Luis Leon Sanchez (RAB) had real ambitions in this Paris-Nice and they were ruined in an echelon in stage 2. The 2009 winner of the Race to the Sun restored his pride when he won the 178-kms sixth stage in Sisteron, his fourth stage victory in the biggest stage race of the early season. The Spaniard’s win owed a lot to the old man of the peloton, Jens Voigt, who collaborated with him in the last five kilometres when the duo bravely held the peloton at bay. Inside the main bunch, Bradley Wiggins retained his overall lead into the final weekend, with the same six seconds gap over Dutchman Lieuwe Westra (VCD)while American Levi Leipheimer (RNT) trails the Briton by 10 seconds. Trapped in an echelon early in the stage, Alejandro Valverde (MOV) fought hard to retain his fourth place and his green jersey.
Five riders, Dmitry Fofonov (AST), Remi Pauriol (FDJ), Gustav Larsson (VCD), Klaas Lodeiwjck (BMC)and Maarten Neyens (LTB) did not start.
At kilometer four, the mistral wind split the peloton. A group of 28 riders, including overall leader Bradley Wiggins (SKY) and second-placed Lieuwe Westra (VCD), emerged. Two echelons chased and green jersey holder Alejandro Valverde (MOV) was among the riders trapped at the back.
The 26 riders in the leading echelon were: Boonen, De Weert, Leipheimer, Vandenbergh (OPQ), Kloeden, Voigt (RNT), Wiggins, Thomas, Zandio (SKY), Albasini (GEC), Luis-Leon Sanchez, Renshaw (RAB), Feillu, Lagutin, Leukemans, Veuchelen, Westra (VCD), Jorgensen, Morkov (SAX), Geslin (FDJ), Klier (GRM), Hushovd, Burghardt, Van Garderen (BMC), Degenkolb, Geschke (PRO).
Seven in the lead
The chasing peloton regrouped in the first climb (Km 15.5) in which Veuchelen strengthened his polka-dot jersey. The Belgian attacked with Jens Voigt at the foot of the second climb (Cote du Pas de Ventoux, km 36.5, 2nd cat). One kilometer later, Valverde also took advantage of the climb to make it back into the Wiggins group.
In the descent, Voigt and Veuchelen were joined by Simon Geschke, while Luis-Leon Sanchez, Anthony Geslin and Mickael Cherel (ALM) chased and joined the three at the km 50 mark. Daniel Navarro (RAB) caught them 15 kms later. On top of the 3rd cat. Cote d’Aurel (Km 66.5), the regrouped bunch trailed the seven by 4:15.
Then there were three
While Veuchelen kept leading the way on top of Cote des Mourres (km 120.5), Team Sky took the reins of the peloton to keep the gap with the seven escapees around three minutes. The pace was too fast for Ivan Basso (LIQ), who called it quits after 110 kms. While the start had been exceptionally jittery, the second half of the stage was reasonably quiet until the first passage on the line. The peloton crossed it 1:10 behind the break, which split on the last climb (Côte des Marquises 3rd cat). Voigt, Sanchez and Cherel dropped their four companions at the top. With nine kilometers left, Voigt and Sanchez were left to battle it out for stage victory.
Fourth stage win for Sanchez
With almost a minute left under the red flame, the two escapees could afford to play it tactically. Voigt launched the sprint with 300 metres to go but Sanchez, who is ten years younger than the evergreen German, overtook him on the line for his fourth stage victory on the Race to the Sun.
The bunch sprint, 14 seconds later, was won by Heinrich Haussler (GRM) ahead of Elia Viviani (LIQ) and Grega Bole (LAM).
“It was a hard day. It started very fast when a group of strong riders led the way. The peloton rode at a fast pace but I really wanted this stage badly. I thought about it from the start. I kept trying and thinking about my brother and I made it.
The goal at first was to get a good GC with a very competitive team. But we were trapped in the echelon on stage 2 and were looking for a stage win since. I won but it was a team effort. I’m sorry for Jens, but only one man could win. He deserved it too.
I would love to see Alejandro win because he’s a friend and we train together often. But it’s complicated for him and Wiggins is very strong.”
Top five placings in the 178-kms 6th stage of Paris-Nice between Suze la Rousse and Sisteron.
1. Luis Leon Sanchez (RAB)
2. Jens Voigt (RNT)
3. Henrich Haussler (GRM) 14 seconds behind
4. Elia Viviani (LIQ)
5. Grega Bole (LAM) same time.
Luis-Leon Sanchez wins the 6th stage.
Voigt launches the sprint!
Sanchez and Voigt are watching each other now. The Spaniard has been in the lead for the past three kms.
and it should be between Voigt and Sanchez now.