If you had told me that Evenepoel would have showed any sign of weakness in the opening nine stages, after his dominant win in Liege Bastogne Liege, I would have to you to shut it. Now, he sits with his three closest challengers (according to me) as the pre-favorite within one minute of him after 54.6 km of racing.
(Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images). The second year in a row he took a solo win at LBL.
The GC situation.
Below, you will see the GC situation. Roglic, Tao G and Thomas sit within 50 seconds. Now, that changes the race completely. I assumed Evenepoel would have twice the margin beforehand. Now, I think we need to have in mind that a lot of the teams have multiple riders. INEOS have five riders within 3:21 – that is a shocking number. To be realistic, only two of them have a real shot but I will still let Arensman cook.
I must admit here, going forward, that I have little faith in Almeida. The “he goes well in the third week” does not cut it for me. Look at the start list of the Giro d’Italia in 2020. It was not the strongest field that year. I was more surprised and impressed by his 6th in 2021. When we saw for the first time that Evenepoel (Almeida was riding for Quick-Step back then) was mortal and started to fade in the last week, Almeida got the chance to show the world what he was made off. After Monte Zoncolan on stage 14, he was sitting 8:32 behind race leader Bernal. In the third week, he managed to get back 1m 8sec seconds – all of it against the clock. He is simply not a good enough climber to challenge for the Maglia Rosa.
Evenepoel – cracks in the armor?
Surely, he can not and should not be satisfied with this margin down to his closest competitors. Now, it has been two stages where you think he should have done better. As a rider, who has won Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa twice, a few steep hills should really not be a problem for him. Surely not make him drop before a rider like Geraint Thomas. So what is the reason? My own take was his gearing – he seemed to have very low cadence, like whenever you see Christopher Juul-Jensen trying for the morning break. Today’s time trial can have a few factors. The obvious one, why need to risk it on a rainy day in Piemont? The second is, he just does not look like at his best. Is it side-effects after crashing twice? The rest day comes at the perfect time for him – and say what you want, he has a margin nearing a minute before the first mountain stage. Everyone would take that deal.
Roglic drops Evenepoel on stage 8 of the Giro d’Italia. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images).
The Empire Strikes Back.
Myself included, all the talk was around Evenepoel and Roglic. Yet, here we are with two competent contenders in Thomas and Hart. It seems the numbers of their Imperal Starfleet is ready for an attack on their enemies. I think it is clear that they have the strongest climbing squad. Ganna is a huge loss, but they now hold the best cards possible. I think it is fair to assume that Evenepoel can and will be isolated. Stage 13 is the first chance at doing the JV-one-two and see who will be the lucky one attacking when Evenepoel is cooked. The Belgian is known for winning by sheer power – not his ability to outsmart his rivals.
(Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images). An alliance between Roglic and INEOS going into the second week?
Both of them excel at Grand Tours. That is why one of them has won the Tour de France and has three podiums in total in the hardest race of the year and the second has a Giro d’Italia win in his first attempt. The thing is, they tend to get better and better as the three-week races get on. Both of them are race-smart and they deal very well with mountain-marathon stages. I think they should race offensively on stage 13 and stage 16, see who of them is looking the best going into the last week. I think it will be Hart.
Primoz Roglic – a comeback story?
I can’t imagine his recent years. So many crashes, operations and setbacks. Yet, he is here and he is ready to roll. He seems to be an easy target for some, to me, he is a pure fighter and entertainer. The attack on stage 8 was a sign of what is to come. He is not afraid to leave it all out on the road. He was my pre race favorite and I expect him to lose nearly two minutes in the first nine stages. Do you know, how you can see, if he is feeling good or not? He is seated with a high cadence. Just like on stage 8.
Going in to the second week, I think he is more than happy with the margin. I think he will be happy attacking again whenever he is going to feel isolated by the two riders from INEOS. He also need to be smart about when he will take the Maglia Rosa as Bouwman and Kuss seem to be the only two strong climbing domestiques he has with him.
I’m fairly confident he will win the race. The question is when. I feel stage 13 and stage 16 are very good shouts. If not, stage 19 will be the decider. He will need the marathon-mountain stages to make the difference.
Going forward, this is my prediction.
I feel Roglic is in the perfect spot. Evenepoel is not playing around, something is not right. Whether it is fatigue or side-effects from crashing, he must stay calm. From what I have seen so far, Tao G seems to be the next one on the line for me – behind Roglic. These time trials are just too good for him to ignore at all. I think Evenepoel, with his lead, can salvage the third spot on the podium. Behind him will be Caruso, Thomas and Almeida – they are not put in order. Unfortunately, Carthy and Vlasov falls short.
⭐⭐ Tao G, Evenepoel
⭐Caruso, Thomas, Almeida