Innsbruck 2018 World Championships: Men’s Road Race Preview

Innsbruck 2018 World Championships: Men’s Road Race Preview

After an exciting week of racing, the elite men have a lot to live up to tomorrow!

In 2017 we saw a tactical race but one that came down to a bunch sprint in the end, despite numerous attacks in the closing lap. So the best rider in that situation, Sagan, took what was his third title in a row, just edging out home favourite Kristoff.

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Matthews completed the podium in third place.

Sagan is going for 4 wins in a row but given the tough parcours awaiting him tomorrow it looks unlikely but you can never discount the Slovakian. Let’s have a look at what is in store for them.

The Route

A long day out in the saddle at a shade over 261kms but combined with 5000m of elevation gain according to LaFlammeRouge, it will also be a brutally tough one.

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To start off with the peloton faces 60kms of flat, albeit slightly rolling roads before they make it to the Gnadenwald climb, which will be familiar to those who did the time trial earlier in the week. download (40)

Very steep in the opening 2.5km, averaging roughly 10%, it has been used so far this week as a climb to thin down the bunch, but with just under 200km to go once over the top then I can’t see that being the case this time.

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The riders then move on to complete 6 full laps of the main circuit, and once more up the Igls climb for good measure.

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The climb isn’t too tough when taken on its own but as we have seen throughout this week, that if teams come to the front and put the pace on then it can cause some damage. Seven ascents of it will certainly take its toll!

The descent might also play a part in the day.

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It is very fast and the best going downhill can cause some issues for those that are less competent and confident. There are a few technical bends within Igls for example but nothing too crazy but it is a road that you can string some corners together nicely.

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After the last ascent of the Igls climb, the riders don’t complete the normal circuit, taking a detour to the much talked about “Hell” climb. At 11.5% for 2.8km it is a brutally steep ascent to be taking on at this point in the day and it will be one that will strike fear into many. It is *only* 3kms long though so it will tempt the puncheurs but will they be there to fight it out?

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The descent off of the climb is technical and will suit a solo rider well, before they return to the riverside and the familiar final 2.5kms that we’ve seen over the past few days.

How will the race pan out?

Beats me.

The usual rule of thumb for the Worlds is that the U23s and elite ment follow a similar pattern but that was thrown out the window a little last year. Plus, with the addition of the Hell climb in only the men’s race, we might see some teams wait until then, just like in a Fleche Wallone for example.

However, I do think the course is challenging enough before then for some serious attacks to go clear on the penultimate or last ascent of the Igls climb. There are several teams here with solid second options, or main riders in a nation that might not be classed as one of the favourites, so they have an opportunity to go early and anticipate any action later. Although I’m sure they would be happy if there was no action later!

Like I said in my preview for the women’s race, you have to be willing to lose the race to win it. Given how strong the likes of Valverde and Alaphilippe should be on the final climb, I think we might see quite a few riders plan to go early.

If the majority of the big nations, i.e. Spain, France, Italy, GB and Belgium, have a rider in a late attack there is a good chance that it stays away. That is the option that I’m going with for the following!

Four Hell-raisers

Basically my four riders to watch that aren’t any of the clear and obvious favourites, although one of them kind of is…

Jakob Fuglsang.

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Cast your mind back to Rio 2016 where Fuglsang finished second after a tough day out in the saddle. On that day he was one of the strongest and almost pulled van Avermaet across to Majka when chasing the Pole. So far this year he has produced some very strong and consistent results but has only picked up one win. His race schedule after the Tour has been pretty light and he’s focussed mainly on recovering from that race and building slowly for here. In the Canadian races he did some good training on the attack and doing work for team-mates. Has he timed that peak well?

Rafal Majka.

Rio rider number two, Majka came very close to winning the race but was caught in the final couple of kilometres and had to settle for bronze. In the recent Vuelta he looked to be strong in the final couple of stages and was on the attack in others, honing his form. Looking back, it is interesting to see that he made the break on both of the really steep summit finishes, stages 13 and 17. Getting some practice in for the Hell climb? It will be interesting to see how him and Kwiatkowski approach the race but I expect one of them to attack early and go from there. He’s not one to be underestimated.

Adam Yates.

I mentioned during the final week of the Vuelta that his form seemed to be on the up and he seems to provide a good second option for the British team, with the other obviously being his brother. A former winner of San Sebastian, a race that many say is a good form indicator for this course, he is a rider a lot of people will be wary of. Compared to Simon, Adam is the Yates with a better track record in the “classic” one-day races. Will this be of an advantage?

Tim Wellens.

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It’s pretty much blasphemous to have a short list of riders for a Worlds, even if they are outsiders, and not include a Belgian! The lowland nation has had a good championships so far and they will be looking to go out with a bang tomorrow. On paper they might not have stand-out riders for a route like this but Wellens, Benoot and Teuns could all go deep into the race. I expect them to be one of the most aggressive teams and they will look to animate the final 50kms. Wellens has had a great year and continues to develop into a very strong all round rider who can handle any terrain. He was flying at the start of the season before his form took a little dip but he seems to be on the way back up again. It would certainly be a dangerous tactic to give him any freedom.

Prediction

A lot of the main favourites to wait it out until the Hell climb but by then the race will be too far ahead.

Adam Yates to win after attacking on the penultimate ascent of Igls and forming a strong group that stays away before he drops them all on that now famous climb.

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Betting

I already have Yates from during the Vuelta but I’d still back him now, treating myself points wise after a very good women’s race today.

