Tour de France 2018 Stage 21 Preview: Houilles -> Paris Champs-Élysées

Short preview as who can really be bothered to read/write about tomorrow’s processional affair!

Today’s Recap

Three of the strongest riders throughout the race fought out for the stage win while one faded. Dumoulin took home the day, beating Froome by a second.

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Both of them were down on Thomas through the intermediate time checks, ceding 12 seconds to the GC leader. However, he slowed down in the final third. Either to coast home and take it safe, or because he thought Froome was going to win the stage? There was a lot of money being traded on Betfair even when he was smashing it, maybe someone knew something? That might be a conspiracy theory to consider for a few days and tide us over until San Sebastian!

This is where I probably have to put in some type of disclaimer so yeah, please don’t sue me, I’m poor: it’s just a joke.

Fair play to Thomas on winning the overall, he has been at a consistently high level all season. It reminds me very much of Wiggins in 2012 and Froome in 2015, Vuelta next for him?

Anyway, let’s have a look at what awaits the riders tomorrow.

The Route

A little scenic commute through some Parisien suburbs before the race heads into the centre and to the famous Champs-Élysées finish.

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If you’re a cycling fan then you know the score for tomorrow, if not, well, here’s an image.

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Few turns in the closing couple of kilometres that includes a very sweeping S-bend that leads onto the final straight. Potentially dangerous if the cobbles are wet, thankfully for the riders it looks as if it will be a dry afternoon/evening, albeit cloudy.

Contenders

We could see a late attack stick for the first time in a while here. Although I am not discrediting it completely there will need to a barrage of constant attacks from strong riders to wear down the sprint teams. However, I think they will have enough motivation and there will be enough firepower to bring things back. Maybe. A big afternoon from Big T will be needed!

Démare – Will be confident after his win the other day. He was strong but certainly not unbeatable.

Kristoff – Disappointed not to have the legs but he has been close on numerous occasions. Needs to be in the perfect position to win but seeing as he has to go free-style, this is unlikely.

Sagan – Has he recovered from his crash? If so he will be up there fighting and probably winning. If not, he’ll just roll home and take the Green jersey.

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Laporte – Felt he got hampered by Demare’s slight drift on stage 18 but it looked like the Cofidis rider just didn’t have enough speed to beat him. Nonetheless, he did seem to be in good shape and he can’t be discounted.

Degenkolb – Has the luxury of the best lead-out rider in the race with Stuyven, he just needs to stick to his wheel. If Stuyven drives through that last S-bend and leaves his team-mate in the perfect position, he will be hard to beat.

Colbrelli – His chance to shine? He was too far back the other day but given the weakened field he would like to think he might sneak the win. It will be tough on a flat finish like this though.

Boasson Hagen  – A bit disappointing so far this race but he did finish 4th the other day. One of the more experienced sprinters here, has he saved some energy to go full gas tomorrow?

Cort – Will he be given the opportunity to sprint now that his GC duties are over? He was exceptionally strong when winning after a hilly break away on stage 15. Having won the final stage in Madrid before, can he repeat it in Paris?

Theuns / Arndt – A similar situation for the two Sunweb riders who no longer are on Dumoulin duty. No idea who would sprint but on a flatter effort like tomorrow I would suggest that Theuns is faster. He could be a dark horse for a podium on the day.

I’ve probably missed someone so apologies if I have, I’m tired.

Prediction

I’ll go with a bit of a surprise win but I think Magnus Cort might be one of the freshest sprinters left in the race and that will play a big part in tomorrow. The Dane to double up and repeat his Vuelta final stage win!

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Thank You

A big thanks to everyone has read the previews over the past three weeks, old and new readers, it has been some journey. Seeing everyone return every day really helps me to continue with the grind. I maybe (definitely) didn’t always choose the winner but I hope that my slightly flamboyant and different take on the day’s racing has been enjoyable to read.

FRODO

Here comes the shameless self promotion bit…

If you have enjoyed the previews and want to show some appreciation with more than words then you can “Buy Me A Beer” via this link. Considering the amount of words and content I have put out, I think it is quite a fair deal to be honest. 😉

Betting

1pt EW Cort @ 16/1

0.5pt EW Theuns @ 300/1

Don’t know who will be sprinting for Sunweb but I’ll take the risk on Eddie at that price.

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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Tour de France 2018 Stage 20 Preview: Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle -> Espelette

Today’s Recap

Guess they were saving the best until last?

