Skip to main content

Sánchez topples Contador

Image 1 of 55

Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) es todo corazón!

Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) es todo corazón! (Image credit: AFP)
Image 2 of 55

Alberto Contador (Astana) couldn't even get off his bike

Alberto Contador (Astana) couldn't even get off his bike (Image credit: AFP)
Image 3 of 55

The attacks on the yellow jersey

The attacks on the yellow jersey (Image credit: AFP)
Image 4 of 55

The strain is evident on the faces of the lead group

The strain is evident on the faces of the lead group (Image credit: AFP)
Image 5 of 55

Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) launched a courageous solo attack that paid off in a stage win and the overall lead.

Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) launched a courageous solo attack that paid off in a stage win and the overall lead. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 6 of 55

Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) busted out a few classic stage win salutes: The corazón

Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) busted out a few classic stage win salutes: The corazón (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 7 of 55

Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) does the "gracias a Dios"

Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) does the "gracias a Dios" (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 8 of 55

Alberto Contador (Astana) was shattered after losing three minutes on the final 15km.

Alberto Contador (Astana) was shattered after losing three minutes on the final 15km. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 9 of 55

Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) dons the yellow jersey.

Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) dons the yellow jersey. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 10 of 55

Alberto Contador (Astana) couldn't even get off his bike without help after cracking on stage seven.

Alberto Contador (Astana) couldn't even get off his bike without help after cracking on stage seven. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 11 of 55

Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) makes his move and Alberto Contador cannot hold the wheel.

Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) makes his move and Alberto Contador cannot hold the wheel. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 12 of 55

The attacks on the yellow jersey came fast and frequent.

The attacks on the yellow jersey came fast and frequent. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 13 of 55

Sanchez leads the yellow jersey

Sanchez leads the yellow jersey (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 14 of 55

Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) flew to the finish putting enough time into his competitors to take the overall lead.

Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) flew to the finish putting enough time into his competitors to take the overall lead. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 15 of 55

The strain is evident on the faces of the lead group before the attacks came.

The strain is evident on the faces of the lead group before the attacks came. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 16 of 55

Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) took over the green jersey with a solid fourth place.

Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) took over the green jersey with a solid fourth place. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 17 of 55

Christian Knees (Milram) gets up one of the many climbs on today's route.

Christian Knees (Milram) gets up one of the many climbs on today's route. (Image credit: corazón)
Image 18 of 55

Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) looked strong today.

Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) looked strong today. (Image credit: corazón)
Image 19 of 55

Liquigas' Roman Kreuziger did plenty of time on the front today.

Liquigas' Roman Kreuziger did plenty of time on the front today. (Image credit: corazón)
Image 20 of 55

Saxo Bank's Gustav Larsson kept in touch up the climbs.

Saxo Bank's Gustav Larsson kept in touch up the climbs. (Image credit: corazón)
Image 21 of 55

Columbia-Highroad was vigilant on the front of the peloton.

Columbia-Highroad was vigilant on the front of the peloton. (Image credit: corazón)
Image 22 of 55

Marco Pinotti (Columbia-Highroad) on his way to 101st place.

Marco Pinotti (Columbia-Highroad) on his way to 101st place. (Image credit: corazón)
Image 23 of 55

Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale) was part of the day's break.

Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale) was part of the day's break. (Image credit: corazón)
Image 24 of 55

Heinrich Haussler (l) and Chris Sørensen head up one of the climbs.

Heinrich Haussler (l) and Chris Sørensen head up one of the climbs. (Image credit: corazón)
Image 25 of 55

Roman Kreuziger leads the day's break that didn't stay away until the finish.

Roman Kreuziger leads the day's break that didn't stay away until the finish. (Image credit: corazón)
Image 26 of 55

Alexandre Pichot (BBox Bouygues Telecom) spent time in the break today.

Alexandre Pichot (BBox Bouygues Telecom) spent time in the break today. (Image credit: corazón)
Image 27 of 55

Stéphane Auge (Cofidis) finished the day in 69th place.

Stéphane Auge (Cofidis) finished the day in 69th place. (Image credit: corazón)
Image 28 of 55

Marcus Burghardt (Columbia-Highroad) was again active at the front of the peloton.

Marcus Burghardt (Columbia-Highroad) was again active at the front of the peloton. (Image credit: corazón)
Image 29 of 55

Something's interesting... as the Columbia-Highroad boys take a peek ahead.

Something's interesting... as the Columbia-Highroad boys take a peek ahead. (Image credit: corazón)
Image 30 of 55

Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux) keeps it real in the group.

Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux) keeps it real in the group. (Image credit: corazón)
Image 31 of 55

Astana's Alberto Contador had an off day on stage seven.

Astana's Alberto Contador had an off day on stage seven. (Image credit: corazón)
Image 32 of 55

Sébastien Joly (Française des Jeux) had a day in the break.

Sébastien Joly (Française des Jeux) had a day in the break. (Image credit: corazón)
Image 33 of 55

The sun has hit Paris-Nice for good.

