Tadej Pogačar wraps up 'dream' victory at Paris-Nice with solo stage win
Tadej Pogačar’s astonishing run of success during the open weeks of this season continued on the final day of Paris-Nice when he rode away from his GC rivals to claim solo victory on the sunny Promenade des Anglais to wrap up the overall title.
The victory was his ninth of the season in just 13 days of racing and his superiority was such that he squashed all trace of suspense from what is traditionally a high-octane and closely fought final stage in ‘the race to the sun’.
“It was always my goal and my dream to win Paris-Nice and now that I’ve done it it’s incredible,” said the UAE Team Emirates rider after cruising home 33 seconds clear of a four-man group, bowing as he crossed the line. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) led in the chasers, just ahead of David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Simon Yates (Jayco-Alula) and Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar).
This increased his overall lead to 53 seconds over Gaudu, the biggest winning margin seen at Paris-Nice since Richie Porte won the 2013 edition by 55 seconds.
“They say attack is the best defence," said Pogačar, whose home in Monaco is just a kilometres from Nice. “I really know these roads, I do a lot of training on them, I knew how my legs were and how much I could do on the final climb.
“The level of competition was huge and to be alongside Gaudu and Vingegaard on the podium is really special because they’re great riders. If I don’t win anything else till the end of the season I can be relaxed because I’ve won here,” he concluded, a sentiment that his rivals are unlikely to take as a sign of the Slovenian easing back on his racing objectives.
As is typically the case on the short final stage in the hills overlooking Nice, the action was frantic right from the start. King of the Mountains leader Jonas Gregaard instigated it with an instant attack as he searched to defend the polka-dot jersey. More riders came and went at the front over the first half of the stage, with the peloton never much more than a minute in arrears.
On the stage’s fourth ascent, the first-category Col de Peille, Bahrain Victorious climber Wout Poels bridged across to the leader and then continued ahead on his own. He led over the top and through the intermediate sprint that followed.
Behind the Dutchman, Groupama-FDJ attempted to set up Gaudu for the sprint, but Pogačar managed to avoid getting boxed in as he been three days before and sped past the Breton climber to take the four bonus available behind Poels, this little victory edging the Slovenian’s overall lead out to 14 seconds.
Coming onto the Col d’Eze, the race’s final climb, UAE’s pace on the front of the peloton quickly snuffed out the hopes of Poels. Felix Grossschartner did the initial damage on Pogačar’s behalf until Simon Yates sprang past with 19km remaining, the race leader, Gaudu and Vingegaard on his wheel. A few hundred metres later, as this quartet tackled a steep left-hand bend, Pogačar accelerated away.
Initially, none of his rivals responded. Gaudu tried to, but was quickly reeled in by Vingegaard, Yates and Jorgenson. Yet, even though this quartet collaborated, Pogačar continued to boost his advantage relentlessly. He crossed the Col d’Eze 45 seconds ahead of the foursome, gained a few more seconds on the false flat beyond and then cruised down into Nice with barely any pressure at all, milking the crowd’s applause on the finish straight, his Paris-Nice debut an absolute triumph.
2023 Paris-Nice stage eight: Nice > Nice, 118.4km
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE-Team Emirates, in 2.51-02
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 33secs
3. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at same time
4. Simon Yates (GBr) Jayco AlUla, at same time
5. Matteo Jorgensen (USA) Movistar, at same time
6. Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education-EasyPost, at 43secs
7. Pavel Sivakov (Fra) Ineos Grenadiers, at same time
8. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at same time
9. Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious, at same time
10. Gino Mäder (Sui) Bahrain-Victorious, at same time
General classification after stage eight
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE-Team Emirates, in 24-01.38
2. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 53secs
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-39
4. Simon Yates (GBr) Jayco AlUla, at 2-14
5. Gino Mäder (Sui) Bahrain-Victorious, 2-56
6. Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education-EasyPost, at 3-17
7. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at 3-19
8. Matteo Jorgensen (USA) Movistar, at same time
9. Pavel Sivakov (Fra) Ineos Grenadiers, at 4-05
10. Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious, at 4-56