Yet he had thought of everything, built all the scenarios, peeled all the possible strategies. But why complicate the task so much when the shape seems to be there? Authoritative winner at the top of the Col de Turini on Saturday, Primoz Roglic saw fit to squeeze the peloton like a lemon, and early. Coming out of his long siesta approaching the Primavera (March 19), Wout Van Aert laid the first stone of the demolition company of the peloton (68 km). Withdrawn during the weekend, the wearer of the green jersey repeated his ranges, and hinted at a promising form.
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Primoz Roglic and Wout Van Aert cross the finish line of the last stage of Paris-Nice 2022
Credit: Getty Images
At least that was needed to cope with the load of the INEOS Grenadiers on the first ramps of the Côte de Peille (1st category, 6.6 km at 6.8%). Only WVA managed to accompany its leader, supervised by a Colombian duo and Simon Yates (BikeExchange – Jayco). But, very quickly, Roglic let worrying signs emerge, emptying his pockets by staring at the hood of his sporting director’s car. Less surprising: the downhill trajectories of the one who lives in the Principality had enough to ruffle the hairs of his sports directors. So many facts reflecting a lack of lucidity, a consequence of a dubious form.
Van Aert: ‘He could barely speak at the finish. He didn’t thank me enough’
Luckily for him, Van Aert was hanging around there. « It was not easy today (Sunday, editor’s note). It was tough and there is no last day at Paris-Nice without drama, entrusted the final winner after the finish. I was clearly not strong enough on the last climb. It was a real fight. Fortunately, Wout (Van Aert) had a great day and was a great help. I’m super glad we did. But it really wasn’t easy. »
To say the least, as Simon Yates has complicated the task of the triple Vuelta holder. A sudden acceleration from the Briton and an immediate gap widened on the high percentages of the Col d’Eze (19 km) suddenly drained the last strength from Roglic, lying on his handlebars, his knees skating outwards. The pale gaze, the yellow jersey forced itself to follow the wheel of its teammate, aerial as very few were this Sunday. The support of the world vice-champion in solo effort was invaluable. Finally beaten for nine seconds on the Promenade des Anglais, Roglic no longer even had the strength to thank his guardian angel.
« He could barely speak on arrival. He didn’t thank me enough, joked Van Aert in front of our Belgian colleagues. I think we are teammates for that. It was a race that we knew in advance that I had to be there for him, and it turned out to be necessary.
The response of the concerned was slow in coming, but it was worth the detour: « I have to thank the whole team and Wout (Van Aert) specifically. He can do anything. Wout is half human, half motorcycle. I always say that I’m happy and proud to be able to learn from him and ride alongside him. »
Not a problem with France
The courtesies exchanged, the winner of the Race to the Sun vintage 2022 poured out his difficulties of the day. « I think I put on too many layers of clothing from the start. I overheated. I felt better when I took them off, but it was too late, explained Roglic. I didn’t really think I had a problem with France, but all the time something was happening. Eventually I managed to win something in France, a stage race (he already had a Tour de l’Ain to his credit). I sign immediately so from now on, everything is going well in France.” After the click, Roglic aims for confirmation in capital letters on the next Tour de France, but this will necessarily go through the support of a Van Aert as airy as during this last act on the Riviera.
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