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This year’s Tirreno-Adriatico is stacked with riders set to make waves in the so-called “race of the two seas.”
Double Tour de France champion Tadej Pogačar has Tirreno’s trident trophy to defend and is no doubt the guy to keep an eagle-eye on through the week-long race.
Also read: Preview – Tirreno-Adriatico
But who else should we watch out for?
Here are five riders that aren’t Pogačar that are set to kick up a storm at the 2022 Tirreno-Adriatico:
Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma)
Vingegaard started his season the right way with a rampaging win at the Drôme Classic last weekend.
The young Dane has been tipped to go a long way for some time, and his second-place at last year’s Tour confirmed that. Now the big question is whether he can back-up those breakout three weeks in France with something equally stellar in 2022.
Based on his huge ride last weekend, it could be in the works.
“Things could still be better, but today gives me confidence,” he said after Drôme. “It is always important to have a good start to the season. I’m happy with the way I won today.”
Tirreno-Adriatico is a key stepping stone in Vingegaard’s march toward this summer’s Tour de France, and a co-captaincy role with Primož Roglič.
Just like he will be at the Tour this July, Vingegaard will be one of the few that could make Pogačar’s life difficult at Tirreno-Adriatico next week. Bring on some more of the Pogačar-Vingegaard punch-ups that lit up last year’s Grand Boucle.
Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers)
Carapaz hasn’t had a bone fide rollercoaster ride this season.
Carapaz’s COVID positive at the Tour de la Provence and race-ending crash at Bessèges made way for triumph at the Ecuadorian nationals with a TT title and second in the road race.
But beating a threadbare bunch in Ecuador doesn’t mean so much when a match-up with the world’s finest at the Giro d’Italia is on the cards. Carapaz need a big block of disaster-free racing in his legs to get his Giro dream a go-go.
A showdown with Pogačar, Vingegaard and Remco Evenepoel should give him all the action he needs.
Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Soudal)
Unsung hero of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad? That’s Mr. Campenaerts.
A series of mishaps and mechanicals in the final hours of the classics curtain-raiser saw the burly Belgian off the back and out of contention more times than we could count this weekend. But BOOM! – there he was finishing fifth in Ninove. And if that wasn’t enough, he backed it up with sixth in the Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne bunch-kick the next day.
Campenaert’s recent mission to reinvent himself from a TT tester to a classics-basher looks complete, and he’s got big ambitions for later in the spring.
“My goal is to win on cobblestones, with the last chance at Paris-Roubaix,” he said after Omloop. “The condition is there … without any setbacks, there will be opportunities to take that victory.”
Watch out for more Campenaerts-capers through the hard hilly days that open up Tirreno next week. There may not be cobbles, but Campenaerts will likely be there nonetheless.
Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl)
In case you missed it – Evenepoel is on a tear.
A near-miss at the Volta a la Valenciana and swaggering victory at the Volta ao Algarve has put the 22-year-old on a steamroller trajectory toward Tirreno. And guess what? He wants to impress in the Italian test.
“It was a big goal for me to arrive in good shape in Tirreno, and I think I’m improving,” Evenepoel said after securing the overall in Portugal last month.
“I hope to do something nice in a WorldTour race this year. Tirreno is a nice race to win, and we go there with a strong team. It’s good for my development as a climber and a GC rider to do harder stage races every time again.”
Evenepoel has never faced off against Pogačar in a stage-race, and only once against Primož Roglič.
How Patrick Lefevere’s young alpha “wolf” fares against Pogačar at Tirreno will prove just how big of a deal this wunderkind really is.
Tiesj Benoot (Jumb0-Visma)
Benoot is Jumbo-Visma’s new not-so-secret weapon.
The all-attacking Belgian lit up the “opening weekend” with dazzling moves for team-leaders Wout van Aert and Christophe Laporte, showing that someone has been training pretty hard over winter.
Benoot’s move to Jumb0-Visma has no doubt stoked Benoot’s fire in a deal that is already paying big for both parties. Van Aert has a domestique-de-luxe, and Benoot has had a major mojo boost with it.
“Having someone him in the lead group in the final is a luxury,” van Aert said of Benoot after his victory last weekend. “It’s nice work from the guys, and it’s twice as nice to make it count. I think today has given me — and the boys — a lot of confidence.”
Watch out for Tiesj on a tear in the tough classics-style stages next week – and don’t be surprised to see him winning one of them either.