We start the men’s World Tour off with a prologue. A 5.5 km prologue on road bikes, which is something I’ve learned recently is not completely new. The prologue reminds me of the one in Tour de Romandie 2022, which was 350 meters shorter with approximately the same amount of climbing meters.
What you need to know about the route is that it will be very fast. There are just a few corners they need to hit the break hard. The road surface will change quite a few times and the roads and not very wide, but it shouldn’t matter too much – they are used to sitting cramped up in the peloton.
What you might not have thought about is the fact this time trial will take approximate the same amount of time as it takes the best to conquer Corkscrew Road. It is roughly a six minute effort. Now, you just keep that in mind until stage 3.
The riders will be down the ramp at 18:00 local time and the last rider should be over the line by 20:30.
The weather at 18:00. Wind speed is 4 m/s from the SW – resulting in a prologue with slightly more tailwind than headwind.
The weather at 20:00. The wind is a little less intense with the wind only blowing 2.5 m/s and slightly more tailwind, but not as strong.
Is it better to start early or late?
By comparison, it is difficult to say when we break down the wind. To me, the wind direction should favor the late starters. 18:00 to the left and 20:00 to the right.
When we break down the temperatures, it will eventually get colder as the evening progresses. That is not the main issue. The main issue is going to be the rain falling in the evening. This should be a big advantage for the early starters racing dry roads. Note the wind speed is different, but I assume ZingChart is more precise due to the fact I could change the setting to a city environment despite them racing in a park. Below is https://www.weatherzone.com.au/.
The chance of rain is higher the later it gets. That should be a slight advantage for the early starters.
Ethan Hayter – start time: 20:15. He should not be overly happy with his current start time, if the weather forecast holds true. It will simply be a disadvantage for him and he is one of the biggest favorites if not the biggest. He won the similar prologue in Romandie last season and the short distance fit the track rider. If the roads are dry when he starts, he should win. But I doubt it.
Rohan Dennis – start time: 19:54. He is another late starter and he should not be to happy about it. As I wrote in the GC preview, he can either win tomorrow or he can finish 25th. Nonetheless, he is brilliant against the clock. He has only won one prologue in his career, back in Romandie in 2021. There are to many question marks around him to be my call tomorrow.
Magnus Sheffield – start time: 19:55. Just a minute after Dennis. Sheffield had a fantastic season last year and he excelled against the clock. He won the TT in Danmark Rundt and he was second in Tour de Pologne. He does not have a big history in prologues, only a 13th place in Romandie last season. He is no longer flying under the radar and he could well be in the mix tomorrow.
Luke Plapp – start time: 19:35. I will consider him one of the late starters too. He is enjoying a great start to the season and he will go all out, this race is a big chance for him to move up the hierarchy at INEOS. Usually, he does better in longer attempts against the clock and it seems to me his focus has changed to climbing. I expect a good time from him tomorrow, but it will be difficult for him to win.
Michael Matthews – start time: 19:18. It is better than the four abovementioned but he should still have wet roads. How much is he willing to risk? I think a lot. This is a good race for him and the fact they are racing on road bikes is an advantage for him – I would argue. He is one of the biggest favorites for tomorrow.
Patrick Bevin – start time: 18:04. An early starter, well how about that! Bevin is a hit or miss, mostly miss unfortunately. Prologues are not his specialty but I would also argue the road bike could be better for a powerhouse like him. There is also the issue of him crashing in the criterium which is not a good sign.
Maximillian Schachmann – start time: 19:36. In the middle of the pack – down the ramp just after Matthews. He normally goes well against the clock, but he had a terrible 2022. I do think he will bounce back and he is known to start the season off well. I can imagine he will finish in the top-10 and perhaps make his way into the top-5.
Mauro Schmid – start time: 18:28. A top-10 is the most likely scenario but since he is starting early and they are on road bikes, I can see him sneak even further up.
Jannik Steimle – start time: 20:08. A late start for the German too. He is getting better and better against the clock but he usually does well when the time trials are short. I think he will finish in the top-10.
Who will win?
With all the main favorites starting late, no one should have a clear advantage over the rest. Unless we see a big upset win for an early starter, such as Bevin, Bettiol or Durbridge. That means the playing field is almost even but it is hard to know when the rain will fall and if it will.
I will go with the Matthews for a few reasons. One, he starts at 19:18 which looks far better than the ones starter after 20:00. Secondly, he is in good shape and currently we do not know the form of many riders. Lastly, and thirdly, the usage of the road bike. Form, motivation and less chance of rain. And it would be too boring to go for Hayter.