Tadej Pogačar in the early season is unstoppable, today achieving his third stage win in Paris-Nice 2023 and overall victory in the prestigious WorldTour stage race. On the final day on Col d'Eze the Slovenian produced a very good climbing performance, dropping everyone on the short climb and winning by a huge margin.
Tadej Pogačar won his second mountain top finish in the 2023 edition of Paris-Nice, with a convincing effort up Col de la Couillole. David Gaudu and Jonas Vingegegaard tested the Slovenian's legs but they failed to distance the dual Tour de France champion, who won the uphill sprint in customary fashion.
Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar going head to head this early in the season, after the amazing 2022 Tour de France, is a dream come true for cycling fans. Both the Tour de France champions performed exceptionally well in Spanish races in February, achieving a combined 9 wins in just 9 race days.
Tadej Pogačar continued his winning streak at Vuelta a Andalucia Stage 1, winning it solo after attacking the final climb. It was the fourth consecutive win for the UAE Emirates superstar who previously won Tre Valli Varesine, Il Lombardia and Jaén Paraiso Interior.
Tadej Pogačar again tried to find weakness in Jonas Vingegaard in the first Pyrenean stage, with the Dane responding fairly easily to his accelerations in Tour de France Stage 16. Vingegaard despite having a 2:22 min lead over Pogačar, and Wout van Aert waiting at the top of the Peguere climb, rode stage as passively without testing Pogacar on the steep climb. Vingegaard must take as much time where possible, and this scorching day was potentially another opportunity to have done so.
Chris Froome proved that his strong performance in Mercan'Tour Classic one month before the Tour was not a fluke and finished third from a breakaway on stage 12, beating such strong climbers as Giulio Ciccone and Neilson Powless on Alpe d'Huez. There was a stalemate in the GC battle between Pogacar and Vingegaard whilst Quintana and Gaudu suffered, with Kuss, Pogačar, Vingegaard, Mas and Thomas setting the fastest times on the legendary climb since 2006.
La Flèche Wallonne is a race that in the modern era of cycling ends always the same. Everything is decided on the extremely steep Mur de Huy (1km, 11.2%), which is perfectly suited for puncheurs like Alejandro Valverde, who has won this race five times. At age 41 Valverde still was one of the main favourites with Movistar teammate Enric Mas providing a leadout for him, but that did not help the Spaniard as he could not challenge Dylan Teuns, who took the surprise win.
No one thought at the start of March that Mathieu van der Poel would have made this impressive a come back in Milano-Sanremo and the Tour of Flanders, considering his back problem and missed training kilometres in the winter. However in a perverse way, the enforced rest, during his usual cyclocross schedule, probably made his incredible victory at Flanders possible. The Dutchman was the only one able to stay with Tour de France champion Tadej Pogačar on the short Flandrian climbs and then produced his typical 15s power to win the final sprint. Let's look at van der Poel's and other riders' power from the big race.
Ronde van Vlaanderen 2022 did not disappoint despite the absence of Belgian champion Wout van Aert. Tadej Pogačar is not a regular Tour de France champion, who just targets one big race a year, with the Slovenian showing his punch on the short Belgian cobble climbs, creating multiple splits throughout the day. Only Mathieu van der Poel could hold his wheel in the finale as the race ended with a sprint from a standing position between the Dutchman and Slovenian. As Van der Poel and the Slovene finessed, Maduoas and van Baarle returned from behind, boxing in Pogačar in the last 200 metres, whilst van der Poel opened up a huge sprint to win his second Ronde van Vlaanderen. The frustrated Pogačar only finished 4th as he was surpassed by Dylan van Baarle and Valentin Madouas who took podium honours.
The 2022 season has been awash with races for almost two months straight, with plenty of high level climbing performances meriting an early Top 10 ranking. In this list only four climbing performances are from World-Tour races and perhaps you might have missed some of the under the radar ones, which came at races like Tour of Oman and Gran Camiño.