Ruta del Sol Stage 3 Preview; Lucena -> Córdoba

Today’s Recap

My, oh, my! I did not expect that outcome at the end of the day.

Contador turned the heat on but just couldn’t see the result out. Thibaut Pinot made an excellent come-back in the final kilometre, out sprinting Contador; eventually winning by 2 seconds.

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It leaves the GC very interestingly poised going into tomorrow’s time trial. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for them!

The Route

A short 12km TT awaits.

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Not a very descriptive official profile, so as is the norm with TTs, I have made my own Strava profile. You can view that here.

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Once the riders “descend” from the start ramp they almost instantly going in the opposite direction, with only 200m of relatively flat roads. It’s then a 1.9km climb that averages 4.95% but does ramp up over 10% in some places.

A 4km long descent follows, which involves a few technical turns before a slight kick up and another kilometre of downhill. The road rises again for 1.6km, averaging 2.8%, before the riders plunge through the suburbs of Lucena.

The riders will have to keep something in reserve as they have a 500m long kicker to end the day.

What type of rider can win this TT?

I have to admit, I really like the parcours for this TT. With a third of the stage being uphill, the TT specialists won’t have it all their own way. Yet, the climbs aren’t overly challenging to completely discount them from the reckoning either.

Stage Contenders

Ion Izagirre probably starts as the favourite for this TT. He’s a rider who will be able to cope with the climbs but also is very strong on the flat. His TT has improved massively over the past few years and he’s put in some big performances over these short efforts. The one concern with him is that he can be a bit hit or miss at times in these events, so I’m not 100% confident in him to deliver.

Former World Champ Kiryienka is here but I think this TT is too short and twisting for him.

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Alberto Contador used to be a very solid TTer but lost his way in the past few years. He seems to do best when it’s the third week of a Grand Tour so I fear he will ship too much time and lose the leader’s jersey.

Thibaut Pinot on the other hand is a rider who’s made great improvements to his time trial in recent years. He took a great win at the Tour de Romandie last year and will certainly like the look of this course. He seems to be back in good form and will fancy his own chances of taking GC leadership.

Time for everyone’s favourite Swede, Tobias Ludvigsson, to step up to the plate. He’s showed great promise in the past in this discipline, but he hasn’t been performing as well on the road as I would have expected. Maybe he’s just saving himself for this? He certainly has a chance!

Alejandro Valverde did well to only concede 7 seconds today after what was a poor start to the climb from him. He dug in deep and is still in with a shot of the GC crown. Not often thought of a strong time trialist, Valverde is actually fairly solid in the discipline. Particularly in short events, but also particularly in Spain. I’m expecting to be pleasantly surprised by him tomorrow.

I’m also expecting to be surprised by Fabio Felline tomorrow. The Italian was exceptional on the lower slopes of today’s final climb, setting up his team leader. He’s capable of a top 10!

I don’t expect much from the likes of Campenaerts, Vorobyev, Le Bon, Poels and Landa.

Particularly Poels in fact. He won’t top 5.

Prediction

Underestimate Valverde at your peril…

I won’t be.

El Bala to win!

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Maybe I’m clinging on to that GC treble just a bit too much?

Betting

1pt WIN Pinot at 14/1 with Bet365 (would take 10/1 and the EW if you want to play it safe)

1pt WIN Valverde at 18/1 with Bet365 (would take 12/1 and the EW if you want to play it safe)

1pt on this 10.18/1 H2H Treble;

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Other bookmakers might price up more favourably later on, I just want to get this published!

Thanks again for reading, as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated. I hope we get an exciting TT that is close right up until the end. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Ruta del Sol Stage 2 Preview; Torredonjimeno -> Alto Peña del Águila

Today’s Recap

I told you that was going to be the stage of the week, it’s all downhill from here!

We had attacks from almost all of the GC favourites; some classic Spanish stop start racing; groups reforming and breaking up more often than Take That; Reichenbach impersonating a HGV in the final few kilometres; and after all of that, Valverde still won. Easily!

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Nonetheless, the stop start racing has meant the GC is still nicely poised going into the next couple of days, with 10 riders only 5 seconds down at most. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

An even tougher day of climbing.

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The road does undulate a lot in the final 50km, but I would expect this stage to come down to the final climb, the earlier ones will just sap the legs.

The climb itself is typical of what we get in this region, fairly short but steep! 5.2km long, averaging 9.8%, there is certainly chance for big time-gaps here.

I’ve managed to locate the strava profile of the climb, which can be viewed here.

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The hardest section is 2km->4km, averaging a stiff 11.25%! This is where the proper climbers will hope to make some gaps as it gets easier in the final kilometre with the gradient dropping to around 3% by the time they reach the finish line.

How will the stage pan out?

