Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 21 Preview: Rome -> Rome

Today’s Recap

The break was finally given some leeway today despite for a while it looked as if Astana might decide against it. After shepherding Yates home yesterday, Nieve set his stall out attacking the rest of his breakaway companions, eventually riding solo to the line for what was a comfortable win in the end.

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Fellow breakers Gesink and Grossschartner rounded out the podium on the day. Behind, despite some back and forth action, there were no cracks from the GC favourites on the final climb and they all rode in together. Well, aside from Pinot who looked desperately ill and dropped way out of the top 10 as a result of a +25minute time loss.

One stage left to go but that is the GC battle over and Froome is our champion. Hey, at least I got something right this race! It doesn’t sit right with me and I think I’ve made that clear throughout this season but here we are anyway, and I guess we all just have to get on with it.

So for one last time, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

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Pan-flat criterium in Rome to finish.

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A couple of sketchy turns in the closing kilometres but with an almost straight final kilometre, we should see a fairly organised sprint.

Contenders – a.k.a Viviani v Bennett

Viviani has got the ciclamino jersey all but won as Bennett needs to win the stage and pick up some intermediate sprint points, with the Quick Step man not getting any points throughout the day.

Both have shown good speed throughout this race but over the recent sprint stages I think Bennett has looked faster but Viviani has the better lead-out.

With that said and taking into account that Viviani only has to stay on his bike and not take too many risks in the finale then that swings things in favour of the Irishman.

Prediction

Bennett to win.

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Thank You

Although it has been one of the most frustrating Grand Tours to predict and write about that I’ve covered since starting this blog a couple of years ago, it has been enjoyable and unpredictable to watch. I want to thank every one of you for continuing to read the posts daily: it keeps me motivated to plough on and hopefully I’ve produced some enjoyable and engaging content over the past few weeks. On a personal note, the blog viewership has surpassed last year’s Giro by a good amount and even beat last year’s Tour. Onwards from here!

One last time for me to plug my BuyMeABeer section if you want to help rebuild my bank balance after this month haha. If you wish to donate anything then please do so here.

I’ll be taking a few days break but I’ll be back for the Dauphiné which starts in what seems no time. Anyway, for one last time this Giro,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

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Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 20 Preview: Susa -> Cervinia

Today’s Recap

Well shit, that was insane.

Love him or hate him, you have to admire just how ballsy and mental that ride from Foome was today. Team Sky set him up perfectly on the Finestre and the Brit attacked once onto the gravel section, with still a good portion of the climb to go, let alone the remaining 70 odd kilometres. But he did it, unbelievably, he managed to hold off the remaining GC group of Dumoulin/Pinot/Lopez/Carapaz but a good bit of that can be attributed to the lack of organised chase, especially between the two young jersey riders.

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His time gap when he crossed the line was 3 minutes to second placed finisher Carapaz with Pinot finishing another 7 seconds behind. More importantly though, Dumoulin was even further behind and Froome now consequently leads the race by 40 seconds which should be enough to see him crowned champion.

A few riders had bad days in the saddle with Pozzovivo losing his podium position but Yates had a terrible day and he’s dropped down to 18th place on GC.

It will have been a tough day out for all though as the last rider home came in over 45 minutes down. Not fun. Good thing there is an easy stage tomorrow, oh wait…

The Route

It is easy to start off with to be fair but the final third is very cruel!

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130kms of mainly flat ground which will see a fight to get into the break before three tough cat-1 climbs in the closing 80km of the day to play host to any final changes in GC.

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First up is the Col Tsecore and it is arguably the toughest climb the riders will face all day, averaging 7.7% for its 16kms. That includes a 3km section of 11.4%. I would say it is too far out for any action but you never know. Once over the crest the riders will plunge straight down for the following 20kms on what could be a treacherous descent.

No time for respite though, because after a kilometre or so of valley roads they once again start heading upwards, this time for the Col Sant Pantaléon.

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Another climb that averages north of 7%, this time 7.2%, for its 16.5km, the riders will have weary legs once they reach the top no doubt. With the toughest section coming in the closing 2km, it is the perfect launchpad for an attack before committing full gas to the descent.

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The finish climb to Cervinia is the easiest of the day but with the tough double-header before and taking into account just how aggressive this Giro has been, a few rider’s might get some nasty surprises from their legs here.

How will the stage pan out?

Today well and truly turned the race on its head, so much so that Froome’s 40 second gap to Dumoulin seems too big for the Dutchman to overcome. Especially if the Sky rider is as good as he was today. We saw just how strong his team was this afternoon and it will take a lot for Sunweb to shake off Poels, Henao and Elissonde. We’ll no doubt see a vintage Sky mountain train tomorrow where they ride tempo to deter any attacks on the first two climbs. It depends on Dumoulin’s mood but he said post-stage today that he felt pessimistic about tomorrow, which to me signals that he knows he’s lost.

Sky will be happy for a large break to get up the road with no dangermen from GC and they’ll just control things behind.

Tomorrow is 90% a breakaway day but it all depends on who makes the move. If someone on the cusp of the top 10 sneaks into the move then we’ll see whoever is going to be knocked out of that position’s team chasing to hold onto that spot. It’s disappointing to see, but a Top 10 in a GT means a lot for some of these teams and riders.

