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"This confirms I can be up there with the best stage racers in the world and I'll definitely celebrate tonight. You don't win very often, so when you do, you have to enjoy it. 

Photo: A.S.O.

AG2R LA MONDIALE

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ALBERTO CONTADOR

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BMC RACING TEAM

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CHRIS ANKER SØRENSEN

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DAVID DE LA CRUZ

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DIMENSION DATA

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DIRECT ENERGIE

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DRIES DEVENYNS

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EF EDUCATION FIRST-DRAPAC

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EDWARD THEUNS

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FABIO FELLINE

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FORTUNEO-SAMSIC

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GERAINT THOMAS

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GREGORY RAST

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GROUPAMA-FDJ

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IAM CYCLING

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ILNUR ZAKARIN

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ION IZAGIRRE

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JEROME COPPEL

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JESUS HERRADA

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KATUSHA ALPECIN

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LIEUWE WESTRA

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LOTTO SOUDAL

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MICHAEL MATTHEWS

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MITCHELTON-SCOTT

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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PARIS - NICE

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PATRICK BEVIN

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QUICK-STEP FLOORS

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RICHIE PORTE

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ROMAIN BARDET

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RUI ALBERTO FARIA DA COSTA

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SIMON YATES

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TEAM LOTTONL-JUMBO

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TEAM SUNWEB

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TIM WELLENS

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TOM DUMOULIN

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TONY GALLOPIN

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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UAE TEAM EMIRATES

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WILCO KELDERMAN

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13.03.2016 @ 20:40 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) turned a disappointing Paris-Nice around by taking an impressive victory on a very exciting and dramatic final stage of the French race. Having joined an early breakaway, he caught up with Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and Richie Porte (BMC) when the pair attacked on Col d’Eze and easily beat his companions in the sprint in Nice. Geraint Thomas (Sky) overcame a huge crisis in the finale to reach the finish 5 seconds later to take the overall victory with a narrow 4-second advantage over Contador while Porte passed Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) to move into third.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Thomas details future goals: This proves that I can be up there with the best stage racers

Geraint Thomas won Paris-Nice in nail-biting style, fending off a barrage of late attacks on the final stage to claim Team Sky's fourth title in five years.

 

Thomas was put on the defensive when Alberto Contador first jumped clear on the penultimate climb, with Nicolas Roche, Ben Swift and Ian Boswell doing a fantastic job to bring him back before they hit the Col d'Eze.

 

No sooner had parity been restored however when Contador (Tinkoff) kicked again, this time taking Richie Porte (BMC Racing) and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) with him.

 

That trio had a 25-second lead as they crested the summit of the final categorised ascent, with Sergio Henao doing a heroic job to keep the gap at a manageable distance as Thomas dug deep to defend his jersey.

 

The Team Sky duo joined forces with Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) on the descent which followed, and they rode like Trojans to reduce the deficit before the fast finish along the Promenade des Anglais.

 

Wellens outsprinted Contador and Porte to take the stage victory, with Thomas crossing the line just five seconds behind to seal the biggest triumph of his road career by four seconds.

 

After the stage a jubilant and relieved Thomas told reporters: "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."

 

The racing had been full gas from the off with 25 riders quickly escaping up the road. All eight Team Sky riders hit the front to keep them in check as they traversed the six categorised climbs, and one by one they were eventually brought back into the fold.

 

Contador initially set the alarm bells ringing when he forged ahead 55km from home, bridging over to two team-mates on the Cote de Peille, but Roche, Swift and Boswell chased them down before Henao paced Thomas over the Col d'Eze. 

 

The Welshman had briefly looked on the ropes but showed unbelievable tenacity to reduce the gap and push on to claim the 10th race win of his professional career. 

 

After the press conference, he was still struggling to take in what he'd just achieved.

He told TeamSky.com: "I knew I had to keep fighting and I never gave up. Having Sergio there with me at the end really helped, and I owe Tony Gallopin a few beers as well! 

 

"That descent was like a load of back-to-back team pursuits, and as the gap gradually came down I knew I had a chance. I went full gas all the way to the line and ended up taking the win. 

 

"I can't thank my team-mates enough. They've been 100% committed to me all week so to finish the job off for them is an amazing feeling. I'm in dreamland at the moment and it'll take a while to sink in. I used to run home from school to watch Paris-Nice, so to win it is just crazy. 

 

"This confirms I can be up there with the best stage racers in the world and I'll definitely celebrate tonight. You don't win very often, so when you do, you have to enjoy it. 

 

"Next up I've got Milan-San Remo, the Volta a Catalunya and the Tour of Flanders before a training camping in Tenerife. I'll then ride Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Tour de Romandie. It's a big block and to win this is a great way to start it and take the pressure off a bit."

