| SAINT-ETIENNE, France, March 13 (AFP) - It was France at the double Wednesday as national champion Didier Rous took the leader's jersey in the Paris-Nice after compatriot Laurent Jalabert won the third stage, a 147.5km race around Saint Etienne.
Rous, standing fourth at the start, came in second on the day to claim the leader's yellow and white jersey after a 4hr battle.
Jalabert hit the front coming off a climb down into
Croix-de-Chabouret, some 12 km out from the line.
On the line the former world number one just edged out fellow
escapees Rous and Aitor Osa of Spain.
The chasing group fronted by Belgian Peter Van Petegem came in
some ten seconds off the pace.
Italy's Alessandro Petacchi, one-time race leader, faded as he tackled the tough Oeillon climb, the first of two first category ascents on the schedule.
Rous now has a 2sec lead over Jalabert with Spaniard Javier Pascual 20sec further back.
Jalabert, at 33, is still going strong in the twilight of his career as he won the Tour du Haut-Var in February.
1. Laurent Jalabert (Fra) 3hr 59min 29sec, 2. Didier Rous (Fra)
same time, 3. Aitor Osa (Spa) s.t., 4. Peter Van Petegem (Bel) at
10sec, 5. Jo Planckaert (Bel) s.t., 6. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz)
s.t., 7. Paolo Bossoni (Ita) s.t., 8. Laurent Dufaux (Swi) s.t., 9.
Dario Frigo (Ita) s.t., 10. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) s.t.
11. Peter Luttenberger (Aut) s.t., 12. Cadel Evans (Aus) s.t.,
13. Denis Menchov (Rus) s.t., 14. Dave Bruylandts (Bel) s.t., 15.
Chris Peers (Bel) s.t., 16. Jens Voigt (Ger) s.t., 17. Stephane
Heulot (Fra) s.t., 18. Richard Virenque (Fra) s.t., 19. Juan Carlos
Dominguez (Spa) s.t., 20. Chris Jenner (Fra) s.t.