Final day victory for David de la Cruz was the final cherry on top of the cake for Quick-Step Floors at Paris-Nice. The Belgian team finished the 'race to the sun' with Dan Martin in third place overall, Julian Alaphilippe fifth and winner of the youth and points classification, and victory in the team classification.
However, the team had anticipated starting the final day with Alaphilippe in yellow, but after the Frenchman lost the lead on stage 7, the focus turned to stage victory. Having worked for the team all week, de la Cruz was let off the chain and duly repaid the faith by getting the better of Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) in a two-up sprint.
"It was a reward by the team to put me in the break. When I saw that Alberto was there, I tried to stay with him because I know him and I know he never gives up until the finish line," said de la Cruz, who became the first Spaniard in five years to win a stage of Paris-Nice.
While de la Cruz was out of the general classification conversation, Contador was aiming to overturn his 31-second deficit to Sergio Henao (Team Sky) ensuring the duo had reason to collaborate on the 115km, five-climb stage. Contador made his move on the Côte de Peille, making his way over the day's breakaway which featured de la Cruz.
The duo had compatriot Marc Soler (Movistar) for company in the breathless finale as it became apparent the stage winner would decide the overall outcome of the race. De la Cruz kept his calm and duly dispatched of Contador to ensure the Trek-Segafredo rider came up two seconds short in his bid for the GC
"It wasn't until the final three kilometers, when I realized we still had a healthy gap on the chasers, that I began thinking of taking the victory. It was a tough day out there, I suffered a lot, but kept my composure on the descent and now I'm very happy. It's one of the best days of my career."
Alaphilippe and Martin's GC success
While GC duo Alaphilippe and Martin were both dreaming of finishing on the podium, only the Irishman succeeded. The Frenchman was nonetheless proud of his race as made history by becoming the first rider to win the young rider and points jerseys in the one edition of the race.
"You can't imagine how happy I am! It was another tough day from kilometer zero, but we had a good strategy, sending David in the front, while Dan and myself stayed with the GC contenders, keeping an eye on what was happening," said Alaphilippe who also won stage 4. "David deserved to win, he did a great job for the team throughout the week, and I'm very happy for him. It's been a fantastic race for Quick-Step Floors and I am very proud of what we have achieved.
Having podiumed at the Volta a Catalunya and Critérium du Dauphiné last year, Martin explained his delight in another top result at a premier WorldTour stage race with Quick-Step Floors. Especially as he came in underdone as he explained.
"Third in the general classification at such a big as Paris-Nice is an important result in my career, solid proof of how much I have developed since joining Quick-Step Floors, especially as I didn't arrive here in the best condition," he said. "Finally, I am also satisfied and super glad to see the entire squad on the podium at the end of this race, as this fantastic team spirit is what brought us at the top."
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