Luis Leon Sanchez of Rabobank and RadioShack-Nissan's Jens Voigt fought out a two-man battle to win Stage 6 of Paris-Nice in Sisteron this afternoon, the Spaniard just having enough left in the tank to pass the hugely popular German on the line. Some 14 seconds behind, Garmin-Barracuda's Heinrich Haussler took the sprint for third, meaning that none of the leading contenders managed to pick up bonus seconds to close the gap on race leader Bradley WIggins.
As Sanchez and Voigt entered the final five kilometres, the gap back to the main bunch was down to just one minute. Omega Pharma-Quick Step were driving the pace at the front, working for third-placed Levi Leipheimer who was looking to pick up the four second time bonus for finishing third on the stage to put him on the same time as yesterday's stage winner, Lieuwe Westra of Vacansoleil-DCM.
The gap on the leading pair tumbled as the stage headed towards its conclusion, but it was clear they would be the riders contesting the finish as they headed under the flamme rouge and into the final kilometre.
Voigt, sixth overall in this race during each of the past two seasons and Sanchez, the overall winner of Paris-Nice in 2009 and second behind Omega Pharma-Quick Step's Tony Martin last year, had been part of a 26-man breakaway group that had got away early on in today's 178.5 kilometre stage from Suze-la-Rousse which included race leader Wiggins and second-placed Westra.
Riders with hopes of the overall win including Movistar's Alejandro Valverde, fourth overall, found themselves briefly in a third group on the road, but the main bunch came back together, leaving seven riders out in front.
With a little over 10 kilometres to go, Sanchez and Voigt dropped the one rider who had managed to stay with them, AG2R's Mickael Cherel, setting up a duel for the stage win between two of the peloton's stronger men.
Paris-Nice Stage 6 result 1 SANCHEZ Luis-Leon RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM 4h 07' 58" 2 VOIGT Jens RADIOSHACK-NISSAN Same time 3 HAUSSLER Heinrich GARMIN - BARRACUDA + 00' 14" 4 VIVIANI Elia LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE All at same time 5 BOLE Grega LAMPRE - ISD 6 KRISTOFF Alexander KATUSHA TEAM 7 DUMOULIN Samuel COFIDIS 8 FEILLU Romain VACANSOLEIL-DCM 9 DE KORT Koen PROJECT 1T4I 10 GUARNIERI Jacopo ASTANA PRO TEAM 11 SIMON Julien SAUR-SOJASUN 12 IZAGUIRRE Gorka EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI 13 HUSHOVD Thor BMC RACING TEAM 14 RAVARD Anthony AG2R LA MONDIALE 15 CHAVANEL Sébastien TEAM EUROPCAR 16 JORGENSEN Jonas Aaen TEAM SAXO BANK 17 ROJAS Jose Joaquin MOVISTAR TEAM 18 SULZBERGER Wesley GREENEDGE CYCLING TEAM 19 JEANNESSON Arnold FDJ-BIGMAT 20 NERZ Dominik LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE Paris-Nice Overall Standings after Stage 6 1 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING 22h 31' 52" 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" Paris-Nice Points Classification after Stage 6 1 VALVERDE Alejandro MOVISTAR TEAM 74 pts 2 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING 67 pts 3 WESTRA Lieuwe VACANSOLEIL-DC 63 pts 4 SANCHEZ Luis-Leon RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM 52 pts 5 LEIPHEIMER Levi OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STE 50 pts Paris-Nice Mountains Classification after Stage 6 1 VEUCHELEN Frederik VACANSOLEIL-DCM 55 pts 2 MATE Luis Angel COFIDIS 20 pts 3 LE LAY David SAUR-SOJASUN 20 pts 4 ARASHIRO Yukiya TEAM EUROPCAR 19 pts 5 DE CLERCQ Bart LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM 15 pts Paris-Nice Best Young Rider Classification after Stage 6 1 VAN GARDEREN Tejay BMC RACING TEAM 22h 32' 31" 2 URAN Rigoberto SKY PROCYCLING + 02' 55" 3 MALACARNE Davide TEAM EUROPCAR + 03' 30" 4 NERZ Dominik LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE + 05' 41" 5 SICARD Romain EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI + 07' 07"
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.