Abu Dhabi Tour 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Madinat Zayed -> ADNOC School

GC Overview

The last of the races in the middle-east and the only one that holds World Tour status, the Abu Dhabi Tour features five stages this year. We should have three sprints, one time trial and a mountain top finish with the latter two more than likely deciding the GC.

In 2017 it was Rui Costa who took the win which topped off his cracking start to the year.

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He’s here to defend his crown this year but with the added effort against the clock it will be difficult for him to do so.

Given the TT, anyone who hopes to go well in the GC can’t afford to lose anymore than 30 seconds here and even then, it might be a struggle to gain them back on Jebel Hafeet. So with that said we have a few stand-out candidates.

Tom Dumoulin races for the first time this season but that doesn’t really mean anything as he finished here in 2017 on his first outing. The TT/Mountain top finish combination suits him perfectly and he’ll hope to be close to winning both days. He might not actually get a stage win but it could be enough to secure the GC. Sunweb also have the benefit of having Kelderman here too and it will be interesting to see how the Dutch pair combine.

Rohan Dennis is hoping to develop into a GC rider with this season being a crucial point in that transformation. The best TT rider in the World over a course of this length he’ll hope to end the day with almost a minute of some of the climbers and maybe 15 seconds or so over Dumouln. Holding on to that lead of Jebel Hafeet will be tough but it will be a good acid test for him and his GC abilities.

Jonathan Castroviejo will get his first chance at leadership for Sky here. The British outfit have been flying in TTs as of late, winning both the Algarve and Andalucia efforts against the clock. Castroviejo is an exceptional TT rider but also a competent climber too. Jebel Hafeet will be on his limit but he’ll certainly be hoping to make the top 5 on GC and possibly go a bit better.

Alejandro Valverde isn’t great against the clock, but he’s not bad either. After a return to racing after his crash in the TDF last year, the Movistar man has once again looked imperious in the races he’s competed in so far. He’ll hope to limit his losses in the TT, to maybe 30 seconds at most then it is all up to a big effort on the final day. He’s certainly put a strong dig on Jebel Hafeet during training as he now holds the Strava record for te climb!

Others will be there or thereabouts but I’m not going to bore you with names, Tom Dumoulin to win the GC!

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Right, now let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders on the opening day.

The Route

A boring sprint stage with an almost out and back route through the desert; no need for a profile as it is pan flat.

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It’s pretty much the same stage that was used last year. Expect a lot of images of camels and rocks!

The finale is fairly straightforward with there being only two key pinch points/turns. Apparently Google Streetview isn’t a thing in this part of the Emirates yet so a satellite image of the final 3km will have to suffice.

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One right-hand turn at roughly 2.5km to go is followed by a roundabout at ~1.3km. I’m not sure what way they’ll take the roundabout, whether they go on the inside line (likely) or if it will be taken as a sweeping turn as above. Either way, the teams will have one kilometre dead ahead of them with a final jockey for position before they release their sprinters.

We’ve seen so far this season how simple run ins like this cause a lot of chaos because everyone is fairly evenly matched and they’re all vying for the same road space. We have a stacked sprint field here so I expect this to be equally manic!

Wind Watch

Given that the riders will be travelling into the wide open desert the possibility of echelons increases (much to my excitement). I’ve had my eye on the forecast for the past few days and it has changed a bit. Originally it was supposed to be a crosswind across the main stretch of straight road except that has changed to more of a headwind now.

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You can see on the screen capture above Madinat Zayed at the top of the map with the “turning point” of the stage down at the bottom. The wind is probably not coming from the East enough to cause any crosswinds but there is the point around halfway up the image that the road itself heads more West. Could this be enough to see some echelon action? I would love it, but I’m not holding out hope!

I’ll certainly be doing by crosswind dance before I go to bed tonight though.

If we do get echelons, then expect the majority of sprinters to be present at the front of the race anyway as a lot of them are masters at riding in bad conditions. In that situation it would depend on how many team-mates are there to hold it together for a sprint but it is still likely we’ll see some type of gallop to the line.

