Tour de France 2018 Stage 18 Preview: Trie-sur-Baïse -> Pau

Today’s Recap

Shock horror, the grid start was terrible. Nothing exciting really happened from it and nothing great really happened until the final climb. A group of attackers had got away on the opening ascent and it was Tanel Kangert who was the last man standing out of them. However, he was swallowed up and past on the climb by a flying Nairo Quintana. The Colombian followed an initial attack by Dan Martin and dropped the Irishman not long after that move. However, Martin dug in deep and stayed almost consistently 20 seconds behind the Movistar man. With a lot of small attacks followed by looking around and Sky tempo in the Yellow Jersey group, the duo stayed ahead to finish 1-2 on the day.

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Thomas came home in third place after following Roglic’s late attack, before going on to drop the Slovenian and Dumoulin. One of the big shocks of the afternoon was Froome struggling with the reigning champion losing 45 seconds on his team-mate. Bardet also had a “jour sans” and dropped three places in the GC.

It should be a rest day for the overall candidates tomorrow though as a flat day in the saddle awaits.

The Route

Pretty dull day for the viewers with only two Cat-4 climbs on the route.

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I mean there’s not really much to talk about here at all. The final categorised climb that crests with just under 19km to go could be a springboard for an attack but that’s about it!

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There are a few roundabouts to contend with in the closing five kilometres, including one as they just pass under the Flamme Rouge.

As you can see on the video above though, that given the wide roads the roundabouts aren’t really a massive issue. That is assuming we even get a sprint though…

How will the stage pan out?

With Sagan taking a tumble today there is a chance that he will just want an easier day tomorrow, especially when you consider he already has three stage wins under his belt and the green jersey sewn up: if he makes it to Paris. Démare has really struggled these past few days and no doubt will be knackered so will FDJ pull all day for a sprint that he might not win? Ironically with the two better sprinters on paper not in tip-top shape it might actually encourage a few other teams to try to control the break in an effort to set up their man. Maybe Kristoff can nab that win he so desires?

However, I think the likelihood is that we will see a break make it all the way to the line tomorrow as no one will have the energy to chase them down. I’m not too sure if it will be one of those massive breaks that gets let go and the group might be surprisingly small, but you never know. I think it might be 10-12 riders who sneak away.

Time to play everyone’s favourite game again…

TheBreakawayLottery

Break Candidates

It will be interesting to see who gives it a nudge to go in the break tomorrow as the flat route could bring some new names to the fore as the puncheurs take a back seat and wait for Friday. So here goes nothing…

Maciej Bodnar.

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Strong the other day to help pull the break along for his team-mates, the easier terrain should suit him down to the ground. A powerful rider who is often seen at the front of the bunch pacing the peloton, will we see him ahead of the bunch tomorrow? I imagine Bora will be in an attacking mood if Sagan is feeling sore.

 

Thomas De Gendt.

Mr Breakaway, this morning De Gendt talked about having a quieter day  before having a tilt at tomorrows stage as he thinks the sprint teams will be too tired to control the race. He was on the fruitless attempt when Sagan won his last stage but any move that he makes is dangerous. With Stage 19 possibly too difficult for him, tomorrow is his last chance for a win and he’ll go all in.

Oliver Naesen.

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With Bardet struggling today, Naesen might be given a free role in a stage that suits him as one of the strongest barodeurs in the peloton. He’s barely had a chance to show what he is capable of so far in this race and as a result he might want to put on a good performance. If it comes down to a 5 rider sprint he will take his chances.

Julien Vermote.

Dimension Data have had a terrible race so far with no real result to speak of. They could possibly look to a sprint with Boasson Hagen tomorrow but going on the offensive is their best chance. Vermote is another one of the peloton’s strong men so getting into the flat break should suit him well. When he gets into situations like this he is quite tenacious so expect him to ride in an attacking manner.

Prediction

No firepower left to set up the sprint and the breakaway maestro takes another Tour stage win. Step up Thomas De Gendt!

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Betting

0.75pt WN De Gendt @ 100/1

0.75pt WIN Naesen @ 100/1

0.25pt WIN Bodnar @ 300/1

0.25pt WIN Vermote @ 500/1

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think has a chance tomorrow? Will the sprinters come to the fore or will the break succeed? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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Tour de France 2018 Stage 10 Preview: Annecy -> Le Grand-Bornand

Rest-day Recap

Despite the chaos of many mechanicals and several crashes, the majority of the GC riders got through the cobbles unscathed. It was only Porte who abandoned and Uran that lost a reasonable amount of time. I’m sure most would have been happy with the outcome!

As for the stage win, a trio of riders escaped in the closing kilometres and went on to contest the finish. Degenkolb was left to open up the sprint from the front but he proved too strong for Van Avermaet and Lampaert, taking his first Grand Tour stage win since the 2015 Vuelta.

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It was nice to see him on the top step again after it looked for a while that he would never return to his best after the crash.

