Pais Vasco 2018 Stage 5 Preview; Vitoria -> Eibar

Today’s Recap

With an air of predictability, Roglic romped his way home to a strong win, laughing at the thought of an increased headwind for the later starters. Bevin was in the hot seat for almost all of the afternoon and ended the day with a very credible second place with former World Champion Kiryienka in third. Home favourite Castroviejo was a somewhat disappointing 4th.

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That result now puts the Slovenian in a commanding position for the GC title but he and his team will need to be on their toes over the last couple of stages. Let’s have a look at what is in store tomorrow.

The Route

A fairly easy day in the saddle for the riders aside from three categorised climbs.

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The climbs aren’t as punchy as what we had in the opening two stages but they are much longer and still very tough. It’s almost cruel that the first ascent of the day (Elosua Gaina) is only a category-2, but this is the Basque Country after all!

Elosua Gaina

 

At an average of 7.6% for just shy of 7kms, this is a hellish climb and we could see the race blown apart here if a couple of teams put the hammer down. With just under 60km to go and a long valley before the next climb, normally it would be too far out for anything to happen but given this is the penultimate stage, we might just see some action.

With around 34km of the day remaining the riders will face a swift double-header of climbs. First up is the Endoia Gaina which averages 6.5% for 5.5kms. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story as the first section of the climb is brutally steep.

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3.3km at 9.7% is as tough as what we had in the opening stages but it does of course ease off in severity for another two kilometres before the road dips down and bounces back up for the last climb of the day: the Azurki Gaina.

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I don’t think I have ever seen a race with so many climbs that average above 7% and it is no different for tomorrow’s last peak. The first 4 kilometres of the climb are the steepest, averaging 8.5% before it eases in the last two kilometres. Given what has just came before, it is possible for the race to be blown to bits on those opening slopes. With just over 10kms of descent, followed by a steady 8km drag to the line; will anyone risk it all?

Team Tactics

Inside the top 10 on GC we have two Bora, two Bahrain and two Movistar riders. These teams need to use that position to their advantage and attack Roglic and his Jumbo Team. Speaking of which, he has a solid squad with him but no one really stands out as being able to go deep with him into a very aggressive and tough stage. A lot of pressure will be on the shoulders of young Neilson Powless.

The other teams need to isolate Roglic early, possibly on the first climb of the day and then bombard him with attacks later on, forcing him to follow and cover every move.

Luckily for the current race leader, he has a fairly handy margin on a lot of the riders and won’t be too worried immediately, all he has to focus on is not to lose time to Alaphilippe who is his closest rival at 34 seconds. Everyone else is more than a minute behind that.

Normally a stage like tomorrow would be ideal for a breakaway but given that every second counts in this race, I don’t think we’ll actually see the move survive until the end. It could take a very long time for it to form and we will likely have teams send someone in the break who is 3 minutes down on GC, which will really throw the cat among the pigeons.

There is a chance that Roglic manages to mark most of his main rivals, he is clearly the strongest rider in the race right now, heck, he might even attack himself. Nonetheless, it offers up the opportunity for someone slightly further down the pecking order to slip away on the run in and take stage victory. That is if the day has not been blown up earlier.

Terrible Trio

This list of possible contenders won’t be long as I could make a case for a lot of riders given the right situation. It is arguably clear that the best guys on the short, steep climbs are Gorka Izagirre, Alaphilippe, Landa and Roglic. So obviously, I’ve completely disregarded that and they don’t get a mention here…

Jesus Herrada.

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The Spaniard started the season in exceptional form with strong showings in Marseillaise, Oman and Valenciana. However, he suffered from sickness in Paris Nice and that knocked him back a bit which meant he was missing some race pace on the opening day here. On the second stage though he was closer to the fore and things seem to be heading in the right direction for him again. He’s the type of rider who is far enough down on GC not to be marked if he attacks from the group on the run in to the line. Otherwise, he might wait and hope that his good sprint delivers.

Ion Izagirre.

This is the Izagirre brothers home stage: they grew up just some 30km from the finish town of Eibar so they should know the roads around here very well. Ion has been pretty disappointing in this race so far but he seems to be growing into it day by day. With the two of them in the top 10 we will no doubt see them attacking throughout the afternoon, keen to impress on their local stomping ground. Ion is the one who is most likely to be given some freedom and if he gets 20 seconds on the run in he could be very hard to bring back.

