BinckBank Tour 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Lanaken -> Lanaken

Today’s Recap

A sprint but a messy one, thanks to some rain and a crash in the closing kilometre. There was a big fight for control of the bunch in the final 5kms but no-one really managed to dominate but Trek and Bora definitely came out the best, keeping their sprinter in the top 20 riders at all time.

This paid dividends with the crash at the chicane which splintered the peloton. Drucker from BMC attacked, but he was eventually brought back and it was Sagan who launched his sprint first. The Slovak was strong enough to hold on until the line, beating a fast finishing Theuns and Barbier by a wheel.

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Some of the big names were nowhere; see both of the Sky sprinters, Kittel and Démare. Others were there but just didn’t have the room to sprint fully, or started from too far back. Will they turn it around tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The last of the full bunch sprint days.

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Another fairly innocuous day for the bunch though, with no major difficulties out on the route. The wind is low as well so no chance of cross winds, but we might see a few showers by the time we reach the finish which could make things more interesting/dangerous.

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As you can see, there are a lot of technical and tight turns on the run in, with the riders almost doubling back on themselves at a roundabout with 1.5km to go. If the weather is sketchy then the bunch will be stretched out during those sections and being at the front will be the safest. Everyone will know that, which in turn will make it even more dangerous.

Fortunately, there are no major difficulties once the riders have passed the final roundabout at 1.5km to go.

The final kilometre of the race is fairly simple, along a straight road. It does rise ever so slightly at a close to 1% average.

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Not much, but it does make the timing of the sprint more important as you don’t want to go too early.

Contenders

Sagan.

Can he go 3 from 3 in the sprints and really cement his GC title charge? He and Bora were exceptional today in the final 5 kilometres; always in the top 15-20 guys, but not necessarily on the front. Tomorrow’s slight drag to the line is ideal for him as well and he should be once again fighting for the win. My only concern is that on both stages he’s won, he has seemed to open up his sprint just a bit too early, being closed down right at the end when he tires. He’s got away with it both times, but it might not be third time lucky if he does the same tomorrow on the slight drag.

Groenewegen.

His team was strong today and he was another who was up there well positioned in the final 5km. However, he seemed to get a bit boxed in at the end and when he did get a run he didn’t have the power left to challenge. Maybe it was an off day and he’ll bounce back tomorrow?

Theuns.

Close today, but he started his sprint from too far back which ultimately cost him. He was arguably the fastest guy at the finish but it wasn’t enough. Trek did a great job in the finale, controlling things well in the last 5km and if they do the same tomorrow then he has a good chance. The slight drag to the line certainly benefits the Belgian, he’ll just need to be closer to the front this time!

Kittel.

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Pretty awful again today, he seems to be blaming his mental attitude after DNF’ing at the Tour. It is understandable in some ways but as a top-level sprinter you would expect more from him. At least he is honest though! Nonetheless, will that change tomorrow? Nope, I don’t think so.

Démare.

The rider who Kittel seems to be throwing under the bus with him in his tweets. Or at least that’s who I make it out to be anyway. Equally as awful today as the big German, he was way out of contention in the final 2km. His team did show some intent to move him up and he was near the front at 3km to go so I have no idea how he went backwards so quickly. It is hard to write him off (like Kittel) but after what I watched today, it is also very hard to support him for tomorrow’s stage too!

Greipel.

Another rider who Kittel could be talking about, at least the Gorilla was somewhat in contention today. He was actually in a great position coming out of the chicane, sitting in 5th wheel, but as the pace at the head of the group dropped that became his downfall. Swamped on the outside as they rounded the corner at 200m to go, he was boxed in and had nowhere to go, deciding to sit up. Tomorrow’s straight run in should be good for him and Lotto Soudal have looked like one of the more organised teams here. He should be positioned well, it just needs for him to find his killer instinct again if he wants to take the win.

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Cort Nielsen.

He was there or thereabouts again today. Orica weren’t as organised as I expected which was disappointing. They seemed to make a move up towards the front at 3km to go but some road furniture split them up and Cort Nielsen was left to go solo in the end. I maintain that they have the best lead-out train here, and if they get it right tomorrow, he has a great chance.

Bauhaus.

The Sunweb rider was right in the mix again today but he opened up his final sprint way too early. You can see in the image above that he’s pretty much full gas before the final bend in the road. He then died a thousand deaths and finished 10th. Nonetheless, his form

Others of course may get involved such as Van Poppel, Viviani, Barbier, Zabel and so on but I think it’s a fairly extensive in-depth list!

Prediction

Greipel to shake the proverbial monkey off his back and take a stage win tomorrow. Lotto have looked strong so far and I was surprised to see the German so well positioned on the technical run in. If he can stay in the top 15 riders going into the last 1km then he has a great chance on a finish that suits him perfectly.

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Betting

1.25pts EW Greipel @ 9/1 with Bet365.

 

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will Sagan make it three wins? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 7 Preview; Troyes -> Nuits-Saint-Georges

I’ll juxtapose the long and dull stage with a very short preview!

Today’s Recap

Long day in the saddle that ended with a sprint that was won by Kittel. Where have we heard that before?!

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He didn’t make it easy for himself once again though, and at 250m to go he looked too far back to win. Nonetheless, he powered down the centre of the road and won comfortably in the end.

Démare came home second, retaining the green jersey, with Greipel in third.

After the highs of yesterday, it was a poor day for the blog punting wise with Bouhanni coming 5th. He looked good, but just never really got going. He’ll get that podium one time, most likely when I’ve not backed him!