With several mostly flat stages behind them, the riders attention turns to the mountains tomorrow as we enter the Alps. Let’s have a look at what awaits them.

The Route

No case of easing yourself into it here as we have 4200m of climbing in only 158km worth of racing.

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The day features five categorised climbs but the lowly Col de Bluffy pales into insignificance compared with what is to come. I would expect a big fight to get into the breakaway and we might not see the move go until the Col de la Croix Fry (11.3km at 7.1%). From there it is a long descent before the road kicks up rather nastily with the very tough looking Montée du plateau des Glières. Averaging a painful 9.7% for 6.8km, the main crux of the climb is actually 11% for 6km!

A little plateau follows before a descent to the uncategorised Col des Fleuries (5.5km at 4.7%) which starts with 74km to go. Don’t expect much to happen over the next 30kms or so as riders and teams will regroup before the fireworks in the final 40km of the day.

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Taken alone the Romme and Colombière are difficult climbs but when they are combined together with only a 5km descent in between then they become very difficult. In the space of 22kms the riders will climb a total of 1400m. The descent will only offer a very limited time to recover, especially if you are already on the limit and someone decides to push on. Taking both the climbs together and removing the descent then it is 17kms at 8.2%. With the steeper gradients coming near the top of the Colombière it is a perfect place for some GC riders to launch attacks and distance some rivals.

Once over the top 12kms of descent await the riders before a flat-ish run to the line.

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The descent will be fast with the average gradient being roughly -6% for the duration of the 12kms. There are some tight hairpin turns but they seem coupled together.

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The final 2kms are mainly flat and the riders will have to be very wary of this turn that comes with just 1.5km to go. It is tight and as we saw earlier during the race those corners are never ideal. Thankfully, we shouldn’t see a massive group arrive here together. The last 1km drags up ever so slightly at 1.2% but the final 200m are at almost 8%. A nice little kicker to settle the day!

How will the stage pan out?

The first real mountain test of the Tour and it comes after the first rest-day. We’ll no doubt see some riders perform above expectations and some perform worst. Who will suffer the infamous jitters?

The age-old question of “break or no break?” for the stage win once again arises. It really is in the balance.

I tried to do some research on mountain stages after the first proper rest day of GTs. There were 6 definite mountain days, with one of them (Vuelta 2017) borderline but probably not given it only had a couple of climbs at the end of the day. Four of the six stages finished with a GC rider winning and it was only Giro 2016 (Ciccone) and Vuelta 2015 (Landa) that saw a break stay out. Even then, the latter was the only surviving member of the break with GC riders filling out the rest of the top 10.

That means Giro 2013, Tour 2014/2015 and Vuelta 2016 were all GC days when there was a mountain stage after the rest day.

Something to think about: a 66:33 split in favour of the GC contenders winning.

Given the current GC standings relative to Thomas, almost everyone will still think of themselves in contention for the title or podium come Paris at this moment in time. Only Van Garderen is really out of it. It could in theory lead to some defensive and tactical racing if everyone just wants to mark each other out, especially with the tough two days to come.

However, I think we will see some aggressive racing tomorrow between the GC guys as they will want to test the waters as to who is going well and who might have come out of the rest day not feeling in tip-top shape.

The Romme/Colombière double ascent should be tough enough to cause some splits if a team or two decides to push the pace on. Although Sky aren’t actually in the yellow jersey, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them ride tomorrow as if they were; taking control of the bunch and not letting the break have much leeway. As much as I want other teams to take control early, it will be Sky that decides if the break makes it or not because no one else has the firepower to keep a lid on things until the final two climbs, unless of course we have an alliance between a few squads.

Sky are notorious for going well on the first mountain stage of the Tour; in 2012 Froome won on Belle Filles with Wiggins third; in 2013 Froome and Porte finished 1/2 on Ax 3 Domaines; in 2015 Froome and Porte once again finished 1/2, this time on La-Pierre Saint-Martin.

They’ve actually not been as great recently with them allowing the breakaway win in 2016 (although Froome won a tougher mountain stage the next day) and Aru winning on Belles Filles last year. Have they changed their approach? Possibly, but I think Froome will want to lay down a marker to everyone else in the race but more importantly to his team-mate Thomas, and show him that there is only one leader in the team.

We also then have the Movistar trident to consider. Is it too early for them to go on the attack? Absolutely not. They need to be as aggressive as possible to wear down the Sky train so I fully expect them to go for it tomorrow.

Right, I’m nailing my colours to the mast and going for it to be a GC day and as I’ve rambled on for a while now I’m only going to name two guys who I think might be involved in the finish tomorrow.

MyTwoPicksWorth

Rigoberto Uran.