Dylan Teuns.

Couldn’t contest the finish on the opening day after being forced to unclip, he then gave it a nudge on the second stage but just couldn’t follow when the Izagirre’s came over the top. His result in the TT today highlights that his form is on the up. An attacking rider, he won’t be afraid to go long and given his generous negative buffer that he has, he might just slip away. With one eye on the Ardennes in a few weeks, a good result here will give him a lot of confidence going forward.

Prediction

You already know where this is going… Ion Izagirre to win!

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Roglic will maintain the jersey but things will be a lot more finely balanced going into Saturday’s final stage.

Betting

No odds out yet and I have work in the morning so this is just getting published. Will update later if I fancy anything.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see a break make it all the way to the line, or will the GC guys battle it out? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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Pais Vasco 2018 Stage 4 Preview; Lodosa -> Lodosa

Today’s Recap

Astana had to go and ruin the break (and our) fun, didn’t they? The 8 riders up ahead had a 6 minute gap with 70km remaining and it was finely in the balance until the Kazakh squad came to the front and hammered it down. This encouraged other teams to join in the chase but it wasn’t an easy run in as Sky got their Duo Normand practice in with Kwiatkowski and De La Cruz attacking from the peloton, bridging to De Gendt and Juul Jensen who were still left from the morning break. However, it was all in vain by the end of the stage as they and a flurry of other attacks were brought to heel and we got a reduced bunch sprint.

Jay McCarthy took a dominant win, showing his continued development in these types of finishes.

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Neo-pro and baby Il Lombardia winner Alexandr Riabushenko was a solid second, while Kwiatkowski managed to recover from his earlier efforts to take third.

After all their work, Astana had a nice 9th place to show for it. I’m guessing their DS must have been pissed they missed the break but it is something you would expect to see from Androni in the Giro, not a World Tour team. Or maybe I’m just salty! 😉

Oh well, on to tomorrow and a possibly decisive GC stage. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

A pan flat, power TT course. At 19km in length it is possible we could see some fairly large time gaps between some of the GC favourites.

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There are a few technical turns where getting back up to speed will be important but the riders will face several long straights in which they can grind a big gear and go flat-out on.

Well, that’s that covered!

Weather Watch

As is often the case in an ITT, the weather can have an impact on the outcome of the day as it could deteriorate or get better throughout the afternoon. Thankfully there is no rain forecast at all for the region, however, there is meant to be a reasonable bit of wind.

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Source: Windfinder

The above image is the forecast for the town of Sartaguda which is located just south of Lodosa and is where the course turns and heads back to our start town. As you can see, it is predicted that the wind speed will pick up throughout the afternoon which in theory will hamper the later starters ever so slightly. It might not be by much, but it could be enough to see them not win. Especially if the direction turns around so that it is more of a headwind on the way South.

Contenders

Primoz Roglic.

Flying at the moment, this is his big chance to win a World Tour level stage race. Barring any accidents or mechanicals he should put time into almost, if not all of his GC contenders tomorrow. The flat TT course should be OK for the Slovenian who was a solid 9th place in the Tirreno TT but I would imagine he would have liked a hill or two. Nonetheless, with more on the line here, expect to see him take some risks around the turns and be up there for the stage win.

Ion Izagirre.

He’s been somewhat disappointing in this race so far with his brother taking more of the limelight. Ion of 2016 would be licking his lips at the prospect of this event tomorrow but I just can’t see it happening this year.

Gorka Izagirre.

The pan-flat course isn’t ideal for the current third placed rider on GC. However, he has produced some good time trial efforts in the past and he seems on fairly stellar form at the moment. With a little bit of extra motivation due to being from the area and maybe some handy moto assistance too, he’ll want to maintain his podium spot at the end of the day.

Vasil Kiryienka.

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Sky have been pretty dominant in TTs so far this year and I would expect to see several of their squad go well tomorrow. With the distance of nearly 20km, we are getting closer to Kiryienka range but I’m sure he would have appreciated another lap! He’s been a bit poor in TTs ever since his World Championship win but he can never be discounted.