Really enjoyable stage to watch that had a bit of everything. Both of the nominated riders (Jungels and Nieve) made the early break but because Jungels was there, Katusha decided to chase and keep it close before launching Zakarin on the Tourmalet. Landa, Bardet and Majka followed and they eventually bridged to the original break of the day. Attacks flew from both the break and the peloton on the trio of climbs but things would ultimately end up with a group of 10 cresting the last ascent together.

Roglic really piled on the pressure on the descent and the elastic eventually snapped, with the Slovenian taking the stage win and leap-frogging Froome onto the podium.

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Thomas came home in second to take even more time on Dumoulin with Bardet rounding out the podium for the day. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the rider’s tomorrow.

The Route

TT day and the last chance for a GC shake-up.

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A quick glance at the official profile would make you think that the TT has some mountains in it but the climbs are exaggerated a little. However, it is a very rolling day in the saddle and certainly not one for the typical TT powerhouse riders, well, the non-GC TT powerhouses.

As is tradition, I’ve made my own Strava/Veloviewer profile that you can view here.

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As you can see, it can certainly be described as rolling but almost more importantly the road seems to be constantly twisting. It might make it more difficult for some to maintain their tempo.

Facing a 1.2km climb that averages 6% only a few hundred metres into the day will set the tone for the riders. There are several more drags of 4-6% throughout the route but they only last for a few hundred metres. The biggest challenge they will face is the Col de Pinodiéta.

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On narrow roads the steep climb is followed by a quick descent and only a shade over 1km of flat to the line, although it does drag from around 400m to go.

Contenders

Has anyone in the peloton been saving themself for this effort? Possibly, but given the course and the way that the GC men are flying then I don’t think anyone else has a chance. Look at the final TT in the Vuelta last year for example. It was fairly easy with nowhere near as rolling a parcours as we have tomorrow and the top 5 on that day were the current top 5 on GC. I think we will see something similar here.

Tom Dumoulin.

Current TT World Champion, he is a class act when it comes to the time trial bike. He’s looked strong throughout this whole race which is a surprise to me as I thought his Giro exploits would have taken something out of him. Still, he finds himself too far back to win the title so the big battle will be with Roglic and Froome for the podium positions and potential order. He was a little disappointing in the Giro TT and I think he might disappoint a little tomorrow too. His words after the stage made him sound like he was a rider right on the limit and with the way others were going today, I don’t see him winning the stage. At least we’ll get to see his very nice aero position!

Primoz Roglic.

The silver medalist at those TT Worlds last year, he produced a blinder of a descent to take the stage today. It wasn’t just on the descent that he looked strong though as he put attack after attack on the climbs today. He wasn’t explosive enough to fully distance everyone but his good legs were clear for all to see. One of the best in the World at this discipline combined with his scintillating form, he starts the stage as favourite in my opinion.

Chris Froome.

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He’s looked even more ragged than normal over the past couple of days but he is still within touching distance of the podium. If there is anyone who can turn around their form in the peloton, it is him. Given what I have seen from him in recent stages I think he will fall short and not finish on the podium. However, I have been wrong about him in the past when I thought he was dead and buried, the TT at the 2016 Vuelta springs to mind.

Geraint Thomas.

Barring accident or any major (probably need several) mechanicals tomorrow, the Welshman has the GC wrapped up. The strongest rider in the race by far, he has fully taken advantage of his early GC position, just having to follow most of the attacks. However, he has shown with his two stage wins that he certainly has more in his locker than just the ability to attack. Will he want to push it and go for a third stage win in yellow? I think so.

Sky could quite easily put 5 riders in the top 10 with Castroviejo, Kwiatkowski and Bernal all potential challengers. Then look to the likes of Küng, Bodnar and Latour to make up the rest of the spots at the top of the order but I can’t see any of them winning it.

Prediction

The freshest rider in the race wins, Geraint Thomas crowns his Tour victory with a third stage.

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Roglic surpasses Dumoulin for second place on GC with the Dutchman just holding onto third.

Betting

2pts WIN Thomas @ 5/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Tour de France 2018 Stage 19 Preview: Lourdes -> Laruns

Today’s Recap

Fair play to FDJ and UAE, they set their stall out early and didn’t let a strong 5-man break get more than two minutes while also not allowing anyone else across to them. Very high speeds in the closing 10kms didn’t give anyone hoping for a late attack a chance. The run in was pretty chaotic with a lot of bumping and barging but thankfully everyone stayed on their bikes. Stuyven did a massive turn form around 800 to 400m to go, stringing the bunch out massively. Yet, when he peeled off and turned around Degenkolb was not in the first few riders, much to his disappointment as you could physically see him look round a couple of times. That set things up perfectly for Guarnieri to drop Démare off at 150m to go and despite a late-charge from Laporte, the FDJ rider secured the win an repaid the faith his team had in him.

