Reuters - Sun, 14 Mar 14:07:00 2010
Alberto Contador showed great composure to fend off attacks from all sides in a nail-biting final stage and clinch the Paris-Nice race for the second time.
The twice Tour de France champion was attacked in the 119km stage by fellow Spaniards Alejandro Valverde and Luis Leon Sanchez but he never panicked.
Contador beat Vuelta champion Valverde by 11 seconds with last year's winner Luis Leon Sanchez finishing third overall 25 seconds behind.
"It is very difficult to win Paris-Nice, especially when you're the man to beat," Contador said.
"So it's like a liberation. You have to keep cool. As the years go by, I become more mature."
France's Amael Moinard outsprinted compatriot Thomas Voeckler at the end of a 70km breakaway to win the final stage, a 119km loop through the mountains north of Nice, with Contador finishing safely in the chasing pack three seconds behind.
But it was a long day for the 27-year-old Astana rider, who had won the Paris-Nice race in 2007.
Moinard and Thomas Voeckler surged ahead of the pack just before the ascent to the Col de la Porte and built a maximum lead of two minutes 25 seconds.
Moinard secured the polka dot jersey for the best climber and Slovakian prodigy Peter Sagan, who clinched two stages in the race, took the green jersey for the points classifications.
His Liquigas team mate Roman Kreuziger of the Czech Republic, bagged the white jersey for the best young rider.
Contador was on his own as the peloton reached the foot of the Col d'Eze, a 4.2km ascent at an average gradient of 6.8 per cent, after his team mates failed to follow the pace of the Caisse d'Epargne and Katusha teams.
Spaniard Joaquin Rodriguez, who started the day seventh overall 36 seconds behind, attacked in the climb, prompting Contador to react. He swiftly caught Rodriguez with Valverde and Sanchez in his wheel.
Contador then launched a preventative attack to drop Sanchez but the Caisse d'Epargne rider managed to come back with Estonian champion Rein Taaramae.
The Spaniard, sandwiched in between Rodriguez, Sanchez and Valverde, showed great poise to hold them off as a group of some 15 riders joined the chase.
Voeckler and Moinard resisted, with the latter pipping his compatriot in the final stretch.
"I am so happy. I have the polka dot jersey and I win a stage. We had some head wind so I let Thomas launch the sprint so I could surprise him," said Moinard.