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American rider Andrew Talansky of the Garmin team won the third stage of the Paris-Nice on Wednesday and took the overall lead after a six-man breakaway held off the peloton following 170.5km between Chatel-Guyon and Brioude.
The 24-year-old Miami native edged out escape partners Davide Malacarne of Italy and Spaniard Gorka Izagirre on a wet afternoon as he picked up his biggest career win and also took the overall lead.
Talansky, who finished seventh on the Tour of Spain, also says the recent confesssion by former Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong that he cheated his way to the top has liberated the sport.
"There's a large shadow that's been lifted with his (Armstrong) admissions," said the American.
"It's an exciting period for the sport with plenty of promise that opens things up for me and Tejay (Van Garderen)," he added.
"Those people who were sceptical during the Armstrong era only have to look at Tejay and myself now."
As for the stage win that featured a thrilling six man sprint to the line, Talansky said he'd pursued a conservative tactic.
"We didn't take too many risks during the final descent and I stayed well on the wheel of Richie Porte.
"From then on it was his teammate (Sky's David Lopez) who did the work. I wasn't looking to ride flat out and I wasn't thinking about the yellow jersey, I just wanted to avoid any problems and I only started thinking about the stage victory during the final kilometre," he added.
"Paris-Nice is my first main objective of the season and I've been thinking about it since we starting training last November. I was targetting the top five but the podium is possible now."
"I'll also be one of the team leaders on the big Tours with Ryder Hesjedal (2012 Giro d'Italia winner), that is what is expected of me.
"We've seen in the past that it's a good thing to have two leaders in the same team. Look at (Bradley) Wiggins and (Chris) Froome last year," he concluded in referance to the British one-two at last year's Tour de France.
Lopez of Spain, Australia's Richie Porte and French rider Romain Bardet also came home with the same time as Talansky while seventh-placed Andriy Grivko of the Ukraine is now second overall at 3secs.
Malacarne moves third overall on the same time with Sylvain Chavanel of France a further second adrift.
Italy's Elia Viviani, who began the stage in the leader's yellow jersey, was well distanced and lost nearly three minutes on a route unsuited to his sprinting talents.