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Thursday, March 9, 2023

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Paris-Nice stage four reports

We posted the organizer's stage one report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Tadej Pogacar's UAE Team Emirates:

The setting of the 12th victory of the season of the Emirati team was the final climb of La Loge des Gardes (6,8 km at 7%) at Paris-Nice.  After some intense work by his teammates, Pogačar countered an attack by Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) at -4,2 km; the duo were caught by the first chasing group after a few hundred meters and in that moment David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) went solo.

Tadej Pogacar takes charge. ASO photo

Pogačar waited until there were 2.3km to go and then attacked, bridging the gap to the French rider, while Vingegaard struggled in the attempt to reach the two riders.

UAE Team Emirates’ captain and Gaudu then sprinted for the victory and the Slovenian obtained his 6th success in 2023 and the leaders jersey.

Pogačar: “Today’s stage was really a nervous one all day, especially in the flat sector where we faced crosswinds. My team did a perfect job all day long and, on the final climb, Felix Grossschartner was superb.

"When Gaudu attacked, I knew it was important not to give him too much space, I knew I had good legs so I attacked in order to catch him and then I won.

"Before that, Vingegaard had attacked and I waited a bit before doing my move in a tough sector the climb: he did not close immediately and then he lost seconds.
It was not in my mind to take the leader’s jersey today, but you cannot say no to yellow, so I happy for the jersey”.

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Here’s the Paris-Nice report from second-place David Gaudu’s Team Groupama-FDJ:

As he entered the second part of Paris-Nice, David Gaudu really wanted not to waste the excellent team time trial achieved on Tuesday. He didn’t fail. On the first summit finish of the “Race to the Sun”, onto La Loge des Gardes this Wednesday, the Groupama-FDJ’s leader even got the second place of the day, only beaten in the last meters by Tadej Pogacar. Thanks to a smart move in the last climb, the Breton also moved up to second place overall, ten seconds behind the Slovenian. The fight for the final podium is underway.

David Gaudu finished just a bit behind Tadej Pogacar.

The crucial days follow one another on Paris-Nice. In the aftermath of the decisive team time trial, another big test was looming from Saint-Amand-Montrond on Wednesday. Under changing and sometimes poor weather, the peloton was heading to La Loge des Gardes, where a climb of 6.8 kilometres averaging 7% was supposed to establish the first hierarchy amongst the leaders.

The course leading to this last climb was not that straightforward, but behind the breakaway including Jonas Gregaard, Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X), Larry Warbasse (AG2R Citroën), Pascal Eenkhoorn (Lotto Dstny), Maurice Ballerstedt (Alpecin -Deceuninck), Lilian Calmejane (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) and Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech), the Groupama-FDJ team proved to be very solid surrounding their French leader.

“There was once again a great team effort throughout the day”, explained Philippe Mauduit. “The guys were there, always at the front, and it’s nice to see them having an impact on the race. The riders trust David and they all helped him. We crossed Vichy at full speed with Arnaud leading the whole team, while Ignatas and Miles worked at the start of the race. It was really nervous from time to time, there were some echelons, but the guys were in front”. “It was a tough day today”, testified David. “It was really hard and nervous with the wind, but I could rely on a strong team today. We were never caught behind, never worried. We even tried to start an echelon (smiles)”.

Despite some movements, the peloton was still complete starting the first climbs of the day, about sixty kilometres from the finish line. Tension kept on going, but many riders were dropped from the yellow jersey group. After climbing the Col du Beaulouis and heading to the bottom of the final climb, David Gaudu still had three teammates: Kevin Geniets, Stefan Küng and Rudy Molard. He was brought back to the front starting the Loge des Gardes climb by the Luxembourger and was therefore in a perfect position to do his thing.

The group of favorites first gradually reduced, before Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogacar broke away for the first time four kilometres from the finish. “We didn’t really have to follow this first attack”, explained David, who rather stayed attentive to the rest of the group. He did well, since the two men up front looked at each other, which enabled the other favourites’ return with 3.5 kilometres to go. At this precise moment, David Gaudu decided to launch a sharp attack. “I recovered from the first part of the climb, we got the tailwind back, and I said to myself why not”, he said. “Either way, you might as well take a step ahead! I saw that I had no one in the wheel, and I told myself that it was even better”. “When they came back to Pogacar and Vingegaard, they slowed down a bit, and David was in an ideal position at that point to attack”, added Philippe. “So did he, and it allowed him to get a little head start on the fight that remained to be done in the back”.