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An incredible second last year, Uran has been a bit off the pace this season but he has been slowly riding himself into form for this Tour. In 2017 he won a mountain stage that had a sprint to the line and will no doubt back himself for tomorrow if he arrives in a small group. He was the unfortunate GC rider who crashed at the wrong time on Sunday and it meant that the pace was on and he lost over a minute and a half to his rivals. That will have hurt him as the team rode fantastically in the TTT to put him in a very good position overall. Uran is a competent bike handler who is also attacking when he needs to and I think we’ll se him give it a nudge tomorrow.

Dan Martin.

 

Already a winner at this race on stage 6, the Irishman finds himself the furthest back of the GC contenders mainly due to a crash on stage 8 that saw him lose 1’16 to the rest of the peloton. A very attacking rider, Martin was flying in last year’s Tour until he was involved in Porte’s crash that ultimately put him out of contention due to riding with injury for the following 2 weeks. He still managed to finish 6th overall then, not a bad result! This year he has struggled but from the limited bits that we have seen from him since then he seems to have found his mojo again and looks the lively Martin that we all know. He won’t want to wait a few days to test the waters and given that he is quite far back from the rest of the contenders, he might just be given the freedom by them to go on the attack. There won’t be many who can match his kick up the small ramp to the finish.

Prediction

Dan Martin to take his second stage win with a perfectly timed late attack. Some GC riders will falter tomorrow but I have no idea who, it should be a great watch!

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Betting

One of those stages where it is probably best to back something in-play but for the sake of the blog and the spreadsheet:

1pt WIN Martin @ 14/1 (can get 20/1 on the exchange – would recommend)

1pt WIN Uran @ 33/1 (can get 44/1 on the exchange – would recommend)

Both of those prices are with 365 but they are pretty similar elsewhere. I would obviously recommend going on the exchanges if you can as the odds are much better there!

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think is going to win tomorrow and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 19 Preview: Venaria Reale -> Bardonecchia

Today’s Recap

The Giro is the Giro.

In typical fashion we had a break made up mainly of rouleurs that was allowed to go and contest the stage win. I honestly have no idea what the teams who chased so fervently yesterday were doing today allowing a break get away today that had only a handful of climbers in it.

And after me backing him for yesterday’s stage Schachmann went on to win today. Sums this race up perfectly really!

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I will admit that it is quite nice that Morkov and Schachmann who are roomies, planned this move yesterday evening.

Plaza was second with Cattaneo in third.

It looked as if it was going to be a dull GC day but a series of attacks ultimately led to Yates having a mini-crisis, from which he lost 28 seconds to Dumoulin, Pozzovivo and Froome. Consequently it means that he is only the same margin ahead of the Sunweb rider going into a very tough double-header. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Arguably the hardest stage at the Giro, the riders will face 5000m of climbing throughout the afternoon.

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Climbing from the gun, albeit gently to start off with, the riders will summit the Colle del Lys after 48km of racing. Plenty of time for riders to be shelled out the back if there is a big fight to get into the breakaway.

A long descent and a good portion of valley roads follows before this year’s Cima Coppi: the Colle delle Finestre.

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45 hairpins over 18.5km and a climb that averages roughly 9%. I suppose the riders can take some solace in the fact that at least it is steady…Oh, the second half of it is also on gravel roads. Just to add to the excitement.

Another quick and technical descent follows before the drag up to the ski station of Sestrière. However, it will be the easier ascent the will tackle this year so it shouldn’t amount to much.

It will be then over to the final climb to decide the day.

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It’s a tough one too as the Jaffereau averaging 9% for 7.2kms. With some of the steepest sections coming right at the end, it is perfect for an explosive lightweight climber. But after what they will have had to face before then, it might just be a case of who has anything left in the tank.

How will the stage pan out?

If Yates didn’t show any sign of weakness today then there would have been a chance that the break sticks all the way tomorrow. It still has a chance but given how aggressively I expect the other GC teams to race it now then you will need to be a very good climber to possibly hold on.

If I was Mitchelton I would play a very ballsy and risky game tomorrow. Everyone expects the likes of Sky, Sunweb and Bahrain to get a guy into the morning move to act as a bridge for their GC contender later on. So in that situation Mitchelton should just let the break get so far ahead that the rider up the road is redundant. Of course, this plan backfires a bit if lets say someone like Poels slips away.

Will we see any long-range attacks on the Finestre? I think that is a possibility but a rider will need a lot of team support ahead of them because there are still 70kms to the finish after that.

Of course, it is not just the ascents where attacks can be made and the technical descents may be just as pivotal tomorrow, especially if we get some of the rain that is forecast.

There is a good chance that things get brought back together and we have a very select group fight it out on the final climb, as the long valley roads in between the ascents might put an end to any rangey solo attacks.

Before today’s GC shake up I would have had this as a breakaway day in a 60:40 split, because of those valley roads. But after Yates’ few cracks appearing today, then I’ll reverse that and suggest it will be a GC rider who will take the win. Although I’m not completely discounting the break because it could still stick in the right situation.

Contenders

Tom Dumoulin.