With there already being significant time gaps and no bonus seconds on offer, there is a chance that we might get a breakaway. However, with this being the first mountain top finish and early season bragging rights to play for, I’m fairly confident this will be another GC affair.

Contenders

This will be brief, as you only really need to look at the top performers from today and there are clearly two riders who are a level above the rest in my opinion.

Valverde was in admirable control of the stage today. He followed Contador relatively easily after he was surprised by his countryman’s early attack and from there he never looked in trouble. He gave it a nudge on the descent to see if he could get away but played it cool once he realised that wasn’t going to happen. Really, if it wasn’t for him being such a wiley old fox and refusing to properly work with Contador they could have distanced the rest by the top of the climb. He’ll enjoy the steep stuff tomorrow and the climb looks like the perfect length for him, plus his finishing sprint should see off any challenge if there’s a little gallop to the line.

Contador looked great for his first race back and will be pleased with where his form is at just now. He had everyone else in trouble on the climb apart from Valverde which is bound to please him, well, maybe not! He won’t like the look of the end of tomorrow’s stage and the thoughts of a TT so I can imagine he’ll hit out early again like he did today. With the stage finish at the top of the mountain this time round, can everyone hold his wheel as he dances on the pedals?

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As for the rest, Rosa was the guy that looked the strongest on the climb but I can’t see him beating the two Spaniards.

The only way that Contador/Valverde will lose if they start messing about like they did today and that leaves an opportunity for someone to attack. But I can’t really see that happening here. There is a completely different dynamic when the stage finishes on top of a climb rather than at the bottom and they’ll be full gas all the way to the top. Plus, with the TT to come, I think they’ll be sensible and work reasonably well to extend their time gap over the likes of Izagirre, before possibly attacking each other in the final 1km or so.

Prediction

After writing him in italics, and delaying the inevitable yesterday, he’s going to be in bold today.

Valverde wins.

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Betting

Absolutely no value in the stage markets so I’m going to go for this H2H treble at 6.1/1 with Bet365. 2pts on.

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Thanks as per for reading! Apologies for this being so short but after today I don’t see the point on rambling on about any outsiders for this stage. Normal service shall resume for the TT tomorrow! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Ruta del Sol Stage 1 Preview; Rincón de la Victoria -> Granada

Opening stage of the race and it looks like it could be a cracker!

The Route

A rolling, hilly day that is a real mixed bag and not what you might expect. At 155km, it will be short and sharp!

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If you were to just take a quick glance at the profile you might assume that the final climb will reduce the bunch somewhat but we should end up in some kind of sprint. Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to happen…

Typical of Spanish races, the organisers have made the scale on the Y-axis almost twice as large as it really needs to be and this makes the climbing on the stage look a lot easier than it actually is.

We climb from sea-level early in the stage up to 1000m by the 50km mark. From there it’s up and down for 30kms before a long, shallow descent and the final test of the day, the El Purche.

As per usual, I have made a Strava profile of the climb itself and the run into it, that can be viewed here.

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The road rises ever so slightly for 9km before the start of the ascent. The climb itself can be viewed as either 6.2km at 9.2% or 8.3km at 7.9%, depending on what peak you take the summit to be! Either way, there are sections of the climb that go well into the double figures gradient wise, it’s sure to be a shock to the system for the bunch.

Once over the top we have around 14km of proper descending , then a flat-ish run in. The road twists and turns a bit in the final 3km but it shouldn’t be of too much difficulty for the small group that we should have. It might just help a solo escapee though!

How will the stage pan out?

The beauty of this stage is that no one really knows and can say with any real confidence how many riders will crest the summit of the final climb together/how many will make it back on the descent/what happens if there is a regrouping.

That hasn’t stopped me before though!

Valverde has to start as favourite for the stage purely because he can win in any situation. He has the form to possibly ride away from everyone on the climb and come home solo, or he definitely has the speed to win from a small group of 5-15 riders.

Nonetheless, I like the idea that the stage will be won solo, so to avoid just repeating everyone from my GC preview, I’m going to highlight a couple of riders who could have a chance.

The Late Attackers

First up is a rider with two wins to his name already this year, Tim Wellens.

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Not afraid to attack, the Belgian so often used to ride with his heart over his head. However, he has more recently toned down his ridiculously timed attacks and taken a more considered approach but still managing to hold onto some panache. If he times the move perfectly tomorrow then he will be hard to bring back!

Remember when I talked briefly about this next rider in my GC preview and I said I would be mentioning him again several times throughout the year? Well, it’s that time already; step up Tobias Ludvigsson. Now, the climb is on his limit and if they absolutely fly up it then he might struggle but if we get a slowing of the pace then he can make it over at the head of the peloton. He was climbing very well at the end of last year and that form seems to have continued into the start of this season, with a very impressive 15th on the Llucena stage that did not suit him at all. He’ll hope to utilise his TT ability on the run in.

