Volta ao Algarve 2019 Stage 2 Preview: Almodôvar -> Fóia

Today’s Recap

A really quiet stage until all chaos ensued after 7 kms to go when a crash at the front of the bunch wiped out around 80% of the peloton. With the sprint teams already pretty much in full flight, there was only a brief hiatus before things continued full gas as you would expect. Despite the smaller group, things were held together for the sprint with Jakobsen taking his first win of the season in his first race – a truly dominant effort to the line from him.

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Démare trailed him home in second with Ackermann in third.

With some riders crashing, while other just lost some time, it will be interesting to see how they have recovered and approach the traditional stage tomorrow. Let’s have a look at what is in store for them.

The Route

Quite a tough day out in the saddle for the riders, especially this early in the season, with over 3000m of climbing to be tackled.

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As you can see on the profile, there are numerous short climbs back-to-back once the riders pass roughly 60 km to go. These will no doubt be used to sap the legs of those struggling in the peloton but I would be very surprised if a team takes it up early enough to do a lot of damage – especially with the rolling plateau (oxymoron, I know) from 151 km to 168 km.

It is an interestingly placed intermediate sprint point in Marmelete and I wonder if we’ll see any of the GC contenders try to nab a bonus second or two. A quick descent into the valley below leads them onto the false-flat rise before the climb of Alto da Foia begins properly.

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A fairly consistent climb, it is not a finish where we often see large time gaps, with the majority of the time the top 10 arriving within 20 seconds of each other. However, that was thrown out the window in 2017 when Quick Step decided to tear the race bits before Foia and consequently 10th placed Benoot came home three-quarters of a minute down.

Expect a fast ascent time tomorrow with a strong wind coming from the south-east.

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The teams will have to be wary throughout the day though as they travel mainly from the east to west, so there are potential for splits due to cross winds. Will anyone try to split it?

Contenders

Wout Poels.

A strong start to the season saw Poels finish second on Willunga Hill and consequently took home 3rd on GC Down Under. Sky arrive with a very solid squad to support him on the climb and we’ll no doubt see them engage their now traditional mountain train. It will be interesting to see how they approach it as De La Cruz, Geoghegan Hart and possibly even Dunbar have the credentials to challenge on a finish like this. Will they try to attack to split things up? Poels has an under rated sprint for a GC rider so he’ll be happy for things to be held together and a reduced gallop to the line.

Enric Mas.

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Part of the Quick Step team that absolutely destroyed the bunch back in 2017, Mas took a big step up in personal performances last year with his second in the Vuelta obviously being the stand-out. With a lot of the team geared towards the two sprints, Mas will most likely have to fly solo although he’ll hope to get some assistance from Stybar quite far up the climb. He’d probably prefer a punchier and steeper finish but given his talent, he can’t be discounted.

Sam Oomen.

Another who avoided the crash today, it puts him in a great position for a strong overall result. It’s hard to know where his form is at given this is his first race of the season but he should be there or thereabouts. A rider that I rate highly, he should start to get some of his own personal results soon after learning the ropes behind a loyal worker for Dumoulin in the GTs. He does only have two wins to his name, both coming in the Tour de l’Ain back in 2016, but tomorrow does offer him an opportunity. An attacking rider, I’m keen to see what he can do.

Tadej Pogacar.

The highly talented young Slovenian impressed in his opening WT debut down under and he’ll like the look of a climb he can properly get his teeth into tomorrow. Before the race the honours for leadership would probably have been shared between Aru and himself, but with the Italian held up today, UAE will turn to Pogacar for the overall. Possibly still a bit of an unknown to his contenders, he might be able to use that anonymity and slip away on the final climb and use the tailwind to his advantage.

Amaro Antunes.

Held up after the crash today, his focus will now turn to stage wins. He’s only ever won two bike races in his life but both of them have been at Portugal and one of them in this race. Quite an attacking rider when he wants to be, I’m expecting to see him give it a bit of a nudge in anger tomorrow. Will he be allowed some freedom?

Prediction

The teams of Sky, Deceuninck and Sunweb to control things in hoping to set up their leader and I’ll go for Poels to get his first win of the year.

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He normally starts his season well and without the obstacle of Porte here this is a good chance for him.

