OVO Women’s Tour 2017 Stage 5 Preview; London -> London

Today’s Recap

A very attacking stage by the sounds of it, with a few riders up the road throughout the day.

For a while it looked as if the break was going to win comfortably as Niewiadoma was shouldered with a lot of the work. However, some sprinters/GC teams came to the fore and helped to bring the gap down.

Nonetheless, a trio of riders managed to stay ahead until the end. With Majerus and Kirchmann doing a lot of the work pushing on for GC, it was Roy who took advantage in the end: taking a very strong sprint win!

DB-EdGCXkAElQp_

Majerus and Kirchmann move up to 2nd and 3rd on GC, mimicking their places on the stage. Niewiadoma has the GC sealed up though, with only one stage left in London tomorrow.

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

The Route

A pan-flat jaunt around London.

OVO Women's Tour Stage5

14 laps of a 6.2km long circuit, too long to be a crit, I’d say it’s more of a kermesse!

Screen Shot 2017-06-10 at 17.39.51

Quite a technical course, positioning will be important coming into the last right hand turn before the slight drag to the finish line.

I’m not going to beat around the bush here, it should end in a sprint. There is of course a chance that we get some type of late attack, à la van der Breggen at La Course in 2015. But yeah, 99.99999% chance it ends in a sprint!

So, late attack? 😉

Contenders

Chloe Hosking.

DB5Anq2XsAAIlq_

With a stage win under her belt already, the Aussie sprinter will be full of confidence going into tomorrow’s stage. She’s in great form this year but would probably prefer a slightly tougher course. The slight drag to the line will help her though!

Jolien d’Hoore.

Leader of the intermediate sprints competition, the Wiggle rider hasn’t had a chance to shine at the end of a stage yet. However, it is hard to deny that she is probably the fastest sprinter in the peloton at the moment, having won 2 stages in Chongming not too long ago. This type of circuit suits her down to the ground and with Bronzini as a pilot fish, she should be guided into the perfect position with 150m to go.

Hannah Barnes.

Leader of the Best Brit category (just ahead of her sister), I imagine the Canyon rider will be sprinting to keep ahold of that title. Cursed at the start of the week by me naming her as my GC favourite, she’s not down too badly to be in 5th place. On stage 2 where she finished second, I think she actually looked like the fastest rider but was just caught out of position. Obviously tomorrow’s stage is a lot easier but she should be up there again. Some bonus seconds on the line could see her move onto the podium!

Alice Barnes.

As much as they say there’s no sibling rivalry and that they get on well, the younger of the Barnes sisters will be gunning for victory tomorrow. Having taken a real step up this year performance wise and used to this style of racing due to her appearances in the Tour Series; I think she can feature prominently tomorrow.

Lizzie Deignan.

Women's Tour de Yorkshire 2017

With Majerus unlikely to move from second on GC, I think Boels will turn to the Tour de Yorkshire winner tomorrow. Well, unless they go for Blaak or Pieters, the latter could move into the top 10 if she gets some bonus seconds. Anyway, Deignan has been very quiet so far this race doing a lot of the work for the team, stating that she is here to build form for the national championships. I think she’ll want to test her legs in a sprint and what better to do so than at race pace tomorrow?! With the lead-out that Boels have, whoever they chose to be the sprinter has a great chance!

If we do get a late attack, look out for Ellen van Dijk. She’s looked very strong this week and is one of the few riders who can hold off a charging peloton.

Prediction

I’ll go for the Belgian Bullet Jolien d’Hoore to take the win!

sptdw2001_670

Thanks as always for reading and as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated! Hope you’ve enjoyed my take on this week’s racing. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

OVO Women’s Tour 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Chesterfield -> Chesterfield

Today’s Recap

Gillow and Uttrup Ludwig did the blog some justice by getting in a mid-stage break but it was eventually clawed back by Sunweb who got a little bit of assistance from Boels.

We had a crash marred final 20km with several riders going down in various incidents, but the race ended in a relatively large bunch sprint.

