Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2018 Stage 2 Preview; Bétera › Albuixech

Today’s Recap

We got the expected sprint finish into Peñiscola with the lead-out trains battling it out on the run-in.

It was Lotto Jumbo who came out on top, delivering Van Poppel excellently into the home straight. He did have to start his sprint ever so slightly earlier than he would have liked, but the Dutchman showed enough power to hold on for the victory.

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Mezgec looked as if he was going to come round him at some point but he just couldn’t manage it, nonetheless, he held on strongly for 2nd. Roelandts came home third, pipping a few other riders in an almost blanket finish for the minor places.

Will Van Poppel be able to hold onto his lead tomorrow?

Let’s have a look at what is in store for them.

The Route

A really interesting stage that could cause a GC shake-up.

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@LasterketaBurua

Five categorised climbs jammed into only 155km of racing makes this stage a stern test for the riders given how early into the season we are.

I can’t see the opening 4 climbs have any major impact on the outcome of the stage, but they will definitely wear down the riders legs for the second half of the day.

The focal point of the stage though is the climb of El Garbi.

Alto Garbi

This was the climb that Alberto Contador used to decimate the peloton on stage 6 of last year’s Vuelta, with only a select group of riders making it over the crest with him.

Unfortunately he’s not here so it will be interesting to see if we have the same aggressive racing.

The climb as a whole averages only 5.6% for 9.2km, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t too difficult. However, it is the almost 3km section at pretty much 10% where the real damage can be done.

Riders will be all over the road if someone attacks this one aggressively. The key word being if.

Once over the crest, the riders will descend for almost all of the remaining 30km into the finish town of Albuixech. It is not a descent where you can free-wheel on though, as the percentages only max out at around -5% or so. A strong and organised group could gain time on others here.

How will the stage pan out?

I’m really hoping for some fireworks on the Garbi. I have a feeling we might see Valverde try to light it up to reduce the group down significantly to 8 riders or so. However, the issue with that plan for him is he might be left with very few team mates and that then leaves the door open for Sky Harlem Globetrotters to attack him from all angles.

The stage is similar to the opener in Andalucia last year that Valverde won from a group of 7, although the final descent that day was 10km shorter.

Instead, we might see a slightly easier pace, where a group of 25 riders crest the climb together.

Same rules still apply though and attacks will go off the front and we could then see a splinter group make it to the line. As to who makes that group, your guess is as good as mine but one thing is for sure, they have to climb well!

As I’m short on time, I’m just going to throw a few names into the hat so the list isn’t going to be exhaustive.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Any Team Sky Rider.

Well, maybe not all of them. Seriously though, everyone on their team apart from Kiryienka and Stannard could win this stage given the right situation. I think they’ll try to make the pace hard to reduce the peloton as much as possible, isolating other riders. The old 1-2, will be turned into the old 1-2-3-4-5 as they constantly send riders up the road on the run-in. Take your pick for them, I’ll go with a lively Diego Rosa.

Alexis Vuillermoz.

The AG2R man had a great end to 2017 with a very respectable 4th place in Il Lombardia. He copes well on the steep gradients and if the pace is not pushed too hard, then he’ll hope to make it over with the main group. If the race splits up from there, he won’t be marked too much as Ag2R won’t be massive threats in the TTT so he could slip away. Furthermore, he packs a solid sprint from a reduced group so he could challenge that way.

Pello Bilbao.

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I’m a big fan of the Spanish rider and it was great to see him really take a step up in level towards the end of the Vuelta last year. This season he’ll no doubt be working for his leaders at some point, but this is the type of race where he might get leadership in. If he’s climbing like he did in the Vuelta, he should be able to follow the front group. Packing a punch, he could be a threat from a reduced sprint.

Jaime Roson.

I’m intrigued to see what the new Movistar man does this season and I think he’ll have a lot of expectation on his shoulders at this race to help Valverde. He’s a strong climber but is still a bit raw so to speak. Anyway, while everyone has their eyes firmly on El Bala, Roson manages to slip away in the closing few kilometres. He has a bit of kick to his sprint but I’m not entirely sure the flat run-in will be ideal for him, nonetheless he has a chance in a very tactical finish. Or he just works tirelessly to keep everything together.

Prediction

A climbing selection to be made on El Garbi and it all to kick off from there. I think we’ll see a counter move go and a small sprint to the line of about 5 riders, with a group of 20 or so coming in not so long after.

Vuillermoz to take the day!

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There is absolutely no season long fantasy league bias here at all. Ok. Maybe there is a bit…

Thanks as always for reading and apologies for the slightly truncated preview. I’m looking forward to what should be an interesting, tactical finale tomorrow. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 8 Preview; Dole -> Station des Rousses

Today’s Recap

Well, that was close, 6mm or 0.0003 seconds to be precise!

