Paris-Nice: Tadej Pogačar solos to final stage and overall victory

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) sealed the Paris-Nice title in style, attacking on the Col d'Eze and soloing down into Nice to collect a third stage victory to go with his yellow jersey.

The grand finale of 'The Race to the Sun' once again took the riders into the hills behind Nice that have provoked so much last-gasp drama in recent editions, but Pogačar took any tension out of the equation with a dominant display.

The peloton did split over the early climbs, but Pogačar's UAE Team Emirates men soon took hold of proceedings and the Slovenian himself then took matters into his own hands on the final climb of Col d'Èze.

He made his move 4km from the top of the 6km climb and it immediately looked decisive. By the summit, he'd opened a lead of 45 seconds over his scrambling rivals and he made no mistake on the 15km descent into Nice.

Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) claimed second place after another day in which the superiority of his rival was made clearer still. The Dane out kicked David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), who took third on the stage to finish runner-up overall, sandwiched between the past two Tour de France champions.

Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla), who'd kicked off hostilities on Col d'Eze, placed fourth from the same group, the final member of which was Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar).

They were followed home 10 seconds later by a final GC group of five riders: Neilson Powless (EF-EasyPost), Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers), Romain Bardet (DSM), and the Bahrain Victorious duo of Jack Haig and Gino Mader.

In contrast to previous editions, this wasn't a finale that put the general classification on a knife-edge, and the only change was Haig moving above Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies) into 10th. Jorgenson's impressive ride almost moved him above Bardet into seventh but he fell short by a single second.

"It was always my dream to win Paris-Nice and now I did it it's incredible," said Pogačar, who has opted for - and won - Tirreno-Adriatico in the past two seasons.

"They say attack is the best defence. I really know these roads, I do a lot of training done here. I knew exactly how my legs were on the final climb and how much I could spend to come to the top. I was really good with maths today, I calculated it great."

The numbers on Pogačar's palmarès are adding up fast. This double takes his victory tally for the season to nine after just 13 days of racing, his career tally to 55 in the third month of his fifth season as a pro. In a race famous for being decided by the finest margins, his final victory margin of 53 seconds was the biggest in a decade, and that's after sitting up in the home straight to take a bow.

"If I don't win anything until the end of the season it's still not bad," Pogačar reasoned. "I can be more relaxed now."

How it unfolded

With five medium mountains crammed into 118km, the stage was set for another breathless finale in the Nice hinterland, and the riders duly flew out of the traps.

First on the move was the polka-dot jersey of Jonas Gregaard (Uno-X), who had a luxury assistant in teammate Alexander Kristoff to help him towards the mountains points needed to seal the jersey for good.

Gregaard crested the category-2 Côte de Sevens (6.1km at 4.9%) in the lead to add five points, and he was joined on the descent by what would become the day's main breakaway - even if it didn't last all that long.

In there were: 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 Goossens (Intermarché), and David De la Cruz (Astana).

They were soon joined for the category-2 Côte de Châteauneuf (5.4km at 4.6%) by four more: Jan Tratnik (Jumlo Visma), Pascal Eenkhoorn (Lotto Dstny), Lilian Calmejane (Intermarche) and Hugo Houle (Israel Premier Tech). Finally, Kevin Vauqelin (Arkea-Samsic) bridged across on the subsequent descent to make it 15 up front.

Gregaard helped himself to another five points at the top of the Côte de Châteauneuf, and the peloton followed at 40 seconds before the race exploded on the descent. In the blink of an eye, they hit the third climb, the category-2 Côte de Berre les Alpes (6.5km at 5.8%) and there were only 30 riders left in the peloton. Pogačar and Gaudu had three teammates but Vingegaard was isolated, even if he had Tratnik up the road.

At the top of the Berre les Alpes, Gregaard once again bagged maximum points to put the polka-dot jersey beyond anyone's reach, no matter what Pogačar would go on to do on the final two category-1 climbs.

On the next descent, the breakaway split, with five going clear at the front: Kung, Champoussin, Naesen, Hamilton, Tratnik. They would soon be caught - and passed - by Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious), who set off on the category-1 Côte de Peille 6.6km at 6.9%) and led the race alone by the summit with 50km to go.

By this point, UAE Team Emirates had taken control, first through Matteo Trentin and later through Mikel Bjerg. The pace was high and Poels was never given much rope, with De la Cruz remonstrating with Pogačar as he and his fellow escapees were reabsorbed into the bunch.

Poels took his lead out to 40 seconds but it started to plummet as the reduced peloton neared the intermediate sprint at the plateau in Eze with 35km to go, where Pogačar was once again inclined to hit out. Gaudu had a full lead-out from FDJ but Pogačar comfortably beat him to bag four more bonus seconds, which were ultimately irrelevant.

Poels was caught on the subsequent descent into Nice as Bjerg continued his charge all the way to the bottom of the category-1 Col d'Eze (6km at 7.6%). Once the climb started, Großschartner took over as the reduced peloton went down to around 15 riders. The Austrian completed his turn 4.3km from the top, the exact moment at which Yates was moving forward to accelerate.

Instantly the group shattered, with Pogačar, Vingegaard, and Gaudu the only ones able to go with the British climber. A couple of hundred metres further on, Pogačar took flight, and his attack had an air of finality about it. He was away and his lead would only grow all the way to the top.

There were some changes behind, as Jorgenson worked his way across to Gaudu, Yates, and Vingegaard, while Sivakov went on the attack behind. But Pogačar was out of sight, cresting the Col d'Èze with 45 seconds in hand before swooping down to the glimmering blue waters below to complete the latest chapter in his remarkable career.

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Patrick Fletcher
Deputy Editor

Deputy Editor. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2022 he has been Deputy Editor, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.

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