Cycling

Tony Martin wins Paris-Nice for 1st big title

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NICE, France (AP)

Tony Martin of Germany navigated another rain-soaked and slippery stage Sunday to win the Paris-Nice race for the biggest victory of his career.

Martin won the prestigious one-week ''Race to the Sun'' by retaining the yellow jersey after Frenchman Thomas Voeckler won the eighth and final 77-mile stage with a solo effort.

Martin won ahead of fellow German and former Paris-Nice champion Andreas Kloeden, who finished 36 seconds back in the overall standings. Bradley Wiggins of Britain was third, 41 seconds adrift.

''I'm so happy but I need some time to think about it,'' Martin said. ''I'm just thrilled to win now. I was not sure about my win today because there were strong riders in front but everything ended fine. It's a fantastic start to the season, which gives me confidence for the next races.

The 25-year-old Martin, a former track specialist, took the yellow jersey from Kloeden after winning Friday's time trial.

Martin has been compared to former Tour de France champion Jan Ullrich for his powerful style and is considered a contender for the Tour title this year.

''For sure, my biggest goal this season is to have a good Tour de France,'' Martin said. ''Hopefully I can do it, I think I'm ready for it.''

Voeckler, who claimed his second stage win after taking Wednesday's fourth stage, made his decisive move less than 6 miles from the finish when he attacked in the descent of the Col d'Eze to drop his breakaway companion Diego Ulissi of Italy.

Voeckler crossed the finish line on the Promenade des Anglais 23 seconds ahead of Ulissi. Julien El Fares of France finished third, 1:06 back.

''It's more than satisfying, I'm really happy,'' said Voeckler, who first came to prominence when he wore the Tour de France's yellow jersey for nine days in 2004.

''I took many risks in the descent today. I thought I was too old for taking risks like this but I'm still on fire,'' Voeckler added. ''With those meteorological conditions, the race was tailored for warriors, and it makes me even prouder.''

Spaniard Samuel Sanchez, who took fifth place in the overall standings, attacked in the Col d'Eze but his move left Martin unfazed as the German time trial champion finished the stage with the other main contenders.

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