Last week's series of team presentations and big-name rider interviews means we largely know which riders are targeting which Grand Tours in 2022. We can now prepare our Grand Tour diaries and better understand which race scenarios and riders will dominate the sports biggest races in May, July and late summer.
The Tour de France has again attracted the biggest names in the peloton and finally promises a battle royal between UAE Team Emirates, Jumbo-Visma and Ineos Grenadiers, specifically between Tadej Pogačar, Primož Roglič, and Egan Bernal.
The Giro d’Italia should produce a battle in the mountains for the maglia rosa, while the Vuelta a España will again be a revenge match but the presence of two-time Tour winner Pogačar will lift the level and attention of the third Grand Tour of the year.
Bernal focused on the Giro d’Italia in 2021, winning the maglia rosa in Milan, but with his back problems easing, Ineos Grenadiers have called on him to stop Pogačar from winning a third consecutive Tour de France. Jumbo-Visma have again put their faith in Roglič for the Tour, while also selecting Jonas Vingegaard as a joint team leader after his breakthrough second place on debut last year. With Rohan Dennis, Sepp Kuss, Steven Kruijswijk and Wout van Aert, the Dutch team have a super strong squad for July.
Bernal is expected to have Geraint Thomas, Filippo Ganna, Daniel Martínez and Pavel Sivakov alongside him, while Richard Carapaz, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Richie Porte focus on the Giro d’Italia.
Pogačar can count on a strengthened UAE Team Emirates squad, with George Bennett, Marc Soler and Brandon McNulty as part of his guard for the Tour mountains, while João Almeida targets the Giro d’Italia with Davide Formolo and Diego Ulissi.
A shot at the Tour de France podium requires special talent, a strong team and a super-team budget, and so it is difficult to see beyond the 'big three', with crashes and injury the biggest variables. However, other Tour de France contenders and possible disruptors include world champion Julian Alaphilippe (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl), Thibaut Pinot and David Gaudu of Groupama-FDJ, Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citroën), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) and Enric Mas (Movistar).
The 109th edition of the Tour de France appears to be finely balanced, with an opening 13km time trial in Copenhagen, a stage across the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, a first mountain finish at La Planche des Belles Filles, a return to the legendary hairpins of L'Alpe d'Huez, more summit finishes in the Pyrenees, and a final 40km time trial.
The exposed roads of Denmark and northern France and the cobbled stage to Wallers-Arenberg will mean the overall contenders will have to be complete riders, able to fight in echelons and race on the pavé in the first week.
Can anyone stop Pogačar winning his third yellow jersey? It seems unlikely, but we will find out between July 1 and 24, when the final winner will be crowned in Paris.
Giro: Dumoulin vs Simon Yates vs Carapaz vs Almeida
The Giro d'Italia arguably lacks the presence of the biggest names in Grand Tour racing but should make up with bruising, high-altitude battles in the mountains.
The Corsa Rosa is time trial light and mountain heavy, with just 26km against the clock – a 9.2km time trial on stage 2 in Hungary and then a final 17.1km time trial around Verona. It is the Italian race’s lowest amount of time trialling in 60 years, with over 51,000 metres of climbing from Etna and the Blockhaus in the south to the Mortirolo, Pordoi and Fedaia in the final week.
Medium mountains dominate and the route lends itself to a degree of invention, meaning the Giro d’Italia is again expected to be the most physically demanding Grand Tour of the year.
Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) sealed overall victory in Verona in 2019 and fancies his chances again against 2017 winner Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma), Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco), Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo), Miguel Ángel López (Astana Qazaqstan), Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-Easypost), Almeida, Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious).
Carapaz will be joined by 2020 winner Geoghegan Hart and Tom Pidcock, and both could prove to be alternative leaders if needed. Pidcock perhaps lacks Grand Tour experience but won the under-23 Baby Giro on a testing route in 2020. Dumoulin will have the support of Tobias Foss, who was ninth in 2021 in only his second Grand Tour after winning the 2019 Tour de L'Avenir.
