Last monument of the season. Last race preview of the year for me. We finish it off with Il Lombardia that for some reason has decided to give the 2021-edition another chance. I think that is a mistake, as it is not very difficult when it comes to the climbing. However, if you watched back in 2021, you will know the descends are technical.
4600 climbing meters. That will make it selective. I just don’t think the climbs are difficult enough, despite there being plenty of them.
Climbs and descends
The finale starts at Passo della Crocetta. With 88 km left of the race, this is where things start to get interesting. The climb itself is not that difficult but we should see a big increase in speed.
After a plateau, you can bet your keys, car and house that a few teams are eager to be the first ones over the top of this little kicker. With 66 km left, the road kicks up. And once over the top, a very challenging descend awaits.
Now, after the valley, it is time for the toughest climb of the day. Ganda. It starts with 41.5 km left of racing. Despite Pogacar distancing everyone here in 2021, the climb is not that difficult. What makes it tough is the fact it is raced after 197 km on the bike.
The way down from there is tricky. 19 hairpins. This is where Masnada caught Pogacar after he had attacked near the top of Ganda. A daredevil can do chaos here.
And the last 5000m looks as this. If you are alone over the crest, you will likely be alone at the line. Otherwise, a flat and high speed sprint.
With the last climb having a short section on cobbles. Extremely narrow when spectators are here.
Good weather conditions.
How will the race unfolds?
First, a bit of pondering.
I think in many aspects, we will see something similar compared to 2021. It will start 88 km out, before the last acceleration towards the top of Zambla Alta (64 km left, before the first tricky descend). Then, the main moves will come on Ganda. Here, it is easiest to attack in the finale 3000m at 8.7%. You have time to get back on the descend or even attack there.
The thing I will say is this, Pogacar (with Masnada glued to his backwheel) held off all the other favorites last year. We saw it in Tre Valli Varesine too. Being away solo or in a small group, the chances are that you work better together than the riders behind you. They simply can’t organize a proper chase on the flat.
Most of the leaders will be isolated after Ganda. That means your best chance at winning is attacking (read: being a better climber) than the other contenders. Behind you, I promise you they will stop-and-go or attack each other.
Second, a bit of actual analysis.
UAE, they have the best team by a landslide. In the recent races, they haven’t used that very well. They have zero wins. I think it is time to add A. Yates as a co-captain. He has proven multiples times this year he is good enough to do so, especially if everyone else is looking at Pogacar. It is a way of getting Pogacar to work less, thereby either setting up Yates (if Solo) or setting up Pogacar for the steeper section.
Jumbo-Visma’s last dance with Roglic. All about paying him homage, they are hopefully not idiots like DSM, ruining their best riders because they want another challenge elsewhere. He is also the only rider in their team standing a realistic chance of beating him.
Evenepoel for Quick-Step. Does he have Vuelta-legs? It is very likely he has. This type of race suits him very well, as it does not have many long and steep efforts. Don’t fool yourself, he is one of the favorites.
The rest of the teams don’t shout options. I could praise Movistar and Bahrain-Victorious descend attacks for a few lines. Realistically, it is something Movistar can do with Jorgensen, Verona and Mühlberger.
As for the rest of them, will EF (Carapaz) play a big role? I doubt it. INEOS – with two candidates. They don’t have the team to cause much fuss.
Pogacar – he starts as the favorite if you ask me. He has started this race twice. Finished it twice. Won it twice. Both times, beating a-not-so-quick rider in the sprint. He will fancy those chances again. Yet, I feel the competition is stronger this year, therefore making his chances worse. He will be difficult to drop but the terrain is not very difficult, meaning it will be difficult to distance his closest rivals.
A. Yates – I really hope UAE see him as a viable option tomorrow. They need to change the current dynamics, if they set up Pogacar – everyone will just need to look at him. You can call him the bait or whatnot, if he gets a gap he can cause a lot of trouble.
Roglic – winning Giro dell’Emilia was a strong message. I hope to see him in the same fighting spirits as in Tre Valli Varesine. This is as much his race to lose as Pogacar, that is a winning mentality. It also means if he miss a split where Pogacar is in it, he will likely have to do most of the work himself. I doubt that happens, I think he can follow him on a climb such as tomorrow.
Evenepoel – he is the only rider, where it seems I can tell if he is in TT-shape or climbing-shape. Right now, it is the latter. On a course like tomorrow, he will do very well. Long day, but the climbs are not too demanding. We’ve seen his sprint improve but is he quicker than the two Slovenians?
Carapaz – looking very strong just now. He put in a big dig at Tre Valli Varesine. I just don’t see a scenario where he beats the Slovenians.
Mas – the route is not very good for him. A top-10.
Sivakov – a wonderful one-day racer. I hope to see him up in the top-10.
C. Rodriguez – same goes for this rider. A top-10.
S. Yates – good in Emilia, he even crashed. I think he will be up there just behind the best.
Vlasov – he is carrying some fine form just now. Likely enough for a top-10.
Who will win?
I don’t think anyone can challenge the two Slovenians and Evenepoel. If it is so, then I think it is Carapaz. I think we will see a three-up sprint, and I’m putting my last prediction on Tadej Pogacar.