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Kristoff trailed home in third but he never really had the legs to compete for the win. Anyway, moving on to what should be a more exciting afternoon…

The Route

Queen stage time as the riders will face three famous peaks throughout the day.

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This is a very tough day with roughly 5000m of ascent throughout the afternoon. A few easy Cat-4 climbs will whet the appetite and possibly see the break go, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see things still together at the foot of the Col d’Aspin (12km at 6.5). Straight after the Aspin the riders descend for roughly 12kms before the climbing becomes in earnest again with this year’s Souvenir Jacques Goddet, the Col du Tourmalet.

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There’s not really much to say about the Tourmalet, it is one of cycling’s iconic climbs. The steeper later 2/3rds could certainly see a thinning of the bunch and we might just be left with the GC favourites and 6 Sky riders at the top…

A long 40km descent follows before a triple-header of climbs awaits the riders, although officially only two of them are categorised.

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The average gradients of each climb individually aren’t too bad, although the Col du Soulur averages a shade over 8% for 7kms which is possibly steep enough to cause issues. Will anyone attack then though with the easier gradients of the Aubisque to follow, before it ramps up again? If they’re serious of their title challenge then they have to!

A long 20km descent sees the riders home and those willing to take risks could gain a fair bit of time as there some very technical sections on the downhill.

Team Tactics

With this being the last open road stage that decides the General Classification then plenty of riders will want to try to vault their way up the standings. We’ll start to see teams ride for someone’s 10th place finish which is quite infuriating to watch at times but I guess it is understandable. Then there is the team classification to consider as well which Movistar currently lead by a fairly comfortable margin (24’20) but they can’t exactly let a large break get up the road that includes three Bahrain riders so they will probably try to get someone ahead for their own gain too.

That then leads to their race plan, because with Quintana strong when winning the other day it would make sense for him to give it a go at some point tomorrow, however, how bad are his injuries from today? The Tourmalet looks to be the place where he can make the biggest difference but he will definitely need team-mates up ahead who can pace him up at least some of the following ascents. Valverde again? If that becomes the case then Astana might ride to defend Fuglsang’s 10th. See, things can get very tactical tomorrow with many riders focussed on different objectives.

We then have the Team Sky conundrum, although after stage 17 is it really a conundrum? Thomas looks the strongest but one thing I have learnt over the past few years is to never discount Froome. I would like to see him attacking to put Dumoulin and Roglic into trouble while the current race leader can just follow the wheels then attack himself if he feels he needs to.

Break or no break?

That depends again on who makes the morning move and who then has to defend what behind. I think we’ll definitely see a few riders in the 10-18th GC placings try to make the move so that they can chase both chase a stage win but move up a few places in the standings.

Team Sky will be happy to let most of them go as they pose no real threat and they would be able to keep the gap controlled reasonably well. Therefore, it is over to the team’s of Dumoulin and Roglic that will decide if the break makes it all the way to the line or not. If they have some riders up the road and attack early on the Tourmalet then it will be a GC winner come the end of the stage. However, I think with Team Sky’s dominance they won’t want to risk it – finishing on the podium of the Tour is a great achievement after all. I would like to see a rogue Froome repeat his Giro antics though, just for the patter. It is stage 19 after all…

Two’s Company

I think we’ll see a breakaway win tomorrow but it will have to be a strong climber who stays away. There are two riders I want to highlight as possible contenders and this is certainly not an extensive list, but I think they might have a good chance.

Bob Jungels.

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The Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner has kind of floated his way through the race, just being in the background almost, but he finds himself sitting in 13th place on GC, 14’20 down on Thomas. I’m sure he would be happy with that result at the end of the race but it’s not exactly as memorable as a stage win would be. He’s obviously going quite well if he is up in the GC standings and there would only be a few that could beat him from a break. Could we see an aggressive Quick Step tomorrow as they send the two room-mates up the road, with Alaphilippe working for Jungels while also securing the KOM competition at the same time? Jungels is a competent descender so he won’t fear the end of the day.