Sprinters

It seems as if the whole sprinting peloton is here; so much so, that I’m fairly certain that I could write another 1000 words. I’m not going to bore you with that so I’ll try write a few sentences at most for each rider!

Kittel.

Disappointed with his poor performances in Dubai, he’ll be here to remind everyone that he is the fastest rider in the peloton. A straight forward finish should be good for him but he’ll need to be positioned better.

Cavendish.

Already matching his tally of wins from last season, the Manxman will hope to continue that winning streak here. A tenacious rider, he always seems to rise to the occasion and knowing that the majority of the top sprinters are here he’ll desperately want to get one over them.

Greipel.

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Started the season with a bang in Australia, taking two stage wins. The German seems to be as powerful as ever but his lead-out train lacks a fast last man. Will need to latch onto another train which might cause issues. Headwind sprint helps him a lot though.

Kristoff.

The second rider that I proclaim is the best in the peloton (along with Greipel) in a headwind sprint, he is a master of tricky conditions. After firing a few blanks in his first races, he opened his account in Oman. Can he continue that here?

Ewan.

Was good in Australia but didn’t seem his scintillating best in the sprints. However, he was very strong in Almeria with a comfortable win over Van Poppel. Having a strong, strong lead-out here for him will help massively.

Viviani.

Arguably the in-form sprinter of the season so far, he has been truly exceptional. Arriving with a slightly different train, he has his reliable pilot fish Sabatini and that will be pivotal. Will the winning run continue?

Van Poppel.

Looked good in Valenciana but he’ll have been humbled a bit by Ewan in Almeria. Nonetheless, he’s a strong guy and will be hoping to bounce back. Jumbo nailed the lead-outs for Groenewegen so far this season, will DVP get the same quality?

Bauhaus.

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I’m a fan of the ‘Haus and it will be good to watch his progression again this year. He had a few strong placings in Australia but just missed out on the win. Tipped as the “new Kittel” he’ll be able to rely on the massive engines of Dumoulin and Arndt for a lead-out. He could surprise but would it really be a surprise though?

McLay.

Gets his chance to sprint for EF Education here. No lead-out for him so he’ll have to freestyle but that might work to his advantage. He is capable of pulling a very good result out of the bag but a top 10 will be solid for him nonetheless.

Minali.

Another “M” sprinter who will probably have to fly solo, he looked fast in a few of the finishes in Dubai but he seems very inconsistent. Will require some luck for him to go well.

Guardini. 

My #PFCL4 rider is in high company here and a top 10 result would be nice in a few of the stages. Back in 2015 he was notorious for strong showings in the desert sprints but he has since lost his way. Has he found Bernard’s Watch and rolled back the clock?

There are even more guys to consider such as Ackermann, Bonifazio, Barbier and Halvorsen to name a few but I think that the list is exhaustive enough!

Prediction

After a bit of a wind-battered day in the peloton, the riders will be more fatigued than expected. I have to go with one of two riders that I proclaim are the best in the world in a headwind sprint, no doubt picking the wrong one…

Alexander Kristoff to take the win!

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Having start off the season promisingly but without the result to show for it, it was good to see him get the proverbial monkey off his back in Oman. He looks in great shape, a 4th place on Hatta Dam is testament to that and I think a few people will underestimate him here.

Betting

1pt EW Kristoff at 12/1 with Bet365 (would take 10/1)

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win the opener tomorrow? Will we see some splits in the bunch, or will it be a long day in the saddle? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Abu Dhabi Tour Stage 4 Preview; Yas Marina -> Yas Marina

The Route

I think you know what I think of this stage by now… 💩 💩 💩

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The most disheartening 22 laps of a race-track you’ll ever see. The one saving grace that this stage has is that the finale is normally relatively exciting.

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Lots of turns in the closing 2km means that lead-outs are crucial. A strong team can really string the peloton out and control the race in that final section. You can see from last year’s sprint that the top 3 at the end of the day, were the first three sprinters into the final turn.