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

The Route

Another zzzzz kind of day, good thing I’m sleeping in the afternoon due to work!

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No major obstacles to worry the fast-men of the peloton and we should see a sprint. There is a slight chance the break makes it but it is very unlikely as FDJ/QS and possibly Lotto Soudal will chase most of the day. It’s only once we get into the second half of the race and Kittel has 5 wins to his name (spoiler alert) that a break might survive on a sprint day.

As for the run-in itself, it is incredibly simple!

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No roundabouts or sharp turns in the final 5kms, just a couple of central reservations to split up the lead-out trains.

This will be a fast, and in theory, an organised sprint. That went out the window on Stage 2 though when we had a similar approach as everyone was fighting for the road and no-one had real control.

I expect that to be rectified tomorrow!

Contenders.

Kittel.

Prediction

Kittel.

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No one can get close to the German.

I thought today’s stage wasn’t great for him and that he might get caught out but tomorrow looks ideal. He won convincingly today with a relatively poor lead-out and coming from far back again, however, I expect him to be better positioned tomorrow. Heck, after today’s performance, he doesn’t have to be!

Démare is his closest rival in terms of both sprint trains and speed, but he’ll come up short again. The battle for the final podium spot will be interesting, can Greipel maintain status quo?!

There’s nothing left to say, so with that…

Betting

After being reluctant in the past to back favourites who are odds on or very short and regret seeing them romp away (every stage at the TDU), I think I’ll finally take the plunge with Kittel tomorrow. In my mind, I’m viewing it as a H2H against the field. Makes it easier to back for some reason!

Still don’t want to go crazy with the stakes just incase he fails. Will make it a tougher pit to crawl my way out of and I don’t want a repeat of the Giro.

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That’s how things are standing so far betting wise. All on Kittel? I think I’ll leave myself some room to throw (waste) some money on breakaway riders over the coming weeks so I’ll go with…

6pts Kittel WIN @10/11 with Betway. Would take 5/6 available elsewhere.

Thanks as always for reading and apologies this is shorter than normal. There’s only so much I can drag it out without it becoming too repetitive! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone stop Kittel? Anyway,

Those were MyTwoSpokesWorth.

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 6 Preview; Vesoul -> Troyes

Today’s Recap

A fast day in the saddle. the race finished a good bit ahead of schedule. With a strong break going from the gun, we easily could have seen them build up a 6-8 minute advantage. However, BMC had other ideas and began setting tempo at the front of the bunch early on, never allowing the advantage to go much further north than 3 minutes.

Once onto Belles Filles itself, Kwiatkowski took over and set a terrific tempo for Sky, resulting in riders slowly being churned out the back of the peloton. Yet, it was such an infernal pace that it put his own team in difficulty. Landa and Henao never managed to put their nose in the wind at all, and it was left to Nieve to take over.

Aru sensed the Spaniard was slowing and attacked with 2.2km to go. A foolish move considering Sky’s ability to drag those attacks back in the past, except he just kept getting further away. Thomas closed down an attack from Yates, but wasn’t able to offer too much more after that so Froome himself went on the offensive. Only Porte, Bardet and Martin could follow the yellow-jersey elect, but after some looking around the group behind caught up again with around 800m to go.

By then though, Aru had the stage in the bag, taking a great victory for the blog! And himself too I guess…

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What really impressed me was the gutsiness of his attack, but more importantly the way he kept driving to the line, only posting up to celebrate once over the finish.

Behind, Martin launched a terrific attack to gain time on the rest and finish second on the day. While Froome managed to pip Porte to third. I’m sure the latter will be disappointed after his team did most of the work today.

There’s still a long way to go and plenty of mountains left, just not mountain top finishes, but it is promising that it isn’t going to be a complete two-horse race.

The GC riders will take a back foot tomorrow with the sprinters having another chance at glory. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for them.

The Route

A fairly benign and long day in the saddle at 216km – it is a typical transitional stage!

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Nothing major to note until we get towards the finish in Troyes. I got mildly excited when looking at the weather forecasts as we do have some 25m/h crosswinds early in the stage but they die down once we get to 50km to go. So we won’t see any echelon action!

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The final 5km gets progressively more technical. Aside from a roundabout at around 5.5km to go, the lead-outs will be able to organise themselves and we’ll no doubt see a big fight to get to the tight turn just before 2km to go first.

From there, the road slowly bends around to the right. Holding the inside line will force opposition teams to take the outside route, elongating their own run in, and potentially tiring them out/ruining their timing.

More crucially though, it is important to be at the front going under the flamme rouge as things will get messy.

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Just as they pass under the kite the riders will be faced with this roundabout where they will be funnelled around the right-hand side. Well, according to the road book anyway.

The riders will then have to contend with another roundabout at what appears to be ~250m to go.

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However, it is not as bad as it sounds, with it really only being a slight kink in the road. The worst part though is that the road narrows from three lanes to two and some riders might find themself running out of space!

Contenders

With some of the key sprinters now gone from the race or injured, we should in theory have a safer run-in as fewer people will be competing for the win.

Démare has had the best/most consistent results out of all the sprinters so far with a second place and a win to his name. He was somewhat lucky to get away with cutting across Bouhanni on Stage 4 but there is no doubt he is one of the strongest here. He has a lead-out train long/strong enough to control it in the final 2kms but they’ve been disappointing so far. Can they turn it around tomorrow and see Démare take a second win?