Betting

No bet

Thanks as always for reading and apologies for the shorter preview. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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Vuelta a Andalucia 2019 Stage 2 Preview: Sevilla -> Torredonjimeno

Today’s Recap

Despite Astana and Bahrain’s best efforts to try to split things up a little before the final climb, we had a pretty large peloton arrive at the foot of the ascent. Movistar took it up early and things quickly thinned out, however, no one really wanted to go full gas from the bottom like they did last year. Possibly knowing just how brutal the climb they decided it was better to save something. Astana then put in a little dig on the false flat descent but it was Tim Wellens who took the corner I highlighted in the preview yesterday, exactly the same way he did back in 2018. Carrying some momentum through it and onto the steep finish, he sat in the saddle and powered away from everyone as they struggled to hold his wheel. A dominant performance and a good one to beat Astana and the illness he faced a week or so ago!

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Astana will be happy with their current position though with Fuglsang and Izagirre taking 2nd and 3rd respectively.

Disappointed with blog pick Yates, who looked as if he was being brought up by his team-mates but then lost the wheel with around one kilometre to go until the start of the climb. From there he began the ascent in about 50th place and was never going to come back after that. He might not have won against Wellens, but we’ll never know!

Oh well, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

A long day in the saddle which sees the road rise steadily up; will the sprinters be able to hang on?

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With nothing overly difficult in the opening 185 km of the stage, the main battle will take place over the final 25 – 30 km.

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The only classified climb of the day crests with about 24.5 km to go and given it’s 4.6% average for just over 4 km – it isn’t exactly the toughest ascent in the world either. However, it definitely could be used to put the peloton under a little pressure, especially if those eyeing up stage victory later on want to make things more difficult. After a short descent, the riders face the final 20 km which are all ever so slightly uphill, averaging 1.5%.

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The day will be decided (obviously) in the final 5.6 km.

With an “opening” climb of 2 km at 4%, followed by 1.6 km of flat, then a 2 km climb at 3%: there are opportunities for the finesseurs of the bunch to try to nab a win.

How will the stage pan out?

With some time gaps after today’s stage and no bonus seconds on the line, it could actually be a day for the breakaway. However, I don’t think that will happen as there should be enough interest behind from teams wanting a stage win to close things down.

Will it be controlled all the way to the line though?

With no pure sprinters here as such, the likes of Trentin and Van Poppel will be hopeful of sticking with the bunch and being the fastest riders left. Yet, it will be a tough ask for teams to keep things in check as I think plenty will fancy their chances of attacking in the finale and spoiling the party. The classics riders and puncheurs will be licking their lips at the prospect of the drags in the closing 5km.

Consequently, I think we might see a small group get away near the end of the day, who battle it out for a stage win. Or even a solo rider who times their attack perfectly as everyone else looks at each other.

Riders to look out for include Prades, Gavazzi, Luis Leon Sanchez, Canola and of course the aforementioned Trentin and Van Poppel.

However, I don’t think any of them will win, instead…

Prediction

A blog favourite will be raising his hand come the end of the day and that man will be Matej Mohoric.

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I was very impressed to see Mohoric grinding his way up the climb today, slowly picking off riders ahead of him and ending up in 11th place. He’s a rider that keeps improving year on year, especially now that he is fully focussed on his cycling after finishing his studies. We saw that come to fruition last year with what was a breakthrough year and I expect him to match that this season with some very strong performances in the classics. The slightly tricky finish looks perfect for him to launch a doozy of an attack in the closing kilometres and with a bit of confusion and lack of co-operation behind it will be very difficult to bring him back. Mohoric does also have the advantage of packing a pretty handy sprint in a stage like this so he might just wait but that isn’t his nature. All or nothing for Matej!

Betting

1pt EW Mohoric @ 25/1 with Bet365

Thanks as always for reading the preview and apologies it is slightly more stumped than normal; I’m a bit under the weather and trying to write two previews a day takes a little time. It’ll probably the same tomorrow as I’m heading home for the weekend so will be spending a bit of my time travelling. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Volta ao Algarve 2019 Stage 1 Preview: Portimão -> Lagos

Volta ao Algarve 2019 Stage 1 Preview: Portimão -> Lagos

As I’m doing both Andalucia and Algarve previews this afternoon, no GC funny business here – straight into the opening day it is!