 

”After the finish line, I was super anxious. Nicolas Portal told me that I had won the race 99% but I wanted to be 100% sure.When Contador attacked on the Cote de Peille, I asked my teammates to maintain a high tempo and we returned but when he attacked on the Col d'Eze, I thought it was over. I had no legs but fortunately I had enao. It was the most difficult 20 kilometers of my career. I asked this morning to have a 54 chainring in anticipation of the descent and it paid off.

 

“Alberto Contador tried to tip the balance. At one point, I thought it would be hard to restore the situation but fortunately I had a great team around me.

 

The Tinkoff team claimed that Thomas had been helped by TV motorbikes.

 

“I imagine there were also bikes in front of him on the climb and it helped at that time. But it certainly did not change the race or the overall standings,” Thomas said.

 

“It's incredible. Early in the race, I was supported by my team to win but to do it is a dream. Paris-Nice is a huge race. When I was 13-14 years old, I came home from school to see the finale of stages. And then I started to ride on the track but I never imagined that one day I would get such exposure.


“This is obviously the most beautiful win. Even if I had come to Paris-Nice to win, I still have trouble believing it. This is especially impressive because I beat Contador. Winning against a champion like him is a reference, especially as it was the first time I was facing him directly at this level as a leader.

 

”I want to devote myself to the stage races. To follow the path of Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins at Sky is a dream that I want to achieve. But for now, I'm here to learn and it starts with one-week races like Paris-Nice. In two years, we'll see what I can do at the Tour de France.

 

”There will be no conflict with Froome, he remains the benchmark. I still have much to learn from Chris, in particular how to manage this leadership role. At the Tour de France in July, I will be at his side to help him win again. I may be less busy in the first week to be more efficient in the mountain stages. And why not think of a place in the top 10?


“It was a difficult decision to skip some classics, especially that of not being able to do Paris-Roubaix this year.But I will have a training camp at altitude in the Canaries scheduled at the same time to prepare for the Tour de France. We had to make a choice. Nothing is fixed for now, it will change again in the future. I love this sport and I want to shine in all terrains and in particular the biggest races.

 

“I was leading last year at the Tour de Suisse and alongside Richie Porte in Paris-Nice. Being a leader suddenly gives more pressure and it’s a huge difference between giving everything before the last three kilometers and getting get a result on the line. I am used to the pressure from my career on the track when an Olympic gold medal is decided in split seconds. I enjoyed this week and I can not believe I won, beating Contador. It's great to race against him mano a mano ando be on the podium between Contador and Porte.

 

”I am a good rouleur and I know how to climb. I must learn to be a leader, to communicate, to gain experience. With Froome, I see how to do, also outside cycling. I know what awaits me. Wiggins and Froome are incredible intraining. With them everything focuses on cycling. It's impressive, for example, to see Froome manage media without ever forgetting the priority to be given to training. I think Contador is the same. It takes great mental strength to be a leader.

 

”I will celebrate by drinking a shot. I'll have a family dinner in Monaco. I'll find my wife whom I had asked not to watch TV because she is somewhat of a black cat. I will enjoy it because in a career there are not many days like today.”

 

Tim Wellens sets sights on the Ardennes after big win in Nice

“We managed to get away with a large group, where Thomas De Gendt took control,” Wellens said. “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.

 

"It was my luck today to be with Contador and Porte. I knew they wanted to take time and they had not time to waste to fool around. I knew I could ride full gas with those two and stay in the front.

 

”It's surely a great victory even though I loved my two wins in the Eneco Tour and in Montreal as well. I was lucky to be in the right break. It's a great victory. To come back the way he did, Contador must have been really strong."

 

"I do not finish this Paris-Nice with regrets. I came here to go for the GC but Saturday's stage did not go as I had hoped. The last climb was too hard for me. So I tried my luck today. It's a good win but I did well to anticipate and attack from afar. To stay alone in the lead on the Col d'Eze helped me. If I had been caught earlier by Contador and Porte, I would not have been able to follow them. It was in the last three kilometers I prepared my victory.

 

"I felt them coming and decided to wait for them. It was a descent 15.5 kilometers to the finish. I knew I would not make it. They rode really à bloc for their GC. I could take advantage of that. 
 

"In the end, in the last three or four kilometers, I gambled a little. I let them do the work so that I could save myself for the sprint. I'm normally not the fastest, but I knew that they had given everything, so I knew I had opportunities.

 

"This is a very nice win. It is difficult to make a comparison between my victories. This might be similar to my victory in the Grand Prix de Montréal, a one-day race. In Canada I was the best of the field but today it was a breakaway that allowed me to win. Personally, I regard my two final victories in the Eneco Tour even higher. In my view such a stage race is more difficult because you have to be there for several days.

