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Paris - Nice 2017: Stage 8

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Another edition of Paris-Nice, another short and punchy final stage, another Alberto Contador attempt at a comeback. Contador may well take inspiration from the remontada pulled off by Barcelona in midweek, but he's going to have to be a bit more creative here than simply repeatedly falling over in the penalty area in the manner of Luis Suarez. There are five categorised climbs crammed into just 115 kilometres of racing on today's stage. Contador begins the day third overall, 31 seconds down on Sergio Henao (Sky), and just behind Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors), who is both a potential ally of circumstance and a rival for final victory. The last climb before the finish, after all, is the Col d'Èze, which has been very kind to Irish riders in years past. A fascinating finale is in store.

 

The general classification picture is as follows ahead of the day's action:

1 Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Team Sky 27:01:15
2 Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick - Step Floors 00:00:30
3 Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek - Segafredo 00:00:31
4 Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar Team 00:01:00
5 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick - Step Floors 00:01:22
6 Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Team Katusha Alpecin 00:01:34
7 Jon Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Bahrain - Merida 00:01:41
8 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal 00:03:22
9 Barguil Warren (Fra) Team Sunweb 00:04:07
10 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica - Scott 00:04:39

 

The day's climbs:

 

Km 21.0 - Côte de Levens, 6.2km at 5.5% (Category 2)
Km 37.0 - Côte de Châteauneuf, 5.4km at 4.4% (Category 2)
Km 51.5 - Col de Calaïson, 6.3km at 4.4% (Category 2)
Km 68.0 - Côte de Peille, 6.5km climb at 6.9% - (Category 1)
Km 100.5 - Col d'Èze, 7.7km at 5.7% - (Category 1)
 

 

The neutralised start is at 1.35pm local time. The peloton should reach kilometre zero at 1.55pm. And by 1.56pm, Henao's yellow jersey could already be under attack.

 

On the corresponding stage a year ago, Contador began the day 15 seconds down on another Sky rider, Geraint Thomas. His volley of attacks brought him to the brink of a third Paris-Nice victory, but ultimately he lost out by a mere four seconds to the Welshman. You can read a recap of that stage here and watch video highlights here.

 

115km remaining from 115km

The flag has dropped and the final stage of Paris-Nice is underway. The day's first climb, the Côte de Levens, begins after just 15 kilometres of racing.

 

There are three non-starters to report. Six days from Milan-San Remo, Alexander Kristoff feels he has done enough. Tom Stamsnijder (Sunweb) and Kristoff's Katusha-Alpecin teammate Alberto Losada also haven't started today. 

 

111km remaining from 115km

There has been a flurry of early attacks, but no break has gained any traction just yet as Sky police the early exchanges at the head of the peloton.

 

108km remaining from 115km

It's been a rapid start to proceedings, and at this rate of knots, no potential escapee has been able to escape the clutches of the peloton.

 

105km remaining from 115km

Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) and Adam Hansen (Lotto Soudal) have managed to establish a small lead over the peloton as the race hurtles towards the base of the first climb, the 6.2km Côte de Levens.

 

Quick-Step Floors are currently leading the peloton. Julian Alaphillipe lost the overall lead yesterday on the long climb to the finish on the Col de Couillole, but Dan Martin remains very much in the hunt after he made up the ground to nip ahead of Sergio Henao for third place, in a style that brought to mind a certain late fightback on La Plagne three decades ago. "The fight isn't over and now I need to recover for Sunday," Martin said afterwards. "We are still in the fight to win Paris-Nice and after so many hard days I'm not going to stop trying now, so I'm quite optimistic for tomorrow."

 

100km remaining from 115km

Theuns and Hansen are brought back as the climb of the Levens begins. Almost immediately a group of five featuring the polka dot jersey of Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) tries to force its way off the front. Meanwhile, riders are being jettisoned off the back of the peloton as the pace is unrelenting at the front.

 

97km remaining from 115km

The peloton is splintering into shards on this climb, but for now all of the podium contenders are still together.

 

Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie), Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac), Arnold Jeannesson (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and José Herrada (Movistar) are at the head of the race on the climb, with a small lead over a lined out and fragmenting peloton.