The only real dangerous riders to watch out for in that situation though are Formolo, Geniez, Dennis and Poels.

If none of them make the break then I can see it winning by 10+ minutes again.

Making the break

Something that is a lot easier than it sounds but with everyone in the peloton knowing that a break is likely to stick, there will be a lot of fighting to get ahead. You need to be lucky with what move to follow but also need to manage your effort well and choose what break attempts to go in wisely.

Furthermore, we saw after Schachmann’s stage win that Van Poppel had tried to get into the break with one of their leader’s for the stage (probably Eg, knowing my luck), but he was not able to follow the Dutchman’s wheel. These things happen and it will be similar tomorrow where the morning terrain suits the rouleurs but to win the stage you need to go well uphill too.

Anyway, time to play everyone’s favourite game again.

TheBreakawayLottery

Jack Haig.

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With Yates well and truly out of the GC picture now, Mitchelton will probably go on the offensive tomorrow to try to win another stage. Haig impressed a lot in the Vuelta last year and he has continued that development this season, working incredibly well for his leader over the past few weeks. In the previous two stages we have had, the Aussie rider has taken it “easy” (well, as easy as it can be in a GT), so he should be a bit fresher than he was. We’ve seen so far in this race how strong he can be on the climbs and not many in the break will fancy their chances if he’s there.

Jose Goncalves.

I’ve not mentioned Mr #GoOnCalves for a while and that’s because he’s mainly been riding a really awkward race for me to do so, sitting on the cusp of the top 15 and too close on GC to try anything. Today he came home in a respectable 19th but at more than 26 minutes down on GC, he can finally go on the attack and be allowed some freedom. He is riding very well so far this race and has surpassed my expectations of what he could possibly do as a rider – can he take a stage to round it off?

Joe Dombrowski.

For old time’s sake. We’re into the final week of a Grand Tour and I’ve only mentioned Dombrowski once before so it feels right to do it again. The American has great powers of recovery and with a tough stage today, it should level the playing field a bit for him tomorrow. He has one of the best endurance engines I’ve seen in the peloton, and I genuinely think he’d be a contender in a 6-week race! The tricky climbs will see him at home tomorrow and would be great to see him finally deliver on that junior performance.

Carlos Betancur.

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Much to the dismay of his faithful following, Betancur dropped out of the top 20 on GC today after coming home 34 minutes down. Is he cooked, or saving himself for one final shot at stage glory? We all know what type of rider he can be when he wants, and he seems to be getting to that stage again. This race is normally a good stomping ground an I’m sure the majority of the cycling public would love to see the Colombian raise his arms at the end of the day.

Prediction

#GoOnCalves.

José-Gonçalves

That is all.

Betting

I think I should be giving out a gamble responsibly mission statement here. None of the prices really appeal to me just now so hoping they get better later.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 19 Preview: Venaria Reale -> Bardonecchia

Today’s Recap

The Giro is the Giro.

In typical fashion we had a break made up mainly of rouleurs that was allowed to go and contest the stage win. I honestly have no idea what the teams who chased so fervently yesterday were doing today allowing a break get away today that had only a handful of climbers in it.

And after me backing him for yesterday’s stage Schachmann went on to win today. Sums this race up perfectly really!

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I will admit that it is quite nice that Morkov and Schachmann who are roomies, planned this move yesterday evening.

Plaza was second with Cattaneo in third.

It looked as if it was going to be a dull GC day but a series of attacks ultimately led to Yates having a mini-crisis, from which he lost 28 seconds to Dumoulin, Pozzovivo and Froome. Consequently it means that he is only the same margin ahead of the Sunweb rider going into a very tough double-header. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Arguably the hardest stage at the Giro, the riders will face 5000m of climbing throughout the afternoon.

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Climbing from the gun, albeit gently to start off with, the riders will summit the Colle del Lys after 48km of racing. Plenty of time for riders to be shelled out the back if there is a big fight to get into the breakaway.

A long descent and a good portion of valley roads follows before this year’s Cima Coppi: the Colle delle Finestre.

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45 hairpins over 18.5km and a climb that averages roughly 9%. I suppose the riders can take some solace in the fact that at least it is steady…Oh, the second half of it is also on gravel roads. Just to add to the excitement.

Another quick and technical descent follows before the drag up to the ski station of Sestrière. However, it will be the easier ascent the will tackle this year so it shouldn’t amount to much.

It will be then over to the final climb to decide the day.

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It’s a tough one too as the Jaffereau averaging 9% for 7.2kms. With some of the steepest sections coming right at the end, it is perfect for an explosive lightweight climber. But after what they will have had to face before then, it might just be a case of who has anything left in the tank.

How will the stage pan out?

If Yates didn’t show any sign of weakness today then there would have been a chance that the break sticks all the way tomorrow. It still has a chance but given how aggressively I expect the other GC teams to race it now then you will need to be a very good climber to possibly hold on.

If I was Mitchelton I would play a very ballsy and risky game tomorrow. Everyone expects the likes of Sky, Sunweb and Bahrain to get a guy into the morning move to act as a bridge for their GC contender later on. So in that situation Mitchelton should just let the break get so far ahead that the rider up the road is redundant. Of course, this plan backfires a bit if lets say someone like Poels slips away.

Will we see any long-range attacks on the Finestre? I think that is a possibility but a rider will need a lot of team support ahead of them because there are still 70kms to the finish after that.

