Women’s Tour 2018 Stage 2 Preview: Rushden -> Daventry

Today’s Recap

It was one of those days in women’s cycling where we don’t see a break throughout the day, with the teams constantly closing down the moves. Andersen of Hitec did manage to get a 20 second gap at one point when in the final 20km but even then she was quickly reeled back in before the inevitable bunch sprint.

After winning the closing sprint in last year’s race, it was once again d’Hoore who took home the victory after a strong gallop to the line in what was quite a hectic finale.

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@thewomenstour / Sweetspot

Bastianelli finished a close second with Rivera rounding out the podium in third place.

Will we see something similar tomorrow? Let’s take a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

A much more rolling day out with the road constantly up or down, even if it is just ever so slightly.

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We could see some early attacks, but the likelihood is that the day will be decided by its main focal point – the last climb of Newnham hill.

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The climb itself averages 6.4% for 1.31km according to the Strava profile I’ve made, but with the steepest ramps coming near the top (a 200m section at 13%), then it is the perfect launchpad for riders to put in some stinging late attacks.

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Once over the top, the road descends pretty steeply on narrow roads for around 800m before levelling out. At this point the riders will only have 1.7km left to a chase will have to be organised quickly for things to be brought back together for a reduced bunch sprint.

We could see a lot of cat and mousing on the run in as riders constantly attack off the front.

In the closing 400m the road bends around gently while gradually climbing uphill at around 2-3% for around half of that distance.

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There is quite a tight right hand turn with just over 100m to go, at which point the road narrows down to one lane. Positioning through the turn will be vital.

How will the stage pan out?

This could be one of the more decisive GC days because of the proximity of the final climb to the finish. If we see some strong attacks from the puncheurs then they could create fairly significant gaps over the sprinters, and I think we’ll see exactly that.

The race will be held together and the constantly undulating and heavy roads will make it a day of attrition more than anything else before that final climb.

From there it will be a springboard for plentiful attacks but given that it is only 1.3km in length, some of the sprinters will fancy their chances of holding on. However, I think a select group of maybe 20-30 riders (at most) will get over it together, just because of how fast the pace will be.

It is then a case of who controls things for a reduced bunch sprint, or will a splinter group/lone attacker manage to get away on what is left of the day?

Contenders

There are some obvious names to look out for, including Vos, Rivera, Bastianelli and Van Dijk in a reduced bunch sprint to the line but I think a splinter group will form so I’m going to name some candidates who might be there.

Lisa Brennauer.

An unfortunately timed mechanical today saw her chances of a good stage and possibly GC result ruined as she finished 38 seconds behind the main group. This however, will give her some more freedom to attack and chase a stage win. We saw in Thüringen just how strong she is at the moment and the short, punchy climb suits her perfectly tomorrow. Packing a fast finish, I think she’ll bounce back strongly.

Pauline Ferrand Prevot.

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She’s not had the best of road seasons so far but juggling a season of cyclocross and mountain bike alongside the WWT peloton then this was always going to happen as it would be impossible to be in peak form all the time. However, a recent win in the Sea Otter mountain bike race will have given her confidence and after that race she said the sensations were excellent. Tomorrow’s climb and finish would be ideal for 2014 vintage PFP, but can she find that spark on the road again?

Chantal Blaak.

The World Champion mastered the Cauberg so tomorrow’s climb will be no issue for her. Boels have a strong squad with them so it will be interesting to see who they go with tomorrow as it is really hard to read their approach after today’s stage. They should have numbers in the front group and that will be to their advantage massively. Blaak has a great sprint on her so from even a group of 20 she will fancy her chances.

Prediction

None of them will win though, instead it will be local rider Hannah Barnes who takes victory.

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The Barnes sisters hail from nearby Towcester so will be incredibly motivated for a good result and will no doubt know tomorrow’s roads like the back of their hand. Hannah has really impressed me so far this year and has taken a step up, especially with her ability on the short climbs. Given the field here, she should stay in touch with the head of the race over the ascent and there won’t be many faster than her in a tough sprint.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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Women’s Tour 2018 Stage 1 Preview: Framlingham › Southwold

Women’s Tour 2018 Stage 1 Preview: Framlingham › Southwold

GC Overview

The OVO Energy Women’s Tour returns this year for what is expected to be a week of fast-paced and action-packed racing, which will take place over the toughest parcours this event has had to offer to date. The crucial stage appears to be on day 2 where the riders will face a short but steep climb only a few kilometres from the finish but there are plenty of days left to mix things up from there and we should hopefully see some agressive racing.

