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‘The race is far from being over’ – Remco Evenepoel with one stage to go at Paris-Nice

Pre-race favourite Remco Evenepoel cut his deficit by half on the penultimate stage of Paris-Nice after launching numerous attacks on the shortened stage raced under cold and wet conditions. The Belgian champion finished second on the stage and now trails race leader Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) by 36 seconds with one stage to go at the Race to the Sun.

One day after making an admitted “tactical mistake” by not responding to the stage 6-winning move initiated by Matteo Jorgenson, Evenepoel opened the hostilities in the final five kilometres on the final climb to Madone d’Utelle and lead the chase group across the finish line eight seconds behind stage winner Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe).

Jorgenson (Visma – Lease a Bike) is second overall, a slim four seconds behind the McNulty who struggled to retain his yellow jersey. Stage 6 winner Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek) sits in third place, one second ahead of Evenepoel

“It wasn’t easy with the cold and wet roads we had from the start, but I relied on an amazing team, incredibly committed from the beginning of this short but fast stage,” the Soudal-QickStep rider said.

With a forecast calling for a strong chance of snow in Auron, the organisers re-routed stage 7 to finish with the 15.3km climb of Madone d’Utelle instead of the much harder Auron climb and shortened the stage to 104km from the original 173km plan.

Soudal-QuickStep and Visma-Lease a Bike took turns controlling the gap to the breakaway, until the last rider was reeled in on the lower slopes of the final climb with 15km to go. Then Evenepoel’s teammate Louis Vervaeke set a tough pace that dispatched many riders from the peloton, until it was time for the attacks to fly.

Though Evenepoel’s attacks dropped McNulty, he could not distance Primož Roglič (Bora-Hansgrohe), Jorgenson and Skjelmose and the group sprinted to the line for second place.

“They [his team] paced in the valley going into the final climb, where Louis set a pretty hard pace from the bottom. Then Ilan took over and I made a move with four or five kilometers to see what would happen. A couple of riders reacted, then Vlasov went and the others let him go. I attacked again inside the final two kilometres to go, and from there, it was full gas to the line, where I took second after opening my sprint with 180 meters to go. It was a good day, we have one more stage, and the race is far from being over.” 

Speaking to Het Laatste Nieuws, a confident Evenepoel stated that he is not giving up though he names Jorgenson as the top favorite to win the title. The American did claim a top-10 finish in Paris-Nice in 2021 and 2023.

“I definitely believe I can still win. But it will have to be done in a smart way, with a well-agreed plan. In my opinion, Matteo Jorgenson is the top favourite to win. He was fourth here last year and knows the final stage better than I do. But everything is still possible and I think the legs will speak. The last climb is certainly tough enough to drive away another half minute. It will be 3.5 hours of war.”

Tomorrow’s stage is the classic final day in Nice, where more bad weather can be expected on a short but ferociously difficult final day of racing. Three category 2 ascents and a category 1 climb of Cote de Peille are just the opening difficulties on the 109.3k stage from Nice to Nice. Stage 8 culminates with a long, difficult drag up to the summit at the Col d’Eze followed by a short and steeper climb of Col des Quatre-Chemins preceding a fast drop back to the coastline and the finish on Promenade des Anglais.

SOURCE: CyclingNews   (go to source)
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