Il Lombardia 2016 Preview

Il Lombardia 2016 Preview

The race with the pretty name, the “Classica delle foglie morte”, is the final Monument of the year. Traditionally a race for the climbers and very strong Ardennes riders, the 2015 edition was won by a commanding Vincenzo Nibali, who attacked on the penultimate descent and managed to hold on to take the win.

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This year the organisers have taken the amount of climbing to a whole new level…

The Route

Ouch!

lombardiasp Just look at that profile, particularly the second half, it wouldn’t look out-of-place as a Grand Tour Queen stage. Saying that, they wouldn’t have a stage at 240km long!

The first real challenge the riders come to is the Valico di Valcava. I’m disregarding the iconic Madonna del Ghisalo purely because it comes too close to the start.valico-di-valcava

The Valcava as you can see is a real brute of a climb. If this was a GT, it would probably be defined as a Cat1/HC depending on what classification you use. The 3km section at 11.6% could rip the peloton to shreds if a team decides to take it up early.

Once the riders have reached the summit, I’m sure they’ll be glad to know that there is just under 100km and 5 climbs left!

Next is the Berbenno; 6.5km in length and at only 5.1% it doesn’t warrant a profile from the organisers. The riders will tackle a fast descent before they go climbing again up the Sant’Antonia Abbandonato.

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Another very steep climb, the average gradient of 8.9% is deceiving because the opening and closing kilometres are significantly easier than the  rest of the climb which averages over 10%. Another plunge into the valley follows before the Miragolo San Salvatore.

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A much steadier and not as harsh climb at only 7% for it’s 8.7km. With it topping out at 40km to go, I can’t see this climb being taken at a leisurely pace. The strong climbers will hope to distance any stragglers here!

A short 5km descent follows before they tackle the penultimate climb of the day.

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With the climb being relatively shallow, it will be tough for the riders to make any real inroads here. A strong group however, would be able to take back/ gain a good bit of time here if there was enough cohesion.

Once crested, the riders face a long 11km descent before roughly 10km of flat-ish road.

5km

The last place the climbers can hope to make a difference is the short 1.2km long drag that comes just over 4km to the finish line. With some steep ramps, if they distance those behind and have around 5 seconds at the top then they should hold on for the win.

It’s the exact same run in that was used in 2014, although the rest of that race was a lot easier!

Weather Watch

Initially, it looked as if the riders were going to miss the bad weather. However, inclement weather seems to be arriving in the area a day early!

As you know by now, meteorologists steal a living so you can’t trust everything completely. Therefore, I’ve tried to use a few sites to get a better idea.

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Good chance of rain in the afternoon at Lake Como (MetOffice).

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Weather.com has a similar outlook for Como.

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Possible thunderstorms a few hours after the race has finished in Bergamo (AccuWeather)

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The MetOffice also think there’s a good chance of rain in Bergamo, more likely in the evening.

Obviously these forecasts could change again by this evening but it’s definitely something to consider.

How will the race pan out?

With the final two climbs not being too difficult, the climbers without a sprint and those who are on an exceptional day will want the pace to be on early.

Looking at the teams, I would expect Astana to set a hard pace up the Valcava, shelling any deadwood and some opposition teammates. Movistar, Orica & AG2R may even lend a hand, and I would not be surprised if we only had around 60 riders left in the peloton after that climb.

A similar pattern will unfold on the Abbandonato. By this time, the bad weather and rain may have close in, which will make this race even more amazing!

A peloton of around 25-30 riders will then reach the Salvatore. With an average gradient of 7%, it is possible to make a difference here and the pace will be incredibly high. Cresting at 40km to go, there is a chance for those dropped to make it back in. The composition of the main group will then shape the rest of the race.

It is possible we get an escape of “lesser” riders forming at this point, while the main favourites mark each other behind. The group will have to include a rider from Astana/Movistar/AG2R/Orica/Sky if it hopes to survive to the end. Look to the likes of Kangert and Izagirre!

Favourites

My number one favourite for this race has to be Chaves. He was up here last year until cramps and a hunger knock took him out of contention. One of the best climbers in the race and not to mention he’s on good form, I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t make the top 3!

Uran arrives off the back of a very good series of races in September and has been unlucky not to take a win. That could well change here! He’s a danger-man.

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Aru is Astana’s main man for this. They’ll be hoping for a performance similar to Nibali from him. However, he’s not been anywhere near to that high standard this Autumn. I’m just not convinced by his ability to compete in a race like this.

Movistar’s main men will be Moreno and Valverde. Both performed very well here last year and Moreno looks in good form just now. Having Valverde in the final group changes the dynamic as no one will want to come to a sprint with him. His form/fatigue is also unknown as he’s done a lot of racing this year. I’d have Moreno as team leader!

