Vuelta Stage 12 Preview: Los Corrales de Buelna -> Bilbao

Today’s Recap

For once the break didn’t make it and we got back-to-back GC stage winners. This time round it was Froome who pipped Quintana in a sprint to the line. The Brit always goes well after a rest-day as I highlighted in yesterday’s preview!

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The gaps were not big to the rest of the GC contenders but if it wasn’t a two-horse race before today, it definitely is now, and boy do we have a race on our hands!

GC action should be put on pause tomorrow and we’re set for a really interesting stage.

The Route

An up and down day with a flat finish.

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An un-categorised climb to start the day will be a bit of rude awakening for some. If it’s anything like today’s stage then the break may not go until the Cat-1 climb.

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Not the toughest cat-1 climb, it probably is given that categorisation due to it’s length. The average gradient of 6% should be manageable for the riders, unless of course the pace is still on and the break hasn’t formed. If it does form here, it will be awfully strong.

The stage though is defined by the double ascension of the Cat-2; Alto El Vivero.

The road book is back to it’s best today, with no graphic for the final climb. The directions and diagrams are also a bit vague, but I’m sure I have the right approach…

After a few days off, the Strava profile makes a return. View it here.

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Profile of the final 20km.

The final climb itself is 4.2km long at 8.4% average gradient. Like a lot of the climbs in this area, it is very irregular. The toughest section comes almost right at the start, with a kilometre (0.3 -> 1.3km) averaging 11.8%. There are a couple of false flats along the way for the riders to recompose themselves and push hard again.

The same finale was used in the opening stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in 2015:

That day saw Michael Matthews take a reduced bunch sprint finish.

How will tomorrow’s stage pan out?

The stage itself is a nightmare to predict, with a few options that are very feasible.

We could well see the morning break stick and fight out for stage glory as there is a reasonable amount of climbing and the sprint teams won’t be confident of their riders making it over. Saying that, it’s not impossible for a team to control the race and go for a sprint (as we saw in 2015). Felline, Sbaragli, Van der Sande, Valverde & Gilbert will all probably fancy their chances in that situation. However, it is a lot more difficult to control the finale of a grand tour and if the break is brought back, we could well see a late attack stick.

See, it’s not easy!

The sprinters above that I’ve mentioned are the only ones I can really see make it over the final climb. Out of them, I’d probably say that Felline has the fastest flat sprint after a tough day, so he should be the guy to look out for in that situation.

As for late attackers, Luis Leon Sanchez would be the perfect candidate. He looks incredibly strong just now and has the TT engine to hold off the bunch. So could Tobias Ludvigsson who’s climbing better than ever and should make it over the climb if we’re getting set for a reduced sprint.

Breakaway Candidates

There’s a template of rider who I’m going with here. Someone who can climb, but also packs a decent sprint!

JJ Rojas.

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The Movistar road captain may be told to get in the breakaway to defend their lead in the Team classification. Sky (who looked strong today) and Cannondale (who will have at least two men in the move) are both less than 10 minutes behind. The Spanish team do love to win that competition, so will start defending it soon. It could start tomorrow. Rojas has turned himself in to a jack of all trades and should be able to cope with the final climb. He has a good turn of speed and would probably be the favourite if a small group of escapees came to the line together.

Pello Bilbao.

The Caja rider, like a lot of them, is local to the area. He’s been a bit lost in this race so far, having a few crashes etc. However, he does seem to be slowly re-finding himself and building some form. A guy who on his day can climb with the best, he really should have won the GC in Turkey this year but had to withdraw due to illness. This type of profile suits him very well.

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Nathan Haas.

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I’ve already highlighted him for a stage earlier in this Vuelta but he didn’t make the move that day. The climb will be on his limit but considering his performance on stage 4, then he has a chance of being in contact with the lead riders as they summit. Like Rojas, he has a very solid sprint after a tough days racing. You don’t want to be leading him out in the finale!

Prediction

I’m unsure how the stage will go, but I lean towards a breakaway. That of course all depends if there are a few of the “sprint” teams who co-operate and bring the break back. Nonetheless, I’ll stick my neck out on the line and say that the break will win.

I think you know where I’m going with this one. Especially considering my fondness with suggesting riders for whimsical reasons…

Bilbao to win in Bilbao. Simple and poetic.

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I can’t pass up a rider who has the same surname as the finish town and is from the region!

Betting

Small punts on the three breakaway guys

0.3pt Bilbao at 40/1 (Various)

0.1pt Haas at 100/1 (Various)

0.1pt Rojas at 200/1 (Bet365 & BF)

After today’s successful H2H I’m hoping to find one for tomorrow, but nothing has caught my eye/I’ve not done enough research. If I do find something, I’ll update it on my Twitter!

Hope you enjoyed the read, apologies for it being shorter than normal! How do you think the stage will play out? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 11 Preview: Colunga -> Peña Cabarga

Rest-Day Recap

Stage 10 finally saw a GC win, and it was Quintana who took the spoils on the day. He rode the final climb excellently. It was a very dominant performance and he looks back to his best! nairo-quintana-vuelta-a-espana-stage-10_3775273

Froome did exactly what he did in ’14 and rode his own pace, slowly picking off the guys who tried to follow Quintana. It was damage limitation for the Brit who ended up losing 25 seconds to the Colombian. Consequently, it leaves the top 10 looking like this going into today’s rest-day.

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Other impressive displays were from Gesink and Fraile, who managed to stick with the GC guys, finishing 2nd and 4th respectively. It will give them confidence for breakaway days to come!

Moving on to tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

Another typical stage of this Vuelta with not that much to talk about. A fairly flat start, followed by a mountain top finish.

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Like a few of the stages gone by, this is all about the final climb, and it’s another tough one!

The road book is good enough again, but there is a Strava segment you can view here if you wish.

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As you can see in the image above, it’s awfully steep with a 9.8% average gradient. However, this again doesn’t highlight the severity of the climbing sections as there is a 500m period of flat/shallow descent just over half way up the mountain. Taking away this section, the average gradient would be 10.8%. It’ll be a real grind, even for the best climbers in the peloton!

That’s all there is to mention about the stage, so that leaves us with the question…

How will the stage pan out?

Nobody is ever confident of how they will react after a rest-day. Some riders come out of the gates flying whereas others seem to struggle. With no climbs of note before tomorrow’s final challenge, the riders don’t really have a chance to test their legs during the stage. Some might not go as well as they hoped!

Anyway, we’re left with the classic question of: break or no break?

