Geraint Thomas wins Paris-Nice after fending off Alberto Contador
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 13/03/16 10:27pm
Geraint Thomas sealed overall victory at Paris-Nice after fending off a barrage of attacks from Alberto Contador on an enthralling final stage.
Contador (Tinkoff) started the day 15 seconds behind race leader Thomas (Team Sky) and twice dropped the Welshman as he repeatedly tried to overturn the deficit with a thrilling show of aggression.
But a defiant Thomas fought back brilliantly both times and conceded only five seconds to Contador at the finish line, plus another six in bonuses, which was enough to beat the Spaniard into second place in the general classification by four seconds.
Defending champion Richie Porte (BMC Racing) ended the race third, 12 seconds back, after finishing just behind Contador in third on the day, while breakaway rider Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) took the stage win.
The victory was the most prestigious of Thomas' career and his second this season after a triumph at last month's Volta ao Algarve. It also handed Team Sky their fourth win at Paris-Nice in the past five years.
Thomas: I'm one of the best
Geraint Thomas said his overall victory at Paris-Nice proved he can compete with and beat the best
He said: "It's incredible. It's hard to believe, to be honest. Contador, man, he is one of the best stage racers ever; Richie won nearly ever stage race he did last year - to beat those two, I can't really believe it.
"I came here wanting to win and do the best I could, but to actually do it, it's the biggest win, for sure, of my whole career. I'm over the moon."
The final stage started and finished in Nice and followed a 141km route containing six categorised climbs.
Thomas made an early tactical error by letting two of Contador's team-mates, Robert Kiserlovski and Yuri Trofimov, join a 22-man breakaway, and he paid the price when Contador began his all-action assault on the yellow jersey with an attack on the penultimate climb, the Cote de Peille, with just over 50km to go.
As Contador rode away from Thomas and the peloton, Kiserlovski and Trofimov dropped out of the breakaway to help him and the trio quickly built up a lead of almost a minute.
But Thomas' Team Sky team-mates responded brilliantly by mounting an exhausting chase and caught Contador's group with 24km to go, just before the final climb of the Col d'Eze.
Contador was still only getting warmed up, though, and attacked no fewer than five times on the last ascent, finally cracking and dropping Thomas with 17km to go.
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Alberto Contador admitted his disdain for second place after failing to prise overall victory at Par
After being joined by Porte and then catching up with Wellens, who was the last surviving member of the breakaway, Contador and his new allies opened up a maximum lead of 34 seconds over the ailing Thomas and it looked like Team Sky's leader would surrender the yellow jersey.
But having been helped to the summit by outstanding team-mate Sergio Henao, Thomas came back to life on the descent back down into Nice and crossed the finish line just five seconds down on the front three in 11th place after one of the most compelling days of racing in recent memory.
Thomas added: "When he went on the Peille at first, I stuck with the team and I felt good, felt strong and felt in control, but then when he went half way up Col d'Eze, my legs just gave way and it was horrible.
"I thought this is going to be all over. And then I got dropped from the other group and I thought I was going to struggle to hold on to a podium, but Sergio stayed with me.
"I had a 54 chainring on for the descent in case I had to chase him, and I certainly needed that at the end. It was full gas. To finally catch back in the last few kilometres was really good."
Britain's Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) completed a strong week's racing by finishing fifth on the day and seventh overall, 44 seconds down on Thomas.
Stage seven result
1 Tim Wellens (Bel) 3:16:09
2 Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff, same time
3 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, st
4 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal, +5
5 Simon Yates (GB) Orica-GreenEdge, st
6 Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ.fr, st
7 Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida, st
8 Jesus Herrada (Esp) Movistar, st
9 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, st
10 Ion Izagirre (Esp) Movistar, st
11 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky, st
1 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky, 27:26:40
2 Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff, +4sec
3 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, +12
4 Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha, +20
5 Ion Izagirre (Esp) Movistar, +37
6 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky, +44
7 Simon Yates (GB) Orica-GreenEdge, same time
8 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal, +51
9 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +1:00
10 Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida, +1:07