Looking at the qualities needed to win this race, a rider has to be able to get up and over the short climbs but also pack a fast sprint as gathering bonus seconds will be important come the end of the week. Unless of course someone mimics what Niewiadoma did last year and take one of the days solo and secures the title that way. Although I’m sure the peloton will be a lot more attentive this time around!

Some names to conjure with this week include Brennauer (Wiggle High5), Vos (Waowdeals) and Van Dijk (Sunweb). Ultimately though, I think it will Blaak who will come away with victory. The World Champion has had a great 2018 so far and she has the perfect combination of sprint speed but also the ability to get over the short ramps – anyone who can go well on the Cauberg can go well here!

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Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders on the opening day.

The Route

Arguably the easiest day of the race, I’m sure plenty in the peloton will be thankful of a fairly benign day in the saddle to ride themselves into the event. The peloton will take on mostly flat roads from the town of Framlingham to Southwold.

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There is only roughly 650m of elevation gain throughout the day but as you can see on the profile, there are no real hills but just some constantly rolling roads. I don’t know what the road conditions are like but if they’re anything like up here, then they will feel very heavy and the 650m might feel like a little bit more!

One Cat-3 QOM point will reward an early attacker with a jersey but given how unformulaic women’s racing seems to be at times, it could well be a rider who jumps out of a compact peloton that takes the points. If that is the case, then expect things to be kept together for the first intermediate sprint of the day and the consequent bonus seconds that are awarded with it.

A break might finally be let go after that but they won’t be given too much leeway as the sprint teams look to set things up for a bunch gallop into Southwold.

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The final 3km are fairly straight forward aside from two turns within the closing kilometre which will stretch things out a bit. They aren’t too tight but the second turn onto the home straight is quite tight so being near the front here will be crucial.

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Something else that will be crucial though is the wind. It looks as if it will be coming from the south-west throughout the day, blowing between 15km/h and 22km/h throughout the afternoon, with gusts up to 30km/h. A lot of the route is well covered but it will be interesting to see if some of the teams try to split things in the more exposed areas. It will need for the conditions to be perfect though.

More importantly though, it is something for the riders to consider in the sprint as it will pretty much be a block head wind for them so ideally you want to launch your effort later and come from further back to take advantage of the slipstream.

Sprinters

Jolien d’Hoore.

The Belgian rider arrives here without any racing since breaking her collarbone so it will be interesting to see where her for currently is. The Mitchelton Scott team that surrounds her is very strong and I’d argue that they have one of the best lead-out trains here, with Williams, Roy and Elvin able to put out a lot of power in the closing kilometres. D’Hoore has proven in the past just how fast a sprinter she is, but so far this year she has struggled to be dominant. A win here would go a long way in restoring some confidence.

Chloe Hosking.

One of the most consistent sprinters this year, Hosking has managed to take home 7 podium finishes which included 3 wins. She joked during the Spring campaign that she was the “Sagan of women’s cycling” always coming close but not taking home the result. I’m sure none of that mattered to her though when she won the Commonwealth Games in front of a home crowd. Like d’Hoore, this is her first race back since Chongming so it might take a bit to get her racing legs back but she can’t be ruled out.

Kirsten Wild.

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Having missed out on a lot of the spring campaign to focus on the track, a wise move as she won the Omnium, Scratch race and Points race at the Worlds, Wild returned to the road properly at the end of March. Since then she has gone on to win three times in only 14 race days, not a bad feat, with her most recent success being the opening day of the Tour de Yorkshire. One of the most experienced sprinters in the peloton she’ll hope to use that to her advantage, especially with the tricky conditions in mind.

Coryn Rivera.

It was always going to be hard for the American to live up to her fantastic 2017 season and it looked for a while as if her season was really struggling to get going. However, two recent stage wins in Thüringen will have lifted her confidence greatly and she will be buoyed coming into this event. Having Van Dijk to guide her in the closing kilometres will be great as the Dutchwoman is one of the best in windy conditions so Rivera will no doubt be in the perfect position. Can she deliver and keep her streak going?

Those four are arguably the stand out sprinters for me at this race but there are plenty of other good sprinters hoping to upset the apple cart…

Both the Barnes sisters might give it a go for Canyon and will be intriguing to see who the team backs on the opening day. The experience of Vos (Waowdeals) and Bronzini (Cylance) can never be discounted. Boels have a couple of options they could go for but they might try to get Blaak bonus seconds, if not then Dideriksen and Pieters are viable podium candidates. Buurman (Trek Drops), Fournier (FDJ) and Andersen (Hitec) will all be fighting for that top 10 as well.

It really is a pretty open field!