Hosking took a great win, ahead of Barnes (Alice) and Van Dijk. The latter justified her teams hard-work all day, picking up some bonus seconds and moving into 2nd on GC.

DB5Anq2XsAAIlq_

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

The Route

The toughest stage of the race going off of elevation gain, the riders are set to face a lot of uncategorised climbs throughout the day.

OVO Women's Tour Stage 4

Here’s a link to the interactive version of the profile.

Most of the climbs come early but that doesn’t mean they won’t be attacked and we could see a significantly reduced group by the time the riders pass the second categorised climb of the day in Crich.

From there the route does get easier in the second half of the stage, allowing for some regrouping if the pace up ahead doesn’t stay constant. With some sore bodies after today’s stage, it will be hard to keep everything together.

There is a relatively long uncategorised drag of 3.1km at 3% that crests with just 6km to go and this looks like a perfect launchpad for some riders to put in one last dig!

Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 19.14.28

The finish into Chesterfield is quite technical with a few kinks in the road in the closing few hundred metres.

Will we see another sprint?

How will the stage pan out?

With this being the last stage where the GC order can really change, I expect a fast and attacking day throughout. The other teams will not want to admit it, but they’ll relish the fact that Vos has now unfortunately had to leave the race due to a broken collarbone that she suffered in a crash today. It means that Niewiadoma will be very exposed because as I said in my stage 2 preview; I’m not sure how long Kitchen and Koster will be able to hold onto the peloton for.

I think we’ll see strong teams such as Sunweb and Boels set a fierce pace early in the stage, looking to isolate the GC leader before the half-way point.

From there, I expect attacks to come thick and fast off the front of the peloton from several teams: forcing Niewiadoma to do a lot of the chasing.

Eventually, something will stick and as long as several of the main teams are represented, it won’t come back.

Will Niewiadoma make the split? Well, it all depends on where it goes. She’s clearly in stellar form at the moment and if they try to attack her on a climb she should be able to follow it. Whereas, if it goes on the flat then it reduces her chances. She may well adopt the adage of attack = best form of defense.

Depending on who makes the move will decide how important the final uncategorised climb will be. If there are a few strong climbers then they may want to try to distance others, not trusting their sprints.

The gap that they have will also be a factor. We might see them work together extremely well right until the end of the day to ensure they overhaul Niewiadoma’s GC lead.

Contenders

Hannah Barnes.

Barnes-1024x683

Riding exceptionally well at the moment, my pre-race GC pick finds herself sitting 4th on GC but on the same time as her sister who is in third. Climbing well, she’s been prominent in all of the stages so far, with 14th being her worst result. A strong all-rounder with a fast sprint she will hope any group comes together to the line as that seems to be her best chance of winning. Nonetheless, the local rider isn’t afraid to attack either!

Ashleigh Moolman.

The South African is having a quiet but strong Women’s Tour so far, currently occupying 6th place on GC. She was one of the best on the climbs of stage 2, but it was a case of “too many cooks” that day. One of the only riders who I think can drop everyone on the rises tomorrow, she’ll co-operate with any group but hope to attack them on the final rise. I think she has a good chance of taking the win.

Amy Pieters.

DBzyttuW0AE3Rmp

After her win on stage 2, Boels were intending to ride for the Dutchwoman today but unfortunately she was involved in a crash before the finish. Nothing too serious but a bit shaken up, she didn’t want to contend the sprint. If she has recovered from that then she has a good chance tomorrow. With 4 riders in the top 30, Boels will no doubt race the stage aggressively. Any of their riders could win, but Pieters seems to be climbing well and obviously sprinting well too so she covers both options!

Ellen van Dijk.

Second on GC and looking the most likely to usurp Niewiadoma, the Sunweb rider should like the look of tomorrow’s route. The climbs aren’t too tough and should suit her powerful riding style. Futhermore, if she makes it into a small group, she has the strength required to escape and TT her way to the line. I’m sure everyone will be very wary of her!

Of course, we could see plenty of other riders contend tomorrow’s stage. It could well be as we say in Scotland a “belter”! Just a shame it won’t be live…

Prediction

I’ll go for one of the form riders in the peloton at the moment, Ashleigh Moolman to take the win.

