Giro Stage 20: Guillestre – Saint’Anna di Vinadio

*I apologise in advance if this preview seems more rushed than normal. I’m very hungover and also have to pack as I’m moving out of my flat tomorrow*

Today’s Recap

My oh my, what an exciting stage!

A real shame for Kruijswijk who loses the Maglia Rosa lead after falling on the descent over the Colle Dell’Agnello. Apparently he’s a bit bashed up, sore ribs etc but will carry on tomorrow. If he’s as sore as he says then he’ll be looking behind, protecting his podium spot, rather than ahead of him.

Unfortunately, Zakarin had to abandon after a bad crash on the same descent. It’s a suspected broken collarbone, nothing too serious. It says a lot for the strength of these guys that a broken collarbone is regarded as a minor injury.

Back at the business end of the race, Nibali dropped Chaves on the final climb and rode away to a superb solo win, destroying the field and setting up a very exciting final day tomorrow. A lot of people will argue that it was bad etiquette that Nibali pushed on after Kruijswijk’s fall. However, in my opinion he was perfectly fine to do so. It was Kruijswijk’s own fault that he crashed, it wasn’t a mechanical or someone else bringing him down. That’s just the unfortunate side of bike racing.

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Chaves a.k.a the Smiling Assassin (very apt after today, going in for the kill after Kruijswijk’s misfortunes) moves into the leaders jersey ahead of Nibali. Leaving the GC looking like this going into the final proper day.

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The Route

All guns blazing from the start, and a very tough day to finish the GC battle with. At only 134km long, it’s going to be fast and furious. Some riders will be very concerned about time limits.

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The climbing action starts straight away with the Col de Vars. 18.2km long at an average gradient of 6%, max gradients of 13%. I hope the riders have eaten their Weetabix in the morning!

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Next on the menu is the famous Col de la Bonette. At 22.2km long with an average gradient of 6.7% (max 10%) it’s a proper Alpine climb and energy sapper. One that Vincenzo Nibali will love.

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The final Cat-1 climb of the day comes with just under 30km, the Colle Della Lombarda. Another brute of a climb at 19.8km in length and an average gradient of 7.6% (max of 12%), we’re bound to see splits here, especially if there has been no action on the previous climbs.

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Once over the summit, the riders face a fast descent, before a final kicker up to the line.

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It may well be that the winner of this stage wins the Giro.

Who are the stage contenders?

The last mountain stage of a Grand Tour often lends itself to a breakaway win, but there is no chance that is happening tomorrow. With the profile climbing from Km 0, all hell is going to break loose, with Astana trying their best to put Chaves into difficulty.

I can’t see who would be given freedom. Those 10 bonus seconds on the line could be the difference between the top 2 on the podium.

Chaves has looked so strong going uphill this race, but faltered a little today. He was made to do a lot of the work by Nibali and others throughout the race. Maybe that took it out of him at the end? He won’t go down without a fight tomorrow.

Whereas Nibali has remarkably came back from the doldrums and now looks the strongest in the race. Is he strong enough to put the required time into the Colombian?

As for the others, I don’t think Kruijswijk will recover for tomorrow unfortunately, and Valverde and Majka can’t match the top 2.

If we somehow do get a break, look to those who’ve been active so far. Potentially Ulissi and Nieve again, with the young American Dombrowski being a strong break candidate as well.

Prediction

As I’ve expressed above, I can’t see past a GC winner for this stage. Going off of recent form (i.e. today) I can’t see past Nibali. The Shark will smell blood and take back-to-back stage wins!

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The big question remains, will he take the GC too?! I can’t call it, it’s going to very close!

Betting

Keep your money in your pocket and just enjoy the race!

 

Again, apologies for the shorter preview. I don’t really have much to say for this stage, and as expressed above, I’m not feeling too jolly/need to pack. I should be back with a more flowery and wordy preview on Saturday night. Although that will be late as Saturday evening will be family time, so I probably won’t have it out until 11pm GMT. Hope you all enjoyed today’s stage, we should be in for more of the same tomorrow! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Giro Stage 18: Muggiò – Pinerolo

Today’s Recap

Nailed on sprint they said?!

Roger Kluge had a different idea, escaping excellently within the final kilometre to steal the win from the sprinters. He followed after Pozzato attacked just before him. I have to say, the rider from Willier did a great job on the front once Pozzato attacked. He kind of veered across the road and blocked the sprint trains into the final corner. This disorganised them and Modolo and Nizzolo were left without any team-mates. Katusha attempted to bring it back but it was too late. Kluge had caught and dropped Pozzato. He even had enough time to free-wheel and celebrate at the end!

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A day before leaving from Muggiò the two main Italian sprinters get mugged off. Not as poetic as The Snail winning a day after National Escargot Day but it will do!

I have to say, I was surprised at the size of the breakaway, I thought that it would have been larger. Was disappointed Lampre weren’t gutsy and tried to get someone in it, but from very early on it was clear that both they and Trek were happy to duke it out for the sprint/stage win.

Lampre leave the stage empty-handed in that sense, but also in the Maglia Rossa competition as Nizzolo won (behind the break) both the Int Sprints and then finished 2nd on the stage, increasing his points lead even more ahead of Ulissi. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nizzolo try to go in the break tomorrow to secure some more points.