Prediction

I’ll go with Hosking to take the win, she always seems to bring her A-game here.

Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race

Coverage

We unfortunately don’t have any live pictures so it will be a case of following along on Twitter via the #OVOWT hashtag. How have I managed to make it this far without my now yearly Drake joke? Oh well, I’m sure the riders will take care of that tomorrow when they write their own headlines…Whoops.

We will get an hour-long highlights package that will be shown on ITV4 here in the UK and I’m sure a good VPN will sort anyone else watching abroad out. The highlights will be on at the following times.

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Rather oddly though, I’ll have my stage preview out for the next day out by then so just somehow skip past the header image and “today’s recap” if you want it to be kept a secret.

Velogames

For a bit of fun throughout the race I’ve made a Velogames league which you can join with this code “680890716”. No prizes on offer, just pride in beating me. Which really isn’t much of a hard task anyway.

Thanks as always for reading and I would really appreciate a RT on the timeline to spread the previews around a lot more as unfortunately, they just don’t get as much readership as the men’s previews do so any extra you can to do help would be great! Who do you think will win tomorrow, could we see an upset? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2018 Stage 6 Preview: Frontenex › La Rosière Espace San Bernardo

Just a heads up, this preview will be shorter than normal as I have to write for both tomorrow and Sunday’s stage this evening due to me being away this weekend. It also means that in tomorrow’s preview I’ll just be assuming a few things and there will be no “today’s recap”.

Today’s Recap

A strong break went but they were never given too much leeway from Sky and after Bora took the bait, things were close enough once onto the final climb to ensure that a GC rider was going to win the day.

Dan Martin took advantage of a lull in the pace once things regrouped after a Soler attack, with the UAE rider putting in a stinging dig that no one could, or wanted to, match. Geoghegan Hart returned to the head of what was left of the peloton and set tempo for Thomas, before swinging off at roughly 1km to go. The Welshman attacked and only Bardet could follow, but he could only manage to do so for a few hundred metres before swinging off. It left Thomas to chase down Martin on his own and he was slowly reeling him in all the way until the line but it was too late.

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Martin held on for the win with Thomas finishing 4 seconds behind and Yates sprinted out of the pack to round out the podium in third, a further 10 seconds back.

The result means that Thomas moves into Yellow and increases his lead over everyone bar Martin, with nearest challenger Caruso sitting 1’09 down going into the weekend.

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

The Route

A tad over 4000m of climbing in only 110km, this could be interesting. Furthermore, this will pretty much be a carbon copy of stage 11 on this year’s Tour.

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The climbs are long, but none of them are overly steep, with the toughest ascent of the day being the first. You can just read the percentages on the profile, no time for semantics today!

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As for the final climb it starts off easy and finishes easy, it is just the middle third which has quite a high average gradient. Anyone looking to put their rivals into difficulty will need to do so here.

How will the stage pan out?

Pffffft, no idea!

On paper at least, you would imagine that it should be a GC day given the amount of climbing involved but after Thomas’ dominant performance today, some might not be so keen on having their teams chase all day.

Therefore, we’ll need to see some brave and most likely doomed early attacks from the GC contenders, or Sky will just control things all day. The long, steady climbs are perfect for them. It’s then a question of them making it a GC day or not? They don’t need to as they can afford to ride a defensive race, but when has that ever stopped them before?

Or of course, we could see a hail mary, guns-blazing stage where the peloton is down to 20 guys after the first climb.

I do actually think the break has a decent chance tomorrow because of how strong Thomas and Sky looked today. Even if things get crazy on the opening climb the yellow jersey shouldn’t be exposed and I would expect him to have at least 3 team-mates with him when everyone else is down to one or two. Teams will need to be inventive to beat Sky so sending a man up the road can never hurt as they can always act as a bridge for a GC attack late on. Of course, Sky can then play the bluff game and let the gap extend out too far for the man up the road to be made redundant.

To sum up: I don’t know.

As it is more fun to play the breakaway lottery than just say Thomas will win, I’ll do that…

TheBreakawayLottery

Tony Gallopin.

See yesterday’s preview. He was with the main group of GC favourites for a while up the final climb, highlighting he has good form. Bardet couldn’t match Thomas today and it will be a tough ask for him to win the title. Ag2R potentially will change their approach and be aggressive by getting Gallopin up the road.

Guillaume Martin.

Birthday boy, the Wanty rider has impressed me so far and he is definitely one of my favourite Pro-Conti level climbers. He sits a rather awkward 4:15 down on GC so it might cause Sky into chasing but then again, they would fancy reducing the gap on the final climb and he wouldn’t be much of a threat the following day after being in the break all day.

