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The defending Tour de France champion was put on the ropes Saturday by yellow jersey rivals Tadej Pogačar and David Gaudu in the centerpiece summit finish of the “Race to the Sun,” compounding the narrative of his battering a few days earlier at La Loge des Gardes.
“I still need to get better this season,” Vingegaard said Saturday afternoon. “At least this race is not one of the main goals of the season.”
Vingegaard bent but didn’t totally break Saturday. The Dane opened the accelerations but was left swinging and eventually dropped by Gaudu and Pogačar’s hammering.
Unlike how he was definitively distanced Wednesday however, Vingegaard clawed his way back to set up for a three-way sprint on the Col de la Couillole.
“I couldn’t follow the accelerations, so I rode my own pace,” Vingegaard said. “Every time they attacked, luckily I was able to get back, which at least gives me confidence.”
Vingegaard rolled into Paris-Nice high on confidence but low on race days after he bullied a lower-tier field at his season debut in O Gran Camiño.
Paris-Nice this week sees the Dane start pedalling with intent as he rides toward a season peak leading Jumbo-Visma into the Tour de France.
Big blocks of altitude training and racing through the Basque Country and Critérium du Dauphiné give Vingegaard a four-month roadmap toward the Grand Départ.
“I wanted to go for the win here, so I’m a bit disappointed. But this is not the Tour de France, and it is not going to determine the outcome of the Tour,” Vingegaard said earlier this week.
Now 58 seconds back on Pogačar in the classification, Paris-Nice might be out of Vingegaard’s reach. But he won’t go down quietly in the final day of racing Sunday, a short and explosive climb-laden ride outside of Nice.
“There is another stage [Sunday]. A lot can still happen there, so I certainly won’t bury the hatchet,” Vingegaard said. “I will keep fighting.”
The final result Sunday on the Cote d’Azur might not look how Vingegaard would have wanted it, but the benchmark will have been set.