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Kittel was never in it on Stage 4. Positioned too far back, he never got close to the top 10 of the race before it was decimated by the crashes. Another lead-out that was fairly disappointed, with a team as good as QuickStep, you would expect them to turn that around tomorrow. The crazy on sprint on stage 2 shows the German has form, but will he be in a position to show that again?

With Cavendish and Sagan now gone, it certainly opens up the sprints more and in theory should make them less chaotic as we’ll have fewer lead-out trains fighting for position.

Kristoff and his Katusha team were keen to do some work on Stage 4 but possibly took it up too early. The Norwegian came away with a second place but I’m not too sure what we can fully read into it. I’m still not convinced he’s as strong as he was in 2015 but with Zabel he has a very good last man he can trust. Another podium is a possibility.

Greipel picked up another podium on Stage 4 but he seemed to be really struggling today and was one of the first riders dropped. Ill? Or was he just using his experience and saving as much energy as possible?

Bouhanni is one that interests me a bit for tomorrow. Clearly riding himself back into a bit of form after his crash in Yorkshire, he was unlucky to be blocked by Démare on Stage 4. The technical final kilometre should suit the brave Frenchman and he does have the speed to compete. Will the win be too much? Only 1.19% (or 1/84) of the previous 4 Tour stages have been won by a rider riding at Pro-Conti level.

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Credit to @padsbets for that stat.

Groenewegen, Colbrelli and Matthews will be close and fighting for the top 5 but they should get a top 10.

Prediction

Kittel will return to winning ways!

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But I think we’ll see Bouhanni sneak onto the podium, the finish looks good for him. Just need Démare to stay out of his way!

Betting

Not willing to risk Kittel at his odds, so I’m once again going with a better value play on Bouhanni.

1pt EW Bouhanni @ 16/1 with SkyBet. (Would take 14s lowest elsewhere).

After two successful H2Hs in a row, I’ll play the profit up for tomorrow. The 3.6pt was turned into 7.92pt today so I’ll put…

4pt Bouhanni to beat Greipel @5/4 with WillHill.

Risky, but I like the Frenchman’s trajectory.

 

Thanks as always for reading, who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be an easy win for Kittel or will someone else challenge him? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Mondorf-les-Bains -> Vittel

Today’s Recap

An exciting finale that had a little bit of everything but in the end the result was inevitable, wasn’t it? After managing to clip back into his pedal after unclipping, Sagan still had enough power to hold off a charging Matthews on the line to take a great stage victory.

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Dan Martin was the best of the GC guys, coming home in third place and taking 4 bonus seconds on the line plus a 2 second time gap back to the main GC group. Yates was the worst off today, losing 8 seconds to the likes of Froome/Porte etc.

A special mention must also go to Démare who managed to hold on to the wheels of the climbers and eventually finished 6th. He’s in stupendous form at the moment!

Will he get a chance to go for the win tomorrow?

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

The Route

A fairly simple stage with not too much to talk about!

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It should be a day for the sprinters so the stage is all about the final few kilometres.

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The road does rise and fall in the final 5kms but it’s nothing too severe. The climb that you see on the profile above averages roughly 1.8% for 2kms, so nothing more than false flat. Likewise, the finish itself does ramp up but it is only 1.7% for the final kilometre.

I’m sure all of the sprinters would expect to be there!

As for the run-in itself, it is more technical than what we had on stage 2.stage-4-5km

So here comes a little preview by pictures…

The first challenge the riders will have to face is the turn onto Rue de la Vauviard after they come off the short descent.

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Having gathered up a lot of pace, they’ll have to be careful not to misjudge the bend as it is a lot tighter than I expected going off of the stage map. From there, they will face a sweeping road until the “tight turn” at roughly 1.5km to go.

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Said “tight turn”

On a two-lane wide road the fight for position will be important as the best way to take the turn at maximum speed is to sweep from left to right. From there, they continue towards a roundabout which is a lot more precarious than the road book suggests.

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The two lanes that they approach on are split by some nasty looking road furniture, with the roundabout itself being very narrow. I hope we don’t see any accidents as every tries to funnel right.

Once through the roundabout the riders will hit the Flamme Rouge and from there things get a lot easier with no more sharp turns and slightly wider roads.

Conteders

Can anyone beat Kittel? Probably not.

The German was incredibly strong on the opening stage and if he produces the same amount of power tomorrow then he should eat up the finish. He will be hoping for a better lead-out though as he can’t afford to go too early on the rise as it could catch him (or anyone) out.

Démare again looks like his main challenger. The Frenchman missed his structured lead-out on stage 1 and he’ll bo hoping that changes tomorrow. They have the numbers to control the final 3km which is a huge advantage. Not afraid of a slight drag to the line, he has a good chance of going better than stage 2.7087035_1-0-1561477825_1000x625

Greipel loves a tougher sprint finish like this and he no doubt will be there at the end again. His train isn’t the best, he’ll need to use all of his experience to stay near enough to the front through the technical sections.

Cavendish took some promise from his result on stage 2. With another day of racing in his legs, will his form be on the up? Who knows! I’ll repeat what I said for the last sprint stage, his result won’t surprise me either way!

Bouhanni is the local boy and he will relish the technical finish. However, I’m still not convinced he’s at 100% after his crash in Yorkshire. He’ll give it his all and like Cavendish, I won’t be surprised with whatever he does.

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Groenewegen normally goes well on tougher run ins. The young Dutchman has no fear so he should be well positioned going into the final kilometre. Does he have the legs to compete with the best? A 5th on Stage 2 was promising and he may well sneak a podium tomorrow.