With Movistar commanding a dominant 1-2 on GC and with a stage win already, there is an incredibly high chance that they won’t chase very hard tomorrow. Instead, they’ll focus on saving their riders legs for the final climb and stages to come. The only other rider who looks set to challenge Quintana is Froome. He’s looked good, but not great. I’m not so sure how confident Sky will be of him beating Quintana and they very unlikely to waste resources to chase the break all day.

So once again, it looks as if we’ll get a breakaway win again. It will be another frantic start to the day as everyone tries to make the move. I wouldn’t be surprised if the break doesn’t go until 40km again!

Break Contenders

In a slight change to normal, I’m going to name 4 riders this time round!

Jean-Christophe Peraud.

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The veteran Frenchman has had a pretty abysmal final year on the road after crashing out of the Giro. However, he slowly seems to be finding his feet here at the Vuelta, finishing 12th on yesterday’s very tough stage. Far enough behind on GC at just over 6 minutes he should be given freedom by Movistar. A danger-man if he gets into the move.

Kenny Elissonde.

The diminutive FDJ rider had been riding well during this race, but didn’t seem to have the legs on stage 12. In an interview (view here) he says that he was caught behind crashes at the start of the stage and that cost him energy, so didn’t feel as strong at the end of the stage. Although disappointed, his focus now switches to stage hunting. He’s a pure climber, and tomorrow’s finale looks great for him. If he’s recovered from his off day then he could well take the stage.

Matvey Mamykin.

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Stage winner and 3rd on GC at last year’s Tour de l’Avenir, Mamykin has had a solid start to his first ever Grand Tour but hasn’t featured at the business end of any stages yet. He’s made a few interesting although fruitless attacks off the front of the peloton. A rider that a lot of the peloton won’t be familiar with, it would be unwise to give him a lot of time on the climb!

Pierre Latour.

The third Frenchman and second AG2R rider on the list, he came into the Vuelta with a lot of hope and an outside chance of a top 10. However, he’s now slipped down to 24th on GC and over 7 minutes behind Quintana. Coming into this race off of the back of a 3rd place at the Tour de l’Ain, he was clearly in good form. I doubt that he’ll be targeting a good GC placing anymore and will switch focus to stage hunting, like the others listed above. Tomorrow could well be that day.

GC Battle Behind

This stage is tough enough to create some GC gaps. Quintana doesn’t seem confident of holding off Froome later on in the race because of the long time trial. Instead, he suggests that he’ll need 3 minutes to be safe. Now, I think that required margin is a bit on the large side, but Quintana certainly won’t be riding defensively tomorrow. Froome normally goes well on the following stage after a rest-day, so the Colombian won’t have it all his way. I expect those two to be able to distance the rest of the field, I’m just not sure if they’ll distance each other!

Prediction

The break wins as no-one will chase hard behind and again we’ll get a race on two fronts.

I’ll go with Elissonde for the stage win. He won atop the famously steep Angliru back in 2013 and this climb suits his characteristics very well!

Elissonde-langliru-vuelta©Graham-Watson1

Betting

0.4pt WIN Elissonde @50/1 Betfair or WH (I’d take 40s)

0.2pt WIN Peraud @ 150/1 widely available (I’d take 100s)

0.2pt WIN Mamykin @ 150/1 with PP (I’d take the 66s with others if you have to)

0.2pt WIN Latour @125/1 with PP (I’d take 100s)

Changing my approach slightly and moving shift more to H2H.

De La Cruz to beat Atapuma at 6/4 with PP. Betfair offering it at 5/4, B365 & WH go 6/5. I’d say it’s value down to evens.

DLC has beaten Atapuma 3:0 on the stages where they’ve both approached the final climb in the peloton. Atapuma is further down on GC (5mins back) and could possibly go in the break (which would be typical), but at 6/4 I’m willing to take the risk considering the price should be the other way round on a normal day.

4pts.

*Annoyingly, it was 7/4 but I placed my own bet and Betfair cut their price to 5/4. Spoilsports 😦 *

Hope you all enjoyed the preview and thanks for reading! Do you think it will be another break day and if so, who’s your favourite? It will be another day of waiting for the break to form, seeing if your rider is in it, then waiting for the action to unfold on the final climb! As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 10 Preview: Lugones -> Lagos de Cavadonga

Today’s Recap

In stark comparison to yesterday’s break, the move today was incredibly strong. Movistar were typical Movistar and didn’t bother to chase, even though escapee and eventual stage winner De La Cruz was only 2’36 down.

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Some will berate them, but it’s a great tactical move in my opinion. It means that their team gets another day of “rest”, yet they’re still very much in control of this Vuelta. Letting other teams have the jersey and making friends is in the interest of Movistar for later on in the race.

Anyway, let’s have a look at tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

After the past couple of stages, you’d think that it couldn’t get much harder…

But alas, we have the most amount of climbing metres so far on stage 10!

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A whole host of small un-categorised lumps punctuate the first 140km of the stage. However, this is all a pre-amble for before the closing 50km, where we have a first cat climb that whets the appetite before our first Especial Climb.

No Strava profile today, as the road book is good enough!

 

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As you can see, the Cat-1 is relatively short (6.2km) but it is tough! The average gradient (7.8%) is deceptive. Taking away the slight lump at the start, a more realistic representation of the climb is 4.7km at 10.1%. Now that’s a test! The climb itself is too far out for any GC damage, unless Contador wants to try one of his traditional long-range attacks. Instead, it will probably see the break split up, with only the strong riders cresting together. They’ll have to go over the top together, there is a long 15km or so flat section before the start of the final climb.

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What a climb! You have to feel sorry for the riders at times; 12.2km with a 7.2% average gradient and 17.5% max kicker. Again, that average gradient is slightly lowered because there are a couple of false flats and shallow descents, so when they’re climbing it’s closer to an 8.5% gradient. The defining feature of the climb (aside from it being tough), is that it’s gradients are incredibly inconsistent. This makes finding a rhythm difficult and definitely suits some riders more than others. The last time this finish was used was back in 2014, when Niemiec just held on from the days breakaway to take the win.

How will the stage pan out?

Like normal we’re left with the age-old question of: break or no-break?

With the rest day on Tuesday, some of the GC teams may fancy their chances at controlling the break and going for a stage win. I think it’s clear from today’s performance that Movistar aren’t overly concerned with chasing for a stage win, not yet anyway, so that’s them out!

Therefore, it’s over to Tinkoff (Contador) and Sky (Froome). The former doesn’t have a very strong team in the mountains, but they do have strong rouleurs who could ride tempo on the opening part of tomorrow’s stage. Froome looked a bit tired at the end of stage 8 but looked OK today. Then again, there wasn’t much of a pace from the GC teams up the final climb, so he might not be confident of performing when the race is on.