While managing his effort, David Gaudu was able to build a lead of almost twenty seconds, before Pogacar attacked again from behind just over two kilometres from the top. The Slovenian managed to drop his Danish rival and came back to the French climber a few moments later. “I knew there was the flat part after, so I wanted to hang on as much as possible when Pogacar came back”, continued David. “I thought that if he wanted to take time on Vingegaard, he was going to continue pulling”.

“David had to stay in contact as long as possible and that’s what he managed to do,” confirmed Philippe. Therefore, the Groupama-FDJ rider and the double Tour winner entered the last hectometres together. Fifty meters from the line, the Breton tried to surprise the Slovenian, but the latter responded immediately and was able to claim victory. “He pulled and still beat me in the sprint, there is not much to say”, said David, second at one second. “He was stronger than me. I gave everything, so I finished second, but second to Pogacar”. “It was a great day and David concluded it well”, added Philippe. “It’s always better to win, but Pogacar was again stronger today. It’s still good to see David at this level, but we’re not surprised”.

On Wednesday, Tadej Pogacar and David Gaudu finished more than thirty seconds ahead of the third rider on the line, and the Frenchman therefore gained nine places overall to find himself in the runner-up position, ten seconds behind the yellow jersey. “I’m happy with my form but it was only the first test”, he said. “This test is passed, but we have to stay focused. There is a hard mountain top finish on Saturday and the Nice stage on Sunday. Overall, I was able to take a little more time from my competitors for the podium, and that’s a good thing. We shouldn’t put ourselves barriers, but we must remain clear-headed and race smartly. We will seize the opportunities when they arise, even if I will probably have less of them now”.


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Tirreno-Adriatico stage three reports

We posted the report from GC second-place Lennard Kamna's Team Bora-hansgrohe with the results.

Stage three second-place Phil Bauhaus' Team Bahrain Victorious posted this report on both Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice:

Bahrain Victorious put in a good fight in Italy and France, with two riders finishing in the top 3.

Narrowly missing out on the top 5 on the first occasion for the sprinters to shine yesterday, Phil Bauhaus improved his result at stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico (Follonica-Foligno, 216km), taking 2nd place in the sprint finish, behind the winner Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck), with Biniam Girmay (Intermarché – Circus – Wanty) in 3rd place.

Jasper Philipsen finished just ahead of Phil Bauhaus. Sirotti photo

A bunch sprint was expected on the paper, but it wasn’t a calm day for the peloton. In fact, the wind affected the stage and caused damage in the finale. In the first undulating part of the course, it favours the caught back of the daily breakaway relatively early, with 2 men out of the initial 4 staying away until 70 km to go. In contrast, the wind created some tension in the peloton in the flat second part. It was Jumbo Visma, the team that tried to split the peloton, and their attempt succeeded with around 10km to go. Eventually, the attack was resumed, and a packed bunch tackled the final 4 km towards the technical finish in Foligno.

Phil Bauhaus comments about that stressful finale: “Actually, the split happened just in front of me. I joined my teammates, pulling in the back to bring our captain Mikel Landa back to the front, but then I rested a bit to save my energies so that I could make a good sprint when they came back together. The lead-out was super good, with a difficult finale. After yesterday we saw we all have good legs. We just needed to find each other deeper into the ending. That’s what happened today. Then Pasqualon brought me at the front to Arndt. I was on Philipsen wheels; then he got a strong lead-out from his teammate Van der Poel.

Philipsen is one of the fastest guys in the peloton, and he can start a sprint late. Therefore, there was no chance for me to pass him. Anyway, I’m happy with second place”.

Sports Director Gorazd Stangelj confirmed it was a hard day for the riders: “It was stressful due to the wind. Approaching the finale, we expected that there could be echelons and split in the peloton. The Jumbo Visma guys tried, showing they have strong legs doing a powerful action to stay away. Happily, the front group were only 15 riders, and several GC contenders were not there. Therefore the collaboration in the chasing group was good, and they could catch back at the right moment. Arndt and Miholjevic did a good job leading out Bauhaus, along with Pasqualon, who was already there as he managed to join the attackers. The plan for the sprint was a bit different, but in the end, the understanding among the guys was perfect, and we couldn’t achieve more than this.”

