David de la Cruz finished Paris-Nice off in style with a rousing victory on the final stage.
The Team Sky rider set out to make the day’s breakaway and did just that, eventually pushing clear of a strong lead group on the Col de Peille.
Following another strong burst on the final climb, De La Cruz plunged back into Nice in a group of three riders, after combining well with Marc Soler (Movistar) and Omar Fraile (Astana).
Narrowly getting the better of Fraile in the two-up sprint, the Spaniard made it two victories in a row on the Promenade des Anglais after winning the same stage 12 months ago. The win also elevated him to an impressive ninth overall.
For Sergio Henao there was sadly no repeat of last year’s victory, with the Colombian slipping out of an elite general classification group on the final climb – the Cote des 4 Chemins. He eventually came home 12th overall after eight hard days of racing.
As is now traditional the race saw a thrilling conclusion to the GC battle, with the yellow jersey again decided by a handful of seconds across the short 110km finale. Third place on the stage and the accompanying time bonus was enough to give Soler the overall victory, taking the race win by just four seconds over Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott).
David de la Cruz
I’m really happy I can win again for the second year in a row. To win just one stage here is hard, so to do it two years in a row is really special for me.
After the stage De La Cruz talked us through the stage, which played out in soaking conditions. "I was very motivated, I won last year, I felt good and I wanted to win another time. I had the goal this morning to take the victory but I didn’t know how to do it. I was really focused and I felt quite good.
"It was a really hard and hectic day. We knew it would be, and the most important thing was to stay focused and be ready for a fight. The tempo was full gas from the beginning to the end. I’m really happy I can win again for the second year in a row. To win just one stage here is hard, so to do it two years in a row is really special for me."
Victory was all the more sweet for De La Cruz with a number of welcome faces at the finish. The win also helped finish a tough race on a high.
He added: "Here I have my family, my girlfriend and my friends. It’s good for all the work we have done with the team this week. Unfortunately, we had the crash of Wout who was well positioned to win the overall, but we wanted to finish the week well and show that Team Sky is always strong here at Paris-Nice. Luckily, we’ve got the victory today.”
Sport Director Gabriel Rasch was also a happy man, and reiterated just how tough the conditions were. He said: "It was super hectic from the first climb after just 14km. It was raining really hard and there was water running everywhere, stones in the road and generally pretty chaotic from the start. De La Cruz went with some guys from the break and he worked perfectly from there. We didn't see he'd won the sprint until he raised his arm. It's a great way to end the race."
Stage eight result:
1. David de la Cruz (Team Sky) 2:53:06
2. Omar Fraile (Astana) s.t.
3. Marc Soler (Movistar) +3”
4. Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe) +38”
5. Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) s.t.
1. Marc Soler (Movistar) 30:22:41
2. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) +4”
3. Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain Merida) +14”
4. Ion Izagirre (Bahrain Merida) +16”
5. Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) s.t.
9. David de la Cruz (Team Sky) +2:15”
12. Sergio Henao (Team Sky) +4:08”