Fireworks on Col d'Eze! a merciless duel between Thomas and Contador with Porte and Gallopin in the outsiders' role.
A large break away from the gun: 18 riders at the front: Bono, Grmay, De Gendt, Wellens, Gautier, Impey, Kiserlovski, De La Cruz, Eikin, Herrada Lopez, Kangert, Van Baarle, Felline, Rast, Chavanl, Duchesne, Tankink, Naesen, Sorenson.
Six riders chasing:
Trofimov, De Kort, Calmejane, Brammeier, Van Marcke, Lemoine. Eventially the two groups merge but the gap remains slight.
Duchesne collects points for the Polka Dot Jersey sprinting at each KOM and finally secures it. Well done! Michael Matthe should keep his Green.
After 97 km Alberto Contador decides that it's time to attack and brings away a small group. Team Sky reacts and closes the gap.
In front Wellens attacks the break and goes solo.
Contador attacks again and this time Thomas gets dropped. Porte jumps on Contador's wheel and they bridge to Wellens. Race over for Team Sky?
Descent: Gerain Thomas is flying down like a stone. He's just 22'' behind. 5 km to go. Gallopin and Henao follow.
3 km to go the gap is 10'' and they can see the front group. Already in Nice. Already on the finish straight boulevard. Tim Wellens is the fastest but Geraint Thomas wins the race.
What a finale!
"When Alberto went on the Cote de Peille I stuck with my team and felt good, strong and in control, but when he went again half way up the Col d'Eze my legs just gave way. It was horrible and I thought 'this is going to be all over'. I got dropped from the chase group and thought I was going to struggle to even get on the podium. Thankfully Sergio stayed with me. I had a 54 chainring on for the descent in case I had to chase and I certainly needed that at the end. It was full gas, and to finally latch back on in the last few kilometres was really good. It's incredible to have won Paris-Nice and hard to believe, to be honest. Contador is one of the best stage racers ever and Richie won nearly every race he did last year, so to beat those two - I can't really believe it. I came here trying to win and do the best I could, but to actually do it is amazing. It's the biggest win of my career, for sure, and I'm over the moon."
"So after the 🌨, it really was the race to the ☀️ @parisnice. 21st today and 25th in general. Happy to go home with current form! #WayToRide"
“I am disappointed that I lost my 5th position in the general classification. I wasn’t feeling 100% and I didn’t have a super day on the bike. I had Simon to help me on the final climb which was important and the team did a great job today and during the whole week.”
"It was an incredible day. When Contador attacked at the bottom of Côte de Peille it was a long way out and then Team Sky obviously chased back. I've got to pay credit to my teammates who put me where I needed to be and put me in the best position at the bottom of Col D'Èze. It came down to legs and I think it was quite a thrilling finale there. We went up Col D'Èze so fast but then we also came down at warp speed. We could see that they were coming back at us but it was just a great way to finish off a solid week of racing. My goals this year have changed and now my big aim is the Tour de France in July. After coming back to Europe two weeks ago and not really knowing where I was at, finishing third in such a hard Paris-Nice is a good sign for the future."
"It was the last day and for me I wanted to finish strong ahead of Milan-Sanremo. I needed to have a good final day to give me a positive signal. So I wanted to try in the breakaway and give my maximum. It was hard to get into the break because I bridged a gap of 15 seconds to be there. It was a good breakaway, and in the Col d'Eze, when Contador jumped, I could not stay with the front group. I missed just one kilometer on the Col d'Eze.
I want to say thanks to all the team, staff and doctors, because they gave me confidence to race when I was not at my 100% with this infection. An infection takes a lot of time to come back from, and I have felt better as the week has gone on.
Finally, when I make an effort I feel that I can recover, but the other days after an effort I was tired. Today I started to feel the real Fabio again. I am much more confident now for this week and Milan-Sanremo."
