Starting with this year’s route, the main thing that caught my eye was the lack of a long mountain finish as had been the case in the past two years. Instead, we have the Monte Carpegna on stage 6 (March 12), a 6km climb at 9.9%. This mountain features twice in the last 40km, and the final summit is located before a 14km stretch takes the riders to the finish. Although not a summit finish, this is equivalent, in my opinion. The Monte Carpegna is so tough that will certainly define the winner of the 2022 Tirreno Adriatico.
Another important change from the two previous years is the extra 4km of time trial. It might not seem like much, but it’s still 40% more than the riders were used to. This change, coupled with the lack of a true high-mountain finish, swings the pendulum of favoritism slightly in favor of a better time trialist compared to a climber or puncheur. In a race that is usually decided by seconds (outside of last year when Pogacar just left everybody in the dust), the extra length of the time trial might be significant.
As a curiosity, in 2016 and 2019 the race was decided by just one second: in 2016 Greg Van Avermaet won over Peter Sagan and in 2019 Primoz Roglic took the blue jersey over Adam Yates.
2022 Tirreno Adriatico route
Honorable mentions: Enric Mas (Movistar), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama FDJ), Romain Bardet (Team DSM), Wilco Kelderman (Bora Hansgrohe), Jakob Fuglsang (Israel Premier-Tech).
- Miguel Ángel López (Astana)
The Colombian is coming off a 3rd place in the Ruta del Sol two weeks ago, and is experienced in winning one-week races, having done so in the 2019 Vuelta a Catalunya and in the 2016 Tour de Suisse. With that being said, the time trial and the lack of a true mountain finish will probably hinder his chances at overall victory. Still, outside of the four main favorites I don’t really see anybody else with Lopez’s ability to make differences. I see him as the only one that, on a good day, can leave the favorites behind and open a sufficiently big gap to win the race. I don’t really foresee this happening but if anybody has that ability it certainly is him.
- Julian Alaphilippe (Quick Step Alphavinyl)
I don’t really like to include teammates on these lists but how can you not? Alaphilippe is getting himself ready for classics season and is already in decent form after a 2nd place in the Tour de Provence, and a 5th in the Drôme Classic. He is a good time trialist and the lack of a summit finish certainly favors him over Pogacar. He can also sprint very well in small groups which makes him a favorite for those bonus seconds at the end of stages. Ultimately, I think the double ascension of the Monte Carpegna will be too much for him compared to Pogacar but he certainly cannot be discounted.
- Jonas Vingegaard (Team Jumbo Visma)
The surprise of the 2021 Tour is already making noise in 2022. He won the Drôme Classic in spectacular fashion leaving Juan Ayuso behind in the final 500 meters to claim his first win of the year. As mention, Alaphilippe also took part in this race and was dropped by the second group also inside of the last kilometer. This is a sign of Vingegaard’s ability and form.
However, I don’t see where Vingegaard can make a difference that would enable him to win the race. I trust the other two favorites more in the time trial (even though differences should be minimal) and also at the end of stages to collect those precious bonus seconds. I think it’s likely that Vingegaard will be the only one able to follow Pogacar on the Monte Carpegna in stage 6 but will he be able to make a difference? Unlikely, in my opinion. We also shouldn’t forget that the Dane lost 30-45 seconds on the descent after the Ventoux on stage 11 of last year’s Tour de France. Not a good sign for a race whose queen stage features a long descent after a tough climb.
- Remco Evenepoel (Quick Step Alphavinyl)
He’s won stages in the two races he took part in this year and only Aleksandr Vlasov beat him in the GC. Pretty par for the course for one of the most impressive riders I’ve ever seen. He only turned 22 years old in January. I’m sure he has high hopes for the 2022 Tirreno Adriatico. For all the winning that Remco has already done in his young career, the 2020 Tour de Pologne is still the only World Tour race he has won. I know it seems ridiculous to include “only” in that sentence but, despite his young age, the Belgian has already gotten us used to nothing but excellence from him. He will certainly be looking to add more World Tour races to his palmarés in 2022, starting with the Tirreno Adriatico.
Evenepoel can win in any terrain. Maybe not a mass sprint, but anywhere else, I wouldn’t bet against him. The problem is that he is facing the best rider in the world that also already won in 2022. I can see Evenepoel collecting a few seconds on Pogacar in the time trial. Maybe even in some of the hillier stages. But I still don’t trust his ability on the high mountains, especially against Pogacar. The lack of a summit finish certainly benefits Evenepoel but Pogacar also knows this. And his approach to the other stages of the race will reflect this fact. I just don’t think the Belgian will be able to make enough of a difference to defeat Pogacar, who is defending a title he comfortably won last year.
- Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates)
Another race, another clear favorite status for the Slovenian. He is the reigning champion of this Italian race. In fact, his victory last year marked only the second time since 2000 that the race was decided by more than 1 minutes between 1-2 (the other time was 2014 when Alberto Contador beat Nairo Quintana). He won the race last year largely on the back of a stage win on the Prati di Tivo, last year’s high mountain summit finish. He won’t have that this year but I just believe that nobody will be able to beat him consistently enough, on all-terrains, to take the victory from him. I would be surprised if he managed to win this race again by more than a minute, but I believe he will win it nonetheless.