Friday March 14th, 2014

Stage 6Saint-Saturnin-lès-Avignon / Fayence

Start 10h35 (Local time)

Betancur in pole position for the final weekend

Stage summary14.03.2014Stage 6- Saint-Saturnin-lès-Avignon / Fayence

Carlos Betancur(ALM)  emerged as the clear favourite to win the 72nd edition of Paris-Nice after his second back-to-back stage victory in Fayence, handing him the race leader's yellow jersey at the expense of Geraint Thomas (SKY) on Friday.

The 24-year-old Colombian had saved a nightmare stage for his AG2R team the previous day in Rive-de-Gier but this time crowned an immaculate team effort to seize the reins with an eight seconds lead over the Welshman, who limited the damage by finishing fourth at the top of the steep final ascent overlooking Fayence. The other stage honours went to world champion Alberto Rui Costa, pipped on the line by Betancur, and now third overall, 18 seconds adrift, while Czech Zdenek Stybar was third.    

Chavanel strikes
The stage left without Simon Gerrans (OGE), who pulled out feeling unwell. After several unsuccessful attempts, Sylvain Chavanel (IAM), who had promised to "blow up the race", held his promise by attacking with seven other riders. The Frenchman quickly found himself on his own but still managed to add four points to his polka-dot jersey on Cote de Bonnieux (Km 36.5) before winning the first intermediate sprint in Lourmarin (Km 45.5). In the same sprint, John Degenkolb (GIA) collected a two-seconds bonus, coming back within a second of race leader Geraint Thomas (SKY).  

Ten on the move
Chavanel stopped his effort and more attempts took place before km 68, when ten men finally broke clear. They were Stephen Cummings (BMC), Jens Keukeleire (OGE), Mattia Cattaneo (LAM),  Pim Ligthart (LTB), Giovanni Bernaudeau (EUC), Gregory Rast (TFR), Aleksandr Kuchynski (KAT), Adrien Petit (COF), Alessandro De Marchi (CAN) and Florian Vachon (BSE).  Their lead topped at 3:15 after 99 kms. By the Cote des Tuilieres (km 164.5), the gap had been cut down to one minute as Chavanel and Thomas Voeckler (EUC) counter-attacked. The two Frenchmen caught the break at kilometre 169.

Battle of Bourigaille
While Chavanel collected four more points on Cote du Mont Meaulx (km 180), the main pack, spearheaded by AG2R and Team Sky riders, steadily bridged the gap on a group gradually losing elements. At the foot of Col de Bourigaille, only Chavanel, Voeckler, Ligthart and De Marchi were left in the break. The polka-dot jersey holder insisted but was caught then dropped by Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R) and Jose Serpa (LAM) at kilometre 198. The peloton regrouped on the 200-km mark as Chavanel and Andy Schleck (TFR) lost ground definitely. Stephan Denifl (IAM) was first at the top of the first category ascent, followed by Vuillermoz, Frank Schleck (TFR), Przemyslaw Niemec (LAM), Yury Trofimov (KAT) and Eduardo Sepulveda (BSE). But the six were brought back in the descent.

Final showdown
With 10 km left, Damiano Caruso (CAN) and Dries Devenyns (GIA) launched a new brave attempt, quashed by a jittery Vincenzo Nibali (AST) who later paid his efforts in the final climb. Betancur's AG2R team-mates seized the reins in the finale and sent Vuillermoz scouting the terrain for Betancur. But the Frenchman was unlucky to crash in a turn before the final kilometer while stage 4 winner Tom-Jelte Slagter was stopped by a mechanical as he was still in contention. World champion Rui Costa surged under the red flame to go for stage victory but could not get rid of Betancur, who took his wheel and overtook him on the line for his second stage win, crowned by a yellow jersey. Already winner of the Tour  du Haut-Var in the same region, the Colombian will now be tough to topple.

Stage 6 Saint-Saturnin-lès-Avignon / Fayence

All about the stage key moments

Jersey wearers after the stage 8

Classifications after the stage 8


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