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Sergio Henao escapes Alberto Contador to claim Paris-Nice title

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NICE, France (AP) History cruelly repeated itself for Alberto Contador as the Spaniard missed out on a third Paris-Nice victory by just two seconds on Sunday.

Colombian rider Sergio Henao clung on to his dwindling overnight lead to win the biggest race of his career.

Last year, Contador lost the race by four seconds.

Contador was in third place overnight – 31 seconds behind Henao – heading into the eighth and final stage, which was the third straight day of tough climbing.

Contador came agonizingly close to adding to his wins from 2007 and 2010. He finished the stage in second place behind countryman David De La Cruz and missed out on the crucial extra seconds of time bonus that a stage win would have given him.

“It was a beautiful race and I’m glad to have played a part in that,” Contador said.

The 34-year-old Contador, a two-time Tour de France champion, felt he may have slightly misjudged when to make his move over the 116-kilometer (72-mile trek). The stage started and ended in the southern city of Nice, with a long downhill finish after the second big climb.

“I attacked from afar but it was a little too far from the finish,” Contador said. “That’s the way I am. I have to try something. I can’t be content with sitting back. I have to take risks on the flat, in the climbs and in the descents.”

The 29-year-old Henao crossed the line in the chasing pack, 21 seconds behind Contador and De La Cruz – who clocked the same time as they sprinted to the line in a dramatic finish.

“This is the greatest victory in my career and to win it like this at the last meter of Paris-Nice is simply unbelievable,” Henao said. “I knew I had to suffer until the last minutes but I had to do it for myself and for the greatness of Colombian cycling.”

Countryman Nairo Quintana leads the Tirreno-Adriatico race in Italy after five stages.

Hermans wins Tour of Utah with strong ride in final stage

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PARK CITY, Utah — Ben Hermans finished near the front once more in the final stage of the Tour of Utah on Sunday, allowing him to wrap up the overall title after taking second in the week-long race a year ago.

Joe Dombrowski won the finale, an 83-mile trek that began and ended in Park City, with 24 seconds to spare over a chase group led by Joao Almeida. Herman and Keegan Swirbul were another two seconds back with James Piccoli, one of the main instigators all week, rounding out the top five.

The finish was enough to give Hermans, riding for the Israel Cycling Academy, a 50-second margin over Piccoli with Dombrowski another 42 seconds back in third place.

The 33-year-old Hermans has experienced something of a rejuvenation this season. He won a stage and the overall at the Tour of Austria before taking the second and third stages in Utah.

“It’s really amazing,” the Belgian said. “I’ve been fourth, second last year, and to win – finally first. I really enjoy it here. It’s amazing to ride for these crowds and to be there on the podium in the yellow jersey is really, really nice.”

Travis McCabe won the white jersey awarded to the race’s top sprinter. Piccolli was crowned most aggressive rider, Almeida was top young rider and Hayden McCormick won the mountains classification.

Italian cycling great Felice Gimondi dies at age 76

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ROME == Felice Gimondi, one of only seven cyclists to have won all three Grand Tours, has died. He was 76.

The Italian Cycling Federation (FCI) said efforts to resuscitate Gimondi failed after the Italian suffered a heart attack while swimming on vacation in Sicily on Friday and died the same day.

Gimondi won the Tour de France in 1965 as a 22-year-old in his first year as a professional. He went on to win the Giro d’Italia in 1967, 1969 and 1976, and the Spanish Vuelta in 1968.

“Felice was one of the greatest champions to win great tours, a world championship and important classics while contesting, he alone, Eddy Merckx,” FCI president Renato Di Rocco said. “A great man who marked an era. Italian cycling mourns the passing of one of its pillars.”

Five-time Tour de France winner Merckx told Italian news agency ANSA, “A man like Gimondi is not born every day. With him goes a piece of my life. He was among the greatest ever.”

The other cyclists to win all three Grand Tours are Belgian rider Merckx, Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault of France, Alberto Contador of Spain, Vincenzo Nibali of Italy and Britain’s Chris Froome.