Matthews produced a very impressive final few hundred metres today, but it was too little too late. Not the fastest in a pan-flat sprint, the ever so slight gradient does bring him closer to the other sprinters.

Degenkolb was never really involved in the sprint on stage 2 and he might struggle with a lack of support. However, he looked very strong at the start of the year and you have to imagine that he will be close to that form again due to it being the Tour. If things click tomorrow, we might see a good result from the German sprinter.

Sagan will of course be up there again. Hampered on Stage 2, he was truly exceptional today. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go back to back.

Colbrelli and Kristoff will looking to top 10 again.

Prediction

Boring, but Kittel wins again most likely!

Cue the glaringly obvious Kittel wins in Vittel headlines.

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He certainly can be challenged though and a few riders will fancy their chances, it won’t be as “easy” for him as it was on stage 2.

Betting

No value in Kittel but there are two “outsiders” I’d like to back because the odds are just ridiculous for them.

0.7pt EW Matthews @ 80/1 with PP/BF (Would take 66s)

The Sunweb rider actually has a fairly solid lead-out train with him and theory could be one of the better positioned riders in the finale tomorrow. He got blocked off on Stage 2 so could never really make any effort to go for the win. His finish today gives me a lot of confidence in his power right now and I think he could be up there tomorrow again. Definitly should be lower than a 66 or 80/1 shot.

0.3pt EW Degenkolb @150/1 with Sky/PP/BF (would take 125s)

He’s not been great as of late but that doesn’t warrant his massive price, I think his form is actually on the up. Another rider who didn’t really sprint at all on Stage 2, he might get lucky tomorrow. I find it absurd that he’s that price while McClay/Kristoff/Colbrelli are all shorter, and by some margin.

Probably another two losing “value” bets, but they could run close in a hectic finish.

 

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.

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Düsseldorf -> Liège

Today’s Recap

Luck, bravery and a stonkingly strong effort from Thomas saw him take Yellow at the end of a very tricky and tough day.

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Don’t think many people would have predicted that!

Küng and Kiryienka rounded out the podium, with Froome being the best GC rider (not including Thomas of course), beating his closest rivals by around 25 seconds.

It was a course fraught with danger due to the wet and greasy surface which unfortunately meant several riders crash. The #HaugheyCurse already managed to rear its head on stage one with Roglic going down and ruling him out of stage contention. However, more disappointingly we’ve had two abandons in the form of Valverde and Izagirre, both of whom were top 10 contenders for the overall at the very least.

The organisers will be looking for a much more mundane day out tomorrow. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

A fairly flat day out where the sprinters should get their first chance to go for stage glory.

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We should see a fairly exciting start to the day as several riders will no doubt be gunning for the early KOM. After that though it should be a fairly benign day as they travel through Germany until the terrain starts to get more rolling once they enter Belgium and the province of Liège.

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We do have some uncategorised rises and a Cat-4 climb that crests with 20km to go but they should be of no difficulty to the fast men.

The run is a sprinters delight and I’m sure the GC riders will be happy with it too, no first road stage nervousness!

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Facing a few technical turns, the biggest difficulty is a right-handed turn at 3km to go. After that, it will be a drag race between the lead-out trains with the final kilometre being dead straight.

Weather Watch

One thing that could upset the apple cart though is the weather. We might have a few showers throughout the day and there are some consistent winds forecast throughout the day.

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Weather forecast for Aachen (Source: Windfinder)

Strong enough to create some echelons when the route is heading South/South-West (so most of the stage), I will be intrigued to see if any team tries to split it in the wind.

It’s quite hard to tell how exposed some of the course is due to the strange reason that Google Streetview hasn’t covered any of the area south of Mönchengladbach. Can anyone tell me why?!

Looking at the satellite images, it appears like flat German farmland that could be fairly exposed to the wind.

As for when the riders enter Belgium, we have typical small Belgian towns, some exposed roads but some fairly well sheltered.

I think it’s unlikely we’ll see any splits but you never know. Some teams/riders are already facing an uphill battle on GC so if they sense any opportunity they’ll go for it.

Sprint Contenders 

The first sprint of a Tour is always an interesting one as riders/teams aren’t sure of what to expect. Everyone will fancy their chances so it often leads to a rather chaotic finale. It will also be a cross-headwind finish so timing your effort will be important.

Marcel Kittel starts as the favourite for the day. The German has a team built to support him and it is arguably one of the longest proper sprint trains that we’ve seen in a Grand Tour since the HTC days. Quick Step will be able to put the power down in the closing few kilometres and with Sabatini (Kittel’s trusted lead-out man) dropping him off at 150m to go, will anyone be able to beat him?

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Arnaud Démare on current form looks like his main challenger, with the Frenchman dominant in his last few races. The reason I said “arguably” for Kittel’s lead-out is that Deémare will have everyone in his team apart from Pinot working for him. The signings of Cimolai and Guarnieri have really brought some high-end speed into the top end of the order. He might not beat Kittel when the German is up to full race speed but since he’s not raced in a while, Démare has every chance. I’m sure he’ll be doing his rain dance too!

Peter Sagan will be close to the top of the order, like always! He really seems to up his game in the sprints at the Tour and is one of the fastest riders here. Sagan doesn’t really have a lead-out train to the same extent as Kittel and Demare do but he still has some fire power. Selig will be his last man and he’s a rider who I’ve really rated this season, he’s done great work for Bennett etc, so he’ll be expected to continue that for Sagan here. Can the World Champion make an early claim for Green with a win?

