Crashes nearly wreaked havoc on Team Sky's general classification chances Saturday during the sixth stage of Paris-Nice, a mountainous 187.5km run from Vence to Nice. The team remains well positioned overall, however, with Richie Porte sitting second heading into Sunday's final individual time trial.
Both Porte and Geraint Thomas crashed on the rain-slicked roads coming off the final climb of the day before the finish in Nice, but the Sky riders were able to regroup and save Porte's runner-up spot in the general classification, albeit behind a new race leader and more than half a minute further behind.
Saturday's penultimate stage included six categorised climbs, ending with the Cote de Peille about 26km from the finish. A 31-rider breakaway lit up the early part of the racing as most of the general classification contenders were content to hold their cards until the final hours of racing.
The fireworks went off when race leader Michal Kwiatkowski, who started the day just one second ahead of Porte in the general classification, attacked with three Etixx-QuickStep teammates on the Cote de Coaraze.
The GC groups came back together on the ensuing descent, but another move from Kwiatkowski and his teammates dropped Porte and teammate Thomas before the final climb started. Eventual stage winner and new race leader Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) took advantage of the battle between Sky and Etixx, launching the definitive move as Kwiatkowski watched.
In the race behind Gallopin, the Sky duo caught Kwiatkowski about 3km from the summit. Porte immediately attacked and, with Thomas on his wheel, had the advantage. The Sky riders' small group went over the climb with 15 seconds on the Etixx team leader when disaster appeared to strike the Sky duo as they crashed in separate incidents on the soggy descent.
Both were able to quickly remount, but Kwiatkowski caught them with about 15km to go and they raced to the line with a select group about a minute behind the winner. Kwiatkowski lost contact just before the group crossed the line, however, ceding two seconds to Porte - just enough to slip into third in general classification and allow Porte to hold his runner-up spot.
Gallopin is now 36 seconds ahead of Porte in the general classification, while Kwiatkowski is 37 seconds back.
Paris-Nice ends Sunday with the 9.5km individual time trial up the Col d'Eze
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