Danilith Nokere Koerse 2018 Preview

Midweek Belgian cobbled racing is back tomorrow with the return of the Nokere Koerse. Last year saw Nacer Bouhanni take the uphill sprint win in dominant fashion, beating Blythe and Stallaert.

bettiniphoto_0276895_1_originali_670 (2)

He’s not here to defend his title though so we could well see a new winner but let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

After having reduced bunch sprints in the majority of recent editions, the organisers have decided to change-up the route a little.

nokere-koerse-2018
@LasterketaBurua

We still have the same little kick up the Nokereberg to finish but the circuit that they used to do at the end now makes up the middle part of the race. Instead we have two longer final laps that make the race even more “cobbled” than before; meaning there are a total of 22 cobbled stretches throughout the race!

DYLuc3PW0AAc2MS

I’ve made a profile of that circuit that you can view here.

Within the final 10kms of racing the riders will face 2900m of cobbles. The first of those is the cobbled climb of Lange Astrstraat which averages 5.6% for 480m. Possibly a place for those with a bit of a kick to launch an attack.

Only a few kilometres down the line and they’ll face the longest stretch on the course; the 1.8km long Huisepontweg.

Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 16.04.46

There’s no pavement for riders to hide on here and with the pace being pushed on at the front, I expect gaps to be made. Furthermore, not long after that section another smaller one follows as they once again head off of the main road onto these narrow cobbled farm tracks.

Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 16.09.09.png

The Kouterstraat is only short at 300m but the cobbles look the gnarliest that the peloton will face all day and with only 4.4km remaining once they have traversed the section it will be a fight for anyone to try to organise a chase.

We then of course finish with the slight rise up the Nokereberg (5.7% for 350m) to finish.

It looks set to be a dry day which will please many and there is only a fairly light wind of 20km/h but we could get some stronger gusts.

Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 16.31.03

It’s unlikely to cause any echelons but you never know with Belgian racing. Teams certainly like to be aggressive!

How will the race pan out?

Putting this out there now, I don’t think we’ll see a reduced bunch sprint.

The change of route  with the amount of cobbles in the closing kilometres will make it a lot more selective. We might get a very small sprint of 8 or so but I can’t see a group of many more arriving together. There are numerous points to attack in the closing 10km and not a lot of straight wide roads for a chase to get organised. In fact, the chase can really only get organised in the final 4km and it will be a tough ask to bring a motivated attack back by then.

So the following riders will be contenders based on the above assumption!

Contenders

I’m not going to make this list too exhaustive, plenty of riders could win in the right situation and circumstances so with that said 4 riders to look out for are…

Remi Cavagna.

Remi-Cavagna-1

If a late attack sticks, a Quick Step rider will need to be represented. They don’t have any of their big stars but they still bring a very strong squad for this type of race. Cavagna recently won the Dwars door West-Vlaanderen after he was part of a successful 3-rider breakaway that held off the peloton. He’s clearly in form at the moment and is a rider that should suit these one-day Belgian races. A good time trial rider, he packs the power to get away and hold the gap. Can he go back-to-back?

Loic Vliegen.

BMC bring an attacking squad with them to this race and I expect to see them active at the head of the race throughout the day. Vliegen is another like Cavagna who is a talented youngster and I think he’ll step up another level this season with this now being his third year in the senior peloton. Plus, he completed his first Grand Tour last year which always gives a rider a boost. He has the pedigree in this field to compete on courses like this and I’m sure he’ll stick his nose in the wind at some point.

Mads Wurtz Schmidt.

Possibly not the first rider to spring to mind but the Dane seems well suited to one-day cobbled racing. He’s a strong guy with a fairly solid sprint so he could mix it in a small sprint. 2017 was a bit of a tough introduction to World Tour racing for him but he did manage a few good results in .1 races (Besseges and Kolm). Like BMC, Katusha bring an attacking squad and I don’t think they’ll settle for a sprint.

Alex Kirsch.

The only Pro-Conti rider to make my very, very short-list, he was disappointed to only finish 6th in Le Samyn. Nonetheless, coming 2nd then 6th in the last two editions of that race highlight the quality of rider that he is. I think he is sometimes too eager to go on the attack but if he bides his time tomorrow then he has a chance. That will increase even more if some of the WT riders underestimate him!

Prediction

We’ll get a fierce pace on the final circuit that will ensure we don’t have the favoured (by the bookmakers anyway) sprinters competing for the win.

Instead, a late attack by Loic Vliegen will see the BMC rider secure a great win. He’s a bit of an all-rounder which perfectly suits the closing 10 kilometres.

sptdw103

Betting

We have prices here in the UK with SkyBet but Bingoal also have odds up for the Belgians. I imagine Kirolbet will follow soon. The following prices are for SkyBet though…

Given the fairly open nature of the race, I’m happy to spread quite a few points across my 4 named riders above so 0.5pt EW on them all;

Cavagna @ 28/1

Vliegen @ 75/1

Kirsch @ 75/1

Wurtz Schmidt @ 200/1

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it end in a sprint or will the attackers get their chance? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Le Samyn 2018 Preview

 

If you don’t like this race, we can’t be friends.

Last year’s edition saw a truly epic battle in absolutely brutal conditions that wore the peloton down over the laps around Dour. Only the strongest were left at the head of the race and we saw a late two-up attack hold their advantage over a small chasing group, battling it out in a sprint to the line for victory. Van Keirsbulk came out on top ahead of Kirsch, with Keisse winning the group sprint for third.

20175951_356914_2_670

Conditions aren’t going to be as extreme this year, although, I suppose you could argue that they will be but I’ll get to that in a bit. First, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow afternoon.

The Route

“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” seems to be the attitude of the organisers this year. We have pretty much the exact same route as last year which will see the riders leave Quarengon, head north and complete a large loop before heading south and to the finish town of Dour where they will take some local laps.

Screen Shot 2018-02-26 at 10.54.49

DW5uSooXcAAEoDO

It’s great to see that the profiles I’m using from @LasterketaBurua are actually the official ones too, great work guys!

Although we do have some climbs early on, the bulk of the action will happen in the final 100km once we reach the circuit.

DW5w7PsWsAA21k8

On the profile it may look like the riders have some tough climbs to contend with, but they are more “slogs” than anything else averaging 2% or so. Definitely for the rouleurs of the peloton and not lightweight climbers.