2pts WIN Yates @ 14/1 with various

1pt EW Majka @ 50/1 with SkyBet, Coral etc (would take 33s)

1pt EW Fuglsang @ 50/1 with various

1pt EW Wellens @ 50/1 with Skybet, Coral etc (would take 33s)

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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Innsbruck 2018 World Championships – Women’s Road Race Preview

Innsbruck 2018 World Championships – Women’s Road Race Preview

On a tricky course in Bergen last year we saw a tactical and exciting race throughout the afternoon. Going into the last lap a trio of Blaak, Cordon Ragot and Barnes were up the road and ahead of the peloton. They had quite a comfortable lead but Blaak did not fancy her sprint against the Brit if they came to the line together, quite annoying as I actually had money on Hannah, so she started to skip turns. A strong quartet of van Vleuten, van der Breggen, Garfoot and Niewiadoma managed to break clear of the peloton on the final ascent of Salmon Hill, bridging to the trio ahead. With three now at the head of the race, the Dutch decided to take turns and attacking to try to break away once the steepest part of the descent was over. Well, I say “take turns” but after van Vleuten was reeled in, Blaak managed to escape almost straight away. With no co-operation behind the race was over, with the Dutch rider coming home solo for a great win!

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Behind there was so much looking around that the group was caught be the peloton as they rounded the final corner. Garfoot was able to hold on and sprint for second while an impressive Dideriksen claimed a podium at the event for the second year in a row, having previously won it in Doha. I doubt she’ll make it three here though! Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders throughout the afternoon.

The Route

A demanding day in the saddle that sees the riders take on three ascents of the Igls climb.

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They have to get there first though and the opening 60kms rolls before it flattens out. However, just after that marker the riders will face the Gnadenwald climb, the one that has been used in the men’s TT and the road races since. With its steep average gradient of over 9% for almost 3kms, it is tough enough that some riders can be dropped. In fact, throughout the races we have seen so far this is where an initial selection is made.

A plateau and a fast descent follows before the riders enter Innsbruck and begin the laps of the finish circuit.

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As you can see, the focal point of the course is the climb.

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A fairly consistent effort, albeit with some gradient changes between 4-7% at  times, the slope is less severe than the Gnadenwald climb the riders tackle earlier in the day. However, it is the length of the ascent and the three ascents of it that they have to do which will take its toll.

If you’ve watched any of the races so far, the descent off of the climb is arguably almost as important as the ascent.

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It is possible for a rider to lose a bit of time here if they are not as confident as their rivals. As you can see on the image above, it isn’t too technical of a descent but there are plenty of sweeping turns: it certainly is fast though. Saying that, there are some sharper turns through the town of Igls but nothing crazy. Nonetheless, being a good descender will be important.

Once the descent is finished there are just over 7kms of mostly flat roads through the streets of Innsbruck. There is a small kicker of around 500m at 5.5% that crests with just over 3.5km to go and it is the last launchpad for a rider to make a solo move. Well, unless of course they time an attack perfectly in those closing kilometres on the flat too!

Can anyone beat the Dutch?

I posed this question before the Euro road race and the answer to that question was: the Dutch.

On that day they rode strongly and in the closing 30kms always had riders on the attack off the front of the bunch, ultimately having one of their star riders, van der Breggen, in a small group. That group extended their advantage and looked like they would contend for the win but the Dutch team started to work on the front of the peloton. At the same time van der Breggen attacked from the break and only Longo Borghini could follow. The duo worked well together for a bit and still had a strong advantage but the Dutch rider eventually sat on in the closing kilometres, only for her team-mates not to win the bunch sprint behind. It was truly one of the weirdest races I’ve seen in terms of team tactics. Did the lack of race radios make a difference? AVDB wasn’t confident of sprinting to beat Rowe but surely she would have fancied her chances in a two-up gallop against Longo Borghini.

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Either way, the squad will hope for a much better result at this event. They arrive with the two pre-race favourites in van Vleuten and van der Breggen. Both were very strong in the TT on Tuesday and both will fancy their chances on this course. We saw at La Course that they are arguably the two strongest climbers in the women’s peloton, although arguments can be made for others and that riders were at different peak points. The team to support them is strong but not as strong as it could be. How long with they last into the day if the pace is on during the climbs? Theoretically it should be Brand and Ensing that are last support riders but the latter hasn’t been great this year – I think they will really miss Stultiens. It means that it will be hard for them to control the race late on, so I think they’ll adopt the old cliché: “attack is the best form of defense”

I would be very surprised to see both of the riders sit in the peloton until the final ascent, I think one will have to be used in a counter move before then. Who that is? No idea! Tactics will then be interesting in that front group, will those ahead want to work with either van der Breggen or van Vleuten knowing their pedigree? It really is a delicately poised race.

How do you beat the Dutch?

Step one is kind of laid out above, you need to isolate their leaders and hope to still have numbers in the front group. With that said, which nations can I see having numbers in a reduced/very reduced peloton going into the final few laps?

Dutch – van der Breggen, van Vleuten, Brand, van Dijk.

Australia – Spratt, Kennedy, Gillow.

Italy – Longo Borghini, Magnaldi.

USA – Hall, Guarnier, Winder, Wiles.

Spain – Merino, Garcia, Santesteban.

Canada – Kirchmann, Poidevin.

There might be a few other nations who have a couple of riders in there but those are teams that I think have the best chance of having most. Then of course there are the riders who will no doubt be there but will possibly be lacking any team support by that point such as Niewiadoma, Moolman and Uttrup.

So with step one complete and a reduced peloton, step two then involves you sending riders on the attack and forcing the Dutch to chase it down and tire out Brand/van Dijk. Of course this step can be countered by the Dutch getting involved in the attacks themselves.

