Paris - Nice

Wiggins one step away

Leipheimer's hopes derailed by crashes

Last updated: 10th March 2012

Bradley Wiggins remains in pole position heading into Sunday's individual time trial which rounds off Paris-Nice.

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"It's now up to Brad to do the best he possibly can in the time trial on Sunday - may the best man win."

Sean Yates

The Team Sky rider retained his six seconds advantage at the top of the overall standings after finishing safely in the peloton - unlike big rival Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) - at the end of the 219.5 kilometres penultimate stage from Sisteron to Nice which was won by Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM).

De Gendt and Rein Taamarae (Cofidis) broke clear of the field after 48km and as both were at least 15 minutes down on the general classification they were allowed to open up a gap of nearly 13 minutes.

That held steady and it was on the final climb up the first category Col de Vence that De Gendt shook off his breakaway companion and soloed the final 54km as the 'Race To The Sun' reached the Mediterranean coast.

Crossing the line in Nice, De Gendt had 6:18 to spare over Taamarae, with John Degenkolb (Project 1t4i) winning the bunch sprint for third place and the final four bonus seconds.

Teamwork

That was an ideal situation for Wiggins and Team Sky who had again been watchful throughout on the front.

They had been reduced to seven men early on when Christian Knees, who had been battling a cold, abandoned the race but that didn't stop them from controlling matters to protect Wiggins' advantage.

Even in the closing kilometres the likes of Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte did big turns on the front to keep the pace high in an attempt to keep his rivals at bay.

One who had already been ruled out by that point was Leipheimer, in third at the start of the day, who was caught up in two crashes and then as he tried to chase back on in the final run to Nice he hit the deck for a third time to end his chances.

It all means the general classification going into the final 9.6km uphill time trial on the Col d'Eze sees Wiggins, who is attempting to become only the second Briton after Tommy Simpson to win Paris-Nice, with a six seconds lead over Lieuwe Westra. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is 18 seconds adrift in third and it's then 37 seconds and more back to the rest.

Focus on Wiggins

Reflecting on another job well done, Sports Director Sean Yates said: "It was a tough day in the office early on for the boys as it took much longer for the break to go today and was hard work at the beginning.

"With Christian being sick it didn’t help the cause but they managed to be gutsy and hang on in there. When the break did form it was the perfect scenario for us as De Gendt and Taamarae were 15 minutes and 30 minutes back respectively on the GC.

"From then on it was just a question of making sure the gap didn’t go beyond 15 minutes and the boys rode well again in a real show of strength.

"It’s now up to Brad to do the best he possibly can in the time trial on Sunday - may the best man win."

That was echoed by Danny Pate who told us: "It was a hard start to the day because it took about an hour or so for the right break to go and before that we were pushing ourselves to try and cover every move. Once that had happened though we could relax a little bit.

"Thomas and Rein weren't big threats on the GC, so that's why we let their lead go out as far as it did, and then it was just a matter of everybody helping get Brad home safely."

Meanwhile Porte explained: "It was a fast and sketchy descent off the Col de Vence and we saw a few crashes happen right around us but thankfully we all stayed up today.

"Movistar were really pushing the pace for a while but when it became clear that the two guys weren't going to be caught, it was left to us to lead the peloton back to the line. That's why we sat G and the front and Bradley was right behind him to stay out of trouble."

Looking ahead to the final day, Porte added: "I'll be going full gas on the time trial tomorrow because I want to see where I am after my illness and my fall earlier in the week, but it's what Bradley does that everyone will be looking at and it would be an amazing achievement if he can wrap up the win."