Paris-Nice 2016: Geraint Thomas fends off Alberto Contador to seal overall victory

Welshman fights back on final stage after being dropped to claim biggest win of career

Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas displayed the tenacity, grit and, ultimately, class that have become the Welshman’s hallmarks to fend off the challenge of Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and become only the third Brit to win Paris-Nice.

Thomas went into the final stage with a 15-second advantage over Contador, having taken the race lead on stage six, but saw the title slipping away from him on the final climb, the Col d’Eze, as Contador attacked and gained time.

But Thomas catapulted himself down the descent to make up 30 seconds and ultimately cross the line just five seconds behind Contador, who also picked up six bonus seconds for finishing second on the stage behind winner Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal).

Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) claimed the scalp of Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) for the second time this season by winning Paris-Nice

That meant Thomas remained top of the general classification by four seconds, following Tom Simpson (1967) and Bradley Wiggins (2012) as British winners of the prestigious week-long race.

And Thomas hailed the victory as “the biggest win of my whole career”, having enjoyed a stellar start to 2016, also winning the Volta ao Algarve.

“I felt good, I felt strong, in control,” added Thomas, who also tweeted that he was in ‘dreamland’. “But when he [Contador] went halfway up Col d’Eze, my legs went away. I thought it’s going to be all over, but Sergio stayed with me.

“I had a 54 [tooth] chainring on the descent and I needed that – I went just full gas to finally catch up in the last few kilometres.”

Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) won the stage, outsprinting Alberto Contador (Tinkoff)

Thomas’ former Sky team-mate, Richie Porte, completed the podium, and, in the Australian and Contador, Thomas picked up the scalp of two former Paris-Nice winners – and two major general classification riders, not least in seven-time Grand Tour champion Contador.

Having enjoyed a strong 2015, in which Thomas won the Volta ao Algarve for the first time and the E3-Harelbeke semi-Classic, while also riding a superb Tour de France, holding a position in the top five overall until stage 19 despite riding in support of eventual champion Chris Froome, the 29-year-old has embarked on a new chapter of his career in 2016 focused wholly on being a general classification rider.

However, Contador threatened to derail Thomas’ Paris-Nice campaign when the Spaniard first attacked on the Cote de Peille, 82km into the 134km final stage, catching Team Sky off-guard and quickly gaining 50 seconds.

With plenty of racing still to come, Team Sky calmly bridged the gap on the descent, led by Nicholas Roche, but Contador wasn’t done yet, attacking four times on the category one Col d’Eze on the outskirts of Nice, though Thomas remained with the Tinkoff rider.

It was the fifth attack which saw Contador break clear and plunged Thomas into the red. Contador escaped with Porte for company with two kilometres of the climb remaining and Thomas had no response, but Sergio Henao, who played a vital role in putting his team-mate in the yellow jersey on stage six, helped limit the time deficit over the summit.

Thomas refused to throw in the towel and, with Henao and Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) for company, launched himself into the descent, eventually bridging across to the chase group behind Contador and Wellens, who won the sprint for the stage, to take the title.

Paris-Nice 2016: stage seven – result

1) Tim Wellens (GBR) – Team Sky – 3:16.09hrs
2) Alberto Contador (SPA) – Tinkoff – same time
3) Richie Porte (AUS) – BMC Racing
4) Tony Gallopin (FRA) – Lotto-Soudal +5″
5) Simon Yates (GBR) – Orica-GreenEDGE – same time
6) Arnold Jeannesson (FRA) – Cofidis
7) Rui Costa (POR) – Lampre-Merida
8) Jesus Herrada (SPA) – Movistar
9) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r
10) Jon Izagirre (SPA) – Movistar

11) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky

Final general classification

1) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky – 27:26.40hrs
2) Alberto Contador (SPA) – Tinkoff +4”
3) Richie Porte (AUS) – BMC Racing +12”
4) Ilnur Zakarin (RUS) – Katusha +20″
5) Jon Izagirre (SPA) – Movistar +37″
6) Sergio Henao (COL) – Team Sky +44″
7) Simon Yates (GBR) – Orica-GreenEDGE +44″
8) Tony Gallopin (FRA) – Lotto-Soudal +51″
9) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r +1’00”
10) Rui Costa (POR) – Lampre-Merida +1’07”


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