History repeats itself for Sky, Henao… and Contador

news13.03.2017After the race

History repeated itself on Sunday for Team Sky's Sergio Henao and Alberto Contador, who battled it out in a nail-biting final stage of Paris-Nice before the Spaniard was forced to concede defeat for two seconds. Already beaten a year ago by a slim four-second margin by another Team Sky rider, Geraint Thomas, the 2007 and 2010 winner of the Race to the Sun again failed by the blink of an eye as the British outfit conquered their fifth final victory in six years with four different riders. Sergio Henao emulated Bradley Wiggins (2012), Richie Porte (2013 and 2015), and Geraint Thomas for the most prestigious win in his career. But the Colombian champion is far from a second choice winner: attacked all day by El Pistolero Contador, he resisted bravely and kept his cool until the finish line. France's Julian Alaphilippe (Quick Step), with the green and white jerseys, and his compatriot Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie), crowned KOM champion, completed the podium.  

Calmejane goes for polka-dot
147 riders left Nice's Place Massena without  Alexander Kristoff and Alberto Losada (Katusha), Jacopo Guarnieri (FDJ) and Tom Stamsnijder (Sunweb). After short-lived skirmishes, KOM leader Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) moved ahead at kilometer 16, followed by Jose Herrada (Movistar) and   Arnold Jeannesson (Fortuneo). The three were joined by Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and David De la Cruz (Quick Step) shortly before the top of Cote de Levens (Km 21, 2nd cat) on which Calmejane collected seven points. By the second climb of the day, Cote de Chateauneuf (km 37, 2nd cat), the five had been joined by 17 other riders. Calmejane strengthened his polka-dot jersey with seven more points.

24 in the lead
At kilometer 34, the leading group included the following 24 riders:  De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), De la Cruz (Quick Step), De Marchi (BMC), Colbrelli (Bahrain),  Domont, Frank (Ag2R), Jose Herrada, Soler, Sutherland (Movistar), Slagter, Woods (Cannondale), Lutsenko (Astana), Edet (Cofidis), Matthews (Sunweb), Ulissi, Petillil (UAE), Pauwels (Dimension Data), Mendes (Bora-Hansgrohe), Calmejane, Chavanel (Direct Energie), Jeannesson, Perichon (Fortuneo), El Fares and Pacher (Delko-Marseille). Their lead topped at 4:15.
On the third ascent, Col de Calaison (Km 51.5, 2nd cat), white jersey holder and stage 6 winner Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) was briefly dropped. Seven more points allowed Calmejane to secure the KOM jersey once and for all and take over from team-mate Antoine Duchesne, who won it a year ago.

Contador strikes
The succession of climbs proved too demanding for several riders who called it quits, including stage 5 winner Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Marcel Kittel (Quick Step). In the first category Cote de Peille, as the leading group was scattered along the climb, Alberto Contador attacked as expected in the wheel of Trek-Segafredo team-mate Jarlinson Pantano (km 65). But Sergio Henao reacted immediately. A second attempt was not more successful, but the third finally paid off as the yellow jersey holder finally lost ground. At the summit of Cote de Peille, the 2007 and 2010 winner of the Race to the Sun was only one second short of the yellow jersey.

Contador leads the way
In the descent, while Henao was helped by team-mates Sebastian Henao and David Lopez and joined forces with second-placed overall Dan Martin (Quick Step) and green jersey Julian Alaphilippe, the leading group comprised 14 riders: De Marchi (BMC), Contador (Trek), Colbrelli (Bahrain), De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), De la Cruz (Quick Step), Soler (Movistar), Edet (Cofidis), Matthews (Sunweb), Ulissi, Petilli (UAE), Calmenjane, Chavanel (Direct Energie) Jeannesson (Fortuneo) and El Fares (Delko). Contador led the way for most of the descent and stretched the group's lead to 50 seconds after 80 km.

Col d'Eze countdown
On Col d'Eze, the race became a man-to-man battle between Contador, working almost alone in his group, and Henao and his team-mates, receiving little or no support. The gap between them was 40 seconds at the bottom of the climb. With 20 km to go, Contador had only his compatriots David De la Cruz and Marc Soler left with him as his lead had gone up to 55 seconds. One kilometer from the summit, Marc Soler went on his own, seeking the stage laurels. In the peloton, Henao was attacked from all sides, Dan Martin, Ion Izagirre and Julian Alaphilippe striking in turn. But the Colombian resisted bravely.

Two seconds
The descent was even more breath-taking as Contador showed signs of fatigue while Henao charged bravely down the hill to try and save his jersey. The Spaniard collected two seconds in the last intermediate sprint in Eze and the stage win would have awarded him ten seconds more. But his compatriot David de la Cruz, left to battle it out for stage victory in the final stretch, had no intention of missing his lifetime chance to take the stage honors. He outsprinted Contador, ruining his chances of overall victory as the chasing peloton crossed the line 21 seconds later.

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Jersey wearers after the stage 8

Classifications after the stage 8


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