Step 3 is then all about good race craft and luck. Let’s say a group of 6 get away with the majority of the “big” nations represented and with no organisation behind, they are set to stay out for the remainder of the race. The likelihood in that situation is that either van Vleuten or van der Breggen or both are there, meaning they are still in that race favourites position but now with less opposition. Maybe this plan isn’t going so well after all?

Anyway, this is where you have to be willing to lose the race.

Both willing to lose in terms of putting in an audacious attack to get rid/drop everyone before the climb, or on the foot slopes of it. Or, by sitting in and letting the Dutch rider(s) do all the work to chase any of those attacks down before you counter. Because let’s be honest, no one here is going to drop the “vans” any other way.

A Dangerous Duo

I’ve went through the two main favourites and how to possibly beat them, but who are those that have a chance? I’ll be keeping this sweet as I’ve already rambled enough so I’m limiting myself to two riders to watch. No jokers and super jokers here.

Ruth Winder.

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As alluded to above, the US have one of the best teams here in terms of strength in depths with several riders who could play a part in the day. I’ve been very impressed with Winder this season and her move across to race in Europe full-time with Sunweb. She’s picked up a win at the Giro Rosa and two stages in the recent Tour de l’Ardeche. A solid climber who might not be able to match the very best, if she is in a group of “lesser” riders, then she is a big threat. Packing a fast kick to the line, she will be happy to arrive with a group.

Amanda Spratt.

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Arguably one of the riders of the year, Spratt has been sensational this season as part of Mitchelton Scott’s climbing unit. Often working in the service of van Vleuten, she has still managed to take 5 wins this season, including a stage at the Giro Rosa where she came third overall. Now though she has to race against her team-mate so if there is anyone in the peloton who might know van Vleuten’s weaknesses, it will be Spratt. Like the US, Australia have a pretty solid climbing unit with them and I would expect Gillow and Kennedy to go deep into the race. A special shout out to the latter who after an incredibly up and down season as a first year pro arrives with something to prove. I hope we get to see Lucy set free on a climb for once this year!

The season-long prediction

Some of you may remember that back at the start of the year in my Strade Bianche blog I said one rider was going to win the Worlds this year. Who?

Katarzyna Niewiadoma

I still think she has a great chance and after her recent run of form she starts as the fourth favourite for the race according to the bookmakers. However the issue for her, and Moolman likewise, is that their team support coming into the final couple of laps will be minimal, if there is anyway. That will make it difficult for her to make the right move at the right time etc so she will need to get a little lucky. I’m not back tracking and discrediting her completely but it is harder than it would be if she was Dutch!

Prediction

I’ve led you on a merry dance only to say it has to be one of the Dutch superstars, doesn’t it? After the Euros debacle there is no way that they are losing this unless they completely mess it up again, it is just a case of choosing which “van”.

Van der Breggen proved her worth in the one-day spring classics this year and at La Course had the edge on the climbs. Whereas, van Vleuten has had an incredibly stellar season winning the Giro Rosa with ease and you could argue fatigue played a part in that slight crack in La Course.

Hmmmmmm.

I’ll go with van der Breggen.

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The Olympic champion to finally become World Champion.

Betting

Going wild, why not…

4pts WIN AVDB @ 11/4

1pt EW Spratt @ 14/1

1pt EW Winder @ 33/1

5pts Kirchmann to beat Sierra @ 6/4

I think the Canadian is in great form at the moment after the TT. She finished 17th on GC in the Giro this year so has shown to go okay on the climbs. I think Sierra is a little overrated for this race and isn’t suited to the longer ascents.

Thanks as always for reading, I hope we’re in for a great tactical race. Who do you think will win and why? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Innsbruck 2018 World Championships – Men’s ITT Preview

A dominant performance in Bergen saw Dumoulin crush the opposition to take his first World title, beating Roglic by 57 seconds and Froome by 1’21.

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With the latter two riders not here to compete this year, Dumoulin will have to look further down the order for his nearest challengers and there are plenty waiting for him to make a mistake. First though, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

It really is a course that can be split into two.

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The opening 30km is almost pure flat, although there are a few rocks and rolls along the way. It will be interesting to see how the riders approach this section as you will want to keep something back for the climb but then again, you don’t want to start the final 20kms with an almost insurmountable gap to claw back.

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The 7.6% average for 4.3km makes the climb seem a bit easier than it is because the opening 3.6km actually average 8.9%. This is a tough climb and riders can gain/lose serious time here depending on their abilities but also their pacing throughout the effort.

Once over the top of the climb and through the second time check, the riders will face a short plateau before a roughly 6km descent, before tackling the same rolling finish to the day that we have seen in the previous days action.

How much time will the climbers take on the, erm, climb?

Catchy sub-title that, isn’t it?

The ascent of the Gnadenwald climb (sounds like a Harry Potter character) is tough and cannot be underestimated. In fact, it is not much easier than the much talked about “Hell” climb in the road race. Some serious time can be gained here by those who go up hills well and likewise, a lot can be shifted by the heavier riders.

I have no idea what power outputs the guys will be doing tomorrow but I guess we might see something like 5.5w/kg on the climb – complete guess. Given what we have seen in Grand Tours and such though, we could expect Dumoulin to take possibly 25 seconds out of Dennis on the ascent, maybe more maybe less, all depends on the legs on the day. However it is important to remember that it is just one climb in one day of racing so there is no accumulated ascending or fatigue to think of.

Of course though, the margin to the even heavier riders such as Tony Martin for example will be even more, possibly edging towards 45 seconds, even more.

The Distance Factor

It is important to consider the length of the TT though as it is not often throughout the year that riders will have to compete over such a long course. Some national championships take place over a similar distance but they are few and far between.

