Ride London Classic

Ride London Classic

*Apologies in advance, this will be a more truncated preview than normal, I’m away on a family holiday tomorrow so don’t have much time to write this.  I’ll be focussing more on contenders than route etc*

The Route

 

There are plenty previews out there that focus on the route more. Check out CyclingQuotes or CyclingHub.

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Basically, it’s a mix of shortish climbs in the mid portion of the race, followed by a mainly flat finish into London with a couple of bumps along the way.

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How will the race pan out?

The profile suggests bunch sprint, previous editions suggest otherwise.

Ride London is normally dominated by fast and aggressive racing, as the teams without top sprinters attempt to split the race up over the climbs. Having smaller teams (6 riders per squad) is also conducive to more aggressive racing as there are less team-mates to control the breakaways and attacks.

This is one of the toughest races to predict the outcome of.

We could well see a sprint of 70-80 riders, a sprint of around 40, a small group of 10 or less make it to the line, or even a solo winner.

All of the above are all very plausible outcomes.

Contenders

The team with the strongest candidate here has to be Orica BikeExchange who have Michael Matthews. The Aussie rider will be able to deal with all of the climbs easily and he isn’t afraid to go onto the attack. He has a very fast sprint after a tough day, as was shown on Stage 10 at the Tour. He has to start as favourite. The only concern is that Orica don’t like to chase all day, so he might have to force/follow the attacks himself and could be outnumbered late in the race. Howson will be the key for him.

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Etixx have a strong squad here, if not the strongest, with two great candidates in the shape of Boonen and Trentin. I would say the Italian has the greater all round abilities to win this race compared to his veteran team-mate. It will be interesting to see how they play it. In Terpstra, Vandenbergh and Martinelli they have strong riders to chase moves or to force the opposition to work. Although Marintelli won’t win himself, because Gaviria isn’t here to be led out.

Last year’s winner Drucker returns for BMC. Their team is not as strong as in previous editions, and they don’t have a proper sprinter. They will have to force the race and split it up which is possible, with the likes of Oss and Gerts.

Sky come here with the Tour winner, but I can’t see him doing anything here. Their hopes will be Swift or DVP in some kind of sprint, but their main card could well be Stannard. The powerhouse of a rider did a great deal of work at the Tour and this type of race will suit him down to a tee. He should be able to manage the climbs and his big diesel engine will get better as the race goes. I can imagine he’ll be given the go ahead to mark attacks/go himself, while the others wait for a sprint.

Lotto come here without a big-name sprinter so will most likely turn to Roelandts as their main hope. A great classics rider, he’ll deal with Box Hill etc easily and he packs a fast kick too from a reduced group! Jelle Wallays might also have an impact on the days outcome.

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The other big name Brits: Cummings, Blythe and Dowsett could all pull something off here. With Blythe winning here before, he is very capable of winning a sprint. The other two will have to come home alone.

Away from the bigger teams and well-known riders there are a few guys from Pro-Conti and Continental teams that I’d like to highlight. It will be tough for these riders to win, but I hope we get a good showing from them!

First up is Karol Domagalski from One Pro Cycling. The Polish rider is a fairly solid climber and isn’t afraid of attacking. Earlier in June he won a stage in Korea with a great attack in the final 5km. Furthermore, he’s shown recent form, after winning the “bunch” sprint at the Ordiziako Klasika, so has a good turn of speed from a small group.

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Xandro Meurisse has recently just switched team from Crelan to Wanty as a stagiaire and gets his first race here. He finished 7th on GC at the Tour de Wallonie earlier this week so clearly has good legs. Another fast finisher from a small group he out-sprinted Coquard in Dunkerque after a tough end to the stage that involved some short, steep climbs. If he makes a small selection here, I’d keep an eye on him!

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I can’t go through these three riders without selecting a Brit, so Thomas Stewart gets the nod. The Madison Genesis rider has had a very consistent, picking up a win in Wales not so long ago, but also managing an 11th place on GC at the Tour de Yorkshire. He’ll hope to make it over the climbs with the favourites, and he should not be underestimated!

Tom-Stewart

Prediction

I think we’ll see another selective race tomorrow. I’d love to see one of the 3 “lesser” riders I’ve named steal a win, even a podium would be great! However, I fancy Ian Stannard to put in a killer attack somewhere near the finish and with the others marking each other out/not co-operating, he’ll storm away to victory. After all, he has Tour legs!

Ian Stannard

Betting

No odds up as of writing. 

I’ll be backing Stannard for the win, most likely EW, odds dependant. If he’s 20/1 or under I’ll just go straight up. 

If there are somehow odds for my 3 outside riders, then I might have a small fun play on them. If not, it’ll just be Yogi.

