Tour de Romandie 2017 Stage 5 Preview; Lausanne -> Lausanne (ITT)

Today’s Recap

Porte made the final climb his Swiss Willunga, but it was Yates who managed to take the win, holding on to the coattails of the Aussie and beating him in the sprint.

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Buchmann came home a very credible third. There was a big time gap back to a large group of GC contenders who will have been disappointed to have to lose time going into tomorrow’s last stage.

Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

A tough rolling individual time trial where the overall will be won or lost.

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As is tradition for a TT, I’ve made a Strava profile that you can view here.

Although I somehow seem to have missed 300m compared to the official profile. I think it’s at the end of the stage the distance is missing so it shouldn’t make too much difference. Oh well!

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Aside from the climbing, one thing to note is how technical the route is. The road seems to constantly change direction and it’s only really in the final third of the stage where the riders can settle into a rhythm. Even then though, there are several 90-degree turns in the final few kilometres!

As for the climbing, they do that once they leave the start straight and take a left-hand turn. Taking it as one big ascent, it’s a 6.4km climb averaging 4.6%. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story.

There are a few false flat drags in between the major rises of which the toughest comes near the top of the climb. That part of the climb is 1.4km at 9.6%. A good amount of time can be lost here on a bad day!

Contenders

With the lack of flat this is a TT for the GC men and the very best climbing TTers.

Primoz Roglic.

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Arguably the GC revelation of the season, the Slovenian is also a very handy time-trial rider. He smashed the recent climbing TT in Pais Vasco but oddly enough he gained most of his time on the flat run to the line. He won’t have that advantage tomorrow so it will be interesting to see how he goes.

Richie Porte. Flying today and former Aussie TT Champ, the BMC rider will eat up the climb. It’s just a question of him holding it together on the descent and run home.

Chris Froome. You can never count out the British rider. He had a similar performance in this race last year on a mountain top finish, before turning out a very good TT ride. He often seems to go well when you least expect it.

Jonathan Castroviejo. Great TTer who’s not been in that great shape recently but did come home just behind the group of GC favourites today. He can turn that around in a TT.

Bob Jungels. Powerful rider who should be there or thereabouts tomorrow. Will probably want one final hit out before the Giro.

Ion Izagirre.

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The rider who apparently had a great chance of winning this race overall before today’s stage, due to his TT prowess. However, like Roglic, he now finds himself chasing and it will be hard for him to win the GC title but he may just sneak the stage win.

Ilnur Zakarin. Joker of the bunch, the Katusha rider has been hit or miss with his TTs recently. Yet, he was attacking today and like a few others, will want to have one last hit out for the Giro.

Simon Yates. Has to be respected after today’s performance and although his TT has improved over the past year, I still can’t see him do enough to win the title tomorrow.

Prediction

Froome turns things around and takes the day.

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While Porte takes overall glory!

Betting

1pt EW Froome @ 10/1 with Bet365 (would take 8/1 lowest)

*UPDATE*

1pt EW Porte @ 6/1

Thanks for reading as always and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win? Next up for me preview wise is the Giro and Chongming Island. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Tour de Yorkshire Stage 3 Preview; Bradford -> Fox Valley (Sheffield)

Today’s Recap

There were a flurry of attacks near the end of the stage but it came down to a sprint.

In the end it was easy for Bouhanni, who took a very comfortable win.

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With Ewan taking second, just ahead of the early sprinting Hivert.

All still to play for tomorrow, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

What a stage and the toughest in this race’s short history!

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The road is up and down all day with barely any respite for the peloton and not to mention the stage is nearly 200km long!

With 4 categorised climbs early in the day, the race could well be split up before the half-way point. It all depends on how aggressively the peloton decides to attack the day.

There is a potential for the race to lull in action in the middle section of the day, but the parcours is still challenging.

The final 20km is a killer though and once they’re through the Intermediate Sprint in Stocksbridge they are either climbing or descending all the way to the finish line.

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View the Strava profile here.

If the race hasn’t been blown to smithereens already, it will be after these 4 climbs and I’ll be very surprised if we see more than 3 riders come to the finish line together.

Speaking of which, it’s not exactly an easy closing few hundred metres…

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Things could get dicey if we see a few riders arrive together.

Weather Watch

It looks as if it’s meant to be a dry but overcast day in Yorkshire. Although at this moment in time, there are supposed to be showers in the area in the late evening so that forecast may change quite a bit come tomorrow.

Nonetheless, it’s not the rain the riders will be overly concerned about: it’s the wind!

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Skipton forecast @50km in. Source: Windfinder

The above is the forecast for Skipton which comes at roughly 50km into the stage and it’s set to be similar throughout the rest of the day which can only mean…

Echelons!

Although not as exposed as some of the racing was on the opening day, there are still plenty of opportunities for teams to try and split the race in the wind.

Such as this one after Leeming.

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Here’s hoping some teams do just that and make it a crazy day out in the saddle.

Contenders

To have a chance of winning here a rider will have to he a strong climber but also good in classics types races, so that they can position themselves well in the crosswinds.

It’s hard to tell where riders are in their season in terms of performance and some will certainly go better than expected, while others will turn in a poor or disappointing result compared to what they were expecting. Just getting my excuse in early for this preview… 😜

As I’m short of time I’ll throw a few names into the hat.

Brent Bookwalter.

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The American is arguably the in-form rider in the Yorkshire peloton after recently finishing 11th on GC in the Alps, nabbing a second place on Stage 5 along the way. A good punchy climber who packs a decent kick, he’ll want to try and get rid of some of the more established names in the bunch before the final 4 climbs. He certainly has a good chance though!

Tao Geoghegan Hart.