2013, 2014 and 2015 were the most recent WC to feature a course of a similar length but given 2013 was pan flat and 5 years ago, I think it is only fair to look at 2014 and 2015 in a little more detail.

2014 saw a rolling 47km TT around Ponferrada with Wiggins taking home the crown. The Brit has obviously retired and isn’t in Innsbruck but the following 4 home are all competitors here though; Martin (+26s), Dumoulin (+40s), Kiryienka (+47s) and Dennis (+57s). Also in the top 10 that day were Oliveira and Castroviejo but they both finished more than a minute down.

In 2015 the riders faced another rolling but not as difficult 53.5km course around Richmond. Kiryienka won in that day and with the other podium finishers having retired from the sport, Castroviejo is the only current rider to have finished within a minute, coming home in 4th at 29 seconds down. Dumoulin (1’01), Dennis (1’07) and Martin (1’16) followed home in positions 5 through 7.

Dennis and Dumoulin are the favourites but as we have seen in previous years, the distance can sometimes through up some surprises. If you’re on a bad day, you have less room to hide!

The infamous Rule of Thumb

Despite the riders competing for their national teams, they will still be riding trade team bikes so the RoT has to come into play. You should know the drill by now; Sunweb, Sky, BMC and Jumbo riders often go best in the TTs, but after their performances in the Vuelta and the recent TTT, Quick Step have now joined the list.

It is hard not to see maybe 7 or 8 of the top 10 come from those teams but there are always exceptions to the rules, especially over the longer distances.

Dennis vs Dumoulin

 

The battle we’ve all been waiting for.

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Dumoulin arrives here as defending champion after blitzing the competition last year. This season he has more than proved his mettle in the Grand Tours by taking back to back podiums at the Giro then Tour, although I am sure he would have liked it to have been more. The tough climb should be a big advantage for him but it is then a case of him managing to not lose too much time on the flatter section to Dennis. Being the best all-round TT rider we have here, this is his to lose on paper. Interestingly, he didn’t compete at his nation championships this year. A sign that he was confident enough of taking the WC jersey again?

Dennis often seems to have bad luck at these championships, having had a crash and a mechanical issue last year, yet still managing to finish in the top 10. The Aussie has competed in 9 TTs this season (including one prologue), having won 6 of them. More importantly though, he was won the two longer TTs that he has competed in at a Grand Tour this season – a big mental breakthrough for him after his bad luck in longer events before. That Giro win was ahead of Dumoulin while both were competing for GC, which to me is important, as it shows that he is able to produce a big performance after depleting his body over a few weeks. Then he showed the world at the Vuelta just what he can do in a TT after resting up with one of the most incredible TT performances I have seen over the past few years.

Can anyone beat them? 

A dangerous question given what we’ve seen over the past few days of racing where sometimes the favourites disappoint, but I would be very surprised if anyone did.

Martin – Surprised everyone at the Giro by coming second in the longer TT before going on to win his national championships comfortably. He has the pedigree in this type of event but the climb isn’t ideal for him – he is not the Tony Martin of 2012.

Kiryienka – Another former World Champion who does seem to go better when the race gets longer, he has been very disappointing against the clock this year. Have his abilities finally started to wane?

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Schachmann – Not for me. He’s done ok in longer TTs before and is clearly in good form but I think this is too much for him. I think the Euro result was a bit of a one-off and thanks to some changing conditions. Maybe in a few years.

Jungels – Looked super strong in the TTT and in both this season’s Tour and last year’s Giro he has performed commendably in the individual efforts against the clock. He’ll be the closest Quick Step rider in my opinion.

Castroviejo – If you’ve followed the blog for a little while you will know by now just how much I love his position on a TT bike. The Spaniard was arguably the MVP domestique for Sky at the Tour and he followed that up by doing the Vuelta. Is he fatigued? If not, he is a real danger for a medal.

Kwiatkowski – Like his team-mate above, he has done both the Tour and Vuelta. He started off in GC contention for the latter before deciding to try to chase a stage win, unucssesfully. This will be his first time competing in the discipline at the Worlds since 2013 and I’m intrigued to see how he does.

Oliveira – A consistent nearly man, he was strong in the Vuelta and followed that up here by looking the best in the Movistar line up for the team event. He’s one to watch but probably only for another top 6.

Kung – Has struggled of late so it is a no for me.

Campenaerts – In theory could go well but he has talked down his chances and he seems to be tired too.

Two rank outsiders I am intrigued to see how they go are the BMC pair of Bevin and Van Garderen. Both have delivered good efforts against the clock this season but only on the sparing occasion. The former was strong in the Tour of Britain and I’m intrigued to see how he copes with distance. Meanwhile, TVG has had a pretty dull season but a win in California and third in Suisse over 34km courses show he can last the distance, at times.

Prediction

I’m probably bucking the trend here because it doesn’t really make much sense given how Dumoulin should cope with the climb much better, but I’m going to go with Dennis to take the title.

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That second Vuelta stage win was poetry in motion. To take almost a minute out of the rest of the field on what was a tough and rolling course just highlights how good his form is – it really was sensational. After the disappointment of the team even on Sunday, he said he was really looking forward to tomorrow and was confident of delivering a good result. I have called for your aid Rohan, will you answer?

Dumoulin to come home second with Jungels confirming his great form at the moment and take third.

Betting

Do I want to back him heavily though?

You can get almost 2/1 on the BF exchange which I’m going to have a little nibble at but I’m not going to recommend it. Instead, I’ll make Jungels my main play as a solid EW bet.

1pt EW Jungels @ 25/1

Then just for the fun of it, some tiny punts on Bevin and TVG

0.125pt EW on them both – Bevin @ 150/1, TVG @ 200/1

I do like the look of the Jungels over Schachmann H2H though.

