Max Schachmann says his overall victory at Paris-Nice has proved his doubters wrong, as people have always questioned whether he could become a GC rider.
The German hung on during the final climb of the French stage race, successfully defending his race lead despite a late attack from Tiesj Benoot in the final kilometre.
The 16km-long climb to Valdeblore La Colmiane had an average gradient of 6.3% and the Bora-Hansgrohe rider said the last 3km were "a walk through hell".
"The last three kilometers were a walk through hell, but now I'm in heaven," Schachmann said after the stage. "It was very tough. This is only the fourth year of my career but this is my biggest victory.
"People have always doubted if I could become a general classification rider, and now I've won one of the most prestigious week-long stage races here," he added.
Schachmann had to fend off the likes of Benoot, Segio Higuita (EF Pro Cycling) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) on his own during the final climb after his final team-mate Felix Großschartner was dropped with 14km to go.
The German eventually beat Benoot by just 18 seconds in the GC, a result that would have been much closer had the time gap from stage six stood.
Schachmann crashed with 800m to go and finished nearly 20 seconds down but race rules dictated riders would be given the same time as their group within the final 3km if they were to suffer a fall.
Paris-Nice finished a day early after stage eight was cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Many races have now been called off, including the first Grand Tour of the year, the Giro d'Italia. It is not yet known when the next top-level bike race will take place as Europe attempt to halt the spread of the virus, with sporting events and public gatherings prohibited.
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