La Châtre (France) (AFP) - Spain's Ivan Garcia Cortina of the Bahrain-McLaren team took advantage of a late crash to emerge as surprise winner in a bunch sprint on stage three of the Paris Nice cycling race on Tuesday.
Germany's Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-hansgrohe), the winner of the opening stage on Sunday, retained the overall lead after coming home 13th.
He swore to keep the yellow jersey as long as possible.
"I showed in the past I could ride good time trials," he said in reference to stage four on Wednesday.
"I want to defend this beautiful jersey and I'm going give it my best in the time trial and then in the showdown in the hilly, mountain stages."
The late fall Tuesday caused a ripple of panic as Garcia Cortina and Slovak superstar Peter Sagan reacted quickest, speeding across the line first and second after a long 212.5km ride in wind and rain.
"I was surprised to beat Peter Sagan," the fresh-faced 24-year-old Garcia Cortina said of beating the peloton's highest-paid rider.
"I managed to find the right place to go and just went full gas," he explained.
Garcia Cortina, a stage winner on the Tour of California, zipped past Sagan with relative ease, winning in 5hrs 49mins 55sec after most of the best speed finishers were caught out by the last fall on a day of crashes.
"There was a lot of tension and nervousness in the last kilometres," said Sagan. "Most of the sprinters found themselves without many team-mates in the final straight, it became a man-to-man battle. Unfortunately, I found myself in the lead early on and I couldn't keep the pace all the way to the line."
Irish sprinter Sam Bennett banged hips with another sprinter a couple of hundred metres from home, bounced into a barrier and, as he fell, became tangled up with Hugo Hofstetter dragging the French rider down and causing problems for those around them.
Race commissioners ruled that Bennett shoulder-barged both the Colombian Nairo Quintana and the Frenchman Pierre Barbier as they battled for position approaching the finish, declared Bennett guilty of "incorrect behaviour," docked him ranking points and fined him 800 Swiss francs (753 euros).
Schachmann summed up the stage.
"It was the confusion with the bad crashes," he said. "But nobody was too badly injured."
The early action on Tuesday was dominated by Belgian rider Tom Devriendt of Circus Wanty Gobert, who embarked on a 180km solo break. He led by over seven minutes but was reeled in with 30km to go.
Wednesday's fourth stage is a 15.1km individual time trial around the town of Saint-Amand-Montrond, birthplace of French ace Julian Alaphilippe.
The race then heads south into hilly terrain before culminating with two mountainous stages round the Mediterranean city of Nice at the weekend.