Stannard 33/1 at B365 1pt EW

0.125pt EW on Meurrise (80/1) & Domagalski (200/1)

Thanks again for reading, any feedback is always appreciated. Do you think we’ll see a selective race? Unfortunately, I doubt I’ll be able to watch it as I’ll be travelling most of the day 😦 I’m taking my laptop with me so the next preview should be for the Olympics RR, but I’m not promising anything. Enjoy the race wherever you’re watching it from! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Prudential Ride London Classique

Prudential Ride London Classique

Another weekend and another women’s one-day race preview! This time we have the sister event to the men’s Ride London Classic that takes place on Sunday. Following its inauguration in 2013 the race has had a talented list of riders claim the title with Trott (2013), Bronzini (2014) and Guarischi (2015) all coming out on top.

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Guarischi winning last year.

This year the race has taken a step up, and has been granted Women’s World Tour status. Furthermore, the organisers have taken great steps towards equality in cycling by offering the same prize-pool (€100,000) for the men and women. Making the event the most lucrative one-day race in the world!

Now let’s have a look at the course.

The Route

The actual course itself isn’t overly challenging, a 5.5km circuit around some of London’s most famous landmarks/tourist destinations.

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They complete 12 laps of the circuit, totalling 66km of fast racing. The race does gain some elevation. It’s nothing too worrying for the riders but it could be the springboard for some attacks.

How will the race pan out?

As we saw last weekend, these short and sharp women’s races are full gas from the gun! The wide streets of Paris made it difficult for riders to sneak away, however, the roads here give the opportunists more of a chance tomorrow. There are a few narrow, technical sections where gaps can be made. This is particularly evident at the section of the route near Trafalgar Square. You can be sure that Drops Cycling will be very attacking!

Conversely though, the long sections of straight roads do not lend itself to a breakaway sticking to the finish line, with the most likely outcome being some kind of punch sprint. The startlist is packed full of sprinters who will fancy their chances of taking the win. Nonetheless, we may see a break stick if a large proportion of the strong teams have representatives in it, as unlikely as this may be.

I say a sprint finish is 90% the most likely outcome.

The Sprint Contenders

We have our winner from last weekend here: Chloe Hosking.  As usual, the Wiggle High5 team look very strong and much like last weekend, I can imagine Pieters will be given a free role to mark moves in the final 15km. Hosking herself will be very hard to beat in a straight up sprint, she delivered a very impressive and long sprint last weekend. Can she double up here?

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Her biggest threat could be Lotta Lepistö, last weekend’s runner-up. They both produced a similar sprint in France, taking it up from far out. The Cervelo lead-out was a bit all over the place then but I expect it to be better here. The key for Lepistö will be Joëlle Numainville who will no doubt act as the final rider in the train. She finished 4th herself last weekend, but was sprinting behind the Finnish rider. If they get it right here, they could be tough to come round.

Hitec Products main sprinter Kirsten Wild chose not to race at La Course last weekend. On paper, she is probably the fastest rider here winning the Tour de Yorkshire earlier in the year. She will definitely be heavily marked in the sprint and I’d expect a fight for her wheel from some of the sprinters without strong teams.

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Canyon SRAM come here with only 4 riders but have 2 who can challenge on this type of course/finish: Hannah Barnes and Tiffany Cromwell. The latter managed to sprint to 7th last weekend and has been in good form lately, claiming a win at the Giro. Her young team-mate Barnes is British Champion and will want to go well on home roads. The criterium style racing will suit her.

Leah Kirchmann was left bitterly disappointed last weekend. Most of her team were unfortunately taken out in crashes so she was left to fly solo in the final sprint. She started too far back and could only manage 12th. Ably supported by an all-Dutch team, the Canadian will hope to right the wrongs here. A podium will be her minimum aim.

Other sprinters to look out for include Fournier, Rowney, Bastianelli & Confalonieri.

Who could spoil the sprinters party?

Some teams come here without any out and out sprinters so will hope to try and break the race up. The main team in this situation is Boels Dolmans. They have two very capable riders who can win from smaller groups or solo; Lucinda Brand Thalita de Jong. Brand is probably the stronger of the two in a sprint so I imagine she’ll be the more protected rider, but I expect De Jong to try and make the moves throughout the race.

Cylance Pro Cycling will also no doubt try something similar with Carmen Small and Alison Tetrick being the more aggressive riders.

One team I’m looking forward to watching in action is Drops Cycling. The self-proclaimed “most professional amateur team” are a mix of mainly British riders who have been given the opportunity to race on the international scene, competing at the Women’s Tour etc. Their forte however is criterium racing, with Alice Barnes (Hannah’s younger sister) being their key rider. They’ll be prominent towards the front of the field, always trying to be in the moves. I expect a very attacking race from them!

Prediction

As I’ve said above, I think we’ll get a sprint tomorrow. It may not be a full peloton, but it will be of at least 30 riders.