The Route

At over 2000m of climbing throughout the stage and with a profile that can be best described as “rolling”, it’s not exactly going to be an easy sprint stage.

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However, with the majority of the bigger climbs coming in the opening half, a sprint is what we should get. So the stage will come down to the final 5kms and how the teams approach it.

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The major “obstacle” in those closing 5 kms is a 600m rise that averages 4.4% so it shouldn’t be enough to drop any sprinters given how fast the peloton will travel over it. However, with it cresting at just over 2 kms to go, you don’t really want to be out of position here given that the next kilometre is almost all downhill and it will be hard to make up some ground.

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At roughly 1.2km to go the riders come to their first roundabout when entering Lagos, with them being forced to take the long way around the right side of it and exiting on the left. The turn at the bottom of the roundabout is quite tight so this will slow the bunch down a little and stretch things out.

They face another roundabout with around 800m to go but it is pretty straight forward and shouldn’t see any issues. After that, it is a straight drag race to the line for the final 750m so I expect things could be quite chaotic as that gives some teams enough time to try a hail mary, last-minute lead-out.

Another to note is that it is expected to get reasonably windy later on in the day, with roughly 18-20km/h winds coming in from the coast. With the direction it is forecast, the riders will more than likely have a head wind for the finish – so timing of the sprint is even more crucial.

Contenders

We have quite the sprint field here!

Dylan Groenewegen.

Fresh off of a narrow stage win in Valenciana, the Dutchman will want to prove why he is one of the best sprinters in the world. His 2018 was superb but no doubt he’d like to do even better and with a team that is built around him for this race, he’ll be hopeful of picking up another win or two throughout the week. Roosen and Teunissen are a powerful last two men to have in front of him but without the likes of Tony Martin, Jumbo Visma will probably revert back to type from 2018 and try to ambush the closing kilometre. As stated above though, it is quite difficult to improve your position coming off the descent and into the roundabouts but if there is one team who I think can bring their sprinter forward in the closing 500m it is Jumbo. Groenewegen starts as the favourite for me.

Pascal Ackermann.

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After a little warm-up in Murcia, Ackermann was quick to take his first win in Almeria on Sunday – where he just managed to edge out a fast finishing Marcel Kittel. I’m more than willing to dub the Bora man as the breakthrough sprinter in 2018, after he managed to pick up 9 pro wins. Not a bad tally considering he had none before the start of the year. Another rider with a team dedicated to him; there is an awful lot of horsepower in that Bora squad. If there is a team capable of drilling it up that incline and keeping things stretched out all the way to the finish then I think they could manage it. Does Ackermann have the top end speed to see off the competition here though?

Arnaud Démare.

The Frenchman is starting his season off here so it is difficult to know where his form will be. Looking at previous year’s results though, he seems to be there or thereabouts in the opening races so he should be trying to fight for the win tomorrow. However, with a lot of his contenders having already had a few races under their belt, then I think he’ll be a little off the pace.

Fabio Jakobsen.

Another rider beginning his 2019 in Portugal, Jakobsen was by far the most successful neo-pro in terms of wins last year with 7 to his name. As per usual, Quick Step have started the year in flying form so despite this being his first race, I would expect Jakobsen to be ready. He has a strong lead-out to help him here, with Lampaert and Senechal able to provide a lot of top end speed come the end of the stage. Can he get his team their 9th win of the year already?

Christophe Laporte.

The impressive Frenchman has started his year will with 2 stage wins and the GC title in Besseges – a race he completely dominated. Known more as a good climbing sprinter, you would be foolish to just class him as one of those though as he has a deceptively good kick on a flat run in. With there being the slight rise not too far from the finish tomorrow, I think that should help him be well positioned going into the final couple of kilometres, but can he finish it off?

John Degenkolb.

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It was nice to see Degenkolb get a win in Provence last week: maybe something to do with good karma after his fundraising campaign to save the junior Paris Roubaix? Trek have a team full of sprinting talent but I imagine they will all be on lead-out duty for Degenkolb, with Theuns possibly last man. They haven’t worked together as a unit before though so the few sprint stages could be more of a learning process than anything else. As the main classics group for Trek, it is important that they get on well and work together here. Despite how strong Degenkolb looked in Provence, I just can’t see him getting a win tomorrow.