 

"I do not know how far I can get. I've been with Paul Van Den Bosch who is a good trainer. I want to make a little progress every year. I'm not strong enough on those long climbs, I can not compete with the best, I still have to work on that. That's why I chose an early break today. If Contador and Porte accelerate, I can not follow. Now they only joined me after the top. This was my chance. Personally, I love the Walloon classics and the Amstel Gold Race. I want to specialize in the one-day races if I ever want to win such a classic.

 

"I must say that Saturday night, I was disappointed. I was at Paris-Nice to get a good GC result. I had made ​​reconnaissaince of the Madone d’Utelle but this climb was too long for me. Sunday morning I wanted to try to make my Paris-Nice successful. It's never easy to be in the right breakaway, especially when it is flat but I was fortunate to be joined by Thomas De Gendt who rode strongly and allowed the break to gain time.

 

"In my mind, when I made my program with Herman Frison, I wil do Milan-San Remo to help Andre Greipel who is a nice guy but my team has already told me that they would think of me as an attacker on Poggio for example. Anyway, Greipel is injured and will miss the Italian classic."

 

Tony Gallopin: I deserve this spot in the top 10

Tony Gallopin finished at the eighth place at 51 seconds of the winner. Lotto Fix ALL returns to Belgium with a nice stage victory and a top ten place. Thomas De Gendt joined the break a few times and finished third in the KOM classification.

 

 “I’m very happy of course with the eighth place on GC,” Gallopin said. 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.”

 

No regrets for Alberto Contador: We executed the plan perfectly

The day after Alberto Contador blew the race wide open, it was all going to come down to the final stage in the mountains in Paris-Nice. After an aggressive, attacking ride, which saw Contador finishing second on the stage in the final day, and taking eleven seconds from the race leader, Contador finished second in the GC, just four seconds off the eventual winner.

 

On its final day, the outcome of the Race to the Sun was completely open. Ahead of a 134km stage that saw the race pass over six categorised climbs, the last two of which were first category, Alberto Contador was 15 seconds behind the race leader, and had his eye firmly on the win.

 

An early breakaway put Tinkoff riders, Kiserlovski and Trofimov, in the break, and at the foot of the Cote de Peille, 50km from the finish, Contador attacked to bridge the gap, forming a chasing group. With Team Sky chasing hard on the descent of the Cote de Peille, it was all going to come down to the Col d’Eze and the descent into Nice.

 

“It was a tough stage.” said Sport Director, Sean Yates, summing up the day. “We had two guys in the break – Yuri and Robert. Alberto attacked hard and opened up a gap and our guys waited. From there it was a descent down to Nice then the Col d'Eze.”

 

After a fast and furious descent into the city, Contador was second across the line on the final stage. In spite of having taken 11 seconds from the race leader, the Spanish rider had to settle for second spot on the GC.

 

“Our strategy today was executed perfectly today,” said Contador at the finish. “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.”

 

Yates echoed Contador’s comments.

 

“The bunch was blown to pieces. Majka sat on the chase and then picked up the pace on the Col d'Eze. Alberto went again and bridged across. We made the race and gave it everything. Alberto was very strong and only lost the GC by four seconds. He once again showed he’s a force to be reckoned with.”

 

Looking back on the day’s events, Contador knew how hard the race would be.

 

“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,” he continued. “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 was hoping for another result. I don't like second places. I did everything I could to make up for lost time and in the end I nearly won. Yesterday it didn't quite work but I told myself there were opportunities left to take today. We were really motivated and we tried everything. At last I'm confident I made the show even if I didn't succeed.

 

”In any case, Geraint Thomas played it well, he has a very strong Team Sky around him. But he could be beaten. The bright side is that I could see that my sensations were good and it's a boost for the upcoming Tour of Catalunya.

"I did everything I could. Our strategy was perfect but Sky still had a strong team and they came back. I pushed even harder on the Col d'Eze and I believed in it but there were different interests in the chase and the gap came down. I have nothing to regret.”

 

Looking back on how the race panned out, Yates looked to the weather conditions of stage three and how it affected the race, but was positive about the team’s strong ride.

 

“The cancellation of stage three may have changed things, but apart from that we tried and gave it everything this weekend. We race to win but we can still take positives from Alberto's 2nd place.”

 

The Tinkoff leader was pleased with how he had performed over the week, and gave credit to his teammates for the effort they put into the race.

 

“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.”

 

Contador also singled out Tinkoff’s owner for his support and encouragement throughout the race.

 

“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."

 

Richie Porte: I wasn’t expecting to be on the podium

It was a thrilling final stage of Paris-Nice starting and finishing in Nice, which saw Richie Porte finish third on the stage behind Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) and podium for the third time.