Has he peaked perfectly for the final week? He certainly looked strong today but the final climb suited him very well. Tomorrow will be a big test for one of the heavier GC contenders but he seems to be in good form at the moment. With the gap down to just 28 seconds now, he will feel within touching distance of Yates, so he might not take as many risks as he would have done otherwise tomorrow.

Chris Froome.

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What’s the next best stage to win after Zoncoloan, probably the day with the Cima Coppi in it. Both Froome and Poels seem to be growing into this race which might worry their rivals but the Sky rider is probably too far back on GC to take the win. This is the Giro though, so who knows. He was attacking today and I think we might try to see a gutsy move from him on the Finestre tomorrow. The steep finishing climb will suit his washing machine cadence, that’s for sure.

Simon Yates.

Just a bad day, or something worse? He says that he should be fine tomorrow but will he really be. There’s only one way to find out and I’m sure we’ll all find out at the same time as he does tomorrow. I think he could bounce back, but he needs to not show any weakness until the final climb. It will be a big day for him and his team and unless he finds that flying form he had in the opening two weeks, it won’t be a stage win for him.

Domenico Pozzovivo.

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The Bahrain man has done a fantastic ride so far this Giro and finds himself currently sitting on the podium. He and his team will be very concerned with a reinvigorated Froome though but the Italian did seem to follow the Sky rider’s attack today with some ease. There has been a lot of talk throughout this Giro about his lack of support in the mountains after Siuitsou crashed before the race began. Will that show itself tommorrow?

Miguel Angel Lopez.

One of today’s stronger performers, the current young jersey holder produced an impressive climbing display on the one and only hill. He caught up to Poels in what seemed like no time, although it is hard to tell if he was waiting up for Froome a bit. Nonetheless, the Colombian seems to be really growing into the race and with the alititude involved tomorrow, he will be at home.

That’s it, all of the other GC top 20 have no chance of winning the stage.

Reichenbach Returns

After today’s calamitous affair I want to re-highlight Reichenbach again for tomorrow’s stage, because yaknow, Schachmann won the day after I had mentioned him so here’s hoping it is the same with Sebastien.

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I pointed out on Twitter that during the final slopes today he seemed to be the one setting tempo for Pinot bit considering we had a few attacks he wasn’t going full gas and I assumed that’s because Pinot was cooked. They were hoping to bluff it but as soon as the big guys came out to play the FDJ leader went backwards. Reichenbach stuck with him the whole climb but I just can’t see a way back for Pinot now. He is only going to go backwards. He and the team should reward his loyal domestique with some freedom to chase the stage win tomorrow.

Reichenbach is part of only a handful of guys who might win the day if it is not a GC contender, with the others being Aru, Ciccone and Woods.

Prediction

An Astana hail-mary, with all in for Lopez and we’ll see Superman fly!

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He is in great shape but also has the advantage of being far enough behind not to be an immediate threat.

Betting

Feck it, balls to the wall time.

2pts WIN Lopez @ 11/4 

1pt WIN Reichenbach @ 50/1

Plus 1pt on this treble…

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The 6pts on Bennett to beat Carapaz at 11/8.

I think tomorrow suits the Jumbo rider a lot more and Carapaz might lack the experience of going deep into a Grand Tour as a GC rider.

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think is going to win tomorrow and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 10 Preview: Penne -> Gualdo Tadino

Rest Day Recap

On stage 9 we once again so the break caught close to the finish, although this time it was at 3km to go for Masnada who saw his hopes of a dream stage win dashed. It’s a shame as he was certainly the strongest in the move, he’ll get some more chances throughout this race though…

The GC battle therefore turned into a fight for the stage too. We saw a few digs from the riders, namely Ciccone who found himself off the front on two occasions after he decided to chill in the peloton with the big guys all day. Froome was dropped and sensing blood Pozzovivo lit it up at the front of the group, almost sprinting the final 500m. He distanced everyone aside from Yates, Pinot and Chaves who came round him, finishing in that order.

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The result means that the Mitchelton rider strengthens his GC lead: he’s currently 32 seconds ahead of team-mate Chaves, with Dumoulin a further 6 seconds behind in third. With plenty of racing still to go, it will be interesting to see how long he can hold the Maglia Rosa and what approach Mitchelton take.

Tomorrow’s stage should be a quiet one for them, but you never know who is going to go well after a rest day or not. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

A tough day out in the saddle with roughly 4000m of climbing which also happens to be this year’s longest stage at 239km.

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No doubt we’ll see plenty of pictures circulating around Twitter in the morning of guys warming up on the rollers beforehand as the toughest test of the day comes from the gun. There is a little climb followed by a quick drop down before the Cat-2 climb of Fonte della Creta begins at just 5.6km into the day.

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The climb averages just under 6% for 15.7km and will certainly be a rude awakening for some. Expect a fierce pace as a strong group tries to form the break of the day.