Jasper Philipsen.

Will UAE work for him or Consonni? In more of a pure sprint like this I would say that it is the Belgian who is faster and we’ve already seen glimpses of that at the Tour Down Under where he took his stage win. Consonni obviously did some great lead-outs for Gaviria over in San Juan so he will hope to continue that here but he is a more than able replacement if going for the sprint himself. Although put it this way, I could see Philipsen sneaking a win against this field tomorrow but not Consonni.

Others to look out for who might nab a top 10 spot include Debuscherre, Dupont and Boasson Hagen.

Prediction

I feel like a little bit of an upset so I’ll go for Christophe Laporte to keep piling the pressure on Bouhanni by taking a surprise win here.

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Or Groenewegen wins comfortably.

Betting

Odds are up with Betway but I don’t really fancy anything there.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Vuelta a Andalucia 2019 Stage 1 Preview: Sanlúcar de Barramed -> lcalá de los Gazules

Vuelta a Andalucia 2019 Stage 1 Preview: Sanlúcar de Barramed -> lcalá de los Gazules

As I’m doing both Andalucia and Algarve previews this afternoon, no GC funny business here – straight into the opening day it is!

The Route

With no real mountains the stage looks quite simple on paper, but given the constant rolling nature of the parcours and the sting in the tail that awaits the riders: it certainly isn’t the easiest start they could have had.

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We’ll no doubt see a fight between some of the Pro Continental teams to get into the break and try to take the KOM jersey but in terms of other action for the stage, don’t expect much until the closing 10kms, with everything building to a crescendo.

Some of you may recognise the finish climb from last year’s edition of the race, with it being the finale of Stage 4, which saw Tim Wellens power away from everyone. However, the approach into the town itself this year is a little different.

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Last year it was mostly all a steady downhill until the foot slopes of the climb but as you can see on the profile above, there are a few short rolling kickers to contend with first. Nothing to worry about for the peloton as they’re all roughly 500m long and average about 5-6% but they will be taken at race pace and probably sap the legs a little as the fight for position begins.

With around 2.6km to go it is the exact same finish that we had last year so it is worthwhile to watch that again. You can find a video of the finish here, just skip along to around the 42 minute mark for those closing kilometres.

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The fight to get to the right hand turn with 1.3km to go will be very important, as the climb starts in earnest as soon as you leave the main road with immediate double-digit ramps. Consequently, being at the front of the bunch allows you to carry more speed through turn and saving you a vital bit of energy.

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The climb can really be split into three parts; with an opening 700m at 16%; before a 300m shallow descent; and the final 250m at 13% kick to the line.

Having team-mates in the opening few hundred metres is helpful and we saw Lotto Soudal utilise that tactic well last year but with it being Wellens and Landa at the head of the race with 1km still to go – this is a stage about pure power and climbing legs.

The road surface on some parts of the climb is pretty terrible too with riders having to use storm drains for a smoother ride. This again highlights that being at the front of the peloton is a pretty good idea for this climb!

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One crucial point of the climb that I picked up on last year was this slight turn off of the shallow descent. Landa led Wellens through here, but the latter carried a lot more speed and was in a better gear to power himself past the Spaniard as the road started to rise again. It looked as if Landa had to alter his pedal stroke to change gear and that ultimately cost him the stage as he couldn’t get back onto Wellens’ wheel again.

I really enjoyed the finish last year and I’m more than happy to see it return this year! Let’s have a look at who might be competing for the win and the first leader’s jersey of the race.

Contenders

Tim Wellens.

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It’s only fair to start with last year’s winner with the Lotto rider hoping to double up this time round. As seems to be tradition now, Wellens started his 2019 very strongly in the Spanish Trofeo races winning one of them, with the other two results being 2nd and 5th. He was meant to ride Etoile des Besseges but had to skip it due to a viral infection and consequently missed almost a week off the bike. However, his coach seems to think that it shouldn’t be an issue and that he’ll be ready to contest for stage wins and a good GC placing this year. We’ll have to wait and see but a fit Wellens would be a favourite for the stage once again.

Adam Yates.

