Betancur Wins Paris-Nice; Vichot Wins Final Stage
Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) is the first Colombian to win Paris-Nice. The 24-year-old Ag2r-La Mondiale man claimed victory moments after Arthur Vichot (FDJ.fr) won Stage 8 of Paris-Nice 2014, a mountainous, 128-km ride in and around Nice. The Frenchman road champion burst out of the yellow jersey group to take the stage in 3:06:56. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Movistar) took second ahead of Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis).
The break of the day formed at around 25 km, when Greg van Avermaet (BMC), Jerome Coppel (Cofidis), Jerome Pineau (IAM Cycling), Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne-Seche Environnement), Marco Marcato and Michel Koch (both from Cannondale), Jens Keukeleire (GreenEDGE), Francesco Gavazzi (Astana), Matthew Busche and Danilo Hondo (both from Trek), Moreno Hofland (Belkin), Elia Favilli (Lampre-Merida), Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Alexander Kristoff, Jerome Cousin (Europcar), Xavier Zandio (Sky), and Steele von Hoff (Garmin-Sharp-POC) sallied off of the front. The peloton kept the escapees on a short leash, and their lead maxed out at 2:40 at 64 km.
With a little more than 60 km left, Hofland abandoned. At the base of the Category 1 Cote de Peille, with the break’s lead down to one minute, the escape split. Vincenzo Nibali and Lieuwe Westra (both from Astana) and Simon Spilak attacked from the peloton. Westra dropped back, but Gavazzi was in the break to help Nibali. The peloton chased Nibali and Spilak, reeling in most of the break in doing so.
The Ag2r-led bunch reeled in the break’s remnants, and Yury Trofimov, Luis Mate (Cofidis), and Cousin attacked on the descent. Trofimov forged ahead on his own, but the peloton, paced by Movistar and Ag2r, reeled in Trofimov at the base of the Category 1 Col d’Eze.
George Bennett (Cannondale), David Lopez Garcia (Sky), and Frank Schleck (Trek), respectively, launched attacks on the climb. Spilak joined Schleck, and the two led the field at the summit. On the descent, the pair led the pursuit by 0:10. With seven km left, they had 0:18 on the yellow jersey group, which Movistar and Lampre-Merida led. Schleck and Spilak still led at the one-km banner.
Schleck dropped Spilak and powered toward the finish line. A crash took down world road race champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) 200 m from the finish. Schleck was overtaken, and Gil jumped into the lead. Vichot attacked up the center of the road to overtake the Spaniard for the win. Costa spent a considerate amount of time on the ground but remounted to cross the finish line and claim his second place overall.
Betancur was ecstatic for himself, his team, and his country. “Wearing the yellow jersey for four days was already something fantastic,” the Colombian said. “The Ag2r-La Mondiale team showed this week that it was a great team, and this was an important victory for us. My teammates have done tremendous work for me, and this evening, I am extremely pleased. I am also proud to carry Colombian cycling at the highest level.”
In the overall, Betancur beat Costa by 0:14 and Vichot by 0:20 (click here for stage 8 results). During the race, the Ag2r-La Mondiale man said that he was several kilos too heavy. If he could win Paris-Nice while overweight, what can we expect of him in the classics, which he targets, and the 2014 Tour de France, which he wants to ride, when he loses that weight? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!