So it’s over to Etixx to control the day and the break. They’re the type of team who will honour the jersey and chase if there is someone dangerous up the road. However, if they don’t get help from other teams then it will be a very long day for them! They’ll be hoping no-one in the top 20 goes on the attack.

Once again, I think we could see the break win. I make it a 70:30 split.

Breakaway Contenders

You know the drill by now, I’ll name 3 riders.

Larry Warbasse. (Again)

Amstel Gold Race 2016

Willing to give the American another chance. Same reasons as yesterday’s preview; fighting for contract and has been climbing well in the GC group the past few stages. He’s also far enough down to be let go.

Rudy Molard. (Again)

Molard likewise gets another chance. He’s close-ish on GC, but at 5’06 down he should be given the all clear by Etixx. He’s been climbing very well with the GC guys as of late and should not be discredited.

Tiago Machado.

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Without a GC rider, Katusha have to be attacking. They missed the break today so I expect them to be in it tomorrow. Machado himself was on the move earlier in the race, but that turned out to be a futile move. A strong climber on his day, he’s been rolling home the past few days. Possibly saving energy for tomorrow?

Apologies this section is slightly shorter than normal, it’s just disheartening having to write about a potential break everyday!

GC Battle Behind

I expect there to be a few fireworks behind in the GC group. Movistar/Sky/Tinkoff will all probably try to come to the front and ride tempo for their respective leaders. With it being a long and demanding climb, only the best will be left again and numbers will be key. Quintana will hope that Valverde can stay with them for as long as possible, the same goes for Froome with Konig. Contador unfortunately will have to fly solo, but he’s been used to that in this race.

I expect Valverde to attack at some point, hoping to draw the others out, meaning that Quintana can get an easier ride. Orica could possibly try something similar with Yates & Chaves.

If all three of the main GC guys are on form, it could be a great stage and this well could be the image we see throughout the Vuelta.

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However, going off what we saw on Saturday and partly because I’m a big Quintana fan, I think the Colombian can put in a stinging attack tomorrow and dishearten his opponents. He looked so comfortable on the final climb on that day,with his jersey zipped all the way to the top, as the other contenders had theirs agape. He could possibly gain another 20-30 seconds on a very good day, and that would give him a very nice buffer going into the rest day!

Prediction

The break stays away and Molard wins.

05-06-2016 Criterium Du Dauphine Libere; Tappa Prologo Les Gets; 2016, Cofidis Solutions Credits; Molard, Rudy; Les Gets;

Behind we get some GC fireworks.

Betting

Even if you think it’s a GC day there’s no point backing them pre-stage, so another selection of raffle tickets for me:

Molard 0.25pt @ 100/1 (B365)

Warbasse 0.125pt @ 100/1 (B365)

Machado 0.125pt @ 100/1 (PP)

KONIG v Moreno; TALANSKY v Scarponi; YATES v Atapuma (H2H treble) 3.5pts at 3.03/1 (b365)

As normal, hunt around for better prices later.

 

Thanks again for reading, how do you think the stage will pan out tomorrow? I hope it’s an exciting stage after today’s relatively damp squib. As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Vuelta Stage 9 Preview: Cistierna -> Oviedo

Today’s Recap

A disgustingly average break was let away early on and they fought it out for the stage. Not to take anything away from the riders, they still had to dig incredibly deep and it was Sergey Lagutin who took a gruelling win. The Vuelta does love a surprise winner!

La Vuelta Cycling Tour

Behind there were big GC gaps, with Quintana coming off the best, gaining 25 seconds on Contador & 33 on Froome. I’m happy to see the Colombian going well after many were calling for his head after the Tour. Chaves was the biggest disappointment losing 57 seconds to Quintana! One of the blog’s break selections performed excellently in the shape of Sergio Pardilla who came home on the same time as Froome. Whereas, Romain Hardy finished in a solid 28th, a respectable 1’10 behind Quintana. What could have been!

Anyway, moving on to tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

After today’s monster finish, the riders might be glad to see a stage with more descending than ascending. Unfortunately for them, that doesn’t mean it will be any easier!

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This will be another very fest start to the day as the riders look to get into the break. The uphill start will aid the climbers, going off the road book, it looks to be 7km at 3.4% (from km 3-10). Although, I doubt the break will be gone by then. It will probably be made on the long false flat afterwards! The first Cat-2 will be another sting in the legs, and the riders will be looking forward to the long, gradual descent from 60-105km.

As usual, I’ve made a Strava profile for the final 60km that can be viewed here.

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It’s a very demanding end to the race. The first climb, Alto de Santo Emilliano is 7km long, averaging 4.3%. Not overly tough, but the second half of the climb is much steeper. Follows is a reasonably long descent and bit of flat before the real action starts!

The Alto de San Tirso starts the fireworks off. 5.3km long at 3.9% average gradient, this is the easiest of the final climbs. The next uncategorised ascent comes it at 3km long at 5.6%. It’s much steeper at the start of the climb, but it should be manageable and I’d expect any break to still be together here.

Where a move may be made is on the Alto de la Manzaneda (4km at 5.6%). However, those figures include the false flat/plateau at the summit. The main bulk of the climb is 3km at 7.1%. Those who don’t want to wait until the final climb will have to attack here!

The final climb itself out of Oviedo is a classic climb in this area, 5km at 6.8%. However, it is very irregular! There are a couple of 500m sections where the gradient goes above 10%. With all of the climbing that’s came beforehand, I would expect the winner here to be a good climber. Then again, it is the Vuelta and riders often surprise. Lindeman’s win last year comes to mind!

How will the stage pan out?

Break. 100%.

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Movistar are now in control of the red jersey and will be able to ride more defensively. After what still was a big GC effort today, the riders will probably be saving themselves for Monday, where bigger time gaps can be made. Movistar won’t want to put any extra effort in, chasing for the stage win as there are bigger tests to come!

Therefore, anyone that’s not a threat on GC will be able to go. This probably stands for anyone who’s over 4 minutes down on Quintana, so those just outside the top 20 could sneak into the move.

Like normal, I’ll nominate three riders who could give it a pop!

Tobias Ludvigsson.

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A bit of a left-field pick this one but I’m a big fan of Big T. Looking through the results today and I was pleasantly surprised to see that he finished 47th, a mere 6 seconds behind red jersey wearing Atapuma. A rider very much in the mould of his team-mate Dumoulin, his strength is his time trialling ability. With the climbs tomorrow not being that severe in gradient, he could use his big engine to solo away before the final climb, a la Dumoulin at the Tour, and hold on for the stage win.