With a win already under his belt this year in Valenciana, taking the day at the very tough and steep finish in Alcossebre, Yates will be relishing another opportunity on a short but steep climb here tomorrow. He normally is good on these shorter steep ramps and after a slightly disappointing 2018 where he was in his brother’s shadow, he’ll want to step up again this year. The finish tomorrow provides a great opportunity for him to get an early second win under the belt this season.

Simon Yates.

Would it be fair to say he was the breakthrough rider of the year in 2018? Although he was a strong rider before that with good GC places in the Tour and Vuelta, it was last season that he really upped his level. With the well documented cracking at the Giro, Yates bounced back with a very mature and strong ride to win the Vuelta. Like his brother, he can fly up the steep slopes when he wants to but given this is his first race of the season, I’m not sure where his form is at. On the team’s website, he says to get some racing in his legs and support Haig and his brother. Just a bluff or is he being truthful? We’ll find out tomorrow.

4/7ths of the Astana team.

One of the early form teams, the Kazakh outfit are flying at the moment and I don’t see that changing here. They have an incredibly strong group with them at this race and on their day I could feasibly see any of Sanchez, Bilbao, Izagirre or Fuglsang win tomorrow. Honestly, trying to pick who out of them will go the best is tough but I would possibly argue Bilbao as he looked the strongest on the steepest finish in Alcossebre. I imagine they will all be given a free role tomorrow in the hope that they can be near the top of the order to put the pressure on the other teams later in the week.

Dylan Teuns.

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He was my pick to surprise everyone with an attack on Alcossebre but after apparently suffering a puncture with just less than 10km to go he had wasted too much energy fighting back and couldn’t follow the best. As a rider who has contending for the win and finished on the podium at Fleche Wallonne, a 1.2km steep climb tomorrow looks perfect for him and I fully expect him to be in the mix. With Colbrelli taking the team’s first win in Oman today, the pressure is somewhat off them a little tomorrow. Will that help Teuns out?

Sergio Higuita.

I named the young Colombian as my wildcard for Alcossebre and he certainly continued to impress there. His diminutive stature and low weight should theoretically help on the steep slopes compared to those more gravitationally challenged but with the dodgy road surface tomorrow, he might actually struggle to get the power down if he’s dancing on the pedals. Nonetheless, I expect another top 10 from him with another strong performance.

Eduard Prades.

It’s weird to see Movistar with such an underwhelming GC team for a race in Spain but they do have a possible outsider for the opening stage. Prades had a breakthrough year in 2018 winning the GC in Norway and Turkey, while picking up some good stage results throughout. Already this year he’s taken his first victory with a stage win in Provence, on a day that featured a brutally steep climb before the finish. Obviously that’s different from a race actually finishing up a steep climb but he’ll be hoping to improve on his 12th place here last year.

Prediction

I think it will be a Wellens vs A Yates vs Teuns vs Astana battle, but I think the former might still be a little flat after his illness. Hmmmm, it’s got to be Adam Yates, doesn’t it?

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Teuns to come home second with Bilbao third.

Betting

2pts Win Adam Yates @ 7/2 with Bet365.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Trofeo Laigueglia 2019 Preview

Now a yearly staple for my blog, the Italian Cup starts this weekend with the 56th edition of Trofeo Laigueglia on Sunday. A tricky race for this early in the season given the punchy climb on the closing circuit, it is often a race decided by a reduced bunch sprint or a solo rider escaping over one of the climbs and arriving at the finish ahead of the rest. In 2018 we saw a rather electric attack from Moreno Moser on the penultimate climb, which completely blew everyone else away. By the end the Astana man, riding for the Italian national team on the day, finished with a 43 second buffer over the remnants of the peloton: the biggest winning margin in recent years.

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Moser arrives here to defend his title and looking to complete a hat-trick of wins at this race. First though, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Identical to 2018’s parcours, the organisers obviously liked the one extra lap around the closing circuit that they added last year.

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The early climbs of the Paravenna (6.6km at 5.9%) and Testico (8.47km at 3.7%) won’t be decisive but they’ll certainly sap the legs of the peloton. I’m thankful for the figures on the profile above as trying to find the length/gradients of the latter climb was a real ball-ache last year…

Moving swiftly on, the crux of the race is the circuit that we have around Laigueglia itself.

