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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

64th Paris-Nice - ProTour

France, March 5-12, 2006

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Stage 6 - March 11: Digne-les-Bains - Cannes, 179 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Hedwig Kröner

Live report

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

13:37 CET   
Welcome to the south of France for Cyclingnews' live coverage of Paris-Nice, which is entering its final two days of racing. Today we're headin' for the coast, but it's not an easy route to get there between Digne-les-Bains and Cannes. There are eight(!) categorised climbs, starting with the Cat. 2 Col des Leques (km 41.5), then the Col de Luens (Cat. 2, km 59.5), Col du Mousteiret (Cat. 3, km 64.5), Cote du Clos d’Espargon (Cat. 3, km 86), Col de St Arnoux (Cat. 3, km 103), Col de Bourigaille (Cat. 1, km 115), Cote de Mons (Cat. 3, km 122), and Col du Tanneron (Cat. 2, km 159). There are also two intermediate sprints, at La Garde (km 56) and Montauroux (km 144).

Floyd Landis will face possibly his toughest test today, as it's a stage where he can be isolated from his Phonak team. If any of the others want to have a chance at winning Paris-Nice, they'll have to attack and attack.

14:24 CET   
The story so far...

The stage started at 11:47 in Digne under sunny skies and crisp temperatures. 135 riders signed on, with Seb Lang (Gerolsteiner) a non-starter. Almost immediately, Gert Steegmans (Davitamon-Lotto) attacked, joined by Jens Voigt (Team CSC) and Michael Albasini (Liquigas). The trio was caught, but Voigt got away again after 13 km, taking Daniel Navarro (Liberty) and Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis) with him.

After 23 km, a chase group formed with Tom Boonen (Quick.Step), Aitor Osa (Liberty), Arkaitz Duran Aroca (Saunier Duval), Nicolas Portal (Caisse d'Epargne), Kjell Carlström (Liquigas), Samuel Dumoulin and Tomas Vaitkus (AG2R). After 37 km, the two groups came together to form a lead group of 10 with 1'30 over the peloton. On the Col des Leques, Tom Steels and Gert Steegmans (Davitamon-Lotto), Christophe Moreau (AG2R), Robert Förster (Gerolsteiner) and Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole) all abandoned.

Voigt took the points at the top of the Cat. 2 climb ahead of Carlström, Verbrugghe, Navarro and Vaitkus , with the leaders covering an amazing 44.4 km in the first hour. The bunch hadn't given up though, and kept the gap at 25 seconds on the descent. The break disintegrated, leaving just
Voigt, Navarro, Osa, Portal and Verbrugghe in front.

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) abandoned at the sprint in La Garde (km 56). He was leading the young rider classification, but had been suffering from stomach problems all through the race. Verbrugghe took the points at the sprint ahead of Navarro and Voigt. They were then joined by Aitor Perez Arrieta (Caisse d'Epargne), David Moncoutié, Maxime Monfort (Cofidis), Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick.Step), Bobby Julich (Team CSC), Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel), Sandy Casar (best placed on GC at 3'51) and Francis Mourey (Française des Jeux), Evgeni Petrov (Lampre-Fondital).

On the Col de Luens (km 59.6), Moncoutié took the points ahead of Voigt, Navarro, Arrieta and Monfort, with the peloton just half a minute behind. Fofonov (Credit Agricole), who like Petrov and Casar was only about 4'00 down at the start of the day, bridged up with Andrey Kashechkin (Liberty) and Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues) to form a group of 17.

On the Cat. 3 Cote du Mousteiret, it was Moncoutié again ahead of Mourey and Julich. The break grew to 19 riders as Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) and Jose Vicente Garcia-Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne) tacked on over the top. At the feed zone (km 75.5), they had 2'20 lead, but this dropped to 1'40 on the Cat. 3 Col du Clos d’Espargon (km 86), where Moncoutié again took the points ahead of Mourey and Voigt, obviously with an eye on the mountains jersey.

The average speed after two hours was 42.8 km - scary, considering the climbs. And the bunch definitely wasn't letting the break ride clear, pegging the gap back to 1'20 after 98 km. Francis Mourey chose this moment to attack...

14:33 CET    112km/67km to go
Some teams are very well represented in this break: Cofidis, with four riders; Liberty, with three, and Caisse d'Epargne, with three. Casar is the best placed on GC, at 3'51. But the peloton hasn't let them get too far ahead.

Mourey is caught but wins the points on the Cat. 3 Col de St Arnoux ahead of Moncoutié and Casar. On the descent, Julich crashed but was able to return. The break is now on the Cat. 1 Col de Bourigaille, and Popovych, Portal and Garcia Acosta are all dropped.