Larry Warbasse.

The rangy American performed very well on today’s stage, finishing in 27th. Clearly he enjoyed the conditions and is showing some good form. A solid all-round domestique, it would be good form him to get in the break and put on a good display. Especially considering that he’s still out of contract for next season as far as I’m aware. Finishing 7th on GC at the Tour de Pologne earlier the year, he certainly has the potential, it’s just a case of him showing it!

Rudy Molard.

05-06-2016 Criterium Du Dauphine Libere; Tappa Prologo Les Gets; 2016, Cofidis Solutions Credits; Molard, Rudy; Les Gets;

Another Cofidis rider who is quietly going about their business and is performing well. He’s someone who always rides solidly but never seems to be in the position to win something. Sitting in 27th on GC, if he makes the break tomorrow he would be a rider to worry about, especially on his current form.

Prediction

Break wins, obviously.

I’ll go with the American Larry Warbasse to take the stage. I really like the attacking spirit of IAM and it would be nice to see him get his first pro win and with it manage to secure a contract next year!

Amstel Gold Race 2016

Betting

Same staking plan as today;

Warbasse 0.25pt EW 125/1 Bet365

Ludvigsson 0.125pt EW ?

Molard 0.125pt EW 80/1 Bet365

As usual shop around for better price later. I’m away out this evening so getting the preview out early. If you spot any price for Big T later then please let me know (on twitter preferably @JamieHaughey). I’m not sure he’ll be priced up anywhere Paddies/Betfair best hope. Or a better price for any of these guys!

Thanks for reading again! Who do you think will win the break lottery? I hope we’re in for an exciting, attacking stage. As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 8 Preview: Villalpando -> La Camperona

Today’s Recap

Another day, another messy finale.

For a while, the stage looked like it would be a snoozefest as the sprint teams had the break well under control and were comfortable riding tempo on the front of the peloton. Astana, however, got bored and changed the speed completely with around 50km to go. The break was caught, and on the lower slopes of the final climb Luis Leon Sanchez attacked. He was joined by 5 others, but it was the Spaniard and Simon Clarke who pushed on during the descent and onto the “flat” run-in. Unfortunately for them, they were caught within the final kilometre and Jonas van Genechten took a wonderful sprint victory.

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Behind, we saw a relatively large crash with its main casualty being Alberto Contador who seemed to go down quite badly. In post race interviews he sounded as if he was already in a lot of pain. Not a great Vuelta for him. As for Arndt, he came across the line in 26th smashing his handlebars, clearly not happy with the way the stage ended. Maybe he was held up by the crash, but being honest, if he was that far back he wouldn’t have won the stage anyway. Lack of inexperience from him there!

Anyway, what do we have in store for us on stage 8?

The Route

Not much to talk about tomorrow. The majority of the stage is flat followed by our toughest ascent yet! The climb was actually used back in the 2014 edition of the race, with Hesjedal taking a spectacular win from that days break. It brings back bad memories as I had second placed Zaugg at 80/1!

 

Swiftly moving on…

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The 170km of flat means this is more than likely a stage to tune in late on to. In theory, it should be relatively easy for the teams to control the break. This is all about the final climb.Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 11.30.15 As you can see it isn’t exactly an easy summit finish. The average of 7.4% for 8.5km is tough but is also deceptive. As you can see on the graphic above, the second half of the climb is a lotmore grippy.

Back to normal today and I’ve created a strava profile of the final 2.5km that you can view here. It’s just insane, averaging 15.3% for that final segment with several ramps above 20%.

Team-mates are of no real aerodynamic use when the gradients get that steep, it’s all about the individual rider. Of course, they’re an advantage in the sense of one attacking to try to get the others to chase.

How will the stage play out?

Pre-Vuelta this was a nailed on GC day. A long flat amble along to the one major obstacle of the day means that the break can easily be controlled. However, we’ve seen this Vuelta so far that a lot of teams don’t want to put the effort in to chase. Aside from BMC who will honour the jersey, only Movistar, Sky and Orica are likely to put any manpower on the front of the peloton.

Movistar have two contenders for the stage, with both Valverde and Quintana looking strong. They will fancy their chances tomorrow, although Valverde may have bad memories of going too early and blowing up here in 2014, losing almost 30 seconds to Froome that day. Their squad does have good rouleurs such as Castroviejo and Erviti who can control the break on the flat. But I think Valverde will fancy this, it’s just a case if his team wants to do all the work.

CYCLING-BEL-LIEGE-BASTOGNE-TRAINING

Orica will turn to Chaves tomorrow. The Smiling Assassin has quietly gone about his business so far, with his only real day in the spotlight being on the incredibly tough finish on stage 3 where he finished 5th. His diminutive frame suits this type of finish well. We’ve already seen Orica come to the front and drive the peloton on stage 6, so there is a good chance they’ll work tomorrow. Furthermore, Yates seems to be getting better and they’ll hope he’ll last with Chaves for a while.

Finally, that leaves us with Sky and Froome. The highest placed GC finisher in 2014, the Brit will be hoping of a repeat performance here. That time round, he used a very similar tactic to what we saw on stage 3, where he paced himself up the climb slowly picking off riders as he rode past them. He could very well deploy a similar tactic here tomorrow. We were promised a different Sky this Vuelta, one where they wouldn’t work as much on the front and their mountain train isn’t as prominent. Tomorrow is the true acid test of that!

Aside from those 4, I can’t see any other GC rider winning the stage. There will be large time-gaps tomorrow!

Breakaway Contenders

With this being another coin-toss between break and GC riders, I’ll suggest a few riders like usual who could surprise.

Sergio Pardilla.

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Winner of the GC at Vuelta a Burgos before this race, Pardilla has had a relatively quiet race so far. A very solid climber, he’ll be a threat in any break that makes it all the way. He’ll look to use his experience and grind away up the final climb, not going too deep too early.

Romain Hardy.

Yesterday I was nominating him for a sprint podium today a mountain top finish. He climbed well at the Tour de l’Ain earlier in August and has clearly carried some of that form on. Finishing 25th on the steep ramps of stage 3 shows that he can cope fairly well with the steep stuff. He could well be one of the surprises of the Vuelta!

Omar Fraile. (Again)

He took it easy today looking after Anton. He may well save himself tomorrow for days later on in the race, with more KOM points available. But as we saw the other day, he is a very attacking rider, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him up the road!