Of course, it is not just the ascents where attacks can be made and the technical descents may be just as pivotal tomorrow, especially if we get some of the rain that is forecast.

There is a good chance that things get brought back together and we have a very select group fight it out on the final climb, as the long valley roads in between the ascents might put an end to any rangey solo attacks.

Before today’s GC shake up I would have had this as a breakaway day in a 60:40 split, because of those valley roads. But after Yates’ few cracks appearing today, then I’ll reverse that and suggest it will be a GC rider who will take the win. Although I’m not completely discounting the break because it could still stick in the right situation.

Contenders

Tom Dumoulin.

Has he peaked perfectly for the final week? He certainly looked strong today but the final climb suited him very well. Tomorrow will be a big test for one of the heavier GC contenders but he seems to be in good form at the moment. With the gap down to just 28 seconds now, he will feel within touching distance of Yates, so he might not take as many risks as he would have done otherwise tomorrow.

Chris Froome.

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What’s the next best stage to win after Zoncoloan, probably the day with the Cima Coppi in it. Both Froome and Poels seem to be growing into this race which might worry their rivals but the Sky rider is probably too far back on GC to take the win. This is the Giro though, so who knows. He was attacking today and I think we might try to see a gutsy move from him on the Finestre tomorrow. The steep finishing climb will suit his washing machine cadence, that’s for sure.

Simon Yates.

Just a bad day, or something worse? He says that he should be fine tomorrow but will he really be. There’s only one way to find out and I’m sure we’ll all find out at the same time as he does tomorrow. I think he could bounce back, but he needs to not show any weakness until the final climb. It will be a big day for him and his team and unless he finds that flying form he had in the opening two weeks, it won’t be a stage win for him.

Domenico Pozzovivo.

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The Bahrain man has done a fantastic ride so far this Giro and finds himself currently sitting on the podium. He and his team will be very concerned with a reinvigorated Froome though but the Italian did seem to follow the Sky rider’s attack today with some ease. There has been a lot of talk throughout this Giro about his lack of support in the mountains after Siuitsou crashed before the race began. Will that show itself tommorrow?

Miguel Angel Lopez.

One of today’s stronger performers, the current young jersey holder produced an impressive climbing display on the one and only hill. He caught up to Poels in what seemed like no time, although it is hard to tell if he was waiting up for Froome a bit. Nonetheless, the Colombian seems to be really growing into the race and with the alititude involved tomorrow, he will be at home.

That’s it, all of the other GC top 20 have no chance of winning the stage.

Reichenbach Returns

After today’s calamitous affair I want to re-highlight Reichenbach again for tomorrow’s stage, because yaknow, Schachmann won the day after I had mentioned him so here’s hoping it is the same with Sebastien.

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I pointed out on Twitter that during the final slopes today he seemed to be the one setting tempo for Pinot bit considering we had a few attacks he wasn’t going full gas and I assumed that’s because Pinot was cooked. They were hoping to bluff it but as soon as the big guys came out to play the FDJ leader went backwards. Reichenbach stuck with him the whole climb but I just can’t see a way back for Pinot now. He is only going to go backwards. He and the team should reward his loyal domestique with some freedom to chase the stage win tomorrow.

Reichenbach is part of only a handful of guys who might win the day if it is not a GC contender, with the others being Aru, Ciccone and Woods.

Prediction

An Astana hail-mary, with all in for Lopez and we’ll see Superman fly!

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He is in great shape but also has the advantage of being far enough behind not to be an immediate threat.

Betting

Feck it, balls to the wall time.

2pts WIN Lopez @ 11/4 

1pt WIN Reichenbach @ 50/1

Plus 1pt on this treble…

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The 6pts on Bennett to beat Carapaz at 11/8.

I think tomorrow suits the Jumbo rider a lot more and Carapaz might lack the experience of going deep into a Grand Tour as a GC rider.

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 18 Preview: Abbiategrasso -> Prato Nevoso

Today’s Recap

The Giro happened, that’s what went on today.

After a fairly big group of riders managed to establish itself off the head of the peloton, Bora kept it on a bit of a leash hoping to hold it together for a sprint with Bennett. However, the gap kept extending until UAE decided to help as they had missed the move and it was consequently brought back together. This all happened in the first 30km by the way.

Another large group managed to escape again but this time the two big sprint teams were represented. Well, who would chase behind? A combination of a few teams that had missed the break such as Katusha and Trek but also some of the GC teams saw an end to the move because 16th placed Formolo was there. That move was brought back.

I then went out for an hour as I had a dentist appointment, hoping to arrive back to a calmed down day. Hahaha, how wrong was I. Once home I see an escape of 4 up the road that included Poels, LLS, De Marchi and Hermans, which I suppose could be called the break of the day.

They were never given much leeway though as some sprint teams contributed to the chase.

In a hectic and rain-soaked final kilometre it was Quick Step who came out the strongest, delivering Viviani the perfect lead-out and the Italian duly delivered.

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Bennett was the fastest finisher but could only manage second in the end, after he lost some positions in the closing kilometre and started from too far back. Bonifazio got up well for second and given the treacherous conditions, he wasn’t actually that much of a danger to his opponents for once.

