The Team Sky rider trailed Contador on the road by 30 seconds at one point in the final 20km as the Spaniard attacked on the climb of the Col d’Eze. Such an advantage would have given Contador the overall win, but Thomas fought back with Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) on the descent to bring back the Spaniard to within five seconds to take the win.
“I knew I had to keep fighting and I never gave up. Having Sergio there with me at the end really helped, and I owe Tony Gallopin a few beers as well!,” he told the Team Sky website.
“That descent was like a load of back-to-back team pursuits, and as the gap gradually came down I knew I had a chance. I went full gas all the way to the line and ended up taking the win.
“I can’t thank my team-mates enough. They’ve been 100% committed to me all week so to finish the job off for them is an amazing feeling. I’m in dreamland at the moment and it’ll take a while to sink in. I used to run home from school to watch Paris-Nice, so to win it is just crazy.
“This confirms I can be up there with the best stage racers in the world and I’ll definitely celebrate tonight. You don’t win very often, so when you do, you have to enjoy it.”
The win is Thomas’s fifth in stage racing and first at WorldTour level, having taken victories at Bayern Rundfahrt (2011 & 2014) and the Volta ao Algarve (2015 & 2016). From here, Thomas will race Milan-San Remo on March 19 before starting the Volta a Catalunya and the Tour of Flanders.