The first duel between Pogacar and Vingegaard in 2023 and likely the last before they clash again in Tour de France. Let’s take a look at the stages, weather and favorites.
It looks more difficult than it is. There are just about 1550 meters of climbing. It seems the 2023 season is filled with steep inclines. On this stage, we have one with 21 km to go. It is 500m at 12% and an easier incline with 7 km left but that is merely 1.3km at 5.8%. It should be one for the sprinters but I doubt all of them will survive. Plus, that finale looks a bit tricky.
It should be one for the sprinters with just 950 climbing meters. It could also be a good day for echelons but we will have to see the day before if the wind will be blowing.
A team time trial with new rules. As everyone knows by now, it is individual times. With a length of 32.2 km, we should see most teams follow the original approach – it is still the best tactic in terms of getting the most out of every rider.
First climbing test for the riders. I doubt it will create big gaps between the climbers. It reminds me a bit of Malhao in Algarve. The stage has 2500 climbing meters.
Last day for the sprinters if you ask me. Will all of them survive? I think most of them will.
With a “Pente Maximale sur 100 m”, which my 7 years of having French as a subject and three years of watching cycling gets to maximum gradient for 100m. I think this one can go two ways, Pogacar needs bonus seconds and we see a reduced GC sprint or a win for the breakaway. The stage has around 2650 climbing meters.
First battle between Vingegaard and Pogacar. The climb was last used as the finishing climb in 2017, seeing Richie Porte beat Alberto Contador. The gradient is not that high and the last few years, we have seen small margins between the best climbers here. Nonetheless, Pogacar will likely have to put everyone in red to try and get time back on Vingegaard.
Same as last year. It was a very rainy day in 2022 which made the stage even more difficult than it is. It is short and filled with 2250 climbing meters – but don’t let that fool you.
Predicting the weather from Paris to Nice over 8 stages is impossible. We will have to see how it changes from stage to stage. As for now, sunny and dry the first four stages. Rain on stage 5 and stage 6. We could see rain on the last two stages too, but it could also be sunny. The wind doesn’t look to be a factor this edition.
Pogacar – since we are in primo March, usually I would say he is in better shape than Vingegaard. However, the disadvantage of the TTT makes the race very close to predict correctly. At this point, it feels unnecessary to say he is in good shape, he always is. Despite him being allowed to finish the TTT solo, I still see him losing at least half a minute. There shouldn’t be enough bonus seconds to get that time back, as Vingegaard likely will get some too. That means attacking on stage 4, stage 7 and stage 8. We will have to see, if he still holds an edge over Vingegaard in March or if times have changed.
Vingegaard – he should be pleased by the TTT. I simply do not think he will get dropped on stage 4 and stage 7. It all comes down to the Nice – Nice stage on the last day of racing. Here, I only see 1 km at 12.4% being a disadvantage for him. Despite my love for Jonas, he could be in trouble here. If he is dropped and we have a catch and mouse situation, the overall can be lost here. Pogacar will have to make the day the toughest in the season so far, which is something that actually suits the Dane.
Gaudu – he will lose a lot of time against the clock to Vingegaard. He should be one of the best on the mountain stages, making him a good contender for third place.
Martinez – not a very strong TTT squad. Usually, he is in his best shape of the year around this point in the season making him another great candidate to take a third spot on the podium.
Simon Yates – he was surprisingly good Down Under, that came a bit as a surprise for me. They have a good TTT squad and they used to be one of the best teams at this discipline back in the days. I think he can challenge for the podium. It is a race that suits him quite well.
Skjelmose – the current team looks good enough to keep him in contention for the podium in Nice as I see the TTT likely being as important as stage 7 and stage 8. They got plenty of power for the flat, including himself. Now, what I have wanted to see this season. Him against the absolute climbing elite of the world. There is a big gap from the races he has done so far in France to Paris – Nice. Hopefully, he does well.
Powless – he and Skjelmose has been more or less on the same level. I always rate Powless highly, but for once it will be great to see how well he goes against the two best climbers in the world. A top-10 should be possible.
Who will win
It is between Pogacar and Vingegaard. I don’t think Pogacar can take back the time lost in the TTT. A win for Jonas Vingegaard.