Jonathan Castroviejo.

Sky rider number 2, unlike Kiryienka, has been very consistent over the past few years and seems to have taken a step up again this season with his new team. He has one of my favourite TT positions in the peloton and for quite a small guy, he can go very well in pan-flat efforts against the clock. He’s also from the Basque region which always helps too!

David De La Cruz.

Sky rider number 3. The Spaniard had a good hit out today and looked pretty strong. He already has a TT win to his name this season after taking home stage 5 of Andalucia. Will today’s efforts have taken some of his punch for tomorrow?

Julian Alaphilippe.

Despite the fine form he is in, tomorrow’s stage is just too flat for him. Moving on!

Steve Cummings.

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It just would be typical for Cummings to pull a result out of the bag tomorrow, wouldn’t it? When he puts his mind to it he can produce a very good time for this sort of distance. It all just depends whether he can be arsed or not!

Patrick Bevin. 

My dark horse for tomorrow, the Kiwi rider has upped his game as a TT rider now that he is with BMC; shows what some good equipment can do for you. Two solid results in Abu Dhabi and Tirreno, with a slightly weaker TT field here he might go even better. Theoretically he should be one of the best early starter (he rolls down the ramp in 17th) so that hot seat could be his for a while.

Prediction

The stars align perfectly for this one;

Most consistent TT team / fairly early start / local rider / best aero position.

Castroviejo wins this, easy.*

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*Maybe not that easy, depends on how Roglic goes!

Betting

As expected it is close in the market between Roglic and Castroviejo but I’m happy to opose the Slovenian. Bit of a chunkier stake than normal but it has been a fairly good year so far so why not!

4pts WIN Castroviejo @ 5/2 (Would take 15/8 lowest – if it goes lower than that just back him vs Roglic in a H2H)

Wanted an EW punt on Bevin as an outside podium shot but he’s not priced yet. Will update on my Twitter if he is and I think there is some value or not!

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Could we see a shock result? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pais Vasco 2017 Stage 6 Preview; Eibar -> Eibar (ITT)

Today’s Recap

The break was kept on a tight leash all day and was brought back before the 50km to go mark. Orica were the team taking on the brunt of the pace making duties, but when we got to the final climb Yates looked a bit flat. Instead, for a while it looked as if Meintjes and Woods were going to surprise the favourites, but they were brought back just before the summit.

That left a couple of kilometres of false flat/descent which saw Sanchez spectacularly fall off while no-one was around him. According to reports apparently he hit a stone! He looked pretty bashed up when crossing the line.

Reducing the front group by two (the crash distanced Contador by a few seconds), Valverde used his knowledge of the finale (he won on this finish in the 2012 Vuelta), beating Uran and Bardet to the line.

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Too easy in the end for him!

Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow and the decisive ITT.

The Route

Climb -> Descent -> Flat. A real mixed bag of a TT!

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@LasterketaBurua

No Strava profile from me today as I’m short of time.

As you can see above, the opening climb isn’t exactly easy; 5.2Km long at 7.3%. The riders will be fairly happy that the gradients are relatively consistent. Saying that, the first 3.5km of the climb averages closer to 9%, with the remainder of it tapering out.

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The Strava profile of the climb can be viewed here.

There are a few twists and turns on the descent but there is nothing too crazy.

The second half of the stage is mainly flat, but there are a few short kick-ups, with 700m at 9.7% looking to be the toughest. We finish with a couple of kilometres of false-flat to the finish line.

Thankfully for the riders, the conditions appear to be similar all day so there’s no need to worry about that!

I’m intrigued to see how many riders start on a road bike and switch to a TT bike later on, the latter part of the stage is certainly long enough for the aerodynamics of the TT bike to have an effect. Or if we’ll just see them ride a road bike with bars? Who knows!

Contenders

After his stage win the other day, Roglic has to start as one of the main contenders for tomorrow’s TT. After all, it is the discipline he shot to prominence in at the Giro last year, taking a great stage win! He has the climbing ability and flat power to contend on a course like this. Yet, I’m concerned with how far he finished today. The last climb isn’t properly suited to his abilities but to lose over a minute isn’t great. He can’t be ruled out though!

