Les Alqueries > Torralba del Pinar 166.5km
The opening stage is not one for the fast men, it’s a day that could even turn into a GC fight. We have 3130m of climbing in 166.5km of racing, that’s quite a lot for this time of year. The fact that the sprinters knew the race is too hard for them will have an impact on the start of the stage, it has a Thomas De Gendt feel about it. The peloton needs to make sure the right break gets up the road, especially as we could see a lot of teams staring at each other. Will Movistar immediately start to ride? You can never guarantee this, but it does make sense.
It might only be the beginning of February, but the sun is out, and temperatures are up.
This big climb comes in the middle of the stage, it won’t have much of an impact. As the final climb is too hard for the fast men, there really is no need to go hard here, there’s a long way to go from the top.
The start of the climb is 4.5km at 6.7%, it’s a tough one. This section ends with just under 4km to go, and you can see the climbing continues. The graphic you see leads the riders to the flamme rouge.
The final kilometre is mainly downhill, but it does rise just before the finishing line.
How hard can you make the final climb? We could well be in for a chaotic end to this stage, with lots of attacks as the domestiques drop away. Movistar will be keen on setting up Valverde for a crack at the win, but the opportunity could present itself to one of his teammates to attack and take the win.
The toughest section of the final climb crests with just under 4km to go, the size of the peloton will determine the type of finish we get. We’ll see attacks on the climb, the success of these will depend on how many riders are left to chase. If it’s all together at the top, it’s still not certain we’ll see a sprint as riders will look to attack and solo to victory. Again, it all depends on how many riders are left to control the attacks.
The recent races in Mallorca have shown that Movistar and Bora – hansgrohe have strength in depth, they’ll have a big say in the outcome of the stage. With the climb not being far off 7%, I think we could see a small peloton by the top and utter chaos in the final 4km. What a way to start the race.
Movistar – they should have Mas and Valverde as their big options. If the bunch is smaller than 30 riders, Valverde will fancy his chances of winning the sprint. After working hard for him in Mallorca, I think Mas will be allowed a slightly different role in this stage, he should be allowed to attack on the climb. Given his recent form, Valverde must start as the big favourite to take the win, it is a great finish for him.
Bora – hansgrohe – they impressed in Mallorca and arrive here with multiple options. Vlasov is their main GC card but given his sprint this isn’t an ideal stage for him. I expect the team to attack on the climb and on the descent to the line. With riders like Kelderman, Schelling and Zwiehoff they have lots of options and should look to put pressure on the other teams.
QuickStep – it’s not a matter of if Remco attacks on the climb, it’s simply when. Honoré is a strong sprint option for the team, he’s a rider who really impressed in 2021. When Remco attacks we’ll have to see if anyone can follow him, he would have liked a harder climb, but he’ll still have a go at dropping his main rivals. We all know that if he gets a gap, it’s game over for everyone else.
Ineos – Fraile provides a sprint option, with Geoghegan Hart, Sivakov and Rodriguez as attacking options. Sivakov is the type of rider who can escape on the run for home, he must be watched carefully by the others.
Matej Mohorič – his success depends on the size of group. If it’s 40 or more, he wins. If it’s less than 20, he doesn’t. If the group is between 20 and 30 it will be fascinating. Mohorič has a fast sprint, and his climbing has improved significantly over the last couple of years. Going against him is that this is his first race of the season, his form is unknown.
Juan Ayuso – time to see what the youngster has got.
Movistar will smash the climb blowing the bunch to pieces. With few domestiques left to chase I see Enric Mas taking a surprise win.