The whole stage was just bonkers though and with an average speed of 46.51km/h today, there will be some sore legs tomorrow. Good thing it’s not a mountain top finish, oh, wait…

The Route

Flat, little hill, more flat, BIG HILL.

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I’ll not beat about the bush here, this is all about the final climb to Prato Nevoso.

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It’s not the toughest climb the riders will face at an average of just 6.9% for 13.9km but given that it is the only real ascent of the day then we could see a few rider’s legs respond oddly, especially after today.

However, with the second-half of the climb “only” averaging 6.6% it is hard to believe that there will be big GC gaps but with this being the third week of a GT and given how crazy this Giro has been so far, there might just be.

How will the stage pan out?

It is an easy day for the GC teams to control if they want to set up a showdown on the final climb. The one issue with that is just how unflappable our current Maglia Rosa looks and how perfect the final climb is for him. If they try to keep it together then there is a very real chance that Yates just sprints for the win and extends his lead even more.

I think the outcome of the day relies on the approach of Sky and Mitchelton. The former will sniff the podium and potentially more, so they might want to hold things together for a Froome attack on the final slopes. We saw just how lively they were today. The latter know they have the best climber here and he could get another famous stage win while in Pink but they don’t need to do that. He and the team just need to ride a defensive race, something which they haven’t done at all so far and that has me a bit worried they might try something tomorrow. Surely not though, as the following two stages will see their squad put under a whole lot of pressure and they will need as relaxing a day as possible.

If the morning break goes and features riders from UAE, Astana and Sky that are no threat to the overall, then I see it going all the way. They will struggle to get a stage win otherwise and if they are going to attempt a raid on Friday/Saturday, need the majority of their firepower fresh for then.

Could this finally be the stage where a breakaway sticks? A day that on paper looks like one which could be controlled easily for a GC showdown. Would be typical of this Giro.

Time to play everyone’s most hated game (I imagine by now anyway)…

TheBreakawayLottery

Break Contenders

It will be interesting to see the aspirations of some riders tomorrow. The finish would be ideal for someone like Ciccone or Aru, but will they save themselves for a day with more mountain points on offer or a more prestigious set of mountains. I think so…

Jan Hirt.

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Astana have been on the offensive the past few days and seem really keen for a stage win. There is a chance Miguel Angel Lopez could take the day if they keep things together but with a strong Yates then their best chance lies in the break. After his barnstorming appearance at this race in 2017, Hirt has been quiet so far this year, working ably to help support his leaders. Last year we saw how strong he was in the final week and if he arrives at the foot of the climb with a few minutes advantage over the peloton then they won’t be able to catch him.

Sebastien Reichenbach.

Super impressive in helping Pinot on both the Zoncolan and Sappada stage finishes, the FDJ man has slowly ridden his way into form here. With his GC captain losing a bucket load of time in the TT and complaining of felling unwell, he might be allowed the freedom to chase his own result here. In fact, he was one of the riders who made one of the many breakaways today so his legs must be feeling good. In the right breakaway, he has a big chance of taking a career-changing win.

Niklas Eg.

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My proper wild card of the list as he is only in his first Grand Tour and in his neo-pro year but boy is he talented. Last year he finished 4th on GC at the baby Giro and then followed that up with a 3rd place at the Tour de l’Avenir, clearly he can climb well. In the opening part of the season he impressed many with a 7th place finish on Jabel Hafeet, but it was his performance in Croatia that really stood out. On the toughest mountain finish he set a very strong pace at the front of the bunch, slowly whittling it down for his team leader. But when the attacks came, Brambilla didn’t have anything left to follow and ultimately Eg finished almost a minute ahead of him. Who knows what could have been if he was allowed to go for his own result. Tomorrow’s finish ascent looks great for the slight climber, can he announce himself on the big stage?

Jan Polanc.

With UAE determined to get a stage win at some point, I would be very surprised not to see a few of them in the breakaway tomorrow. Polanc seems to save the best of himself for the Giro but he’s not had the chance to shine brightly on any stages so far. Both of his World Tour wins have come at this race and they’ve both been mountain top finishes. With only one climb to deal with tomorrow he should do well as he seems to get worn down when there are multiple climbs littered throughout the route – he’ll certainly be hoping for better legs than when he was on the attack on Stage 8. Will UAE be rewarded for their aggression the past few days?

Prediction

The break to finally stick and we’ll see the strongest climber take the win, step up Sebastien Reichenbach.

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Although we’ll no doubt see some GC team set it up for their rider only for them to finish in 9th and Yates take another stage…

Betting

0.7pt WIN Reichenbach @ 125/1

0.5pt WIN Polanc @ 80/1

0.5pt WIN Hirt @ 100/1

0.3pt WIN Eg @ 300/1

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

Those were my Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 17 Preview: Riva del Garda -> Iseo

Today’s Recap

Rohan Dennis proved to everyone that he can still deliver an incredibly strong TT when challenging for a good position on GC, as he “romped” home today with a 14 second margin over a rejuvenated Tony Martin who took second.

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Tom Dumoulin brought home the GC riders in third place a result he’ll probably be disappointed with, considering he only took 1’15 from Yates. Yet, the Dutchman did look tired and he’ll need a change of form to win the race now. With that said though, there are still three tough mountain days ahead, on which the current race leader might crack. It’s not over until Rome!

