During Act I, I reflected on my favourite week of the cycling year, what makes it so unique and important in the cycling calendar, and reviewed the action in the first half of the two races.

Heading into the business end of the week, and the early shine had perhaps slightly worn off, as the sustained levels of divided attention led to confusion. It became increasingly difficult to remember who was where, and even when you thought you had a handle on it, you found out that the rider you'd finally tracked down had since retired from the race, as the wear and tear of a top level stage race began to take its toll in both France and Italy.

But with big mountain challenges ahead for both pelotons, it was time to focus.

Team DSM reduced to three - one of the teams hardest hit by withdrawals, at Paris-Nice

Friday Fun for Danish Duo

It was all change in Tirreno-Adriatico following the wet weather from the early part of the week. The sun came out and the mountains were in sight, with a GC day on the cards. In Paris-Nice it was tentatively billed by some as a final chance for the tougher fast men, though they would have to conquer a number of challenges if they wanted to sprint for the win before a big weekend of climbing, and rely on the GC leaders holding back, too.

It was always going to be a one-man show in Italy. Jonas Vingegaard struck early, and struck hard, hitting out on the climb after Visma-Lease A Bike had set a typically aggressive pace to sweep up an all-star breakaway group featuring the likes of Filippo Ganna and Magnus Cort. He attacked and was gone within seconds and as predicted the rest of GC riders began to look at one another as they considered the best approach to try and make the podium behind the rampant Dane.

Jai Hindley and Ben O’Connor stayed together for a while, but Hindley proved stronger, moving clear of his fellow Aussie, with Juan Ayuso joining the chase and eventually beating Hindley to the line to claim some precious bonus seconds.

Back in France, conditions were distinctly less clement. Everyone was wrapped up in rain jackets and the skies had a dour, grey tone as the peloton got on with the business of catching the breakaway, not a big issue, but the usual suspects Mathieu Burgaudeau and Christian Scaroni were allowed to sprint it out for KOM points, with Burgaudeau the victor.

With 30km to go, the final major ascent of the day - the category 2 Colle-Sur-Loup - saw the attacks come early, with Primoz Roglič the first to test his legs for BORA Hansgrohe. Brandon McNulty was able to follow, and on some seriously steep gradients the pace began to take its toll with Roglič himself unable to stay the course. Matteo Jorgenson (Visma-Lease A Bike) closed the gap to his countryman, alongside Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek) and the trio pulled clear of the rest, isolating the yellow jersey of Luke Plapp. Bahrain-Victorious’ Santiago Buitrago’s chances of staying in contention were done for by the slippery road surface; the Colombian crashed in the early stages of the climb and was unable to close the gap.

Skjelmose outsprinted the Americans to take the stage win, with McNulty retaking the leader’s jersey which he had won on the team time trial earlier in the week.

Super Soggy Saturday

With the arrival of the weekend came a change in schedule, with the two races flipping places, Paris-Nice kicking off early, and Tirreno-Adriatico the late afternoon treat. A grim determination seemed to accompany the unpleasant conditions in Paris-Nice, with the peloton keen to get around a course which had already been shortened due to snow at the original finish location of Auron. The altered route was just 104km in length, adding to the sense of brisk no-nonsense ‘let’s just get this over and done with shall we?’

Most of the remaining sprinters unsurprisingly threw in the towel, and who could blame them – with no opportunities left for them and horrible conditions, no doubt they were on the first flight back to somewhere sunnier.

Tell me it's a rainy day with no further chances for sprinters, without telling me

A split divided the bunch with around 27km to go, with some of the GC hopefuls caught short, but it was closed back up by hard working domestiques heading onto the final climb of the Madone d’Utelle. The climb took its toll; early casualties included Jay Vine dropped for UAE Team Emirates and Pello Bilbao of Bahrain-Victorious shortly afterwards.

