Siena > Siena 184km
Same route as previous years, no need to change anything. This is one of the best races of the year, it rarely fails to deliver. Will it follow a similar path to previous years? Unfortunately, several riders have dropped out in the last 24 hours, it’s a shame we won’t see Pidcock and Bardet on the start line.
Cold and sunny, but it’s the wind that will interest some. The opening half of the race will have 25km/h winds, coming from the north-east. The direction means a lot of headwind as the riders head back to Siena, but there is a lot of cross/tailwind in the final 30km, but by that point the wind will be under 20km/h. It will be interesting to see if the wind has any impact on the race.
Sector 8 – Monte Sante Marie. Without doubt, they hardest sector in the race.
Sector 10 – Colle Pinzuto. The length of this sector is important, this is where Tiesj launched his big move in 2018.
Sector 11 – Le Tolfe. Watch out for the downhill, Wout Van Aert got a crucial gap here in 2020, before the steep section.
One of the most beautiful finishes in cycling. The race deserves a showdown on this hill, but will it get one? Last year we witnessed van der Poel launch an enormous attack to take the crown, the race does benefit from such a finish.
When do you want to split it? Monte Sante Marie is the usual spot, it’s the hardest sector. This is where the climbers can do some damage, and if the pace is high, the vast majority of domestiques will be out the back door. You cannot guarantee how the race will be won, recent editions have seen a “sprint” finish and longer-range attacks, it just depends on how the race develops.
Van Aert and van der Poel aren’t here, the past two winners of the race, but Alaphilippe is. All eyes will be on him and his team, most will expect them to make the race. The world champion arrives with a strong team to help him, the likes of Asgreen, Honoré, Devenyns, Schmid and Vervaeke could last until deep into the race. If one team have numbers after Monte Sante Marie, they will have a massive tactical advantage over the rest.
So, who is the strongest team? It’s a hard one to judge but my bet would be on UAE. They look the most likely to have multiple riders in the front group after Monte Sante Marie, with QuickStep and Jumbo-Visma not too far behind. These are the teams who are likely to dictate the type of race we get. I cannot stress how important having numbers in the front group is, we’ve seen before that the vital move can go a fair distance from the finish, there is no guarantee the race is decided on Piazza del Campo.
If we have an equal spread of riders in the front group, the race should follow a similar pattern to previous years. With each sector the weakest riders get dropped, leaving the strongest for Colle Pinzuto and Le Tolfe. Without van der Poel and Van Aert, the race is more open than in the previous two editions.
Julian Alaphilippe – won here in 2019 and was 2nd to van der Poel last year, it really is a great race for the world champion. QuickStep have a strong team to support him, but just how good will he be at this time of the year? Alaphilippe is a tough rider to predict, he’s capable of pulling an outstanding performance out of the bag when least expected. Last week in the Drôme Classic he was a fair bit away from his best, will he be able to hit a peak for this race? As Milan-Sanremo is his first big target, his best form can’t be too far away, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Tiesj Benoot – had a brilliant start to the season, his attacks on the Berendries and Côte de Trieu were outstanding. Tiesj has clearly had a good winter, when he’s on this form he’s a massive danger to everyone else. He won here in 2018, a brilliant day for us fans. Jumbo-Visma bring a strong team to support Benoot, with Kuss and Vader capable of sticking around until deep in the race. Looking at his rivals, Tiesj will need to make the difference before Piazza del Campo.
Tadej Pogačar – probably the only pure climber who can win this race. UAE have started the season on fire, they’ll hope that Covi, Soler and Ulissi can last deep into this race. Pogačar was 7th here last year, it was an impressive debut. Without van der Poel and Van Aert he’s clearly one of the men to beat, but can he beat the history books and become the first proper climber to win this race?
Alejandro Valverde – form is good, but it’s been a long time since he was good enough to win this race.
Quinn Simmons – off-road expert, he was brilliant last year before suffering some bad luck. He’s had a year to stew over this, I’m hoping for a big ride in this race. He started his season last weekend in France, hopefully he’s not undercooked.
Tim Wellens – I was sure he would have been challenging in Omloop, but he got sick on Friday night and had to pull out the race. He’s now better, but will last weekend stop him from winning this race? His legs are good, so is his form, I doubt a small illness will have a big impact on his level. This is a route that suits him well, he’s someone who doesn’t mind attacking early and taking the race to his rivals.
Matej Mohorič – must go long, but he doesn’t mind that. Some of the hills are a little on the steep side for him, but he cannot be written off.
Jakob Fuglsang – recently had COVID, so wasn’t at his best in Gran Camiño, but he still finished 10th. This is a race he loves; he was incredible strong here back in 2020 but attacked too early. If he’s at his best he should be challenging for the win.
Benoît Cosnefroy – form is growing but I think this race is too hard for him.
Time for the history books to be rewritten. I’ll take a win for Tadej Pogačar.