GP Le Samyn 2017 Preview; Quaregnon -> Dour

GP Le Samyn 2017 Preview; Quaregnon -> Dour

The racing in Belgium continues this Wednesday with GP Le Samyn. Unlike the Ardennes races we’ll see in this area later in the year, Samyn is much more like its Flandrien counterparts, with tough cobbles and testing conditions.

Last year’s edition was one of the most brutal yet (highly recommend you watching it if you missed it), with only 28 riders finishing! Strong winds and rain battered the peloton into submission from the off and only the toughest survived. It was bad weather expert Niki Terpstra who came away with the win, attacking the small group left at the front with around 14km to go.

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Scott Thwaites was the only rider who could follow Terpstra initially but he was dropped when the Dutchman attacked again. Nonetheless, he held on for a spirited second place and it was Florian Sénéchal who won a three-up sprint to complete the podium.

Will we see a similarly selective race this year? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

A race split into two parts with the first section featuring some hills before the cobbles start in the second part of the race.

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The closing circuit is a tough one, featuring no less than 16 cobbled sections; 4 per lap of the circuit.

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Credit again to @LasterketaBurua for the profile.

This is where the race normally starts to shell riders out the back as the pace increases; 12km of cobbles in 100km of racing isn’t ideal for some!

Depending on how the race is unfolding, the final section of cobbles “Rue de Belle Vue” at roughly 2km from the finish could be decisive for one last shake-up. The finish itself isn’t overly technical but does drag up to the line so not opening up the sprint too early is very important.

However, the race may not come down to a sprint at all and it all really depends on one factor…

The Weather

After last years mud-bath the riders will be hoping for something a bit calmer this year, well, maybe some Belgians won’t be! And it looks as if the Belgians will be happy, as the finish town of Dour seems to be living up to its name.

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Dour weather forecast (Source: Wunderground)

So it looks as if we’re going to get some wet cobbles and relatively horrible conditions. Not as bad as last year but still pretty grim.

Looking at the wind speed and direction (source – Windfinder) for just north of Dour in a town called Hornu it looks as if we’re going to get a constant 25km/h wind all day with some strong gusts.

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The direction differs slightly from the first forecast source, but the point remains the same, it looks good for echelons!

Combining the strong winds, rain and cold conditions, I for one am going to be happy watching the riders battle it out from the comfort of my living room.

Who’s going to be at the head of the race though?

Contenders

With the change of the calendar this year, we only have 3 World Tour teams competing compared to 7 last season. However, that should not diminish the excitement as the Pro Conti and Continental teams will more than make up for it with some attacking racing and we’ll get to watch some unfamiliar names duke it out. Nonetheless, I’ll start my run through with the WT guys.

Quick Step don’t bring the defending champion with them but they do have a relatively strong line-up but there’s no superstar name. Bauer, Keisse or Devenyns may be their best bet at achieving back to back wins. The New Zealander was incredibly strong at the start of the year and I’m intrigued to see if he can carry that on here. He did some great domestique work in Abu Dhabi and that may be a downfall for him here; the fact that he was there and has to travel back. Therefore, Keisse and Devenyns look their most likely options. On this type of relatively flat, rouleurs terrain, I would have to favour Keisse out of the two. He has a good sprint from a small bunch and certainly has the abilities to hold off a chase if he gets a gap out in front!

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Lotto Soudal arrive with former winner Boeckmans, but he still seems to be struggling to return to the rider he once was before his crash in the 2015 Vuelta. Instead, I imagine they’ll turn to De Buyst and Van Der Sande as their protected riders for the race. Both are fast sprinters after a tough day so if the race comes down to a reduced bunch sprint they have a chance. Van Der Sande is also an attacking rider so I imagine he’ll be present whatever race situation we get.

*Debuscherre has been added to their squad typically now that I’ve just finished writing this. On paper he should be there at the end, but he had crashed in Omloop and failed to start Kuurne. I don’t think he’ll be going full gas here.

Without their star-rider Boom, Lotto Jumbo come here with quite a weak team. I would guess that Van Emden and Wynants will be their leaders but I can’t really see them doing much. Well, saying that, Van Emden does have the TT prowess to be able to make his way to the finish solo but that will be tough for him to do considering he doesn’t seem in great form at the moment. Maybe new signing Van Hoecke can do something?!

