By Nigel Wynn
Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) has won the 2009 edition of Paris-Nice, denying fellow Spaniard Alberto Contador (Astana) the chance for victory in today's final stage.
Contador had started the day one minute and 50 seconds behind Sanchez in the overall classification, having blown spectacularly in the previous day's stage where he limped home in 33rd place.
Contador, lying in fourth place overall at the start of the stage, knew he had to throw everything at the race today to claw back as much time as he could. He launched an attack on the first of the day's three first category climbs, accompanied by four other riders.
The escape built up a lead of over a minute on the bunch, but by the final cat one climb of the day Contador was on his own, with the bunch - and Sanchez - creeping ever closer.
The peloton then fragmented with attacks and counter-attacks, and Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) and Antonio Colom (Katusha) bridged the gap to Contador. Having fresher legs, Schleck and Colom tried to lose Contador on the run-in to Nice. They couldn't shake him off - it was Colom who took the stage victory but with Contador in a photo-finish second spot and Schleck one second behind.
The bunch finished 17 seconds behind the lead trio, giving Sanchez the overall win. Despite his best efforts, triple Grand Tour champion Contador finished in fourth spot overall behind Schleck in second and Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) in third.
Britain's David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) crashed early on in the stage and elected to drop out of the race. He had started the day in 19th place overall.
Paris-Nice stage eight results
1. Antonio Colom (Spa) Team Katusha 119km in 2-47-49
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at same time
3. Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 1sec
4. Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Skil-Shimano at 17secs
5. Christophe Moreau (Fra) Agritubel
6. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step
7. Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Rabobank
8. Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Francaise des Jeux
9. Jens Voigt (Ger) Team Saxo Bank
10. Sandy Casar (Fra) Francaise des Jeux all at same time.
Final overall classification
1. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne in 30-53-51
2. Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 1-00
3. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step at 1-09
4. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at 1-24
5. Antonio Colom (Spa) Team Katusha at 1-47
6. Jens Voigt (Ger) Team Saxo Bank at 1-59
7. Kevin Seeldrayers (Bel) Quick Step at 2-29
8. Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Skil-Shimano at 2-57
9. Yury Trofimov (Rus) BBox Bouygues Telecom at 3-37
10. Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Francaise des Jeux at 4-00
1. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step
King of the mountains
1. Tony Martin (Ger) Columbia-High Road
Antonio Colom leads Franks Schleck and Alberto Contador in the final kilometres of the race
Antonio Colom wins the stage
Final podium (l-r): Sylvain Chavanel (third), Luis Leon Sanchez (winner), Frank Schleck (second)
Stage seven: Contador loses Paris-Nice lead to Sanchez
Stage six: No surprises as Contador goes solo
Stage five: Roy takes solo win, Chavanel still leads
Stage four: Vande Velde takes trong lone win for Garmin
Stage three: Chavanel sweeps into power
Stage two: Haussler blasts to stage two win
Stage one (prologue): Contador wins, Wiggins second
Martin pulls out of Paris-Nice
Prologue analysis: Contador the unstoppable?
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