When Jonas Vingegaard attacked more than 4km from the top of the first summit finish at Paris-Nice, no one could have predicted he’d be dragging his weary body across the line in sixth place, some 43 seconds down on his arch-rival Tadej Pogačar.
Vingegaard looked firmly in control as he launched his opening gambit, drawing out Pogačar in a move that bore no little resemblance to last year’s Tour de France – the pair of them in a race of their own.
However, it was a move that ultimately backfired, according to his own director at Jumbo-Visma, Grischa Niermann.
“Maybe he shouldn’t have attacked himself in the first place, and that cost him,” Niermann said.
“But that’s life. He felt good and wanted to try and in the end he didn’t succeed.”
Finding Pogačar planted to his back wheel, Vingegaard had decided not to press on with his attack, and he perhaps eased off too much, finding himself well back through the GC group and slow to respond when Pogačar reacted to accelerations in search of lone leader David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ).
Still, even though he’d given himself a relative mountain to climb, things didn’t look overly worrying as Vingegaard slowly but surely worked his way past everyone else and across the gap to Pogačar. But then, just when it seemed he was about to make contact with 2km to go, he slipped away again.
Pogačar had accelerated through a bend to make the catch to Gaudu, but this was more about Vingegaard tailing off. The gap opened again, yawned out, and when he was caught and passed by Gino Mäder (Bahrain Victorious), this was well in the realms of a cracking.
“It wasn’t our best day today. Jonas felt really good and I think in the end he went a little bit over the limit and that cost him. He shouldn’t have done that, but that’s racing,” Niermann said.
“Of course, he’s disappointed. He was going for more.”
With his Jumbo-Visma team winning Tuesday’s team time trial, Vingegaard had taken back the 12 bonus seconds Pogačar had gathered from the first two days’ intermediate sprints, with added interest of 11 seconds.
However, by the time Pogačar had put 43 seconds into him atop the Loge des Gardes – and added 12 more bonus seconds on the day – the Tour de France champion finds himself in third place but some 44 seconds in arrears after four stages.
There are tougher tests to come at the weekend, but it seems like a hammer blow to the Vingegaard’s hopes of the overall title.
“We will see. The race finishes Sunday afternoon,…
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