Tony Martin became only the third German to win Paris-Nice at the end of the 124-kms final stage won in style by French champion Thomas Voeckler.
The 25-year-old HTC-Highroad leader beat compatriot Andreas Kloeden (RadioShack), winner of the Race to the Sun 11 years ago, a result which is also a change in generations and a ray of hope for German cycling.
Runaway leader since the 27-kms individual time trial in Aix-en-Provence, the Cottbus riding machine was never threatened on the rain-soaked Promenade des Anglais, most of his rivals conceding defeat and settling for their respective GC positions. While Kloeden finished 36 seconds behind, Briton Bradley Wiggins finished third, 41 seconds adrift.
While the contenders for final victory were above all trying to limit risks, boldness paid off again and the boldest of them all, Thomas Voeckler, made it two after his 4th stage victory in Belleville. The Europcar leader was the first Frenchman to win two Paris-Nice stages since Laurent Jalabert in1997.
In the front all day, he took most risks in the treacherous descents of the day to win on his own ahead of Italian prospect Diego Ulissi, his last breakaway companion.
Voeckler moves first
The start was given at 11:39 to 135 riders. From kilometre 3, Andriy Grivko (Astana) attacked but was reined in before the first climb, the Cote de Duranus (Km 33.5), in which French champion Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Linus Gerdemann (Leopard-Trek) tried to attack. In the descent, a group of 11 emerged: David Lopez-Garcia (Movistar), Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana), Matthew Busche (RadioShack), Matteo Carrara (Vancasoleil), Laurent Didier (Saxo Bank), Julien El Fares (Cofidis), Gorka Izagirre (Euskaltel), Diego Ulissi (Lampre), Remi Pauriol (FDJ), Voeckler and Gerdemann.
On the Col de Chateauneuf (2nd cat, km 55.5), Pauriol led the way to add seven points to his mountain tally and comfort his jersey. He secured it on the next ascent, the Col de Calaison (2nd cat, km 70), in which Gerdemann, followed by Vinokourov, were dropped. The gap, which reached a maximum of 3:10, was 2:50 at the top, exactly the time difference between Tony Martin and Matteo Carrara in the GC at the start.
Voeckler all the way
As the break was heading for La Turbie, Pauriol, Busche and Didier lost ground, leaving six riders in the lead. At the back, the peloton was also losing several elements leaving only some 20 riders in the chase, including yellow jersey holder Tony Martin and all the leading contenders for final victory.
At the top of La Turbie (1st cat, km 94), the favourites had cut the gap down to 1:25 but the lead rose again in the Col d’Eze as Voeckler and Ulissi parted company with their former companions (km 104). At the top, the Italian was first and the two maintained a short 16 seconds lead over their nearest chasers.
The peloton was still 1:30 adrift, but some ten seconds behind Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel), assisted by Izagirre, who waited for his leader to try and help him onto the podium in the finale. But apart from the Olympic champion, nobody challenged Martin in the day’s climbs or descents. Sanchez move failed but he still finished fourth to dislodge France’s Jean-Christophe Peraud from the top five.
Stage victory now looked certain for one of the two escapees and Voeckler was the boldest of the two, who attacked on the descent to Nice never to be seen again. The group including Tony Martin crossed the line 1:22 behind, crowning one of the most promising riders in the world’s peloton.
It’s so great. It’s the biggest success ever in my career. I’m so happy but I need some time to think about it and I’m just thrilled to win now. Yesterday, it was super cold, really dangerous in the descents and I’m very happy that I didn’t crash. I was not sure about my win today because there were strong riders in the front but everything ended fine. It’s a fantastic start of the season, which gives me so much confidence for the next races. I’ll be ready for the season. For sure it’s my biggest goal to have a good Tour de France. I hope I can do it. I think I’m ready for it.
It’s a great overall result. I did not make any plans. Only in the finale did I tell myself I could do it. I really took a lot of risks in the descents. I thought I was too old for such risks but I’ve still got it. Of course I thought about last year when I lost on the line and that’s why it was better to finish on my own. Two stage victories is super. I was not very lucky on Paris-Nice in recent years but this time I had good legs and it helps. I prefer to win two stages than finishing 10th or 11th. That’s the swashbuckling cycling I love, it’s fun. Everybody deserves plaudits in such difficult conditions but I guess I deserve a little more for winning here.
1. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar)
2. Diego Ulissi (Lampre) 23 seconds behind
3. Julien El Fares (Cofidis) 1:06 behind
4. Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel)
5. David Lopez-Garcia (Movistar) same time.
Tony Martin (THR) wins Paris-Nice.
Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) wins the 124-kms 8th and final stage of Paris-Nice.
... Voeckler is about to avenge his disappoinment of 2010!
...and it looks good for Voeckler.
Every morning before the start, Bernard Hinault gives his views about the day’s stage and the riders to watch;
We saw there were a lot of moves in yesterday’s stage. The terrain was hard, the stage was long and the weather conditions tricky. So a rider who is afraid of rain or does not go down too well can lose the race in this type of stage. According to forecasts, there will be as much rain today so it is not over for Tony Martin, who only holds a 36 seconds lead. He must not get carried away, he must think "I’m the best" and tackle the descents without undue risks. If he stays with the best in the climbs, he will be ideally placed to go downhill and will be able to ride at his own pace.