Cycling: Jalabert completes Paris-Nice hat-trick

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Laurent Jalabert, of France, rode to his first major win this season with a third consecutive Paris-Nice title yesterday and predicted more success to come.

Jalabert, the world No 1, was impressive throughout the eight-day event, seizing the race leader's white jersey after last Sunday's prologue and keeping it until the final time-trial.

Overall Jalabert won by a minute over Laurent Dufaux of Switzerland, with Santiago Blanco of Spain 1min 25sec behind.

Viacheslav Yekimov of Russia won the time trial of 19.9 kilometres (12.4 miles) in 22 minutes, 47 seconds. Second was another Russian, Yevgeny Berzin.

"To win here shows I am already in the form of the last two seasons. I'm reassured about my physical condition," said Jalabert, whose health problems spoiled his 1996 season. "Coming here, I didn't know what to expect but I felt really good. Now I know that my winter preparation was fine."

Jalabert won two stages: the prologue and a crucial ride on Friday featuring the Ventoux mountain pass. "That's good for my confidence," he said. "The fact that I was able to win two stages suggests I will win more races this season."

Jalabert now looks forward to the season's first major classic, Milan- San Remo starting next Saturday. He won it in 1995 and went on to enjoy a successful season.

"Milan-San Remo is not the most exciting of races but it's the first important race of the season and to win it is usually a good sign for what follows," he said.