“Tomorrow, it’s too hard for the sprinters”, Bauhaus concluded. “I’m targeting the final stage. It would be awesome to repeat what we did last year”.

Just after Phil had taken runner-up spot in Italy, Gino Mäder impressed on the first mountain test of Paris-Nice …

“Two rocket-ships went past me but I stayed true to my rhythm. After that you’re just in the hurt box until the finish,” said Mäder, after a sterling effort saw him blast past the reigning Tour de France champion (Jonas Vingegaard), to take 3rd place on the first summit finish of Paris-Nice 2023.

Stage 4 had started with 114 flat kilometres exposed to the wind and rain, on a day that typified the varied conditions we expect of the so-called ‘Race to the Sun’. A 7-man breakaway were kept on a short leash throughout, as UAE, Ineos & Groupama FDJ pulled the peloton back to the escapees.

The last 50k saw the third category ascents of the Côte du Vernet, and the Côte de Cheval Rigon, before the C1 La Loge des Gardes – 6.8kms averaging 7% – which provided the decisive skirmishes of the battle of the day.

Vingegaard (TJV) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE) attacked together with 4k left, and opened a small gap, but were soon reeled in by Mäder’s group, and David Gaudu (FDJ) went on to push for victory alone. The Frenchman couldn’t resist Pogačar though, who caught and led him all the way to the line, for a 5th victory of the year.

Behind those two, the GC group were being dropped by the relentless pace of the strongest riders left: Vingegaard, who couldn’t follow the leaders, and Mäder, who sailed past the Dane and didn’t look back. The Swiss talks us through his ride:

"It was hectic all day, then the 1st three minutes of the climb were full gas and all about surviving. Tadej [Pogačar] attacked but I came back to those guys, breathed for a second, and then decided that if they hadn’t followed David [Gaudu] they also won’t follow me.

"After that it was just black black black to the finish, trying not to pass out from the pain!"

It was a hugely encouraging performance from Gino, who had been disappointed with his results last year, and sees this as something of a return to form

"I knew I trained well over the winter, so I’m happy with my legs so far here. Hopefully it’s going to be a good rest of the week. I’m just really pleased."

Enrico Poitschke, lead Sports Director at the race, was also satisfied with how things panned out. “In general everything worked as we had planned. We wanted to protect Jack as well as possible, and the guys did a very good job into the last climb; Jack was there and Gino had the freedom to follow attacks, which he did.

"Gino had a very good day and the team worked very well.”

Mäder now lies 5th overall, 1’19” behind Pogačar, with four stages remaining. Tomorrow is long: 212km from Saint-Symphorien-sur-Coise to Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux, and a stage which may tempt the breakaway specialists.


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And here’s the Tirreno-Adriatico report from Team Jumbo-Visma:

Team Jumbo-Visma has provided spectacle in the third stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico. The yellow-black formation pulled the peloton into echelons in the final 15 kilometres of the stage but saw the coup fail in the nick of time. Wout van Aert finished sixth in the bunch sprint.

The peloton speeds down a wooded descent. Sirotti photo

The 216-kilometre third stage took the riders from Follonica to Foligno. Four Italians broke away from the peloton, but they were caught 40 kilometres from the finish. In the nervous final, Team Jumbo-Visma took the initiative and caused chaos in the peloton.

A group of about twenty riders, including five Team Jumbo-Visma riders, managed to grab a slight lead over the rest of the field, but in the last three kilometres, the peloton caught them. In the final sprint, Van Aert chose Fabio Jakobsen's wheel, which earned him sixth place.

"I believe our coup caught some guys off guard. Unfortunately, no classification rider got in trouble, but it was worth trying", Van Aert said. "I had wasted too much energy when the peloton rejoined. I did what I could, but I had no resources left."

Sports director Frans Maassen saw how the team's coup nearly succeeded. "Last night, we noticed that there would be a lot of wind today. We decided to take the initiative to stay ahead of the other teams. The execution was good, but unfortunately, we couldn't stay away."

The first hill stage awaits the peloton tomorrow. Van Aert believes that the 218-kilometre stage will be ideal for him. "It's a finish where I have opportunities. We'll see; I hope I have excellent legs."

 

 

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