Great performance of Tadej Pogacar in the Clasica Jaen Paraiso Interior
The Slovenian cyclist couldn't have started the season in a better way. First race of 2023 for Tadej Pocagar and first victory, in a resounding way thanks to a hard change of pace with 42 kilometers to go, emulating his performance last year in Strade Bianche, which no one was able to respond to.
Pogacar, unbeatable on dirt, wins in Baeza
Tadej Pogacar has made a tremendous gift to a race that was born from the illusion of having a classic with dirt sections of Pascual Momparler, organizer of the race. A victory that gives even more cache to the race if it was not enough with the spectacle that Alexey Lutsenko gave us last year, absent this year from the event because he is racing the Tour of Oman.
The attractive menu of the day, in which the hardness has been reduced in the middle part to avoid the race being destroyed as soon as it happened in the inaugural edition, consisted of 178 km between Úbeda and Baeza, with 7 sections of dirt roads between the characteristic olive groves of the area, well paved but with the annoying gravel left by the passage of agricultural vehicles that forces to maintain full attention when crossing them on the back of a road bike.
The start of the race was marked by a breakaway of 5 riders, including Spaniards Xabier Mikez Azparren and Sergio Samitier, the last survivors after a process of natural selection. In fact, only the tall Aragonese would end up extending his adventure, who would end up going solo with 50 km to go, shortly before entering the 4th dirt section of the day.
A stretch of 3.5 km, in constant and crushing climb, which was the place chosen by UAE Team Emirates to break the race at will. Just coinciding with the change from asphalt to dirt, Tim Wellens set a very hard pace with Tadej Pogacar on his wheel. A move that was followed in first person by the Slovenian to leave the peloton in just 5 units.
After catching some air, which his teammate Marc Hirschi took advantage of to return to the group and move to the front keeping the pace alive, Pogacar made the final acceleration with just over 42 kilometers to go. This was the end of the race as no one could even pretend to follow the wheel. Not even a flat tyre on the last stretch of dirt, with just under 8 kilometers to go, could stop him, given the advantage he managed to gain over his pursuers.
For his part, Sergio Samitier, still ahead, saw his gap vanish at the very start of the section, which gave him the opportunity to try to follow Pogacar. The Huesca rider's hopes were short-lived because in the next section the UAE Team Emirates rider simply let him off the pace, although he later commented that he had suffered a flat tyre, he also confessed that he would not have lasted much longer.
In any case, Pogacar showed that, despite his first race of the season and the theoretical lack of racing rhythm that this implies, Pogacar is two or three points ahead of most of the pack, except for the rest of the superstars of the current scene.
The gap was therefore increasing to more than a minute. Behind, in the chasing group, with people like Ben Turner, Luke Rowe, Lorenzo Rota or Andreas Kron were aware that they only had to fight for the second step of the podium, not an easy task with the two men of UAE Team Emirates: Hirschi and Wellens, ready to make the complete move and take the podium of the race for his team.
The podium would be decided in the last dirt section, with 8 kilometers to go, a sector with hard ramps, over 10%. The first to try was Ben Turner, followed by Tim Wellens. Having secured the victory in front, Wellens did not hesitate to enter to collaborate with Ben Turner so that the gap was increasing. In the head to head battle on the cobblestones of the center of Baeza, it was the INEOS Grenadiers rider who took second place, first of the mortals, with the Belgian closing the podium.
Clásica Jaén Paraíso Interior Classification
- Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 4h36'37''
- Ben Turner (INEOS Grenadiers) +58''
- Tim Wellens (UAE Team Emirates) +58''
- Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) +1'29''
- Andreas Kron (Lotto Dstny) +1'29''
- Ben Tulett (INEOS Grenadiers) +1'29''
- Lorenzo Rota (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) +1'29''
- Gorka Izagirre (Movistar Team) +1'29''
- Walter Calzoni (Q36.5) +1'29''
- José Manuel Díaz Gallego (Burgos-BH) +1'29''