Cofidis actually look like they are sending one of the strongest teams here. They have two very good options in Claeys and Sénéchal. The former had a breakthrough 2016, picking up a stage in Wallonie and finishing a very impressive 9th at Flanders. If he is in a similar vein of form then he is one to watch. Likewise, Sénéchal could well have won this race last year. He was exceptionally strong on the day, closing down almost every attack single handedly. It was those efforts that cost him in the end, as he didn’t have enough left in the tank to close down Terpstra when he made his move. With a bit more guile about him this time round, he has the class to beat this field. He is a Junior Roubaix winner after all!

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Florian Vachon will most likely be Fortuneo’s best hope here. Third at Tro Bro Leon last year highlights that he doesn’t mind the rough stuff, although he hasn’t really got going so far this year.

After a disappointing Omloop, he was held up in the big crash, Pim Ligthart will be hoping to go better at this race. The Roompot rider must fancy his chances in this quality of field and he certainly won’t mind the bad weather. A strong cobbles rider with a fast sprint from a reduced bunch, I’m hoping to see him turn his week around here. Roompot also have Asselman as another potential candidate if the race is tough, or Kreder if we get a big bunch sprint. Although I can’t see that happening!

Dupont and Kruopis are the bigger names on the Verandas team. However, they’ve been poor so far this season and I can’t see them competing here, instead, Duijn is their best bet to finish top 10.

Sport Vlaanderen have a good outside candidate in the form of Van Lerberghe. The Belgian rider is a great talent and like most of his compatriots he’s at home on this type of surface. A similar rider to Edward Theuns, Van Lerberghe is capable of sprinting fast but is also comfortable attacking in tough conditions. With team-mate Sprengers, they’ll form a tough duo!

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In-form Frederik Backaert arrives here as Wanty’s leader for this race. Fresh off the back of an 11th place finish at Omloop, he’ll be brimming with confidence! I think he would have preferred some climbs closer to the finish but he certainly can’t be discounted. I really like the look of Wanty’s team as a whole and they really should feature at the pointy end of race tomorrow. Van Keirsbulk is a rider I’ll be watching with interest. The former QuickStep man was for a while touted as the next big cobbles rider, but he failed to live up to the hype. There were stories floating about that he got too happy in his surroundings at QS so this transfer to Wanty looks like a move to reinvigorate his career. Finishing 21st in Omloop hints at a return to a career that might have been!

The final Pro-Conti team here, WB Veranclassic, have a former winner (2014) in their midst; Maximme Vantomme. However, I think they’ll look to Ista as their man here but I don’t expect too much from him. A top 10 would be a good result! They do have a favourite of mine, Roy Jans, but he normally struggles in tough conditions.

Considering I’ve already wrote a short novella for this preview, I’m just going to highlight some names to look out for from a few of the Continental teams, rather than doing anything in-depth.

Armée de Terre: Gaudin and Tronet.

Roubaix: Pouilly.

AGO: Arimont.

Pauwels: Van Dingenen.

Tarteletto: Ruijgh.

Prediction

I think we’ll see a tough and fairly selective race tomorrow. Maybe not as tough as last year’s edition but the race will still be blown to bits. Therefore I fancy a rider who can handle bad conditions very well but also has the abilities to solo to the line. I alluded to him in the section above, but I think Van Keirsbulk is on the road to redemption so to speak and a win here will kickstart that!

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Betting

No UK odds as of yet which is disappointing. I’m sure we got something last year! Belgian bookmaker Bingoal has some up.

I’d be tempted with Van Keirsbulk Win at 25, and top 3 at 7.

Also Keisse win at 80 and top 3 at 16.

*UPDATE – SkyBet have Prices; 0.25pt EW on both of them at 50/1*

Hopefully the UK bookies get their act together and there’s something out later or tomorrow morning.
Nonetheless thanks for reading and as always, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be a selective race? My next blog post will be the Women’s Strade Bianche which I’m very much looking forward to! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Kuurne – Bruxelles – Kuurne 2017 Preview

Kuurne – Bruxelles – Kuurne 2017 Preview

This will be short and sweet today as I need to get two previews ready before work. Apologies!

The second part of our opening weekend double header is Kuurne – Bruxelles – Kuurne, or KBK for short!

With Omloop traditionally being the harder race, where those hoping to feature in the likes of Flanders and Roubaix later in the year want to test their legs, KBK tends to be more of a race for the sprinters.

However, Jasper Stuyven upset the applecart last year, taking a magnificent solo victory after a tough race.

