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Paris-Nice stage 3: Stefan Bissegger victorious in the race against the clock

Michael Matthews of Team BikeExchange relinquishes lead as American Brandon McNulty stops clock in fourth.

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Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo) won the 2021 Paris Nice stage 3 time trial, besting grand tour winners and world hour record holders alike.

“It makes me happy to beat Roglič,” Bissegger said. “Time trials are really my thing. I come from track and the short, punchy stuff is really good for me. It feels really good to show what I’m capable of.”

American Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) posted a very good time, just nine seconds slower to finish fourth on the stage. That moved McNulty, making his season debut, into fourth overall as Paris-Nice pedals toward the decisive mountain stages later this week.

Also read: Brandon McNulty looking to build GC aspirations in sophomore WT season

With his performance, Bissegger steps into the race leadership position, as well as assuming the lead in the white jersey competition.

This is the Swiss rider’s first full season as a WorldTour pro cyclist.

“Second big stage race of the year and second of my career,” said the stage-winner. “So it feels really nice to be in this position.”

Overnight race leader Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) tried to defend the overall position, however, the sprinter could not match the speed posted by the time trial specialists.

The mostly  flat 14.4km route featured several technical sections with a series of twisting, off-camber turns, and a punchy climb in the final 400m.

Rohan Dennis (Ineos Grenadiers) — twice world time trial champion and also a former hour-record holder — set the early best time and was quickly followed by teammate Dylan van Baarle, who was just one second in arrears.

When Søren Kragh Andersen (Team DSM) came through the intermediate time check, he was 2 seconds faster than the Australian from Ineos Grenadiers. Kragh Andersen extended this lead by nearly one more second by the finish line.

And then it was the 2019 and 2020 Vuelta a España winner Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), who blazed past the mid-course time check just 1.2 seconds back of Kragh Andersen, averaging 46.2kph. The Slovenian slotted into the race lead as he crossed the finish line, but his time in the “hot seat” would not last long.

When Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) went through the intermediate time check, he was leading the stage by 3.27 seconds. Cavagna, like Roglič before him, rode a faster time in the second half of the course, and this strategy paid off, as he took over leadership by 5.8 seconds over Roglič.

The Swiss time trialist Bessigger blitzed through the intermediate time check just barely less than one second behind Cavagna.

A track cyclist and time trial specialist, Bessigger had shown his abilities at the UAE Tour just several weeks prior, nearly keeping pace with world time trial champion Filippo Ganna.

“I’m quite young so I still have to establish myself to the others. So I think I showed in this time trial that I’m here and that they have to be aware of me,” said Bissegger.

While Matthews put in a gutsy effort, he could not match the paces set by the time trial specialists, and ultimately slipped to fifth place in the general classification.

The climbers and GC riders will be looking to gain time back on stage 4. Photo: Courtesy ASO

What’s next

Stage 4 of Paris-Nice will travel 187.5km from Chalon-sur-Saone to Chiroubles and climb Mount Brouilly twice, and concluding with a 7.3km ascent in the Beaujolais mountains.

Bessigger will have his work cut out for him, as Roglič and Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) and a slew of climbers are poised to take control of the race.

Results will be available once stage has completed.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.