A Groupama-FDJ led peloton came to the flat finish in Brignoles with a formidable sprint train arrayed for their star man, Arnaud Demare. Demare launched first, and looked to have it won, but a late surge along the barriers by Stage 3 winner Bennett saw the Irishman take his second win of the race.
“I wanted to go hard today because it was a perfect stage in terms of preparation for San Remo," said Bennett. "I thought I wouldn’t be able to survive the second last climb, but I made it.
"In the last few kilometres I had really good legs. I knew there is no need to panic, I just had to follow my teammates who did a fantastic job. I got almost boxed in on the final metres but made my way through. I could beat some of the best sprinters once again, I am really looking forward to San Remo now, which is my first goal of the season.”
The day began with a early breakaway featuring Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie), Ivan Garcia (Bahrain-Merida), Alex Kirsch (Trek-Segafredo), Laurent Pichon (Arkea-Samsic) and Mauro Finetto (Delko-Marseille-Provence). With team leader Michal Kwiatowski occupying the yellow jersey, Team Sky did the majrity of the pace-setting in the field, keeping the gap at a manageable level.
Winds and hilly terrain began to thin down the bunch dramatically and the increased pace in the peloton led to the breakaway being caught with 48 kilometres left to race. Mitchelton-Scott took responsibilty for much of the pace-making from there, the aim being to make the race harder for their main man Matteo Trentin.
Despite the hot pace and the tough parcours and wind, most of the sprint favourites were present in the peloton as the race came into Brignoles. A crash for Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) with just over three kilometres remaining took the Australian speedster out of contention for the stage win, with fellow sprinter Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) and young climber Tao Geoghegan Hart (Team Sky) also hitting the tarmac.
Groupama-FDJ looked to be positioning Demare perfectly with a strong leadout in the final kilometres but it was a strong headwind in the final few hundred metres and Bennett made the most of a late run along the barriers to win the race.
Paris-Nice continues with Stage 8, a mountainous 181.5 course from Nice to Col de Turini, with the summit finish atop the Col de Turini expected to be critical in the race for the general classification.