Paris-Nice 2010: How the faves fared
Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde and Luis Leon Sanchez on the podium, Paris-Nice 2010, stage seven
Before Paris-Nice (March 7-14) kicked off last week we picked out 11 riders who we thought would make a mark on the 2010 edition of the race.
Here we take a look at how they did, and whether we need to get ourselves down to Morrisons to buy a bumper can of Pledge to give our crystal ball a proper polish-up.
Paris-Nice 2010: Final top ten
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana in 28-35min-sec
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne at 11secs
3. Luis-Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne at 25secs
4. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas at 26secs
5. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 30secs
6. Jens Voigt (Ger) Saxo Bank at 35secs
7. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 37secs
8. Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis at 1-07
9. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 1-16
10. Jérôme Coppel (Fra) Saur-Sojasun at 1-17
Paris-Nice 2010: Stage winners and leaders
Prologue: Lars Boom (Rabobank) - leader: Lars Boom (Rabobank)
Stage one: Greg Henderson (Team Sky) - leader: Lars Boom (Rabobank)
Stage two: William Bonnet (BBox-Bouyges Telecom) - leader: Lars Boom (Rabobank)
Stage three: Peter Sagan (Liquigas) - leader: Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank)
Stage four: Alberto Contador (Astana) - leader: Alberto Contador (Astana)
Stage five: Peter Sagan (Liquigas) - leader: Alberto Contador (Astana)
Stage six: Xavier Tondo (Cervelo) - leader: Alberto Contador (Astana)
Stage seven: Amaël Moinard (Cofidis) - leader: Alberto Contador (Astana)
Paris-Nice 2010: Our predictions
Alberto Contador (Spain) Astana
Finished: First overall
We said he'd win it and he did. We said he'd have to attack on stage four's mountain-top finished in Mende to gain time on his rivals, and he did. We could puff up our chests in an attempt to make the accuracy of our prediction look astounding, but Contador was always going to be the winner. Right now, he's untouchable.
Frank Schleck (Luxembourg) Saxo Bank
Finished: 16th overall
What has happened to the Schlecks? Whilst Frank was frankly pootling around France, brother Andy has been doing the same at Tirreno-Adriatico in Italy. As one of the few riders who kept up with Contador in the mountains during last year's Tour, finishing over a minute down on him on stage four to Mende was a bit of a shock. In the event, Saxo Bank rallied behind Jens Voigt (see below).
Luis-Leon Sanchez (Spain) Caisse d'Epargne
Finished: Third overall
Winner in 2009, Sanchez again had a strong race placing third overall in Nice. Stage four to Mende proved to be his undoing, losing 29 valuable seconds to Contador. Caisse d'Epargne were all over the race, but probably suffered a bit having to share race leadership with...
Alejandro Valverde (Spain) Caisse d'Epargne
Finished: Second overall
Although not in the same league as Contador - no-one is - Valverde was in strong form and placed second overall after following Contador's wheel like an orange-tinged shadow.
Sylvain Chavanel (France) Quick Step
Finished: 14th overall
Chavanel launched some spirited attacks in the finals couple of days racing, but it was too late. Was usurped as top Frenchman by Jean-Christophe Peraud (Omega Pharma-Lotto) in 9th overall.
Levi Leipheimer (USA) RadioShack
Finished: 23rd overall
After placing third in the opening prologue, and in the same time as Contador, Leipheimer looked like he could give the Spaniard a run for his money. However, it soon became apparent that the RadioShack leader didn't quite have the legs, losing one minute and nine seconds to Contador on the critical mountain-top finish on stage four.
Roman Kreuziger (Czech Republic) Liquigas
Finished: 4th overall
A consistent top-ten finisher in major stage races, young Czech talent Kreuziger is due a big win. This wasn't to be it, though.
Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Transitions
Finished: 79th overall
Our worst prediction for the top ten. Instead, we should have picked Vande Velde's Garmin-Transitions team-mate David Millar who only dropped out of the top ten on the final stage. Vande Velde looks like he has a bit of work to do before July, though...
Christophe Le Mevel (France) Francaise des Jeux
Finished: 37th overall
Had been doing well throughout the race and then lost nearly nine minutes on the final stage, after crashing hard on the descent of the Col d'Eze, to plummet from 16th to 37th down the overall classification.
Simon Gerrans (Australia) Team Sky
Finished: 15th overall
It was a tough call for Aussie triple-Grand Tour stage winner Gerrans to place in the top ten in Paris-Nice, but Sky's team leader put in a solid race to come 15th overall.
Jens Voigt (Germany) Saxo Bank
Finished: 6th overall
Jens is back! After that awful crash in the Tour de France last year - and this is the last time we mention it, honest - at one point it looked doubtful if Voigt would ever get back to former glory. A spell in the yellow leader's jersey and a fourth place overall shows that nothing will stop the evergreen German hardman.
A predictable outcome, which we thankfully predicted. After an overall win at the Tour of the Algarve and now Paris-Nice, Alberto Contador is looking as unstoppable as ever. No early-season "I'm working on my form, July is months away, blah, blah" excuses for El Pistolero. Some of the Spaniard's biggest rivals looked distinctly shaky - hands up Levi Leipheimer, Frank Schleck and Christian Vande Velde. Still, at least all of our predictions made it to the finish line in Nice this year.
Paris-Nice 2010: Stage reports
Stage seven: Moinard wins final stage as Contador stands firm overall
Stage six: Tondo's heroics pay off
Stage five: Sagan does it again
Stage four: Contador too hot for rivals as Spanish dominate
Stage three: Sagan is the new kid on the block
Stage two: William Bonnet wins in Limoges after chaotic finish
Stage one: Sky's Henderson wins as wind splits bunch
Prologue: Boom beats the big names to win
Paris-Nice 2010: Photo galleries
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson
Prologue photo gallery by Graham Watson