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Bradley Wiggins (Sky) en route to victory on the Col d'Eze.
Second Briton to win race after Tom Simpson in 1967
The late Tom Simpson was the only other British rider to sample Paris-Nice success, riding to overall victory in 1967, the year of his death on the slopes of Mont Ventoux at the Tour de France.
“I know my cycling history and this is an enormous achievement," Wiggins said, according to Reuters. "It's an honour to be up there with Tom Simpson."
Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) briefly threatened to ruin Wiggins’ day when he posted the quickest time at the midway point of the stage, but the Englishman summoned up a winning response to take the stage win and secure his yellow jersey.
After Westra’s surprise stage win at Mende on Thursday, Wiggins understood that the Dutchman would be the danger man on the Col d’Eze. “I knew that Westra was very strong after he'd won that stage midweek," he admitted.
In spite of his narrow six-second advantage coming into the stage, Wiggins said that he was confident that he would secure overall victory. “In terms of pressure it was nothing compared to an Olympic track final,” he said. "You can enjoy the moment, I was confident of my ability and today I rode it perfect."
Wiggins’ victory means that he has now won both of France’s premier week-long stage races, having already triumphed in the Critérium du Dauphiné last June. Given the assured nature with which he carried the yellow jersey over the past six days, and with over 100km of time trialling on the menu this July, Wiggins will enter the Tour de France as a genuine threat for top honours.
“I don't know if I'm a favourite but I'm one of maybe five riders who can do something there this summer," Wiggins said of the Tour.
Fourth in the Tour in 2009 and third overall at last season’s Vuelta a España, 2012 is set to be a pivotal year in Wiggins’ career. Overall victory at Paris-Nice completes a fine start to his campaign, but the Sky rider sees his win as just that.
"I said Paris-Nice was a stepping stone, no disrespect for Paris-Nice. But I must continue that progression to July,” he said.