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63rd Paris-Nice - ProTour

France, March 6-13, 2005

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Stage 6 - Saturday, March 12: La Crau - Cannes, 184km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Hedwig Kröner and Jean-Francois Quenet

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 14:30 CET
Estimated finish time: 16:30 CET

14:25 CET   
Welcome back to Cyclingnews for the sixth and penultimate stage of Paris-Nice. Today, the riders wind their way to Cannes from La Crau, on the south eastern coastline of France. It's around 15 degrees today and sunny, with a bit of a westerly wind blowing at the riders backs all day. Really a perfect day for a bike race.

There is plenty of uphill (and downhill) action in stage 6, starting with the Col de Taillude (Cat. 3, km 33), then the Côte de Taradeau (Cat. 2, km 81), Côte des Tuillières (Cat. 2, km 95.5), Col de Saint-Arnoux (Cat. 3, km 118.5), Bourigaille (Cat. 1, km 130) and Col du Tanneron (Cat. 2, km 164). The sprints are at La Garde-Freinet (km 55.5) and Montauroux (km 149).

As he said in his post-race interviews yesterday, new race leader Bobby Julich (CSC) knows the climbs in this area and is looking forward to today's stage. He admitted that he has never liked Mont Faron, but the mountains today and tomorrow should suit his style. It will take a very strong rider to unseat him and his team from the lead in the next two stages, but anything can happen.

14:39 CET   
It's been a fairly simple stage so far, with 149 riders starting in La Crau. Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Phonak) was the only non-starter. After 5 km, the breakaway of the day was established by eight riders: Aaron Kemps (Liberty), Thomas Ziegler (Gerolsteiner), Bram Schmitz (T-Mobile), Joost Posthuma (Rabobank), Marc Lotz (Quick.Step), Fabien Sanchez (Francaise des Jeux), Joerg Ludewig (Domina Vacanze) and Cyril Dessel (Ag2r). Nico Mattan (Davitamon-Lotto) tried to get across by himself, but couldn't make it. The gap was 30 seconds at km 7, 2'05 at km 15, 4'00 at km 36 and 5'00 at km 80, which was the last time check we received.

14:44 CET    110km/74km to go
The breakaways are now at km 110, holding a gap of 5'40. CSC is leading the peloton, setting a steady controlling tempo.

The wind is quite strong, especially towards the end of the stage. Unlike last year, when Vinokourov powered past Samuel Sanchez in the closing kilometres to win the stage, it's a tailwind finish. So once the riders crest the Col du Tanneron, the final 20 km will be very fast.

A very motivated Vinokourov told Cyclingnews at the start this morning, "I want to win a stage, either today or tomorrow. So watch out!

14:53 CET   
We also spoke to Jörg Jaksche (Liberty) at the start today, and the German defending champion was almost resigned to his fate. "With a strong team like CSC, the race is basically over. I don't think they'll let the jersey go again," said Jaksche.

15:00 CET    124km/60km to go
Posthuma is leading on the Cat. 1 Col de Bourigaille as suddenly Joerg Ludewig attacks. He strings out the eight man break, putting at least one rider in difficulty.

15:02 CET   
The rider in trouble is Fabien Sanchez, who is trying to get back to the break.

The peloton is tackling the lower slopes of the Col de Bourigaille. Former mountains leader Jimmy Casper is being dropped as CSC continues to set the tempo.

Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Liberty) and Jaan Kirsipuu (Credit Agricole) have abandoned.

15:04 CET    125km/59km to go
This is a 5.7 km climb averaging 5.8% - definitely not as tough as the Faron.

The leaders are 5 km from the summit. CSC has its whole team on the front of the peloton, working for Bobby Julich. The roads are quite narrow here, so it's fairly easy for a team to control the race.

15:06 CET    126km/58km to go
Aaron Kemps (Liberty) takes a turn in the break, which is still rotating quite well on the climb. Sanchez is back on. Ludewig accelerates again - he's taken all the mountains points today, so he might be making a late charge for the mountains jersey. David Moncoutié has 31 points.

Andre Korff (T-Mobile) is dropped from the bunch. There are eight CSC riders in front, including Julich.

15:07 CET   
We spoke to Alejandro Valverde (Illes Balears) this morning, who - as always - complained of being tired. "I want to try to move up on GC. It'll be difficult, but I'll try if it's possible," he said.