Cervélo (Lepistö) has the best leadout, Wiggle (Hosking) has the rider in form and Hitec (Wild) has the experienced sprinter. However, I think we’ll see a different rider win. Got to stick to blog tradition after all!

After a disappointing result last weekend, I think Liv-Plantur and Kirchmann turn it around here. An incredibly consistent rider, she’s really found her feet in Europe after her transition from American racing. Capable of climbing well, her main asset is her strong sprint. She took a strong sprint win earlier in March, but hasn’t taken a win since then, just numerous podium places and Top 10s. That changes here. Floorte Mackaij will deliver her perfectly within the final 200ms and no-one will catch her!

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Who do you think will win tomorrow? As always, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Clásica de San Sebastián

Clásica de San Sebastián

A great semi-classic style race positioned the weekend after the Tour, San Sebastián often provides very exciting racing.

2015’s edition was won by Adam Yates, after a strong attack on the final climb. He crested it with a slender margin of around 3 seconds, and due to a combination of strength from the Brit and a disorganised chase behind, he increased his lead and managed to win by 15 seconds at the finish.

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Adam looking puzzled crossing the line.

Yates himself looked confused as he crossed the line. Which resulted in us the viewers being confused/humoured at his bemusement. This was partly due to a fault with the aeroplane that was meant to be transmitting the pictures, so the live feed only returned as Yates powered away near the top of the climb. What wasn’t captured on TV but last year’s race is now infamous for, is Greg Van Avermaet’s collision with a motorcycle.

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Yates didn’t know it at the time that GVA had been taken out, hence the reason for his disbelief at the end hearing that he’d won!

Let’s look at this years edition.

The Route

The profile of the race is very similar to that of previous editions. In fact, it’s almost identical to last year’s profile but with one slight difference.

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The route profile is correct, just the last climb has been misnamed

Instead of going up the Tontorra, the riders climb up Murgil Bidea instead. This change in final climb doesn’t really affect the race, it just increases its length ever so slightly because of the change in route.

The climbs of the Jaizkibel and Arkale will sap the legs within the peloton early on, but the race really is all about the final climb, as this is where most successful moves are made.

The final climb is still incredibly tough. As usual, I’ve made a profile on Strava for it that you can view directly here.

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Profile of Murgil Bidea.

Including part of the run-in and false flat after the official summit, smooths out the climb ever so slightly, making it 2.2km long with an average gradient of 8.9%. Taking out these sections makes the climb 1.5km at 10.4%, with ramps of around 20%. Steep and difficult either way!

Previous Winners – Is there a pattern?

Over the past 10 editions (2006-2015) only one of the winners has not raced at the Tour. That man was Xavier Florencio way back in 2006. All the rest have been on a merry jaunt around France.

Interestingly enough, all the winners from 2007 onwards have finished the TDF, all in the top 75 on GC too.

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Average GC position is 28.4 – Shame Wout Poels isn’t here!

Going off of recent history, it seems that to be a winner at San Sebastian, you must have performed well in France. Therefore, it is paramount to consider those who’ve just came from the Tour.

Non-Tour riders?

There is obviously always a chance that the pattern from the last nine years can be broken this time round. There are a few riders coming in from other races or blocks of training who have the abilities and credentials to challenge here. It all just depends if they are back to race condition yet or not.

Candidates

In a slight change from the normal lay-out, I’m going to go through the teams/riders who have a chance of going well here. Naming more riders than I would usually! Still, some teams won’t be mentioned, because let’s be honest, no-one from Cofidis is winning here…

(those who’ve been at the Tour are in bold and I’ll be going through in Startlist order, max 2 riders per team)

Orica – Adam Yates & Simon Yates. The defending champion was in great form at the Tour and has every chance of winning again. He floats up hills and the gradients here are to his liking. Meanwhile, his brother returned from his doping suspension with a win on Monday and will want to remind everyone what he can do on the big stage.

Cycling: 35th Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian 2015

Tinkoff – Kreuziger. Had a good Tour but it will be tough for him to win here. He’s not a good enough climber to escape alone on the final climb and doesn’t have the required sprint from a bunch. The only way he can win is if a group crests together, and he attacks on the descent and hopes that the chase behind is disorganised.

Movistar – Valverde. They’ll be all in for Alejandro. There’s a chance one of the Izagirre’s might be used as a ploy to get the other teams to chase but AV is their main option. Mr Consistent can win from about any situation. He’s rightly the favourite.

BMC- GVA & Gilbert. The could have been winner from last year will be here to right the wrongs. Van Avermaet was climbing exceptionally at the Tour and is in great shape just now, he’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t win. Phil Gil had a poor classics campaign due to injury. He’s not been his best this year but has shown glimpses of form. You can never rule out the former winner and World Champ.