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Maglia Rossa classification after today’s stage

The Route

The longest stage of the race in the final week of a Grand Tour, before the two tough mountain stages. The Giro organisers are cruel!

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A very flat opening to the stage. This is one to tune into for the last 50km.

Although the fight to get in the break will be incredible and no doubt we’ll see a very fast opening to the race.

The race really kicks off with the climb up Pramartino (4.7km long, 10.6% average gradient, a crazy 17% max). This will decimate whoever is up front from the break away and I can imagine we’ll only see a group of 3 at most left cresting this climb together. Behind we could well possibly see some GC fireworks but with two big days ahead, and with Kruijswijk looking so strong, I don’t think so.

So after this it appears like a nice easy run in to the finish, or so I thought! The profile is once again deceptive (classically Italian) and in the final 3km there is a big old wall.

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Final 3km run in
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Aforementioned big old wall.

At 500m in length and averaging 13.2% in gradient, with a section topping out at 20%, this will decimate what’s left of the break. And it will be every man for themselves and only the strongest will crest it at the front. Once over, they’ll have a steep descent before a section of flat and the run in to the line.

Weather Watch

Looks set to be another nice day out on the bike for the riders, with very little chance of rain.

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Forecast for Pinerolo

How will the stage pan out?

Break. 100%.

If Valverde hadn’t won the stage the other day, then this possibly could have been held together for a GC battle royale, but they’ll instead keep their powder dry for Friday and Saturday.

As I said above, the fight to get in the break won’t be easy because a lot of the teams will want to be represented. Furthermore, we’ll inevitably see a good mix of riders make the break due to the terrain we start in. The strong rouleurs are more likely to make the break because of the flat start, in comparison to the punchier climbers who could actually win the stage.

Break Contenders

Much like in earlier previews, look to those who are attacking and far down on GC. There are lots of them! Again, like other previews I’m just going to select a few riders who could give it a go and look at them in-depth. This time, I’m going to go for 4 riders!

First up is;

Michele Scarponi. In what is potentially his last season in the professional peloton (he’s out of contract at the end of the year), he might well be let off the reigns here. Arguably one of the riders of the race so far, he’s been incredibly strong in support of Nibali. However, his leader has faltered and Astana may look to the Italian veteran to get them something out of the race. He’s far enough down on GC and is definitely climbing well enough to get rid of his breakaway companions on the climbs. He’ll be a serious threat if he makes the break. If not him, Astana might turn to Kangert.

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Francesco Bongiorno could be another breakaway contender. He finished 3rd on a stage at the Giro back in 2014, up the famous Monte Zoncalon (Stage 20). Last year he managed to finish 2nd on Stage 18, will he continue his progression this year and finish on the top step? He hasn’t really done anything of note this Giro, or season in fact. But he is always one who will give it a go on the tough climbs.

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Bongiorno’s hair resembling the nature of the final climb

Alexander Foliforov. Already a stage winner here, the young and talented Russian promised  that we’ll see more from him this race. Could tomorrow be that day? A stage like this very much resembles a cronoescalata, with only two short climbs to negotiate. It looks like an ideal stage for him to motor away on the steep ramps of the two climbs, just like he did in the time trial. If he has the same form as he did that day, no one will see him again until the finish line!

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Will we see this man on the podium again?

The final rider is another who’s also already won a stage this Giro: Giulio Ciccone. Another Bardiani rider, they’re sure to have numbers in the break. Ciccone as was proven on Stage 10 is an incredibly talented climber and not a bad descender. Two key attributes if you want to win this stage. If he’s recovering well from the build of fatigue, then he will be a real danger-man if he gets in the break.

All of these riders of course will require some luck to get into the break of the day, as per usual. It’ll be interesting to see the mix of riders we get up the road. I expect Ulissi probably to give it a go, as this stage looks very good for him and Nizzolo will try to follow him to take the sprint points at the TVs.

Prediction

I’m sure we get a break win tomorrow, with Ulissi being the obvious candidate. However, as you may have gathered by now, I don’t like going for the clear favourite so instead I’m going to go with the old Italian veteran, Scarponi. I hope Astana (and the peloton) let him go up the road and with Frankie cheering him on from him, he’ll steal the win!

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Maybe he’ll be nicknamed “Il pirata” afterwards, all he’ll need is an eyepatch!

Betting

Another day for smallish stakes. 0.25pt WIN on those I’ve mentioned.

*At the time of writing, only PaddyPower have prices up so the blog will be based off of them. Like usual, shop around later and you might get a better price!*

Scarponi @66/1

Foliforov @66/1

Bongiorno @90/1

Ciccone @90/1

 

Hope you enjoyed this preview, hopefully one of the guys above makes it into the break. Otherwise, it will be a very dull stage. Make sure you tune in for those final 50km, they’re at least going to be exciting. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

 

 

 

 

 

Giro Stage 17: Molveno – Cassano d’Adda

Today’s Route

Well, the idea of a breakaway succeeding was quickly thrown out the window and we got some more GC fireworks on today’s stage. It looked for a while that Chaves was going to be the major loser, with the race splitting massively on the first climb and the young Colombian being left in the second group on the road. However, it ended up being Nibali who was the main loser as those in the front group rode away from him, and Chaves who came up from behind, dropped him too. Up ahead, Valverde took a good win, meaning he now has stage victories in all of the Grand Tours. Kruijswijk was second and Zakarin 3rd.

