Hello and welcome to our live coverage from the penultimate stage of this year's Paris-Nice.
Today's stage is a 220km race from Manosque to Nice. There are five categorised climbs but the two to watch are the Cote de Cabris and Col du Ferrier. Both are 1st cat and both are coming up within the next 30 km or so. There's no mountain top finish today though, with the final climb roughly 50km from the finish.
After yesterday's heroics from Richie Porte, here's where the race stands on GC:
1 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 24:26:08
2 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin Sharp 0:00:32
3 Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:00:42
4 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:49
5 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:52
6 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:53
7 Simon Spilak (Slo) Team Katusha
8 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:00:54
9 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida
10 Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:56
If the Sky leader can make it through today unscathed he'll almost certainly take the overall honours in this year's race, a year after teammate Bradley Wiggins won.
110km remaining from 220km
To bring you up to speed, we've raced 110km and there's a group of 11 riders up the road. They have gap of 3:30.
Simon Clarke (GreenEdge) Egor Silin (Astana), Gatis Smukulis (Katusha), Eduard Vorganov (Katusha), Brent Bookwalter (BMC), Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ), Julien El Fares (Sojasun), Borut Bozic (Astana), Jerome Pineau (Omega Pharma QuickStep), Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) Johann Tschopp (IAM Cycling) are the riders in the break today.
That's a big move from Tschopp and it would be a huge result if the IAM Cycling team picked up the KOM in this race. The Tour de France wildcards have yet to be decided and although the Swiss team are outsiders, this could be a major factor when ASO sit down and decide on the final outcome.
We've already had a number of riders pull out of the race. Robert Gesink, Andreas Klier, Thomas De Gendt, and Offredo have all gone home.
Tschopp has 40 points, an unbeatable lead in the KOM now. Hupond is on second with 24 points and as he's not in the break , the jersey is won.
100km remaining from 220km
As for the break's chances of staying away, it's not great. Jeannesson is just 1:49 down on Porte so while he's the virtual leader of the race, it's unlikely to last. The gap to the break after 120km of racing is 3:15
Sky continue to lead the peloton with the break about to tackle the lower slopes of the 7.6km long Côte de Cabris. The slopes average 5.8per cent.
Staying with Sky but away from Paris-Nice, Mathew Hayman has refused to talk about Leinders. You can read the story here.
While Peter Sagan has talked about beating Mark Cavendish for the first time in a head-to-head sprint.
86km remaining from 220km
Katusha's Latvian Smukulis has been dropped from the break, so there are 10 leaders left.
As David Millar and Mark Renshaw are among the riders dropped from the peloton.
And Renshaw has thrown in the towel and abandoned the race, just as Euskaltel move to the front and give Sky a hand. The Spanish team don't have any interest in the GC but they've had a poor race and this is their last chance of a stage win.
82km remaining from 220km
The gap has been brought back to 2:20.
Just for good measure Tschopp wins the race to the top of the Côte de Cabris and picks up another 10 points as a result. The IAM Cycling rider is clearly intent on extending his lead in the KOM competition. In terms of the race for yellow, Jeannesson is still the virtual race leader but just by 6 six seconds as Sky and Euskaltel lead the peloton.
77km remaining from 220km
El Fares and Silin have both been dropped by the lead group though, so they're down to 8 riders with just over 75km of racing left.
The leader are about to take on the Col du Ferrier. It's a slightly trickier prospect than the last climb, with an average gradient of 6.8 per cent. The break has just 1:15 on the peloton though.
This is a surprise but Rein Taaramae of Cofidis is at the back of the bunch and struggling to match the pace set by Sky.
The strain is beginning to tell at the front of the race with Bookwalter, and Pineau dropping out of the break. That makes just six riders left at the front of the race. They should make it back to the leaders on the long descent off the climb though.
And Borut Bozic has popped too. So that's five men in the lead break.
Tschopp leads the remaining riders towards the top of the climb. Can he secure another 10 points at the summit?
70km remaining from 220km
After 150 km of racing the break has just 1:00 on the peloton. No serious attacks from the bunch yet, but with such a long run into the finish that's hardly surprising.
As expected Tschopp is first to the top of the climb and grabs another 10 points in the KOM competition. Frankly he had the jersey wrapped up as soon as he made it into today's break.