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Alaphilippe is 3rd favourite with the bookies, but there is too much climbing for him in my opinion! He won’t be there at the end.

Bardet should be in the mix for AG2R and is a podium contender. On form, Ulissi and Costa will be in or around the top 10. The Italian was climbing exceptionally well in the Giro and will hope to do the same tomorrow.

There are some riders others will mention as potential favourites but their form hasn’t been good enough for me to fancy their chances; Martin, Mollema, Poels, Brambilla and Landa namely.

Outsiders?

There is always the opportunity for those further down the pecking order. I like the look of Majka for this. Completely contradictory to what I said above re-Martin and co, I just think this course suits the Pole very well. He normally goes well at the end of the year and can handle the distance.

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Majka’s reaction when he hears that the #HaugheyCurse has been set upon him

Others I like the look of are Reichenbach and Kelderman. The Swiss rider is going very well at the moment and has been attacking in his recent races. He’s a very good climber on his day, but probably isn’t the quality of the big favourites. This could work to his advantage as the others just watch each other. The same can be said for Kelderman, who seemed to be going nicely in the Eneco Tour and in Canada. Another danger man if given too much leeway! I do like the back-up Astana rider option and Kangert would be my man for that situation.

Prediction

Chaves should win, he’s arguably the best climber here, a good descender and in very good form!

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But we do get a surprise every so often, especially if the weather is bad. Keep an eye out for my 4 outsiders!

Betting

1pt WIN Chaves @ 6/1 with PaddyPower or Betfair

0.2pt EW Majka @ 80/1 with Bet365

0.15pt EW Reichenbach @100/1 with Bet365/PP/Betfair (or take 80/1 with Ladbrokes but 4 places)

0.1pt EW Kelderman @ 150/1 with Bet365/PP/Betfair

0.1pt EW Kangert @250/1 with Ladbrokes (4 places)

 

Hope you all enjoyed the preview and thanks for reading! How do you think the race will pan out? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eneco Tour Stage 7: Bornem -> Geraardsbergen

Today’s Recap

That didn’t go to script, did it?

Somehow the early break managed to hold on for the win. That was an option I had completely ruled out! Pibernik was the rider who came out best in the sprint to the line, taking his first professional victory. Not too shabby that it came in the World Tour.

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Not taking it away from Pibernik, but that stage was the dampest of squibs. Incredibly dull with nothing exciting happening at all. The less said about it the better! GC remains as it was moving ahead to the final stage tomorrow.

The Route

We’re treated to the queen stage on the final day of the race.

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Now that’s a profile I like the look of! Credit once again goes to @LasterketaBurua for the image.

The first half of the stage is pretty benign but then it all kicks off in the second half.

We have a circuit that’s completed 3 times. In it, there is the Denderoordberg. Seven hundred metres of uphill cobbles at 8%. Followed by the famous Muur, another cobbled climb at 1.1km long, averaging 8.7%.

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Muur profile

The last cobbled climb is the Bosberg. It’s an easier affair at only 6% on average for the kilometre. The circuit is concluded with a climb (not cobbled, the riders will be glad to hear) up the Onkerzelestraat. This is a much easier climb, at 1.5km long it averages only 3%.

It’s important to point out that the Golden Kilometre starts half-way up the Bosberg’s final passage, at 20.8km left in the race.

The riders once again climb the Denderoordberg at only 6km to go.

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Strava profile of the final 6km, including Denderoordberg. Viewable here.

You can see on the image above that the run-in to the finish is technical once it gets into the town of Geraardsbergen itself. The most dangerous segment will be the downhill U-turn and the sweeping bends that follow it. Thankfully the dangerous turns within the last 500m are all uphill so speeds will be slow.

That 500m dash to the line averages 6.8% with some ramps of above 9%. It’s also lightly cobbled too!

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A tasty end to the day.

Weather Watch

To spice things up a bit more, it appears we might get our first day of bad weather tomorrow.

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Weather forecast for Geraardsbergen

The riders might just avoid the rain as it looks to be worse later in the evening but that could quickly change.

How will the stage pan out?

I’m willing to make a fool of myself again and say that the break has no chance. There should be enough incentive behind to bring it back and gain the bonus seconds, but you never know. I’ll give it a  5% chance just to err on the side of caution!

BMC will obviously control the break if there is anyone dangerous in it, but I expect Tinkoff to take the reins early on to keep the move in check.

The peloton will be softened up on the first lap of the circuit but I would imagine some moves are made on the second passage if they haven’t already started. We’ll get a group of 30 riders at most finishing that second lap together. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be some riders up the road by then. It’s (hopefully) going to be chaos!

Numbers are obviously important, so once again I’ll point to BMC and Etixx with their 4 men each within 40 seconds of the lead. Jumbo have 3, but they aren’t known for their cobbles prowess, likewise are Movistar’s 4. A team with a couple of riders who could go well are IAM; Naesen, Elmiger and Devenyns will fancy their chances.

