Simon Yates claimed his first win of 2017, attacking alone to win a hilly stage 6 at Paris-Nice, and Julian Alaphilippe fought hard to keep

Simon Yates claimed his first win of 2017, attacking alone to win a hilly stage 6 at Paris-Nice Friday. The Orica-Scott climber flew clear toward the top of the Col de Bourigaille and tenaciously held onto a lead of less than one minute for the final 18 kilometers of racing. Sky’s Sergio Henao attacked the select group of GC favorites to finish second ahead of race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors).

“In the beginning of the day I had a small idea to try something,” Yates said. “I got to the moment; I said to myself, ‘Why not, I have nothing to lose. If I get caught I get caught so I tried, and I’m just happy it worked.”

Top 10, stage 6

Top-10 overall

After an early eight-man breakaway was caught, Yates attacked alone with about 18 kilometers to go, just before the final summit of Col de Bourigaille on the finishing circuit around Fayence.

Sky’s Mikel Nieve was on chasing duty at the front of the small GC group behind, which included Alaphilippe, wearing the yellow leader’s jersey. With five kilometers to race, they needed to pull back a 32-second gap to catch Yates.

Once on the flat road, prior to the final uphill kick to the finish, BMC contributed to the efforts of the 16-man group, putting Nicolas Roche on the front with Nieve. However, the lone leader’s gap actually grew slightly.

Yates reached the base of the 1.3km final climb with a 46-second advantage and sprung out of the saddle to tackle the 9.8 percent average gradient.

Richie Porte hit out first on the final category 2 climb to the finish. Alaphilippe marked the Australian at first, but couldn’t respond to a second acceleration from the BMC rider. Sergio Henao (Sky) took up the chase, countered Porte, and went clear of the small group.

“It was hard, I had cramp at the foot of the climb,” the French race leader said. “He [Henao] is going to be a serious rival tomorrow.

“A rider like Henao can build up gaps on a long climb like that [Col de la Couillole], but he’s not the only one, I have out watch out for others too,” Alpaphilippe added, referring to stage 7.

Up the road, Yates held off his GC rivals to win alone and moved up to top 10 in the overall standings.

Henao soloed to second place, and behind, Dan Martin helped pace his teammate Alaphilippe to the line and a third-place finish.

“There’s still a lot of time to take away from Julian Alaphilippe but he’s such a phenomenal rider. He’s one of the best riders of our generation,” Yates added. Saturday’s stage 7 should offer the greatest opportunity for the overall lead to change hands with a summit finish on the Col de la Couillole, a 1,678-meter climb that comes at the end of a 177km stage starting in Nice that also includes three other categorized ascents.

Agence France-Press contributed to this report.

Stage 6 results

General classification