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Sky – Landa & Nieve. I’m being rather controversial here, but I think the two Basque riders will be the team’s leaders over Kwiatkowski and Roche. Landa slowly re-found himself during the Tour and he seemed to be in good shape by the end of it. Earlier in the year he excelled on a steep finish at Trentino, very similar to the final climb we have here. Don’t forget he finished 6th here back in 2013. Nieve has finished 4th here on two occasions, can he make the step onto the podium? Quite possibly! He rode very well in support of Froome over the past month. After doing the Giro and Tour, does he have anything left in reserve? I think so.

Etixx – Martin. It’s all about Panda Power for Etixx. The Irishman achieved his best ever Tour GC result this year. An always attacking rider, you can be sure that he’ll try to make a move off the front at some point. Furthermore, as was shown in Lombardia (2014), he is great at timing a move from a small group and he packs a good sprint. With all that being said, I can’t see him finishing on the podium. Brambilla may be let off the hook but he’s not raced enough recently for me to like his chances.

Katusha – JRod. Another team with one clear leader, Rodriguez really got his season back on track at the Tour after having a poor start to the year. With the announcement that he’s retiring at the end of the year, he’ll give it his all here and potentially take a few more risks than normal.

Lampre – Ulissi. He was climbing exceptionally at the Giro but has been a bit off the boil since then. With the explosive kick required and fast sprint from a group he will be a serious danger-man. Can he be the non-Tour rider to break that 9 year duck?

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Trek – Mollema & Felline. The Dutchman has a great record, finishing in the Top 10 in all of the previous 4 editions. However, he looked spent by the end of the Tour. I’m not sure if he’ll have recovered fully but he can’t be ruled out. Felline finished the recent Tour de Pologne 2nd on GC, a great result. He is a rider for a while who has promised so much in these type of races. I think this is too early for him (look out for him at the Vuelta) and the final climb is on his limit. I’m ready to be surprised though!

Lotto Soudal – Gallopin & Wellens. Another former winner lining up here, Gallopin had a poor TDF by his standards. Especially after a good showing at the French national championships. I’m not sure why that was, but if he’s back to his best then he can definitely challenge here. Wellens on the other hand seems to be on great form just now, storming to the overall victory in Poland just over a week ago. We’re sure to see an attack (probably poorly timed) from him at some point.

AG2R – Vuillermoz. Was building form nicely at the Tour and is a rider I like a lot. He can handle the steep inclines but will probably need to come to the finish alone as he doesn’t have a great flat sprint.

IAM – Pantano. Arguably the revelation of this years TDF, Pantano has all the attributes to go well here. His weakness is probably actually his climbing and I’m not too sure how he goes on very steep gradients. However, he will still be better than most in that respect! He’ll be able to fly down the hill and he has a fast sprint on him too so he can challenge from a group.

Aside from these riders, I can’t see anyone else winning. In fact, I’d narrow it down to A Yates, Valverde, GVA, JRod, Landa, Nieve & Pantano as the most likely candidates. All riders who have been at the Tour!

Prediction

In tradition of the blog I’ll go for one of the outsiders.

I think Sky’s numerical advantage will play a massive part in the finale, whether that’s marking moves on the climb/descent or doing the “old 1-2” themselves. I favour Landa out of the two in that situation. We’ve seen him cope well with steep inclines (Trentino this year and Aia last year) and as a potential Grand Tour winner he has the pedigree and capabilities to win here. Unlike some of the others (Yates & Valverde) he didn’t have to go deep on every stage in France, so will have saved some energy because of that. The team will be on a high after the Tour and want to continue that good run. Therefore, I think we get the poetic Basque region winner that the fans and locals will adore!

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Betting

Just backing Landa for this, the majority of the favourites are too short to back convincingly and I think Landa offers some value. The bookies seem to have the race priced well.

0.5pt EW @ 50/1 with Betfair. (I’d take 40/1 if you can’t get 50/1)

If I see any H2Hs that I like I’ll add them on my Twitter.

 

Thanks for reading and making it this far on this longer than normal preview! Any feedback is very much appreciated as usual. I should have a preview out for Ride London too so keep an eye out for that. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

TDF Stage 21 Preview: Chantilly -> Paris

Today’s Recap

A good stage, won by a perfectly controlled climb and bold descent from Ion Izagirre. He showed composure and no fear when descending down to Morzine in treacherous conditions. Pantano and our pick of Nibali rounded off the podium.

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Behind, Froome was never in danger, but we did get a slight reshuffle in the top 10. Rodriguez and Kreuziger were the big movers, with Mollema and Aru being the losers on the day.

With all of the classifications wrapped up;

Froome – Overall

Yates – Young Rider

Majka – KOM

Sagan – Points

Tomorrow’s stage is all a case of restoring pride for some of the sprinters.

I’ll be keeping this preview shorter than normal, it’s a pretty basic sprint stage and there shouldn’t be anything that surprises us!