The cobbles will wear down the riders as they have to tackle 12kms worth in only just over 70kms of racing. Not ideal for some! A good portion of the circuit is on exposed country roads which makes for exciting racing if the wind gets up…

Screen Shot 2018-02-26 at 11.19.47

You can view the interactive finish circuit profile that I made here.

The most important section of cobbles is the last; the Rue de Belle Vue. At 700m long and coming only a few kilometres from the finish, it is one of the last places for someone to launch a decisive move if they don’t want to come to the line in a group. I’m not sure what the state of the cobbles are like this year, but in last year’s race they were battered by rain and looked like this…

There’s certainly no easy place to ride on them.

As for the finish, the road drags all the way up to the line so you don’t want to launch your sprint too early and fade in the closing metres. Timing and experience counts for a lot here.

Weather Watch

With the last two editions of Samyn heavily impacted by the weather, it looks as if we will have something similar this year. However, instead of the wind and rain that we had last year; it will be dry this time around, except it will be bitterly cold instead. Oh, and of course it will still be windy!

Screen Shot 2018-02-26 at 11.32.16
Source: Windfinder

The above image is the forecast for a town called Hornu that is situated just 10km or so to the north-east of Dour.

As you can see, the riders will face freezing conditions with the temperature set not to rise above -2ºC all day. Furthermore, a constant 25km/h wind coming from the NE/E will make the day feel even colder with a “Feels like” temperature of -9ºC.

This adds a different dynamic to the race and it could arguably be even harder than the past few years when they ‘just had a bit of rain’…

The wind direction is important as well because a lot of the exposed sections (like the one I highlighted earlier) will have crosswinds which means the possibility of echelons is very high, especially if the wind is gusting at 40km/h at times. It does mean that they will face a bit of a headwind on the run home, albeit, it might be more of a cross-headwind than anything else.

I can guarantee the peloton will be battered at the end of the day and the winner will definitely have deserved it.

Contenders

With only three WT teams here, there is plenty of chance for the PCT teams to step up and take a good result, like we saw last year with the first two on the podium. However, the WT teams are normally full of quality and they’re the squads that animate the race.

Quick Step arrive with a stacked squad, as you would expect, and I’m not entirely sure who will be their leader. On their website, they suggest it will be Terpstra, Gilbert and Stybar who are the protected riders but I have a feeling the latter two will be saving themselves for bigger goals, possibly Strade on Saturday. That leaves Terpstra and another rider who I think will go well here; Senechal.

Niki Terpstra.

CYCLING GRAND PRIX DU SAMYN

A former winner of this race and an expert in bad weather conditions, the Dutchman was disappointed with his performances this weekend. He’ll be looking to bounce back and this race offers him a great opportunity to do just that. The flat parcours is ideal for him and you would be hard pressed to find anyone in the peloton that rides better in the wind than he does. If he gets a gap of around 20 seconds, he will be very difficult to bring back.

Florian Senechal.

The young Frenchman has a very good track record in this race with a 4th and 3rd place finishes in the last two editions of this race. Those results came when he was on Cofidis who albeit were strong, they’re not on the same level as QuickStep. The extra team support could be a massive benefit to him. He did miss Kuurne due to a stomach bug so it will be interesting to see if he’s recovered from that.

Alexis Gougeard.

This is exactly the type of race that the AG2R man should start to excel in at this point of his career. Originally a breakaway rider, he has developed into much more than over the past two seasons. He’s put in some very solid performances over the first few races of the year, being active in most of the races. A “strongman” of the peloton, he won’t be too concerned with the gritty weather, it should suit his nature.

Guillaume Van Keirsbulk.

Can he repeat last year’s success? It will be hard given that he will be marked more in this edition but given the right circumstance he certainly has a chance. We saw in Kuurne that he tried a dig off the front of the peloton but it didn’t really come to much. Was he simply just stretching his legs for this race?

Dimitri Claeys.

29982158-57f7-11e7-8c94-4e18f438453f_web_scale_0.0958379_0.0958379__

With Senechal now at QuickStep, Claeys will be the defacto leader of Cofidis at the cobbled races. His 2017 was probably one to forget with no real result to his name but he did manage to pick up a 5th place at the Tacx Classic at the end of the year, compared to his great 2016 season where he finished 9th at Flanders. It has possibly taken him a bit of time to gel with his new team and I’m hoping to see him improve this year. He’s already clocked a lot of miles this season taking some solid results in Marseillaise and Murcia which are certainly not races he should excel in. A rider who will like the tough conditions, I’m expecting a good result tomorrow.

Lasse Norman Hansen.

He could be a bit of a wildcard for a race like this. Starting off his season very well in Australia where he took a stage win in the Herald Sun Tour he has since gone on to DNF the three races he’s competed at back in Europe. Not a great sign really! However, he is a very strong rouleur and he should be ideally suited to the terrain and conditions that we have tomorrow; he loves an aggressive race!

Pim Ligthart.

Now into his second season with Roompot after dropping down a level, it will be intriguing to see if he fulfills the leadership role he has been given. Last year he took a few good results here or there but nothing outstanding. He was 4th in Kuurne on Sunday so his confidence will be up a little and he’ll fancy his chances if we don’t get a really tough day and a group of 20 or so arrive together.

I’m not going to ramble on anymore about contenders as I could easily be here for another 2000 words if I wanted so I’ll leave it be!

Some other random names I’ll throw into the hat though are; Pardini (Team Differdange – Losch), Spengler (WB Aqua Protect), Gaudin (Direct Energie) and Goolaerts (Verandas Willems)

Race Tactics

Wait until the final circuit and for the race to blow apart unless of course we see some very keen teams take it up on the loop north.

However, the outcome will depend on the approach of QuickStep. They have the class team in the race and have many different options that could feasibly win. This isn’t a WT race so I can’t see them trying to control it all day, instead, they’ll more than likely send riders onto the attack as soon as we get to the circuit around Dour, or try to rip things up in the cross winds.

It is important for teams to mark any move by a QS rider and get their own guy up the road too. Conversely, if they are in a move without a QS rider then it will be very difficult for it to succeed unless they are the only team that has missed out, which is incredibly unlikely. Last year it was possible to outfox them and wear them down due to the team they had, but in 2018 they bring some of their crack-squad so it will be different.

Consequently, this should make for some very interesting racing throughout the day as the right riders might not be represented in the correct moves.

It takes a great deal of luck but also experience and strength to win a race like this.

Prediction

This is a tough one.

