Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) set out on the final day of Paris-Nice riding to defend second place, rather than win the race. A couple of breathless hours later, he was standing on the podium in the yellow jersey as the winner of back-to-back editions of the ‘Race to the Sun’.
“No one expected what happened today,” he said. “It was chaos.”
That chaos involved Roglic, whose 52-second lead Schachmann initially deemed unassailable, crashing twice and plummeting out of contention.
“I have mixed feelings,” he said. “It’s great to be here in the yellow jersey but I wish I’d won in a different way.
“I don’t know if I can be happy – it’s not nice to win like this, it’s very difficult.”
Those feelings were evident as Roglič, who crossed the line with a dislocated shoulder more than three minutes down after long and lonely chase, rode up to Schachmann and offered him a gracious fist bump. Schachmann raised his hand, almost in apology.
Roglič apparently didn’t think Schachmann had any reason to apologise, and the German himself defended his team pressing on after the Slovenian crashed for the second time.
Having already hit the deck after around 25km – where the peloton slowed to wait – Roglič crashed again on the same descent on the following lap of the short circuit-based stage. By that point, there was just over 25km to go and a couple of breakaways were racing up the valley, where Bora-Hansgrohe joined forces with Astana-Premier Tech and rode Roglič out of yellow.
“The chaos actually started with me. I punctured after seven kilometres and I thought almost it was already lost because no one waited. It was full gas and I had to come back. Thanks to my team, I made it back.
“Then suddenly Primož crashed in front of me. We all waited. The next time he crashed again but it was difficult, the race was on, there was a really strong break, and we had to go. We wanted to fight for the stage win.”
Schachmann added that the descent from the finish line in Levens to the Var river – tackled twice on the 92.7km stage – was a dangerous one.
“I don’t know what they did but it was really dangerous. It was very slippery. I was going really slowly to avoid crashing. I even lost a few metres but decided it was smarter to go a bit conservative downhill instead of crashing.”
With Roglič out of the way, Schachmann successfully fended off attacks from the Astana duo of Alexander Vlasov and Ion Izaguirre to finish the stage in 10th place and seal the overall title by 19 seconds. Roglič, meanwhile, fell to 15th.
“It’s mixed feelings but in the end I’ve won and it feels great to win the jersey again,” said Schachmann, who became the first rider to defend the title since Alexandr Vinokourov in 2003.
“It was the goal to defend it and suddenly I’m here, last day in the yellow jersey. It’s a different scenario to last year, I don’t know what to say.
“I came here from a training camp and was a bit tired in the first days but got better during the race. I had a little cold but could recover. The team did an amazing job today – I didn’t expect that, everybody was tired but they were finding form. It makes me proud of the team – we get to enjoy it now.
“It’s March, and it’s a long season, but this gives me confidence. Let’s see what happens next.”