The start was given at 11:52 to 149 riders. Philip Deignan (AG2R) did not start. After 11
kms, four men broke clear - Belarus Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Austria’s Bernhard Eisel (High Road), Germany’s
Jens Voigt (CSC), and Dutchman Niki Terpstra (Milram) – much to the satisfaction of the peloton, who let them go.
Their lead grew steadily: 3:30 on the Cote de Puy St Martin (Km 24), 5:20 on the 3rd category
Cote de Bourdeaux (km 49.5) and 6:30 on the Cote de Serre de Turc (km 62.5).
At the first intermediate sprint in Rasteau (twice a stage finish in 2004 and 2006), won
by Kuschynski, ahead of Eisel and Voigt, the lead of the break was unchanged at 6:30 after reaching a maximum of 7:15 at kilometre
At the second sprint in Bedoin (km 147), again won by Kuschynski ahead of Eisel and Voigt, the gap had decreased to
In Malaucene, at the bottom of the final climb, the break’s lead had been cut down
Seeing the gap going down, Voigt broke clear from his three former companions, who were
caught by the peloton one by one. The veteran German found himself alone in front of the bunch with 10 kms to go.
From the beginning of the climb, while riders like Christophe Moreau, Alexandre Botcharov
or Igor Anton were dropped, Sylvain Chavanel seemed to struggle a bit but he kept his place in the chasing group.
The chase was first led by Davide Rebellin’s Gerolsteiner team-mates, then by Qucik
Step riders, working for Carlos Barredo and Juan Manuel Garate.
Seven kilometres from the finish line, yellow jersey holder Chavanel
was dropped and quickly lost ground.
With five kms to go, Robert Gesink (Rabobank) attacked and only
Yaroslav Popovych, Cadel Evans (both Silence Lotto), Frank Schleck (CSC), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R) and Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner)
were able to take his wheel.
Rebellin was dropped one kilometre later, as Gesink, Popovych and Evans caught Voigt.
Three kilometres from the finish line, only two men were left
to battle it out for stage victory: Gesink and Evans. The Tour de France runner-up outsprinted his young rival for stage victory,
but the Dutchman earned the best possible consolation – the overall leader’s yellow jersey.
Robert Gesink has strong beliefs that he can keep the yellow
jersey until Nice. "The team is very strong. I think that my teammates can help me to win this race." Gesink very much enjoyed
the results of his efforts which were for everyone, but Evans, too good. "It is fantastic to see all the rivals go by
one by one on a nice, long climb. I was able to climb with a strong pace." Gesink could become the fifth Dutch
rider to win Paris - Nice. The last one was Michael Boogerd in 1999.
Stage winner Cadel Evans was happy with his win but also
impressed about the performance of young gun Robert Gesink. Evans said: "It’s
good when you win but my goal was to put Popvych in the best possible position in the overall standings. My job is done. I
could see in the last climb that Robert Gesink is a very, very strong young rider. Now I’d really like to continue helping
Popo, He still has a chance of doing a very, very good Paris-Nice."