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…

TheBreakawayLottery

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.

 

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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!

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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.

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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.

 

Tour de France 2018 Stage 14 Preview: Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux -> Mende

Today’s Recap

FDJ and Bora decided they weren’t playing ball today as neither tried to get a man in the break. Once the 4 men went up ahead they controlled it, not letting the gap grow out much further than 2 minutes. Despite Gilbert’s late attack we had a sprint day with the best sprinter here, Sagan, taking the win.

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He edged out Kristoff who in turn edged out Démare to round out the podium. Pretty dull day, let’s hope for some more exciting racing tomorrow. Speaking of which…

The Route

A rolling day that sees a lot of climbing in the latter part.

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A flat start to the afternoon sees an uncategorised drag (roughly 2.9% for 8kms), come after 10kms into the day. The road then goes over several small bumps and some more flat roads for the following 60km before the Cat-4 climb. Will the break have gone by then?

After that, the road goes up from pretty much 95 -> 129km, meaning the average gradient is 2.5% for those 34kms. That of course includes the “proper” climb of Col de la Croix de Berthel which officially clocks in at 5.3% for 9.1kms. The riders will then face a descent before a climb, which will then be rinsed and repeated again.

With a descent and some valley roads, everyone will turn their attention to the closing climb of the day.

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It’s the same finish climb that was used in 2015 when Pinot and Bardet dropped everyone else from the break but they were caught up by a storming Cummings while they were playing games. The climb is tough and it is possible we see some splits in the GC group if it is rode at a crazy pace. Nothing major but a few seconds here and there.

I can’t see anyone wanting to keep this one together so…

TheBreakawayLottery

Break Contenders

Every man and his dog will be trying to get into the break if they can and the fight will be tough. It will take some luck to make the right move but also having good legs is important. Will any GC rider allow a domestique the chance to go for a stage win?

I’m also breaking a few of my rules today as I’ll be naming five guys below, shocking, I know. Here goes nothing…

Gorka Izagirre.

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He looked strong in the breakaway during stage 11 before an untimely mechanical or bout of cramp (still don’t which it is) ruined any chance of going for stage glory. With Nibali no longer at the race Bahrain will be very active over the remaining stages and Gorka looks their best bet for tomorrow. As I mentioned in the preview for stage 11, this season is the best I have ever seen him ride; his climbing is exceptional. He was just unlucky not to be able to showcase it that day. With his good kick he could win a gallop to the line.

Julian Alaphilippe.

The current King of the Mountains has been very smart with his energy use over the past few stages, going hard for the first HC or Cat-1 climbs of the day and then swiftly exiting the break. He’s clearly planned this one out in advance. With only a few points available on Stage 15, I think he might chance his arm and go for the stage win tomorrow. If there was one rider in the peloton (not a GC contender) that you had to pick for this final climb then it would be Alaphilippe. If he makes the break then not many will want to drag him to the bottom of it so he might be susceptible to longer range attacks. Nonetheless, he starts the stage as favourite.

Gregor Mühlberger.

On the attack during the Alpe d’Huez stage, Mühlberger is fast becoming one of my under rated (favourite) domestiques in the peloton – he’s a classy bike rider. He has a bit of everything as he can go well on the flat but can also cope well with hilly terrain. During the Tour de Suisse he was close to a stage win, well kind of, but was brought back by some flying GC riders. Nonetheless, he still managed to hold on for 4th place that day. One who could possibly attack before the final climb and use his good descending skills to advantage. He has a great chance if he starts the ascent with a 30 second advantage.

Jelle Vanendert.

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Lotto Soudal only have half of their roster left in the race but they have been active despite that. One of their riders that has been quiet though is Vanendert. Maybe he has been targeting this stage for a while? His Spring campaign was successful with a string of strong results in the Ardennes classics. Will saving those legs reap the benefits against a tired peloton?

Simon Geschke.

Bit of a wild card here because it requires Dumoulin to allow the German on the attack. His performance on the Alpe d’Huez stage was nothing short of phenomenal though and he was one of only a few domestiques left at the foot of the climb. It is the best I’ve seen him go up some hills since his win at this race in 2015. Has he found his mojo again? A danger man that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Prediction

Alaphilippe, all day.

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Betting

Even as much as I think Alaphilippe has a great chance I just can’t back him at that price for a stage with many variables.

1pt WIN G Izagirre @ 33/1

0.5pt WIN Mühlberger @ 150/1

1pt WIN Vanendert @ 40/1

0.75pt WIN Geschke @ 66/1

Again, you could possibly wait for the Exchanges to open, most likely get better prices there.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2018 Stage 13 Preview: Bourg d’Oisans ->Valence

Today’s Recap

I don’t think words can really do today’s action justice: it had a bit of everything!

