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For a rider who wasn’t even expected to start Tirreno-Adriatico, Primož Roglič impressed to blast to three straight stage victories to secure his first stage-race win since last year’s Critérium du Dauphiné.
Not bad for a guy who vowed not to shave his legs until he was winning again.
Sunday wrapped up an interesting and mostly exciting edition of the “Race of the Two Seas.” Weather forced organizers to reroute the “queen stage” high in the Abruzzi, but the final outcome would have been the same.
“It’s great to return to the peloton in this way,” Roglič said. “My main goal was to gain race rhythm here and to suffer. I managed to do both. That I would also take three stage wins and win the final classification, I certainly did not expect.”
Roglič simply out-muscled all takers in his first race since abandoning the Vuelta a España and undergoing surgery.
Of course, not all of the Giro GC candidates and Milan-San Remo favorites were racing at Tirreno. Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) was at a training camp and will return to action at the Volta a Catalunya. Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates) was nursing a knee injury, and defending San Remo champion Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious) wasn’t racing last week at all.
Yet there’s usually a direct line from Tirreno-Adriatico and success at Milan-San Remo and the Giro.
So how does Tirreno-Adriatico set up the bella vita period of Italian racing? Let’s dive in:
Roglič is back with a vengeance — Giro
Primož is back!
That was the headline after he won stage 4 to Tortoreto after a winter marked by surgery and a long period away from racing. It was copy-and-paste for the next few days after the Jumbo-Visma captain fended off all challengers.
His delayed season soon saw the three-time Vuelta a España champion reminding everyone he’s one of the most prolific winners in the bunch. At 33, there’s no sign he’s slowing down.
The surgical but convincing victory sends him clattering up the favorite’s list for the upcoming Giro. Roglič has some unfinished business with the Italian grand tour, and his solid performance across Tirreno confirmed he’ll be ready to take on Evenepoel and the others.
With the Volta a Catalunya on his calendar next, where he will face off against the Belgian superstar in their only joint appearance before the Giro.
There’s no doubting Roglič’s finishing speed and ability to pick up time bonuses. A big question mark for him after coming off surgery will be whether he can go the distance of the full three weeks of the Giro and handle the long, punishing climbs in the final week.
Mathieu van der Poel touch off his best — MSR
He was the peloton’s “Nowhere Man” all last week. Just two years ago, the flying Dutchman was blowing the wheels off everyone when he blitzed to two stage victories. There’s been no wind in his sails since his road season debut at Strade Bianche with 15th.
Van der Poel said he still doesn’t have the leg speed he needs to win. After a short but intense cyclocross calendar capped by a fifth world title in early February, Van der Poel admits he’s off his top form.
That could change very quickly, and Milan-San Remo will be an important testing ground going into the northern classics.
Though many discount San Remo for its relatively easy and straightforward route, many forget it’s the longest race on the WorldTour calendar at 294km. Even the Cipressa and Poggio sting after that distance.
Mathieu van der Poel: ‘I am not panicking yet.’
Dutch superstar remains muted in early races but he’s confident he’s on the flight path toward a strong spring classics campaign.https://t.co/hg83LgpVFZ
— VeloNews (@velonews) March 11, 2023
San Remo will be an important measuring stick for Van der Poel and the depth that he knows he’ll need to battle the likes of Jumbo-Visma and Soudal Quick-Step on the cobbles of Flanders and northern France in the coming weeks.
Could Van der Poel also be playing a bit of a game of bluffing? Maybe. There’s no hiding in the monuments, and Van der Poel brings the class and the experience to rise to the occasion. Tirreno-Adriatico was just the kick he needed and after a relatively quiet start by his standards, he might be doubly motivated to do something special on the Italian Riviera.
Tao Geoghegan Hart is flying — Giro
Tao Geoghegan Hart hasn’t looked this good since he won the Giro in 2020.
The London rider has had a rough few years since his breakout Giro victory. It’s never easy trying to surpass expectations, and illness and a few crashes haven’t helped. Riding into the top-20 in last year’s Vuelta might not have seemed like much, but it obviously set him up nicely coming into this season.
