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.