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MONTLUÇON, France (VN) – After seeing his team sweep the podium places for the second time in the first four days in the “Race to the Sun”, Jumbo-Visma directeur sportif Grischa Niermann said that the Dutch team had had “a dream start to Paris-Nice”, but played down suggestions that these results had any great significance when looking ahead to races later in the season, and specifically the Tour de France.
Asked which of Jumbo’s podium sweeps had been more satisfying, Niermann opted for the opening day success in Mantes-la-Ville, where Christophe Laporte led in Primož Roglič and Wout van Aert after the trio had broken clear of the peloton on the last climb before the finish. “We really didn’t expect that,” he said.
“We didn’t expect it today either, of course. But we did hope that we would have four guys that could contest for victory so to have another 1-2-3 is great. We can be really, really happy, it was a super day for us.”
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Wout van Aert’s success, which saw him relegate Roglič into second place by two seconds and recent signing Rohan Dennis into third by six, produced a reshuffling of the Jumbo pack at the top of the leaderboard, where the Belgian now leads Roglič by 10 seconds, with former yellow jersey Laporte down to third.
Asked which of the leading pair was now Jumbo’s leader as Paris-Nice heads into its more mountainous second half, Niermann plumped for van Aert. “I think Wout is the leader because he has the yellow jersey, that’s a fact. We have four really hard stages to come and, of course, we are in the perfect position,” he explained. “But it’s going to be a very hard last four days and we’ll see on the road how it evolves.”
Niermann said the one factor that had made the difference for Jumbo’s riders in the TT was power. “I don’t think it was too technical. It was just about pushing power and still having something left for that last kick up to the line. I said to Wout and Primož that if it was an uphill finish on a normal stage, I didn’t know if anyone would go faster up the last kick than them. I think that was also a factor today,” he said, adding that he wasn’t surprised at all that van Aert had held his form on the extremely steep ascent to the line despite being significantly heavier than most of his rivals.
“He’s really explosive and it wasn’t a 6k uphill finish. It was just a short kick to the line,” he said. “For a professional bike rider, and especially for guy like Wout, that’s not a big mountain, so he can still push out the power on a climb like that even at the weight he is.”
Although there aren’t that many time trials scheduled in the stage races between now and the Tour de France in July – BikeExchange’s Simon Yates, who was fifth in Montluçon, said his next one would probably be at the Critérium du Dauphiné in June, for instance – Niermann played down its significance as an indicator of form or momentum. “Our biggest competitor for the Grand Tours isn’t here and this would have been also have been a really good parcours for Tadej Pogačar of course,” Niermann suggested.
He did, though, highlight how well some of Jumbo’s likely rivals for the Tour’s yellow jersey had performed. “Simon Yates did a really impressive performance. I also expected a good time from Adam Yates because he did a really good flat TT in UAE,” he said. “But I don’t think we can take away too much from this for the Tour de France. The only thing that’s obvious is that you need time trial well if you want to win the Tour de France.”
Did he think Pogačar would be watching the results at Paris-Nice he was asked at the last? “I guess he will be, but I also think he’ll be concentrating on the race he’s doing himself right now, just like we are.”