NICE, France, March 16, 2014 (AFP) – Carlos Betancur became the first
Colombian cyclist to win the Paris-Nice race on Sunday following the eighth
and final stage.
French champion Arthur Vichot won the stage, raced along the celebrated
Promenade des Anglais, which saw several riders, including Portugal’s road
race world champion Rui Costa, lose their chance of victory in the stage in a
pile-up 300 metres from the finish.
Costa was able to remount and cycle gingerly to the finishing line of the
‘Race to the Sun’ to finish second overall.
Betancur, 24, won his first stage race at WorldTour level, although he
finished an impressive fifth in last year’s Tour of Italy.
“I have received great support from my team-mates while I have held the
overall lead,” said Betancur, who won two stages during the week.
However, Betancur made light of him being the first Colombian to win a race
he described as only second to the Tour de France in importance in France.
“This victory is very important for me and my team,” he said.
“I am a very quiet person. My passion is cycling and competing in it.
“I respect all my rivals but I am afraid of nobody.”
Betancur, who is just one of several classy riders from Colombia such as
Nairo Qunitana and Rigoberto Uran who are competing at the moment, said he had
never imagined in his wildest dreams that he would win a race as prestigious
as this one.
“Who knows I might win the Tour de France one day….it is the biggest
result of my career for sure this win,” said Betancur, who learnt to ride a
bike as it was his only mode of wheeled transport to get him to school.
“Finishing fifth in the Giro (Tour of Italy) was important but this is on
another level. This victory is something else entirely.”
Betancur, who rides for the French AG2R team, kept a keen eye on Costa
throughout the final stage as the Portuguese rider was only 14sec behind him
in the overall standings.
The only anxious moment he had vis a vis his main rival was when Costa
tried to steal a march on him on the Col d’Eze, the final climb of the stage,
but he and his team — the first French team to have the winner of the race
since Swiss rider Tony Rominger won in 1991 — reeled him in without any great
Results and standings of Sunday’s
128km eighth and final stage of the Paris-Nice cycling race around Nice:
1. Arthur Vichot (FRA/FDJ.fr) 3hr 06min 56sec (average: 41.1 km/h), 2. Jose
Joaquin Rojas (ESP/MOV) s.t., 3. Cyril Gautier (FRA/EUC) s.t., 4. Damiano
Caruso (ITA/CAN) s.t., 5. Wilco Kelderman (NED/BKN) s.t., 6. Frank Schleck
(LUX/TRE) s.t., 7. Tom-Jelte Slagter (NED/GRM) s.t., 8. Carlos Betancur
(COL/ALM) s.t., 9. George Bennett (NZL/CAN) s.t., 10. Eduardo Sepulveda
Final overall standings
1. Carlos Betancur (COL/ALM) 35hr 11min 45sec, 2. Rui Costa (POR/LAM) at
0:14sec, 3. Arthur Vichot (FRA/FDJ) 0:20, 4. Jose Joaquin Rojas (ESP/MOV)
0:21, 5. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN/AST) 0:29, 6. Cyril Gautier (FRA/EUC) 0:31, 7.
Stefan Denifl (AUT/IAM) 0:35, 8. Simon Spilak (SLO/KAT) 0:36, 9. Peter Velits
(SVK/BMC) 0:39, 10. Tony Gallopin (FRA/LTB) 0:41