Prediction

I’ve had this stage circled for this rider for a while now though and I’m sticking to my guns. Mikel Nieve was very close to his first Tour stage win back on stage 11 but was cruelly caught in the last kilometre. At the Giro he was one of the strongest climbers in the final week and I expect the same from him tomorrow.

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He’s been quiet the past few stages, not making the break on a couple of days that might have suited him. Has he targeted this day all along?

Betting

2pts WIN Nieve @ 20/1

1pt WIN Jungels @ 66/1

Thanks as always for reading and apologies if some of this doesn’t make a great deal of sense, think the heat is getting to me. Who do you think is going to win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2018 Stage 18 Preview: Trie-sur-Baïse -> Pau

Today’s Recap

Shock horror, the grid start was terrible. Nothing exciting really happened from it and nothing great really happened until the final climb. A group of attackers had got away on the opening ascent and it was Tanel Kangert who was the last man standing out of them. However, he was swallowed up and past on the climb by a flying Nairo Quintana. The Colombian followed an initial attack by Dan Martin and dropped the Irishman not long after that move. However, Martin dug in deep and stayed almost consistently 20 seconds behind the Movistar man. With a lot of small attacks followed by looking around and Sky tempo in the Yellow Jersey group, the duo stayed ahead to finish 1-2 on the day.

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Thomas came home in third place after following Roglic’s late attack, before going on to drop the Slovenian and Dumoulin. One of the big shocks of the afternoon was Froome struggling with the reigning champion losing 45 seconds on his team-mate. Bardet also had a “jour sans” and dropped three places in the GC.

It should be a rest day for the overall candidates tomorrow though as a flat day in the saddle awaits.

The Route

Pretty dull day for the viewers with only two Cat-4 climbs on the route.

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I mean there’s not really much to talk about here at all. The final categorised climb that crests with just under 19km to go could be a springboard for an attack but that’s about it!

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There are a few roundabouts to contend with in the closing five kilometres, including one as they just pass under the Flamme Rouge.

As you can see on the video above though, that given the wide roads the roundabouts aren’t really a massive issue. That is assuming we even get a sprint though…

How will the stage pan out?

With Sagan taking a tumble today there is a chance that he will just want an easier day tomorrow, especially when you consider he already has three stage wins under his belt and the green jersey sewn up: if he makes it to Paris. Démare has really struggled these past few days and no doubt will be knackered so will FDJ pull all day for a sprint that he might not win? Ironically with the two better sprinters on paper not in tip-top shape it might actually encourage a few other teams to try to control the break in an effort to set up their man. Maybe Kristoff can nab that win he so desires?

However, I think the likelihood is that we will see a break make it all the way to the line tomorrow as no one will have the energy to chase them down. I’m not too sure if it will be one of those massive breaks that gets let go and the group might be surprisingly small, but you never know. I think it might be 10-12 riders who sneak away.

Time to play everyone’s favourite game again…

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Break Candidates

It will be interesting to see who gives it a nudge to go in the break tomorrow as the flat route could bring some new names to the fore as the puncheurs take a back seat and wait for Friday. So here goes nothing…

Maciej Bodnar.

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Strong the other day to help pull the break along for his team-mates, the easier terrain should suit him down to the ground. A powerful rider who is often seen at the front of the bunch pacing the peloton, will we see him ahead of the bunch tomorrow? I imagine Bora will be in an attacking mood if Sagan is feeling sore.

 

Thomas De Gendt.

Mr Breakaway, this morning De Gendt talked about having a quieter day  before having a tilt at tomorrows stage as he thinks the sprint teams will be too tired to control the race. He was on the fruitless attempt when Sagan won his last stage but any move that he makes is dangerous. With Stage 19 possibly too difficult for him, tomorrow is his last chance for a win and he’ll go all in.

Oliver Naesen.

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With Bardet struggling today, Naesen might be given a free role in a stage that suits him as one of the strongest barodeurs in the peloton. He’s barely had a chance to show what he is capable of so far in this race and as a result he might want to put on a good performance. If it comes down to a 5 rider sprint he will take his chances.

Julien Vermote.

Dimension Data have had a terrible race so far with no real result to speak of. They could possibly look to a sprint with Boasson Hagen tomorrow but going on the offensive is their best chance. Vermote is another one of the peloton’s strong men so getting into the flat break should suit him well. When he gets into situations like this he is quite tenacious so expect him to ride in an attacking manner.

Prediction

No firepower left to set up the sprint and the breakaway maestro takes another Tour stage win. Step up Thomas De Gendt!

