Wellens, the Ruta del Sol winner last month, started the final stage of Paris-Nice in fourth place and wearing the green points jersey. The 26-year-old Lotto Soudal rider was aiming to replicate his Nice stage win of 2016 and move onto the overall podium. After an aggressive stage in which Wellens was a key animator, he crossed the finish line in fifth place with both the GC and stage win out of his reach. A green jersey and fifth place overall is, however, his best result yet at the 'Race to the Sun.'
"My teammates and I had the ambition to claim the overall victory of Paris-Nice when we left to the start. Unfortunately, we didn't achieve that goal, but if you had told me before Paris-Nice that I would finish fifth overall I would have been very happy. The green jersey is a consolation prize, but it also proves how consistently I performed the past week," said Wellens.
Wellens started Paris-Nice with fourth place on the opening stage and enjoyed further top-ten results on stages 4 through to 7. His consistency, and the abandon of Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ), helped seal the points classification win ahead of Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida).
"Two times I came very close to the stage win: when I got fourth in the uphill sprint last Sunday and when I got second in Vence on Friday," he said. "Both yesterday and today I finished fifth in a very hard stage and in Wednesday's time trial I set the eighth time. That are all wonderful results. This morning I was still in the running for the overall victory, but unfortunately I didn't make it.
"At a certain moment the Izagirre brothers and Simon Yates were distanced and I thought they wouldn't close the gap anymore, but they did. Gorka Izagirre beat me at the first intermediate sprint of the day and that one second I missed out on, made the difference between becoming fifth or fourth on GC. But, I am fifth at sixteen seconds and that shows that it was a very exciting battle."
For Wellens, who has won a WorldTour stage race each season since 2014 along with a Giro d'Italia stage win and GP de Montréal success, the Paris-Nice result is further confirmation of his progression and a sign of good things to come.
"This result is definitely a step forward in my career. Now I will take some rest before racing Volta a Catalunya and the Walloon Classics,"
There was further success for Wellens' Lotto-Soudal team with Thomas De Gendt winning the king of the mountains classification for the second time in his career.
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