Bahrain Victorious put in a good fight in Italy and France, with two riders finishing in the top 3.
Narrowly missing out on the top 5 on the first occasion for the sprinters to shine yesterday, Phil Bauhaus improved his result at stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico (Follonica-Foligno, 216km), taking 2nd place in the sprint finish, behind the winner Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck), with Biniam Girmay (Intermarché – Circus – Wanty) in 3rd place.
A bunch sprint was expected on the paper, but it wasn’t a calm day for the peloton. In fact, the wind affected the stage and caused damage in the finale. In the first undulating part of the course, it favours the caught back of the daily breakaway relatively early, with 2 men out of the initial 4 staying away until 70 km to go. In contrast, the wind created some tension in the peloton in the flat second part. It was Jumbo Visma, the team that tried to split the peloton, and their attempt succeeded with around 10km to go. Eventually, the attack was resumed, and a packed bunch tackled the final 4 km towards the technical finish in Foligno.
Phil Bauhaus comments about that stressful finale: “Actually, the split happened just in front of me. I joined my teammates, pulling in the back to bring our captain Mikel Landa back to the front, but then I rested a bit to save my energies so that I could make a good sprint when they came back together. The lead-out was super good, with a difficult finale. After yesterday we saw we all have good legs. We just needed to find each other deeper into the ending. That’s what happened today. Then Pasqualon brought me at the front to Arndt. I was on Philipsen wheels; then he got a strong lead-out from his teammate Van der Poel.
Philipsen is one of the fastest guys in the peloton, and he can start a sprint late. Therefore, there was no chance for me to pass him. Anyway, I’m happy with second place”.
Sports Director Gorazd Stangelj confirmed it was a hard day for the riders: “It was stressful due to the wind. Approaching the finale, we expected that there could be echelons and split in the peloton. The Jumbo Visma guys tried, showing they have strong legs doing a powerful action to stay away. Happily, the front group were only 15 riders, and several GC contenders were not there. Therefore the collaboration in the chasing group was good, and they could catch back at the right moment. Arndt and Miholjevic did a good job leading out Bauhaus, along with Pasqualon, who was already there as he managed to join the attackers. The plan for the sprint was a bit different, but in the end, the understanding among the guys was perfect, and we couldn’t achieve more than this.”
“Tomorrow, it’s too hard for the sprinters”, Bauhaus concluded. “I’m targeting the final stage. It would be awesome to repeat what we did last year”.
Just after Phil had taken runner-up spot in Italy, Gino Mäder impressed on the first mountain test of Paris-Nice …
“Two rocket-ships went past me but I stayed true to my rhythm. After that you’re just in the hurt box until the finish,” said Mäder, after a sterling effort saw him blast past the reigning Tour de France champion (Jonas Vingegaard), to take 3rd place on the first summit finish of Paris-Nice 2023.
Stage 4 had started with 114 flat kilometres exposed to the wind and rain, on a day that typified the varied conditions we expect of the so-called ‘Race to the Sun’. A 7-man breakaway were kept on a short leash throughout, as UAE, Ineos & Groupama FDJ pulled the peloton back to the escapees.
The last 50k saw the third category ascents of the Côte du Vernet, and the Côte de Cheval Rigon, before the C1 La Loge des Gardes – 6.8kms averaging 7% – which provided the decisive skirmishes of the battle of the day.
Vingegaard (TJV) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE) attacked together with 4k left, and opened a small gap, but were soon reeled in by Mäder’s group, and David Gaudu (FDJ) went on to push for victory alone. The Frenchman couldn’t resist Pogačar though, who caught and led him all the way to the line, for a 5th victory of the year.
Behind those two, the GC group were being dropped by the relentless pace of the strongest riders left: Vingegaard, who couldn’t follow the leaders, and Mäder, who sailed past the Dane and didn’t look back. The Swiss talks us through his ride:
It was hectic all day, then the 1st three minutes of the climb were full gas and all about surviving.
Tadej [Pogačar] attacked but I came back to those guys, breathed for a second, and then decided that if they hadn’t followed David [Gaudu] they also won’t follow me.
After that it was just black black black to the finish, trying not to pass out from the pain!
It was a hugely encouraging performance from Gino, who had been disappointed with his results last year, and sees this as something of a return to form:
I knew I trained well over the winter, so I’m happy with my legs so far here. Hopefully it’s going to be a good rest of the week. I’m just really pleased.
Enrico Poitschke, lead Sports Director at the race, was also satisfied with how things panned out.
“In general everything worked as we had planned. We wanted to protect Jack as well as possible, and the guys did a very good job into the last climb; Jack was there and Gino had the freedom to follow attacks, which he did.
Gino had a very good day and the team worked very well.”
Mäder now lies 5th overall, 1’19” behind Pogačar, with four stages remaining. Tomorrow is long: 212km from Saint-Symphorien-sur-Coise to Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux, and a stage which may tempt the breakaway specialists.
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