To no one’s surprise, Tadej Pogacar is the leader here after winning stage 4, the first with a steep finish. He already has 5 wins this season, almost as many as Fabio Jakobsen, a sprinter. Pogacar has taken part in two World Tour races so far in 2022, won both, and likely will make it three in a row in the Tirreno Adriatico. I never thought I’d say this but, if he keeps this level of form can he leave everybody behind on the Cipressa or the Poggio and win the Milano Sanremo, on the 19th? After what we’re seeing from him this year, we must keep an eye out for this possibility even if it’s not a common occurrence to see a GC rider win in Sanremo.
As predicted, the longer time trial did make big differences that can be seen in the GC after stage 4. Pogacar and Remco Evenepoel are clearly a cut above the rest of the contenders in the discipline, so they are currently first and second with 9 seconds between them. Tao Geoghegan Hart, Jonas Vingegaard, and Miguel Angel Lopez, the next favorites, are already 43, 45, and 50 seconds behind Pogacar, though. In the Paris Nice it was important, in my opinion, to make sure Roglic and Jumbo Visma had to chase the yellow jersey for the other contenders to have a chance. Now that he has an advantage over everybody it is going to be even more difficult to dislodge him. The same applies here.
Evenepoel actually had around 10 seconds on Pogacar after the time trial. Would that have made a difference? Probably not. Are Pogacar and UAE more likely to make a mistake chasing a lead rather then wearing the leader’s jersey? Well, certainly, in my opinion. That’s why I didn’t really understand Evenepoel’s attack yesterday on the Bellante. Granted, he is more likely to distance the Slovenian on these shorter climbs than on the Monte Carpegna on Saturday (do not miss this stage!). But he already had a small lead. Why not try to preserve as much as possible and see if he can go in Saturday’s stage as the leader and force Pogacar to have to attack there?
To be fair, I guess it doesn’t really matter though. When the back-to-back Tour de France displays this level of form nothing and no one can rival him.
I would like to laud Miguel Angel Lopez and the fabulous time trial he did on Monday. He was 13th, only 42 seconds behind world champion Filippo Ganna, and completed the 14km course in the same time as French champion Benjamin Thomas. Granted the French and time trials haven’t gotten along in decades. But this is still an achievement from the Colombian whose career has been affected by less than stellar time trial performances.
Other than the five riders mentioned above, nobody is really a threat in GC, in my opinion. Marc Soler is the next potential GC contender but he’s Pogacar’s domestique. Richie Porte, Wilco Kelderman, and Jai Hindley are all already more than a minute back on Pogacar and frankly, other than Hindley who is still a question mark, I don’t see Porte or Kelderman as contenders in such a strong field of contenders.
In sprinting news, Tim Merlier got his first victory of the 2022 on stage 2 and Caleb Ewan continued his solid start to the season winning for the third time this year on stage 3. They are not the sprinters I want to mention though. Olav Kooij, the 20-year sprinter from Jumbo Visma, was 2nd and 3r on stages 2 and 3, respectively, and is showing that is development is way above schedule. Last year he won two stages in the Cro Race but the result that really caught my eye was a 2nd place on stage 3 of the Tour de Pologne, only behind Fernando Gaviria. A bronze medal in the U23 worlds in 2021 and another 3rd place in the Gran Piemonte were also very promising results for a rider who wasn’t even 20 at the time. After 3 top-10 finishes in the UAE Your (including a 2nd place in front of names like Sam Bennett, Elia Viviani, or Arnaud Démare), and now 2 podium places in the 2 sprint finishes, I think everybody must keep their eye on the young Dutchman because he will soon start winning big races.
As for what’s left of this Tirreno Adriatico, you can check it out here. I would definitely not miss the penultimate stage, on Saturday. It’s tough because that’s the same day as the Col de Turini summit finish in the Paris Nice, but, if you have one screen you can make it two, with some creativity. Today’s (Friday) stage is very similar to the one from yesterday so we should be in for an entertaining finish but without many changes in GC.