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Annoyingly all three of the riders I mentioned in the preview were up the road at some point. Boswell was apparently in a big move at the start of the day that was brought back by Nippo. (Here’s a link to an interview with him post stage.)

Kudus escaped briefly along with Pirazzi and one other rider I can’t remember just at the bottom of the first climb of the day. They were quickly brought to heel as well.

And of course Dombrowski had made it into the elite group of 10 who had escaped up the road. Then he lost contact with the group on the flat. Some people are speculating that it was team orders, but it looked to me as if he’d taken a big turn at the front swung over and nobody came through. At this point there was a slight gap between the first five in the group and the second five. After Dombrowski had swung off to the side of the road I think he was caught napping and the remaining four powered away to catch up with those in-front. However, that’s all speculation/my opinion, so I guess we’ll have to wait for a press release from Cannondale to see exactly what happened.

Anyway, onto tomorrow’s stage!

The Route

Bit lumpy then very flat!

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Nothing much to discuss here, with only one cat-4 climb on the route and that shouldn’t cause the peloton any difficulty. Cunego will be looking forward to a day where he can have a rest and not try to get in the breakaway.

The actual finish isn’t that difficult either. The organisers have been kind to the peloton/sprinters here.

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So a nailed-on sprint then?

Well you’d assume so. Both Modolo and Nizzolo haven’t won a stage yet and will be keen to get one in the bag before the final stage in Turin. Their main rivals have all went away, leaving them as easily the fastest sprinters here. There are some other teams with second-rate sprint options but they don’t compare to the two Italians.

A two-horse race then.

Well…

Team Tactics

If there were more top-tier sprinters here then it’s a sprint day guaranteed. However, with there only being the two, other teams aren’t going to work to help bring the break back. In fact, the best move for them is to get a rider in the break, so that they can save themselves for the finale.

Lampre only have 8 riders, but they won’t use up Ulissi or Ferrari for the chase. Minus Modolo, they only have 5 left and they’re not exactly the strongest rouleurs in the World, they’re much more suited to hilly routes. Plus, we’ve seen Lampre cock-up a situation like this before (Final stage at the Giro last year).

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Trek only have 6 riders, but again they won’t use up Alafaci (who I assume will be doing lead-out duties with BVP gone). Leaving them 4 riders to commit to a chase. They have stronger riders on the flat but will be shouldered with more of the work due to Lampre’s incompetences and the fact Nizzolo is the faster of the two.

Other teams are supposedly targeting the sprints, Dimension Data and Giant Alpecin namely. But as I said above, I don’t see them contributing to a chase when they’re really fighting for third place. Unless of course they miss the break of the day and get made to work on the front.

The real interesting team tactic for me though is how Lampre are approaching the Maglia Rossa competition.

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Current top 10 of the Maglia Rossa

After today’s stage, Ulissi has moved within striking distance of Nizzolo. Modolo really seems out of the picture and would need to win tomorrow and in Turin, hoping that Nizzolo does terribly in both sprints. I get the impression that all of Lampre’s eggs are in Ulissi’s basket. Ulissi I can envisage going on to win the stage into Pinerolo which would gain him some more points but with the points being weighted towards the sprint stages, he would need Nizzolo not to score any tomorrow. (Or very few).

Now, Ulissi could go in the break and try to take the 40 points on offer at the intermediate sprints, but that would be foolish. Doing so would mean Trek definitely would chase the break down, resulting in a sprint of some sort at the end and more points for Nizzolo. What Lampre really need to do is get someone in the BOTD and not chase, hoping that the likes of DD and Giant get someone in there too. Leaving all the onus on Trek to do the work. It’s a risky tactic, but after a tough, all guns blazing day like today, then it might just come off. The only thing with this approach is that Modolo has to be on side 100% and I think he will be. Sacrificing his own personal ambitions for the good of the team. Sprinters aren’t all that selfish, are they?

What does this all mean?

On a day where most will say sprint, I’m going to be my usual bold self and say a break makes it. (Because hey, it’s definitely worked so far this Giro…! 😂 😂 😂).

As said above, there will be too many teams that don’t want Modolo and Nizzolo dragged to the line as their rider will be sprinting for third. They’ll have a much better chance of the win from the break. Plus, with Lampre (and Ulissi’s) eyes fixed firmly on the Maglia Rossa they won’t want to gift Nizzolo 50 or 40 points.

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Prediction

If it’s hard enough predicting who’ll get in a break on a mountain stage, it’s nigh on impossible picking someone on a flat day with any confidence. The wild-card teams will feature, along with those who don’t have a stage yet. The IAM boys will be keen to get in the break to show their worth to new employers. Any Italian will fancy their chances. The list is endless. Well, once you go through all the riders I suppose it ends, but I digress…

I’m going to choose my rider, purely for the poetic nature of it all.

On National Escargot Day, Van Zyl never managed to get in the break. Like all snails, he’s a bit slow to the party and will make the break a day late, taking a most unlikely, but memorable victory.

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Let’s just hope he’s not feeling sluggish after today…

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Betting

I can’t really advise bets for a stage like this. It should really be a no bet day, unless you want to back some breakaway candidates. I’ll probably have a look at the exchanges and see if I can get some riders at 500 or 600/1 + for fun.