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The toughest part on the course is the climb of Colla Micheri and that is the point at which Moser launched his winning attack last year, with Felline doing the exact same before going on to win in 2017.

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Averaging almost 8% for 2kms it will be attacked at a ferocious speed. Not long enough for a pure climber to make a difference, it certainly suits a puncheur that can hold a good amount of power for the 5 minutes it takes to get up it. Last year showed that the differences can be much greater on the final time up the ascent because of the extra lap and the more tired legs because of it. With the final 500m being the most important part and the area where the most hurt can be put on.

A fast descent follows before a few kilometres of flat and a final little kick up Capo Mele. It’s not a tough climb averaging only 3.5% for 1.9km but there are a few steeper ramps that can act as a launchpad if riders are stalling and looking at each other; just like Andrea Fedi did in 2016 before going on to win the race.

Once over the crest of Mele, the riders only have 2kms left of shallow descent and a flat run in to the finish.

Contenders

Despite the race being .HC in category, we only have two World Tour teams at the start of the race. Although to be fair, that is an improvement on last year’s one! Consequently, it could potentially be an open race that is difficult to control but I think we’ll see things kept in relative check until the closing couple of laps as some of the Italian Pro Conti teams will more than happily share the pace making.

Marco Canola.

On the team of the defending champion, I think Canola offers Nippo their best chance of taking the race. A consistent rider after his return to the European peloton, his 2018 failed to live up to the incredible 2017 he had, although several top 10s and podium places to his name so it wasn’t too bad a year; it was just a win that eluded him. He can climb well on the short slopes and with his fast sprint, he is a good candidate for this type of parcours. Having already got some racing in his legs over in Valenciana, he’ll be wanting to put that to good use tomorrow.

Anthony Roux.

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The current French champion will most likely be Groupama’s man for the day but without any racing for him so far this year, it is hard to know where his form is at. Last season was re-breakthrough (if I can call it that) year for the 31-year-old with him managing to take three victories and some other strong results including an impressive 3rd place in San Sebastian. If he is close to a similar level like he was on that day, then he should be in the mix here. I’m just not too sure if he will be.

Benoît Cosnefroy.

The 2017 U23 World Champion had a solid neo-pro year with AG2R in 2018, with the highlight being a 3rd place in his last race of the season at Paris Tours. Spending the opening part of the season in Australia saw the Frenchman get some racing in his legs, where he picked up an 11th place finish in Cadel’s race. A bit of a punchy all-rounder, he theoretically should be able to go well here and I imagine he’ll lead the AG2R squad.

Fabio Felline and his Trek buddies.

Winner in 2017, the Italian will once again ride for the national team and as a “squad” they are looking for their third win in a row at this race. With a mix of youth and experience in the team to help him, Felline will be confident of being at the pointy end of things come the finale. His 2018 wasn’t as strong as his 2017, but he did seem to finish the year off well and pick up a few good results. This season he’s already been racing in Spain and France, with a 9th place finish overall in Bessèges. One of the massive advantages that Felline has is the strength of his team, with both Ciccone and Brambilla potential winners of this race as well. With all three of them riding for trade-team Trek Segafredo, they should be able to communicate and work well together on the day. Whether that admitting your legs aren’t good, or bouncing attacks off of each other. I would be very surprised if we didn’t see one of them on the podium.

The whole of Androni, basically.

Looking at the teams, Androni have the most amount of riders who I think could win this race with Gavazzi, Cattaneo, Busato and Montaguti all potential candidates. Without any real fast climbing-sprinters at the race, I think Gavazzi would be the team’s best shot at winning in a reduced gallop to the line. However, I do expect them to be one of the teams to animate the race so they might try to avoid that outcome if possible, with maybe Cattaneo or Montaguti riding solo to the line.

Giovanni Visconti.

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In the twilight of his career, Visconti switched teams in the winter and returned to his former PCT outfit now known as Neri Sottoli, in the search for some more personal success and to help the younger Italian riders. On paper, this is a parcours that is made for the Italian with the short punchy climbs suiting his characteristics. He made a slow start in Argentina but now back on home soil he is a threat and one that most of his opposition will have an eye on.

Given the large amount of Continental teams here, there are a few riders who could pull out a surprise performance. Others to watch include Paolo Totò of Sangemini who was second here last year; Marco Tizza of Amore & Vita; plus youngster Andrea Bagioli (Team Colpack) who I think will be a star of the future.

