Geraint Thomas just missed out on the stage win at Paris-Nice as his late attack was bettered by Ilnur Zakarin. However, the strong ride puts the Team Sky rider into the overall lead with only one stage remaining.
The British rider launched in sight of the summit finish line and left Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and Richie Porte (BMC Racing) well behind. However, the Katusha rider came round him at the last and got his arms in the air.
Second on the line and in the same time as the winner is enough to put Thomas in the yellow leader’s jersey, provisionally 15 seconds ahead of Contador on GC.
It was Contador who attacked first on the climb up to La Madone d’Utelle, but with the help of Sergio Henao, Thomas was well placed to marshall the move. Porte also tried to go solo on the upper slopes but his move was shortlived.
Other GC hopefuls such as Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) were off the pace and could not stay with the front group.
At its largest, the day’s original breakaway consisted of seven riders and one chaser, and they pushed their lead to a maximum of 2-25. Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre-Merida), Cyril Gautier (Direct Energie), Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quick Step), Gregory Rast (Trek-Segafredo), Antoine Duchesne (Direct Energie), Florian Vachon (Fortuneo–Vital Concept) and Evaldas Siskevicius (Delko Marseille Provence KTM) were ahead, with Andrew Talansky (Cannondale) chasing.
Talansky later abandoned the race with a wrist injury. Duchesne faired better and was able to attack solo with 35km left to race. His former breakaway companions were swept up by the peloton, but the Canadian forged on ahead and held the main bunch at just shy of a minute.
Once the GC teams came through hopes of a solo win were dashed and the main players came to the fore to battle for stage and overall honours.
Paris-Nice stage six, Nice to Madone d’Utelle (177km)
1. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha at 4-45-11
2. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, st
3. Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff at 1s
4. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing at 7s
5. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky at 10s
6. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-GreenEdge at 20s
7. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida at 31s
8. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale at 31s
9. Jon Izaguirre (Esp) Movistar, st
10. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Soudal, st
Overall standings after stage six
1. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky at 24-10-26
2. Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff at 15s
3. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha at 20s
4. Riche Porte (Aus) BMC Racing at 21s
5. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin at 32s
6. Jon Izaguirre (Esp) Movistar at 37s
7. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky, st
8. Simon Yates (GBr) Team Sky at 44s
9. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Soudal at 51s
10. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale at 1-00