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Cycling
Wiggins takes Paris-Nice crown
British cyclist edges home in the final time trial stage hinting at good things to come at the Tour de France.
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2012 20:36
Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Paris-Nice race since Tommy Simpson forty-five years ago [GETTY]

Bradley Wiggins soared to Britain's first overall win in the Paris-Nice in 45 years with an agonisingly close victory in the final uphill time trial to Col D'Eze on Sunday.

The 31-year-old Team Sky rider beat Dutchman Lieuwe Westra by two seconds in the 9.6-kilometre dash from Nice and eight seconds overall to claim his biggest victory since the Criterium du Dauphine last June.

Spain's Alejandro Valverde finished third on the final podium, one minute and 10 seconds back.

Wiggins said he was proud to be one of just two Britons to win the eight-day stage race and the first since his cycling hero Tom Simpson in 1967.

"I know my cycling history and this is an enormous achievement," he told reporters.

"It's an honour to be up there with Tom Simpson.

"To follow in Tom Simpson's footsteps to become the second Brit to win...everybody else on the list - Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Indurain - it's a massive thing."

Tribute

Wiggins, who will be among the overall contenders when the Tour de France starts from Liege in Belgium on June 30, had paid tribute to the late British rider in 2009 when the world's biggest race went up the Mont Ventoux - where Simpson died a few months after his Paris-Nice triumph.

Two seconds behind Westra half-way up the winding, well-surfaced climb from Nice to Col D'Eze, the triple Olympic track gold medallist said he had to pull out all the stops to claim the win.

"It was a very tough final time trial and I knew that Westra was very strong after he'd won that stage midweek," said Wiggins.

"But in terms of pressure it was nothing compared to an Olympic track final. You can enjoy the moment, I was confident of my ability and today I rode it perfect.

"I grew up watching (seven-times winner Sean) Kelly winning Paris-Nice on that summit, so coming round that final bend to do that today was even more special.

"Westra set off fast, but I stayed calm and did my thing and at the finish I got more time back off him. It was good."

Simultaneously defeated both overall and on the stage, Westra put a brave face on his disappointment at having come so close.

"Bradley was stronger today and I ended up losing the time trial by very little," he told reporters.

"But I'm also pleased because I've never been so strong as this week."

Tour focus

Wiggins said he hoped his dominating performance in this year's Paris-Nice, the 70th of its history, was a good omen for the Tour.

"I don't know if I'm a favourite but I'm one of maybe five riders who can do something there (overall) this summer," Wiggins mused.

"I said Paris-Nice was a stepping stone, no disrespect for Paris-Nice. But I must continue that progression to July."

Wiggins finished fourth overall on the Tour in 2009 but could not repeat the performance the following year and crashed out early in the race in 2011.

His Paris-Nice performance suggested this year he has what it takes to become the first Briton to win the Tour.

Source:
Reuters
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