But for a bit of blog fun, we’ll go with the man who’s (100%, no doubt about it, positively) going to win the stage.

0.1pt on Van Zyl @200/1 PP.

 

Hope you enjoyed the racing today, because we could be in for a bit of a snooze fest tomorrow. As always, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Giro stage 16: Bressanone – Brixen Andalo

Rest-day Recap

Well, lets start of with stage 15 and a very unexpected winner: Alexander Foliforov. I did not see that coming! Although from early on, it looked like his time was a good one and we saw GC rider after GC rider fail to beat it. Kruijswijk came agonisingly close, losing out by under a second.

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Our man Chaves finished in 6th, not good enough for a winner, but good enough to move him up to 2nd on GC. Nibali seemed to be struggling and also had mechanical problems, costing him even more time, dropping him down to 3rd on GC.

I’m not going to slander or accuse Foliforov here, I’ll let the young man enjoy his win and if something gets revealed later then…

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The TT leaves the GC in a position I don’t think many expected going into the final week. Kruijswijk first with a healthy lead over Chaves and Nibali. It will be interesting to see how his LottoJumbo team manages. They don’t have the star riders that Astana or Movistar have, with Roglic and Battaglin as his two main support riders. So I fear that Kruijswijk could become isolated quite quickly in some of the stages. However, he’s been in that situation all Giro and coped okay until now, but it is a different task having to do all the chasing by yourself!

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Top 20 on GC after the TT

The final week, especially the latter stages, should be very exciting as everyone has to try to gain back time, therefore we should see some attacking riding. Some co-operation between those behind to isolate Krujswijk will no doubt happen.

Before we get to that point, let’s talk about tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

After the rest-day the riders will be greeted with a stage profile that they’ll look at with trepidation. At only 132km long and categorised as 3-star in difficulty it doesn’t, on paper at least, appear too bad.

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Stage Profile

 

However, it will no doubt be a very fast day as a lot of the riders will want to get in the break because that seems the most likely outcome for a stage winner. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the break finally get away after the 50km mark. That is of course unless everyone is tired from the past few days and a group gets away early. LottoJumbo would love that!

Furthermore, as I said after the last rest-day, the riders won’t know how their bodies will react. Landa was the major casualty of a rest-day bug that he picked up!

Anyway, onto the actual route itself.

The first climb, Passo della Mendola is 14.8km long averaging 6.6% with a 10% max ramp.

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This climb isn’t too tough for the riders, but if the GC guys decide to try to isolate Kruijswijk early then we could be in for some major rider implosions. However, I think we’ll more than likely see our BOTD build up a substantial lead here.

After Mendelpass we get a long, slightly lumpy, descent before reaching the penultimate climb of the day: Fai della Paganella.

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Another Cat-2, but this one is a lot more testy. Officially, it is 10.2km long averaging 7.4%, with a max ramp of 15%. However, the average gradient is a bit skewed because of a false flat section that we have for around 1.5km. Therefore, the average gradient on the first part of the climb is closer to 8%. That steep ramp at the end could be a launchpad for some late attacks.

Once over the climb we have a fast descent before the final kick up to the line.

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“The final 10 km are clearly divided into two halves: first a fast-running descent (4 km) on wide roads with sharp downhill gradients, then a mild climb (6 km), growing steeper, up to 2 km from the finish. Next comes a false-flat uphill drag. The finish line lies on an 80-m long and 7.0-m wide asphalt home stretch, running gently uphill.” (Road Book extract)

If there is a group of riders together by this point, expect attacks on the final climb. Unless of course if someone is confident of their sprinting ability then they’ll sit in and follow the moves.

How will the stage pan out?

As I’ve said above, I think this stage lends itself to a breakaway. Well, I’m 90% sure it does. The reason for this is that the climbs aren’t too tough for the GC guys to make any differences so I think they’ll keep their powder-dry for later stages.

However, there is a small chance that they go full-gas to isolate Kruijswijk, but I don’t see it. Or, the likes of Movistar and Lampre try to keep the race together in the hope that Valverde and Ulissi can sprint for the win, with a finish that looks to suit them.

Who are the breakaway contenders?

As said in earlier previews, the contenders have to be strong climbers if they want to win. Furthermore, they can’t be too close on GC. We now get into the stage of the race where riders and teams get very protective of their top 10 on GC. With the way the GC is set up, there is a big gap between 12th place (Uran – 8’19 behind) and 13th place (Visconti – 16’31), so it is unlikely we’ll see the likes of Dimension Data chasing if Visconti or Pirazzi get away. However, if the gap to the break gets too high then they’ll have to!

Like before, I’m not going to list all of the options for a break as I could be here for a long time! Instead, I’m going to highlight 3 riders who might give it a go.

  • Joe Dombrowski. –  Uran’s lieutenant could be given the freedom to go in the break here, with the stage not set to be a GC battle and with Uran going in the wrong direction in terms of the classification. Dombrowski seems to be riding into the race very well and put in a good performance in the TT, finishing 8th. He was one of the fastest up the Passo Giau according to Strava on stage 14, so is clearly going well. Furthermore, he is known to be one of the biggest engines in the peloton in terms of numbers and watts that he can put out. That’s why Team Sky signed him up back in 2013. However, he didn’t fit into their style of riding so has ended up at the more quirky Cannondale, where he slowly seems to be finding his feet. If he makes the break then he’s a very dangerous candidate.

