Geraint Thomas tells the story of the famous final stage of Paris-Nice 2016; a thrilling ‘Riviera Pursuit’ that saw him take the overall victory by just four seconds.
“The night before the final stage, around midnight, I texted Nico, our mechanic and I said ‘can I get a 54-chainring for tomorrow?’. The time gaps were really close between the top ten and I knew that I might have to chase on the final descent off the Col d’Èze. I know the road well and that you can pedal down it, so thought that the bigger chain ring might come into play.
The Col d’Èze is right above Monaco where I live and I’ve probably lost count the number of times I’ve been up there. In the race I felt good but then my legs started going. Knowing the climb was almost worse in a way because I knew how much longer there was to go!
At one point I thought that it wasn’t just the win at stake, but the whole podium. It wasn’t just [Alberto] Contador and Richie [Porte] who’d gone away from me – I’d dropped off the back of the group I was in. Fortunately, I had Sergio [Henao] who was going really well and he stayed with me. We caught [Tony] Gallopin and rode together.
When the time gap was over 30 seconds I thought it was going away but as the time checks were coming in I got a morale boost, hearing 25, 20. Then I saw the group in front and we caught and passed them before finally I could see the leaders in the last corners.
I didn’t know I’d held yellow when I crossed the line as there were bonus seconds on offer. Marko – our carer – was like ‘yeah, you’ve won!’, and I said ‘are you sure 100%?’ to which he replied: ‘yeah 100% – I think…!” But then they announced it a couple of minutes later and it was sweet.
It’s the biggest win of my career by far. Outside of the Grand Tours, Paris-Nice is one of the biggest races. I used to come home from school to watch the end of it and now to win it is incredible, really.”