 

95km remaining from 115km

Carlos De La Cruz (Quick-Step Floors) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) bridge up to the leaders, while Woods drops back. Sky surely won't want to allow a foil for Dan Martin to disappear up the road at this juncture.

 

Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie), Arnold Jeannesson (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), José Herrada (Movistar), Carlos De La Cruz (Quick-Step Floors) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) have a small lead over the peloton. BMC are setting the pace behind and the bunch appears to be split into two distinct groups.

 

93km remaining from 115km

Calmejane leads over the top of the Levens. The five escapees have a lead of 50 seconds over the Sky-led peloton, but there are a number of counter-attackers in between.

 

91km remaining from 115km

The rapid early pace has already claimed some victims. Tyler Farrar (Dimension Data) and Michal Kolar (Bora-Hansgrohe) have both abandoned in the opening kilometres.

 

90km remaining from 115km

The front group has swelled to some 22 riders after the counter-attackers bridged up over the top of the climb. Michael Matthews (Sunweb) is among them, and the Australian duly wins the intermediate sprint at Levens. This large group is 1:30 ahead of the peloton.

 

The 22 riders at the head of the race are: Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Jose Mendes (Bora-Hansgrohe), Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), Mathias Frank (AG2R La Mondiale), Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), David De La Cruz (Quick-Step Floors), Marc Soler (Movistar), José Herrada (Movistar), Diego Ulissi (UAE Emirates), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Arnaud Jeannesson (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Merida), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Michael Matthews (Sunweb), Simon Petilli (UAE Emirates), Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), Julian El Fares (Delko-Marseille), Quentin Pacher (Delko-Marseille), Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac), Tom Jelte Slagter (Cannondale-Drapac) and Rory Sutherland (Movistar).

 

82km remaining from 115km

 There are 24 riders at the head of the race with a lead of 2:40 over the peloton: Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Jose Mendes (Bora-Hansgrohe), Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), Mathias Frank (AG2R La Mondiale), Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie), Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), David De La Cruz (Quick-Step Floors), Marc Soler (Movistar), José Herrada (Movistar), Diego Ulissi (UAE Emirates), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Arnaud Jeannesson (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Merida), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Michael Matthews (Sunweb), Simon Petilli (UAE Emirates), Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), Julian El Fares (Delko-Marseille), Quentin Pacher (Delko-Marseille), Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac), Tom Jelte Slagter (Cannondale-Drapac), Alex Domont (Ag2r La Mondiale), and Rory Sutherland (Movistar).

The highest placed rider on GC in this group is Mathias Frank, who is 22nd overall, some 32:41 down on Henao. The breaks lead stretches out beyond three minutes.

 

80km remaining from 115km

The escapees are on the day's second climb, the category 2 Côte de Châteauneuf (5.4km at 4.4%). Their lead on the peloton is up to 3:40.

 

Trek-Segafredo and Sky lead the peloton. Dan Martin, of course, has his Quick-Step teammate Carlos De La Cruz up the road in this break.

 

There's a race within a race out in front, as Calmejane and Domont strike out in search of the king of the mountains points at the summit. Calmejane has a ten-point lead in the classification after his aggressive showing yesterday.

 

75km remaining from 115km

Calmejane led Domont over the summit to buttress his advantage in the king of the mountains competition. The 24 escapees are still 3:40 clear of the peloton.

 

Some 39.3 kilometres have been covered in the first hour of racing, incidentally, according to letour.fr.

 

73km remaining from 115km

Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step) has also abandoned in the opening part of today's stage, as the combination of soaring speeds and stiff climbs takes its toll. Trek-Segafredo continue to set the pace in the main peloton.

 

70km remaining from 115km

The escapees are now approaching the category 2 Col de Calaïson (6.3km at 4.4%). Their advantage has been trimmed back slightly to 2:55.

 

66km remaining from 115km

Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) has been dropped from the peloton on the Col de Calaïson. His brother Adam, meanwhile, has abandoned Tirreno-Adriatico today.

 

Trek-Segafredo's tempo at the head of the peloton has caused a number of riders to lose some ground, and there are around 30 riders still in the yellow jersey group. 1:55 the deficit to the escapees.