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Ion Izagirre is arguably the favourite though. Losing only 15 seconds today, he is within distance of stealing the overall title. A great all round, one-week stage racer, he should be close to the times of the better climbers on the mountain and hope that his good descending and rouleur skills will be enough to take victory.

Valverde will be high on confidence after his win today, looking exceptionally strong on the climb. The inclusion of a long climb suits him tomorrow, likewise does the descent. The question is, can he hold onto any lead on the flat? He looks powerful at the moment and seemingly in the form of his life, so I would be surprised if he didn’t.

After several bits of bad luck in this race, Contador can count his blessings to be only 3 seconds behind the leaders at this moment in time. Like the rest of that front group today, he looked good on the climb, trading blows with Valverde as if it was the Vuelta. He’s re-found his TT form again this season and is certainly in with a chance of the win tomorrow. Let’s just hope he doesn’t get impeded by a dog this time!

Sky have a few options tomorrow but I fear Henao might struggle on the flat and Kwiatkowski seemed to be struggling today. Will they let Kiryienka have a go? I would image so because Sky will want one of their earlier guys to give feedback to the later starters. The length of the course is more to his liking than recent TTs and he’ll hope to be within touching distance after the climb and eat up the flat final 2/3rds of the route!

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Apart from those guys I can’t really see anyone competing!

Uran has looked great this race so far but hasn’t put in a decent TT time in donkey’s years!

Bardet will love the climb but struggle on the flat.

One outsider who might break the mould tomorrow is Spilak. After a truly awful 2016, he seems to be returning to form. He was the eternal second place in tough TTs in 2015 and he may surprise again tomorrow.

Predicition

You can never trust Kiryienka being let off the leash so it looks set to be a toss-up between Izagirre v Contador v Valverde.

I think the former will lose too much time on the climb and struggle to regain it back on the flat. Which means we are left with the age-old Contador/Valverde battle.

Without much to seperate them on the flat, I think the longer climb will play a part and it will be Contador who will take the win!

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Watch out for a certain Solvenian though, and not the one you are thinking about!

Betting

Sitting on 3pts profit for the race so far, so just going to play up that here.

2pts WIN Contador @ 5/2

0.5pt EW Spilak @ 25/1

 

It’s early but I’m adding a couple of Roubaix long shots before tomorrow’s preview;

0.25pt EW Groenewegen @ 250/1 with Bet365 (would take 150/1)

0.25pt EW Theuns @200/1 with Bet365/Coral (would take 150/1)

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win the stage, and with it possibly the GC too? I’ll be back again tomorrow with my Paris Roubaix preview for stay tuned for that. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Pais Vasco 2017 Stage 5 Preview; Bilbao -> Eibar (Arrate)

Today’s Recap

A flying and ever-attacking Roglic denied those hoping for a reduced bunch sprint. After what seemed his fifth dig off the front, the Slovenian finally got away in the closing couple of kilometres and held on to the line.

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Behind, Matthews sprinted to second, with Visconti re-finding his form from a few years ago to get up for 3rd.

The 2 second margin Roglic gained at the line sees him move up to 2nd on GC, but that will no doubt change after tomorrow’s Queen Stage. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

A short but very intense stage!

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@LasterketaBurua

With 6 climbs in only 138km, it’s sure to be a lively affair.

However, we have almost 40km of flat to start the day off with, and I expect the fight to get into the break to be quite tough. Then again, the first attempt of the day might go!

The first climb of the day comes too far from home to be of any danger, but from our first passage of Ixua, then the race could well be on. Officially the climb is 6.2km long at 7.02%, but as you can see on the profile from the guys at Lasterketa Burua, the final 3.8km of the climb averages 9.7%. Tough!

From thereon, the rest of the stage is either climbing, descending or short valley roads.

The Cat-3 climb isn’t that tough, but the second passage of Ixua crests at only 32km to go. We then have a fast descent before the penultimate climb of the day.

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Only a Cat-3 and with a steady gradient, it shouldn’t be too tough for the peloton. However, that all depends on how the peloton approaches the preceding ascent of Ixua. If they tackle it as fast as I expect, then a few riders might even get dropped here. Or we’ll only be left with the best climbing talents in the peloton.

