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Slagter wins Paris-Nice 7th stage, Betancur leads

The Associated Press

BIOT SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS, France (AP) -- Tom Jelte Slagter of the Netherlands won the seventh stage of the Paris-Nice race on Saturday, while Colombian rider Carlos Betancur retained the overall lead heading into the last day.

Slagter clinched his second stage win of the race after beating world champion Rui Costa of Portugal in a sprint to the line, with Betancur finishing in third place. All three clocked a time of 5 hours, 5 seconds over the 195.5-kilometer (121-mile) trek from Mougins to Biot Sophia Antipolis in the heart of the French Riviera, which featured two tough category 1 climbs and three moderate ascents.

''Yesterday at the start I was feeling really good and I lost everything in the end,'' said Slagter, who is 21st overall. ''It was the best possible revenge to win the stage today. It's definitely a great Paris-Nice for me, not quite a revelation because I won the Tour Down Under last year, but obviously it gives me great morale for the future.''

Betancur looks set to win the race since he leads Costa by 14 seconds and is 26 ahead of Czech rider Zdenek Stybar.

''We spent a very tough day, there was a lot of pressure on us, but the whole team did a great job, especially in the last kilometers when I received great support while the tension was at its highest,'' Betancur said. ''Now we have to stay on our guard tomorrow because some riders are still pretty close. I'm close to victory but it's still a dream.''

British rider Geraint Thomas fell shortly before the end of the stage in a crash that also brought down Frank Schleck of Luxembourg and Arnold Jeanesson of France.

Thomas got back on his bike, clutching his collarbone, but lost significant time on the leading contenders and dropped back to 38th place overall, more than seven minutes behind Betancur.

Sunday's eighth and final stage is 128-kilometer trek starting and finishing in Nice and featuring two category 1 climbs.

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