Ride London Classique 2017 Preview

The “richest race in women’s cycling” returns for its 5th edition, but second at World Tour level.

Last year saw Kirsten Wild take home the big prize, winning a bunch sprint ahead of ahead of Kessler and Kirchmann.

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The race has a lot of positives going for it; big prize pool and live TV coverage are the main things.

However, the organisers can never seem to get the magical triple* just right, can they?

*Prize Money / Tv Coverage / Good Route

Which brings me onto another women’s preview where I annoyingly start by moaning and having a go at something, but after the nonsense TT (chase) we had last weekend, I’m past the point of caring!

Can we stop glorifying what are pretty much criterium races as progress for women’s cycling please? I’m not trying to be some internet white knight but they deserve better than this. Last week the opening “stage” of La Course was fantastic with the finish on the Izoard but making that only 67km was a little bit insulting. Having a criterium that is the same length and branding it as “spectacular” just takes the piss.

Why can the women not do the nearly the same route (the UCI limit of 155km will stop them doing it all) as the men, heck, they could even do the last 120km of it. I don’t understand why that is such a big issue for the organisers!

I miss the start of the season when we had races such as Strade Bianche etc, proper races that gave the women a chance to shine on a taxing course. Obviously, there needs to be a balance between having races for climbers and sprinters but I don’t see why races for the latter group have to be tamed down so much. Even at the recent Giro Rosa and Women’s Tour we had sprint stages of 100+km so there is no real reason why that couldn’t be the same here.

Anyway, let’s have a look at what’s getting me worked up.

The Route

A pretty much pan-flat 5.5km circuit around London taking in some famous sites. Maybe that’s what makes it “spectacular”?

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I was going to create a route profile on Strava but there is not much detail to know more than there are a few false flat sections!

I’m not entirely sure how many times they’ll be doing the circuit as there is no official information on the website as to the number of laps, but last year it was 12 x 5.5km laps so I imagine it will be the same this year.

The one positive from this route is that fans get to see their favourite female cyclists 12 times…

We should see a sprint at the end of the day, it has ended in that manner in each previous edition, but there is always that 5% chance that a strong group gets away and there is no co-operation behind. That is very unlikely though!

Sprint Contenders

Kirsten Wild.

The defending is champion is back here looking to take another victory. A little bit underwhelming so far this season, only taking two wins to her name. However, this type of racing suits her down to the ground and she can’t be ruled out. On form I would say it is hard for her to win, but given her nature I’d say it is very possible that she goes back to back!

Jolien d’Hoore.

The Belgian Bullet is arguably her biggest contender. The newly crowned Belgian champion got the better of Wild on two occasions in Chongming earlier this season. What’s even more impressive about that is that she was riding with an injury for the majority of the race! Having taken some more wins to her name since then, she has to start as the favourite in my opinion.

Chloe Hosking.

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After her breakthrough season last year, Hosking has continued her success in 2017; notching up a few wins, including a strong sprint victory at the Women’s Tour. All of this has resulted in her contract being extended with Alé Cipollini, the Italian team have a lot of faith in her. In last years race she was boxed in and never really got going so she’ll be hoping to go better this time. With a 1st and 2nd at La Course and Madrid Challenge respectively last season, it is clear Hosking goes well on these type of kermesse style races. Having a rider like Bastianelli to lead her out means she should begin her sprint from a good position. Will she be challenging for the win tomorrow?

Lotta Lepistö.

After a storming start to her season in the Spring, Lepistö returned to racing recently winning the National Championships double. More impressively though, she followed it up with a win and two second places at the tough Giro Rosa. A sign she is back up to race speed nicely! Her team support here isn’t great so she will have to go solo and jump onto another team’s lead-out but that is something she is capable of. She is a strong outside candidate for a good result.

Coryn Rivera.

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A stand out performer in the Spring, the Sunweb rider picked up a couple of podium places at the Giro. Used to criterium style races thanks to her US up-bringing she will be strong on a course like this. With riders such as Brand, Kirchmann and Van Dijk on her team, I would argue that she has the strongest lead-out in the race. Can she finish it off?

Marianne Vos.

A preview isn’t complete without the best female rider of her generation. After crashing out of the Women’s Tour, Vos returned to racing at the BeNe Ladies Tour. It didn’t start off ideally for her when she crashed in the opening prologue, but from there it went exceptionally well! She picked up two second places and two wins to take the overall GC title. Is another win on the cards here?

Alice Barnes.

The young Brit will be full of confidence after recently taking her first win at the aforementioned BeNe Ladies Tour. She escaped with Vos on the opening stage and managed to beat her in a two-up sprint, not bad! I have been very impressed with her this season so far and I think she’s capable of another good result here.