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Betting

0.75pt WN De Gendt @ 100/1

0.75pt WIN Naesen @ 100/1

0.25pt WIN Bodnar @ 300/1

0.25pt WIN Vermote @ 500/1

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think has a chance tomorrow? Will the sprinters come to the fore or will the break succeed? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2018 Stage 17 Preview: Bagnères-de-Luchon › Saint-Lary-Soulan

Today’s Recap

Bit of a mad start to the day with a farmer’s protest that saw some riders get sprayed by pepper spray inadvertently by the gendarmerie after they attempted to restrain the farmers. The race was consequently neutralised for around 15 minutes before the action started again. However, it wasn’t until 100km into the day that the break finally went. Well I say break but it was more a splintered peloton as 47 riders were involved.

Things whittled down over the climbs and by the time we crested the last ascent of the day Yates held a gap of around 20 seconds over Alaphilippe, with another group another 15-20 seconds behind. Unfortunately for the Brit, he fell on one of the bends and that saw the Quick Step catch up and swiftly go past him. That was the result decided there as no one was going to catch the flying Frenchman. Alaphilippe took the stage comfortably and with enough time to celebrate.

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Behind, Gorka Izagirre (one of the blog picks) sprinted to second, with Yates picking himself up to come third.

Disappointingly there was no real GC action in the peloton aside from a few soft attacks by Zakarin, Fuglsang and Landa. I guess they were all saving themselves for tomorrow. Speaking of which, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

A day that the organisers have been waiting for: it is the shortest stage in the Tour since we had split days.

 

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The riders will be climbing the Montée de Peyragudes from the gun, an almost 15km climb that averages 6.7%. The whole peloton will be on the rollers before the start of the day.

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The climb is fairly consistent aside from a few easier kilometres that come littered throughout the ascent. Once over the top a 9km descent follows along with a couple of kilometres of flat roads before they start climbing again.

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The middle climb of the day is half the length of the other two ascents but as you can see by the gradient, it is a pretty steep affair with three kilometres above 9% in average gradient.

With the crest coming with only 28km to go, will we see some attacks here? That steep ramp near the summit looks perfect for them.

A fast descent then leads into the final climb of the day, the Col de Portet, which is a climb that the Tour will be facing for the first time.

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With an average gradient of 8.7% for 16kms it is going to be a killer after the previous two climbs, without even considering that all of this has happened over just 65km. There are a few kilometres above 10%, notably, the run to the finish has some of the steepest ramps.

The Dumbest Idea Ever

Right, this grid start is the most pointless thing I have seen in the history of pointless things.

If you’re not aware ASO have decided that instead of having a rolling neutralised section tomorrow before the start of the race, the riders will start in a grid style system.

The first 10 on GC start in some kind of arrow/pyramid formation with Thomas at the head of the field, flanked by Dumoulin and Froome etc etc. The next 10 in GC then start in a line behind them, ordered by their current positions. With the rest of the peloton split into groups of 20 dependent on the GC position but they can just choose to start wherever in their alloted group.

Doesn’t sound too bad so far,  “What are the gaps between the riders?” I hear you say. Well that is where this trivial idea gets dumb.

The whole peloton will only be spread out over a 70m area, soooooo basically they are just starting as a big bunch but instead of those keen beans who want to get into a breakaway buzzing around the director’s car, we’ll just have the GC favourites awkwardly there. Realistically it isn’t going to take much time at all for Team Sky to get a couple of riders (Bernal and Kwiatkowski will be the two in the closest groups) up to the front to control things.

It would be much better if there were larger gaps between the groups, let’s say even 250m or something like that. Then it could tempt some to go on the attack and the tactics would be more interesting. Heck, even if they waived the time cut for the day and had 500m gaps between the groups. It would actually make some GC riders consider going on the attack from the gun if they knew that some of their opponents domestiques were a kilometre back.

I would like that, that would be fun. Tomorrow, not so much.

I’m just getting the impression they are trying to sell a polished turd. It’s actually not a bad idea, I’ll give them that much, but the execution of it is terrible. If you’re going to make something trivial in the biggest cycling race of the year when people all around the world who aren’t interested in the sport tune in, at least try to do it so it isn’t a farce and make a mockery of the sport.

Anyway, that’s enough of that.

How will the stage pan out?

I would love to eat some humble pie and see GC riders attack from the gun but I just can’t see it, the only one I think might try something straight away is Valverde. However, this doesn’t mean I don’t think we will see GC fireworks later on.

