Andreas Kloden took the overall lead in the Paris-Nice after winning stage five today.
The RadioShack rider came home in front of an eight-man group who split from the peloton on the testing climb up the Col de la Mure.
In a sprint finish, the German - a winner here in 2000 - kept ahead of Olympic road champion Samuel Sanchez and Matteo Carrara, taking his first stage win since 2009.
He now sits four seconds clear of Sanchez in the overall standings, with Carrara a further two seconds back.
Ireland's great hope for this season's cycling season, Nicolas Roche, finished 39th on the day, two minutes 51 seconds behind Kloden. That massive time loss for Roche leaves him in 37th place in the General Classification and three minutes one second behind Kloden. That represents a drop of 20 places overall.
Thomas De Gendt, the overnight leader, saw his advantage vanish on the tough climb up the Col de la Mure, which was over 180km into the 193km stage.
Team Sky, who suffered a very disappointing day yesterday, were at least closer to the front today with Bradley Wiggins 14th and Michael Rogers 18th, part of a group led home by Luis
Leon Sanchez 18 seconds after the leader.
The race now heads into tomorrow's key 27km time trial before the final weekend.