Michael Valgren.

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Yep, you read that right. He’s been super impressive so far this race, staying with Bilbao deep into the climbs. With his team-leader falling away a bit today, the Dane might be given the opportunity to chase his own result tomorrow. He’s a brute of a rider, but when he burst onto the scene he was considered a potential GC rider in the future. Can he roll back the clock? He finished 14th on the similarly short stage in Paris Nice this year.

Dylan Teuns.

The BMC rider just disappeared from the head of the standings on stage 2, where he finished 5 minutes down, and followed that up by coming home 13 minutes behind on stage 4. I thought he could have potentially been ill but a 33rd place today after helping Caruso would suggest that he is either on the mend, or was deliberately losing time. He has the ability to win this tomorrow from a breakaway group.

Short Stages – Overkill?

Just a quick few thoughts on short stages in general.

I can understand where organisers are coming from in trying to put in a short stage here or there to spice things up and throw the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons, but to have three in a row here is just odd and overkill in my opinion. The whole point of having a short stage is so to entice riders into going full gas one day and completely shake up the order of a race. Having more than one in a row means that a rider might be concerned the following stage could be that day so they won’t want to waste their reserves on the wrong day and completely blow up when the action happens. It could, rather ironically, lead to more boring racing if everyone expects a GC raid kind of day and instead just rides defensively.

One of the reasons cycling is so interesting to follow in my opinion is the wide variety of stage you can get, but these short days are all “samey”. I’m a fan of them occasionally, but just not this much!

Prediction

The birthday boy to win. Allez Guillaume! (for the second time this race)

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Betting

1pt GMartin @ 25/1

0.5pt Gallopin @ 125/1

0.5pt Valgren @ 100/1

0.5pt Teuns @ 300/1

Thanks as always for reading, who do you think will win tomorrow? How will the stage pan out? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2018 Stage 5 Preview: Grenoble › Valmorel

Today’s Recap

A crazy start to the stage saw no break go for over 50km before the elastic eventually snapped. Cataldo forged on alone and bravely held off the bunch, only to be cruelly caught within the final kilometre. It was actually blog pick Guillaume Martin who kicked off the action in the GC group and he managed to get a bit of a gap over what remained over the peloton. However, Latour came to the front and pulled like crazy before the other Martin (Dan) set off in pursuit. It was a stinging attack that only a handful could follow but he almost rode with some inexperience as he just kept riding on the front which set things up perfectly in the sprint to the line for eventual stage winner Alaphilippe.

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Dan Martin finished in second with Thomas rounding out the day’s podium, with Bardet completing the quartet that finished together.

Interestingly, Kwiatkowski was dropped a little on the run in so it is Moscon who takes over yellow jersey duties, with the Pole and Thomas just 6 seconds back. Sky still very much in the driving seat for this race then. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

It is the easiest of the 4 days in the mountains when looking at the climbing metres, as there are only 2600m of ascent throughout the 130km stage.

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The day starts off with the Cat-2 climb of Côte de Naysord which averages 8.5% for 3.7km. It’s then followed by a false-flat plateau before the Cols des Mouilles which is another short but sharp climb, averaging 7.2% for 3.8km. They’ll then face my favourite oxymoron a rolling plateau, before the road eventually heads downwards after roughly 27km. Given the testing start, I’m sure plenty of riders will be on the rollers!

It is then pretty much flat all day until the final climb of Valmorel.

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A very steady climb that should suit those that can get into a rhythm, the length and gradients do favour a more traditional mountain goat to go well too though. It should be an interesting battle between the two different types of GC riders we have here.

How will the stage pan out?

With a frantic day today and knowing what is to come, I’m sure some in the bunch will want an easier afternoon out tomorrow. Will they get that?

Well, it really depends on the approach of two teams: Sky and AG2R.

Personally I think Sky will want to keep their powder dry for the weekend as their domestiques will need to defend a lot on the tough stages we have so any extra energy saved will be very useful. But then again, once through the first 30km, tomorrow is easy up until the final climb so it will only need a couple of riders making tempo to keep things in check. AG2R showed today that they are willing to ride for Bardet and tomorrow’s finish climb on paper suits him more than what we had today. The same question can be asked of them though, will they want to save some energy for some crazy racing at the weekend?

There is then of course the chance that it takes 50km for the break to form again at which point we’ll only have 80km left and not long for the morning move to get an advantage. That will then possibly entice teams into pulling to bring them back, who originally might not have if the break went within the first 30km.

It’s another stage that is a coin toss for me in terms of if a break makes it or not. I could easily argue for either case, which I kind of have done above. Got myself in a right tizz here deciding what will happen!