Cycling: 105th Tour de France 2018 / Stage 11

There is a chance the likes of Valverde and Kruijswijk try to sneak into the break to put pressure onto Sky and give their other GC riders an excuse to just sit in and follow attacks. No doubt we’ll see a big fight to get into the break but only the best climbers will be able to do so; think along the lines of Nieve, Majka etc. We then might see Sky take the their foot off the gas if the break isn’t a threat which will then actually put the pressure on other teams to chase if they want to go for a stage win.

The steeper gradients of the middle climb of the day might tease some attacks out of the peloton, looking at you Dan Martin, as rider’s try to take some time back and cause confusion.

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Source: Windfinder

With the possibility of more rain tomorrow afternoon then the descents could become as important as the climbs – especially if everyone is on the limit.

I keep thinking that if a rider is serious about wanting to win the Tour then they have to attack tomorrow as they are running out of time. However, there is a possibility that Dumoulin and possibly Roglic are ok with their current positions and want to see how things stand after the TT, maybe they back their ability to overcome the time gaps?

Bardet, Martin and the Movistar riders have to attack though and they will be the ones to light the blue touch-paper. An added incentive for the Movistar squad to do something is the fact they have a good chance to put a lot of distance between them and Bahrain in the team classification with a good performance.

So to sum up…

It should be a GC day but it could be spoiled by only a select few breakaway riders, namely Majka and Nieve. The cream should rise to the top and only those with the best legs in theory can compete for the win. However, there is a chance that someone slightly further down the order who is feeling good could take advantage of the Sky duo marking out Bardet, Dumoulin and Roglic.

Either way, I expect some GC casualties at the end of the stage because 3200m odd of climbing in only 65km is stupidly tough. I feel sorry for those in the grupetto.

Prediction

More heart than head this one, but I can just imagine Quintana flying up that final climb: it suits his characteristics perfectly.

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Let’s hope we have that Tour de Suisse Quintana back and performing. Vamos Nairo!

I also want to give an honorable mention to Zakarin who actually put in an attack today and looked quite comfortable on the final climb. If everything is together going onto the final climb (i.e. he has stuck with them on the descents) then he has an outside chance. Remember how strong he was in the last week at the Vuelta?

Betting

1pt WIN Quintana @ 14/1

1pt EW Zakarin @ 50/1

Hiding to nothing probably but oh well!

Thanks as always for reading. How do you think tomorrow’s stage will go? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2018 Stage 16 Preview: Carcassonne › Bagnères-de-Luchon

Rest Day Recap

Stage 15 was a bit of an eventful day for the three blog breakaway candidates. Mühlberger got involved in one of the more promising early moves but given that he was in just a trio they were never going to be allowed away. Unfortunately that meant he didn’t have the energy to make the decisive break which happened to involve Valgren.

Majka attacked on the main climb of the day but was brought back on the run to the line by a chasing group of seven. Team tactics were played out and the three squads who had numbers in the group kept attacking and eventually they got away, unfortunately the Astana man who made the split wasn’t Valgren. Instead it was his team-mate Cort who would ultimately go on to win the sprint for the stage win!

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Some unusual tactics from Izagirre and Mollema (who finished 2nd and 3rd respectively) as they pretty much just towed the Astana man, a known sprinter, to the line. Izagirre tried once to attack but that was it. Maybe they were just happy with the podium? A bit of a frustrating day though with Valgren looking so strong, another “what if?” scenario.

Then of course the third break pick Gesbert was involved in some drama during the stage when Moscon swung at him. A new and odd #HaugheyCurse that one. The Sky rider has subsequently been sent home by the organisers. Not ideal for the squad as they enter a tough few stages where having him to control the early part of the day would be vital.

Speaking of which, let’s take a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Mainly flat then some tougher climbs later on in the day.

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With 140km of mainly flat, slightly rolling terrain before we get to any serious climbing it will be interesting to see what the composition of the breakaway will be like. Given the tougher climbs to come then ideally a team would like a natural climber to get into the move but it isn’t exactly easy given the terrain!

The peloton will hit the first “proper” climb of the Col de Portet-d’Aspet at almost 150km into the stage. With an average of 7.1% it is fairly steep and typical of the region but at only 5.4km long it shouldn’t see any exciting attacks. The riders will then dive down the other side before climbing straight away once they hit the valley floor. The Col de Menté is a steep climb averaging 8.1% for a shade under 7km and this could be the scene of some long-range hail mary attacks from guys further down the bunch. With 47km to go from the summit and a lot of dragging valley roads to contend with, I’ll be watching along like…

Bold strategy cotton

After those said valley roads the peloton will tackle the final climb of the day with roughly 18km of the route remaining.

