The final stage of Paris-Nice and often a great day’s sport. Tadej Pogačar leads the race by 12 seconds ahead of David Gaudu but there’s a queue of riders further behind who can unlock the race with some long range moves.
Stage 7 Review: a big breakaway finally went clear and it included some unlikely members. Take Nils Politt and his huge carcass, no chance for the win but he got a big workout ahead of the classics. The bunch was led by UAE, Jumbo-Visma, and Ineos as if they have some innate muscle memory to tow the bunch on the way to a big summit finish. Kobe Goosens and Javier Romo were able to attack the start of the Col de la Couillole but their lead was melting faster than the roadside patches of snow in the sunshine.
It’s a long steady climb and Tobias Foss got to work and started to asphyxiate riders one by one, it felt as every minute a rider would be cracked. One Foss could work no more Chris Harper was the first to attack but a boomerang move that saw him reeled in and spat out and quickly a trio formed of Tadej Pogačar, David Gaudu and Jonas Vingegaard. The latter was hanging by a thread, at times dropped then pacing himself back while Gaudu looked nervous, asking Pogačar to share the work. The trio were marking each other to the point that their rivals behind were only a few seconds behind led by Simon Yates. Getting ready for the sprint Gaudu reached behind, perhaps to tuck a gel wrapper into his pocket, and this was the moment Vingegaard jumped but he was soon swamped and again Pogačar got the better of Gaudu for the stage win.
Overall the marking between the lead trio meant the others didn’t lose as much time as they might have on such a long climb, Pogačar and company kept the others at bay to ensure they could sprint for the stage win but didn’t pull out a big lead for the overall so the rest of the top-10 might fancy their chances today, especially if they can link up.
The Route: identical to last year’s final stage, it’s 118km and into the hills behind Nice. They leave for a neutral procession up the Var valley, a handy warm-up and then there’s hardly bit of flat road all stage. It’s all on the typical snaking roads of the region which constantly twist and turn their way up valleys and gorges and just the terrain where it’s hard for a team to control.
With 55km to go, the race climbs out of the Paillon valley for the climb to Peille – the Col de St Pancrace to locals – and this is the hardest climb of the day. It’s listed as 6.6km at 6.8%, so worthy of a small Alpine pass on these stats alone but it’s the irregularity that makes it hard work with early sections of 9% and even 12% as it winds up a narrow road with so many bends that a rider need only get 50 metres’ lead to be out of sight. It levels out further up and once over the top comes a twisting descent to La Turbie and Eze with the short rise to the Col and then it’s down the Moyenne Corniche to the coast before climbing the Col d’Eze.
Just like last year it takes the shortcut. This road is shorter, steeper and narrower. It’s much more of a wall-like climb, the Chemin du Vinaigrier will sting with over a kilometre at 13% before picking up the main road to the Col d’Eze and then dropping down the corniche cliff road back to Nice.
The Finish: the small rise around the 1km to go point, then a flat finish on the Promenade des Anglais.
The Contenders: Tadej Pogačar (UAE) is the obvious pick, he doesn’t need to win today but if he has to follow the moves on the road up to Peille then he can mark his rivals and we know he can take the sprint from a group of riders. He’ll need his team today for help but they weren’t around for long yesterday. His win though is far from certain, the more other teams scrap for the win, the harder he’ll have it and with only four teams having a stage win everyone else has plenty to aim for.
There’s a club of riders who are in decent form and if they can’t rival Pogačar in a direct contest, can ride clear of the field earlier and hope to build up a lead so they can race each other for the stage win. Ion Izagirre (Cofidis) has won this stage before in 2019. Neilson Powless (EF Education-Easypost) is arguably better on the shorter climbs and isn’t an immediate threat to close down on GC. Quietly Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Ag2r Citroën) has been having a good Paris-Nice, even if he managed to crash going up the final climb yesterday but that’s just the sort of thing to poke him into action.
While the final stage is often contested among the GC contenders, others can get a look-in from time to time. So Magnus Cort (EF Education-Easypost) has a chance here too.
|Powless, Cort, Fraile, Yates, Izagirre|
Weather: sunny, 18°C and a light sea breeze.
TV: the stage starts at 11.35am CET, TV coverage begins around 1.30pm on France 3 and Eurosport/GCN just in time for the climb to Peille and the finish is forecast for 2.50pm CET. Channel hoppers will find the last stage of Tirreno-Adriatico and a likely sprint finish around 4.30pm.
