Xavier Tondo VolpĂ®ni may not be as famous as Alberto Contador or Alejandro Valverde but the Spanaird took his chance in the longest stage of this Paris-Nice to steal his day of glory in the 6th and longest stage between Peynier and Tourrettes-sur-Loup.
The 31-year-old climber, who spent most of his career in small teams before joining Cervelo this season, went on his own in the first category Col de Vence after belonging to the break which emerged early on.
On the line, while his 22 companions were caught one after the other, Tondo kept a slim six seconds lead over the peloton, outsprinted by Alejandro Valverde ahead of the unstoppable Slovak Peter Sagan, winner in Aix-en-Provence the previous day.
Alberto Contador will start Sundayâ€™s final stage around Nice with a 14 seconds lead over Valverde.
23 on the move
The start was given at 12:16 to 158 riders. Several attacks took place unsuccessfully before the first two climbs of the day. Shortly after the Cote de Barjols (km 38), 23 riders broke away. They were Chavanel and Seeldrayers (Quick Step), Moinard (Cofidis), Leipheimer and Machado (RadioShack), Cunego (Lampre), Tony Martin and Monfort (Columbia), Casar and Cherel (FDJeux), Van den Broeck (Omega Pharma Lotto), Turgot and Gautier (Bbox), Champion (AG2R), Kolobnev and Vorganov (Katusha), Perget (Caisse dâ€™Epargne), Sorensen (Saxo Bank), Fofonov (Astana), Xavier Tondo (Cervelo), Sicard (Euskaltel), Cummings (Sky) and Geschke (Skil Shimano).
Moinard strenghtens polka-dot jersey
Moinard, riding on his training roads, took advantage of five of the eight climbs of the day to strengthen his polka-dot jersey and take his tally to 47 points. Chavanel, the best placed man in the break (14th, 1:27 behind Contador) won the sprints in Flayosc and Fayence to collect a six seconds bonus. The breakâ€™s lead first went down thanks to a chase led by Astana, Caisse dâ€™Epargne, Liquigas and Garmin, but it increased again and peaked at 2:10 at km 150 on the Cote de Plascassier.
The leading group lost Turgot early on and Seeldrayers on the Cote de Chateauneuf. Twenty one riders reached the foot of the Col de Vence with a 1:50 lead over the peloton. On the 1st category climb, Tondo attacked, followed by Cunego and Gautier while Machado, Moinard, Geschke, Sicard and Tony Martin lost touch. Tondo attacked a second time 3 kms from the top, which he reached with an 18 seconds lead over Cunego and 45 seconds over Gautier. The bunch was 1:30 adrift at that stage (km 187.5).
Tondo holds the bunch at bay
Gautier was caught in the descent and the peloton gradually made up for lost time in the descent. Cunego was reined with seven kilometres from the line while Tondo refused to concede defeat. As a group of seven riders, including Voeckler and Chavanel surged in the finale, disorganising the chase, the Spaniard kept a 15 seconds lead at the red flame and went on to win the stage on his own and retain a six seconds edge on the line.
Alejandro Valverde sprinted for second place to collect six more seconds and trail Alberto Contador by 14 seconds overall.
Yesterday I had bad luck, I made a big mistake and I had to change a wheel towards the end and I lost 2:30. It gave me a chance to go in the breakaway today and I felt very good on the climb. Cunego is very fast so I could not afford to wait for him. My lead was 15 seconds all the time and it was very difficult. Finally I managed to keep a few seconds on the line. Itâ€™s incredible for me, in my first year with Cervelo. Itâ€™s my 10th victory a s a pro, but in the past I only rode for small teams. Itâ€™s one of the biggest races Iâ€™ve been in and one of the best victories I can win.
Top five placings:
1. Xavier Tondo (Spain, Cervelo)
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spain, Caisse d’Epargne)
3. Peter Sagan (Slovakia, Liquigas)
4. Samuel Sanchez (Spain, Euskaltel)
5. Joaqsuin Rodriguez (Spain, Latusha)
Xavier Tondo Volpini (Cervelo) wins the 220-kms 6th stage of Paris-Nice.
One kilometre before the line and the peloton have given up the chase. Tondo is about to win the 6th stage.
The chasing group has been caught by the peloton, who is 15 seconds behind Tondo.
Tondo leads the seven by 14 seconds and the peloton by 25 seconds with two kilometres to go.
Everyday before the stage, Bernard Hinault gives his views on the dayâ€™s race and the riders to watch.
The young Peter Sagan has no respect for his elders and he is quite right. He showed he was here to win and he knows just how to do that. I noticed once more that he has a real tactical sense. He was well placed when the peloton split and again in the finale he attacked exactly at the right spot. And then he went to his very limit and even found an extra gear just before the line to hold the peloton at bay. I had not been so impressed by a rider since Alberto Contador. We will have to wait and see whether he delivers but he has real potential. The day when he loses a couple of kilos, beware in the mountains! Also he has not fully matured yet.
As for Alberto Contador, it was surprising to see some of his team-mates finish in a group at the back. It should not happen again today for the stage is a long one and it will be hard for him to control every attack. Personally he showed he was in form. But he will have to prove his team can support him and that his tactical sense is right.