An important race for the classics riders to improve their endurance with the most prestigious classics to come and a battle between some of the top GC contenders. Roglic, Schachmann and Matthews are among the riders that start their season here.
First stage is an exciting one, the parcourse is shaped for puncheurs but also fast GC riders like Roglic or strong sprinters like Matthews should be in the mix.
Stage 2 final could be tricky but with the superb sprint train Deceuninck Quick-Step and Team DSM brought I don’t see surprises happening. Bennett vs Bol vs Ackermann vs Philipsen.
Stage 3 is a short flattish time trial, 14 kilometre. In this field look at Roglic, Schachmann, Politt, Cavagna, SKA, Matthews, Armirail, Pedersen, Dennis and Campenaerts.
Tough day with a lot of short climbs, together its plenty of elevation to make an interesting stage. With a strong team there are opportunities to play it tactical. Ineos headlined by TGH as a prime example. If a group makes it to the bottom of the last climb 1.4k at 12% Roglic will be hard to beat.
Stage 5, another one for the sprinters.
Anything could happen here, sprint with Matthews or a GC battle… no idea. Climbers who are on a gap after the time trial might try something, good stage for attackers. Vlasov, Gaudu, G. Martin and Barguil are options.
This day will decide GC, long climb not too steep though. A lot is going to depend on the wind direction. Headwind on a 6% climb will give a boring race.
This stage depends on how GC pans out, if gaps are close we could see someone try but in my opinion its more likely this one will go to the big breakaway.
** Schachmann, Geoghan Hart
* Gaudu, Barguil, G. Martin, Poels, Bilbao, Jungels, Porte, Dennis, Benoot, Vlasov, Jorgenson, I. Izagirre
Roglic is the obvious top favourite, he doesn’t need race days to reach good form. In 2019 and 2020 he even won on the first race day of his season. He could repeat that this year on stage 1.
Behind that I think Schachmann and Geoghan Hart have an edge because of the time trial. With this course its hard to create big gaps, only on the stage puncheurs finish and the time trial gaps are guaranteed. The time trial could be very decisive.
That’s also why Rohan Dennis is getting a star but most likely this will be preparation for him and he will work for TGH and Porte, who always starts the season good.
Barguil is a question mark, he will be very motivated because its a French race and he is peaking this spring already. But unfortunately he was dealing with some stomach problems.
Between the 1 star riders everything is quite close but I personally like Bilbao’s chances. He can ride a good time trial, he is quite punchy unlike Poels so if he is ahead in GC the team around him will be superstrong with Teuns, Poels and Colbrelli on the start list already.