Prediction

Torn between two again. As I said before, I had this is as a GC day before the Vuelta. However, the attitude of the peloton has kind of put me off this idea. No-one seems overly keen to work, and there is a lot of tough riding ahead. Then again, the parcours lend itself to a team taking control.

Hmmm.

I’m not sitting on the fence this time…

In a shock twist the break stays away and Romain Hardy pulls off an equally shocking win!

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(Or maybe the GC guys win 😉 )

Betting

Small punts on the three breakaway guys. Tomorrow is most definitely an in-play day! Even if you do think the GC guys win, there’s no point backing them pre-stage because their price won’t change that much during the race and you have much more information on how things will unfold.

0.25pt WIN Hardy @ 125/1 with Bet365

0.125pt WIN Fraile @ 100/1 with Bet365

0.125pt WIN Pardilla @ 100/1 with Bet365

As usual, hunt around when more bookmakers price up. B365 were the only ones priced up by half 8.

Hope you enjoyed the preview! Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll enjoy tomorrow’s race until around 20km to go. Do you think we’ll see a break stay away, or will the GC guys finally get their act together? Any feedback is great as usual! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta Stage 7 Preview; Maceda -> Puebla de Sanabria

Today’s Recap

What a stage, it was full gas from the start! Omar Fraile represented us very well out the front bringing that attacking gusto that I was looking forward to seeing. However, it was not to be for him, or any of the original break in fact. Instead, Simon Yates made a fantastically timed move to follow Dani Moreno on the final climb, going on to pass him before the summit and then finishing solo!

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Let’s have a look at tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

Surprise surprise, another stage with a fair bit of climbing. Especially considering this is supposedly a sprinter-friendly day!

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* No Strava profile today from me as I’m in more of a rush than usual. So climbs & %s made up from the road book*

The climbing tomorrow is spread out a lot more evenly throughout the stage, with the three Cat-3s almost equidistant from each other. Depending how the riders are approaching the stage, the break may not have gone until the first climb; Puerto de Allariz (6.3km at 4.7%). If it does go here, it will certainly be a strong one.

The second categorised climb is a longer affair, 11.2km at 4.4%. The road here-in rises and falls all the way to the start of the final official climb of the day. Alto de Padornelo averages 3.3% for it’s 7km. The sprinters will hope to make it over this.

A long descent comes next, followed by a flat run to the line.

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The run in itself is fairly technical, with a few sweeping bends mixed in with sharp turns within the final few kilometres. Positioning and lead-outs will be key.

How will the stage pan out?

This another stage marked down as a sprint, but after today’s very hot and tough day there might be a few teams feeling the effects. There is more of a chance than normal that a break makes it.

Felline was angry after crossing the line today and is clearly going well at the moment. He’s one of the riders who will get his team to work and will want this stage to end in a sprint. Likewise, so will Etixx who will be hoping that Meersman can complete a hat-trick of victories. Others may well join in, such as Orica and Giant. The latter took the day easy after missing the break, targeting tomorrow’s stage.

Conversely, the classic tactic of sending a man up the road so you don’t have to work behind could well be used tomorrow by a few teams. If 3 out of the 4 sprint teams I’ve mentioned above have a rider up the road, the break makes it.

It’s very much 50/50 if that happens. If today wasn’t so tough and teams weren’t slightly weakened/tired, then tomorrow would be a definite sprint.  Then again, tomorrow is the last chance the sprinters have for several stages so they will not want to miss another opportunity!

Contenders

In-form Meersman looks like the rider to beat, he’s been very impressive so far this race. It’s good to see, because for a while he was a bit off the boil.

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Felline going off of the last sprint seems to be the rider who will challenge him. He’s climbing very well and is very fired up! Cort Nielsen will hope to go better than his third on stage 2. I’m sure he’s capable of that! While Arndt and Giant will be looking to finally getting to compete in the sprint.

Other’s to look for include Prades, Reza, SbaragliVan der SandeRestrepo and Drucker.

A proper sprinting outsider would be Romain Hardy. The Frenchman made it over the climbs today with the GC group and if the bunch gets whittled down tomorrow he may sneak onto the podium.

Breakaway riders? If we’re taking part in the Spanish lottery again, then look to strong all-rounders. Guys like Hansen, Terpstra and Haas all have the capabilities of winning from the break. Their team as said above then has the added bonus of not chasing.

#RandomRider

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Patrick Bevin is the chosen man for tomorrow. Going into this Vuelta I would have assumed that he  would be Cannondale’s sprinter of choice, but he’s failed to break into the top 100 on a stage yet. Potentially ill at the start of the race, he may have been taking it easy until now? He has a good turn of speed from a reduced group and could well podium tomorrow if it comes down to a sprint. If not, he’ll have to try his luck in the break. In either situation, there is more than likely to be someone better than him, but the Vuelta is full of surprises!

Prediction

As you all know by now, I do love to suggest that a break makes it and I’m very much on the fence for tomorrow’s stage. So I’m going to cop-out and give two predictions. If the break makes it, Nathan Haas wins. The Aussie did well in the break on stage 5 on a finish that didn’t particularly suit him. Tomorrow’s stage is more his cup of tea and he would expect to go well in a sprint from a breakaway group.

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If we do get the (probably more likely) bunch sprint, then I think Giant and Nikias Arndt will turn it around. He didn’t seem to badly hurt in his crash the other day, and they’ve highlighted how they saved their legs today for a sprint tomorrow. They have the best lead-out train here and in tomorrow’s tricky finale that will be the crucial factor.

Betting

Going against my rule and backing both a sprinter and a breakaway.

Arndt 0.5pt EW 33/1  (Bet365)

Haas 0.2pt WIN  80/1 (PP)

Hansen 0.15pt WIN 80/1 (PP)

Terpstra 0.15pt WIN 150/1 (PP)

 

Thanks for reading! Do you think we get a sprint? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 6 Preview: Monforte de Lemos -> Luintra

Today’s Recap

That was messy, with Meersman taking a very reduced bunch sprint.

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We saw the attacks off the front on that penultimate ramp that I expected, Gilbert to boot. Followed by several crashes as the road narrowed and there were a few suspect/unmarked bits of road furniture along the way. Not great from the organisation and UCI.

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Goncalves was up there and was in a great position with around 700m to go. But as those in front slowed down (Gilbert stopped the lead-out), he was forced into the inside, right along the barriers. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get out after that and only managed 10th place. A bit of inexperience on his behalf. Oh well, on to tomorrow’s stage!

The Route

Much to the surprise of everyone, oh wait, maybe not, we have another stage with a lot of climbing metres. This is another classic “hilly” day at the Vuelta.

