Richie Porte wrapped up his second Paris-Nice title in the space of three years by winning the final time trial up the Col d’Eze.
Porte went into the day 36 seconds down on Tony Gallopin, but blew him and the rest of the field away on the 9.5km climb, clocking a time of 20 minutes and 23 seconds which proved 13 seconds faster than the second-placed Simon Spilak.
That result saw Porte take the yellow jersey with a 30-second cushion over Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx – Quick-Step), who ended the race less than a second ahead of Spilak (Katusha) and Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida). Geraint Thomas meanwhile, finished fifth overall after stopping the clock with the seventh-fastest time of the day.
Porte’s triumph was Team Sky’s third in a row on the famous climb, and after stepping down from the podium, he said: “Credit to Tony [Gallopin]. I was a little bit nervous going into the day. Geraint and I threw time away yesterday – we were in a fantastic position, and for both of us to crash like we did wasn’t ideal. To win today though, is a fantastic feeling.
“It means a lot to me to be a two-time winner of an iconic race like Paris-Nice, and this one feels even sweeter than the last one because it was so hard. They threw everything at us yesterday, and to win on the top of the Col d’Eze this year, like I did in 2013, is incredible.
“We have a fantastic team at Team Sky with Wout Poels winning at Tirreno-Adriatico yesterday and Chris Froome set to come back in. It’s good because we had a roller coaster season last year and we’re definitely back now.”
2012 winner Sir Bradley Wiggins didn’t start the stage, so it was Thomas de Gendt (Lotto Soudal) who set an early benchmark, only for Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin) and Tony Martin (Etixx – Quick-Step) to lower that time before the main contenders took centre stage.
As Spilak was setting the time to beat, Thomas, Kwiatkowski, Porte and Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) were all on the course, and Porte rode like a true champion from beginning to end.
The Australian was 58 seconds faster than Gallopin at the first time split, and continued to extend that lead as he surged up the climb for his fifth win of the season.