Pogacar Climbs to Victory in Stage 7 of Paris-Nice
Stage 7 of Paris-Nice 2023 was the most challenging stage of this year’s race because it culminated in a mountaintop finish on Col de la Couillole after 142.9 kilometers and featured two category 1 climbs, the final being no less than 15.8 kilometers with an average gradient of 7.3 percent.
The hostilities started early in the stage as riders fought hard to establish a breakaway group. After several failed attempts, a group of breakaway hopefuls finally formed and pedalled away from the main peloton that focused on preparing for the uphill challenges in the final part of the stage.
21 kilometers from the finish a crash occurred. The crash involved Mattias Skjeldmose (Team Trek-Segafredo), Tom Scully (EF Education-EasyPost), Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Dstny), Alexander Kristoff (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team), and Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo). Skjeldmose got seriously injured and abandoned the race. He was Trek-Segafredo’s man for the general classification. Trek-Segafredo lost its points classification leader Mads Pedersen before the stage due to illness.
8.9-kilometers from the mountaintop finish on Col de la Couillole, Jumbo-Visma’s fast pace at the front of the peloton resulted in the final breakaway rider being reeled in. The stage was set for a fierce challenge between the general classification favorites Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), Jumbo-Visma’s Jonas Vingegaard and David Gaudu (Grupama-FDJ). Tobias Voss set a crushing pace at the front for Jumbo-Visma while being tailed by teammate Vingegaard and race leader Pogacar.
5.8 kilometers from the end of the stage Pogacar initiated a powerful attack. He built a small advantage on Vingegaard who initiated a controlled effort to slowly bring back Pogacar without the help of Gaudu. Pogacar was two kilometers later.
David Gaudu then launched a counterattack 3.7 kilometers from the finish. Meanwhile a five-man group worked hard from behind to close the gap to the front trio. The group featured Jayco-Alula’s Simon Yates, Romain Bardet (Team DSM), Gino Mader (Bahrain-Victorious), Jack Haig (Bahrain-Victorious), and EF Education-EasyPost’s Neilson Powless.
Gaudu attacked again from the front and was joined by Pogacar while Vingegaard struggled to close the gap in solo fashion. He eventually caught the front duo.
The trio remained fused with 300 meters to go. Vingegaard then attacked but failed to form a gap. Pogacar countered and was followed by Gaudu, while Vingegaard again suffered behind whilst pondering what had become of his great form from last year.
Pogacar put on his big smile as he crossed the finish line in 03:56:08 as winner of stage 7. He was followed by Gaudu two seconds later, while Vingegaard was six seconds behind the winner.
“Today’s battle was one of the toughest finish battles of this year’s Paris-Nice. I will try to defend my lead as hard as possible in tomorrow’s stage,” Pogacar told Roadcycling.com after catching his breath in the finish zone.
"I don't think I had the best legs in today's stage, so every time they attacked I had to ride my own pace,” Vingegaard told Roadcycling.com after the finish. “Of course, I had hoped for a better result, but it's ok. I'm on the right track in terms of form, but not there yet. There is some work to do before the Tour de France. When asked about Pogacar, Vingegaard jokingly said "He's a bit hard to ride against because he's so good."
By winning today’s stage Pogacar further extended his race lead in the general classification. Pogacar has a twelve second lead on Gaudu and a fifty-eight second lead on Vingegaard. Yates is in fourth position, Bardet in seventh, while Powless is sixth after his impressive performance in today’s stage.
Sunday’s stage 8 will be the final race of this year’s Paris-Nice. The stage is designed as a 118.4-kilometer roundtrip from Nice to Nice. The short route includes three category 2 climbs and two category 1 climbs.
Stay tuned to Roadcycling.com for our complete coverage of Paris-Nice 2023.