5pts on at 5/4 with WillHill

 

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Can Dennis stop Dumoulin? Can anyone get close to those two? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Innsbruck 2018 World Championships – Women’s ITT Preview

Last year saw clear favourite for the day Annemiek van Vleuten take home the rainbow jersey for the first time in her career with a strong performance but one that might not have been as dominant as some expected. Nonetheless, she got the job done and returns this year once again as the rider to beat.

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Compatriot Anna van der Breggen won the silver medal while Australia’s Katrin Garfoot took home bronze in her last World Championships. Both came home within 20 seconds of Van Vleuten and van der Breggen will be desperate to finally get one over her this year. First though, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders throughout the afternoon.

The Route

A rolling course but how much it “rolls” depends on what resource you consult. According to the organisers there are 262m of total ascent over the 27.8km whereas with the Strava/Veloviewer profile I made has it at 396m. Bit of a discrepancy there!

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Given how much Strava over exaggerates some of the tiny little changes in altitude, I would have to agree that it will be closer to the official profile – maybe around 300m at most.

Either way, you can view the interactive VV profile here.

The route can really be split into two parts with the first 15km very straight forward aside from a couple of small bumps and rises before the more challenging second half.

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As witnessed in the men’s U23 this afternoon though, it isn’t that challenging compared to what it could have been, with the riders able to hold a lot of speed coming off of the descents. In fact, some riders hit 100km/h in sections so you can effectively nullify some of the rises by carrying enough speed. Therefore, having the right gearing will be important and it will be interesting to see what approaches the riders take.

Weather conditions look set to be similar-ish all day, although the wind might get slightly stronger later on, albeit by only 1km/h or so. That means over 3km of headwind before the crossing the river and turning left, with the majority of the rest of the course being aided by a slight cross/tail wind.

You can view the start list/times here.

Can anyone stop van Vleuten?

The reigning champion skipped the trade team event on Sunday so that she could be fully focussed and rested for tomorrow, and given her results in the individual events this year, who can blame her. In 2018 she has taken to the start for 4 TTs (not counting prologues or epilogues, see the TDU), with the Dutch woman winning 3 of them. In fact, the only race she didn’t win was her national championship where she finished 4th and behind the other three compatriots that are going to be here competing too.

In an interview with CyclingNews van Vleuten explains that she came into the season with three intended peaks. One smaller peak during the Spring Classics before a bigger peak for the Giro and then the Worlds. It is safe to say that the peak for the Giro was certainly “bigger”! She blew away the competition in that race and followed it up with my favourite finish to a race of the year, when she pipped van der Breggen in the closing 100m of La Course. I don’t think it is possible for her to be in even better shape than she was at the Giro, but if she arrives here in a similar vein of form then she is rightly the favourite.

The course tomorrow isn’t bad for her, but I think she would have preferred the climbs to be more challenging than they are, so she can really make a difference compared to some of the more traditional power TT riders.

Nonetheless, she has a big say in the outcome of the day and it will require her to be at less than 100% and for one of the other riders to be flying for her to lose.

It was all…Oranje?

We could feasibly see an all Dutch top 4 tomorrow.

Ellen van Dijk.

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The current and back-to-back European Champion will arrive here wanting to redeem herself after what was a disappointing 5th place in last year’s edition. The Sunweb rider is one of the most powerful in the women’s peloton and the mix of flat and rolling hills looks very good for her. She actually goes out quite early on in the day in what is a strong group of riders around that time. Guess that’s what happens when numerous nations have more than one person here!

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Said group of strong riders

Lucinda Brand.

The first Dutch rider down the ramp has the luxury of being the 5th rider out on the course. 2018 has been her best season to date and she has really developed as a rider, moving away from being just a strong one-day contender, into a much better climber. Her form doesn’t seem to be great at the moment though and I think she might struggle for a good result here: a top 10 would be solid.

Anna van der Breggen.

Arguably one of my favourite female cyclists so I am a bit biased but a lot has been made of her “poor season” in 2018. It says a lot that then considering she has won 5 races this year and numerous podium places. In the Spring she was untouchable and the only thing that stopped another Ardennes Triple happening was team tactics at Amstel. She has failed to win since Durango in May though and I think that has effected her a little bit. In TTs this season she has won 1 out of 4, finishing 2nd twice and third the other time. The course here looks great for her and she’s been slowly riding herself into form at the Boels Ladies Tour. If there is one rider who I think has a chance of beating van Vleuten, it is her.

Fight for the podium

If we’re to make the assumption that at least one, if not two of the podium spots will be secured by the Dutch, heck, even all three could as I’ve alluded to above, who is going to be the nearest challengers?

Amber Neben.

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A surprise winner of the 2016 edition, she was pretty atrocious by her lofty standards in 2017. A wax on wax off kind of rider though, she appears to be smashing it so far this year having won all 4 of the time trials she has entered. Maybe this is a wax on year?

Lisa Brennauer.

Disappointing in the European Championships, some of that can be attributed to her going deep on the track at the same competition. During the TTT event she looked to be the main driving force behind Wiggle’s strong time so there is definitely some form there. A bit hit or miss on road TTs, the 2014-champion can’t be ruled out on a rolling course.

Trixi Worrack.

Like her German compatriot, she seemed to be one of the main driving forces behind her teams sensational TTT win on Sunday. I’d have to say the course isn’t ideal for her but she did surprise and come third at the Euros so we could see something similar tomorrow.

Some outsiders to keep an eye on for finishing in or around the top 5 include; Thomas, Uttrup Ludwig and Cordon.

