Welcome to the Cyclingnews coverage of Paris-Nice stage 6 from Saint-Saturnin-lès-Avignon to Fayence
106km remaining from 221km
Welcome to stage 6 of Paris-Nice. The 221.5km stage from Saint-Saturnin-lès-Avignon to Fayence is the longest in this year's race.
Carlos Betancur won yesterday's stage with a late attack to move himself further up the general classification, but Geraint Thomas remains the race leader. Here is the top 10 as it stands:
1 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 21:52:42
2 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano 0:00:03
3 Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Garmin Sharp 0:00:04
4 Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:05
5 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:08
6 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:00:13
7 Jan Bakelants (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
8 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin-Pro Cycling Team 0:00:15
9 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:19
10 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar
The stage has passed the halfway point and we have 10 escapees up the road. They had a maximum lead of 2:55 after 90km, but the gap is now down to 2:30
The 10 leaders are Stephen Cummings (BMC), Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEdge), Mattia Cattaneo (Lampre), Pim Ligthart (Lott-Belisol), Giovanni Bernaudeau (Europcar), Gregory Rast (Trek Factory Racing), Aleksandr Kuchynski (Katusha), Adrien Petit (Cofidis), Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) and Florian Vachon (Bretagne - Seche Environnement)
There has been one third category climb already today where Sylvain Chavanel took full points and now is the virtual leader in the king of the mountains competition. Chavanel was very active in yesterday's break and did his best to hold off the peloton. Perhaps we will see something from him again today.
Simon Gerrans didn't sign on this morning. The Australian champion was seen hanging off the back on the final climb yesterday and has apparently been suffering from allergies. He hopes to be recovered and ready for Milan-San Remo in just over a week.
Today is the first of three hard days in the saddle for the peloton. There are five climbs in total on stage 6 with the category 1 Col de Bourigaille and summit finish on the category 2 Fayence set to play a crucial role in today's proceedings.
As the peloton hit around 1,500 metres to go the road takes a sharp turn upwards before levelling out slightly for the final 500m. Carlos Betancur could be on for another victory here, if yesterday's efforts haven't taken their toll. The punchy climb will suit the Colombian.
88km remaining from 221km
The pace of racing is a little higher today with an average speed of 44.5kph. The gap to the 10 leaders has also come down, they now hold an advantage of 2:15 on the main group.
The high speed will no doubt show when the riders reach the final four climbs. Today's tricky finish could allow for another late break to succeed.
21-year-old neo-pro Bob Jungels (Trek Factory Racing) finished second behind Betancur yesterday. The Luxembourg rider pushed Betancur right to the finish line, saying that the result was "very special" to him.
83km remaining from 221km
The peloton are now into their fourth hour of racing. They have sat up a little and the gap to the break has extended out to 2:25
Sky will have to work hard today if they want to keep Thomas in the yellow jersey. While John Degenkolb is unlikely to be in the top 10 by the end of the day the Welshman is keenly aware of the potential threats further down the classification. He believes that Astana could be one of the biggest challengers for his jersey.
77km remaining from 221km
The peloton seem happy to let the escapees have a little more room. They now have a gap of 2:40.
Provided the break don't stay away, which is unlikely with the close attention the peloton are paying, there are a number of riders in the bunch who could do something today. Tom-Jelte Slagter is only four seconds off the yellow jersey and today is a prime opportunity to take it. Vincenzo Nibali had a little go yesterday, but we haven't really seen his form yet. World Champion Rui Costa has also been fairly quite so far and attack at the bottom of the final climb could see him to his first win in the rainbow stripes. And, of course, there is Betancur.
Good news for any Chris Froome fans, the Sky rider is back to training after the injury that forced him to pull out of Tirreno-Adriatico. The team denied that he would need surgery on his back.
Speaking of Tirreno-Adriatico, you can also follow that live on Cyclingnews here. Mark Cavendish still leads after Omega Pharma-QuickStep's victory in the team time trial.
