Tirreno-Adriatico 2021: The good, the bad and the iffy – Thomas, Ganna, Bernal, Carr, Yates and more
Tirreno-Adriatico 2021 is done and dusted with another impressive overall win in the bank for Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), but beyond the Slovenian superstar, who else impressed during the race? And what might the results and performances we saw in northern Italy mean for the coming season of Grand Tour racing?
Wout van Aert and Tadej Pogacar share a joke on the start line at Tirreno Adriatico
Absolutely fearsome would be one way to describe Van Aert’s showing at Tirreno. he spoke in the run up to the event about using it as a first test of his GC leader capabilities, as opposed to his well-established, world-beating cyclocross, one-day, time trial and sprinting capabilities.
The British rider on EF Education Nippo caught the eye a couple of times during Tirreno, putting in a solid performance that hints at just what this 22-year-old might be capable of in the years to come.
There was no stage win for the Brit, but his eighth place on stage four, ahead of Van Aert and Jakob Fuglsang, and only beaten by the likes of Pogačar, Simon Yates, Sergio Higuita, and Mikel Landa, speaks volumes.
‘Don’t want to see that again!’ – Carr suffers horrendous-looking crash during Tirreno–Adriatico
A bit iffy
The team’s two overall threats were in the mix, but not quite firing on all cylinders at Tirreno this year. Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal both lost time after being caught behind a crash on stage three, and then went on to race stage four with an admirable sense of adventure. Regrettably for the British team, neither Thomas’ nor Bernal’s attacks actually bore fruit – they crossed the line together, outside the top ten, and 58 seconds down.
Tadej Pogacar holds off Simon Yates to take stage 4 and the overall lead
Filippo Ganna, who has become so good at the time trial he goes into every single one he races as the de facto favourite, also failed to deliver the goods – he came third, behind Stefan Küng (Groupama FDJ) and stage winner Wout van Aert.
Bernal, who finished fourth overall, which is encouraging given he will need to hit his best level sooner than Thomas. The Colombian is headed for the Giro in six weeks’ time, while the Welshman has until late June to hit his stride ahead of the Tour.
Pinot is headed for the Giro this year not the Tour, in a bid to re-find his best level. If that search began at Tirreno, then the Frenchman might be looking for a long time.
Pinot managed a solid TT, but lost plenty of ground in the hilly and mountainous stages – ceding five minutes to Pogačar on the stage four summit finish alone.
It’s important to point out that Pinot was riding Tirreno as a form builder, not a serious target. Even so, given the Giro course includes far fewer TT kilometres than the Tour this year, it’s not particularly encouraging to see Pinot seems to have improved against the clock and faded a little in the mountains.
A controversial one this, perhaps, but Simon Yates looked below his best across the whole week of Tirreno, particularly when compared with his past performances – and naturally, when you have won a race before, expectations are always going to be high.
Stage 7 Highlights: Catch up with the final stage time trial as the battle for the GC got hot
Yates showed flashes of the brilliant, improvisational attacking style that saw him dominate the first two weeks of the Giro in 2018, but the consistency wasn’t quite there. The Team BikeExchange leader ended the race with a 7’45” deficit to the leader Pogačar. Perhaps most worrying for his potential Tour de France tilt was his 59-second loss in the time trial, landing him 64th place on the stage, one spot behind Romain Bardet – a place no GC rider really wants to find themselves in a time trial.
If he drops time to Pogačar at the same rate during the Tour’s two TTs as he did in Tirreno, Yates will have to find more than four minutes in the mountains to offset it.
It looks a long, long way back to full fitness for Peter Sagan at this moment in time. He was virtually anonymous at Tirreno, with his best stage finish placing being eleventh on the opening day. Sagan has said he is aiming toward a return to the peak of his powers for Flanders on 4 April after his season took a major stall when he and two teammates contracted coronavirus while training in the Canary Islands in February. They were confined to quarters for ten days and the subsequent loss of fitness has already created chaos in the Slovakian's planned build-up to the cobbled monuments.