Paris-Nice finishes on the Col d’Eze today, and it was a climb that Irish riders won on from 1981 to 1989 in the Race to the Sun, with Sean Kelly taking five wins to Stephen Roche’s four. We look back at Kelly’s first victory on the climb in 1982.
Following on from Stephen Roche’s overall win in the 1981 Paris-Nice, Sean Kelly would make it two Irish wins in a row when he took overall victory in 1982. However, going into the last stage which was a time-trial up Col d’Eze, it didn’t look likely to many that he would win.
Kelly had taken over the white jersey of leader early in the race, winning stages in Saint Etienne and La Seyne Sur Mer. However, on the second last day, he crashed and lost the jersey to Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle of the Peugeot team.
On the final day, the riders faced a 60 kilometre stage from Mandelieu to Nice which Kelly won in a sprint finish, while Duclos-Lassalle held onto his lead by five seconds from Kelly.
The Peugeot team had been confident that Kelly would struggle in the afternoon on the Col d’Eze, as he still had the reputation of just being a sprinter who couldn’t time trial. However, Roche thought he had a chance of overcoming his team mate Duclos-Lassalle’s lead. “Why not Kelly? He is the best rider in the peloton at the moment, and nobody can say what he can’t do,” said Roche.
Kelly warmed up on the rollers in a café beforehand, and his intention was to go flat out for the eleven kilometre test. Pushing him on was his Directeur Sportuf, Jean de Gribaldy, who would scream at Kelly if he dared to sit down in the saddle.
Kelly stormed up the climb overlooking Nice to win the stage and beat Duclos-Lassalle by 45 seconds to win overall for the first of seven consecutive victories. Roche meanwhile finished sixth overall, and won the best young rider’s classification.
Here’s coverage from French TV of the final day’s racing.