The peloton have woken up once again and pulled the escapees back to a more comfortable 2:10. We can expect to see this carrying on for much of the day.
Jakob Fuglsang was one of the three riders to escape at the finish yesterday. The Danish rider was happy with how it went.
Of yesterday's finish he said, "It was the plan that we should try something, one after the other. We couldn’t get away, Vincenzo he tried to get away over the climb and the first part of the downhill. Once we hit that short steep section, in the middle of the downhill, Betancur went and I was happy to go after. We went away, three riders. In the end it was part of the plan and it worked out pretty well. Once you go, it’s head down and full gas to the finish line."
61km remaining from 221km
The escapees are now nearing the foot of the second climb of Côte des Tuilières. It is a short 2.2km ascent that averages 7.8%. The advantage over the peloton is now down to 1:45.
Most of the riders in the break are far enough down in the general classification not to worry our race leader. However, Jens Keukeleire is a threat at only 25 seconds down. As too is Vachon, who is 43 second back on Thomas.
57km remaining from 221km
The peloton are obviously worried about Keukeleire and Vachon, because the gap has now closed to 1:15
Sylvain Chavanel and Thomas Voeckler have gone off the front of the peloton. Chavanel will be looking for more mountains classification points
The pair are 25 seconds back on the leaders and 35 seconds ahead of the peloton. They will miss out on this climb, but there are still three more to come.
55km remaining from 221km
The gap between the leaders and the main bunch is now down to a minute
Voeckler had an off-day yesterday. He was dropped on the final climb and lost over 7 minutes on the winner.
Chavanel is still only a minute back in the general classification and his attack will have the peloton worried. They'll be keeping a close eye on him.
50km remaining from 221km
Voeckler and Chavanel are now with the escapees, boosting their numbers to 12. They have a 1:25 advantage on the peloton.
Ligthart took the seven points at the top of that climb. Here are the full KOM results for the côte des Tuilières. 1. Pim Ligthart (LTB) 7 points, 2. Jens Keukeliere (OGE) 5 points, 3. Giovanni Bernaudeau (EUC) 3 points, 4. Stephen Cummings (BMC) 2 points, 5. Aleksandr Kuchysnki (KAT)
AG2R are now taking up the pace setting in the peloton. The gap still stands at 1:10
Chavanel adds four more points to his lead int he king of the mountains competition, followed by Ligthart and Voeckler.
38km remaining from 221km
The gap to the 12 leaders has fallen under the minute mark for the first time. It is now at 50 seconds.
A number of teams can be seen on the front including Sky, Astana and FDJ. The gap continues to fall to 40 seconds.
Voeckler is riding hard on the front of the break group. He's testing the legs of his companions and looking much better than yesterday.
The peloton seem happy with the 35 second gap and it has stayed like that for a little while now.
Bernaudeau is the first of the leaders to crack, after Voeckler's efforts and he is now back with the peloton.
Four riders have now made a gap over the remaining 11 leaders, they are Ligthart, Voeckler, Chavanel and De Marchi
These four have 12 seconds over the other seven and 35 seconds on the peloton.
The leaders hold a 30 second gap on the peloton while the other seven are slipping back into the clutches of the peloton. Omega Pharma-QuickStep and Boonen are on the front. Their man is Jan Bakelants.
26km remaining from 221km
The four leaders complete the third climb of the day. This time Chavanel misses out on the points with De Marchi crossing the KOM point first.
Sky hit the front of the peloton and riders are being shelled out the back at a high rate. Arthur Vichot is sitting just behind them.
25km remaining from 221km
The advantage is now down ot 12 seconds Voeckler has had enough, but Chavanel pushes on to take the KOM points. It's a very steep climb here. riders weaving all over the place
John Degenkolb is still in the main group, but for how long?
Chavanel does what he set out to do and takes the KOM points. He's the only rider out front now, with the rest of his companions caught on that tough ascent.
Jose Serpa (Lampre) makes a jump off the front of the peloton with Romain Bardet (AG2R). They catch and immediately drop Chavanel.
