Betancur conquers Paris-Nice for Colombia

news17.03.2014After the race

Carlos Betancur (ALM) became the first Colombian to win Paris-Nice after the final stage around Nice won by French champion Arthur Vichot on Sunday.

A quarter of a century after Luis Herrera's victories in the Vuelta and the Dauphine, the 24-year-old AG2R leader handed his country another major stage race and a major achievement for his team AG2R, the first French outfit to win the Race to the Sun in 23 years. On the short but hectic 128-km 8th and final stage around Nice, Betancur's team-mates managed to control the many attacks of the day, leaving Vichot to battle it out in the final stretch with Spain's Jose Joaquin Rojas. Thanks to his stage win, Vichot made it on the podium behind world champion Rui Costa, who finished a frustrating Paris-Nice on the tarmac after crashing in the last 200 metres. The Portuguese still finished second overall, 14 seconds behind Betancur.    

17 in the lead
Giant Shimano made sure no break took place before the first intermediate sprint in Plan d Var (km 19), which John Degenkolb won to strengthen his green jersey by three points. After 24 kilometres, a group of 17 riders broke clear:
Zandio (SKY), Von Hoff (GRS), Van AVermaet (BMC), Pineau (IAM), Keukeleire (OGE), Favilli (LAM), Gavazzi (AST), Hofland (BEL), Busche and Hondo (TFR), Cousin (EUC), Ervitti (MOV), Kristoff (KAT), Coppel (COF), Koch, Marcato (both CAN) and Delaplace (BSE). The group, who held a maximum lead of 2:40 (km 64), lost Moreno Hofland after Cote de Chateauneuf as 15 riders abandoned - including Tom Boonen and Thomas Voeckler - and joined the five non starters of the day  on the way out.

Battle on Cote de Peille
While the first three climbs of the day did not make significant difference, the big battle started for good in Cote de Peille, when the leading group split, while several riders, including green jersey holder John Degenkolb (GIA) and polka-dot jersey holder Pim Ligthart (LTB) could not keep up with the peloton.  One kilometre from the summit, Vincenzo Nibali (AST) attacked with team-mate Fancesco Gavazzi, Simon Spilak (KAT) and Wilco Kalderman (BEL), to catch the five riders left from the early break: Busche, Coppel, Cousin, Zandio and Van Avermaet. But Carlos Betancur's AG2R team-mates worked perfectly to bring the bunch back early in the descent.

Vichot jumps to the line
Three men took advantage of the downhill to surge. Yury Trofimov (KAT), Luis Mate (COF) and Jerome Cousin (EUC) moved but the Russian was the strongest and found himself on his own with 30 kms to go, hunted down by Movistar and AG2R riders, who caught him at the foot of Col d'Eze (km 109). Among the riders to try their luck on the famous climb were successively George Bennett (CAN), David Lopez Garcia (SKY) and finally Frank Shleck (TFR), who reached the top in the lead. In the descent towards Nice, the Luxembourg rider joined forces with Simon Spilak (KAT). The two still held the bunch at bay until the red flame when the sprint for stage honours started. A crash involved several riders and sent Rui Costa down on the tarmac, where the world champion lay for a few minutes before crossing the line unhurt. In the meantime, Vichot had jumped to outpace Rojas and France's Cyril Gauthier (EUC). Carlos Betancur was 8th, more than enough to crown a superb week on the roads of France with his fist major victory. The Colombian will certainly be a man to watch in his first Tour de France after this revelation in Nice, which will host another Tour de France in July, the sailing one.  

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Jersey wearers after the stage 8

Classifications after the stage 8

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