Alberto Contador showed who's boss today in the sixth stage of Paris Nice when he pulverised his rivals on the slopes of La Montagne de Lure. Having reeled in the day's longest break with 20km to go Contador made his move on the slopes of the final climb. Initially in a group of three with Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) and Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse D'Epargne) he leapt away with six kilometres to go. Within minutes he had put 24 seconds into Schleck and Sanchez.
Chavanel was powerless to respond to such an awesome display of climbing power, he went into the day 36 seconds ahead of the Spanish rider, but Contador wiped out that lead within a few kilometres of the final 1st category climb to finish 1:50 in front of the Frenchman. Franck Schleck was second 58 seconds back and Luis Leon Sanchez third.
Contador now leads the overall by 1:13 from Sanchez with Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) a further 11 seconds back in third place, Franck Schleck is a further 23 seconds behind in fourth. David Millar (Garmin Slipstream) didn't have a good day losing touch with the leaders on the final climb, he now lies 5:30s back on Contador in 17th place overall.
Today's stage was the second day of real climbing in this year's race culminating in the 13km slog up the Montagne de Lure at an average gradient of 6.6 per cent. On yesterday's stage Jeremy Roy (FD Jeux) escaped to take the win, so no surprise that there were plenty of takers to try and emulate his feat. The break came as early the fourth kilometre when five riders attacked that five quickly became eight Mickael Delage (Silence Lotto), Javier Aramendia (Euskaltel), Romain Feillu (Agritubel), Niki Terpstra (Milram) and Cyril Lemoine (Skil Shimano) have been caught by Christophe Riblon (AG2R), Alan Perez (Euskaltel) and Sebastien Turgot (BBox Bouygues Telecom) with yesterday's winner chasing behind them on his own trying to bridge the gap which he did after 33Km. Roy went on to pick up the climbing points for the next two 2nd category climbs.
Not long after the initial break went, somewhere around killometre 13, on Friday the 13th Thomas Voeckler, who Roy held of to win yesterday's stage, crashed. He broke suffered a badly broken collarbone and well before the stage had reached its conclusion was already under the surgeon's knife in a nearby hospital.
The gap to the break went out at one point to over six minutes before Astana moved to the head of the peloton setting the pace and the gap started to come down quickly. No doubt spurred by Roy's success Team Columbia High Road took over at the front – keen to protect Tony Martin's lead in the polka dot jersey competition. 100 kilometres into the stage the gap had melted to just 1:20 at this point Roy sat up and the gap initially went back out again. Even so the momentum was with the chasers and they duly mopped up the break one by one until it was cancelled out entirely when Feillu was caught with 30km to go.
Martin attacked on the penultimate climb to take the four points on offer and further tighten his grip on the polka dot jersey and then 20km from the finish Astana moved ominously to the front of the race with Popavych setting the pace. All attempts at attack were ruthlessly snuffed out until with 11 kilometres to go Jens Voigt (Team Saxo Bank) made a dash for it
Contador, Schleck and Sanchez then counter attacked, race leader Sylvain Chavanel was left trailing in their wake. Six clicks out from the finish Contador lit the blue touch paper and Schleck and Sanchez were left behind as Contador rode off to claim his second stage win of this year's race and to regain the leader's jersey once again.
Tomorrow the riders tackle another mountain stage with a 191Km jaunt from Manosque to Fayence which will take them over five 3rd category climbs, four 2nd category climbs, and the 1st category Col de Bourigaille.
1. Alberto Contador Astana 4h 47' 46"
2. Frank Schleck Team Saxo Bank 4h 48' 44" + 00' 58"
3. Luis-Leon Sanchez Caisse D’Epargne 4h 48' 44" + 00' 58"
4. Cadel Evans Silence - Lotto 4h 49' 13" + 01' 27"
5. David Moncoutie Cofidis Le Credit En Ligne 4h 49' 13" + 01' 27"
6. Jens Voigt Team Saxo Bank 4h 49' 15" + 01' 29"
7. Samuel Sanchez Euskaltel - Euskadi 4h 49' 17" + 01' 31"
8. Jonathan Hivert Skil - Shimano 4h 49' 20" + 01' 34"
9. Christophe Moreau Agritubel 4h 49' 30" + 01' 44"
10.Chris Sorenson Team Saxo Bank 4h 49' 32" + 01' 46"
1. Alberto Contador Astana 23h 21' 08"
2. Luis-Leon Sanchez Caisse D’Epargne 23h 22' 21"+ 01' 13"
3. Sylvain Chavanel Quick Step 23h 22' 32" + 01' 24"
4. Frank Schleck Team Saxo Ban 23h 22' 46" + 01' 38"
5. Kevin Seeldrayers Quick Step 23h 23' 09" + 02' 01"
6. Jens Voigt Team Saxo Bank 23h 23' 14" + 02' 06"
7. Samuel Sanchez Euskaltel - Euskadi 23h 23' 22" + 02' 14"
8. Jonathan Hivert Skil - Shimano 23h 23' 37" + 02' 29"
9. Antonio Colom Team Katusha 23h 23' 43" + 02' 35"
10.Yury Trofimov BBOX Bouygues Telecom23h 24' 17" + 03' 09"
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.