Australian Richie Porte (BMC) won the penultimate stage of Paris-Nice, Saturday, while Colombian Sergio Henao (Sky) slips into yellow.

NICE (AFP) – Australia’s Richie Porte (BMC Racing) claimed victory on the penultimate seventh stage of the Paris-Nice atop the Col de la Couillole on Saturday, but Colombia’s Sergio Henao (Team Sky) claimed the overall lead.

France’s Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) had held the leader’s yellow jersey since Wednesday but he was left behind on the challenging final climb and came home more than two and a half minutes behind.

The Col de la Couillole, which stands 1,678m tall to the north of Nice, is the highest finish in the 75-year history of the Paris-Nice. Porte finished 20 seconds clear of Spain’s former Tour de France winner Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo).

The BMC rider, who won the Paris-Nice in 2013 and 2015, attacked in the final 3km to secure victory on the queen stage of this year’s race.

Stage 7 results, top 10

General classification, top 10

“It was a really tough climb,” said Porte. “It’s really a great victory for me after my misfortune earlier this week. I tried to show that I had character. My teammates really did a great job today.

“I love Paris-Nice, it’s important for me to win here.”

Henao faded towards the end of the stage and was beaten for third place by Ireland’s Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors).

Nevertheless, he now leads by 30 seconds from Martin and 31 seconds from Contador ahead of Sunday’s eighth and final stage, a 115.5km loop to the north of Nice featuring five climbs.

“The day went well for me. We will see what happens in the final stage. I remember last year Geraint Thomas only just won it,” said Henao. “I’m expecting it to be difficult. Dan Martin is dangerous, you only need to look at the way he came back today. His team also has Alaphilippe and Contador is also ready for the fight.”

Sky have been hit by doping and sexism rows in recent weeks, their reputation taking a battering as a result.

Henao said he hoped to see out the win for beleaguered team chief Dave Brailsford.

“I’d like to stay in yellow on Sunday so I can dedicate the victory to the team and to Dave.”

Stage 7 results

General classification