Once over the top though, that is the only major climb out-of-the-way for the stage. However, the climbing doesn’t stop and we have a parcours that is very similar to stage 4 where the road is just up or down. The Cat-4 climb of Annifo crests with 30kms still remaining but I’m not sure the 1km at 7% will scare anyone. It could be a nice place to launch an attack though.

The final 18km could see a very tactical battle as riders try to escape while others will want to hold it together.

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It looks flat on the official profile and while there may not be many hills to speak of, the short kickers will thin the bunch out if the pace is high.

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Considering the pretty technical final 1.5km, it appears the organisers do not think this will be a sprint finish. Speaking of which…

How will the stage pan out?

A battle between the break and the sprinters teams.

Given the tough climb at the start of the day we should see a group of strong guys make up the escape but with it being the aforementioned climb that a break most likely forms on, they aren’t exactly going to be the best baroudeurs for the remaining 200km. Luckily for them, there are plenty of small rises throughout the day where they can continue to put the hurt on.

Will we see the sprint squads want to set tempo all afternoon to try to bring it back?

No, is the simple answer!

I am ready and prepared to eat my hat but tomorrow is 100% a breakaway day. I’m intrigued to see how things play out in the final 30km with the “flatter” terrain. It will certainly help if your team has a couple of riders in the move and consequently I think we could see a group of 22 or something similar escape in the end.

Time to play everyone’s favourite game again, although if you follow me on Twitter, the next bit has already been spoiled for you!

TheBreakawayLottery

David De La Cruz.

Sky have been abysmal this race so far and with Froome very much sub-par at the moment I think they might try their hand at going for stages. The only issue with this idea is that they’ve only ever took this approach at the Giro once their leader has left the race, so with Froome still here, will they stubbornly stick to Plan A? Tomorrow is the acid test and I think De La Cruz offers them a good stage hunting option. He’s strong enough to make the break on the climb but he’s also fairly handy on the flat too. We’ve seen in Paris Nice that he has a good kick on him against climbers so he might not mind bringing it down to a very reduced sprint.

Fausto Masnada.

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A performance on stage 9 that won many hearts, Masnada is the gutsy type of rider who will go for it again at some point. We saw how strong he was the other day, dropping a lot of good break companions who had no match for his stinging acceleration and hard pace. I’m pretty sure Androni have made the break every day so far and I will be incredibly surprised not to see them in the move again tomorrow, in fact, we’ll probably see a couple of them there. If Masnada replicates the same performance then he will be a tough character to beat if he times his attack correctly!

Tanel Kangert.

Astana went all in on stage 9 for a Lopez victory but he fell short in the end. With that, I think we’ll see a few of their strong domestiques let of the leash tomorrow and the stage looks perfect for the likes of Sanchez and Kangert. Both are more than competent on the climbs and they can hold their own in the closing 30kms. Having the two of those guys there will make the rest of the break easy as they can launch vicious 1-2s until the move sticks. Kangert is slowly finding his form again after 2017 was ruled out due to injury. Can he rekindle that spark he had in 2016?

Krists Neilands.

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The rider who sparked Nibali’s Milano Sanremo raid, Neilands is a talented Latvian climber, come one-day rider. His 2018 has been a bit disappointing so far with a 7th place at GP Industria the only result to shout home about. However, he showed a lot of class last year to finish 10th on GC at the Volta a Portgual which is notoriously one of the toughest races of the year outside the Grand Tours. He’s obviously a talented guy! Israel Cycling Academy have been a bit disappointing so far and nowhere near as attacking as I thought they would be. That needs to change, otherwise their wildcard was a waste of time (and Israel’s money). Maybe Neilands has been saving it all for tomorrow?

Prediction

None of them will win though, instead we’ll see a flying Giulio Ciccone take the day.

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He nearly caused a bit of a shock on the last day of racing when he attacked out the GC group and got a bit of a gap. It was an impressive display of power as he went forward, Froome went back. That will certainly give the Bardiani man confidence! The stage departs from Penne tomorrow which is not too far away from Ciccone’s home town and we’ve seen in the past what that can do for motivation – take Visconti’s second place on stage 5 for example. He won Appennino from a three-up sprint, can he repeat the feat tomorrow? Looking back at the results from after the first rest day last year it was a time trial so there is not much to take from it, but guess who won in 2016 after the rest day? Yep, Ciccone!

Betting

Already tweeted out my selections the other day.

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Odds have shortened on them all, but most are backable at their current prices.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 3 Preview; Be’er Sheva -> Eilat

Today’s Recap

The early morning break eventually went but were never given too big an advantage and we ultimately saw them brought back before the only categorised climb of the day. Barbin sprung out of the peloton and was duly rewarded with the jersey on the podium at the end of the stage. More interestingly though, we saw Dennis and Campenaerts both attempt to go for the intermediate sprint point not long after, with the BMC man coming out on top and consequently moving into the GC lead.