Originally I had this down as a Senechal win but given he pulled out of KBK due to sickness then I’m not sure how he’ll do. It might have been a more precautionary thing than anything else, who knows.

No doubt QuickStep will play a massive part in the outcome of the race but I can’t see many teams making it easy for them.

Hmmm, I’ll go for Alexis Gougeard to take the one-day cobbled win that seems to have been coming for a while.

Alexis-Gougeard.jpg

The race will splinter a lot on the laps around Dour both due to the harshness of the conditions but also the difficult course. Quick Step won’t have as many riders near the front of the race as they would like but given their reputation they are burdened with a lot of the work. On the final lap we have a group of 12 riders at the head of the race but an attack sees a few riders get away. They work well together until Gougeard drops them all on the Rue de Belle Vue and solos to victory.

Betting

No odds, no party!

Kirolbet have odds in Spain and I’d be backing Gougeard at 40s and LNH at the same price.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow?

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2018 Preview

Oh yes, the cobbled races are back!

Last year’s edition of the race saw an almost carbon copy of 2016 with Greg Van Avermaet beating Sagan in the uphill sprint into Gent. The reining champion returns this year hoping to make it three in a row at this race and without the current World Champion, he has a good chance of doing so.

ohnfs17_670

There are plenty of riders who will be hoping to stop him though so let’s have a look at what is in store for them at the traditional “start of the season”.

The Route

A big change from the past editions with a new finish town and a route that is reminiscent of a “mini Flanders”.

omloop-het-nieuwsblad-2018
@LasterketaBurua

The riders will face no less than 12 cobbled sectors, of which 5 are cobbled climbs; it’s a real race of attrition. To make matters worse for the riders but much better for our viewing pleasure, it is the second half of the day that is back loaded with obstacles. In total there are 16 cobble sections or hellingen to complete in the final 100km and that doesn’t include any uncategorised lumps or bumps either.

With any spring cobbled classic, the action can start anywhere along the route. However, the likely place we’ll see the favourites begin to cause a selection will be the Molenberg. The riders will tackle the 500m at 9.8% (including 300m of cobbles) climb with roughly 50kms in the day to go. From there it won’t be long until the Haaghoek and anyone in difficulty here can wave their chances of success goodbye.

Some more Hellingen follow over the next 20km before an iconic final two climbs.

At just under 20km to go the riders will tackle the famous Muur van Geraardsbergen a.k.a the Kapelmuur.

Muur_van_Geraardsbergen_profile

The iconic cobbled climb is a brute and averages 6.8% for a kilometre. That might not seem like much but these are proper cobbles and with ramps of 20%, riders can explode and lose the race here. Likewise, a rider can surge away from his opposition and build up a gap, not to be seen again!

Once over the top of the ‘Muur, a fast, twisting descent follows before the final challenge of the day; the Bosberg. Shallower than the Muur, it averages 5% for roughly 1.2km but the final 800m or so are all cobbled. A perfect launchpad for a puncheur to try one last attack and distance the group that they are with.

From there, 11kms remain and the finish in Ninove awaits.

Weather Watch

It’s the start of the cobbled classics so we’re surely in for some bad weather right? Well, that’s partly correct. The riders are set to get sunny conditions all day but it will be very cold all day with a wind chill factor making it feel around freezing point. They should manage fine though, as on my commute to work the other day it was -8ºC but I guess I’m carrying some more bulk than them…

Screen Shot 2018-02-23 at 13.59.20
Source: Windfinder

The above screenshot is the forecast for Aalst which is just north of the finish town of Ninove. As you can see, the riders will have a constant wind coming from the East/NorthEeast throughout the day.

It is strong enough to create some echelons if we get the right road direction and lack of tree coverage out on the route. Consequently the peloton will be on edge the whole day which might lead to faster, more nervous racing and the unfortunate likelihood of more crashes. Having numbers near the head of the race at all times will be very important.

One thing to consider though is that from roughly 30km to go onwards, the riders will face mainly a headwind/cross-headwind which could be to the detriment of a solo escapee. Unless of course everyone is battered by then and the strongest rider survives.

A Clear Favourite?

We come into the race this year without Sagan which is a shame but we do have a Sagan style rider, especially when it comes to these types of events, with Greg Van Avermaet. Having won the race the past two years and in scintillating form at the moment on the punchy stages in Oman he comes into this race as the massive bookies favourite. So much so, that according to them he has a 40% chance of winning.

His team is weaker than last year mainly due to the ahem, loss of Oss, but Roelandts should be with him long into the race. He’ll need a big performance from Küng as well because I can’t really see many others in his team staying at the head of the race when the going gets tough.

The tactics GVA adopts will be very interesting. He has the power to go with almost anyone and drop a lot of people on the climbs, but he also possesses a strong sprint so he might be happy with the headwind on the run in and sit in for a bunch gallop.

Last year during his Spring domination I mentioned that if people want to win against him, they need to treat him like Sagan in these races. Refuse to co-operate and try to work him over with numbers if he is isolated. I wonder if Van Avermaet will adopt the Sagan style and just shrug his shoulders and let people ride off; I can’t see that happening.

In conclusion, his okay-ish team and the fact he is such an overwhelming favourite means this race will be a lot more difficult for him to win than it appears on paper. Now, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him to be raising his arms come tomorrow afternoon but I’m going to be bold and suggest he doesn’t.

Van Avermaet won’t win.

 

The Harlem Cobbletrotters

Quick Step bring a ridiculously stacked squad with them. I mean, the strength in-depth they have is just stupid and they will play a big part in the outcome of the day.

Devenyns isn’t known as a cobble specialist but he has started the season in great form and that has to be taken seriously. He can climb well, pack a decent sprint and he isn’t a stranger to tough races here having won the Belgium Tour and Tour de Wallonie in the past.

Terpstra has had a quiet start to the season results wise but he’s been either working for team-mates or making audacious attacks. The latter suggests he’s going quite well at the moment and given the terrible weather conditions, his contender status goes up even further.

Gilbert started his year with a respectable third in Murcia and followed that up with an appearance in the breakaway in Algarve along with team-mate Stybar. Both riders pack a punch on the short slopes and have shown in previous years they go well in these types of races. I’m sure Phil will enjoy the return to the Muur/Bosberg combo, he dropped everyone on the latter in the 2011 Flanders but was brought back near the end.

Lampaert has been applying himself working for others so far this season and it is hard to tell where his form is at. He would probably prefer the older, slightly flatter finish but he is an ideal rider to send up the road early if QuickStep don’t want to control the race. The same can be said for Keisse although I fear he’ll be taking the “Vermote” role.

