Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race 2018 Preview

Billed as Australia’s answer to the spring classics, Cadel’s Race offers some exciting one-day action early in the season.

The past three editions have seen one solo winner (Kennaugh in 2016) with the other two editions being won via a reduced bunch sprint.

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2017’s champion, Nikias Arndt, returns for this season but can he double up tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

After having the same final circuit in the first three editions, the organisers have decided to alter it ever so slightly. They’ve taken out the climb of Hyland Road and bypassed some other areas, meaning the circuit is cut down to 17km from the 20km or so it was previously.

Furthermore, they’ll enter the circuit before the famous Challambra climb this year, meaning that the riders will have to tackle it 4 times throughout the afternoon, not the 3 it has been in previous years.

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@LasterketaBurua

So the organisers have somehow managed to make the race both easier and more difficult at the same time.

The removal of Hyland Road means that the only meaningful place to put in an attack on the circuit is Challambra. Of course, we could see attacks go throughout the Geelong circuit but the biggest differences should be made on the climb, in theory.

Challambra

It is a tough little climb as well, with the steepest section coming right at the top. However, as it is only 1km long, some of the stronger, heavier guys in the bunch can hold on to the coat tails of the climbers. If they can maintain the power that is!

Michael Woods holds the all important Strava KOM for the segment, clocking in at 2’28 in last years race. Interestingly, that was set on the second passage of the climb when he chased down Sebastian Henao, with the third effort taking 7 seconds more.

More importantly though, the summit of Challambra this year is only 9.2km from the finish unlike the 12.2km it was in 2017. Given that the first 2.5km of that is an incredibly fast descent, then an attack over Challambra sounds more appealing than in previous years.

A chase will need to be quick to organise, if a strong, small group of riders escape.

Weather Watch

With the TDU having been effected by searingly hot conditions last week, the riders probably won’t be pleased to hear the potential 39-degrees that could be about tomorrow.

Thankfully, there is meant to be some cloud cover throughout the day, but it will still be around 35 degrees in the afternoon when the riders are finishing.

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Source: Bureau of Meteorology

How will the race pan out?

Anyone’s guess.

History would suggest that it will be a selective finale, with a possible late move or small bunch sprint to the line.

The change to the route could make it more selective, or it could see the race stick together. I really don’t have an idea as to which way it will go!

Given that Challambra is the only meaningful place to attack and distance the fast men, I hope to see some teams really step up the pace in the opening two ascents. It is quite far out at 40km to go, but it is what is needed if they are looking to make the race as difficult as possible.

If that does happen, then we could see some attacks go on the penultimate passage, and with the correct riders and teams represented, it might just well stick to the line. If a group doesn’t go on the penultimate lap, then we’ll see the riders sprint up Challambra for the final time. Can Porte make it the new Willunga?

Yet, we could quite easily see a defensive race.

Teams might be afraid to take it up on the opening laps, cruising over the first two ascents. Consequently, the faster men in the bunch will be a lot fresher going into the final two laps meaning they would be much more likely to make the finish.

It will be tough for them to follow the best on the climb, but things can easily regroup, especially if there is only a 15 second deficit to the head of the race.

Hmmm.

See the conundrum I’m in?!

Two’s Company

I’m sure if you have read/are going to read plenty of previews on this race, then the same names will crop up again and again. So instead of me boring you with the usual suspects, I’m just going to name two riders and how they might be in with a chance of a good result.

That and the fact I’m incredibly tired and running a bit behind schedule with this preview, but you didn’t have to know that!

Richie Porte.

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Yup, the King of Willunga makes the list.

I almost ruled him out of that stage in the Tour Down Under, as I thought he was a bit under the weather. Boy, I was wrong! He put on his usual masterclass but what was even more impressive was that he did it into a headwind. Clearly in great shape at the moment and wanting to make up for his crash at the Tour last year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him give it a go tomorrow. In last year’s race he lead the peloton over Challambra for the last time, but it didn’t seem as if he was going full gas. He did however attack the group on the ascent but was eventually reeled back in. BMC will probably front as if they’re working for Gerrans but I have a feeling they’ll make it tough on the opening few laps in an effort to give Porte a shot at it. The climb of Challambra is possibly just on the short side for the Tazmanian, but a harder race beforehand will make it seem longer for his competitors. If he can get close to matching the 10.37 W/kg he managed with his stinging attack on Willunga, many will struggle to follow him if it is full gas from the bottom. After that, it will be over to him to manage his pace and TT all the way to the line. Something that definitely could happen given the shorter distance.

Ruben Guerreiro.

