Cervelo TestTeam's Tondo Wins Sixth Stage of Paris-Nice 2010; Contador Retains Lead
Alberto Contador (Team Astana) leads Alejandro Valverde (Team Caisse d'Epargne) by 14 seconds overall before tomorrow's final stage.
Cervelo TestTeam's Xavier Tondo held off the peloton to snatch the sixth stage of the Paris-Nice race after a 180-km breakaway on Saturday.
Spanish rider Tondo attacked a group of fugitives in the final ascent and never looked back to clinch his 10th career victory at the end of a 220-km effort from Peynier.
"It was a really difficult stage today. It went very fast," Tondo told reporters.
"It's incredible. I made a big mistake yesterday that cost me over two minutes but it allowed me to break away today. It's the best victory of my career."
"It was incredible, really," Xavier Tondo added after the stage finish. "All the way I felt really good. The breakaway was really fast, but when I started the mountains, I felt really good. I attacked early, because I know that if I arrived with Cunego, it would be very fast, and it would be impossible for me to get the victory. The Cervelo bike was incredible. Really fast. Really rigid. I really enjoy every moment on this bike. "
Compatriot Alejandro Valverde was second, five seconds behind, according to provisional results, and snatched six seconds of bonuses to narrow the gap on overall leader Alberto Contador to 14 seconds.
Slovakian Peter Sagan, who has won two stages in the race, was third.
The whole Astana team kept their cool and let others do most of the chasing work as Contador retained the overall lead before of Sunday's final stage in Nice.
A group of 23, including American Levi Leipheimer, France's Sylvain Chavanel, the biggest threat to Contador's lead, and former Giro champion Damiano Cunego, broke away after 40 kilometres.
The peloton, with the Astana, Liquigas, Garmin Transitions and Caisse d'Epargne teams swapping positions at the front, controlled the gap around 1:30 with Contador perfectly protected by his domestiques.
But Leipheimer's RadioShack teammate Tiago Machado stepped up a gear in the fugitives' group to stretch the lead to 2:15.
Tondo attacked in the demanding ascent to the Col de Vence and was followed by Cunego and Frenchman Cyril Gautier.
Tondo was the strongest of the trio and he went solo midway through the climb as the other fugitives were caught one by one by the favorites' group, led by the Caisse d'Epargne team.
There was only Cunego left in between, but the Italian surrendered with 15 km left.
A group of seven, including five Frenchmen, powered out of the main pack to chase down Tondo but they did not manage to collaborate and the Spaniard flew to a deserved win. Up, up we go.
Five riders were involved in a scary crash some 45 km from the finish while riding at full speed in a descent, with Frenchman Arnaud Gerard being forced to pull out although he did not appear to have sustained any serious injury.
The four others managed to get back on their bikes and cross the line.
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