However, numbers are irrelevant if you’re number one – Sagan.

The peloton will fear what he can do on a stage like this. The way he’s riding, a repeat performance like Flanders is on the cards.

“It’s very hard to work with other guys, because nobody wants to work with me. It’s always better to drop everybody, I think,” (Sagan after Flanders win)

100ste Ronde van Vlaanderen 2016

So to counteract Sagan, riders and teams will have to go early. To do this though, you can’t be too close on GC. For example, we may see Devenyns, Boom, Thomas and Benoot try to distance those ahead of them on GC before the final lap.

 

I hope to see Etixx attempt and light the race up. Stybar and Trentin will be their early cards to play and they have to isolate the four BMC riders that are high up on GC. Oss will be a key rider for the Swiss outfit tomorrow.

Of course what BMC could do is send riders on the attack themselves. If I was the DS I would definitely be adopting that approach. If they don’t, and just play it defensively then there will be no one left to control the race in the final 20km. As I suggested yesterday, GVA and his shiny bike is their trump card and should be let off to attack while Phinney and Quinziato stay with Dennis. Van Avermaet is in sensational form and is one of the few riders here who can go toe-to-toe with Sagan.

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Saying all of that, the stage will greatly be shaped by two factors; who’s made the move on the first lap or two of the circuit; and when Sagan decides to attack.

If we get a compliant group of riders who BMC and Etixx are happy with, i.e. if they have one rider each in it, then that could make it all the way to the finish because there probably won’t be enough firepower behind to pull it back. Remember I’m assuming we have a peloton of 40 riders at tops going into that second lap.

If Sagan attacks late, I think we could see a group stay away to the finish ahead of him, but if he goes early then they have no chance. Unless they have a concerted chase behind to bring him to heel, or if some riders can sit in his wheel and attack on the final climb.

Like yesterday’s preview, no-one will want to tow him to the line, but the parcours today was tough for an individual to make gaps on. That’s most definitely not the case tomorrow and a strong rider can really put the hurt on others. That applies to anyone on a good day, not just Sagan!

Prediction

Sagan should be the clear favourite for this stage and because of that, I’m not backing him. I do love an outsider!

Instead, I think there is an opportunity for a small group attack from far out (30-40km to go) sticking to the end. As everyone behind looks/marks each other. Obviously the right teams need to be represented! A BMC and Etixx rider have to be in that move, having a Movistar and IAM rider in there will help too.

However, I go for no-one from those teams and suggest that  Geraint Thomas will win the stage!

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He did a lot of work for team-mates in Canada but showed solid form, and he was attentive at the front of the bunch today. That highlights to me that he’s feeling better and keen to go on the attack.  At over a minute down, he won’t be an immediate concern for those at the pointy end of the GC but he’ll probably need to be in a move with others to build a gap. He can then use his great all-round abilities to attack and solo to the finish line! If it does rain that’s even better for him, he loves the tough conditions.

Betting

Another day of eggs in several baskets. (All prices B365 – only bookmaker priced up by 21:15)

Thomas 0.5pt @ 40/1

Devenyns 0.2pt @ 100/1

Van Baarle 0.2pt @ 150/1

Rowe 0.1pt @400/1 (if we do get an early break succeeding. Been poor recently but has bags of quality in this type of terrain)

 

Thanks again for reading! How do you think tomorrow will play out? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Eneco Tour Stage 6 Preview: Riemst -> Lanaken

Today’s Recap

BMC won, but a “not-completely ruled out” Etixx pushed them very close!

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It was a strong win from the Swiss outfit but not as convincing as I had expected and it leaves the GC battle well poised going into the final two stages, with several strong riders less than a minute behind. Here’s what the top 20 looks like.

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It’s great from a viewing perspective as a lot of riders will still fancy their chances, but it makes it harder from a previewing slant because it becomes more unpredictable and open.

Speaking of which, let’s have a look at tomorrow’s stage!

The Route

A mini-Amstel?

This stage is certainly not as tough as in previous years, but the organisers yet again haven’t been kind and provided proper information for the stage. So like on the previous road stages, I’ve had to consult several sources to try to get my head around this stage!

Although that’s not entirely helpful as several sites somehow take the one GPX file and produce varying figures of elevation gain; 1431m (ridewithgps), 1969m (Strava), 1116m (google maps on Maplorer), 4121m (raw data from GPX on Maplorer), 1272m (cronoescalada) and 2027m (utrack.crempa).

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The first profile you see above is from the Maplorer website, with the second being from @LasterketaBurua (Go check them out on Twitter!).

