The final road stage took in no fewer than five climbs – including two first category efforts – and the weather was iffy. On paper, it could have been a tricky day for race leader Richie Porte. It wasn’t. And Sylvain Chavanel won the bunch sprint. Or rather, won the sprint from the 64 riders who were left in the leading group.
A group of 11 riders made the break of the day, but, as before, the presence of a relatively dangerous GC rider – FDJ’s Arnold Jeannesson meant that they were never given much leeway and they last member of the doomed break was caught with 60km to go.
In fact, it looked like it was easier in the break than it was in the bunch as the tempo set by the Sky team saw more than half the bunch out the back with after the first first category climb of the day. In the end, 30 riders finished at eight minutes and another 50 finished more than 21 minutes down. Throw in the 12 who abandoned and its clear that the final stage was far from a cruise to the Promenade des Anglais.
In the end, between BMC and Sky riding tempo, a bunch sprint was always likely, though the name of Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma) was probably not the name that anyone had as a potential winner. However, with only 60 riders left and most of them knackered, Chavanel took his chance in a chaotiand beat World champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) by a half a bike length on the line. Gilbert was raging. Chavanel was happy and relaxed.
“I came here to Paris-Nice hoping for a top 10 and a stage win, so, we’ll see after the time trial tomorrow if I finish in the top 10. In any case I think I can say that my Paris-Nice has been a success. Last year I was sick all week and finished eighth, but my form is better here this year,” said a cheerful Chavanel later.
“As far as Milan – San Remo goes, we will have a really strong team, with (Mark) Cavendish and the rest. To be honest it wasn’t a race I liked when I was younger, but I’ve learned to love it over the years. I missed it last year because I was sick after Paris-Nice, but we’ve got Mark for the sprint and me for when the terrain is harder.
“It’s one of the objectives of the year and I’m coming out of Paris-Nice in good shape, I don’t feel tired after the week’s racing, so we can go to Italy in good spirits. I’m not keen on bad weather and I know the weather has been bad in Italy but…let’s just say I’ll adapt!” joked Chavanel, clearly pleased with his day’s work.”
But, even if Chavanel’s race was as good as run, there was still no massive celebration anywhere around the Sky bus. Race leader Porte did a roller session behind the podium, mindful that a dropped chain, a puncture or a monumental off day might do for him.
Meanwhile his team mate Vasilyi Kiriyenka who finished 56th, in the same time as Chavanel, rolled to a stop at the Sky bus, picked up a bottle and set his bike on the turbo trainer to…well…speed his recovery. Just what a body needs after riding in the front through rain and mountains for five and a quarter hours! For those who wonder what Sky is up to to be so dominant, it’s details like that which go some way to explaining.
But the fat lady still hasn’t warbled yet, there’s the small matter of the 9.6km time trial up the col d’Eze tomorrow afternoon which will put the definitive shape on the general classification. Porte – off two minutes behind Talansky at 16.25pm CET – has a lead of 32 seconds over Talansky which seems like too much for the Garmin rider to make up. But you can always drop a chain in an uphill time trial…
Paris-Nice 2013, stage six
1. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep in 5-14-23
2. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing
3. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar
4. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
5. Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack-Leopard
6. Julien Simon (Fra) Sojasun
7. Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana
8. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling
9. Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Sojasun
10. Alberto Losada (Spa) Katusha all same time
Overall classification after stage six
1. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky in 29-40-31
2. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp at 32 secs
3. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 42 secs
4. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM at 42 secs
5. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale at 49 secs
6. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 52 secs
7. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 53 secs
8. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha at 53 secs
9. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida at 54 secs
10. Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana at 1-06
Sylvain Chavanel takes the win
Richie Porte safely maintained his race lead
Porte looked cheerful in his post-race warm down
Stage winner Sylvain Chavanel
Race leader Richie Porte
Paris-Nice 2013: Race preview and information
Paris-Nice 2013: The Big Preview
Paris-Nice 2013: Stage reports
Stage five: Porte takes mountain-top finish and overall lead
Stage four: Albasini claims stage
Stage three: Talansky takes stage and moves into lead
Stage two: Kittel wins as Bouhanni crashes out
Stage one: Bouhanni wins stage and takes lead
Prologue: Damien Gaudin takes surprise win