Stefan Bissegger can no longer fly under the radar in the peloton, especially in the race against the clock. The neo-pro for EF Education-Nippo was a blur of pink on the 14.4km time trial course and scored his first WorldTour victory with the stage 3 win at Paris-Nice. With the victory came GC lead as well.
“Yeah, I’m kind of surprised. I knew I could do really well here, so I was hoping for a podium place. I knew it was possible to win, but you can never say you’ll win the race,” Bissegger said after accepting the yellow jersey as the overall race leader on Tuesday.
“It feels really great to show what I’m capable of and to take the win here.”
Just two weeks ago the 22-year-old Swiss rider finished second in the time trial at the UAE Tour, only beaten by World Champion Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers). Today he blasted around the twisting course, reaching the intermediate checkpoint at 7km three seconds faster than French time trial champion Remi Cavagna (Deceuninck-QuickStep), who finished second. Cavagna held the hot seat for just a short time, until Bissegger crossed the line 0.83 seconds quicker to take the lead.
“It was really technical, all the parts like a few kickers and a few downhills, which were also crazy sometimes. I think I managed to put the race and the technical in the right situations, so no crash. I put everything out I could, I left everything on the road and it was perfect,” said Bissegger. “You had to take risks at the right corners and be patient in other corners as well. I think I managed it well, so I’m super happy about that.”
Few outside EF Education-Nippo team could predict a podium finish, or win, by the young Swiss rider. Team director Andreas Klier was impressed with Bissegger’s skills on the technical course, with rolling roads outside Gien, a short climb after two kilometres and a steep final ramp to the line in the last 400 metres.
“It was a very exciting ride regarding the power output and the steering and just the overall risks you had to take,” said Klier. “Stefan knew very well what he wanted. And today everything came together and he was the fastest. Every second counted and he knows very well how to time and pace a TT.”
As a 20-year-old Bissegger won a stage at Tour de l’Avenir, and was second in the U23 Time Trial World Championships. He signed with EF in 2020, and is keeping an eye on the prospect of making the Swiss track team for the Olympic Games.
“I’m all in for the Olympics, for the team pursuit on the track,” he said last year when signing with EF. After the win today, he said he was happy with the quick acceleration of his career path on the road.
“I’m just riding now half a year on the pro road tour, and on my own I even don’t know where I am in a few years. We will see in which direction I will continue, and I will develop. It’s like a dream coming true now, and I never imagined that to start Paris-Nice this year in the yellow. I’m very happy about that.”
Bissegger and EF Education-Nippo go into stage 3 defending the general classification lead, with Cavagna in second on the same time and Primoz Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) third at six seconds back. While Bissegger isn’t expected to challenge for overall honours, Roglič is most likely the man to beat as the race heads for the hills on Wednesday.
Bissegger’s teammate Neilson Powless is the team’s main focus for GC at Paris-Nice and is 32 seconds back in the general classification. The 24-year-old loves hilly terrain, and is coming off a fifth-place finish at the UAE Tour. He was pumped about Bissegger winning stage 2, though.
“We’re gonna have a fun dinner tonight and we’ll use this momentum for the rest of the race. It gave us the confidence we needed to carry forward,” added Powless.
For now, Bissegger said he’s enjoy the limelight. “I will give everything and I will work as hard as I can to keep it, but it won’t be easy,” he said.