It is time to figure out who the owner of the Maglia Rosa will be. I will go through every stage. I will rate them 1-5 in ⭐ and explain my reasons for it and what kind of scenario we should see. They are not rated according to difficulty but according to impact on the GC.
Overall, it looks to be one of those “let’s keep everyone excited until the last week where only a handful of riders will be in contention because we have created the route in a way to please a certain Belgian.” Yup, I mean that.
⭐⭐⭐⭐: If will not decide the GC but some of the contenders will build up the first part of their lead ahead of week 3. The worst contenders can lose more than a minute.
⭐: A bunch sprint.
⭐: Not all the sprinters will make it but it will still end in a sprint. 6.8 km at 6% is not easy.
⭐⭐: Rule is the breakaway take this day. We have 3.4 km at 9.5% near the end. Since the day is not too easy overall, I doubt we will see many gaps with a flat finish. It should be a day for the morning break, who will take the jersey?
⭐: Hilly first part but flat or downhill the past 50 km. A day for the sprinters.
⭐: The teams with a sprinter that can handle the climbs will push the pace, dropping the heavy sprinters. Another sprint.
⭐⭐⭐: It ends with 4.5 km at 8.2%. This is after an “easy” week but still after a long day in the saddle with the stage being 218 km. Plus, we finish 2130 meters above sea level.
Recap first week.
Most important day, the time trial. Stage 4 should be a day of people riding conservatively. Stage 7 could offer gaps too.
⭐⭐⭐: Too difficult for the sprinters. We will see a big group approaching the finale meaning plenty of helpers. Last time up the Cappucchini gives me a bit San Sebastian vibe. 1.65 km at 11.5% on shitty roads with mostly a descent to the line? I expect attacks. How big will the gaps be? Not too big. Could be a day for the breakaway too with GC men saving ammo for tomorrows time trial.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐: Will if you lost a minute on the first stage, prepare to lose two minutes.
⭐: Don’t let the profile fool you, it will be a sprint.
⭐: Another sprint. What you could call a transportation stage. Usually, they have to be longer than 200 km in the Giro d’Italia.
⭐: Breakaway! 5.2 km at 7.9% is too difficult for the sprinters.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐: Boy oh boy. What do we have here. The first proper mountain stage 13 days into racing.
34 km at 5.5%, 15.8 km at 8.5% and 13 km at 7.2%. We get all the way up to 2473 meters above sea level on the first climb, 2174 on the next. Personally, the valley kills it a bit for me – but it is one of the most important days.
⭐: It is one of those classic “let’s add a climb to put some sprinters in trouble”. Cat and mouse from there on. Plenty of time to organize a chase after the climb.
Recap second week.
A hilly day (stage 8), a long, flat time trial (stage 9) and a proper mountain stage (stage 13). This is where we finally get an idea of who will shine uphill in the last week. I expect the GC gaps to be bigger and favor the GC riders with a strong time trial.
⭐⭐⭐⭐: Close to 6000 climbing meters and to finish it off is 17.7 km at 5.5%… I expect this one to be a bummer. Still, four stars – it is a very long and climby day.
⭐: Sprint or breakaway. Depends on how many sprinters have left the race.
⭐⭐⭐: Near the end of a Grand Tour. Still, only the last 31 km can be used for racing. I will go for the breakaway. We should see moves on the last climb, 3.35 km at 11% but another one that does not look that difficult on paper. Breakaway.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐: Constantly staying in high altitudes. This is where everything still can change.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐: Same goes for here. Now that makes Les Planches des Belles Filles memories. 7.3 km at 12.1%. I love this. Even the best can crack on a day like this. This feels more like a mental battle.
To be fair, this is my view.
Stage 1: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Stage 9: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Stage 13: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Stage 16: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Stage 19: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Stage 20: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Well, now you sit here with three time trials and three mountain stages.