The young Brit looked sprightly enough at the end of stage 1, chasing down Voeckler’s half hearted attack with ease. However, he was one of the unfortunate riders to be involved in the crash in the closing straight. The wounds seemed to be superficial and Sky will be hoping their young prodigy can make the most of his lightweight frame on the steep climbs of Yorkshire.

Mauro Finetto.

I’m like a broken record this week, with the Italian getting his third mention in my previews. I mean, it would be rude not to include him again?! Not having raced for a while, he’s had the opening two stages to re-find his form and get up to race speed. In a field that’s not stacked with big named climbing talent, he could surprise.

Tom Stewart.

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The One Pro rider is a very handy climber, finishing 11th here on GC last year. He’s not shown as well in this race so far and was one of those to be collected in the stage 1 pile up, but he suffered no injuries. I think he might be able to spring a surprise tomorrow!

One other name I’d like to throw into the hat is Maurits Lammerink. The Katusha rider in theory should enjoy this type of stage as he has gone well on steep ramps in the past. He’s not been great so far for his new team this season, but a 25th in Fleche highlights that the form might be coming.

The likes of Kruijswijk etc could feature as well but I think he might keep his powder dry for the Giro.

Prediction

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know exactly where this is going…

Super Mauro!

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It is a bit of a lottery of a stage which should hopefully make it a great watch.

Betting

Not going wild, so…

(all with 365)

0.5pt WIN Finetto @ 16/1

0.125pt EW Stewart @ 200/1

0.125pt EW Pearson @ 100/1

 

Thanks as always for reading and apologies again that this is a bit shorter than normal. Who do you think will win tomorrow and what race situation will we see into Fox Valley? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Tour de Romandie 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Domdidier -> Leysin

I apologise in advance…

Today’s Recap

We ended up with a sprint in the end despite Dowsett’s valiant efforts.

Viviani won after a Froome lead-out, beating Colbrelli and Schwarzmann.

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Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

The Queen stage of the race, with three cat-1 climbs in the second half of the day.

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However, they aren’t the most difficult of climbs and the toughest is actually the first one, Jaunpass, that crests with 70km to go.

From there, it is a case of descents followed by climbs all the way to the finish, with very little flat road.

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The penultimate climb of the day is fairly easy, but it does have a three kilometre stretch that averages close to 7%. I would expect some teams to attempt and put the hurt on here.

A long descent follows before the short climb to the finish.

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Officially only 4km long, the road does rise before we get the “start” of the climb.

Attacks should come from the bottom because it’s not long enough to delay until 2km to go etc, or so I hope!

Thankfully the weather seems to be clearing up for the weekend and we should go over all of the climbs that are listed, with the route hopefully remaining unchanged. But you never seem to know in this part of the world!

How will the stage pan out?

As alluded to above, I expect the racing to be on early tomorrow. Most of the climbs aren’t difficult so the day will have to be attacked if the likes of Porte and Froome want to put the others in trouble.

Sky don’t have a great team with them, so the Brit will have to rely heavily on the likes of Kiryienka and Kennaugh. Nonetheless, they have enough firepower to cause some issues.

It is BMC though who have a strong team and in Schar, Wyss and Roche they have three very solid climbing domestiques. Not to mention that Porte and Van Garderen are both high up on the overall and can pull the ol’ 1-2!

So splits early in the day after some teams try to attack the climbs, leaving an elite group of 25 or so riders at the bottom of the final climb.

A flurry of attacks at the bottom of that climb will see the strongest riders get away; Porte, Froome, Izagirre, Roglic and Kelderman.

The first two struggle to gap the other trio as the gradients ease, allowing for an attack…

Prediction

Izagirre and Roglic are considered too big a threat due to the TT, but Kelderman takes advantage of this and takes the win. This is one of the only races this year the Dutchman has leadership at and I’m sure he’d love to take a win before going to the Giro in support of Dumoulin. He packs a fairly decent sprint for a GC rider so also has a chance if a small group comes to the line!

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Betting

 

NO BET.

Apologies again for how ridiculously short this is but I have hit the proverbial preview writing wall and I’ve started to lose interest in Romandie if I’m honest. I’ll try and have something more substantial out for the TT tomorrow as it looks like an interesting day. In the meantime, check out @InsidePeloton96‘s preview   as a way to get another insight of tomorrow’s stage in comparison to what I’ve wrote. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de Yorkshire 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Tadcaster -> Harrogate

Today’s Recap

That was hectic!

The peloton split over the final categorised climb of the day but things regrouped and we ended the day with a fairly large sprint. However, it wasn’t a simple sprint as the pace at the front of the peloton slowed, riders bunched up and things got messy. Unfortunately there was a fairly large crash that took out a lot of riders.

Nonetheless, it was Groenewegen who came from far back to take the win. Managing to weave his way around his opponents and still have enough to hold off a charging Ewan who finished no more than half a wheel behind.

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A very honourable mention to third place finisher Opie who managed to avoid all the carnage and finish comfortably ahead of the likes of Bouhanni etc.

Will we see a similar finish tomorrow but without the carnage? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

An easier day in the saddle and a stage that should come down to a bunch sprint.

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There are some rolling, uncategorised climbs in the second half of the day, but nothing that should be too difficult for the bunch…

Saying that, the final 12km on the profile looked “interesting” so once again I’ve made a Strava profile of said ending! You can view that here.

Turns out the finale isn’t as easy as I had originally thought.

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The climb once they leave Birstwith is 1km long and averages roughly 5.8%. Not severe, but its proximity to the finish means the riders will be going full pace and it will certainly sap the legs of the sprinters.

Likewise, the following climb of Greyston Plain Lane is 2.1km at 3.9%. Even easier gradients this time but double the length. They won’t have had much respite after the Birstwith climb because it’s straight off the steep descent and back up the road again.Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 11.22.02

Once over Greyston Plain Lane, there is a shallow descent all the way until just over 2km to go. It’s at the 2km to go banner that they’ll take a right hand turn at a roundabout, before the drag to the line.

