Clasica de Almeria is one of the biggest one-day races in February, with its 1.Pro status (read UCI Points) and great location attracting many teams. The sprinters list is impressive and long, including Arnaud De Lie, Alexander Kristoff, Fernando Gaviria, Jordi Meeus, Giacomo Nizzolo and other fast finishers.
The route is suited for strong sprinters who can climb well. There are 1695 metres of elevation gain in the 190.9 kilometres long race but most of the climbing will be done in the first half, while the second half is soft from a climbing perspective. The route in recent years has been almost identical. Despite the relatively easy last 85 kilometres, usually a few fast finishers do not stay in the first group in the rolling terrain.
The 2023 edition will be loaded with big-name riders. Arnaud De Lie is the main favourite as he has already won three races this year. In Etoile de Besseges he won on a punchy finish, holding onto Mads Pedersen’s wheel, as well as a hilly stage from a reduced bunch sprint against climbers. On the Queen stage, De Lie finished 8th up Le Mont Bouquet (4.6 km, 9.1%) and was 7th in the overall. The young bull opened his season with a win in a Valencian one-day race, surviving hard hills. Clasica de Almeria is easier than that so it is no wonder that De Lie is the main favourite.
Who can challenge him? The defending champion Alexander Kristoff started his season poorly in Volta a Valenciana after being dropped on the only sprinters’ stage, which included two hard and quite long 5-6% climbs. That stage was won by Biniam Girmay who climbs very well for a sprinter but he was removed from the Almeria start list at the last moment. Intermarché – Circus – Wanty’s leader will be either Niccolo Bonifazio or Mike Teunissen.
Going back to Uno-X, besides Kristoff, they sent also Rasmus Tiller and Saudi Tour stage winner Søren Wærenskjold. The Norwegian team and Intermarché might use the multiple sprinters tactic to gain as many UCI points as possible as Arkea-Samsic did in the early 2022 season. The winner gets 200 UCI points and there are plenty of points available for everyone in the Top 10.
One of the teams interested in keeping a very high tempo in the mountains must be INEOS. Their leader for the sprint will be Ben Turner, who on the previous day won a harder one-day race in Murcia. The Clock climbs very well as he proved in Tour de Hongrie, where he launched Eddie Dunbar on the final climb with two kilometres to go. INEOS have sent a versatile squad including Leo Hayter, Brandon Rivera, Pavel Sivakov, Luke Rowe, Kim Heiduk and Michael Leonard. Definitely the strongest climbing team in the race that might do huge damage. Clasica de Almeria since 2018 has been always won by a sprinter (Kristoff, Nizzolo, Ackermann and Ewan) but this year might be different if INEOS rides full gas up the climbs, as they have the horse power to maintain a gap in the flatter final two hours of the race. Even if everyone is together Turner will still have an advantage as the fatigue will influence the sprinting ability of his rivals.
Jordi Meeus finished 3rd in Murcia and, with Marco Haller and Nils Politt in his lead-out, he is one of the favourites. Movistar sent both their star sprinters Fernando Gaviria and Ivan Garcia Cortina as there might be different scenarios and Cortina might be strong enough to survive the climbs if a team like INEOS full sends and Gaviria is dropped.
Israel Premier Tech will definitely want UCI points from the 2021 winner Giacomo Nizzolo as they fight for the wild cards for the next season. Bryan Coquard, Jason Tesson, Juan Sebastian Molano, Max Walscheid, Paul Penhoet, Daniel Mclay, Cees Bol and Matteo Moschetti will be some of the other faster guys in the peloton.
Arnaud De Lie is lethal in one-day races with at least 4000 kilojoules before the finish. Lotto DSTNY did not send the strongest supporting squad to Almeria but De Lie is strong enough to win without huge help as he proved already in Etoile de Besseges. Il Toro climbs well and his sprint after fatigue is great where he can push close to his peak watts. Bad positioning from which he has no team to help him recover is the main reason he can lose this race.