The closing turn also present the opportunity for a gap to made and the lead out rider to ping off the front. We almost saw that last year with Renshaw and is something that the Directeur Sportif’s could consider. Although they probably won’t!

Contenders

With two sprint stages already to get an idea as to who’s going well, we haven’t actually learnt much more than we knew going into this race; the top 4 are still ahead of everyone else. Sorry Viviani, you’ve been demoted to your own second tier.

Kittel reasserted his dominance on Friday, coming from very far back to nab the victory from Ewan on the line. The crash clearly didn’t affect him! The one the that does concern me is the fact he had to come from far back because his lead-out hasn’t been as great as it normally is. For example, it looked good on Stage 1 up until the crash, but looked very disorganised on Stage 2. If it’s disorganised again tomorrow and Kittel isn’t behind the right wheel, then there’s no chance of him coming back.

The other rider who went down in the crash but seems unaffected is Ewan. The Aussie pocket rocket had the stage won but lost it in the closing metres because he stopped pedalling to celebrate. His train looked good and he looked good, I’m sure he’ll want to rectify his mistakes tomorrow!

Cavendish looked fairly good again but his lead-out was messier on Stage 2 compared to Stage 1. He tried to come round Ewan but seemed to missing that final kick. You can’t rule him out though!

Greipel had an abysmal day of it on stage 2. His lead-out was non existent and when trying to surf wheels solo, he got blocked off with around 1km to go and that was his chance of a win out the window. To get up for 9th place after all of that was not a bad result!

This finish does allow for a solo rider to do well if they’re brave going into that final corner and chop up some lead-outs, so we could see a surprise podium finisher, but probably not.

Prediction

His lead-out on Stage 2 was exceptional and I think that will be the same tomorrow. Wanting to make up for his mistakes, Caleb Ewan wins!

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Betting

 Nothing appeals to me odds wise at the moment

Thanks for reading! I think I might give this stage a miss tomorrow though, probably something more exciting on; twitter highlights will do. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Abu Dhabi Tour Stage 3 Preview; Al Ain -> Jebel Hafeet

Today’s Recap

Another drab stage that ended with a very exciting final 10 minutes. For a while it looked as if it was going to be Ewan or Cavendish who took the win, but the perfectly-haired German came from way back, pipping Ewan on the line.

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I’m lamenting the bookmakers not over reacting and pricing Kittel at the 2/1 I was hoping for, would have gladly taken that. As it turns out, the H2H double lost as well so not a great day on that front, but we move on!

Onto tomorrow and the day that will decide the GC.

The Route

Boring flat, some more boring flat, even more boring flat…MOUNTAIN!

Well, can it be classed as a mountain? It’s certainly a very large hill at the least!

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This stage is all about the climb up Jebel Hafeet.

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10.8km long and averaging 6.6%, it is a fairly challenging climb; especially when you consider that the middle 7km average 8%. This is the section where proper time gaps can be made!

We will see attacks here as those climbers without a good sprint will want to drop everyone on the toughest parts, i.e Quintana! Although, we could easily be in for a lot of stopping and stalling as favourites mark each other, leaving the opportunity for a “lesser” rider to get away.

Contenders

You probably know by now the very stellar climbing line-up we have here and without repeating all of that again, here’s a link to my GC preview to remind you.

*I’d advise you to read that as I won’t be adding much more here*

So has anything changed since I wrote that preview on Tuesday?

Well, Contador seems to be up for playing more than a team role here! I can imagine he’ll be used as the guy to try to follow Quintana or go on the attack himself, allowing Mollema to follow behind and counter.

I still think Bardet will go well and is a serious challenge if there is some looking about. My feelings towards Aru finishing top 5 have got stronger and I think he’s a proper podium contender too. He seemed lively on the first sprint stage and seems in good spirits.

Aside from that, nothing else has change really.

Prediction

Quintana is still the rider to beat though but I don’t think Contador will be that far off of him. Therefore, I can see the two of them messing around, allowing for another couple of riders to get back (Bardet and Aru), and I’ll go for the Frenchman to win!