Finally we have Gaviria. He will win a cobbled race at some point in his career, it might even come on Sunday with Kuurne so I’m not too sure how he’ll approach Omloop. Nonetheless, he is punchy enough to deal with the climbs and I have a funny feeling QS will try to keep him safe with that headwind in the finale. Things might just come back together for a small bunch sprint and no-one here will beat the Colombian in a 20 rider effort.

tdw400001_670

The Countdown Selection

As I’ve rambled for a bit already, and there will be plenty of previews that go into almost every contender possible then I’m just going to name another four here to keep an eye out for tomorrow. Taking inspiration from “Countdown” the selection is made up of one favourite, an outsider and two Wongshots.

Tim Wellens.

Arguably the form guy here, it will be good to see the Belgian rider take a proper shot at a cobbled one-day race. He was strong in the opening Spanish races but it was his performances in Andalucia that really caught my eye and I’m sure they caught yours too! Managing to follow the likes of Poels, Fuglsang, Landa etc up a tough 3km climb on the second stage really marks a step up, but he wasn’t just following, he was even one of the riders attacking. Then, he absolutely tore the race to shreds on the shorter but very punchy cobbled climb of Alcalá de los Gazules, taking the victory and ultimately the GC because of it. That type of performance should be able to transfer into a race like this and I would be very surprised not to see him right in the action at the end. Having strong team-mates like Benoot and Keukeleire will be a massive help too and it will allow Wellens time to rest in what will be a hectic day.

Daniel Oss.

Tour of Flanders

Once a loyal domestique for Van Avermaet, Oss made the switch from BMC to Bora during the winter. He’s only raced in Australia so far and if you just look at the results, then nothing stands out too much. However, it was his performance in the Great Ocean Road Race that really stood out for me. After missing a slight split on Challambra he powered back to the head of the peloton in the final 100m of the climb. Looking lean and mean, he then did a shed tonne of work for McCarthy, keeping everything together. Without Sagan, Oss will more than likely be Bora’s protected rider. Can he get one over his former team-mate?

Timo Roosen.

When talking about riders who seem to be taking a step up this year and have shown good form, then the Lotto Jumbo man has to be mentioned. Instrumental in Groenewegen’s sprint wins, he proved on the Hatta Dam that he isn’t too shabby a rider either and put out some massive power to finish third that day. He’s done ok in one-day events in the past including an 18th place at this race last year. I’m intrigued to see how he copes with the Flanders style finish and it will certainly be on his limits. However, that pesky headwind might see things come back together a bit and with the way he’s riding just now, things could go better than last year.

Filippo Ganna.

Vuelta San Juan 2018

Somewhat of an early season revelation, the UAE rider stunned everyone with a third place overall in San Juan back in January which included a very industrious 7th on the mountain finish. Post-race he said he worked really hard over winter to lose some weight, dropping almost 4kgs. Importantly though, he seems to have maintained his power though and that should help on the cobbles. As a former Paris-Roubaix U23 winner, he certainly knows how to handle them. Don’t get me wrong, he is a definite outsider but with the ambitious goal of finishing in the top 5 of a cobbled race this season, he certainly has some confidence in himself.

Prediction

That pesky head-wind really makes things difficult and there is a chance we could see a small sprint at the end. Nonetheless, I think things will still be torn up fairly early and we’ll see a very elite selection come the Muur/Bosberg combo.

I’ll go with a flying Tim Wellens to continue his sparkling start to the season and win the race.

DWQLFr7VQAMHZDt

No one, not even Van Avermaet, will be able to match him on the Muur/Bosberg, and with some hesitation from behind and marking out by Benoot, his gap will be too big come the finish, even with the headwind.

Betting

Went a bit wild but it is the first cobbled race and I’ve been saving up those “No Bets” in Abu Dhabi for this!

2pts EW Wellens at 12/1 with most bookmakers.

1pt EW Oss at 66/1 with Bet365

0.25pt EW Roosen @ 150/1 with Various

0.25pt EW Gana @ 250/1 with Bet365.

I tweeted out those selections a few days ago (they’re the current prices though) but I’m also adding the following just incase the pesky headwind ruins things.

1pt WIN Gaviria @ 80/1 with Bet365 (Would take 50s)

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Personally I can’t wait and I’m just looking forward to some exciting racing. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race 2018 Preview

Billed as Australia’s answer to the spring classics, Cadel’s Race offers some exciting one-day action early in the season.

The past three editions have seen one solo winner (Kennaugh in 2016) with the other two editions being won via a reduced bunch sprint.

17arndtcegorr1

2017’s champion, Nikias Arndt, returns for this season but can he double up tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

After having the same final circuit in the first three editions, the organisers have decided to alter it ever so slightly. They’ve taken out the climb of Hyland Road and bypassed some other areas, meaning the circuit is cut down to 17km from the 20km or so it was previously.

Furthermore, they’ll enter the circuit before the famous Challambra climb this year, meaning that the riders will have to tackle it 4 times throughout the afternoon, not the 3 it has been in previous years.

cadel-evans-great-ocean-road-race-2018
@LasterketaBurua

So the organisers have somehow managed to make the race both easier and more difficult at the same time.

The removal of Hyland Road means that the only meaningful place to put in an attack on the circuit is Challambra. Of course, we could see attacks go throughout the Geelong circuit but the biggest differences should be made on the climb, in theory.

Challambra

It is a tough little climb as well, with the steepest section coming right at the top. However, as it is only 1km long, some of the stronger, heavier guys in the bunch can hold on to the coat tails of the climbers. If they can maintain the power that is!

Michael Woods holds the all important Strava KOM for the segment, clocking in at 2’28 in last years race. Interestingly, that was set on the second passage of the climb when he chased down Sebastian Henao, with the third effort taking 7 seconds more.

More importantly though, the summit of Challambra this year is only 9.2km from the finish unlike the 12.2km it was in 2017. Given that the first 2.5km of that is an incredibly fast descent, then an attack over Challambra sounds more appealing than in previous years.

A chase will need to be quick to organise, if a strong, small group of riders escape.

Weather Watch

With the TDU having been effected by searingly hot conditions last week, the riders probably won’t be pleased to hear the potential 39-degrees that could be about tomorrow.

Thankfully, there is meant to be some cloud cover throughout the day, but it will still be around 35 degrees in the afternoon when the riders are finishing.

Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 15.25.02
Source: Bureau of Meteorology

How will the race pan out?

Anyone’s guess.

History would suggest that it will be a selective finale, with a possible late move or small bunch sprint to the line.

The change to the route could make it more selective, or it could see the race stick together. I really don’t have an idea as to which way it will go!

Given that Challambra is the only meaningful place to attack and distance the fast men, I hope to see some teams really step up the pace in the opening two ascents. It is quite far out at 40km to go, but it is what is needed if they are looking to make the race as difficult as possible.

If that does happen, then we could see some attacks go on the penultimate passage, and with the correct riders and teams represented, it might just well stick to the line. If a group doesn’t go on the penultimate lap, then we’ll see the riders sprint up Challambra for the final time. Can Porte make it the new Willunga?

Yet, we could quite easily see a defensive race.

Teams might be afraid to take it up on the opening laps, cruising over the first two ascents. Consequently, the faster men in the bunch will be a lot fresher going into the final two laps meaning they would be much more likely to make the finish.

It will be tough for them to follow the best on the climb, but things can easily regroup, especially if there is only a 15 second deficit to the head of the race.

Hmmm.

See the conundrum I’m in?!

Two’s Company

I’m sure if you have read/are going to read plenty of previews on this race, then the same names will crop up again and again. So instead of me boring you with the usual suspects, I’m just going to name two riders and how they might be in with a chance of a good result.

That and the fact I’m incredibly tired and running a bit behind schedule with this preview, but you didn’t have to know that!

Richie Porte.

RichieWillunga

Yup, the King of Willunga makes the list.

I almost ruled him out of that stage in the Tour Down Under, as I thought he was a bit under the weather. Boy, I was wrong! He put on his usual masterclass but what was even more impressive was that he did it into a headwind. Clearly in great shape at the moment and wanting to make up for his crash at the Tour last year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him give it a go tomorrow. In last year’s race he lead the peloton over Challambra for the last time, but it didn’t seem as if he was going full gas. He did however attack the group on the ascent but was eventually reeled back in. BMC will probably front as if they’re working for Gerrans but I have a feeling they’ll make it tough on the opening few laps in an effort to give Porte a shot at it. The climb of Challambra is possibly just on the short side for the Tazmanian, but a harder race beforehand will make it seem longer for his competitors. If he can get close to matching the 10.37 W/kg he managed with his stinging attack on Willunga, many will struggle to follow him if it is full gas from the bottom. After that, it will be over to him to manage his pace and TT all the way to the line. Something that definitely could happen given the shorter distance.

Ruben Guerreiro.

19437271_10155660092025934_5794016062921669916_n

The more left-field pick, the Trek rider is now into his second season in the pro ranks and I’m intrigued to see what he can do this year. A talented rider; he can climb well on the short hills, but he also packs an explosive punch. Winning the Portuguese championships against the likes of Vinhaus, Vilela and Goncalves on an uphill finish is no mean feat. Furthermore, he managed an impressive sprint to 6th place in the tough Bretagne Classics last year, highlighting good levels of endurance for such a young rider and not to mention that explosive kick once again. He’s started this season with a solid string of results Down Under, including 10th place on Willunga, which saw him finish 9th on GC. If we get a small group escaping tomorrow over the final crest of Challambra, he seems to have the speed to challenge in a group of 5-6. Importantly as well, Trek seem to have started the season flying and there will be a feel good atmosphere in the squad. Can Guerreiro continue that streak?

Prediction

Beats me!

I think we’ll see a hard tempo from far out, hoping to eliminate the faster riders who might hold on to the finish on an easier day.

BMC will set things up perfectly for Porte to fire off some rockets right at the bottom of Challambra. No one will be able to follow him and that will be that for the race.

The King of Willunga will therein be known as the King of Willunga, Ruler of Challambra and breaker of chains.

Well, actually, hopefully he won’t become that last Game of Thrones reference!

Betting

A couple of punts for interest, but I don’t want to get overly invovled…

1pt EW Guerreiro @ 33/1 (would take 25s lowest)

1pt WIN Porte @ 66/1 with PP. Although I doubt you could get 1pt on there (I can’t), so I’d happily take the 18/1 available elsewhere (I’m going to have to).

Thanks as always for reading. What do you make of my two, slightly left-field candidates for the race? Who do you think will win? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Il Lombardia 2017 Preview

The “Classica delle foglie morte” or “The race of the falling leaves” for those of us who speak little Italian, is arguably one of the most beautiful races of the year, and is the last Monument in the calendar. I don’t know if that is due to its position at the end of the season which makes everyone see it as one last huzzah as things wind down, or the very attacking racing we get. Probably both!

Last year saw Esteban Chaves take the win in a three up sprint against Rosa and Uran.

20165746-335868-800x534

More impressively though he managed to avoid the Haughey Curse, after I had backed him to the hilt in the preview. It was a good end to the year!

With 2016’s route taking the riders from Como to Bergamo, things will switch around this year as is tradition, with the finish being in Como.

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

The Route

Almost a carbon copy of the 2015 edition. Are the organisers trying to be kind to a certain native?!

il-lombardia-2017-1504864199

There are a few tough ascents early on in the day but the race really starts to kick into action once we get to 70km to go and the famous Madonna del Ghisallo. We’ll see a thinning out process here and possibly some early probing attacks by second and third tier riders from the top teams.

Any rider who is in difficulty this early on won’t have much time to rest though as they will soon face the toughest climb of the day; the Colma di Sormano.

Colma-e-Muro-di-Sormano_Maglio_profile

At 7kms in length it averages a leg breaking 8.9% in gradient. That is hard either way you look at it, but it is the final 1.9km of the climb that averages close to 16% which is the real killer.

If a team pushes on in the bunch, not many will be left in with a chance once they are over the top. Back in 2015 we had around 20 riders who made it over together, with a few more getting back on in the descent and flat roads as we head towards Civilgio.

CPqDduRUsAAQtdL

 

Anyone that went out the back door on the Sormano but managed to get back to the peloton, will unfortunately meet their maker for the second time in the race here. Steep and persistent is the best way to describe it, the climb will wear the riders down and only the strongest will be left at the head of the race. As a tough penultimate climb, it acts as the perfect launchpad. Will anyone manage to break free?

If not, then the race could be decided on the last climb of the day, the short San Fermo. At only 7.2% for 2.7km it is one of the easier ascents. However, given its position in the race and the fact the riders will have already covered 235km+ then we could see some go pop all of a sudden.