This finish was used back in the opening stage of the 2014 Tour, except the riders came directly from the North side of the roundabout.

From that point though, the run in to the finish is identical.

As for the severity of the ramps themselves, I would actually believe the Strava profile more than the closing 5km from the road book. We have a 500m section at 6.8% followed by a swift 300-400m descent which allows the riders to gather up some speed before the final kick up to the line and false flat finish (500m at roughly 3%).

How will the stage pan out?

It should be a sprint stage, don’t get me wrong, but that closing 12km could certainly spring a surprise or two.

The equivalent run in to the 2014 Tour stage wasn’t as difficult so I’m intrigued to see what difference the slightly grippier terrain makes.

It is also important to consider that the riders in 2014 were in peak fitness for the Tour, at this race, there is a high chance quite a few of them won’t be and that drag to the line might be harder than they expect.

I think it will be tough for anyone to make a move on the climb out of Birstwith or on Greyston Plain Lane but I do think some more attacking riders will try something on the run in to the line.

Will the WT sprinters teams be able to hold it together? After today’s sprint it is clear Ewan and Groenewegen are the fastest, although I’m not sure Bouhanni would agree after being dumped at the front too early. Nonetheless, Jumbo and Orica will be the teams shouldered with doing most of the pace making and chasing throughout the stage which will tire their lead-outs and ability to close down attacks at the end.

We saw that Voeckler was sprightly on the run-in today and it would not surprise me to see him try something again tomorrow.

Sprinters?

Tomorrow’s sprint is more difficult than today’s but you would still expect the same riders to be involved.

Ewan likes an uphill drag to the line as was shown in his first ever GT win back in the 2015 Vuelta. Can he repeat that here?

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Groenewegen not so much and he was distanced on the last climb of the day today (along with Ewan), he might struggle a little bit.

Conversely. Bouhanni will be annoyed after dropping the two aforementioned guys on the Robin Hood’s Bay climb that he could not win the sprint. I think we’ll see him come out fighting tomorrow and he has a good chance of taking the win.

Sbaragli did well to avoid the crash and the drag up to the line tomorrow suits him more than a pure flat sprint. Podium chances.

Likewise my two picks for today’s stage Planckaert and Kragh Andersen both did well to avoid the crash but a tougher sprint is better news for them. I would expect them to finish higher than their 9th and 13th places today respectively.

Late attackers?

This was a stage I wanted to mark down for Ian Bibby. The JLT rider recently won the third round of the Spring Cup Series on a tough course and this explosive finish looks ideal for him. Unfortunately he was involved in today’s crash but seems to be okay…

Mauro Finetto.

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I mentioned the Italian as a possible animator of the race today but the stage wasn’t approached as aggressively as I had hoped for from the peloton. Delko were very attentive near the front of the bunch today and Finetto possesses a fast enough kick to surprise in a tricky sprint. Furthermore, he is explosive enough to get a gap from the group if he attacks. Can he maintain it all the way to the line though?

Prediction

It should be a sprint but there will be a few surprise names. After his disappointment today, Bouhanni won’t make that same mistake tomorrow. Bou-Bou to trounce home! He’s grossly under-rated as a climbing sprinter and he’ll prove some people wrong tomorrow.

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Betting

1.5pt WIN Bouhanni @ 4/1 (all 365)

0.25pt EW Bibby @

0.25pt EW Finetto @ 300/1

Bibby not priced so…

0.25pt EW Kragh Andersen @ 100/1

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Tour de Romandie 2017 Stage 3 Preview; Payerne -> Payerne

Today’s Recap

All hail King Küng!

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The young Swiss rider took a great win in grizzly conditions as he and his fellow breakee Grivko managed to beat the bunch on the run in to Bulle. Potentially helped by a questionably late gel, the BMC rider held off the Astana man in what seemed a slow motioned sprint.

Behind, Colbrelli crossed the line first to round out the days podium.

Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Another rolling day out in the saddle for the riders, with a reasonable amount of climbing. With a flat finish will it end in a sprint this time?

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@LasterketaBurua

You can view an interactive profile of the stage here.

The majority of the climbing comes in the middle part of the day but there is nothing too serious for the peloton to contend with. They crest the final GPM  at 28km to go and the rest of the stage is made up of shallow descents, false flat, and flat!

There is a roundabout at roughly 2km to go, but aside from that the finish is incredibly easy and not technical at all.

I’m sure the riders will be glad to here that the weather is looking better as well, with the majority of the rain coming in the morning, not the afternoon.

 

 

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Source: Wunderground

Although that was what was forecasted for today and yeah…it wasn’t exactly dry in the afternoon…

So don’t trust any forecast for around here!

How will the stage pan out?

Originally, I had thought that with today’s stage ending in a sprint that tomorrow might be a day for the break. But with the shock result from this afternoon, I’m unsure as to how it might go tomorrow.

We saw today that a lot of the teams were unwilling to commit 100% to the chase in grim weather. Will that change for tomorrow?

I’m not so sure.

So I’ll stick to my original guns and say that tomorrow is another breakaway day.

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With the two tough GC days ahead, I’m sure a lot of riders will just want to get around safely and we’ll see a relatively large group with a fair few teams represented get up the road.

Break Candidates

Normally I would say that a rider would have to be over 2 minutes behind at this point for them to be allowed to stay away. However, Trek have been pretty poor this week at chasing down the break and they lost another domestique (Hernandez) in today’s stage so they’ll have even less firepower.

Therefore someone who is relatively close could escape if they are deemed to not stand a chance the following two days. Consequently, this makes selecting some breakaway riders even more of a lottery!

I’ll give it a go though…

Daniel Oss.

