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Photo ©: Bettini

65th Paris-Nice - ProTour

France, March 11-18, 2007

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Stage 6 - March 17: Brignoles - Cannes, 200 km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Hedwig Kröner

11:20 GMT   
Welcome back to Cyclingnews' Live coverage of Paris-Nice, today coming from the hinterland mountains of the Côte d'Azur. The penultimate stage of the 65th 'race to the sun' will be quite an agitated one for the whole peloton, with no less than nine (!!) categorized climbs on the programme until the finish in Cannes.

And these are: the côte de Réal Martin, cat. 3 (km 5), côte de Taradeau, cat. 2 (km 73,5), côte des Tuillières, cat. 2 (km 88), col de Saint-Andrieux, cat. 2 (km 96,5), col du Défens, cat. 2 (km 103, 5), col de Saint-Arnous, cat. 3 (km 117,5), col de Bourigaille, cat. 1 (km 138,5), côte de Mons, cat. 3 (km 143) and the col du Tanneron, cat. 2 (km 180).

11:35 GMT   
To those of you who have been following yesterday's stage to Manosque with us and who were disappointed by some last-minute technical problems we encountered as Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel) was about to score his stage win: we're sorry about this and it's being investigated so it won't happen again.

11:37 GMT   
The stage started this morning in Brignoles with three abandons (Francisco Ventoso (Saunier), Iban Velasco (Euskaltel) and Xavier Florencio (Bouygues)), and as the flag went down, the attacks took off. Stijn Devolder (Discovery), Joost Posthuma (Rabobank), Marcus Burghardt (T-Mobile), Patrick Calcagni (Liquigas) and Jose Antonio Redondo (Astana) were the first on a breakaway, but even before the first climb, the côte de Réal Martin at km 5, they were caught again.

After the climb a small group including Patrick Sinkewitz (T-Mobile), Joaquim Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) had a bit of an advantage, but they, too were soon caught after the descent.

11:41 GMT   
Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) and Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) then tried their luck, but in vain. At km 22, Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) distanced the bunch, and got a gap. Behind him, a chase group formed, and the Frenchman waited for them, but at km 30, the peloton caught them again.

But Chavanel didn't give up. Three clicks later, he tried again, accompanied by Luis Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne), Christina Vandevelde (CSC), Levi Leipheimer and Tom Danielson (Discovery), and Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues). And this time, it worked! The gap grew to a respectable 2.05 minutes at the côte de Taradeau (km 73,5).

11:45 GMT   
There have been a few abandons until now, too: Thorvald Veneberg (Rabobank), mountain classification leader Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner) - he finished last and completely knackered yesterday, Markus Zberg (Gerolsteiner), Airvaras Baranauskas (Agritubel) and Jean-Patrick Nazon (AG2R).

With two Discovery riders in the break, and two Gerolsteiners out of the race, the German team will have a very hard time keeping the maillot jaune today!

11:54 GMT   
On all the climbs taken on since then (the côte de Taradeau, the côte des Tuillières, the col de Saint-Andrieux and the col du Défens), Thomas Voeckler scored the most mountain points. It's a fast stage in this hilly countryside: an average of 44,5 km/h was ridden during the first two hours!

The gap, meanwhile, is still at a stable 2 minutes at km 112.

12:00 GMT   
Three riders of Bouygues Télécom have abandoned: Didier Rous, Nicolas Crosbie and Laurent Lefèvre. Fabio Baldato (Lampre), Reinbert Wielinga (Saunier) and Sylvain Calzati (AG2R) have also taken off their back numbers - this stage is doing some damage!

12:06 GMT   
Sylvain Chavanel finished second last year in Cannes (behind Andrej Kashechkin) - no wonder he's on the attack again today. His fellow countryman Thomas Voeckler is known to be extremely will-driven even though his climbing abilities may not be the ones of Danielson or Leipheimer, who may of course be the main actors of this breakaway. And the Spaniard, Luis Leon Sanchez, is of the same generation and talent as Alberto Contador... this will be a hard escape group to reel in!

12:13 GMT   
And it's again Voeckler who takes all the points on the col de Saint-Arnoux (km 117, 5) - he should be wearing the polkadot jersey tonight.

12:16 GMT   
The next climb, the Cat. 1 col de Bourigaille (km 138,5) will be the decisive point of the stage. If the GC contenders fail to come back on the break on that climb, then the escapees may succeed until the finish.

Voeckler, Leipheimer, Sanchez and Chavanel are all within one minute of Davide Rebellin on GC... The breakaway has started the ascent.

12:28 GMT   
But even though Gerolsteiner is doing its very best to gain time, the gap was only reduced by some 30 seconds on the col de Bourigaille. Voeckler again proved his ambitions for the polkadot jersey by taking all the points on the summit.

12:35 GMT   
Next-up is the côte de Mons (km 143). It's only 1.8 km long at 7 percent gradient. Christian Vandevelde is very often at the back of the breakaway - he also has his captain Fränk Schleck behind in the bunch.