Petrov attacks, putting 30 seconds into the rest of the group, with the bunch now at 2'40.

14:35 CET   
We spoke to a couple of CSC riders this morning, as well as team director Bjarne Riis, who told us (in response to a question about Jens Voigt): "Oh with Jens, you never know. It's still a preparation race for Jens, but we might see him in a break." That seems to be the case!

Also Frank Schleck (5th on GC) said, "I feel good and I have a good team. Today I'll try to get through the day as best I can and then we'll see. There will be a break today and the field is going to control it behind. I think that Boonen can win today.

"It's been like this for years - this particular stage - that a 40 man group gets into Cannes. So today won't be different, I think."

14:38 CET    115km/64km to go
Petrov reaches the summit of the Col de Bourigaille with 22 seconds lead over Moncoutié, Kashechkin, Casar, Chavanel and Van de Walle. Perez Arrieta comes over a few seconds off this group.

14:42 CET    121km/58km to go
Petrov is still alone, enjoying the sunshine as he tackles the Cote de Mons. He has 30 seconds lead on the chasing group, which now numbers 18 again. More importantly, he's 3'45 ahead of the peloton, which puts him very close to the lead (he needs 4'00). Also Casar is close, at 3'51.

Floyd Landis has his Phonak team working pretty hard...

14:46 CET    123km/56km to go
Landis is in third wheel in the peloton, behind two Phonak teammates. Tom Boonen is also very close to the front, so he's obviously got some form.

Petrov wins the points on the Cote de Mons ahead of Moncoutié and Casar.

Third placed Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) said to us today, "I think 1'13 is practically not recoverable. What I can do is to maintain third place, which would already be a pretty good thing for the team. Today there are many climbs, but from the last climb to the finish, there's still quite some kilometres left. There will be a headwind in Cannes too, so it will be hard."

14:48 CET    125km/54km to go
Petrov is now over a minute ahead of the first chase group, which has shed a few riders. He still has 3'50 on the peloton.

14:50 CET    128km/51km to go
Petrov flies on the descent, powering a big gear to increase his advantage as much as he can. He's a good time trialist (or he was as an U23). He won both world road and time trial championships in Plouay in 2000.

14:54 CET    130km/49km to go
Julich doesn't appear to be in the chase group, while Portal and Garcia Acosta are yoyoing off the back. So that gives us: David Moncoutié, Sylvain Chavanel, Maxime Monfort and Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis), Andrey Kashechkin, Daniel Navarro, Aitor Osa (Liberty), Aitor Perez Arrieta, Nicolas Portal, Jose Vicente Garcia-Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne), Sandy Casar, Francis Mourey (Française des Jeux), Jens Voigt and Dmitri Fofonov (Credit Agricole) and Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues), Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel), and Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick.Step) at 1'20 behind Evgeni Petrov.

14:56 CET   
Dmitri Fofonov (Credit Agricole) attacks the chase group on a short climb, getting maybe 10 seconds. He's also got a chance to improve his GC position today. Navarro and Osa work hard on the front of the group.

But Petrov looks great today. He's 1'20 ahead and building. It's perfect conditions too: 18 degrees and sunny.

14:57 CET    133km/46km to go
Moos and Merckx work in front of the bunch, with one Quick.Step rider there too. There's an outside chance that Boonen could win today. He's made it over all but one of the climbs.

14:59 CET    135km/44km to go
Petrov makes good use of this very long descent. It's not overly technical, and he has plenty of straight roads to push his advantage. The chase bunch behind should have enough horsepower to get him, but they might all be a bit cooked. Sometimes, there's just nothing you can do against a strong rider like this.

15:01 CET   
No change to the situation: Petrov leads Fofonov by 1'20, the main chase group by 1'30, and the bunch by 3'40. He needs 4'05 to take the leader's jersey from Landis' shoulders.

15:03 CET    137km/42km to go
Fofonov is joined by Voigt and another rider - Rik Verbrugghe, one of the four Cofidises. That'll help.

Chris Horner (Davitamon-Lotto) was chatty as always when we spoke to him at the start: "Today Floyd could be isolated and have to cover a lot of different moves from a lot of guys that are still under two minutes on GC. Those are going to be a real threat if he gets isolated.

"Today is wait and see. Surely there'll be attacks from the start and we'll see how the Phonak team holds together. Depending on who's in the break and how much they have to work. Yesterday Floyd was by himself on that last climb. Of course today is a shorter stage but he's got a good climbing team but they used everyone they had to keep the gap down on the nine guys yesterday."

15:05 CET    139km/40km to go
The chase group reforms again. Save for Petrov , who has 1'29 now with 40 km to go. The bunch is at 3'40, still.