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Betting

1pt EW Bardet @14/1

0.75pt EW Aru @ 20/1

Both with Bet365.

Apologies for the briskness of this but I don’t want to needlessly spend some time writing out the same stuff again and I wouldn’t want you to read that either!

If you haven’t seen it already, then check out my Omloop preview that is on the blog. Thanks again for reading, tomorrow will be another double preview day with the final stage of this race and Kuurne. I know which one I’m looking more forward to! 😉 Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Abu Dhabi Tour 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Abu Dhabi -> Abu Dhabi

Today’s Recap

A very messy end to a rather dull day.

It was Mark Cavendish who took a reduced sprint ahead of Greipel and Bonfiazio, after there was a crash in the closing kilometre that took out the likes of Kittel and Ewan.

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Viviani came home a disappointing fifth but at least the H2H won so a small profit on the day.

It was a rather annoying result considering I’d backed Cavendish hand over foot in Dubai, but I was waiting for stage 2 this race. Oh well, that ship has sailed now!

Tomorrow the sprinters will get another chance at stage glory, so let’s take a look at what lies ahead.

The Route

A trip around the suburbs of the city, finishing along the Marina.

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Parcours wise, it’s once again incredibly flat. What else would you expect though?!

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So like stage one, it’s down to the closing few kilometres to make the race exciting as there is no chance of crosswinds causing any issue here.

This exact finish was used on stage 2 of last year’s race so the riders, and us the viewers, have a rough idea what to expect.

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We shall see a race to the first swooping right hand turn at 1.3km to go, but it’s not too important to be right at the front here. However, you need to be making your move to the head of the peloton by the flamme rouge.

The reason I say this, is that last year they implemented some barriers (at roughly the 600m to go banner) to narrow the road from 4 lanes to 2. This obviously then makes it more difficult for teams to move their sprinters up after that. Now, I don’t know for certain if that will be the case again this year but I’m willing to guess that it more than likely will be.

We saw today that they implemented similar barriers in the last kilometre so there is a very good chance they’ll feature tomorrow.

Then, we have another relatively tight corner at 300m to go, before the dash along the finishing straight to the line.

Sprinters

Cavendish and his Dimension Data team got it perfect today. They always looked in control in the last 3km, moving to the front at exactly the correct moment. Some luck was on their side as Renshaw and Cavendish managed to avoid the crash, but that’s not to take away from a great performance. They’ll certainly be full of confidence now looking ahead at the rest of the week and I wouldn’t discount Cavendish picking up back to back wins!

The rider who got closest to the Manxman was Greipel. He managed to match him for speed, but was never really able to pull up alongside him once he moved out of the slipstream. If it was the opposite way round I wonder what the outcome would have been? I think they’re as close on form as this result suggests.

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Unfortunately we didn’t get to see Kittel sprint it out today. His team did a lot of work on the front, and although they were hideously unorganised from around 3->1.2km to go, they seemed to have things together approaching the Flamme Rouge. That was until a touch of handlebars saw them go down. With the same numbers left as Dimension Data, would they have challenged them in the drag race to the line? I think they would have been very close! Kittel’s wounds seem superficial and he’ll be fired up to exact revenge tomorrow.

Ewan also went down in the crash which is also a shame, particularly considering that their lead-out looked very promising. On the instant replay it looked as if Ewan was one of the worst hurt, but he managed to get up and finish the stage. However, he is still going to the hospital for precautionary scans so as of yet we’re unaware as to the extent of his injuries. Even if he doesn’t get involved tomorrow, I’m sure he’ll try to solider on and compete on Sunday. After all, he is a tough little fella!

Viviani disappointed today, although he did start his sprint from far back in fairness to him. However, with his main lead out man suffering some injuries today, he may be left in an even worse position come tomorrow.

