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Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage from stage 6 of Paris-Nice. Today we are racing from Suze-la-Rousse to Sisteron.
We don't have the same type of finish that we say yesterday in Mende but today will still be another demanding stage.
Five categorised climbs in total will test the legs and the conditions, there's a lot of wind, will also mean riders will have to be switched on.
Here's a list of today's climbs
15.5km: Cote de Buisson (3rd cat)
40km:Cote du Pas du Ventoux (2nd cat)
66.5km: Cote d’Aurel (3rd cat)
120.5km: Cote des Mourres (3rd cat)
166km: Cote des Marquises (3rd cat)
The bunch, and the break have already taken in the first three climbs on the menu.
After 6km of racing today there was a dangerous split in the field with 28 riders breaking clear. Wiggins, Leipheimer, Van Garderen all made it into the lead group but Valverde and Monfort missed out.
The gap rose to around 40 seconds before Movistar closed things down on the second climb of the day.
We then saw Frederik Veuchelen (Vacansoleil), Jens Voigt (RadioShack) and Simon Geschke (Project 1T4i) attack.
Mickael Cherel (AG2R) Anthony Geslin (FDJ), and Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) countered, with Navarro (Saxo Bank) also chasing.
At 52km the two groups, and even Navarro, joined up an with 99km to race they have a lead of 4:20
Frederik Veuchelen (Vacansoleil-DCM) was of course on the attack yesterday ,and swept to the lead in the KOM competition. He's trying his best to wrap things up today, racing to the top of the last two climbs. He's super strong, isnt he? He was the last man caught yesterday from the break.
And remember to keep your tweets coming in. You can reach me at twitter.com/dnlbenson
It's probably a good time to show off the top ten as things stand. Wiggins with a slender lead on GC after yesterday's stage.
1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 18:23:40
2 Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM 0:00:06
3 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:00:10
4 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:18
5 Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha Team 0:00:37
6 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:39
7 Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:46
8 Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ-Bigmat 0:01:06
9 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:01:16
10 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Astana Pro Team 0:01:21
And away from the race there's a fair amount of news floating around.
RadioShack are apparently part of the breakaway league. We reported that back in November but it's starting to get some attention from the mainstream press. Basically the league needs a certain amount of teams to sign up in order to trigger the next phase.
I believe they need 14 teams. Not sure where _ _ _ and _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ are but I think both are staling on making a commitment either way, but a lot of the other big have signed up - or so I hear.
We dont have an icon for the breakaway league in live. Perhaps we should design one. It could look like a sideburn perhaps. I dont know.
In other news we've got this tidy little video from the folks at Netapp. It should get you excited about the Giro.
People have questioned Gilbert's form ahead of San Remo.
And there's a nice story about Hosking winning yesterday.
I think I've fulfilled my quota of links for the day, so my execution can be held off for another 24 hours. Anyway, back to the action and the leaders have 3:35 on the peloton with the Montagne de Lure in the backdrop.
Actually one more link, here's a story on Millar talking about the testing program for the London Olympic Games.
So to clarify, the Wiggins group was brought back on the second climb of the day. Then two moves broke free and they've merged into a a group of seven riders. Wiggins, Valverde and all the other favourites are in the peloton.
The bunch have gone through the feedzone. I would have said today would have been perfect for the break but with Sanchez 3:51 down on Wiggins Sky will need to chase. They'd be more than happy to see a break go clear if there wasn't a GC danger but they cant afford to allow Sanchez back into the overall fight. He of course won this race in 2009, the same year that Contador blew in the final few days, having looked so strong throughout the race.
Ivan Basso (Liquigas) has just pulled out of the race. He's had a torrid week so far and has never looked in contention. It's still very early in the season so he still has plenty of time before his main objectives but this is certainly a bit of a blow.
Mollema, the Rabobank climber has also packed in.
Just over 60km of racing and the gap has nudged out to 4 minutes again.
The leaders are now on the Cote des Mourres (3rd cat). We can already guess who is going to take the points at the top, cant we?
58km remaining and the lead is down to 3:15. None stop racing today: first we had the split with Wiggins up the road and now we have the Sanchez group threatening to turn the race on its head (slightly). The Spaniard is no longer the leader on the road though, which is a good thing for Sky. Vacansoleil, they don't need to do any chasing though, with a man up the road Westra and co and just follow the wheels and stay safe.
Veuchelen did indeed take the 4 points at the top of the climb. Geschke was second.
And it is indeed Sky on the front of the field trying to pull everything back together. Omega are just behind them.
