Château-Gombert > Marseille 175.6km
The organisers have decided to alter things, adding some distance but crucially moving Route des Crêtes further away from the finishing line. This increases the chances of a sprint finish, but by no means is it a foregone conclusion. We have 3104m of climbing in 175.6km, this is a tricky race for the fast men.
3km at 9.7% is a very tough climb, especially at this time of the year. The crest comes with 47.5km to go, that is a long way for a small group to hold off the chasing peloton.
Col de la Gineste is 7.4km at 3.1%, it’s not very hard. The long flattish section in the middle skews the average gradient, but this is a climb that all sprinters should be surviving.
Nice and sunny with temperatures getting up to 14 degrees. The wind will reach around 20km/h by the end of the race and coming from the north means we have a tailwind for Route des Crêtes but a headwind for most of the final 35km. This is not good news for the climbers, staying away from the bunch will be hard.
We’ll have attacks on Route des Crêtes, with several domestiques getting dropped at this point. The front group will then have to decide if they want to work together or continue to attack to make an elite selection. Back in the peloton those who miss the move will have to work on the front, hoping that the headwind will give them a massive advantage. Even with the headwind, teams chasing will need a few domestiques due to the rolling nature of the final 30km, that’s what makes life a little complicated for the fast men.
Moving the big climb further away from the finish certainly tips the advantage in favour of the quick men, as does the headwind as the bunch head to Marseille. The sprint teams have a couple of options, they can ride the climb at tempo in the hope of getting as many men as possible in the bunch, or they can try to place a rider in the front group. This means they can let others chase back in the bunch, but they can also use the rider at the front as an anchor, slowing down the attack.
The other thing teams need to consider is when to attack. You would normally go on the hardest climb, but as they top out with just under 50km to go, it’s unlikely this move will stay away. Those who don’t want a sprint could well choose to wait until the final climb before launching a big one, the crest of this one comes with just 10km to go, most of which is downhill. The issue with waiting until this point is the difficulty of the climb, it’s hard to create gaps on a 3% slope. Timing your attack correctly is not easy in this race, especially with the headwind.
DS Cycling Mole
The only Scottish DS is back for 2022! After a winter partying (altitude training) over in Tenerife, he’s ready to ram his foot up the arse of precious cyclists everywhere. For this race he’s in charge of Cofidis.
Twelve wins last year just wasn’t good enough, that’s why I’ve signed The Coq! Wee man, you didn’t win last year, that’s going to change soon. We’ve got a team here to support you all the way. The Prof (Guillaume Martin) will cover the attacks, and the other lads will bring it all back together. You won’t have much help for the sprint, so jump on Trentin and let him do his usual and open up far too early, then ghost round him and boom! Now get and out there and don’t come back without the win.
EF – no doubt about it, they are the strongest team in the race. Arriving with Cort, Valgren and Bettiol give the team multiple cards to play in the closing stages of this race. Cort missed a week of training in January due to sickness, we’ll have to see if that hinders him in this race. Both Valgren and Bettiol won’t be in top shape yet, but the same can be said of every rider in this race. I would expect both to be used as attacking options, allowing Cort to wait for the sprint.
UAE – another team with multiple options. They’re sprint option is Trentin, allowing the likes of Suter, Covi and Ulissi to go from distance. Suter might not be a big name, but his 2nd place in Trofeo Calvia indicates his current form is good. Trentin has spoken about working on his sprint in an effort to get quicker, we’ll have to see how he matches up at the end of this race. Last year he was in a great position but launched his sprint from about 500m, don’t expect him to make such a mistake this year.
AG2R – Cosnefroy would normally be a big favourite for a race like this, but he had to pull out of the races in Mallorca after a positive COVID test. That means he’s been isolating for the last week, hardly ideal preparation for a race like this. The team also have Calmejane and Champoussin as other options, the lack a sprint card means they must ride an attacking race.
FDJ – Pinot is here! The team had to rearrange things after Jake Stewart pulled out with sickness, so Pinot is drafted in after going well in recent training sessions. I’m not sure what we’ll get from him, there has been an awful lot of talk about his injuries and recent struggles, but it would be great to see him back to near his best. The likes of Armirail and Pacher could fly under the radar a bit.
Trek – Segafredo – it looks like they’ll have Mollema and Gallopin as their main options. Mollema started last season in flying form, and Gallopin has a good sprint from a reduced group. This race is a hard one for either man to win.
Arkéa – they’ll have Capiot for the sprint and Connor Swift as an attacking option, I think it’s a good race for the former British champion. He should be able to follow the best on Route des Crêtes and he has a fast sprint from a reduced group. Capiot is an incredibly consistent rider, he’ll be up there if the race comes back for a sprint finish.
B&B Hotels – last year Franck Bonnamour proved to be one of the best pro-conti riders in the peloton, managing four top 10 finishes in the Tour de France. With his stock on the up, I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do this year. The team also have a youngster who impressed me in 2021, that is Alan Boileau. The little puncheur is perfect for a race like this, I hope to see him ride an attacking race.
Daryl Impey – the South African should love this race, but it all depends on his current shape. Israel – Premier Tech don’t arrive with the strongest of teams, Impey will have to hope that other teams chase down the attacks and set up a sprint finish.
Pierre Latour – no doubt he’ll attack on Route des Crêtes, but he’s unlikely to win.
Bryan Coquard – Cofidis have Martin as their attacking option, but I expect them to ride in full support of Coquard. He was brilliant here last year, impressing on the climbs, but was very disappointed to lose to a climber in the sprint finish. This is his first race for Cofidis, he’ll be out to impress and would love to take his first win in his new colours.
Georg Zimmerman – he fits the bill for this type of race as he climbs well and packs a fast sprint, but it will be hard for him to win against the calibre of rider at this race.
The distance from the top of the hardest climb to the finish, and the headwind for the final 35km points towards a sprint finish. I’ll go with Bryan Coquard to start with a bang.