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Will we get another surpise this year, or will the sprinters come out to play? Let’s have a look at the route first of all.

The Route

Rolling parcours to start off with but a flat run-in to the line.

Once again credit must go to @LasterketaBurua who made the following profile.

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We do make the iconic ascent of the Oude Kwaremont but there is a good chance that it will be too early to make a difference.

It does twist and turn before the finish on the local laps, like almost everywhere in this part of the world, but it’s nothing crazy! There is a sharp turn with around 650m to go and this will see a fight for position in the bunch but the riders should traverse it ok.

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Overall, the parcours of the race isn’t too tough, but that all depends on the attitude of the peloton and the weather…

Weather Forecast

Similar conditions to today, but there is ever so slightly more chance of rain.

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Like today, it looks as if we could get some crosswind sections out on the course with a SSW wind.

It is possible to make the going tough!

How will the race pan out?

Aside from last year, this race is traditionally a sprinters race. Yet, with the change of the UCI Calendar this year, there are a lot of sprinters away in Abu Dhabi just now; so are we going to see the same impetus to keep this together for a bunch sprint?

Today in Omloop we had a lot of crashes with the likes of Boonen and Kristoff involved. As I’m writing this, it’s not been confirmed how serious these crashes were but if those two aren’t in tip-top shape then the sprint field is lacking some strong contenders.

If Quick Step lose their main guy for a sprint, and with them being relatively poor today, I’m sure they’ll be attacking tomorrow. They won’t want to have a quiet opening weekend in the Belgian classics so I expect them to be aggressive. Likewise, this could possibly be said for the likes of Sky and Trek who would have been disappointed with the outcome from today. They will both have sprint options, but would also be welcome to the possibility of a reduced group of strongmen getting away.

I still think it will end in a sprint, I weigh it about 60:40.

Nonetheless, like for my Omloop preview I’ll throw a few names into the hat for a breakaway win and this list certainly won’t be exhaustive.

Would be attackers…

Ian Stannard.

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Sky will be kicking themselves after today. They looked in a fantastic position, having 3 riders in the front bunch of about 20 that had regrouped after the Taaienberg. After that they fell asleep as our podium from today just rode of the front, along with a few others and that was that. They do have Van Poppel who certainly could be up there in a sprint but I imagine we’ll see some aggressive action at the front from them. Stannard looks the ideal candidate after a relatively quiet finish to his race today so he should be fairly fresh. An ox of a rider who seems in good form, his diesel engine will be of great advantage to any escape!

Yves Lampaert.

The very talented, often overlooked, young Belgian might get a bit of leeway tomorrow if Boonen isn’t feeling 100%. In fact, Lampaert in his junior days was often compared to Boonen himself! As I’ve said above, I think QuickStep play this very aggressively tomorrow and Lampaert might just be given the nod in a “lesser” race. A strong time trialist, cobbled rider and packing a good punch after a tough day, Yves is certainly not one to be discounted if he makes the selection!

See, not exhaustive at all 😉

 

Sprinters

I’m not going to run through all of the riders for this situation either, but there are two that I like.

Arnaud Demare. (Again)

I liked him for today and he finished reasonably high up, he just lost too much time on the Taaienberg and that was it for the day. Whether the time was lost because he was held behind the crash or not, I’m not sure! My reasons for liking him for tomorrow’s race are similar to that of today; he’s fast, on great form and loves the cobbles. He has previous form too at this race!

Magnus Cort.

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The Orica rider is fast becoming a very good semi-classics rider. He was up there today in the second group on the road for a lot of the race, eventually finishing in 16th place. No slouch either, he would probably prefer a hard race to knock the stuffing out of some of his opposition’s legs. Clearly on good early season form, picking up two wins already, he is a force to be reckoned with!

Prediction

I think this will come back together for some type of sprint at the end. How big though? I’m not sure, but Demare will be there anyway to take the win!

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If we do get some kind of attacker, I’ll go for Lampaert as my cheeky side-bet. (As Kirby would say).

Betting

My H2H confidence has been shook after today, so I’ll be avoiding them tomorrow.

0.75pt EW Demare @ 16/1 (Bet365)

0.5pt EW Cort @ 25/1 (Sky)

0.3pt WIN Stannard @66/1 (Bet365)

0.2pt WIN Lampaert @100 (Various)

 

Thanks for reading like always! How do you think tomorrow’s race will pan out? Hoping for some exciting action again. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

 

 

 

 

Abu Dhabi Tour Stage 4 Preview; Yas Marina -> Yas Marina

The Route

I think you know what I think of this stage by now… 💩 💩 💩

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The most disheartening 22 laps of a race-track you’ll ever see. The one saving grace that this stage has is that the finale is normally relatively exciting.

