Paris-Nice – Rik Verbrugghe «It is the physical form that makes the difference»

13 March 2015

IAM Cycling


For this queen stage of the Paris-Nice, there were eight categorized climbs with a finish at the top of the still snowy Croix de Chaubouret.  And by the end, it was Team Sky who dominated the day.  Obviously stronger than the rest of the peloton on the slopes heading up to this new finish for the Paris-Nice, Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas finished 1-2, eight seconds ahead of Michal Kwiatkowski, who on the strength of his ride regains his lead in the overall classification.  For the IAM Cycling team, Mathias Frank, who loves this type of climb, took an encouraging 20th place.


As the first and only summit finish of this 73rd edition of the Paris-Nice, IAM Cycling went into the day planning on protecting its leaders Mathias Frank and Sylvain Chavanel.  On a tricky stage like this, there was no room for error.  “I think the team worked very well for our two leaders.  It’s only that on the final climb they were lacking a little bit of oomph in order to be among the best, but I think that is quite normal looking at the riders who were on the front making the race,” Rik Verbrugghe insisted.  “It’s important to keep in mind that Mathias Frank is still very much in a phase of progression and building up his form, and he is not far off it.  As for Sylvain, he really gave his maximum and so the two of them arrived more or less together at the top.  So overall I am pleased with the way the team worked for our leaders.  At the end of the day, it all comes down to how physically on form the rider is, and that’s what makes the difference.”  For this particular finish, many riders had already made a reconnaissance of the climb, even though it had not been published.  That means that that the group knew what to expect and where to be alert.  “It was really important today to know the tops of the climbs so that the guys could be well positioned over the top and down the descents,” Verbrugghe added.  “It could very easily get tricky, and complicate the task.  We could see, for example, that the AG2R La Mondiale team knew the course, but we were right behind them when they accelerated, so that was no problem for us.  Honestly, from a strategic point of view, it was a very good performance from our team; we were just lacking a bit of form at the top end.  And I think that Mathias Frank will be much better after this Paris-Nice.”


It was, in fact, this stage that Mathias Frank was anticipating.  Not expecting to win, but he was anxious to see how much he had progressed in his training to become a little closer to his best.  “It was always clear that this was going to be the queen stage of the Paris-Nice,” the Swiss climber for the IAM Cycling team said.  “The whole team always tried to be right near the front.  The guys really put me and Chava in a good position for the last climb.  It’s a shame because I was feeling pretty good, but as always with this time of the season, I still am lacking that extra little bit.  When the favorites attacked, I could not stay with them.  It’s a shame because I wasn’t really that far back.  Now we’ll just take the stages day by day; it’s not finished yet and there is still a very hard day on Saturday and then the time trial on Sunday.  So definitely, the race is far from finished.”