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The more left-field pick, the Trek rider is now into his second season in the pro ranks and I’m intrigued to see what he can do this year. A talented rider; he can climb well on the short hills, but he also packs an explosive punch. Winning the Portuguese championships against the likes of Vinhaus, Vilela and Goncalves on an uphill finish is no mean feat. Furthermore, he managed an impressive sprint to 6th place in the tough Bretagne Classics last year, highlighting good levels of endurance for such a young rider and not to mention that explosive kick once again. He’s started this season with a solid string of results Down Under, including 10th place on Willunga, which saw him finish 9th on GC. If we get a small group escaping tomorrow over the final crest of Challambra, he seems to have the speed to challenge in a group of 5-6. Importantly as well, Trek seem to have started the season flying and there will be a feel good atmosphere in the squad. Can Guerreiro continue that streak?

Prediction

Beats me!

I think we’ll see a hard tempo from far out, hoping to eliminate the faster riders who might hold on to the finish on an easier day.

BMC will set things up perfectly for Porte to fire off some rockets right at the bottom of Challambra. No one will be able to follow him and that will be that for the race.

The King of Willunga will therein be known as the King of Willunga, Ruler of Challambra and breaker of chains.

Well, actually, hopefully he won’t become that last Game of Thrones reference!

Betting

A couple of punts for interest, but I don’t want to get overly invovled…

1pt EW Guerreiro @ 33/1 (would take 25s lowest)

1pt WIN Porte @ 66/1 with PP. Although I doubt you could get 1pt on there (I can’t), so I’d happily take the 18/1 available elsewhere (I’m going to have to).

Thanks as always for reading. What do you make of my two, slightly left-field candidates for the race? Who do you think will win? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour Down Under Stage 6 Preview; Adelaide -> Adelaide

*This preview will be short as I’m back to work tonight and have woken up later than expected! Plus, there’s not much to say anyway*

Today’s Recap

👑  The King of Willunga is still the King! 👑

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Porte makes it 4 wins on the bounce with a truly impressive attack and sustained effort. Looking at the footage he seemed to actually go 100m earlier than he normally would, attacking at 1.3km rather than his usual 1.2km. No one could match him this time and the likes of Henao etc. were well and truly dropped before the “S-bend” at 700m to go. Are they not as good as previous years or is Richie just in much better condition? I think the latter!

Once Porte made that attack our stage picks had no chance but a special mention must go to Nathan Earle who got up for a credible 6th place. Also, Nathan Haas sprinted to 2nd which currently leaves him 3rd on GC with some bonus seconds up for grabs out on the road on stage 6; that battle for the podium between him and McCarthy certainly isn’t over yet!

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

The Route

We have the same route that’s featured the past couple of years. I’ll just use the official profile of this stage as my Strava one is a bit messed up. Although saying that, completely ignore the scale on the official profile as it’s wrong! There’s only around 100m elevation gain per lap at most, not 300.

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I can imagine Thomas De Gendt will feature in the break, attempting to wrestle that KOM jersey from Porte. We’ll also possibly see some action from Haas/McCarthy in the intermediate sprints as they look to battle for the podium. Haas could even potentially move up to second too so that should add some excitement to what will be a relatively boring day up until the final 10km.

The final few hundred metres of the circuit does drag ever so slightly up hill but only at around 1% so it shouldn’t be a big deal for any of these guys.

The guys looking to win the stage will want to be near the front at 2.5km to go as they enter the more technical section around the park. From there, the pace will be on and it will be hard to move up the bunch without expending a lot of energy. Saying that, the road does widen in the last km so a team can make a last-ditch run to the line.

Stage Contenders

Short and sweet section here.

On current form Ewan looks pretty much unbeatable. He’s exceptional at these time of kermesse races and with Dubrdige/Gerrans/Impey/Kluge to lead him out he has the best support team too. Justifiably, he is the odds on favourite. Can he take 4 wins out of 6 stages?

Bora will once again have the luxury choice of either Sagan or Bennett. This type of sprint would suit the Irishman better and after having done a lot of work for his team on the past few stages he will be returned the favour here I think. He looked fast on Stage 1 and is possibly the only guy who can seriously challenge Ewan.

Van Poppel will once again be up there for Sky and should expect another top 5 placing, with the same being said for Bonifazio.

I hope Theuns actually gets a clear run at the finish this time without being blocked off. A podium placing is certainly within his sights.

As for the rest, expect to see the usual names of Renshaw, Arndt and Planckaert populating the top 10.