The sun has hit Paris-Nice for good. (Image credit: Christophe Mury)
Image 34 of 55

Christophe Moreau always shows good form in Paris-Nice and is just outside the top 10 for now.

Christophe Moreau always shows good form in Paris-Nice and is just outside the top 10 for now. (Image credit: Christophe Mury)
Image 35 of 55

Sammy Sanchez started the stage but had to abandon due to knee problems.

Sammy Sanchez started the stage but had to abandon due to knee problems. (Image credit: Christophe Mury)
Image 36 of 55

Contador had to work hard from the beginning and forgot to eat in the process.

Contador had to work hard from the beginning and forgot to eat in the process. (Image credit: Christophe Mury)
Image 37 of 55

Moreau powers along for a ninth place in stage 7.

Moreau powers along for a ninth place in stage 7. (Image credit: Christophe Mury)
Image 38 of 55

The bunch passes the Lac de St. Croix

The bunch passes the Lac de St. Croix (Image credit: Christophe Mury)
Image 39 of 55

Marcel Sieberg (Team Columbia - Highroad) rides with the snowcapped mountains in the background.

Marcel Sieberg (Team Columbia - Highroad) rides with the snowcapped mountains in the background. (Image credit: Christophe Mury)
Image 40 of 55

The break of the day

The break of the day (Image credit: Christophe Mury)
Image 41 of 55

Sébastien Joly (Française des Jeux) pulls in the break.

Sébastien Joly (Française des Jeux) pulls in the break. (Image credit: Christophe Mury)
Image 42 of 55

Boys, this is the way to Fayence, the finishing town.

Boys, this is the way to Fayence, the finishing town. (Image credit: Christophe Mury)
Image 43 of 55

The bunch chased behind

The bunch chased behind (Image credit: Christophe Mury)
Image 44 of 55

Marcus Burghardt (Team Columbia - Highroad) tucked in and getting his training in for the Spring Classics.

Marcus Burghardt (Team Columbia - Highroad) tucked in and getting his training in for the Spring Classics. (Image credit: Christophe Mury)
Image 45 of 55

Luis Leon Sanchez on his solo flyer to victory.

Luis Leon Sanchez on his solo flyer to victory. (Image credit: Christophe Mury)
Image 46 of 55

Sanchez celebrates his win

Sanchez celebrates his win (Image credit: Christophe Mury)
Image 47 of 55

He won the last stage last year but taking the GC with one day remaining to go tops it.

He won the last stage last year but taking the GC with one day remaining to go tops it. (Image credit: Christophe Mury)
Image 48 of 55

Sanchez thanked his team for the hard work, but he had to finish it off solo.

Sanchez thanked his team for the hard work, but he had to finish it off solo. (Image credit: Christophe Mury)
Image 49 of 55

Sanchez always feels well in the medium and high mountains in southern France.

Sanchez always feels well in the medium and high mountains in southern France. (Image credit: Christophe Mury)
Image 50 of 55

Chavanel checks on his breakaway partners to see who would try to surprise him in the sprint for second.

Chavanel checks on his breakaway partners to see who would try to surprise him in the sprint for second. (Image credit: Christophe Mury)
Image 51 of 55

Colom stormed across the line for second, ahead of Schleck and Chavanel.

Colom stormed across the line for second, ahead of Schleck and Chavanel. (Image credit: Christophe Mury)
Image 52 of 55

An exhausted Jens Voigt rode his heart out for captain Fränk Schleck

An exhausted Jens Voigt rode his heart out for captain Fränk Schleck (Image credit: Christophe Mury)
Image 53 of 55

Contador had a hunger knock..

Contador had a hunger knock.. (Image credit: Christophe Mury)
Image 54 of 55

...and was suffering in the final kilometres

...and was suffering in the final kilometres (Image credit: Christophe Mury)
Image 55 of 55

He immediately went over to the barriers to catch his breath, not even getting off his bike

He immediately went over to the barriers to catch his breath, not even getting off his bike (Image credit: Christophe Mury)

Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) stormed to a solo victory in the penultimate stage of the 2009 Paris-Nice, taking the yellow jersey off the shoulders of favourite Alberto Contador (Astana). Stunning attacks in the final kilometres in an elite front group of six men tumbled the overall classification, with Contador losing almost three minutes.

Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) put in a brilliant ride on a tough day with nine classified climbs, and moved himself into second overall, 1:09 behind Sánchez. Thanks to his fourth place finish on the stage, the Frenchman moved ahead of Mirco Lorenzetto (Lampre-NGC) to take the green jersey for the points classification.

Sánchez could barely walk to the podium after the stage, suffering from cramps after his 17-kilometre solo escape. But the Spaniard was pleased to receive the yellow jersey. "I really want to thank my team today. Yesterday was our toughest day, but today it was better."

Sánchez will go into the final stage of Paris-Nice with the confidence of a rider who won the same stage in the 2008 edition. The Spaniard was pleased to find a selective few stages leading into the final day, which passes over three category one climbs before plunging down into Nice. "I was definitely looking forward to the medium and high mountains, where you have to be really strong."