Every team has a rider or two who could be involved at the pointy end of the day so some riders to keep a look out for are;

Pieters/Blaak (Boels)

Cucinotta/Confalonieri (Lensworld)

Barnes/Guarischi (Canyon)

Fournier (FDJ)

Elvin (Orica)

Kessler/Moberg (Hitec)

Prediction

There are too many teams interested in a sprint for us not to get a bunch gallop. With Bronzini leading her out, d’Hoore should be placed into a great position for the run to the line. These types of races are her bread and butter! She’s not let me down before, so I’ll go for her again, the Belgian Bullet to take the win!

The Ovo Energy Women's Tour of Britain Stage 5 - The London Stage

I think Alice Barnes might sneak onto the podium too.

Coverage

The last 40 minutes of the race are being shown live on BBC2 (from 6pm GMT), with the whole event being shown via the Red Button (from 5pm GMT).

As for international coverage I’m not too sure, but there are plenty of sites out there where you can stream BBC2! Maybe the BBC site itself will work via VPN?

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

HSBC UK National Road Race Championships 2017 Preview; Douglas -> Douglas

After an “easy” route last year which saw two relatively large bunch sprints, with Blythe and Barnes being crowned champions, the organisers have certainly came up with a grippier parcours this time round.

2016 British Cycling National Road Championships - Stockton-on-Tees

Will the reigning champions be able to defend their crowns? Let’s have a proper look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

All profiles are courtesy of @LasterketaBurua / @raffilpt so go and give them a follow or check out their site!

The men’s race will incorporate two laps of the large circuit and 10 of the smaller circuit, totalling 193km. Whereas the women will only do one lap of the large circuit and 6 of the smaller one, totalling 103km.

You can view an interactive route profile here.

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As you can see, the main focal point of the opening circuit is the tough climb of ‘Mountain Mile” that averages 7% for 4.8km. Tough enough to see riders get dropped early on, it will be interesting to see how whittled down the group gets here and if we see any early attacks from the big hitters.

Compared to the opening loop and Mountain Mile, the closing circuit is fairly benign. However, the repeated nature of it and aggressive racing will certainly wear the riders down!

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The gradients are fairly shallow but there are some steeper pitches involved with some percentages of around ~8% in places. In fact, the second climb on the image above is closer to 8% for 400m but it flattens out at the top to bring the percentage down.

With only just over 2km from the top of the climb to the finish, those lacking a sprint will certainly be looking to make their move here.

Weather Watch

Along with the course, one thing that could shape the race is the weather. It looks as if the riders will have a dry day, but it is the wind that they will be more concerned about.

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Source: Met Office

With consistent winds of roughly 13mph (20kph) and gusts up to 24mph (38kph) the riders could certainly be caught out by crosswinds, especially on the larger opening circuit.

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Areas like the one above (just after Mountain Mile) are certainly exposed to the wind and it could potentially but the riders on the gutter on the left hand side of the road as the wind will be coming from their right.

However, it should only be the opening circuit that sees any echelon/crosswind action because the majority of the finishing laps are protected by trees and hedgerows.

Women’s Race

Given current form it is hard to argue against current champion Hannah Barnes regaining her title. Very strong in the TT on Thursday, she was incredibly consistent at the recent Women’s Tour and seems to have taken another step up again this year. She can climb, she’s strong on the flat and she can sprint. Ideal for this course! Will all of this racing catch up with her though?

Lizzie Deignan took a much more considered approach to the Women’s Tour but she will certainly be ready for this race. Having won a tough Tour de Yorkshire with a dominant ride, the 3-time National Champion will be looking to take home here 4th jersey here. Like Barnes, she can do everything and is the rider everyone will fear the most even though she has been a bit anonymous recently.

Women's Tour de Yorkshire 2017

Still an U-23 rider Hannah’s sister, Alice Barnes, could possibly compete here as well. The climb of Mountain Mile will be difficult for her but if she makes it to the final circuit with the lead group then she has as good a chance as any. Arguably a faster sprinter than her sister, can she win family bragging rights and more this time around?

After a solid third place in the TT, Katie Archibald will be looking for another strong performance in the road race. The Scot has really impressed me this season so far as she transitions from a track rider into a very versatile “roadie”. She won’t be dropped on the climbs but it her may be her inexperience in the wind that could be her undoing.

