The challenging route of this year’s GranPiemonte is hard to interpret. It could end up with a solo breakaway, a small group, or a rather large bunch. A climber has the same chance of winning as a fast rider. Well, what if an athlete is all these things put together? He must clearly be the favourite! And that rider goes by the name of Wout Van Aert.
The Belgian superstar proved to be in great form by winning the Coppa Bernocchi just a few days ago, and he is keen to make his mark on the Piedmont roads as well. No doubt he has all the credentials to do so, his only problem is that everyone else will most likely be racing against him and his Jumbo-Visma. Some say that the best defence is the attack, so who knows, perhaps Wout will try to ride hard and take as many opponents off his wheel as possible.
Speaking of heavyweights, it is fair to mention Filippo Ganna, who will find extra motivation in racing close to home. Should his leg still be that of the Vuelta a España, the “Verbania Train” would certainly be a clear favourite. The first challenge will be to not get dropped on the Alpette climb; once that is achieved, the Italian would truly become a loose cannon. Not least because he has now proved to have an excellent sprint as well. The Ineos Grenadiers, moreover, will have their backs well covered by two more riders to keep our eyes on, namely Thymen Arensman and Ben Turner.
As soon as he smells the scent of the Italian Classics, he turns into a vicious predator. Thus, great attention must be paid to Marc Hirschi, who has won the Coppa Sabatini and never dropped out of the Top 5 between Memorial Pantani, Trofeo Matteotti, Coppa Agostoni and Coppa Bernocchi. The Swiss rider wants to further update his score, just as Davide Formolo wants to give continuity to his excellent final part of the season, which brought him victory at the Agostoni. For UAE Team Emirates, then, an old fox such as Diego Ulissi should never be underestimated. Moreover, it will be interesting to find out the real shape of Michael Matthews (Jayco AlUla), who, should he find the right leg, would certainly be one of the favourites.
For defending champion Iván García Cortina (Movistar) this year’s route might be a little too hard, but the Spanish squad is well covered with American Matteo Jorgenson. Bahrain Victorious are also super-equipped, but they will have to try to race hard to suit the characteristics of Damiano Caruso, Mikel Landa and Antonio Tiberi, among the main candidates for an attack on the Alpette climb. Same goes for Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Domenico Pozzovivo (Israel-Premier-Tech), Eddie Dunbar (Jayco AlUla), Lennert Van Eetvelt (Lotto Dstny), Bauke Mollema (Lidl Trek) and Mattia Cattaneo (Soudal-QuickStep), who will all need to be as selective as possible in the steepest part of the race.
Christian Scaroni (Astana Qazaqstan), Michael Valgren (EF Education-EasyPost), Filippo Baroncini (Lidl Trek), Lorenzo Rota (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) and Mauro Schmid (Soudal-QuickStep) also seem to be particularly suited to the route, while athletes such as Vincenzo Albanese (Eolo-Kometa), Filippo Fiorelli (Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè) and Corbin Strong (Israel Premier Tech) would warmly welcome a calmer race.