Blog pick Jos Van Emden came home in a respectable but ultimately fruitless 4th place. About sums up my Giro so far! There is always tomorrow though, speaking of which, lets take a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

The last possible sprint stage before Rome, but will the sprinters take advantage of it?

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With an uncategorised 10km climb at 5.3% from the gun, there will be those in the peloton who hope not and no doubt we’ll see plenty of guys on the rollers.

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From there the road continues on what can only be described with the oxymoron “rolling plateau” for the following 12km before it eventually descends. Will a breakaway be established here?

After that there is a lot of flat ground separated by two climbs, one of which is categorised. They aren’t overly tough with Lodrino being 11.5km at 3.6% and the uncategorised rise to San Giovanni measuring 6km at 4.4%. Once off the descent from the latter there are roughly 60km left for teams to get organised and set up a sprint.

As for the finish it’s not too crazy but there are a couple of roundabouts and sweeping turns to negotiate in the closing kilometres, as you can see on the video above.

Will the sprinters be in full flight for it though?

Breakaway v Sprinters

With this the last chance for the sprinters to get a win before Rome then you would expect their teams to help pull on the front and chase the break all day. However, with it only being Bennett and Viviani that seem capable of winning the sprint, will we see a game of bluff between the two squads?

If one of the other sprint teams, namely Jumbo and EF, decide to help then there is a good chance we will see a bunch gallop. If not, then it swings it in favour of the breakaway.

The one thing that helps the breakaway is the fact the first two-thirds of the stage involved the majority of the climbing and will therefore be difficult for the sprint teams to control and keep a lid on things. If the break holds an 10 minute plus advantage with 80km to go then I can see the sprint teams giving up the ghost.

It is in the balance though, particularly when you consider the lack of break days so far this Giro.

I’ll go with the break making it, giving it a 60/40 split advantage. Time to play everyone’s favourite game then!

TheBreakawayLottery

Breakaway Lottery Tickets

What is interesting for tomorrow’s stage is that with the first half of the day featuring the majority of the climbing, but the finish being flat, we could see a surprise result. The break will mostly be made up of either good climbers or those who are in good shape at the moment but with the ascent only being at 5%, there is a chance some odd names are there – take Modolo for example the other day. Anyway, here goes nothing…

Mattia Cattaneo.

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Is it really a breakaway day without an Androni rider being present? Cattaneo has been fairly quiet so far this race which is odd as I thought we would have definitely seen him feature in a few breaks and that he would be one of Androni’s best chances of nabbing a stage win. Maybe he’s been saving himself for this final week? His result in the TT today is what caught my eye as it is a discipline he doesn’t normally excel in but a 16th place against the opposition he had is a good effort. A punchy rider, he doesn’t pack the greatest of sprints but after a fast day of racing who knows, maybe he can use that newfound TT ability to solo to the line.

Max Schachmann.

One of the stand-out performers of the first week, the Quick Step rider has since faded to 27th on GC but like Cattaneo, he delivered a strong TT effort today. A lot of tomorrow’s outcome depends on the attitude of QuickStep and their approach to the stage: do they want to chase for a sprint? Getting a man up the road means that there is no pressure on them and Schachmann looks like the ideal candidate. He is strong enough to make the break on the climbs but he is a good enough rouleur to play for his own chances in the finale.

Davide Villella.

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Astana have had a poor Giro compared to what I expected from them but they still have two riders in the top 10, they just haven lit up the race. Tomorrow is a good chance for them to chase a win in the break and no doubt they’ll try to get either Villella, Lutsenko or Sanchez up the road. Villella has made the break already this race but was suffering from a stomach bug and under performed on the day that Bouwman was caught with 1km left. He’s a strong rider who packs a bit of a sprint, can Astana get a few up the road and play the numbers game?

Mads Wurtz Schmidt.

Another who delivered a solid ride today, the Katusha rider was on the attack and made the early morning break on the stage that Mohoric eventually won. That day started with a 19km climb so tomorrow should be a walk in the park for him! This is his first ever Grand Tour so fatigue might be an issue but as I said above, he looked strong today. Schmidt is the fastest rider of the four that I’ve mentioned so he might fancy his chances in a reduced breakaway gallop to the line.

Prediction

Quick Step win this stage no matter what, either with Schachmann in the break or a sprint with Viviani. I’ll go with Max though!

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Betting

Given some of the very short odds though (mainly Schachmann) I can’t back some of the guys I’ve listed so I’ll go with:

0.15pt WIN Coledan @ 500/1

0.5pt WIN Schmidt @ 150/1

0.5pt WIN Cattaneo @ 125/1

0.5pt WIN Villella @ 100/1

0.2pt WIN Benedetti @ 250/1

0.15pt WIN Boivin @ 400/1

 

A handful to say the least.

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

Those wre My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 16 Preview: Trento -> Rovereto (ITT)

Rest Day Recap

Does it still count as a GC raid if it is the GC leader that is doing it? Sunday’s racing saw yet another superb performance from Simon Yates who took another stage victory and extended his lead in the overall classification to a quite large 2’11 over nearest rival Dumoulin.

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Dumoulin himself finished in third on the day after valiantly fighting back to a group of other GC contenders that included Carapaz, Pinot, Pozzovivo and Lopez, the latter of whom took second on the stage.