I’ve decided to put both profiles in as it provides a good comparison of how the scale can change how severe a climb looks. It’s also interesting to see that the profiles are pretty much identical in shape, yet the elevation gain is very different!

As you can see on the 2nd profile, we have a few short, sharp ascents around 50km from the finish. Potentially too far out from the finish to do any damage but you never know.

The Golden Kilometre (GK) starts 200m before the foot of the Hallembaye climb, which itself is 800m at 8.6%, with the end of the GK being at the summit. There is a 200m section of above 12%, which will sting the legs!

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We then have a shallow descent/flat until the final climb of the day, the Muizenberg at 18km left. The climb itself isn’t very tough, only 650m at 6.6%, but if the racing has been on early on then it is a potential launchpad for a group of riders to escape.

The final 3km is fairly technical, with a few sharp turns and roundabouts to navigate.

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Strava profile viewable here

 

The final 500m section of the stage rises at roughly 2.2%, with a max gradient of around 4.5%. Not exactly Amstel-esque!

How will the race pan out?

That very much depends on the attitude of the teams.

The stage isn’t overly tough and a few of the sprinters would hope to make it to the end of the day in the peloton. However, the 140-155km section is key. If some of the teams go crazy here, (looking at you Etixx!), then this could put an end to the sprinters hopes and make the final 40km incredibly exciting.

The only problem with this is that there are still 40km left.

There are the two hills that I’ve highlighted above, but the majority of it is flat-ish road. The Golden Kilometre will tempt the Ardennes riders into action. That may be on the toughest section mentioned above, or on the actual climb itself. But there is still plenty of road left for teams to re-organise and bring them back. Unless of course we get the right mix of riders and a highly motivated escape group!

I think the bonus seconds on offer later on in the stage will result in the day’s early breakaway not making it all the way.

So we’re left with two probable outcomes; a GC selection at around 50km to go that makes it to the line, or some kind of reduced bunch sprint. Both outcomes come with an attached “late-attack” option.

Either way, this man will be there.

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Outcome 1 -> GC shake-up

In this situation we get a strong group of around 20-30 riders getting clear with about 40km to go. Due to the amount of teams and strong riders represented they manage to stay away as the chase behind is unorganised and lacking in firepower.

Once the gap has been established it will be incredibly tactical! A battle between BMC and Etixx as they both have 4 riders within 40 seconds of the race lead. Etixx actually have 5, but I’m discounting Kittel because I don’t think he would be able to follow over the quick succession of climbs.

Anytime an Etixx rider attacks, BMC will follow and vice versa. The danger for BMC is that looking forward to Sunday’s stage, they might not be overly confident with how Dennis will cope on the cobbles of the Muur, so they can’t rest on his 16 second advantage. Therefore, Van Avermaet is their trump card. He’s the rider that they would be most confident in following anyone (Sagan) up the Muur so they will need to keep him close in GC tomorrow.

Dennis may use his TTing abilities himself and go on the offensive himself!

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This tactical battle between BMC/Etixx/Sagan could see other teams benefiting from it. A rider could launch a late attack in the final 10km and with no real organisation behind it could stick until the finish. Look to the likes of Izagirre, Dumoulin, Naesen, Navardauskas or Wellens.

Of course, we could see this group come to the line together, or even a fragment of it (10 riders or so) and get an uphill sprint.

No-one will want to tow Sagan to the line though!

Outcome 2 – Reduced Bunch Sprint

The damp squib option.

With the parcours not being overly difficult a few of the better climbing sprinters could make the split if the pace isn’t too high over that now famous 140-155km section.

In this situation, we would probably have a peloton of around 80 or 90 riders come to the line together.

There would more than likely be a split in that group when they pass the golden kilometre, but in this situation it would regroup afterwards, much like we saw in Stage 4.

Like Outcome 1, there is the possibility of a late attack sticking if they are the correct rider(s), strong enough, and there is no co-operation behind.

If we do get some kind of sprint I would expect Matthews, Kristoff, Degenkolb, Nizzolo, Boasson Hagen, Trentin and possibly Greipel to make it.

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Of course, GVA and Sagan will be there too.

But no-one will want to tow Sagan to the line though!

Prediction

Hmmmm. It’s a tough one.

Sagan is a favourite in every situation, so much so that he won’t win in my opinion. Unless he just decides to ride away from everyone!

I think Outcome 1 is more likely, but I favour some kind of late attack. Whether that be solo or a small group of 5-10 riders getting away. For it to succeed there will need to be at least 1 Etixx/BMC rider in it.

I’ve already mentioned a few riders I like for this situation above, but another few I’d like to throw into the ring are Stybar & Degenkolb.

Stybar because he looked incredibly strong in the Vuelta, has won this race before, not afraid of an uphill sprint and he is reasonably far down on GC at 40 seconds.