Andre Greipel is a bit of a hit or miss character in the sprints recently and I think it is clear he’s sorely missing Henderson. Lotto Soudal shortened their lead-out train on the final day of the Tour last year and it seemed to work for them then so they’ve taken a similar approach this year. He’ll more than likely have to latch onto the back of someone elses lead-out and I think it will be tough for him to take the win, but he is certainly strong enough on his day to do so.

Mark Cavendish is the unknown quantity. He says he doesn’t know where his form is, although he most definitely will, and I’m intrigued to see how he copes. With a strong lead-out, he is almost capable of anything tomorrow. I would not be surprised with a win or if he was nowhere.

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Dylan Groenewegen has the speed and fearlessness to get himself a podium position. He recently beat Kittel and Greipel at Ster ZLM so will be full of confidence, although he did struggle at the Nationals recently. I think he would prefer the finish to be a bit more technical. He has a chance but it will be tough!

As for the rest, they should be there or thereabouts but I think it will be hard for them to win.

Prediction

Arnaud Démare to take advantage of his fine form while he can and take the win, sending the French public/media into disarray!

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Betting

As I said yesterday, today was most likely to be a no bet and it will remain that way. Almost tempted with a couple of loose change punts on Naesen and Lutsenko at crazy prices and do my wind dance. I think I’ll save my money though to waste on future stages!

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Green Jersey Preview

While a lot of the cycling world bemoans the easier route for this year’s Tour, there is one group of riders who will be happy with the flatter parcours: the sprinters.

The organisers have been kind to the fast men, with there looking to be 7 sprint stages but that could be increased to 9 or even 10 depending on how the peloton attacks the race.

Having won the jersey for the last 5 years in a row, Sagan is the rider to beat.

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Can he make it 6 this season?

First though, let’s have a look at how the points system works.

Scoring Points

The stages are categorised based on their difficulty, with the easier stages awarding more points to the winner at the end of the day.

The following table comes from @searchhhh on the Velorooms forums, that I have tea-leafed because I’m too lazy to make it myself!

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As for which stages fall into each category;

  • Stages 2, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 19, 21 are Cat 1, i.e. score maximum points
  • Stages 3, 5 , 8, 14, 15, 16 are Cat 2
  • Stages 1, 9, 12, 13, 17, 18, 20 are Cat 3

With 8 stages that reward 50 points at the line, it is possible for a dominant sprinter to build up a strong points tally. The sprinters will have to come out firing if they want to contest green because half of the “big” sprint stages come in the opening week of racing.

Sagan normally makes his mark by winning the Cat-2 stages and being close on the Cat-1 days. However, this year 3 and 14 look like the only days where we could have a reduced bunch sprint. Stage 5 will be a GC day and so could stage 8, with stage 15 looking like a breakaway day. Furthermore, Stage 16 actually looks like a stage where most of the sprinters could make it to the line as most of the climbing comes in the first half of the day.

Another way that Sagan cements his position in Green is by going on the hunt for the intermediate sprint points during the more rolling stages as his competitors normally can’t follow in the breakaway these days.

Yet, this year the organisers have seemed to “nerf” that aspect of his attack, with having most of the intermediate sprints on flatter parts of the route and before the big obstacles on the day. It’s really only on stages 9/15/17 that they’re in places inaccessible to most sprinters!

Even Stage 9 might be a little hard for Sagan to chase the points…

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Therefore, there is certainly a lot more emphasis on placing highly at the end of stages this year and picking up some minor points at the intermediates to keep the tally ticking over.

Contenders

With all that being said though, Sagan is still the clear favourite for the jersey. He looked lightning fast at the recent Tour de Suisse and he always ups his game in the sprints at the Tour. Even if he doesn’t win any of the flat stages, he’ll no doubt podium in at least 3 of them while picking up top 5s in a lot of the others. That will give him a good base of points to go and pick up some more during Stage 3 etc and some mountain breakaways.

So a rough points total for him could be;

2 Cat-2 wins (60pts), 2 Cat-1 2nds (50pts), 2 Cat-1 3rds (40pts), Top 10s in Cat-1s (~50 – 70pts), Intermediate Sprints (~70 – 100 pts) = 270 -> 320pts as an estimate.

A tough score to beat, but not impossible.

Kittel looks like Sagan’s biggest challenger, on paper anyway. Arguably the fastest sprinter in the world, a lot of these flatter stages will suit the fantastically haired German. His Tour didn’t go to plan last year, only winning one stage in the end. Not great for a man of his abilities. He’ll be hoping to go a lot better this year and that Cavendish arrives undercooked. If so, he could feasibly win 4 of the 8 Cat-1 stages, and get close on some others.

Picking up a few podiums and top 5s on the other stages as well as some intermediate sprint points, he will be there or thereabouts with Sagan’s total. It looks promising for him to launch a proper tilt at the Green Jersey this year.

Marcel-Kittel

And what about Cavendish? He took me and almost everyone else by surprise last year with his dominant performance in the sprints after seemingly coming into the Tour not on great form and possibly past his prime. This year, he faces an even tougher battle after recovering from the Epstein Barr Virus and only returning to racing a couple of weeks ago at the Tour of Slovenia. He only managed a second place there and was OTL at the British Championships (not a great sign but only 12 riders came home in time) so it’s not looking too good for his chances this year. Yet…

Now, you can call me crazy, but I have a feeling he will turn up and will be going well. Dimension Data won’t have wasted a spot for him on their team if he was going to use the first week as training, hoping to pick up a win later on in the race. Furthermore, a telling sign is that they’ve brought a strong lead-out train with them. That train could well be for Boasson Hagen, but it seems a bit over the top if it’s just for him.

