Van Aert. Van der Poel. Pidcock. Those are the names that spring to mind when looking at the profile. But let’s not forget about Pogacar either. He is so much more than a Grand Tour rider. In the past he won the Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour of Lombardy (twice), while he was on a sensational winning spree this spring. He ermeged victorious on the cobbles of the Tour of Flanders before he pocketed Amstel Gold Race and La Flèche Wallonne. A second win in Liège was imminent, but he crashed with a scaphoid fracture in his wrist and did not race since then. And now he’s back.
Is he willing to take yellow this early, would be a fair question if he was not who he is. Pogacar thrives on having fun on the bike. And winning adds to the fun. It’s as simple as that.
The route includes two climbs in the first part of the race – Côte de Laukiz (2.1 kilometres at 6.6%) and Côte de San Juan de Gaztelungaxte (3.6 kilometres at 7.7%) -, but it really comes down to the final hour. The riders tackle the Côte de Morga (3.8 kilometres at 4.8%), Côte de Vivero (4.3 kilometres at 6.9%) and Côte de Pike (2 kilometres at 10%) inside the last 45 kilometres.
The Pike is expected to be pre-decisive. Not only is it brutally steep, it also precedes a 6 kilometres descent into Bilbao before the final kilometre throws in a climb at 4.6% to the line.
Favourites 1st stage 2023 Tour de France
*** Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert
** Tadej Pogacar, Tom Pidcock, Biniam Girmay
* Mads Pedersen, Julian Alaphilippe, Mattias Skjelmose
Another interesting read: route 1st stage 2023 Tour de France.
Tour de France 2023 stage 1: route, profiles
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