The Route

Stage 21 sees the usual processional stage into Paris, finishing along the Champs-Élysées. Nothing much to see on the stage profile, we do have our final categorised climb though, which might entice some riders into the break for that extra prize money!

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I wonder if De Gendt will make a breakaway move? He’s not far off the combative prize, i.e. the most kilometres spent off the front of the race. Aside from that it will probably be a slow day until we reach the closing circuit.

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Nothing new here, all the favourite tourist destinations will be passed along the way, as the riders traverse the cobbles, exact same circuit as the previous years.

As we’ve seen in the past, positioning is pretty crucial within the last 1km.

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The riders will need to be near the front to take the sweeping bends at Place de Madeleine. Therefore, lead-outs or wheel surfing ability is important tomorrow.

Contenders

On paper Kittel is the fastest man here, but like many, he has disappointed so far this Tour. He still has his full complement of lead-out men which is good, and he should be positioned perfectly into the final few hundred metres. The question will be if he can go full gas for his whole sprint; sometimes he’s went early and faded.

Greipel is the sprinter who has disappointed me the most. Apart from getting pipped by Cav on stage 3 he really hasn’t gotten involved in some of the bunch gallops. He is very much a confidence sprinter, and certainly seems to be low on that just now! Furthermore, he’ll be missing Debuscherre in the lead-out train. His record of winning a stage every Grand Tour he’s been at is very much under threat.

Kristoff has been on the rise as the race has went on. He really should have had a win when they arrived in Bern, but was done by a lunge on the line by Sagan. He’ll be out for revenge and to remind everyone what he can do.

Sagan himself has a great chance. He’s so strong right now, it’s incredible! The Slovak has been joining the break for fun on these mountain stages while his sprint competitors have been struggling off the back. He’s already managed to beat his record points tally, but I’m sure he’ll want more!

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Away from those four I’m not overly convinced by anyone. Matthews will have coped well in the mountains so will be less fatigued than some, but he doesn’t have the raw speed to win. Coquard showed an incredible turn of speed on this stage last year, but I feel he’s peaked too soon this year. He looks jaded. Degenkolb is on the way back to his best, but I can’t see it from him. Groenewegen will be tired in his first Tour. Although he says his legs still feel good. He does have the speed to challenge.

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Bennett is still struggling with his finger. McLay has been off the back on a few mountain stages so is clearly suffering. EBH doesn’t have the top speed on this type of finish anymore. Holst Enger would prefer a tougher run in. Dumoulin has been non-existent. Laporte has been an OK late sprinting replacement for Bouhanni but isn’t at the required standard here.

Prediction

Therefore, it’s between the Big 4 that I mentioned.

Kittel and Greipel seem to be going the wrong way on form so…

 

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Leaving Kristoff and Sagan. If this was 2015, I’d definitely be backing Kristoff, but I don’t think he has the same closing speed as he used to. He’s definitely not shown it so far this year, therefore…

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Sagan has looked incredible all race and seems to have his mojo back, it’s great to see! His turns today were ridiculous, he was putting down some serious power. If he can transfer that into top speed then I can see him winning tomorrow. It will cap off a great Tour for him, so…

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Tinkoff-Saxo rider Sagan of Slovakia gives a thumb up as he wears the green best sprinter jersey on the podium after the 16th stage of the Tour de France cycling race

Betting

I’m just backing Sagan outright for the stage. Nothing wild.

Available at 7/1 with Ladbrokes. Might be better prices later for him so keep an eye out.

Thanks

A massive thanks to everyone who has read and shared the blog over the past month. I’ve had a lot of great comments from people, and reading them made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It was weird.

I’m proud to see the blog grow and I hope it continues! It’s also great the interaction that I’ve had with a lot of you on Twitter, it makes the races a lot more enjoyable. The blog will continue with previews for all the World Tour races and anything that’s on TV pretty much. Like I said in my La Course preview (shameless plug), I hope to add more previews on women’s cycling. If you have any other ideas that I could do, maybe interviews or something like that? Then any feedback and advice is always welcome! 🙂

But for the last time this Tour, I hope you enjoyed the preview and enjoy watching the stage tomorrow, wherever that may be from. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

La Course Preview

La Course Preview

In a slight change from normal, I’ll be giving women’s cycling the attention it deserves by having a look at the 3rd edition of “La Course”.

It may not be the most prestigious race in women’s cycling, but due to it being coupled with live broadcasts of the men’s Tour, it’s very important for the growth and exposure of the sport.

The first two editions of the race saw fast and aggressive action from the riders with the peloton splitting up around the streets of Paris. In 2014, the imperious Marianne Vos took a sprint victory out of a reduced group of around 20 riders. Last year saw the weather cause havoc out on the course, with there being numerous crashes and pile-ups. Anna van der Breggen seized her opportunity and time trialed away from the bunch on the final lap, winning with enough time to sit up for a victory salute as a chasing “peloton” of 10 riders finished one second behind.