We had a GC contender (Kruijswijk) go on a crazy long-range attack and start the final climb with over a 4 minute buffer to the peloton. Riders dropping out the back like flies as new kid on the block and future Grand Tour winner Bernal set a ferocious tempo that only a select handful of riders could live with, dropping his compatriot Quintana. Bardet was on a coiled spring as he constantly attacked. Nibali looked good but was involved in a fall which at the time of writing looked to be caused by a police motorbike that couldn’t see properly through the smoke. Dumoulin and Froome exchanged digs, before Bardet went again. The pace then slowed and that allowed Landa back to the group which he then almost immediately counter attacked.

That attack then lead out Thomas perfectly who managed to take back to back stage wins, making him the first rider in Yellow to win on Alpe d’Huez since Armstrong.

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Dumoulin came home next with Bardet nabbing a few bonus seconds in third. Froome trailed home in 4th with Landa not too far behind. Nibali and Roglic regained some ground to only come home 13 seconds back and it looks like Nibali will get the same time as the GC group after his crash, Roglic was already distanced a little by that point. Although this isn’t confirmed at the time of writing.

It was some great racing but the day was almost ruined by some over zealous fans. Don’t be an idiot.

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

The Route

After three big days in the mountains I’m sure plenty of the riders will be happy to see tomorrow’s profile.

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Only two categorised climbs will be music to the ears of those who have struggled and with a descent after 5kms of racing, it will probably be a fast start to the day. The two climbs won’t play any part in the outcome of the stage aside from the first one might see the formation of the break but that all depends on the attitudes of the riders, but I’ll get to that later.

There are a couple of uncategorised climbs later in the day one of which is arguably tougher than the Cat-4, with it coming in at roughly 3.8% for 5kms. It peaks with 36km to go though and starts a series of kickers but again nothing too serious. The riders then descend until roughly 10km to go where the road flattens out a bit.

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Those final 10km are mainly easy but there is a bit of an elongated bowl to the finish.

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There are a few tight turns near the finish, namely a right hand turn with just under 2.5km to go. Arguably the most important thing to note though is an 800m drag at 2.6% which finishes at 550m to go. This could sap the finishing sprint of some and might tempt others to go for a late attack.

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With around 450m to go the riders will face a roundabout but given it is on a wide road it shouldn’t cause too many issues. No doubt though it will stretch things out a little.

That is of course if we see a sprint…

How will the stage pan out?

I already had tomorrow penciled in as a surprise breakaway stage due to the tough three days we have had and some of the riders fancying a “rest day”. However, with the sprinters falling like flies today (Greipel, Groenewegen and Gaviria all abandoned), then it makes it very much less of a surprise. We could of course see a stage where almost everyone wants a rest and only 4 guys get up the road and in turn the sprint teams then decide they actually want to control things.

Which fast men do we have left?

Sagan, Démare, Kristoff, Colbrelli, Degenkolb, Laporte, Boudat and Theuns. Although I am stretching it a bit with the last three as they are either not as good as the others or more than likely on team duties.

So avoiding any elaborate argument here then and straight into everyone’s favourite game, again.

TheBreakawayLottery

Break Candidates

Pffft, pull a name out of the hat and hope you get lucky. We might even see Sagan go on the attack for some fun.

All of the riders I’m going to highlight fit a similar mould; strong on the flat but solid on the short climbs and have the ability to arrive at the finish solo.

Tobias Ludvigsson.

My yearly Big T bet day is upon us. It is very unlikely that FDJ will work all day for Démare so the best plan of action is to try to send someone up the road. Ludvigsson has slowly started to find his legs again after missing the first few months of the season due to injury. He’s a good domestique who on his day gets a chance to shine in the break. Hopefully everyone has fond memories of him pulling a few whips while on the attack in the Vuelta last year, a day that I was on him at 400/1 but Cannondale decided to ruin the break’s fun because they missed the move. Let’s see if Ludvigsson has the same energy tomorrow!

Maciej Bodnar.

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Cruelly caught within the final 250m of stage 11 last year, he then got his revenge later on in the race by winning the individual time trial. Bodnar is one of Sagan’s loyal work horses and the World Champion might reward him with his own opportunities tomorrow. Bodnar was flying in the Polish national championships where he ultimately lost the sprint to Kwiatkowski. A brute of a rider, you don’t want to give him too much leeway near the end of the day.

Michael Valgren.

A faller earlier in the race, Valgren impressed from the break the other day but tomorrow the terrain is suited to him a lot more. It depends on how Astana decide to use their resources but the Dane looks their best option. We’ve seen already this year just how strong he can be with his two superb wins in Omloop and Amstel. Given his power, he might even fancy his chances from a small breakaway sprint.

Jack Bauer

With Yates out of the GC picture Mitchelton will need to change their game plan over the remaining stages, it’s a shame they didn’t have a sprinter with them to chase some stages…Anyway, Bauer is a good mix of solid climber but very strong rouleur who can go well on a course like tomorrow. Another rider who has had his heartbroken before at the Tour when he was caught within the final 100m by a charging peloton back on stage 15 of the 2014 race. That was a similar profile to what we have tomorrow, can he find that extra 100m of energy?

Prediction

Break to stay away and Valgren to win. He looks in great shape at the moment!