On form, Cavendish is as fast as Kittel so he could well repeat last season’s performance and win 4 stages, putting him right in contention for the Green jersey. I’m certainly not ruling him out, that’s for sure.

Greipel will pick up his regular Grand Tour stage but at the Giro he went missing a lot in the sprints so he’ll need to be a lot more consistent to challenge for the jersey and I can’t see that happening.

Arnaud Démare is France’s best hope for a long time to win the Green jersey. He has been exceptional this year and his win at the recent French Nationals was truly dominant. As close to being a tier-1 sprinter without being one, he may well move up the rankings after this Tour. I expect good things from him this race and he is the most likely of all French riders to win a stage. With a team almost 100% focussed around him, the pressure will be on. Will he thrive under that pressure or crumble?

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I can’t really see anyone else being consistent enough to challenge for the jersey.

Groenewegen is a great talent but he has the propensity to be 1st or nowhere at times. A stage win for him would be a great result and that’s certainly a possibility, but to challenge for the jersey will be too tough an ask.

Matthews (as much as I like and rate him), is a poor man’s Sagan for this competition. Not as fast as others on the flat, not a good enough climber to win mountainous breakaway days.

The same can be said for Colbrelli.

Kristoff has been poor this season and his team seems to be against him.

Bouhanni still seems to be suffering from his crash in Yorkshire, possibly a lack of confidence which is surprising for him.

Prediction

Don’t get me wrong, Sagan should win the jersey again. He is fast enough to compete on the flat stages and strong enough to be there at the end when no other sprinters are. However, I just have a feeling that Cavendish will be as electric as he was last year and dominate the flat sprints.

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I expect this to all fall flat on its face when he doesn’t contest the sprint on Stage 2…

Betting

Now, it’s obviously a gamble but hey, that’s what betting is about!

If Cavendish is on fire, his current price is massive. If he is still under the weather, it is grossly under-priced. It would kill me to see him romp away with some stages this year knowing exactly what he did last year. Therefore, I’m willing to take the “gamble” on his form and back him EW for the Green Jersey and almost accept it could be a losing bet.

1pt EW Cavendish for Green Jersey @ 18/1 with Bet365 (and others)

Make sure you get 1/4 odds for 3 places, as some bookies are going 1/3 odds for 2.

Also, as I won’t be putting out any more Tour blogs until the stage 1 preview on Friday, I’ve backed Lotto Jumbo (0.5pt on) for the Team Classification @ 80/1 with Betfair. Would take 66s availalbe elsewhere.

Bit of an outside bet but they have an AG2R of 2013 feel about them where they should have 2 guys near the front of most stages and will be looking for breakaway success too.

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win the Green Jersey? Is Sagan a shoe-in? And have I really lost the plot before the Tour has even started?

I’ll have my “Big fuck off” Giro Rosa guide out tomorrow which I would greatly appreciate if you shared and have a read of! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2017 Stage 5 Preview; La Tour-de-Salvagny -> Mâcon

*Previews will be “short” for the rest of the week as don’t have a lot of free time on my hands, especially when I’ll be doing three a day come this weekend when the Tour de Suisse starts. Sorry!*

Today’s Recap

A barnstorming performance from Porte saw him beat the current World Champion (Tony Martin) by 12 seconds with Valverde a very impressive third place.

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Froome and Contador shipped a bit of time to the Australian, but nothing that will concern them too much. Although with the way Porte has been climbing this year, it might do!

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

The Route

A rolling day but one that should end in a sprint.

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The peloton will climb from the gun, albeit briefly, with a short and sharp climb that averages 8.6%. I’m sure there will be several riders on the rollers who will be looking to get into the morning breakaway.

From there, we have some small uncategorised lumps and a Cat-4 climb before the main test of the day: the Cat-2 Col du Fut d’Avenas. Averaging 5.1% for 8.8km, it certainly will drain the sprinters legs but it surely comes too far out from the finish to be of any major difficulty for them. That is unless of course a team decides to up the tempo!

The road then “rolls” for the second half of the day, with lots of small uncategorised peaks.

The riders will pick up some speed for a technical finale as the road descends ever so slightly from the 4km to go banner for just over a kilometre.

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We have several tight turns, twists and kinks, and even a roundabout to contend with in the closing kilometres. A strong lead-out train and good positioning will be important, but thankfully most of the technical aspects are finished by 1.5km to go so things shouldn’t be too chaotic!

Contenders

The stage should end in a sprint but we’ve only had one stage won by the bunch so far in this race so who knows!

Nonetheless, with the days to come, I would expect the sprint teams to take control as this will be their last opportunity of the race.

Démare on current form seems to be the fastest rider, having won stage 2 and the bunch sprint on stage 3. His lead-out train seems to be firing well too, so he is certainly the rider to beat. He has gone missing in the past in technical finishes but with his confidence levels sky-high just now, I can’t see that being the case!

Coquard at least got a bit closer on stage 3 but it is hard to tell how hard some of the other guys were trying once they knew the stage was gone. He won’t be a massive fan of the flat finish.

Boasson Hagen has been knocking on the door all week but hasn’t managed to take advantage of his good form. Can Thwaites drop him off in the perfect position?

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Bouhanni will thrive in the technical run in and with one of the most dedicated teams here, they should be able to take control of the race earlier than others. Will they have enough men left from 1.5km to go to deliver Bou-Bou into the right place?

