Sergio Henao kept Team Sky's successful run at Paris-Nice going with a close-fought, two-second, win over Alberto Contador. The Colombian climber had to withstand an onslaught from Contador, who was looking to overturn a 31 second lead on the final stage of the race and despite losing over minute inside the last hour of racing, the Team Sky rider rallied to deny Contador a famous victory.
The win marked Team Sky's fifth Paris-Nice title in six years, and the biggest win of Henao's career. David de la Cruz won the pulsating stage but the race will be remembered for Contador's attack from 50 kilometres out and Henao's desperate and ultimately successful chase.
"It's a reward after the terrible moments that I've been through," Henao said in relation to past injury problems.
"Today the sun came out for me and I'm very happy. I'd like to dedicate this win to the team and all the staff, the mechanics, and to Dave Brailsford as well."
Brailsford was at the race on the final stage but refused to talk to Cyclingnews. He has been under intense pressure in recent months due to the on going UKAD investigation into a potential violation that occurred under his watch. Henao had said before the final stage that if he won, he would dedicate the victory to his team boss.
"He was always there when I needed him. He was there when I was injured, when I crashed several years ago and my knee was completely destroyed, he was there to support me."
Contador had Team Sky on the ropes when he attacked on the penultimate climb, and having dropped Henao on stage 7, it looked as though Spaniard would win the overall for the first time in ten years.
However, it was not to be and Henao first subdued a number of other attacking rivals before stemming the tide against Contador. The Colombian rode a tactically astute race. He was on the right side of the cross-winds on stage 1, finished second on the stage to Fayence, and then managed his losses against a surging Contador.
"I did panic a little bit when the gap was over a minute," he admitted.
"I was not getting help from the other teams but it was simple as to what I needed to do. I had to do a time trial uphill and then give all I had on the down hills. The team worked very hard for me. I knew that it would be difficult and that I would need to fight until the last meter."
"Contador is the sort of rider who always attacks. I knew that he would attack and I was ready for it."
Read more on this story
- Henao speaks about Team Sky withdrawing him from competition
- Does Colombia's anti-doping stand up to scrutiny?
- UCI opens biological passport case against Sergio Henao
- Sergio Henao's Pinarello Dogma F10 - Gallery
- Olympic injury update: Fractured iliac crest for Henao, Porte suffers fractured shoulder
- Sergio Henao cleared by UCI over biological passport case
Henao was also asked by Cyclingnews whether he would support the publication of data and test results from a peer-reviewed paper that looked at his blood profile.
Team Sky commissioned an independent study, run by medical staff at Sheffield University in 2014, in order to analyse Henao's physiological profile after an internal check spotted abnormalities from a test carried out at the end of 2013. The Colombian was withdrawn from racing in March 2014 while the independent review was carried out but was subsequently reinstated in June of that year. Henao insisted that his blood values differ because he hails from high-altitude Colombia, and travels to sea level and back for extended periods.
Team Sky's study followed Henao for three months, and the findings were passed to relevant anti-doping authorities, including WADA and the UCI, according to Team Sky. The team also stated that the experts would also "seek to publish a full scientific research paper in the coming months."
Henao was also the subject of UCI Biological passport case last Spring. The case was opened by the UCI but closed after a month. Team Sky told Cyclingnews last year that they were not responsible for publishing the medical paper.
On Sunday Henao said: "It's not a problem to have it released, to give out the files publicly. I went through many tests, many tough moments but it's not a problem to release all the details."
Paris-Nice stage 8 highlights - Video
To subscribe to the Cyclingnews video channel, click here.