In February, he won his first race since the 2020 Giro with a mountaintop win at the Volta a Valenciana. Three top-5s and a podium will give him a much-needed confidence boost going into the Giro.
Ineos Grenadiers will bring a stacked team to the Giro, with Geraint Thomas, Pavel Sivakov, and Thymen Arensman also lining up as potential leaders. The road will decide, but so far in 2023, it’s Geoghegan Hart who’s been the most consistent and strongest.
Wout van Aert on slow boil — MSR
Van Aert was happy last week taking trademark monster pulls to set up Roglič for the overall. The Jumbo-Visma superstar has nothing to prove, and is on a slow boil for the northern classics.
Unlike longtime nemesis Van der Poel, who’s already won two editions of Ronde van Vlaanderen, Van Aert is betting everything this spring on arriving to the Ronde and Paris-Roubaix in perfect condition.
— Team Jumbo-Visma cycling (@JumboVismaRoad) March 11, 2023
So far it’s been hard to get a good read on his condition, at least based on his results.
He skipped Strade Bianche, and on the one day the team was pulling for him for the win he crashed when he got tangled up with Tom Pidcock. That’s the same day Roglič stepped up and delivered.
Van Aert didn’t seem seriously injured in his Pidcock pileup, and thanked his shammy for “saving my ass.”
The road to the northern classics goes straight via the Via Roma. A winner in 2020, Van Aert will be ready to turn his base into victories.
Bora Hansgrohe hoping form comes when it counts — Giro
Missing a bit of sizzle last week was the breakout team of 2022 with Bora Hansgrohe in what was an otherwise solid showing by the squad.
Lennard Kämna held the leader’s jersey one day and finished fourth overall, and though team GC captains Jai Hindley and Aleksandr Vlasov were both a few watts short of the front in the GC contest, they’re both on track for bigger targets this season.
Few can match Roglič’s pure power in short, explosive efforts. Vlasov equalled Roglič in almost every stage, but it was the time bonuses that ultimately made the winning difference.
The 2022 Giro winner Hindley is heading to the Tour this year, and Vlasov prefers the longer, grinding climbs over the short, intense efforts that usually feature during Tirreno.
Tirreno proved that Kämna and Vlasov will be even stronger in the Giro when the longer, grinding stage better suit their styles.
Tom Pidcock sleepy outsider — MSR
After blowing up Strade Bianche, Pidcock was MIA most of the week.
A crash with Van Aert in stage 4 didn’t help, and he finished out the week with a bandage on his arm. A second crash and withdrawal from Tirreno ended a rough week.
Like the other “Three Tenors,” Pidcock is betting big on the classics. Tirreno-Adriatico served more as a high-speed training camp to help him find leg speed ahead of his upcoming spring classics targets.
We’ll see if he’s cleared to race this weekend.
If he starts in full health, Pidcock could be a sleepy outsider for San Remo.
He obviously has the legs to match the accelerations on the Cipressa and Poggio. His 15th in his monument debut in the 2021 San Remo confirms that.
The perfect scenario? Pidcock comes over the top of the Poggio with the best, and deploys his superb descending skills to drop everyone and hang on for the win.
Time is now for Joâo Almeida — Giro
Sneaking into second place was Portuguese all-rounder Almeida.
Perhaps no rider in the peloton has the ability to claw himself back into the frame than Almeida. He’s often dropped, but he just as often digs deep into his reserves to be there when it counts.
Still only 24, Almeida will be back for his fourth Giro. After his spectacular debut of fourth in 2020, he was sixth in 2021, and did not finish last year. Fifth in the Vuelta a España means that he’s been inside the top-6 in every grand tour he’s finished.
He won’t blow the shoes off anyone, but it’s steady consistency that can win grand tours. The time-trial heavy Giro courses is ideal for his locomotive style.
Always being close almost got him the win at Tirreno-Adriatico, and it puts him on track for a run at a career-first grand tour podium at the Giro.