Kristoff is another rider that will benefit from a strong team around him. They were strong on stage 2 but seemed to run out of steam just too early. The Norwegian was apparently suffering from a cold but is he over that now?

Ackermann, Bauhaus, Colbrelli, Richeze and Swift should all be there or thereabouts too.

Prediction

I’ll go for a French win, but not the rider you might expect. I’m hoping after the past few stages that Bouhanni will be up to race speed again and even more competitive than his third place on stage 2.

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*insert fighting cliché* 😜.

Betting

No value, no bet.

Thanks as always for reading, and once again apologies for the ever so slightly shorter format. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2017 Stage 3 Preview; Le Chambon-sur-Lignon -> Tullins

*Short preview as I’m short of time – too busy making Women’s Tour profiles. Normal service shall resume tomorrow!*

Today’s Recap

We did end up with a big bunch sprint and it was Arnaud Démare who powered his way to stage victory, winning by a comfortable margin in the end!

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Kristoff and Bouhanni rounded out the podium. A good result for the Frenchman considering the crash he suffered in Yorkshire not so long ago.

As for the blog pick of Boasson Hagen, he was up fighting in the top 10 riders in the closing kilometres but unfortunately went backwards/lost position at the wrong time. He eventually recovered to finish 6th and I’m sure he’ll give it another go tomorrow!

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

The Route

Another rolling day but the easiest stage so far.

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We have several small climbs out on course but the last one (Côte de Roybon) comes too far from the finish line to be of any detriment to the sprinters.

The run in to the line is fairly simple as well, much to the delight of the sprint trains.

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There are a couple of roundabouts to traverse, and the one taken at just after 1km to go could cause some issues but aside from that there are no other difficulties. The road does rise ever so slightly in the last kilometre but it’s only at 0.8% so it should make no real difference!

Weather Watch

On a relatively easy day, the one thing that could derail the sprinters chances is the weather.

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Source: Wunderground

It looks as if we will get rain at some point during the stage but it should have disappeared from the finishing town (where the above forecast is from) by the time we reach there.

However, slick roads could lead to a more nervous peloton!

Nonetheless, it should end in a sprint.

Contenders

We’ll have all the usual suspects competing for victory.

Can Démare double up? He certainly looked very strong today and his two-man lead-out timed their move to the front perfectly. It is a move we’ve seen them do quite a bit recently: his win over Bouhanni in GP de Denain was very similar. Having his best season so far, I would not be surprised to see him on the top spot of the podium again.

Kristoff did well to get up for second but that was mainly thanks to his great lead-out. He never seemed to have the kick to match Demare when the Frenchman launched his sprint. In my opinion, he still doesn’t look back to top form and if he’s out of position I can’t see him coming around anyone. Nonetheless, he is a great sprinter so can’t be discounted!

Bouhanni looked fairly strong today but I think he benefited greatly from following Demare up the inside line, using his compatriots slipstream. I’m still not convinced his form is fully there yet but you can never discount Bou-Bou.

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Colbrelli and his Bahrain team looked strong in the final 5km but they seemed to run out of steam at roughly 1km to go. The Italian managed to finish strongly but I think he would need a tougher finish than the one we have tomorrow.

Bauhaus impressed me today, as did his Sunweb lead-out train. Like Bahrain, they seemed to come to the party early, but were one of the teams with the most numbers in the closing kilometres. If they can get the timing right tomorrow, I think the young German can spring a surprise, he was finishing fast today!

Ackermann, Swift, Boasson Hagen, Coquard and Richeze should all be in or around the top 10 again.

Prediction

It will be tough to beat Démare as he seems to be in great shape at the moment. Nonetheless, I still think he can be beaten and I’m looking towards a team buoyed by confidence at the moment to do just that.

Bauhaus appears to have the speed to match the best and if his Sunweb team can lead into and through the final roundabout with a few guys ahead of him, I think he is able to challenge for the win. Using those Giro legs to his advantage!

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Betting

1pt EW Bauhaus @ 12/1 (with Bet365)

Awful price for everyone, but at least it gives an interest

 

Thanks as always for reading and as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Apologies again for the shorter preview, but there’s not really much extra to say anyway! I’ll have two previews out tomorrow; Dauphine Stage 4 and my OVO Women’s Tour Stage 1/GC Preview.

Speaking of which, join my Velogames.com league for the Tour, use the code “05185053” to gain entry. No prizes on offer, just pride!

Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Paris Roubaix 2017 Preview

Paris Roubaix 2017 Preview

The “Hell in the North” and self-titled “Queen of the Classics” (I’d like to argue about that – it’s no Flanders!) returns this weekend for its 115th edition this weekend. I mean it’s still a cobbled monument, so I’m not going to complain!

Last year’s race saw Mat Hayman take a rather incredible, fairytale victory which I’m sure you’ve already read a lot about this week.

Paris-Roubaix

Can he upset all odds and repeat the feat, or will we get another fairytale with a Boonen win?

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

The Route

You know the score by now; 257km including 29 sectors (55km) of pave. Again, I’m not going to bore you with a massive route analysis (like normal), there are plenty of those floating around this week anyway!

PROFIL

The first 150km will sap the legs and I wouldn’t expect too much attacking early on, but you never know after the past few cobbles races we’ve had.

It will be interesting to see who makes the “early” break. I say early, as last year it took over 70km for something to finally go!

The Arenberg will more than likely kick off the action in the peloton and from there anything and everything could happen throughout the afternoon.

A race of attrition and team tactics follows with the notable Carrefour de l’Arbre coming only 15km from the finish line. Will things all still be together then? Will a rider have gone solo? Or will we see a small group?

