The one-day gravel classic in Andalucia is back for the second edition. However, the route has seen some changes from last year. Most importantly, the main climbing parts are not near the finale. The yellow parts are gravel, or as they call it themselves, caminos de olivos.
The race has a lot of hidden climbing meters, as there will be nearly 3000 climbing meters tomorrow. The two most difficult sections. Here is a list of them.
8 ‘sterrato’ sectors / caminos de olivos
1. Bayyasa (km 51,1; 10,9 km)
2. Marimingo (km 69,2; 5,4 km)
3. Valdeolivas (km 83,4; 5,4 km)
4. Ubbadat (km 104,6; 11,1 km)
5. Antonio Machado (km 134; 3,5 km)
6. Cruz de Jaboneros (km 139,9; 4,2 km)
7. Virgen de la Salud (km 153,9; 6,5 km)
8. Virgen de la Salud (km 169,8; 6,5 km)
What strikes me is the sector 3 and sector 4. Sector three is the Ubeda and it was used in the last edition of the race as the hill on the circuit. It comes fairly early in the race, which means we could see the race opening very early. Afterwards is sector 4 and that is a long sector including two climbs. I think the two sectors will be where we see some selection, simply because it is the last place the climbers can put the hammer down. From there, it is more tactical.
Ubeda (sector 3)
It gets might steep near the end.
Ubbadat (Sector 4)
A long sector right after Ubeda.
If we move further towards the finish, the winner will be found on a 16 km circuit. I have tried my best to point out where it starts and ends. We also have some smaller sections with cobblestones in the city where they finish in Baeza.
Quite cold for Andalucia, temperatures around 16 degrees. Wind speed around 5 m/s. No rain in sight.
How will the race unfold?
UAE Team Emirates should decide the outcome of this race. I think they will use Ubeda and Ubbadat to shred the peloton in to a million pieces. From here, they will have the numbers to control, either with fuga de la fuga or by setting up a sprint. It is difficult to see a scenario where they are not in control.
The next teams in the hierachy are far below them on paper. They should aim to isolate the UAE riders and the easiest way to do that is by attacking. Better to be in the group with 1 or 2 riders from UAE than 5 or 6. UAE strikes me as a team that is willing to play that game, as long as they are content with the group out in front and their own riders. If they aren’t, well, tell them to stop pedaling and set up a sprint.
UAE – take your pick. Pogacar is the obvious choice and the clear favorite to win the race. I do think the race also suits Covi, Hirschi, Wellens, Trentin and Sjoerd. So it depends on the tactic, and usually that revolves around Pogacar when he is at the start.
Rota – the Italian is often quite good in hilly one day races and he packs a good sprint too. He usually starts his season off well too and therefore 32th in Murcia was not a very good indication for this race.
Vliegen – the second option for Intermarche and he already has a few races under his belt this season. He is a good rider on the gravel, and he does well with medium mountains and short inclines.
Eenkhoorn – if UAE do not go all out on sector 3 and 4, Eenkhoorn will be dangerous to have around in your group on the flatter finish. He has started his season off well.
Louvel – I’m expecting big things from him this year. Perhaps the amount of climbing is right on his limit.
Barguil – one of the better climbers here. His start to the season has been a bit slower than in 2022, but he is a good one-day rider who can manage a bit of gravel.
Simon Clarke – he is doing very well just now. On paper, this is a brilliant race for him.
Who will win?