Prediction

Looking at the strength of their team, I would be surprised not to see the Italian Trek conglomeration make it three wins in a row and I’ll go with Felline to be that man.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2019 Stage 5 Preview: Paterna -> Valencia

Today’s Recap

Despite Silvan Dillier’s best efforts, the remnants of the morning break was caught on the slopes of the final climb and we had a showdown between the GC riders for the stage win. Adam Yates set tempo on the front of the bunch in the closing 2 kms, initially looking to work for his team-mate Haig, but with the Australian losing contact it was Yates who attacked going into the final 300m. Izagirre tried to follow but couldn’t match the acceleration, while Valverde came round the Astana man to try to close the gap. It was too little too late for the World Champion with Yates holding on for the stage win.

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Valverde took second place while Bilbao came over the top of his team-mate to round out the podium on the day. The result was enough however for Izagirre to take over the race lead with Valverde and Bilbao 2nd and 3rd respectively. With that unlikely to change barring accident or mishap, Izagirre has one hand on his first GC win since the Tour of Poland back in 2015.

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

The Route

A flat and unusually short route for the final day, there is nothing really exciting to talk about at all…

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It is meant to be quite windy tomorrow but given the city circuit in Valencia, there is no threat of things splitting up because of it.

There are a number of roundabouts on the circuit but thankfully most of them come earlier on in the lap, so it shouldn’t affect the run-in. The last of the roundabouts is at 1.4km to go, but as you can see on the next image, it isn’t a really tight turn.

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There are two sweeping right hand turns in the closing 700m, with the last of which teeing the riders up for a 300m straight to the finish. Depending on what part of the road they have blocked off for that final turn, it might be a slightly harsher bend but we’ll have to wait and see. It shouldn’t be too bad either way but being in the first 6 wheels coming out if it will be very important.

Prediction

If I’m honest, I can’t really be bothered to go through all the sprinters again, enjoying watching the rugby too much this afternoon.

Looking at the field and on a stage like this then it really is hard to see past Groenewegen. There are no hills or obstacles to stop him this time and his team has the best lead-out.

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He’s a class above in terms of sprinting and the only rider who I think might have the top-end speed to match him is Bouhanni, but even then I think he’ll be just shy if it is a clean sprint.

Was tempted to put the house on Groenewegen but it is a no bet for me tomorrow, ending the race early punting wise after a few close calls but ultimately a rubbish week!

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Volta a la Comuntiat Valenciana 2019 Stage 4 Preview: Vila-Real -> Alcala-Alcossebre

Today’s Recap

An exciting final 20 km that saw quite a few teams interested in pushing the pace on at the front of the peloton once the break was caught. There were attacks from the likes of Hermans, De Marchi and Oliveira but everything was brought back coming in to the last 2 km.  With the pace being drilled at the front by Haig and Mohoric, there was no chance for a lull in the action and a counter-attack like I thought might happen and instead we got a sprint to the line from a bunch of 40 riders.

With it strung out through the tricky chicane at 200m to go, it was Luis Leon Sanchez who opened up the sprint first, but Greg van Avermaet came almost immediately off of his wheel and around the Astana man. Matteo Trentin tried to do the same to Van Avermaet but he just didn’t have the legs to match the Olympic champion, with CCC taking their first win of the season.

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Yesterday’s stage winner did come home in second place with Sanchez rounding out the podium. There were no gaps between the first 29 riders so no cheap time gained/lost by the favourites for the race overall, so let’s have a look at what is in store for them tomorrow.

The Route

The stage that will decide the GC, the riders will face over 3200m of climbing throughout the day, with a very tricky summit finish.

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Although there are plenty of climbs early on, there is nothing that will worry the GC contenders. Once again, this will be a stage that comes down to the closing ascent, there’s no chance of anything exciting happening before then.

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Compared to this afternoon’s very consistent final climbs, the final ascent tomorrow is horribly inconsistent as you can see. It always seems to be up or down, with the gradients changing throughout. Consequently, it definitely suits a more punchy climber rather than one who prefers to sit in the saddle and ride tempo.

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The ominous warning for the steep gradients that are to come!