 

A total of eight riders have abandoned Paris-Nice so far this afternoon: Mickael Delage, Marc Sarreau (FDJ), Zico Waeytens (Sunweb), Sam Bennett, Michal Kolar (Bora), Tyler Farrar (Dimension Data), Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step) and Julien Morice (Direct Energie).

 

63km remaining from 115km

There has been a regrouping in the main peloton, and Simon Yates is back in the yellow jersey group. Trek-Segafredo continue to set the pace, and the gap is 1:56.

 

61km remaining from 115km

Calmejane led Domont over the top of the Col de Calaïson, incidentally. There are two category 1 climbs remaining, the Côte de Peille (6.5km at 6.9%) and the Col d'Èze (7.7km at 5.7%).

 

57km remaining from 115km

There has been a definite injection of urgency in the main peloton. The break's lead is down to 1:36 as they approach the base of the Côte de Peille.

 

53km remaining from 115km

And so it begins. David De La Cruz (Quick-Step) attacks alone from the break on the Côte de Peille. Behind, Trek-Segafredo's chasing has closed the gap to 1:03

 

52km remaining from 115km

Jarlinson Pantano accelerates with Contador on his wheel. Sergio Henao (Sky) is forced to respond...

 

Henao and Dan Martin bridge up to Pantano and Contador, followed by Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) and Ion Izagirre (Bahrain Merida).

 

Up front, the break has fragmented, with De La Cruz, Petilli, Pauwels and Jeannesson leading the race, but the real drama is in the reduced yellow jersey group, where Contador and Pantano are applying the pressure.

 

50km remaining from 115km

Another acceleration from Contador on the Côte de Peille, and this time only Henao can follow as Dan Martin is unable to hold the wheel.

 

Contador kicks again and this time Henao is in difficulty and a gap opens...

 

Alberto Contador dances clear of Henao and begins to pick off riders in the fragmented early break.

 

The race has fractured in several places on the climb, but the key information is that Contador is alone, 20 seconds down on the three leaders, De La Cruz, Petilli and Jeannesson. Henao and Martin have been distanced by the Spaniard.

 

48km remaining from 115km

Contador continues to bound his way towards the head of the race. His lead over Henao is now 35 seconds, meaning that he is the virtual race leader.

 

Not quite. Henao is 35 seconds down on the front of the race, but 25 behind Contador. He remains in the provisional race lead for the time being.

 

47km remaining from 115km

Petilli leads over the Côte de Peille, but Contador is almost in contact with the leaders as crests the summit in fifth place. The gap to Henao at the top is 40 seconds, while Dan Martin is a minute down.

 

43km remaining from 115km

The situation on the descent of the Côte de Peille: Contador is in a leading group of 14 riders. Sergio Henao is 40 seconds down, with his cousin Sebastian for company. Dan Martin is 1:00 back, in a group with Alaphilippe and Simon Yates.

 

40km remaining from 115km

There are 14 riders in the Contador group at the head of the race: Contador, De Marchi, Colbrelli, De Gendt, De La Cruz, Soler, Edet, Matthews, Ulissi, Petilli, Calmejane, Chavanel, Jeannesson and El Fares.

 

Sergio Henao has been joined by Dan Martin, Simon Yates, Julian Alaphilippe and Alex Domont in the chasing group, 42 seconds down.

 

36km remaining from 115km

Contador et al have around 14 kilometres of descending to come before the road starts to climb again on the Col d'Eze (7.7km at 5.7%). From the summit of that final climb, it's 15-kilomete drop to the finish in Nice.

 

35km remaining from 115km

Henao's deficit rises to 50 seconds. He has two teammates still for company in the yellow jersey group in the shape of Sebastian Henao and David Lopez.

 

23km remaining from 115km

Contador and his 14-man group have 50 seconds in hand on a yellow jersey group that has since swollen to 23 riders.

 

32km remaining from 115km

Contador and his 14-man group have 50 seconds in hand on a yellow jersey group that has since swollen to 23 riders.

28km remaining from 115km

The gap comes down slightly to 45 seconds, but Contador remains the virtual overall leader.

