The Paris-Nice of Dr. Tadej and Mr. Pogacar | Sports

Pogacar bows as he wins the finish line in Nice.
Pogacar bows as he wins the finish line in Nice.SEBASTIEN NOGIER (EFE)

It is the routine of the monster that governs cycling and plunges it into a time that no one alive believes they have lived before. “We did not see Merckx. We heard things about Merckx and read what they said about him, and we saw the classifications, but we have seen in detail almost all the kilometers he has pedaled in his life, and I can say that I had never seen anything like it”, says Eusebio Unzue , who has been cycling for 40 years and has directed the best Spanish cyclist in history, Miguel Indurain, winner of five Tours. “All the cyclists, and Miguel too, in one way or another, have been victims of their virtues when young, of a very powerful engine in a body that has taken time to form. This monster, no, but those who want to be like him do”.

The monster is Tadej Pogacar, who has won the Paris-Nice, in his first participation, and three stages, just as three weeks ago he won the Vuelta a Andalucía and three stages, and the Clásica de Jaén. Thirteen days of competition between February and March, and nine victories, and all those who dream of winning the Tour, or have won it, at their feet wonder, like Lenin, what to do?

In Andalusia, it is the Spanish front —Mikel Landa, Carlos Rodríguez, Enric Mas—; on the Côte d’Azur, on the Col d’Èze, chasing the Slovenian with the childish smile and murderous gaze — “it’s my playground,” says Pogacar, 22, who lives in neighboring Monaco and trains between Èze and the Turini and the roads of the Monte Carlo rally, “I have fun here” – are the Danish Jonas Vingegaard, the only one who has been able to do it in the Tour, and David Gaudu, the Frenchman who challenges him, the cyclist who comes from Brittany itself Bernard Hinault, where he was born in 1996, 11 years after the so-called Badger, the last great French champion, will win the last Tour by a Frenchman. And the two escort him to the podium. Vingegaard, who won O Gran Camiño two weeks ago, and all of its stages, and at the end he said, “I’m ready to challenge Pogacar in Paris-Nice”; Gaudu, who in the previous two stages with relief had spoken to the Slovenian by first name, and they had smiled at each other, and they had shaken hands, and he was in the general just 12s before the last stage, and he even said that he would try to attack and win.

The two of them, and the entire peloton in all the races, were victims of such a smiling and smiling cyclist, and those little eyes, and the little blond lock slipping through the cracks in the helmet, that deceives, and it’s hard to think that when he attacks, as he attacked yesterday in his Col d’Èze, and he does it in yellow, and he does it unexpectedly, with 18 kilometers to go before the finish line, and he does an inside curve to Simon Yates, which sets the tempo for the climb of the best, and Without getting up from the saddle, he accelerates well seated and has no practical sense, it would have been enough for him to win to stay in the group and be led, do it with such aggressiveness and impiety. Doctor Tadej and Mr. Pogacar, they all conclude, and tremble. That is the point of madness that he talks about so much and without which, he says, without the ability to run like this, to win like this, for the show that terrifies the defeated, he would not be a cyclist. “Insanity to attack with the yellow jersey? Risk? Not at all”, says Pogacar. “Calculation. I knew the climb perfectly from training there and knew exactly how my legs were and how much energy I needed to get to the top. I have calculated well.”

The monster crosses the finish line haranguing the applauding masses and bows into a Valkyrie soprano curtsy. More than half a minute later—the amount of time didn’t matter: it could have been just one second and the awareness of impotence would have been the same—Vingegaard, Gaudu, Jorgenson, the closest ones, arrived.

Paris-Nice is the last stage race scheduled by Pogacar before June and the Tour of Slovenia. He will dedicate the remainder of March and April to the classics, to the conquest, above all, of three monuments, San Remo (March 18), Flanders (April 2) and Liège (April 23).

In the Tirreno-Adriatico, Primoz Roglic, the Slovenian compatriot from whom Pogacar stole the fire three years ago in the Tour, won the general and three stages as well. The coincidences end there. Roglic, who will try to win the Giro in May, is the center forward, the finisher who takes advantage of the circumstances. Pogacar creates circumstances as God creates the world.

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