A Dane can hide another. Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Education-EasyPost) recovered the yellow jersey from the shoulders of his compatriot Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) at the end of the third stage of the Paris-Nice cycling race on Tuesday March 7. He has a one-second lead overall over the Belgian Nathan Van Hooydonck, winner of the day with his Jumbo-Visma team.
After thirty years of absence, the team time trial has returned to the Race to the Sun. On the program: 32.2 kilometers around Dampierre-en-Burly (Loiret); long fast straights, only punctuated by a false flat going down and then a short climb just before the line.
Big favorite of the event, the Dutch armada won with a second ahead of the American EF Education-EasyPost and four over the Australian Jayco-AlUla. Team UAE, the team of double Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar, limited the damage by finishing fifth, 23 seconds behind the Jumbo. However, this time will have cost Daniel Martinez's Ineos team dearly, 48 seconds from the lead.
A new rule
This team time trial was an opportunity for the organizers to test a new rule. Contrary to the custom which wants that the time of the fourth runner to cross the line is taken into account, this Tuesday, it is the time of arrival of the first which served as a reference.
A subtlety that opened the field to multiple tactics, such as, for example, that for the best riders to let go of their teammates at the end of the course to finish alone and grab a few seconds. Be careful though: in the general, each rider is assigned his actual time, so it is impossible for a team to abandon its leader in a day without. "It didn't change a whole lot. With the headwind there was, it was better to all stay together, ”relaid Romain Bardet (DSM) at the microphone of Eurosport on arrival.
If this new format made it possible to witness a lively end to the race on the side of Team UAE, with Tadej Pogacar finishing alone like a rocket after dropping Mikkel Bjerg, his last teammate, in the last 500 meters, he did not has therefore not made huge differences.
"We were hoping to gain a little more time," admitted Dane Jonas Vingegaard, winner of the 2022 Tour de France and one of the big favorites for the final coronation. For good reason, the Jumbo-Visma has among its ranks some of the best riders in the peloton: the Norwegian Tobias Foss and the Australian Rohan Dennis, the reigning world champion in the time trial and the double world champion in the specialty (2018, 2019).
First arrival at the top
Vingegaard, who was twelve seconds behind Pogacar, is now eleven ahead of the Slovenian, whose group was clearly less homogeneous, and climbs to fifth place overall. Frenchman David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), 4th in the last Grande Boucle, can thank his Swiss teammate Stefan Küng: he too is making up time on Pogacar overall at the end of this third stage.
The race will get tougher in the coming days. Wednesday, a first arrival at the top is planned at the Loge des Gardes, a station in the heart of the Allier, at more than 1,000 meters. The opportunity for a first big explanation between the favorites during a final ascent of 6.7 km at 7.1% on average. While waiting for the two medium mountain stages, Saturday March 11, between Nice and the Col de la Couillole, then Sunday March 12, with a final loop around Nice.
As for the ambition of the organizers to give a facelift to a team time trial event that had fallen into disuse: the idea seemed interesting enough to be tested on a more selective course. Maybe one day, who knows, on a Grand Tour.