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Much like last year, when Contador attempted to snatch the yellow jersey from Sky’s Geraint Thomas on the final stage from Nice to Nice, the Spaniard came up narrowly short on Sunday’s 2017 finale, finishing second on the stage as David de la Cruz (Quick-Step Floors) won on the day.
At the 2016 Paris-Nice, Contador attacked Thomas and came up four seconds short after Henao helped his leader chase on the descent to the finish in Nice.
This year it was more or less up to Henao on his own as he struggled up the final climb of Col d’Eze, but ate up some between him and Contador after the gap had grown to around 50 seconds with 20km to go, putting the Spaniard in the virtual lead of the race.
But Contador was unable to hold off the circa 30 seconds he needed to secure victory, relying on time bonuses on the line to try and pull him somewhere close.
But after so much work, Contador was unable to beat David de la Cruz in the sprint finish, taking second and narrowly missing out as Henao finished around 21 seconds back amongst a large group, securing the Paris-Nice title.
How it happened
A large 23-man group, containing eventual winner David de la Cruz and third placed Marc Soler (Movistar), formed the day’s main break, establishing a gap of two minutes by 49km into the short 1115.5km stage.
Contador, who may have been looking to get a teammate into the break, instead put his Trek squad to work on the front of the main peloton in an attempt to rid the likes of Henao of teammates.
Once Trek were spent and Jarlinson Pantano had put in a huge turn for his leader, it was up to Contador to attack on the slopes of the Côte de Peille.
After a third dig, he was able to drop race leader Henao, and easily bridged to the now 14-strong group out front.
The gap for that group pushed out to 50 seconds with Contador instigating some pace, and the pressure was on for the race leader behind to close the move down himself.
Contador then shed all but De la Cruz and Soler on the final climb of Col d’Eze, with Soler eventually trying his luck solo with 17km remaining.
De la Cruz appeared happy to try for the stage win and help set the pace, with his team leader Dan Martin sticking to Henao in order to hold onto his third place in GC.
The two Spaniards were able to chase down their compatriot Soler out front, and Henao, who looked in trouble at 1-05 on Col d’Eze, was beginning to bring things back together on the descent.
Soler was soon dropped by Contador in the final 5km, as was De la Cruz before managing to grab the Trek man’s wheel in the final 2km, and it was then up to that pair to sprint it out for stage victory and priceless bonus seconds for Contador (who had grabbed two already on the summit of Col d’Eze).
But Contador was drained, and was only able to follow De la Cruz in to take second and six bonus seconds.
Henao then rolled in 21 seconds back amongst a large group, just holding on to his lead by two seconds.
Paris-Nice 2017 stage eight, Nice – Nice (115.5km)
1. David de la Cruz (Esp)Quick-Step Floors, in 2-48-53
2. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo
3. Marc Solar (Esp) Movistar, at 5s
4. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 21s
5. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors
6. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb
7. Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE-Team Emirates
8. Gorka Izaguirre (Esp) Movistar Team
9. Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) Fortuneo – Vital Concept
10. Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct Energie, all same time
12. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky, at 21s
13. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors
15. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, all same time
Final general classification
1. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky, in 29-50-29
2. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, at 2s
3. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, at 30s
4. Gorka Izagirre (Esp) Movistar, at 1-00
5. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors, at 1-22
6. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin, at 1-34
7. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Bahrain-Merida, at 1-41
8. Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Sunweb, at 4-07
9. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 4-39
10. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, at 14-26