The phenom Tadej Pogačar can hit almost the same w/kg level in every race throughout the year, with this talent showcased on the La Loge des Gardes mountain top finish in Paris-Nice. The UAE-Emirates superstar responded to Vingegaard’s acceleration with 4.3km to go and later supplied his own big attack which cracked the current Tour de France champion.
The 6.8 kilometres at 7% gradient climb suited Pogačar more than the slender Dane as it was in the range of 16-17 minutes and would be ridden at around 25km/h – perfect for the Slovene who has mentioned that in training he mostly does 2 x 15-minute intervals.
Felix Großschartner paced hard at the bottom of the climb with Vingegaard and Pogačar riding behind him. The peloton was stretched out under the high speed after UAE Team Emirates had already paced the lead-in to the climb full gas. The race leader Magnus Cort Nielsen dropped early with Neilson Powless and Jack Haig losing contact with the GC group with 4.7 and 4.4 km to go.
After Großschartner finished his strong pull, Vingegaard accelerated with 4.3 km to go but it was not as easy to go clear as in O Gran Camino, with Pogačar already in the wheel and easily responding to the Dane’s attempt.
They got a 15-second gap over the closest riders but as Vingegaard could not drop Pogačar and the Slovenian would not relay, both stopped pacing and were caught with 3.5 km to go. David Gaudu immediately responded with an acceleration and the lack of organised chase allowed the Frenchman to gain 19 seconds in a kilometre.
Pogačar sensed weakness in Vingegaard and attacked with 2.5 km to go. The Jumbo-Visma GC leader was not ready for it and was trying to close the small gap to Pogačar for a long time – much longer than his response to any attacks in the Tour de France last year. As the speed was high, drafting really mattered and Pogačar with his skinsuit, aero helmet, narrow bars and base layer was fully prepared to stay aero in the shallow penultimate kilometre.
Vingegaard completely cracked and lost a huge amount of time in the last 1.5 kilometres, while Pogačar and Gaudu were working together. Pogačar won the stage and beat Vingegaard by 43 seconds, who cracked like the Slovene on the Col du Granon stage in last year’s Tour. UAE-Emirates’ superstar also collected 12 bonus seconds across the stage, meaning his advantage over Vingegaard is now 44 seconds in the GC. Gaudu and Groupama-FDJ had another brilliant day after their great performance in the Stage 3 TTT, with the Frenchman moving into second position only 10 seconds back from Pogačar.
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Pogačar did an impressive performance on the La Loge des Gardes climb. 24.71 km/h average speed on the 7.12% gradient climb is very strong but there was a huge tailwind (the light blue sections are tailwind, dark blue – cross tailwind).
Kevin Vaquelin spent 3,204 kilojoules for 3:44 hours before the climb, which is 12.6 kj/kg/h. The last hour before the La Loge des Gardes was the hardest which made this a quite challenging stage finale despite it not being the longest finish – significantly harder than the Saudi, Oman and UAE Tour stages before their climbs. The colder conditions always suit Pogačar, who did 6.70 ᵉw/kg for 16:22 min. Our prediction was exactly 16:22 min for the climb in the preview article for climbs but with 6.50 ᵉw/kg because we expected a bigger compact GC group for much more of the climb, with consequently more drafting expected for the winner.
Pogačar’s normalized power would be much bigger than the estimated average due to his two huge accelerations and the irregular tempo. On the w/kg curve, Pogačar’s 2022 Monte Carpegna performance in Tirreno-Adriatico is practically identical to the La Loge des Gardes effort. The Carpegna stage also was even a little bit harder but with a lower normalised power as Pogačar attacked and rode his tempo on Carpegna on a steeper gradient.
Pogačar's performance is one of the most impressive in 2023 so far. With a high tempo before the climb and the irregular pacing, this is more impressive performance than the w/kg curve shows. Vingegaard blew up completely and it will be interesting to see what he can show on the longer Col de Couillole, which should be ridden in around 41-42 minutes. Longer climbs, in theory, suit Vingegaard more than Pogačar but colder conditions favour the Slovenian more and we saw today who has the superior legs in this race.
Kārlis Ozols (@CyclingGraphs)