IMGP3673-696x461

No fancy hats as prizes here though! 😔

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will Niewiadoma hold onto her lead? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

 

 

 

OVO Women’s Tour 2017 Stage 3 Preview; Atherstone -> Royal Leamington Spa

Today’s Recap

A day that was attacking from the gun, we had several breaks up the road throughout the day, with the peloton splintering behind. It looked for a while as if Lucinda Brand was going to hold on, but she was reeled in with 5km to go and we ended up with a reduced bunch sprint.

Boels’ Dolmans Amy Pieters came away victorious ahead of Hannah Barnes and Ellen van Dijk.

DBzyttuW0AE3Rmp

Niewiadoma still holds onto her comfortable lead, but Barnes now moves into third place on GC.

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

The Route

A similar profile to the one we had today although a bit more rolling towards the end of the stage.

OVO Women's Tour Stage 3 (3)

Here’s a link to the interactive version of the profile.

 

 

 

Not much to speak of in the first 2/3rds of the stage, with a few uncategorised hills to contend with. That being said, the last rise before we get our categorised climbs is 3.3km long and averages 3.4%. I think it’s a bit harsh to be uncategorised!

The focal point of the stage will be the two Category-2 climbs that the riders will cover in quick succession.

Edge Hill is long enough and steep enough in some sections to cause splits in the peloton. The pace will then continue to be on once over the top and they hed towards Burton Dassett. Slightly shorter, but steeper in gradient, I think we could see what’s left of the peloton quickly disintegrate on this climb.

One of the reasons I say that is due to the length of the stage. Some women’s races are roughly 100km long, but the riders will have already covered almost 130km when they reach the bottom of the climb. Fatigue will play a big part in this stage, especially when you consider how attacking today was.

The one saving grace for those hoping for a bunch sprint of some sort is the 27km from the summit to the finish line to organise a chase.

We do have some small rises in the closing 10km of only roughly 1km and ~1.5% but they can’t be underestimated after a long and tough day in the saddle!

Screen Shot 2017-06-08 at 20.18.32

As for the finish itself it is very straight forward apart from one tight rind hand turn at roughly 500m to go. Other than that, the rest of the run in is “sweeping” and the riders should be able to go full gas!

How will the stage pan out?

We should see another attacking day out and there is the possibility that a breakaway makes it all the way to the line.

There are several quality riders far enough down on GC who can finish off a stage like this if they are given some freedom. However, with WM3 looking quite weak today aside from their GC leader and Vos, I think other teams will be looking to expose them over the final 35km.

Much like yesterday, I think we’ll either see a very reduced bunch sprint or a late attack sticking.

Once again, I’ll go for the latter!

Contenders

Should I jumps ship from the three riders I named yesterday?!

I’ll name two of the same, but change one as Audrey Cordon seems more focussed on the QOM jersey rather than anything else.

Shara Gillow.

capture_5 (1)

The former Aussie TT champion was in the mix today but was actually caught out in a split in the bunch, losing a few seconds on GC. She is an attacking rider and could well use one of those small rises in the final 10km to her advantage, pealing off the front of the bunch and staying clear to the line. She’ll need to do that as she doesn’t have much of a sprint! My other season long fantasy rider (Pieters) won today, can Gillow repeat that feat tomorrow?

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig.

The young Dane has been attentive so far this race, finishing near the front of the bunch on both stage so far. With a lot of the other riders concerned with her team-mate Moolman, she may use that to her advantage and escape. Packing a solid sprint, she could also win in a two or three rider gallop to the line. Will her inexperience cost her?

Katie Archibald.

katie-archibald-and-lydia-boylan

It’s nice to be able to list a fellow Scot as a stage contender for once! The track star has been slowly turning her attention to the road and has picked up some fairly solid results so far this season. Her abilities as an all-rounder seem to be improving and I think she could definitely surprise.

Prediction

I’ll hedge my bets and go with Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, who could get involved in both a reduced sprint and a late breakaway!

1489943561_cecilie_uttrup_ludwig

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

OVO Women’s Tour 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Stoke -> Stoke.

