Bradley Wiggins narrowly beat unheralded Lieuwe Westra on Col d’Eze to become the second Briton crowned in Paris-Nice, 45 years after his childhood idol Tom Simpson. The British time-trial specialist was the arch-favourite on the classic climb overlooking Nice and he fully delivered in 19 minutes and 12 seconds. But his Dutch rival, six seconds adrift at the start, was again astonishingly strong, finishing only two seconds behind the three-times pursuit Olympic champion to finally settle for runner-up spot, eight seconds behind. Alejandro Valverde (MOV) was third overall, 1:10 adrift. As deserved as it was - he kept the yellow jersey for seven days - it was a close call for Wiggins, who had to check a super-strong Vacansoleil team, who won the team classification, three stages and the polka-dot jersey with Frederik Veuchelen.
American Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) finished fifth overall and won the young ridr’s white jersey.
Peraud shows the way
The first reference time was set by American Dany Pate (SKY) in 21:30. Bradley Wiggins was in the car behind his team-mate to check the course.
His time was improved by Belgium’s Bart De Clercq (LTB), the first to break the 21 minute barrier in 20:56.
Two Frenchmen took the race to other heights. David Moncoutié (COF) clocked 20:11 but Jean-Christophe Peraud was the first to break the 20-minute barrier in 19:46. Winner of the last stage held in Col d’Eze in 2000, Andreas Kloeden showed he was far from finished by clocking an excellent 20:10.
Another rider who failed to fully deliver during the last week, Jerome Coppel also set the record straight in a fine 20:04, the second fastest mark behind Peraud when he crossed the line. While Simon Spilak (KAT) narrowly beat the 20 minute barrier to finish fourth in the stage and in the GC, the duel was raging between Lieuwe Westra and Bradley Wiggins. The Dutchman was two seconds faster at the intermediate time on Col des Quatre Chemins (km 5.6) but the Briton raised the tempo in the final part to finally win the stage in 19:12 and join the long list of prestigious winners in Eze.
In terms of pressure, it was nothing compared to an Olympic final on track. You can also enjoy the moment. I was confident in my ability, I stayed in the front all week and did not put a foot wrong. Today I rode it perfect. I know the history of the sport and to be on that list and to become the second Brit after Tom Simpson to win Paris-Nice means a lot for me. I’m on that list of riders who won Paris-Nice, the Dauphine. There’s just one left now to win.
I said Paris-Nice was a stepping stone, no disrespect for Paris-Nice. But I must continue that progression to July now. Lance Armstrong warned me recently not burn too many matches for July. It’s certainly a long trail.
Top five placings in the final stage (9.6 kms individual time trial in Col d’Eze):
1. Bradley Wiggins (SKY) 19:12
2. Lieuwe Westra (VCD) two seconds behind
3. Jean-Christophe Peraud (ALM) 33 secs
4. Simon Spilak (KAT) 47 secs
5. Jerome Coppel (SAU) 51 secs.
Wiggins won the last stage in 19:12 and the 70th Paris-Nice.
Fastest time for Lieuwe Westra (VCD) in 19:14.
Valverde is fifth fastest at the finish in 20:05.
Slovenia’s Simon Spilak (KAT) is second fastest in 20 minutes.