An incredibly strong team performance by Jumbo-Visma squad in Paris-Nice stage 1, finishing 1-2-3 with Christophe Laporte, Wout Van Aert and Primož Roglič. After Jumbo-Visma split the peloton in the crosswinds and made the race harder for the competitors, they did not stop and just rode away from everyone on the final climb in what could have been a sprint stage.
Jumbo-Visma took responsibility for controlling the stage, despite the presence of Jakobsen and Philipsen on the start-line. They had the resources to do so as they brought a dream-team of rouleurs to Paris-Nice with Roglič, Van Aert, Kruijswijk, Dennis, Laporte, Teunissen, and Van Hooydonck.
Paris-Nice is usually windy in the first few stages, and this edition was not an exception. Jumbo-Visma used the windy parts in the last part of the race to make life tougher for everyone in the peloton prior to the final short climb which crested 6km from the finish. On the flat sections, strong riders as Ethan Hayter and Sonny Colbrelli were dropped who were expected to be contenders for the stage. Mike Teunissen did an insane pull and almost single-handedly shattered the peloton.
After him, Van Hooydonck continued to drill hard at the bottom of the Côte de Breuil-Bois-Robert climb (1.2 km, 6.9%). Jumbo at this point were working for Van Aert rather than Roglič, trying to drop as many sprinters as possible to increase the chances for Van Aert’s win, with classics domestique Nathan van Hooydonck doing a full cobbled climb style leadout from the base of the climb.
When Laporte started to pull on the climb, the whole peloton exploded and eventually DSM riders who were behind Roglič dropped from his wheel. This created a perfect situation for Jumbo-Visma as they had three riders in the front alone except for the temporary presence of Quick-Step rider Zdeněk Štybar who eventually could not follow over the crest of the climb.
After the climb, Van Aert, Roglič and Laporte rode a team time-trial for 6 kilometres on the false flat section. The peloton did not stand a chance against them as everyone’s legs were shattered in the big group, Alpecin-Fenix had few domestiques to pace for Philipsen who had been distanced and surprisingly INEOS barely had any riders to pace Adam Yates and Dani Martinez.
The only remaining tension in the stage was in which order the Jumbo riders would finish. In the end, the victory was given to Laporte, an important domestique for Van Aert in classics (and perhaps for Roglic in the Tour if his form continues like this). It was the Frenchman’s 22nd career victory, but his first World Tour-level win. This was only Laporte’s second race for Jumbo after Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, where he was not far from winning after being the strongest in the late breakaway. It will definitely give him a morale boost to work harder for his team leaders when it matters the most.
Roglič finished 2nd and gained 6 bonus seconds and now has a 28-second lead over his main competitors, Vlasov, Adam & Simon Yates, Quintana and Almeida, who all finished in the peloton 22 seconds later.
It is an unusual coincidence that last year in Paris-Nice, Laporte lost to Roglič in an uphill sprint on stage 6, when he was riding as the undisputed leader for Cofidis. Now he has moved to Jumbo-Visma with presumably less leadership opportunities but he has already taken his biggest ever victory in his career at the start of March.
Stage 2 will be a flat day for sprinters with a small-rise in the finish. The sprinters field is incredibly stacked with Wout Van Aert, Jasper Philipsen, Fabio Jakobsen, Mads Pedersen, Sam Bennett, and Dylan Groenewegen, with the only thing stopping a bunch sprint being potential crosswinds as they head south from Versailles to Orléans.