Alberto Contador survived the attacks on the final day to clinch the Paris-Nice title for the second time in his career.
The Spaniard, the 2007 Paris-Nice champion, has won both stage races he has started this season – having taken the victory at the Tour of the Algarve last month.
French rider Amaël Moinard of Cofidis won the final stage – and wrapped up the king of the mountains competition. Contador held firm, despite the fact Alejandro Valverde won the sprint for third place and trimmed his lead. There was a considerable amount of movement further down the overall classification, with Luis Leon Sanchez leapfrogging Roman Kreuziger to make it an all-Spanish top three, Peter Sagan, the revelation of the race slipped out of the top ten, as did Britain’s David Millar.
It was a short, aggressive stage – just 119 kilometres, but with three first-category climbs. Early on, Sagan, the impressive 20-year-old Slovakian, won an intermediate sprint, taking a three-second time bonus that provisionally lifted him up to seventh overall.
The attackers tried their luck early on the Col de la Porte but Astana worked hard to bring everything back together for the race leader, Contador, who held a slender 14-second lead over Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne).
Moinard and Thomas Voeckler (BBOX Bouygues Telecom) attacked towards the top of the Col de la Porte and the bunch let them go. They quickly built a lead of a minute-and-a-half and by the time they reached the top of La Turbie, the second climb of the stage, the gap was almost three minutes.
They still held a good lead approaching the foot of the Col d’Eze, with 28 kilometres left, but the pace in the bunch was incredibly high and they were strung out in single file.
Voeckler attacked Moinard and got clear on his own but the Cofidis man dragged his way back up.
Contador was alert as the attacks came on the Col d’Eze and he marked Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) and Valverde and the trio looked as if they were going to catch Moinard and Voeckler. The reigning Tour de France champion also had a the rest gasping in his wake as he launched an attack of his own.
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The chasers came very close to catching them on the descent and run-in but the two Frenchmen worked well together and opened up the sprint. Moinard took it and the chase group almost got them.
Valverde took the time bonus but it was not enough to unseat Contador. Rein Taaramae, the Estonian champion, moved up to eighth overall. Sagan was dropped on Col d’Eze and lost 2-48, but his lead in the points competition stood firm and he kept hold of the green jersey. That, and two stage wins, made it an excellent week, despite losing a top ten place on the final day.
David Millar also lost time – 59 seconds – and slipped from ninth to 13th. Team Sky’s best rider overall was Aussie Simon Gerrans, who was 15th.
Stage seven: Nice – Nice, 119km
1. Amaël Moinard (Fra) Cofidis in 2hr 52min 09sec
2. Thomas Voecker (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom same time
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 3sec
4. Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R
5. Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis
6. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha
7. Jens Voigt (Ger) Saxo Bank
8. Chris Horner (USA) Radioshack
9. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Radioshack
10. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana all same time
23. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions at 59sec
32. Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky at 1-43
72. Steve Cummings (GB) Team Sky at 2-48
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana in 28hr 35min 35sec
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 11sec
3. Luis-Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 25sec
4. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas at 26sec
5. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 30sec
6. Jens Voigt (Ger) Saxo Bank at 35sec
7. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 37sec
8. Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis at 1-07
9. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 1-16
10. Jérôme Coppel (Fra) Saur-Sojasun at 1-17
11. Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R at 1-23
12. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Radioshack at 1-57
13. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions at 1-59
14. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step at 2-18
15. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Team Sky at 2-27
16. Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 3-02
17. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas at 3-21
18. Cyril Gautier (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom at 3-27
19. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom at 3-28
20. Xavier Tondo (Spa) Cervélo at 3-33
71. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Transitions at 31-34
75. Steve Cummings (GB) Team Sky at 34-33
88. Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky at 47-58
Sylvain Chavanel attacks
Alberto Contador leads Joaquim Rodriguez and Alejandro Valverde
Thomas Voeckler and Amaël Moinard forge ahead
Moinard takes the stage
Final podium: Luis Leon Sanchez (third), Alberto Contador (first) and Alejandro Valverde (second)
Paris-Nice 2010: Stage reports
Paris-Nice 2010: Photo galleries