The guitar playing BMC man hasn’t featured at the front of the race yet which is a bit surprising as he loves a breakaway. A strong rouleur he should be able to power over the climbs tomorrow. The Swiss outfit don’t have a proper sprinter as such so they’ll look to get a rider up the road again and Oss fits that bill perfectly. Maybe he’ll want a hit out before going to the Giro?

Alex Dowsett.

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A strong second place on the opening day highlights that Dowsett is in reasonable shape. He managed to hold on to the peloton much longer than I expected on Stage 1 but he eventually succumbed and lost almost 5 minutes. Like BMC, Movistar don’t have a proper sprinter with them so I imagine they’ll want to stretch their legs tomorrow. Dowsett could well be that man!

Alexander Edmondson.

After his fourth place finish today to follow up his third in the prologue, the young Aussie will be brimming with confidence. Down on GC after stage 1, he or Sam Bewley are Orica’s two cards to play for the break as they shouldn’t be chased. Getting a man up the road will be important for them because a lot of teams were looking at them today to do some work for Albasini. Of course, if they have a rider in the break, they don’t have to! We saw today he has a fast sprint, so might well fancy his chances at another podium finish.

I was going to think of another rider to name but I’ll just leave it at that. After today’s stage, tomorrow doesn’t really grip my attention that much and I’m looking forward to the opener in Yorkshire instead!

Prediction

A break stays away with a few of the sprinters teams represented and Trek unwilling to chase all day.

Oss to *ahem* boss it and win!

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Betting

Small stakes on the breakers. Not having a great time of it at the moment and my confidence is shook! Although Edmondson is awful odds, I mean Oss is borderline but the Aussie is too short after his sprint today so he’ll be replaced with someone else I like…

0.5pt WIN Oss @ 33/1 with Bet365

0.3pt WIN Dowsett @ 80/1 

0.2pt WIN Campenaerts @ 100/1

 

Anyway, thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be a sprint or will the break stay away?

 

Tour de Yorkshire 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Bridlington -> Scarborough

Tour de Yorkshire 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Bridlington -> Scarborough

GC Overview

Like I thought might be the case, I don’t have enough time for a full GC write-up so here are some quick thoughts…

More than likely the GC will come down to the very tough final day. However, there is a small chance tomorrow’s stage will have an effect if it’s anything like stage 1 from the first edition of the race.

Nonetheless, it should be a classics type rider who does well on the final day. With the potentially windy conditions over the moors, it won’t only be the climbs that can cause splits in the bunch, but there is a good chance we’ll see some echelons too.

Having a strong team will be important and Dimension Data look to have arguably the best here. They have several handy climbers who should be there or thereabouts at the end, it just depends on who will be their leader, local rider Scott Thwaites maybe?

Team Sky have strong riders in Rowe and Stannard, but I would imagine that Geoghegan Hart is their best option due to the amount of climbing in the finale. The two aforementioned riders will be there to position him well and it will be over to the young Brit to deliver.

The defending champion and always gurning Voekcler is here again and he is sure to animate the race but I can’t see him winning the overall this time round.

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UK Continental riders such as Thomas Stewart and Ian Bibby are two other names to keep an eye on over the coming days with a top 10 a very good possibility for them both.

There are a few other riders I have in mind, but I shall keep my cards close to my chest so to speak and save them for the Stage 3 preview. 😜

As for now, I’ll go with a Geoghegan Hart win, but that is subject to change!

Grand Piemonte

Right, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders on the opening day of racing.

The Route

An interesting day out in the saddle, with the now traditional finish into Scarborough.

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I say interesting, because it is similar to the first stage we had in 2015 where the peloton was torn to bits by the climbs. This year’s run in is easier but is still fairly demanding.

I was hoping for something similar to that first edition but according to some Yorkshire natives (@gizza_tips and @BearTowell) it’s unlikely that we’ll see that!

Out of intrigue though, I have still made a Strava profile of the last 75km that you can view here.

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The peloton has a lot of rolling climbs to contend with such as my new favourite Strava segment, “To the ice cream van!” which is the 12km, 2% average climb out of Pickering.

We then of course get the 1.3km, 9.7% climb of Goathland. Well, it’s actually ever so slightly longer than the official profile suggests and is actually 2.1km long at 6.8%.

Once over the summit, there is a very fast descent into Sleights, before the peloton start climbing again after they are through Whitby.

Another gradual rise for the peloton to get over, 7.1km at 2.3%, which they then quickly descend off before the sharp kick up of Robin Hood’s Bay.

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1.5km in length and averaging close to 10.5% (although the Strava segment is closer to 11%), riders certainly can get dropped on the climb and lose a fair bit of time. If the best climbers in the peloton attack it then they should manage the ascent in roughly 5 minutes.

We won’t see any echelon action on the moors on Friday though unfortunately as the wind is mostly a tailwind on the run in to Scarborough.

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Source: Windfinder

Will that help those dropped get back in to the bunch, or will it help a stronger peloton stay away over the closing 25kms? It will be frantic either way!

Once into Scarborough, the riders will have to negotiate a fairly technical final 5km, although from 2km to home it is easy.

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One thing the riders will have to consider is that the tailwind they had coming into Scarborough will now be a headwind for the final few hundred metres. You won’t want to open up your sprint too early!

How will the stage pan out?

It really depends on who and who doesn’t make it over Robin Hoods Bay in contact with the bunch and how aggressively the peloton attacks the climb itself. Considering the up and down nature of the race before it, the bunch could already be tired if the pace has been on for a while.

We could see some of the GC favourites and strong teams light it up, putting the sprinters in difficulty. Yet, as it has been pointed out to me, it’s the first day of the race and you would expect them to have fresh enough legs to cope with a 5 minute effort.

I think I live in hope more than anything else!

The most likely scenario is that we see a reduced sprint in Scarborough, of maybe 30-40 riders.