15:08 CET   
There's an attack in the peloton - it's Tom Danielson (Discovery Channel). He passes the 5 km to go banner.

15:08 CET   
Danielson is joined by a Saunier rider and Schleck from CSC. The three have about 5 seconds.

15:10 CET   
Danielson continues to pound the pedals, as a Credit Agricole rider (Kashechkin) gets up to them. Four chasers now. But the bunch is closing the gap to them. Yep, they're coming back.

15:11 CET   
Danielson looks back and attacks again. There is an immediate reaction this time from one of the Sauniers. Voigt is up there too in third wheel.

15:13 CET    128km/56km to go
The gap is approximately four minutes between the break and the peloton, which has regrouped after Danielson's attacks. Voigt is right up in the front rank again.

The attacks start again, led by Saunier. Is that Zaballa?

15:14 CET   
The break is nearly at the top of the climb, still all together. It's a lot flatter up here.

15:16 CET    131km/53km to go
Ludewig takes the points on the Cat. 1 Bourigaille, followed by Dessel.

Voigt has marked the Saunier Duval rider, and they come back to the bunch. Danielson goes again, and gets a bit of a gap. Julich is sitting well in the top 10.

15:17 CET   
Danielson reaches the flatter part near the top of the climb, and slowly opens up a gap. But CSC has regrouped at the front and is chasing. A Saunier rider goes after Danielson, as well as a CSC rider. They come back to the peloton at the top of the climb.

Sylvain Chavanel is dropped.

15:19 CET    133km/51km to go
Schleck and Voigt lead the peloton over the top of the climb, approximately 3 minutes behind the break. 3'25 to be exact.

The first sprint at La Garde-Freinet (km 55) was won by Ludewig from Sanchez and Lotz.

15:21 CET    135km/49km to go
Ludewig is the best placed on GC of the riders in the break, starting the day in 58th at 6'43, so he's not a threat to Julich's lead at the moment.

The eight leaders are flying on the descent of the Bourigaille, and are nearly at the bottom.

15:23 CET    139km/45km to go
Four CSC riders lead the peloton on the descent, around 3'30 behind the break. They're taking no risks. The leaders are motoring through Tourrettes now.

15:25 CET   
The full results of the Col de Bourigaille: 1 Joerg Ludwig, 2 Cyril Dessel, 3 Joost Posthuma, 4 Marc Lotz, 5 Bram Schmitz, 6 Aaron Kemps, 7 Fabien Sanchez.

15:27 CET    142km/42km to go
This quite a long descent off the Bourigaille, and that will help the break's chances. There's no big urgency by CSC to chase them, as CSC doesn't need to win the stage. All the bonus seconds can be taken by the leaders. The gap is up to 4'02 now.

Philippe Gilbert (FDJ) attacks the peloton through Tourrettes.

15:28 CET    144km/40km to go
Gilbert gets company from Kevin Hulsmans (Quick.Step), who will be a very useful man to have around. They have a pretty nice gap.

15:30 CET   
Commesso has set off after Hulsmans and Gilbert.

15:32 CET    147km/37km to go
Commesso has got a bit of a gap, but he'll have to work to get Hulsmans and Gilbert. They will have to work a lot harder to get the break, which is 3'30 ahead of them. Ludewig is the strongest rider in the break.

15:36 CET    151km/33km to go
Commesso comes back to the bunch, which has the CSC train riding hard on the front.

The eight leaders: Thomas Ziegler (Gerolsteiner), Bram Schmitz (T-Mobile), Joost Posthuma (Rabobank), Marc Lotz (Quick.Step), Fabien Sanchez (Francaise des Jeux), Joerg Ludewig (Domina Vacanze), Cyril Dessel (Ag2r). They have been away since km 5.

15:37 CET   
Ludewig has attacked on a little climb. He's got a good gap - he's really strong today.

15:39 CET    153km/31km to go
The peloton is now 4'17 behind Ludewig, who could well be en route to a stage win. He's on the descent now, just before the day's final climb, the Cat. 2 Col du Tanneron (5.7 km at 5.3%).

Gilbert and Hulsmans are still in between the break and the peloton.

15:40 CET    154km/30km to go
Ludewig has got the aero position happening as he exits the main road and goes on a smaller road. He has 30 km left with a tailwind (and one climb).