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Unless Pogacar has gone down with the bug that seems to be going around the peloton, he only has to follow Gaudu it seems to win the GC. But, the man has restless legs so he might well chase down everyone that goes up the road. (As Horner has pointed out, when will teams stop dragging Pogacar along to the finish, let UAE do all the work!)
Thanks again for the daily preview!
I thought that Foss was the story of the day with his extended towing effort. They all seemed to be more cooked than what your description would suggest … Pogacar made reference to the heat.
A good week for Slovenia whatever happens today!
Vingegaard waits for the hot weather. It’s Nice, it’s March and he’s building form towards the Tour.
I think Foss drew the short straw amongst Vingegaard’s team mates – makes me think of how different it could have been with 1 climbing dom in the team.
As you say, it’s getting used to temperatures over 10C again … Pogacar’s bad days have been when it’s hot so, we shall see in July.
I have a suspicion that Vingegaard is pacing himself better for the TdF while Pogačar is again trying to be at a peak for too much of the season, albeit that is what makes him such an exciting rider. I have a stronger suspicion that Gaudu has got himself into near top condition now in order to show his team that they should fully back him in the TdF: I’d be surprised to see him podium there.
Winning – or doing well – at Paris-Nice doesn’t mean a whole lot come July: Kelly won seven times, but never got on to the podium in the Tour. Few riders have won either this race or Tirreno–Adriatico and then gone on to win the TdF in that season.
It’s unproven if Pogačar lost last year’s TdF due to tactical errors, which many seem to accept as fact, or simply that Vingegaard had the better stamina over three weeks and a lot of mountains.
‘Few riders have won either this race or Tirreno–Adriatico and then gone on to win the TdF in that season.’
Not sure about that: Pogacar, Bernal, Wiggins, Evans, Contador since 2009 – and Nibali won T-A and the Giro in 2013.
And a fair few of the Tour winners who didn’t win P-N/T-A in the same year did finish on the podium.
Froome’s early season schedule of Andalusia and Catalunya is very much the exception rather than the rule.
And every year mercxk won paris Nice he also won le tour
But the numbers that didn’t are far greater, especially if you look back a bit further back than 2009.
“I have a suspicion that Vingegaard is pacing himself better for the TdF while Pogačar is again trying to be at a peak for too much of the season,”
And what would be the story if things were reversed? Seemed the sentiment here was much in favor of the Dane beating the Slovenian…until reality reared its ugly head.
So far we’ve got a guy who has won LeTour twice along with a whole bunch of other races vs a guy who won LeTour in 2022 largely due to his team’s efforts along with….Coppi/Bartali 2021, La Drome 2022, and the oh-so competitive and challenging O Gran Camino 2023.
Why so many put these two on the same level escapes me.
“Seemed the sentiment here was much in favor of the Dane beating the Slovenian”???!!! Are we reading the same blog and the same comments section?
“Why so many put these two on the same level escapes me.”?! Who does? On the same level at what? On the same level of what? Where?
I like Pogacar a lot, he’s entertaining to watch and respects the wider history of the sport and is prepared to attack the classics too. I also rate VGG, a purer GC talent, and hard to beat in his particular metier. Larry though is a mad old man who skim reads in a couple of languages. Don’t let him bother you, unless you want to. He flounces off more often than Elton John.
Pretty simple, Larry. When push came to shove, with a TDF win at stake, Pogacar couldn’t hold Vingegaard’s wheel. Comparing Palmares doesn’t give the full picture, except that it shows that Pogacar is the more versatile rider of the two. Vingegaard came to bloom later, also because he was in the shadow of Roglic for a long time.
I see it like this: As an all-round cyclist, there hasn’t been anyone of the level of Pogacar for a long time. But when it comes to stage races with long climbs, Vingegaard may be the better of the two. We’ll have to see how it pans out in the coming years. If Evenepoel can continue his learning curve of last year, we may have a very interesting era ahead of us.
Thanks. While I may not agree with all of that, I understand the idea now.
Of course, I’m also a bit worried, as a fan of Pogačar, by what J Evan points out above, although peaking in early Spring isn’t usually an issue for TDF form as, say, peaking for the hilly Classics.
GC men apart (I won’t tackle them because a more than decent number of examples was reported above), also consider how many cobbles specialists or Sanremo greats could face their extremely demanding races in very top form, then come back strong again – and again on the very top – for the TDF.
OTOH, with very few exceptions (among which, well, Pogačar himself!), although the côtes as such can be relatively suited to the GT men, it looks slightly more complicated to be at the very peak of your shape both in late April and again in July.
