- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 15, 2009

NICE, FRANCE (AP) - Luis-Leon Sanchez won the Paris-Nice race on Sunday, overcoming two punctures and a late challenge by Alberto Contador in a final stage won by Antonio Colom.

Frank Schleck of Luxembourg finished second in the final standings, trailing Sanchez by 1 minute. Sylvain Chavanel of France was third overall, 1:09 back, and Contador placed fourth, 1:24 behind Sanchez.

Colom beat Contador, a fellow Spaniard, and Schleck in a sprint on the famed Promenade des Anglais to take the last stage, completing the 73.9-mile trek in and around Nice in 2 hours, 47 minutes and 49 seconds.

Chavanel broke his chain 7.8 miles from the finish, allowing Schleck to move ahead in the final standings.

Sanchez won the Tour of the Mediterranean last month and finished third overall in the 2007 Paris-Nice race.

“I’m glad this was my turn and today’s my day,” Sanchez told the event’s Web site. “Today, I’m the Paris-Nice winner, but in July, I’ll become a teammate again, trying to help Oscar (Pereiro) or Alejandro (Valverde) win the Tour.”

In a stage featuring three category 1 climbs, Contador went on the attack at the 26.1-mile mark, joining a small group chasing Reine Taaramae of Estonia.

Two years ago, Contador won the weeklong event on the last day and was bidding for a repeat.

The Spaniard was in position to win the stage and overall title after the first climb of the day, taking a lead of 2:05 after Sanchez had two punctures on the Col de la Porte.

But the pack, spurred by Schleck’s Saxo Bank team, cut Contador’s lead to about 30 seconds in the descent.

Schleck and Colom caught Contador in the descent of Col d’Eze, 6.2 miles from the finish.

David Millar of Britain retired after crashing.

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