Primož Roglič outsprinted Michael Matthews (BikeExchange) and Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) to take the stage six win at Paris-Nice and solidify his position atop the GC.
The Slovenian took 10 more bonus seconds to extend his overall lead to 41 seconds over Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) with two stages remaining, the yellow jersey now his to lose.
With the final 2km averaging 5.1 per cent, the likes of Sam Bennett (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) were dropped as the speed picked up, leaving Roglič to capitalise from Laporte’s lead-out and hold the Frenchman off across the line, Matthews finishing third.
How it happened
While the big race news of the morning was that it wouldn’t reach Nice for a second year in a row, stages seven and eight being altered after the mayor denied entry to the city as the French Riviera remains in coronavirus lockdown, Remy Cavagna (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates) were the first two to escape off the front as the bunch left Brignoles.
Alex Kirsch (Trek-Segafredo) and Damien Touzé (Ag2r Citroën) then tried to bridge across as Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) suffered a puncture.
Trentin soon tired of his breakaway move, leaving Cavagna off the front alone, before the Frenchman also sat up and the race came back together.
Cofidis’ Anthony Perez then pulled Ben Swift (Ineos Grenadiers), Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and Casper Pedersen (DSM) clear with 150km to go, with Perez then takin the KOM points atop the Côte des Tuilières as more riders made it across, including Vitor Campaenaerts (B&B Hotels) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Premier Tech).
Perez’s escapees soon had a gap of nearly three minutes up the road as the peloton relented, with Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo), Lutsenko, Campenaerts, Julien El Fares and Jonathan Hivert making the cut.
Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) crashed with under 110km remaining, forced to abandon and vacate the third spot in the general classification, soon followed by BikeExchange’s Kaden Groves.
The break kept it up over the next 40km, as BikeExchange led the bunch behind for Michael Matthews, and nearing 50km to go Perez and El Fares were dropped from the break as the remaining escapees were led through the intermediate sprint by Alexey Lutsenko.
Jumbo-Visma took over on the front on the final climb of the day, the Côte de Gourdon, cutting the gap to around two minutes, as Bennett was detached as the speed increased, although would make it back on with 40km to go.
Schachmann, second on GC, had to chase back on after a mechanical, while up ahead Lutsenko got a puncture too, soon finding himself in no man’s land between the break and the bunch.
Into the final 25km and Lutsenko was 15 seconds off the front, the peloton 50 seconds behind as they began to close in. As the road began to head uphill again, Elissonde dropped his former collaborators to go it alone, as the likes of Mads Pedersen and Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) were distanced, as well as Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ).
Elissonde still had 24 seconds with 16km remaining, as Bennett hung on behind, with Jonas Rutsch (EF-Nippo) countering as the French escapee came into view, bridging across to him.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step took over on the front, keeping Elissonde and Rustch on a tight leash, as Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana) suffered a puncture.
Rutsch was getting annoyed with the lack of effort being put in by Elissonde, perhaps unfairly so given how the Trek rider had spent a lot more of the day off the front, while Omar Fraile’s quick bike donation to Vlasov allowed the Russian to rejoin the peloton before the finish.
Into the final 4km and Rutsch and Elissonde were only six seconds ahead, the catch inevitable, Elissonde giving up a couple of kilometres later. Rutsch was then finally caught with a solitary kilometre remaining.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s Florian Sénéchal ramped the pace up with Roglič on his wheel, Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic) and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) dropped, Bennett following suit not long after.
Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) then kicked with 400m to go, Roglič still in second wheel and Martin’s team-mate Christophe Laporte behind him.
Roglič was then left on the front with 200m to the line, and won the sprint with ease, holding off Laporte to the line and taking 10 more bonus seconds to extend his GC lead.
Stage six, Brignoles to Biot (202.4km)
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, in 4-40-22
2. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, at same time
3. Michael Matthews (Aus) BikeExchange
4. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Victorious
5. Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Fra) Ag2r Ctiroën
6. Lucas Hamilton (Aus) BikeExchange
7. Bryan Coquard (Fra) B&B Hotels
8. Quentin Pacher (Fra) B&B Hotels
9. Sergio Henao (Col) Qhubeka-Assos
10. Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Start-Up Nation, all at same time
General classification after stage six
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, in 23-22-53
2. Max Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 41 seconds
3. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Astana Premier Tech, at 50s
4. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana Premier Tech, at 51s
5. Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar, at 1-08
6. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) DSM, at 1-14
7. Lucas Hamilton (Aus) BikeExchange, at 1-16
8. Luis León Sánchez (Esp) Astana Premier Tech, at 1-21
9. Pierre Latour (Fra) Total Direct Energie, at same time
10. Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Fra) Ag2r Citroën, at 1-23