Another quick descent follows before a slow drag in the valley road and through Eibar itself before the final climb of the day.

4.7km at 9.3% or 3.8km at 10.5%; take your pick, either way it’s not easy!

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A couple of kilometres of false flat at the top will give those dropped a chance to regroup if a rider ahead implodes. However, that seems unlikely and we have a very short drop down to the finish line.

How will the stage pan out?

Normally, I’d be all over a break on a stage like this. No bonus seconds on the line certainly increases the breakaway’s chance of surviving as it doesn’t matter if the leading GC contender to cross the line is 1st or 7th. All that matters is the gap to the other challengers. We saw that last year when Rosa won from the break (crazy long-range attack) on the stage that is very similar to this one, there was still GC movement behind.

A break is what I had in mind for this stage when I first looked at the profiles but, that’s now changed!

My reasoning behind it is mainly due to the stage being around 20km shorter than I had originally thought. At only 140km with 6 categorised climbs, that’s a lot of climbing in a short space of time. Particularly when you consider that the first 30km are flat!

With so many riders still in contention, and some good TTers to boot, the better climbers in the race won’t want to give everyone an easy ride.

I’m looking at Movistar to light the race up.

Valverde is a competent TTer (especially in Spain), but he’ll still be wary of those around him! The finish climb looks great for him and the short steep ramps will suit him down to the ground. Considering how well he was climbing in Catalunya, he will be confident of dropping everyone, even Contador.

Getting rid of domestiques of the other GC favourites will also be of interest to Movistar. Along with Sky, they have the best climbing squad with them. Both teams should be able to turn the pace on and churn out some of the opposition riders. I would expect this to happen on the second passage of Ixua. From there, it will be a race of attrition and an explosive finale up the final climb.

Contenders

I think I’ve made it fairly clear above that Valverde is my favourite for the stage! He was unreal in Catalunya and I can’t see that being any different here.

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Contador will more than likely be one of his biggest challengers, although he might be suffering after his two crashes from today. Nonetheless, he’s one of the toughest riders around and will no doubt bounce back and give it his all.

Henao offers Sky their best opportunity on this type of finish. The Colombian is exceptional on relatively short, but steep climbs and he’ll be looking to gain some time before the TT. Kwiatkowski is a good second option but the climb looks too steep for him in my opinion.

Yates may finally get some freedom but even though he’s over a minute down, he has been heavily marked so far. That could well change tomorrow if there is a moment’s hesitation in the front group.

Alaphilippe would normally love this type of climb but he’s been terribly unlucky so far this race and will more than likely be on super domestique duties for De La Cruz.

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There are a couple of outsiders I’d like to throw into the mix.

Kudus performed spectacularly well on the steep climb of Llucena back in Valenciana in February. He seems to be getting back to top shape after going off the boil for a while. With a poor TT, he will want to attack here and may benefit from being a lesser name. He just needs to attack at the right time for once!

Valverde is not the only Movistar rider who I think might go well here. Ruben Fernandez burst into the general public’s consciousness last year with a great second place on the brutal finish on stage 3 of the Vuelta last year, which resulted in him taking the leader’s jersey. A former Tour de l’Avenir winner, he is an exceptionally classy rider and it is good to see him start to fulfil his potential. After a slow start to the year due to an injury sustained in the offseason, he is my dark horse for this stage!

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Prediction

Crazy stage where it’s full gas from the gun and a race of attrition throughout the rest of the day. Sky and Movistar will set a tough pace, but in the end we all know the outcome, Valverde wins!

Betting

Cojones on the line tomorrow;

Valverde 4pts WIN @ 7/2 with Bet365 (would take 3/1)

Fernandez 0.5pt EW @ 33/1 with Bet365 (would take 25/1)

 

Thanks for reading as always. A bit of a different focus in the preview today, with more of an emphasis on me trying to explain my logic behind how I think the stage will pan out. What do you think will happen? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Pais Vasco 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Donostia -> Bilbao

Short preview as I’m short of time!

Today’s Recap

A much more exciting stage but a disappointing one from the stage picks perspective. It was selective, but just not as much as I thought it would be. David De La Cruz won the stage after a great attack on the climb followed by a ballsy descent, saw him hold off a charging peloton!