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Like several of the stages that we’ve already had, the majority of the climbing comes in the second half of the day.

You know the drill by know, Strava profile of the final 75km viewable here.

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Said profile.

Just over 2,000m worth of climbing in the final 75km, it won’t be an enjoyable experience for the heavier set riders!

The first climb is 4.1km long, averaging roughly 5.5%. Nothing to challenge the GC men, but it will test those who are trying to control the race.

Afterwards we start the drag up to “Castro Caldelas” (Strava segment here). This climb averages closer to 6% and goes on for much longer, at 9.5km. The toughest part may well be the plateau afterwards, especially if the pace is increased where those who are struggling will be put under pressure.

A long descent follows before the “Barxacova – miradoiro de Cabezoás”, 15.3km at close to 4% average (Strava segment here). Nothing overly challenging but the second half of the climb is the more difficult part (4.8km at 6.7%). This is where we’ll start to see some attacks from the breakaway.

The final obstacle on the course is the hardest. The rather aptly and ingeniously named segment Ou 0508 Climb (here) is 2.2km long, averaging 7.6%. With the toughest section of the climb coming within the final 400m (ramps of 15%), it’s a proper springboard for a late attacker. I say this as the descent will be fast and there isn’t much time for anyone to organise a chase. The road to the finish line itself rises ever so slightly at roughly 2%.

How will the race be won?

Break. 100%.

Teams aren’t strong enough or willing enough to put the effort in to bring the break back. The only way the break is brought back if there is a rider dangerous to Atapuma and Valverde really fancies his chances for the stage.

So it’s time to enter the Spanish Lottery!

Let’s narrow down the criteria;

  • 192 riders left in the race;
  • Take away the top 52 (all under 10mins on GC);
  • Remove “non-climbers”

And we’re left with approximately 80 breakaway candidates. Then there’s the fight of getting into the break. Although that should be left to the “climbers” tomorrow as the opening 10km are all up-hill.

It’s really a stab in the dark so like normal, I’ll name three guys who could go well.

Luis Angel Maté.

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The Spaniard always seems to get himself into breakaways that stick. He’s a solid climber who should be able to cope with the challenges we have tomorrow. One thing that is a deterrent is that he’s not really a winner, only 2 pro wins, but that could all change!

Joe Dombrowski.

The American was ever-present throughout my Giro previews as a breakaway candidate. He is a real talent with a massive engine. Working well recently for Talansky in California, if he’s let off the leash then he could play a massive part in the outcome of tomorrow’s stage.

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Omar Fraile.

 

The Spaniard has had a pretty poor season so far this year by his standards. He had stomach problems at the start of the Vuelta but seems to be over them now. On his day, he is an exceptional climber, with a very attacking mindset. Great for the fans! Hopefully, he’s 100% fit and goes for it tomorrow.

Now for something slightly different…

Inspired by one of my friends who came out with this

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when he was asking about how I go about my selection process for a breakaway. So I’ve decided to consult https://www.random.org/lists/ to come up with a rider for tomorrow’s stage. I’ve put in all riders names, and this is the random rider who topped the list…

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So how can Carthy win tomorrow’s stage? I say he has a good chance if he makes the break. The only concern is that he may be ill, but he’s been loitering around the back of the peloton all race, saving energy. It seems pretty clear to me that he’s saving himself and targeting a stage. Tomorrow could well be that day, but I’m sure someone out there knows better than me! He is a very solid pick and one that I considered myself.

Prediction

Break wins and I’ll go for a Spaniard. Omar Fraile takes the stage.

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Betting

Small punts on each of the riders listed above (even Carthy!)

0.125pt EW on each. Fraile & Mate 100/1, Carthy and Dombrowski 150/1 (All Bet365). Again, hunt around later when more bookies are priced up

 

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 5 Preview: Viveiro -> Lugo

Today’s Recap

Another stage, another break! The three guys I highlighted (we’ll pass over Devenyns 😉 ) made the move but unfortunately none of them could take the win. Instead, it was young Frenchman Lilian Calmejane who took home a great stage. He’s another talented junior rider, hopefully he kicks on from this!

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Atapuma moves into the GC lead, much to the delight of Carlton Kirby, with Valverde and Froome roughly 30 seconds behind.

Anyway, moving onto tomorrow’s minefield of a stage!

The Route

It’s another stage that is back loaded with climbing. There’s a real mix of everything tomorrow and a lot of riders will fancy their chances.

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The flat start to the day could mean we’re in for another ferocious pace as the riders try to make the break. However, it is almost as likely that a break could be formed quickly and the sprinters teams take control of the bunch.

The second half of the stage is much tougher and is constantly up and down.

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Profile of the final 50km. Find it here

As you can see, it’s a real sawtooth profile. However, the actual changes in altitude/elevation are not that high, only varying by roughly 50m. Depending on the pace of the peloton though, this will sap the legs and tire the sprinters before the finish.

The finish itself is very interesting.

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Final 7km profile. Find it here

Over the course of the 7km, the road rises at an average of 1.4%. Not exactly challenging.

The toughest section is 3-4.8km (in the profile above) which averages 4%. However, there are some steep ramps of around 8%. It looks like a nice launchpad for a solo attack, or for a team to attack it aggressively, putting a few of the sprinters in trouble.

The final 700m of the stage is all up-hill as well, averaging 3%. It will be a long drag for some!

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The run-in itself is technical and will be difficult to control, or organise the lead-out.

How will the race pan out?

Pfffft, who knows?!

Before the start of the Vuelta I would have been very confident calling this one as a reduced bunch sprint. However, with there already being 2 break wins out of 3 road stages then we could well see the same again tomorrow!

Will BMC want to expend resources to hold onto the GC lead? Possibly. It will be good for the team to retain the jersey just now as they won’t be at the pointy end of the race by the finish! Therefore any break will have to be made up of riders far down on GC. There’s a good chance of that as anyone outside the top 50 is over 6 minutes behind Atapuma already.

So they’ll most likely take on the duty of setting the pace of the peloton and usher the sprint teams through to assist. Will they? The majority of the “sprinters” here will fancy their chances so the majority of teams will have an interest in bringing the break back. However, that all depends on the make-up of the breakaway. If they have a rider up the road, they don’t have to work.

It’s a very tactical day and a nightmare to preview!

A break/late attack/sprint are all possible and equally as likely outcomes.

Stage Contenders

For the sprinters, look to those involved on stage 2. With the “lower-quality” field here at the Vuelta, none of the so-called sprinters are actually pure sprinters, and most should relish the uphill run to the line. I would almost be tempted to go with Cort Nielsen again. He looked fast on Sunday and this finish reminds me of the stage he won in Denmark.

