Alberto Contador withstood attacks on the traditionally critical final stage of Paris-Nice on Sunday, to secure his second career victory in the stage race, overcoming an embarrassing 2009 effort. Contador moved into the lead after the incredibly cold 4th stage and never looked back. Keep reading for highlights from stage 4 -7.
In another brutally cold day, the Spanish Armada took control of Paris-Nice, with Alberto Contador winning up the same climb to Mende where he won in 2007 en route to claiming the overall.
Contador chugged away on the short, but steep 3km Mende climb to stake his claim for another crown, pulling the double on a day when temperatures never climbed above freezing.
But the cold temperatures seemed to put the freeze on everyone and Contador said he didn’t have his typical punch, winning 10 seconds ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) to carve out a 24-second grip on the yellow jersey.
“I waited to attack on the last climb because I didn’t really feel that great. It was very, truly cold, throughout the entire stage. I can only hope it will get warmer in the coming stages,” Contador said. “Nothing is won yet. The hardest part is still yet to come. There are still three stages and Paris-Nice is a race that’s hard to control.”
Contador was alluding to his infamous bonk in last year’s Paris-Nice, when he lost time while leading and eventually ceded the overall to compatriot Luís León Sánchez (Caisse d’Epargne) to finish fourth overall.
Overnight leader Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) struggled to match the pace when Contador attacked with just under 2km to go. Voigt, who snagged the yellow jersey with a gritty ride Wednesday in Aurillac, crossed the line 12th at 44 seconds back and slipped to sixth overall at 34 seconds off the pace.
The frigidly cold temperatures kept Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) from riding at his best, who started the day eighth at 24 seconds back.
Leipheimer couldn’t stay with Contador’s winning surge with just under 2km to go and rolled across with a group at 1:08 back and slipped to 16th at 1:23 off the pace.
“It’s just really cold. I guess before it was amusingly cold, but this isn’t very fun,” Leipheimer said. “It’s our job. Like any professional, we have days that we’re just going through the motions and that’s kind of where I am right now. I am not riding that great and this is obviously miserable weather. It’s good training, that’s what I keep telling myself.”
After a 200km transfer from Thursday’s stage finish at Mende, riders lined up for Friday’s relatively short stage under sunny skies and slightly warmer temperatures than those that have marked the race since the start on Sunday.
Riders, who have spent much of the past few days bundled in layers of clothing seemed much more comfortable as the peloton rolled out of Pernes-les-Fontaines
Liquigas neo-pro Peter Sagan scored his second stage victory in this year’s Paris-Nice with a bold solo attack in the final two kilometers of a wild and hilly 157-kilometer stage on Friday.
Sagan, who also won Wednesday’s stage to Aurillac, emerged from a group of about 40 survivors on what turned out to be a tougher-than-expected race from Pernes-les-Fontaines to Aix-en-Provence .
As the remnants of the peloton neared the finish, the 20-year-old Sagan fought for a good position leading into a hard left-hand turn on to a narrow road about 1.5km from the line. Jumping out of the turn and on to a small rise, Sagan quickly built up a small five-second advantage on the field and powered into the finish, holding on to a narrow two-second advantage as he celebrated his second win of this race and of his professional career.
“I like to attack on the final hill,” said Sagan, a former world junior mountain bike champion.
While racing Paris-Nice in support of teammate Roman Kreuziger, the young Slovak has made an impressive mark on the week-long stage race, winning two stages and leading the points competition. Kreuziger is now third in the overall standings and leads the best young rider completion, while Sagan is eighth on GC and second in the race for the white jersey.
The order of the top-10 in overall standings changed little, with Contador still holding a 20-second lead over Caisse d’Epargne’s Alejandro Valverde and 25 on Kreuziger.
Contador said he had to stay attentive throughout, comparing Friday’s race to a stage in the Tour de France.
“It was like a Tour stage, but the hard ones,” Contador said. “It was tough to control as there were a number of riders just a few seconds apart. I felt good today but you have to have a very very good team to control things. It’s a race easier to win by counter-attacking than being on the defensive.
Cervélo’s Xaiver Tondo was the last man standing at the end of the longest – and toughest – stage in this year’s edition of Paris-Nice on Saturday.
Overall race leader Alberto Contador (Astana) held on to the yellow jersey, but his closest challenger, Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) earned six seconds in bonus time as he led the peloton into the line, five seconds after Tondo’s win. Contador now has a 14-second lead over Valverde going into the race’s final stage.
Tondo was part of a 23-man break that left the field on 40km into the 200km sixth and penultimate stage. By the time the race had crossed its eight rated climbs, only Tondo managed to hold on for the win, after a well-timed attack on the day’s final ascent, the Category 1 Col de Vence.
One of the day’s first shots was fired by French national champion Dimitri Champion of the Ag2r, however, the early stabs amounted to nothing as the peloton wasn’t keen on giving anyone too much.
The group of 23 riders managed to slip away at 40km, but with 14th-placed Sylvain Chavanel (at 1:27) in the group, the GC stars put plenty of horsepower at the front of the field to keep the gap from getting much past a minute or two.
Alberto Contador withstood attacks on the traditionally critical final stage of Paris-Nice on Sunday, to secure his second career victory in the stage race, overcoming an embarrassing 2009 effort.
Amaël Moinard (Cofidis Le Credit En Ligne) won the final stage, a tough 119-kilometer route that starts and finishes on the Promenade des Anglais in the seaside resort of Nice. Moinard also secured a win in the climber’s competition.
Moinard and Thomas Voeckler broke from the leaders about 45km into the race, when Moinard went after the climber’s points available at the summit of the Col de la Porte. The two remained off the front the rest of the day, as the chase group dwindled to just a handful of riders including Contador and his overall rivals, Alejandro Valverde, Roman Kreuziger and Luis-Leon Sanchez. Contador easily matched any aggression from the challengers, rode safely and finished a few seconds behind Moinard and Voeckler to secure the overall win.
1. Alberto Contador Astana, 28:35:35
2. Alejandro Valverde Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:11
3. Luis-leon Sanchez Caisse d’Epargne, at 00:25
4. Roman Kreuziger Liquigas-Doimo, at 00:26
5. Samuel Sanchez Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 00:30
6. Jens Voigt Saxo Bank, at 00:35
7. Joaquim Rodriguez Katusha Team, at 00:37
8. Reine Taaramae Cofidis Le Credit En Ligne, at 01:07
9. Jean-christophe Peraud Omega Pharma-Lotto, at 01:16
10. Jérôme Coppel Saur-Sojasun, at 01:17
Images Courtesy Graham Watson