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Kwiatkowski and McCarthy sprinted home to round out the podium.

As for Yates, he punctured at the most inopportune time just before the penultimate climb and that scuppered his chances for the day. Eventually coming home in the third group on the road. Bennett put in a few digs on the climb but couldn’t get the gap that was needed, and it wasn’t attacking enough for Contador.

Oh well, on to tomorrow! Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

Another rolling day, but not as severe as today’s stage.

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@LasterketaBurua

There’s not much to talk about, with the main climbs being separated by enough road to make them inconsequential. The uncategorised first passage of El Vivero will certainly tire the legs before they tackle the full climb later on which crests with only 14.5km left.

So it looks to be a day all about the final climb. It is certainly long and steep enough to cause some issues if some of the GC guys go full gas up it. However, with 14.5km of shallow descending left will they want to put others to the sword, especially with a tough day ahead on stage 5?

We saw on stage 2 that the riders are quite happy to roll around on a club ride for most of the first half of the stage, which almost nullifies the end climbs.

Saying that, 4.6km at 7.8% is steep, so it is up to the riders to make it even more painful by being aggressive.

With the final 1km rising ever so slightly, a reduced bunch sprint here would be interesting to watch.

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The riders do tackle a roundabout with 1km to go, but compared to some of the other finishes we’ve had the past few days, tomorrow looks relatively straight forward!

How will the stage pan out?

That all depends on the aggressiveness of Sky and Movistar I think. We have witnessed on today’s stage in particular that they are keen to take on the work at the head of the bunch and make things hard.

Tomorrow is another good day for the likes of Valverde and Kwiatkowski in a reduced bunch sprint, and the severity of the climb certainly opens it up for some GC attacks.

I would keep an eye out on a smarting Simon Yates after today.

Does the break have a chance?

Yeah!

There are sizeable enough gaps on the GC now for plenty of riders to get up the road and not be a threat in the grand scheme of things. Anyone that’s over 5 minutes down will probably be given some freedom.

Break Candidates

Wellens lost a nice amount of time to be given some leeway. The Belgian seems to be an expert at making the right move and will be a real danger if he does. He started the season off in exceptional form but has went a bit off the boil since. Peaking for the Ardennes, you would expect him to be on an upward trajectory now so he’ll surely be targeting a stage here. Tomorrow could be that day.

Likewise, Pello Bilbao lost some time today. Thankfully I avoided backing him yesterday, but he’s also done some recon for tomorrow, so maybe this stage is truly his goal in the race. We saw Astana were attacking with Fuglsang so they will more than likely try to make the move again tomorrow. Bilbao winning in Bilbao?!

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After gifting his bike to Valverde today, Gorka Izagirre lost over 14 minutes. He could be sent up the road if Movistar decide they don’t want to commit helping a chase all day. With a 4th place on GC in Paris Nice and an 8th in GP Indurain, he is certainly going well enough to compete if he makes the move!

Prediction

Tough stage to call as anything out on the road could happen and it really depends on the attitude of Sky and Movistar. Without any bonus seconds, there is no real impetus to chase a break unless they really want a stage win. If they do that, then they have to ensure the pace on the final climb is tough enough to drop the likes of Matthews etc. If the pace is that high, then I think Simon Yates will make amends for today and squirrel off the front to take the win.

However, I think the break actually stands a good chance tomorrow and I’ll go for the main man, Tim Wellens!

Cycling : 10th Eneco Tour 2014 / Stage 6

Betting

Not a day I want to get heavily involved with.

(All B365)

Wellens 0.6pt WIN @ 16/1

Yates 0.3pt WIN @ 22/1

Gorka Izagirre 0.3pt WIN @ 300/1

Bilbao 0.3pt WIN @ 100/1

 

Thanks as always for reading! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Pais Vasco 2017 Stage 3 Preview; Gasteiz -> Donostia

Today’s Recap

A really dull day which was good because it meant I could get my Scheldeprijs preview finished while it was on!

The slow day resulted in the final kicker being a non-event and we got a very high-speed sprint. Typically it was Albasini who was sprinting for Orica today and he took out the win. I should have stuck to my guns and not jumped ship, but oh well!