Contenders

Which sprinters make it to the line; that’s the proverbial million dollar question.

Bouhanni was climbing well in Catalunya and has maintained some solid form since then, with a third in Scheldeprijs and a win in Paris-Camembert. He’s not raced for a fortnight though so he’s a bit of an enigma in that sense. If he makes it over, then he’ll be the fastest rider there.

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Or is he? I’m sure fans of Ewan and Groenewegen would disagree!

The Aussie pocket rocket was flying at the start of the season but he’s not raced since his 101st in Gent Wevelgem. It’s hard to know where is form is because of that but in theory his diminutive stature should help him get over the climbs. If he’s close to where he was in January then he’ll be a threat. If not, team-mate Magnus Cort will be their sprinter.

Still without a win this season, the Dutchman will be hoping to turn that around here. Very fast on his day, he’ll be able to rely on a strong team to help lead him out. That is if they make it in the peloton together!

Some other riders that could get involved are Van PoppelBlythe, Lawless and Sanz.

There are two outside sprinters I’d like to mention.

Søren Kragh Andersen may be second choice on paper out of the Sunweb team, but I would fancy his chances of getting over the final climbs compared to his team-mate Bauhaus. I’d wrote that before the teams were finalised but it seems Bauhaus isn’t riding so it’s just SKA. Packing a solid sprint after a tough day, in this type of field he could surprise.

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Lastly, I think Baptiste Planckaert deserves a very worthy mention. The Belgian rider has settled in well at World Tour level, nabbing a few top 10 results for his new team Katusha. Much more than a fast sprinter, this type of stage looks ideal for him and I think he has a very good chance at a podium.

If we do get that attacking day I’m hoping for then look to the likes of Finetto, Bibby, Stewart, Weening and Hivert to animate the race.

Prediction

I really want to call this as an attacking day, but I’ll be sensible for once and go for a reduced bunch sprint of around 40 riders.

I’ll not be sensible with the following though…

A few of the bigger names will miss out and that will give an opportunity for someone else to step into the limelight. Planckaert to win!

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Betting

No GC bet so just stage 1 picks;

0.5pt EW Planckaert @ 22/1 with Bet365

0.5pt EW Kragh Andersen @40/1 with Bet365

Oh so tempted with the 66/1 on offer for Finetto if the race does break up, but I think I’ll leave it with the two “sprinters”!

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. How do you think tomorrow’s stage will pan out and who will eventually be the winner? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Tour de Romandie 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Champéry -> Bulle

Today’s Recap

It looked for a while as if the weather was going to hold out, but it started tipping it down towards the end of the day. Which made for very grizzly conditions going up the last climb. I’m sure if that made the stage easier or not, as the peloton rode it slightly more defensively than I thought, or if the climb was too easy for any gaps to be made.

In the end, it was Albasini who took a great win (a day too late for me)! With Ulissi and Herrada rounding out the podium.

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A damp squib of a stage on the punting front but I’ll soldier on!

The Route

A “sprinters” day tomorrow in Romandie, which means that there is still a fair amount of climbing involved.

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@LasterketaBurua

You can view an interactive profile of the stage here.

There is a chance that they might move the start of tomorrow’s race off the mountain at Champéry and onto the flat valley below. Either way, it shouldn’t have a big impact on the stage.

We do have some relatively tough short climbs out on the course but they come too far from the finish to cause any stress for the sprinters so we should end with some type of bunch kick again.

As there is nothing useful in the road-book, I’ve resorted again to making a Strava profile, this time of the final 5km. You can view that link here.

I’ve went off what information I could take from the interactive profile made by the same guys behind LasterketaBurua as there is no useful information in the RB as to where turns etc are in the finale so apologies if this isn’t 100% correct. But again, I do trust them so I’m assuming it is correct!

Anyway…

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The closing 2.8km averages 2.29% all the way to the line. Not tough, but certainly a long drag! The amount of twists and turns in the closing kilometre should also add to the excitement.

However, it was the 900m lump that starts just before the 4km to go mark that caught my eye. As Strava sometimes doesn’t cope with the contouring on maps that well, especially when the road runs very close to a contour, I thought I’d check it out on Google Streetview to see if the climb was actually that steep.

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View one…
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View two…

It’s definitely a hill, that I’m sure of… 😜

As for how steep it is, I’m still undecided!

Facing up the road, it looks like quite a tough drag but then when looking parallel to the road it doesn’t seem as bad at all. We’ll just have to wait and see tomorrow I guess as to how steep it actually is. I’m holding out that it is the 900m climb at 7% that Strava promises! My instinct though is that it’s probably closer to a 4% average.

Weather

We’re set for another cold day in the saddle.

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Source: Wunderground

Thankfully the riders will be happy to see that there is only a “chance of rain” in the afternoon, but I’m sure they’re bound to get soaked at some point.

There are plenty of riders far enough down on GC to warrant a break win, but I think that’s unlikely and we’ll more than likely see some type of sprint into Bulle.

Contenders

We don’t have many proper sprinters here so a lot of them should be able to compete on this finale.

Viviani is arguably the biggest name here. He’s been climbing a lot better this year, in fact, the best I’ve seen in his whole career. Tomorrow’s finish might be right on his limit but with the Giro looming, you would expect him to be in good shape. Without a win this season, it’s a great chance for him to take victory, but I just can’t see it. Nonetheless, he does surprise occasionally with a great result.

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Albasini is a man in form and he can certainly roll over any of the hills tomorrow. The up-hill finish puts him on a similar level to the really fast guys and I would not be surprised to see him double up. At the very least, he is a safe shout for a podium

Colbrelli in theory should be the favourite for this race, but he seems to be tiring after his great start the year. If he still has some strength in his legs then he will be tough to beat.