Hmm, I’ll go with the break sticking, but it really needs to form early-ish and for no-one to be within 5/6 minutes on GC so that Sky take their foot off the gas, which unfortunately means no Guillaume Martin, shame. Time to play that game again…

TheBreakawayLottery

Tony Gallopin.

If AG2R don’t want to help chase all day then the best thing for them to do is get a rider into the morning move and sit back in the peloton while the others do the work. Gallopin is far enough down not to be a real GC threat but he is a good enough climber and rouleur to make it stick from the break. He had a very strong start to the year but he has since struggled to be at his best and his performance in Paris Nice was disappointing due to an illness he picked up. With his sights set on the Tour, he will want to show well here.

Peter Kennaugh.

He missed the opening part of the season due to a “physical and psychological issue” after his jaunt in Australia but he returned to racing in Romandie. Since then, he has shown no real sign of form but has stated that his legs are returning to what they used to be like. If he wants to make the Bora Tour squad then he needs to deliver a big performance at this race and tomorrow looks the stage best suited to him. Who can forget his win from the break up Alpe d’Huez in this race last year?

Jelle Vanendert.

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The Lotto Soudal rider was fourth on that day but this season seems to be going much better for him, he has been in a rich vein of form in the past couple of months. His lowest finishing position in the Ardennes was 11th place, which included a podium finish in Fleche. After taking a month off racing, he returned at the recent Tour of Belgium and won the queen stage there. The climb at the end of tomorrow’s stage might be too long for him normally but it all depends on who he is up against, I expect Lotto Soudal to be attacking anyway.

Lucas Hamilton.

The neo-pro has impressed me a lot so far in his outings this year with a good showing in Coppi e Bartali his best result. He finished 2nd at the Baby Giro last year and followed it up with a 4th place at the Tour de l’Avenir: he is talented, that’s for sure. A pure climber it would seem, if he manages to infiltrate a break made up mostly of rouleurs then he has a good shot of taking a stunning win.

GC Contenders

If we don’t see a break make it then it is hard to see past a Bardet v Thomas battle for the stage. Both have looked strong and I could make arguments for both on this terrain but I would side with Thomas in his current shape. We could possibly see Alaphilippe competing for the win given that it is only one big climb but I think he’ll just fall short. I’m preparing to eat my words here tomorrow afternoon.

Prediction

AG2R to win the day, but it will be Gallopin from the break who will be victorious.

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Betting

Unsure as to how tomorrow will go so just making a play on the breakers. Will look in-play for GC riders if it is going to be the stage honours for them.

0.6pt WIN Gallopin @ 125/1

0.3pt WIN Vanendert @ 300/1

0.2pt WIN Hamilton @ 500/1

0.3pt WIN Kennaugh @ 300/1

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2018 Stage 4 Preview: Chazey-sur-Ain › Lans-en-Vercors

Today’s Recap

A group of blokes went faster, much, much faster than the other groups of blokes. Sky were even more dominant than I thought they would be today, beating BMC by 38 seconds with third placed team Lotto Soudal coming home 53 seconds behind.

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Annoyingly Mitchelton finished 3 seconds down on Soudal in the end to make it an abysmal afternoon. Looking at the split times, it would appear they went out too fast and suffered for it in the end. Oh well, moving on, again!

Team Sky are now in a very strong position GC wise with 4 competent climbers occupying the 1-4 spots in the standings. There is still plenty of racing left though for some to challenge them so let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders on stage 4.

The Route

Tomorrow marks the start of 4 days in the mountains for the riders.

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With 3200m of elevation, it isn’t the toughest test they will face this week but the stage is back loaded with climbing. Don’t expect much to happen until around the 55km to go mark when the ascent of the Col u Mont Noir begins. Arguably one of the toughest climbs in the race, it averages just under 7% for 17.5km.

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As you can see the climb is quite irregular with the percentage of each kilometre constantly changing, but it does mostly stay between the 6-9% range. The toughest gradients come in the middle third of the ascent so if there is any major damage to be done, this will be the place, as it gets slightly easier near the top.

A fast descent follows before the road goes up in steps towards the finish. The initial uncategorised drag is 9.5km at 3.5%, before the oxymoronic rolling-plateau, which is followed by the final climb to the finish line.

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Depending on how aggressively the previous part of the race has been approached, the 4.8km at 7.5% climb could see some GC splits but it is most likely to bear witness to a group of favourites coming to the line together.

How will the race pan out?

There are significant time gaps in the GC after today’s TTT but that was almost expected!

