An unsurprising result today in a race that has held its share of surprises. Alberto Contador celebrated a solo victory on the summit of the Montagne de Lure. The Spanish grand tour winner took his second stage win of this Paris-Nice and secured the leader's jersey. With 1.13 in hand over second-placed Luis Leon Sanchez of Caisse d'Épargne, Contador faces few obstacles to overall victory in Nice.
A break of seven riders enlivened the early kilometers. Javier Aramendia of Euskaldi-Euskaltel, Romain Feillu of Agritubel, Niki Terspra of Milram, Cyril Lemoine Skil-Shimano, Christophe Riblon of AG2R-La Mondiale, Alan Perez of Euskaldi-Euskaltel, and Sebastien Turgot of BBox Bouygues Telecom decided to give their legs a stretch. Yesterday's stage winnner Jeremy Roy of Française des Jeux soon joined them. Nobody likes to be left out. Kilometers passed.
With just over 13 kilometers to ride, the road turned up and the real race began. Sebastian Joly of Française des Jeux and Jens Voigt of Saxo Bank went early. Voigt no doubt hoped to set up his team-mate Frank Schleck, riding high in the general. Eight kilometers from the finish, Contador made his winning move. Only Frank Schleck of Saxo Bank and Antonio Colom of Katyusha could follow. Their defiance did not last, and less than two kilometers later Contador dispatched them with another sharp acceleration. The Spanish climber crossed the line alone. In the final six kilometers, Contador extracted 58 seconds from Frank Schleck, who finished second, followed by Luis Leon Sanchez, who finished on same time with Schleck. Contador said later, "I suffered in the last four kilometres and gave it my all because I knew there were two dangerous riders behind me. But eventually I managed to make the difference." Indeed.
Behind the flying Contador, Sylvain Chavanel, who began the day as race leader, could not follow the violent accelerations of the climbers, but nonetheless, tapped out a steady rhythm. Though Chavanel could not defend his lead against Contador, he succeeded in holding third place overall and kept alive his chances of a podium finish in Nice. Despite losing the leader's jersey, Chavanel rated his Paris-Nice "more than successful." The French rider won a stage, wore the leader's jersey for three days, and remains well-placed in the overall. French climber David Moncoutié, who won on Mont Faron at the Tour de Med, also showed his good form today, finishing fifth on the stage.
Alberto Contador leads the general classification by 1.13 over Luis Leon Sanchez of Caisse d'Épargne and 1.24 over former race leader Sylvain Chavanel. Frank Schleck of Saxo Bank sits fourth at 1.38, and could still climb on the podium in the race's final stages.
It was an unfortunate day for French rider Thomas Voeckler of Bbox Bouygues-Telecom, who suffered a crash early in the stage. Voeckler has animated the race and was on screaming form after winning Étoile des Bessèges and Tour du Haut Var. After today's crash, he will undergo surgery for a broken shoulder. No word yet on how long he will be out of action. We wish him a speedy recovery!