*Same PSA as my Dauphiné preview; the rest of the previews this week will be “short” as I am short of time and trying to write a two a day is a bit of a squeeze. Apologies!*

Today’s Recap

Quite hard to write a recap on a stage you’ve not actually watched but here goes…

As is typical in women’s racing, the peloton was together for ages, with no one able to break away after 100km or so of action. However, that all changed at 47.5km to go when Katarzyna Niewiadoma launched an audacious attack. Her gap continued to go and she had over 3 minutes with 30km left.

“Watching” the race on Twitter, I was expecting the gap to come down at that point but no, 20km turned into 10km and the gap still remained at roughly 3 minutes.

I think we had a classic case of peloton politics where everyone expected Boels to chase but the Dutch outfit refused and called their bluff for a long time.

Eventually they did start to chase on the front but it was too late, with the Polish champion holding on to a comfortable margin of 1’42 by the end of the stage.

DBu0o9aXsAEPS9h

Not a bad way to win your first World Tour race! I don’t want to put the #HaugheyCurse on her but…that in theory should be the GC over now. However, women’s racing is never over until and I’m sure we’ll see some attacking riding over the next few days.

Behind, her team-mate Vos sprinted to second to cap off a memorable day for the team, with Majerus somewhat rewarding Boels for their eventual efforts with third.

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

The Route

An ever so slightly shorter stage than the opening day but one with a few more interestingly positioned climbs.

OVO Women's Tour Stage 2

The majority of the first half of the stage is flat, bar a few uncategorised rises at 2% for a few kilometres. Most of the action kicks off in the second half of the stage, starting with the first intermediate sprint. I say this, because straight after the first sprint we have an uncategorised rise before the road gradually rises through the second sprint in Cheadle.

However, it is the Category one climb of Isptones that should see the race split apart. At 3.8km ling and averaging 4.6%, I expect some of the stronger teams to attack it at a really hard pace, making it seem tougher than it actually is.

We had a few riders dropped today on the climbs and I think we’ll see a lot more suffer a similar fate tomorrow.

The peloton could half in size, if not be reduced by even more before they head towards the Gun Hill climb. A shorter but slightly sharper ascent, according to the Strava segment the average gradient is closer to 6%.

Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 19.53.26

There are some steep gradients of 10% and this is where the true climbers will come to the fore.

I think we might see a relatively select group crest the climb together.

The finish isn’t too bad, but there are a few technical turns in the closing kilometres.

Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 20.05.45

Will we see a solo rider come to the line again or will a group contest the finish?

How will the stage pan out?

It all depends on how the stage pans out but I think we’ll see a relatively select bunch get away on the final climb. Will they work together to maintain their advantage? Or will those behind get back in? Will we even see a late attack from someone work as everyone looks at each other to chase.

A massive advantage that Niewiadoma has is that she has Vos in her team. More importantly, she has a Marianne Vos who seems to be back to her best. This means that the Dutchwoman should be able to follow the bunch on the short climbs and then be used to mark any attacks once over the top. Niewiadoma on paper should be one of the best on the climbs so it is very unlikely she’ll be dropped as well!

Therefore, anyone that gets away will more than likely have one of those two sitting on their wheel. Not ideal!

However, the rest of the WM3 team will have their work cut out especially when they’ll be shunted with most of the work all day. A lot of pressure will be on Kitchen and Koster, and I’m just not sure if they’ll be up for the task.

Therefore, I think we could get a solo winner who escapes from the bunch in the closing few kilometres after Vos and Niewiadoma are tired out from chasing and just sit up to conserve the Polish riders lead on GC rather than chase the stage.

Contenders

I’ll throw a few names into the hat for this situation;

Audrey Cordon.

audrey_cordonragot_wigglehigh5_en_2017

The French TT champion is in a rich vein of form at the moment, performing well in the Ardennes but more recently coming home with two top 6 places in French one-day races. She’s climbing very well, in fact, she’s holding onto the QOM jersey here just now! Using her TT ability and that she won’t be seen as an instant danger, she’ll hope to slip clear.