 

25km remaining from 115km

Michael Matthews and Simone Petilli are exchanging turns on the front with Contador int he leading group of 14. Sebastian Henao and David Lopez lead the 23-strong chasing group.

23km remaining from 115km

Contador has expended a lot of energy in this leading group, he doesn't seem to be sparing himself for the Col d'Eze. 41 seconds the gap as the climb begins.

 

Contador goes immediately to the front of the leading group on the lower slopes of the Col d'Eze and begins forcing the pace once again.

 

21km remaining from 115km

Contador's forcing is whittling down the leading group and his lead over Henao is back out to 47 seconds. Henao has now been forced to take up the reins in the yellow jersey group, with Martin et al poised behind him...

 

20km remaining from 115km

Contador's tempo has burned off everyone bar David De La Cruz (Quick-Step) and Marc Soler (Movistar) and his gap over Henao is out to 54 seconds. Remember, he began the day only 31 seconds off Henao's overall lead.

 

20km remaining from 115km

Henao carries the burden of chasing alone, and the Colombian can make no inroads into Contador's advantage. He runs the risk, too, of having Martin et al look to jump away from him nearer the summit of the Col d'Eze. For now, of course, Henao is thinking only of saving his yellow jersey any way he can.

 

Richie Porte (BMC) accelerates and Dan Martin responds. Henao struggles to get back on terms but the group remains just about intact.

 

18km remaining from 115km

When the pace relents, Porte tries another short-lived attack. This stop-start pace will do nothing to help Henao, who is 55 seconds down with more than three kilometres of climbing to go.

 

Contador continues to pile on the pressure in front in his familiar bobbing style. His lead is almost one minute over Henao.

 

17km remaining from 115km

Marc Soler accelerates out of the front group. Contador doesn't even try to follow, preferring instead to tap out his own pace, with De La Cruz on his wheel.

 

17km remaining from 115km

Zakarin puts in a dig in the yellow jersey group. They remain around a minute down on Contador.

 

16km remaining from 115km

Soler has a lead of 10 seconds over Contador and De Le Cruz. The Henao group is at 1:05.

 

16km remaining from 115km

Dan Martin accelerates out of the yellow jersey group, but Ion Izagirre pegs him back and he relents.

 

Into the final kilometre of the Col d'Eze for Contador. He trails Soler by 19 seconds. The Henao group is at 1:05, meaning that as it stands, Contador is en route to Paris-Nice victory. 

 

Julian Alaphilippe attacks from the yellow jersey group, but again Henao is able to follow and bring him to heel.

 

De La Cruz gives Contador a turn on the front for the first time. Quick-Step's thoughts have turned to the stage win rather than a Dan Martin overall win.

 

15km remaining from 115km

Marc Soler leads over the top of the Col d'Eze. Contador and De Le Cruz trail by 10 seconds. The Henao group is 1:00 back. 

 

13km remaining from 115km

Contador picks up two bonus seconds as he comes through in second place at the intermediate sprint in Eze. That brings his overall deficit down to 29 seconds. He would pick up a minimum of 4 seconds in bonuses at the finish if he stays away, meaning that he needs to come home 26 seconds up on Henao to win Paris-Nice.

 

13km remaining from 115km

Contador picks up two bonus seconds as he comes through in second place at the intermediate sprint in Eze. That brings his overall deficit down to 29 seconds. He would pick up a minimum of 4 seconds in bonuses at the finish if he stays away, meaning that he needs to come home 25 seconds up on Henao to win Paris-Nice.

10km remaining from 115km

Henao is now just 45 seconds down on Soler, and 40 seconds down on Contador. It's going to be very tight...

 

9km remaining from 115km

Contador has betrayed some signs of struggling on this shallow descent off the Col d'Eze. The advantage is with a larger chase group on a descent like this, although Henao is having to do the bulk of the work.

 

7km remaining from 115km

Contador and De Le Cruz catch Soler. They are 37 seconds up on the Henao group.

 

6km remaining from 115km

39 seconds the gap with 6 kilometes remaining. This is, just like last year, going right down to the wire.