I’ll be intrigued to see if anyone throws the kitchen sink at it tomorrow because there are still three very hard stages to come on Friday through Sunday. Tomorrow’s stage is the most traditional mountain stage as well, coming in at 181km whereas the other remaining days are 130km or less. A lot is expected of these short stages from the organisers and the press, so there is a chance that teams already have one eye on them and might not risk everything tomorrow.

With that said though, Col du Mont Noir is arguably the hardest climb in the race so a lot of riders can be put into difficulty there. The only issue with that is a team will need a good few domestiques left to push the pace on the uncategorised drag and rolling terrain before the final climb itself. If not, it is just a wasted effort.

Sky might play it defensively, knowing what is to come, particularly on Saturday and Sunday but then again, they could be aggressive and send someone on the attack and force other teams to chase. That’s quite unlike them though.

I would love to see someone attack from far out, let’s say Dan Martin for example, but I just think it would be a foolish move to make with tricky valley roads and climbs to negotiate before the actual finish climb.

Therefore I think we’ll see a fairly controlled pace on Mont Noir from Sky, keeping things together going into last ascent. At just under 5km they should have enough firepower to hold things together for the majority of the ascent too and it might be in the final kilometre that we see an attack from a GC rider. Even if they break the Sky stranglehold, they won’t gain more than 15 seconds on them there. It could even come down to a 5-6 GC rider sprint, as I alluded to before.

There is a chance that the break makes it all the way tomorrow but it all depends on how determined Sky are to bring it back together, or if they keep it on a tight-ish leash, who takes the bait and works in the final 40km.

If so, some names to look out for include De Gendt (obviously), Cummings (needs a good performance at some point this race), Gaudu (if he’s recovered from his hand injury), G. Martin (if someone high-up-ish on GC wants to get into the move).

GC Battle

I don’t think anything will come to fruition on Mont Noir so it will all come down to the final climb and we’ll either see a controlled pace from Sky that will lead to an all out last kilometre, or, there will be attacks at the bottom that possibly might be let go dependant on how far down the rider is on GC. Then again, Sky aren’t known for letting that happen too much in races so most likely they’ll be brought back for an all out battle in the final kilometre.

Well, looks like it will be an all out battle in the final kilometre then…

Alaphilippe – If the pace on MN isn’t high then he is stage favourite as a 5km climb is no issue for him, it is when back to back climbs are taken at pace that I worry for him. In a sprint to the line it will be tough for any GC guy to beat him.

Yates – Possibly the only rider here confident of going against Alaphilippe in an uphill sprint on a climb, the Mitchelton rider is very explosive when needed. He’s slowly been building his form looking ahead to the Tour. Can he produce what his brother did in the Giro?

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D. Martin – He’s been awful this year, I’m not going to beat around the bush. Having only managed to top 10s all season, a big result is needed this race for a confidence booster. Normally this finish would be ideal for the Irishman.

Thomas – I think he’s flying at the moment and would not be surprised to see him win tomorrow. He would have won the prologue and he was strong today in the TTT – it will be interesting to see how that relates to climbing legs though.

Bardet – The rider everyone will be watching, he has said he is here to win the race. Currently sitting 1’52 behind Kwiatkowski, some of that deficit needs to be cut tomorrow. Capable of a stinging uphill attack, he has a good chance.

Zakarin – Will we see a #ZakAttack? With the uphill finish he will certainly fancy it compared to some of the days that are filled with treacherous descents. At 2 minutes down, he won’t be immediately marked.

Prediction

The remnants of the break to make it all the way with Guillaume Martin taking a surprising stage win after beating De Gendt on the final climb.

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Maybe, who knows.

GC wise, Thomas to stamp his authority on the race.

Betting

De Gendt too short for my liking so

1pt WIN G Martin @ 66/1

1pt WIN Gaudu @ 40/1 (hoping he’s recovered from his crash)

Might back a GC rider in-play.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2018 Stage 3 Preview: Pont-de-Vaux › Louhans-Châteaurenaud

Today’s Recap

Despite the spirited attempts of morning breakee Stalnov, we ended up with a reduced bunch sprint this afternoon of around 80 riders. After coming home third on yesterday’s stage, Ackermann made amends and proved what a good talent he is, taking home a rather commanding victory.

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A rejuvenated Boasson Hagen sprinted for second place with Stage 1 winner Impey coming home in third. A result that puts the Mitchelton rider into Yellow for tomorrow.

Speaking of yellow jersey’s, the previous leader of the race Kwiatkowski crashed within the final 2km today and sustained some superficial injuries but nothing too serious it would seem. It might have a bit of an effect in the coming days though but who knows.