Things then calmed down before an incredibly hectic and nervous finale on a tricky finish followed. It looked as if Bennett was in the perfect position but he was caught napping by Mareczko who launched early, hoping to take advantage of the slight tailwind finish. One rider who wasn’t napping though was Viviani and he instantly latched onto the Wilier rider’s wheel, before sling shotting around him with ease, taking the win comfortably in the end.

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Rinse and repeat tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for them.

The Route

A more rolling day but still flat by Giro standards.

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It is however the longest stage of the race and with the peloton travelling through the arid Negev desert, some riders might really struggle in the hot conditions. Interestingly enough, the intermediate sprints both come within the first 80kms of the day: I wonder if Campenaerts wants to try to go for the Maglia Rosa?

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If you thought today’s finish was tricky, then tomorrow is ridiculous.

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Plenty of roundabouts for the riders to deal with, including 6 from 6km to 2km out. Thankfully they continue straight forward through them all but it will keep things stretched. It is once we get inside 2km to go that things get really wild, in typical Giro fashion. The riders will be forced to slow right down as they complete a 180 around a roundabout on what looks like narrow roads.

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I say looks like as the above image is the best we can get as the street view stops just before it. Rather annoying!

The road then bends round to the right just before 1km to go but this is coupled with the road narrowing down to just one lane.

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A nasty unmarked (on the profile anyway) mini roundabout comes with 750m or so to go. Again they just go straight, but it looks quite tight and the riders can’t ride directly over it, meaning they will have to swerve around it. Once again, stringing things out even more.

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The final turn then awaits with 300m to go.

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Once again the road narrows down to one-lane but the corner doesn’t seem as tight as I thought it would be. Nonetheless, it isn’t exactly an easy finish!

Will it end in a sprint though?

Weather Watch

That of course all depends on one thing: the wind.

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Source: Windfinder

The above is the forecast for Grofit which is roughly 50kms from home. As you can see, it is set to be a scorching afternoon but a very windy one too. A strong wind from the north (meaning mainly some sort of tailwind) throughout the day will see the peloton fly over the 229km.

As the road twists and turns through the desert some areas will be more crosswind but at the moment the majority of the day seems to be tailwind. However, the wind direction changed for today’s stage so the same could happen for tomorrow. I for one would like to see some crosswinds (shock) but there will be plenty of riders who won’t.

We’ll be in for some nervous racing throughout the day as all the GC contenders won’t be able to skip a beat in fear of getting shelled out the back.

Can anyone stop Viviani?

After what we saw today, it will be hard!

Even with him being terribly positioned at 700m to go, he still managed to find the right wheel and get back into the mix. He was then the most alert to latch onto Mareczko’s flyer and from there it was plain sailing. His kick was stronger than anyone else and he gained on everyone as they approached the line. This is a finish that should suit a team controlling it from 3kms out and QuickStep have a squad capable of doing just that.

Mareczko, Bennett and Bonfiazio were all lively but they’ll need to start their sprint ahead of Viviani as it will be hard to come round him. With that said, given the possible headwind finish, they might just have to do it that way!

The opportunists?

With a tricky finish and a potentially depleted bunch, there is a chance we could see a late attack stick tomorrow. Pick a name out of the hat time but there are three I want to mention, and you’ll probably see them mentioned countless times over the next few weeks as well!

Matej Mohoric.

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Everyone’s favourite top-tube descender, Mohoric loves to throw the spanner into the works, always trying an audacious move. We saw in Croatia that on Stage 2 he attacked in the last lap on a tricky circuit but was caught at the flamme rouge. If we get a hectic stage tomorrow and Bonifazio isn’t present in the lead group but Pozzovivo is safe, Mohoric might be given the chance to go for his own result. One of the best bike handlers in the peloton, he’ll take those tricky roundabouts with ease!

Jose Goncalves.

Mr #GoOnCalves is a rider I have fond memories of backing a lot at the Vuelta when he burst onto the scene back in 2015. I’m getting the same vibe from him just now, with the Portugese rider seemingly in tip-top form. He made a half-hearted dig today, Katusha actually looked pretty lively, and I think we might see something similar tomorrow. A very punchy rider, if he can time his attack perfectly in the closing kilometres it will be tough for a small group to bring him back.

Tim Wellens.

Is he going for GC, is he not, who knows? Lotto Fixall normally ride very strongly in the wind and with a very experienced team I would be surprised not to see the majority of their squad make any split. We’ve seen in the past how attacking a rider Wellens is and in the finale he has the abilities to do something similar to what Tony Martin hs done in the past. He’s had his best season to date so far and a stage win in a Grand Tour would help top it off. The one concern with him is the heat as he sometimes struggles in hot conditions.

Prediction

I’m hoping the wind plays ball and we get a drama filled, echelon-fuelled day. However, I still think we will probably see the same rider raise his arms aloft at the end of the stage. QuickStep are the masters in windy conditions and they should be able to protect Viviani well enough.