Degenkolb is more of a long-shot but if this was last year then he’d be up there with Sagan on the “don’t tow to the line” wagon. He seems to be re-finding his feet after the horrific accident earlier in the year, and I would love to see him go well here. He should be able to cope with the climbs, possibly with that GC selection Option and the uphill sprint is right up his street! Far enough down on GC to find himself in that late attack if he doesn’t fancy it against Sagan in the sprint.

But I’ll go for neither of them and say that Nelson Oliveira winsMovistar are a team without a sprinter and will be going on the offensive. Oliveira isn’t a real danger on GC as he should struggle on Sunday, so could well be given some leeway!

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I did have this down as a Naesen win but the odds are too short and I can’t suggest someone to win and not have backed them!

 

Betting

A day for small stakes and putting eggs in several baskets!

0.1pt EW on the following;

Ion Izagirre @ 250/1

Nelson Oliveira @ 300/1

Navardauskas @ 150/1

Devenyns @ 200/1

Kelderman @ 200/1

 

Thanks again for reading, hope you enjoyed this slightly longer preview. How do you think tomorrow’s stage will play out? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Eneco Tour Stage 5 Preview: Sittard-Geleen -> Sittard-Geleen

Today’s Recap

King Sagan comes out on top again! Although it wasn’t as comfortable as he would have liked, with Greipel closing very fast right at the last, but Sagan managed to win with a track lunge.

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I only managed to catch the closing 30km but it was a very exciting end to the stage. We saw attacks from Martin and Dumoulin reeled back in, before Stuyven made a move on the final climb. He joined up with a strong Astana pair (Gruzdev & Grivko) who’d been out the front for the past 25km or so. They managed to hold on until the final 3km, where once again we had another relatively chaotic finish. There were crashes, sprint trains were all over the road and Laporte even ended up leading out Kristoff! As for Nizzolo, he was once again held up a couple of times and had to check his speed. Either bad luck or poor positioning, depends what way you look at it.

Anyway, moving on to a stage that will have a big impact on the GC.

The Route

A nice 20.9km Team Time Trial. The last chance for teams to get a race-day practice in before the Worlds!

The good thing about a TT is that I can accurately make the stage profile myself, so the Strava profile makes its return today. Huzzah!

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You can view the full profile here.

As per usual, the profile is exaggerated by the scale, with the route being mainly flat apart from the two climbs. However they are not as severe as the image above would suggest! There is only 145m of total elevation gain.

If you take the first climb’s start to be just after the 4km mark on the profile, it comes in at 3km long at 1.9%. However, there is a 600m stretch that averages 5.1%, or a 300m segment averaging 6%. Not exactly a leg-breaker of a climb but it will upset the rhythm of the teams. Niki Terpstra holds the Strava KOM for the whole thing, completing it in just over 4 minutes which highlights the type of rider who can power up here.

The second climb is much shorter. At 0.9km it averages an eye-watering (no sarcasm at all…) 4.2%!

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Then it’s a short descent followed by a flat run to the line. This is very much a rouleurs course, one for the strongmen and in this case teams.

A One-Horse Race?

BMC come into this stage as everyone’s favourite and rightly so! The back to back TTT World Champions have 5 out of 6 riders from their 2015 winning squad with them here and they’re by no means weakened with the addition of Rosskopf, Bohli and GVA. A truly formidable line-up! If you want, you can probably stop reading the preview now as they should be the winners barring any misfortune. But there are a few surprises further on, which is very unlike me, so keep on reading if you want! 😉

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Best of the rest

There are a few other teams who will be close in their battle for the podium spots or there to take the win if BMC mess up.

Movistar have a strong squad with them, managing to get 3 riders in the top 11 during the individual time trial. They’re always a very solid unit in this discipline, but rarely perform outside of Spain. Can they change that here?

Sky would normally be a team that I’d fancy to go well, especially considering their recent rejuvenation in the discipline. Although they do have a strong team of rouleurs here, their performances in the ITT and low finishing positions today does concern me. Furthermore, with Kiryienka pulling out today, I can’t see them turning it around tomorrow.

Etixx have a great core of strong TTers here with the likes of Martin, Terpstra and Jungels. However, it was actually Kittel who performed best in the individual event. If they click tomorrow then a podium spot is well within their capabilities, but they seem out of sorts recently and they’ll sorely miss Boonen. I’m not ruling them out fully like Sky, but I’m not as keen on them as I was pre-race.

Cycling: 10th Tour de San Luis 2016 / Stage 1

One of the teams that was well represented during the ITT was LottoNL-Jumbo. They ended up with three riders inside the top 6. Now, they’ve not been great in the team version recently but they do have a squad of strong rouleurs. A top 5 would be a good result, but with a great ride they could sneak onto the podium.

