The big one’s here, but with COVID still looming large, the race starts with a lot of uncertainty. I’ve already looked at all the stages, you can see it here
There’s every chance of the wind splitting things up as the bunch head south. Throw in some narrow roads, and if the echelons don’t get you, the crashes will. It will be your normal crazy first road stage of the Tour, and some GC riders won’t enjoy themselves.
The cobbled stage. Nerves and crashes are on the menu, but the cobbles aren’t that hard. I doubt we’ll see gaps between the best GC riders.
The first mountaintop finish, we’re back on Super Planche des Belles Filles. The gaps will be small, but it’s still an important stage to see the natural pecking order.
Col du Granon is the finish and its 11.3km at 8.8% and it tops out at just under 2400m above sea level.
The monster day with the Galibier, Croix de Fer and the Alpe. This is the biggest day in the race, it will go a long way to deciding the winner of the yellow jersey.
Three monster climbs coming in quick succession makes the final mountain stage an absolute belter. We have the Aubisque, Col de Spendelles and the legendary Hautacam. The climbs are close enough together to make it possible for a long-range attack to stick, at least that’s what we’ll all hope.
A 40km ITT is horrible at this point in the race, I’m not a fan.
Tadej Pogačar – the best rider I’ve ever seen, beating him is so difficult. We’re talking about a skinny climber who can drop almost everyone in Flanders, a skinny climber who can beat the best in the world in a relatively flat TT, a skinny climber who has the most extraordinary bike handling skills, a skinny climber who never seems to crash. It’s safe to say that Tadej has the bases covered. UAE arrive with a team who can support him deep into the mountain stages, the likes of McNulty, Bennett and Majka will be very important for him. Some think he’s vulnerable in the wind, I totally disagree, he’ll love it if we get echelons.
Primož Roglič – given his record in stage races, it’s quite incredible that he hasn’t won the yellow jersey before. The weakness he has is the final few days of this race, he always seems to lose a little bit of his edge, just at the wrong time. Jumbo-Visma will hope their strong leaders will be able to put Pogačar under pressure, but I’m not so sure. Stage 11 will tell us everything we need to know, one of them needs to go long and force Pogačar into working, then pray that the other one can follow him. Roglič was strong in the Dauphiné, but he needs to find another level to threaten Pogačar.
Jonas Vingegaard – second last year was an incredible result, beating that will be very hard. Just like Roglič he very strong in the Dauphiné, but can he really put Pogačar under pressure? He was way off him in Tirreno, but this race did bring out the best in him last year, I’m sure we all remember when he dropped Pogačar on Ventoux. That is the only bit of weakness I can remember from him in the last couple of years, Vingegaard needs to find that level again, if he’s going to win yellow.
Aleksandr Vlasov – while the “big” riders have spent most of the season focused on this race, the Russian has been casually picking up some huge wins, he’s been quite remarkable in 2022. He’s got the legs to challenge for the podium, but there are some doubts as he’s just recovered from COVID. He’ll hope to get through the opening 6 stages without losing seconds, that will buy him time to find his legs and challenge in the mountains.
Dani Martínez – he’ll likely be the best Ineos rider, despite recent performances in the Tour de Suisse. He’s been nice and consistent this year, and if he can perform like he did in the 2021 Giro, he’s a real contender for the podium.
Enric Mas – the Spaniard is ultra-consistent in the Tour and Vuelta. In 2020 he was 5th in both, in 2021 he was 6th in France and 2nd in Spain. Forget his results in all other races, he always saves his best for the next couple of months. The top 5 will be a realistic goal, the podium if he goes very well.
Ben O’Connor – 4th last year was a brilliant result for Ben, finishing in the top 8 would be a significant achievement this time round. Last year he lost time in the carnage of the opening stages, which allowed him to jump in the break in the Tignes stage, not only winning the stage but bringing him back into GC contention. This year, it’s all about not losing time, and then going full gas in the mountains. Given the level of his rivals, anything in the top 10 would be a significant achievement, but knowing him, he’ll want to push for the top 5.
Only an act of God will stop Tadej Pogačar winning his third yellow jersey, and I don’t believe in God.