In his victory moments, Sánchez had kind words for his main rival Contador, whom he still considers a great champion. "It is too bad for him, he had a jour sans. I hope he can recover well."

Sánchez may have been one of the best prepared riders for the stage into the hilltop town of Fayence. "I have done a similar stage in the Tour Méditerranéen and last week I was training here."

Even though he has a solid lead on the overall classification, the Caisse d'Epargne rider expects a tough final day. "The team is very motivated and we want to continue like today. We know that winning Paris-Nice will be difficult, but still, our chances are good."

A visibly drained Contador was helped from his bike by his team soigneur after the finish. "Today has been a very hard day, the Astana rider admitted. He said he had a hunger knock in the finale and could not answer the attack of Sánchez.

"The break did not go until kilometre 65, and before then it was just chaos, which made me work from the start. That's where I was hurt. The race was very fast, and I forgot to eat and drink enough. At 40 km to go I was alone and though I was answering all the attacks well, at 15 km to my body was completely empty. I was left without any strength. From this moment the goal was just to get to the finish."

Fränk Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) moved onto a podium spot in the overall, by finishing in third, sandwiched between Colom and Chavanel. His directeur sportif Kim Andersen was pleasantly surprised with the day.

"We most certainly got value for our money today, and the stage shows that anything can happen, and no one has won until the very last stage is over." Andersen noted that Caisse d'Epargne has a stronger team than Contador's Astana. "It is probably better at controlling the peloton, so we must secure the place on the podium by staying in front and possibly engage in a breakaway."

Antonio Colom (Team Katusha) was one of the most aggressive riders in the finale, netting him second place on the day. "I tried several times to get away from the break group, but they always brought me back. Then Sánchez countered and the others didn't follow him." Once he knew Sánchez would stay away, he changed tactics. "I concentrated on the sprint for second. I have a slight cold and yesterday I had some bronchial problems, but today I was feeling much better."

Colom moved up to sixth and is 2:16 behind Sánchez in the GC. "I hope to be just as good in the final stage tomorrow," he said.

A climb to start with

The race started off with the first of nine categorised climbs after only two kilometres. It was Tony Martin (Team Columbia - Highroad) to get more points for his jersey, followed by David Moncoutié (Cofidis, le crédit en ligne) and Matthieu Ladagnous (Française des Jeux).

Next up was the sprint, which was also a tight race heading into stage seven. Mirco Lorenzetto (Lampre - N.G.C.) led the points classification with one point over Haussler and three points over Contador and Chavanel. Haussler won ahead of Chavanel, with Chris Sørensen (Team Saxo Bank) getting third and preventing Lorenzetto from getting points. That put Haussler in the virtual lead with 65 points, ahead of Lorenzetto (63) and Chavanel (61).

Martin also was ahead at the second climb of the day, leading Martin Velits (Team Milram) and Sørensen over the top. In that climb Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) was in trouble and abandoned the race. He hurt his knee in the second stage and yesterday's efforts were too much for him. His inflamed knee had no desire to do seven more climbs.

There were a flurry of attacks until the break of the day was finally established after more than 60 km of racing. Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale), Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank), Sébastien Joly (Française des Jeux), Karsten Kroon (Team Saxo Bank), Stéphane Augé (Cofidis, le crédit en ligne), Alexandre Pichot (BBox Bouygues Telecom), Joan Horrach (Team Katusha), Maxime Bouet (Agritubel) and Martin Velits (Team Milram) were the lucky ones.

The break covered the côte de Taradeau (km 96.0), the côte des Tuillières (km 110.0), the col de Saint-Andrieux (km 118.5) and the col du Défens (km 126.0), with various riders taking the various points.

Shortly after the sprint in Fayence (Stéphane Augé ahead of Roman Kreuziger and Christophe Riblon) the race started in earnest. In the front group Martin Velits (Team Milram) attacked to get a head start for the category one col de Bourigaille.

Behind, the favourites moved into position to battle for the overall over the longest climb of the day, a 10.4 km drag race. A group of eight riders with Contador, Schleck, Voigt, Chavanel, Sanchez, Colom, Seeldraeyers and Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux), moved clear of the peloton.

Repeated attacks on the climb by Colom shattered the group, but the accelerations did little to prevent Velits from staying clear over the top. Behind the Milram rider the peloton was in tatters, and Colom, Contador, Sanchez and Schleck formed a four-person pursuit group. Evans led the peloton less than half a minute behind.

Schleck was dropped from the Contador group, and when Velits was caught, another attack by Colom ended the Milram rider's time at the front of the race.

Over the côte de Mons, Sanchez led Contador and Colom, while Schleck, 17 seconds behind, found a companion in his teammate Jens Voigt. Chavanel joined them, too, and after a few kilometres of furious chasing, there was a group of six on the front.

Stage 8 - March 15: Nice - Nice, 119km

The final stage tomorrow in Nice will have to decide the winner of the prestigious stage race. Three more category one climbs will test the riders' mettle and sort out who is the deserving champion of this year's Paris-Nice.

Latest on Cyclingnews