The same can be said for Giant Alpecin. With Dumoulin, Kragh-Andersen and Haga, they were well represented in the individual time trial. A strong unit, they could go on to surprise a few.

Orica send a fairly weak TTT squad by their standards, and with Hayman not finishing today they’ve lost a big engine. I don’t think they’ll make the podium.

Tinkoff, Astana, Trek, Cannondale and IAM are all capable of pulling out a shock performance here but realistically they’ll be aiming for a top 10 and not losing too much time on GC.

Prediction

I already told you above, BMC win!

As for the podium, I expect Movistar to finish upon it but there is space for a “surprise” team to make it on. Either Giant or Jumbo and I’ll go for the bumblebees with that home advantage!

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Betting

No bet so far. Will post any H2H on my Twitter if there’s something I like. Or when other odds come up.

Thanks again for reading and well done if you didn’t leave early! Can you see anyone beating BMC and will there be any surprise performances? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Eneco Tour Stage 4 Preview: Aalter -> St-Pieters-Leeuw

Today’s Recap

Madness!

It looked for a while as if the break was easily going to be caught with around 10km left but then the peloton started messing around. The break managed to still have a gap of around 20 seconds at 2km to go, but then they started playing cat and mouse! Seems like no one wanted to actually win the stage. Well, one man did…

Sagan pulled off his best Dan McLay impression and weaved through the body of riders to take quite a remarkable win! If you haven’t seen the closing kilometres, I implore you to watch them!

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Bouhanni came home in 3rd, with Nizzolo finishing 6th again. A few hard luck stories for a lot of the sprinters, getting blocked etc., but it was their team’s fault for not pulling the break back early enough.

Moving on to tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

It will feature the most amount of elevation gain so far in this race, at around 1700m. Although several different GPX sites seem to disagree about that when I upload the file! 1700m is roughly in the middle, but it’s a very loose “around”.

Not exactly tough, but the majority of it does come in the second half of the stage.

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Profile made using ridewithgps.com

The climbs are short and snappy, but the profile makes the stage look a lot harder than it is. There are some gradients above 10% out on the stage, but they only feature for a couple hundred metres at a time. The longest climb is around 2km, so unless you’re on a bad day then you should not be dropped.

Of course, there are some cobbles out on the road but I don’t expect them to play too big a part in the outcome of the day. Think of tomorrow akin to Dwars door Vlaanderen.

How will the stage pan out?

A sprint looks the most likely of outcomes, but as we saw today, there is a lack of co-operation between the teams and a willingness to work. So there is a chance that the break makes it or that a late attack manages to stick. However, both of those are unlikely in my opinion and i say this is 90% a sprint stage, possibly the final one of the race, and that’s what I’ll be focussing on here!

The cobbles and climbing does make this harder than a normal sprint and suits some riders over others.

After winning today, Sagan, will be looking to double up tomorrow and take the lead of the competition before the TTT. The stage will be a walk in the park for him and the only thing that can stop him is if other teams get their sprint trains organised properly for once! If not, he’ll manage to get himself onto the correct wheel and come round everyone in the confusion.

Bouhanni won’t mind the climbing and the cobbles shouldn’t be too tough for him either. He has a very good sprint after a tough-ish day, but he may be slightly demoralised after the past two sprints. Although I can’t see that happening, he’ll be wanting to make amends!

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Kittel hasn’t managed a sprint in anger this race, being boxed in a couple of times. The relatively simple run in should suit him, but his team need to deliver a proper lead-out. They’ve not managed that yet!

As for his German compatriot, Greipel should love this stage. The cobbles and climbs will be no problem for him and the power, slightly uphill sprint (of around 1%) suits his characteristics perfectly. He might have been lacking in confidence in the past few stages, but if he actually follows his team-mates wheels here then he as a big chance.

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Stage one winner Groenewgen could also get involved here, he enjoys the racing around Belgium and is a deceptively strong climber. He proved that at the Tour of Britain and with his confidence being sky high then he could well go on and double up!

Once again, I’ll point towards Nizzolo. He was unlucky today in the sprint and had to check his speed a couple of times. This trickier stage is to his advantage as he’s transformed himself into one of the best climbing sprinters around. I said in the stage one preview that he will win a stage this week, he’s running out of opportunities!

On paper, this stage is made for Alexander Kristoff (2015 edition). Unfortunately, he’s not hit the heights of that great seasosn so far this year and is without a World Tour win. He’s been there or thereabouts in the sprints so far this race and Katusha are keen to do a lot of the work so they’re obviously confident in him. Can he pay them back tomorrow?

Demáre, Ewan, Degenkolb and Van Poppel will all be in the mix too. The young Sky rider looks to be in the best form out of them and could seriously challenge for the podium again.

Prediction

After backing a couple of favourites in the past two sprints which hasn’t turned out well. I’m reverting to type and backing an “outsider”.