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Richeze and De Bie rounded out the podium. It’s been a fairly boring race so far and very unlike a normal Pais Vasco, but hopefully that changes tomorrow as the terrain gets more lumpy. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

After two days of fairly benign routes, we get a stage that is typically Basque.

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@LasterketaBurua

With 6 categorised climbs it will be a very tough day out in the saddle. There are some discrepancies between the official profile and the one I’m using above, but I trust the gradients of the guys at @LasterketaBurua more than I do those, that the organisers provide!

I’ll discount the first three climbs of the day because they come too far from the finish to be of any major concern.

The next two climbs aren’t too difficult either to be honest and will probably be the scene of a gradual rise in pace within the peloton, as those on a bad day get dropped. However, I think we could see the likes of Movistar start to put the pressure on towards the summit of Andazarrate climb and we might get a rather reduced peloton as we descend gradually towards the final climb of the day.

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The graphic above is from Altimetrias.net but is for the full Mendizorrotz climb. The route tomorrow will tail off just after the Venta de Orio. As you can see, it’s a short but fairly steep climb, averaging 6.2% for the 5km. However, there is a kilometre that averages 8.1% and ramps of 13% and 14% in some parts. A stinging attack here could certainly make a difference.

We then get a bit of false flat before the descent to Donostia (San Sebastian) begins. The descent will be fast but the 3km of flat at the end of it might discourage some riders from trying to go solo.

If we do get a regrouping expect attacks to be flying from all over the place on the run in, which itself does not suit any type of bunch kick.

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Two 90-degree turns in the last kilometre and a little chicane should be exciting viewing but a very manic end of the day for the riders.

How will the stage pan out?

When I originally looked at this stage I thought it might be one for the puncheurs, someone along the likes of Bilbao. I had a whole bit planned linking to a tweet on how he has recon-ed this stage etc, but the more I think about it (never a good thing!) the more I lean towards this being an even more selective day than I originally thought.

That final climb is tough, especially the opening 4kms and if they race up it at pace like I expect Movistar to, then not many will be left near the front over the top. Only a group of 30 riders at most may be in contact over the top and therefore in with a chance of a win.

I don’t think the likes of Gerrans will get over the climb in contention.

Now the next question is, do Movistar go at such a pace to deter attacks on the climb? Or do we see them go hard but then stop so Valverde can attack?

With no bonus seconds on the line, a group of favourites might be more inclined to work with Valverde to gain an advantage over other GC contenders. Then again, they might not bother!

If we do get a regrouping will a team have enough riders to control the small bunch, or will a late attack stick?

I think the latter…

Late Attackers

Alaphilippe looks like an ideal candidate for this as he should be at the front of the peloton over the climb and is no longer a GC threat. With a fast sprint he could even challenge Valverde in a small group. Will he be as short odds as I think and thus put me off of him? Probably!

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There are two GC riders who I want to mention that have a chance of going well on this stage in my opinion.

Simon Yates.

The recent winner of the GP Indurain and a stage in Paris Nice, the young Brit is certainly going well just now. He should be able to cope with the short climbs in the area competently and as we have witnessed over the past few weeks, isn’t afraid of an attack from reasonably far out. He descended like a stone in Paris Nice and could certainly maintain a gap if the others sit up and have an argument about who’s going to chase behind. He’s my rider for a more long-range attack at the top of the climb!

George Bennett.

05-06-2016 Criterium Du Dauphine Libere; Tappa Prologo Les Gets; 2016, Lotto Nl - Jumbo; Bennett, George; Les Gets;

The Kiwi is my “he’s not a threat” late attack option. He was climbing well in Catalunya and would expect to make it over the last climb with the peloton. During that race he was quite lively at times, putting in a few probing attacks. In a group of around 20 or so at the end, he has a good a chance as anyone to make an attack that sticks!

Prediction

I think Movistar attack the day hard and we get a selective GC day and I’ll go for the descending stone that is Simon Yates to take the win!

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Betting

1.25pt EW Yates @28/1 with Bet365

0.5pt EW Contador @100/1 with Bet365 (far too big a price for a selective day)

0.25pt EW Bennett @300/1 with Bet365.

