The French race is always a joy to watch. Much is determined by forces of nature. Will the wind invite an explosive race or will a headwind kill the race which will result in a reduced bunch sprint?
With 177 km, the race is a few km longer than normal. The biggest change is when the finale will start – this year, it should start earlier as the Routes des Crêtes comes further out than normal. The main thing to note is this climb starts 51 km from the finish. Normally, the hardest climb of the race comes with 31.5 km left. This means the teams who hope for a sprint have more time to get a chase organized.
Route des Crêtes
The main climb of the day. The climb was last raced in Tour de la Provence 2019 with the best time being 8:48 by Rudy Molard. It is a very explosive climb. The first 1.45 km are the hardest, averaging 12.2%. It is here the attacks will come.
From the climb till the finish, we have more hilly terrain. It is from 25 km to go, the attackers want a tailwind and the sprinters want a headwind.
The finish is fairly simple. We have a long, straight run to the finish line.
Now one of the most important factors of this race. The last 50 km take place around Cassis, Aubagne and Marseille. Yr.no and windy.com are the same. Wind from NW, 5 m/s. It is a headwind home from the hard climb. It favors the sprinters. Sunny, yet windy.
As mentioned, the wind does favor the sprinters. Furthermore, the important climb comes further from the finish too. This is most likely going to end in a reduced bunch sprint.
Bryan Coquard must start as one of the big favorites for tomorrow. He is in new colors, but with Martin and Perez to control attacks and bring it back, the Frenchman has a good chance to take a win on homesoil.
Trentin was my pick here last season, opening his sprint way too early. Tomorrow, he should have another great shot. With Covi, Ulissi and in-form Suter, UAE has one of the strongest teams here. I am not sure if he has the speed to win, but he will be hard to drop.
Cort is a strong option for a sprint victory after a long day in the saddle. He has had to remove a week of planned training due to illness but should be fresh now. EF is another team with a strong lineup, Bettiol and Valgren keep it together. With Keukeleire at his service, I hope to see something similar to stage 12 in the Vuelta last year. Stay in the cover of the wind, and pass by late.
Impey is normally a very strong rider in the early season. Their team does not look the strongest, which means he will be mostly on his own. He did not have a very strong opener last year which could mean age has finally caught up to him. Nonetheless, he is a fast rider after 3000 climbing meters.
Pedersen might be the fastest, but usually needs a lot of race days before he performs. I do not think the terrain is too good for Teuns either
Capiot led out Boudat last year which I found very odd. This year, he should be the option for the French team. He got 2nd in Gran Premi Valencia less than a week ago which is a good sign.
Boudat was second here last year, beaten on the line by Paret-Peintre. This year, he rides for Go Sport Roubaix Lille Metropole. The French Cup means something for a team like this, I expect him to be up there tomorrow.
Champoussin might be a meme-pick to write about, but he did have a great 2021. He is a fast rider too and with Cosnefroy scooping illness in his winter training, I think Champoussin is the better option tomorrow for the team.
An attack to make it all the way would be unusual given the route change and weather. You must be strong and cope with climbs. Valgren, Armirail, Cosnefroy, Ulissi and Connor Swift comes to mind.
Who will win?
The French are often very dominant in this race, it bears more significance to them. A strong team around him and a likely sprint scenario make him my pick.