2022 Tour of the Alps Stage 1 Preview

Cles > San Martino di Castrozza 161.1km

The type of stage we get depends on the attitude of the big teams in the peloton. The cat 2 climb is hard enough to put many into difficulty, but cresting 50km from the end could put some off trying something.

Weather

Cloudy sun and not much wind.

The Climb

The hard bit is the opening 11km which averages 7%, it should really be a cat 1. We then have a long section of false flat before the KOM points are handed out, this section distorts the overall average of the climb, making it seem easier than it is. The good news for those wanting to push the pace is the climb mainly takes place on a relatively narrow road.

Finale

The stage ends with a lap circuit around the finishing town, the lap is done twice. The above image is the final 3.2km, it kicks off with 1km at 7.4%. This climb is just after the bunch head through Mezzano, where they’ll find a section of cobbles. With just 2.3km to go from the crest, this is a perfect launchpad for those wanting to attack. We then have a descent, and a nasty double turn which leads into the final 500m, which rises up to the line. This is a tricky finish.

Tactics

First, who’s going to chase the break? Ineos and Bahrain are the most likely, but if it doesn’t contain a perceived threat on GC, will they really chase hard? Once onto the big climb, we’ll have to see if anyone wants to attack and test the legs of the GC riders. Normally, this is a stage where the climb is ridden at tempo, and we have a surprisingly large group heading into the finale, but all it takes is for a couple of teams to attack on the climb and the bunch will start to blow apart. 

Hoping this happens will be Israel, as they have Nizzolo for the sprint. It’s likely we’ll see them take up the early chase, but they’ll just have to hope no one wants to race the climb.

Ineos and Bahrain are the teams everyone will look at. Bahrain have Pello Bilbao, possibly the fastest finisher in this type of stage. Ineos have several options for a stage like this, they usually like to control stages, they have control issues! If the race is together for the final 5km, the kicker with 3 to go means the stage is unlikely to end in a sprint, it really is perfect for someone to attack and stay away until the end.

Contenders

Pello Bilbao – he seems to be following a similar trajectory to last year, where he was strong in the Basque Country, before lining up at this race. This is a perfect stage for Pello, his sprint is quick from a smallish group. Bahrain arrive with a strong team to support his GC aspirations, I hope to see them take control of the stage and dictate the type of finish we get. As we don’t have a mountaintop finish, bonus seconds at the end of the stages are very important, this is a good chance for Bilbao to take control of the race.

Eddie Dunbar – his recent win in Coppi Bartali was a big moment in his career, especially as his contract with Ineos is up at the end of the year. It’s fair to say that the Irishman hasn’t yet fulfilled his potential, but when you ride with Ineos chances are scarce. Looking at their team, Dunbar should be their best option for this stage, he’ll love the little kicker with 3km to go. 

Esteban Chaves – won here back in the 2019 Giro, the day he smashed the final climb from the breakaway. The finish isn’t in the same place, but riders love coming back to towns where they have good memories. He doesn’t have much form to speak off, but he’s a dangerous rider for a finish like this.

Romain Bardet – allez Romain. I’ll admit it, I have a big soft spot for Mr Bardet, I love his swashbuckling style. In Tirreno, he rode in support of Arensman, I expect this race is one for him. He’ll attack in the closing stages and try to take Bahrain and Ineos by surprise.

Natnael Tesfatsion – the kid is fast! His chances of winning depend on the speed the bunch take the big climb, then it’s about his positioning for the final 3km. It’s rare for Androni to win a stage in a race of this size, but Tesfatsion has the speed required to surprise the bigger names already mentioned. 

Giacomo Nizzolo – without doubt he’s the fastest sprinter here, he’s just about the only one. If it ends in a bunch sprint, he’ll win.

Vincenzo Albanese – once thought of as a sprinter, but he’s now focusing on becoming a better climber. 7th in Sicilia was a brilliant result for him, with that form he’s more than likely to survive the cat 2 climb. The problem is that his team are weak, so chasing down a late attack will be very difficult.

Alessandro De Marchi – breakaway hopeful number 1.

Lennard Kämna – breakaway hopeful number 2.

Lilian Calmejane – breakaway hopeful number 3.

Sean Quinn – breakaway hopeful number 4.

Prediction Time

If Bahrain do their job properly, Pello Bilbao will take the win.

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