First, second and third in stage one, Jumbo-Visma couldn’t have asked for a better start to the first major stage race in France in 2022.
Paris-Nice: stage 1
“We had hoped for Wout to win, but this outcome was unprecedented,” explains Jumbo-Visma DS Frans Maassen about stage one of Paris-Nice 2022. He’s talking about a coup that came about thanks to a stunning team offer, delivering three riders to the line to share the spoils, with new recruit Christophe Laporte given the honour of leading his two team-mates over the finish line.
“The plan was to be well-grouped at 12 kilometres,” continues Maassen. “That was Rohan’s task and he did it in a formidable way. Subsequently, Mike [Teunissen] and Nathan [van Hooydonck] did an excellent job as well.
“Laporte was going to attack as hard as he could on the climb to see what would happen and we saw how that ended up.”
In the end there would be 22 seconds between the leading trio – Laporte, Primoz Roglic and Wout van Aert – and the main peloton. There was time to consider a celebration but this was done with a minimum of fuss, with discussions taking place largely as the three Jumbo-Visma riders swapped off all the way to the finish.
Strong turns of pace by Laporte, Roglic and van Aert ensured that they arrived well ahead of the bunch and, moments before the line the accord became apparent as the Belgian champion and Slovenian GC maestro moved aside to allow their new French colleague to the fore and a fine victory salute, his first in the WorldTour.
Laporte joins the Dutch squad after a long career at Cofidis (2014-2021) and almost immediately he’s become a winner. It’s his second race with Jumbo-Visma and, after his eighth place in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on the opening weekend of the Belgian Classics, his season is already a success.
For Australian cycling fans, there’s clear evidence that the Dutch team’s Australian presence will grow considerably in 2022 with the arrival of Rohan Dennis.
Maassen’s mention of the 31-year-old who is riding his first stage race with Jumbo-Visma at Paris-Nice highlights the respect Dennis has earned early in his time with the team. He did his job in “a formidable way” – indeed!
There was a time when a 1-2-3 finish would have raised eyebrows and got people talking about cycling, and not always in a kind way. Is that how it is in 2022? No, it would appear not – at least that’s how it seems watching from afar. Rather, the reviews of the opening stage of Paris-Nice relate to the coup, the daring, the panache, and the depth of strength that exists in a team stacked with talent.
If you predicted a Laporte victory before the stage, pat yourself on the back. It wasn’t an obvious choice for a winner (and, of course, the early leader of GC) and even when they had built their advantage Jumbo-Visma could have opted for their sprint favourite to claim the spoils. Instead, van Aert showed his class together with Roglic. These two have won so often it hardly seems surprising any longer so to see them allow a Frenchman to triumph in such a way helps put a smile on cycling.
“I am thrilled,” Laporte said afterwards. “As a French rider, Paris-Nice is a big race for me. The plan was to keep Primoz in the classification and sprint with Wout. I was allowed to attack to make the race hard, which I did, and only the three of us remained.” Voilà, a surprise result even if we know we’ll see much more of the winner’s team in the coming days.
– By Rob Arnold
Results from Paris-Nice (via LeTour.fr)