Shara Gillow.

A similar rider to Cordon, the former 4-times Aussie TT champion has really taken a step forward this season with new team FDJ. With a strong Ardennes classics campaign, she has cemented herself as one of the best one-day racers/climbers in the women’s peloton. However, unlike other riders such as Moolman and Deignan etc, I think she still could benefit from some anonymity and steal a march on the peloton.

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig.

The best young rider of the season, the Dane had a very good end to May, finishing in the top 5 of both th French races. Clearly in great form and buoyed by confidence, she won’t be afraid to take any risks to get away, knowing that Moolman will be behind following anything behind. With a solid sprint on her, she could win from a group of 3/4 riders that get away.

Prediction

I’ll be bias here and go for one of my season-long fantasy riders, Shara Gillow, to take a great win after attacking from 5km out and coming to the line solo!

capture_5 (1)

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

OVO Women’s Tour 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Daventry -> Kettering

Back now for its 4th edition, the Women’s Tour now has a new headline sponsor – Drake! Joking aside, we should be in for a good week of racing with a whole host of talented riders here looking to take the crown.

GC Overview

Deignan is here to defend the title she took last year, but can she manage it?

DSC_0642-1024x736

I’m unsure if she will or not! On paper, the route looks a lot easier than the previous editions and some riders have highlighted that themselves. Nonetheless, it will all depend on how aggressively they attack the route and of course, the typically bad British weather might play its part too.

If we get a selective race then on form Moolman looks the rider to beat. She’s won the last three races that she has entered and seems to be fully recovered from her crash at the end of last year. Packing a solid sprint after a tough day, she can challenge in a lot of situations.

Deignan obviously will be expected to go well, and the same can be said for her team-mate van der Breggen. There are many other names to consider as well such as Longo Borghini, Gillow and Vos. The latter is also in imperious form and seems back to her sublime best, winning the last three of her races!

Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik 2017

However I am unsure if it will be as a selective race in comparison to last year’s edition. I’m really on the fence with this one!

We have some good climbing sprinters such as d’Hoore and Hosking who might fancy their chances of making it over some of the climbs towards the end of the stages. If they do, then they’ll be tough to beat.

Stages 2 and 4 look to be the most difficult with climbs coming in the final 20kms that could well be a launchpad for attacks.

Nonetheless, I’m going to go for a bit of an outsider to take the win…

I think Hannah Barnes has the credentials to step up here. I was very impressed with her climbing performance in the Tour of Yorkshire and the current British Champion seems to be coming of age this year at Canyon. A fast sprinter after a tough day, she should be there at the end of every stage and will be looking to use her local knowledge to gain an advantage over her competitors!

Barnes-1024x683

Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders on the opening day!

The Route

A relatively easy day out in the saddle that should end in a bunch sprint.

OVO Women's Tour Stage 1
Interactive profile viewable here.

We have a few QOM points in the first half of the stage but nothing too severe, with the route being mostly flat throughout the day. Although with that said, the roads can be viewed as “grippy”!

The run in to the line isn’t too bad but there are a few 90-degree turns in the closing 5km.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 16.47.20

The major danger is a very tight right hand turn at ~2km to go. It’s more than a 90-degree turn and could be a real choke point if teams are starting their lead-outs.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 16.49.43

Interestingly, the road does kick up ever so slightly before the final corner, so the sprint might not be as straight-forward as it initially seems. Furthermore, there is some road furniture before the road goes up.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 16.58.52

As crazy as it sounds, maybe the riders will bunny hop the middle section? Either way, I hope it is properly marshalled as it could become very dangerous. I imagine they’ll be sent around the left-hand side of the traffic island, that looks the quickest way to me!

You can see the road rising in the distance. How selective that rise will be depends on how much speed the riders can carry through the tricky section highlighted above.

We then have a left hand turn at roughly 150m to go. Exit that corner in first place and you have a great chance of winning.

The finish reminds me a lot of Liege, just not as severe a rise before hand!

