Wout van Aert saved the day for Primož Roglič on final stage of Paris-Nice

Roglič admitted he wasn't feeling his best on the final stage of Paris-Nice, luckily Van Aert had taken the stage before easy in preparation.

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After Paris-Nice wrapped up on Sunday there was no question that the strongest team at the 80th edition of the iconic French stage race was Jumbo-Visma. Twice the Dutch team swept the podium, and with one stage remaining, Primož Roglič looked comfortable in the yellow jersey. But the race is never over until it’s over, a lesson Roglič learned the hard way in 2021. Luckily for Roglič, he had the best of the best, and a lot more road, on his side in the final kilometres of Paris-Nice.

Wout van Aert, who took the day before the final test as easy as possible, was a game-changer for Roglič on Sunday.

“I don’t go without a bit of drama,” Roglič said of the final 20 km. “A big thanks to my whole team, but especially Wout here at the end – half-human, half-motor. He can do everything.”

When Simon Yates attacked at the base of the Col d’Èze with 19 km to go he left Van Aert and Roglič to chase him down. Second on the general classification, Yates would have to find 47 seconds to take Roglič’s yellow jersey but it wasn’t only the Englishman who was a threat to the Solvenian’s eventual victory. Rain fell heavy on the coastal climbs of France and the roads descending to the finish in Nice were treacherous.

On the descent, Yates extended his lead to nearly half a minute. Once the road started to flatten out Roglič and Van Aert traded pulls to try and bring Yates back and win a fourth stage for their Dutch team. They didn’t quite make it to the finish in time to catch the Team BikeExchange-Jayco rider, but they finished only nine seconds down and Roglič won his first WorldTour stage race in France.

After the day’s racing was done Roglič admitted he hadn’t felt his best on the final climb.

“I was definitely not feeling strong enough [on the final climb], I didn’t have power,” Roglič said. “I was really suffering and fighting over the final climb to minimize the losses. Luckily I knew that Wout had a super day and he was really a big big help going through with me all the way to the finish.”

It was Van Aert’s first appearance at Paris-Nice and his performance throughout the week was one to remember.

Although he’d hinted at holding on to the yellow jersey for a day after winning the stage 4 time trial he ended up handing it over to his teammate 24 hours later. Anticipating a tough day on Sunday, Van Aert rested as much as one can rest on a brutal stage in the mountains of France on Saturday.

“I think we managed to take the overall, it was maybe harder than we hoped and harder than expected but I knew today would be a really difficult day to control,” Van Aert said of the final sage. “I was lucky to take it easy yesterday so I was really focused on being there for Primoz in the final. He had not his best legs, so it was up to me to fight over the last climb.”

The attack by Yates didn’t make the Belgian too worried, but he still opted to take the descent to Nice with caution.

“Of course we knew we were losing time on the climb,” “We didn’t take too many risks in the first part of the downhill and then on the big road to Nice it was just flat out. Still thinking we could win the stage, but we came up short.”

In the end, Jumbo-Visma walked away from Paris-Nice with the yellow general classification jersey, the green points jersey, two full podium sweeps and an additional stage win. Looking ahead to the stage racing to come, the yellow and black team is not only going to be hard to beat, but their versatility means they can thrive in every condition.

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