It’s equally obvious, anyway, that focussing on *one* target will always be more efficient than actually trying to win a range of races, at least from a merely physical POV.
But that’s precisely why I prefer Pogačar racing as he does all the same, and forcing, if anything, a change in the broader perception of what the *whole* competition in cycling is, rather than falling desperately down in the TDF rabbit hole, as most of the 1999-2004 generation so sadly did.
That said, it’s also worth noting that our perspective has a recency bias of sort (which, OTOH, makes sense in itself). AK’s portrait of the situation leaves aside the whole 2021 TDF, when Vingegaard could look marginally stronger than Pogačar uphill, well, *once*, while the rest of the time he looked pretty much weaker on every terrain. No doubt that Vingegaard’s evolution is way more traditional, albeit with an impressive acceleration in the last couple of seasons. He’s no Froome, anyway, barring perhaps his notable excellence both in ITTs and climbing, being the ITTs what’s by far more surprising in the Dane’s case. Yet, growing fast towards your prime stepping up year after year when your 25, 26, 27… is precisely what you’d expect: which is why I wrote that a recency bias in this case…well, sort of makes sense.
I absolutely agree with the good ol’ Bugno style “we’ll have to see”! It’s also worth noting that 2022 happened in a *very* peculiar way (which doesn’t mean that Vingegaard couldn’t win all the same in a different scenario, but the one which actually handed him the win was very special under many respects); plus, generally speaking, winning whatever for a second time isn’t at all the same as the first one.
To start with, the sentence “when it comes to stage races with long climbs, Vingegaard may be the better of the two” is, until now, a future-focussed conjecture, unless you turn it into “when it comes to TDF”, because out of 4 stage races the two raced one against the other, all of them with long climbs, well, 3 showed that Pogačar was also the strongest uphill, as on every other terrain. But, as I showed elsewhere, GTs are very different from other stage races, and each GT is different from the others, too.
Exactly this, AK. All ifs, buts and maybes, which is how I like it.
Pogacar might wipe the floor with Vingegaard this year, for all I know.
I was only making a counter-point to the somewhat hyperbolic response of some (not on these pages) to Pogacar’s performances in Paris-Nice, and especially to Gaudu’s (every French rider has to face this once they have a modicum of success, unfortunately for him).
As well as the point about when (and how often) a rider can peak in a season, it’s also the case that performances on a 6km, 15-18 minute climb only tells you so much about performance on a +15km, +45 minute climb.
Vingegaard definitely had the edge on the longest efforts last July. Pogacar being better on shorter climbs now doesn’t change that.
I agree with the general points, but don’t forget that Couillole is a full 45′ climb at some 16 km and Vingegaard didn’t look especially at ease, despite deploying Foss to have his preferred pace most of the time; indeed, he could defend himself better than on 15′-20′ climbs like the Loge or Eze, but that looked impressive on his part. Not the same athlete as in July, or in June, even.
At 2022 Tirreno, however, the situation was pretty similar, which should suggest that it’s more about the relation between form and calendar rather than type of climbs in itself.
In fact, Carpegna is apparently a 20′ climb, but since it was climbed twice back to back within less than 15′, it wasn’t really comparable to any short climb in a more usual context (besides, the first time it also included a 6 km ~6% first part which brought it over 30′).
And it’s not only about Pogačar. Surely the Dane has suffered Pogi’s presence and the need to try and beat him (well, just as Pogačar suffered the team pressure in the 2022 TDF), but we can’t ignore that Vingegaard in this year’s Pa-Ni performed essentially on par with Simon Yates, and uphill was slightly above but well in the range of Bardet, speaking of two well-known forces (I could also name Gaudu, Mäder or Powless but they’re all in a process of evolution of sort, which could as well go nowhere, but let’s leave them aside all the same). I’d even say that in Ti-Ad 2022 he had looked better, on par with Landa, Mas, Hindley…
Finally, it’s not like Tignes, Portet o Luz Ardiden were short climbs in 2021. The leit motiv was always the same as on Couillole this week. Vingegaard looked better but far from dominant.
Finally, just to stir things up, there are other interesting question marks which could be raised: why didn’t Vingegaard attack Pogačar on the Galibier, in 2022? Or at least on Alpe d’Huez, which would have been an easy call with no risk involved?