Contenders

Where else to start than with my winner of this race overall; Barnes. As I’ve mentioned above, she has a fast kick after a tough day and this finish should put her on a more equal footing with some of the faster riders in the peloton so she certainly has a chance.

d’Hoore – The Belgian sprinter is more than just one of the fastest riders in the peloton, she can also climb well. A classics specialist, the strong Wiggle rider should be able to make it over the rise to the line. Winning several stages in Chongming while injured highlights her strength and if she’s maintained that form then she is one of the main riders to beat!

2017-02-27-wiggle

Wild – Another strong sprinter, the Cylance rider failed to take a win in the Tour of California but she never finished lower than second in Chongming. Her sprinting legs are clearly there, it’s just a question if her climbing legs are too. She’ll be expecting to fight for the win and nothing less.

Hosking – One of my favourite sprinters, the Australian has continued on from her great 2016 season with a very solid start to the 2017 season. In the early races she was climbing the best that I have ever seen from her and I see no reason why that will have changed by now. Having not raced for a month she might be lacking a little kick, but the same can be said for the majority of the peloton.

Blaak/Pieters/Deignan – I’m not sure who Boels will be pulling for in this stage, maybe Deignan will be given home bias? Either way, they should have someone in the top 5 at the end of the stage.

Elvin, Mackaij and Vos will all be in the mix as well.

Prediction

I’ll go for an impressive win from Hosking!

Drentse Acht van Westerveld 2017

Climbing better than ever and sprinting better than ever, the Aussie will take care of business and steal the headlines! Channeling her inner Drake…

Coverage

Unfortunately there’s no live coverage but you can follow the race on twitter via the #OVOWT. However, there will be a daily highlights show on ITV4 during the evening (I’m not sure where else it is shown worldwide).

I’ll re-plug my Velogames.com league again for this race. Join using the following code: 05185053.

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win GC and stage 1? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Amgen Women’s Tour of California 2017 Preview – GC and Stages

The race with the longest sponsor name ever, the “Amgen Breakaway from Heart Disease Women’s Race empowered by SRAM” returns on Thursday for its third year and second at World Tour status.

Last year’s edition saw a GC that was shaped by the opening two stages, with the TTT on stage 2 playing a large part in the outcome. The organisers have decided to remove that this year, leaving 4 open road stages.

Defending champion Megan Guarnier is here with a strong Boels team and she will no doubt be looking to repeat that success again this year.

2016 Amgen Women's Tour of California: Guarnier podium

Will she be able to? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders over the next few days.

The Route

Stage 1.

We see the same opening stage that we had last year, with the riders travelling in a clockwise direction around Lake Tahoe.

amgen-breakaway-from-heart-disease-women s-race-empowered-2017-stage-1-1494320109

It is a mostly flat stage but there are two Cat-3 climbs out on course.

Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 14.33.20
All profiles thanks to @RickyFilips95 / @LasterketaBurua

 

They’re not overly difficult but we did see a split in the peloton over the first climb in last years race so it will be interesting to see if any team wants to try to put the pressure on again. As for the finish it is tricky and time can be lost but I would expect 20 or so riders to come him within 25-30 seconds of the winner. The wind may play a part on the lap around the Lake as well because it looks set to be a 35km/h SouthWesterly which will mean a cross-head for the end of the race. Could we see some splits because of that? I’ll go for a Guarnier win again although it will be hard to drop Rivera, but watch out for Astana’s Arlenis Sierra who I think could pull off a strong result here.

Stage 2.

After removing the TTT the organisers have decided to add in an even more decisive stage on the second day of racing.

Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 14.35.10

 

A short but sharp stage at only 108km, the riders have three classified climbs to contend with. I would expect a thinning out of the bunch on the opening Cat-2 but all the focus of the day will be on the Cat-1 climb to Dagget Summit. We don’t see climbs like these often in women’s racing and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how it plays out, 12.6km at 6.1% is Alpine and only the best climbers will be able to compete here. With the summit coming 10km from the finish line, it is very probable that a solo rider takes the climb and rides all the way to the line. The riders will use the same finish climb from the previous day, but expect the gaps to be much bigger this time! Without a full start list just now it’s hard to tell who will be in contention but it is hard to look past Boels but more specifically van der Breggen and Guarnier. They could well ride a 1-2 on the stage, it all depends on how van der Breggen is after her big peak for the Ardennes. One team to look out for his United Health Care who were dominant in the Tour of the Gila recently, and I think Katie Hall could run the duo close.