As for the blog pick Teunissen he finished in the second group, possibly suffering from some of the illness that is floating around the Sunweb camp. No idea why I didn’t pick Ackermann or Impey though as I said in yesterday’s preview it was hard to see past them, sometimes I just make weird decisions!

Anyway, let’s move on and have a look at what is in store for the riders and a day which will shake the GC up a bit.

The Route

An almost pan-flat, dead-straight team time trial course awaits the riders.

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They start in the town of Pont-de-Vaux and head in a north-east direction towards Louhans-Chateaurenaud.

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At just under 35km it mimics the distance they will face in the Tour in a months time, so it will be a good test in race conditions for the teams.

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There is a slightly tricky finish that awaits the riders but aside from that there is nothing else to talk about route wise. It is a pretty straight forward day out in the saddle: go as fast as you can for the whole course!

Weather Watch

Often a TT or TTT can be decided by varying weather conditions but it appears that the majority of the teams will get the same treatment tomorrow so there should be no surprises due to stronger winds at one point in the day etc.

There is potential for a tiny spot of rain but it will only be a very short shower, while the wind looks set to remain a constant ~13km/h gentle breeze from the south – meaning a slight cross tailwind for the run. It does turn around slightly for those later on which might mean a little bit more a tailwind, but it shouldn’t be much.

Contenders

Team Sky.

After their strong display in the prologue, it would appear that Sky have got over their Giro TT bleep and returned to their early season dominance of efforts against the clock. Saying that, they did only manage to come third in the TTT at Tirreno so they aren’t unbeatable. Looking at their squad though they have a team full of guys who can push a big gear on the flat, with Geoghegan Hart being the only passenger but even then he delivered a good individual performance in California. They start as the favourites but they’ll need to get through an afternoon where they all stay on their bikes, the lack of corners tomorrow will help them…

Mitchelton Scott.

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A surprise second place in Tirreno, the team of the current race leader have a solid squad but it does look weaker than their effort in Tirreno, I think. They’ve swapped out big TT engines such as Durbridge and Bauer and although they’ve been replaced by strong riders like Edmondson and Howson, I don’t think they are as good in a TT. However with that said, they did take home the Hammer Series TTT with a squad that included Impey, Howson and Hamilton, all of whom are here. On that day they beat a fairly strong BMC by almost a minute. Write them off at your peril! I certainly won’t and I have somewhat changed my mind throughout this section. Hmmmmm. Going off last will give them the advantage of knowing their splits compared to the other teams.

BMC.

The TTT Kings: there are few team efforts against the clock that these guys don’t win and it would be a shock to see them not fighting for the top step of the podium tomorrow. However, their squad here looks to be more of a “B-team” as they are missing several of their star TT riders. I think this is the first TTT in a while where I’ve not been convinced that they will win it. Nonetheless, as a team they are the best at the discipline and therefore can’t be discounted.

Quick Step.

An outfit made up of strong, powerful riders but with no stand-out TT guy then they will need to rider very cohesively as a unit. A lot of pressure will be on the shoulders of Jungels, Terpstra and Alaphilippe. Normally a danger for a podium spot, I think it will be hard for them to go any further than that tomorrow.

Lotto Jumbo.

Really hit or miss, who knows what Jumbo will turn up tomorrow. With the likes of Boom, Van Emden and Powless they should be able to deliver a good time but a podium would be a very good result, I’ll be shocked if they did any better.

I think the 5 teams listed above should be the top 5 on the day but there is room for the likes of Jumbo to replaced by their Lotto counterpart but that’s about it.

Prediction

A battle between Sky, BMC and Mitchelton for the win, they are the best teams here. I’ve almost made a complete U-turn with how I felt about Mitchelton before the start of this but I’m sticking to my guns, Sky will win.

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As was shown in the prologue, they have the best strength in-depth and equipment for this type of effort. Unless of course Thomas and Kwiatkowski are feeling a bit worse for wear after their crashes then one of the other two has a good chance of taking the win so step up Mitchelton in that case.

Betting

4pts Mitchelton Top 3 at 4/1

6pts Mitchelton to beat Lotto Soudal at 5/6

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think wins tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2018 Stage 2 Preview: Montbrison › Belleville en Beaujolais

Today’s Recap

The morning break of three never had a chance and it was actually Vital Concept who kept them in check before Quick Step came to help out later on. The gap tumbled and the break was caught once we were onto the circuit. On the final ascent Teuns launched a probing attack but was reeled in, however, Alaphilippe then launched a strong counter that was followed by race-leader Kwiatkowski. That move was then neutralised and a greatly reduced bunch plummeted down towards the final kilometre. There were a few more probing attacks but none of them got much leeway and things were set up for a sprint.