Prediction

Should I be boring but most likely correct and say Ewan? Or slightly more interesting and say Bennett? I’ll be boring for once, Caleb wins his 4th stage of the race!

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I’ll go for Bennett and some PFCL bias here, Theuns, to round of the podium!

Betting

No value in Ewan at those odds, especially when anything can happen in bike racing. One badly timed puncture/crash and he’s out of it. However, I do think there is a bit of value in;

Bennett 1pt EW @ 14/1 with Betfair/PaddyPower (I’d take down to 10/1)

No H2H up yet, but I’ll update my Twitter later if I see something I like/get the chance.

 

Thanks to everyone who’s read and shared the blog over the past week. Not been the best of starts in terms of betting/prediction wise but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless! I shall be doing previews of all the WT races this year plus anything we can watch on TV/stream online so expect more content from me this time round. Also, I fully intend on doing previews of all the Women’s World Tour races too. Maybe not daily stage previews but certainly a GC/over-arching race preview!

I’ll be back next weekend for the Cadel Evan’s Great Ocean Road Race. Anyway, thanks again,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

TdU Stage 1 Preview: Unley -> Lyndoch

The People’s Choice Crit on Sunday whetted our appetite for the week ahead with Caleb Ewan taking a very convincing win.

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Bennett and Sagan followed him home and all three riders will be looking to take the opening stage victory and thus the first Ochre Jersey of the Tour.

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

The Route

A relatively flat affair with a few bumps along the way, definitely one for the fast men. Expect a few Aussies to get into the break and go for the opening KOM jersey.

Here’s the Strava profile I made for the stage.

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The three large laps around Lyndoch feature some steepish bumps but they’re only a couple of hundred metres at 7% or so. Nothing for the pros! The run-in itself will be fast as it’s a shallow descent for 5km towards the line with a few sweeping bends. At roughly 500m to go the riders will tackle a “left” turn (it’s pretty much straight on), so the pace shouldn’t be knocked back at all.

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That “left” turn at 500m to go

From there it will be a drag race to the line with the first WT win of the season up for grabs, it should be an exciting and frenetic affair!

Who’s going to be challenging then?

Contenders

The Aussie pocket rocket Caleb Ewan has to start this stage as favourite and I think I would be hard pressed to find anyone who disagrees with that statement. He’s in scintillating form at the moment picking up the national criterium title along with the aforementioned People’s Choice Crit (PCC). The Orica lead-out train seems to be working very well and Kluge has gelled with the rest of the team straight away. They’ll expect nothing less than victory here.

Bora team management will have to make a decision on who sprints; either Sagan or Bennett. Their effort at the PCC was a bit of a mess with both riders doing their own sprint after Bennett lost the wheel of the Slovak. If I was DS, I’d have the Irishman as their rider for this stage. His closing speed was very impressive and if he can follow Sagan then he has a very good springboard and chance to take the stage. Easier said than done though!

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The rider who just missed the podium at the crit was Niccolo Bonifazio. Fourth place was a good result for him, but he was just kind of there and I wasn’t overly impressed. He’s the type of rider who is very hot or cold and without much team support I think he’ll struggle in the more structured sprint of Stage 1 and will finish further down the pecking order. Then again, my track record with bold statements last season wasn’t great 😂

Mark Renshaw is sure to be fired up to impress on home soil as he gets one of his very few changes throughout the year to lead Dimension Data. Not as quick as he once used to be, that disadvantage is overcome by his nationality as he always seems to pull a good result out of the bag here.

Sky rider Danny Van Poppel will hope to go better than his 16th place in the crit which must have been a disappointment. A strong sprinter on his day, he’ll have some strong riders to bring him to the front in the closing kilometres and drop him on Ewan/Sagan’s wheel. Can he deliver from there?

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Vuelta “flop” Nikias Arndt will be under pressure to perform as Sunweb also have another young German sprinter by the name of Phil Bauhaus with them. I would expect the former to get the go ahead on stage 1, but does he have the legs to compete? I’m not so sure.

There are several other smaller sprinters here such as; Marko Kump, Carlos Barbero, Sean de Bie, Lorenzo Manzin and Baptiste Planckaert. Ultimately a top 10 would be a good result for them and a top 5 would be great!

*incoming fantasy team bias/clouded judgement warning*

One rider I think will go well on this opening stage is Edward Theuns.

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With the PCC being his first race back after his injury at the Tour de France, he performed well to get up for 5th in what was a chaotic and potentially dangerous race. However, he was disappointed to lose the wheel of his lead-out-man (Koen De Kort) in the final few hundred metres. With this simpler run in, he should be delivered into a better position and from there he will fancy his chances. On his day he can match the best in the World, but can he do it tomorrow?