The wearing down process continued, with the GC group trimmed to around 10 as the climbing wore on. With 4.3km to go, Remco Evenepoel’s inevitable attack came but it lacked the explosivity necessary to drop the rest. The attack that caused the damage in the end came from Aleksandr Vlasov, Egan Bernal the next faller. Evenepoel tried again and this time, the yellow jersey of Brandon McNulty was distanced – but not enough to deprive him of the lead. Vlasov crossed the line first to take his first win in two years, and it was a good day for BORA with Roglič in third place. Evenepoel finished section and Skjelmose and Jorgenson were next on the road – this group consistently proving themselves the top dogs.

In Tirreno, the queen stage of the race would see another dominant day for Jonas Vingegaard, this time in the blue leader’s jersey. With a 10.2km climb of Monte Petrano concluding the GC hostilities, it was down to whoever had anything left to give their all to the finish. The day’s early break had been packed with star turns, and of them, Richard Carapaz held on the longest, the lone survivor with 6.6km remaining, at which point Jai Hindley attacked, with Vingegaard and Juan Ayuso the only ones able to hang on. They caught and passed Carapaz before Vingegaard launched clear, Hindley and Ayuso setting their own tempo and finishing second and third, both on the day and on the GC. A late shout for UAE Team Emirates’ Isaac Del Toro, who charged up the mountain to make up a deficit and finish in fourth, proving he can climb too and striking fear into the hearts of the next generation’s GC hopefuls.

Sunday Celebrations

While pretty much all the sprinters had thrown in the towel in Paris-Nice, there were rewards in Tirreno-Adriatico for surviving the rigours of the mountains, as the final day offered hope to the sprint teams for a fast finish – though those hopefuls would have to survive a lumpy first half of the stage ripe for a strong breakaway effort.

Paris-Nice could have been renamed the Race to the Rain. The crowd sheltered under umbrellas and the peloton hunkered down inside their rain jackets, with a GC battle still left to fight. With Brandon McNulty still leading, it would be up to the rest to challenge, on the traditional final Alpine stage around Nice.

As the final stages beckoned, the inevitable attack came from Remco Evenepoel. He began his attempts to soften up his opposition on penultimate categorised climb of the day, the Côte de Peille, but while it took time for the impact to be felt among the GC group, it was felt eventually, with just Aleksandr Vlasov and Matteo Jorgenson able to hold on. Of course, the primary beneficiary of the sustained attacks was not Remco himself, but Jorgenson, the second placed rider at the beginning of the day, who stood to gain the most if he could stay with the Belgian champion. By the final climb of the Côte de Quatre-Chemins, just Evenepoel and Jorgenson remained, and it was clear that there was nothing more the Soudal-QuickStep rider could do. He conceded the GC but sprinted clear of Jorgenson to take the stage; by virtue of his attacking riding the mountains and points jerseys were also claimed.

Riding down the Promenade des Anglais, Matteo Jorgenson was finally able to enjoy his victory. In his interview after the race he beamed from ear to ear, wearing a slightly dazed expression, and it was clear to see just what it meant to him. From organising his own altitude training and shelling out for his own equipment, the move to Visma-Lease A Bike has come at just the right time in his career. When asked what had changed Jorgenson was unequivocal: ‘every single detail has changed,’ he said.

He raised his arms and the trophy on the same day as his teammate Vingegaard lifted the iconic trident in Italy. The final stage in San Benedetto del Tronto came down to the  expected bunch sprint and the GC leaders stayed safe while the sprinters’ teams went to work. Uno-X were bold took the initiative, sending Søren Wærenskjold on a long-range attack with around 800m remaining, followed by a late charge from Alexander Kristoff. It was Lidl-Trek who played the final to perfection though, Simone Consonni reeling in Wærenskjold with a monster turn, leading out Jonathan Milan to do what he does best, and unload a monstrous amount of power to storm clear and take his second win of the week, sealing the ciclamino jersey in the process.


At the top of part one I reflected on the beauty of these two races running concurrently, and just as I do every year, I once again relished the opportunity to immerse myself in top level bike racing for a full week, and watch two quality pelotons going head-to-head, side by side.

There are many conclusions that can be drawn, and it will take a while to pick through the results and what they may or may not indicate about the form of various riders; needless to say, our collective understanding of the shape of the men’s peloton going into the major challenges ahead has been broadened greatly.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the races...