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  • Ian Boswell. – Another American who could go well in tomorrow’s stage. I’ve highlighted him for the break in a preview earlier in the race but he didn’t manage to get into the break that day. Like Dombrowski, he put in a solid TT, finishing 15th overall so he has some form. He’s not been active at all with his highest finishing position on a stage (aside from the TT) being 44th on stage 4. Saving energy for later in the race? I think the TT was a test of his form and he’ll be happy with the result he achieved and will be confident going into this week. Finishing 3rd in a Vuelta stage from a breakaway last year (behind Landa and Aru), highlights that he has the abilities to go well here.

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And finally, my favourite of the three picks (purely for its reasoning)…

  • Merhawi Kudus. – The young Eritrean has been touted for great things in the future by his team Dimension Data. He finished 6th on the Green Mountain back at the start of the season and in 2014 he came 2nd on GC at the Tour of Langkawi beating a certain Esteban Chaves (4th) and Steven Kruijswijk (7th). Clearly, he is a very talented cyclist. Like those listed above, he’s failed to excite anyone at this Giro sitting 44th on GC, over an hour down on Kruijswijk. Saving energy maybe? What for, you say?

Well, do you remember what happened on Mandela Day at the Tour last year?…

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Could his soft-pedalling at the Giro all be a ruse, so that he can make it in the break tomorrow? I hope so and no doubt the Eritrean cycling fans would love that too!

Special mention must go to Johan Van Zyl or “The Snail” as he’s otherwise known. The 24th of May is also National Escargot Day so he, as a breakaway expert, might find himself in the break. Although I fear that the climbs will be too tough for him to hold on and take a win.

Prediciton

As I said above, I think tomorrow is a breakaway day!

We’ll see a hotly contested battle from the majority of the peloton to try to get into the move that stays away. This involves a certain element of luck,but persistence also pays off.

After dissuading myself from backing Dumoulin at the start of the Giro because everything would be “too Disney”, I’m making a complete U-turn on that principle (mainly because I’m in a good mood) and we’ll get our Eritrean winner on Eritrean Independence day. Merhawi Kudus takes the stage, and everyone lives happily ever after…

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Betting

A day not to get overly involved with, pick a few breakaway lottery selections for fun. I’m just going for the 3 I’ve mentioned above.

Dombrowski 0.3pts @66/1 with PP. I’d take the 50 available at Coral. (He is also available at 40s on the Betfair Exchange – that’s as low as I’d go)

Boswell 0.3pts @100/1 with PP. I’d take the 50-66/1 available with others.

Kudus 0.1pts @150/1 with PP or 125/1 with B365. This price was only available when I tweeted it out, but I’m including it because I tweeted it out. I would still put a little stake on him at 66/1 you can get with Betfair Sportsbook.

You might find that these guys will be priced more favourable on the BF Exchange so keep your eyes peeled.

I’ll probably tweet something out in-play if none of the above make it into the break. After all, in-play is King.

 

Hope you enjoyed this preview. It was a bit more long-winded this time but that’s because I felt I had more to say. Again, any RTs, Likes, or general discussion Twitter would be great. I hope we get an entertaining stage tomorrow! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro stage 15: Castelrotto – Alpe di Siusi

Today’s Recap

Well, that turned out to be an incredibly exciting stage in the end! For long periods of time I thought it was going to be another defensive race from the favourites and it looked like it was going to be a bore-fest. That was until we hit the brutal Passo Giau. Astana took over from Movistar and set a blistering tempo, shelling riders out the back. Amador lost contact but regained it on the descent.

On the next (and final) climb once Scarponi had finished his job, Nibali attacked. The GC favourites followed, apart from Amador and Valverde who were both dropped. A couple of counter-attacks later saw Kruijswijk, Nibali and Chaves clear. They worked well for a bit, but Kruijswijk soon attacked again and only Chaves could follow. Those two powered away on the climb (although Nibali did well to stay close-ish), and caught up with 2nd and 3rd on the road at the summit. A frantic descent and flat chase saw them catch lone escapee Atapuma in the final 3km. Preidler took up the sprint from far out, but Chaves (and Kruijswijk) came round him in the final 150m to take the win. The smiling assassin strikes again.

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Nibali put in a great descent and effort on the flat to only lose 37 seconds on the stage, the rest of the GC guys were at least 2mins 30secs down. So it leaves the GC looking like this going into a crucial stage tomorrow:

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The Route

Three words every cycling fan loves to here and I’m sure three words that the majority of cyclists despise: Mountain Time Trial.

A mountain TT returns to the Giro after a years absence, last featuring in the race back in 2014, when Quintana won the climb, and probably the Strava to boot, up to Cima Grappa.

The organisers have been kinder this year, as it’s not as tough as Cima Grappa, but it is still a grippy test for the riders.

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Whole route profile
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The climb proper – after the intermediate time check

“The stage is an uphill individual time trial. After a first false-flat drag (1,800 m), the route climbs steadily over the next 9 km, with an average 8.3% gradient. The road is wide and well paved. Straight stretches alternate with hairpins having a high bend radius. Split time is taken at km 4.4.” (Road book extract)

As you can see, the climb starts off relatively mundanely until we reach the intermediate check point. Hereafter, it averages 8.6% for 6.4km. Not the most difficult climb, but it will be a challenge after today’s GC fireworks!