I was impressed by Bonifazio and Consonni‘s ability to negotiate the mayhem, particularly the neo-pro, who performed ahead of his years. Yet, I don’t think they’ll do any better tomorrow. If they can sneak into the top 5 again then that would be great!

One random sprinter might sneak into the top 5, but I’m not going to hazard a guess as to who.

Prediction

An angry Kittel = a fast Kittel.

He’ll carve through this field like a hot disk brake through shoes! Oh, too soon?

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Betting

No value in the stage betting market IMO. I like the look of this 1.25/1 double though…

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Cavendish’s train is better than Greipel’s, Renshaw should be dropping Cav off further ahead of De Bie. Would fancy him to roll home ahead.

Guardini not at the races today whereas Bonifazio got involved. The latter seems to have had the better start to the year as well.

2.5pts on it at 1.25/1 with Bet365. (Would take down to Evens).

 

Thanks for reading and as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win the stage? I’ll be back with a double preview tomorrow with Stage 3 of this race but also Omloop. More than likely it will be Omloop out first, some time in the afternoon, followed by Abu Dhabi in the evening. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Abu Dhabi Tour Stage 1 Preview; Madinat Zayed -> Madinat Zayed

The opening stage of the race and one that should be decided by the sprinters.

The Route

An “out and back” style course through the desert.

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As you can see, it’s almost as flat as pancake with very little elevation change at all! The wind may be a factor out in the open desert.

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However, looking at the forecasts for Madinat Zayed and Mezairaa it doesn’t look promising for echelon action. We may get consistent 14 hm/h winds which may have caused some issue if they were coming from the correct direction, but that’s not the case. Instead it will be a headwind when they leave Madinat Zayed, that turns into a tail wind for a bit out on the course, then back to a head wind as they return to the starting town.

Maybe we still might get something? I mean, that tail -> head wind doesn’t happen instantly! No? I think I’m clinging onto too much hope here. So instead, this stage will all be about the closing kilometres.

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It’s the exact same finish that was used last year and I expect a similar dash to the final left hand turn at roughly 1km to go.

The peloton will be fairly strung out through it but the pace will ramp up even more as they approach a roundabout with 700m to go. Once through the roundabout, the riders will possibly be in single file and it will take a lot of extra energy to come from 20 places back and win the stage.

Last year it was a messy sprint as riders lost their lead-out men and it was in fact Mark Renshaw who did the perfect lead-out for Giacommo Nizzolo (not Cavendish), with the Italian going on to take the win.

Therefore it’s safe to say timing in the sprint is very important. You either want to have 2 riders left in front of the sprinter when leading out of the roundabout and power home from there. Or use the slight lull in action as sprint trains look for their sprinter, to then bring your rider forward in the final 300m.

Who’ll be competing for stage honours then?

Sprint Contenders

The perfectly-haired German, Marcel Kittel, has to start as the clear favourite for this stage. He started the season off in scintilating form, picking up 3 stage wins and the GC in Dubai. Not arriving with his normal lead-out may hinder him a bit. However, he does arrive with his favourite lead-out man Sabatini. Possibly not as dominant as in other races, he will still be the rider to beat!

Cavendish comes here after a very weird start to the year. Mechanicals and bad luck hampered him in Dubai, before he seemed to be on lead out duty for Boasson Hagen in the Algarve. As an ambassador for this race, he’ll be hoping for a much better showing than those previous starts. I’m not entirely sure that will happen on stage 1 as he has had a hectic schedule over the past few days. Nonetheless, with Renshaw by his side, he is a rider who can turn it on at anytime so can’t be discounted!

Off the back of a very good stage win in Algarve, Greipel will be in a buyouant mood ahead of this week. Another rider who is arriving here without his normal lead-out, he will probably be relying on De Bie to drop him off in a good position in the closing kilometres. It will then be over to Andre to follow the correct wheel, can he?

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Caleb Ewan arrives with a short, but rather strong lead-out; relying on Mezgec and Kluge to get him in position. They are the type of guys who could perfectly execute the old “move up in the final kilometre” tactic that I mentioned earlier. Ewan was unbeatable in Australia a month ago, has he managed to sustain that form?