This type of finish would have been bread and butter for JJ Lobato circa end of 2014. After switching to Jumbo, the Spaniard has failed to deliver a win for his team so far but that could be put down to the injury that plagued him at the start of the year. An 11th place in Amstel shows that some form is there, but can you put any faith in the enigmatic fast man?

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Race leader Felline will like the look of the drag towards the finish line tomorrow. Clearly in scintillating form, the Italian is taking advantage of it and looks strong in the lead. If he takes the win and 10 bonus seconds tomorrow, he might fancy his chances at winning this race overall…

What about Samuel Dumoulin? The Frenchman has had a fairly solid year but has only picked up one win so far. One of the most consistent riders on an uphill finish, he certainly has a chance if the form is there.

Van der Sande climbed well to finish 17th today but was disappointed to have missed out on getting close to the win. He is clearly going well at the moment and should be Lotto Soudal’s main charge tomorrow as Hofland seems to have fallen by the wayside. A good outsider.

Bilbao will hope to be up there again for Astana. He was close today in 6th place but with the finish being on the climb this time, I’m sure that will suit his abilities more.

Likewise, it will suit former team-mate Goncalves. A favourite of mine, the Portuguese rider has performed OK in the opening part of the season with his new team Katusha, an 11th place at Strade being his best result. Tomorrow’s finish is one that he would eat for breakfast so to say when he was with Caja Rural and I expect to see him up there fighting for the win tomorrow.

Smith, Swift and Richeze might all get involved as well.

Prediction

A tough stage to predict the winner of as firstly I’m still not 100% sure of that penultimate ramp, but it’s also difficult to tell how the peloton will approach the drag to the line.

I do think we’ll see a reduced bunch sprint in the end and I’ll go for a guy who was disappointed today to take the win tomorrow; Tosh van der Sande to step up to the plate and start fulfilling his potential!

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Betting

0.5pt EW Van der Sande @ 22/1 (would take 16s)

0.5pt EW Goncalves @ 400/1 (would take 150s)

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win stage 2? Tomorrow might be a triple preview day with another Romandie stage and potentially Yorkshire Stage 1 and GC, although I might miss the latter if I’m short of time. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tour de Romandie 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Aigle -> Champéry

Today’s Recap

A wet and miserable TT rewarded the risk takers of the peloton. In the end it was Fabio Felline who took a great win. He was putting down a serious amount of power in the closing straight, with the back wheel sliding all over the road. Possible flat tyre? Impressive either way!

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Alex Dowsett was the last rider down the ramp but kept things interesting, only losing by 2 seconds to the Italian, with an impressive ride from youngster Alexander Edmondson to take third.

As for Albasini, he looked to be going okay on the first part of the course, but seemed to lack the confidence in the second half. Probably didn’t want to fall after knowing I had put the curse on him. Oh well!

The GC guys took as few risks as possible, trying to keep themselves upright going into the rest of the week. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for them tomorrow.

The Route

We get the first open road stage of the race on day two and we are already treated to what is arguably the Queen Stage. Although I do think that is still going to be stage 4!

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@LasterketaBurua

An interactive profile can be viewed here.

With only 2700m of elevation gain, it’s certainly not the most wearing day, but the vast majority of the climbing does come in two big sections.

First, we have the Cat-2 climb of Vex that starts around the halfway point in the stage. Averaging a solid 6.3% for 8.9km it will tire the peloton for what’s to come later but I can’t really see it having any impact on the race. If anything, the descent might have a bigger say in the outcome if it is wet and dangerous.

Following the descent there is a long 40km period of flat before a little 2.1km long, 9.1% average kicker. This could see some of the deadwood dropped from the peloton if a team turns the pace on here. If not, the bunch will be grouped together as they start the final climb of the day.

According to the guys @LasterketaBurua the climb is 14.5km long and averages 4.2%, but that’s it topping out with just over 1km to the finish line.

As we get nothing in the road book at all about the climb I’ve made a Strava profile for the whole thing. View that here.

Interestingly, the rider who holds the Strava record for the climb is Adrien Costa (30 minutes) who set that back in the junior race of Pays Vaud back in 2015. I’m sure that will fall tomorrow!

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You can split the climb into three parts, with some false flat and shallow descending in between.

The first section is 5.5km at 5.4% but this does include some double figure ramps. Three km of said false flat/descending follows before the second section; 3.2km at 5.8%. We then have almost a kilometre of descending before the final kick up which is 1.3km at 7.7%. A flat-ish run to the line then follows.

Will we see a solo winner, or a group of GC favourites come to the line?

Weather Watch

Looks set to be another grim day for the peloton, a recurring theme this week!

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 17.57.22
Source; Wunderground.

Thankfully it’s supposedly only raining at the finish line tomorrow in Champéry (above forecast), but the riders will certainly be cold and wet either way. Hopefully the organisers won’t need to change the route!

The same can’t be said for the climb of Vex as there is a good chance we’ll have sleet on it and that could make the descent dangerous. I don’t think it will have a massive impact on the day if it is included or not.

How will the stage pan out?

It will all come down to the final climb and how aggressively the riders approach it. With only one other mountain top finish, I’m sure the better climbers will want to put as much time into their competitors with a long TT looming.

The weather will play as big a part as any with some riders feeling the cold more than others, and potentially underperforming.

However, I just don’t think the final climb is hard enough to create some serious time gaps. The toughest section is the 1.3km (@7.7%) segment that comes near the end of the climb. We could see some strong attacks here from the likes of Porte and Froome but will they really distance everyone on it? I’m not so sure.

The flat run in to the line could scarper any moves that were made on the slopes, but of course it could work conversely where those behind don’t work together.

Ultimately though, I think the stage will be won either from a late attack on the flat closing 1.5km or in a sprint between GC favourites.

So I’ll throw some names into the proverbial hat.

Proverbial Hat of Contenders (Outsiders)

Jarlinson Pantano.

