Friday, March 24, 2023

Paris-Nice: Pogacar already touches Vingegaard’s face

That first stage of Paris-Nice would end with a sprint (victory for Belgian Tim Merlier) was an open secret. They knew it even on the Paseo de los Anglais in the capital of the Costa Azul where the test will end next Sunday. Now, the doubt and the incentive were in knowing if they were going to move at the first opportunity Tadej Pogacar either Jonas Vingegaard in this confrontation, like a blessing, that it has arrived at the gates of spring, with the month of July still very far away, but on roads that are common in the French round.

Well yes, Pogacar has not been long in coming because he knows that every second is worth its weight and because for the pleasure of all cycling fans he does not know how to run any other way. The thing about going by wheel, calmly dead, the thing about letting the kilometers go by and wait only for the slopes marked in red in the road book that each rider is given is for others, for champions of other times, when the cycling season was summed up to riding quietly in March, making a mini display in the April classics, rest in May, warm up a bit in the Dauphiné and arrive as smooth as possible at the Tour to end up dressed in yellow in Paris.

That has gone down in history because Pogacar smells the challenge and look at the most insignificant stage, on the tiny slope, on the white line drawn in an intermediate sprint, the opportunity to test Vingegaard and the opportunity to add, like this Sunday, six bonus seconds that have already placed him third in the General of Paris-Nice. And those six seconds gained by the Slovenian star are already held by Vingegaard, 33rd in the standings, as a very small slab that he must counteract, perhaps on Tuesday in the team time trial where his Jumbo seems much more since the Emirates of Pogacar to take advantage of the situation.

20 kilometers from the finish line of the first stage, a third category level which was called Milon-La Chapelle. There Pogacar put them all on the wheel and caused the first mess in the Jumbo that made it clear that, like Vingegaard, he was left very alone in the face of a complicated situation in the future.

But when a bonus sprint was announced six kilometers away, Pogacar showed up to sprint and try to surprise Vingegaard, who passed the intermediate line in fourth position but was left without the bonus, as if Pogacar had sung a line on an imaginary bingo card.

And the two of them even stayed, in the company of the Frenchman Pierre Latour, alone ahead in the purest style of what has been seen in the cyclo-cross season between Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert. They rolled like this until they saw that continuing ahead was nonsense that led nowhere with a sprint in sight and knowing Pogacar had already touched Vingegaard’s face a bit as soon as he started Paris-Nice.


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