Primoz Roglic wins Paris-Nice despite familiar late wobble as brilliant Simon Yates denied

A thrilling final at Paris-Nice saw Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) lose time but survive a late onslaught to take the overall title just 29 seconds behind Simon Yates (BikeExchange – Jayco).

If Yates was able to win stage 8, Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) undoubtedly saved the day for his leader. After pacing Roglic to the top of the final climb, he guided him again and led him to the finish.

“Is there a better teammate in the world? asked Eurosport commentator Rob Hatch.

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“The rain is falling askew at Paris-Nice,” observed Hatch at the start of the stage. Because as it has done many times, the Race to the Sun was coming to an end under dark skies and in dangerous conditions.

Another 37 riders withdrew before the start or before the finish, leaving just 59 finishers, less even than in the Covid-shortened 2020 edition.

Remarkably, given his success in stage racing throughout his career, this was to be the first-ever Paris-Nice podium for Roglic, let alone his first win. That’s partly because Roglic is still quite early in his career, considering his age; in part because its program tended towards Tirreno-Adriatico.

With the way his run ended last year, the prospect of history repeating must have weighed on his mind at least a little. Paris-Nice loves last day fireworks and the upheavals are far from unheard of. Roglic is no stranger to them himself in recent years.

As always, the profile of the stage was enticing: no less than five classified climbs, all category two or more. Several riders came out of the leading group on the first of them, including Philippe Gilbert (Lotto Soudal), Ryan Mullen (Bora Hansgrohe) and Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers). No escape attempt was successful, although several runners tried.

In the second climb of the day, the Côte de Châteauneuf, 10 riders briefly widened a small gap, before being caught up thanks to the aggressive pace imposed by Jumbo-Visma. With around 70km to go, it was the Dutch team itself that split the peloton, leaving just 21 riders in the lead group.

They led on the Côte de Berre-les-Alpes, with Rohan Dennis (Jumbo-Visma), Van Aert and Roglic occupying the first three positions at the top.

On the Côte de Peille, Ineos Grenadiers goes to the front. Omar Fraile imposed a hard tempo which served to disperse the runners on the mountain. It wasn’t enough to put Roglic himself in trouble, but with 50km to go there was only one lieutenant left. Steven Kruiswijk (Jumbo-Visma) and Dennis, who had both put in solid shifts on the Col de Turini on Saturday, dropped the order and the back, leaving the leader with just Van Aert for company.

Then Dani Martinez (Ineos Grenadiers) launched a test attack which was too much for his own teammate Adam Yates. Not for the other Yates, Brother Simon, nor Nairo Quintana (Arkea Samsic.) Van Aert, in the green jersey, grimaced a little but otherwise sank into the 11% slopes of the Côte de Peille, obviously with huge legs at his disposal.

A puncture for Martinez knocked him out of the lead group and gave Quintana a brief glimpse of the lowest step of the podium. Van Aert would still not be shaken.

On the steepest sections of the final climb, the Col d’Eze, 4km from the summit, Yates began to slowly – but surely – pull away. Roglic suffered. Having already taken three bonus seconds in the sprint, the British rider only had to gain 44 to win the title. Ten more offers at the finish line – even with Roglic likely to take at least four – meant the race was on.

Quintana stepped back. Yates continued. Twenty seconds apart, up to 25. 1.5 km from the remaining pass, Van Aert overtook Roglic and began to set the pace for his leader. “They fight big,” observed Sean Kelly.

As the peak approached, the clock showed 28 seconds ahead of Yates before rolling back towards the mean. The descent and break-in gave the Jumbo-Visma pair a two-to-one advantage. Yates’ lead didn’t seem like enough. As the rain fell on the slippery white markings of the descent, only an accident could make the difference in the result.

In the final 10km, as the road widened, Roglic had recovered enough to put in some solid turns. The gap, which reached up to 500 m, was almost halved. The nearly neutralized overall threat, pulling Yates back so Van Aert could take the stage became a very real prospect.

Across Villefranche-sur-Mer, they all shared the same shot. In town and the scene was on the line.

The Briton took advantage of the more technical turns of the last kilometers while Roglic and Van Aert, having saved the general, were less motivated to be greedy and also embark on the stage. Yates held on for the fourth Paris-Nice stage victory of his career.

Yates then denied being disappointed not to take the overall victory: “I just wanted the stage today,” he said.

“The GC was already too far. For me, taking that long back would have been a very big ask. He admitted that the general classification was “behind the back of [my] but I always knew that going downhill I would lose time. Yates was also recognized for his efforts with the fighting spirit award of the day.

“Without [Wout van Aert] today, Roglic would have been in real trouble,” Kelly added.

Roglic agreed, describing his teammate Van Aert as “half human, half engine”.

“I was in real pain going over the last climb,” he said.

But he got over it, to win his very first Paris-Nice title, adding the Race to the Sun to an already remarkable track record in stage races.

Martinez did enough to keep third place on the podium, while Valentin Madouas (Groupama – FDJ) won the mountain prize 20 points ahead of Van Aert, who took the points jersey himself. The best youngster went to Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates); the team award to UAE Team Emirates.

Stage 8 – Top 10

1 – Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange Jayco) 2:52:59
2 – Wout van Aert (Team Jumbo Visma) +00:09s
3 – Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo Visma),,
4 – Brand McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) +01:44s
5 – Soren Kragh Anderson (DSM Team),,
6 – Stefan Kung (Groupama FDJ) ,,
7 – Aurélien Paret-Painter (AG2R Citroën) ,,
8 – Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers),,
9 – Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious),,
10 – Ion Izagirre (Cofidis) ,,

Final ranking – Top 10

1 – Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo Visma)
2 – Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange Jayco) +00:29
3 – Daniel Felipe Martinez (Ineos Grenadiers) +02:37
4 – Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) +03:29s
5 – Nairo Quintana (Team Arkea Samsic) +03:43s
6 – Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) +03:51s
7 – Ion Izaguirre Insausti (Cofidis) +04:52s
8 – Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) +5:43s
9 – Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) +05:48s
10 – Aurélien Paret-Painter (AG2R Citroën) +03:29s

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