Geraint Thomas (Sky) picked up his second overall stage race victory in 2016 with a measured performance over Paris-Nice week. Seizing the leader’s jersey thanks to his second place on stage 6’s summit finish on La Madone d’Utelle, it was his bravura descending off Col d’Eze and strong finish on Promenade des Anglais in the final stage that enabled him to stay precious seconds ahead of the ever-combative runner-up Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and third-placed Richie Porte (BMC).
Rider of the Race
As usual, there were plenty of candidates for this honour. I could have chosen Geraint Thomas the overall victor, or maybe Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE), in yellow for six days and who carried off the points jersey. Instead, the title goes to runner-up Alberto Contador.
Never on the start line to just make up the numbers, we can always rely on Contador to light up any race he takes part in. Paris-Nice and Contador have a long history: his victory in 2007 was the start of his journey to becoming arguably the best stage rider of his generation; his memorable bonk while in the leader’s jersey in 2009’s edition on the penultimate stage won him lots of fans as he attacked early on in the final stage, desperate to drag back enough time to recover the yellow jersey, racing himself back from 33 to second. He had another overall victory in the 2010 edition but hadn’t taken part in the race again until this year.
On yesterday’s seven-climb queen stage, we knew what was coming when Contador raced for bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint and then teammate Rafa Majka set a furious tempo up the final climb. As Majka peeled off, Contador attacked with 6km to go and initially gapped Thomas, who hauled himself back into contention on the wheel of teammate Sergio Henao. He attacked once more in the last kilometre, on the steepest part of the climb, but stage-winner Zakarin and Thomas overhauled him. Unbeknown to the crowd, Contador’s electronic shifters had let him down and he had ridden the entire climb in the small ring, which took some of the sting out of his attacks. Today, he continued to take the battle to Sky with attack after attack and the final kilometres were on a knife edge, but he lost his quest for glory by a mere four seconds as Thomas clawed his way back from what had been a 30sec deficit on the final climb. Although visibly disappointed, Contador said after the stage:
It’s a shame I didn’t win, but I am happy with how I am riding and it gives me confidence for the forthcoming races.
Things that made me go oooooooh
A sombre presentation before today’s final stage, ASO and Astana paid homage to Andrei Kivilev, who died 13 years ago yesterday after a fall in that year’s Paris-Nice. His son Leonard was presented with an Astana helmet and jersey. It’s touching that the two organisations help keep alive Kivi’s memory, particularly for his widow and the son he never met.
It’s nice to be in Nice I loved that the final two stages were based in Nice and, as usual, the weather co-operated, bathing the landscape in warm sunshine. French television played their part in showcasing the region and the roads on which I regularly ride. Yesterday, ASO inaugurated a sportive for around 800 riders, who rode part of Sunday’s course. And, amid much fanfare, it was announced that the European road championships are to be held in the Nice area, 14-18 September 2016, with many of the biggest stars already committed to taking part.
Final word on weather
Much has been written about Wednesday’s weather-cancelled stage, but I’m giving the
final only word to well-respected hack, Andrew Hood:-
Right call at TA, but worth pointing out it was not snowing night before or even 1hr before peloton arrived at PN climb in S3
— Andrew Hood (@EuroHoody) 12 mars 2016
1. Geraint Thomas (Sky) 27:26:40
2. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) +00:04
3. Richie Porte (BMC) +00:12
4. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) +00:20
5. Jon Izagirre (Movistar) +00:37
Points Jersey: Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE)
King of the Mountains Jersey: Antoine Duchesne (Direct Energie)
Team Classification Leader: Movistar
Prologue: Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) Final KM here
Stage 1: Arnaud Demare (FDJ) Final KM here
Stage 2: Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) Final KM here
Stage 3: Cancelled
Stage 4: Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) Final KM here
Stage 5: Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) Final KM here
Stage 6: Ilnur Zakarin (Katsha) Final KM here
Stage 7: Tim Wellens (Lotto-FixAll) Final KM here
Header: The winners Paris-Nice 2016 © Richard Whatley