I think that all in all there are lots of variables which currently make any conjecture quite much far-fetched. Surely, what we’re seeing now says nothing about next July, although not because of the type of climbs, frankly – not sure it’s the main point in July, either, even if it’s surely part of the equation. But it’s equally sure that what we’re seeing now says a lot about… who is also able to be really good *right now*.
Monsieur Lapaliss would be proud, I know. And yet in the broader picture and in the longer term, the calendar he or she can face always tells you a lot about an athlete.
As a local resident, I’ve recently done the Vinaigrier a couple of times and did the Col de Saint Pancrace just last week. It will be crippling to my self-esteem to see how quickly the pros ride up them! Fabulously clear skies for the TV pictures after all that wind, though.
Will you be out there on the climb to see ’em in-person? THAT IMHO is when you realize these guys (even the ones at the back) are not like the rest of us.
Thankfully no one, not even the guys at the back, is like you Larry. May you never change, or even pause for a second before pressing ‘send’.
And I’m not like them…and I’d guess neither are you. Was there something wrong with my comment above or did you just feel like posting a backhanded compliment? While we’re on that subject have YOU ever been at the roadside to see a big pro bike race? I push on this idea (probably too much) because until I did it myself back in 1986 at the Coors Classic (Hinault’s final year and I had to see him race in-person before it was too late) my ideas on what it took to be a top pro were a lot different as I’d guess a lot of other race fans’ are…at least based on what they told me when they were seeing their first big-time race on the race-chasing tour/vacations I used to work on.
Pogacar seems to be something a little special. I know it’s a little early in the season, but if his classic campaign continues as he has started, who knows what he might achieve. Modest, enjoys racing with a racers aggressive mind and a strong desire to win. Hats off to stunning Paris-Nice win.
I am sure Larry needs no one to rush to his defence, least not me. BUT. Regular contributors and readers here are well used to his strongly held ideas and views. Nothing wrong with strongly held views. It would be a pretty dull world if we all agreed with each other. His presence adds a little controversy and discussion, as some of the above proves. I’ll get my hat!
It WAS a race to the sun this year. Fantastic weather yesterday I can see the appeal of residing in Nice as well as a choice of training roads. It certainly looked well on tv.
My two penny’s worth of summing up, even though he claimed he felt like sh*t on day 1, Pogacar must be more then pleased with his performance this week. His only worry must be, if he feels he is already at 100% as others seem not to be. Gaudu’s performance was a nice surprise, and again how close is he to being 100%? Vingegaard only won the Drôme Classic last year before the TdF so I don’t suppose Jumbo V are too worried now (unless his numbers give them cause for concern).
Off topic note, I see EF Educations ladies team’s sponsor SVB has been put up for sale, so if there’s a buyer, they might get lucky. SVB’s UK buisness has been brought by HSBC (who sponsored British Cycling in the past) for the grand sum of £1.
Talking about cycling teams that are suddenly facing a very uncertain future. The French Continental team Go Sport Roubaix – Lille Métropole may have to quit mid-season, because the chain of sports stores is in dire straits and in some kind of bankruptcy proceedings ordered by a court.
The CEO of Go Sport has been fired, he also happened to be a newly appointed chairman of the club behind the team and he was instrumental in acquiring a three-year (2022-24) €1.8 million sponsorship deal for the team…
Nothing new under the sun, teams come and they go, but it’s never healthy, let alone good for the sport, when it happens like this.
“Ineos as if they have some innate muscle memory to tow the bunch on the way to a big summit finish.” I can’t understand why Ineos keep doing this, given it’s now several seasons since they’ve been dominent. There have been so many races recently where they’ve done loads of work on the front but got nothing out of it. Why put in all that effort when you know Pogacar/Roglic/Evenepoel et.al are just going to go & win?!
Nice to hear from Larry T. Like BC says Larry adds a little something different to our punch but don’t drink to much.
I believe that Pog is just sending a little early seasonmessage to Jumbo. He is definitely a more dynamic, heart on his sleeve type of rider. He is the top guy on a powerful team. Jumbo visa vie Vin/Rog have to share and play some politics for GT race starts in the Jumbo team which may cause some mental anguish. Pog has much more control over his race schedule and wants to race many types of races classics, monuments and grand tours he as Gabriel has pointed out. I would add Pog is a more rounded rider with more things to accomplish then just GT’s. Pog is a year older older and perhaps wiser and his team is stronger than last year. He will be well prepared for the TDF no doubt.
Have to give a shout out to the young American kids in the early season, Sheffield, Powless and Jorgenson nationalism aside hope they continue to improve and I look forward to see them perform to their potential.