Cycling

Zakarin wins Paris-Nice stage, Thomas claims yellow

Ilnur Zakarin (AFP)
Ilnur Zakarin (AFP)

Utelle - Britain's Geraint Thomas took a huge step towards winning Paris-Nice as he finished second behind Russian Ilnur Zakarin in Saturday's sixth and penultimate stage.

Thomas took the race leader's yellow jersey off Australian Michael Matthews in the only uphill finish of the race after 177km from Nice to La Madone d'Utelle.

Two-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador was third on the stage a second back with reigning champion Richie Porte of Australia, who was Thomas's team leader at Sky last year, taking fourth at 7sec.

Thomas now leads by 15sec overall from Contador with Katusha rider Zakarin at 20sec and Porte another second behind that.

Sunday's final hilly 134km stage around Nice gives Thomas's rivals some chances to snatch victory but the Welshman will be feeling confident.

His Sky team controlled the pace on the final 15.3km ascension of Saturday's stage despite Contador attacking on several occasions.

Porte burst out of the leading group with a kilometre to go as the victory came down to a fight between the top four.

Thomas was next to have a go before Zakarin, 26, who announced himself to the world with a shock victory at the Tour de Romandie ahead of Chris Froome last year, claimed the sprint finish.

Matthews had been distanced on the penultimate climb some 20km from home.

Stage

1. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS/KAT) 4hr 45min 22sec, 2. Geraint Thomas (GBR/SKY) same time, 3. Alberto Contador (ESP/TIN) at 1sec, 4. Richie Porte (AUS/BMC) 7, 5. Sergio Henao (COL/SKY) 10, 6. Simon Yates (GBR/ORI) 20, 7. Rui Costa (POR/LAM) 31, 8. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) s.t., 9. Ion Izagirre (ESP/MOV) s.t., 10. Tony Gallopin (FRA/LOT) s.t.


Overall standings

1. Geraint Thomas (GBR/SKY) 24hr 10min 26sec, 2. Alberto Contador (ESP/TIN) 15, 3. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS/KAT) 20, 4. Richie Porte (AUS/BMC) 21, 5. Tom Dumoulin (NED/GIA) 32, 6. Ion Izagirre (ESP/MOV) 37, 7. Sergio Henao (COL/SKY) 39, 8. Simon Yates (GBR/ORI) 44, 9. Tony Gallopin (FRA/LOT) 51, 10. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) 1:00

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