It's mostly down hill from here for the race as the peloton enters the final 70km of racing.
@_Pigeons_ Sat, 9th Mar 2013 14:24:18
61km remaining from 220km
The leaders are currently flying down the descent but the peloton is still pegging the back consistently with the last time check at 40 seconds.
Gorka Ferdugo has crashed on the wet descent as Sky and Euskaltel continue to set the pace. The break only has 17 seconds.
48km remaining from 220km
Just 10 seconds for the remnants of the break.
Simon Clarke is the lone rider clear of the peloton. The rest of the break has sat up with the bunch still 10 seconds back.
With the Jeannesson about to be caught Clarke might be given a bit of room here.
Jeannesson responds though and brings Clarke back.
As BMC give Sky some assistance and set the pace on the front of the peloton.
The peloton has given Jeannesson, Clarke, Vorganov and Bardet 20 seconds with 39km to go as Voeckler puts in an attack from the bunch. The Frenchman is quickly brought back.
Jeannesson continues to set the pace but the bunch aren't giving the break any favours.
Grivko has attacked. That's a huge attack from the Astana rider.
He's linked up with Velits and Chavanel, and the trio use the sprint to launch a move. They've pulled out a short gap on the bunch, the earlier move has been reeled in.
Chavanel picks up 3 important seconds in GC by winning the sprint and now Sky has to come to the front and try and shut this down.
32km remaining from 220km
32km to go and Sky are clearly worried about the Chavanel, Velits, Grivko move. The British team has strung out the bunch with Porte sitting in third wheel.
Velits has been brought back and now Chavanel and Grivko are also forced to sit up. One Sky rider pulled them back.
Chavanel moves up to 5th in GC.
Roche meanwhile has a puncture and is forced to swap and pick up a wheel from a teammate.
25km remaining from 220km
Sky continue their pace setting. Over in Italy Chris Froome has moved into the driving seat at Tirreno-Adriatco, winning the 4th stage.
Vasil Kiryienka has done the majority of the chase work for Sky and now he's setting the pace for Porte. The bunch is strung out.
Talansky is simply following Porte at the moment. No signs of which sprinters have made the lead group. If Gallopin is here, he has a good shout.
14km remaining from 220km
Albasini is in the group too. Voeckler is right at the front as well, and you can expect a last ditch attack from the Europcar leader.
Gilbert is in the lead group as well. He's got Oss with him too.
8km remaining from 220km
8km to go. The field contains around 50 riders but with most of the pure sprinters dropped it's wide open for the stage win.
AG2R are forming close to the front but Kiryienka is still setting the pace.
IAM Cycling are bringing Haussler to the front. The Australian is a one of the fastest men left in the bunch and this is a great chance for him to pick up his first win of the season.
Kiryienka is a one man team, he's still on the front with 2km to go.
Westra is up there too. He'll give it a go in the sprint that's for sure.
Dumoulin is in the lead group, hence AG2R workrate.
AG2R come to the front.
Dumoulin is third wheel, Gilbert and Haussler are there.
BMC take over as Albasini comes through.
Oss, Gilbert, then Dumoulin with 500 to go.
Gilbert leads up, Albasini is on the far side and now Dumoulin comes through from behind Gilbert it's going to be between the two of them as Albasini fades but here comes Chavanel.
Chavanel takes the stage.
The Omega rider might not be the fastest rider but he timed his sprint perfectly, Gilbert was forced to go too soon and Dumoulin was squeezed out of it. A fine win by Chavanel.
Rojas was actually third with Dumoulin in fourth.
Chavanel moves into third in GC, 41 seconds behind Porte. That could make tomorrow's time trial even more entertaining.
I wonder what odds you'll get on Chavanel winning Milan-Sanremo now.
1 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 5:14:23
2 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team
3 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team
4 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
5 Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack Leopard
6 Julien Simon (Fra) Sojasun
7 Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro Team
8 Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling
9 Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Sojasun
10 Alberto Losada Alguacil (Spa) Katusha
1 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 29:40:31
2 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp 0:00:32
3 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:00:42
4 Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
5 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:49
6 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:52
7 Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:00:53
8 Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha
9 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:00:54
10 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team 0:01:08
Thanks for joining us today. Tune in tomorrow for more action from Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice.
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