European Road Race Championships Preview – Glasgow 2018

Now into its third year as an event for the elite peloton, this edition will see the riders head to Glasgow for what is a very similar route to the Commonwealth Games in 2014. In 2017 though, it was a race for the sprinters with Alexander Kristoff coming out on top, beating Viviani and Hofland. 

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All three are expected to ride this year but will we see a similar result? Let’s take a look at what is in store for the peloton over the course of the afternoon.

The Route

Facing them are 16 full laps of the 14.8km or so long course, totalling roughly 235km of racing.

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As with the women’s preview, you can view a profile that I made of the circuit here.

Glasgow RR Circuit

It’s quite a surprisingly rolling course with there also being a lot of turns given the nature and layout of Glasgow streets.

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There are several small hills and drags, more notably in the middle of the course. The first one goes past the University buildings, averaging 5% for 500m before a quick descent and a 300m kicker at 8% up Great George Street.

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That’s arguably the toughest climb on the course and will be one of the places where the puncheurs will hope to put some pressure on. There are another couple of few hundred metre drags at roughly 3% or 4% littered throughout the following kilometres but it will be tough to create anything there.

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The last climb of the day is on Montrose Street and averages 4.3% for 450m, albeit the first 170m of the climb is at 6%, but as you can see on the image above, it looks a little steeper than that. We saw in the women’s race it can be a real grind and it is the last place on the course for any puncheur looking to get a gap on the group.

Once over the top there is 1.5km of descent before a flat final 2km run to the line, which is fairly technical; with a quite turn at only 300m to go.

It is a great circuit with lots of places for action but it also leaves things finely in the balance. Reminds me a lot of the Canadian one-day races we get at the end of the season!

Weather Watch

It’s Scotland so yeah…

Who knows what we’re going to get and expect all four seasons in one day – just like it was for the Commonwealth Games. The forecast a few days ago had it nailed on as rain throughout the afternoon but now the chance of rain has slimmed, but we’ll probably still see a little at some point.

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If (when) it does rain, the descents and circuit itself will become a lot more treacherous as there are several tight turns where grip might not be great.

A Lack of Sprinters? 

For a race that could well end in a reduced bunch sprint, there aren’t many sprinters gracing the start list. Although to be fair, we don’t even have a start list to go off of just now so I’m using @CyclingFever‘s list as it should be the most accurate one out there.

Viviani, Sagan, Kristoff and Degenkolb are arguably the “purest” sprinters here, with the likes of Colbrelli, Trentin, Cort and Coquard probably hoping for a more reduced gallop to the line. That being said, it will be difficult to drop the first two on the list with the way they have been riding recently!

Plenty of nations arrive here with several attacking options so it will be interesting to see how they approach the race – as most will no doubt leave the chasing throughout the day to Slovakia, Norway and Italy.

Belgian Bullishness

One team who look set up to ride an aggressive race are the Belgians. In their squad they Stuyven, Van Avermaet, Van Aert and Meurisse to name a few.

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I’m intrigued to see how they approach the day as Stuyven could be kept in reserve in case of a potential sprint but given how well he has been going this season the short sharp climbs should be of no real danger to him. Will the team just constantly be on the attack in the closing 80kms? I really hope so! It looks though as if VA² will be their biggest threats for a late attack, with both in great form at the moment. Van Avermaet was sublime in the Tour but just couldn’t match the pace of the best climbers where he had to eventually settle for 4th. The shorter, punchier ascents should be to his liking. I would be very surprised to not see him on the attack on Sunday – unless of course he has been given the job of marking Sagan. Speaking of which…

How do you stop Sagan?

That is the question everyone in the peloton will be asking before the start of the day. I think only Viviani will be happy coming to the line with him for a bunch sprint whereas almost everyone else would rather he would be distanced somehow. Easier said than done considering just how stupidly strong he was in the Tour. His weakness is his team as he has no one who can support him that deep into the race so he will find himself on his own very quickly. That hasn’t held him back before though and I think we’ll actually see Sagan attacking throughout the afternoon, trying to make the race as selective as possible so he doesn’t have to follow as many moves.

Ultimately though, I think he might be done over by the number of teams not wanting to drag him to the line. A bold claim on a course that suits him perfectly but I don’t think we’ll see Sagan win on Sunday…

A Trio of Contenders

As always, I don’t like to have a massive list of riders who could have a chance of a result on Sunday because I could easily write about 20 or so guys based on different scenarios. So here are three to watch as they will no doubt do something exciting before fading at the end!