Cresting with just over 5km to go, it will then be a charge down to the line if we have a solo rider with a frantic chase behind as there is very little time to get organised. There is a chance things could still be toghether, and we see an incredibly tactical finale, or even a small gallop to the line!

How will the race pan out?

I expect action and chaos from as far out as the Ghisallo, with Bahrain being the main driving force behind it all.

During this week of Italian racing they have been exceptional, putting other teams to the sword on numerous occasions. They’ve only came away with one win but it is their attitude on the road that has impressed me most.

I think we’ll see Gasparotto and Brajkovic set a tough pace on the Ghisallo but it will be the Sormano where they will go crazy; hoping to shed as many riders from the peloton as possible. They’ll hope to have Visconti and Pellizotti left with Nibali, and hopefully no more than 20 other guys there either.

Things will inevitably regroup on the descent and flat, but those who rejoined will once again go backwards on Civiglio.

One of the key parts that will decide this race is how some of the stronger teams approach the flatter roads. Do Bahrain, Sky, Astana etc send someone up the road so that they don’t have to chase the move behind? I think it would be wise to do so, but will they?!

We could see a front group made up of Visconti, Fugslang, Latour, Haig, Formolo and Henao for example, that might well stay away. I am really intrigued to see how the teams approach this part of the race.

If things are all together, and when I say all together I mean a group of 5 or 6 riders, then it will be very tough for anyone to drop the rest of the bunch on the final climb. Like in 2015, it will come down to a tactical attack and everyone looking at each other, or a small bunch gallop.

Three Clear Favourites?

Nibali, Uran and Pinot have all shown their credentials over the past week and are the most obvious riders who should be in contention come the end of the day.

The Shark has been excellent all week, particularly in Emilia where he looked effortless. He chose to skip Torino and will come here as fresh as possible. He’s clearly in great form, but is he strong enough to drop everyone on the climbs? I’m not so sure. That then leads to the issue of; “surely no one will be foolish enough to let one of the best descenders get a gap on a descent” again? He either wins solo by putting down some astronomical watts on the climb, or not at all.

URAN-Rigoberto048pp-copy-630x420

Uran seemed forever the nearly man, but he is having arguably his best season as a pro yet. Since the Tour he has built slowly towards this race, looking fairly good in Emilia but taking that up a step and putting in a strong performance in Torino. Will that have taken a lot out of him? Possibly. He cruised up the climb last year to a third place finish, but he then seemed to not have the same kick as Rosa and Chaves in the final of Lombardia. The Astana man had an easier time of it in Torino, while last year’s winner didn’t race MT at all. It probably won’t make much of a difference but it is something to consider. One advantage that Uran has is his speed; he would be confident of winning a 3 or 4 rider gallop to the line. We’ll just forget about last year’s sprint though…

Pinot is almost the unknown here. A great climber who seems to put in solid performances at this race, his second half of the season has been geared towards this race. He was the only rider who could follow Nibali’s vicious attack in Emilia, and the Frenchman never really looked in trouble. I wouldn’t read too much into his result in Torino, as he will have gained enough confidence from Emilia, that Torino would have been more a training ride than anything else. Before the start of the season I would say he would be in the middle of the trio in terms of sprinting, but I think he has the speed to challenge Uran.

Will the three of them get the chance though?

Azure Attacks?

Although Astana have Aru in their ranks, they might not 100% back the Italian Champion and instead play an aggressive tactic, getting riders up the road. There are two riders who given the right situation, I think could surprise and win this race.

Jakob Fuglsang.

20176131_377668_670

On fire at the Dauphiné, his season really went downhill from there. Crashing out of the Tour and then injuring his collarbone in a criterium. Not ideal! He has returned to racing as of late but his form is not overly promising; DNF’ing both of the Canadian races and a 61st in Torino. He did win the “hilly” stage in the Tour of Almaty, but given that is basically a criterium and the best Astana rider wins on the day, then I won’t read much into it. However, I have a feeling that he might go well. I don’t really know why, but he is a classy, classy bike rider and can’t be underestimated. In the hilly one day classics he is often a feature near the front and animating the race, so he has experience in that sense. Remember his Silver in Rio? I can’t wait to watch him pull out of the race tomorrow with 100km left!

Pello Bilbao.

A pick based on a favourite rider?

*Pretends to be shocked*

If you’ve read the blog for a while, then you’ll know I’m a big fan of the Spaniard and I’m really pleased to see him take a step up this season. As I pointed out in my Milan Torino preview, he was arguably one of the best domestiques in the final week of the Vuelta, he just was outshone by Moscon. The distance might be an issue for him, but in a very tactical race he might just be Astana’s trump card.

Prediction

None of the above riders will win though…

Instead, I’ll go for somewhat of an outsider, although he really isn’t.

Wout Poels.

Liege - Bastogne - Liege 2016 WTThe winner of Sky’s first Monument back at Liege last year, he has the ability to go well tomorrow. His 6th place in Torino on Thursday was slightly underwhelming, but promising. I would call it considered.

His racing schedule has been a bit sparse but he is someone who seems to really time his peak at the end of the season. Especially when he isn’t racing heavily in the early season. In theory, compared to his rivals he should be “fresh” due to his time off the bike and I think this will help him massively tomorrow.

While Nibali and co mark each other out of it, Poels will manage to sneak away and take the win. If not, as we saw in Liege, he packs a fairly decent sprint. I wonder if it will be as easy for him as Angliru was?!

Betting

End of the season so pushing the stakes out there a bit more.

0.5pt EW on Fuglsang @ 150/1 with Skybet who are paying 4 places (would take 125 and no less)

0.5pt EW Bilbao @ 250/1 with various (would take 200)

2pt EW Poels @ 33/1 with Ladbrokes/Bet365 etc.

 

This could well be my last preview for the year. I won’t be doing anything for Paris Tours and it is very unlikely I’ll do something Turkey. The new stage race in China might be a possibilty but it does look pretty dull…

I’m not entirely sure what will feature in this blog over the off-season. There are a couple of things I have in mind that I could do but any suggestions would be appreciated! Rider interviews could be a possbility but I’ll have to get my finger out for that.

Thanks though for your continued readership throughout the year. I’m pleased/proud/whatever you want to call it of the blog this season and the way it has grown. Il Lombardia marks my 209th preview of the season, more than double from last year, but I wouldn’t be as motivated to continue if you didn’t keep reading and interacting/offering feedback etc.

