Paris-Nice: Molard surprises on stage 6 in Vence

Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) surprised with a hard-fought solo victory during stage 6 of Paris-Nice on the climb in Vence. Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) finished second in the chase ahead of Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors).

Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), raced in for fourth place, and kept his lead in the overall classification after a challenging finale that saw second placed Wout Poels (Team Sky) crash and break his collarbone. Alaphilippe moved into second place overall, now 22 seconds behind Sanchez while Marc Soler (Movistar) is third at 26 seconds.

It was only the second win of Molard's career, but a prestigious one ahead of some big names.

"It's fantastic, Groupama-FDJ's second victory Paris-Nice, and my first WorldTour victory," Molard said, adding he had some extra motivation and knowledge. "I live in Antibes nearby, I knew the final climb - I've done it a dozen times - and when the route for Paris-Nice was revealed in the winter I was delighted to see stage finish like that, one that's well suited to me. I was on a good day, it's fantastic."

The stinging climb of the Côte de la Colle sur Loup could have been a launching pad for victory, and AG2R La Mondiale's Alexis Vuillermoz gave it a go, but Team Sky's Sergio Henao chased him back. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) attacked over the top and set a blistering pace on the descent, but was unable to stay away.

"I knew that on the Côte de la Colle sur Loup I had to follow the wheels but not give it everything. I saw Vuillermoz was doing a lot but I decided to sit there without making any huge accelerations as I knew it would come down to later on," Molard revealed. "I felt good and knew that if I waited for a sprint I'd lose. I attacked a couple of times but the last one was the good one."

Sanchez hangs on, Poels abandons

Luis Leon Sanchez's hopes of clinging onto the overall lead in Paris-Nice received a significant boost this afternoon, when the Spaniard survived a series of sharp accelerations on the final climb to Vence, and then saw race favourite Wout Poels crash out on a high speed descent.

As Molard slipped ahead of the final selection of 16 riders on roads the 28 year old knows well from training, to take the fourth French stage win of the week, Poels was being transported to hospital in St Laurent du Var, with a broken collarbone, cuts to his left knee and chest trauma.

The Dutchman's crash leaves Team Sky with yet more problems. Not only was Poels expected to challenge for the race lead in the weekend's back to back mountain stages, he was also slated to ride as key support — and possible substitute leader — to Chris Froome in the year's first Grand Tour, the Giro d'Italia.

"The guys went down a pretty steep descent and the race was full on," said Team Sky's sports director Gabriel Rasch. "I'm not sure what happened but Wout couldn't make the corner and hit the barriers."

With two stages remaining, including tomorrow's summit finish to Valdeblore La Colmiane, Sanchez's main rivals — Julian Alaphilippe, of Quick Step, Marc Soler of Movistar and Tim Wellens or Lotto Soudal — are running out of road on which to attack the Spaniard and to break down his Astana team's solid defence.

With Poels out of the race, Team Sky will now throw their weight behind defending Paris-Nice champion Sergio Henao. "Sergio looked good," Rasch said. "He had to pay for some of the work he was doing in the last four kilometres but he looked strong. We'll go all in for him now."

Chaos out of the gate

The 198-kilometre sixth stage of Paris-Nice left Sisteron under clear blue skies as it headed south through the Alpes-Maritimes towards Vence, overlooking the Cote d'Azur.

Not for the first time, there were some non-starters, further depleting the sprinters, with misfiring fast men, John Degenkolb and Nacer Bouhanni, both heading home due to illness.

A fast start was also marked by a bizarre incident after only 25 kilometres when the whole peloton took a rare wrong turn and found themselves mixing with the traffic on open roads.

Soon afterwards as the race got back on course, a six-man break, containing Lars Bak (Lotto Soudal), Amael Moinard (Fortuneo-Samsic), Paul Martens (LottoNL-Jumbo), Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis), Thomas Scully (EF-Drapac) and Fabien Grellier (Direct Energie) moved up the road.

They were joined by another seven riders, Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates), stage five escapee, Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Carlos Barbero (Movistar), Dylan Teuns (BMC), stage one winner, Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) and Bert Van Lerberghe (Cofidis).

In a fast first hour, and despite going off course, the peloton clocked 46 kilometres of racing and the high speed took its toll on the breakaway on the steady drags towards Saint-Andre-les-Alpes, where the break fragmented as BMC's Dylan Teuns, best placed in the overall standings, dropped out of the move.

The ever-reliable breakaway specialist Thomas de Gendt — who else? — pushed on and led over the climb of the Col de Luens and the Col Bas, but with 50 kilometres still to race the group had dwindled to just four riders, De Gendt, Greilleir, Moinard and Scully.