After his heroics on Zoncolan Froome reverted to his first week ways and lost even more time. Just after he seemed to just squeeze back into the fray he once again looks fragile. Is he out of the hunt now? Probably, but who knows with him.

It really could have been a day for the break but it took a long, long time for it to form, especially when the likes of Poels, Bilbao and Aru were trying to infiltrate it. None of them succeeded and a large group of 26 riders eventually escaped, most thought it would be the first moved that stuck all race. But EF Education First probably need taught a lesson themselves after their DS told the squad to pull on the front so they could launch Woods across to the head of the race. The closest he got was 55 seconds away and he soon returned to the peloton with his tail between his legs. Not the most tactically astute bit of riding I’ve seen from the former Cannondale outfit but they do have previous for this type of thing!

Anyway, looking ahead tomorrow and the day which has been talked about for such a long time in this race, shaping the narrative throughout with the question: will Yates have enough time over Dumoulin?

Let’s have a look at what is in store for them.

The Route

A 34.2km “pan-flat” TT but considering we’re in Italy, it is never actually pan-flat.

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As per usual with a TT, I’ve made the route on Strava/Veloviewer that you can take a look at here.

Interestingly, the profile on Veloviewer does make the course seem more rolling than the official profile, it is just a case of trying to figure out what errors and discrepancies there are due to the route mostly being in the valley and therefore close to contours on the map which might not actually be hills in real life. Ya get me?

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The first little hump you see is definitely a hill but it is one you don’t actually see on the official profile, admittedly it isn’t anything too serious but averages close to 4% for 900m.

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One thing that could also be a concern for the riders through this section is just how narrow the roads are: they’re stereotypical small Italian town roads.

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Not ideal, especially if the roads are slick from rain.

The bigger kicker once they’re just out-of-town looks to be #FakeNews but it is hard to tell with the wide road and open valley. It might rise a little but not the amount the Veloviewer profile suggests.

Once into the final third of the TT it does get a bit more rolling but again, the gradients aren’t too severe. The toughest climb of the day starts at roughly 22km into the stage, averaging 3.7% for 1.5km, however the majority of the climbing is made in the final 700m which average 6.5%.

The final 3kms of the day drag up to the finish line at 1% or so, which is certainly not enough to put off the TT specialists.

One thing that I have taken note of looking through the route on Streetview and I’m sure the riders will have during their reconnaissance today, is that although there are plenty of wide open main roads, once into the towns the roads are very narrow and quite sketchy in some places. Taking a few risks through the turns could save quite a few seconds and energy.

Weather Watch

As is always the case with a TT that spans the course of a few hours, the weather gods might be more kind to some than others. But as per usual the few websites I’ve looked at have confilcting information, classic.

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Windfinder has the above forecast for Romagnano, whereas, Meteo.it has the following for the just more southerly Aldeno, the point of the first intermediate check point.

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So one suggests rain for the early starters, the other late, while both kind of suggest that the early starters should get a slightly more helpful tailwind.

Saying that, I looked at the forecast yesterday and it was going to be a slight headwind all day – who knows what is going to happen!

The TT Specialists

There are several riders here who will have had one eye on this event since their failed attempts in Jerusalem, more than likely soft pedalling their way around Italy as much as they can to go well here. However, the race has been really fast and tough, so it will be interesting to see how much energy they’ve actually managed to save!

Victor Campenaerts.

Bitterly disappointed to have missed out on the Pink Jersey at the start of the race, this has been the Lotto rider’s main aim since then. The European champion has only taken three wins in his career but all have been in TTs. He’s the powerful type of rider who can go well on a course like this but I do have my concerns about his team bike, the Ridley he is riding just isn’t as good as the Bianchi he left at the “other Lotto”. Speaking of which…

Jos Van Emden.

Winner of the final TT at this race last year, tomorrow’s effort looks right on the distance limit for him as he seems to struggle at the really long, 40km days in the saddle. His win last year came as a bit of a surprise to me as I thought the 30km would be too long: can he hack the extra 4km this year? I think he has a good chance, he’s looked strong on the open road days when pulling on the front for Van Poppel.

Alex Dowsett.

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The Brit has had a hectic few days after his hotel room was broken into while he was sleeping, which was then followed up with him being caught up in a crash on Sunday and having to chase on almost all day. A winner of a TT at the Giro in the past, he hasn’t pushed on to the lofty heights many people expected of him. He could win, he could come 13th – either way I wouldn’t be surprised.

Tony Martin.

Long gone are the days that the Panzerwagen would start as favourite for an event like this. He’s not really looked himself over the past few years and the winning of the Worlds in 2016 was more of a blip than anything else. Is his career on a downward spiral? One thing Martin does have going for him is that he has been more visible during this race than previous GTs and that can only be a good sign.

Ryan Mullen.

Due a big win, it will be interesting to see how well the Irish champion goes at this stage of the race given it is his first GT. Given that fact, I don’t he’ll be fighting for the win.

Vasil Kiryienka.

Sky were appalling on the opening day, completely going against their previous TT efforts this season. A course like this suits Kiryienka perfectly but will he be given the green light to go for it?

The TT Specialists come GC riders

Tom Dumoulin.

