Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) has become only the second British rider to win the prestigious Paris-Nice stage race.
The Gent-born Londoner won the closing time trial in impressive style to claim overall victory in the ‘Race to the Sun’.
Wiggins produced a brilliant ride to see off the challenge of his closest rival, Louis Westra (Vaconsoleil-DCM), who started the day just six seconds behind him in the overall standings and led Wiggins by two seconds at the half-way stage of the 9.6km race against the clock.
Wiggins becomes only the second British rider to win Paris-Nice, following Tom Simpson’s victory in 1967.
“I’d probably say it’s one of my biggest wins – as was the Dauphiné – and to have both those on my palmares is a huge honour,” said Wiggins.
“It’s massive to win this race too. I really think about things like that but I’ve tried not to think too much about it in the last few days. To follow in Tom Simpson’s footsteps and become the second British rider to win Paris-Nice is something special.”
Wiggins had led the race since stage two after his Sky teammates judged perfectly a split in the bunch caused by crosswinds, and heading in to the 9.6km mountain time trial from Nice to the Col d’Eze would have felt the weight of expectation.
But he delivered a superb performance to see of the challenge of Westra, who led Wiggins by two seconds at the half way stage.
“It was seriously hard but it was always going to be hard today, whether I was trying to get time back or protecting a lead.
“I always said it was about me doing my ride, emptying it to the top which was always going to be horrible. It was a 19-minute effort and pacing wise we got it absolutely perfect.
“Then it just depended on what everyone else did and there was one guy in Westra who got very close but it’s job done,” said Wiggins.
The victory marked Wiggins’ second victory against the clock in as many races. At last month’s Volta ao Algarve, he pipped world time trial champion, Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) to win the closing time trial.
His Paris-Nice triumph is arguably his greatest on the road (he has three Olympic gold medals on the track) and compares to his victory last year in the Criterium du Dauphine.
Team Sky directeur sportif, Sean Yates, said while victories in the Dauphine and Paris-Nice held equal prestige, yesterday’s victory was more satisfying.
“The win here was better though because of the way it played out in the final, the way we defended the jersey and the way Bradley climbed up Mende which isn’t a climb which suits him particularly well. So the way we rode and how we handled all the situations makes it a great result.
“At the Dauphiné last year it was a bit of a surprise whereas coming into this at the prologue he was the number one favourite. So there was more pressure or expectation. We didn’t get an easy ride to the finish but Bradley delivered, for the team and for himself.”
The victory puts Wiggins second in the UCI WorldTour rankings and moves Team Sky to pole position.
He will ride the seven-stage Volta a Catalunya later this month in further preparation for his ultimate goal, the Tour De France in July.
Paris-Nice stage seven
1) Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – Sky Pro Cycling – 19.12
2) Lieuwe Westra (NED)- Vacansoleil-DCM + 2”
3 Jean-Christophe Peraud (FRA) – Ag2R La Mondiale + 33”
4) Simon Spilak (SLO) Katusha Team + 47”
5) Jerome Coppel (FRA) – Saur-Sojasun + 51”
6) Alejandro Valverde (SPA) – Movistar Team +52”
7) Andreas Klöden (GER) – RadioShack-Nissan +58”
8) David Moncoutie (FRA) – Cofidis Le Credit En Ligne +59”
9) Damiano Cunego (ITA) Lampre – ISD
10) Rigoberto Uran Uran (COL) – Sky Procycling + 1.06”
1) Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – Sky Pro Cycling – 28:12:16
2) Lieuwe Westra (NED) – Vacansoleil-DCM +8”
3) Alejandro Valverde (SPA) – Movistar Team +1.10
4) Simon Spilak (SLO) – Katusha Team + 1.24
5) Tejay Van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing Team + 1.54
6) Arnold Jeannesson (FRA) – FDJ-Bigmat + 2.13
7) Maxime Monfort (BEL) – RadioShack-Nissan-Trek + 2.21
8) Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) – Omega Pharma-Quick Step + 2.42
9) Robert Kiserlovski (CRO) – Astana Pro Team + 3.30
10) Angel Vicioso Arcos (SPA) – Katusha Team + 3.59