IN­DI­VID­UAL PUR­SUIT CHAM­PION

Wear­ing the yel­low jer­sey, Thomas had shipped 25 sec­onds to Con­ta­dor in the last 1.5km of the climb

Procycling - - Review Of The Year 2016 -

Geraint Thomas might have felt like turn­ing left in­stead of right at the T-junc­tion of the Col d’Èze de­scent and the pic­turesque M6007 road, bet­ter known as the Moyenne Cor­niche, and go­ing straight home to Monaco. Wear­ing the Paris-Nice yel­low jer­sey, the Welsh­man had shipped 25 sec­onds to sec­ond-placed Al­berto Con­ta­dor in the last 1.5km of the climb. With a GC lead of only 15 sec­onds and an un­tech­ni­cal down­hill to the Prom­e­nade des Anglais to come, Thomas looked to have blown it.

Con­ta­dor had nig­gled away at Thomas through­out the stage, go­ing away with 60km to go and link­ing up with two Tinkoff team­mates, forc­ing Sky into a long chase. Then, as the junc­tion was made at the bot­tom of the Col d’Èze, at­tack­ing again on the climb.

The front group split into three: Con­ta­dor and Richie Porte, aided by Lotto-Soudal’s Tim Wel­lens, the sole sur­vivor of the day’s break; then a group with the rest of the top GC men; then Thomas, his team-mate Ser­gio He­nao and Lotto-Soudal’s Tony Gal­lopin. Lotto made the pace both on the front, as Wel­lens wanted the stage win, and be­hind, as Gal­lopin worked with the Sky duo to de­fend his own top-10 place.

De­scents have de­fined Thomas’s Paris-Nice ex­pe­ri­ences in the past. In 2014 he crashed out on a down­hill in the penul­ti­mate stage while ly­ing sec­ond; in 2015 he’d slith­ered off both his bike and the podium on the de­scent into Nice with a day to go. Now he had a 15km de­scent on which to save his yel­low jer­sey.

The TV feed showed a 34-sec­ond gap but it was ac­tu­ally only 25. If he could pull back 10, plus a bit more to ac­count for time bonuses, the GC win was his. Sky, with ex­cel­lent fore­sight, had fit­ted a larger outer chain­ring, to bet­ter deal with the fast schuss into Nice.

With the car­rot of the sec­ond group dan­gling in front, Thomas closed the gap. On the line he saved his jer­sey by four sec­onds. This time it was the de­scent that won it.

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