Prediction

For the TTTs I thought they were both two-horse races and in the end it was the third favourite who ended up winning. Tomorrow looks like a one-horse race but with a few riders who are ready to pounce. It will be incredibly tough to beat van Vleuten but I think it might actually happen and we’ll see van der Breggen take the win!

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I think she has timed her peak perfectly for this week and if she is at a similar level to her Spring campaign where she just rode away from everyone – the course will be a piece of cake for her.

Van Vleuten to come second with Neben rounding out the podium in third.

Betting

Another race that I can lose some money on!

Win only markets for the race and given that AVV is still the favourite, I don’t want to go wild with them.

1.5pt WIN AVDB @ 5/1 (Bet365/Ladbrokes)

Some H2H do entice me though.

4pts WIN van der Breggen to beat Van Dijk @ 3/4 (Unibet)

2pts WIN Neben to beat Van Dijk @ 7/2 (B365) – the price is just too big for a wax on year

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Innsbruck 2018 World Championships – Men’s TTT Preview

In 2017 we were treated to somewhat of a surprise performance with third favourites on the day, Team Sunweb, beating BMC by 8 seconds.

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Team Sky rounded out the podium but were definitely the disappointment of the day as they brought their best ever line-up to this event. Will Sunweb be able to double up on what is the last running of the event? Or will someone else take the title from them? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

The longest edition since the event returned in 2012, the riders will face an almost 63km route through the valley.

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There is a slight rise at the start but the only real difficulty the riders will face, aside from some roundabouts, is the climb which tops out at around 18.5km to go.

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The opening 1.75km of the climb averages roughly 8% before it “flattens” for the remainder. It isn’t an overly challenging ascent when taken in isolation but with it combined with an almost flat-out effort beforehand, we could see some surprise cracks. Conversely, those with a good pacing strategy might see all of their riders in the group over the top.

After the climb there is a plateau before the riders descend and are left with 10km of flat to the finish.

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There is a sharp turn with around 1.6km to go but aside from that, it should be plain sailing and full gas.

Team Tactics

I for one am very intrigued to see how the teams split themselves up for this race. Do they have a designated rider who’s main job is to empty the tank before and onto the foot slopes of the climb? Will the squad ride a solid tempo to keep all six together before drilling it in those final 10km?

Annoyingly for most of the teams but something that adds to the tactical intrigue, is the hardest part of the climb comes at the bottom. This means it will be harder for the heavier riders to keep up with the pace of the lighter guys, potentially meaning they go into the red and fall of the back of the pace line.

The length of the climb also adds an element to the tactics. At 4kms, it is probably just too long to slow the pace down to let all six riders stick together but some teams might think otherwise and the 20-30 seconds they lose on the ascent they can gain back later on.

Personally, and I am no TT expert, I would try to have five riders over the top together. That means sacrificing one guy to drill it into the bottom and the rest to just ride tempo so that they stick together. Losing one rider but still having an extra over the 4 rider minimum at the finish means that the periods of rest will be slightly longer when making rotations on the run in. That could make all the difference and help keep the speed that 1km/h quicker.

A two-horse race?

Much like the women’s event, there are two clear favourites here.

Sunweb are obviously the defending champions and they arrive with a squad that looks as strong, if not stronger than last year. Comparing all of the teams here, they are arguably the only squad that I can see keeping everyone together over the climb. Although I do think they might sacrifice Haga early on and keep the remaining five together. A powerful unit, they arrive here as rightful favourites. However, they will hope to improve on their disappointing 5th place at the Tour TTT.

sunwebm_2000_gettyBMC will have been bitterly disappointed to come away with second last year, which made it two years in a row that they were the bridesmaids at the main event. A stat that is somewhat surprising given their dominance in the event in previous years and throughout the seasons at different races. They were disappointing in the recent TTT effort in the Tour of Britain, juxtaposed to that though is Dennis smashing it at the Vuelta in the individual event. In 2018 they have tasted victory in all three of the WT level TTTs so far and that will certainly bring them confidence. With Pinotti leading them from the car, their pacing strategy will no doubt be perfect. It will just be a case of them having legs on the day.

So that’s it then? Well, there are a few teams that might upset the apple cart.

Team Sky – Perennially the “oooh, they could go well” squad before more often than not disappointing. They bring with them a strong squad but in recent times their pacing strategy has been off and I see them dropping Stannard and Doull on the climb which will cost them, despite just how strong their final four is.

Quick Step Floors – Once the strongest team in the world in the discipline, they have waned a little bit in terms of their results. However, they always come into races now as the underdogs and almost over achieve. On paper their squad might not stand out to some but it does to me. They have six exceptionally strong riders with them though and I would not be surprised to see them on the podium come the end of the day.

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Team Katusha – Another solid outfit with six good riders but the climb might just be their undoing. However, a team with Dowsett and Martin can never be underestimated.

Mitchelton Scott – Might have a chance, might not. As I’m writing this it is just over 24 hours to go until the start of the race yet there is no final team for them. Like Katusha, they can’t be underestimated but the hill might be their undoing.

Prediction

A BMC v Sunweb fight and I think the former will get it right this time around.

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Sunweb to come home second with Quick Step rounding out the podium.

Betting

Close race that is hard to predict so just a H2H double for me, nothing wild.

3pts on BMC > Sunweb and QS > Sky @ 2.45/1.

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Women’s TTT World Championship 2018 Preview

In Bergen last year we were treated to somewhat of a shock with Sunweb taking home the title but looking at results throughout the year, it was a result that was certainly on the cards.

Cycling: 90th Road World Championships 2017 / TTT Women Elite

They had the advantage of arriving with a string of podium places in TTT events but with Boels Dolmans still the massive favourites after their successes in previous years. The Dutch outfit could only manage second though, coming home 12 seconds behind Sunweb, with Cervélo Bigla rounding out the podium.