Oddly enough, it took until I started going through the climb on street view until I properly recognised it from a poorly paved bit of road (sad, I know), but it is the same finish that was used on Stage 5 of the 2017 Vuelta.

That day was taken by the break, but in the fight between the GC riders a group of 4 managed to distance themselves from the other contenders. Time gaps weren’t massive but it is important to remember that was at the Vuelta where almost everyone as at 100% form and fitness, whereas, there certainly won’t be that same level tomorrow.

Whether that means we’ll see bigger time gaps or the opposite, I’m unsure and we’ll only find out during the race.

How will the race pan out?

It could very well be a day for the breakaway. We saw today that Dimension Data were happy to keep the race under check, but they didn’t extend themselves too much, hoping to get some help from the other teams. Tomorrow they will know that it is unlikely Boasson Hagen will be able to keep the jersey come the end of the stage, so they might be a little less keen to chase all day. Therefore, the onus will fall on the stronger GC teams who are confident of trying to set up their rider.

Astana no doubt will take up the mantle again and they’ve certainly been the most active team on the front of the peloton this race. Movistar will more than likely chip in too, but they have been quite coy with their willingness to work so far; they might try to bluff it. UAE and Bahrain are two teams that could work as they have contenders for the stage win but again, it just depends on their approach. If a group of 6 or so riders get away who are no threat for the GC, then there is a chance that they stay away all day because with the lack of bonus seconds, there is not as much impetus to bring them back.

However, I think we’ll see plenty teams co-operate to shut things down as the incentive of getting an early season win under the belt is enough of a carrot. Peloton takes the stage 80% of the time.

Contenders

Alejandro Valverde.

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With no bonus seconds on the line, Valverde will need to distance Ion Izagirre by 9 seconds which will be no easy feat. Everyone will be looking at the world champion as this short climb is perfectly suited to his characteristics, but he’ll need to attack somewhat early as just winning the stage alone might not be enough to take the GC. A cool character, don’t expect Valverde to crack under pressure and if he is being forced to chase down attacks by his competitors then he’ll just sit up; he’s won plenty of races and will no doubt win plenty more, to not be overly bothered by missing out here. Starts as the big favourite on paper but it will be difficult for him to win because of that.

Dan Martin.

Like Valverde, Martin will be looking forward to this climb. He flew up the ascent in the TT and has been lively since then, today sticking to the world champion’s wheel like glue. A genuine contender and one that will worry Valverde, Martin packs the short climb speed and kick to seriously challenge for the stage win. A lot of his wins in the past have come on climbs similar to this and with the way UAE have started the year, they could well go on to make it a 4th victory already.

Dylan Teuns.

Rinse and repeat for the above two, Teuns will be licking his lips at this finish. Last season he built on his strong 2017 and we’re now seeing a rider who seems to be living up to that original hype when he broke onto the scene. A master on steep ascents, the constant changing nature of the climb will suit his punchy and attacking nature. Sitting only 3 seconds behind Izagirre on GC, he’ll be incredibly motivated to get a result.

Ion Izagirre.

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The “virtual” race leader in essence, I was very impressed with his opening TT – clearly he is going well. Not traditionally known for his punchy ability on the short climbs like we have tomorrow, it will be interesting to see how he copes. The one advantage for him as that Astana have a very strong team with them and they should be able to control the race. I am intrigued to see what role Bilbao takes on; whether he attacks and forces others to follow, or if he just sets a tempo that means no one can attack. I think it will be hard for Izagirre to win the stage as there will be a lot of pressure on him as the GC leader in waiting, and everyone will look to him and his team do close anything down on the climb.

Sergio Higuita.

A real outsider, but I fully expect to see an attack from the young Colombian tomorrow. With his build of a traditional mountain goat, he should be able to float up the steeper parts of the climb and given that he is over a minute down on GC; he might just be able to slip away unmarked. I’ve not seen him race much before but his results in the Trofeo’s followed up by his 6th place have been enough to warrant my attention. He’s certainly one to watch.

Prediction

No breakaway win and we get a GC battle on the final slope. I think this is the time for Dylan Teuns to take another step up in his career by taking the stage win against the strong opposition we have here, and with it the GC title.

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Betting

1.5pt WIN Teuns @ 12/1

0.5pt WIN Higuita @ 33/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.