Nizzolo to take the stage!*

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*He’ll now probably finish 6th again.

Betting

0.5pt EW Nizzolo @ 25/1 with Bet365. I think he offers some EW value in what is a tight market. Keep an eye out, other bookies may be more favourable later on!

Thanks for reading as always! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will one of the favourites finally have their day?! Any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Eneco Tour Stage 3 Preview: Blankenberge -> Ardooie

Today’s Recap

Sigh…

I had a lot of faith in Dennis writing this preview yesterday, but didn’t put any money down on him due to the combination of everyone else seemingly backing Dumoulin and the odds not being that great. The Aussie went on to prove everyone else wrong (I told you Rohan would answer) and took a superb win, knocking 7 seconds off of Dumoulin’s time in 2014! So I guess that’s some kind of blog win, right?

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Also, when I suggested we might get a surprise or two today, I didn’t expect that to be Dumoulin and Martin being 20 seconds back and not finishing in the top 10! Few interesting names in that top 10, showing how varied a short, powerful TT can be at times.

Anyway, moving on to tomorrow’s stage and a finish we’ve had several times before.

The Route

Another fairly flat day (around 600m of climbing) that’s sure to end as a bunch sprint. This is all about the finale!

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The finish itself is a technical one, that causes lead-outs to be disrupted. As we saw on stage 1, a simple run in can cause issues, so you can imagine what might happen here!

That left hand-turn around 1.2km to go is crucial for the riders. If their train can take that first, then they have a very good chance. As long as they have at least two riders in front of them, three would be ideal.

In the video above, you can see the closing kms. Ignore the ticker in the top left of the screen, it’s wrong (classic)! You can see the effect that the sharp left followed by the chicane has on the peloton. It gets very strung out. If a team has a few riders left here, they can keep the hurt on. The video above shows what happens if there is a slowing of the pace once the lead-out men disappear in the final 500m!

The Sprint Contenders

As highlighted on stage 1, there are a load of sprinters here so I won’t be going over them individually and in-depth. Instead, I’ll be focussing on the type of sprint we have and who might do well because of it.

Due to the finish being technical, you need to be fearless and have a good lead-out who can dictate the final 2kms. Obviously, this was in issue for every team on stage 1, but I think it will be different tomorrow and some trains will properly form.

Considering the above two conditions, the first name that sprints to mind is Nacer Bouhanni. The Frenchman was the fastest finisher on Monday but was blocked and squeezed out a bit. His train didn’t leave the station so to say and never really got going on St1. I can’t imagine Nacer will have taken that too well, and they’re sure to deliver a better performance tomorrow.

Groenewegen also has to be considered in a finish like this. He proved on stage 1 that he can pick the right wheel and can deliver the result at the end of it. A very fast rider, full of confidence, he’ll fancy his chances of doubling up.

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Boonen won this stage last year, but Etixx will be hoping that Kittel can get the required space to flex his muscles tomorrow. His 9th place today on the TT highlights that he has indeed recovered from his sickness bug. Technical finishes aren’t his speciality but he’s by no means bad at them and he’ll accept nothing less than a win.

Sagan will look to get involved too and his incredibly bike handling skills and great tactical nous should see him on the right wheel coming out of the chicane. The way he’s riding, I would not be surprised to see him make the podium again and even take the win.

A rider I like for this stage is Nizzolo. He’s finished on the podium twice so knows the closing kilometres well, plus his lead-out train looks very good. If they can get 3 riders in front of him going into the first left-hander, he should be delivered to a perfect position. Can he hold on for the win?

Modolo and Ewan will find the technical finish much more suited to their abilities, while Kristoff, Greipel and Demare might struggle. Although the Frenchman is probably the best out of that 3.

Prediction

Going with my gut while the rider might go with his nut! Bouhanni wins.

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He’s in the top 3 sprinters here based on pure speed, his train is in the top 3, but most importantly he is fearless and incredibly motivated. I expect the Cofidis boys to sharpen up their act tomorrow, asserting their dominance at the head of the peloton in the final 2km. Managing to drop Bouhanni off in the perfect position and he cruises home for the win.

I say Nizzolo and Sagan round out the podium.

Betting

1.5pt Bouhanni  WIN @ 9/2 (B365)

0.25pt Nizzolo EW @ 33/1 (B365)

 

Thanks again for reading! Apologies for this being slightly shorter than normal, there’s just not that much to talk about. Who do you think will win the stage? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Eneco Tour Stage 2 Preview: Breda -> Breda

Today’s Recap

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more chaotic sprint on what was a relatively simple, straight run in! Teams hit the front in ones and twos and there was no real cohesion in the final few kilometres. Out of the mess, it was Groenewegen who followed the correct wheel and timed his effort excellently to take the stage win. He’s had a spectacular season!