Weather Watch

A sunny glorious day, everyone should get the same conditions.

The only concern might be the wind, but it appears that it’s coming from the same direction and the speed doesn’t change much throughout the afternoon.

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Who are the stage contenders?

One thing to consider is if anyone will actually use a TT bike. It was worth it back in 2014 because there was a longer flat section before the climb started, so the riders changed bikes after the first time checkpoint (before the start of the climb). Considering there is only 1.8km of false flat here, I doubt we’ll see anyone use one. Therefore, this eliminates the advantage that some riders would have had by riding better TT machines.

I wouldScreen Shot 2016-05-21 at 18.38.10 not be surprised to see the top 3 on GC be the top 3 on the stage tomorrow. It looks like the bookies think the same, with Paddy Power pricing them up as follows (image on the left). I can’t fault their logic either. I’m struggling really to think who will challenge the top 3.

Majka maybe? He was the one closest to following them on the final climb and he can put in a solid TT.

Zakarin? Was flying in the rolling TT, but has looked out of sorts since his crash during it. He was with Majka today.

Uran was following with Zakarin but then went pop too. Nothing convinces me he’ll challenge here.

Valverde and Amador? I wouldn’t dare go near them after their implosion today.

Jungels? This TT is a different kettle of fish to the one he went to so well in, earlier in this race. If this was a one-week race he could maybe compete. But he finished 6mins+ down today, so I think he’s burnt out a bit.

Henao did an okay performance back in 2014, finishing 8th on that stage. A top 5 would be a good result.

Of the non-GC guys who could go best? Nieve and Roglic on paper probably look the best. Nieve has looked very solid on the climbs. He finished 3’52 down today, offering his support to Sebastian Henao and his efforts for the Youth Jersey.

Roglic: 2nd in the first TT, 1st in the 2nd TT, can he do a repeat performance here? He was going well on the steep climbs earlier in the year and has obviously proved during this race that he can TT. Only concern is that he went down the other day and hasn’t seemed as strong since.

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The other big concern with backing non-GC guys on a day like this is that they might not give it 100%, and just take it as another “rest-day”. Well, as much of a rest as an uphill 10km effort is!

Therefore I say we get the 1-2-3 on GC as 1-2-3 on the podium tomorrow. I’m just struggling to decide what order.

Chaves is the weakest normal TTer, but as I’ve said earlier, this is no normal TT. In fact, up until today he looked the best on the climbs. I’m sure he’ll cope just fine tomorrow!

Kruijswijk has now joined him at the top of the pile. He looked very strong when dropping Nibali, but Chaves came across to him relatively easily. Kruijswijk is the better guy on the flat, so he might gain a few seconds there over Chaves. It will be close.

And then there’s the Shark. He went pop on the final climb, but limited the time-gap fairly well and used his descending skills to close the gap. He brought it back even more on the flat, but I think that’s because the two ahead of him stopped working that well with each other. That work on the flat shows that he’s still relatively strong. But on reflection, his attacks from yesterday might have been those of panic, because he’s not as good as he should be.

Prediction

As I missed out on him today and he seems to be the best climber in the race, I say the Smiling Assassin makes it 2 from 2 tomorrow, with Kruijswijk 2nd and Nibali 3rd. Simples.

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Betting

With there being some room for error, if you can find Chaves at 4/1 or higher, then back him EW. As you should be able to get your stake back when he at least podiums.

I’ve backed him 5pts EW at 9/2 but that price has gone now. So my official blog bet is 5pts at 4/1 EW (as I’m sure someone will make him that price). If he’s not that price, then a 2.5pt straight up bet will suffice, because there is no value backing him EW under 4/1.

*I’ll update this (and my Twitter later) if I find somewhere that he is over 4/1)*

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*UPDATE – 9/2 IS OFFICIAL BLOG BET ^^ *

Hope you all enjoyed today’s stage and this preview! As usual, any feedback or discussion would be great. Get a few beers in for tomorrow, sit-back, and relax, watching the riders giving it their all in the Race of Truth. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Giro stage 14: Alpago – Corvara (Alta Badia)

Today’s Recap

As expected the stage started off at a terrific pace and a massive break eventually got away. The gap stayed pretty so-so after the first two climbs, but Nieve managed to get away on the penultimate climb and held off to the finish. Taking a win that goes some way to salvaging Sky’s Giro. No luck with our picks, although Moser and Busato did make the break at least.

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Behind, we got a bit of GC action but nothing wild. Some probing attacks by Nibali and Chaves were enough to drop Jungels. Amador was also dropped too, but he descended like a stone to catch up with the rest of the GC favourites and he’ll wear the Maglia Rosa tomorrow.

The Route

If the riders struggled today, they’re going to be in a whole world of hurt tomorrow! The first 5-star rated stage of the race, and it has 6 categorised climbs.

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Stage Profile

The organisers like making the most difficult stages on the weekends, so that a greater audience can watch them live and they’ve certainly done that for tomorrow. An innocuous start to the day, but it’s almost as if the first ascent up to Passo Pordoi is 80km long. The road just keeps on rising!

I’m not going to go into the climbs that much, you can see for yourself below the gradients etc.