Hot or cold sprinter Viviani will be hoping to profit in a messy run in here. One of the best riders in the world at positioning himself without a lead-out, this race he can at least rely on Doull and Dibben to pilot fish him a bit further up the bunch before he has to ride solo. I don’t know why, but I think he’ll go well here!

Aside from the riders listed above, Pelucchi, Bonifazio, Guardini and Ruffoni will be hoping to get in the mix.

One other rider I am intrigued to see perform this week is young Astana sprinter Riccardo Minali. He made very steady, but impressive improvements throughout the week in Dubai, ultimately finishing 3rd on the final stage. Can he repeat that peformance here, or go even better? I’ll be watching with interest, that’s for sure!

Prediction

Kittel probably wins this, doesn’t he? But I can’t be releasing two previews in a day that both have the favourite as the winner, so to mix things up a bit and I’ll go with Viviani.

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He’s the one sprinter out of them all who benefits most from a finish like this, and if he manages to come out of the right slipstream then he will be hard to beat. After all, he is no slouch!

Betting

0.75pt EW Viviani at 18/1 with Betfair (Paddy Power). Would take down to 14/1.

5pts on Minali to beat Bauhaus at 1/2 with Bet365

Thanks for reading. Can you see anyone beating Kittel? I’ll be back again tomorrow with a stage 2 preview. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abu Dhabi Tour 2017 – GC Preview

Abu Dhabi Tour 2017 – GC Preview

Started back in 2015, the Abu Dhabi Tour in its first two editions was an end of season filler. Typically consisting of 3 sprint stages and one mountain top finish that decided the GC, it was a race for those winding down at the end of the year; trying to get one final result.

However, that changes ever so slightly this year with its move to the start of the season in February as riders look to build form for their up and coming objectives. Its swanky new World Tour status means that teams will be hunting those elusive WT points so I expect the race to be a little more intense than it has been in the past.

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The defending champion, Tanel Kangert, is back here to defend his crown but it may be hard for him to do so considering some of the climbing talent that we have here for this edition.

First however, let’s have a look at what the riders will face over the coming week.

The Route

Stage 1 features an “out and back” course through the desert, starting and finishing in Madinat Zayed.

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A day that will end in a sprint and the fight for the first leader’s jersey. There is a roundabout at roughly 700m to go that will cause the bunch to be very spread out so positioning will be important. Can the wind have any impact on the stage?

Stage 2 and yep, another sprint.

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This time the riders travel around the outskirts and suburbs of Abu Dhabi itself, before finishing along the marina. A right-hand turn at 300m to go can shake things up.

Stage 3 sees the day that will decide the GC battle with the finish up Jebel Hafeet.

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10.8km long and averaging 6.6%, it is a a fairly challenging climb; especially when you consider that the middle 7km average 8%. This is the section where proper time gaps can be made! Who will be the rider to take the stage and GC glory?

Stage 4 and what is in my opinion, one of the worst stages in the calendar year. 26 laps of the Yas Marina motor racing circuit.

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If you watch more than 10 minutes of this on Sunday instead of Kuurne, we can’t be friends! It does have some technical turns going for it in the final kilometre which may liven things up. But yeah, I despise this stage with a passion.

GC Battle

As I’ve mentioned above, the GC battle for this race all comes down to the climb up Jebel Hafeet. With there being no time-trial or rolling stage to contend with, it is possible for a pure climber to be involved in the shakedown too. The step up to World Tour level has increased the number of contenders here and we should have an exciting battle on our hands! I’ll just run through the start list in order.

Starting with the defending champion Kangert and his Astana team. Unfortunately for the Estonian I can’t see him repeating last year’s performance this season. Instead, the Kazakh outfit will turn to Fabio Aru as their main charge here. Off the back of a solid performance at Oman, Aru will be looking to continue his preparation for the Giro with another good outing here. He many not be at his best to win the race, but he should at least be aiming for a top 5 finish. (Or at least I’m hoping so for my fantasy team!)

