Paris-Nice: Olav Kooij sprints to stage 5 victory
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Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma) made a late surge out of the final corner to secure the sprint victory on stage 5 at Paris-Nice. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) was the first to launch his sprint, but a patient Kooij stayed on his wheel, biding his time before jumping around Pedersen to take the day’s victory. Tim Merlier (Soudal-QuickStep) finished third in Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux.
“It’s nice. I won a few races last year, but this is definitely the nicest so far,” Kooij said. “I was a bit far back under the flamme rouge, and I took the left side of the roundabout, which was a good choice. I was in a good position. Edoardo Affini flew by, and I was on the Pedersen’s wheel, and this time I was able to get out of his wheel.”
Kooij finished second to Pederson on stage 2 into Fontainebleau and was pleased to have had the power to come around him for the win in Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux.
“Coming close and finishing second is not bad, but the victories are the ones that count, so I’m really happy to take the win today,” Kooij said.
It was a reasonably uncomplicated run-in to Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux with a couple of late roundabouts, including one at 300 metres to go, which made the sprinters’ positioning extra crucial in the final.
The pace lifted at 5km out with Alpecin-Deceuninck, UAE Team Emirates, Groupama FDJ, Trek-Segafredo, Jayco-AlUla, Team DSM and Jumbo-Visma all with riders on the front across the wide-open roads.
Out of the last roundabout, Ben Swift (Ineos Grenadiers) made a last-ditch attack, but he was caught through the final corner as Pedersen started his sprint, the Dane only to be caught and passed by Kooij at the finish line.
Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) finished among the main field and continues to lead the Paris-Nice overall classification heading into stage 6 on Friday. He leads the GC with 6 seconds on runner-up David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), who picked up a mid-race time bonus, and 46 seconds on Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma).
“I enjoyed the first day in yellow, and it was a nice day, finally some sun and no stress, so it was a nice day,” Pogačar said, who spoke about his prospects for the remaining three stages.
“I know the last stage well, it’s my home training roads and it’s a nice stage, but I don’t know the roads tomorrow or the day after, and the route was published too late to do the recons.
“Even tomorrow, it will be stressful, a classic stage, and anything can happen with a lot of surprises. Stage 7 is the most predictable, and you need to measure your effort to the top. I like the final stage the most.”
How it unfolded
The longest stage of Paris-Nice at 212.4km, the race that started in Saint-Symphorien-sur-Coise with three categorised ascents: Côte de Coise, Côte de l’Aubépin and Côte de Trèves, followed by a relatively flat race through the valley before reaching the final two climbs over Col du Devès and Côte d’Aleyrac, and descent into Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux.
Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) started the day in the yellow leader’s jersey after a dramatic victory on stage 4 at La Loge des Gardes, leading the race with 10 seconds on David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) and 44 seconds on Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma).
The jersey was not expected to change hands as the peloton was expected to arrive together for a bunch sprint into Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux.
An early attack from Jonas Gregaard (Uno-X), who leads the mountain classification, set off, and he was joined by Sandy Dujardin (TotalEnergies).
The pair opened a gap of 90 seconds, which pushed out to five minutes, over the first three ascents of the day, Côte de Coise, Côte de l’Aubépin and Côte de Trèves.
Gregaard took the full points over the three climbs and padded his lead in the mountain competition.
As the race dipped into the valley, Gregaard sat up and dropped off the back of the breakaway, leaving Dujardin alone but still holding his lead at five minutes.
The lone leader’s gap dropped from five minutes to three, and then two as the peloton behind steadily descended through the plains. He maintained a slim 90 seconds as he passed through his hometown, but his time out front came to an end with 77km to go.
One of the most dramatic moments of the stage happened at the intermediate sprint over the short Col du Devès ascent, at 53km to go, where the GC contenders went all in for the available bonus seconds.
Runner up in the overall classification, Gaudu picked up the six seconds, moving closer to Pogačar in the GC. Meanwhile, his teammate and sprinter Arnaud Démare took the four seconds, and overall leader Pogačar had to settle for third place and just two seconds.
“The tension was rising before the climb and we saw a lot of riders wanting to go for it, because it’s bonus seconds.” Pogačar said. “I tried to pass on the right but there was not space so I only got. two seconds today.”
On the final ascent Côte d’Aleyrac, Gregaard leaped out of the field to take the mountain points, bringing his total to 30 points.
Over the top, Jayco-AlUla worked for Michael Matthews and Trek-Segafredo worked for Mads Pederesen, and many of the teams with fast sprinters moiving forward to protect their respective riders along the 30km run-in to Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux.
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