With Remco Evenepoel focusing on the Vuelta a España, QuickStep-AlphaVinyl are hoping their young guns Mauri Vansevenant and Ilan Van Wilder can impress as the Giro d’Italia alongside their local rider Fausto Masnada. Two-time Giro winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan) stands as the veteran of the Corsa Rosa at the age of 37 and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is the true doyenne at 41.
Possible Tour-Vuelta double in 2022
The likes of Guillaume Martin, López and Nibali are pencilled in to ride both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France but none of them have a real chance of doing the Giro-Tour double. Marco Pantani was the last in 1998 and his Grand Tour career ended dramatically a year later when he was caught with a high blood haematocrit.
Pogačar has hinted he will one day attempt the Giro-Tour double but that is likely to be in 2023 at the earliest. He is expected to attempt the easier Tour-Vuelta double in 2022, and in Spain he will face Evenepoel, Quintana, Adam Yates, Carapaz, Valverde, Mas and perhaps even Roglič. Such is UAE Team Emirates’ Grand Tour roster that they could also field Brandon McNulty, Marc Soler and Almeida as leaders or support for the boy king of Grand Tours.
The Vuelta features three opening days in the Netherlands, which could tempt Dumoulin and others, before finishing in Madrid on September 11. The Spanish race again serves up massive climbs across familiar mountain ranges of the Pyrenees, Sierra Nevada, Picos de Europa as well as wind-swept flat days on the arid plains.
The 23.2km time trial around Utrecht will shape the early stages, with a second 31km time trial to Alicante balancing out the mountain stages and other shorter but steep finishes.
Evenepoel struggled at the 2021 Giro d’Italia after a rushed return from his Il Lombardia back injury. The Vuelta a España is the logical choice for him to return and finally understand and prove if he can ever win a Grand Tour. However, the presence of Pogačar and Roglič could diminish his hopes and ambitions.
Roglič admitted to Cyclingnews that he was unaware that if he won the Vuelta in September he would become the first rider to win Spain's Grand Tour on four successive occasions.
The Vuelta a España is on the far side of the Tour de France and Roglič has to first navigate the dangers of the French race in the hope his presence in Spain is not to make up for more Tour disappointment.
"Everybody knows I'm doing the Tour only so I can be better prepared for the Vuelta," he joked last Tuesday, highlighting how, in truth, the Tour is still the centrepiece of every season.
|Giro d'Italia||Tour de France||Vuelta a Espana|
|Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers)||Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers)||João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates)|
|Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers)||Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) #**||Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) **|
|Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma)||Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)|
|João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates)||Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma)||David de la Cruz (Astana-Qazakstan)^|
|Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco). Julian Alaphilippe (QuickStep-Alpha-Vinyl)||Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers)||Remco Evenepoel (QuickStep-Alpha-Vinyl)|
|Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana-Qazakstan)*||Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious)||Enric Mas (Movistar) **|
|Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious)*||Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech)||Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic)^|
|Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) ^||Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious)||Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates)|
|Giiulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo)||Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana-Qazakstan)*||Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) ^|
|Guillaume Martin (Cofidis)*||Alexey Lutsenko (Astana-Qazakstan)|
|Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo)||Guillaume Martin (Cofidis)*|
|Vincenzo Nibali (Astana-Qazakstan)*||Enric Mas (Movistar) **|
|Thomas Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers)||Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious)*|
|Richie Porte (Ineos Grenadiers)||Vincenzo Nibali (Astana-Qazakstan)**|
|David de la Cruz (Astana-Qazakstan)^||Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citroën)|
|Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First-EasyPost)||Michael Woods (Israel-Premier Tech)|
|Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates)||Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic)^|
* = Giro d'Italia/Tour de France double
** = Tour de France/Vuelta a España double
^ = Giro d'Italia/Vuelta a España double
# = 2021 winner
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.
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