Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates) added a jewel to his crown when he destroyed his rivals in his training playground to win both the final stage and the 81st edition of Paris-Nice on Sunday.
The two-times Tour de France champion was in total control in the 188.4 km in the hills overlooking Nice and his home principality of Monaco to raise his arms on the Promenade des Anglais while humbling the rest of the field.
France’s David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) finished second overall, 53 seconds adrift, and Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) was third, 1.39 behind.
The Slovenian also achieved an impressive sweep of jerseys, taking home the yellow, the green and the white jersey while the polka-dot remained on the back of Dane Jonas Gregaard (Uno X). He also won three of the eight stages.
15 in the lead
The real start was given at 11:55 to 125 riders. Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick Step) and Jason Osborne (Alpecin Deceuninck) did not start. Polka-doy jersey holder Jonas Gregaard attacked from the gun in the company of team leader Alexander Kristoff, going for the KOM points.
The Norwegian was dropped in the Cote de Levens and the KOM leader continued on his own to pick five points at the top. In the descent, Gregaard was reined in by a group of 14 riders – Lucas Hamilton (Jayco Alula), Jhonatan Narvaez (Ineos Grenadiers), Nils Politt (Bora Hansgrohe), Stefan Kung (Groupama FDJ), Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious), Ion Izagirre (Cofidis), Oliver Naesen (Ag2R-Citroen), Clément Champoussin (Arkea Samsic), Kobe Goosens (Intermarché), David De la Cruz (Astana), Jan Tratnik (Jumlo Visma), Pascal Eenkhoorn (Lotto Dstny), Lilian Calméjane (Intermarche) and Hugo Houle (Israel Premier Tech).
The Danish rider scored five more points at the top of Cote de Chateauneuf (Km 37.1), leading Pogacar by 18 points at that stage. In the descent, the 15 were joined by Kevin Vauquelin (Arkea-Samsic).
Gregaard secures polka-dot
In the following climb, Cote de Berre-les-Alpes (km 51.1), the peloton closed in on the leaders but Gregaard gave it his all to snatch the five points required to secure the polka-dot jersey once and for all.
In the descent, Clement Champoussin (Arkea-Samsic), Oliver Naesen (Ag2R), Lucas Hamilton (Jayco-Alula), Jan Tratnik (Jumbo-Visma) and Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ) shot to the lead. In the 1st category Cote de Peille, they were joined by Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious), who instantly attacked to find himself alone in the front and lead at the top of the third climb of the day.
His former breakaway companions were caught in the descent and the Dutchman picked the main bonus at the intermediate sprint before tackling Col d’Eze on his own.
Pogacar outsprints Gaudu
Poels was first at the intermediate sprint in Eze and Groupama-FDJ attempted to lead-out David Gaudu to pick the four seconds available behind him. But Pogacar proved too strong and easily overpowered the Frenchman to take his GC lead to 14 seconds.
With 26 km to go, Wout Poels, who was awarded the most aggressive rider’s prize, was caught by the peloton, led by Time Wellens and Felix Grossschartner, leaving Col d’Eze as the final decider of this Race to the Sun.
On the climb, Simon Yates, winner of the final stage last year, was the first in action, but Pogacar counter-attacked and went. Gaudu tried to react but was quickly left to defend his second place along with Yates, Vingegaard, American Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar). The two-times Tour de France champion increased his lead all the way down to the Promenade des Anglais and never looked back.
In twelve race days this year, he has clinched nine victories. Jonas Vingegard was second on the line, six seconds adrift, ahead of David Gaudu in the same time. – www.paris-nice.fr