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Lots of turns in the closing 2km means that lead-outs are crucial. A strong team can really string the peloton out and control the race in that final section. You can see from last year’s sprint that the top 3 at the end of the day, were the first three sprinters into the final turn.

The closing turn also present the opportunity for a gap to made and the lead out rider to ping off the front. We almost saw that last year with Renshaw and is something that the Directeur Sportif’s could consider. Although they probably won’t!

Contenders

With two sprint stages already to get an idea as to who’s going well, we haven’t actually learnt much more than we knew going into this race; the top 4 are still ahead of everyone else. Sorry Viviani, you’ve been demoted to your own second tier.

Kittel reasserted his dominance on Friday, coming from very far back to nab the victory from Ewan on the line. The crash clearly didn’t affect him! The one the that does concern me is the fact he had to come from far back because his lead-out hasn’t been as great as it normally is. For example, it looked good on Stage 1 up until the crash, but looked very disorganised on Stage 2. If it’s disorganised again tomorrow and Kittel isn’t behind the right wheel, then there’s no chance of him coming back.

The other rider who went down in the crash but seems unaffected is Ewan. The Aussie pocket rocket had the stage won but lost it in the closing metres because he stopped pedalling to celebrate. His train looked good and he looked good, I’m sure he’ll want to rectify his mistakes tomorrow!

Cavendish looked fairly good again but his lead-out was messier on Stage 2 compared to Stage 1. He tried to come round Ewan but seemed to missing that final kick. You can’t rule him out though!

Greipel had an abysmal day of it on stage 2. His lead-out was non existent and when trying to surf wheels solo, he got blocked off with around 1km to go and that was his chance of a win out the window. To get up for 9th place after all of that was not a bad result!

This finish does allow for a solo rider to do well if they’re brave going into that final corner and chop up some lead-outs, so we could see a surprise podium finisher, but probably not.

Prediction

His lead-out on Stage 2 was exceptional and I think that will be the same tomorrow. Wanting to make up for his mistakes, Caleb Ewan wins!

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Betting

 Nothing appeals to me odds wise at the moment

Thanks for reading! I think I might give this stage a miss tomorrow though, probably something more exciting on; twitter highlights will do. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Abu Dhabi Tour Stage 3 Preview; Al Ain -> Jebel Hafeet

Today’s Recap

Another drab stage that ended with a very exciting final 10 minutes. For a while it looked as if it was going to be Ewan or Cavendish who took the win, but the perfectly-haired German came from way back, pipping Ewan on the line.

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I’m lamenting the bookmakers not over reacting and pricing Kittel at the 2/1 I was hoping for, would have gladly taken that. As it turns out, the H2H double lost as well so not a great day on that front, but we move on!

Onto tomorrow and the day that will decide the GC.

The Route

Boring flat, some more boring flat, even more boring flat…MOUNTAIN!

Well, can it be classed as a mountain? It’s certainly a very large hill at the least!

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This stage is all about the climb up Jebel Hafeet.

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10.8km long and averaging 6.6%, it is a fairly challenging climb; especially when you consider that the middle 7km average 8%. This is the section where proper time gaps can be made!

We will see attacks here as those climbers without a good sprint will want to drop everyone on the toughest parts, i.e Quintana! Although, we could easily be in for a lot of stopping and stalling as favourites mark each other, leaving the opportunity for a “lesser” rider to get away.

Contenders

You probably know by now the very stellar climbing line-up we have here and without repeating all of that again, here’s a link to my GC preview to remind you.

*I’d advise you to read that as I won’t be adding much more here*

So has anything changed since I wrote that preview on Tuesday?

Well, Contador seems to be up for playing more than a team role here! I can imagine he’ll be used as the guy to try to follow Quintana or go on the attack himself, allowing Mollema to follow behind and counter.

I still think Bardet will go well and is a serious challenge if there is some looking about. My feelings towards Aru finishing top 5 have got stronger and I think he’s a proper podium contender too. He seemed lively on the first sprint stage and seems in good spirits.

Aside from that, nothing else has change really.