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It was Bouhanni who had the fastest closing speed after getting squeezed out ever so slightly, and he managed to get up for 2nd place, with Sagan bagging 3rd. As for Nizzolo he opened up the sprint too early, managing to hold on for 6th. Whereas Greipel was disappointing and never really got involved. He lost the wheel here (at around 800m to go) and that was his sprint over.

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As he’s gotten older he seems to lack the desire to get involved in messy situations and that was clearly highlighted today.

Anyway, moving on to tomorrow’s stage!

The Route

A pan-flat, out and back route around Breda. Another stage with not much to say, I think this section will be short and sweet!

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It’s the exact same TT course that was used back in 2014, and on that day Tom Dumoulin was victorious with a time of 10’55, averaging 52.7km/h. That gives you an idea what the course is like!

It’s one for the specialists, with there only being a few corners where the riders have to properly slow down. Although saying that, the course is just longer than what would be classed as prologue distance and with it being an 11 minute effort, a few unusual names may sneak into the top 10.

Thankfully for the riders, the conditions look to be similar all day so there’s no need for a #WeatherWatch.

The Big 3

For a stage like this there are 3 big favourites.

Tom Dumoulin, winner in 2014, would normally start as the favourite for this stage. In fact, he more than likely will! However, he doesn’t seem to perform at his best in short TTs, he’s a lot better at the longer stuff where gauging your effort counts for a lot more than pure power. Saying that, he could quite easily go on to win here. Either way, it will be close!

Tony Martin was win-less this year (not including Nat Champs) up until the recent Tour of Britain TT where he beat Dumoulin and Dennis over a short, 15km course. Brimming with confidence, he won’t expect anything less than a win on a profile that suits him down to the ground. The only question mark with him is that he’s not been consistent this year.

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The final member of the trio, Rohan Dennis, will equally fancy his chances here. The Aussie had a pretty poor opening half of the year. In fact, he hasn’t been that good all year but he did look incredibly strong in Britain. One of his problems in long TTs is that he goes out too fast at times, that won’t be an issue tomorrow. Building form the Worlds, don’t be surprised if he makes a statement here!

Can Anyone Else Compete?

The best candidate to make it onto the podium would be Ion Izagirre. His time trialling has greatly improved this year and he’ll be looking for a big result. The only concern is that he doesn’t seem to go well on purely flat courses.

His team-mate Nelson Oliveira is another who could well cause a surprise. He performed a good TT at the recent Euro Champs, finishing 4th. It’s hard to tell how good he will be tomorrow, as he often isn’t allowed to go full gas on a short TT but the form is certainly there. Alex Dowsett will find the course design to his liking, but it’s probably too short for him!

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Talking about team-mates who could go well, Dennis has two of those in the shape of Phinney and Küng. The American was on track for a good time at the ToB TT but crashed because of the rain. The short course should suit his powerful nature. Likewise, it will suit Küng too who is a former world champion on the track in the individual pursuit.

Jos Van Emden will hope to repeat his TT win from last year. But his form is an unknown as he’s not done anything of note in the final third of this year and pulled out of the Vuelta.

Thomas will probably be in or around the top 10, as will Kelderman and Boom.

Now for those surprises I mentioned earlier…

Edvald Boasson Hagen.

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He absolutely decimated the field in Qatar earlier this year in a flat TT and back in his HTC days he was a very good short TTer. If he’s building form for the end of the season like he did in 2015, he should be firing on all cylinders here, with a free-role looking likely in Qatar. A scary thought, he is an incredible rider. His long sprint today gave a glimpse at how he’s going, and I think the answer to that is well!

When mentioning incredible riders, you can’t leave out Peter Sagan!

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Wins the European Championship one day, sprints to third the following day. Why not compete in a short TT too? Gearing up to defend his World Champions Jersey, he’s at the Eneco Tour chasing World Tour points so he can win that competition as well. He’s not known for his time trialling, but this is the best I think I’ve ever seen him perform and he could well pull a result out the bag. Sorry Edvald, but that’s a scary thought! Remember back to his TT at the Tour of California last year, I expect something very similar from him tomorrow. Watch this space!

*Or don’t, as he crumbles and finishes in 27th*

Prediction

More than likely it will be between the big three, but there is always room for a surprise or two.

Martin has the form (recent win), Dumoulin has course form and home advantage. So yep, as you may have guessed, I’m going for neither of them. Dennis to win! I really liked the way he was riding at ToB and this short course is to his benefit. The beacons are lit, and Rohan will answer!

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Betting

Almost tempted by an EW on Sagan (100s) and Izagirre (50s) but it’s an official no stage bet.

I do like this H2H 4-fold though.

1pt on at 12.93/1.

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Thanks again for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and can anyone upset the big 3? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.