Road cycling is back. We’re not quite ready for WorldTour racing yet, but many of the top-tier teams are back in action at the Grand Prix Marseillaise, which is raced on Sunday 30th January 2022.
With the Santos Tour Down Under cancelled once again, the cycling calendar continues to feel the effects of the global pandemic. Nonetheless, the Grand Prix Marseillaise is one of the first chances to see many high profile teams and riders back in action.
The race was won by Aurélien Paret-Peintre in 2021, the first win of the Frenchman’s pro career. He surprised many when he sprinted to the line first in a reduced group that included Bryan Coquard and Matteo Trentin.
GP Marseillaise 2022 profile (via LaFlammeRouge)
At 177km, the route isn’t particularly long. However, with around 3,000 metres of climbing and barely a flat kilometre in sight, the puncheurs will be licking their lips.
The first climb that must be considered is the Route des Crêtes, which is where Tim Wellens and Simon Carr made the first notable attacks in last year's race. The incline is slightly longer than 3km in length and averages a searing 9% — the most challenging percentages found throughout the day. However, the climb begins with 50km left, so there’s still a lot of racing to consider.
Next comes the Pas d’Ouliier. The long drag is slightly longer at 4.4km, but averages 5.3%. It gets steeper as it goes on, however, so the best time to attack might be close to the peak.
The terrain rolls for the next 20km, with numerous short ascents. The Col de la Gineste is the final climb, as was the case in 2021. The ascent averages just 3% over 7.6km, but a plateau section brings this number down substantially.
Once the climb is crested, they’ll be a 9.5km descent left, with the final 2km on a straight road in the centre of Marseille. If a group arrives here together, the leadout riders must time their effort well, which might be made more challenging by the long, straight run into the finish. The race finishes aside the Stade Vélodrome, which hosted Marseille’s football matches and World Cup matches in 1938 and 1998.
Benoît Cosnefroy (Image credit: A.S.O./Aurélien Vialatte)
AG2R Citroën are one of three French WorldTour outfits on the startline, and look to be assertive with Clément Champoussin and Benoît Cosnefroy in their ranks. All 12 of Cosnefroy’s wins have arrived on French soil, with one of those victories occuring at the GP Marseillaise in 2020. Both he and Vuelta a España stage winner Champoussin have the climbing skills to conquer the climbs and a strong kick which could serve them well in a reduced sprint.
Cofidis are another WorldTour outfit that enter with strong intentions. New signing Bryan Coquard debuts for the team — he finished third here last season. Whilst Coquard poses a threat in a sprint finish, Anthony Perez, Benjamin Thomas and Guillaume Martin are all viable options to attack in the hills.
EF Education-EasyPost were the final team to reveal their jersey for the 2022 season, and it’s as eye-catching as ever. They bring Alberto Bettiol and Michael Valgren, who are both capable of winning this via a long-range attack. Magnus Cort may be their best option in a reduced sprint.
UAE Team Emirates have already demonstrated strong early-season form with a 1-2 finish at Trofeo Calvia, the first race at the Mallorca Challenge. New signing Joel Suter finished in a highly promising second place, following Brandon McNulty’s solo victory. The parcours aren't too dissimilar here, so Suter — a strong sprinter and puncheur — may be in with a chance of a good result. Alessandro Covi and Matteo Trentin are other riders with a great chance.
Moving to the Pro Teams, Uno-X Pro Cycling have been granted wildcards for some of the most prestigious one-day races in the world in 2022, including Paris-Roubaix and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The team have garnered a reputation for their attacking style of racing. Ramus Tiller has been one of their most successful riders in this regard, he won Dwars door het Hageland and finished on the podium of Le Samyn last year. Whilst Tiller might be Uno-X’s attacker, Kristoffer Halvorsen is their best chance in a sprint.
Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise are perhaps going under the radar, they have some intriguing outsiders. Arne Marit is their sprinter. He finished 2021 in fine fashion with victory at Grand Prix du Morbihan and had top tens at Paris-Tours and Ronde van Drenthe. His teammate, Rune Herregodts won that race with a solo attack. Like Marit, Herregodts is just 23 years old, so keep an eye on both riders improving here and throughout the rest of the season.
Other riders to watch closely include Connor Swift, Bauke Mollema, Franck Bonnamour and Francisco Galván.
With little to no formbook to go by, Grand Prix Marseillaise is always difficult to predict. However, we'll take a stab at it and back Rasmus Tiller. The Norwegian can win this with a solo attack or in a reduced bunch sprint. Following the best season of his career to date, Tiller looks to start 2022 in style.
Cover image: Luis Angel Gomez / Photo Gomez Sport / ASO