- For his first participation in Paris-Nice, Tadej Pogacar scored three stage victories and a prestigious success overall, 53 seconds ahead of David Gaudu and 1'39'' ahead of Jonas Vingegaard.
- His unfailing versatility and brilliant start to the season make the 24-year-old Slovenian the absolute "phenomenon" of the peloton four months before the Tour de France.
- However, like this promising Paris-Nice of Groupama-FDJ and its leader David Gaudu, the competition ensures remain "uncomplicated" against "Pogi".
With nine victories in thirteen days of racing since the beginning of the season, Tadej Pogacar has launched 2023 on quite unreal bases. For comparison, the brilliant winner of Paris-Nice on Sunday had "only" six successes at the same time last year. At 24 years old, the Slovenian of UAE Team Emirates therefore seems more unplayable than ever on stage races, as evidenced by his career 13/14 in the general classification of these events, with a major exception on the Tour de France 2022. But even Jonas Vingegaard, his faller on the Grande Boucle, could only salute his superiority after finishing Paris-Nice in third place, 1'39'' behind.
"When he attacked, everyone was like, 'Wow, I'm not even going to try to go with him,'" he said after "Pogi's final demonstration" to take his third stage victory on Paris-Nice on Sunday. A recital that pushes Julien Jurdrie, sporting director of AG2R Citroën, to comparisons: "We see that this season, no one can stop Johannes Boe and Kylian Mbappé. Tadej Pogacar is a bit of a phenomenon like that. He is still young and his performances are increasing by 2-3% each season. He does not scatter, we feel that he exudes a lot of serenity, like an Eddy Merckx. It often gives us a headache but its relaxation is good for cycling. »
🚴🏻 ♂️ Massive sprints, summit finishes and a great fight for the general classification. Relive the best of Paris-Nice 2023
🚴🏻 ♂️ 😍Bunch sprints, summit finishes and a great fight for the overall classification.
🎬 🏆 🏆
🎬 Enjoy the best moments of #ParisNice 2023 😍 pic.twitter.com/YpDvlXi0TQ
— Paris-Nice (@ParisNice) March 13, 2023
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"I was taped to my car"
His extreme versatility leaves in any case only crumbs to the competition, as he seems so far much more armed than Jonas Vingegaard to win wherever he registers. The two-time Tour de France winner proved this in particular at the 2022 Tour of Flanders, where he was only beaten in a sprint by Mathieu van der Poel. Julien Jurdrie recounts the impression that "Pogi" had left on him that day, on a race profile for which he did not seem destined at all.
"It was his first participation and I was glued to my car in front of his sacred number. Van Aert and van der Poel must not be happy to see his name on the start list for 2023 because he becomes as much favorite as them on this race. »
However, Aurélien Paret-Peintre (11th overall at 7'28'') and fourth ahead of Jonas Vingegaard at the Loge des Gardes (4th stage) symbolized last week "the offensive face" of AG2R Citroën. Another French rider, David Gaudu, has distinguished himself even more to try to thwart the first Paris-Nice of the Slovenian, already unleashed three weeks earlier on the Tour of Andalusia. "'Pogi' is out of the ordinary, he masters his subject like no one. But despite his obvious superiority, we manage to get closer to him, "summarizes Philippe Mauduit, sports director of Groupama-FDJ.
"We never imagined being so close"
Because David Gaudu, second overall on Sunday with only 53 seconds to go before the final victory (he was even only 12 seconds before the last stage), confirmed that he had his say in major races, despite a seemingly unbeatable rival. "We were aiming for a podium but we didn't imagine being so close to the general of Paris-Nice," continued Philippe Mauduit. It's abysmal to have reduced the gap on the lead from 13'39'' [and 11 minutes to Pogacar] to less than a minute between the Tour de France 2022 and Paris-Nice. It says the super interesting work of David Gaudu and the whole team. Should we see this as an even greater weakness of the UAE Team Emirates collective, which had left its leader to fend for himself in the middle of the Jumbo-Visma armada in the Col du Granon last summer?
"No, the UAE team has relatively unlimited means and the recruitments this season of Tim Wellens and Felix Grossschartner have been real support for "Pogi" on Paris-Nice," said Philippe Mauduit. Despite this seemingly erased Achilles' heel to reconquer the Grande Boucle, on July 23 on the Champs-Elysées, UAE can count, in addition to the inevitable Jumbo-Visma, on competition from a Groupama-FDJ determined to continue its rise. "The Tour de France 2022 was foundational in order to create a team spirit, reveals its sporting director. We no longer suffer the race, we do it. The attitude of the peloton also changes compared to our team, which has entered the circle of the most respected formations. Our ambition is really to go for the win. The sad years of French cycling, in which riders knew they were beaten in advance, are over. We now have riders without complex. Even against one of the most untouchable champions of the discipline, therefore.
- Tadej Pogacar
- David Gaudu
- Groupama FDJ
- Tour of France