Bissegger pretty in pink after Paris-Nice time trial

Sam Bennett retains the sprinters’ green jersey after Stage 3

Switzerland’s Stefan Bissegger competes during the third stage of the Paris-Nice race. Photograph: Getty Images

The story was his large pink helmet as much as the end result after Swiss rider Stefan Bissegger broke apart Paris-Nice with a victory in the Stage 3 time trial at Gien, the 22 year-old first-season professional taking over the race lead in the process.

Riding for team EF Education-Nippo, known for their fascination with aerodynamics, Bissegger sported a slightly larger, wider and flatter than normal helmet, even by time-trial standards, though seemingly not in breach of UCI racing requirements.

Advantage or not, Bissegger clocked 17 minutes and 34 seconds for the 14.4km race against the clock, which finished with a short steep climb to the Château de Gien, overlooking the town and the Loire, the longest wild river in France.

That was just .83 of a second faster than Remi Cavagna of Deceuninck-QuickStep, with Primoz Roglic of Jumbo-Visma taking third with his 17:40. Australian rider Michael Matthews of Team BikeExchange, who started the day in yellow, finished 17th, 23 seconds down, and so slipped out of that lead by nine seconds.


With no bonus seconds or points available on the time trial, Sam Bennett retained his green jersey as leader of the points classification, still on 21 along with Mads Pedersen, but in front by virtue of his win on Stage 1.

Clearly not going full gas given his potential for a further stage win on Thusrday, Bennett finished one minute and 24 seconds down on Bissegger. The Irish rider will likely stay in the hunt to retain that green jersey all the way to the finish in Nice, on Sunday, although Wednesday’s Stage 4 is the first proper mountain stage, finishing with a first category climb in Chiroubles.

Bennett will likely then get another chance to contest a win in Thursday’s Stage 5, which offers the sprinters perhaps their last chance to shine in the Race to the Sun, on the 203km long and almost entirely flat run into Bollene.

Bissegger, riding only his second UCI Tour as a pro, now has a six second lead on Cavagna and Roglic, though is unlikely to retain that in the mountains. After winning the stage in that pink helmet, EF Education-Nippo manager Jonathan Vaughters said Bissegger "has the lowest CdA of any rider we know of", that CdA (which refers to the coefficient of drag times frontal surface area) quantifying just how aerodynamic the cyclist is, pink helmet or otherwise.

“Time trials like that are really my thing,” he said. “I come from track, and the short punchy stuff is really good for me. It feels really great to finally show what I’m capable of and take the win here.”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics