'A gift for my country': Italy's Bonifazio wins Paris-Nice fifth stage

La Côte-Saint-André (France) (AFP) –


Niccolo Bonifazio called his victory in the fifth stage of the Paris-Nice race "a little gift for my country", with Italy plunged into a nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus crisis.

Powering towards the line, Bonifazio managed to overtake Slovenia's Jan Tratnik, part of a group who broke away from the main pack soon after the start of the 227km stage, the longest in this year's race.

In second place behind the Italian was Ivan Garcia Cortina of Spain with Slovakia's Peter Sagan third.

"It's a little gift for my country that is going through difficult times," said Bonifazio, who lives on the Ligurian coast. "My family has to stay at home, they can't leave."

Italy's coronavirus death count passed 1,000 on Thursday, with 189 new fatalities taking the toll in just over two weeks to 1,016, second behind China.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has announced unprecedented measures limiting travel and banning public gatherings across the country of more than 60 million people in a desperate bid to halt the spread of a virus.

"We're living day by day," said Trek-Segafredo rider Vincenzo Nibali, a four-time Grand Tour champion.

"We're obviously thinking about it," added Giacomo Nizzolo, winner of Monday's second stage. "It's difficult not to. But for the moment it's good to be able to compete in a big race like Paris-Nice. We'll see what we'll be able to do after this."

Germany's Maximilian Schachmann retains the leader's yellow jersey with three days to go in a race that has survived widespread postponements and cancellations of major sporting events caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Canadian cyclist Michael Woods, the 2018 road race world bronze medallist, sustained a fracture to his right thigh after crashing 50km from the finish.

Friday's sixth stage is a 161.5km hilly run from Sorgues to Apt in the Luberon region.

Stage five results

1. Niccolo Bonifazio (ITA/Total DE) 5hr 18min 02sec, 2. Ivan Garcia Cortina (ESP/BAH) same time, 3. Peter Sagan (SVK/BOR) s.t., 4. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA/ARK) s.t., 5. Hugo Hofstetter (FRA/ISR) s.t., 6. Andrea Pasqualon (ITA/CWG) s.t., 7. John Degenkolb (GER/LOT) s.t., 8. Elia Viviani (ITA/COF) s.t., 9. Bryan Coquard (FRA/BBH) s.t., 10. Marc Sarreau (FRA/FDJ) s.t.

General classification

1. Maximilian Schachmann (GER/Bora) 18hr 49min 00sec, 2. Soeren Kragh Andersen (DEN/SUN) at 58sec, 3. Felix Grossschartner (AUT/BOR) 1:01, 4. Nils Politt (GER/ISR) 1:05, 5. Sergio Higuita (COL/EF1) 1:06, 6. Dylan Teuns (BEL/BAH) 1:09, 7. Tiesj Benoot (BEL/SUN) 1:11, 8. Mads Wurtz Schmidt (DEN/ISR) 1:11, 9. Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA/NTT) 1:15, 10. Michael Matthews (AUS/SUN) 1:16