 

Porte, who started the day fourth overall, made the most of a late attack from Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) on Col D’Eze to finish the stage just seconds ahead of the Yellow Jersey group.

 

The four bonus seconds that Porte gained were enough to elevate him to third place to round out the podium behind winner Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and Contador.

 

Porte said going into Stage 7 that anything could happen and that was certainly the case.

 

“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,” Porte said.

 

“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.”

 

Porte said his podium result gives him confidence going into the next part of the season.

 

“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.”

 

"To be honest it's a small surprise. I really didn't expect to finish third after such a finale with Contador. But congrats to Geraint, he deserved it. It was a different approach to Col d'Eze, we did it much faster this time! It was so fast in the descent, you didn't really have time to think. We knew Tim Wellens was going for the stage win and for Alberto and I, it was a matter of making as much time as possible.

 

”In the end, Alberto and I shared the job. Obviously, Tim was more interested in the stage win but it was in any case really hard in the final 50 kilometers, even downhill.  It was a tough race. I'm happy to finish third. I really was not expecting anything and I'm really happy with how the team worked. It's a good day and it's just a nice way to end a week of hard racing. " 

 

BMC Racing Team Sports Director Fabio Baldato agreed with Porte’s evaluation of the week of racing.

 

“Paris-Nice has been the first real test of the season for these guys and our goal was to be on the podium. To have Richie up there today shows that he is in good form and that the team worked really hard to support him all week,” Baldato confirmed.

 

“It wasn’t an easy week of racing. There were a lot of good GC contenders and the extreme conditions that the peloton faced didn’t make it any easier. We’re walking away happy with our performance.”

 

Ilnur Zakarin after lost podium spot: I don’t know where I could have done it differently

It was a battle to the finish line for the 74th Paris-Nice on Sunday and Team KATUSHA’s Ilnur Zakarin was in the middle of the fight, giving his all to stay on the final podium. Zakarin ended up missing just a few seconds to retain his third place, but comes away from the race knowing his form is good after yesterday’s stage win and looking ahead for more results.

 

”Today I did all that I could and looking back I don't know where I could have done better to save some more energy. Just two riders Contador and Porte were stronger today. I felt good today, but of course a bit tired after yesterday’s hard stage. On the final climb there were a lot of attacks, I did my best, but with 500 meters to go I just missed a little to respond to the last attack. Later on the descent I tried to follow the leading group, but in the final we missed just 5 seconds. Of course, now I am a bit disappointed because the podium was close, but in general it was a good race for me with a promising result. I hope to save my form until Catalunya,” said Ilnur Zakarin. Ilnur took 12th on the stage with the group of the yellow jersey at five-seconds. 

 

Ion Izagirre confirms status as third Movistar leader, Herrada misses out on stage win

Movistar Team left the 74th Paris-Nice with a sweet taste as two good results –t he win in the teams’ classification and the fifth place overall for Ion Izagirre - wrapped up a week full of different emotions for the Blues. Izagirre confirmed himself once again as the sort of ‘third man’ the team can rely on when Quintana and Valverde are not around. The Basque allrounder brilliantly responded today after a hard ascent towards the Madone d’Utelle on Saturday, the peloton broken into pieces during this final day as an attack by Contador (TNK) on the Cat-1 Peille climb created an absolute thriller lasting the 50 kilometers before Nice’s Promenade des Anglais.

 

Right from the gun, in a short (134km), nervous, demanding (six rated climbs) stage, Jesús Herrada made his third breakaway of this year’s race, a group that added elements until forming a massive 22-man peloton. Reduced to only six strong on the penultimate climb and even more decimated at the foot of the Col d'Eze (Cat-1), Herrada could see the GC favourites chasing down Contador’s first move. Yet, the Madrilian tried his way off the front again with Richie Porte (BMC), forcing the two from the Movistar Team - Izagirre and Herrada - to give his best so Herrada could still keep his stage winning chances alive. The fight was eventually fruitless, just meters short from reaching a trio led home by Tim Wellens (LTS), a survivor of that early break. Herrada crossed the line in eighth place, with Izagirre in tenth.

 

A luxurious overall general classification saw Izagirre finishing 37" behind Geraint Thomas (SKY) and just 25” off the coveted podium, still a good result improved by his team-mates, who got Movistar’s third teams GC win in Paris-Nice in the last ten years (2007, 2014). A success impossible without the contribution of injured Juanjo Lobato and José Joaquín Rojas, as well as a devoted Imanol Erviti, José Herrada, Gorka Izagirre and also Rubén Fernández, who briefly joined the duo Izagirre –Herrada on the decisive climb.

