Alberto Contador withstood attacks on the traditionally critical final stage of Paris-Nice on Sunday, to secure his second career victory in the stage race, repeating his 2007 win and overcoming an embarrassing 2009 effort.
Contador’s fended off attacks from the the Caisse d’Epargne duo of Alejandro Valverde and Luis Leon Sanchez, particularly on the day’s third and final climb.
Amaël Moinard (Cofidis Le Credit En Ligne) won the final stage, a tough 119-kilometer route that starts and finishes on the Promenade des Anglais in the seaside resort of Nice. Moinard also secured a win in the climber’s competition.
Moinard joined Bbox’s Thomas Voeckler in a mid-race break that survived to the line with only seconds to spare.
Valverde led a large chase group composed of overall contenders, winning the field sprint and narrowing his deficit to Contador by three seconds.
Contador held on for his win despite the best efforts of Valverde and Sanchez to eat into his lead on the tough Col du Eze in the hills above Nice.
Contador’s group managed to stay within around 20sec of Moinard and Voeckler as the riders hit the summit of the climb some 16km out from the finish.
Moinard, 28, gave the French fans their second stage winner of the week after William Bonnet took stage 3 at Limoges.
Contador, who will sit out next week’s Milan-San Remo classic but then compete in the March 22 to 28 Tour of Catalunya, said he was delighted to have notched his second season win after the Tour of the Algarve.
The Paris-Nice “is like a mini-Tour in the sense that you constantly have to control it.”
“I think a number of people had doubts over my team but whether the team is strong or not the course is still very difficult to control. I took good decisions (and) this was a good tune-up before the Tour,” said the Spaniard, victorious in the Tour de France in 2007 and 2009.
“I won and that gives you confidence for what comes thereafter,” said Contador, who said the team had worked very hard throughout.
“Everyone is 100 percent behind me, things are going very well,” said Contador, who has yet to decide if he will take part in the Fleche Wallonne on April 21 and the Liege-Bastone-Liege four days later, neither of which he has won.