It’s been another rip-roaring edition of Paris-Nice. Marc Soler took his maiden WorldTour victory after a final day three-man, long-range Spanish smash-and-grab stage. Soler finished third on the day but with enough time on the chasing pack, which included the yellow jersey, plus bonus seconds, to catapult the Movistar rider from sixth to the top step. Mitchelton-Scott’s Simon Yates stepped down to second place (by just 4sec) with Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) rounding out the podium.
Rider of the Race
For the past two years, runner-up Alberto Contador won Rider of the Race for enlivening Paris-Nice in a way only he could. This year, the award goes to the rider seen by many in Spain as the man most capable of inheriting his mantle. Movistarlet Marc Soler is Spain’s great tour hope and the 24-year-old rider is oft compared to legend Miguel Indurain due to his physical appearance, huge engine, racing style and ability to recover quickly. Winner of the race, best young rider, runner-up in the individual TT and third-placed in the final denouement, he’s a rider to keep your eye on this season. Post-race, looking bemused at what he’d achieved, Soler said:
I cannot believe it. All my teammates have performed very well throughout the week and today we were able to finish all that work. Personally I did not expect it, especially after having lost time yesterday. But we had already planned with the team to attack from far out. We thought there would be a big break like last year, but in the end it did not come out, although Fraile was ahead and I took the opportunity to go with De la Cruz and Ion [Izagirre] on the first category climb, which is where I had planned to attack. Once the gap was made, it was only necessary to go all the way to the finish line. I have never won a WorldTour race and for me all this is a dream. To be on the palmarés with the people who have won this race is incredible.
Instead of being treated to the relentless march of the inscrutable Skybots – five wins in seven editions – aside from the baby-faced winner, this year’s general classification is littered with riders, some now just too old to be best young rider, making good on earlier promise. As cycling fans, it fills us with hope for the future of the sport.
Let’s look at the other top riders in the youth classification who are promising much this season. There’s fourth-placed, 22-year-old Sam Oomen (Sunweb), 13th overall, 5th on stage 6 to Vence, who has impressed with his gritty riding style. Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz, 24-year-old teammate of Soler, finished 11th overall after a solid performance. And last, but not least, 24-year-old Austrian, Felix Grossschartner (Bora-hansgrohe), 10th overall, who was fourth in the individual TT.
Six Spaniards in the top ten on today’s stage and four in the top ten overall!
So Not a Race to the Sun
Sadly, the sun didn’t grace the Cote d’Azur with its presence for the final week-end until shortly after the finish – albeit a weak and watery shadow of itself. Instead, after glorious sunshine in Provence, riders gritted their teeth in Dantesque conditions – wind and lashing rain – which provoked numerous crashes, multiple abandons (particularly from the sprinters) and widespread flu. Some teams only had one man left standing by the end!
1 Marc Soler (Movistar) 30:22:41
2 Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) +0:04
3 Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) +0:14
4 Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) +0:16
5 Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) same time
Points Jersey: Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal)
King of the Mountains Jersey: Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal)
Best Young Rider: Marc Soler (Movistar)
Team Classification Leader: Bahrain – Merida
Stage 1: Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) Final KM here
Stage 2: Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL – Jumbo) Final KM here
Stage 3: Jonathan Hivert (Direct Energie) Final KM here
Stage 4: Wout Poels (Sky) Final KM here
Stage 5: Jerome Cousin (Direct Energie) Final KM here
Stage 6: Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) Final KM here
Stage 7: Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) Final KM here
Stage 8: Davide De la Cruz (Quick-Step Floors) Final KM here
All images courtesy of Paris-Nice