 

“The final day of Paris-Nice is always demanding,” Izagirre said. “This was a short, yet intense stage. Contador made a strong gamble, put the whole peloton upside down, and those final kilometers were of high exigence. We tried everything we could in the finale, looking for the stage win, but it wasn’t to be for us today. We’re still happy, as we could win the team GC and I made that small step forward in the individual classification. A fifth place - it’s fine for me.

 

“I felt my legs rolling really well today. On the Col d’Eze, Tinkoff set a strong pace from the bottom of the climb and I could still stick with the group. Obviously, in the last 1.5km, Contador and Porte made clear they were the strongest guys, yet we kept fighting the two of us, ‘Chuchi’ (Jesús Herrada) and me, to go after them - without success. The team was sensational all week, and surely this week will have given us some nice racing form, which means I’m really excited for what’s to come. However, first things first - now it’s time to rest, recover well and start thinking about País Vasco later on.”

 

 “The prologue made things start pretty well for us, yet I wasn’t so lucky in the first road stage,” Herrada said. “In the dirt sections, I suffered a puncture, the Mavic car didn’t see me and I lost those four minutes. Still, I didn’t want to stop trying it, and I’m leaving this race happy with all I did throughout the week – the legs felt quite well.

 

“We tried again to be in the break today and also to contest the stage win. Ion was with the top GC guys when Contador set that early pace that so few people could stand, and even though he went away with Porte in the last kilometers, we only lacked some meters to bring them back. It’s obviously sad not having been able to fight for the win in the sprint, yet we’re happy as Ion got that top-five overall and also the team GC, a proof of our good overall level. Despite being so unlucky, with Lobato’s knee problems, the crash by Rojas… we always get to show this good teamwork.

 

“From an individual point of view, I showed again I’ve got the legs for that first win I’m neglected, but things are even harder here in Paris-Nice: the best were riding here. We were close, though, and we must remain happy.”

 

Michael Matthews: I have learnt a lot this week

Six days in yellow, two stage wins, and the green sprinter’s jersey for Michael Matthews and seventh place overall for Simon Yates wrapped up a successful week atParis-Nice for ORICA-GreenEDGE.

 

Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) won the final stage with Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) the winner of the overall general classification.

 

Matthews claimed the yellow jersey in the 6.1 kilometre prologue, beating Tom Dumoulin (Team Giant-Alpecin) by just one second, and successfully defended the race lead until the penultimate stage on Saturday. A stage two victory and three additional top-five placings awarded Matthews the sprint category after he completed the final stage unscathed. 

 

”This was my first race of the season and I didn’t expect to win the individual time trial on stage one,” Mathews said. ”Then 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.”

 

After a string of excellent performances from the team throughout the week, sports director Laurenzo Lapage was very happy with the overall achievements.

 

”It has been a fantastic week for us, we came into the race with the idea of the green jersey for Matthews and to try and get Simon up here for the overall,” Lapage said. ”It’s great how everything went almost impossible to do better.

 

”Simon was a little bit sick in the beginning but he got stronger everyday and the last two days he was really impressive.”

 

The surprise victory in the prologue slightly altered the race plan for the team and Lapage was impressed with how well the team worked together.

 

”Everyone did very well by working together throughout the race, it is unusual to control things the way we did,” Lapage  continued. ”We can take real confidence from our performance here.

 

”Today Daryl (Impey) played a perfect move by getting into the breakaway for most of the race, doing his best to help to Simon. Everyone played their part and we came through the race without any problems.”

 

Costa moves into the top 10 on final day in Nice

For Lampre-Merida, Rui Costa was able to get into the top 10, with the 10th place at 1'02 ", while Meintjes was 22nd at 9'43".

 

Cimolai did not take part in the final stage as a precaution as he didn't feel good.

 

Sports director Philippe Mauduit said: "Today was quite positive for us, starting with the fact that Tsgabu [Grmay] and Matteo [Bono] were able to join the break of the day. In the group, our other riders have given all they could to provide the best possible support to our captain Rui Costa in the first half of the race. 

 

"Unfortunately for Rui, he did not have a teammate on the last climb and had to spend energy to be in the best position. However the final result allowed him to enter the first 10 of the final standings.

 

"For one week's budget, we must emphasize that the first days were not good for us, but we found the right way with the right attitude in the last 4 stages. I enjoyed seeing the riders having shown the quality that distinguished the our group. Now we must continue in this spirit to constantly improve."

 

Romain Bardet: I never manage to transform my feelings into a result here

Romain Bardet finished 9th overall.

