It is time to head to Catalunya for the third big week-long race of the WT calendar. We are missing both Slovenians which leaves space for other riders to take a big victory.
The first stage should be on for the sprinters. We have 1759 meters of climbing and the hardest climb of the day is quite close to the finish. It is 5 km at 5.2%, hard enough to drop some of the heavy sprinters.
Stage 2 has a bit more climbing – around 2350 climbing meters. There are climbs that could be used to get rid of the fast men, but it is quite far from the finish.
Even more climbing. First GC-day but it should end up in a somewhat reduced bunch sprint. We have 3350 meters of climbing.
One of the hardest days. With almost 3500 meters of climbing and a “mini Col du Turini” at the end.
Another long stage and almost 2500 meters of climbing. The first climb will make it interesting for the breakaway but perhaps there will be enough time to bring it all back. High chance of echelons as of now.
It is not that long and we have 2880 meters of climbing. This screams breakaway to me.
Barcelona-stage. Always fantastic to watch.
Not the weather you hope for in Spain! Potential echelons on Stage 5 if we have 7 m/s from the NW as currently predicted. We have almost 50 km of exposed area.
Simon Yates won’t mind a bit of rain on his nose. A fantastic performance in Paris-Nice should make him the favorite for this race. He did not miss the split in Paris – Nice, which is a very good sign ahead of stage 5. Not the strongest team to support him, but they have a good team for the flat – he just has to finish the job uphill alone, which he often does.
INEOS has multiple options. Porte did well in Tirreno – Adriatico and since we have no descends to worry about, he could do quite well. Carapaz out with Covid in Provence and illness in Tirreno-Adriatico. I think the weather is perfect for the Colombian but he rarely performs outside GTs. Carlos Rodriguez has a bright future ahead of him. I wonder if the climb is too long for him on stage 3. On the other hand, he smashed everyone in Tour de l’Avenir on Col du Petit Saint-Bernard which is quite long. Sivakov is the fourth option – he lets me down too often.
Valverde is in good, good shape. He has won this race three times and will be looking for the fourth time with Roglic and Pogacar not participating. I think he will be up there, the question is if the veteran will have trouble with the cold and the rain.
Quintana is good in echelons too and climbing very well. I think he will end on the podium.
Almeida is one of the best here but I see a few problems for him. One, he is not very good when it is cold and rainy. Two, he missed the echelons in Paris-Nice. He has a good sprint which could come in handy for bonus seconds. A quality team around him, and Marc Soler could play an underdog role for the team. He has a good sprint which could come in handy for bonus seconds.
Haig is looking mighty fine. A big problem is, he does not win enough. Only two wins to his name.
Higuita the little monster returns again. Great in Portugal and Strade Bianche. He is very quick on the line and does not mind rain or echelons. He is one to look out for.
Ben O’Connor – Illness in Paris – Nice is going to make it quite difficult.
Skjelmose – had the flu in Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var. He is a good climber and can ride in crosswinds. I hope he has recovered, the podium placement in Provence was impressive.
Hugh Carthy – I do not think the route suits a pure climber. Furthermore, crosswinds are not his cup of tea.
G. Martin – see above, he missed the split in Paris-Nice.
UNO-X has two promising names. Charmig and Johannessen. I think the route is best for the Norweigan. I hope to see another Scandinavian fight amongst the best.
Who will win?
It is difficult since you can’t just close your eyes and point at a Slovenian. INEOS has the numbers but I find it very hard to look past Simon Yates at the moment. Distancing Roglic and Wout van Aert in Paris – Nice is not an easy task.