Dani King for a while looked as if she was going to hold on to the coat-tails of the flying Boels duo at the Tour de Yorkshire but it wasn’t to be.I’m still confused as to why she didn’t make the Olympic squad last year but that’s a debate for another day. A very consistent rider, she had a quiet Women’s Tour but still managed to finish 9th on GC, not bad! After being a loyal domestique for a few years, learning the trade, she moved teams during the winter to take more leadership opportunities. No better place to take your first pro win than at Nationals!

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Others who could be in contention include; Simmonds, Garner, Barker and Christian.

Men’s Race

There are two strong favourites for this course in my opinion and they were 1-2 on Alpe d’Huez not too long ago…

Pete Kennaugh will be looking to make history this year by being the first male rider to win the road race three times. A great one-day racer for this type of parcours, I’m sure he’ll be bitterly disappointed about missing out on the Tour squad. With that in mind, he will no doubt be going all out to win here. Will the local support be enough to see him win?

Ben Swift performed exceptionally well to come second behind Kennaugh on Alpe d’Huez, only losing ~15 seconds in the end. An under-rated climber, he should be able to cope with everything that he will face tomorrow. With a fast sprint as well, he is a force to be reckoned with. He’ll be out-numbered by other teams but that might not matter if he’s able to follow the best in an attacking race. The one issue is that no one will really want to bring him to the line.

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The same can be said for a recovering Mark Cavendish. The Manxman would have been relishing the opportunity to race for the national title on home roads but he has only just returned to racing after missing a large chunk of the season with Epstein Barr virus. He notched up a second place on a stage at the Tour of Slovenia and with the Tour de France around the corner, I have a feeling he’ll be going better than he says he is. He might not even show it tomorrow, but a hard race will do him good before next week.

 

Kennaugh isn’t Sky’s only option, Tao Geoghegan Hart is another candidate. The youngster produced a very solid time trial on Thursday, a discipline that’s not his strong point. He clearly is in good form and we could see Sky adopt some attacking tactics, using Geoghegan Hart to go in an early move that might just stick.

In a race that could become very open due to the attacking nature of it and the wind conditions there are several Continental riders who could have a chance.

Bibby (JLT), Holmes (Madison Genesis) and Williams (One Pro) are all riders to consider.

There is one rider I am going to keep a watchful eye on though and that is Scott Davies of Team Wiggins.

Scott-Davies

He won the U-23 TT on Thursday. More importantly, he was very impressive at the recent Baby Giro, finishing that race 4th on GC. Flying at the moment, he may take advantage of still being a “lower-level” rider and surprise a few tomorrow. The way he’s been riding, he shouldn’t be dropped on the climbs, that’s for sure!

Prediction

I’ll go for Hannah Barnes and Kennaugh wins, but with Davies to podium too!

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Betting

No women’s odds yet, but SkyBet might have something tomorrow. They had TT odds on the day of the event. As for the men…

Not much value in Kennaugh, but I’m willing to double him up with Aru in what is a hilly Italian course.

Kennaugh/Aru 1pt EW Double @ 65/1 with Bet365

Also backing…

Davies 0.5pt EW @ 50/1 with Bet365.

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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

Today’s Recap

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

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

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

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

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

The Route

A pan-flat jaunt around London.

OVO Women's Tour Stage5

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

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

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

So, late attack? 😉

Contenders

Chloe Hosking.

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

Jolien d’Hoore.

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

Hannah Barnes.

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

Alice Barnes.

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

Lizzie Deignan.

Women's Tour de Yorkshire 2017

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

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

Prediction

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

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

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

Today’s Recap

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

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

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

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

The Route

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

OVO Women's Tour Stage 4

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

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

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

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

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

Will we see another sprint?

How will the stage pan out?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contenders

Hannah Barnes.

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

Ashleigh Moolman.

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

Amy Pieters.

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

Ellen van Dijk.

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

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

Prediction

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

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No fancy hats as prizes here though! 😔

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

 

 

 

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

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

GC Overview

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

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

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

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

Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contenders

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction

I’ll go for an impressive win from Hosking!

Drentse Acht van Westerveld 2017

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

Coverage

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

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

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Women’s Gent – Wevelgem 2017 Preview

Women’s Gent – Wevelgem 2017 Preview

Last year saw this race take the step up to World Tour status along with a lot of other races in the cycling calendar due to the WWT. That meant that the field was even more stacked than normal and we had an incredibly tough, attritional race.

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It was Chantal Blaak who attacked from far out, winning by a comfortable margin in the end as her Boels team-mates marked any moves behind. Lisa Brennauer and Lucinda Brand rounded out the podium over a minute down.

More of the same exciting racing this year? Let’s take a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The organisers have taken advantage of the increased race distance that was permitted by the UCI so this year the riders will have tackle 146km, compared to the 115km in last year’s edition!