But by the time the race reached the Cote de Gourdon with Mitchelton Scott chasing hard, the break's lead was down to half a minute. Although race leader Sanchez was dropped due to a puncture, as was Dan Martin (UAE), the Spaniard was soon back in the bunch as the peloton finally closed down the break with 22 kilometres to race.

From there on, it was all about positioning and on the steep tight bends of the Cote de la Colle sur Loup, Simon Yates played his hand, moving ahead with Alaphilipp and Poels as Sanchez slipped back a little.

It was Yates' flying descent on a bad surface that drew out Poels and led to the Dutchman's high-speed crash as the leaders rejoined a main road. With Poels prone, Yates pressed on with Tim Wellens, but a regrouping of the major favourites in the final kilometres allowed Molard to slip away as the group entered the final kilometre.

The Frenchman's acceleration, allied to a moment's hesitancy among the favourites, took him clear to the biggest win of a career, in which his only other success had been a stage in the Tour of Limousin.

Molard's win, hot on the heels of Jerome Cousin's mugging of Nils Pollit on the road to Sisteron, is further evidence of a French renaissance.

"Every year I progress," Molard, based in nearby Antibes, said. "I started the season with a good foundation and this win confirms that.

"French cycling is now at a high level, you can see that in the results here and in the Grand Tours," he said. "I don't have any specific explanation but we are on the right track and the race isn't over yet. I hope French riders shine right through to Sunday."

With four stage wins out of six, not since 1989 has the home nation enjoyed such a successful Paris-Nice. The dream scenarios now for the hosts is for Alaphilippe to seize the day and become the first French rider since Laurent Jalabert, 21 years ago, to win the 'Course au Soleil.' 

Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ4:40:05
2Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:00:02
3Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step FloorsRow 2 - Cell 2
4Luis León Sanchez (Spa) Astana Pro TeamRow 3 - Cell 2
5Sam Oomen (Ned) Team SunwebRow 4 - Cell 2
6Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 5 - Cell 2
7Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-HansgroheRow 6 - Cell 2
8Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-ScottRow 7 - Cell 2
9Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-MeridaRow 8 - Cell 2
10Sergio Henao (Col) Team SkyRow 9 - Cell 2
11Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-MeridaRow 10 - Cell 2
12Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 11 - Cell 2
13David De La Cruz (Spa) Team SkyRow 12 - Cell 2
14Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Mitchelton-ScottRow 13 - Cell 2
15Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-ScottRow 14 - Cell 2
16Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 15 - Cell 2
17Remy Di Gregorio (Fra) Delko Marseille Provence KTM0:00:44
18Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct EnergieRow 17 - Cell 2
19Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-SegafredoRow 18 - Cell 2
20Pierre Rolland (Fra) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 19 - Cell 2
21Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro TeamRow 20 - Cell 2
22Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) BMC Racing Team0:01:11
23Delio Fernandez Cruz (Spa) Delko Marseille Provence KTMRow 22 - Cell 2
24Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-AlpecinRow 23 - Cell 2
25Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-HansgroheRow 24 - Cell 2
26Jarlinson Pantano (Col) Trek-SegafredoRow 25 - Cell 2
27Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Movistar TeamRow 26 - Cell 2
28Jose Herrada (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:02:20
29Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 28 - Cell 2
30Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 29 - Cell 2
31Timo Roosen (Ned) LottoNL-JumboRow 30 - Cell 2
32Yves Lampaert (Bel) Quick-Step FloorsRow 31 - Cell 2
33Natnael Berhane (Eri) Dimension Data0:03:36
34Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 33 - Cell 2
35Nicolas Roche (Irl) BMC Racing TeamRow 34 - Cell 2
36Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain-Merida0:03:40
37Warren Barguil (Fra) Fortuneo-SamsicRow 36 - Cell 2
38Eduardo Sepulveda (Arg) Movistar TeamRow 37 - Cell 2
39Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Direct Energie0:04:16
40Axel Domont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:05:15
41Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La MondialeRow 40 - Cell 2
42Matti Breschel (Den) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 41 - Cell 2
43Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek-SegafredoRow 42 - Cell 2
44Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 43 - Cell 2
45Cyril Gautier (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 44 - Cell 2
46Romain Combaud (Fra) Delko Marseille Provence KTMRow 45 - Cell 2
47Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 46 - Cell 2
48Pawel Poljanski (Pol) Bora-HansgroheRow 47 - Cell 2
49Tiago Machado (Por) Katusha-AlpecinRow 48 - Cell 2
50Dayer Quintana (Col) Movistar TeamRow 49 - Cell 2
51Luka Pibernik (Slo) Bahrain-Merida0:06:28
52Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo0:06:48
53Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team SunwebRow 52 - Cell 2
54Lawson Craddock (USA) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 53 - Cell 2
55Mitchell Docker (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 54 - Cell 2
56Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing TeamRow 55 - Cell 2
57Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step FloorsRow 56 - Cell 2
58Pavel Kochetkov (Rus) Katusha-AlpecinRow 57 - Cell 2
59Manuele Boaro (Ita) Bahrain-Merida0:09:36
60Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-ScottRow 59 - Cell 2
61Ivan Garcia (Spa) Bahrain-MeridaRow 60 - Cell 2
62Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 61 - Cell 2
63Louis Vervaeke (Bel) Team SunwebRow 62 - Cell 2
64Roy Curvers (Ned) Team SunwebRow 63 - Cell 2
65Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 64 - Cell 2
66Benjamin King (USA) Dimension DataRow 65 - Cell 2
67Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension DataRow 66 - Cell 2
68Gregory Rast (Swi) Trek-SegafredoRow 67 - Cell 2
69Simon Gerrans (Aus) BMC Racing TeamRow 68 - Cell 2
70Olivier Le Gac (Fra) Groupama-FDJRow 69 - Cell 2
71Laurent Pichon (Fra) Fortuneo-SamsicRow 70 - Cell 2
72Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 71 - Cell 2
73Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 72 - Cell 2
74Dan Martin (Irl) UAE Team EmiratesRow 73 - Cell 2
75Hector Carretero (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 74 - Cell 2
76Anthony Delaplace (Fra) Fortuneo-SamsicRow 75 - Cell 2
77Jerome Cousin (Fra) Direct EnergieRow 76 - Cell 2
78Ian Stannard (GBr) Team SkyRow 77 - Cell 2
79David Lopez Garcia (Spa) Team SkyRow 78 - Cell 2
80Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Quick-Step Floors0:11:27
81Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step FloorsRow 80 - Cell 2
81Diego Rosa (Ita) Team SkyRow 81 - Cell 2
83Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-AlpecinRow 82 - Cell 2
84Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Lotto SoudalRow 83 - Cell 2
85André Greipel (Ger) Lotto SoudalRow 84 - Cell 2
86Michael Valgren (Den) Astana Pro TeamRow 85 - Cell 2
87Juraj Sagan (Svk) Bora-HansgroheRow 86 - Cell 2
88Michael Schwarzmann (Ger) Bora-HansgroheRow 87 - Cell 2
89Jelle Wallays (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 88 - Cell 2
90Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 89 - Cell 2
91Pierre Luc Perichon (Fra) Fortuneo-SamsicRow 90 - Cell 2
92Carlos Barbero (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 91 - Cell 2
93Tom Scully (NZl) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 92 - Cell 2