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First Climb – Passo Pordoi. (9.3km long, 6.9% avg, 9% max)

Tough opening to the day, but a manageable average gradient. If anyone is dropped here, and a few guys probably will, then they’ll struggle to make the time limit at the end.

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2nd climb – Passo Sella (6.6km long, 8% avg, 12% max)

Short but not so sweet. A relatively stinging gradient but manageable for the GC favourites. This is also the Montagna Pantani. It’ll be a special climb for the Italians then.

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3rd climb – Passo Gardena. (6.8km, 4.4% avg, 9% max)

Some respite?

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4th climb – Passo Campolongo (6km, 6.8% avg, 13% max)

A molehill compared with what’s to come.

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5th climb – Passo Giau

9.8km.

9.4% average gradient.

14% max gradient

Oh. My. God.

This would be my reaction…

 

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6th climb – Passo Valparola (11.6km, 6.8% avg, 14% max).

This looks fairly easy after the monster climb that the riders will have just went over. With tired legs, it will be far from that.

Once the riders crest the final categorised climb they have a long, fast descent before a kick up to the finish line. The riders would hope that’d be an easy affair too, but nope, RCS were obviously feeling particularly cruel with this stage. The reason for this is that we have a short wall at 5kms to go to the finish line. It’s only 360m long but it max’s out at 19%!

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Muro del Gatto

The wall is aptly named “Muro del Gatto” or the “Wall of the Cat” in English. The riders will need a spring in their step to get up here after a tough day, and we might see a few Oscar’s handed out for the pain faces that they’ll make.

The rest of the run in isn’t too testing, but still climbs gradually up-hill.

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Weather Watch

Sticking with weather.com after their good showing for today’s stage, they forecast that tomorrow will most likely be dry again.

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Forecast for Arabba

I’ve chose Arabba as the town to get the forecast of because it is fairly central to the route that the riders take. As you can see above, there is a chance of showers later on in the day but it looks like the riders will avoid this. Apart from that, it looks like a cool day in the saddle with a low humidity. The riders should be pleased with this because it will be tough enough anyway!

How will the stage pan out?

The same question has to be asked every day from now until the end of the Giro: break or no break? I managed to successfully predict that today was a breakaway day, although not choose a successful rider. There is a chance that tomorrow will be another break day, with tired teams from today and with maybe some GC riders wanting to conserve energy for the mountain TT on Sunday.

However, I think tomorrow will be a big GC day. Some riders looked strong today and they’ll want to put those who were struggling under even more pressure tomorrow.

Who are the contenders then?

For that, you have to look at who was coping well on the climbs today and putting in attacks or following the moves relatively comfortably.

The strongest out of the GC guys for me were Nibali, Valverde, Majka and Chaves. This was evident after Nibali’s second attack. (Which you can watch here).

Both Nibali and Chaves put in moves to test the water, but were reeled back in/I don’t think they went 100%, maybe 90% though. Majka and Valverde looked relatively comfortable closing the gaps to them.

Kruijsiwk didn’t look as convincing as he had done earlier on in the race, losing the wheels of those in-front. Zakarin also lost contact on the final climb, but made it back on just before the crest, as the pace had slowed at the front. I don’t think anyone else is good enough to win, outside the 6 mentioned, especially the first 4. Yes, Pozzovivo and Uran both managed to hold on longer than Zakarin, but I just can’t see a situation where they win.

Also, Amador will lose the pink tomorrow.

Prediction

I think we see GC fireworks tomorrow and some big time gaps. Annoyingly not as big it was a mountain-top finish, but reasonable enough.

Therefore, it comes down to Nibali, Valverde, Chaves and Majka for the win tomorrow I think.

Nibali put in the most attacks today: was that a show of strength, or were they done because he’s fearful of Valverde and co? I think it was the former.

I’m not a fan of Valverde’s negative riding and he even lost to Nibali in a sprint today, which is not a good sign for him. A great one for the Shark though.

Majka got involved in the finish as well which shows that he has good legs. He’s a danger-man in this Giro, because like I said in the Maglia Rosa preview, he has the ability to keep digging in, in the final week of a Grand Tour. His endurance and powers of recovery are incredible.

Chaves has always been there or thereabouts at the pointy end of this Giro, waiting for a moment to strike. Could that be tomorrow?

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Unfortunately I don’t think so.

I think Nibali’s show of strength today was a sign of things to come, and he’ll pick up his first Giro win of this year, tomorrow.

Astana will revert back to their 2015 Giro tactics and set a crazy mad pace all day, trying to eliminate support riders from the other teams. Nibali seems to have the best domestiques in the shape of Fuglsang and Scarponi. He’ll manage to gap the rest of the group on the final climb and romp away from them on the descent, taking a solo victory.

Chaves and Majka will follow in behind, rounding out the podium.

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Betting

As much as I’ve harked on about not backing GC riders pre-stage in Grand Tours, well, tomorrow is the exception.

I’m willing to back Nibali quite heavily. 1.5pt WIN @ 6/1 (PP)

Chaves 0.25pts EW @ 12/1 (PP)

Majka 0.25pts EW @ 14/1 (PP)

Again, hunt around later when more prices are out. I’m just putting this up now so I can have a relaxed evening!

