Sylvain Chavanel of Omega Pharma-Quick Step came through late to beat world champion Philippe Gilbert of BMC Racing to take Stage 6 of Paris-Nice on the Promenade des Anglais this afternoon, with Jose Joaquin Rojas of Movistar third. Team Sky's Richie Porte leads the overall standings by more than half a minute with just tomorrow's 9.6 kilometre time trial from Nice up to the Col d'Eze to come and looks set to succeed team mate Bradley Wiggins on the roll of Paris-Nice winners.
Today's sprint at the end of the 220 kilometre stage from Manosque was contested by a group of a little more than 40 riders after the selection had been made over the Category 1 climb of the Col du Ferrier.
It seemed to be heading to a straight fight between Gilbert and AG2R's Samuel Dumoulin, whose team mates had ridden hard in the closing kilometres to put him in a position to contest the win, but who finished fourth. It was Chavanel, however, who burst through ahead of the line to clinch victory.
With Vasil Kiryienka putting in a huge turn at the front of the group in the latter part of the stage until AG2R and BMC launched their leadouts ahead of the flamme rouge, Porte came home safely in the front bunch and retains a commanding lead of more than half a minute over second placed Andrew Talansky of Garmin-Sharp.
Thanks to the bonus seconds he secured today, French time trial champion Chavanel will start tomorrow's short final stage third overall, on the same time as last year's runner-up Vacansoleil-DCM's Lieuwe Westra, but ranked ahead of the Dutchman on countback.
"I am super happy," said Chavanel aftewards. "It's the second time I won here in Nice, after my victory in 2008. It's always a great emotion to raise the arms here.
"Today I decided to do the sprint because I was looking for some points for the Green Jersey. There was a head wind in the final, so I asked Kevin De Weert to stay near me. He did a great job and he left me in the perfect position on the wheel of Gilbert and Dumoulin. With the bonification I took, I'm now 3rd. Tomorrow will be difficult for me, but I will try to do my best to stay in the top 10."
"Today is a special day for the team," the Omega Pharma-Quick Step went on. "[Michal] Kwiatkowski the new leader at Tirreno is great news. I'm happy for him and the team, and I hope he can keep the jersey as long as he can."
Reflecting on a day spent defending the maillot jaune he took yesterday, Porte, a former wearer of the maglia rosa in his Saxo Bank days said: "I'd already been in that position before in the Giro. It was extremely stressful. But Kiryienka and [David] López did such a brilliant job. Full credit to them, they really made my life easier.
"From the start, the team controlled the race brilliantly and showed we were the strongest team in the the race."
As for tomorrow's task, he said: "I know Col d'Eze very well as I live in Monaco. I have to be confident. Yesterday I showed I had excellent climbing legs and this is a climbing time trial. There are still great time trial riders behind me but I have a 32 seconds head start on the next guy and it's a nice position to be in."
Paris-Nice Stage 6 result 1 CHAVANEL Sylvain OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 05h 14' 23'' 2 GILBERT Philippe BMC RACING TEAM All at same time 3 ROJAS Jose Joaquin MOVISTAR TEAM 4 DUMOULIN Samuel AG2R LA MONDIALE 5 GALLOPIN Tony RADIOSHACK LEOPARD 6 SIMON Julien SOJASUN 7 BOZIC Borut ASTANA PRO TEAM 8 HAUSSLER Heinrich IAM CYCLING 9 HIVERT Jonathan SOJASUN 10 LOSADA Alberto KATUSHA TEAM 11 SORENSEN Nicki TEAM SAXO-TINKOFF 12 BARGUIL Warren TEAM ARGOS-SHIMANO 13 RATTO Daniele CANNONDALE 14 MATE Luis Angel COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS 15 RAST Gregory RADIOSHACK LEOPARD 16 DE MARCHI Alessandro CANNONDALE 17 VELITS Peter OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 18 FLORENCIO Xavier KATUSHA TEAM 19 ALBASINI Michael ORICA GREENEDGE 20 MALACARNE Davide TEAM EUROPCAR Overall standings after Stage 6 1 PORTE Richie SKY PROCYCLING 29h 40' 31'' 2 TALANSKY Andrew GARMIN - SHARP + 00' 32'' 3 CHAVANEL Sylvain OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 00' 42'' 4 WESTRA Lieuwe VACANSOLEIL-DCM + 00' 42'' 5 PERAUD Jean-Christophe AG2R LA MONDIALE + 00' 49'' 6 VAN GARDEREN Tejay BMC RACING TEAM + 00' 52'' 7 VELITS Peter OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 00' 53'' 8 SPILAK Simon KATUSHA TEAM + 00' 53'' 9 ULISSI Diego LAMPRE - MERIDA + 00' 54'' 10 GRIVKO Andriy ASTANA PRO TEAM + 01' 06''
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.