Colom and Sanchez rule as Contador's comeback try fails

Alberto Contador of Team Astana put forth his best effort to take back what he lost earlier, but in the end the day belonged to two other Spaniards. Antonio Colom of Katusha outsprinted Contador for the stage win and Luis Leon Sanchez came in 17 seconds later to cement his overall win.

"I owe this victory to my teammates, who helped me a lot," Sanchez said. "I always remained calm and collected. I had a great morale throughout and this win is also theirs."

He continued, "Everybody's main objective in cycling, whether you're a rider or a sponsor, is the Tour. In the team, we have riders who can win it. Today, I'm the Paris-Nice winner, but in July, I'll become a teammate again, trying to help Oscar [Pereiro] or Alejandro [Valverde] win the Tour."

The 25-year-old praised his friend and rival, Contador, calling him "a great rider, but his goal is also the Tour more than Paris-Nice. I'm glad this was my turn and today's my day."

A group of 25 riders got away at the 25km mark and built up a lead of 1:25, but were only able to stay in the lead for about 50 km.

Contador seemed determined to make up for his errors of the day before and broke out of the peloton early. With about 42 km to go, he jumped on the first climb of the day and took off in search of redemption. He was joined by Aitor Hernandez (Euskalel), David Lopez Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne), Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux) and Reine Taaramae (Cofidis).

Caisse d'Epargne and Saxo Bank led the chase, never letting the former yellow jersey wearer get too far ahead. His lead over the rapidly-diminishing peloton never broke the two-minute mark.

On the second climb, the lead group was down to Contador, Casar and Lopez Garcia, with the latter holding himself out of the lead work.

Their lead was down to about 20 seconds on the descent, when Contador took off again. He dropped first Casar and then Lopez Garcia as he started up the third and final climb.

With less than 20 km to go, the attacks out of the rapidly-shrinking field began. None was successful until Colom and Schleck took off with about 14 km to go. They caught Contador by km 10, and despite his best efforts to drop them, they stayed with him until the end.

In the closing sprint, Contador took off first, leaving Schleck behind, while Colom came up to take the win by a whisker.

Jerseys

There were no changes in the special jerseys. Chavanel took the points jersey, and Tony Martin of Columbia-Highroad held on to the climber's polka-dot jersey. Kevin Seeldrayers of Quick Step won the best young rider competition, and Saxo Bank the team ranking.

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