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Wout van Aert on Jumbo-Visma Paris-Nice sweep: ‘Surprised we dropped everyone’

‘Christophe Laporte deserved this win because he was super strong,’ said Wout van Aert after Jumbo-Visma trio smashed Paris-Nice opener.

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MANTES-LA-VILLE, France (VN) – Jumbo-Visma stamped its authority on Paris-Nice right from the gun as Primož Roglič, Wout van Aert and newcomer Christophe Laporte took advantage of their team’s tactical plan and brute strength to break clear of the peloton on the final climb of the opening stage and then rode into the finish, where the latter won the stage.

“I was surprised there were only three of us and especially as it was three from the same team, which is quite unique I think,” van Aert said just moments after all three Jumbo riders had ridden across the line with their arms raised in celebration. “When we realized what had happened at the top of the climb, it gave us wings to the finish.”

Also read: Jumbo-Visma goes 1-2-3 at Paris-Nice

Speaking just before the stage had got under way, the Belgian indicated that Jumbo had a plan to make the finale hard, and that they’d likely have a particular focus on the third-category Côte de Breuil-Bois-Robert, which the riders tackled twice.

“Yesterday we saw the finishing lap, which is quite interesting I think. Just before the finish, there’s a little kicker so it could be hard for the real sprinters,” he said, adding: “It would be nice for me if it’s a hard race in the final, but we can also wait for the sprint.”

While he was right about the finishing lap being tricky, and made more so by a gusting wind, van Aert was wrong with his suggestion that the closing kilometers back into Mantes-la-Ville weren’t tough enough to trouble Roglič’s likely rivals for the GC crown at Paris-Nice.

Jumbo-Visma blew the doors off the opening day at Paris-Nice.  (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

“It’s not hard enough I guess for them, it won’t have too much importance,” he said, which explained his surprise at the finish when he and his two teammates came in alone, 22 seconds ahead of a much-reduced peloton containing most of the other favorites.

“We had a plan to make it hard on the climb and also the run-in to the climb was quite technical. We were focused on the point where we wanted to be in front and everybody on the team committed to that,” van Aert said of Jumbo’s tactics. “I think half of the bunch was already under pressure when we hit the climb and then Nathan [Van Hooydonck] went full, Christophe went full and we made it one long sprint to the top.”

He admitted he was shocked at the damage that was done.

“At the top I was surprised there were only three of us and especially as it was three from the same team, which is quite unique I think. It was also to our benefit that there was nobody left because then we could just go full to the line without hesitating and it was a perfect way to finish this off,” said the Belgian champion.

Team gave green light for Laporte to win

Asked if riding in with two just teammates had reminded of any other race finish, van Aert said it had made him think of Mapei’s podium sweep in the 1996 edition of Paris-Roubaix.

“But you can’t compare a stage in Paris-Nice with Roubaix, of course,” he added.

He revealed that, in common with that Mapei victory, there had been some discussion both between the riders and within the team car about which of the Jumbo riders should cross the line first.

Also read: Roglič out for redemption at Paris-Nice

“Actually in the car they told us to discuss it, but they also suggested that we should let Christophe take the win and that was already my idea. Winning is special for me but for him it’s even more beautiful to win a stage in Paris-Nice,” said van Aert.

“He deserved this win,” he continued. “He’s a super strong rider. I only got to know him this winter but he’s super friendly and during the time we’ve spent together he’s always part of the team and obviously for him to win a stage of Paris-Nice here in France is something pretty big. Primož also took some really nice gains and bonuses for GC, so it was the perfect way to finish up.”

The Belgian star always offered praise to Van Hooydonck, whose tempo on the initial slopes of the Côte de Breuil-Bois-Robert splintered the peloton.

“It’s his new specialty I guess. He did the same in Omloop [Het Nieuwsblad], he did the same in Kuurne, and now he’s done it again. But the whole team was super strong. We really committed with the whole team to be there in the front and put everybody under pressure,” he said.