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The peloton will cover a lot of flat lands at the start of the race, but the most decisive section will be from 70-110km, when we tackle some climbs. Both cobbled and not! On the run in to home we also have some small rises that create an opportunity to attack. Even the flat run in can be a launchpad if we get a tactical finale.

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The run in to the finish line is pretty much pan-flat and dead-straight for the final 3km.

Weather

One of the major factors that can often play a part in the outcome of this race is the weather and in particular, the wind!

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Source: Windfinder.

It looks as if we’ll get a fairly constant wind throughout the day, with some potential for stronger gusts. The wind direction means that a lot of the middle of the race will be crosswinds, but as the road constantly changes, so will the affect that the wind has on the bunch; cross, tail, head wind etc.

It looks as if the run-in will be a cross-head wind, which would not favour a solo rider. But after a tough day on the bike, there might not be much left to chase behind!

Contenders

The defending champion, Chantal Blaak, arrives with a strong team on paper to support her. Yet, I am wary as to how well the Boels team will go because they had to pull out of Dwars mid-week due to widespread illness in the team. For example, Deignan has had to pull out of the race as she is still unwell. Blaak herself has yet to win this season, but she is very consistent over this type of terrain and I wouldn’t rule her out. Likewise, Amy Pieters has performed well but is without a win too. She pulled out Trofeo Binda due to not feeling well so she’ll be hoping to have recovered for this! World Champion Amalie Dideriksen picked up Boels’ first WT win of the season in Ronde van Drenthe and she may well be the teams best chance of another victory here. She is flying at the moment, and her sprint in the final of Van Drenthe was very similar to that of her male WC counterpart.

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Team Sunweb have been my team of the early season so far. They’ve animated every race that they have been entered in and I expect more of the same from them tomorrow! In Brand and Van Dijk they have great options to attack early and try to force splits in the peloton, which I can almost guarantee they will do. Whereas, I imagine Rivera will shadow moves from other teams and be an option for the squad if we get a reduced bunch sprint. She is exceptionally fast and took a dominant win in Trofeo Binda, more of the same here?

Elisa Longo Borghini will be hoping to maintain her WWT lead after this race. The Italian has been exceptional this year so far, finishing inside the top 10 of all three WT events. However, she seemed to struggle here last year, finishing over 2 minutes down. Will her great form compensate for that? I think so. Wiggle also have the luxury of Belgian sprinter come cobbles expert Jolien d’Hoore who I expect to be there at the pointy end of the race.

Orica have been very active in recent races but are without a win to show for it. They once again bring an attacking team, with Van Vleuten, Spratt and Elvin they’ll be hoping to go better here. I would suggest that Van Vleuten is their best option!

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After a 5th place in Dwars, Thalita De Jong has staked her claim for this race. The former Cyclocross World Champion loves tough terrain and I fancy her to go well here. Now riding for the Lares-Waowdeals she will be the de-facto leader and have the full support from her team. Can she cope with the pressure?

Another rider I’m keeping an eye on this season is Lotto’s Lotte Kopecky. The 21 year-old is a great talent and has featured near the front in all of the races she’s entered so far this year. Terribly unfortunate in Van Drenthe, crashing out of the lead group, I imagine she’ll be wanting to make amends here. With a good kick after a tough day, she’s not one to rule out!

There are several riders from other teams who I expect to feature in the top 20, but I don’t have enough time to go over them in-depth;

Uttrup Ludwig and Lepisto (Cervelo),

Hosking and Ensing (Ale Cipollini),

Barnes and Cecchini (Canyon).

Prediction

It will be another attritional race but the cross-head wind on the run in may be detrimental to lone attackers. Unless of course you are Ellen Van Dijk! Therefore, I think we might get a small sprint from around 5 riders and I’ll for a bit of an outsider; Kopecky to win. The extremely talented Belgian should have the speed required to beat her competitors at the end of a tough day!

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Thanks for reading the preview as always, and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Unfortunately, there will be no live coverage but there should be highlights at some point. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Prudential Ride London Classique

Prudential Ride London Classique

Another weekend and another women’s one-day race preview! This time we have the sister event to the men’s Ride London Classic that takes place on Sunday. Following its inauguration in 2013 the race has had a talented list of riders claim the title with Trott (2013), Bronzini (2014) and Guarischi (2015) all coming out on top.

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Guarischi winning last year.

This year the race has taken a step up, and has been granted Women’s World Tour status. Furthermore, the organisers have taken great steps towards equality in cycling by offering the same prize-pool (€100,000) for the men and women. Making the event the most lucrative one-day race in the world!

