Sylvain Chavanel Paris Nice stage 6
(Image credit: LUC CLAESSEN)

The Col du Tanneron exacted a terrible toll on yellow jersey Robert Gesink on the road to Cannes. An Italian coalition saw the Dutchman lose the race lead that many expected him to carry all the way to Nice.

Behind stage winner Sylvain Chavanel, whose aggression throughout the race was finally rewarded, Gesink was left isolated. The Rabobank rider, so impressive on Mont Ventoux two days ago, was isolated after a chaotic, crash-filled descent left him chasing on his own on the run-in to Cannes.

Gesink made it to the top of the climb in the company of a mini-peloton of 40 riders. But an aggressive posse of dangerous rivals attacked him hard on the downhill. Gesink, isolated from his team-mates, was unable to follow, and into a strong headwind, he lost time all the way to Cannes

Ahead, Davide Rebellin and Rinaldo Nocentini, aided by countryman Damiano Cunego, rode for all they were worth to distance Gesink. And Rebellin, who was ambushed in a similar fashion into Nice last year by Alberto Contador, took over the race lead by three seconds from Nocentini.

It looked as if the main contenders were going to take a day off, after a leading group of five made it to the foot of the Tanneron three minutes clear of the peloton. But while Bobby Julich, Chris Sorensen, Bernhard Kohl, Alekandr Kushcynski and Matthieu Sprick, struggled over the hill, the Caisse d?Epargne and Silence teams were trying to cook something up behind them.

Both teams set a hard pace up the Tanneron, reducing the front group to 30 or 40 riders, including Robert Gesink, but crucially, none of his team-mates. It still didn?t look like an emergency when Gesink cruised over the top of the climb at the side of his main rivals.

But the descent of the Tanneron starts with an extended section of false flat. Gesink was on his own here, and his rivals knew it, taking turns in attacking him and forcing him to close gaps. Sylvain Chavanel, a confident descender, made an attack which took Damiano Cunego, Davide Rebellin, Rinaldo Nocentini and Luis Leon Sanchez with him.

Suddenly, a gap appeared in front of Gesink?s front wheel, and this time he couldn?t close it. While old Paris-Nice hand Davide Rebellin, who knew the descent like the back of his hand, swooped down ahead, Gesink looked blocked, and lost lengths on every sharp corner.

By the time the race hit the flat road into Cannes, into a strong headwind, there were bodies all over the place. Rebellin?s group had made contact with his team mate Bernhard Kohl, the second-last survivor from the escape group. This now looked like a Gerolsteiner masterstroke, and Kohl buried himself for his team leader.

Into Cannes, the lead group mopped up lone survivor Bobby Julich, and set about making sure that Gesink would not get back on. Behind, Gesink faced the heart-breaking task of pursuing, with 15 riders sitting on his wheel, and only Frenchman Clément Lhotellerie, fighting to stay in the top 10, willing to lend a hand. To make things worse, another group of 13, including fourth placed Yaroslav Popovych, was ahead of Gesink, and also gaining time on him.

The Dutchman didn?t stand a chance, and his total deficit to Rebellin by the finish line was 1-29. The lead group only started in-fighting in the final kilometre, with an attack by Bobby Julich, and then the race-winning attack by Chavanel.

As quickly as the yellow jersey came to Robert Gesink, it left him again. He may be the fastest climber in the world at the moment, but that counts for naught if he can?t go down the other side.

Stage six

Sylvain Chavanel wins the stage

Damiano Cunego looks robbed with his fourth place

Davide Rebellin pulls on the leader's jersey. All photos by Luc Claessen/ISPA

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1 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis 206km in 5-00-25

2 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d?Epargneat 0-02

3 Bobby Julich (USA) CSCst

4 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lamprest

5 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteinerat 0-06

6 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondialest

7 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quick Stepat 0-44

8 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricolest

9 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Bouygues Telecomst

10 Aurélion Passeron (Fra) Saunier Duvalst

Selected other results

13 Gorka Verdugo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadist

14 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Quick Stepst

18 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Silence-Lottost

33 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobankat 1-29

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1 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner 26-11-31

2 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondialeat 0-03

3 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Silence-Lottoat 0-48

4 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobankat 0-51

5 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Quick Stepat 1-12

6 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d?Epargneat 1-24

7 Gorka Verdugo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadiat 2-17

8 Carlos Barredo (Spa) Quick Stepat 2-33

9 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidisat 2-39

10 Alexander Efimkin (Rus) Caisse d?Epargneat 3-21

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The final stage of Paris-Nice is no procession to the finish. Although the stage is only 115km long, there are three first category climbs, with the last one only 14km from the end.

The first climb is the 1,068m Col de la Porte, which comes 50 kilometres in.

But it?s the second half of the stage which is likely to see fireworks. The climb to La Turbie at 88km is followed by the traditional final ascent of the Col d?Eze above Nice. Last year, Alberto Contador stole the lead from Davide Rebellin on this final climb. Will anybody be able to do the same to the Italian this year?

The stage is expected to finish between 1635 and 1655 local time.


Stage six: Gesink sinks

Stage five: Quick Step make it three

Stage four: Evans above

Stage three: Flying Finn takes the win

Stage two: Steegmans back on top

Stage one: Steegmans rides the storm

Prologue: Hushovd wins


Gesink: I need to learn how to descend

Interview: Cadel Evans

Paris-Nice photo gallery: new photos added daily

Millar out of Paris-Nice

Stage four analysis

Stage three analysis

Stage one analysis

Millar goes down but isn't out

Prologue analysis: winners and losers

Big names line up for Paris-Nice and defy UCI

Teams vote to ride Paris-Nice

Paris-Nice preview: does the route suit David Millar?


Days two and three

Day one

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