Pogacar takes over

March 8 th 2023 - 16:53

Tadej Pogacar did not make any favours in the first mountain stage of the 81st Paris-Nice, surging in the final climb to La Loge des Gardes after a constant work by his team all day to win the stage and seize the yellow and white jersey on Wednesday. The Slovenian perfectly timed his move on the 6.7-km final climb to catch Frenchman David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) in the last stretch and lead him by 10 seconds overall. Pogacar’s arch-rival Jonas Vingegaard cracked a little in the final kilometres and finished 6th. He is now third overall, 44 seconds behind the UAE-Team Emirates.  

Highlights - Stage 4 - #ParisNice 2023

Seven in the lead

The real start was given at 12:40 to 153 riders in rainy weather.  Lilian Calmejane (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) and Maurice Ballerstedt (Alpecin-Deceuninck) were the first to break clear at kilometre 25 and were later joined by Pascal Eenkhoorn (Lotto Dstny), Larry Warbasse (AG2R) and Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech). Polka-dot jersey holder Jonas Gregaard (Uno-X Pro) felt he also needed to be in the front to defend his KOM lead and he joined the breakaway after 35 kilometres.    

Echelons After 56 km, Tadej Pogacar’s UAA Emirates team-mates upped the pace and the bunch split in the treacherous crosswinds but quickly regrouped.  As the seven took their lead over five minutes, Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious) called it quits, as did Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis) a little bit later. Some 20 km further up, Groupama-FDJ and Jumbo-Visma created another echelon, which scattered the bunch all along the road. The main casualties at that point were green jersey holder Mads Pedersen and his leader Mattias Skelmjose, as well as third-placed overall Michael Matthews (Jayco Alula) but the pack was finally back together at kilometre 87.  

Gregaard collects polka-dots

At the first climb of the day, Cote du Vernet (Km 116.6), Jonas Gregaard collected three points to bring his KOM tally to nine. In the ascent, Ballerstedt was dropped by his former breakaway companions, whose lead had gone down to 2:35. In the descent, Dutch champion Eenkhoorn went and took a few seconds lead over the other five escapees but was run down in the Cote de Cheval Rigon (km 137.5), on which Gregaard picked three more points. With 14 points, the Danish rider made sure to retain his polka-dot jersey on the finish line.  

Matthews takes sprint bonus The UAE Emirates team-mates of Tadej Pogacar continued to impose their tempo to the rest of the pack and the break split in the descent after two attacks by Calmejane, who dropped all his companions to the exception of Skaarseth. Their lead went down quickly as the intermediate sprint of the day was nearing and they were caught when Michael Matthews surged to collect six points and six seconds, with Skaarseth and Pogacar behind him. The Slovenian and the Australian insisted for a while before the pack reeled them in.  

Pogacar strikes

The stage was set for a showdown on the 6.7-km final climb. Felix Grossschartner led the way for Pogacar at the bottom but Jonas Vingegaard was the first to attack, quickly followed by the Slovenian. The last two Tour de France winners did not charge ahead and as they were caught, France’s David Gaudu counter-attacked with 3 km to go. Pogacar reacted with 2 km to go and caught Vingegaard off guard. The 2020 and 2021 Tour de France winner quickly bridged the gap in the final kilometre and did not leave him a chance on the line.

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