Fireworks had been predicted on today's Stage 5 of Paris-Nice which fiished with the three-kilometre climb of the short but brutal Montée Laurent Jalabert above Mende this afternoon, but it wasn't Alejandro Valverde, the man most had predicted would prevail here, who provided them. Instead, it was Vacansoleil-DCM's Lieuwe Westra, sixth overall this morning, who attacked inside the closing kilometre, Valverde of Movistar finishing second and overall leader Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky third, both finishing six seconds behind the Dutchman.
The ten bonus seconds that Westra gained are enough to lift him to second overall, while those that Wiggins got for his third place help keep him six seconds ahead.
However, when he reflects on today's stage, the Vacansoleil-DCM rider will rue a spot of showboating as he neared the line which cost him the opportunity to reduce that gap further still.
It was one of Westra's team mates, Frederik Veuchelen, the last survivor of a four man breakaway, who had hit the climb first but he was quickly passed by the peloton led by Team Sky's Richie Porte, setting a steady tempo up the front.
Behind, the climb was taking its toll, with riders shelled out the back including defending champion Tony Martin of Omega Pharma-Quick Step, well out of contention this year, his team mate Sylvain Chavanel, who started the day fourth overall, and the Cofidis rider Reim Taaramae.
As the front of the race headed under the flamme rouge to enter the closing kilometre, race leader Wiggins was tucked in right behind Porte and immediately the first attack came, from FDJ-BigMat's Arnold Jeannesson, 12th overall.
He was quickly brought back, however but the next attack, from Westra, proved decisive, with neither Wiggins nor Valverde responding immediately as the Vacansoliel-DCM rider took the stage.
Tomorrow and Saturday are likely to see little oportunity for anyone near the top of the GC to make a move, meaning the race is likely to come down to Sunday's closing time trial on the Col d'Eze above Nice. The steady climb should suit Wiggins, but Valverde and Westra will both be looking to take advantage of any mistakes.
Paris-Nice Stage 5 result 1 WESTRA Lieuwe VACANSOLEIL-DCM 4h 52' 46" 2 VALVERDE Alejandro MOVISTAR TEAM + 00' 06" 3 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 06" 4 LEIPHEIMER Levi OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 00' 06" 5 SPILAK Simon KATUSHA TEAM + 00' 06" 6 CUNEGO Damiano LAMPRE - ISD + 00' 16" 7 JEANNESSON Arnold FDJ-BIGMAT + 00' 16" 8 SZMYD Sylvester LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE + 00' 24" 9 URAN Rigoberto SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 24" 10 VOECKLER Thomas TEAM EUROPCAR + 00' 30" 11 MONFORT Maxime RADIOSHACK-NISSAN + 00' 30" 12 VAN GARDEREN Tejay BMC RACING TEAM + 00' 30" 13 PORTE Richie SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 42" 14 GENIEZ Alexandre PROJECT 1T4I + 00' 42" 15 LAGUTIN Sergey VACANSOLEIL-DCM + 00' 42" 16 BOUET Maxime AG2R LA MONDIALE + 00' 42" 17 MORENO Javier MOVISTAR TEAM + 00' 48" 18 KISERLOVSKI Robert ASTANA PRO TEAM + 00' 48" 19 SCHLECK Frank RADIOSHACK-NISSAN + 00' 48" 20 PERAUD Jean-Christophe AG2R LA MONDIALE + 00' 48" Paris-Nice overall standings after Stage 5 1 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING 18h 23' 40" 2 WESTRA Lieuwe VACANSOLEIL-DCM + 00' 06" 3 LEIPHEIMER Levi OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 00' 10" 4 VALVERDE Alejandro MOVISTAR TEAM + 00' 18" 5 SPILAK Simon KATUSHA TEAM + 00' 37" 6 VAN GARDEREN Tejay BMC RACING TEAM + 00' 39" 7 MONFORT Maxime RADIOSHACK-NISSAN + 00' 46" 8 JEANNESSON Arnold FDJ-BIGMAT + 01' 06" 9 CHAVANEL Sylvain OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 01' 16" 10 KISERLOVSKI Robert ASTANA PRO TEAM + 01' 21"
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.