Wout van Aert.

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Fresh off of what was a fairly comfortable GC win in Denmark, the Belgian arrives in Glasgow having specifically targeted the event. Like quite a few riders at this race, he will no doubt relish the short punchy hills on the course but he will also like the technical nature given his CX background. There were question marks about him this season when he rode some of the Spring Classics: would the distance be too much? Nope, was the answer, as he finished 9th then 13th in Flanders and Roubaix respectively. He’ll probably be given a free role tomorrow and it would be unwise for team’s to give him much leeway in the closing 20kms.

Matej Mohoric. 

What a season the Slovenian is having! After his “breakthrough” year in 2017 where he won a stage in the Vuelta and a one-day race in Hong Kong, Mohoric has gone from strength to strength and has picked up 4 wins in 2018 already. Just shows what he can do now that he has finished his studies and can focus on cycling 100%. A former Junior and U-23 World Champion, he won’t be scared of the course tomorrow. One of the few guys who will relish the potentially tricky descents, will his risk taking and famous top-tube pedalling style see him to victory?

Magnus Cort.

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The Danes seem to be in a cycling revolution at the moment with several top-tier riders coming through the ranks. Cort has taken three wins so far this season and they have all been done in an impressive manner. His win in Oman was from a reduced sprint after a hilly circuit, before he out sprinted Van Avermaet up a short climb in Yorkshire. Both of those were topped by his performance in the Tour though when he managed to win from the breakaway on a day that featured a Cat-1 climb not too far from the finish. The streets of Glasgow should be no issue for him if he has continued that form! Almost like Sagan in a way, it will be interesting to see how he approaches the race: does he attack or sit in? We saw at the Worlds last year that he was in the peloton in the final 3km but rather than wait for the sprint he risked it all and attacked. A move that was ultimately doomed. He is certainly a danger here though.

Prediction

You know where this is going, don’t you?

Matej Mohoric to continue his sparkling year with an incredible win, timing his attack perfectly and leaving everyone in his wake.

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I think the reduced bunch sprint we saw in the women’s race has somewhat masked the difficulty of this course, after all, we could have had two riders arrive a minute ahead if there wasn’t confidence and communication issues between the Dutch! With team-mates at a minimum for many of the contenders, I can see the final few laps being very difficult to control.

Betting

I plan on being at the race myself so come say hi if you see someone standing around the Montrose Street area looking terribly hungover (I’m going out with friends on Saturday night).

Who do you think will win and in what manner? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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Women’s European Road Race Championships Preview – Glasgow 2018

Now in its third edition as an event for the elite peloton, as it was formerly just an under 23 and junior event. Last year saw an attacking race that was mainly led by the Dutch, shock, and a strong group of three managed to escape and contest the win on what was a course really suited for a bunch sprint.

Vos proved to be the fastest, beating Bronzini to the line with a failed late attack from Zabelinskaya seeing the Russian round out the podium in third.

 

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Will we see a similarly aggressive race this year? First though, let’s take a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Very similar, if not exactly the same (I can’t remember) to the circuit that used for the Commonwealth Games back in 2014. The women will complete 9 laps for a total of ~130km.

I’ve made a profile of the circuit that you can view here. The organisation’s one is pretty useless if I’m honest.

Glasgow RR Circuit

It’s quite a surprisingly rolling course with there also being a lot of turns given the nature and layout of Glasgow streets.

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There are several small hills and drags, more notably in the middle of the course. The first one goes past the University buildings, averaging 5% for 500m before a quick descent and a 300m kicker at 8% up Great George Street.

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That’s arguably the toughest climb on the course and will be one of the places where the puncheurs will hope to put some pressure on. There are another couple of few hundred metre drags at roughly 3% or 4%.

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Last on the agenda in terms of climbing is the 400m drag (4.8% average) up Montrose St, which crests with just 3.5km left in the day. Given there is 1.5km of descent, it is really only a 2km effort on the flat that someone needs to make to stay away.

Easier said than done!

The Flying Dutchwomen

Can anyone stop the cycling powerhouse?

As I mentioned above, we witnessed the Dutch tear it apart in what was a flat course in Denmark so what can they manage to do here? I expect them to be constantly on the attack throughout the afternoon and their whole squad could realistically win. It will be interesting to see what the hierarchy will be; if they even have one at all.