 

"The balance is positive with a cohesive group,” he said. “I am proud of the team all week long. Of course, I aimed for a better final result but, in Paris-Nice, I never succeed in transforming my feelings into a result. I have no regrets. Today, I didn’t feel better than Saturday but Col d’Eze is better for me. Contador was amazing and he made the race exciting. I am confident for Volta a Catalonya where my form will be even better."

 

"I am satisfied with the team spirit,” sports director Didier Jannel said. “Our ambitions were higher but the guys did a great job. Of course, we aimed at a better result than 9th place but Romain Bardet’s last two stages were consistent. Top 10 in a UCI WorldTour stage race is a good performance. The cancellation of stage 3 changed the process of the race.

 

”Romain feels good and will be ambitious in Volta a Catalonya, just like Domenico Pozzovivo. In Milan-San Remo, Jan Bakelants, very active in Tirreno-Adriatico, can play an important role."

 

Sore threat and puncture cost Tom Dumoulin top 5 result in Paris-Nice

The up and down testing final stage in France suited the breakaways, so a presence at the front of the race was important for Team Giant-Alpecin and Koen de Kort was part of a chasing group at the beginning of the stage but he was unable to bridge the gap with the leading group.

 

At the base of the final ascent, Tom Dumoulin was in a good position with the company of Simon Geschke. But the race just split up into several groups and Tom Dumoulin had to set his own pace on the final climb.

He finished in 22nd place and dropped to 12th overall 1’53” behind the overall winner Geraint Thomas (Team Sky).

 

Tom Dumoulin said: “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.”

 

“I was waking up with a sore throat,” he told De Telegraaf. That did not help today. " 

 

“I got a flat tire, so I had to do a kind of time trial to get back to the peloton. With that effort and the sore throat, I cracked.

 

”It sucks that it is like this because I was doing a good week. With the fifth place I would have had peace, but with this twelfth place I can’t.

 

”Hopefully the sore throat will disappear as quickly as it came. For now I assume that it is not a big problem. "

 

Sports director Aike Visbeek said: “Tom was not in a super shape this morning. The team put him in a good position during the key moments of the race. Unfortunately, Tom had a puncture on the fourth climb of the day and he had to take the wheel of Tobias [Ludvigsson].

 

“On the final climb, Tom received solid support from Simon to pace him up the climb. In the end, Tom dropped out of the top 10 in GC.

 

“Overall the teamwork and the communication has been very good this week and we will look to continue developing for the upcoming races.”

 

Wilco Kelderman: This must clearly be better

Wilco Kelderman finished 13th in Paris-Nice Sunday. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s leader wasn’t able to fight back into the top 10 in the final stage to Nice. Kelderman placed 31st behind winner Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal). Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) won the general classification.

 

“It was a hard last day,” Wilco Kelderman said.

 

The riders crossed six mountains on Sunday, two of first category. Kelderman wasn’t able to follow the best riders on those uphills.

 

“I didn’t have a good day today and I notice that I’m not at the level I wanted to be. It must be better, clearly, but I might need more races to reach that.”

 

Kelderman noticed that the difference with the top riders isn’t too big.

 

“Everyone is close to each other, but that doesn’t mean anything to me. When you’re not able to follow the best riders, no result is good enough. I feel that I’m good enough to be amongst the top riders, but I failed to be this week. I took a step in the right direction this week. I’m going to train again now to bring my shape to a higher level.”

 

Sports Director Frans Maassen was expecting more from Kelderman, as well.

 

“It looked like he was on a higher level than the results show,” Maassen added. “He placed 13th in a world-class field, on the other hand. That’s not bad, but you always want more. He needed a superb day today to repair the damage from yesterday, but it was not his day.”

 

David De La Cruz: I wanted to leave my mark on the race

David De La Cruz rode a great stage on Sunday, when the 74th edition of Paris-Nice came to an end. With his confidence bolstered after Saturday's stage, which helped him jump more than 20 places in the general classification, the 26-year-old decided to go into the huge 22-man breakaway that attacked right from the gun and got a good gap before it reached Nice, when it began to disintegrate. On the penultimate climb, only six riders managed to stay in the lead, and De La Cruz was one of them, while further back, the peloton saw Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) surging out in an attempt to put pressure on overall leader Geraint Thomas (Sky).

 

The Spanish rider of Tinkoff was reeled in before Col d'Èze, just as in the leading group De La Cruz powered away from his breakaway companions. A plethora of attacks of Contador meant that De La Cruz was eventually caught, but even so, he made sure of giving his all on the climb and trying to stick to the favourites' groups. He arrived in the stage one minute behind, in 14th place, and moved up to 20th in the general classification.

