The first stage brings back the same finishing climb as we have had a few years now, the Alto del Castillo. Grossschartner attacked early back in 2020, winning with “8 seconds and Planckaert took a surprising win in 2021, beating Serrano and Albanese on the line.
The second stage looks like one of the few chances for a regular bunch sprint. There is an uncategorized climb close to the finish, 1.4 km at 6%. It is hard enough to pressure the sprinters and even attack over the top.
Picon Blanco is another climb often used here. This time, the top is almost 40 km from the finish. It will surely change the dynamic of the stage, I would say it is better for the breakaway. The finish is even longer from the top than last year when Bardet took a solo win.
Another uphill finish after a flat stage. The last 2 km are at 4.8% – on paper, some of the sprinters should make it.
The last day and a big one for the GC. The last 3 km of the stage average close to 10%. If you look at the winners the last few seasons here, Sosa has three wins and Carthy one. It suits these type of riders.
Very hot and most of the strong winds are at night. It can change quite a bit over the next few days, but one thing is certain – it will be warm. We have seen that wind in this race can make a difference (Sosa on Picon Blanco 2020) and the heat (Bardet on Lagunas de Neila 2021) – these can be two important factors.
Normally, it would be stage 3 that seals the deal but with the finish far from the top, I’m not sure how much time there can be gained. It looks more tactical than other editions as groups can reemerge after the climb.
Therefore, being good on steep gradients, managing the heat, and having a strong team to set you up for uphill sprints.
Almeida – a bit of a lone wolf for UAE Team Emirates, but that is how it will be when they bring Gaviria to fight for stage wins too. I fear the lack of support will make it difficult for him. He has improved on longer climbs, but I’m not really certain he does well in these degrees. He did well on the hotter days at the Giro d’Italia and well in the UAE Tour too – so it should not be a big problem. After all, he is from Portugal.
Bora – Hansgrohe – they bring the cavalry but only six riders in total. Hindley normally performs well in Grand Tours but not in week-long races. He is good on steep gradients too, very good actually, but I think he would have preferred multiple hard climbs in a row compared to the few climbs here. Kelderman and Buchmann provide the teams with options too, something vital on stage 3 where numbers can matter after Picon Blanco. I think they all are good options, but Hindley should have the best chance at taking a GC win.
Bahrain – Victorious – has announced Landa and Mäder as their leaders. Landa has a good history in this race with an overall victory in 2017 and 2021 plus 2nd place in 2020. He can manage the heat, we saw that last year when Bardet had problems. However, he has had a small injury and is not in tip-top shape. Mäder provides another option but he has not had the best year – it is difficult to predict his current level. I would say Buitrago and Poels also are good options to play too. They both excel on steep gradients. Having a good team is never a bad thing.
EF – Education – with Carthy, Guerreiro, and Chaves. That is a strong team to send. Carthy does not really fancy the heat but he took a stage win here last season on stage 5 on a cooler day. If the temperatures stay above 30 degrees C, I doubt we will see him winning. Guerreiro had a bad crash at the Tour de France and had to abandon but had good form just before the race. I have my doubts he will be in tip-top shape. Chaves was 4th here in 2020, something I think will be difficult to improve.
Movistar – they have Senor Burgos (Sosa) present. He will have problems if the wind blows, otherwise, he will put others into trouble. The change on stage 3 is not the best news for him, it would have suited him better had the stage finished on Picon Blanco. Valverde is the second option, but I will say his best days are over. Nonetheless, it still would not surprise me to see him go well, he is good in the heat and on steep gradients. Matteo Jorgensen is their joker. We will have to see how much he has left after Tour de France.
INEOS – Carlos Rodriguez & Sivakov, two youngsters. Rodriguez is an interesting rider, still flying a bit under the radar. Whenever INEOS gives him a chance, he normally takes it. Fifth in San Sebastian was a good result, given he rode for Sivakov. I think he will be tough to deal with. Sivakov finished 2nd in San Sebastian – they are both arriving in form. He was 2nd here overall last year, a result he will hope to improve, though it does not look easy.
Astana – with MAL back after a suspension due to an investigation. He is good on steep gradients but he would have wanted stage 3 to finish on Picon Blanco. I also think he could be one to suffer in the heat and potential crosswinds. The old shark rides too, I think it will be difficult for him to win, but it would not surprise me to see him attack on the descent from Picon Blanco.
⭐⭐⭐ Carlos Rodriguez
⭐⭐ Jai Hindley, Landa
⭐ Almeida, Sosa, Miguel Angel Lopez
Who will win?
I will take a win for Carlos Rodriguez.