Reuters - Sat, 13 Mar 17:08:00 2010
Spain's Xavier Tondo held off the peloton to snatch the sixth stage of the Paris-Nice race after a 180-km breakaway.
Cervelo 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 said.
"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."
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.
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 team mate 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 favourites' 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 collaborate and the Spaniard flew to a deserved win.
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.
Organisers said he was taken to hospital with a hip injury and was to undergo checks.
The four others managed to get back on their bikes and cross the line.
Stage 7 - Sunday 12.45pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player