Stage 1 is on paper perfect for a breakaway, if I may link to my analysis of GT stage wins. With a 4.6 km climb at 6.9% close to the finish, it is going to be hard for many sprinters to survive but too easy for the GC men to make a difference as it tops 3.75 km from the finish. A sprint after 3105 climbing meters. As there only is one mountain top finish, I think some teams want to distance the sprinters so their riders can go for bonus seconds.
A sprint stage most likely, as we have a strong field of them here. On the other hand, depending on weather and GC, it can be an opportunity for the breakaway.
The big GC day. Alto de Las Antenas del Maigmó Tibi with a gravel section close to the end. The last 4.5 km are the hardest averaging 10.5%.
Another day for the sprinters.
It should come down to yet another sprint.
The weather looks good for next week.
Evenepoel is starting as the favorite. A week-long race is his specialty, and he has already done a recon of the climb on stage 3. He is normally well prepared after the winter, he will be a tough man to beat.
Valverde / Mas are two good contenders to beat Evenepoel. Valverde already has a victory this season and Mas did not look half bad in his two race days on Mallorca. I think Valverde is the best option, as bonus seconds on stage 1 could come in very handy for the veteran.
Tao G. Hart normally starts his seasons off well. INEOS brings
a very strong team, but I think he will fall short against the above-mentioned riders. I think he can fight for a good placement but not a win.
Ayuso is one of the names to look out for. We have seen from UAE that they are flying at the moment, which they seem to do for a few years in a row now. With only one real climb this race, will he be able to follow the best here? He is definitely the joker, but nothing last (on UWT level) suggests he can. Never underestimate the youngsters.
Dylan Teuns springs to mind as we have a steep gravel climb. I did a piece regarding breakaway victories, and Dylan Teuns performs well on steep gradients. He is normally also quite fit in February. Is it enough for a win? I doubt it, but he will be up there.
Fuglsang might be a controversial pick for some of you. He has been very optimistic in the off-season and wishes to prove the haters wrong after a weak 2021. Strade Bianche is a goal in the spring, which should mean he is in very good shape very early this year.
Ciccone should be the pick of Trek-Segafredo. The Italian has stalled a bit in his progression to a GT GC rider, but if you look back at the gravel stages in last year’s Giro d’Italia, he did okay for himself. A top 5 is within reach.
Kelderman will get another top 10 to his collection.
Who will win the GC?
I am quite certain the young wolf will be flying. He has done a recon of the stages here and recon of Algarve too.