In many ways, this is my favorite classic…reasons:
“Easiest to finish, hardest to win”…so many people can win this race. It is as much about taking your chances as it is your legs.
The best final 30k in bike racing…hitting the Cipressa and then barreling down the coast line to hit the Poggio in full flight. Absolutely love it.
The symbolic notice that we have survived yet another winter and Spring is (almost) here.
Wout is obviously the red-hot favorite, with Caleb Ewan being the sprinters favorite. But it is really wide-open so predictions are such a crapshoot. Lots of guys can win it this year…but I really like Ganna to pull a Cancellara and sneak away once they get off the descent of the Poggio.
Would love to see it, but age and tactics will likely work against him. If Ewan is gonna win, he’ll need all the teammates he can get to keep things together on and over the Poggio. I could see a scenario where, if Lotto has enough riders on the Poggio, they send Gilbert up the road to try and draw out others and then hopefully setting up Ewan. And if Gilbert manages to stick it, well then all the better…
Really don’t rate Pog’s chances…course is just not selective enough for the strongest guy to win. We’ll see if he follows through on his hints at a long-range attack, but there is a huge difference between going solo for 50k at Strade Bianche and trying to hold off a pack of 50-70 guys hurtling down the coast line in MSR.
I too love this race. The weather where I am is never nice enough to feel bad about not riding outside myself…or doing yardwork…and it’s a nice way to spend a day. Start with a cup of coffee in the morning and open a beer just before the Cipressa.
Pog going HAM on the Poggio and everyone like “well I guess let’s race for 2nd” is my pick, but who knows with that guy. WvA with a whole JV team behind him has got to be the favorite if Pogacar doesn’t drop another legendary performance (which he very well may). If he does, no one can touch him, and that goes for any race and any course. Really want Gilbert to get the final jewel in the crown, but it’s hard to see it happening.
Is Ganna a good enough descender? I haven’t seen him leading any descents (or bridging back on), but I haven’t been watching for it like with Cancellara.
Agree with WvA and Caleb being great picks. Caleb seemed in great climbing shape for the “Sprinter’s Classic”.
Diminished field might mean a pretty good chance for a break.
There was an interesting comment in an article I skimmed the other day. Basically suggesting they’d polled the pro peloton and MSR was the least favourite for almost all, and the one they’d like to drop as a classic for Strade.
not exactly a dark horse but thinking if Tom Pidcock is healthy again then he has a good shot. Obviously, he can handle the climbs and is an excellent bike handler/descender and quite good in the sprint too
Can Pog drop Wout on a 6min climb, yes. Can he do it on a very shallow 3.7% climb? Possibly, in the final steep section. However, we’re talking a few seconds. There’s massive drafting on most of the Poggio. They race it at ludicrous speed.
Can Pog make this difference up against the strongest team? A team with Roglic working to chase Pog’s attack with Wout in the wheel. Even less likely.
Basically, I don’t see Pog getting enough separation to hold off Wout and a few others on the descent and flat run-in to the finish.
Ganna? You’re dreaming… dreaming. It’s not a time trial folks.
Caleb? Very likely, if the second group makes it back to the puncheurs group. Caleb likely wins. He’s the fastest pure sprinter in the World Tour.
Reduced micro bunch. Wout wins. Pog has a good sprint. He could win, less likely.
2nd bunch catches. Caleb wins.
Solo attack from micro group on the final flat run in. Anybody could do it, same as last year. Everyone looks at each other, attacker wins. That’s also how Pog could win. Rather unlikely.
This is my thought too. When Nibali won, he went off when the group stagnated, had 2-3 seconds over the top, then increased it to 10 by the bottom of the descent. Pog won’t out-descend WvA, we saw how well Wout can go on that descent in 2020.
Ganna could win with an attack at the bottom if the group stalls, remember he’s very good in pursuit style length, and we saw in one of the earlier races, that he can be at the front in a fast finish when needed. I can’t remember the race, but he was defending, or staying in contention for a leaders jersey.
Can’t see Ewan winning, unless he has a teammate in the final group at the bottom.