Six days in yellow, two stage wins and the green sprinter?s jersey for Michael Matthews and seventh place overall for Simon Yates wraps up a successful week at Paris-Nice for ORICA-GreenEDGE.
Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) won the final stage with Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) the winner of the overall general classification.
Matthews claimed the yellow jersey in the 6.1km prologue, beating Tom Dumoulin (Team Giant-Alpecin) by just one second, and successfully defended the race lead until the penultimate stage on Saturday.
A stage two victory and three additional top-five placings awarded Matthews the sprint category after he completed the final stage unscathed.
?This was my first race of the season and I didn?t expect to win the individual time trial on stage one,? Matthews said. ?Then to hold the jersey for so long afterwards was great. The team was really strong all week and I learnt a lot with how to deal with the responsibilities of leading a stage race.?
?It was the first time that I have fought really hard on every stage of a race and I realise that it is important to try and conserve as much energy as possible. There are more demands placed on you when you are in the leader?s jersey, not just during the race but also after the finish.?
?I?m very happy to have won the green jersey and I can take a lot of confidence into the coming races.?
After a string of excellent performances from the team throughout the week, sports director Laurenzo Lapage was very happy with the overall achievements.
?It has been a fantastic week for us,” Lapage said. “We came into the race with the idea of the green jersey for Matthews and to try and get Simon up here for the overall.”
?It?s great how everything went, almost impossible to do better.
?Simon was a little bit sick in the beginning but he got stronger everyday and the last two days he was really impressive.?
The surprise victory in the prologue altered the race plan for the team and Lapage was impressed with how well the team adapted and worked together.
?Everyone did very well by working together throughout the race, it is unusual to control things the way we did,? Lapage continued. ?We can take real confidence from our performance here.?
?Today Daryl (Impey) played a perfect move by getting into the breakaway for most of the race, doing his best to help to Simon. Everyone played their part and we came through the race without any problems.?
How it happened:
The seventh and final stage of Paris-Nice started and ended in Nice today, after heading North into the Alpes Maritimes mountains for a 134km circuit that included two first category climbs – the Cote de Peille and the famous Col d?Eze.
A sunny morning on the Cote d?Azur welcomed the riders to the startline on the Promenade des Anglais and after several early attempts a breakaway of 19 riders formed, including South African time trial champion Impey.
The group developed a maximum lead of three minutes 48seconds over the peloton whilst a smaller pack of six chasers kept themselves within two minutes of the leaders going over the first climbs of the day.
Canadian Antoine Duchesne (Direct Energie) secured the overall king of the mountains classification after claiming the points on all four category two climbs within the first 80km.
As the race entererd the final third, the situation began to change as riders were dropped from the leading and chasing groups. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) attacked from the peloton and immediately Team Sky, riding for race leader Geraint Thomas, tried to react.
Contador increased his adavantage over the Cote de Peille and the day’s initial breakaway began to fall apart. Team Sky gave chase on the descent and the race moved into another gear.
The favourites, including the impressive Yates, were together as they started climbing the Col d?Eze. Eventual stage winner Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) was one of the few remaining escapees still ahead of the action, but was caught by Contador after a series of attacks by the Spaniard.
It appeared that the Welshman Thomas had been dropped on the climb, however a frantic descent back into Nice saw teammate Sergio Henao (Team Sky) come to Thomas?s aid. They just made contact with the group containing Yates and Rui Costa (Lampre- Merida) and crossed the line five seconds down on Wellens, Contador and Richie Porte (BMC).
Thomas won the overall classification by a four second advantage over Contador.
After a week of outstanding success at Paris-Nice ORICA-GreenEDGE now prepare for their next race, the Italian monument, Milano-San Remo, on Saturday the 19th of March.
Paris-Nice stage seven results:
1. Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) 3:16:09
2. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) 0.00:00
3. Richie Porte (BMC) 0:00:00
5. Simon Yates (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 0:00:05
Overall general classification:
1. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) 27:26:40
2. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) 0:00:04
3. Richie Porte (BMC) 0.00:12
7. Simon Yates (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 0.00:44