 

5km remaining from 115km

Contador is going to have to do all the heavy lifting for himself now, as Soler and De La Cruz think of saving themselves for a sprint for the stage win.

 

4km remaining from 115km

Contador's advantage is falling... The Henao group is back to within 30 seconds...

 

3km remaining from 115km

Henao is getting some help now in the chasing group, and this is helping to shave seconds off Contador's advantage.

 

2km remaining from 115km

Contador opens a small gap over De Le Cruz and Soler. He is only 30 seconds up on Henao, but would - as it stands - pick up a 10-second stage winner's bonus too.

 

1km remaining from 115km

Into the streets of Nice for Contador, who is 31 seconds up on the Henao group...

 

1km remaining from 115km

Contador enters the final kilometre with a small lead over De La Cruz.

 

De La Cruz catches Contador. They are 25 seconds up on the Henao group...

 

De La Cruz opens the sprint...

 

David De La Cruz (Quick-Step) wins the stage, Contador takes 6 bonus seconds...

 

Colbrelli leads the Henao group home 20 seconds down. Sergio Henao (Sky) - just - wins Paris-Nice.

 

A wry smile from Contador, who has lost out, we think, by two seconds...

 

Alberto Contador: "The race was a great spectacle. I'm proud of what I did out there. I'm happy I've made people enjoy the race today. Of course, it's easier if you can follow the wheels. I preferred to risk everything to try to win."

 

Confirmation that Sergio Henao wins Paris-Nice by two seconds from Contador. Dan Martin takes third, 30 seconds down.

 

General classification:

 

1 Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Team Sky 29:50:29
2 Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek - Segafredo 00:00:02
3 Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick - Step Floors 00:00:30
4 Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar Team 00:01:00
5 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick - Step Floors 00:01:22
6 Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Team Katusha Alpecin 00:01:34
7 Jon Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Bahrain - Merida 00:01:41
8 Barguil Warren (Fra) Team Sunweb 00:04:07
9 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica - Scott 00:04:39
10 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing 00:14:26
 

 

Stage result:

1 David De La Cruz (Spa) Quick Step Floors
2 Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek-Segafredo)
3 Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar) 00:00:05
4 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida 00:00:20
5 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors
 

 

Stage winner David de la Cruz: “When I went in the break, I knew Alberto would try, he always go to the end. I had to suffer a lot on his wheel but I was able to manage. When I saw they weren’t catching us, I tried to ride carefully to win the stage.”

 

Result:

1 David De La Cruz (Spa) Quick Step Floors 02:48:51
2 Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek-Segafredo
3 Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar) 00:00:05
4 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida 00:00:21
5 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors
6 Michael Matthews (Aus) Trek-Segafredo
7 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
8 Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar Team
9 Arnaud Jeannesson (Fra) Fortuneo-Vital Concept
10 Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct Energie

General classification:


1 Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Team Sky 29:50:29
2 Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek - Segafredo 00:00:02
3 Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick - Step Floors 00:00:30
4 Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar Team 00:01:00
5 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick - Step Floors 00:01:22
6 Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Team Katusha Alpecin 00:01:34
7 Jon Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Bahrain - Merida 00:01:41
8 Barguil Warren (Fra) Team Sunweb 00:04:07
9 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica - Scott 00:04:39
10 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing 00:14:26
 

 

Sergio Henao's Paris-Nice victory is the fifth by a Sky rider in six seasons after Bradley Wiggins (2012), Richie Porte (2013 and 2015) and Geraint Thomas (2016). It is also the biggest win of Henao's career to date, one which has been twice interrupted due to anomalies in his blood profile. His Sky team withheld him for a period in 2014 pending internal testing, and then the UCI opened a biological passport case against him in April of last year before dropping the case once again a month later. In 2014, Sky pledged to publish the findings of a Sheffield University study into Henao's blood profile, believing the anomalies were explicable by the rider living and training at altitude in Colombia, but the peer-reviewed paper has thus far failed to materialise.

 

 

Thanks for joining our coverage of today's final stage of Paris-Nice on Cyclingnews. A full report, results and photographs will follow here. We'll be back tomorrow with live coverage from stage 6 of Tirreno-Adriatico.

 

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