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Betting

0.5pt WIN on them all

Valgren @ 250/1

Ludvigsson @ 

Bodnar @ 300/1

Bauer @ 250/1

Big T not priced so will go with Dillier @ 400/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2018 Stage 12 Preview: Bourg-Saint-Maurice Les Arcs -> Alpe d’Huez

Today’s Recap

Well that was something else, wasn’t it?

For a while it looked as if the break was going to have its day but Valverde’s attack on the second climb saw a shift in the balance. Nibali oddly ordered Pelizotti to the front of the peloton near the top of the third climb of the day but it was actually Dumoulin who attacked on the descent. He then bridged to Valverde on La Rosière before swiftly dropping the Movistar man.

Things kept getting cranked up in the peloton behind and after a massive Kwiatkowski pull there was no Sky domestique left. Thomas chose those moment to attack and set out in pursuit after Dumoulin who had bridged to breakee Caruso. A lot of looking around by the rest of the GC favourites saw Bardet attack several times but he was brought back by different riders before a flying attack from Dan Martin (who had been dropped a few hundred metres earlier) caught everyone off guard and only Froome could follow. That duo then set off in pursuit of the Thomas group while in the mean time it looked as if Nieve would hold on for the stage win ahead, surviving from the early break.

Yeah nah, Thomas had other ideas as he accelerated to 40km/h on a 4% gradient and crushed the dreams his former team-mate had of being a stage winner in all three Grand Tours, closing down a 16 second gap in only a few hundred metres, passing Nieve at 400m to go.

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It was enough to secure him the stage win and move into Yellow. It’s going to be tough for anyone to dislodge him in his current form, that’s for sure!

Behind, Froome had already dropped Martin and tried to do the same to Dumoulin but he was pipped to second place by the Dutchman. With breakaway rider Caruso pipping fellow breakee Nieve for 4th.

Today’s result leaves Sky 1-2 in the standings with Froome 1’25 behind Thomas and Dumoulin a further 19 seconds back. Will we see any of the contenders try something tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for them.

The Route

Another day in the mountains and the final day in the Alps and the organisers have saved the iconic Alpe d’Huez.

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Three big climbs (and one small one) await the riders, totalling over 5200m of ascent. This is a monster day in the saddle!

A shallow descent leads into the first climb of the day, the Col de la Madeleine. A tough climb that averages 6.2% for 25.3kms but too far out for anything to happen. The same can even be said for the next climb of Col de la Croix de Fer with its 5.2% average for 29kms.

I was going to post the profiles for both of the climbs but what is the point? We’ll just see Sky tempo up them after today and with some of the GC implosions we had no-one is going to want to attack from that far out, especially with the 14km of flat before we reach Huez.

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On of the most famous climbs in world cycling, the 21 hairpin bends might allow some riders to be out of sight and out mind. The final couple of kilometres of the climb are easier so anyone hoping to damage to their rivals has to go a little bit earlier than what they would possibly like. Teams somehow need to get Sky down to their barebones by 6kms to go and attack but I can’t see how they manage that without burning their own matches first.

How will the stage pan out?

Beats me.

After today’s dominant Sky-train display despite Movistar’s best efforts then I think many will be happy to sit in the wheels and let the race leader’s control proceedings all the way until Alpe d’Huez. We might even see Rowe make it but that just depends on if Froome or Thomas want to win the sage.

Given the strength of their squad then it is possible that they are able to control the breakaway and then set a blistering tempo on the climb and set their two leaders up to one-two attack before one of them eventually gets away.

Sky do like to try to win on the iconic climbs of cycling and they might be confident after today’s performance of almost burying the Tour tomorrow. But it is a tough day for them to control for the stage win and I don’t think any other GC team will help them, therefore I think the breakaway has a good chance of surviving.

That time again…

TheBreakawayLottery

Antwan Tolhoek – Promising young climber that was the last rider to stay with his two team-leaders. 13th on GC in California was followed up with a solid 11th in the Dauphiné. He seems to be in good form at the moment and with his dimunitive figure he should be able to light up the final climb. Could well be used as a foil for an attack behind but if the break is too far ahead he might be given the light to chase his own success.

Jesper Hansen. – With Fuglsang struggling a bit today, I think we’ll see Astana try to get into the breaks. They were active today and I expect that to continue tomorrow. Hansen is one of their better climbing domestiques and he saved his legs today. Possibly could be the one to go for it tomorrow. It will be a tough ask but it all depends on his breakaway companions.

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David Gaudu – The next French climbing sensation, the former Tour de l’Avenir is here to chase some stage wins from the break this year and tomorrow looks perfect for him. A proper talent, will the opening 11 days of racing taken something out of him?

Ian Boswell – After Zakarin struggling again today, then Boswell might be given the freedom to go for the stage win. He’s performed consistently well so far in this Tour but it would take a little bit of luck for him to win. You just never know though.

Prediction

Sky to let the break stay out and Gaudu to take the win!

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Betting

1pt WIN Gaudu @ 40/1

0.5pt WIN Tolhoek @ 80/1

0.3pt WIN Hansen @ 200/1

0.2pt WIN Boswell @ 500/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.