By Julien Pretot
NICE, France (Reuters) - Australian Richie Porte claimed his second Paris-Nice title on Sunday thanks to a commanding ride in the final stage, an uphill individual time to the Col d’Eze.
The Team Sky rider, who won the week long Race to the Sun in 2013, rode the 9.6 kilometers at an average gradient of 4.7 percent in 20 minutes 23 seconds to reclaim the yellow jersey from Tony Gallopin as the Frenchman ended up sixth overall.
World champion Michal Kwiatkowski of Poland (Etixx-Quick Step) and Slovenia’s Simon Spilak (Katusha) finished second and third overall respectively, both 30 seconds off the pace.
Porte built his victory on strong uphill performances, winning the fourth stage atop the Croix de Chaubouret on Thursday before wrapping it up on Sunday.
The Tasmanian, who said he is at his lightest weight at 59 kilos, overcame gusty winds and rain spells on a cold day on the French Riviera to beat Spilak by 13 seconds on Sunday, while former world champion Rui Costa of Portugal took third place 24 seconds off the pace.
Porte came close to losing everything in Saturday’s mountain stage when he skidded off on a curve in a descent and crashed. He got back on his bike unscathed and managed to finish in a group of favorites who were chasing sixth stage winner Gallopin (Lotto).
Porte, who usually supports Briton Chris Froome on the Tour de France, should have his moment on a grand tour this season as he is expected to be Team Sky’s leader on the Giro d’Italia in May.
He was supposed to do so last year but had been pulled from the squad after his spring season was disrupted by an illness.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot, editing by Pritha Sarkar)