Prediction

Quintana is still the rider to beat though but I don’t think Contador will be that far off of him. Therefore, I can see the two of them messing around, allowing for another couple of riders to get back (Bardet and Aru), and I’ll go for the Frenchman to win!

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Betting

1pt EW Bardet @14/1

0.75pt EW Aru @ 20/1

Both with Bet365.

Apologies for the briskness of this but I don’t want to needlessly spend some time writing out the same stuff again and I wouldn’t want you to read that either!

If you haven’t seen it already, then check out my Omloop preview that is on the blog. Thanks again for reading, tomorrow will be another double preview day with the final stage of this race and Kuurne. I know which one I’m looking more forward to! 😉 Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2017 Preview

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2017 Preview

The start of the season for many fans and probably some riders to boot! The peloton makes its return to the Belgian cobbles for the beginning of the Classics season, kicking off with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Last year saw a group of favourites (Van Avermaet, Rowe, Benoot and Sagan) attack on the Taaienberg with 57.4km to go and long story short, they managed to hold off the chasing bunch with some strong work and co-operation. A special mention must go to morning breakee Alexis Gougeard who drove the front of the break in the closing kilometres ensuring they didn’t get caught when the others started playing games . We then saw an ever so slight uphill sprint to the line and it was Van Avermaet who took the glory!

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The Route

The riders will tackle an almost identical route that we see back in 2016 with the only change being the traditional return of the Molenberg as the final climb.

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Credit to @RickyFilips95  for the above profile, it’s much better than the official one the organisers provide IMO.

The race will follow a normal pattern of an early break escaping up the road before the pace is slowly ramped up over the opening hills and cobbled sections.

Things really get serious on Kruisberg before we often see the first big attacks from the main contenders on the Taaienberg at roughly 55km to go.

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As you can imagine from looking at the profile, the biggest gaps are made on the steep bottom section. It’s interesting to note that Sagan always seems to “struggle” up that part, but then power his way over the flatter second half.

We then have a lot of climbs/cobbles/cobbled climbs in succession over the next 10km, five to be exact. If the lead group really put the hammer down over this section, they can really extend their lead. Likewise, it is the place where those behind may try to jump across the gap.

The final cobbled climb of the race, the Molenberg, comes at just over 40km to go.

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At only 300m long (averaging 8%), it’s not ridiculously tough but gaps can still be made here. Once over the top, the riders have to traverse 3 more cobbled sections and a fairly flat run home. There are some technical sections as they pass through towns and are on small, twisty roads, but that’s what you would expect in this region!

After the success of last year’s finish, the organisers have decided to stick with the slight up hill drag.

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Not the Mur, but it still requires the riders to have some punch left after a long day in the saddle!

So that’s the route covered, but it’s not the only variable that can have an impact on the race. The weather often plays its part here.

Weather Forecast

It doesn’t look as bad as was initially predicted which is a shame for us sitting watching from the warmth of our homes. In fact, there are probably several riders who would have wanted a lot of rain and wind!

With rain looking unlikely apart from a few scattered showers, it will be the wind that may cause some issues for the riders.

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The above forecast is taken from Zottegem, which is roughly in the middle of the route. As you can see, a 20 km/h SSW wind is expected. This could cause some echelons, particularly with the twisting nature of the route where the riders will have to change road position.

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The wind seems to be even stronger as we get closer to Gent. It will be a fast chase home!

Contenders

I’m going to do this differently than normal, structuring this more as I would on a breakaway day where I highlight some riders and talk about them in-depth. The reason for not going through the whole start list is that;

1. Plenty of others will do that so I don’t want to repeat and;

2. Most importantly, I could easily see myself write close to 3,000 words on the nuances and intricacies of favourites/half favourites/no hopers etc and…

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So apologies if I don’t name someone you were hoping for! Right, enough of me beating around the bush…

Zdenek Stybar.

You can’t have a cobbled classic without naming at least one Quick Step rider. Their team for this race is just stupidly strong and you could make arguments for at least 6 of their riders to win this race. Sorry Keisse and Vermote! That strength in-depth can be both a positive and negative as they should in theory always be represented at the front (we’ll just gloss over last year…or the year before that…). Yet, you’re never entirely sure who they’re riding for on the day! Stybar himself has often been the bridesmaid, used as the anchor on a chasing group behind.

The Czech rider is exceptional on cobbles due to his cyclo-cross background and he always seems to be at the pointy end of a race on this terrain. He’s been quiet this season so far but I have been impressed with the glimpses that we have seen of him. Particularly the Mapei-style attack that he was the main driving force behind at the Volta ao Algarve.

