Luke Plapp and Santiago Buitrago at Paris-Nice.

Paris-Nice isn’t the two-horse race we thought it would be (yet)

Luke Plapp and Santiago Buitrago go on the offensive as the road ramps up at Paris-Nice.

Dane Cash
by Dane Cash 06.03.2024 More from Dane +

The first day in the mountains at Paris-Nice delivered a healthy dose of intrigue to the general classification battle as Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious) and Luke Plapp (Jayco-AlUla) surprised pre-race favorites Primož Roglič (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) with some aggressive riding in a challenging final 25 km. Rather than waiting for the Cat 2 uphill finish at Mont Brouilly, Plapp attacked and then Buitrago joined him on the day’s penultimate climb.

Buitrago ultimately nabbed the stage win 10 seconds ahead of Plapp, and both gained significant time on the chasers, who included a resurgent Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) in their number. Roglič is still more than a minute down after Bora-Hansgrohe’s 11th-place team time trial on Tuesday.

What had been expected to be a two-horse race in the eight-day event now looks a bit more interesting.

For Buitrago and Plapp, attacking on Wednesday’s 183 km stage from Chalon-sur-Saône was a gamble – in cold and wet conditions, to boot – that paid off.

“I didn’t really expect it today, but I came in with fantastic condition and when I saw Roglič put the pace down on the climb, I decided to try,” Buitrago said. “In the end you never how things will play out. I’m very happy with the victory today.”

Plapp’s efforts, meanwhile, earned him the yellow jersey.

Mattias Skjelmose and Remco Evenepoel on stage 4 of Paris-Nice.
Mattias Skjelmose pipped Remco Evenepoel for third on stage 4 of Paris-Nice.

Halfway through Paris-Nice, Plapp has a 13-second lead to Buitrago with Brandon McNulty and João Almeida of UAE Team Emirates in third and fourth, respectively, and Evenepoel in fifth, half a minute down on Plapp. Next in the standings is Bernal, who seems to have made big strides in his journey back to the top two years after a major crash derailed his 2022 campaign.

The stages to come at Paris-Nice include quite a few mountain challenges that will further shake up the overall battle, but at least for now, it’s anyone’s guess who will come out on top. That is quite a development considering that Roglič and Evenepoel dominated the conversation coming into the race, though maybe it shouldn’t be all that surprising. After all, Plapp and Buitrago are fast-emerging young talents and Bernal is a Tour de France winner.

Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek), Felix Gall (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale), and Matteo Jorgensen (Visma-Lease a Bike) were among the other strong performers on Wednesday, all finishing either on the same time as Roglič or better. Time will tell whether they or anyone else can continue to put the pressure on Evenepoel and Roglič as the race continues to make its way south towards Nice.

One thing that is certain is that Bahrain Victorious will be pleased with the way things went across the board on Wednesday. While Buitrago powered to a stage win in France, Phil Bauhaus bested an impressive field of sprinters to take stage 3 over at Tirreno-Adriatico.

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