The Italian classic was a real thriller last year with Lorenzo Rota fighting off UAE Team Emirates. In 2022, this was the first time I tried implementing the xPless idea.
Finally, an organizer with clean profiles. The finale usually starts when the riders approach Colla Micheri. In 2022, a group of 22 riders got clear on the descent from Testico.
What you see above is the red lap. That is where the race is most likely determined. This is the where it is often determined. Below is the circuit. On the last lap, the riders don’t turn right unto another ascent, they keep going straight finishing in Laigueglia on a flat run in.
The two climbs are Colla Micheri and Copa Mele. The first is the most difficult. Plenty of hairpins – a 5:30 minute effort for the best. The Copa Mele is not much of a climb, 2000m at 3.5%.
The descent is something else too. You must be a good descender not to get dropped here. Richie Porte had his fair share of problems here in 2022.
Tough winds from the north with up to 10 m/s. It will be quite cold too in near the coast. It will start raining too in the afternoon. Despite temperatures almost at 10 C, it will feel a lot colder.
How will the race unfold?
Rarely ends in a bunch sprint. We had solo winners in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. Last year was a bit of an exception with a very late attack from Polanc. UAE Team Emirates didn’t want to gift each other the win, from time to time they closed down their own attacks.
You can distance people on Colla Micheri and on the descent. The length of the lap makes it so you can also get brought back if you don’t cooperate. I think that is why we have seen so many solo winners, it is a rare sign nowadays that a group willingly works together and don’t play too many games before the very finale.
Looking at the strongest teams, I think Intermarché, Groupama-FDJ, UAE – Team Emirates and Trek-Segafredo look the strongest. What kind of race do they want? Intermarché bring Girmay, I think this race is too difficult for him to win. Otherwise, Rota, Costa and Zimmerman all provide attacking options. FDJ are here with Pinot, Molard and Gregoire, all three of them attacking options. UAE – who had three riders on the podium in 2022 – come here with Covi and Ulissi as their best cards. Mollema with Ciccone and Mollema.
All the strong teams looks to want an attacking race.
UAE – three guys on the podium last year. That will not happen tomorrow. Ulissi is a rider I always praise a lot, but he is not a rider who rings a bell when we have tough winds or rain. Covi was my pick last year. He can cope with the rain and the climbs. This is a race that suits him.
Intermarche – as mentioned, I doubt we will see a sprint and I simply think the race is too difficult for him to win. The headwind on the circuit is beneficial for him but I still don’t think he will win. The team has Costa and Rota, two riders who should challenge for the win. Both in form, can climb and packs a fine sprint.
FDJ – Pinot, Molard and Gregoire. I think I will have my eyes on Molard and Gregoire. They are more punchy. For the team, it is just about getting as many up the road as possible and play the numbers.
Trek – Segafredo – bring Mollema and Ciccone. Both are in good form yet I imagine Ciccone being a bit more fresh than his teammate, due to Mollema participating in the opening weekend. Ciccone won the race in 2020 and the poor weather conditions is good news for him.
Rodriguez – INEOS bring just five riders. Rodriguez is the best option for them. He recently did well in Valenciana and Ruta del Sol. I think he will be challenging for the win.
Lafay – a rider who seems to get mentioned more and more in my previous. Recently 4th in Faun-Ardeche. Tomorrow, he should be challenging for a top-10.
Cosnefroy – he should be good on a course such as this. He should beat many of the other contenders in a flat sprint. He supposedly had good legs early in the season but it doesn’t seem to have payed off just yet.
Bettiol – if we get a cold and windy race, why not go for a classics rider? It is a different approach to the classics season this year, meaning he likely is a bit more careful managing his form. Nonetheless, it could be a very good race for him.
Who will win?
The headwind will have a big impact tomorrow. In Drome-Classic, we had a similar strong headwind. It is better to be out in front managing your own pace than sitting behind.
Having the numbers is then what counts. Intermarché should have those. I will go for Rota, he was the strongest here in 2022. Hopefully, he finds some redemption tomorrow.