By David Hunter
The racing in Italy continues with Tirreno-Adriatico, which is usually one of the best races in the calendar. Just like in most years, the race has something for everyone.
It should be a sprint, but three times up a tough little climb in the opening 60km certainly spices things up a little. Will any of the teams be tempted to make it hard for the pure sprinters?
This is a tricky stage for the fast men. We have a climb with steep sections that crests with 30km to go, and the final 6.5km rises at almost 4%. I doubt many of the sprinters will make the end.
Another stage that will be on the limit for some of the fast men. Not only is it almost 220km, but we have another uphill finish.
The big mountaintop finish. Last time we finished at Prati di Tivo it was back in 2013 and Chris Froome took the win. The climb is 14.5km at 6.8%, it’s a long one.
The classic Tirreno stage. This one is going to be utter bonkers with a lap circuit that contains 1km at 12%. I can’t wait.
This should be a sprint, but offers some hope for the early break and the late attackers.
We end with the usual TT.
Ineos – they have one of the strongest teams I can remember at this race. With Bernal, Thomas, Sivakov and Martínez they have plenty of options, much more than other teams. This is going to be important, as Pogačar is here and clearly in good form. As the Slovenian is very good on his TT bike, Ineos will look to try and use their numbers to isolate him in the GC stages. Beating him won’t be easy, but Bernal clearly has extremely good form, it’s great to see him getting back to his best.
Tadej Pogačar – after a stunning performance in the UAE Tour, he arrives as the man to beat. UAE bring a strong team to support, but Formolo and Majka will need to be a lot better than they were in the UAE Tour. It will be fascinating to see how he reacts to the Ineos tactics, if he can win this race it will be a big marker for the rest of the season.
Simon Yates – the defending champion is back, and some might be underestimating him. All the other contenders have racing in the legs, Yates only started his season at Strade Bianche, which could be an issue. Given the level of his main rivals, defending his title is going to be very complicated.
Julian Alaphilippe – as the Queen stage only has one big climb, and it’s not at high altitude, Alaphilippe should be challenging for the win. We saw at Chalet Reynard that he was already climbing well, so he should approach this race with confidence. He’ll like the look of the uphill finishes, there is a chance for him to collect bonus seconds throughout the week and gain time on his GC rivals. Winning against the likes of Bernal and Pogačar will be difficult, but he’ll give it a go.
João Almeida – providing a very strong second option for QuickStep is Almeida. He was 3rd in the UAE Tour, and he’ll be hopeful of stepping up if Julian falters. He will beat most climbers in the TT and has a fast sprint to collect bonus seconds, but will he cope with the Ineos train towards the end of the mountaintop finish?
Mikel Landa – already looks in great climbing form, I’m getting excited! The TT means he’s unlikely to take home the ridiculously big trophy, but he should be challenging for two stage wins. When Landa’s on form, not many can follow him.
Nairo Quintana – if you believe everything in the media you would have thought Nairo was close to death’s door during the winter. Double knee surgery would have slowed most down, but not Nairo Quintana! He’s already shown good form in Haut Var, Laigueglia and GP Industria which is good to see. He’ll like the mountaintop finish, it’s a chance for him to remind everyone just how good he is, and potentially win his third Tirreno-Adriatico.
Wout Van Aert – can he? No doubt he’ll collect bonus seconds in quite a few stages, but can he hang with the climbers on Prati di Tivo? As he’ll put time into most in the TT, he doesn’t need to finish with the best, but he does need to limit his losses if he wants to win the overall title. There’s no doubting his talent, but winning this race would still be a surprise.
Jakob Fuglsang – he’s not winning this race.
Romain Bardet – his first target race for his new team. I’m a big fan of the French climber, I hope the move has given him the motivation to get back to his best.
Thibaut Pinot – still not quite at his best, thanks to a lengthy recovery from injury. Recent racing will have hopefully helped him, it would be good to see him near his best this week. He’s not going to win, but I hope to see him finishing in the top 10.
Marc Soler – this is his first race of the season, which is certainly an interesting decision by the team. 2020 saw him return to somewhere near his best, I hope to see him push on in 2021. With a lack of racing, I doubt we’ll see him challenging.
Sergio Higuita – he finished 3rd and 4th in the two mountain stages over in the UAE Tour, which was a good return. This race should suit him well, it’s another opportunity to see how he compares against the best climbers. I think that the mountaintop finish could be too long for him, but he should be challenging for wins in a number of stages. Such a shame that MVDP, WVA and Alaphilippe are all here!
Can Ineos use their strength in depth to beat Pogačar? I think this will be the story of the week. Time for Egan Bernal to remind everyone just how good he is.
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