Germany's Andreas Kloden rolled back the years to take the lead of Paris-Nice after winning Thursday's 194km fifth stage. The RadioShack rider, a former runner-up in the Tour de France, prevailed in an eight-man sprint which notably featured Olympic road race champion Samuel Sanchez and German race contender Tony Martin. Euskaltel rider Sanchez was second with HTC-Highroad all-rounder Martin in fourth, just behind Italian Matteo Carrara of the Vacansoleil team.
Another Spaniard, 2009 race winner Luis Leon Sanchez, conceded 18-seconds after he led home a second group of riders following their failure to follow what turned out to be the day's winning move. A late collapse by French champion Thomas Voeckler of Europcar with only 500 meters of the day's final climb remaining provided the springboard for Kloden and seven other riders to forge ahead.
On the descent they pulled together to build a 20-second lead on a group of around 14 chasers. In the final kilometer, the back wheel of Slovenian teammate Janez Brajkovic allowed Kloden to save the energy needed to beat a frustrated Sanchez to the stage victory, his first win on the race since he won stage seven and overall victory in 2000. Kloden, 35, now holds a 4-seconds lead over Sanchez, with Martin a further six seconds further back ahead of the potential race-decider on Friday, a 27km time trial from Rognes to Aix-en-Provence.
"Winning a stage on Paris-Nice is always special," said Kloden, who admitted he was "surprised" at beating Sanchez in the sprint. "I have to thank Jani (Brajkovic) who told me to stick on his wheel for the sprint. I can't remember the last time I won a race in a sprint!"
Martin, a strong time triallist who won the Tour of the Algarve a fortnight ago, is expected to battle Kloden for the race leader's jersey on Friday. Kloden admitted: "It will be hard against Tony Martin, who is a great rider and a (time trial) specialist. But I'll give it everything."
Kloden has twice finished on the Tour de France podium. He was second behind Lance Armstrong in 2004 and moved up to second in 2006 after the disqualification of drugs cheat Floyd Landis.
Paris-Nice Stage 5: Saint-Symphorien-sur-Coise - Vernoux-en-Vivarais 193km
1. Andreas Kloden (GER/RSH) 4:59:00
2. Samuel Sanchez (ESP/EUS) @ s.t.
3. Matteo Carrara (ITA/VAC)
4. Tony Martin (GER/THR)
5. Rein Taaramae (EST/COF)
6. Robert Kiserlovski (CRO/AST)
7. Janez Brajkovic (SLO/RSH)
8. Xavier Tondo (ESP/MOV)
9. Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP/RAB) @ .18
10. Pierre Rolland (FRA/EUC)
General Classification After Stage 5
1. Andreas Kloden (GER/RSH) 24:26:13
2. Samuel Sanchez (ESP/EUS) @ .04
3. Matteo Carrara (ITA/VAC) @ .06
4. Tony Martin (GER/THR) @ .10
5. Robert Kiserlovski (CRO/AST) s.t.
6. Janez Brajkovic (SLO/RSH) s.t.
7. Xavier Tondo (ESP/MOV) s.t.
8. Rein Taaramae (EST/COF) s.t.
9. Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP/RAB) @ .28
10. Roman Kreuziger (CZE/AST) @ .29