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Could we be in for a similar situation this year? Let’s take a look at the route.

The “La Course” course

A simple circuit around the Champs-Élysées, using the same roads that have become iconic in the men’s race as a traditional end to the Tour.

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The nature of the fast flowing circuit will ensure that the race will be covered at a remarkable pace, with it probably being completed in around 2 hours.

la-course-by-le-tour-de-france-2016-1469266780The circuit itself climbs a little bit here and there, but nothing too crazy, gaining around 50m in elevation. Completing it 12 times will drain some of the riders. Especially considering the aggressive racing that we so often see, and that I absolutely love, in women’s cycling.

One thing that the majority of the riders will be thankful for is that the weather forecast is much better this year. It looks set to be sunny all day, so they should have dry cobblestones and there hopefully should be fewer crashes.

How will the race pan out?

The aggressive tactics really opens the race up. With the most likely outcome being some kind of sprint by the end of the race.

In 2014 we had good conditions and 25 riders came home within 10 seconds of the winner (Vos) and oddly enough, during the tough conditions last year 25 riders also came home within the same amount of time. So we’ll get a peloton of 25 coming to the line together then…simple!

Yet, there’s a chance that might not happen.

Smaller teams (6 riders max) means that the races are quite tough to control, so the majority of the teams adopt the old adage of “attack is the best form of defence”. Therefore, we’ll see teams with very strong sprinters such as Wiggle High5 possibly send riders up the road, Dani King for example, to cover moves from other teams.

These attacks can often stick, which opens up the possibility of a whole host of riders who can win the race.

The Sprinters

2014 winner Marianne Vos has to come into this race as favourite. She’s had a great 2016 so far, after being out pretty much all of last year through injury. Winning 3 stages at the recent Thüringen Rundfahrt, she’s evidently in great form. Capable of winning a sprint from both small and large groups, she is a real danger!

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The team with the best lead-out in the race has to be Canyon SRAM. As reigning World TTT champions, they are a massively powerful unit. They’ll have a choice of two sprinters; Barbara Guarischi or Lisa Brennauer. The former will be there if there is a large bunch sprint of around 50 riders, whereas I suspect Brennauer will be their card to play in a reduced bunch gallop.

Chloe Hosking or Amy Pieters will be Wiggle High5s sprinters of choice, with Hosking probably getting the number 1 card. She took a great win at the Giro Rosa earlier in the year, and will get the chance to lead the team after working for D’hoore last year. Pieters will be the option if the race gets wild, she did finish 3rd last year after all!

Team Liv Plantur will look towards their Canadian sprinter, come all-rounder, Leah Kirchmann. She’s had a great maiden season in Europe, after joining from Optum at the start of the year. Capable of mixing it in big bunch kicks, but also smaller sprints, she’ll be aiming for a podium. After all, she finished 3rd in the inaugural edition of La Course.

Boels Dolmans have several cards to play like always, they are incredibly strong! I’d fancy Chantal Blaak or Christine Majerus to be their team leaders.

Other sprinters include; Coryn Rivera, Lotta Lepistö, Roxanne Fournier & Marta Bastianelli.

There are a whole host of riders who will fancy their chances if the favourites play games with each other. I’m not going to go through them all but some names to listen out for during the stage are; Brand, Van Dijk, Cromwell, Cucinotta & Zabelinskaya.

Prediction

The most likely outcome tomorrow is a sprint. In tradition of my previews, I’ll go for a bit of an outsider and say that the sprightly Aussie, Chloe Hosking, will take a memorable win! She’s done a lot of work for team-mates here in the past and will be duly rewarded tomorrow.

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Hope you enjoyed this preview! I want to focus on women’s cycling whenever I can, and when the races are broadcast. I find the racing more exciting than the mens at times, it’s a lot less predictable. Would you like to see more previews? As usual, any feedback is great 🙂 Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

TDF Stage 20: Megève -> Morzine

Today’s Recap

Hopefully Nieve was let off the leash, got into the break, and won the stage.

Again, I’m writing this preview in advance as I’m away from home all day today so it might be a bit shorter/less succinct. Apologies!

*Edit, looks like it was a GC day instead*

 

The Route

Another short and sharp test for the riders! With Paris metaphorically very much in sight, this will be the last chance for many to try to take a stage win.

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After today’s gruelling start to the stage, the riders will be happy to see a bit of flat at the start of the map. However, this won’t make the racing any less frantic as a break tries to escape. It could even be after the sprint point that it manages to properly form! Before we get to the sprint point though, we have the Col des Aravis. A Cat-2 climb that drags on for 6.7km, averaging a 7% gradient. This won’t be fun for the guys at the bottom of the GC, after they suffered today.