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The Col du Portillon isn’t the toughest climb ever and the gradients are fairly consistent which should suit those looking for a steady pace. However, it is steep enough still that some damage can be done with a few stinging attacks. Arguably more important than the climb itself though, is the descent off of it.

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With 10kms to lost ~650m of altitude it is going to be a fast run in. There are several tight hairpin turns on which the better descenders can put pressure on their rivals. This is all going to be exacerbated though given the weather forecast…

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It’s meant to rain from mid-afternoon onwards with a few thunderstorms in the area causing heavy showers at points – not exactly sure how this 17.8mm of rain is going to fall in an hour, that is crazy!

How will the race pan out?

Pfffft, it could be a day for the break but it could also be a GC day. It all just depends on who wants to control the afternoon. If it is just Sky that set tempo then they will no doubt be happy to let the break gobble up the bonus seconds ahead and then let the GC battle happen behind. However, with the 140km of relatively flat roads then it is easier for teams to control the break, especially if it is not that big. Do Ag2R, Jumbo and Sunweb come to an agreement and keep tabs on the move? We might even see a rogue UAE rider help out in the hope of a Dan Martin stage win.

If none of those teams decide they want to work then it should be a day for a break. The issue with choosing some riders to make the move is the amount of flat roads before the climbs will make it difficult for a mountain goat to be at the head of the race. Their best hope is that the break goes on the first Cat-4 climb but even then it will be difficult to snap the elastic.

We could see a really weird composition of 14 riders or so with one or two lucky climbers who make it. Of course, none of the other guys in the move will want to tow them to the climbs, especially the last one, so an attack in the valley roads is likely.

I’m not overly convinced with either outcome for the day but I do lean towards the GC riders fighting out for the stage. However, it would be foolish not to consider a couple of potential break threats, both of whom I have backed before.

Gregor Mühlberger.

Gregor-Muhlberger (1)

I still think he has a big win coming at some point in the near future. Unfortunate not to make the second decisive move after being in the initial attack trio that had escaped. Majka will probably be Bora’s go to man tomorrow but I think he might find it difficult to join the break on the flat. If so, the Austrian is a much better all-rounder and better equipped to do so. If we do get one of those weird week 3 breaks where no real climber makes it, then he is certainly one to watch. A demon descender, the rain will be of no issue to him.

Gorka Izagirre.

Despite me saying never trust a man with two hooped earrings, here I am again. If only the Bahrain rider had stuck with Stuyven rather than complaining about Slagter’s work rate then he might have had a stage win. A strong climber who can descend well, he’s not too bad on the flat either. Bahrain will be keen to get several riders into the move as they aren’t too far off Movistar’s lead in the team classification. That could be an interesting battle over the coming days.

Prediction

I think that Jumbo, Ag2R and Sunweb will combine forces to keep tabs on the break and try to attack Sky on the wet descents later on in the race. We’ve already seen one rider escape from a Sky based peloton on the descent and I think we’ll se the same tomorrow. Tom Dumoulin to win!

694-min

Betting

Want to cover the two break shots but also Dumoulin EW too as I think his price is too big so foregoing the 2pt rule. Was never really going to last, was it?

1pt WIN Gorka @ 66/1 with various, although he’s 75s on the exchange

0.5pt WIN Muhlberger @ 125/1 with various

1pt EW Dumoulin @ 28/1 with Betfred/Boyles (Would take down to 22s lowest)

Thanks as always for reading! How do you think tomorrow’s stage is going to go? Will we see a break stick or will the GC riders contend for the win? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2018 Stage 15 Preview: Millau -> Carcassonne

Today’s Recap

We were treated to racing on two fronts today as a massive break of 32 riders was allowed to escape and fight for the stage win. Gorka Izagirre attacked on the climb of Berthel and was soon joined by Stuyven and Slagter once they were onto the descent. Their gap grew and they looked comfortable until Slagter wasn’t taking as many turns so Izagirre turned round to harangue the Dimension Data rider. In the meantime, Stuyven decided to just power on ahead and by the time Gorka realised the Belgian was gone.

