Tadej Pogačar sprints to stage seven triumph to close in on overall victory at Paris-Nice
Tadej Pogačar increased his lead in Paris-Nice by a further six seconds, as he attacked with 200m to go to win stage seven of the race atop Col de la Couillole
The UAE-Team Emirates rider finished two seconds ahead of Groupama-FDJ’s David Gaudu, and a further four seconds in front of his rival Jonas Vingegaard of Jumbo-Visma.
With just one stage remaining, 24 year old Pogačar has an advantage of 12 seconds at the top of the general classification standings, and though he will likely come under a barrage of attacks from both the teams of Gaudu and Vingegaard, the Slovenian looks well-placed to win the race in just his first participation.
Vingegaard looked a lot stronger than what he did three stages earlier at La Loge des Gardes, while Gaudu has emerged during the race as a serious rival to the leading duo.
Neither, however, were able to tame Pogačar whose win in the southern Alps, his second of the race, moves him to a remarkable tally of 53 race wins as a professional.
How it happened
Following on from stage five's cancellation due to strong winds, there were many riders keen on infiltrating the breakaway, and after a long drawn-out fight the break eventually settled with 18 riders present.
Most dangerous among them was Rémi Cavanga of Soudal-QuickStep who was 3-20 off race leader Pogačar heading into the stage, while David de la Cruz of Astana was just 12 seconds further back. Soudal-Dstny had three riders present, while AG2R-Citröen, Jayco AlUla, and Intermarché-Circus-Wanty all had two riders each.
The gap between the break and the peloton, led at various junctures by Ineos Grenadiers, UAE-Team Emirates and Groupama-FDJ, was mostly set around three minutes until it began to descend rapidly inside the final 25km.
At 15km to go, at the start of the Col de la Couillole, Kobe Goosens of Intermarché-Circus-Wanty and Astana’s Javier Romo attacked from the break, but within six kilometres the Jumbo-Visma-led peloton was at the head of the race. Interestingly, Ineos’s Dani Martínez, 1-42 back on GC, was already out the back of the dwindling front group.
Halfway up the 15km climb, Pogačar was sat comfortably in third place behind Vingegaard and his teammate Tobias Foss, with 13 other riders forming part of the lead group. Chris Harper of Jayco AlUla was the first to make a move with 6.4km remaining.
The Australian’s move forced Vingegaard to increase the speed, but within 600 metres it was Pogačar who counter-attacked at the exact moment that Vingegaard looked behind. The Slovenian immediately built a lead of around five seconds.
Vingegaard, with Gaudu and Matteo Jorgensen (Movistar) on his wheel, was able to keep the gap to a minimum, and with 3.9km to go, Pogačar, Vingegaard and Gaudu were back as one.
Gaudu was keen to attack, but it wasn’t until 2.2km remaining that the Frenchman and Slovenian were able to rid themselves of Vingegaard. The duo, both chasing the stage win and yellow, worked together to maintain their advantage, but Vingegaard refused to cede too much distance, riding his own rhythm to claw back the gap over a kilometre.
Under the flamme rouge, the top three were once again back with each other, Vingegaard repeatedly looking nervously over his shoulders at the group behind led by Simon Yates (Jayco AlUla) and Team DSM's Romain Bardet.
Vingegaard intended to surprise his rivals with 300m to go by making the first sprint to the line, but Pogačar was straight on his wheel and his counter-attack was too strong and powerful, the Slovenian crossing the line first with Gaudu and Vingegaard just behind.
Stage eight will see the peloton undertake the traditional mountainous route around Nice, with the Col d'Eze topping out 16km from the finish.
2023 Paris-Nice stage seven: Nice > Col de la Couillole, 142.9km
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE-Team Emirates, in 3.56-08
2. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 2secs
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 6secs
4. Simon Yates (GBr) Jayco AlUla, at 19secs
5. Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education-EasyPost, at 24secs
6. Gino Mäder (Sui) Bahrain-Victorious, at 28secs
7. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at 30secs
8. Pavel Sivakov (Fra) Ineos Grenadiers, at 38secs
9. Matteo Jorgensen (USA) Movistar, at same time
10. Pierre Latour (Fra) TotalEnergies, at 53secs
General classification after stage seven
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE-Team Emirates, in 21-10.50
2. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 12secs
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 58secs
4. Simon Yates (GBr) Jayco AlUla, at 1-27
5. Gino Mäder (Sui) Bahrain-Victorious, 1-59
6. Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education-EasyPost, at 2-20
7. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at 2-22
8. Matteo Jorgensen (USA) Movistar, at 2-32
9. Pavel Sivakov (Fra) Ineos Grenadiers, at 3-08
10. Pierre Latour (Fra) TotalEnergies, 3-17