Stage 8 of Paris-Nice proved to be a thrilling and fitting finale to an entertaining 75th edition of the 'Race to the Sun'. Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), third overall at 31 seconds off leader Sergio Henao (Team Sky), rolled the dice with an aggressive day of racing but came up agonisingly short, and missed out on victory by just two seconds.
Henao was on the back foot for the second half of the stage after Contador made his move on the Côte de Peille over 50km out and bridged across to the breakaway. His Sky teammates helped limit the damage over the col d'Eze and down into Nice, and in the end had David de la Cruz (Quick-Step Floors) to thank for allowing Contador to do the heavy lifting in the break before taking the stage win from him - and with it an extra four bonus seconds that would have handed the Spaniard overall victory.
"It's really a shame," said Contador shortly afterwards. "I attacked from a long way out but it was a little too far before the finish line. But it was a beautiful race and I'm happy to have played a part in that. I didn't win but I'm glad. That's the way I am. I have to try something, I can't be content with sitting back. I have to take risks."
Henao moved into the yellow jersey after Saturday's queen stage to the Col de la Couillole, won by Richie Porte (BMC), after Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) cracked on the steep slopes. Contador finished second to Porte with Henao fourth. While Saturday's stage offered plenty of exciting action as the race came to life, Sunday's finale upped the level again and capped off a thrilling weekend.
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While Saturday of Tirreno-Adriatico belonged to Nairo Quintana, Sunday was the domain of Peter Sagan as the world champion pulled off a masterclass for his second win of the 2017 'Race of the two Seas'.
Just as he did in 2015, Quintana stamped his authority on the race by winning atop the Terminillo. While there wasn't the snow of two years ago, Quintana's class was unchanged, with the Movistar man moving into the race lead. The British duo of Geraint Thomas (Sky) and Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) rounded out the top three on the stage with race leader Rohan Dennis dropping from first to fourth.
"I wasn't sure of what I could do today as I had been sick a few days ago but our tactic was to have someone ahead before I launched my attack and that's what happened with Castroviejo," Quintana said. "The advantage I have on GC now is significant. It gives me some confidence ahead of the second half of the race."
Having saved his legs on Saturday's challenging climb, Sagan proved to have the best legs and sharpest wit in Sunday's brutal ascent to Fermo. The 14 per cent 'Muro' should have been too much for Sagan, but once again he confounded expectations and emerged victorious with his rivals scratching their heads over how to beat the Slovakian.
"Who knows what the climbers were thinking when they saw me with 500 metres to go? I wasn't sure if they were thinking of attacking or not," Sagan explained.
With two stages to come, Quintana leads Pinot by 50 seconds after Yates had to pull out due to illness, with Dennis at 1:06 minutes and Primoz Roglic at 1:15.
World champion Amalie Dideriksen celebrated her first victory in the rainbow jersey Saturday with the Boels Dolmans rider getting the better of Italian Elena Cecchini (Canyon-SRAM) and Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb Women).
The Dane was part of an elite selection made on the final ascent of the VAM-berg before making a late escape with Cecchini, Brand and Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5).
Longo Borghini's fourth place means she keeps her lead in the Women's WorldTour standings, with Dideriksen, 20, taking over in the young rider standings. Round three of the Women's WorldTour takes place Sunday, 19 March with Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Comune di Cittiglio.
For the full Ronde van Drenthe race report, results and photos, click here.
Amalie Dideriksen (Boels Dolmans) gets the win ahead of Elena Cecchini (Canyon SRAM) (Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
A day after the Ronde van Drenthe, the women's peloton lined out for the Drentse Acht van Westerveld, with Chloe Hosking (Alé Cipollini) winning ahead of Lotte Kopecky (Lotto Soudal Ladies), and Amalie Dideriksen (Boels Dolmans) in a bunch sprint.
In the aggressive finale, Roxane Knetemann (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) tried for a long range attack with Chantal Blaak (Boels Dolmans) and Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) also trying their luck. The race came back together for the sprint, with Hosking showing a clean pair of heels to claim the win.
"I went pretty early. I think I went with about 250 metres to go but I didn't want to get boxed in. I just put my head down and went. I saw a photo of the finish and I won by a lot so I can take a lot of confidence from that. I am looking forward to winning more races in the next couple of weeks," Hosking said.
It is the second win of the new season for the Australian after her stage success at the Santos Women's Tour in January. The win was also the perfect tonic after 10th place in Ronde van Drenthe.
Chloe Hosking wins the Drenste Acht van Westerveld (Bert Geerts)
Twelve months on from winning both the time trial and road race Oceania titles, Sean Lake successfully defended both in Canberra. The IsoWhey Sports SwissWellness rider beat Benjamin Dyball to the time trial gold, with Olympic gold medal winning rower Hamind Bond in third place.
In the road race, Lake rode away from the peloton to take the victory 1:14 minute ahead of IsoWhey Sports SwissWellness teammate Neil van der Ploeg, with Jesse Featonby (Drapac-Pat's Veg) in third place. The U23 men's road race was an all Mitchelton Scott podium, with Lucas Hamilton winning ahead of Michael Storer and Jai Hindley.
In the women's field, it was Lucy Kennedy taking the time trial win ahead of Rebecca Mackey and Lisen Hoskings. In the road race, Hoskings put on a display of class as she took the road race title 3:17 minutes ahead of Holden Women's Cycling teammate Shannon Malseed and Kennedy.
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