Paris-Nice Stage 3 ITT

Young Swiss rider Stefan Bissegger wins the stage 3 Time Trial and takes the Yellow jersey in the classic French stage race, Paris-Nice – “I train a lot on the TT bike so I can handle it pretty well. It definitely makes me happy”

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Paris-Nice Stage 3 ITT

The young Swiss rider Stefan Bissegger came out on top in Tuesday’s thrilling 14.4 km time trial around the town of Gien on the banks of the Loire. The 22-year-old from Thurgau, who is part of a new generation of riders bursting onto the stage of international cycling and finished runner-up to world champion Filippo Ganna in the recent UAE Tour, rode at an average speed of more than 49 km/h to finish the stage in 17′34″ and edge out Deceuninck–Quick-Step’s Frenchman Rémi Cavagna by mere hundredths of a second.

Pic: Getty Images

Meanwhile, the big favourite to win Paris–Nice, Primož Roglič, had to settle for third, six seconds behind the leading duo and just ahead of American Brandon McNulty (UAE) and Søren Kragh Andersen (Team DSM), the victor in last year’s time trial in Saint-Amand-Montrond. Bissegger also wrestled the leader’s yellow jersey from Michael Matthews, who finished 23″ behind the winner after mounting a gallant defence.

Starting in 13th place, Australian Rohan Dennis set the bar sky-high from the beginning. The two-time world champion rolled over the finish line at the bottom of the Château de Gien with a time of 17′47″, almost a minute faster than the previous riders.

However, his place in the hot seat was placed in constant jeopardy by other specialists in the race against the clock, including teammate Dylan van Baarle, who came within a second, two-time New Zealand time trial champion Patrick Bevin, who finished just three seconds down, and Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk, seven seconds back.

The threat materialised when Søren Kragh Andersen (Team DSM), the winner of last year’s time trial in Saint-Amand-Montrond, posted the fastest time at the intermediate time check, two seconds ahead of Dennis, and bested the Australian by three at the finish line. The Dane’s prospects of winning the time trial stage two years in a row were starting to look good.

All that was left was for his time to withstand the assault of other specialists such as Victor Campenaerts, who ended up faltering, popular favourite Primož Roglič and Frenchman Rémi Cavagna, who flew on the banks of the Loire… as well as Bissegger, who had already displayed his capabilities in the UAE Tour.

After going through the intermediate time check at km 6.7 with a slight deficit, Roglič surged in the second half of the course to move into the lead with a time of 17′40″. However, the Slovenian was in the sights of Cavagna, who dug deep in the last few hundred metres to topple the runner-up in last year’s Tour de France with a time of 17′34″. Yet the Frenchman would end up ruing the tiny amount of time lost trying to overtake Kristian Sbaragli in the finale. Starting shortly after “the TGV from Clermont-Ferrand”, Stefan Bissegger matched Cavagna pedal stroke for pedal stroke before snatching victory from him by a meagre 0.83 seconds on the line.

Meanwhile, Michael “Bling” Matthews doggedly hung on to his overall lead by two seconds at the intermediate time check, but he faded in the last few kilometres to finish 23″ down on the young Swiss rider, the undeniable author of the breakout performance of this edition.

Stefan Bissegger: “I worked a long time for this. I’m quite young, but I think I could show that I’m here. The time trial is really my thing, I come from the track. Short courses like this one are good for me. It’s nice to come here and take the win. I train a lot on the TT bike so I can handle it pretty well. It definitely makes me happy. It’s one of the biggest races of the early season and the first yellow jersey of my career, it’s really nice to be in that situation.”

Primoz Roglic: “Time trials are always a challenge. I always learn something new and I am happy that I was able to do so early in the season. The changes in tempo that were necessary on today’s course suit me well. Of course you always want to win the stage, but I am satisfied with the result. I did what I could and I am already looking forward to the stages to come.”

Michael Matthews (Was in Yellow during the TT): “I think after a pretty solid two days already, now to come into this, I was probably already a little bit on the back foot. After the race, I looked at my power and it was really good, so obviously just it is just some fine tuning in and out of the corners, which is probably just race fitness, it is only my third day racing.”

“In the end it was a decent ride, obviously not my best day but I gave it everything and it was a really nice day in the yellow jersey. Unfortunately I lost it but tomorrow is another day and we’ve got some climbs coming up so hopefully we can give Lucas (Hamilton) a good crack and see what he can do. There’s still maybe one or two opportunities coming up for me to go for another stage win so I will keep dreaming with that.”

Rémi Cavagna: “The time trial went well. I’m pleased with my result. Near the end, I had to brake while trying to overtake another rider [Sbaragli]. But I had a blast today. Sure, I could have done things better here and there, but now our focus is on getting a second sprint victory with Sam, the fastest man in the peloton here. And if I manage to slip into a breakaway…”

Sam Bennett (Green jersey) “I was just trying to make the time limit and save the legs for another day. I did not want to waste some energy here. Now I will get through tomorrow and try to win Thursday, as I was disappointed not to be up there yesterday. I looked where the sprints are tomorrow and they’re on climbs so it won’t be doable. For now it’s just trying to go through the next stage and we’ll see. But the green jersey is not an objective for the moment.”

Brandon McNulty: “I’m super happy with the TT today, for the first one of the year I think it was a good performance for me and I’m looking forward to building on it the rest of the week. I expect tomorrow to be hard, there will be a few teams to keep an eye on, especially Jumbo for GC, so we’ll give it good shot and see how it goes.”

Patrick Bevin “It was a top-effort early in the season. Obviously, I wanted more, but it was nice to get the first ITT of the year done with a top-10. I am looking forward to more time trials as the season progresses.”



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