Alberto Contador attack not enough as Team Sky's Sergio Henao wins Paris-Nice 2017 - Road Cycling UK

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Alberto Contador attack not enough as Team Sky’s Sergio Henao wins Paris-Nice 2017

Colombian champion claims overall victory by just two seconds

A long-range attack on the short, climb-laden final stage of Paris-Nice 2017 by Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) was not enough to deny Team Sky a fifth overall win in the race in the last six years.

Colombian champion Sergio Henao went in to the stage defending a 30-second lead of Irishman Dan Martin (QuickStep Floors), with Contador a further second back.

For the second consecutive year, however, Contador dug deep on the final day and nearly clawed back that overall deficit, only for David de la Cruz (QuickStep Floors) to pip him to the stage win and, consequently, deny him the bonus seconds that would have won the yellow jersey.

Sergio Henao claimed overall victory at Paris-Nice 2017 by just two seconds overall (pic: ASO)

Henao came in 21 seconds down, in an elite group of chasers also including Martin, stage seven winner Richie Porte (BMC Racing) and Britain’s stage six winner Simon Yates (Orica-Scott).

And when Contador’s bonus seconds were applied, it meant the Spaniard finished just two seconds behind the Colombian overall – just 12 months after Geraint Thomas beat Contador by four seconds to win Paris-Nice.

“This is the greatest victory in my career and to win it like this at the last metre of Paris-Nice is simply unbelievable,” Henao told TeamSky.com.

“It was tough, but I didn’t ask myself any questions,” he said. “I knew I had to suffer until the last minutes but I had to do it for myself and for the greatness of Colombian cycling.”

Contador lit the blue touch paper with 52km still to race, as they approached the summit of the Cote de Peille after team-mate Jarlinson Pantano’s pace-setting efforts.

Catching the day’s earlier escapees – De La Cruz included – Contador pulled his advantage on the road out to more than a minute but the efforts of Sebastian Henao and David Lopez proved vital for yellow jersey Sergio Henao.

Henao himself had to help with the pace-setting as Contador threatened to steal overall victory, and when the Spaniard snatched two bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint it looked to be his day instead.

After missing out to Geraint Thomas by four seconds last year, Alberto Contador has now been beaten to the yellow jersey by the narrowest of margins in two consecutive years (pic: ASO)

Contador went solo with two kilometres remaining, but De La Cruz got across just outside the final kilometre – a move which would have a huge bearing on the overall outcome.

Though Contador led the sprint out, De La Cruz comfortably beat him for the stage victory and all eyes turned to the clock.

But Henao was led home in the same group as Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida), the Italian crossing 21 seconds after Contador, meaning it was the Team Sky man celebrating.

With Martin in the same group, the Birmingham-born Irishman claimed third overall, while Simon Yates finished ninth overall – the highest British finisher.

Paris-Nice 2017: stage eight – result

1) David De La Cruz (ESP) – QuickStep Floors – 2.48.53hrs
2) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Trek-Segafredo – ST
3) Marc Soler (ESP) – Movistar +5”
4) Sonny Colbrelli (ITA) – Bahrain-Merida +21”
5) Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) – QuickStep Floors – ST
6) Michael Matthews (AUS) – Team Sunweb
7) Diego Ulissi (ITA) – UAE Team Emirates
8) Gorka Izaguirre (ESP) – Movistar
9) Arnold Jeannesson (FRA) – Fortuneo-Vital Concept
10) Lilian Calmejane (FRA) – Direct Energie

General classification

1) Sergio Henao (COL) – Team Sky – 29.50.29hrs
2) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Trek-Segafredo +2”
3) Daniel Martin (IRL) – QuickStep Floors +30”
4) Gorka Izaguirre (ESP) – Movistar +1.00
5) Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) – QuickStep Foors +1.22
6) Ilnur Zakarin (RUS) – Katusha-Alpecin +1.34
7) Ion Izaguirre (ESP) – Bahrain-Merida +1.41
8) Warren Barguil (FRA) – Team Sunweb +4.07
9) Simon Yates (GBR) – Orica-Scott +4.39
10) Tony Gallopin (FRA) – Lotto-Soudal +9.14

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