There have been some ups and downs this season, from the glory days of Lampaert’s win in Dwars and the famous Le Samyn preview, to the duldrums of the Giro and some other unnamed races. And what about the Wongshots?!

So that’s it for the previews in 2017. I might make an appearnce with a few features, and I might well be featured elsewhere…but if not, I’ll see you all for the Tour Down Under.

Thanks again for reading.

Thos were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Milano-Torino 2017 Preview

After an exciting finale in Varese on Tuesday, the riders will turn their attention to Milano-Torino tomorrow as they make their final preparations before Lombardia on Sunday.

In 2016 we saw a great battle between Woods and Lopez on the final climb after they broke free from a group that had attacked on the flat run in to said ascent. They traded blows but ultimately it was the Astana rider who came out on top after Woods went too early and mistimed his effort.

Milan - Turin

Uran bolted from the peloton behind to finish third, leaving Lopez in a Cannondale sandwich on the podium.

With the defending champion not returning to defend his crown, will we see a new winner? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

It seems as if the organisers have adopted the “if it is not broke, why fix it?” adage, as we have the exact same route as the past few years.

MI-TO_2017_alt_web-1024x585

Flaaaaaaaaat then two tough ascents up to the Basilica de Superga to decide the day.

Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 16.34.52

On the first effort the riders will complete only 4.29km of the climb, making it ever so slightly steeper than when the climb is taken as a whole. Well, when I say that, the average gradient is 9.137% for that part of the climb. Compared to the 9.081% for the ascent as a whole then there isn’t much difference, I’m just being pedantic!

And that’s pretty much it really, there’s nothing else to know about the route.

How will the race pan out?

The race tends to be very formulaic until we get to the first ascent of the Superga. A breakaway makes it up the road and is then controlled by the teams of the favourites and of those without a rider in it. Fairly standard procedure!

However, we then have a few potential outcomes as to what could happen from there.

Given that the first passage crests with just under 20km to go, then it is very feasible that a counter attack launched here could make it all the way to the line. Of course, for it to succeed then many of the favourites’ teams would need to be represented. If not, there will probably be enough firepower behind to bring it back, but it will have a lasting impact as to how the race is controlled from there.

Last year we saw Kennaugh hold on from the original break until the flat 5km section that bridges the descent and the climb. Once he was caught, the impetus went from the peloton and a splinter group made it off of the front. As the majority of teams were represented, there was very little cohesion behind (although there was little up ahead too to be fair), the front group managed to gain a reasonable time gap. Our top two on the day ended up being from that selection and there is a possibility something like that happens again this year; where the “second in command” riders get up the road while the favourites stay behind and mark each other out.

Of course, the final option is that everything is held together until the final climb and that the best rider on the day wins. That’s what happened back in 2015 when Diego Rosa took off at 2.6km to go and was never seen again. To make that win even better, he managed to make the move in front of his own fan club!

Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 15.36.49

So, what will we see happen this year?

With no Nibali here, then quite a few teams might be happier to take it all the way to the final climb. However, we witnessed in Tre Valli that teams are keen to race aggressively and try not to lean heavily on their star-cards.

Therefore I think we could see a similar outcome to last season; where a smaller group escapes either over the top of the climb or on the flat section. They will then stay away as the majority of the strong teams will be represented.

Contenders

Due to my logic above, I’m not going to go through the “favourites” as I think they might be fighting for lower places as 3-4 riders from the group ahead will stay away until the end. Maybe!

Once again though, this list won’t be extensive, just a few outsiders to keep an eye on!

David Gaudu.

davidgaudu-winning-withthibautpinot-stage3-tourdelain2017

A rider who produced an incredible result earlier in the year that has barely been talked about since; when he finished 9th at Fleche aged just 20 years old. He is a talent, that’s for sure! After that performance he’s continued to feature in races here and there, including his first pro win in the Tour de l’Ain. A natural climber by body-type, he is incredibly light, tomorrow’s summit finish looks good for him and given the right company he can contend. After Pinot’s very strong showing in Tre Valli, I think teams will be wary of bringing him to the final climb with the bunch together, so FDJ will have to go on the counter. Can the former Tour de l’Avenir winner cap off a good first season as a pro?

Diego Rosa.

The local hero will no doubt have his fan club cheering him on roadside, but will it once again be the catalyst to spur him on to victory? In his recent races he’s done a lot of work for his team-mates so it is hard to tell where his form truly is at the moment, but it is normally at this time of year where he comes good. Really good. With this being his local race, I think Sky might have him as a co-leader, in the hope that he will be more willing to help Poels/Landa/Kwiat in Lombardia on Sunday. He is one to watch.

Primoz Roglic.

He’s certainly not a one-day specialist, but given the way he flew up the climb at the TT in the World’s then I think he has recovered from his illness that thwarted his late season. On his day, he can climb with the best as we saw at the Tour de France when he took a great win. I’m intrigued to see how he goes tomorrow, but I think he can surprise.

Pello Bilbao.

news_idnews864_photo_1497634630

It is basically a rule of thumb that an Astana rider has to go well here, they’ve won it the past two years! Both the riders that have won on those occasions have been the rider who is not the clear leader of the team, so sorry Aru it is not going to be you. Bilbao finished well here last year, taking a fine 7th place for Caja Rural. He is a rider I like a lot and it is good to see him take a step up this year now that he’s riding at World Tour level. At the Vuelta he was climbing as well as I have ever seen from him so it will be interesting to see if he can repeat that here. If so, he is a big danger!

Sam Oomen.

A case of which Sunweb rider to go for, they have brought an embarrassment of riches to this race. I thought Oomen would be tired after his first Grand Tour but he certainly proved me wrong and was part of the very impressive TTT winning outfit. In Tre Valli he followed that up with a very commendable sixth place so he’s clearly doing something right! Like Gaudu, he is a small rider who packs a mean punch and he could dance his way up Superga tomorrow.

Prediction

The local hero to take another victory though, with Rosa to make it two wins at this race in three years!

bettiniphoto_0226222_1_full_670

As I’ve said above, I think we’ll see a similar outcome to the previous edition where a smaller group will breakaway on the flat run in to fight out the race.

The real question for the day though is; where will the Diego Rosa fan club be positioned out on course?

Betting

As of yet, only the likes of Unibet are offering odds for the race. Tempted with something on Rosa for the win and top 3, and then also “Any other rider” as this covers Bilbao and Gaudu too. Nothing wild with the stakes though!

