Last year we saw an exciting race where it looked as if Tejay Van Garderen was going to win his first European Stage race and break that duck. However, Valverde absolutely blew everyone away on the final day of racing and won the GC title by almost 30 seconds! With Van Garderen and Mollema rounding out the podium.
Valverde is back again this year: looking to make it 5 wins in 6 years, but can he do it? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.
Stage 1 and the organisers have decided to start off with a nice “rolling” day.
Tough start to the race, with an interesting climb at the end of the day. Should be a great watch, with a lot of potential outcomes!
Stage 2 and another rolling day, but this time with a mountain top finish.
A tough 5km climb with some steep sections in it and a kilometre or so of false-flat at the end. Solo winner or a sprint between the climbers?
Stage 3 and a short individual TT.
An interesting profile once again, we are in Spain after all! A nice climb for the riders to open their legs before a long shallow descent, another slight rise, followed with a steeper descent and a kick up to the line. Will the specialists or GC riders prevail here?
Finally a stage for the sprinters or will the breakaway have their say? Word of warning, it is a very technical finish!
Another day for the fast men? No doubt we’ll get a strong breakaway with that tough start!
The greatest GT rider of his generation is here, Alberto Contador, and this race marks his first outing for new team Trek Segafredo. He had a fairly solid season last year, winning Pais Vasco and Burgos GC but solid is all I can really say about it. In comparison to his lofty expectations and performances in the past, it was almost a disappointment! Will the change of team and a new (possibly better) working environment revitalise him? With only one mountain top finish he’ll have to be on good form to get a race winning gap as I imagine he’ll lose a bit of time on the TT.
Team Sky arrive with a very strong squad with Poels, Landa and Rosa all potentially being leaders of the team. The latter pair haven’t done any racing so far this year so their form is a bit unknown but Poels finished 4th on GC at Valenciana. He had an off day on stage 2, but was fairly strong on stage 4. He was flying at the start of last year and this could be his only GC chance this season. I expect a good performance from him!
The man with the secret to eternal youth, Alejandro Valverde, is back to defend the title he won last year. A commanding win in Almeria on Saturday he clearly is in great shape already at the start of the season. He’ll hope to be close on the time trial and smoke everyone up the mountain top finish. Certainly not out of the question!
Former Movistar rider Ion Izaggire will be looking to beat his old suitors here. Over the past couple of seasons he has grown into a great one-week stage racer and will hope to be in or around the podium places here. His strong TT abilities will be key to that. Sixth place on his first race back, he seems to be going ok but there is a big difference between a 5-stage race and a one-day effort.
FDJ are another team with a couple of options here. Pinot was way off the pace in Valenciana but that was due to him being ill. We saw last year just how good he can be in these types of week-long stage races, so he can’t be discounted if back in reasonable nick. With him, he has two lieutenants who both could achieve a top 10 on GC if luck goes their way, in the form of Reichenbach and Ludvigsson. I do have a soft spot for the Swede and it won’t be the last time I’ll be mentioning him this year!
Uran, Barguil and even Wellens are others to keep an eye out for.
In the form that he’s in just now, El Bala wins the race comfortably and another race/number is added to his already incredibly tally!
Only SkyBet have the race priced up so far and have Valverde just ahead of Contador. Bet365 will be offering odds for the race, but only tomorrow…
I doubt they’ll be offering anything spectacularly different price wise though. So that being said
0.5pt EW on a Valverde/Costa/Roglic (giving away my Algarve preview here) treble at 54.45/1 with Skybet. I wouldn’t normally go EW on this but I think they should all podium so it covers the stake in that case.
Thanks for reading, as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated. How do you think the race will pan out; can anyone beat Valverde and Contador? Anyway,
Thos were My Two Spokes Worth.