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LIDO DI CAMAIORE, Italy (VN) — Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Emirates) will get his chance Monday to open up the legs in the opening time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico, and after that it’s all about working to help Tadej Pogačar.
The 23-year-old will be an outsider for victory Monday in the 13.9km time trial to open the “Race of the Two Seas,” and then he will slip into helper mode for Pogačar’s push to defend the Tirreno title.
“Today I have the green light to open the gas,” Bjerg told VeloNews. “The first time trial I did was the UAE Tour, but I am ready to do a good ride. Today suits me a little bit better.”
The out-and-back test against the clock to open the 2022 Tirreno-Adriatico does not present any major technical challenge. The course is flat on wide roads, though the wind may kick up for the later starters Monday afternoon.
The three-time U23 world time trial champion Bjerg said the morale is high coming into the weeklong Tirreno, especially coming off Pogačar’s dramatic victory at Strade Bianche on Saturday.
The goal is simple for Bjerg: try to win Monday for himself, and then pour everything into Pogačar to fend off the likes of Remco Evenepoel and Jonas Vingegaard.
“That’s the main thing is to help Tadej win here,” he said. “The mood on the bus in good. Everyone is really happy and really relaxed going into this week. We know we have some really good riders, and we do a perfect job, we can do a good result here.”
— @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamEmiratesUAE) March 6, 2022
The Dane has emerged as one of Pogačar’s key helpers, riding alongside Pogačar in his dramatic Tour title defense in 2021. Bjerg was there at the UAE Tour victory last month, and he’s here again in Italy.
“Tirreno is always hard, and the weather sometimes plays a role. We have to be ready for everything that the race brings us,” he said. “There are some good riders here this week. It won’t be easy.”
Mikkel Bjerg: ‘It’s going to be really hard to make the Tour de France selection’
Bjerg will take a short break, and build up for the spring classics, where he race from Minerva Classic Brugge-De Panne all the way through Amstel Gold Race.
He’s hoping for a return to the Tour de France in July, when the Tour will start on home roads for the Dane.
“That’s the main focus, and try to lose some weight, and be as ready as possible for July,” Bjerg said. “It’s a big motivation to try to be in top shape to be ready for the Tour, but I think maybe we have 20 or 25 guys who could make the Tour de France team.”
Competition will be tight within the UAE Emirates roster. Riders such as Brandon McNulty, Davide Formolo and Marc Hirschi all started last year, but newcomers George Bennett, Marc Soler, and João Almeida will all be elbowing in for a spot.
“It’s going to be really hard to make the selection,” he said. “The best guys there will hopefully guide Tadej to a third victory.”