Prediction

Going against tradition here…

Man on form + Best lead-out = an odds on favourite Ewan win. Simple!

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With Theuns and whoever the Bora sprinter is rounding out the podium.

Betting

Ewan is too short to back IMO, something along the lines of 13/10 may have tempted me. So I’m going for my outside winner shot and the guy with a good chance of the podium:

0.5pt EW Theuns @ 15/1 with Bet365 or WillHill. Would take 14/1 too. Although he was technically 20/1 when I tweeted I’d back him the other day, I’m not going to be that guy and take that price!

As for a H2H double, I like;

Van Poppel v Arndt & Theuns v Planckaert @ 1.27/1 with WilliamHill. 3pts.

 

Thanks for reading as always! I’m looking forward to the first road stage of the year. Who do you think will take the Ochre jersey? Any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 21 Preview: Las Rozas -> Madrid

*Apologies again, this preview will be very short as I’m away out for a family dinner this evening*

Today’s Recap

An insane stage that had a bit of everything!

As I predicted it was the break that fought it out for the stage win. Throughout the final climb there were several riders who looked as if they had the stage victory in their grasps. Sanchez looked good on the early slopes, then Conti looked as if he was the winner elect. However, neither of them made the top 10! Instead, it was Latour and Atapuma who entered a dog-fight and it was the Frenchman who just had enough at the end of the stage. One of the best finales to a Grand Tour stage I’ve seen in a while, everyone in every group was on their limit!

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Behind, Chaves repeated Orica’s tactics from Stage 14, attacking on the penultimate climb and bridging to team-mates. Doing so has saw him creep onto the GC podium, 13 seconds ahead of Contador. Another tactical masterclass from the Aussie outfit.

Froome tested Quintana but the Colombian always had the measure of him. The biggest loser on the day has to be Scarponi who dropped out of the top 10.

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Anyway, let’s look ahead at the processional stage into Madrid.

The Route

Nothing overly exciting.

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An expected flat bunch sprint and no real focal points to talk about.

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A straightforward and fast circuit within Madrid to end the day and the Vuelta. There are a few sharp hairpin turns that will stretch the bunch out. Positioning into that final hairpin just before 1km to go will be key. If you’re too far back then you have no chance.

Sprinters

The few sprints we’ve had so far this Vuelta have been fairly messy which makes tomorrow even more unpredictable.

Saying that, I do expect a few teams to take control tomorrow.

Etixx will control it for Meersman, Orica now devoid of GC duties will possibly control it for Cort and Giant will work hard for Arndt.

I can’t really see anyone else competing with those three. Possibly Drucker, Felline, Sbaragli & Van Genechten could get in the mix but it’s very unlikely.

Looking at the teams three lead-outs, Etixx and Giant are a cut above Orica.

On a stage like this, Orica will probably adopt the Lampre tactic where Gerrans-Keukeleire-Cort try and ambush the front of the race within the last 1.5km. In a messy sprint, this could be very effective!

Both Etixx and Giant so far have shown a willingness to control the race from far out and command the final 5km. Therefore there is no chance that a break makes this, it’s not the Giro! 😉

I was very impressed with the lead-out from Giant on Stage 18, they are finally getting things together. They were just unlucky it didn’t go their way in the end.

On a flat sprint, I would say that Arndt is faster than Meersman. Cort has shown if he’s in the right position he can go well too.

Prediction

Arndt finally gets his stage win! I mean, they surely have to get it right, don’t they?!

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Betting

2.6pts WIN Arndt @ 4/1 with Bet365

0.2pt EW De Koert @ 400/1 with Bet365.  Only doing this as Arndt came dead last today, might not be 100%. De Koert would be the go to sprint option.

Massive thanks to everyone who has read and shared the blog throughout the Vuelta! I know my predictions haven’t been the best, but thanks for sticking with me. I’m not sure what other races I’ll be doing this year but I’ll definitely be doing the Worlds, both men and women. 

Apologies again for this being shorter than normal! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Vuelta Stage 2 Preview: Ourense -> Baiona

Today’s Recap

Well, the crossbar was well and truly hit today as Sky pipped Movistar by less than a second! I did think that the British team would be in contention, but that was very close. Both teams rode great negative splits, leaving almost a full complement of riders for the testing final climb. They obviously had read the preview 😉

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The biggest loser on the day has to be Contador who shipped 52 seconds to Froome and Quintana; 46 to Yates and Chaves; and 45 to TVG/Sanchez/Atapuma. Not catastrophic, but not exactly ideal for the pre-race favourite!

