Busto Arsizio > Varese 194.6km
If you ask watchers of the sport which race is the hardest of the season, no one will mention Tre Valli Varesine, but it is. In terms of TSS, this is one of the most challenging races on the calendar, I’ve been told this by several current riders in the peloton. The lack of downtime is what makes this a hard day in the saddle, especially as the riders begin the circuits after just 40km of racing. From that point onwards it’s full gas racing, I love it! The organisers have tinkered with the route over the years but have now settled on the current route which features 10 laps of the easier loop and 2 laps of the harder loop.
This year the weather is going to be kind, it’ll be a nice day for the bunch, which is a relief as we’ve had some horrendous conditions in this race.
This the easier loop which is done 10 times. It features the Montello climb which is 1km at 7% and is regular in this race. The other climb in this lap is 2.2km at 4.6%, and it usually softens the legs before the Montello.
This section is completed twice, the first with 38km to go and the second time to finish off the race. It contains the Morosolo, which is 1.54km at 8.1%, and is the hardest climb in the race. This is quickly followed by Casciago, which is 1.86km at 4.8%, and then we still have the grind up to the finishing line. This lap was introduced back in 2018 and helps to make the finale of the race very difficult.
It’s one of those races where the right move can go at any point in the final 50km, it’s unlikely to happen on the final lap. With Il Lombardia coming on Saturday, I don’t think we’ll see anyone going easy, there’s enough time to recover and some are needing a hard day in the legs.
UAE were magnificent in Emilia; it was a brilliant team effort. Okay, Pogačar couldn’t deliver the win, but the team will still be full of confidence heading into the final week of the season. Lombardia is the big target for Pogačar, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be riding as a domestique. Last year, he stayed in the bunch and won the sprint for 3rd, with Davide Formolo losing out to De Marchi in the battle for the win. The team could try the same tactic again, saving Pogačar in case it comes back together and letting riders like Formolo and Ulissi attack in the final 40km.
Movistar are another team who’ve impressed in the last couple of races. Valverde was 2nd in Agostoni, and Mas won in Emilia, with both riding so well just now I expect them to have a big say in this race. Throw in Jorgenson and Rubio as excellent back-up options and you can start to get a sense of their team strength.
With UAE and Movistar both looking very strong, the type of race we get will be decided by them. For the right move to get away, it must include riders from both these teams, it’s almost pointless attacking without them in the wheel. Having a strong team doesn’t guarantee a win but it certainly helps.
UAE – they’ve got so many options; this is a race they really should be winning. I would expect Almeida, Ulissi, Formolo and Pogačar to all have freedom to chase the win. Ulissi looked very strong today, he’s a good fit for this race due to his climbing and sprinting ability. Almeida hasn’t raced since the Vuelta, so we’ll have to wait and see how he responds to racing. Formolo is good, but his sprinting speed makes it hard for him to win a race like this, and then there’s Pogačar. Brilliant in Montréal, over excited in Australia and decent in Emilia, I expect a strong performance by him in this race. He said that after the worlds he didn’t do much on his bike, which means getting Emilia in the legs will help improve his form. Lombardia is the big goal, but he loves to win, no matter the race.
Alejandro Valverde – this is a huge chance for him to win one last race in a glittering career. In the English-speaking media, Valverde has long been despised due to Operación Puerto. Yes, he was caught doping, but the main issue some have was his decision to shut his mouth and not sing like a canary. I don’t know about you, but this is something I respect him for, I would have done the same in that situation. He’s about to bring his career to an end, he’s the last rider to have lived in both cycling worlds, pre and post-industrial doping. Some won’t forgive him for doping, but given the era he grew up in, I understand why he did it. His haul of results since returning from his ban shows the quality he has, without doubt, he’s one of the best riders in the last 20 years. Okay, enough of a rant and back to this race! With Mas and Jorgenson to help, I see Valverde in the front group, but he needs to do a much better sprint than he did in Agostoni.
Dani Martínez – should be the best Ineos rider but he wasn’t at his best in Emilia. He did recently win Sabatini, but Saturday’s performance has put a few doubts in my head.
Quinten Hermans – 2nd place in Liège means this is a race he should be challenging in. His second half of the season hasn’t quite lived up to the hype, but I think much of that is due to him not riding the Tour de France or Vuelta. It’s hard coming up against riders with a grand tour in the legs at this point of the year. If not him, Lorenzo Rota is another good option for the team and his current form is good.
Andreas Kron – far too many DNFs in recent races for me to get hopeful of him winning this race.
Benoît Cosnefroy – his win in Québec is his only success of the year, it’s not been a great year. At his best, Cosnefroy is a magnificent cyclist, but I get the feeling he’s not 100%. He’ll be hoping he’ll get a little boost from doing the Worlds, which will set him up for the next two races.
Warren Barguil – his type of race. I don’t think he’ll win, but he should be finishing in the top 10.
David Gaudu – he was off the pace in Emilia and a DNF today in Bernocchi, so his current form is looking poor. With Lombardia just a few days away, he could do with a good ride.
Rigoberto Urán – ended the Vuelta in good form with a stage win and 9th place on GC, he then followed that up with 7th in Agostoni and 5th in Emilia. EF have been pretty good in recent races, I expect Urán to be one of the men fighting for the win.
Mattias Skjelmose – great form, he’s been incredible since June. Trek-Segafredo don’t have the strongest team in the race, so the Dane will need to ride a clever race, but he has what it takes to challenge for the podium.
UAE and Movistar to go toe-to-toe and Tadej Pogačar to take the win.