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Laporte delights in a 'gift from two big champions' at Paris-Nice

JumboVismas French rider Christophe Laporte L JumboVismas Belgian rider Wout Van Aert C and JumboVismas Slovenian rider Primoz Roglic R celebrate after crossing the finish line at the end of the 1st stage of the 80th Paris Nice cycling race 160 km between ManteslaVille and ManteslaVille on March 6 2022 Photo by FRANCK FIFE AFP Photo by FRANCK FIFEAFP via Getty Images
Christophe Laporte, Wout van Aert and Primoz Roglic go 1-2-3 in the opening stage at Paris-Nice (Image credit: Getty Images)

Jumbo-Visma's incredible performance in the closing kilometres of the opening stage at Paris-Nice will be one to remember, especially for the team's Frenchman Christophe Laporte

An attack over the final climb saw Laporte, Wout Van Aert and Primož Roglič form a mini-team time trial and finish 1-2-3, with Laporte gifted the day's victory and the first leader's jersey of the eight-day race for his efforts.

“I have to thank the team. Wout told me in the final kilometre that it was for me, so it’s really a nice gift for me," Laporte said. 

"I’ve won my first Paris-Nice stage and I’m in the yellow jersey. If someone had told me that at the start of the day I wouldn’t have believed it. To go to the finish with three, it’s incredible," said Laporte. 

The 29-year-old from La Seyne-sur-Mer, France, transferred from Cofidis to Jumbo-Visma at the start of this year having signed a two-year contract through 2023.

It wasn't the plan for Jumbo-Visma to breakaway with three riders over the last climb of the Côte de Breuil-Bois Robert, a 1.2km ascent with a 7 per cent gradient that peaked just 6km from the finish line in Mantes-la-Ville. 

Laporte explained that his intention was to attack by himself to put pressure on rival teams, keep overall contender Roglič safely in the field, and to set up Van Aert for a potential bunch sprint. He was surprised to look back after his attack and find Van Aert and Roglič still on his wheel.

"The plan from the beginning was to keep Primož on same time as the other GC guys, and we thought to do the sprint for Wout, but the team told me I can attack on the last climb to make the race harder. I did that but Wout and Primož were in my wheel and we were only three and we went for it," Laporte said. 

"At 1km to go Wout told me ‘it’s for you today’. It’s a nice gift for me. At the time, it was a little bit full gas but I was very happy. I’m a French guy, it’s Paris-Nice, it’s a big race for French guys and all riders. It’s two big champions and it’s very nice to see they gave the win for me."

Van Aert admitted that he was also surprised that all three riders opened a gap over the ascent, and the advantageous position allowed them to work seamlessly together and build their lead out to 19 seconds ahead of Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies), who finished fourth, and 22 seconds to Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), who led the main field in for fifth place.

"For sure at the top I was surprised we were only with three, and especially three from the team - it’s quite unique I think. It was also in our advantage that there was nobody left because then we could go full to the line without hesitating. It was a perfect way to finish it off," Van Aert said.

Van Aert said that with Roglič having gained valuable seconds on his GC rivals, it was an easy decision to gift the stage victory to Laporte.

"He deserves this win. He’s a strong rider, I got to know him only this winter but he’s super friendly, and from the time we’ve spent together he’s always part of the team. 

"For him to win a stage at Paris-Nice here in France is pretty big. Primož could take also some nice advantages on GC so this is a perfect way to finish it off."

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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.