Sylvain Chavanel of Cofidis won the Paris-Nice sixth stage on Saturday as Gerolsteiner's Davide Rebellin took the overall race lead following a 206km run between Sisteron and Cannes.
After a frantic late dash, Chavanel crossed the line in 5:25 to edge out Leon Sanchez, Bobby Julich and Damiano Cunego by two seconds, with Rebellin fifth in this longest stage of Europe's first major stage race of the season.
Rebellin moved into overall command in 26:11:31, three seconds ahead of fellow Italian Ronaldo Nocentini as former yellow jersey holder Robert Gesink slid off the podium placings after getting into difficulties on the descent at Tanneron, 20km out.
Yaroslav Popovych of Ukraine now stands fourth in the overall standings after Gesink's nightmare ride which saw him finish one minute, 30 seconds off the pace.
The Dutch Rabobank rider now has a seemingly impossible task Sunday to make up 51 seconds Rebellin, who will duel for glory with AG2R's Nocentini.
Chavanel, feted by the home fans, was delighted to land a stage after several near misses.
"I've been close these past few years so this time I was really motivated," the 28-year-old told French television. "I told my teammates I was really up for it today. I got Sanchez in my sights and reined him in and it's a great feeling to win today. This is my best Paris-Nice."
Chavanel had spent a day in yellow midweek before losing it after a struggle climbing the challenging Ventoux, but those travails were forgotten as he gave the French section of the crowd their much-craved first win of the edition.
Sunday's final stage is a 121.5km ride around Nice and finishing up on the picturesque Promenade des Anglais boulevard.
For full results, report and photos, see Cyclingnews.com.
© AFP 2008