Stage 3. 

Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 14.35.42

 

A pan flat stage finishing in Sacramento, this should be one for the sprinters. They’ll be thankful to get their chance after surviving the previous day! Rivera, Guarischi and Pieters all have a chance but it will be tough to beat Wild.

Stage 4. 

Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 14.36.10

 

We finish with the traditional pan-flat lap circuit around Sacramento. At 70km in length it is longer than a criterium but shorter than a traditional kermesse. Either way, it should be a fast race and the same sprinters from the previous stage should feature here again. Wild won here last year, can she double up this edition?

GC Battle

The GC will be decided on Stage 2. There are likely to be gaps after stage 1, but these will pale into insignificance after the second day.

It is hard to tell where riders will be at in regards to form and when you factor in that some teams only arrived yesterday, jet lag could still be an issue. Being a home race will mean the American riders and teams will want to animate it as much as possible, trying to put the likes of Boels under pressure.

Can they shake off Guarnier and van der Breggen if they are in good form? Nope.

However, if those two aren’t in top shape then it could present an opportunity for a surprise victor. I mentioned her above, but Katie Hall will go well here I think. She was strong on the tough stages in Gila and without a TT (she lost time in that discipline) then I think she can be up there on stage 2 and possibly surprise a few.

17gilastg51527_670

Prediction

Nonetheless, I think that it will be hard to see past a Boels win here. After having a poor individual spring campaign (results wise) and with some questioning her performance, I think Guarnier will come out here firing, having been targeting this race all along.

16wmnatocstg1guarnier.jpg_670

Taking her second title in a row with a dominant display.

Coverage

It looks as if we’ll be able to watch the race live on Youtube again this year.

Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 13.00.24

I’m not sure of the exact links just now as clicking on them just takes you to a static page on the site, nonetheless I’m sure they’ll be updated closer to the start of the broadcasts. You can view the list here.

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Apologies that this is a little more stunted than normal but I don’t have the time to wait until the full official start list is released later today. Furthermore, with the GC more than likely being decided on one stage there isn’t really that much to talk about. I hope we just get to see some exciting women’s racing unfold. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Liège-Bastonge-Liège Femmes 2017 Preview

 

To end the Ardennes classic week, we are treated to the first ever women’s edition of the oldest Monument; La Doyenne.

A very welcome addition to the women’s calendar and the decision to run the race was greeted with great fanfare from both the spectators but also the peloton itself!

After two exciting, although fairly predictably dominant Boels’ displays at Amstel and Fleche, will we see a new winner at Liege?

201704197_191915

Or will van der Breggen secure the win and consequently take a famous Ardennes triple?!

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

The Route

At 135km in length, it’s not the longest route the riders will tackle this year but it is roughly 15km longer than both Amstel and Fleche.

Having only four categorised climbs does not paint a full picture of how attritional the race is going to be, because the route is constantly up and down, twisting and turning on narrow roads.

Screen Shot 2017-04-22 at 14.42.22

The first 75km of the day will serve as a warm-up for the second half of the race, and we should see a break established up the road.

The action will start in earnest though, beginning with the longest climb of the day! The Côte de la Vecquée is longer than anything we see in the men’s race and could see a shake up if a couple of teams put the pressure on.

Côte_de_La_Vecquee_Stoumont_profile

Not overly steep, it does contain a kilometre at 7% though and I would not be surprised to see some probing attacks in the peloton here.

The race then follows a similar pattern of climb -> false flat -> descent -> climb from hereon in.

Next up on the schedule is the explosive La Redoute.

Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 13.01.45

We then have a relatively long period of 14km where the riders aren’t climbing but the descending is fairly shallow. This will be an equally as important part of the race because the best riders often attack on the flatter sections when those around them are tired from the previous climbs. Van der Breggen’s two wins this week are testament to that!