Any dangerous attack that goes will have at least one Dutch rider in it but more likely there will be two or three there. This will put them at a massive tactical advantage compared to the other nations. We witnessed this at the Worlds last year when Blaak was able to attack and van der Breggen and van Vleuten marked the chase behind. I think we’ll see something very similar tomorrow and it won’t be a big sprint finish. Instead, it will either be a small group that fights it out or a solo rider will get the jump on everyone and come home alone.

What move do you follow?

This will be the question that the majority of the peloton will be asking themselves tomorrow morning. There are plenty of good sprinters here but they arrive with weak/small teams so it will be very difficult for them to control things all day. Take for example Lepistö, she is the type of rider who in form could make a reduced bunch sprint but with only two team-mates the likelihood is that she will have to attack to make the selection, rather than rely on others bringing it back. It is a mixture of good race reading ability but also a bit of luck to get yourself into that right attack. Then it is just up to your legs to finish it off!

I think we’ll see things whittled down almost immediately and the first 4 or 5 laps will see a race of attrition before the second half of the race. From that point onwards a winning move could go at any time.

The one team who has several cards to play that can almost match the Dutch are the Italians. With Bastianelli, Cecchini, Longo Borghini and Bronzini they have four riders capable of following a lot of attacks from those in orange. It will be interesting to see if they are equally as attacking as their counterparts.

A Trio to Watch

As I expect the race to be very dynamic and unpredictable I’m just going to name three riders who I think have a good chance of producing a strong result tomorrow. So apologies if you were looking for a long list here!

Elisa Longo Borghini.

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A very aggressive rider, the former Italian Champion has had a consistently solid season but has just missed out on that big win. She did win the Mediterranean Games road race, however, the opposition there wasn’t as strong as it will be tomorrow. One of the punchier riders in the peloton who seems to cope well on rolling courses, it is amazing she hasn’t won more. Maybe a change of team will do wonders for her next year? Here she gets to ride in the Italian tricolore though and they always come to these events fired up to do well. No doubt they will have a plan to either sprint with Bronzini or Bastianelli, but I think Longo Borghini will be given a free card to mark attacks and follow any move she deems dangerous. Will she finally get some luck?

Lucinda Brand.

I can’t exactly not include a Dutch rider here, can I? Brand is the hipstery pick but I really rate her chances for tomorrow. We saw in both the Giro Rosa and La Course that her climbing has improved massively on the longer ascents but it is the short punchy climbs that we tomorrow which should suit her more. If she has maintained her level of form from the start of July then she will be a big threat and a good wild card for the Dutch team to play.

Dani Rowe.

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A “home” championships will certainly motivate Rowe, who has had a very good season so far. Her change of team to WaowDeals has seen her gain some freedom at times, mainly in the UK races. Tomorrow she will probably be Team GBs leader, although Barnes will be hoping for a sprint. Rowe has shown in the past that she is capable of following the best in the World when on small climbs; her performance in Yorkshire is testament to that. An attacking rider, I would be very surprised if we didn’t see her off the front of the bunch at some point. In the right group she has every chance.

Prediction

It is nigh on impossible to stop the Dutch if they play the race right so I’ll go with Lucinda Brand to take the win, something she has deserved over the past month of racing!

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Coverage

The race will be shown live on Eurosport Player from start to finish, with the pre-race coverage starting at 12:20 UK time. I’m not too sure if it will be on elsewhere but I imagine so!

Betting

I kindly asked B365 if they would price this up before and they delivered, truly remarkable. Probably be the only time outside of Worlds I get a chance to lose some money on the women’s races so I’m going in and backing the three to watch.

No EW available though which is a shame so 1pt WIN on the following…

Brand @ 20/1

ELB @ 22/1

Rowe @ 50/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de Pologne 2018 Stage 1 Preview: Krakow -> Krakow

Tour de Pologne 2018 Stage 1 Preview: Krakow -> Krakow

Short preview for this as I focussed more on my San Sebastian, which you should totally check out by the way…

The Route

A few small lumps along the way but this should be one for the sprinters.

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In fact, it is pretty much a carbon copy of the opener from last year, which is handy as I still have the strava profile for that stage made up. Thankfully, I’ll just be letting @LaFlammeRouge16 do the hard work this year in those regards, well, most of the time.

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There are a few tight turns on the circuit, most notably with just under 2km to go.

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After that though it is plain sailing with the rest of the run in being pretty much dead straight, including all of the final kilometre. That can cause issues though as riders spread across the road and fight for position and we saw exactly that last year when some riders came down in the closing 800m.

Despite the best efforts from a late Quick Step attacker, things ended in a big bunch sprint and I expect something similar tomorrow.