The sprint point comes at the foot-slopes of the next categorised climb, the Col de la Colombière. This is a much longer climb than the previous one (11.7km), but it’s gradient is a lot less severe, averaging only 5.8%.

The second half of the stage is characterised by long valley roads, tough climbs and descents.

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Next up is the penultimate climb of the day, the Col de la Ramaz. 13.9km at 7.1%, it will probably see the break split up here, maybe with 5 or so cresting the climb together. Behind, it shouldn’t really cause any GC difficulties unless of course someone is on a terrible day.

Once again, there is a long descent and a valley road before we reach the final climb of the day; the Col de Joux Plane.

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The toughest climb of the day has been saved for last, it barely goes under 7% for the whole climb, with several 9%+ sections. This in theory should blow the race to pieces, whether that’s in the break or in the GC group. Riders will give it their all on the last major climb of the Tour. Once over the summit they have to cut across the mountain, descending slightly, before climbing another 70m again, up to the peak of the Col du Ranfolly. From there it will be a steep and exciting descent all the way into the finishing town of Morzine.

The riders descend all the way into the final km.

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How will the stage pan out?

Breakaway win, most likely.

If there have been GC fireworks today and the fight for the podium is incredibly close then there is a chance this goes to the main contenders. However, none of the teams have looked strong enough to control a stage like this all day, apart from potentially Astana. Movistar and BMC have been relatively poor this Tour.

Break candidates

Look to all your regulars, such as Majka, Pantano, Zakarin etc.

Again though, I’m going to name three riders who I think can go well here.

Vincenzo Nibali.

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The Shark had a sloppy start to the race, underperforming when in breakaways but seems to have turned a corner. He did a great deal of work, a truly monster turn for Aru on stage 17. This to me shows that his form is getting better. As I’m writing this one day early, I’m going to assume that today he’s worked for Aru and then rolled in to the finish, resting up his legs for tomorrow. He’s a favourite for the Olympic RR so will need a good test of his form, tomorrow looks exactly like that type of stage. If he makes the break, he wins.

Alexis Vuillermoz.

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Another rider going to the Olympics to do the RR, he may have ambitions of going well there. After all, he did win the test event last season! A rider who’s really flown under the radar so far this Tour, he’s done a great deal of work for Bardet. He always seems to be the last man left for his team-mate, I’ve been impressed! Vuillermoz took a solid 3rd on stage 15 but says his form is getting better. As a classics specialist, he loves the steeper gradients and should relish some of the tougher climbs.

Vuillermoz in break today, doubt he’ll go again tomorrow.

Damiano Caruso.

Cycling: BMC Racing Team 2016

A more left-field pick, he’s had a very solid Tour so far, working well for Porte and TVG. So might be given his freedom by the team here to go and have some fun. Having hung on well to the GC favourites group on several occasions, he seems to be climbing well. Furthermore, he packs a good sprint on him so could beat quite a lot of riders if it comes down to a sprint in Morzine with a break companion.

If none of my picks from yesterday’s blog made it into today’s move, they could well give it a go tomorrow. In particular a certain Brit might be targeting this one.

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Prediction

If we get a break, Nibali wins.

If it’s GC guys, Aru descends like a mad man and steals victory.

Either way, Astana win this penultimate stage!

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Betting

I’ll be backing the 3 riders above, with Nibali receiving most of my money (unless of course he went in the break today), then Vuillermoz, then Caruso. A similar staking structure to previous previews but maybe a bit more on Nibbles than normal. Obviously, I don’t know prices etc, so just have a hunt around yourself. This planning and writing ahead thing is tough!

*Late Friday edit. Nibali shortly priced, gets majority of backing. Caruso gets smaller weighing. 80/20 split.

 

Again, apologies for the slightly shorter preview. Hopefully we get an exciting end to the Tour’s time in the Alps! As usual, any feedback is great and thanks for reading! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

 

 

 

 

TDF Stage 19 Preview: Albertville -> Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc

Today’s Recap

Should have just stuck to that Twitter preview then!

Froome rode the classic negative split tactic, clawing back time on his rivals, and smashing them by the end. A comfortable 21 second win over Dumoulin once the dust settled. That’s the Tour well and truly over, but I think we all know that its been over for a while.

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Aru, Porte and Bardet all recorded very good times, coming home within a minute of the Brit. They all look to be going in the right direction heading into the next two stages.

Poels and Kelderman went for club runs today, but were not as slow as TVG who seemed to crawl round the course.

Onto tomorrow’s mountain top finish.

The Route

A short sharp, tough day out in the saddle.

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Another stage where a fast start is inevitable. The Collet de Tamié isn’t even categorised but it’s a tough climb; 8.1km at 7%. I’d give it a Cat-2 ranking, Cat-3 at worst.