Many sprinters took to the start line across the two races, but between illness and early retirements, it was tricky to get a representative idea of where they are all at, compared to one another. However, the undisputed sprint kings of the races were Jonathan Milan and Olav Kooij, respectively. Jasper Philipsen, Laurence Pithie, Phil Bauhaus, Arvijd de Klein and Alexander Kristoff all showed strongly too at one point or another during the week.

The form of Fabio Jakobsen, Arnaud Démare, Sam Bennett, and Mark Cavendish is harder to discern, but it’s safe to say all of them will be looking to find another gear heading towards the summer.


Apologies for the title, but I choose to reclaim the ridiculous slogan on behalf of the USA with positivity and hope for a brilliant future. The country is in great shape when it comes to cycling, and with the Netflix documentary spreading the word and Sepp Kuss winning La Vuelta, it’s a great time for US cycling fans to return to the sport (the broadcast situation notwithstanding).

The yellow jersey passed from one American to another at Paris-Nice, and in Matteo Jorgenson the nation has arguably one of the strongest all-round riders in the peloton to add to a clutch of talent that includes Neilson Powless, Brandon McNulty, Sepp Kuss, Magnus Sheffield and Quinn Simmons, along with plenty of younger riders coming through the ranks. It's a strong generation and is not to be overlooked at the Olympics and World Championships as the national team strengthens year on year.


It’s early days for the new BORA man, with his first race in anger on a new machine, with new teammates and a whole new system around him. He had his moments during the week at Paris-Nice, but it’s a lot to expect a rider to be completely up to speed from day one in a new environment, so in contrast to the dramatic reactions that were vented across social media, I’d say there’s modest cause for optimism, and that everything seems to be just fine with the Slovenian rider heading into the bigger challenges ahead.


There were plenty of positives for other riders too. Luke Plapp had an excellent run in yellow at Paris-Nice and showed perhaps the best sustained form of his career so far, which will give his Jayco-Alula team a big boost as he enjoys his first season with the team.

Egan Bernal gave us cause to hope that his best is still within reach two years after the horror crash that could easily have ended his career. He rode aggressively at times in Paris-Nice and really looked keen to be in amongst it once again.

Lidl-Trek impressed at both races, with strong team work and proof that in Mattias Skjelmose they continue to develop a really strong GC rider, alongside the huge engines of Mads Pedersen and Jonathan Milan, both of whom shone.


Though the trident is still the coolest trophy in cycling (with the possible exception of the Paris-Roubaix cobble), it was Paris-Nice that edged the battle in terms of entertainment this year. With a finely poised GC battle that went down to the wire, and the always entertaining spectacle of a team time trial, the miserable conditions didn’t take the edge off of a great week of racing across France, and proved the importance of balance when it comes to the competitive element of the sport, over and above the pure spectacle of it.

By contrast, the GC battle in Tirreno-Adriatico was over before it had really begun. Though there were interesting moments further down the ranks, with strong performances from the UAE Team Emirates youngsters and Aussies Jai Hindley and to a lesser extent, Ben O’Connor, the stages that held the most interest were the sprints, with less drama in the Abruzzo mountains and the Apennines than in the Alps.

I described the intertwining storylines of the two races in part one as a main plot and a subplot, and it's hard to say which race was the main plot this year. In terms of suspense and excitement, Paris-Nice was the winner for me this year, as surely any story needs an unpredictable ending, with lots of twists and turns along the way.

Yet with the historic achievement of winning both Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice in the same year, the biggest winner of the week was Team Visma-Lease A Bike. The Dutch powerhouse, who won all three Grand Tours last year, continue to set their sights on the loftiest of goals, and though the competition at this summer's Tour de France is set to be the deepest in some years, two-time winner Jonas Vingegaard is looking unbeatable. With support from the likes of Matteo Jorgenson, they once again represent a fearsome prospect for any team hoping to make waves at La Grande Boucle. While Vingegaard may shy away from the limelight, he's undoubtedly the main character, when it comes to the 2024 season.

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