 

I see Eurosport are broadcasting the stage in its entirety (pretty much) tomorrow, so we should hopefully get to witness a classic unfold before us.

Congrats if you made it this far through again, enjoy watching the race wherever you are!

Anyway,

These were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro stage 13: Palmanova – Cividale del Fruili

Today’s Recap

Rain, but not at the right time for us. The riders got soaked early on in the stage but it was dry at the finish. However, the organisers still decided to neutralise the final lap in terms of GC. All of this combined made it a lot less chaotic and the fastest sprinter in the race won: Greipel. It was too easy for him. Although a lot can be said for his team, Lotto Soudal did an excellent job controlling the last 20km for him.

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Modolo was in an okay position but just lost the wheel in the final turn. It looked as if he got a bit of a bump. Disappointing from him, particularly as Ferrari did a good job. Oh well.

As @cyclingmole pointed out on Twitter, the Italians will definitely look forward to the final week. Now that Greipel (and possibly Demare and Ewan) is going home.

With the sprint stages over for the foreseeable future, the GC boys come out to play tomorrow.

The Route

After today’s pan-flat stage, we’re back to the grippy stuff with the first 4-star rated road stage of the Giro (with the only other being the TT in Chianti).

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Stage Profile

“This is a very challenging mountain stage. The route takes in 4 categorised climbs in a row, with just a few stretches to let the bunch catch their breath. The first 45 km run on apparently flat ground, and are followed by three typical pre-Alpine climbs, marked by narrow roadway, high gradients and endless turns, both while climbing and while descending.” (Road book extract)

The final two climbs look incredibly tough.

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Penultimate climb

Averaging 8.9% for just over 7.5kms, this is a brute! If anyone looks to be struggling here, the other GC contenders will put the hammer down. Expect something from Movistar or Astana to try to isolate Jungels.

A tricky descent leads into the final climb, a Cat 2 ascent up to Valle.

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This climb isn’t any easier gradient wise, it’s just shorter. 8.5% for 5km this time round.

After that it’s a descent and a flat run into the finish line.

“The last 5 km are deceptively flat and actually run downhill all the way to Cividale del Friuli. The route features a few twists and turns over the last 1,000 m; the home straight (approx. 400 m in length) is on 7-m wide asphalt road.” (Road Book)

Weather Watch

With my weather predictions being about as good as my stage predictions, I’ve decided to change who I’m getting my info from. Surely Weather.com has to be right?!

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Forecast for the finish town of Cividale del Fruili

As you can see, it looks to be a mixed back with the possibility of showers. Although, at less than 30% then they don’t seem too likely!

*Awaits downpour tomorrow*

How will the race pan out?

With most stages like this, much will depend on the focus from the GC teams. If they decide to go all out then it’ll be a day for them and the current top 10 of the race. If not, then a break will win like we saw in stage 10.

I think we’ll get a breakaway victory tomorrow. The reason I suggest this is that with an even tougher stage the following day (Stage 14 – rated 5 star) some of the GC teams will not want to go too deep. Furthermore, I haven’t been wholly convinced by the squads of Astana and Movistar. The former rode very aggressively last year, but haven’t been as bullish in this years edition. Have they been waiting for this stage? I’m not so sure.

Breakaway Contenders

Like I’ve said in previous stage previews, to be successful in the break the rider has to be a good climber and no threat on GC.

The flat start to the day will ensure that it will be a fast first 50km, as everyone attempts to get in the break. Therefore, it also helps if the rider is relatively strong on the flat.

We’ll no doubt see the regular contenders giving it a go: Wellens, De Marchi, Cunego etc. Along with riders from the other pro-continental/Italian teams.

Like last time, I’m going to highlight three riders who could give it a go:

  1. Primoz Roglic – The Slovenian has already won a stage which is a clear indication of some decent form (although the conditions benefited him). A strong climber (5th on GC in Algarve), he’s clearly recovered from his crash. If he gets away, he will be tough to beat. The only concern for him getting away is that there is a good chance that he’ll have to work in support of Kruijswijk.
  2. Matteo Busato – He’s been incredibly good at the start of the season but hasn’t shown that much here. Might not be the best of climbers, but in a breakaway it’s sometimes just the strongest who wins and he’ll be hard to beat. If he can keep up with the rest of the breakaway, he’ll definitely fancy himself in a sprint.
  3. Moreno Moser – Another attacking rider who seems to be on good form at the moment. With Uran not going so well, Moser could be given some freedom. He’ll want to improve on his 3rd place into Arezzo.

Prediction

As I said above I think a breakaway wins. From those three highlighted above I think Moser will continue the good family name and get his maiden Grand Tour win!

Gara ciclistica "Strade Bianche"

There is a chance we get a GC showdown. If so, look to the strongest on the final climb yesterday; Nibali, Chaves and Valverde.

Betting

Another day to choose your breakaway lottery tickets and hope for the best!

I’m going to suggest:

0.3pt Roglic @200/1 (PP)

0.3pt Busato @250/1 (365)

0.4pt Moser @200/1 (365)

Look out for other bookmakers as they might price more generously. I’ll probably have a few selections on the BF Exchange as well, because you can normally get better odds there.

Will go in-play if it’s going to be more of a GC day.

Hope you enjoyed the preview, we should be in for a much more exciting stage than today’s offering! Any feedback/discussion on Twitter would be great as usual. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.