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Kittel just edged out Boasson Hagen to take his third win of the race. An incredibly tough photo finish, I couldn’t split them when looking at the images post race initially. The jury eventually came to that conclusion, much to my relief.

Matthews finished fast to get up for third, while Démare disappointed down in 11th and consequently hands the green jersey over to Kittel.

With two long, drab stages (apart from the finishes) out the way, let’s turn our attention to what the riders will face tomorrow.

The Route

A day with three categorised climbs that get progressively harder throughout the stage.

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The fight to get into the break will be on tomorrow and there’s a good chance a break won’t go until we get to the first uncategorised climb of the day at around 28km. Averaging just over 3% for 9km, we should see the strong men of the bunch escape here.

With the climb not being too tough, there could be a mixture of climbers and strong rouleurs who get up the road. I wonder if any sprinters will try to escape and go for the intermediate points?!

From there, the break will face roughly 60km of rolling roads before the opening categorised climb of the day: the Col de la Joux. Not a tough climb and it should be of no real outcome in the race.

Next on the agenda is the Côte de Viry at 7.6km long and averaging 5.2% it is slighty harder going than the Joux. Again though, it is more than likely too far out to be the scene of any action but some in the break might disagree! A few more short uncategorised climbs follow before a descent into the valley and the start of the climb with the longest name ever; Montée de la Combe de Laisia Les Molunes.

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Another climb that’s not too tough in terms of gradients, it is more of a slog than anything else. We only have two kilometres that average 8% or more, one of which comes right before the end. In fact, the final 4kms of the climb are the toughest on average. A perfect launchpad for a strong climber to make a move?

Once over the top, the terrain peaks and troughs all the way to Station des Rousses. A solo rider can certainly make it all the way to the line but they’ll hope for a lack of co-operation behind in the chasing group(s).

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The road does twist and turn in the final few kilometres which will make it very tactical if we have a small group come to the line.

How will the stage pan out?

We could see some GC action but I think that’s very unlikely, as the climbs aren’t tough enough for that and I’m sure that most of the overall contenders will have one eye on stage 9.

In fact, I think Sky might be happy to let the break go even if it contains someone high up on GC, just so they can have a rest the following day. Although to be fair, it’s not like they’ve done a lot of work over the past few days with the sprinters teams pulling for most of the stages.

Yet, not having to control the bunch on stage 9 will be a big bonus for them so with that being said, it is a definite breakaway day.

Time to play everyone’s favourite game…

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Contenders

There are several riders who could potentially compete on a stage like tomorrow’s so I’m not going to bother naming loads of people. Like normal, I’ll just name a few riders who have a chance. In fact, where I’d normally name 4, I’ll just go for two tomorrow!

Thibaut Pinot.

 

After a fairly successful Giro where he won a stage and finished 4th on GC, the FDJ rider comes here solely to hunt stages. I had a chuckle to myself while watching stage 5 and the ITV commentators were acting concerned, saying that was his race over etc, when he drifted out the back of the GC group. I’m fairly certain however, that it was just a ploy to lose some time so that he is given more leeway to go on the attack and actually be allowed to get away. Unlike some riders who are closer on GC than he currently is, Pinot could still be viewed as a threat if he was 4 minutes down on the overall at the moment. Thanks to some casual riding towards the end of today’s stage though, he now finds himself 10 minutes down. Plenty of leeway to get away!

As for the suitability of the stage itself, the climbs should be of no difficulty for someone of his talent. There will be few able to follow him if he’s on a good day. Furthermore, he has the advantage of being a solid TT rider so he can hold off a chasing group all the way to the line, but if not, he has a fast sprint from a reduced group of climbers.

If he makes the move he will be one of the favourites.

Alexis Vuillermoz.

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After missing the first few months of the season due to injury, the AG2R rider returned to racing at the end of March. He’s not been as prominent as he has been in previous seasons but a win in GP Plumelec highlights that there is some form and good legs there. More often than not finding himself working for Bardet these days, I think he might be given some freedom from the team tomorrow to do his own thing.

The reason I say that is because the route goes through his birthplace (Saint-Claude), passing his home. He’ll have massive home support and we often see riders getting up the road in their “home” stages. He’ll know the final climb like the back of his hand and the “easy” average gradient of it should suit him. Not the best on really long climbs, he’ll hope that he can follow the wheels of those better than him and beat them in a sprint. Something he is certainly capable of!

Prediction

Hmm, as much as I would love for Vuillermoz to win I’ll go for Pinot to take the stage!

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Betting

After today’s success, we have a few points to throw around on breakaway stages over the next week. Which is good as they are most often the most frustrating days to have a punt on. I nailed my colours to the mast before on Twitter…

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You can still get them at 100 and 28 respectively which I would take.

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win the breakaway lottery tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.