Sprinters

Quick run through the sprinters here…

Andre Greipel.

After abandoning the Tour, Greipel will have some unfinished business after his Twitter spat with Demare. With the Frenchman putting a mark down with his stage win in the Tour, Greipel will want to reply here. Looked strong in the Tour but he lacks a really good lead-out here and might struggle.

Pascal Ackermann.

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He won RideLondon at a canter last Sunday so will arrive here supremely confident in his ability to go well again. However, he is missing the majority of his lead out from that day so will have to rely heavily on Schwarzmann. He has the speed but might find it a little more difficult tomorrow.

Danny Van Poppel.

Another who arrives with a short train, Jumbo will no doubt attempt their late charge to the front. It was at this event last year that Van Poppel started to shine for Sky in the sprints so no doubt it will bring back good memories being here. Should be contending for the win.

Alvaro Hodeg.

A fellow Scot, kind of, the Quick Step rider arrives with the strongest and longest lead out train by a country mile. There will therefore be a lot of pressure on his team to do some of the earlier work and it might leave him a little more exposed because of it. It was disappointing to see him not take a win in Wallonie but at least he has some racing legs again.

Phil Bauhaus.

Disappointed with his result in Ride London, he’s actually had a pretty poor mid part to his season after his opening few months went very well. However, that 6th on Sunday was a sign of things to come and I think he’ll go better here this week. He needs a big lead out from Teunissen though.

Nacer Bouhanni – Will his lack of a Tour spot fire him up, or will he still be sulking? Who knows. Nacer probably doesn’t know himself!

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Giacomo Nizzolo – Nice to see him back at the pointy end of a sprint in Ride London but it will be tough to repeat that here. Still though, he has shown in the past that he can be “Not-so-slow” so we might see a surprise.

Modolo, Bonifazio, whoever sprints for Mitchelton, Boasson Hagen, Sareau, Consonni and Venturini will all be fighting for the top 10.

It’s actually quite a strong sprinting field here without many of the traditional “big” names.

Prediction

I think the finish will be messy and tough for one team to control as opposition riders surge past them before dropping back. Therefore, it is a question of someone getting lucky with the timing of their surge, dropping the sprinter off at the perfect moment. Pull a name out the hat time and I’ll go with Bauhaus.

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His sprint reminds me a lot of Kittel’s so on a finish like this he should have a great chance.

Betting

2pts WIN Bauhaus at 17/2.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and why? I’ll have stage 2 for this race out tomorrow along with my Women’s Euro Road preview so Poland might be a bit stunted again in terms of length. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Clásica de San Sebastián 2018 Preview

After almost a week of no previews I’m back again to look ahead at everyone’s favourite post-Tour race, the Clásica de San Sebastián. In 2017 we saw the peloton slimmed down a little over the days early climbs but the race winning move once again went on the last ascent of the day.

Landa, Gallopin and Mollema were strongest on the final climb, but with Kwiatkowski and Dumoulin chasing fiercely behind combined with some gamesmanship from Landa it meant we then had 5 coming together on the run in to San Sebastian. A few attacks were neutralised so things ultimately ended in a sprint, with favourite Kwiatkowski taking the win ahead of Gallopin and Mollema.

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With Kwiatkowski not here to defend his title, will we see a new winner come the fore? First though, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Pretty much a carbon copy of 2017, but with a few kilometres trimmed from the opening part of the route.

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However, I don’t expect the racing to get exciting until the first passage of the Jaizkibel at 127km, just over halfway through the race. Saying that, it probably won’t be until the second passage at roughly 60km to go that we will see the race liven up as this is a potential for a race winning move if the group contains the right riders and teams.

More than likely though, it will come down to the final climb of the Murgil and the descent/run to the line that follows.

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Officially the climb is 2.8km at 7.6% but the main crux of the ascent is 10.3% for 1.7km. That includes several steep ramps of above 20%!

Interestingly, Kwiatkowski holds the Strava KOM for the climb with a time of 5’36 but he actually crossed the top a few seconds behind the Landa group so realistically a time of 5’30 should see someone in the front group. That was a bit slower than the previous year when the first riders over the top did it in ~5’25, but the tougher parcours earlier in the day might have taken some spring out of their legs.

With the effort only being for a relatively short time, it is a finely balaned race between the puncheurs and climbers. Will the scales tip in a certain direction this year?

The race doesn’t end at the summit of the climb though as almost 8km of descent and flat await the riders: often leading to a tactical battle if we have a group come together.