 

Thanks for reading as always and apologies that this is a bit more rushed than my Scheldeprijs preview. How do you think tomorrow will play out? Will it be as selective as I think? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Pais Vasco 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Iruñea -> Eltziego

Today’s Recap

I have to admit, I overslept after last nights shift and only caught the last 5km! In that time we had Alaphilippe attack over the summit of the final drag, only to have a mechanical. A counter group then went with the likes of Valverde and Roche, only for it all to be brought back together for a sprint. The blog pick of Albasini was indeed on lead-out duty for Gerrans, but it was another Aussie and stage favourite Matthews who took the win. McCarthy finished in second place to give the podium a Tour Down Under feel to it!

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

The Route

Another typical rolling Basque stage.

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@LasterketaBurua

A tough climb at the start of the stage should see a strong break get up the road. However, aside from the Cat-3 climb at 60km to go there is no real other big obstacle out on course. The official profile makes the closing 30km look very testing but most of it is false flat at 1-2% or so at most. However, there is a little ramp (1.1km at 6%) that crests at roughly 6.5km to the finish.

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The run in to the line is downhill all the way from 6.5km out. It’s not too severe a descent, averaging only -3%, so it’s one for the bigger chain ring! The riders will be thankful there are no tight turns only a few sweeping bends for them to contend with.

How will the stage pan out?

We saw today that a small rise of 1.4km at 3.5% was enough to cause some urgency in the bunch so a 1.1km ramp at 6% will probably do the same tomorrow! With the run in being downhill, although not too steep, it does give any would be escapees a better chance of making it to the line.

Yet, a reduced bunch sprint is also a very likely option. It all depends on what riders attempt to get off the front of the peloton. If the attack group contains a GC threat then there will be more impetus behind to chase or a lack of co-operation in the group ahead, like we saw with Valverde’s attack today. However, if we get a few GC favourites away and enough teams then it might just stick.

It’s a tough one to call!

Late Attackers

There are your obvious choices of attackers such as Wellens and Cummings but like always, I’ll name a couple of other more unorthodox picks who might have a go.

Toms Skuijnš.

24-03-2017 Settimana Internazionale Coppi E Bartali; Tappa 02 Riccione - Sogliano Al Rubicone; 2017, Cannondale - Drapac; Skujins, Toms; Sogliano Al Rubicone;

The Latvian is in great form at the moment, taking a storming win in Coppi e Bartali towards the end of March. He followed that up with a solid 10th place in GP Indurain on Saturday. Not a GC threat and packing a fast sprint after a tough stage, he has a good chance of winning from a group of 5 or so.

Michael Valgren.

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Building some nice form for the Ardennes, the Dane has continued his racing after completing Flanders in a very credible 11th place on Sunday. That ride might be taking its toll on him but he is a bull of a rider and I think he’ll have recovered well enough by now. Like Skuijns, he packs a fairly good sprint from a reduced group. Heck, he even beat Colbrelli to 6th place in E3 recently!

Sprint?

If we do get a sprint, Matthews has shown that he is a step ahead of everyone else and he should be the clear favourite for it. The last climb will be of no challenge to him, he’ll just hope that he has team-mates to chase or if another team wants to set it up for a bunch gallop.

Who could that team be? Orica are the most likely allies as they look to set up either Gerrans or Albasini. The former obviously sprinted today so will he get the chance again tomorrow? It will be tough for them to beat Matthews though!

McCarthy, Restrepo and Swift will hope to feature too. I think the Brit will go much better than he did today and is one to keep an eye on if we do get a sprint.

Prediction

An interesting one to predict and it really is in the balance between a late attack sticking and a reduced bunch gallop. Hmmmmm.

I think it will come back together and Matthews will win again!

Betting

No value in Matthews at his price due to the risky and unpredictable nature of the finale. Of course there is value if you think it is a nailed on sprint but that bit of doubt puts me off of him. There are a few angles I still want to play though;

0.75pt EW Swift @ 20/1 with Betfair/PP (would take down to 16s)

0.25pt WIN Skuijns @ 100/1 with Bet365 (would take down to 66s)

0.25pt WIN Valgren @ 250/1 with Bet365 (would take down to 66s)

 

Thanks for reading and any feedback is appreciated as always. Who do you think will win and by what means? I’ll be back again tomorrow with a slightly longer preview! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.