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Vingegaard and Pogačar duel on first summit finish of Paris-Nice

Hugo Houle in day's breakaway

After a couple of days of switching who is leading who, Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar got down to proper climbing business on Wednesday’s first summit finish of the 2023 Paris-Nice. The much-anticipated showdown resulted in the Slovenian beating his rival handily and taking over the race lead. Hugo Houle was in the race’s breakaway and came in 66th.

Round 1 of 2023 goes to Pogacar.

After the not-particularly-earthshaking but innovative team time trial, the main GC riders were spread like this behind yellow jersey Magnus Cort:

5) Jonas Vingegaard (Denmark/Jumbo-Visma) +0:03
6) Simon Yates (Great Britain/Jayco-AlUla) +0:07
10) Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia/UAE-Emirates) +0:14
11) David Gaudu (France/Groupama-FDJ) +0:17
28) Jack Haig (Australia/Bahrain-Victorious) +0:50
30) Romain Bardet 32) Dani Martinez 33) Pavel Sivakov +0:51

The Course

All the climbing was reserved for the final third of the 165-km route from Saint-Amand-Montrond to La Loge des Gardes. After a couple of Cat. 3 warmup ascents, the summit finish was 6.8 km of 7 percent, the grades relenting in the penultimate kilometre before kicking up again to the line.

Hugo Houle was part of a septet of breakaways that established itself after around 25 km and rolled up a maximum gap of 5:00. Behind, the crosswinds were wreaking havoc on the peloton, which kept splitting and mending.

Hugo Houle (201) was one of the day’s fugitives.

EF Education, UAE-Emirates and Ineos all took their shifts at the front of the field. With Cat. 3 climbs Côte du Vernet and Côte de Cheval Rigon checked off and 27 km to race, the gap was 1:41. Jumbo-Visma took over with intent.

With the escape reeled in, third place Michael Matthews and Pogačar burst out from the peloton to take bonus seconds atop non-categorized Col du Beaulouis.

Ineos led onto the final climb. Instantly the peloton thinned out. An Arkea-Samsic chap bounced clear to be the rabbit in the opening kilometre. Matthews and Cort were dropped.

Vingegaard attacked with 4.2 km remaining. Only Pogačar could follow. David Gaudu attempted to bridge.

Gaudu passed the two Tour de France winners and then took a gap. Pogačar came over to him, leaving the Dane behind. Vingegaard was even passed by three other riders. When it came for the sprint for the win, Pogačar prevailed. Gaudu is now second on GC.

Thursday’s fifth stage contains several climbs right from the gun and a couple of small ascents on the way to the finish.

2023 Paris-Nice Stage 4
1) Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia/UAE-Emirates) 4:01:17
2) David Gaudu (France/Groupama-FDJ) +0:01
3) Gino Mäder (Switzerland/Bahrain-Victorious) +0:34
66) Hugo Houle (Canada/Israel-Premier Tech) +13:24

2023 Paris-Nice GC
1) Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia/UAE-Emirates) 11:55:00
2) David Gaudu (France/Groupama-FDJ) +0:10
3) Jonas Vingegaard (Denmark/Jumbo-Visma) +0:44
62) Hugo Houle (Canada/Israel-Premier Tech) 13:24