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The break could be made up of anyone really, and for late-attackers look to regulars such as LL Sanchez, Hansen & Terpstra.

I’ve decided to approach this stage by picking three guys who could do everything and cross my fingers! There’s also a Snoop Dogg inspired pattern too…

Gilbert has been climbing very well so far this Vuelta and he seems to have a spring in his step now that he has a contract for next year. Sitting in the magical 55th place on GC (8’23 down) he will be given freedom. Furthermore, BMC can play the “we have a man up the road card and don’t care about Atapuma’s red jersey” tactic. A play-book classic that one! 😉 Otherwise, he can put in a big acceleration on the toughest section of the run in. He looked lively on stage 2! Or he’s saved for the up-hill sprint at the end that looks right up his street.

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Gerrans sits in 72nd position on GC and is a very good breakaway candidate for Orica. I say this because he’s not needed to protect Chaves, and he wasn’t involved in the lead-out for Cort on stage 2. Practically the only guy left in the team once those jobs are taken away! Like Gilbert, he’ll be used as the rider up the road so Orica don’t have to chase. Also, he could attack away on the final rise. Or if Orica aren’t confident in Cort’s sprint, they may turn to him for the dash to the line.

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Prediction

However, I’m not backing either of those riders to win. His surname does begin with G though…

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Like today’s stage, I’ll be backing a Caja Rural rider to win and that man is Jose Goncalves. The Portuguese rider can handle all three potential outcomes very well. He rolled in today within the grupetto and after saying he felt very good  yesterday, I can only assume he’s saving energy for tomorrow (maybe wishful?!). As we saw today, Caja are a very attacking team so will have riders up the road in the break. Goncalves showed on stage 3 that he can handle the steep ramps well, and has the potential to attack late. However, his main asset will be his up-hill sprint. These types of finishes are his bread and butter and he was going very well in at his preparation race; Volta a Portugal, earlier this month.

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I expect him to be firing on all cylinders tomorrow!

#GoOnCalves

Betting

Goncalves 0.5pt EW @ 100/1 with Bet365 (I’d take as low as 50)

Gilbert 0.25pt Win @ 22/1 with Bet365 (I’d take 20s)

Gerrans 0.25pt Win @ 50/1 with Bet365 (Would take 33/1)

 

Hope you enjoyed the preview! How do you think this difficult to call stage will go? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 4 Preview: Betanzos -> San Andrés de Teixido

Today’s Recap

An unusual day’s racing and not the desired outcome from the blog’s prediction perspective, but it was still an exciting day full of drama!

Due to a lack of co-operation behind (no-one worked with Sky), the break’s gap managed to grow massively before the penultimate climb. Something then clicked in the peloton, but it ended up being too late. All of the break was caught apart from Geniez who held on for a memorable victory.

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Behind, the GC touch-paper was well and truly lit! We got some relatively large gaps for what was only a 1.7km climb. Ruben Fernandez brought the peloton home and now leads the GC by 7 seconds over his team-mate Valverde, with Froome a further 4 seconds back. Both Chaves and Quintana are 17 seconds behind. Three Movistar riders in the first 5, ominously strong! Contador again lost time, and now sits 1’20 behind Froome, not great.

Let’s look ahead to tomorrow’s mountain top finish.

The Route

Following today’s stage that was back loaded with climbing (totalling 2,980m), the climbing tomorrow is a lot more evenly spread out throughout the day. However, there is still an awful lot of ascending to be done: 3,295m to be exact (according to the road book).

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The first climb of the day should see the break escape, meaning it will more than likely be a strong one, made up of very good climbers. The course then rolls for the rest of the day, tackling another Cat-3 climb, before reaching the final test of the day.

The Cat-2 San Andrés de Teixido.

The finish is very reminiscent of that at the end of stage 6 at the Giro, which Tim Wellens won from a breakaway. It’s actually two separate climbs, but it creates a much clearer picture if both of them are combined. Again, I’ve created a strava profile (view it here).

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The first section is 5.5km long at 6.4%, nothing too stressful for the main GC contenders. This then leads into a fairly short descent of around 1.5km before it kicks up again. The descent itself although short, is relatively technical and goes down narrow roads. We could see someone try to get a gap here.

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The second half is more challenging, coming in at 4.1km in length, averaging 7.3% However, the climb is anything but steady. There are several changes of gradient with some sections topping 12% and even another 200m of shallow descending. It makes finding a rhythm quite difficult, something that is common here at the Vuelta!

What does this mean for tomorrow?

Aside from what I’ve said, I still don’t think the final climb is tough enough to make any real difference in the GC. There may be a 20 second spread between the top 10 but I can’t see anything more than that. None of the GC riders aside from Froome & Chaves have looked great so far, so I can’t see them using their teams to chase, leaving it all to Movistar.

With the time-gaps that have already opened up after today and Movistar’s eagerness not to work then its breakaway day again tomorrow. Of course, Movistar will more than likely chase if there is a rider up the road who can threaten the GC lead but there are plenty of quality riders who are far enough behind that a good, strong break can make it.

Like in previews gone by, I’ll highlight three riders who could potentially win tomorrow if they make the break!

Angel Madrazo. 

 

A fan favourite, Madrazo was the first man on the move today, however, he was brought to heel pretty quickly. He’s clearly been tasked with trying to get into the break. Picking up a win earlier in the year, he’s had his best season so far. Moving away from Caja next season, he’ll want to go out with a bang during this race and reward his team/show his new employers what he can do. A very good climber on his day, the last climb is well within his capabilities if he makes the move. Being a former Movistar rider too, they might be kind and let the move stick, you never know. He would be a very popular winner!

Dries Devenyns.

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The Belgian rider has had a fantastic year, climbing exceptionally well, claiming a 10th place at San Sebastian recently. He’s much better on short climbs compared to the longer stuff but the constant change of gradient tomorrow should suit him very well. With a return to Etixx sealed next year, like Madrazo, he’ll want to show his new employers what he can do. Furthermore, he’ll want to take advantage of the freedom that he has at IAM. He is one to watch if he makes the move!

 

Thomas de Gendt.

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Stage winner at the Tour earlier in the summer, De Gendt is long thought of as a breakaway expert. Not racing since the Tour has seen him take a slow start to this race, but I prefer to think that he’s saving himself and targeting stages and tomorrow looks right up his street! If not tomorrow, he’ll be in the break later in the race.

Prediction

Breakaway days are notoriously difficult to pick, so I’ll keep this short and sweet.