12:37 GMT    147km/53km to go
Now, Euskaltel is driving the peloton in the descent.

Luis Leon Sanchez is leading the break as they speed downhill.

12:40 GMT   
Ouch! This had to happen... Matt White (Discovery) crashed out of a left hand curve, taking a Saunier Duval rider down with him. They look bruised, but are on their feet again.

12:46 GMT   
With 48 kilometres to go, the break still has 1.30 minutes over the bunch - not much, but it may be enough to take the stage win, and maybe the yellow jersey. Discovery Channel are also riding in the first positions of the strung-out peloton - that's quite a strategy. They are controlling the situation on all fronts.

12:51 GMT   
Leipheimer is talking with his DS through the earpiece, while Voeckler leads the break. Now, Leipheimer rides again in front. In any case, they weren't ordered to let the peloton come back on them.

12:55 GMT    162km/38km to go
Now, Leipheimer talked to Voeckler - the Frenchman is not happy. Apparently, the Disco riders did cut down on their turns. Only 1.10 left on the bunch, and Euskaltel is in hot pursuit. Interesting race situation!

14:00 CET   
The bunch is splitting up slowly, as the race gets into the final phase. Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) is in the second group, which needs to work now if it wants to join the peloton again. Some riders are inside the team car caravan.

14:03 CET    166km/34km to go
Chavanel has decided to do this on his own now, as the break wasn't unanimous anymore. He's got a good gap already, and he's France's TT champion...

14:05 CET   
This could be a good opportunity for Chavanel, with all the GC poker going on behind him. 30 secs already!

14:08 CET   
Now, Liquigas and Lotto have taken over the work in the bunch, while Leipheimer and Danielson are back in the first postiions in the break. Chavanel has 45 seconds.

14:11 CET    175km/25km to go
Chavanel looks pretty fresh, still. He's now in the ascent of the col du Tanneron, the last climb of the day. The bunch has almost caught the remainder of the break.

14:15 CET   
Now, Luis Leon Sanchez has taken off in pursuit! Voeckler tires to follow him, but it's hard for him. Danielson has been caught by the bunch.

The bunch is completely shattered to pieces as the race is really on here now...

14:19 CET   
Chavanel still holds firm, even though the bunch is riding really hard now. Contador tries to drop Rebellin, and succeeds, but the gap is not big. Valjavec is behind him, as well as a CSC rider - Schleck?

Rebellin gives everything to limit his losses. Now, Contador has reached Sanchez.

14:23 CET   
Contador drives it full-on. Lopez Garcia and Sanchez are with him, and Chavanel, who's been caught, tries to hang on to his murderous pace. Schleck and Valjavec are 10 seconds behind them, and Rebellin could lose his jersey today...

14:26 CET    182km/18km to go
The descent is tricky. Good that it's again a beautiful spring day here in the South of France. Contador has 25 seconds on the Rebellin group.

14:29 CET    1876/136 to go
The stage win could be very important for the overall classification. But Contador is not a sprinter, nor a good time triallist on the flat. Could Chavanel still do something in Cannes after all this time in a break? They have 20 seconds. This is going to be tight!

14:31 CET   
Lopez Garcia has some difficulties in the descent, not taking a lot of risk, while the others are flat out. Contador leads them all the way. Leon Sanchez calls for the two to wait for Lopez Garcia.

14:34 CET    1906/106 to go
Behind them, it's Rebellin himself who drives his group, no other Gerolsteiner there anymore. Leipheimer was dropped, and is asking for assistance from his team car.

Chavanel gives Contador a hand now.

14:36 CET   
In the chase group, there are also two Saunier Duval riders, including David Millar. They're about 30 riders, now led by Thomas Lövkvist (Francaise des Jeux).

14:37 CET   
Contador is grinding his teeth in front. Chavanel is getting dropped - he's exploding now after all these efforts. The three Spaniards are in front, as Lopez Garcia made it back on.

14:40 CET    195km/5km to go
The three Spaniards in front are riding like hell. Contador does a turn and gets a handsling to do so... They have 35 seconds!

And Sanchez attacks!

14:44 CET    198km/2km to go
They're on the long, flat and straight waterfront drive in Cannes now. Usually there's a bit of a wind there... Sanchez has a good gap, while the bunch is 45 seconds behind. Chavanel was caught long ago...

Now, Lopez Garcia also attacks!!

14:46 CET   
Now, that's not good for Contador. Under the red flag, the peloton is coming back up on him.

And Sanchez wins the stage!

14:47 CET   
Lopez Garcia and Contador were swallowed by the bunch... and the sprint is taken by a Milram rider, who raises his arms - he didn't know there was still somebody in front of him!

Results

Provisional
1 Luis León Sánchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
2 Mirco Lorenzetto (Ita) Milram
3 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
4 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas
5 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r Prévoyance
 
General classification after stage 6
 
1 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner

 

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