Anyway, moving onto tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

A typical sprinters stage in the Vuelta, where they have to negotiate a tricky Cat 3 climb mid stage. They don’t do pan-flat here!

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The profiles of the race make writing the blog more interesting, that’s for sure. I was initially intrigued at that little “bump” that crests around 10km from the finish, hoping that we would have another typical Vuelta, non-categorised climb at 5% etc. However, according to the little segment I made on Strava, it’s more a case of 6km at 2% average. Even going off of the Vuelta road book, it’s 4.2km at just over 3% average. This shouldn’t be a problem for the sprinters, especially the one’s we have here!

The riders will also be happy to see that it’s a flat run in, with no real turns at all within the final kilometre.

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It looks to be set up perfectly for a pure and “proper” sprint where lead-outs, timing and raw speed will be important. Let’s have a look at the potential stage winners!

The “Sprinters”

Due to the incredibly tough parcours this year, we don’t have any of the big name sprinters here. Instead, we have a lot of younger riders who will get a chance to show what they have on the big stage. All of the guys that are here can climb fairly well so the little bump aforementioned shouldn’t be a serious challenge for them.

The team with the best lead-out here is Giant-Alpecin, and they’ll be supporting young German sprinter, Nikias Arndt. They did a pretty poor TTT but oddly enough, one of the riders seemed to be smiling (looked like big T Ludvigsson) as they crossed the finish line. Maybe keeping something in the tank for tomorrow? De Koert & Waeytens will look to pilot Arndt in the final 500m, with the rest of the team doing work beforehand. He’ll probably start as favourite.

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Arguably the fastest rider here, Niccolo Bonifazio has had a fairly poor season since his move to Trek, picking up only one win. However, he does have the raw talent and speed to go well if he’s on form. I just don’t think he’s there yet, he was a bit “meh” in Norway and I’m not convinced he’ll go well this early in the race. He’ll need to build in to it. In fact, Trek may turn to his team-mate Felline who as I pointed out in my San Sebastian preview will be one to watch this race. The flat finish doesn’t really suit him though!

A veteran in this field, Gianni Meersman will be Etixx’s chosen man. A rider with so much promise, he’s flattered to deceive as of late and I can’t see that changing here. Although in saying that, he will have a great powerhouse of a lead-out. Maybe he can hold on for a podium.

Magnus Cort Nielsen will get a rare chance to sprint for Orica in a Grand Tour. The young Dane was excellent towards the end of last month, but has had a few weeks off getting ready for this race. He’ll be able to count on a solid lead-out, including Tuft, Gerrans & Keukeleire. Orica are great at positioning their sprinters. I expect him to go well, but again, he maybe would have preferred a tougher finish.

Kristian Sbaragli will be Dimension Data’s option for the sprints. His one and only pro win so far came at this race last year. He’ll have an OK lead-out, not great, and might have to surf the wheels. My worry is that he’s too much of a “top 10” sprinter, and not a winner!

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BMC will have to face the decision if it’s Gilbert or Drucker that they’ll work for, potentially even Dillier. Too many chefs? It will more likely be the latter on the flat sprints. However, like a few others, I think he flatters to deceive and goes well in the smaller races, going missing on the big stage. I could well be proved wrong here, but I doubt it 😉

Who else is left? Van der Sande, Van Genechten and Bennati will all be in or around the top 10. I look forward to seeing Goncalves (#GoOnCalves) have a go in the sprint, he should also be in the mix but isn’t fast enough on the proper flat stages. A top 10 would be a good result for him!

Prediction

The opening sprint stage of a Grand Tour is often a chaotic affair, so I’m turning to a team who are great at timing the run to the line perfectly and are capable of positioning their rider well inside the final 200m. Therefore, I think Magnus Cort of Orica BikeExchange will win tomorrow’s stage. He looked incredibly strong in Denmark, and if he’s maintained his form he will be a real threat. I wouldn’t expect the OBE train to hit the front until the final 2/1.5km, guided by the experienced Sven Tuft. Then Gerrans and Keukeleire will take over, dropping Cort off perfectly with 150m to go and he won’t be caught! By doing so he’ll take the race lead as well.

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Confidence is key, but all of the sprinters will fancy their chances so it could end up being a messy one. Just making an early excuse for myself…

Betting

Cort 0.5pt EW widely available at 12/1.

 

Hope you enjoyed the preview! Who do you think will win the sprint? As usual, any feedback and discussion is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.