Within 20km to the line the riders will face the Roche-aux-Faucons before the Sant-Nicolas, cresting at only 5.5km to go.

Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 13.04.00

Short, but explosive, it could well be a launchpad for an attack if we have a group of riders left together at this moment.

From there it’s the traditional run in to the finish line.

Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 13.08.07

The rise through the Flamme Rouge and all the way to the line averages 5.3% for the 1.5km, offering one final place to attack before the false-flat sprint.

Contenders

It’s really hard to look past another Boels win this week. They’ve timed their early season peak to perfection and in van der Breggen and Deignan they have two of the best riders in the peloton on current form. I set my stall out a week ago with this tweet and it’s not looking too bad just now…

She has the power to attack from distance but also the speed to win from a small sprint. Who can beat her? Well, Deignan certainly can! The Brit has played a superb team role over the past two races and could well be rewarded with team-leadership here. Her sprint win for second place in Amstel was incredible, considering she took it up into the headwind that famously curtailed Kwiatkowski in the men’s race. Will Boels try their hardest for the triple for van der Breggen, or will the Ardenne’s triple for the team be enough? I guess we’ll have to wait and see tomorrow afternoon as to how they attack the race.

Who can stop them?

On form, it looks as if Kasia Niewiadoma is the strongest challenger.

kasia-elsy2

She was instrumental in splitting the race up on the penultimate climb at Fleche, with only the two Boels riders able to follow. However, that ended up being to her detriment as they ended up playing the 1-2 and she couldn’t follow every attack. Contrary to what you would normally expect, her best (and every one else who’s not on Boels) best chance of winning is that the race is easier than normal. Therefore there will be more riders in the peloton and the opportunity to form cross-team alliances to isolate one Boels rider. Although I have a feeling that scenario is very unlikely to be carried out! Nonetheless, Niewiadoma still has a very good chance of winning the race, it will just be tough trying to out-ride the two strongest women who happen to be on the same team!

The other rider who on form has a chance of beating the Boels pairing is Annemiek van Vleuten.

sptw10204_670 (1)

The Dutch rider has 3rd and 4th in the first two races this week and certainly has the abilities to repeat, if not better those results. She’s been incredibly consistent in the WWT this year so far, notching up 6 top 10s out of the 7 races we’ve had. With the final rise to the line not being too difficult and suiting her well, I think she might fancy her chances in a reduced sprint against some of the other favourites.

Aside from those four, no one really looks on a level to challenge for the title. Yet, this is cycling and sometimes the strongest rider doesn’t always win!

Elisa Longo Borghini would definitely be included in the list above if she didn’t skip Fleche due to illness and breathing difficulties. She did manage to finish 5th in Amstel so the form was there beforehand. But you would expect it to be too soon for her to be competing for the title.

This season’s revelation, Coryn Rivera, will hope to hang on the coattails of the better climbers and challenge for a sprint. She’s proven so far this year that she is one of the fastest riders in the world after a tough day.

sptdw7021_670

I gave her an honourable mention for Fleche and she managed to sneak into the top 5 and I think Shara Gillow could do something similar tomorrow. A criminally under-rated climber, she prefers the steep ramps so the closing climbs should suit her. Another top 5 is on the cards!

Prediction

It would make for a great race if someone could stop Boels, but I just can’t see it happening. It’s only a question of wether I choose Deignan or van der Breggen?! This route actually suits the Brit ever so slightly more in my opinion but as I’m a big fan of fairytale stories, I would love to see the Dutchwoman complete a famous Ardennes triple!

Anna-van-der-Breggen-800x534

I’ll be rooting for a Shara Gillow podium spot as she’s part of my season long fantasy team!

Unfortunately I don’t think we’ll be getting any live coverage of the race so the best place to follow it is on Twitter via the #LBLWomen hashtag.

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated like normal. Who do you think will win and how? Can anyone stop Boels’ domination? Next on the blog from will be Tour of Romandie previews, but I’ll be back with the Women’s World Tour for Chongming Island. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.