It’s been another rip-roaring edition of the Race to the Sun. Egan Bernal (Sky) took his maiden Paris-Nice with a comfortable 39-second cushion after taking the leader’s jersey on the penultimate stage. This was despite a late smash-and-grab attempt from fellow Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who finished runner-up in a Sky sandwich with former leader’s jersey wearer, Michal Kwiatkowski rounding out the podium. Indeed, it was a veritable return to form here for the Skybots, who scooped all the prizes save the KOM jersey.
Rider(s) of the Race
Despite the Sky shut out, there are a surprising number of contenders, including sprinters Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) and Sam Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe) who shared the spoils with two stage wins apiece, caring not a whit for the reputations of Messrs Greipel, Cavendish and Kittel but they, like many of the sprinters, didn’t finish the race.
My first award goes to a man who rolled back the years on Saturday when he was part of a huge 39-man escape formed on the climb to Gourdon, which built a sizeable 6min advantage on the road to the race’s only summit finish, the Col du Turini (14.9kms at an average 7.3%), making its race debut.Embed from Getty Images
At this point Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck–Quick-Step) was virtual race leader and he continued to do the bulk of the work on the front of the dwindling break. He was only dropped when Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and stage winner Daniel Martinez (EF-Education First) launched a flurry of attacks and enjoyed a mano a mano, ding-dong battle to the finish. Nonetheless, PhilGil soldiered on to finish just outside the top 10, not enough to top the GC, but enough to clamber atop the second step from whence he slid on Sunday. Watch out for this man in the upcoming Classics, including next weekend’s Milan-Sanremo.Embed from Getty Images
My other other rider of the race is none other than the overall winner, Egan Bernal. This is a rider we’ve had our VeloEyes on for some time and who greatly impressed us at last year’s Tour de France when riding in support of Geraint Thomas‘ victory. He already has an eviable palmares for one so young (a mere 22 years old) and is part of the new Colombian armada. In his Paris-Nice debut, the youngster moved into the race lead yesterday following a tense penultimate stage at the expense of teammate Kwiatkowski, who was dropped on the final climb as Sky picked up the pace to nullify PhilGil’s threat, virtual leader on the road for much of the stage. Post-race, Bernal said:
I can’t believe that I just won Paris-Nice. It’s incredible for me. I… I just can’t believe it yet.
He has more than proved he has the chops to win one-week stage races, next up Grand Tours!
Promise delivered, and then some
A veritable galaxy of stars turned up to contest this race, most of whom went home empty-handed. If they survived the crosswind-provoked echelons and crashes on the two fast opening stages, many then slid down the classification on the penultimate day’s leg-sapping maiden summit of Col de Turini. Okay, we saw the return of the relentless march of the inscrutable Skybots – six wins in eight editions – but aside from their baby-faced winner, this year’s general classification and list of stage winners are well stocked with riders making good on earlier promise.
We’ve already spoken about sprinters Groenewegen and Bennett, so let’s look at a couple of names to note in the overall. In 4th place we have the most famous redhead in the peloton, Mitchelton Scott’s Jack Haig who’s often MVP in Grand Tours for the Yates brothers. In 11th place and runner-up in the Best Young Rider competition to Bernal, we find Marc Madiot-protegee Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) who rode in support of 7th placed Rudy Molard. Let’s not forget a couple of other young Colombians – namely stage 7 winner Daniel Martinez (EF-Education First) and Bernal’s teammate, Ivan Sosa. These are all names to watch out for in upcoming races and as cycling fans, it fills us with hope for the future of the sport.
A thought to all those who retired through injury and illness – get well soon!
1 Egan Bernal (Sky) 29:17:02
2 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +0:39
3 Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) +1:03
4 Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott) +1:21
5 Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) +1:45
6 George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) +2:20
7 Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) +3:02
8 Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-QuickStep) +3:06
9 Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) +3:12
10 Ilnur Zakaring (Katusha-Alpecin) +4:07
All the JerseysEmbed from Getty Images
Leader’s Jersey: Egan Bernal (Sky)
Points Jersey: Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky)
King of the Mountains: Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal)
Best Young Rider: Egan Bernal (Sky)
Team Classification Leader: Sky
Stage 1: Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma)
Stage 2: Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma)
Stage 3: Sam Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe)
Stage 4: Magnus Cort (Astana)
Stage 5: Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)
Stage 6: Sam Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe)
Stage 7: Daniel Martinez (EF-Education First)
Stage 8: Ion Izagirre (Astana)
Race report: Cycling News