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Madrazo will be successful in his attempt to get away tomorrow, joining the break that sticks. He’ll solo away on the final climb, taking a magnificent win to the delight of Twitter!

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Betting

Due to the nature of the stage, I’m not backing any of the riders EW.

0.2pt Madrazo @ 150/1 with PP *I’d take 66/1*

0.15pt De Gendt @ 125/1 with PP. *I’d take 33/1*

0.15pt Devenyns  Not priced up anywhere.

Update –

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Hope you all enjoyed the preview, do you think the break makes it tomorrow? Any feedback and discussion is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Vuelta Stage 3 Preview: Marín -> Dumbria (Mirador de Ízaro)

Today’s Recap

Well, that was as chaotic as expected!

Experience shone through with veteran Gianni Meersman holding on to take the win after his Etixx team delivered him perfectly in the final kilometre. With it being a headwind finish, they timed the lead out so that Meersman did the shortest sprint possible. Furthermore, taking the quickest line around the last bend also helped. They had their tactics spot on. A great win for him and the team!

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Magnus Cort Nielsen came from miles back it seemed and got up for third. So still a profitable day for the blog at least! Stage favourite Arndt was nowhere to be seen but on a re-watch of the closing kilometres it looked like two riders got held up by Lagutin’s crash, so that could have been Arndt. Would make sense because he finished alongside lead-out man De Koert.

Anyway, moving on to tomorrow’s stage…

The Route

This is the type of stage that typifies the Vuelta. Not overly long and back ended with some steep climbs. I love it!

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We should all be very familiar with the Vuelta and their famous “Cat-3” climbs by now. They are brutal! Especially the short ones.

Tomorrow’s finish was used in the 2012 Vuelta, with Joaquim Rodriguez winning that day. As you can see in the video below, it is a real grind.

More about the final climb later…

Before they reach the finish they have a tough 70km to traverse, featuring over 1500m of elevation. The organisers have been kind and are easing the riders into the race… 😉

Just to get a better idea of the final 78km, I’ve made a Strava profile of it that you can view here. I promise I’m not sponsored by them, I just like the interactivity that the website allows!

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Strava profile of the last 78km

The first Cat 3 is 9km long, averaging 5%. However, the final kilometre is the toughest part with sections over 9%. This will sap some of the legs, but it is too far out for any real moves to be made.

However, the penultimate climb of Paxereiras is very interestingly positioned. This is a proper climb, 8km at 6.7%. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The first 5.5km are a lot more demanding, average roughly 8.3%, with sections above 11%. Due to the climb being around 20km to the finish line, there is a chance we could see some satellite riders being sent up the road here so that their teams don’t have to chase.

Back to the final climb, sorry, I mean wall! It’s just ridiculous, 1.7km long at an average of 13.7%. There are even sections in it that top 30%!

You have to be a light and explosive climber to win here.

How will the stage pan out? Team Tactics?

As I’ve alluded to above, the penultimate climb may be used as a springboard for teams to send riders up the road and try to hold on for the win, but I think this is a relatively unlikely outcome. It’s still possible, but I favour this coming down to a battle on that brutal final climb.

Now, as we saw on the first summit finish at the Vuelta last year the “big” riders often mark each other which paves the way for a “second-tier” rider to take the win. Having a strong team in this situation is crucial.

Before he was pulled out, I had Landa penciled in for this stage. The situation would be that he would attack off the front and Froome would mark the attacks behind. Obviously he’s not here now but I expect something similar to happen, so let’s look at the teams and riders who could be allowed to get away.

Movistar – Quintana and Valverde are leaders/too high-profile, Moreno or Fernandez may be their options. I’d favour Moreno as he goes better on the steep stuff.

Vuelta España - Stage 4

 

Tinkoff – Contador will be watched. Kiserlovski could get away, but he hasn’t been great for a while. Only chance of them winning is Alberto blowing everyone away, which is certainly possible!

Sky – Froome will again be marked. Over to Konig or Kwiatkowski, both good candidates if they’re on form. Might be too steep for them though.

BMC- A team with a few options. Atapuma or Sanchez best plan as it’s too steep for TVG. One massive longshot to keep an eye on is Hermans, who seems to be climbing very well as of late. I think it’s too tough for Gilbert.

Jumbo – Gesink was 4th here in 2012, but has been off the boil since then, although could surprise! Kruijswijk not fit enough yet.

Orica – Chaves won because of this situation last year so he’ll be closely watched this time round. Instead, I think Yates has a real chance here.

Astana – They don’t really have a big name guy, but this climb suits Superman Lopez perfectly. The bunch can’t give him too much room!

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Etixx – Another team without a first-division GC rider, but Brambilla is capable of going well here.

I don’t think any other riders will figure at the pointy end of the race, but I would love for a Caja Rural rider to be up there. They have a good list of punchy climbers, I’m not entirely sure who the finish suits best. Possibly Goncalves (#GoOnCalves) or Bilbao.

Prediction

Like last year, I think we’ll see three “lesser” riders escape the main group. My selections for that situation would be Lopez, Yates & Brambilla, and they’ll make up the podium tomorrow! Now it’s just choosing the winner.

Lopez is a bit of an unknown and how far he can go, but he does have bags of talent. The steep gradients should suit his diminutive figure, but I think youthful exuberance might get the best of him.

Brambilla is probably the weakest of the three, but has been in great form. Plus, as was shown at the Giro, he’s not afraid to attack from distance. But I think this climb is on the limit for him.

Therefore, I think it will be Yates who goes on to win! He rode very well in the TTT and is evidently going well. He’s quietly gone about his business since his return with; a win in Spain; another podium; 7th at San Sebastian; and 4th on GC at Burgos. A rider who goes well in Spain, he is able to cope with the steep stuff.

Taking advantage of the rest of the GC guys marking each other, he’ll be able to repeat Chaves’ success from last year and in the process take the leader’s jersey!

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Betting

Annoyingly, it seems the trader at Bet365 has had a similar line of thought…

0.65pt EW Yates @12/1 (Bet365)

0.2pt EW Lopez @16/1 (Bet365) 22/1 with PaddyPower

0.15pt EW Brambilla @33/1 (Bet365) 50/1 with PaddyPower

Like usual, hunt around once more bookmakers have priced up later and there is a chance that you can get better odds. I’ll update the post/my twitter if I spot anything, I just want to get the preview published!

Hope you enjoyed the read, how do you think it will play out tomorrow? Will we get the 2nd tiered riders up the road, or will the big GC boys come out to play? As usual, any advice/feedback is greatly appreciated! Thanks for reading. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.