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Road to the Tour: Vingegaard Is Tops in Tirreno-Adriatico, Roglič Flops in Paris-Nice

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

Three of the four favourites for this year’s Tour de France – Jonas Vingegaard (Visma–Lease a Bike), Primož Roglič (BORA-hansgrohe) and Remco Evenepoel (Soudal–Quick-Step) – took part in two high-quality stage races this week, the Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice, as preparations for the year’s marquee event jumped into gear. How did they do? Long story short: Vingegaard dominated, Evenepoel looked very good but not yet great, and Roglič has a long way to go.

Vingegaard is still the undisputed king of the mountains

The Tirreno-Adriatico was effectively over with 28.9 km to go in Friday’s stage 5 when the two-time Tour winner pulled away from a small group of elite riders on the climb of San Giacomo (11,9 km @ 6.2%) and left no one with the ghost of a chance. After the stage, his lead in the GC was 54 seconds over second-place Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates).

On Saturday’s sixth stage, the Dane waited until there was only 6 km left in the final climb to the finish line on the summit of Monte Pedrano (10.2 km @ 7.9 km), and it was déjà vu all over again. His lead at the end of the race’s penultimate stage was 1:24 over Ayuso and 1:52 over Jai Hindley (BORA-hansgrohe), which was also how it stood after Sunday’s final stage, which was won in a bunch sprint by the excellent Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek). Ayuso and Hindley are excellent climbers but it was no contest once Vingegaard stepped on the gas.

Just in case his three Tour de France rivals didn’t understand the meaning of his performance, Vingegaard explained. “I think I’m in better shape now than I was in the last two years,” he said after the stage. “I’m very happy with how things went here. I can also be happy and satisfied with how we rode as a team. It’s been a super-good week.”

It’s actually been a couple of super-good weeks for Vingegaard because he also won all three mountain stages of O Gran Camiño in the last week of February. The only sour note in his performance was his ninth place in the Tirreno time trial when he finished 22 seconds behind Ayuso. But Vingegaard has always registered so-so time trials before the Tour only to spring a monster ITT on his rivals in the big race, as he did last year.

Good news for Evenepoel, bad news for Roglič in Paris-Nice

Remco Evenepoel is maturing as a rider and a person. Even though he reverted to his usual blame game after his team finished fourth in the Paris-Nice stage 3 team time trial, though it was the rain that foiled Soudal, and he blamed UAE Team Emirates’ strategy for letting Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious) and Luke Plapp (Jayco AlUla) ride away with the win on Wednesday’s stage 4, he took responsibility for losing nearly a minute – and therefore the race – on the decisive stage 6. The three-rider breakaway was initiated by the surprising winner of the race, Matteo Jorgenson (Visma–Lease a Bike). “Perhaps I could have responded to Matteo Jorgenson’s attack,” Evenepoel said after the stage. I made a small tactical mistake. No, a big tactical mistake.”

Big or small, it was a mistake he could never rectify. He tried to fix it on Sunday’s final stage when he attempted three times to escape from the small group he was riding with on the ascent of the Côte de Peille (6.5 km @ 6.9%) but could shake neither Jorgenson nor stage 7 winner Aleksandr Vlasov (BORA-hansgrohe). He was able to drop Vlasov on the next climb, the steep Col des Quatre Chemins (3.8 km @ 8.1%, with ramps of 16%), but Jorgenson remained on his wheel all the way to the end of the stage.

Evenepoel won the stage but Jorgenson scored a watershed victory in his career. It was a very impressive performance by the 24-year-old American. He rode intelligently and was equal to everything Evenepoel threw at him. He finished 30 seconds ahead of the Belgian in the final GC standings with another American, Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates), in third, 1:47 adrift. Evenepoel was gracious in defeat, saying: “I went three times all in [on the climb] and [Jorgenson] was the only one to follow, so he deserved to win. I should be more than happy with this beautiful week.”

While this has been a terrific week for Visma–Lease a Bike who won both of the week’s big races, it was not a great week for BORA-hansgrohe who floundered badly in the Paris-Nice time trial and whose new star, Roglič, disappeared from view in the race’s mountainous final stage, unable to keep up with the leaders and was eventually dropped by the pursuing groups. He finished 10th in the final GC standings, a staggering 5:33 behind the winner.

One wonders if he is beginning to regret his move to BORA. Last year, with Jumbo-Visma, he was unstoppable in his early-season races, winning the Tirreno-Adriatico and beating Evenepoel in the Volta a Catalunya. There are nearly four months until the Tour so it’s much too early to panic. And perhaps BORA have a different plan than Jumbo-Visma did. But from what Vingegaard, Evenepoel and Tadej Pogačar have shown so far, Roglič has a lot of work to do.

But his disappointing showing did not seem to trouble him. “My life doesn’t really change if I don’t win Paris-Nice,” he said in an interview. “I have to give myself time. I want to give myself time for all the [new team] processes around and not to push them. And it was my first race [of the year]. Obviously, I really needed it.”

Paris-Nice Results:

  1. Matteo Jorgenson, Visma – Lease a Bike 27:50:23
  2. Remco Evenepoel, Soudal–Quick-Step 0:30
  3. Brandon McNulty, UAE Team Emirates 1:47
  4. Mattias Skjelmose, Lidl-Trek 2:22
  5. Aleksandr Vlasov, BORA-hansgrohe                                 2:57

Tirreno-Adriatico Results:

  1. Jonas Vingegaard, Visma – Lease a Bike 26:22:23
  2. Juan Ayuso, UAE Team Emirates 1:24
  3. Jai Hindley, BORA-hansgrohe 1:52
  4. Isaac del Toro, UAE Team Emirates 2:20
  5. Ben O’Connor, Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale 2:24