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Bardet comes here after a disappointing race in Oman. He was positioned relatively well going into the Green Mountain stage but was one of those riders involved in the crash that day, which really hampered his end result. Making an attack on the final day shows to me that he was frustrated and that his form is good. Certainly don’t discount him after one performance.

Nibali makes his first World Tour outing with new team Bahrain Merida after finishing 8th in San Juan back in January. Always a hard one to judge form wise, I would not be surprised if the Shark wins here, or if he finishes down in 23rd!

After their success in Oman, BMC will be hoping that Tejay Van Garderen can continue the winning streak in the Middle East. Going off of recent history, the American does seem to start of the season very well; finishing 2nd on GC at his opening stage race of the year for 4 seasons in a row. Can he make it 5 here or even finish one place higher?

Rafał Majka will get his first taste of GC leadership with Bora at this race. Another who starts off the year fairly well, he’s only had two race days so far in Spain so it is tough to gauge where he is at. However, with it being only a mountain top finish and no time trial, he certainly has a chance of a podium.

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Quintana obviously starts as the big favourite here after blowing everyone away in Valenciana. The Colombian doesn’t just race to come 7th, he races to win and very rarely misses out on at least a podium at a stage race. If he’s continued that from from Spain, it should be no different here!

Quickstep will turn to Alaphilippe or Brambilla as their GC prospects here. Unfortunately though, they’ll either need to be in excellent form or get a massive dose of luck to challenge for the title here. A top 10 is manageable though!

Kudus will hope to go better than he did in Oman. A great talent, he really needs to develop the race management and tactical nous to his riding. Often he seems to attack too early which costs him in the closing kilometres. If he finally gets that right here then he could sneak onto the podium with a bit of luck!

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Kruijswijk and Gesink will lead a two-pronged attack for Jumbo. On a climb like this, I’d almost say Gesink is better than his counterpart. Can they compete with Quintana and co this early in the season? Meh, probably not. Or maybe they will. I don’t know!

Another rider making his season debut is Tom Dumoulin. The Dutchman had a disappointing end to last year and I’m intrigued to see if he’s recovered mentally from that. It’s once again guesswork as to where his form is. Do you have any idea?! I think he’ll go OK, but not great, maybe 6th or something similar.

Trek come here with two great GC candidates; Contador and Mollema. They’ve both shown good early season form with Contador coming second in Ruta del Sol, and Mollema winning the GC in San Juan. The former says that he is going to work for the latter here, focussing more on Paris Nice which starts in just under two weeks time. An elaborate ruse, or is he telling the truth? Contador does seem like a team player so it is certainly plausible, but I’m more intrigued to see the logistics behind it. Will he attack to force others to follow, with Mollema sitting on? Or will he be the guy chasing attacks down? Either way, I’ll be very surprised if one of them is not on the podium by the end of the week!

Finally, “local” team, UAE Fly Emirates have two riders who can challenge the top 10, in Costa and Ulissi. But I can’t see them doing any better than that.

There are some teams/riders that I’ve missed out, but I don’t want to keep you here all day!

Prediction

Quintana more than likely wins. Boring I know, but I’m hardly ever like this so I’m allowed to do it at least once or twice a season, right?

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Bardet and Mollema to round out the podium!

Betting

Think there is a bit of value away from the top of the order and with my 2 podium shouts. The debate I’m having with myself is if it’s worthwhile backing them for GC, or just waiting until Stage 3?!

Will Bardet start as a 10/1 shot on Stage 3, likewise, will Mollema start at 18/1 (current GC prices with Betfair)?

Hmmmm. I think I’ll just leave it until Saturday: unless of course odds elsewhere are much better! If Bardet is 14s anywhere I’ll take that, the same with Mollema at 22/1.

So a no bet, for now.

 

Thanks for reading and as per usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do oyu think will win? Can anyone beat Quintana? I will have a Stage 1 preview out later today, most likely evening some point when we get more odds available. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.