Beside him, when Vingegaard demarcates and Pogacar follows, a small port of just under seven kilometers, very regular at just over 7%, all the others seem vulgar. Homeric efforts to stand out from the number one of the best teams –Vauquelin, the young pistard who dazzles; Gaudu, the last great French hope; Ion Izagirre, Paret Peintre, Bardet, Dani Martínez, Simon Yates, Haig, Jorgenson, Latour, Skjelmose Jenses…– they are empty sweats when Vingegaard releases his watts, and to his wheel, sticky, Pogacar.
???? Pogacar dynamites Paris-Nice with a devastating rise and becomes the leader of the general
???? The Slovenian puts almost a minute behind his main rival, Jonas Vingegaard#ParisNice pic.twitter.com/VVgRVllKGy
– Teledeporte (@teledeporte) March 8, 2023
There are 4.3 kilometers left to climb. The fans, who have held their breath while the Austrian Grossschartner, the climber of the triple that works for Pogacar, skims the peloton little by little with his lively rhythm, explodes, and his heart ignites, when the Jumbo moves and It is followed by the UAE. 300 meters later, the two look at each other, talk, raise their foot. “Jonas’s attack was very hard, and before returning it, I preferred to rest a little, recover,” says Pogacar. The two allow themselves to be caught 3.6 kilometers away and watch each other as David Gaudu, the Breton who has matured, is taking advantage of the time out, and they watch, and watch, until the Slovenian considers that he is already there. ready in order to respond. He lies down to the right of the group, slightly behind Vingegaard who, clueless, sees a white bolt appear to the right of him. When he wants to follow him, he has lost a couple of seconds, half a dozen meters, an emptiness that condemns him. He chases, hits it hard, gets off the bike, sits down, accelerates. He refuses to keep up with him. He wants to go further. So 600m. Until he busts. He has exceeded his limits more than his body allows him. With only 1,900 meters to go, he gives up. He just tries to survive while Pogacar, imperious, catches up with Gaudu, pulls him and wins the stage with one last frantic, diabolical acceleration, and celebrates with his fist raised, with the fury of great victories. Vingegaard reaches 43s (+12s bonus). “I didn’t expect to wear yellow,” says Pogacar, leader of Paris-Nice, which will be decided in the mountains and hills of the Côte d’Azur on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with an advantage of 10s over Gaudu and 44s over Vingegaard. “But you can’t say no to yellow.”
The heads-up of the mountains of the last Tour, the Alps and the Pyrenees, continues. Paris partially closed the confrontation with a victory for Vingegaard. It is resumed by the Loge des Gardes, a small mountain in the French Massif Central, a ski resort among the oak forests of the Allier, the best wood for the best wine barrels. The duel of the century. Endless fight for the years of the years that the two assume with desire, wanting to be the other. A rare moment in cycling, in whose history there has always been absolute reign by only one, by Hinault or Merckx, almost never in doubt. In their heads-up on the Tour, there is a tie between the two. In 2021, Pogacar beat him by 3m 20s in the Grand Bornand and 32s in Tignes. In 2022, Vingegaard led the Slovenian by 2m 51s on the Granon and by 1m 4s on Hautacam. Outside of the Tour, Pogacar has always won direct confrontations. A year before the Paris-Nice victory, in the 2022 Tirreno-Adriatico, Pogacar bested Vingegaard by 1m 3s on Monte Carpegna, and then lost the Tour. The mistakes of March are sometimes used to know how to do it in July.
February was a duel at a distance. The echo of Pogacar’s feats during Valentine’s week in Jaén and Cádiz -Clásica de los Olivos and Vuelta a Andalucía, five victories in six days- resounded on Mount Teide, so far away, where Vingegaard was preparing his own exhibition, that He would arrive a week later also in Spain, in O Gran Camiño, eternal Galicia, with four victories in four days. The two heroes of the last two Tours, one for each, met in France, in Paris-Nice, the first race in which they meet after the victory of the Dane last Tour, the last until they meet again in July in Bilbao, where the big loop of the tiebreaker
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