UAE won the Paris-Nice team time trial on Tuesday in Auxerre, where Primoz Roglic let go in his duel with the other big favorite, Remco Evenepoel, against a backdrop of controversy with the time helmets. Taking advantage of dry terrain throughout this 26.9 km time, Joao Almeida’s team won with 15 seconds ahead of Jayco-AlUla and 20 seconds ahead of EF Education, giving their American runner Brandon McNulty the yellow leader’s jersey.

Ahead at intermediate time, Remco Evenepoel’s Soudal-Quick Step team finished fourth at 22 seconds after having the disadvantage of riding on wet roads in the final after a brief but violent storm. We will never know what the result would have been without this downpour, but the Belgian chrono world champion and his teammates had to exercise extra caution in the bends of the city center of Auxerre, losing precious seconds in the ‘affair.

“We outclassed everyone in the first part, but the rain started to fall and the wind changed direction. There were a few technical corners in the finale that can save you four or five seconds if you take them at full speed. It was not our day,” reacted Evenepoel, also regretting having been slowed down by his ex-teammate Tim Declercq (now with Lidl-Trek) finishing freewheeling in front of him.

In the end, Evenepoel will be satisfied with this, especially since its main rival, Primoz Roglic, encountered the same conditions with his Bora-Hansgrohe team and lost much more time, penalized by a less homogeneous formation, quickly reduced to three runners.

The German team only finished in 11th place, 54 seconds behind UAE, and Roglic is now 36 seconds behind Evenepoel in the general classification on the eve of the first summit finish, Wednesday at Mont Brouilly. This mid-mountain stage, with seven climbs listed on the program, will allow us to see more clearly the balance of power with a view to the final victory on Sunday in Nice.

But Evenepoel will now also have to be wary of the riders from UAE, the team of Tadej Pogacar, absent this year, and whose teammates present a real potential threat to the Belgian.

“The differences are not huge either. The next few days will be difficult, tomorrow’s stage and the final weekend will be decisive,” said McNulty. The Visma-Lease a bike team, also faced with wet conditions, finished sixth in the time, 38 seconds behind, despite their new helmet, as spectacular as it was controversial.

The images of Jonas Vingegaard, double winner of the Tour de France, wearing this extra large bulb for the first time, caused a sensation the day before during the prologue of the Italian Tirreno-Adriatico race.

“It’s an excellent chrono helmet,” defended Vingegaard. It is different of course and I too smiled when I discovered it this winter. But we laugh less when we see how fast he is.”

But the helmet did not make the International Cycling Union (UCI) laugh, which published a press release on Tuesday announcing “a review of its rules regarding the design and use of helmets in competition”, promising a rapid response. .

Noting an evolution towards “ever more radical designs”, the body considers that these helmets “raise a notable problem concerning the current trend (…) which aims more at performance than the primary function of a helmet, namely ensuring the safety of the wearer in the event of a fall.

The UCI has already ruled that another helmet, from the equipment manufacturer Specialized, including a sort of hood worn on Tuesday by Evenepoel and Roglic, can no longer be used in its official competitions from April 2, the hood being considered a “non-essential” element.