Five things we learned from Paris-Nice 2017

What can we take away from a scintillating week of racing?

Henao adds his name to list of Sky Grand Tour contenders

Sergio Henao on the final stage of Paris-Nice (Credit: Yuzuru Sunada)

Few have ever doubted Sergio Henao‘s climbing ability, but his victory in Paris-Nice was built on more than just uphill prowess.

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The Colombian can’t have enjoyed the wet, windy, and cold conditions on the opening two stages, but he rode faultlessly, calmly following Luke Rowe‘s every move to put himself seventh going into the time trial.

He may have lost 48 seconds to a charging Alaphilippe in the time trial, but he still managed to beat other GC riders with decent time trialling records such as Richie Porte and Ion Izagirre.

>>> Sergio Henao draws inspiration from Geraint Thomas for Paris-Nice fightback

Finally his descent off the Col d’Èze to seize victory from the jaws of defeat was just as skillful and exciting as Geraint Thomas‘ twelve months previously.

All that adds up to a pretty complete GC rider – another to add to Team Sky’s ever-growing collection.

Julian Alaphilippe is turning into a true GC rider

Julian Alaphilippe fights through the final few hundred metres of the Col de la Couillole (Credit: Yuzuru Sunada)

Julian Alaphilippe already has one stage race victory (the 2016 Tour of California) to his name, but that win came despite losing 45 seconds to eventual second-place Rohan Dennis in the time trial.

However Alaphilippe’s stint in yellow and fifth place in Paris-Nice came thanks to a time trial victory, which saw him not only ride well on the final climb to Mont Brouilly, but also set the fastest time on the flat part of the course too.

Of course losing nearly three minutes on the summit finish to the Col de la Couillole showed that there is still work to do if the young Frenchman is to succeed in the high mountains, particularly when trying to perform on the back of multiple days of hard riding.

But Alaphilippe is still only 24, so there is plenty of time for him to develop into a rider in the mould of someone like Alejandro Valverde, who can mix it in the Ardennes, week-long stage races, and Grand Tours.

Alberto Contador will be sorely missed

Alberto Contador on the attack on the final stage of Paris-Nice 2017 (Credit: Yuzuru Sunada)

Whether he retires at the end of the season, or rides on into 2018, this week showed that whenever Alberto Contador decides to hang up his wheels he will be sorely missed.

Paris-Nice 2017 displayed the best of the Spaniard as he recovered from losing time on stage one to bring himself back into overall contention in the time trial, then put in a brutal attack on the Col de la Couillole on the penultimate stage to move himself to within 31 seconds of yellow.

Lesser riders may have settled for a podium spot, but not Contador, who rolled the dice with a bold attack 52km from home, setting the race up for a second nail-biting finale in as many years.

Ultimately it was not quite enough, but cycling will miss this sort of drama when Contador’s gone.

Bad days continue to cost Richie Porte

Richie Porte loses time on the opening stage of Paris-Nice (Credit: Yuzuru Sunada)

Given his performance on stage seven’s summit finish, there’s a fair argument that Richie Porte was the strongest rider at Paris-Nice.

But once again the Australian missed out on overall glory because of bad days, losing time in the crosswinds of the opening stage as he was dropped from the front group after struggling to get his rain jacket off, then rolling in more than 15 minutes down on stage two in similar conditions.

Given Porte’s diminutive figure, you could forgive him for not relishing hard racing and echelons in rain and strong winds, but the similarly-proportioned Sergio Henao rode faultlessly in those conditions in the opening days.

If Porte truly wants to challenge Chris Froome at this summer’s Tour de France, then he needs to make sure that he doesn’t make similar mistakes and find himself out of the running before the race even hits the mountains.

Sonny Colbrelli and Michael Matthews are in the hunt for Milan-San Remo

Sonny Colbrelly wins stage two of Paris-Nice (Credit: Yuzuru Sunada)

Amid the excitement of Sergio Henao slender victory on the final day of Paris-Nice, the excellent rides of Sonny Colbrelli and Michael Matthews went almost unnoticed.

With Milan-San Remo coming up next weekend, these two sprinters showed that they’re coming into excellent form (especially after Colbrelli won stage two earlier in the week) being able to comfortably hold on to the chasing group of Henao and Martin on the Col d’Èze.

It may not have come after 270km, but the Col d’Èze is both steeper and longer than the Cipressa, so if Colbrelli and Martin can make it over that, then they should be in contention for any sprint finish that comes along next Saturday.