Will Sunweb be able to double up in what is the last event for trade teams in the foreseeable future? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

The longest edition yet (at 54km) since the event’s reconception back in 2012, the organiser’s have somehow managed to make as much of a pan flat course as you can in this area.

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With only roughly 150m of elevation gain throughout the course, this one is all about pure power.

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There are a few roundabouts out on course which might disrupt the rhythm, nothing too crazy though. As you can see on the image above, there is a tight turn with around 1.6km to go but that is about it as tough as it gets all morning.

A two-horse race?

On paper the best teams here are Sunweb and Boels.

The former are obviously reigning champions and this is a discipline that they have focussed on a lot over the past year. In 2018 they’ve won three TTTs: at the Giro, Tour of Norway and the recent Madrid Challenge. They did however lose the longest TTT effort of the year though and the traditional World Champs warm-up, Crescent Vargarda, shipping 16 seconds to Boels. Yet, they can argue that they were missing their big TT powerhouse that day in Van Dijk. Is the inclusion of the Dutchwoman here enough for them to claw back that gap?

Boels were the traditional go-to TTT squad in recent times but lost they lost their crown last year. This season they have fallen a little flat again with the Healthy Ageing Tour and then the recent Vargarda their only wins in the discipline. The latter result there is the most important though as it is the course most like the Worlds and it was a race that they sent a carbon copy of their squad that they have at Innsbruck to. Can they regain the title and take the crown for one last time?

One interesting point to note for the two main teams is that they are both going to include their strong Dutch TT rider in their race squads. Given that the women’s individual event is only two days after on Tuesday, it might mess with their preparation for that event. Conversely though, it could be a good way to blow the cobwebs off and open up the legs.

The reason I mention it though is that ITT favourite van Vleuten is not riding the event for Mitchelton Scott, a big blow for the Aussie outfit but one that is kind of understandable. Back in the Giro Rosa I tipped them for a very good TTT effort and they just missed out to Sunweb by one second on that day. Consequently, they could have been the dark horses for tomorrow but with some more recent injuries plaguing the team, I think they will fall short.

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Canyon SRAM could be there or thereabouts in the fight for the podium and they bring a solid squad with them here, included in their midst is 4x TTT champion Worrack. The original TTT GOATs, can they rekindle that form? I’m not too sure, they are a pretty hit or miss team at times so who knows.

Wiggle High 5 will be riding their last event as a team and they bring arguably their strongest squad ever to Innsbruck. With a good mix of strong individual TT riders and rouleurs, they will have their sights set on a podium. They have struggled a lot this year in the discipline but a second place to Subweb’s “A-team” in Madrid is a sign that things might finally have clicked.

Prediction

A day with two different battles; one for the win and one for the final podium spot.

Given the results we have had so far this year it should be very close between Boels and Sunweb. The former obviously have the advantage of winning Vargarda by a 16 second margin but the latter have Van Dijk to add into the mix now. Will that equal enough of a turnaround? I don’t think so.

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Boels to win by a very small margin, maybe 5 seconds or so, with Sunweb trailing them home in second place.

The battle for third will be hotly contested by Mitchelton, Canyon and Wiggle but I actually fancy the team that is folding to pull one last result out of the bag, so Wiggle to come in third.

Coverage

The women’s event starts early on Sunday morning, with coverage on from 9:10 to 11:30 (UK Time). You should be able to watch it on your regular cycling provider or via the UCI Youtube channel.

Betting

For only the third time this season I get to curse my picks with actual money this time!

As it is so tight for the win I can’t be backing Boels at their current price although a double with the men’s TT winner might be a good idea. However, I do like the value you can get for a Wiggle podium so I’m going with that.

2pts Wiggle Top 3 at 9/2. (Bet365)

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win the two-horse race on Sunday? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

Men’s Road Race World Championships Preview – Bergen 2017

After finding success on the rolling course in Richmond back in 2015, Peter Sagan went on defend his title a year later in Doha; winning a reduced bunch sprint.

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Can the Solvakian make it an unprecedented three wins on the trot tomorrow? Let’s take a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Long, at a total of 276.5km! But that is what you would expect for the World Championships.

The riders don’t actually start in Bergen, instead, they’ll start in the town of Rong before heading south along a 40km stretch of exposed road and reaching the finish town. Thankfully or not, depending on what way you look at it, the wind forecast is for it to be very low so we won’t see any echelon action. Much to my disgust!

BergenRR Circuit

 

You can view the interactive version of my profile here.

If you’ve watched any of the action over the past few days then you’ll be familiar with the circuit above.

11 laps will certainly wear down the riders legs, with the total elevation gain for the day being roughly 3500m.

The key focal point for attacks over the past few races has been Salmon Hill and the small climb that comes just before it.

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Taken as a whole it is 3.7km at 4% which doesn’t sound much, but after 200km+ of racing then it certainly can cause some splits. The stronger climbers will be looking to put in their stinging attacks on the steeper ramps; either just before the “top” of the uncategorised climb, or halfway through Salmon Hill. This is where big gaps can be made.

The issue though is that after the summit there are still 10.4km of the course remaining. Any riders that make it away need to work well to ensure that they stay away from the chasers, especially with the final few kilometres being into a head wind.

I’m not going to bore you with any more route analysis though, as we’ve had plenty of that this week already. Instead, I’m going to jump straight into trying to figure this race out and what possible scenario we might see unfold tomorrow afternoon.

How do you stop Sagan?

A question many teams and riders ask themselves throughout the season but it is once again the case here.

