(CNN) -- French Quick Step rider Sylvain Chavanel claimed the overall lead in the Paris-Nice race on Tuesday when he outsprinted Spain's Juan Antonio Flecha to snatch victory in the third stage.
Frenchman Chavanel celebrates after winning a sprint finish to the third stage of the Paris-Nice race.
Chavanel took the yellow jersey from another Spaniard Alberto Contador who dropped to sixth in the race rankings after failing to respond to a Rabobank-inspired break some 40 kilometers from the line.
Contador finished in the bunch 69 seconds behind Chavanel who clocked four hours 33 minutes 12 seconds for the 178-kilometer ride from Orval to Vichy.
Flecha is third overall behind compatriot and fellow Rabobank rider Juan Manuel Garate who finished the stage in sixth -- with the top seven all being given the same time after a rain-hit race.
Cervelo rider Heinrich Haussler, who took Monday's second stage in a sprint finish at La Chapelle-Saint-Ursin, came in ninth at 1:09.
The 29-year-old Chavanel, who left Cofidis for Quick Step at the end of last season, also won a stage in the 2008 Paris-Nice and later took the 19th stage of the Tour de France.
Wednesday's fourth stage will take the riders to Saint Etienne with the race finishing on Sunday -- and reigning Giro d'Italia and Vuelta d'Espana champion Contador keen to set the record straight.