He clearly has some good form! Stybar isn’t a slouch either in an uphill sprint so will fancy his chances if it comes down to a select group at the line, like we saw last year. The only issue might be if Van Avermaet and Sagan are there, or my next pick…

Arnaud Démare.

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I’ve talked him up a lot on the blog the past few weeks, but that’s with good reason; he seems to be in scintillating form and has been unlucky not to have notched up a few extra wins by now.

Still only young, the Frenchman has had a very good career so far and is someone who I think is under-rated for what he has achieved. Winning some World Tour races this year will certainly help to change people’s minds!

A sprinter who’s at home on the cobbles and short climbs, he’s finished 10th here twice in the past (2014 and 2015), he just needs some luck to go his way.

Now, I’m not sure if he’ll be able to follow the very best over the likes of the Taaienberg, but he is certainly capable of being in a second group that rejoins the head of the race if those ahead stall at any point.

In an uphill sprint after a tough day he is certainly a big threat.

A repeat of the Binche result from last year wouldn’t go amiss!

Looking at a couple of riders further down the betting order, i.e. proper outsiders, there are a couple I’d like to highlight.

Dylan Van Baarle.

Cycling: 100th Tour of Flanders 2016

Finishing a very credible 6th in Flanders last year after attacking early on in the day, he will be Vanmarcke’s right-hand man here. A real powerful rider who can get over the lumps and bumps, he could well be used as a ploy, attacking off the front of the bunch while Vanmarcke follows the moves behind. Only having competed in one race so far this year on the road, he has been doing a lot of track racing so it will be interesting to see how he copes in a race like this. Will that explosiveness carry over?

Pim Ligthart.

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At a point in his career where he felt like he wanted more leadership opportunities, Lightart has taken the step down from World Tour to Pro Continental to ride for the Roompot team. This is the type of race where he should be given those leadership opportunities. Picking up a second place on a stage in Valenciana highlights his fairly good climbing form, so he should be able to cope with the hills here. Ligthart also possesses a fairly fast sprint so he could win from a small bunch gallop too. Although he will need a lot of luck to go his way!

Prediction

I’m really torn between my two main picks here but I think I’ll go with Stybar as the winner!

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We’ll get a group of around 10 riders escape on the Taainberg, but they’ll slow a little initially, allowing another 10 guys to join from behind. With some co-operation in the group they’ll build up enough of an advantage over the rest of the peloton. From here, we’ll see some attacks in the final 10km. Everyone will be looking at Terpstra as the obvious choice from QS, but instead it will be Stybar who makes the move. He gets joined by a few others (maybe 5 of them in total) and with enough representatives from the group behind involved, they stay away to the end. Stybar then powers away on the final sprint, taking an excellent win!

Betting

0.75pt EW Stybar @25/1 with various bookmakers (I’d take 22/1, even 20/1).

0.75pt EW Demare @33/1 with various bookmakers (would take 28/1)

0.125pt EW Ligthart @ 150/1 with Bet365/Betfair/PP

0.125pt EW Van Baarle @ 125/1 with Bet365.

H2H wise I like the following two;

Ligthart > Kragh Andersen at 5/6 with Bet365. 4.5pts.

I tweeted this one out yesterday when it was at evens and I still like it at the price it is just now, I’d even take it at 4/6, or 1/2 at a stretch. I’m confused as to why it is priced the way it is. Yes, Kragh Andersen took a good win in Oman, but he has no history what so all in these types of races, whereas Ligthart does. I can’t see Andersen dropping Ligthart on any of the climbs, and it should be Ligthart doing the dropping on the cobbles. I like it so much I’m increasing my stake to 4.5pts (from the 3 I initially put on).

Stybar > Boom at 1/2 with William Hill. 2pts.

I think it’s clear to see my love for Stybar with what I’ve written above. Boom has often promised so much on this type of terrain but he’s failed to deliver in the past. The Dutchman did have a good TT in Algarve but I just don’t think he has the quality to match Stybar here. Boom’s performance is still enough to put me off going crazy on this one.

 

Thanks for reading if you managed to get this far and apologies again for not doing a full breakdown of the start list; you can see how much I managed to write for just 4 guys, imagine 20! Any RTs/Shares/any type of feedback is greatly appreciated as always. Who do you think will win? I’m just looking forward to a good race! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Abu Dhabi Tour 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Abu Dhabi -> Abu Dhabi

Today’s Recap

A very messy end to a rather dull day.

