ahead of Sunday's 110km loop around Nice with its six tricky climbs, the last just 9km from the line.
"Even if I'm in a very good position with a very strong team around me, we need to be extra vigilant on Sunday," said Bernal, who won the Tour of California last season when sent there to support Geraint Thomas.