Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) went for an aggressive strategy on the penultimate stage of Paris-Nice but, try as he might, he wasn’t able to shake off his rivals. Contador attacked multiple times on the final ascent of La Madone d’Utelle but he couldn't snap the elastic.
He paid for his efforts at the finish, and he was only able to manage third in a sprint finish with Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) and Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), coming over the line a second down. “We tried to make this stage as hard as possible since the start. We didn't want to give even one minute of rest so that our adversaries reached the last climb as tired as possible,” said Contador.
“I was feeling well, but the climb wasn't as tough as I would have liked. There was a bigger split than I expected but I knew it would be very difficult to make a big difference. I'm very happy with my form but not with the result. I would have, obviously, liked to be further ahead but we have another day ahead, and we'll see what we can do.”
Contador moved up into second in the overall standings at 15 seconds down on Thomas, who became the new race leader after both Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) were dropped one the final climb. Instead of the time trial finish on the Col d’Eze, this year’s Paris-Nice will close with a mountainous, but short, 134km stage. Contador will have one final opportunity, but the team knows it will be a hard fight.
“Today was a really hard stage. The team was strong, and they did well to make it really tough. There were still a lot of guys in front of Alberto on GC, so we had to work hard to get rid of them, and this worked, and then Alberto did a strong ride on the climb. He just couldn't get rid of Thomas at the end, but all is still to play for tomorrow,” explained directeur sportif Steven De Jongh.
“It will be difficult. Sky has a strong squad, and it will be complicated to upend the GC. We can't rule out anything, of course, but with the summit finish that cancelled on stage 3, I knew my possibilities were restricted. Geraint Thomas is strong and it will hard to take his spot. Second place overall is a good position heading into tomorrow which will still be a hard stage, and we're going to be going for it again so we will see what happens. It's not over yet.”
Follow live coverage of the final stage of the 2016 Paris-Nice here.
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