Option 1 – Outsprint Him.

With a lot of nations bringing a rider who get involved in a reduced sprint at the end of the day, then there is a chance we might see it held all together to the line. Sagan is obviously fast in these types of situations, especially after a tough days racing. However, he has shown at MSR this year that he is certainly beatable.

Option 2 – Drop Him.

A tough task but some squads will certainly try it. If strong teams such as the Dutch, Belgians and French make constant attacks on Salmon Hill in the closing 80kms, then Sagan might get tired out trying to cover everything. That is of course assuming that he won’t have any team support left to work for him. The pace needs to be high from far out for that to happen though.

Option 3 – Refuse to work, hope your rider gets lucky.

We saw this recently in Quebec where no one wanted to co-operate with Sagan after he attacked in the closing stages. If they did, then there was a good chance they would have caught the group ahead, consequently fighting it for the win. They didn’t though and Sagan just shrugged and moved on. Although this is less likely to happen tomorrow as the Slovak will try to chase everything, it still might just do so. It is a very Sagan thing after all!

Option 4Illness

Bilogical warfare is probably a step too far, but there are rumours flying around on Twitter that he is currently suffering from illness and hasn’t been on the bike in a few days. I’m sure this was the case last year and has been for a few of his other races that he has went on to win. All mind games? We’ll just have to wait and see tomorrow.

Option 4 – Accept defeat.

He can follow almost any rider on the climb and he can match any rider here in a sprint after 200+km. Is there any point in trying?

Of course, and I think we won’t see him take a third title!

Definitely.

Maybe.

Possibly.

Ah who am I kidding, he probably will.

Contenders or Pretenders? The infamous Five

Like with my women’s preview, I’m only going to name a handful of riders here who I think could go well in a variety of situations. So once again apologies if I have not named someone you were hoping for; repeating the names you’ll no doubt have heard of a lot over the week such as Kwiatkowski, Matthews and Gaviria doesn’t appeal to me much!

Alex(bae)ey Lutsenko.

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The first punt I had committed to for this race and it was always going to happen, it was just a matter of time. If you’ve followed the blog over the past year and a half since its inception then you’ll know I have a lot of admiration for the talented Kazakh. He was strong at the start of the year; finishing a very respectable third in Dwars. Yet, it is his recent form at the Vuelta that impressed me most. He was super strong there to get a stage win and a second place finish on two tough breakaway days. The climb tomorrow is probably on his limit if the likes of Dumoulin go crazy in the final lap, but he has the quality to be close and he might infiltrate an earlier move. Will the former U23 champion take the step up?

Petr Vakoc.

My second punt for the race and another rider that was always going to be backed. A brute of a rider, he hasn’t taken as big a step forward in 2016 as I was expecting and hoping for but his performances have been solid. To win he’ll most likely have to go early and hope to be there if the strong climbers attack from behind. Packing a solid sprint from a very reduced group, he might fancy his chances in an 8 rider gallop.

Now that the two “long-term” selections are out of the road, it is time to move on to some other riders who I think could do well. Some are certainly more obscure than others.

Danny Van Poppel.

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Yup, you read that right. The Dutch have been on fire at these Championships so far and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them get a medal again tomorrow. Dumoulin is obviously one of their stronger guys and will be attacking early but if it all comes back for a 40 rider sprint then Van Poppel has a good outside chance. He’s impressed me a lot this season and certainly seems to becoming a more versatile rider. On the short bergs he can follow some of the stronger one-day riders, as was highlighted at BinckBank, but it will be interesting to see how it goes tomorrow. Given the instruction to not waste any energy at all and wait for a sprint, will he get his chance to shine?

Tony Gallopin.

A strong one-day racer, he arrives here in good form after taking two top-10s in Canada which were swiftly followed up by a second place in Wallonie. In terms of career he should be hitting his peak soon and given how strong he looked at San Sebastian in July, I think he’s in for a good couple of years; he just needs some luck. His last two appearances at the World’s have seen him finish 7th in 2015 and 6th in 2014. This course tomorrow in theory suits him very well, and packing a fast sprint he could fancy a small group of favourites battling it out at the line. It will be interesting to see how France approach tomorrow in general, with no “proper sprinter” they will no doubt be attacking throughout the day and making the race tough. Something that will help Gallopin a lot!

Daryl Impey.

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Last man on the list, Impey has had a fairly solid season in support of other riders at Orica. However, when presented with his own chances he has taken them, including a reduced bunch sprint in Catalunya earlier this year. A rider who’s climbing is very hit or miss, he showed some great form in the final week of the Tour, supporting Simon Yates deep into some of the stages. If he has those kind of legs tomorrow then he could be a real dark horse!

Prediction

We’ll see some fairly serious attacks around 50km out as teams try to make the race tough and ensure we don’t see a sprint. This will thin the bunch out going into the final 30km and the penultimate climb of Salmon Hill. Much like the women’s race, a smaller group will get away here but will be brought back due to a lack of cohesion ahead. This will then allow some riders to escape on the run-in before we hear the bell. A lot of the strong teams will be represented and with no impetus from behind, they stay away to the line.

Tony Gallopin to, erm, gallop home and take the win from a 7 rider sprint!

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#SuperGallopinFantastic

Betting

Certainly a day to spread some punts around!

0.25pt EW Lutsenko @ 100/1 (would take 80s)

0.25pt EW Vakoc @ 200/1 (would take 150s)

0.25pt EW Impey @ 200/1 (would take 150s)

0.5pt EW Van Poppel @ 80/1 (would take 66s)

1pt EW Gallopin @ 66/1 (would take 50s)

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Could we see an upset on the cards, or will it be the cream rising to the top? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.