Tadej Pogacar, as “boss”, wins the last stage and the final victory of Paris-Nice
” [Tadej] Pogacar will want to show that he is the boss”, prophesied Christian Prudhomme, before the start of the 2023 edition of Paris-Nice, on March 5. The eight stages of the Race to the Sun – more exactly seven, the 6e having been canceled on Friday due to wind – agreed with the director of the Tour de France. On Sunday March 12, the Slovenian from the UAE Emirates won the general classification of the cycling event, at the end of a day in the middle of the mountains which saw him win alone on the Promenade des Anglais and sign, at the same time, his third stage victory in the Race to the Sun.
If the history of Paris-Nice is punctuated with last-minute twists and turns – the fall of Primoz Roglic in 2021, the disappointment of Simon Yates in 2018, or even the bitter chrono of Tony Gallopin in 2015 –, the double winner of the Tour ( 2020, 2021), he did not tremble for his first participation. Tadej Pogacar knew, however, from the day before, that he had a ” good luck “ to win. No way to settle for defending his yellow jersey.
50 kilometers from the finish, he and his teammates imposed a frantic pace on the peloton, leaving little hope to the Dutchman Wout Poels (Bahrain-Victorious), then alone in the lead. Objective: to tire the troops before the Col d’Eze, the last ascent of the day, and its formidable vinaigrier path with its double-digit percentages.
The summit was 4 kilometers away when the Briton Simon Yates (Jayco AlUla) launched the first attack, keeping only Tadej Pogacar, Jonas Vingegaard and David Gaudu in his tracks, the three riders in the lead overall. A few minutes later, “Pogi” dashed the last hopes of his rivals by placing an acceleration in turn, while the slope continued to pitch up. Unstoppable. He had however warned, the day before: “I really love the profile of the last stage, with 3 or 4 kilometer climbs, perfect for me, especially at this time of year. Besides, it will be on my training routes. »
All that remained was for him to cover the 18 kilometers separating him from the finish. Only. Then to the ovations of the public present on the Promenade des Anglais, the Slovenian took the time to savor as he crossed the line.
David Gaudu “in the game”
From this edition of the Race to the Sun, presented as the first general rehearsal of the Grande Boucle, we expected a duel between Tadej Pogacar and Jonas Vingegaard, the Dane from Jumbo-Visma who had deprived the Slovenian of the pass of three on the hexagonal roads in the summer of 2022. Since the Spaniard Miguel Indurain and the Swiss Tony Rominger in 1994, the winner of the Tour and his runner-up had not faced each other in the event. A duel all the tastier on paper as the two rivals had had a thunderous start to the season: “Pogi” had five victories in six days of racing before the big start of this Paris-Nice, when “Jonas” himself had offered himself the three stages and the general of the Gran Camino in Spain.
From the first arrival at the summit, at La Loge des Gardes (Allier) during the 4e stage, it is however a third rider who invited himself into the debates. David Gaudu, the Groupama-FDJ climber, fourth overall in the last Tour de France and third in this closing stage.
Not only did the Breton manage to follow the best, but above all he was a major player in the race, as in the 7e stage, on the slopes of the Col de la Couillole where he multiplied the offensives. That day, his lack of power in the finale, as was already the case at the top of the small Allier stationwill limit it to the 2e place behind the Slovenian.
“I’m in the game. Last year, I was in management, this season I’m trying to respond to attacks or even attack, I’m happy to be at this level.”then insisted the 26-year-old Frenchman. “He is improving year after year. If he continues like this, he will win big races this year, that’s for sure.”then abounded Tadej Pogacar.
At the finish, David Gaudu did not win – he ranks 3e of the stage -, but he becomes the first Frenchman to climb on the final podium in Nice – second overall 53 seconds behind the winner – since Arthur Vichot’s third place in 2014.
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As for Pogacar, if he has shown that “He’s the boss” to use the words of Christian Prudhomme, he knows that his match with Jonas Vingegaard (3e at 1 min 39) is far from over. “On this Paris-Nice, we are perhaps a little above him with Gaudu, but he did not let go”recalls the Slovenian, who predicts that he “will be in better shape” this summer. In fact, the road to the Grande Boucle is still long: its big start will be given on the 1er July in Bilbao, for an arrival in Paris on July 23.