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This is his big day – he needs to take a good amount of time out of Yates but I just can’t see him taking enough to move into Pink. There is a very good chance that he takes the stage win but Dumoulin hasn’t looked as unflappable as he did last year, with some cracks starting to show. He is the class rider in the field for an event like this but with how tough the Giro has been, we could get a surprise result from him. I do love watching him on a TT bike though, his position is incredible – it is like poetry in motion. Will there be a poetic end to his day?

Rohan Dennis.

He’s had an incredibly quiet race aside from his taking of the Maglia Rosa on the second stage. The fact it has been an under the radar performance from him is good, it means that on his first proper attempt at going for GC in a three-week GT he hasn’t fully cracked yet, currently sitting on the cusp of the top 10. It will be interesting taking into account just how much these past two weeks have taken their toll on him and what that will do for a TT in this position in the race. This is perfect Dennis distance, but I think the racing will just have taken too much out of him.

Chris Froome.

No TT dominance from Sky on stage 1 and that day has really set up their whole Giro – they’ve been well below their normally impeccable standards. The finish to Zoncolan was the one day that they’ve performed to what you would expect from them. This is a TT in the second half of a GT which means that Froome can never be discounted. It all just depends what one turns up and I don’t think he’ll be good enough.

The GC riders who might surprise

As is often the case when we get to the final week of a GT there are some shock results. Tomorrow’s effort reminds me a lot of the TT that we had in the Vuelta last year which was a 40km TT that had roughly 500m of climbing (according to my Strava profile of it), very similar to the 420m in 34km on offer here. The top 5 on that day looked like the following…

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The GC guys as you can see came to the fore, although admittedly it was a fairly lacklustre TT field. That stage came after a rest day, before which the riders faced two very tough days of climbing – sound familiar?

Simon Yates.

Who knows where his abilities will end, he has looked sensational so far this race and makes me kick myself every day that I didn’t back him pre-race at 40/1. Apparently he has done a lot of work over the winter to find a position that might not be as aerodynamic as the one he had before, but he is able to sustain it a lot longer and put more power as a result. Mitchelton have been flying in TTs as of late too, the women did very well in the Bira at the weekend. I would be surprised to see him in the top three, but then again, I wouldn’t. He is the form rider after all.

Thibaut Pinot.

Can he rekindle his TT form that he had two years ago? I hope so, for the sake of the race it would be good to see! He’s looked strong so far but just not as strong as Yates and I think it will be the same tomorrow.

Pozzovivo and Lopez can TT well on occasion but I think it will be a bit of a stretch for them tomorrow, but you never know.

“It’s the Giro after all.”

Prediction

Bit of a shock result but Van Emden will double up after last year’s success.

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I also think we’ll see Yates get very close to the podium.

Betting

1pt EW Van Emden at 14/1 (would take the 12/1 widely available)

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Yates has shortened in to 250/1 which is just about back-able.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see a surprise? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 14 Preview; San Vito al Tagliamento -> Monte Zoncolan

Today’s Recap

Sprint day, despite Coledan’s best efforts in the closing kilometre.

Viviani showed everyone that one bad day doesn’t mean a bad race, as he romped home for the win.

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Bennett came home second, with Van Poppel in third.

Everyone’s attention has changed focus quickly though as one of the most iconic finishes in cycling awaits tomorrow, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The day that everyone has been waiting for both in the peloton and the watching public. Will the stage live up to expectations? With the finishing climb that we have, I think it will be hard for the finale not to be dramatic anyway!

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As for the rest of the stage, we’ll have to wait and see though as I’m not too sure we’ll see any GC movement before the Zoncolan, but I hope I’m wrong.

The day starts out easy with a long section of almost flat roads for 40km which will no doubt bear witness to a big fight to get in the break, everyone wants to be up ahead on the famous finish. It is possible that the break won’t have gone before the first categorised climb of the day, the Monte di Ragogna. A mini-Zoncolan, it will whet the appetite for what is to come with its 10.3% average gradient over 2.75km. Avaglio is similar with a long section above 13% but it has the easier average.

However, both of these climbs too far out for any action and even the Cat-2 Passo Duron (9.7% for 4.4km) might see a lot of eye-balling.

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If a team decides to put the pressure on though then we could see some domestiques out the back early on.

The likelihood is that we won’t see any serious pressure applied until the penultimate climb of the day.

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Unfortunately for anyone hoping to make an early attack here, Sella Valcalda is the easiest climb of the day and it be hard to distance any GC favourites. The only chance for a surprise move to go is on the steeper slopes between 4 and 5.5km on the graphic above where the gradient averages roughly 9%.

Once over the top a fast descent follows before a short dip into the valley and on to one of cycling’s most mythical climbs – Monte Zoncolan.

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Words don’t do it justice and I’m not going to bother to try to ramble on about it. Just look at those gradients. Team-mates will be of very little use here and it will me mano o mano between the GC contenders.

Zoncolan Time Gaps

What can we expect from the GC favourites here? How much time will they take/lose compared to each other?

The last time Zoncolan was used was back in 2014 but it was the penultimate stage of the race and with Quintana in a commanding GC lead the race was all but over. Therefore we didn’t see too many time gaps, with Quintana/Uran gaining 15 seconds on Rolland/Pozzovivo/Majka/Aru.

However, back in 2011 it was featured as the summit finish on stage 13 and we saw much bigger gaps between the favourites. Eventual stage winner Igor Anton took 2’24 out of 10th place finisher Joaquim Rodriguez.