Evenepoel – defending Vuelta champion. He will like this route, we have 68.2 km of time trial – he beat everyone comfortably in La Vuelta with just 32 km individual time trial. The organizers have designed a route that suits him. Enough talk about that. His form is incredible, there was no doubt he was going to win LBL after Pogacar crashed. He proved in La Vuelta he is not shy from racing offensively in the first week. He can handle the shorter and steeper slopes. He can handle the medium and steady climbs. Can he handle the tough third week mountain marathons? He has not been tested there yet and if someone refers to the third week of La Vuelta 2022, you simply have no idea how much harder stage 13, stage 16 and stage 19 will be. Can he handle the altitude? I have doubts about it. Look at Sierra Nevada and his opening race this year in Argentina. The time trials will give him a buffer but the climbers will make him suffer in the altitude on on the hardest days.
Bahrain – Victorious – well, Jack Haig is the leader. Tour of the Alps was a great sign but he will lose to much time against the clock to fight for the win. The same goes for the rest of the squad including Caruso, Mäder and Buitrago. A top-5 result would be a huge achievement for any of the riders here but none will contest for the win. I expect them to do the same as last year, race for the podium and let the others chase stage wins.
Vlasov – let’s take him out of Tour of the Alps and send him to Belgium. He will do alright against the clock, he won’t be the worst of the GC contenders. This year, he has been a bit underperforming but his form was going the right direction in Tour of the Alps. He was 4th here in 2021 and 5th in the Tour de France (with a G. Martin tactic after crashing). In 2021, he faded in the last week. The 5th in France is difficult to say anything about due to his crash. I assume he will fight for a top-5.
Carthy – he will lose too much time against the clock to win. Still, he is one of the better climbers here. Now, I’m not going to sit here and call him the most likely contender to finish third. But there is a but. He did do well in Tour of the Alps. He was not at his best and he still got 2nd overall. What I see is a trend, he usually gets better the tougher the race is. Therefore, I think he will lose time against the clock but from stage 13 and onwards, he will start playing a big role. Don’t forget, he once did a 100 km solo in high altitude in Tour de Suisse.
INEOS – Grenadiers – They start here with two captains. First up is Thomas, who has had a stop and go season. Tour of the Alps was not a very good sign but he himself is confident he is there or thereabout. He has a really good time trial. That will keep him in contention and the fact we need to get to stage 13 before we see a major mountain showdown is perfect news for him, he will have more time than usual getting in top-shape. Tao has been going better and better against the clock. He won here back in 2020, showing he can handle the mountain marathon days. He recently won Tour of the Alps but his last good Grand Tour was back in 2020. I still expect both of them to play a major role, fighting for the podium. Then, I have to throw in Arensman too. A man who excels in the third week and has a good time trial. Do not let Tour of the Alps fool you too much, he got better and better as the stages pasted.
Roglic – Winning both Tirreno-Adriatico and Catalunya after a very long break. He will lose time to Remco on the first two time trials. I think he will manage to win it back on the climbs. He is a better climber than Remco. His past two Grand Tours have not been optimal with crashes and injuries needing to be fixed. Now he is back 100%. The only issue is, he could use a better team for this race.
Ciccone – out with Covid after LBL. I still hope to see him recover well, but a top-10 is the most likely scenario now. *Ciccone is not starting due to Covid-19.
UAE Team Emirates – they are coming here with more or less three leaders. The most obvious pick is Almeida. He has a good time trial on him and he is a good climber. I just do not think he climbs good enough to win so the podium is what he should hope for. Jay Vine comes here as a joker, he has not raced since UAE Tour. His TT has gotten better but we do not know how well his body will respond to three weeks of racing. McNulty – never ridden GC in a Grand Tour too. I assume they stick with Almeida.
⭐⭐⭐ Evenepoel, Tao
⭐⭐ Vlasov, Almeida, Carthy
⭐ Caruso, Haig, Thomas, Vine
*03/05/2023: Removed Ciccone and added Caruso.
Who will win?
I will take the overall win for Roglic. The time trials will give the advantage to Evenepoel but the climbing makes it more even. I simply think the third week is too difficult for Evenepoel. He has never been tested like this before.