George Bennett has claimed one of the best results in his cycling career.
The Kiwi climber finished 14th on the eighth and final stage of Paris-Nice, to secure sixth place overall, an impressive result on his return to the professional peloton from nearly two months away.
While the result doesn't carry the significance of his top 10 finishes at the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana, or the symbolism of his 2017 overall victory at the Tour of California, the sixth-place effort is his third best finish at a World Tour stage race, and is notable considering the world class field he was up against.
22-year-old Colombian sensation Egan Bernal won the race by 39 seconds over compatriot Nairo Quintana, who launched an ambitious long-range attack with 40 kilometres to go. At one stage, he held the virtual lead as he linked up with a significant breakaway group, but Bernal's Team Sky were always in control, and pegged back his advantage to a mere four seconds by the time they crossed the line in Nice.
Jon Izagirre won the stage, escaping from Quintana's leading group to win by 18 seconds, while Bennett, after brief spells where he wasn't in the Sky-led peloton, safely stayed in the wheels of the race leaders for the final climbs to move up one spot into sixth place.
Having previously finished 26th, 58th and 45th in his three prior visits, Bennett rode smartly and strongly in this edition of the famous French race.
While he expectedly leaked time in the time trial on Friday, and couldn't hang with the cream of the climbing crop on Sunday morning, Bennett and his Jumbo-Visma team did superbly to avoid the chaos in the crosswinds on the first two stages, which saw plenty of serious contenders see their hopes of a top finish disappear.
Bennett had no such problems though, and this result continues his extreme consistency. Bennett has finished in the top 12 in eight of his last nine stage races, and while a top stage or overall win has eluded him of late, he is part of a rare group of contenders who are competitive in nearly every race they ride.
Up next for Bennett is the Tour of the Basque Country in early April, before a return to the Tour of California in May, where he will be one of the top contenders to potentially go one further, and turn his consistency into glory.