Primoz Roglic mirrored his 2020 Tour de France last-gasp nightmare with another collapse to lose Paris-Nice to Germany’s Maximilian Schachmann on Sunday.
Roglic famously blew a strong lead on the penultimate stage of last year’s Tour when fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogacar pulverised him in a time-trial.
Defending champion Schachmann of Bora-Hansgrohe went into Sunday’s final stage in second place, but ended up retaining the Paris-Nice title as Roglic endured a turbulent day in the saddle with two falls.
“It’s not the end of the world,” said Roglic who dislocated his shoulder in the first fall.
“It was how it was, so there’s not much to add. Of course, we are disappointed but, like I said, the world will not stop and we will go forward.”
Even the champion sounded downbeat after the race.
“It’s not nice to win like that, I have mixed feelings,” the German said.
“Suddenly I’m here with the yellow jersey, but I don’t know what to think. I don’t know if I can be happy.”
Magnus Cort won the stage itself but the headlines will be reserved for Roglic’s loss.
He went into the eighth and final day with a healthy 51-second lead after picking up three stage wins along the way.
He fell and was guided back to the peloton with a nasty graze visible on his left hip.
He then fell again at the bottom of a slope and struggled to get his chain back on before his teammates, exhausted from the previous slog to get him back to the pack, were unable to repeat the trick.
Roglic was soon distanced and isolated from his teammates, and eventually finished outside the top 10.
The defeat compounds Roglic’s agony, after he also missed out on the 2019 Giro d’Italia after enjoying a position of strength in the early stages.
Fellow Jumbo rider Steven Kruijswijk praised Roglic for not giving up.
“He fought until the end. If you see how he showed himself the past week, he was the strongest in the race, but anything can happen until the last day,” said the Dutchman, who came third on the 2019 Tour de France.
The Paris-Nice is often described as a mini-Tour de France as it tries to pack in all the difficulties of the Grand Tour.
A much-awaited performance from Giro winner and Ineos star Tao Geoghegan Hart never emerged when the Londoner misjudged a corner on stage three and withdrew injured after his Ineos co-leader Richie Porte had also crashed out.
Ireland’s Sam Bennett, though, laid another marker for 2021.
The speed specialist added two bunch sprint triumphs here to the two he notched up at the UAE Tour, making the gentle giant the man to beat on the flat this season.