The race in France kicks off with a pan-flat prologue of 7.1 km in Berre-L’Étang. I doubt we will see very big time gaps here. The last time the race had a prologue in it was back in 2018. As we are close to the sea, the weather could play a big part.
We have another very, very flat day. With merely 424 climbing meters, it ought to be a sprint finish. However, it could very easily be a day with echelons too, if the wind decides to blow. At this moment, we should see echelons.
A hilly day so to say. 2146 climbing meters should not be too challenging for the fast men. On the other hand, it depends on how many sprinters will start tomorrow.
The big GC day. Montagne de Lure has only been used twice in Paris – Nice. Back in 2009, Contador set the record time which Porte came close to in 2013. This time of year, it can be difficult to know which shape people are in.
The forecasts say we will have almost no wind in the prologue, stage 2 and stage 3. However, 9 m/s crosswinds on the crosswind stage 1. This means having a good TT, abilities or a good team in crosswinds and climbing are essential.
Alaphillipe might start the race as the man to beat due to both a time trial and crosswinds. This certainly gives him an advantage compared to some of the smaller climbers. He normally starts off strong and was second here last year, only beaten by Sosa.
Latour climbed well in Besseges. More importantly, he did not miss the crosswinds on stage 1 and put in a good time against the clock on the last stage. I doubt he will win, but he is a solid candidate to finish within the top-5.
Quintana had covid this winter but in recent interviews, he seems fit to fight for the overall. He will lose time against the clock but will Arkéa be able to keep him out of trouble in the crosswinds? They were well represented in the Besseges-crosswinds but don’t seem to have a strong team on the flat in Provence. A stage win on the Queen stage is a possibility, but I fear he will miss the front group in the crosswinds.
Storer is a dark horse for me. Why? Well the team is build around Demare, which essentially means he has a good chance in the crosswinds. Furthermore, he strikes me as a diesel, not a pure climber. His TT might not be the best, but after a good Vuelta, I think he has taken another step and will fight for a good placement.
Skjelmose might be the new big talent from Denmark. Top 170 in his Neo-pro year. Allround a strong rider, a good climber, a decent TT rider and is good in crosswinds. I’m hoping for a top-10.
Sosa has a good team to protect him in the crosswinds, but I doubt it will be sufficient. He falls into the same category as Nairoman, a decent contender for a stage win but I doubt the overall.
Carapaz crashed in Besseges, which means he is not 100%. With a strong team for the flat stages, he will not miss the echelons on stage 1. It will give him a big advantage, which should secure him a podium spot.
Who will win?
Quick-Step does not start with their A-team, but he ticks all the right boxes for Tour de la Provence.