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Betting

No way am I backing a sprinter so small stakes on the three opportunists listed above for patter.

0.125pt WIN on them all.

Mohoric @ 300/1

Goncalves @ 400/1

Wellens @ 400/1

(All with Bet365)

You probably will get better prices on the Exchanges later/tomorrow morning!

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win? Will the weather play a big part in the day? Or will everything stay together for a sprint? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Volta Ciclista a Catalunya 2018 Stage 2 Preview; Mataró – Valls

After missing a preview for today’s stage I’ll be back with daily blogs for the rest of the week, apologies!

Today’s Recap

Almost disappointingly we didn’t see anyone try a bold attack on the climb or the run in but they had no real chance to with Movistar setting a fierce tempo into the closing 2kms. From there Quick Step took over, absolutely drilling it at the front of the peloton to set up their man for the day and boy did Hodeg deliver. Once he was released by his lead-out man then no-one could live with him as he galloped home by about 4 bike lengths.

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Not a bad few days for the Colombian as he quickly followed up his first pro win with the World-Tour level win today! Interestingly, he says his surname as “Hodge”; I wonder if it is too late to try to get him to ride for Scotland…

Behind, Bora rounded out the podium with Bennett coming second and McCarthy trailing in just behind. The former still looks to be finding some form as his first part of the season has been plagued with illness but his team-mate will certainly be happy with where he is and will fancy his chances tomorrow.

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

The Route

A rolling day with a reasonable amount of altitude gain, it is a stage that will be decided by the final climb.

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@LasterketaBurua

The climb is long enough that it should be too tough for the proper sprinters, although we don’t really have many of them here. It will be interesting to see if any GC team decides to light it up and given what we saw today, I imagine Movistar will be keen to set a tempo on the slopes.

Illa

It’s a good climb to set a tempo on too as the gradients are very regular. With the gradients not being overly steep and the climb not being really long, then some of the punchier guys might fancy their chances at holding on. It all just depends on the approach of the GC teams.

However, anyone wanting to be in with a chance of winning the stage will need to be in the bunch once it crests with 10km to go as it is mainly downhill from there.

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The descent will be fast but the riders should have plenty of room as to manoeuvre as it is on a main road. It is possible to pedal on the descent so I’m intrigued to see what gear ratios riders select for tomorrow.

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There are a few roundabouts in the closing kilometres which could make things a bit dangerous if we get a bunch finish.

How will the stage pan out?

The climb of Lilla was last used back in 2016 on Stage 5 when we had the exact same closing 20kms as we do tomorrow. On that day there were already plenty of time gaps due to it being the 5th stage so everyone wanted to go into the break. In fact, it took until only 50km to go for it to form. Poels attacked from the move on the climb and managed to hold on, winning ahead of 4 of his break companions who fought it out for the minor podium places with the peloton coming in behind them.

The break does have a chance, as always, but I can’t see that happening. Movistar made their intentions pretty clear today with their show at the front of the peloton and I would expect them to set a fierce pace on the climb to try to distance that fast men. Consequently, the question is then how many riders will be left at the front? In 2016 it was a peloton of roughly 60 that were left. If the Spaniards go crazy tomorrow then I could see maybe a group of 30-40 riders together over the top. If they go really crazy then it might only be 20.

Co-operation in the lead group will then be a factor as to who continues to drive the pace on the descent or if a splinter group might squirrel off the front. The smaller the group of riders, the more likely people will successfully get away.

We saw what happened recently in Paris Nice when Sanchez, Hivert and Di Gregorio were able to get away after a fairly innocuous looking climb.

Contenders

Alejandro Valverde.

The Movistar man has to start as the big favourite for tomorrow’s stage. In fine form, as always, he’ll be drooling at the prospect of a reduced bunch sprint and some possible bonus seconds on the line. He got involved today and the majority of the guys who finished ahead of him won’t make it tomorrow. Movistar have a strong team to control proceedings but they might be leant on heavily by others.

Jay McCarthy.

Valverde’s big rival for the stage, he was an impressive 3rd today. Arguably as fast if not faster than El Bala on a finish like this he’ll have his whole team to support him. This is his first stage-race back in Europe after a good showing during the opening season events Down Under.

Daryl Impey.

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Won a stage at this race last year, he’ll enjoy the thought of a reduced bunch gallop as he should be one of the faster guys left. He was on his own in the final today as the first port of call for him this race is to look after his GC leaders. If that’s the same tomorrow then he might struggle to find the right wheel but with a bit of luck he could take the win. If his form is similar to that when he was in Australia then others will be worried about him!

Those three are the favourites for the stage in my opinion and I would be surprised if one of them didn’t win. However, others might still get involved.

Matej Mohoric.

