Katusha’s Ilnur Zakarin took his first victory of 2016 Saturday in the sixth stage of Paris-Nice. The 26-year-old Russian found himself among a small select group near the top of the day’s final climb and then won a close battle with Sky’s Geraint Thomas to take the queen stage victory at the line.
Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador, whose aggressive riding led to the formation of the group in the first place, rolled across the line in third one second later.
“I tried to prepare for this race at altitude, so I was in really good shape,” Zakarin said. “Today the team was really super, they protected me the whole day, so in the final I got a lot of help.
“I tried to give my best on the final climb and it worked.”
Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge), who started the day in the race lead, was unable to stick with the peloton over the grueling, mountainous profile, falling off the pace on the penultimate climb. Thomas, the stage 6 runner-up, now sits atop the general classification, 15 seconds ahead of Contador.
The race concludes Sunday with a 134-kilometer stage 7 that starts and finishes in Nice.