Now let’s have a look at the course.

The Route

The actual course itself isn’t overly challenging, a 5.5km circuit around some of London’s most famous landmarks/tourist destinations.

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They complete 12 laps of the circuit, totalling 66km of fast racing. The race does gain some elevation. It’s nothing too worrying for the riders but it could be the springboard for some attacks.

How will the race pan out?

As we saw last weekend, these short and sharp women’s races are full gas from the gun! The wide streets of Paris made it difficult for riders to sneak away, however, the roads here give the opportunists more of a chance tomorrow. There are a few narrow, technical sections where gaps can be made. This is particularly evident at the section of the route near Trafalgar Square. You can be sure that Drops Cycling will be very attacking!

Conversely though, the long sections of straight roads do not lend itself to a breakaway sticking to the finish line, with the most likely outcome being some kind of punch sprint. The startlist is packed full of sprinters who will fancy their chances of taking the win. Nonetheless, we may see a break stick if a large proportion of the strong teams have representatives in it, as unlikely as this may be.

I say a sprint finish is 90% the most likely outcome.

The Sprint Contenders

We have our winner from last weekend here: Chloe Hosking.  As usual, the Wiggle High5 team look very strong and much like last weekend, I can imagine Pieters will be given a free role to mark moves in the final 15km. Hosking herself will be very hard to beat in a straight up sprint, she delivered a very impressive and long sprint last weekend. Can she double up here?

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Her biggest threat could be Lotta Lepistö, last weekend’s runner-up. They both produced a similar sprint in France, taking it up from far out. The Cervelo lead-out was a bit all over the place then but I expect it to be better here. The key for Lepistö will be Joëlle Numainville who will no doubt act as the final rider in the train. She finished 4th herself last weekend, but was sprinting behind the Finnish rider. If they get it right here, they could be tough to come round.

Hitec Products main sprinter Kirsten Wild chose not to race at La Course last weekend. On paper, she is probably the fastest rider here winning the Tour de Yorkshire earlier in the year. She will definitely be heavily marked in the sprint and I’d expect a fight for her wheel from some of the sprinters without strong teams.

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Canyon SRAM come here with only 4 riders but have 2 who can challenge on this type of course/finish: Hannah Barnes and Tiffany Cromwell. The latter managed to sprint to 7th last weekend and has been in good form lately, claiming a win at the Giro. Her young team-mate Barnes is British Champion and will want to go well on home roads. The criterium style racing will suit her.

Leah Kirchmann was left bitterly disappointed last weekend. Most of her team were unfortunately taken out in crashes so she was left to fly solo in the final sprint. She started too far back and could only manage 12th. Ably supported by an all-Dutch team, the Canadian will hope to right the wrongs here. A podium will be her minimum aim.

Other sprinters to look out for include Fournier, Rowney, Bastianelli & Confalonieri.

Who could spoil the sprinters party?

Some teams come here without any out and out sprinters so will hope to try and break the race up. The main team in this situation is Boels Dolmans. They have two very capable riders who can win from smaller groups or solo; Lucinda Brand Thalita de Jong. Brand is probably the stronger of the two in a sprint so I imagine she’ll be the more protected rider, but I expect De Jong to try and make the moves throughout the race.

Cylance Pro Cycling will also no doubt try something similar with Carmen Small and Alison Tetrick being the more aggressive riders.

One team I’m looking forward to watching in action is Drops Cycling. The self-proclaimed “most professional amateur team” are a mix of mainly British riders who have been given the opportunity to race on the international scene, competing at the Women’s Tour etc. Their forte however is criterium racing, with Alice Barnes (Hannah’s younger sister) being their key rider. They’ll be prominent towards the front of the field, always trying to be in the moves. I expect a very attacking race from them!

Prediction

As I’ve said above, I think we’ll get a sprint tomorrow. It may not be a full peloton, but it will be of at least 30 riders.

Cervélo (Lepistö) has the best leadout, Wiggle (Hosking) has the rider in form and Hitec (Wild) has the experienced sprinter. However, I think we’ll see a different rider win. Got to stick to blog tradition after all!

After a disappointing result last weekend, I think Liv-Plantur and Kirchmann turn it around here. An incredibly consistent rider, she’s really found her feet in Europe after her transition from American racing. Capable of climbing well, her main asset is her strong sprint. She took a strong sprint win earlier in March, but hasn’t taken a win since then, just numerous podium places and Top 10s. That changes here. Floorte Mackaij will deliver her perfectly within the final 200ms and no-one will catch her!

Drentse Acht van Westerveld 2016

 

Who do you think will win tomorrow? As always, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.