In recent years the Tour de la Provence has delivered some brilliant racing, this year will hopefully be no different. There is no Ventoux this time round, instead we climb Montagne de Lure, which is a long and demanding climb. Several big named riders start their season here, it will be fascinating to see who hits the ground running.
The race begins with a fast 7.2km prologue. There aren’t many corners, this is all about power.
On paper, this is one for the sprinters, but it all depends on the wind. This part of the world is very exposed to the elements, and if the wind blows, the peloton will be ripped apart. I’m pretty sure we’re all hoping the weather Gods are listening!
The second half of the stage is lumpy, this is a stage that could be too hard for some of the sprinters. The big climb is 6.2km at 4.8%, if it’s raced hard riders will be dropped. The final kilometre is also uphill, it averages 4.2%. This is a great finish, one that sprinters and puncheurs will hope to win.
The big mountain stage. The climb is 15km at 6.3% and is a relatively steady effort. The second half of the climb does contain some steeper sections, but this is a climb where riders can settle into a nice rhythm.
Julian Alaphilippe – he won’t be at his very best, but I don’t think he’ll be too far away. Last year he finished 2nd here, he’ll hope to go one better this year. The chance of echelons is good news for the world champion, it gives QuickStep a chance to drop some of the climbers and ride them out of contention.
Ilan Van Wilder – the young Belgian joined QuickStep in the winter from DSM. He is very strong on his TT bike and can also climb with the best. Moving to QuickStep should get the best out of him, he’ll be very keen on impressing as early as he can in 2022. Riding with Alaphilippe will be a massive motivating factor for the youngster, having two options puts QuickStep into a strong position.
Nairo Quintana – what version of Quintana will we get in 2022? His performance in the 2020 edition of this race was off the chart, and he backed that up with a brilliant win in Paris-Nice, but he’s not been anywhere near that level since. When he’s good he’s very good, the rest of the time he’s ordinary. He had COVID during the winter, there is every chance he’s not quite ready for this race.
Michael Storer – one of the best cyclists in 2021. The Aussie reached levels some didn’t think he was capable of in the second half of the season, his performance at the Vuelta was simply incredible. He’s now moved to Groupama – FDJ, it will be interesting to see how he settles into his new surroundings. Storer’s rise to fame reminds me of Ben O’Connor, and not just because they’re both Australian. O’Connor had a huge Giro in 2020, he them moved to AG2R and backed that up with a brilliant Tour de France in 2021. Can Storer continue to improve at FDJ? Backing up his Vuelta won’t be easy, but he certainly has the quality to reach the top level.
Richard Carapaz – crashed hard in Bessèges, we’ll have to see how he has recovered in the past week. Even before his crash, he didn’t look at his best, I wonder if he’ll be any better in this race.
Ethan Hayter – this will be the first time we get to see him take on a proper alpine climb, I’m excited to see what he can do. He was brilliant in 2021, but in which direction will his career go? Will Ineos look to develop his mountain ability, to try and turn him into a grand tour contender? The other option is the medium mountain races, and a crack at some of the classics. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Hayter challenging for the win in this race.
Iván Sosa – another rider who struggles with consistency. Sometimes brilliant, other times awful, he must be a frustrating rider to manage. I’m a big fan of the Colombian, I think we’ve still to see the very best of him, maybe Movistar will be the team to get it out of him. He’s the defending champion, but will start the race worried about potential crosswinds, he doesn’t cope well in echelons.
With likely crosswinds on Friday, I think we’ll see QuickStep and Ineos dominate. He might be unknown in the high mountains, but I’ll still take a win for Ethan Hayter.
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