A5yzkMw

A man ahead of the times in bad weather…

But no, in all seriousness Pantano has all the credentials and abilities to go well tomorrow. He’s been climbing strongly in support of Contador all season but now has his own chance to chase a result. Or does he? There is a chance of him riding for race leader Felline, but I think Trek are best to keep their options open. Packing a fast sprint, he can certainly win the stage from a reduced group.

Diego Ulissi.

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The climb is possibly just on the limit for the Italian, considering the length of it, but with its relatively shallow gradients he could hang on. Not afraid to attack or hold out for the sprint in that situation, it will be interesting to see how he plays it if he’s still there!

Wilco Kelderman.

Going to the Giro in support of Dumoulin, Kelderman hasn’t had many race days so far this year, only 11 in fact! Two of those were at the Ardennes and he’s slowly regained his race speed and form. He put in a fairly solid TT today and will want to test himself at some point in the mountains. Tomorrow could be as good a day as any!

Prediction

I’ll go for Mary Poppins himself, Jarlinson Pantano to take the win! We’ll see an attack on the final ramp by some of the favourites and Pantano will mark it out, with Felline behind. The Colombian will then win the ensuing sprint. Valverde’s not here to beat him this time!

Tour de France stage 15

Betting

1.5pt EW Pantano @10/1 with Bet365

0.25pt EW Bilbao @80/1

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. I hope we get an unaltered stage and an exciting days worth of racing! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Tour de Romandie 2017 Prologue Preview; Aigle -> Aigle

Tour de Romandie 2017 Prologue Preview; Aigle -> Aigle

GC Overview

Short of time again so there’s no full GC preview from me but here are a few quick thoughts.

The weather forecast for the week looks grim, so that certainly suits some riders more than others and wet roads could make some of the descents very treacherous. Nonetheless, it looks to be a two-horse race this between Porte and Froome.

Porte hasn’t raced in over a month since Paris Nice, where he was left bitterly disappointed after losing time in the crosswinds on the opening stages. However, he was sublime and put 21 seconds into a flying Contador on the Queen Stage. It’s the best I think I’ve seen the Australian climb and he’ll want to show well here again to gain a psychological advantage over his old team-mate.

Likewise, Froome also hasn’t raced for close to a month, with his last outing being in Catalunya where he once again was caught out in splits near the start of a stage. None of that matters though to Froome and his season starts here. Without a win this year, he’ll want to change that here and look to seal the title before going to the Dauphiné. Thomas was flying when he came back from South Africa and I expect the same from Froome this time too.

Can anyone stop them? Not really, no! However, Izagirre, Roglic, Spilak, Yates and Pantano will hope to go close and take 3rd place on the podium.

I’ll go for a Porte win. That climbing display in Paris Nice was truly impressive and he’ll just edge Froome, before the tables are turned at the Dauphiné.

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Right, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders on the opening day.

The Route

Short, but sharp opening prologue for the riders to tackle.

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@LasterketaBurua

You can view an interactive profile of the route here.

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With a few technical turns this prologue isn’t all about raw power, with good bike handling skills also being essential if you want to set a very fast time.

There’s not much to the terrain with it mostly being flat, but we do get a kilometre long drag of roughly 2% from 1.8km -> 2.8km. From there, the riders descend quickly before another few hundred metres at 2% before the flat run to the line.

And that’s that for the route, short and sweet like the effort!

Weather

As is often the case in Romandie, bad weather looks set to play a part in the race.

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 17.28.50
Source: MeteoCentrale

It doesn’t look like it will be too bad tomorrow, with most of the rain supposedly falling in the evening. However, there is a chance for a few showers as we get later into the afternoon. Will some of the GC riders go out earlier hoping to avoid them?!

Contenders

A prologue like this is incredibly wide open. Getting my excuses in early! TT specialists will fancy their chances but so will sprinters and strong all rounders.

This list could be very long if I wanted it to, but since I’m in a bit of a rush and I’m not a fan of naming 20 riders, I’ll pick a select few and try to give reasons as to why they can win the stage. Several favourites will be left out but what else would you expect?!

Ion Izagirre.

epaselect SWITZERLAND CYCLING TOUR DE ROMANDIE 2016

Once of the riders blessed by going out in better conditions last year, he avoided the rain which made the descent treacherous, taking the win on the opening day. There isn’t as much climbing in the prologue this year but I would argue that he’s going in much better shape than this time last year. After a very successful Ardennes week (12th was his worst finish) he seems to be bang in form and will be looking to equal last year’s performance.

Michael Albasini.

Another man who has been plagued by the Haughey Curse, I had picked him for the prologue last year at 200/1.

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He was going well too, until he came to grief on the rainy descent. This year he seems to be in equally impressive form with no worse than a 7th place in the Ardennes this week. Known as Mr Romandie, he has 6 stage wins to his name here and he should make it seven at some point this week. Will that be tomorrow?

Stefan Küng.

The second Swiss rider to make the list and a former trackie, the BMC man won the Individual Pursuit World title in 2015. This type of short course should suit him perfectly and he’ll be fired up for his home race. Not having raced since Roubaix, it will be interesting to see what his form will be like, but he has every chance when the winning margin should be small!

Fabio Felline.

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Not a known TT rider, Felline has improved at the discipline over the past year and he finished a very respectable 5th in the TT in Andalucia back at the start of the season. An explosive rider who seems to be going reasonably well, he has a good chance of upsetting the applecart.

Of course there are many others who could get involved and we might even see Porte and Froome feature at the head of the field.

Prediction

Mr Romandie to take his seventh stage win, smashing the TT and hopefully staying up-right this time!

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I think we might see the two big GC favourites get close to the podium as well.

Betting

I wouldn’t normally bet on the GC but because of the price I will;

2pts EW Porte at 9/2 with Bet365. 

