Luke Rowe column: That was the hardest Paris-Nice I've ever done

Team Sky's Luke Rowe recounts his experience at this year's tough edition of Paris-Nice, won by team-mate Sergio Henao

Welshman Luke Rowe is Team Sky’s Classics specialist and often the team’s road captain, and he writes exclusively each week for Cycling Weekly. He’s also a huge Cardiff Devils ice hockey fan

Exciting is definitely one word to sum up this year’s Paris-Nice. Every day was different, and if you look at a stage race and all the things a stage race can contain, Paris-Nice had it all: the crosswinds, a proper sprint stage, rain, sun, climbs, a time trial.

It nailed every aspect of a stage race and really confirms the winner as an all-round complete rider. If you’re going to win you have to be able to tick every box as a bike rider, so it makes the win from my team-mate Sergio Henao even more impressive and deserving of respect.

On stage one we had crosswinds and it caught a few teams out, who were obviously disappointed with how they had done and came out on stage two to seek revenge. It was 190km long and the group was splitting after 10km — I remember thinking, ‘Oh God, it can’t go now all the way to the finish,’ but sure enough it pretty much went full-gas all day and set the tone for the whole race.

Thinking back over the week it’s hard to really think of a moment where it was easy — pushing on the pedals and forever having to squeeze on and fight for position, it’s been a pretty brutal week. I’ve raced the last four editions of Paris-Nice and it’s definitely the hardest one I’ve ever done.

The last stage was pretty surreal really because it was almost identical to what happened on the last stage in 2016. Alberto Contador even attacked at the same place — it was such a copy and paste scenario; it’s kind of uncanny.

Like last year I was even in the same place as the race was finishing, I was at the top of the Col d’Eze, and both times I was going back to the second DS car to find out if G [Geraint Thomas] was going to hang on to the win and this year if Sergio was. It was like déjà vu.

It was my birthday too on stage six — the team chef James made me a cake so that was nice, but it was a pretty mellow birthday. I’m going out for a nice meal with my wife now the race is done, for a belated celebration.

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