The Frenchman, who won both stages and the overall at the Tour du Haut Var last month, comfortably sprinted away from Sánchez and Remy di Gregorio (Delko Marseille Provence) after the trio had gone clear over the top of a late category 3 climb.
The peloton split to pieces on the lower slopes of the climb and, despite a regrouping on the descent, they were only able to roll across the line in Châtel-Guyon some 38 seconds in arrears.
Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) led the bunch home for fourth place but surrendered his yellow jersey to Sánchez, who now leads the race by half a minute.
“I had a good start to the season, and wanted to do well here at Paris-Nice,” Hivert said. “I didn’t do well the first day in the rain, and I wasn’t very happy, so I tried to redress that today. It’s great for Direct Energie to have at least one stage win, and we’ll carry on to the end of the week.”
For the third day in a row Paris-Nice served up a stage that was hard to predict. It was the longest of the race, at 210 kilometres, and no one knew quite what impact the Côte de Charbonnières, topping out 20km shy of the line, would have on proceedings.
How it unfolded
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