Nice, France, March 12, 2017 (AFP) – Colombia’s Sergio Henao lifted his troubled Sky team’s spirits with a dramatic two-second success over Alberto Contador in the Paris-Nice on Sunday.
Henao set up the win when grabbing a half-minute lead in the ‘Race to the Sun’ with fourth in Saturday’s penultimate stage.
But the 29-year-old only scraped home in the face of a determined challenge from Contador.
The Spaniard, placed third at 31sec at the start of the day, took second in the closing eighth stage behind his fellow countryman David de la Cruz.
Stage success for De la Cruz (Quick Step) denied Contador 10 precious bonus seconds which would have seen him and not Henao take overall victory.
“It was a crazy day,” beamed Henao.
“This is the biggest win of my career, I hope it means more will follow.
“I’ve had some tough times in my life, but today the sun came out for me.”
For Contador it was a cruel near miss coming after he had been edged out by just four seconds by Geraint Thomas 12 months ago.
“I only missed out by by a tiny bit, it’s a shame,” he said.
“I’m very proud of what I did and I’m satisfied despite finishing second.”
Ireland’s Dan Martin completed the final podium, half a minute behind Henao who became the second Colombian to win the race after Carlos Betancur in 2014.
Team Sky have won five of the past six editions courtesy of Bradley Wiggins (2012), Richie Porte (2013, 2015), Thomas (2016) and Henao.
The British team have been hit by doping and sexism rows in recent weeks, their reputation taking a battering as a result.
Henao had said he hoped to see out the win for beleaguered team chief Dave Brailsford.
Results of the Paris Nice race’s final eighth stage, a 115.5km ride around Nice on Sunday:
1. David de la Cruz (ESP/QST) 2hr 48min 53sec,
2. Alberto Contador(ESP/TRE) s.t.,
3. Marc Soler (ESP/MOV) at 5sec,
4. Sonny Colbrelli (ITA/BAH) 21,
5. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA/QST) 21,
6. Michael Matthews (AUS/SUN) 21,
7. Diego Ulissi (ITA/EAU) 21,
8. Gorka Izagirre (ESP/MOV) 21,
9. Arnold Jeannesson (FRA/FVC) 21,
10. Lilian Calmejane (FRA/DEN) 21,
11. Nicolas Edet(FRA/COF) 21,
12. Sergio Henao (COL/SKY) 21,
13. Dan Martin (IRL/QST) 21,
14. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS/KAT) 21,
15. Simon Yates (GBR/ORI) 21
1. Sergio Henao (COL/SKY) 29hr 50min 29sec,
2. Alberto Contador (ESP/TRE) at 2sec,
3. Dan Martin (IRL/QST) 30,
4. Gorka Izagirre (ESP/MOV) 1:00,
5. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA/QST) 1:22,
6. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS/KAT) 1:34,
7. Ion Izagirre (ESP/BAH) 1:41,
8. Warren Barguil (FRA/SUN) 4:07,
9. Simon Yates(GBR/ORI) 4:39,
10. Tony Gallopin (FRA/LOT) 9:14,
11. Richie Porte (AUS/BMC) 14:26,
12. Jakob Fulgsang (DEN/AST) 18:07,
13. Philippe Gilbert (BEL/QST) 19:33,
14. Sam Oomen (NED/SUN) 20:08,
15. Romain Hardy (FRA/FVC) 20:25.