23km remaining from 221km
Apologies the AG2R rider is Alexis Vuillermoz. They have a slim margin on the peloton.
21km remaining from 221km
The riders are heading up the first category climb of the Col de Bourigaille. The two leaders have caught by the peloton as Voeckler is now dropped.
It is Lieuwe Westra for Astana on the front now. Vincenzo Nibali is comfortably sitting in his wheel. Will Nibali try something on this finish?
His previous efforts are showing and Chavanel has been dropped by the group. It's going to be a lonely ride home for the Frenchman.
20km remaining from 221km
Westra swings off and Sky's David Lopez takes the front
Frank Schleck has a dig off the front and is joined by two more riders.
The other two riders are Stefan Denifl (IAM) and Vuillermoz once again. Denifl was active in yesterday's finale too.
Lots of riders trying their luck to bridge to these three leaders. Yury Trofimov and Przemyslaw Niemiec have a go.
19km remaining from 221km
They join the two leaders along with Eduardo Sepulveda of Bretagne Seche
Attack from Nibali, but it goes nowhere.
The riders are now over the top of the penultimate climb and on the descent.
18km remaining from 221km
The six leaders have 14 seconds on the Astana lead peloton.
The last two climbs have really whittled down the main bunch. It looks to be down to around 30 or 40 riders.
It's all together now with 14km to go as the six escapees are caught.
Dries Devenyns (Giant-Shimano) and Damiano Caruso go off the front of the peloton.
10km remaining from 221km
Devenyns and Caruso are really pushing hard. The twisty part of this decent is helping them the make a significant gap.
Once they hit the bottom, there is very little flat before they have to start climbing once again on the final ascent to the finish.
The leading pair have established a 12 second lead, but they will need much more than that it they hope to hold off some of the GC men. Sky don't looked panicked by this attack.
It is David Lopez on the front again. He has done a mountain of work on the front in the final stages as Vincenzo Nibali goes on the attack again.
7km remaining from 221km
Nibali using his famous descending skills to try and distance the peloton and he nearly hits a camera bike, which is too slow around a corner.
Nibali's attacks have done their work and they've caught the two leaders.
Some of the dropped riders are rejoining the lead group, swelling it's ranks. Astana playing both their cards with Nibali and Fuglsang. Simon Spilak has a go on his own.
Spilak is not a rider to be dismissed. He is quickly followed by Nibali.
Betancur looks to be struggling. He's got Bardet with him, but he doesn't look like he will take a second victory today. Michael Matthews has surprisingly managed to stay in this front group.
1km remaining from 221km
AG2R now take to the front of the peloton. Whatever was the problem with Betancur before seems to be sorted. He's sitting fourth wheel.
You can't put a good man down and Vuillermoz has gone on the attack again.
Stefan Denifl sets off in chase of Vuillermoz. Rui Costa is safely in the front of this main group.
Denefl is unsuccessful in his attempts to make it to Vuillermoz, although the AG2R rider is being pulled back pretty quickly.
Vincenzo Nibali dropped
Vuillermoz crashes out on a hairpin bend and is passed by the peloton. Rui Costa goes on the attack
Betancur passed Costa in the final couple of hundred metres to take his second victory. Thomas finished fourth.
Looks like there must have been a problem for Slagter. Camera switches back and he can be seen climbing back onto his bike before the finish.
Today's top five are 1. Carlos Betancur, 2. Rui Costa, 3. Zdenek Stybar, 4. Geraint Thomas and 5. Arthur Vichot.
Betancur is the new race leaders, with the bonus seconds he took at the finish. The new top 10 looks like this:
1. Carlos Betancur
2. Geraint Thomas +8
3. Rui Costa + 18
4. Zdenek Stybar +22
5. Jose Joaquin Rojas +24
6. Jakob Fuglsang +25
7. Arthur Vichot + 27
8. Jan Bakelants +29
9. Cyril Gautier +31
10. Stefan Denifl +31
That's it for today. See you tomorrow for stage 7 of Paris-Nice.
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