It was Mark Cavendish who took a reduced sprint ahead of Greipel and Bonfiazio, after there was a crash in the closing kilometre that took out the likes of Kittel and Ewan.

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Viviani came home a disappointing fifth but at least the H2H won so a small profit on the day.

It was a rather annoying result considering I’d backed Cavendish hand over foot in Dubai, but I was waiting for stage 2 this race. Oh well, that ship has sailed now!

Tomorrow the sprinters will get another chance at stage glory, so let’s take a look at what lies ahead.

The Route

A trip around the suburbs of the city, finishing along the Marina.

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Parcours wise, it’s once again incredibly flat. What else would you expect though?!

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So like stage one, it’s down to the closing few kilometres to make the race exciting as there is no chance of crosswinds causing any issue here.

This exact finish was used on stage 2 of last year’s race so the riders, and us the viewers, have a rough idea what to expect.

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We shall see a race to the first swooping right hand turn at 1.3km to go, but it’s not too important to be right at the front here. However, you need to be making your move to the head of the peloton by the flamme rouge.

The reason I say this, is that last year they implemented some barriers (at roughly the 600m to go banner) to narrow the road from 4 lanes to 2. This obviously then makes it more difficult for teams to move their sprinters up after that. Now, I don’t know for certain if that will be the case again this year but I’m willing to guess that it more than likely will be.

We saw today that they implemented similar barriers in the last kilometre so there is a very good chance they’ll feature tomorrow.

Then, we have another relatively tight corner at 300m to go, before the dash along the finishing straight to the line.

Sprinters

Cavendish and his Dimension Data team got it perfect today. They always looked in control in the last 3km, moving to the front at exactly the correct moment. Some luck was on their side as Renshaw and Cavendish managed to avoid the crash, but that’s not to take away from a great performance. They’ll certainly be full of confidence now looking ahead at the rest of the week and I wouldn’t discount Cavendish picking up back to back wins!

The rider who got closest to the Manxman was Greipel. He managed to match him for speed, but was never really able to pull up alongside him once he moved out of the slipstream. If it was the opposite way round I wonder what the outcome would have been? I think they’re as close on form as this result suggests.

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Unfortunately we didn’t get to see Kittel sprint it out today. His team did a lot of work on the front, and although they were hideously unorganised from around 3->1.2km to go, they seemed to have things together approaching the Flamme Rouge. That was until a touch of handlebars saw them go down. With the same numbers left as Dimension Data, would they have challenged them in the drag race to the line? I think they would have been very close! Kittel’s wounds seem superficial and he’ll be fired up to exact revenge tomorrow.

Ewan also went down in the crash which is also a shame, particularly considering that their lead-out looked very promising. On the instant replay it looked as if Ewan was one of the worst hurt, but he managed to get up and finish the stage. However, he is still going to the hospital for precautionary scans so as of yet we’re unaware as to the extent of his injuries. Even if he doesn’t get involved tomorrow, I’m sure he’ll try to solider on and compete on Sunday. After all, he is a tough little fella!

Viviani disappointed today, although he did start his sprint from far back in fairness to him. However, with his main lead out man suffering some injuries today, he may be left in an even worse position come tomorrow.

I was impressed by Bonifazio and Consonni‘s ability to negotiate the mayhem, particularly the neo-pro, who performed ahead of his years. Yet, I don’t think they’ll do any better tomorrow. If they can sneak into the top 5 again then that would be great!

One random sprinter might sneak into the top 5, but I’m not going to hazard a guess as to who.

Prediction

An angry Kittel = a fast Kittel.

He’ll carve through this field like a hot disk brake through shoes! Oh, too soon?

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Betting

No value in the stage betting market IMO. I like the look of this 1.25/1 double though…

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Cavendish’s train is better than Greipel’s, Renshaw should be dropping Cav off further ahead of De Bie. Would fancy him to roll home ahead.

Guardini not at the races today whereas Bonifazio got involved. The latter seems to have had the better start to the year as well.

2.5pts on it at 1.25/1 with Bet365. (Would take down to Evens).

 

Thanks for reading and as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win the stage? I’ll be back with a double preview tomorrow with Stage 3 of this race but also Omloop. More than likely it will be Omloop out first, some time in the afternoon, followed by Abu Dhabi in the evening. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Abu Dhabi Tour Stage 1 Preview; Madinat Zayed -> Madinat Zayed

The opening stage of the race and one that should be decided by the sprinters.

