Tom Pidcock and Geraint Thomas will make their road season debuts at the Volta ao Algarve tomorrow, lining up as part of a strong Ineos Grenadiers squad that also contains Ethan Hayter and Dani Martínez.
The British duo will use the Portugese race to fine tune their form ahead of their divergent seasons - Pidcock is hoping to challenge at the Spring classics while Thomas will be heading to the Tour de France.
Other stars on the startlist include Remco Evenepoel of Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, who will be hoping to continue the form he showed at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana earlier this month. He is expected to be joined by another teammate who has already won this season, Fabio Jakobsen.
Tobias Foss of Jumbo-Visma will begin his 2022 season at Algarve, as he begins his build up to the Giro d'Italia, while the Groupama-FDJ duo of Stefan Küng and David Gaudu will also kick off their year in Portugal.
It will be Pidcock's first road race as cyclocross world champion, after he won in dominant fashion last month, while Thomas last raced in the Giro della Toscana, over five months ago.
The pair will be joined by a strong Ineos team that includes last year's runner-up in the Volta, Hayter, alongside Martínez, Ben Tullett, Dylan van Baarle and Jonathan Castroviejo.
Pidcock has reportedly been in Portugal since his return from the USA, where the world championships were held. He will be hoping to build up his road form ahead of a challenging schedule which includes most of the classics all the way up to Liège-Bastogne-Liège at the end of April, followed by his second shot at a grand tour at the Giro d'Italia.
Thomas, meanwhile, might find himself unexpectedly leading the Ineos Grenadiers' team at the Tour de France, if Egan Bernal is forced to miss much of the season following his training crash.
The 35-year old won the Tour de Romandie in 2021 and was third at the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Volta a Catalunya during a productive Spring of stage racing for his team.
However, the squad might well be lead by Hayter at the race, considering how well he performed last year. The 23-year old won the stage to Fóia, but was pipped by
João Rodrigues of the Portugese W52 / FC Porto team overall.
The startlist appears to have a mix of riders who will be targeting the classics, like Pidcock, Van Baarle and Küng, and those targeting stage race objectives down the line, like Thomas, Foss and Evenepoel.
The young Belgian won the race in 2020, and said that "you always want to do as good as the last time or even better" as he returns. He won a stage of Valenciana, but ended up finishing second overall.
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