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Having seen one of his former riders, Joaquin Rodriguez, win in Digne les Bains yesterday, Liberty Seguros team manager must have enjoyed the Paris-Nice stage victory taken by one of his new signings, Andrei Kashechkin, in Cannes this afternoon. After breaking clear on the final climb of eight, Kashechkin held off a challenge from Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) on the descent into the Cote d'Azur resort to take the biggest win of his career in the city where his team leader and compatriot Alexandre Vinokourov won two years ago.
While Kashechkin was heading for victory as 'the race to the sun' reached the Mediterranean for the first time, race leader Floyd Landis was moving another day closer to the biggest win of his career. Landis now just has to negotiate Sunday's shortish stage in the hills around Nice to take the overall title, although the profile does give hope to his rivals as it features four good climbs, the last three of them first-cats.
The early skirmishes saw the unlikely sight of world champion Tom Boonen away in a break with Jens Voigt, but the Belgian was long gone by the time 19 riders came together on the third climb of the stage. FDJ's Francis Mourey went off on his own on the fifth climb, but was caught and passed by Lampre's Evgeni Petrov on the next. The Russian increased his advantage on the penultimate hill, but in the 20km between that and the Col du Tanneron his lead was gradually trimmed back by a chasing group.
A kilometre from the top of the Tanneron, Kashechkin produced his effort having Chavanel and David Moncouti had continued to peg Petrov back. The Kazakh was quickly up to and past the Russian, and onto the fast descent into Cannes. Chavanel got to within 13 seconds of him on the way down but eventually trailed in more than a minute down on the elated Kashechkin.
"This is a good Paris-Nice. It was not a main goal in my season, but it allowed me to make two tests of my current form: the prologue, in which I finished in second place, and today's stage," said Kashechkin. "I had no strategy for today but I knew things could be decided in the Tanneron. I felt good, so I attacked. In any case I had no choice because I'm not a sprinter. I had to try my luck on my own and it worked out fine. Paris-Nice is an ideal preparation for my objectives, which are the Ardennes Classics, but also the Tour de France, which I will start hoping to bring the yellow jersey back to Kazakhstan."
Stage 6, Digne les Bains-Cannes
1 Andrei Kashechkin (Kaz) Liberty Seguros-Wrth 179km in 4.12.08 (42.60kph)
2 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis 1.06
3 Sandy Casar (Fra) Franaise des Jeux 1.11
4 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
5 David Moncouti (Fra) Cofidis
6 Jurgen van de Walle (Bel) Quick Step
7 Evgeni Petrov (Rus) Lampre
8 Matteo Carrara (Ita) Lampre 1.33
9 Tomas Vaitkus (Lit) Ag2r
10 Frank Schleck (Lux) CSC
11 Chris Horner (USA) Davitamon-Lotto
21 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak
1 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 28.24.45
2 Patxi Vila (Spa) Lampre 0.09
3 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel 1.13
4 Antonio Colom (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 1.23
6 Jos Azevedo (Por) Discovery Channel 1.35
7 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Crdit Agricole 1.39
8 Jos Luis Rubiera (Spa) Discovery Channel 1.40
9 Erik Dekker (Hol) Rabobank 1.41
10 Horner 1.43
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