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Schachmann clings on to Paris-Nice lead as rivals close gap

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Apt (France) (AFP)

Germany's Maximilian Schachmann held on to the overall lead of Paris-Nice despite crashing on stage six on Friday and seeing his lead trimmed by key rivals.

With a fine solo finish under bright blue skies, Belgium's Tiesj Benoot won the 161.5km run through the Luberon hills to Apt in Provence in the south-east of France.

Benoot thereby climbed to second in the overall standings, trailing 36 seconds behind Schachmann.

Two other key challengers also strengthened their bids as the Colombian climber Sergio Higuita moved to within 1min 1sec and is third overall, while the wily Italian Vincenzo Nibali is at 1min 18sec in sixth.

Saturday's summit finish atop La Colmiane mountain will provide the finale to the race after the last stage to Nice on Sunday was cancelled due to the health crisis.

Benoot raced the final 13km alone after some lively competition on the slopes with Frenchman Romain Bardet the last man to be dropped.

Schachmann had been in a group around 20sec adrift of Benoot but crashed on the final descent less than a kilometre from home.

"I crashed with about 800 metres to go when the race was full on and everyone was going full gas down," said the Bora rider who emerged unscathed.

"There is just one day to go and it'll be all out."

Saturday's run culminates with a 16.3km climb at a 6.3 percent incline.

Stage six results

1. Tiesj Benoot (BEL/Sunweb) 3hr 57min 02sec, 2. Michael Matthews (AUS/SUN) at 22sec, 3. Sergio Higuita (COL/EF1) 22, 4. Bob Jungels (LUX/DEC) 22, 5. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA/DEC) 22, 6. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/TRE) 22, 7. Thibaut Pinot (FRA/FDJ) 22, 8. Guillaume Martin (FRA/COF) 22, 9. Rudy Molard (FRA/FDJ) 22, 10. Nairo Quintana (COL/ARK) 22

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