And so our watch begins…
The Vuelta kicks off tomorrow evening with a tasty team time trial. Last year we saw Sky beat Movistar by less than a second over a 28km course, with Pete Kennaugh taking the leader’s jersey.
Will we see an even smaller winning margin this year given the shorter route?
Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.
A course that starts off technical, but it does seem to ease off later on in the stage.
There are several 90-degree turns where the TT-trains will be strung out even more than they normally are. Consequently, a team with good technique could gain time through these turns as their riders don’t have to scramble back onto the wheel in front of them.
Furthermore, teams that practice peel offs and TTTs in general will be at a massive advantage due to the timing that is involved when changing lead rider. You don’t want to be pulling over through a corner, that’s for sure. A level-headed and experienced DS is of almost equal importance in that situation!
Things do get easier later on in the route, with several long straight roads where the strongest of teams can put the power down.
We do have a Cat-3 climb at just over the half-way point but is no more than a pitiful excuse to hand out the KOM jersey at the end of the day. I mean compared to the other Cat-3s which we have at this race, 2.4km at 1.6% is laughable. It will be the easiest KOM points anyway gets all race!
Thanfully it looks as if all the teams will get similar conditions so there will be no weather affected surprises/disappointments.
As for the start times; the first team off the ramp is Manzan Postobon at 17:30 CET, with Trek last to set off at 18:54. All of the other squads will be sent out at 4 minute intervals.
You can view all of the start times here.
It is nigh on impossible to have a TTT where BMC are not favourites. They lost their TTT crown last year but they have been the team to dominate this discipline over the past couple of seasons. In 2017 they’ve taken notable TTT victories in Catalunya and Tirreno. They do arrive slightly light in terms of their usual crack squad; with only Dennis and Oss representing them at the World’s last year. The likes of Roche and Van Garderen are solid replacements but they don’t seem as invincible as they have in the past. They are rightly favourites, however I think they won’t have it 100% their way.
The TTT world champions arrive here with three of that contingent (Jungels/Lampaert/Terpstra) and add to them with a lot of other strong, well-rounded riders such as Trentin and Alaphilippe. They’ve underperformed in recent TTTs but in this type of race I think they can turn it around. The course looks ideal for them, with a good mix of sharp corners that require some explosiveness, but also longer power sections where their diesel engines can open up the taps.
Winners of a much lumpier TTT last year, they have been very hit or miss as of late. On for a good time at Tirreno until their wheels decided to implode, they’ll hope to not be the laughing-stock this time around. Although their team looks a bit weak on paper, Sky always seem to turn up at Grand Tours. I’d be surprised if they finished outside of the top 3!
Honestly, I can’t see any team aside from those three compete for the win, so I don’t want to bore your time by pointlessly going through them all.
I’ve changed my mind between those three teams several times which went something like this…
*Looking at teams*
“Ah QS bring a lot of strong rouleurs, really fancy them for this”
“But BMC are incredible at TTTs and are unbeaten this year. Surely they have this”
“Hold on a second, what about Sky? A quietly strong team who always go well in the big competitions and with the arguable GC favourite They’ll surely set a great time.”
I’m going to go with my gut instinct and initial thoughts when thinking of this yesterday/earlier today though.
Quick-Step to win!
I really like their squad for this, it is so incredibly balanced. The shorter length of effort brings them a lot closer to BMC and looking at rider v rider, I actually think Quick Step have the better time trialists/rouleurs. Furthermore, with the whole Sanchez saga, the mood in the BMC camp might be a bit off just now, and I think they are there for the taking.
As stated in my overall preview, I’ll be adding a new daily section to the blog where I discuss possible choices for the game; highlighting a “safe”, a “wongshot” and a “lanterne rouge” pick.
Safe – BMC.
Although I have a feeling they won’t win, given the form and history in TTTs over the past three seasons they are the team to back in this discipline. It would be very surprising to see them outside of the top 3, heck, even the top 2. Picking them could see you off to a good start. I won’t be choosing them though, which is probably good for you!
Wongshot – Sky.
I can’t see anyone other than those three wining tomorrow and unlike potential breakaway days where I may as well just randomly choose a rider, that’s a little bit farfetched for this. Sky are the longest odds of the trio, therefore the Wongshot pick!
Lanterne Rouge – Caja Rural.
You would think I’d go with Manzana for this, but I actually think the Colombian team will put in more of an effort than the Spaniards. Caja will be in almost every break in the first few week so if they want to be given freedom to chase jerseys/stage wins then they need to lose a lot of time. Don’t get me wrong, Manzana might do the same thing, but given it is their first GT then I think the exuberance of wanting to perform well on every day will get the better of them.
Also, some of you may still not have any idea what I’m talking about! Vuelta Picks is a simple fantasy style where you pick a rider for every stage of the race, with their finishing position counting as your score. The lower the score the better. However, you are only allowed to use a rider once during the whole race, so there is some tactics involved with it. Although don’t listen to me on that front as I am a notorious Lanterne Rouge contender!
If you’re interested at all, it costs £10 to play – just put your name into the spreadsheet I’ll link below and Jason (the guy who is organising it all) will be in touch regarding payment and any other questions you have!
If you do join, then you’ll have until tomorrow to make your first stage pick.
Very much tempted with a no bet, but I’m going to dip my toe in the water ever so slightly.
2pts WIN Quick Step @ 7/4 with various. (would take 13/8 lowest)
Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win the TTT? Is it a clear-cut three-horse race? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.