I think we’ll see something similar to that tomorrow.

Just to show how hard the climb is, the break that day (Tankink, Rabottini and Brambilla) had a 4’30 gap with 10km to go: they finished 5’54, 6’43 and 11’24 respectively. If we do see a break stick all the way tomorrow, it will need to be made up of strong climbers and they will need 3 minutes at the bottom to have a chance. Speaking of which…

Break or GC win?

The daily conundrum for a stage at the Giro but this year has been weird as we have yet to see the break hold out for the whole day. Recent history is on the side of the breakaway when in 2014 Rogers held on from the morning move. However, slightly less recent history, i.e. every other time we’ve raced up Zoncolan, the winner has been a GC contender. Interestingly, in 2003 (Simon) and 2010 (Basso) the rider who crossed the line first on the famous slope went on to take the win overall and on the other two occasions the eventual Maglia Rosa came home 4th (Di Luca in 2007) and 2nd (Contador in 2011).

In an almost spooky coincidence, the votes on my Twitter poll are nearly a carbon copy of what the previous stats would suggest.

I’m still really on the fence, it just depends as to whom makes the move and who wants to chase behind. Given how strong Yates has looked, do the other teams help chase all day potentially gifting him 10 bonus seconds, or do they instead just sit in and let Mitchelton use up their resources? That strategy would certainly be helpful with a tricky stage to come on Sunday.

Hmmm, in the spirit of trying to defy the odds, I’ll go with the breakaway and a few riders who probably aren’t at the top of everyone’s list.

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Ben Hermans.

The Belgian made a big money move over the winter to join Israel Cycling Academy from BMC but it has not been an ideal year for him so far with no real results to his name. Before the race he was a potential outside contender for a top 10 spot on GC but he set his sights on losing time to chase stages. So far he has been on the attack on Etna, where he finished second best of the morning break (behind Chaves), coming home in 11th on the day. He was also part of the doomed early move on stage 10 that was rather ironically pulled back because of Chaves’ implosion. He seems to be hand-picking his stages and given his post on Instagram the other day, I think he’s looking forward to go on the attack tomorrow.

Jan Hirt.

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I raved about Astana’s super strong team before this race but they’ve been a little disappointing so far, especially Lopez who seems a bit off the pace at the moment. We could of course see it all be turned around tomorrow, but I think they will be focussing on chasing stage wins from the break and seeing what happens behind. Hirt has done a lot of work for his team-mates so far but once his job is over, he’s tried to conserve as much energy as possible. On the occasions that we’ve seen him pull on the front he has started to shred the peloton, so he must be in reasonably good shape. A climber who likes the steep slopes, none come steeper than the Zoncolan.

Wout Poels.

A bit of a wild card here but Sky tried to sneak Poels into one of the breaks the other day and I think they might take the same approach tomorrow. Poels, and Sky for that matter, haven’t been as strong as in previous Grand Tours but they could be saving it for one last push in the second half of the race. Poels climbed well here in 2014, riding strongly in support of Uran. He is reasonably close on GC to potentially worry Mitchelton, so they might not let the move get too far ahead, but if he starts the climb with 2 minutes, there is every chance he holds on.

Joe Dombrowski.

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We’re nearly into week three and we’re in a Grand Tour so there’s one man I’ll be backing on numerous occasions over the next few days. Dombrowski seems to be one of the riders who gets better and better as the race goes on, give him a 6 week GT and he might just win it. The American is an incredibly talented rider who naturally has a big engine, he’s just never been able to fully utilise it. So far in this race he has been quiet on the attacking front, working his way into form for the mountains. Instead, you will have been able to find him pulling on the front with fellow, well-known rouleur Hugh Carthy. An appearance at Duo Normand later in the season is on the cards for them I reckon! Could this be the race Dombrowski finally delivers on his talent?

GC Battle

It really is hard to say what will happen with the GC guys, they’ve not had to face a climb this tough yet. Going on what we have seen though, it looks as if Yates, Dumoulin, Pinot and Pozzovivo are the strongest.

Yates – Should enjoy the gradients of the climb but has he peaked too early? A big test for him but if he’s still on great form, he will want to take as much time out of everyone as possible.

Dumoulin – Slowly but surely riding his way into form and this will concern everyone else involved. The steep gradients tomorrow aren’t ideal for the Sunweb rider, but given it is consistently steep, he should be able to get into a rhythm and grind his way up.

Pinot – Has looked lively but has been outsprinted to the line on a few occasions. Was strong in the Alps, and now we’re onto a proper mountain he will want to show his resolve.

Pozzovivo – Another who has looked lively but he seems to lack the punch to distance everyone. When he has put a sustained attack in it has distanced a lot of people, see the finish to Gran Sassolo. Can he do the same tomorrow?

Everyone else hasn’t really shown an awful lot but we could see a few surprises, this is the Giro after all. Lots have suggested they’re trying to peak for this weekend and the whole of next week. Who’s timed it right?

Prediction

The remnants of the breakaway to hold on, just, and I’ll go with Ben Hermans to take the win.

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Sooo, it’s probably going to be a GC day now!

Betting

Worth throwing a few darts then looking in-play during the stage.

0.5pt WIN on the breakers;

Hirt 50/1, Dombrowski 66/1, Poels and Hermans at 80/1.

B365 prices.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.