The first stage already gave us a small taste of what is in store for us tomorrow.
All quite simple until Vallter.
The climb was used in 2019 with two categorized climbs before it meaning we had quite large GC gaps. In 2021, we didn’t have any climbs prior. While tomorrow, Coll de Coubet seems to be in between the 2019 and 2021 version of the stage. What is also important is the fact it finish 2100 meters above sea level. The Colombians have done well here in both 2019 and 2021.
In 2019, there were five riders within 30 seconds of the winner.
In 2021, there were three riders within 30 seconds of the winner.
Another day with almost no wind. There is a very small chance of rain on Vallter 2000 in the afternoon. They will also have 2-3 m/s tailwind on the climb. If it rains, it will feel very cold – it is just 4 degrees C at the top.
How will the stage unfold?
On the climb, three teams stand out in terms of strength. Jumbo-Visma have a strong team to support Roglic. UAE Team Emirates has a strong team around Almeida (who I expect to be the captain since A. Yates crashed on stage 1). QuickStep with a strong team around Evenepoel. Other teams who likely will be near the front are Bahrain and INEOS.
I actually do believe we will see a very strong QuickStep tomorrow. They have a few chances here at Catalunya to try and ride as it was the Giro d’Italia. I think their team is well suited for setting up a climbing train.
In the past, the big attacks have come quite far from the line. This is because the first half of the climb is tougher than the second part of it. With so many strong teams at the start tomorrow, I really doubt the attack will come so early. I think it will be more of a people slowly getting out the back climb due to favorites having plenty of strong domestiques. That enhance the chance of a reduced group sprint in my book, just as in 2019.
Roglic – took a stage win today. A bit surprising I must say, but he was mentioned as a contender. Now, this is a big test. He didn’t look too good on the mountain stage in Tirreno-Adriatico, so tomorrow is a big test for the rest of the week. I still have a feeling he isn’t at his best, which is worrying since he has won four out of the last five stages he has raced. I expect him to challenge for the podium.
Evenepoel – I expect most eyes to be on him tomorrow. He starts as my favorite. It is the test before Giro d’Italia. It is time to see, what QuickStep can muster in terms of a strong and well-rounded GC team. In terms of the length of the climb tomorrow, I don’t think it is too long or difficult – it is a one-mountain stage. He did struggle with the altitude in Argentina, something that could happen again tomorrow.
Carapaz – the big flying-under-the-radar rider tomorrow. He rarely puts up a strong performance outside Grand Tours, meaning a top-10 is likely where he will finish. The altitude is a plus for him, but it is his first big test in Europe this season and he usually starts slow.
Hindley – same as the man above, usually gets better in the third week of a Grand Tour. He is racing the Tour de France this year and it seems to be a slow build-up. He usually needs a tougher stage to be one of the big favorites. Nonetheless, I expect him to challenge for the podium. He is a superb climber and he looked good in Tirreno-Adriatico.
Almeida – now it is his time to shine. Adam Yates will likely ride to recover, meaning Almeida is the captain. He will fight for the podium tomorrow. He is difficult to drop, and I will keep reminding people he is quick on the line. It is good news for him the second half of the climb is easier than the first part.
Landa – I think he will keep impressing this spring but in my head, his glory days have passed him by. He will fight for a top-5 spot.
Ciccone – I’ve never seen him stronger. I still do think there is a margin from him to the two best climbers here, but he will fight for whatever is left. I think he will fight for a top-5.
Bardet – A top-10, on a good day a top-5.
Bernal – it suits the Colombians. I hope he is the positive surprise tomorrow.
Who will win?
I will go for Evenepoel. I think he is the strongest climber right now out of this bunch.