I was trying to think of a third but no one else on the start list really fits the same criteria as the above two so I’ll just leave it at that!

Prediction

I think you all know where this is going, on yoursel’ Big T!

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Or Valverde wins which is much more likely. 😉

Betting

No value in Wellens, so a wild punt on Ludvigsson for the fun of it!

0.25pt WIN @ 300/1 with Bet365 (would take down to 150/1)

*Adding another 0.25pt WIN on Reichenbach at 250/1 with Bet365 (would also take down to 150/1)

I might add some H2Hs later once I’ve had a proper look at them, you’ll find them on my Twitter!

Thanks as always for reading, any feedback is greatly appreciated! How do you think the stage will play out? Anyway,

That was My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta Ciclista a Andalucia (Ruta del Sol) 2017 – GC Preview

Last year we saw an exciting race where it looked as if Tejay Van Garderen was going to win his first European Stage race and break that duck. However, Valverde absolutely blew everyone away on the final day of racing and won the GC title by almost 30 seconds! With Van Garderen and Mollema rounding out the podium.

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Valverde is back again this year: looking to make it 5 wins in 6 years, but can he do it? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Stage 1 and the organisers have decided to start off with a nice “rolling” day.

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Tough start to the race, with an interesting climb at the end of the day. Should be a great watch, with a lot of potential outcomes!

Stage 2 and another rolling day, but this time with a mountain top finish.

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A tough 5km climb with some steep sections in it and a kilometre or so of false-flat at the end. Solo winner or a sprint between the climbers?

Stage 3 and a short individual TT.

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An interesting profile once again, we are in Spain after all! A nice climb for the riders to open their legs before a long shallow descent, another slight rise, followed with a steeper descent and a kick up to the line. Will the specialists or GC riders prevail here?

Stage 4.

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Finally a stage for the sprinters or will the breakaway have their say? Word of warning, it is a very technical finish!

Stage 5.

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Another day for the fast men? No doubt we’ll get a strong breakaway with that tough start!

GC Contenders

The greatest GT rider of his generation is here, Alberto Contador, and this race marks his first outing for new team Trek Segafredo. He had a fairly solid season last year, winning Pais Vasco and Burgos GC but solid is all I can really say about it. In comparison to his lofty expectations and performances in the past, it was almost a disappointment! Will the change of team and a new (possibly better) working environment revitalise him? With only one mountain top finish he’ll have to be on good form to get a race winning gap as I imagine he’ll lose a bit of time on the TT.

Team Sky arrive with a very strong squad with Poels, Landa and Rosa all potentially being leaders of the team. The latter pair haven’t done any racing so far this year so their form is a bit unknown but Poels finished 4th on GC at Valenciana. He had an off day on stage 2, but was fairly strong on stage 4. He was flying at the start of last year and this could be his only GC chance this season. I expect a good performance from him!

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The man with the secret to eternal youth, Alejandro Valverde, is back to defend the title he won last year. A commanding win in Almeria on Saturday he clearly is in great shape already at the start of the season. He’ll hope to be close on the time trial and smoke everyone up the mountain top finish. Certainly not out of the question!

Former Movistar rider Ion Izaggire will be looking to beat his old suitors here. Over the past couple of seasons he has grown into a great one-week stage racer and will hope to be in or around the podium places here. His strong TT abilities will be key to that. Sixth place on his first race back, he seems to be going ok but there is a big difference between a 5-stage race and a one-day effort.

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FDJ are another team with a couple of options here. Pinot was way off the pace in Valenciana but that was due to him being ill. We saw last year just how good he can be in these types of week-long stage races, so he can’t be discounted if back in reasonable nick. With him, he has two lieutenants who both could achieve a top 10 on GC if luck goes their way, in the form of Reichenbach and Ludvigsson. I do have a soft spot for the Swede and it won’t be the last time I’ll be mentioning him this year!

Uran, Barguil and even Wellens are others to keep an eye out for.

Prediction

In the form that he’s in just now, El Bala wins the race comfortably and another race/number is added to his already incredibly tally!

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Betting

Only SkyBet have the race priced up so far and have Valverde just ahead of Contador. Bet365 will be offering odds for the race, but only tomorrow…

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I doubt they’ll be offering anything spectacularly different price wise though. So that being said

0.5pt EW on a Valverde/Costa/Roglic (giving away my Algarve preview here) treble at 54.45/1 with  Skybet. I wouldn’t normally go EW on this but I think they should all podium so it covers the stake in that case.

 

Thanks for reading, as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated. How do you think the race will pan out; can anyone beat Valverde and Contador? Anyway,

Thos were My Two Spokes Worth.