Paris-Nice 2017: Henao holds off Contador onslaught

It’s been a rip-roaring edition of Paris-Nice! Sergio Henao took his first overall WorldTour victory and continued Team Sky’s domination in this race (five wins in last six editions). Taking a 30-second lead with a fourth place in Saturday’s penultimate stage, today he rode a gutsy race to save his lead by a two-second margin – the smallest ever – over Alberto Contador, who went hell for leather in the last part of the stage to try to dislodge Henao and he very nearly did it. Dan Martin rounded out the podium.

Rider of the Race

As usual, there were plenty of candidates for this honour but, like last year, I’m handing the title to runner-up Alberto Contador who attacked with 52km to go for yet another kamikaze final stage that had us all on the edge of our seats. Sheer panache. If only he’d managed to hold off Quick-Stepper David de la Cruz on the last stage, he’d have gained 10 bonus seconds and victory, instead his second place and six-second bonus moved him up only one step on the podium. Cruz’s teammate Dan Martin was the man Contador bumped into third.

Never on the start line just to make up the numbers, you can always rely on Baby Blackbird to rage against the dying of the light in any race and especially Paris-Nice, though after last year he must have felt it was Groundhog Day. Although visibly disappointed, Contador said after the stage:

I was just lacking a bit, it’s a shame. I attacked from far out, but in the final I realised that the effort had been too much. But I’m happy, the sensations are good. It was a beautiful course and I’m proud to have played a major role. I didn’t win but at least I tried. That’s me all over, I always have to try something. I can’t be satisfied with a placing on GC and roll along in the peloton. So I take risks on the flat, on the climbs and on the flats.

Team of the Race

Quick-Step Floors enjoyed a fantastic race. Aside from best team,  Julian Alaphilippe won the ITT, wore the yellow jersey for three stages and took home the points and best young rider jerseys. Dan Martin finished third overall and David de la Cruz won the final stage. It’ll be champagne tonight, boys!

A Race to the Sun

This year it was very much a race to the sun with the first two stages played out in the rain and wind, which provoked bordures, echelons and generally enlivened a race that all too often is a procession to the decisive stages around Nice. ASO should take a bow for designing a spectacular parcours that ran from the splendours of Versailles to the beauty of the Niçois hinterland.

The Enforcer

Stephen Roche was introduced to the crowd today as Bernard Hinault’s replacement as protector of the Tour de France podium. He may not have The Badger’s ‘don’t mess with me’ glint in his eye and he may cut more of a jovial figure, but let’s not forget – this is a guy who took on the entire Italian nation to win the 1987 Giro d’Italia. Underestimate his will to heave interlopers off the podium at your peril!

And, while we’re on the theme of protection, hats off to the police, security services, ASO and the town of Nice for the measures put in place to safeguard the riders and crowds after last summer’s horrifying attack on the Promenade. While nothing can ever be 100%, the changes made from previous years will have made everyone much more confident in attending the event.

Final results

1  Sergio Henao (Sky) 29:50:29

2  Alberto Contador (Trek Segafredo) +0:02

3  Daniel Martin (Quick-Step Floors) +0:30

4  Gorka Izagirre (Movistar) +1:00

5  Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) +1:22

Points Jersey: Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors)

King of the Mountains Jersey: Liliane Calmejane (Direct Energie)

Best Young Rider: Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors)

Team Classification Leader: Quick-Step Floors

Stage winners:

Stage 1:  Arnaud Demare (FDJ) Final KM here

Stage 2:  Sonny Cobrelli (Bahrein-Merida) Final KM here

Stage 3:  Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) Final KM here

Stage 4:  Julian Alaphillippe (Quick-Step Floors) Final KM here

Stage 5:  Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) Final KM here

Stage 6:    Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) Final KM here

Stage 7:    Richie Porte (BMC) Final KM here

Stage 8:   Davide De la Cruz (Quick-Step Floors) Final KM to come

Links: Official race websiteTwitter #ParisNice and Facebook

Header: The winners Paris-Nice 2017, Sky Twitter Feed

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