After that, they have 3 more sections but nothing too tricky on the run in to the famous Roubaix velodrome.

How will the race pan out?

Your guess is as good as mine!

The riders will be happy that the weather is good and there seems to be no wind, but that normally leads to a very fast race from the gun. That coincides with the approach we’ve seen teams take in the cobbled races this year; attacking from further out and trying to split the race up early.

Having a number of strong riders in a squad is important so that someone is always up front, following the moves, meaning that team-mates behind can rest-up.

I think we’ll once again see an attacking race here and it might not be the favourites for the race who come away with the victory.

Contenders

All the pre-race coverage is about Boonen, with this being the last professional race of his career. He hopes to bow out with a win and become the most successful rider at Paris Roubaix of all time!

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I’m going to be very controversial here and say that I don’t care for a Boonen win that much, indifferent is what I would call it. I’m not sure if that’s because I only started following the sport in 2008 and properly started paying attention to all the races in 2010 or so. I can understand the hype around him; he’s going well just now and looked strong in Flanders and Schelderprijs. But I think people are getting too emotional with how much they are hyping him up. He’s been talked up so much that he is now pretty much joint favourite and if I’m honest, I’ve not seen enough from him this year for that to be justified. Benefiting from being on the strongest team, he may well go on to win, which would certainly make for a great story. However, in the words of Simon Cowell…

its a no

Quick Step do have several other riders who can win this race, such as Terpstra, Stybar and Lampaert. The former I have banged on for pretty much all of this month and if it wasn’t for QS supposedly working for Boonen 100%, I’d be all over Terpstra like a rash again. If there is one rider who won’t follow team-orders though, it is the Dutchman. He clawed back the gap on the Paterberg to a fallen GVA convincingly in Flanders, taking around 30 seconds out of Gilbert on that climb. He is clearly going exceptionally well. A former winner of the race, I would not be surprised to see him attacking at some point, and he might solo to victory again!

Sagan was left bitterly disappointed after Flanders, but that’s the risk you take for riding close to the barriers. He looked bashed up at the time but seemed to be going OK in his Scheldeprijs training ride. Often underperforming in this race (his best result is 6th in 2014), I think he finds the easier parcours harder to create gaps on. Furthermore, there is a good chance he will once again be marked out of the race and unlike Flanders, he doesn’t have the tough cobbled climbs to just ride away from everyone. It’s hard to write off the World Champion, but I’m putting my neck on the line and doing just that!

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Greg Van Avermaet starts as my favourite for this race. He’s the form rider of the year so far and if not for the crash in Flanders, he had a great chance of winning that too. Even with that unfortunate moment, he managed to get himself up quickly and still sprint for second place. A rider who can win a small sprint but also isn’t afraid to attack, he has a great chance of winning. I wonder if teams will now show him the same type of respect/fear as they do Sagan? They should, if not, it could be game over for them!

Oliver Naesen has carried on his incredible trajectory to the top of cobbled classic racing. Following on from a strong season last year, he has been even better this year! He seemed to be able to cope with Sagan and GVA in Flanders but unfortunately was taken down in that crash. Sustaining an injury to his knee, he worked hard in Scheldeprijs to test it out and things seem to be OK. Like his training partner Van Avermaet, the Belgian isn’t afraid to attack and I think he will benefit from still be underrated within the peloton.

Aside from those guys, some other names to conjure with are Kristoff, Stannard and Demare, who have all shown good form at points throughout the year. They won’t be the favourites, but can’t be discounted.

There are two proper outsiders (triple figures with the bookmakers) that I’d like to mention.

First up is Edward Theuns. I imagine he’ll be one of the riders given the role of following early attacks, allowing his team-leader Degenkolb to rest behind. Yet, as I said in my Flanders preview, I still think the German is missing that 5% and doesn’t look as good as he did when he won here in 2015. Theuns is capable enough to step-up and with a bit of luck he has a chance, packing a fast sprint after a tough day. I really do hope he is given free rein tomorrow and the Trek DS doesn’t put all their eggs in a Degenkolb shaped basket!

Dwars door Vlaanderen

The other is Dylan Groenewegen. Possibly not the first name to spring to the forefront of your thoughts, this will be the youngster’s first Paris Roubaix. He is someone who I think can go really well in this type of race in the future! Much more than a fast sprinter, he can cope with a hard day in the saddle and with the route being flat, it should suit his characteristics. Like Theuns, with a bit of luck and being in the right move, he could be up there at the end of the day.

Prediction

As I’ve said above, Greg Van Avermaet is my favourite on paper, but this race isn’t won on paper and I think teams will finally approach him the same way that they do with Sagan. That will leave it open to a “lesser” rider, although it’s offensive to call him that after the season he’s had. Oliver Naesen will complete his classics transformation and take an incredible victory!

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Betting

1pt EW Naesen @25/1 with PP/Betfair (paying 4 places – would take down to 20s)

1pt WIN Terpstra @16/1 with various (wouldn’t take less)

The two bets I mentioned yesterday;

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

0.25pt EW Groenewegen @250/1 (would take 150/1)

One H2H;

5pts Arndt to beat Laporte at 1/1 with Bet365. (Would take 4/6 lowest)

The German is a very solid one-day racer and finished reasonably well in Flanders. Not so sure about the Frenchman’s credentials on this terrain.

 

Thanks for reading as always and any feedback is greatly appreciated (especially some RTs on Twitter 😉). Who do you think will win the race and how will they do it?! I’m looking forward to what should be a good day’s racing. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.