Hats off to Merckx and Moos on the front of the bunch. They've done well to limit the damage. But it's not over yet.

15:08 CET    141km/38km to go
Verbrugghe takes a flyer and opens up five seconds over the chase group. Cofidis needs to keep the pressure on. Four guys in the break but Petrov still 1'30 up the road. Mourey does a big turn in the chase group, but Verbrugghe has a good lead. He's really going for it now. He'll suffer on the Tanneron though.

15:14 CET    146km/33km to go
Petrov takes the three seconds at the sprint in Montauroux, followed by Verbrugghe at 1'34. The rest of the group is at 1'50, and the peloton still at 3'42. Verbrugghe is suffering now, and will be caught.

Gerolsteiner's team manager Hans-Michael Holczer told us this morning that Stefan Schumacher was in doubt. "It's going to be hard for him because he has stomach troubles, and he's had them for days. He really started to complain yesterday. It would be great if he could even make it to Nice, but I'm not too confident about it. When one of my riders is ill, I don't put any pressure on him any more." Schumacher did abandon today.

15:16 CET   
Moncoutié pushes the pace in the chase group now, hoping to get nearer to Petrov before the Tanneron. They're nearly at the coast.

Moos and Phonak have some assistance from Rabobank, who have no-one in the lead break. They were spotted in a cafe this morning, warming themselves with a few cafes au lait. "There will be a group from the start today but I can't do anything," said Erik Dekker. "It depends on what happens in the race if I can do something. But the only think I could do is win the sprint."

15:18 CET    150km/29km to go
Petrov pedals smoothly in his 53x13, keeping the speed well over 50 km/h. Moncoutié is really driving the chase now, for a possible bridging attempt by Chavanel? He looks back for help, but doesn't get it.

15:21 CET    153km/26km to go
Petrov tackles the last descent before the Cat. 2 col du Tanneron, 5.8 km at 5.3%. He has 1'33 on the chase group, and 3'32 on the bunch. He's looking good for the stage win, but the next climb is going to hurt. He's on it now.

15:23 CET    154km/25km to go
Now Monfort takes over from Moncoutié as they start the Tanneron, crossing the narrow bridge and going uphill right away. Moncoutié pushes the pace from the start with Casar in tow.

15:23 CET   
Petrov looks unbelievably relaxed as he rides 1'29 ahead of the Moncoutié group. Chavanel moves up. The bunch is getting closer though: 3'12.

15:27 CET    156km/23km to go
The chase group thins down rapidly under the impetus of David Moncoutié, who has Chavanel, Kashechkin, Van de Walle, Casar, Voeckler, and Arrieta with him. The rest are dropped.

15:29 CET   
Moncoutié and Arrieta are now dropped. The Frenchman is the virtual mountains leader now though.

Kashechkin attacks the remainder and gets a small gap.

The peloton, driven by Rabobank and Phonak, is 2'45 Petrov.

15:31 CET    156km/23km to go
Part of the chasing group is now being mopped up by the Moerenhout-led peloton. Dekker in second wheel, ahead of Floyd. Kashechkin is just 14 seconds behind Petrov! Excellent riding by the Kazakh.

15:33 CET    158km/21km to go
Jeez that was quick. The lead cars have to get out of the way as Andrei Kashechkin bridges up to Evgeni Petrov. And drops him. But Petrov hangs there at 20 metres. No - he's looking back. Not far behind, Casar accelerates, but can't clear Vande Walle, Chavanel and Voeckler.

15:33 CET    159km/20km to go
Kashechkin is flying away, 500m from the top of the Tanneron. This could be the winning move. He's wearing longs, which is a surprise, given that it's fairly warm today. Too late to take 'em off now though.

15:35 CET    160km/19km to go
Kashechkin crosses the summit ahead of Chavanel's group, where Moncoutié has rejoined and taken second place! No, third, as Petrov was just in front of them. Six chasers.

15:36 CET   
The peloton is just behind though, as Phonak and Rabobank hammer up to the top of the Tanneron. No danger for Floyd today. They're at the summit 1'51 behind.

15:37 CET    162km/17km to go
Kashechkin has 20 seconds on the six chasers as he weaves his way down the other side of the Col du Tanneron. It's a tricky descent, for sure.

15:38 CET    163km/16km to go
Chavanel reacts and pushes it on the descent, putting Petrov in difficulty. The Russian paid for his earlier effort. Always a problem.

15:40 CET    164km/15km to go
Samuel Sanchez has attacked the peloton on the descent, but he'll have to descend like a demon to get away. He's caught by Luis Sanchez, with the peloton just off their wheels.