He has a good chance of winning, but should podium barring any disaster. Safe in the sense that stakes are returned if he does.

Prologue picks, all with B365 as well;

Albasini 1pt EW @ 28/1

Froome 0.25pt EW @40/1

Porte 0.25pt EW @50/1

 

Thanks for reading as always, I should have a longer preview out for the first road stage. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Liège-Bastonge-Liège Femmes 2017 Preview

 

To end the Ardennes classic week, we are treated to the first ever women’s edition of the oldest Monument; La Doyenne.

A very welcome addition to the women’s calendar and the decision to run the race was greeted with great fanfare from both the spectators but also the peloton itself!

After two exciting, although fairly predictably dominant Boels’ displays at Amstel and Fleche, will we see a new winner at Liege?

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Or will van der Breggen secure the win and consequently take a famous Ardennes triple?!

Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

At 135km in length, it’s not the longest route the riders will tackle this year but it is roughly 15km longer than both Amstel and Fleche.

Having only four categorised climbs does not paint a full picture of how attritional the race is going to be, because the route is constantly up and down, twisting and turning on narrow roads.

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The first 75km of the day will serve as a warm-up for the second half of the race, and we should see a break established up the road.

The action will start in earnest though, beginning with the longest climb of the day! The Côte de la Vecquée is longer than anything we see in the men’s race and could see a shake up if a couple of teams put the pressure on.

Côte_de_La_Vecquee_Stoumont_profile

Not overly steep, it does contain a kilometre at 7% though and I would not be surprised to see some probing attacks in the peloton here.

The race then follows a similar pattern of climb -> false flat -> descent -> climb from hereon in.

Next up on the schedule is the explosive La Redoute.

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We then have a relatively long period of 14km where the riders aren’t climbing but the descending is fairly shallow. This will be an equally as important part of the race because the best riders often attack on the flatter sections when those around them are tired from the previous climbs. Van der Breggen’s two wins this week are testament to that!

Within 20km to the line the riders will face the Roche-aux-Faucons before the Sant-Nicolas, cresting at only 5.5km to go.

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Short, but explosive, it could well be a launchpad for an attack if we have a group of riders left together at this moment.

From there it’s the traditional run in to the finish line.

Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 13.08.07

The rise through the Flamme Rouge and all the way to the line averages 5.3% for the 1.5km, offering one final place to attack before the false-flat sprint.

Contenders

It’s really hard to look past another Boels win this week. They’ve timed their early season peak to perfection and in van der Breggen and Deignan they have two of the best riders in the peloton on current form. I set my stall out a week ago with this tweet and it’s not looking too bad just now…

She has the power to attack from distance but also the speed to win from a small sprint. Who can beat her? Well, Deignan certainly can! The Brit has played a superb team role over the past two races and could well be rewarded with team-leadership here. Her sprint win for second place in Amstel was incredible, considering she took it up into the headwind that famously curtailed Kwiatkowski in the men’s race. Will Boels try their hardest for the triple for van der Breggen, or will the Ardenne’s triple for the team be enough? I guess we’ll have to wait and see tomorrow afternoon as to how they attack the race.

Who can stop them?

On form, it looks as if Kasia Niewiadoma is the strongest challenger.

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She was instrumental in splitting the race up on the penultimate climb at Fleche, with only the two Boels riders able to follow. However, that ended up being to her detriment as they ended up playing the 1-2 and she couldn’t follow every attack. Contrary to what you would normally expect, her best (and every one else who’s not on Boels) best chance of winning is that the race is easier than normal. Therefore there will be more riders in the peloton and the opportunity to form cross-team alliances to isolate one Boels rider. Although I have a feeling that scenario is very unlikely to be carried out! Nonetheless, Niewiadoma still has a very good chance of winning the race, it will just be tough trying to out-ride the two strongest women who happen to be on the same team!

The other rider who on form has a chance of beating the Boels pairing is Annemiek van Vleuten.

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The Dutch rider has 3rd and 4th in the first two races this week and certainly has the abilities to repeat, if not better those results. She’s been incredibly consistent in the WWT this year so far, notching up 6 top 10s out of the 7 races we’ve had. With the final rise to the line not being too difficult and suiting her well, I think she might fancy her chances in a reduced sprint against some of the other favourites.

Aside from those four, no one really looks on a level to challenge for the title. Yet, this is cycling and sometimes the strongest rider doesn’t always win!

Elisa Longo Borghini would definitely be included in the list above if she didn’t skip Fleche due to illness and breathing difficulties. She did manage to finish 5th in Amstel so the form was there beforehand. But you would expect it to be too soon for her to be competing for the title.

This season’s revelation, Coryn Rivera, will hope to hang on the coattails of the better climbers and challenge for a sprint. She’s proven so far this year that she is one of the fastest riders in the world after a tough day.

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I gave her an honourable mention for Fleche and she managed to sneak into the top 5 and I think Shara Gillow could do something similar tomorrow. A criminally under-rated climber, she prefers the steep ramps so the closing climbs should suit her. Another top 5 is on the cards!

Prediction

It would make for a great race if someone could stop Boels, but I just can’t see it happening. It’s only a question of wether I choose Deignan or van der Breggen?! This route actually suits the Brit ever so slightly more in my opinion but as I’m a big fan of fairytale stories, I would love to see the Dutchwoman complete a famous Ardennes triple!

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I’ll be rooting for a Shara Gillow podium spot as she’s part of my season long fantasy team!

Unfortunately I don’t think we’ll be getting any live coverage of the race so the best place to follow it is on Twitter via the #LBLWomen hashtag.

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated like normal. Who do you think will win and how? Can anyone stop Boels’ domination? Next on the blog from will be Tour of Romandie previews, but I’ll be back with the Women’s World Tour for Chongming Island. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.