The seven leaders are on an unclassified climb, and they're still working well together. Sky, still leading the peloton. They'll be relatively fresh in one sense because the likes of Movistar and Omega have done most of the work in the last few days.
The British team will be brimming with confidence too.
Tony Martin drops his chain and has to chase back on.
43km remaining and the gap is down to 2:40. We could have a sprint on our hands today.
The gap is 2 minutes, Sky beginning to make inroads in the lead and they've done it without any help from other teams.
We should see a few of the sprinters' teams pick up the chase inside the final 30km.
The gap has gone out again, it's at 2:15. Sky need to put the hammer down and they need help because Sanchez is a serious threat on GC.
Liquigas move up and put some bodies on the front. I wonder if Garmin will come up too. Haussler might fancy his chances in today's finish, if it all comes back together.
Rabobank has Renshaw in the pack but they wont do a thing to bring back the leaders.
Sky only have one man on the front now.
The gap is 2:30.
Europcar and Liquigas on the front and leading the chase. Viviani is here for the Italian team so that makes sense.
23km to go and the gap is back down to 2 minutes. There's still the 3rd cat climb to come.
The leaders do look tired but both Veuchelen and Navarro look tired. Sanchez is the danger, 3:51 down on Wiggins at the start. Yellow is now safe so it's up to the teams looking for a stage win to pull things back. Astana, Liquigas and Europcar are sharing the work.
The leaders cross the line, they'll do a finishing circuit now. Voigt leads them over. He looks just as strong as he did at the start of the stage.
The break are about to start the final climb of the day. Now we'll see what they've got left in the tank.
Cofidis on the front. Omega move up for the first time in the stage as well. They'll want to keep Levi out of trouble and work for Boonen should it come down to a bunch sprint. BMC are doing the same.
Keep your eye on Cunego, people.
@friebos Fri, 9th Mar 2012 14:55:30
it's not a long climb, but stretches are around 7 per cent.
Veuchelen cracks. He's still battling on but he's losing ground as Cofidis continue to chase.
Leon Sanchez is doing the work on the front of the break.
500 meters from the summit for the break and Sanchez is splitting the group.
Voigt, Sanchez and Cherel are the leaders now. Gerrans has been dropped by the bunch.
Omega flood the front of the peloton.
Wiggins is near the front but just keeping out of trouble. The gap is 1 minute with 12km left.
Sanchez leads the three man break through the final 10km banner.
Voigt stamps on the pedals and Cherel struggles to match him. Sanchez asks him to chase, politely, I'm sure. and the three riders are back together again.
Cherel pop immediately so now we have Sanchez and Voigt away. The German asks the Spaniard to come through, but he doesn't There's still 8.5km to go and with the gap at 1:10 it looks like we'll have a sprint.
Between Voigt and Sanchez.
Quickstep still doing all the work on the front of the bunch. They've left it too late though.
The gap has jumped up to 1:12. Chavanel doesnt like that one bit and goes to the front and ups the pace, taking 6 seconds off the lead.
And now Sanchez tries to get away from Voigt. It doesn't work and the two men are back together. These two are so experienced but if it comes to a sprint you have to fancy the Spaniard.
Both men are taking long pulls on the front. They can't afford to mess around and play games yet.
5km to go.
Back in the bunch, Valverde should try and get his team to chase. If he can grab third he can take two more seconds on Wiggins.
The are four riders in between the two leaders and the bunch and they're working well together, they're 20 seconds back.
3.5km to go and the second group with Cherel and Geslin has been caught. So it's a straight fight between Voigt and Sanchez.
1.5km to go and Voigt is on the front. He'll lead through with 1000 meters to go . Now Sanchez moves through.
Now the Spaniard soft pedals and looks over his shoulder.
He's looking, he's looking at the German but Voigt isn't working and is just looking straight ahead. Who will jump first.
Jens leads out.
Sanchez comes over on the left hand side of the road and it's going to be close. Has the Spaniard got this wrong?
No. Sanchez takes it but only just.
Haussler took third in the bunch sprint. Why didn't Garmin contribute to the chase?
So Wiggins comes through unscathed after Sanchez threatened the yellow jersey. A very tactical battle but certainly one that keep you on the edge of your seat throughout.
1 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Rabobank
2 Jens Voigt (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan
3 Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin-Cervelo
4 Elia Viviani (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
5 Grega Bole (Slo) Lampre - ISD
6 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha Team
7 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
8 Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
9 Koen De Kort (Ned) Project 1t4i
10 Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Astana Pro Team
Thanks for joining us today. Tune in tomorrow for more action from Paris-Nice.
Check back here for our report, results and photos from today's stage.