“We managed to get away with a large group, where Thomas De Gendt took control. On the penultimate climb I accelerated for the first time and five riders were able to follow. Afterwards a few other riders could bridge the gap. On the Col d’Èze I went full gas and just after the summit Contador and Porte joined me.
With still fifteen kilometres to go and with a strong headwind we knew it wouldn’t be easy, but the cooperation went fluently. We remained ahead and I won the sprint. I have to admit that I gambled a bit during the final kilometres by not pulling at the front anymore, but it’s great to win against such great riders. This victory tastes even better after yesterday, which was not a good day for me.”
“I’m very happy of course with the eighth place on GC. Yesterday I managed to stay among the main competitors, although it wasn’t an easy task. Today’s tactic depended on how the race would evolve. Just trying to stay with the GC riders or taking a risk by attacking on the final climb in order to gain a few places. It became the first scenario. Tim Wellens and Thomas De Gendt were part of the break, that was a very good situation for the team. In the GC group, the race exploded on the penultimate climb. After that most of the GC riders were on their own. Due to the acceleration of Contador I was dropped on the Col d’Èze.
Together with Geraint Thomas and Henao I gave my all in the descent to rejoin the GC group. Because of the strong performance of Tim and the fact that he was riding in front I could recover a bit. In that way I managed to win the sprint for the fourth place. I could maintain my good position on GC, I even gained a place because Tom Dumoulin was dropped. Paris-Nice was my first big goal of the season, it’s a race I like a lot and the course suits me. Based on the results this week, I think I deserve this top ten place. Yesterday was a hard day on la Madone d’Utelle, but today I confirmed my performance. I go with a positive feeling to Milano-San Remo, after that I’ll prepare myself for the Walloon classics.”
“Our strategy today was executed perfectly today. We managed to have riders in the breakaway, just like we wanted, in order to make it tougher. We then split the peloton when I attacked so that they waited for me at the top. That also played out the way we wanted.
We fought hard in this final stage of Paris-Nice. We gave our best and we missed the overall win by just four seconds. It was a slim margin but after yesterday's stage I knew it would have been very difficult to get the top spot since Sky has a very strong team. However, we tried our best and we were nearly there. We attacked with 60km to go and pushed the leader to the limit. Still, Sky had a strong team. They pulled very hard and reached us before Col d'Eze. Rafal Majka was there, waiting for me, in order to make the last climb hard. We attacked again and left the leader behind. However, behind us, there were different interests and the gap with us was closed. At the end, I was only able to take five seconds.
I'm happy overall with my form, despite missing on the win, and I would really like to thank the rest of the squad. They put in a dedicated effort to protect me and position me rough out the race. I'm sure all cycling fans enjoyed a spectacular race and they are the reason why we do this. Last but certainly not least, I would also like to thank our team owner, Oleg Tinkov, for his continued support and trust he shows in the team. He was with us at the start in Paris and this is something we always appreciate."
”This was my first race of the season and I didn’t expect to win the individual time trial on stage one. Then to hold the jersey for so long afterwards was great. The team was really strong all week and I learnt a lot with how to deal with the responsibilities of leading a stage race.
It was the first time that I have fought really hard on every stage of a race and I realise that it is important to try and conserve as much energy as possible. There are more demands placed on you when you are in the leader’s jersey, not just during the race but also after the finish. I’m very happy to have won the green jersey and I can take a lot of confidence into the coming races.”
MORE TO COME
1 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal 3:16:09
2 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo
3 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky
4 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal 0:00:05
5 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica GreenEdge
6 Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ.fr
7 Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida
8 Jesus Herrada (Spa) Movistar Team
9 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
10 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Movistar Team
1 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 27:26:40
2 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:04
3 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky 0:00:12
4 Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Team Katusha 0:00:20
5 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:37
6 Sergio Luis Henao (Col) Team Sky 0:00:44
7 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica GreenEdge
8 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal 0:00:51
9 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:01:00
10 Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida 0:01:07