The sprint point comes not long after the climb, and although Sagan has the Green Jersey competition wrapped up, I would not be surprised to see him try to join the break. Just for fun!

The next 50km are dominated by periods of flat broken up by one mountain, the Col de la Forclaz, but by two seperate passages of it. The first comes in at 9.8km with an average gradient 6.9%, with the latter being a shorter sharper incline (5.6km at 7.8%). After the second passage, the riders are soon onto the toughest test of the day.

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It starts off tough and gets tougher, with the second half averaging over 9%. We might see some GC fireworks here, but with the way Sky have been riding then I can’t see it.

The route then tackles a long descent, broken up by a false flat drag, before the start the final ascent of the day.

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A testy climb, it’s toughest section comes right at the start. Riders could be distanced here if the pace has been high on the previous climbs. We then get a section of “calm” with gradients of around 4% before it kicks back up in irregular sections all the way to the line. This will definitely cause some damage in the GC group, but will they be fighting for the stage? That is the question.

There is a risk of rain at some point throughout the stage, but who really trusts weathermen these days?!

How will the stage pan out?

Froome’s dominance today means that the GC battle for first place is well and truly over. The battle for the podium is getting even more exciting though! Will those who looked strong (other than Froome) today keep it together for a GC showdown on the final mountain. That would require BMC/Astana/AG2R to keep it together. The first two could manage it but the way Froome is riding, they could end up losing the stage to him. A lot of effort and risk for a chance of it all going up in the air. I don’t think they’ll do that. Froome himself already has two stage wins so he won’t be as concerned with getting a third. Therefore Sky won’t chase hard, they’ll just ride tempo. Sky will let a break get away as early as they can so that Rowe and Stannard can control the race.

So as we’ve seen often in this Tour, I think it will be a break that makes it to the finish line.

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With the incredibly hard start to the stage it will only be the strong riders who get away. The stage does have the potential for some of the GC teams to try to get a rider who is in contention for a top 5/10 away in it, however, with Sky’s strength it’s almost a pointless move. I don’t think they’ll bother that early on. Instead, they’ll look to get teammates in the break and maybe try something on the last two climbs of the day. Look for a couple of representatives from a few of the big teams. However, the break might have a large advantage by that point, I think it will, so those riders in turn will hunt for stages.

Candidates

Like my other previews, I’ll highlight 3 riders that I don’t think many others will mention that could give it a go if circumstances are right.

Mikel Nieve.

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I’ve said this countless times before, I hope Sky send someone in the break tomorrow. It would endear them to the general cycling public that they’re all not “robotic” etc., plus getting someone in the break and to go for the stage win shows that they want to reward their domestiques by giving them their own opportunities. Froome has the race sewn up, he only needs a few strong guys with him. Poels is strongest so will stay with Froome, while Thomas and Henao are maybe just too close on GC. They’ll need Rowe, Stannard and Kiry to control the early stage. Landa hasn’t looked great. Process of elimination leaves the Spaniard. He’s shown at the Giro earlier this year that he goes very well in the final week and can pull off some great performances. If he does get in the move then he’ll be a serious threat as well because he’s evidently on great form being the 2nd last man for Froome over the past few stages.

Steve Cummings.

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The Brit has had a very solid Tour so far, taking a memorable stage earlier on in the race. Since then he’s been fairly quiet, doing a lot of work for Cavendish and EBH. He did a monster turn on the front the day the stage finished into Berne. The form is clearly still there. If he’s targeted this stage then we could be in for a treat! The steep gradients might not suit him down to the ground but he’ll definitely give 100%.

Simon Geschke.

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A bit of a left-field pick this one, but he did win an excellent mountain stage last year at the Tour. This stage could be too much for him, especially as he’s not done anything all year really. However, if he manages to get into the break and it splits up, then he could cause a surprise! He will enjoy some of the steep gradients, that’s for sure.

For other candidates look towards the likes of Nibali, Rosa, Zakarin, Majka, Kelderman, Barguil, Rolland et al.

Prediction

More out of hope than anything else, Sky put someone in the break tomorrow, and that man goes on to win the stage. A memorable win for Nieve, who will build on Sky’s already remarkable Tour!

Behind, we’ll see a GC battle. Froome and Poels will mark any attacks, but we might see a reshuffling of the top 10. Bardet/Porte/Aru all seem on an upwards trajectory.

Betting

All these prices are quite early on, hunt around later for better prices.

Nieve 0.45pt EW @ 150/1 with PP/Betfair (I’d take 100/1)

Cummings 0.2pt EW @100/1 with Betfair

Geschke 0.1pt EW @300/1 with various bookmakers.

 

Hope you enjoyed the preview! How do you think the stage will pan out? Is it a case of another race on two fronts, or will the GC guys take stage glory? As usual any feedback is greatly appreciated, thanks for all your kind words so far, it means a lot. 🙂 Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.