Carlos Betancur became the first Colombian cyclist to win the Paris-Nice race on Sunday following the eighth and final stage.
French champion Arthur Vichot won the stage, raced along the celebrated Promenade des Anglais, which saw several riders, including Portugal’s road race world champion Rui Costa, lose their chance of victory in the stage in a pile-up 300m from the finish.
Costa was able to remount and cycle gingerly to the finishing line of the “Race to the Sun” to finish second overall.
Betancur, 24, won his first stage race at WorldTour level, although he finished an impressive fifth in last year’s Tour of Italy.
“I have received great support from my teammates while I have held the overall lead,” said Betancur, who won two stages during the week.
However, Betancur made light of him being the first Colombian to win a race he described as only second to the Tour de France in importance in France.
“This victory is very important for me and my team,” he said. “I am a very quiet person. My passion is cycling and competing in it. I respect all my rivals, but I am afraid of nobody.”
Betancur, who is just one of several classy riders from Colombia such as Nairo Qunitana and Rigoberto Uran who are competing at the moment, said he had never imagined in his wildest dreams that he would win a race as prestigious as this one.
“Who knows, I might win the Tour de France one day... It is the biggest result of my career for sure, this win,” said Betancur, who learned to ride a bike as it was his only mode of wheeled transport to get him to school. “Finishing fifth in the Giro [Tour of Italy] was important, but this is on another level. This victory is something else entirely.”
Betancur, who rides for the French AG2R team, kept a keen eye on Costa throughout the final stage as the Portuguese rider was only 14 seconds behind him in the overall standings.
The only anxious moment he had vis a vis his main rival was when Costa tried to steal a march on him on the Col d’Eze, the final climb of the stage, but he and his team — the first French team to have the winner of the race since Swiss rider Tony Rominger won in 1991 — reeled him in without any great difficulty.