I’m a big fan of the former Junior/U-23 World Champion and it is good to see him get more responsibility and leadership roles at Bahrain this season, although he is more than happy to do his job for the team, i.e. helping Nibali at Sanremo. In today’s sprint he tried to lead-out Bonifazio but the Italian was somewhat blocked in, while Mohoric held on for 9th. Tomorrow should all be about Matej though as I can’t see Bonifazio making it over with the lead group. We might see a show from him on the descent or he might try his hand at a sprint but Bahrain will be near the front as Visconti also could deliver a strong result too.

Pello Bilbao.

Another rider I’m a fan of (there seems to be a recurring theme here), the Astana rider packs a good sprint from a small group. He was flying towards the end of last season and started the year off in good form with a strong result in Valenciana. He pulled out of Abu Dhabi though and this is his first race back since then so his form is a bit unknown. If they don’t go for him, Chernetckii could be Astana’s guy.

Arthur Vichot.

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The former French Champion has been lightly raced this season so far with today’s stage only the 3rd race day he has completed therefore it is hard to tell if he will be competitive or not. On paper though, tomorrow’s stage looks ideally suited to his characteristics. He’s a classy rider and can’t be discounted full but I just think that there will be others who will be faster than him left at the end. Also, he only ever wins in France. Watch him change that tomorrow…

Prediction

Easy…

Jay McCarthy wins.

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Valverde has met his match in reduced bunch sprint finishes! Movistar will need to set a crazy tempo on the climb to distance him and turn it into a fully fledged GC day if that happens.

Betting

2pts WIN on McCarthy @ 7/1. (would take down to 5/1).

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Abu Dhabi Tour 2018 Stage 2 Preview; Yas Mal › Yas Beach

Today’s Recap

My echelon dance last night didn’t work and we had a fairly benign day out for the riders, albeit with a fairly strong headwind on the way “home”. The sprint teams were amassed at the front of the peloton and we had a fairly chaotic run-in with sprinters disengaged from their trains as everyone jostled for position.

Some went too early, some went too late, but in the end it was the King of Headwind Sprints a.k.a Alexander Kristoff who took the win.

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A very fast finishing Guardini was somewhat of a surprise in second place, while Ewan managed to hold on for third after opening up his sprint early. The top 10 is a smorgasbord of random riders with a few weird names up there and some notable exclusions.

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

The Route

Much the same as today with a pan-flat parcours for the riders but I’m sure they’ll be happy to know that they’ll have 35km less to ride.

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We do travel along the coast but there will be no chance of echelons unfortunately, much to my disappointment. Not much to shout about then until we get the run in to the finish.

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A long, wide-open road will once again see the sprint teams battle for position as they approach the Flamme Rouge. No StreetView here either so a satellite image will have to suffice for the second day in a row.

The only major pinch point is when they turn off the big highway at 750m to go and the road narrows down to one lane.

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This should in theory stretch things out and it is conceivably long enough for a team to control the closing kilometre. However, with the short sprint trains that we have at this race it will be tough if someone takes it up from far out.

What Can We Take From Today?

A bit, but not a lot!

It was a very chaotic sprint so the lack of structure might have made some results better than others, while also having the opposite impact too. For example, our stage winner Kristoff actually lost the wheel of his lead-out man (Ferrari) in the closing kilometre but latched onto the back of Ewan and effectively used the Mitchelton rider as his last man. An experienced decision that helped him win the stage.

QuickStep looked the most organised for Viviani but they went to the opposite side of the road to everyone which ended up being the Italian’s downfall. The lead-out ran out of steam and when Viviani launched he had no one to draft. In fact, he moved all the way back to the side where the sprinters were but he’d used up too much energy by then and could only settle for fourth. He still looks fast though.

Ewan had a great lead-out but launched too early and just faded in the final 50m. Possibly a bit of inexperience on his behalf. He does seem to be going well though and will fancy his chances in a non-headwind sprint tomorrow.

Guardini finished fast but was it a flash in the pan performance? Who knows! He’ll neeed a similar level of luck/cunning to go well tomorrow but we’ll see.

I have no idea what is wrong with Kittel at the moment. His lead-out was better today, albeit not great, but he just went backwards when he started sprinting. He can’t even argue that he was blocked off or anything as 2016 Kittel would have barged his way through the large gap that was there. He’s possibly ill or it might be his mental attitude that is letting him down but he doesn’t seem at 100% to me.

Jumbo blitzed the front today at around 3km out but they ran out of steam and Van Poppel was way-down in the end. If they time their coming to the head of the peloton better, then they certainly seem to have the firepower to dominate proceedings, they just need to have the patience.

As for the rest of the sprinters, I have no idea as to what happened to them as things were too chaotic or they were just simply too far down.

Prediction

Given what we witnessed today it looks like a Ewan/Kristoff/Viviani showdown.

I think Mitchelton Scott will get the timing much better this time and the young Aussie will get the win.

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Although there is a good chance we get another chaotic sprint and a potential surprise winner.

Betting

No bet.

Thanks for reading as always! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see a similar result or will it be completely flipped around? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.