Richie Porte of Team Sky has seized control of Paris-Nice today, riding away from his rivals to win Stage 5 on the Montagne de Lure to put himself in pole position to succeed team mate Bradley Wiggins as winner of the race when it concludes on Sunday with a time trial on the Col d'Eze above Nice.
Team Sky had controlled the pace at the front of the group on the earlier part of that final climb, Porte launching himself with a kilometre and a half to go and quickly passing Katusha's Denis Menchov, who had attacked earlier and clung on to clinch second.
With overnight leader Andrew Talansky getting no help from the other riders in the group and having perhaps used up his energy with a series of earlier attacks, Porte put more than half a minute into the Garmin-Sharp rider, and the ten bonus seconds he secured for winning the stage means that Team Sky's Tasmanian rider now has a 32 second advantage over Talansky with just two stages to go.
“It’s nice to win a stage of Paris-Nice and to take the jersey," said Porte, who spent most of last season in a supporting role to Wiggins, although he did win the Tour of Algarve.
"I know full well that tomorrow is another day and there’s also the last stage. But I feel we have a good to team to defend yellow so fingers crossed.
“It all played into our hands in the finale, especially having [David] López there as my wingman," he went on. "He was so cool, calm and collected which was really helpful. So credit to him and the whole team today.
“I’ve done an apprenticeship if you like under Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome and also before that Alberto Contador. You don’t always get the opportunity to ride for yourself in a team like this so when it comes you have to grab it with both hands. It’s just nice to get a big victory and I’ll take the rest as it comes.”
Sky sports director Nocolas Portal added: “Today was a perfect result for Richie and for the team. It was a really impressive performance.
“The manner of victory too today makes it even better. Going clear on his own and taking that time out of his rivals was perfect. It was also good because he wasn’t just strong in the legs, he was strong tactically. Talansky made a bit of a mistake and Richie knew when to attack.
“Every day in this race he has always been in a good position, concentrating and in the right moves. He’s been riding confidently and without stress. He’s learned a lot over the last year.
"All eyes were on him and he waited and waited before counter-attacking at the perfect time. It’s also great for the team having a lot of new guys here. Everyone is really happy with how we rode today – not just on the final climb but the whole stage.”
Earlier during the stage, the ever popular Jens Voigt of RadioShack Leopard had gone on the attack with three other riders, and after going on the offensive again on his bike which has a custom 'Shut Up Legs' paintjob, the 41-year-old found himself out front as he began the final climb.
“The plan was to cover the breaks at the beginning of the stage so we took turns covering the attacks and I happened to get into a good one," he explained.
"We were four riders with the best at nine minutes on GC so we figured they would let us go all day. Once I attacked and dropped the other three, I went all in. I figured I had no real chance to win, so why not give it everything?
"I was thinking of my winning attack in Colorado last year and that was giving me motivation. The weather was quite similar – it was cool and rainy. I just don’t like to give up and try to always believe in myself. And sometimes I can pull it off.
"I will admit that I could feel my age a little bit. But I don’t walk away empty handed from today – at least I had fun. And Trek gave me that special painted bike so today I could show it on TV to everyone,” he added.
Paris-Nice Stage 5 result 1 Richie PORTE SKY PROCYCLING 4:50:54 2 Denis MENCHOV KATUSHA TEAM 0:00:26 3 Andrew TALANSKY GARMIN - SHARP 0:00:33 4 Tejay VAN GARDEREN BMC RACING TEAM 0:00:33 5 Diego ULISSI LAMPRE - MERIDA 0:00:33 6 Lieuwe WESTRA VACANSOLEIL-DCM 0:00:33 7 Jean-Christophe PERAUD AG2R LA MONDIALE 0:00:33 8 Nairo QUINTANA MOVISTAR TEAM 0:00:33 9 Simon SPILAK KATUSHA TEAM 0:00:33 10 Michele SCARPONI LAMPRE - MERIDA 0:00:33 11 Jonathan HIVERT SOJASUN 0:00:46 12 Sylvain CHAVANEL OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 0:00:46 13 Andréas KLÖDEN RADIOSHACK LEOPARD 0:00:46 14 Peter VELITS OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 0:00:49 15 Nicolas ROCHE TEAM SAXO-TINKOFF 0:00:49 16 Daniel NAVARRO COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS 0:00:49 17 Alberto LOSADA KATUSHA TEAM 0:00:49 18 Andriy GRIVKO ASTANA PRO TEAM 0:01:02 19 David LOPEZ SKY PROCYCLING 0:01:06 20 Bart DE CLERCQ LOTTO-BELISOL 0:01:17 Overall standings after Stage 5 1 Richie PORTE SKY PROCYCLING 24:26:08 2 Andrew TALANSKY GARMIN - SHARP 0:00:32 3 Lieuwe WESTRA VACANSOLEIL-DCM 0:00:42 4 Jean-Christophe PERAUD AG2R LA MONDIALE 0:00:49 5 Tejay VAN GARDEREN BMC RACING TEAM 0:00:52 6 Sylvain CHAVANEL OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 0:00:53 7 Simon SPILAK KATUSHA TEAM 0:00:53 8 Diego ULISSI LAMPRE - MERIDA 0:00:54 9 Michele SCARPONI LAMPRE - MERIDA 0:00:54 10 Peter VELITS OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 0:00:56
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.