15:41 CET    156km/28km to go
The CSC team is disinterested in chasing. One of the Cofidis riders gets on the front to try to lift the tempo.

15:43 CET   
Ludewig is really flying along, resting his forearms on the tops of the handlebars to get a little more aero. The rest of his breakaway companions are nowhere in sight.

CSC is lifting the tempo a little, but it's not a real chase speed yet.

15:45 CET    158km/26km to go
Ludewig is still on his way downhill as the bunch exits the main road, some four minutes behind the German. Some riders miss the corner and have to go over the gravel. Alexandre Vinokourov has moved up.

Ludewig starts the Tanneron with a 4'11 lead on the peloton.

15:47 CET    160km/24km to go
The rest of the seven man break is on the Tanneron now. Gilbert and Hulsmans are 3'20 behind Gilbert, while the main peloton is at 4'00.

15:49 CET   
The rest of the break is still working well together, as they have a chance of getting Ludewig (not much of one, admittedly).

CSC's Dave Zabriskie is driving the peloton at a steady pace. They cross the bridge and are on the Tanneron now.

15:50 CET    161km/23km to go
Immediately, and predictably, one of the Saunier riders attacks. Kashechkin counters and lifts the pace. No panic from Voigt, who is leading the bunch.

15:51 CET   
Kashechkin looks OK, but's not really getting away from Voigt.

The first break is 30 seconds behind Ludewig, then Gilbert and Gilbert at 3'15, then the peloton at 3'55.

15:53 CET   
Posthuma and Dessel accelerate from the first chase group in pursuit of Ludewig.

Piepoli is now leading the peloton. They might swallow up Gilbert and Hulsmans soon.

15:54 CET   
Back with Joerg Ludewig, who is getting cheered on by a thin crowd on the slopes of the Col du Tanneron.

Gilbert and Hulsmans are caught by the bunch.

15:55 CET    162km/22km to go
Posthuma is catching Ludewig at a very fast rate. He looks back and sees he has a nice gap. He makes the junction.

15:56 CET    164km/20km to go
It looks like Saunier's Joaquim Rodriguez is the main man attacking the peloton. But CSC is not panicking.

Posthuma and Ludewig are nearly at the top of the climb now.

15:57 CET   
Cyril Dessel is third on the road, chasing the two leaders alone.

Vinokourov moves to the front of the peloton as Contador attacks, stringing things out.

15:59 CET    165km/19km to go
Ludewig moves to the front to take the points on the climb, which will give him 30 points for the day. Nope, it's Posthuma who gets them. Ludewig still trails Moncoutié for the mountains jersey.

Voigt and Evans are now leading the peloton, Julich in third wheel. No-one is able to attack, it seems.

16:01 CET    166km/18km to go
Jose Angel Gomez attacks , but Voigt just pedals a bit harder and he's caught. Kirchen counters with 500m to the summit. Voigt continues to mark him. Kirchen drives, but Voigt, Evans and Julich are all there. Gaps appear.

Kirchen leads them all the way to the top, but there's no mountain points. 2'37 is the gap.

16:02 CET    167km/17km to go
The situation on the descent: Joerg Ludewig (Domina Vacanze), Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) are leading, with Cyril Dessel (Ag2r) chasing alone, then Thomas Ziegler (Gerolsteiner), Bram Schmitz (T-Mobile), Marc Lotz (Quick.Step), then Aaron Kemps and Fabien Sanchez (Francaise des Jeux). The peloton is at 2'29.

Posthuma tries to drop Ludewig on the descent, and gets a gap.

16:06 CET    170km/14km to go
The results of the Tanneron: 1 Joost Posthuma, 2 Jörg Ludewig, 3 Cyril Dessel, 4 Thomas Ziegler, 5 Bram Schmitz, 6 Marc Lotz, 7 Fabien Sanchez. Kemps returned to the peloton.

Posthuma overcooks it on a corner. Oops! He is lucky and doesn't lose much time. He's still alone, but Ludewig has made up ground.

16:06 CET   
Sanchez is caught by the peloton.

16:07 CET    172km/12km to go
Kirchen is leading the peloton on the descent, as Ludewig closes the gap to Posthuma again. The pair are together as they reach the bottom.