 

"It was a really hard day, in which we had hoped the breakaway will go until the end. I did my best, and even though I couldn't go for the victory, I tried to leave my mark on the race, so that's why I attacked on the last climb. I wanted to finish off things with the feeling that I've done everything I could, and must say I'm content with my ride", said David De La Cruz, who also looked back at the 8-stage race: "I had a bit of a cold at the start of Paris-Nice, so it wasn't easy for me during the first days. Just now, in the week-end, I began feeling better, and that's why I could make this jump in the GC. I had good feelings, especially today, and I'm satisfied with the shape and with the level of confidence. These are very important ahead of the Volta a Catalunya, my home race, which I'll ride in the last week of March, and where I want to help my team."

 

Kazakh rider falls into a ravine on bad day for Astana at Paris-Nice

“It was a tough stage today too: the GC contenders at the front set a very high rythim and everyone was quite tired after yesterday’s stage and one week of racing,” said Lieuwe Westra.

 

“I felt very good in the first part of this race and I did everything to try to keep a good position in the GC. As a team we weren’t so lucky with the cancellation of the stage with snow when Lutsenko was at the front and could win. Nonetheless, Lutsenko got a very impressive victory on the fifth stage so at least it has been a good performance for the Astana Pro Team.”

 

In the last stage, Kazakh Daniil Fominykh crashed into a ravine and fractured 2 vertebrae. He will be out of action for at least a month.

 

Cannondale: The performance was good, the results could have been better

Cannndale sports director Juanma Garate gave his assessment of the race.

 

"We didn't do mistakes this week, and we were always close, but we never got lucky. We showed that our level at this race was high. It was good, but it would have been better if we could have done something with the overall or win a stage. This is the hardest race after the Tour de France, and we're happy with the condition."

 

Patrick Bevin loses it all in Paris-Nice due to broken rib

You may have noticed that Paddy Bevin was a non-starter today at Paris-Nice. The Kiwi champ sustained a broken rib when he crashed on stage five. He race stage six with the break, because what else to do you do when you're fourth overall at your first European WorldTour race? - but he pulled the plug today due to the pain. "I've never not started before," he said before the stage start.

 

While he may lament not finishing the race, he has plenty of reasons to smile. he was third in the opening prologue and fought hard all week to hang tight to third overall until the final weekend of racing.

 

Felline feels like his old self, Thuens emerges as revelation

There was one goal for Trek-Segafredo in stage seven, the final day of Paris-Nice Sunday, and that was to put Fabio Felline in the breakaway and go for the stage victory.

 

Felline, who has been battling a nasty infection, joined the early 22-rider breakaway along with a strong Gregory Rast (his second straight day in the break), and all was going to plan.

 

"The plan today was to put Fabio in the break, and with the help and experience of Greggy we had two in the large break," explained director Alain Gallopin. "I told Fabio to keep his eyes on Wellens because if he could follow him today, he could win the stage. Fabio normally has the legs; he was better today, but he is still not 100 percent after being sick before Paris-Nice. 

 

"If he could have stayed with the yellow jersey over the top of the Col d'Eze he could have a chance to win the stage, but he just missed a little to be there with Thomas and my nephew (Tony Gallopin)."

 

Still not fully recovered and back to his top form, Felline lost contact to the breakaway group, now down to 12 men, on the final climb (Col d'Eze) of the short but tough 141-kilometer race. 

 

The yellow jersey group swept up Felline on the ascent, until the feisty Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) launched a fierce attack close to the top. The group exploded, and Felline fell off the pace, this time for good.  

 

The fight for the overall win raged all the way to the line as Contador made a valiant effort to knock Geraint Thomas (Sky) off the throne. Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) prospered from the intense fight to grab the stage win ahead of Contador while Thomas held on to finish five seconds later and save his crown.

 

Felline crossed the line just over a minute later for 17th place – and he quietly celebrated the first day where he felt his old sensations return.

 

"It was the last day and for me I wanted to finish strong ahead of Milan-Sanremo," explained Felline. "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."

 

"Fabio told me that today he can see light at the end of the tunnel," added Gallopin. "He has had a hard Paris-Nice, but today he's happy, he feels close to feeling back to his normal self. 

 

"It was a pity Fränk [Schleck] had this crash three days ago. We knew that to do something this week that our chances were better in the first days. 

 

"Edward Theuns. No one knew this name at the beginning, but now a lot of people speak about Edward; I think he was one of the revelations of Paris-Nice. This guy it's clear: he is a big talent. We were close to winning a stage three times, twice with Edward, and once with Niccolo [Bonifazio].  

 

"Right now a lot of guys are sick, and Greggy, too, has showed this week that he is again at his high level after being sick. He is very, very strong, he's back, and he is 100 percent ready to help Fabian [Cancellara] in the Classics."