94Alex Edmondson (Aus) Mitchelton-ScottRow 93 - Cell 2
95Amael Moinard (Fra) Fortuneo-SamsicRow 94 - Cell 2
96Mathew Hayman (Aus) Mitchelton-ScottRow 95 - Cell 2
97Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Mitchelton-ScottRow 96 - Cell 2
98Thomas Boudat (Fra) Direct Energie0:12:59
99Jay Thomson (RSA) Dimension Data0:13:04
100Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Team SkyRow 99 - Cell 2
101Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) UAE Team EmiratesRow 100 - Cell 2
102Oliviero Troia (Ita) UAE Team EmiratesRow 101 - Cell 2
103Julien El Fares (Fra) Delko Marseille Provence KTMRow 102 - Cell 2
104Tim Declercq (Bel) Quick-Step Floors0:14:11
105Paul Martens (Ger) LottoNL-JumboRow 104 - Cell 2
106Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) AG2R La MondialeRow 105 - Cell 2
107Przemyslaw Kasperkiewicz (Pol) Delko Marseille Provence KTMRow 106 - Cell 2
108Rory Sutherland (Aus) UAE Team EmiratesRow 107 - Cell 2
109Ian Boswell (USA) Katusha-AlpecinRow 108 - Cell 2
110Magnus Cort (Den) Astana Pro Team0:15:29
111Omar Fraile (Spa) Astana Pro TeamRow 110 - Cell 2
112Hugo Houle (Can) Astana Pro TeamRow 111 - Cell 2
113Ryan Gibbons (RSA) Dimension Data0:18:01
114Johann Van Zyl (RSA) Dimension DataRow 113 - Cell 2
115Lars Bak (Den) Lotto SoudalRow 114 - Cell 2
116Michael Mørkøv (Den) Quick-Step FloorsRow 115 - Cell 2
117Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Groupama-FDJRow 116 - Cell 2
118Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team EmiratesRow 117 - Cell 2
119Markel Irizar (Spa) Trek-SegafredoRow 118 - Cell 2
120Fabien Grellier (Fra) Direct EnergieRow 119 - Cell 2
121Mickael Delage (Fra) Groupama-FDJRow 120 - Cell 2
122Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 121 - Cell 2
123Antonio Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-MeridaRow 122 - Cell 2
124Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Direct Energie0:18:32
125Koen de Kort (Ned) Trek-Segafredo0:20:13
126Brenton Jones (Aus) Delko Marseille Provence KTMRow 125 - Cell 2
127Erik Baska (Svk) Bora-HansgroheRow 126 - Cell 2
128Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 127 - Cell 2
129Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 128 - Cell 2
130Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Groupama-FDJ0:22:22
131Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJRow 130 - Cell 2
132Evaldas Siskevicius (Ltu) Delko Marseille Provence KTM0:26:30
DNFWout Poels (Ned) Team SkyRow 132 - Cell 2
DNFBen Swift (GBr) UAE Team EmiratesRow 133 - Cell 2
DNSMaurits Lammertink (Ned) Katusha-AlpecinRow 134 - Cell 2
DNSJohn Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-SegafredoRow 135 - Cell 2
DNFIgnatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Groupama-FDJRow 136 - Cell 2
DNSKevin Ledanois (Fra) Fortuneo-SamsicRow 137 - Cell 2
DNSThomas Leezer (Ned) LottoNL-JumboRow 138 - Cell 2
DNSChristopher Hamilton (Aus) Team SunwebRow 139 - Cell 2
DNSNacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 140 - Cell 2
DNSTom-Jelte Slagter (Ned) Dimension DataRow 141 - Cell 2
DNFAngelo Tulik (Fra) Direct EnergieRow 142 - Cell 2
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Sprint 1 - D17 Préfaissal, km. 36.5
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Carlos Barbero (Spa) Movistar Team3pts
2Tom Scully (NZl) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale2Row 1 - Cell 3
3Fabien Grellier (Fra) Direct Energie1Row 2 - Cell 3
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Sprint 2 - Vc Saint-Paul-De-Vence, km. 192.5
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott3pts
2Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky2Row 1 - Cell 3
3Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal1Row 2 - Cell 3
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Points
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ15pts
2Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal12Row 1 - Cell 3
3Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors9Row 2 - Cell 3
4Luis León Sanchez (Spa) Astana Pro Team7Row 3 - Cell 3
5Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb6Row 4 - Cell 3
6Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team5Row 5 - Cell 3
7Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe4Row 6 - Cell 3
8Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott3Row 7 - Cell 3
9Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida2Row 8 - Cell 3
10Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky1Row 9 - Cell 3
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Mountain 1 (Cat. 2) Col de Luens, km. 101
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal7pts
2Fabien Grellier (Fra) Direct Energie5Row 1 - Cell 3
3Lars Bak (Den) Lotto Soudal3Row 2 - Cell 3
4Amael Moinard (Fra) Fortuneo-Samsic2Row 3 - Cell 3
5Tom Scully (NZl) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale1Row 4 - Cell 3
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Mountain 1 (Cat. 2) Col Bas, km. 121
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal7pts
2Fabien Grellier (Fra) Direct Energie5Row 1 - Cell 3
3Amael Moinard (Fra) Fortuneo-Samsic3Row 2 - Cell 3
4Tom Scully (NZl) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale2Row 3 - Cell 3
5Carlos Barbero (Spa) Movistar Team1Row 4 - Cell 3
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Mountain 1 (Cat. 2) Côte de Cipières, km. 149
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal7pts
2Fabien Grellier (Fra) Direct Energie5Row 1 - Cell 3
3Amael Moinard (Fra) Fortuneo-Samsic3Row 2 - Cell 3
4Carlos Barbero (Spa) Movistar Team2Row 3 - Cell 3
5Tom Scully (NZl) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale1Row 4 - Cell 3
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Mountain 1 (Cat. 2) Côte de Gourdon, km. 159.5
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal7pts
2Fabien Grellier (Fra) Direct Energie5Row 1 - Cell 3
3Amael Moinard (Fra) Fortuneo-Samsic3Row 2 - Cell 3
4Carlos Barbero (Spa) Movistar Team2Row 3 - Cell 3
5Tom Scully (NZl) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale1Row 4 - Cell 3
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