NICE, France (VN) — Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) outsprinted world champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) to win the sixth stage of Paris-Nice on Saturday.
With 15km remaining in the 220km stage from Manosque to Nice Team Sky was on the front for race leader Richie Porte, having erased an 11-man early break and a late push by Omega Pharma teammates Chavanel and Peter Velits — the latter sitting sixth overall at 53 seconds — and Andriy Grivko (Astana).
Vasily Kiryienka was on the sharp end for Sky in the final kilometers, while Daniel Oss (BMC Racing) took over in the home stretch, hoping to launch Gilbert toward the stage win.
But in the end Chavanel surprised the rainbow jersey, taking the win by a whisker. Gilbert held on for second with J.J. Rojas (Movistar) third.
“It’s a big surprise to win a sprint like that,” said Chavanel. “I saw there was a lot of headwind and I got behind BMC, who were setting up Gilbert. [Samuel] Dumoulin and Gilbert gave me a perfect leadout.”
The French national time trial champion added that it was “satisfying” to win the stage after coming close in the prologue.
“My condition has been superb all week,” he said. “Tomorrow I will give my all. It’s my specialty, but uphill, and I see Porte very strong, but I hope to finish on the podium.”
Gilbert said he found himself doing a very long sprint — too long, as it turned out.
“Dominik Nerz and Daniel Oss did a very big job, but we were missing one guy in the finale, so I did a very long sprint — about 300 meters,” Gilbert said. “To hold this effort is not easy. It’s a big disappointment because losing by that close is never good.”
On the overall, Porte retained the leader’s jersey by 32 seconds over Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp). Chavanel vaulted into third on GC at 42 seconds.
“The team rode great today to keep me out of trouble. I showed yesterday I have some good climbing legs so I am confident about tomorrow,” said Porte. “I am glad I am 32 seconds ahead instead of 32 seconds behind. I am excited about the climb. I live in Monaco, so I know it well.”
Sunday’s final stage is a 9.6km time trial up to the Col d’Eze.
Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more from Paris-Nice.