 

Three breakaways give Antoine Duchesne the mountains jersey in Paris-Nice

"I had two riders to watch and unfortunately they were both in the break,” Antoine Duchesne said after winning the mountains jersey. “So I had to go too even though the legs were hard. This is not a victory, but it's clearly one of my greatest achievements. To win a distinctive jersey after being three days in the breaks, especially in the two big days in the mountains, shows how much I progressed. It's a great confidence boost. Now I'm gearing up for the classics up to Paris-Roubaix, races I enjoy very much."

 

Mixed emotions for FDJ after Paris-Nice

Having lost their leaders Arnaud Démare and Arthur Vichot, the riders of the FDJ team showed dedication in the last two stages of Paris-Nice which were not very favorable. Sports director Franck Pineau leaves this week with a focus on the stage victory in Vendôme and the mindset of his riders.

 

"We built a good team around Arnaud Démare and his muscle injury frustrated us. I think Arnaud could have taken a second stage win and then Arthur should have done well in these last two difficult stages," he said.

 

On Saturday no rider of the FDJ team could slip into the breakaway but Daniel Hoelgaard delivered a long fight to keep his place in the peloton. Obviously the work will pay sooner or later for the blond Norwegian. Christian Eiking made the right breakaway of 21 riders on Sunday but he was caught.

 

"I have nothing to blame my riders who had the right mindset. Fortunately our week had this stage victory, but the final part was a bit frustrating."

 

IAM: We missed Jerome Coppel in Paris-Nice

Eddy Seigneur, the directeur sportif for the team at Paris-Nice along with Lionel Marie, needed only one sentence to tell his riders at the outset of the stage what the main goal for the day would be: “I want to see at least one of you in the main breakaway for the day.”

 

That was a mission that Oliver Naesen, who took part in the break that included 21 other riders, was able to fulfill. The group slipped away early in this the final stage of the race that was conducted under sunny, spring-like temperatures, including a favorable wind for the final straight.   

 

 

At 25 years old, the Belgian did not balk at the chance to take part in the action of the day, and was more than able to hold his own.  As he already has shown at the Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Naesen, who is a new addition to the IAM Cycling team this year, is able to find the right place to be in a difficult stage, though at the end of the day he was unable to keep pace with those fighting for the overall victory facing numerous climbs and strong attacks over the col d'Eze.

 

“I have been going well since the start of the season,” explained Oliver Naesen after having just arrived on the Promenade des Anglais.  “But I would rather have some strong results to show for it.  It’s all well and good to get into the break, but I would also like to be in at the finish.  I hope to be able to do just that when the racing arrives in my backyard in two weeks.  I should really be in my element when racing the Flandrian classics.”

 

“The team was geared to be supportive of Dries Devenyns in order to protect him for a shot at the top-10 in the general classification,” noted Rik Verbrugghe, sports manager for IAM Cycling who had come to watch his riders in this last weekend of the Race to the Sun.  “It was, however, an impossible task when looking at who is at the top of the overall at the end of the race.  This top-10 is filled with riders who would also be taking the top-10 in a Grand Tour.  I just regret that Jérôme Coppel was forced to abandon due to illness because he certainly would have been able to figure prominently this weekend if he had been healthy.  But I am pretty satisfied with how the team did this week especially because the guys who are aiming at the classics are going well. This is a good sign.”

 

Little at ease in a race with so many difficult climbs that the race covered this weekend, Matthias Brändle finished in 131st and last place for this edition of Paris-Nice.

 

5 IAM Cycling riders managed to reach the finish line in Nice at the end of the week after their teammates Jérôme Coppel, Stefan Denifl, and Vegard Stake Laengen had to abandon over the course of the event.

 

Dimension Data: We want to forget this Paris-Nice

For Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka the day began with Jacques Janse van Rensburg not able to take the start. The South African climber crashed during yesterday's stage and while he was able to finish the stage, Janse van Rensburg injured his ribs which prevented him from racing today's final stage.

 

With just 4 riders left in the race, it was always going to be a difficult day for the African Team going up against the world's best. Matthew Brammeier tried to put up a bit of a fight by riding across to the large 22 rider breakaway that formed early on. Just after making the junction though, Brammeier was distanced as some serious climbing began.

 

The four remaining African Team riders had to take a backseat as the likes of Contador, Porte and Thomas went head to head for the yellow jersey.

 

Sports director Jean Pierre Heynderickx said:
 

“The 2016 Paris-Nice is a race that we will put behind us very quickly. The race took place in some very difficult weather conditions and we were unfortunate to have some of our riders crash at critical points of the race. Four of our riders weren't able to make it to Nice because of their injuries sustained during the race. This made it a very difficult week for our boys but we have a lot of important races coming up and our focus has already shifted to these events.”

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