Race favorite Alberto Contador (Astana) put in a devastating attack on the Paris-Nice peloton Thursday to win the stage up to the infamous Montagne de Lure and regain the overall lead.
A large group of 11 riders set off and almost immediately met six major categorized mountains standing in their way, ending on "Mont Vontoux's little sister," the Category 1 Montagne de Lure.
Astana took control of the peloton, as they needed to make a mark today if they wanted Contador to reclaim the lead he lost to Sylvain Chavanel (QuickStep) three days prior.
The breakaway, virtually guaranteed of being caught on today's critical stage, suffered their fate before the final climb, but not before Tony Martin (Columbia) gathered some valuable KOM points to pad his lead in the mountains competition.
On the lower slopes of the de Lure, Astana set a brutal pace that few could match, but Saxobank's Jens Voigt and Frank Schleck attacked the Astana-driven peloton with about 10 kilometers to go to the finish.
This attack brought Contador out of his shell, and for the next five kilometers, Contador, Schleck, Toni Colom (Katusha), and Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) were flying up the slopes of the de Lure ahead of the remnants of the peloton.
With race leader Chavanel already dropped and trying to limit the damage, Contador launched a debilitating attack against Schleck and Sanchez with five kilometers of climbing before the finish line.
In only those five kilometers, Contador put a full minute into Schleck and soloed for the win. He now regains his overall classification lead, heading Sanchez, who climbs to second overall by 1:13, and Chavanel, who dropped to third by 1:24.