Rabobank rider Luis Leon Sanchez pipped Jens Voigt for victory in the sixth stage of Paris-Nice on Friday afternoon.
Originally part of the day’s six-man breakaway, Sanchez split the group over the day’s final climb, a dozen kilometres out. Popular veteran Voigt was the only man who could keep up to fight it out in the streets of Sisteron.
After a cat-and-mouse stand off in the final kilometre, Voigt led the sprint out powerfully,
but canny Sanchez timed his effort right to take his fourth Paris-Nice stage win by half a wheel.
Bradley Wiggins finished in the main bunch, fourteen seconds behind, to preserve his lead.
However, Team Sky were made to work hard throughout the hilly stage to negate the danger of 2009 winner Sanchez (Rabobank), who sat 3-51 behind the Briton in the morning.
Racing in the foothills around majestic Mont Ventoux, a rapid early pace briefly split the bunch during the first hour of racing. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) found himself left behind, before a regrouping.
Tomorrow’s penultimate seventh stage covers 219.5 kilometres from Sisteron to Nice. The last climb, the first-category Col de Vence, is topped 55 kilometres out before a long downhill sweep onto the finish on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice.
If that goes to plan, all that stands between Bradley Wiggins and Paris-Nice victory is Sunday’s time-trial up the Col d’Eze.
Paris-Nice 2012 stage six; Suze-la-Rousse – Sisteron, 178.5km
1. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Rabobank
2. Jens Voigt (Ger) Radioshack-Nissan
3. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin-Barracuda at 14secs
4. Elia Viviani (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
5. Grega Bole (Slo) Lampre-ISD
6. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
7. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Cofidis
8. Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM
9. Koen De Kort (Ned) Project 1t4i
10. Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Astana
Overall classification after stage six
1. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky 22-31-52
2. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM at 6secs
3. Levi Leipheimer (Usa) Omega Pharma-Quick Step at 10secs
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 18secs
5. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha at 37secs
6. Tejay Van Garderen (Usa) BMC Racing Team at 39secs
7. Maxime Monfort (Bel) Radioshack-Nissan at 46secs
8. Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ-Bigmat at 1-06
9. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step at 1-16
10. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Astana at 1-21
Jens Voigt leads escape
Close call: Luis Leon Sanchez (left) gets the better of Jens Voigt
Bradley Wiggins in yellow with just two stages remaining
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Paris-Nice 2012: Race preview and information
Paris-Nice 2012: The Big Preview
Paris-Nice 2012: Stage reports
Stage six: Sanchez clinches breakaway win
Stage five: Westra wins in France but celebrations may prove costly
Stage four: Meersman wins messy stage
Stage three: Valverde wins, Wiggins keeps lead
Stage two: Wiggins rides into lead
Stage one: Wiggins second to Larsson in opening time trial
Paris-Nice 2012: Photo galleries
Stage six gallery by Graham Watson
Stage five gallery by Graham Watson
Stage four gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two gallery by Graham Watson
Stage one gallery by Graham Watson