Richie Porte (Team Sky) won Paris-Nice in fine style - a la grand - by winning the final time trial up the steep slopes of the Col d'Eze high above Nice. Two stage wins and a 55 second gap back to second-placed Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp).
After Bradley Wiggins last year, the Tasmanian picked up the baton. Porte is the first Australian to win Paris-Nice. How did it feel? "I can't believe it, it's... unbelievable!" said Porte to the French media as they cornered him, still breathless after his effort.
But, for all that this raised Porte's morale and worth, he wasn't getting ahead of himself. He knew he'd be back collecting bottles and riding tempo in the months ahead. Porte's stock is on the up but he is under no illusions about what lies ahead of him this year.
"I'm in a good place now and I don't want to change anything," said a delighted Porte "We're going to have a hell of the team in the Tour de France." With a 32 second lead over Andrew Talansky (Garmin), with great form and a ton of local knowledge (he lives in Monaco), it was hard to see how Richie Porte was going to lose the overall classification of Paris-Nice.
There was always the chance that he could blow up or suffer a terrible mechanical mishap, but the chances were slim. Sure enough, from the first time check after five kilometres, Porte was already 21 seconds up on Talansky who was turning himself inside out in an effort to make up the time. It never happened.
If Talansky wasn't able to crack Porte on those early, steep slopes of the Col d'Eze - and the riders are now faced with a 'wall' almost as soon as they are out of the start gate - it was hard to see Porte losing the plot. And he didn't. Any suspense that might have been created by a wavering Porte or Talansky on a wonder day, were quickly dispelled. Porte didn't waver and won the 9.6km stage in 19-16 which was, freakishly, almost exactly the same time as Wiggins did last year who won in 19-12.
With Porte and Talansky securing the first two places on general classification, the attention switched to the third spot which was always likely to be hotly contested by the three candidates. French hope Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R La Mondiale), Tejay Van Garderen (BMC), last year's runner-up Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil), Peter Velits (Omega Pharma) and Simon Spilak (Katusha) all of whom were separated by a mere five seconds.
Perhaps surprisingly it was the ex-mountain biker Peraud who came on top of that little battle for the final podium slot, in spite of the fact that he fell off almost as soon as he came out of the start ramp on the first corner. "How did I feel? I felt like a massive idiot!" smiled Peraud later. Without that spill he would clearly have gone a bit quicker, without troubling the top two riders.
Peraud finished fourth - behind Movistar's impressive young Colombian Nairo Quintana - 32 seconds slower than Porte, but a clear 20 seconds faster than Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) who ended up fifth on the stage and fourth on general classification, 1-44 down on Porte. Is this the performance of a rider ready to lead a Tour de France team in 2013?
But the stage and the race were Porte's who sought out Talansky to shake hands and exchange a few words. "It's great. To think my name is going to be there with Bradley and those other champions who've won this race, it's fantastic," said a clearly ecstatic Porte before climbing the podium to collect his final jersey'n'lion of the 2013 race.
Paris-Nice 2013, stage seven: Nice to Col d'Èze, 9.6km ITT
1. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky in 9-16
2. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp at 23 secs
3. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 27 secs
4. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale at 32 secs
5. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 52 secs
6. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha at 55 secs
7. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida at 1-00
8. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida at 1-03
9. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 1-05
10. Jon Izaguirre (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 1-06
Final overall classification
1. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky
2. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp at 55 secs
3. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale at 1-21
4. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 1-44
5. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 1-47
6. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha at 1-48
7. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida at 1-54
8. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM at 2-17
9. Andreas Kloden (Ger) RadioShack-Leopard at 2-22
10. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 2-28
Tejay van Garderen
Richie Porte, overall winner
Johan Tschopp, king of the mountains
Andrew Talansky, best young rider
Sylvain Chavanel, points classification
Paris-Nice 2013: Stage reports
Stage six: Chavanel take stage; Porte maintains lead
Stage five: Porte takes mountain-top finish and overall lead
Stage four: Albasini claims stage
Stage three: Talansky takes stage and moves into lead
Stage two: Kittel wins as Bouhanni crashes out
Stage one: Bouhanni wins stage and takes lead
Prologue: Damien Gaudin takes surprise win
Paris-Nice 2013: Photo galleries
Stage six photo gallery
Stage five photo gallery
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one photo gallery
Prologue photo gallery
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