Paris-Nice: Contador wins… no wait

Stage 8: Nice to Nice

You had to pay attention, but I think I counted something like eight moments that said Sergio Henao was beaten today, which is all the more incredible given that he’s now this year’s winner of Paris-Nice.

The first moment was when Alberto Contador attacked with 52km to race, setting up the day’s drama.

The second came when Contador pushed ahead, building a lead of about 45 seconds over the Colombian.

Sergio Henao, alone, and forced to ride in front

The third when the two Team Sky riders dropped off in the middle of a commercial break with 21km to go, forcing Henao to the front as he rode up the Col D’Eze. Henao, and the situation, looked pretty miserable at this point.

The fourth when Contador, along with David De La Cruz of QuickStep and Marc Soler of Movistar pulled away, increasing the gap to one minute.

Then fifth when Porte went, which convinced everyone Henao was beaten, or worse, collapsing. He certainly had me fooled. But somehow Henao followed Porte, who then made way to leave Henao to do his own work on the front.

The sixth when Porte went again at 18.4km left. Again Henao followed, getting his punishing place back at the front as reward. No chicken wing would get anyone to ease his burden at the front and take over.

Then there was this period when Ilnur Zakarin, and Ion Izagirre decided to make his life even harder for Henao, attacking and forcing Henao to follow, which he did, then forcing him back to the front. Same again when Dan Martin attacked, looking to secure his podium spot, and again when Julian Alaphilippe made a similar move. If Henao wasn’t already feeling ruined, not to mention victimized, surely he was now. That was seven.

De La Cruz heads for the line, followed by Contador

But it turned out Henao knew how to descend, doing so in such a way that defied the story being told further up the road. For Contador had broken free of De La Cruz, chasing for the full ten-second bonus, to add to the two seconds he’d picked up at the intermediate sprint. Having just climbed an actual mountain, Henao now had a proverbial one left to climb.

And so, while the Contador story was unfolding at the front, the Henao story was about to finish within two seconds of being an after thought.

De La Cruz, nudging past Contador, took the win, and four seconds that Contador was counting on. Henao, somehow, had done it, defying Contador, and everyone who thought he was done.

Including me. Eight. I lost count after eight moments he was supposed to be beaten.

Go to ProCyclingStats.com for all the results from Paris-Nice.

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