Tour Legs?

This is actually one of my favourite races to preview every year because I look forward to including my terribly formatted but awfully insightful table…

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The table is quite simple really (after all, I made it) and it shows the Top 3 from the past yeras in San Sebastian with their finishing position at the Tour in brackets. Where it says “NR” that means the rider was a “non runner” and didn’t take part in the Tour that year. See, easy.

What can we take from it though?

Well the past 11 winners of San Sebastian have all finished the Tour and there has only been 6 occasions since 2007 that someone not riding the Tour has managed to finish on the podium. If we’re just looking at the past 5 seasons, then it is only Gilbert (who finished 2nd in 2015) that has managed to podium while not riding the Tour.

I think the numbers make it fairly clear: to go well here, you have had to have ridden the Tour!

Some slightly more trivial stats now…

The average finishing position at the Tour of the winner at San Sebastian is 29.5. Unfortunately, neither Adam Yates (29th) or Lilian Calmejane (30th) are riding here this year. While the average for the podium position is 31.5: time for Robert Gesink to shine!

Contenders

All joking aside, this is a very difficult race to compete for if you haven’t been at the Tour and you have to be a special rider to get close with a lack of racing, like Dumoulin did last year. So I’ve managed to narrow my list down and to be honest, it is pretty much exactly how the bookmakers have priced it up! There are 4 riders who I think have a big chance of taking the win and they are as follows…

Julian Alaphilippe.

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In sparkling form at the Tour, a five-minute or so climb on steep gradients like we have tomorrow should be the Frenchman’s bread and butter. No one could really follow his quick accelerations from the breakaways but he will be against a stronger and more consistent set of opponents here. Nonetheless, everyone will be scared of what he might do, the question is, will he have recovered from his post-Tour celebrations? If so, he has to start as the outright favourite.

Dan Martin.

Finishing 8th on GC and picking up one stage win along the way was a good result for the UAE rider, although he could possibly have been a little higher up had it not been for bad luck on a few occasions. He looked strong in the final week and was climbing very well on the day Quintana won and managing to follow the pace in the last mountain stage. Another that the parcours should suit well, he’s a fairly solid performer at this race and you would think the tough finish climb is ideal.

Egan Bernal.

Can he really be called the “revelation of the Tour”, as anyone who has followed cycling the past few years knows just how talented he is? Finishing 15th in your first Tour is a pretty crazy result though but it is even crazier when you consider if he avoided the 16 minute loss in the Roubaix stage then he could have well finished inside the top 10! One of the 5 or 6 strongest guys in the final few stages, there were a few times he had to stop and pace Froome back to the group. Given the chance to lead here, I think he’ll step up and put on a show but will it be enough?

Primoz Roglic.

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It looked as if he was on track to secure his first GT podium before he unfortunately had his “jour sans” in one of his favoured disciplines on the last day of meaningful action, causing him to slip to 4th on GC. If he has recovered from that bad day then the steep finish climb and fast descent looks great for him. We all saw just how good he is at going downhill with his stage win in the Tour.

There are some other names who might go close or be outside podium candidates but it will be tough for them to win.

Mollema – Consistent record here as he has finished in the top 10 on all of his 6 apperances, including a win in 2016. He looked ok in the Tour but not as strong as he did before that win or even before last year’s podium.

GVA – Probably could have won this race had he not been taken out by a motorbike, Van Avermaet looked back to his 2016 vintage in the Tour. That means he should be very close to the best on the climb and if there is a lull in their efforts up front he could bridge across on the descent. He’s a danger.

Fraile – Bit of a joker as he’s DNF’d both of his appearances so far but if he finds that Stage 14 winning kick then he is a dark horse.

Soler – In homage to CyclingQuotes Soler is my “super joker” for the race. Fresh out of the Tour he finished a respectable 9th in the TT so might be carrying a bit of form. He could be an early attacker for Landa that might just stick.

Prediction

Time for one of the strongest climbers in the Tour to step up with his new-found freedom. Egan Bernal to win!

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I can’t see anyone dropping him on the climb and if anything, he will be the one doing the dropping. He’s then a handy descender with a deceptively good kick from a small group too.

Betting

1pt EW Bernal @ 22/1 with Ladbrokes/Coral (would take/I’m having to take the 12/1 available elsewhere)

Also, 0.5pt WIN on the Bernal/Bauhaus (Poland S1) win at 109/1 with Bet365. Kind of giving away my Poland preview here…

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.