16:09 CET    173km/11km to go
Ludewig can't quite close the gap to the Dutchman at the bottom! Posthuma doesn't want to end up in a two man sprint with the German. He's hammering again. He looks back and has a few seconds.

16:10 CET    174km/10km to go
It's a pursuit match on the flat. Posthuma keeps looking back - no point doing that. He has to hammer all the way to the finish.

The peloton is still on the descent, led by Kirchen. It's unlikely they'll get the leaders.

16:11 CET    174.5km/9.5km to go
The peloton is at 2'48. No chance of getting Posthuma, who is still alone with 9.5 km to go. Ludewig is about 50m behind him....

16:12 CET    9km/175km to go
In between the two leaders and the bunch, we still have Cyril Dessel (Ag2r), Thomas Ziegler (Gerolsteiner), Bram Schmitz (T-Mobile), Marc Lotz (Quick.Step), but no time gaps to them.

Ludewig is at 15 seconds. He's not coming back to the powerful Dutch rider.

16:12 CET    176km/8km to go
CSC is back on the front of the bunch, riding a steady tempo. No point in destroying themselves today. Boonen is still in the bunch.

16:13 CET   
Posthuma is motoring along into Cannes, assisted by a tailwind. He has 8 km left and Ludewig is dropping further behind. Bad luck, or bad timing by the German, who looked very strong when he attacked.

16:15 CET    177.5km/6.5km to go
The race is between Posthuma and Ludewig. The Dutchman looks back and sees that he has an unbeatable lead. 17 seconds.

16:16 CET    178.5km/5.5km to go
Schleck and Voigt are doing most of the work in front of the peloton. Quick.Step is marshalling its men to help Boonen in the sprint.

Ludewig is suffering now...he was so close to Posthuma's back wheel at the bottom of the descent.

16:17 CET    179.5km/4.5km to go
Joerg Ludewig is giving it everything, but he's going for second place. Posthuma has the tongue out, driving along towards the coast line.

16:18 CET   
Ludewig is now at 35 seconds. It's over for him.

16:19 CET    181km/3km to go
Posthuma is now riding along the beach front, being encouraged by his team director. "Nearly there!". He has a tailwind, which is nice for him.

16:19 CET   
Posthuma looks back yet again - there's no-one, except Ludewig about 500m behind.

16:20 CET    182.5km/1.5km to go
Posthuma is riding at over 60 km/h! It's a strong tailwind, but still - not bad going after being in a break the whole day. He's nearly at the Flamme Rouge.

16:21 CET    183km/1km to go
Posthuma makes sure, looking back again as he motors along in his big gear. The peloton is now at 3'45.

16:22 CET    184km/0km to go
Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) is the man of the day. He bridged up to Ludewig on the Col du Tanneron and dropped him on the descent to win the sixth stage solo! He celebrates from a long way out and is really happy. He cannot believe it!

16:23 CET   
Ludewig takes second at 1'10 - still a fine ride. Kemps (he was there!) takes third in a two man sprint against Dessel. Then Ziegler leads out the sprint for fifth, and gets it ahead of Schmitz and Lotz at 3'11. Finally, Boonen takes the sprint for 8th ahead of Voigt, giving him a slight advantage over the German in the points GC.

Bobby Julich keeps the yellow - no dangers today for the American, who will go into tomorrow's tough stage with a 19 second gap over Constantino Zaballa (Saunier Duval). Join us at 14:30 local time for live coverage of the final stage of this year's Paris-Nice.


1 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank                                  4.41.24
2 Jorg Ludewig (Ger) Domina Vacanze                                 1.11
3 Aaron Kemps (Aus) Liberty Seguros-Würth                           1.43
4 Cyril Dessel (Fra) Ag2r Prevoyance                         
5 Thomas Ziegler (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                 3.11
6 Bram Schmitz (Ned) T-Mobile Team                             
7 Marc Lotz (Ned) Quick Step                                     
8 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step                                       4.02
9 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC                                         
10 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team   
11 Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone

General classification after stage 6

1 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC                                   19.03.44
2 Constantino Zaballa (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir                    0.19
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne           0.20
4 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC                                         0.44
5 Jorg Jaksche (Ger) Liberty Seguros-Würth                          0.45
6 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi                          0.55
7 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC                                      0.58
8 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                                     
9 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Fassa Bortolo                           1.12
10 Jose Angel Gomez (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir                      1.20

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