Thomas joins elite group after winning Paris-Nice race

Winner of the Paris-Nice cycling race, Geraint Thomas of Great Britain, right, shakes hands with Alberto Contador of Spain. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)

Winner of the Paris-Nice cycling race, Geraint Thomas of Great Britain, right, shakes hands with Alberto Contador of Spain. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)

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Welshman Geraint Thomas has become only the third Briton to win the prestigious Paris-Nice race.

The Team Sky rider started the final day in yellow with a 15-second lead over Alberto Contador and claimed the title after yesterday’s seventh stage over 141 kilometres.

Thomas, 29, follows Tom Simpson (1967) and Bradley Wiggins (2012) as British winners of an event which began in 1933, and the victory will underline his credentials as a future Tour de France winner.

Contador attacked from 50 kilometres out, with the benefit of two Tinkoff team-mates in the breakaway up the road to work with.

The depleted Team Sky squad worked hard to bring the escape group back, but Contador and BMC’s Richie Porte surged off the front of the small lead group on the final climb with 20km remaining. Contador appeared to be heading for a third Paris-Nice win, but Thomas recovered 30 seconds in the final descent with the help of Sky team-mate Sergio Henao and Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal).

As Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) sprinted past Contador for the stage win, Thomas nestled himself in a group of riders who crossed the line just five seconds down on the Spaniard to seal the general classification.

It is Thomas’s second win of the season, having also beaten Contador at the Volta ao Algarve in February, and the fifth stage race victory of his career.

Thomas admitted to a sense of disbelief after getting the better of two-time Tour de France winner Contador and third-placed Porte, who finished 12 seconds adrift of the Welshman.

“It’s incredible; it’s hard to believe,” Thomas said after the stage. “Contador, man, he’s one of the best stage racers ever. Richie, he won nearly every stage race he did last year, so to beat those two I can’t believe it.

“I obviously came here wanting to do the best I could and win, but to actually do it is the biggest win for sure of my whole career.”

Thomas said he felt his chance was over after his legs “gave way” when Contador attacked on the Col d’Eze climb.

“When he went on (the Cote de) Peille, at first, I stuck with the team,” said Thomas, according to cyclingnews.com.

“I felt good, I felt strong. But when he went halfway up the Col d’Eze my legs just gave way. It was horrible.

“I thought that it was all over, and then I got dropped from the other group, and I thought I was going to struggle to stay on the podium. Sergio stayed with me. I had a 54 chainring on for the descent, in case I had to chase and I certainly needed that in the end.”

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