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Could we be in for an upset? I’ll be back on Friday with my Lombardia preview. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Tre Valli Varesine 2017 Preview

After missing writing a preview for Emilia and Begheli due to some other things that cropped up, I thought it was only fair to get back into the swing of things with the next Italian one-day race; Tre Valli Varesine.

This is a time of the season that I enjoy. There is something about the Italian one-day races that are really special and this one is no different. A tricky circuit finish around Varese lends itself to some aggressive and tactical racing and we could see a whole host of outcomes tomorrow.

Last year it all came back together despite several attacks in the closing 10kms and Sonny Colbrelli won a very reduced sprint, beating Uran and Gavazzi.

bettiniphoto_0264291_1_2000px-U202073401590ss-U17022027338300B-620x349@Gazzetta-Web_articolo

Will we see a similar outcome this year?

Let’s take a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Pretty much the same as previous years with the riders leaving Saronno and completing almost 80km before they reach Varese and the traditional lap finish.

TreValle

Credit goes to @LasterketaBurua for the two main profiles I’ll be using today. Go check them out on Twitter and thank Ricky and Rafaelle!

The key part of the day is obviously the circuit in Varese that they will face 9 times. You can view an interactive profile of it here.

An undulating parcours, there are two important tests that the riders will face.

TVVLap

First up is the short 1km (at 7.3%) climb. Due to its proximity near the start of the circuit it is hard for any winning moves to be made here, but it can be used to put the strain on the opposition. It is certainly tough enough though that some riders from several of the strong teams can breakaway here and not be seen again.

Once over the climb, the riders face a mixed-bag of descents and flat before they reach the final 4km.

These areas of flat often see an attack made, but only for the rider to gain 30m or so and be reeled in. Another will go, but the same will happen again! It is similar to the climb in the sense that a move could escape here but it would require either the right number of teams represented, or that the chasing “peloton” behind is actually only 8-10 riders big and no one wants to work together.

More often than not though, the race is decided by the final drag.

TTV

With the steepest ramps coming right at the bottom, riders normally attack the final turn coming off of the descent so that they can be the first into the climb. This is what Nibali did rather brilliantly in 2015 on his way to victory.

I hope you didn’t get motion sickness after watching that!

Gaps can be made on the ascent but you need to be a very strong rider to maintain them if there is a concerted effort behind to chase. The one thing that does aid the solo rider is that things are very strung out from the bottom so it is hard for help to come from behind.

Anything that is brought back though then leaves the group open to counter-attacks again as the road then flattens out going into the final kilometre.

If things do stick together we’re most likely to see a group of no more than 20 riders contest a reduced bunch sprint.

How will the race pan out?

It beats me – this is arguably the most stacked start list this race has had in a long time, which certainly throws a few proverbial spanners in the works. There are several World Tour squads here who bring very strong teams and a selection of riders that can compete in differing scenarios.

Looking at the past three years you might think that a reduced bunch sprint is the most likely option.

Yet, given that it has happened 6 out of the last 9 editions, a solo rider winning is statistically the most likely outcome. However, with the much stronger teams here, then in theory it will be very hard for someone to stay away on their own.

The only way this can happen is if the race is ridden very aggressively from 3 or 4 laps out and the peloton is really stretched out going into the final circuit.

However, I think a group getting away early (i.e. before the last lap) to contest the finish or a reduced bunch sprint are the more likely options. Of course, with the former option we could see a solo victor!

Trying to cover my back as much as possible here 😉.

Names to look out for

Like always I’ll only suggest a few names to look out for as you and I could be here for a while otherwise!

Tom Dumoulin.

Superb in the time trial at the World’s he will come here full of confidence. With that race being his main target for the end of the season, there is a chance he could take his foot off the gas here. Unlikely! With Lombardia not too far away, he could well test his legs here. Given his incredible power at the moment, he is someone who could attack out of a small bunch  and stay away to the line. For that to happen he would need some luxury team-mates behind to mark everyone out and I guess he is in luck as he has just that!

Steve Cummings.

cummings_1500_getty_0

His recent win in Toscana was a big middle finger to the British World Champs selectors, a course that he potentially could have animated in the finale. With Sbaragli most likely to be involved in any reduced sprint, then Cummings will be given the nod to mark out any attacks and make the race aggressive himself in the closing. I said above that the flat sections during the descent are ideal for a strong rider to attack an incohesive group; what I meant to say was that it looks ideal Cummings territory. He’s one of the few in the peloton who I think could get away and make it stick!

Davide Villella.

The Italian was very strong in these races towards the end of last season and I’m sure he’ll be looking to be at the same level this year. Giro dell’Emilia was his first race back after his KOM success at the Vuelta. Working for Uran, he put in a fairly solid performance and the favour might be returned here. Packing a fairly solid sprint from a small group, he could surprise.

Michael Valgren.

bettiniphoto_0279732_1_1024px

Attacking in both of his recent races, the Danish rider seems to have carried some good form into the end of the season. Given his ability to cope with the short climbs, the course tomorrow looks ideal for him. Astana arrive without a sprinter so they will have to animate the race to make it successful and I think Valgren presents one of their better chances. A powerful rider, he should be able to churn up the final drag!

Marco Canola.

I have to include a PCT Italian rider in here somewhere! Canola has performed very consistently over the past few weeks, finishing no lower than 16th in all of the races he has competed in during September – not bad. He won the hilly Limburg Classic earlier this year, along with a tricky circuit stage in the Tour of Utah. He’ll probably have a tough task winning against the opposition here, but stranger things have happened.

Prediction

I think we’ll see the World Tour teams try to make this as an aggressive race and we’ll see the toughest Tre Valli Varesine in a while. Consequently, it will be unlikely that the bunch will be held together enough for a reasonable sized bunch sprint of 20 riders. There is a chance we could see 5 or so riders come to the line but I don’t think it will be any more than that.

Nibali looked exceptional in Emilia, but I think the drag up to the finish is suited much more to the new TT World Champion.

Dumoulin to attack and manage to hold off everyone behind thanks to Matthews marking anyone trying to follow as they won’t want to take the Aussie to a sprint.

sptdw90055_670

Betting

Not sure who else has prices, but in the UK SkyBet do.

1pt EW Dumoulin @ 33/1

0.75pt EW Valgren @ 66/1

 

Thanks as always for reading and as usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win and how? I think we’ll be in for a very exciting race! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.