Alaphilippe opened it up early but he was no match for Impey who surged passed the Quick Step rider and took a very dominant win. It looked easy for him in the end!

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Ackermann rounded out the podium which was a very impressive result from him, much better than team-mate McCarthy. As for blog pick Kwiatkowski, it looked as if he just ran out of steam and didn’t have the kick to match the others at the finish, possibly paying for his earlier efforts. Interestingly, we didn’t see anything of Impey until the final few hundred metres, he hid away perfectly, conserving energy and going all in for the sprint. Risky but ultimately smart riding. Can he double up tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Another rolling day that is littered with a few climbs in the second half of the stage.

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With 2300m of climbing it is similar to today’s stage in that regard but the finish is much easier. The climbs aren’t overly difficult but the majority of them are longer than what they faced today. You can see their lengths and gradients on the profile above.

Arguably the toughest ascent of the day is the Col du Fût d’Avenas which so happens to be the last categorised climb.

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It will be a fairly steady effort for the riders though and the Cat-3 ranking might be a bit generous – it’s no Spanish or Italian Cat-3, that’s for sure!

With the peak coming at just under 30km to go, the riders will face a long descent that is interspersed with a few kickers and plateaus. They don’t really stop descending until the final 4km of the day.

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A fairly simple run in but a double roundabout just under the flamme rouge will line things out and it is important to not be too far back here.

How will the stage pan out?

If today was one for the puncheurs, then tomorrow does look more like a traditional sprint, with the flat run to the line. However, given that the riders pretty much climb/descend for 70km before a drawn out descent to the line, then we could see some of the sprinters put into difficulty. It all depends on who sets the pace on the ascents.

There is more of a chance that the break makes it compared to today’s stage in my opinion. This afternoon we saw Sky happy to take a back seat and I think they will adopt a similar approach tomorrow, letting other teams chase it down for a stage win. If no one takes full control then Sky might just ride tempo and not let things get silly, knowing that they will more than likely take the time back on whoever is up the road later on in the week.

I think we’ll once again see Vital Concept take to the front to try to control things but they will need better luck (Reza’s crash today) and more numbers with COquard in the finale to set him up well. Likewise, we saw Quick Step help to control things today and they will probably chase for either Jakobsen, riding fairly slowly, or they will try and make things difficult to set up Alaphilippe. It will be interesting to see if Mitchelton and Bora now help with pace setting as Impey was imperious today and has a good chance of going into yellow and of course Ackermann was a bit of a surprise package in third, with tomorrow seemingly suiting him more.

Contenders and Pretenders

I’ve pretty much just listed the majority of them above!

Impey – Clearly in great shape just now, we might see Mitchelton drill it in an attempt to reduce the bunch down to a similar size to what we had today. Has a good chance of doubling up.

Coquard – Disappointing today after his team did a lot of the hard work. He should be able to cope with the climbs but will need someone to help lead him out in the finish, I don’t trust his wheel surfing abilities.

Alaphillipe – Needs it tough but has a chance if that’s the case. Can’t afford to waste energy with pointless attacks.

Jakobsen – Needs it to be an ok tempo, otherwise he will be dropped.

Bauhaus – Will be dropped.

Teunissen – My dark horse as I expect him to be sprinting instead of the aforementioned Bauhaus. He was very impressive at the start of the year and seems to be finally delivering on some of the potential he showed early in his career.

Kwiatkowski – See Alaphillipe.

Boasson Hagen – Form seems a bit iffy but he is not a million miles off. Normally he should contend.

Keukeleire – In great form at the moment, he will need it to be selective but he will fancy his chances in a flat sprint against the guys here.

Break Candidate(s)

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A nice and more than likely deliberate 6’46 time loss for De Gendt today. Expect to see him out there tomorrow, along with the likes of Teklehaimanot and Brandle. 

Prediction

Things will most likely come back for a reduced sprint and it will be hard to see past Impey and Ackermann after today’s showing. Yet, I’ll go for a bit of a surprise result with Teunissen winning the gallop.

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He seems to be coming into form at the moment with a good result in the prologue and a commendable 9th place today. Watching back the sprint from this afternoon he kicked and looked to be coming up the inside but was blocked off and had to sit back in the saddle before stamping on the pedals again. As he crossed the line he shook his head, I think he knows a better result was possible with good positioning. If he can follow the right wheel, I think he can surprise from an 80 rider group…

Betting

1pt EW Teunissen @ 40/1

 

I would have backed TDG if he was 20+ but anything less than that is too short.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.