Stuyven then led solo for over 20kms and onto the final climb of the day. He was cruelly caught though by a charging Omar Fraile who came round him with around 750m to the top of the ascent. Alaphilippe came from behind but could only catch up to the tiring Stuyven.

Fraile cruised around the final kilometre and onto the airstrip and took his first Tour win. He just needs a win in the Vuelta now to complete the set!

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Alaphilippe came home second with Stuyven being rewarded for his efforts by rounding out the podium.

Behind in the GC group, Roglic put in a very strong attack on the climb and managed to gain 8 seconds on Dumoulin/Thomas/Froome. Quintana was a further 10 behind them with a trio of Kruijswijk/Bernal/Bardet arriving 4 behind that. Nothing major but not exactly what a few riders will be wanting just now.

Will they ship some more time tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

A sawtooth profile for the opening 20kms which sees the riders tackle the Côte de Luzençon (3.1km at 5.9%) after only 6kms into the day. By that time they will have faced a short climb from the gun and a fast descent. After the categorised climb something similar happens again with a bit of rolling road before things finally flatten out at the 26km mark.

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It’s then a bit of a wait until the Col de Sié (10.2km at 4.9%) which is a fairly easy climb although the opening few kilometres are steeper while it flattens out a bit later on. The road then once again rolls for about 20km before they slowly head down again.

The Pic de Nore is the final climb of the day and it averages 6.3% for 12.3km.

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As you can see, the opening half of the ascent is the toughest and this is where the climbers will need to put people into difficulty. Otherwise, it will be very hard to make any gaps on the easier ~5% gradient of the latter part of the climb.

It tops out with 41km to go but considering the only proper flat land comes with 6km to go, although the descent gets a lot more shallow with 25km left, the stage could well be decided on the climb and the risks riders take on said descent.

stage-15-finish

As for the run in, it is fairly straight forward with only a handful of roundabouts in the closing 5kms. There is a quite tight turn at 600m to go but it shouldn’t cause too many issues as the groups arriving together shouldn’t be too big.

How will the stage pan out?

There is a fair amount of climbing tomorrow but with the long descent and flat approach to the line it is unlikely we’ll see any major GC action. If there was a chance of rain then that could have been the case as it would have made the descent more nervous but I can’t see any of the GC guys wanting to waste energy. I think they will all have changed focus to next week already.

The race dynamic will change though if someone kind of close on GC, i.e. Valverde etc, sneaks into the break. Then we could be in for a deceptively tough stage.

So once again…

TheBreakawayLottery

Almost the opposite of today, the fight to get into the break will be very tough as the opening 25kms are either up or down: there is very little, if not any, flat land. This means that it should suit the climbers better. Somewhat ironically though, the end of the stage will be more difficult for them to deliver than today. The 40kms from the top of the climb to the finish gives plenty of time for those dropped to return to the head of the race if there is a stall up ahead. We could and probably will see some more tactical games being played tomorrow afternoon.

I’m going to go with some familiar names…

Michael Valgren – Astana were on the attack today and I think they will try to have at least one rider up the road again tomorrow while everyone else helps Fuglsang. Valgren was strong on the climbs when in the break last week and the 40kms from the top of the last ascent to the finish gives him a good chance of getting back on. Not many will be able to bring him back if he attacks over the top of them.

Gregor Mühlberger – Solid all around rider (see yesterday’s preview) the former Austrian champion looked great on the descent with Alaphlippe the other day. Could he gap everyone and hold on? He’s due a big result soon.

Gregor-Muhlberger (1)

Elie Gesbert. – The only new name here but Gesbert really impressed me when working for Barguil the other day. A strong climber and attacking rider, Fortuneo were another squad who missed the move this afternoon and will no doubt rectify that tomorrow. As a bit more of an uknown rider, he might just be able to use that to his advantage.

Prediction

Astana to double up and Valgren to win!

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Buy Me A Beer

That weekly shameless plug for my “donate” section. If you’ve enjoyed the previews so far throughout the Tour then you can help me through next weeks struggles by buying me a beer (it will be used for coffee most likely) via this link. Thanks in advance if you do!

Betting

Time to throw some pennies around again..

1pt WIN Valgren @ 33/1

0.5pt WIN Muhlberger @ 125/1

0.5pt WIN Gesbert @ 150/1

Again, I would advise to wait for the exchanges to have some liquidty tomorrow morning as that is when you get best prices. I’ll be waiting until then, but the figures above are just being noted down for the blog.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and how? Will we see another tactical run in? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.