The Route

An “out and back” style course through the desert.

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As you can see, it’s almost as flat as pancake with very little elevation change at all! The wind may be a factor out in the open desert.

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However, looking at the forecasts for Madinat Zayed and Mezairaa it doesn’t look promising for echelon action. We may get consistent 14 hm/h winds which may have caused some issue if they were coming from the correct direction, but that’s not the case. Instead it will be a headwind when they leave Madinat Zayed, that turns into a tail wind for a bit out on the course, then back to a head wind as they return to the starting town.

Maybe we still might get something? I mean, that tail -> head wind doesn’t happen instantly! No? I think I’m clinging onto too much hope here. So instead, this stage will all be about the closing kilometres.

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It’s the exact same finish that was used last year and I expect a similar dash to the final left hand turn at roughly 1km to go.

The peloton will be fairly strung out through it but the pace will ramp up even more as they approach a roundabout with 700m to go. Once through the roundabout, the riders will possibly be in single file and it will take a lot of extra energy to come from 20 places back and win the stage.

Last year it was a messy sprint as riders lost their lead-out men and it was in fact Mark Renshaw who did the perfect lead-out for Giacommo Nizzolo (not Cavendish), with the Italian going on to take the win.

Therefore it’s safe to say timing in the sprint is very important. You either want to have 2 riders left in front of the sprinter when leading out of the roundabout and power home from there. Or use the slight lull in action as sprint trains look for their sprinter, to then bring your rider forward in the final 300m.

Who’ll be competing for stage honours then?

Sprint Contenders

The perfectly-haired German, Marcel Kittel, has to start as the clear favourite for this stage. He started the season off in scintilating form, picking up 3 stage wins and the GC in Dubai. Not arriving with his normal lead-out may hinder him a bit. However, he does arrive with his favourite lead-out man Sabatini. Possibly not as dominant as in other races, he will still be the rider to beat!

Cavendish comes here after a very weird start to the year. Mechanicals and bad luck hampered him in Dubai, before he seemed to be on lead out duty for Boasson Hagen in the Algarve. As an ambassador for this race, he’ll be hoping for a much better showing than those previous starts. I’m not entirely sure that will happen on stage 1 as he has had a hectic schedule over the past few days. Nonetheless, with Renshaw by his side, he is a rider who can turn it on at anytime so can’t be discounted!

Off the back of a very good stage win in Algarve, Greipel will be in a buyouant mood ahead of this week. Another rider who is arriving here without his normal lead-out, he will probably be relying on De Bie to drop him off in a good position in the closing kilometres. It will then be over to Andre to follow the correct wheel, can he?

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Caleb Ewan arrives with a short, but rather strong lead-out; relying on Mezgec and Kluge to get him in position. They are the type of guys who could perfectly execute the old “move up in the final kilometre” tactic that I mentioned earlier. Ewan was unbeatable in Australia a month ago, has he managed to sustain that form?

Hot or cold sprinter Viviani will be hoping to profit in a messy run in here. One of the best riders in the world at positioning himself without a lead-out, this race he can at least rely on Doull and Dibben to pilot fish him a bit further up the bunch before he has to ride solo. I don’t know why, but I think he’ll go well here!

Aside from the riders listed above, Pelucchi, Bonifazio, Guardini and Ruffoni will be hoping to get in the mix.

One other rider I am intrigued to see perform this week is young Astana sprinter Riccardo Minali. He made very steady, but impressive improvements throughout the week in Dubai, ultimately finishing 3rd on the final stage. Can he repeat that peformance here, or go even better? I’ll be watching with interest, that’s for sure!

Prediction

Kittel probably wins this, doesn’t he? But I can’t be releasing two previews in a day that both have the favourite as the winner, so to mix things up a bit and I’ll go with Viviani.

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He’s the one sprinter out of them all who benefits most from a finish like this, and if he manages to come out of the right slipstream then he will be hard to beat. After all, he is no slouch!

Betting

0.75pt EW Viviani at 18/1 with Betfair (Paddy Power). Would take down to 14/1.

5pts on Minali to beat Bauhaus at 1/2 with Bet365

Thanks for reading. Can you see anyone beating Kittel? I’ll be back again tomorrow with a stage 2 preview. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.