Kashechkin is still the leader. He'll have a headwind to contend with when he hits the beach.

15:41 CET    165km/14km to go
The chase group hangs together, now led by Thomas Voeckler. It's been a while since a French stage win in Paris-Nice. Several years, in fact.

15:42 CET    166km/13km to go
Petrov is dangling about 20 metres off the back of the chase group. It's hard descending when you're tired. You don't concentrate as well.

Chavanel has a bit of a gap now, maybe five seconds.

15:44 CET    167km/12km to go
Kashechkin reaches the bottom of the descent with 14 seconds on Chavanel, and 30 on the group of five. He's fighting a crosswind now, that will soon turn against him. Moncoutié doesn't have to work in the chase group, as Chavanel is ahead.

15:45 CET   
Moncoutié has been penalised 5 points for drafting on the last climb. I wondered where he came from, so quickly. That'll lose him the mountains jersey today, but he may get it back tomorrow.

15:46 CET    170km/9km to go
The four plus one chasers aren't making much of an impression on Chavanel and Kashechkin. The gaps: 13 seconds between the front two soloists, 33 seconds to the chase group, and 1'38 to the peloton, which has the situation in hand.

15:49 CET    172km/7km to go
A minor, but important correction: Kashechkin is a Kazakhstani, not a Kazakh. A Kazakh is an Asiatic member of the turkic-language family (thanks Mr Baldwin).

What's more important is that he could win this stage. Unless Chavanel gets him.

15:50 CET   
The peloton passes the roundabout on the outskirts of Cannes, and Phonak continues to lead.

Kashechkin is fighting the wind and doing all he can to hold off Chavanel, who is not making much ground.

15:51 CET   
Chavanel gets some encouragement from his team car. 20 seconds to the leader. The Liberty man has a big advantage now.

15:52 CET    174km/5km to go
Moerenhout is keeping the peloton moving at a good tempo. Landis is nearly home.

Kashechkin is nearly at the final drag along the beach front, taking advantage of a bit of a tailwind. He has 25 seconds on Chavanel, and 55 seconds on the chase group, 1'38 on the peloton.

15:54 CET    175km/4km to go
The Liberty man is on the beachfront now: just five km to go and he'll claim the stage win. Great ride by Kashechkin. Chavanel is dying a hundred deaths though. Will he get caught by the chasers? Doesn't look like it.

Vaitkus does a big turn on the front of the bunch. He is a handy lead out, and I know he is a good wheel to sit on.

15:55 CET    176km/3km to go
There isn't a hell of a lot of wind, compared to previous years, so Kashechkin will have a pleasant run to the finish. Posthuma won this stage last year, and (I think) Vinokourov in 2004. Another Kazakhstani.

15:56 CET    177km/2km to go
Chavanel is doing his best to keep second, and he should be able to. But it's all Kashechkin now.

Vaitkus has done a pretty handy turn in the peloton, which is lined out. No sign of Boonen though - he was dropped on the Tanneron.

15:58 CET    178km/1km to go
Kashechkin rides alongside the azure-coloured water that isn't unique to Cannes. He'll win this stage by a good 40 seconds. Less than 1 km to go.

16:01 CET    179km/0km to go
The Liberty Seguros rider has done it, after bridging up to Evgeni Petrov on the last climb and holding off everyone to the finish. He wins the sixth stage!!!

Chavanel does hang on for second, at 1'06. Then Casar, Voeckler, Moncoutié, Van de Walle and Petrov. The peloton comes in led by Carrara at 1'34. 42.6 km/h average for the stage. Ow.

16:07 CET   
Not many changes to the GC, although seventh placed Zubeldia has dropped out of the top 10, putting Chris Horner into 10th.

And that's all from the beachside in Cannes, where we will park the blimp until tomorrow's final stage of Paris-Nice between Nice and Nice: the decider!


1 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team             4.12.08
2 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone           1.06
3 Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux                              1.11
4 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bouygues Telecom                       
5 David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone         
6 Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic               
7 Evgeni Petrov (Rus) Lampre-Fondital                            
8 Matteo Carrara (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                              1.33
9 Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) AG2R Prevoyance                          
10 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC                                

General classification after stage 6
1 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems                     28.24.45
2 Patxi Xabier Vila Errandonea (Spa) Lampre-Fondital                0.09
3 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                            1.13
4 Antonio Colom (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears                1.23
5 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC                                          
6 José Azevedo (Por) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team             1.35
7 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Credit Agricole                           1.39
8 José Luis Rubiera (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team        1.40
9 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank                                        1.41
10 Christopher Horner (USA) Davitamon-Lotto                         1.43

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