Milano-Torino 2018 Preview

Another day, another Italian race and this time it is the oldest one-day event in the country: Milano Torino.

Last season saw a barnstorming Rigoberto Uran take the win after attacking quite early on the final climb of the day and holding on to the finish.

Cycling: 98th Milano - Torino 2017

A fast finishing Adam Yates could only manage second with Aru, who attacked even earlier than Uran, rounding out the podium. Will the Colombian manage to make it two in a row this year and three for his nation? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Fans of the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, the organisers have once again came up with a pretty similar route this year. There is a slight change in the middle of the day with a few more hills and an extra 14kms of riding to boot.

milano-torino-2018-profile-294871987d

Nonetheless, it should all come down to the final 30kms and the two ascents of Superga.

screen-shot-2017-10-03-at-16-34-52

On the first effort the riders will complete only 4.29km of the climb, making it ever so slightly steeper than when the climb is taken as a whole. Well, when I say that, the average gradient is 9.137% for that part of the climb. Compared to the 9.081% for the ascent as a whole then there isn’t much difference, I’m just being pedantic!

That’s about it for the route, nothing too exciting but the riders do make the race.

How will the day pan out?

The race tends to be very formulaic until we get to the first ascent of the Superga: a breakaway makes it up the road and is then controlled by the teams of the favourites and of those without a rider in the move. Fairly standard procedure.

However, we then have a few potential outcomes as to what could happen from there.

Given that the first passage crests with just under 20km to go, then it is very feasible that a counter attack launched here could make it all the way to the line. Of course, for it to succeed then many of the favourites’ teams would need to be represented. If not, there will probably be enough firepower behind to bring it back, but it will have a lasting impact as to how the race is controlled from there.

In 2016, we saw Kennaugh hold on from the original break until the flat 5km section that bridges the descent and the climb. Once he was caught, the impetus went from the peloton and a splinter group made it off of the front. As the majority of teams were represented, there was very little cohesion behind (although there was little up ahead too to be fair), the front group managed to gain a reasonable time gap. Our top two on the day ended up being from that selection and there is a possibility something like that happens again this year; where the “second in command” riders get up the road while the favourites stay behind and mark each other out.

Of course, the final option is that everything is held together until the final climb and that the best rider on the day wins. That’s what happened back in 2015 when Diego Rosa took off at 2.6km to go and was never seen again. To make that win even better, he managed to make the move in front of his own fan club!

screen-shot-2017-10-04-at-15-36-49

Similarly, it is the same option/race outcome that we had last year when Uran won.

So how will it pan out this year?

I’m not entirely sure, both the splinter group getting away or a main contender showdown are almost equally likely in my opinion. What is interesting is that we have a few of the big names for Saturday deciding to skip this race; Nibali, Uran, Woods, Bardet and Roglic to name a few. Will that make their teams ride more aggressively? Will other squads try to seize the opportunity and hold things together knowing some of the better guys aren’t here. We saw today that Pinot is in great form at the moment and Valverde was there where he needed to be too. A win for either of them would be great but I’m sure they’ll be confident enough of there form and might just have one eye on Saturday. Consequently, that tips it ever so slightly in favour of a splinter group getting away and fighting it out for the win so that’s the option I’ll go with.

Four to Watch

Like with my preview for Tre Valli Varesine, I’m just going to highlight some guys to keep an eye out for throughout the day and who will hopefully be active, even if they don’t win.

Tiesj Benoot.

After what seems like an injury plagued second half to the season, Benoot has performed well in the two one-day races he has completed since the Vuelta. He had a poor day at the Worlds but showed that there is still form there with a good 6th place in Paris Tours. A possible “what could have been day” had he not punctured and have to chase back on. Arriving at this race as co-leader with Wellens, I would expect them to animate the race on the first ascent of Superga. Despite his original career trajectory as a one-day Classics rider, Benoot has shown so far this season that he can more than handle his own on the climbs too. Will this be another “breakthrough” ride in that sense?

Diego Rosa.

Milan - Turin

A former winner of this race and with his fan club no doubt at the 2.6km to go mark (see above), the Sky rider will be motivated for this one tomorrow. However, the issue lies with the fact his form hasn’t exactly been sparkling as of late. He looked a bit lacklustre in Tre Valli and struggled to close a gap to the head of the race but he seems fairly positive in his latest Instagram post so who knows. One thing he has going for him is before that great win in 2015, his form was arguably equally as uninspiring so who knows. I’d expect him to go on that attack at some point but will he have enough to take the win? Probably not.

Gianluca Brambilla.

Oh so close to a great result in Emilia before he fell foul of the #HaugheyCurse and punctured at the bottom of the San Luca climb. Brambilla was so enraged at that he didn’t even bother to finish the race and if I’m honest, I don’t blame him – the win was his for the taking. Returning to racing today in TVV, he looked solid and finished in the chase group behind our winner, sprinting to 10th place. I would like to see him go on the attack early because I don’t think he has the legs to win it from the peloton, unless there is some looking around, but he seems in great shape just now and I wouldn’t underestimate him.

Jan Hirt.

DM72dd3f_4630729903_1650331331688028_15318452 (1)

Now where did I put my overused “Hirt locker” joke? Astana arrive here with a strong squad that on paper has several options, with Fuglsang and Lopez as the arguable leaders. However, Hirt is a very good card to play and the Czech rider came out of the Vuelta with some decent shape; finishing a very respectable 17th at the Worlds. He’s not had many chances to chase his own results in what is his first year with the world tour outfit but he showed in 2017 just what he can do on the steep slopes. I think he is a danger man. Just waiting for that inevitable DNF now…

Prediction

A tactical race where a lot of the main players want to keep their powder dry for Saturday, allowing for a group to escape clear before the final ascent and fight out for the win. I’ll go with a lively Brambilla to make it two from two for Trek.

Gianluca-Brambilla-1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Advertisements

Volta Catalunya Stage 6 Preview; Tortosa -> Reus

Today’s Recap

I should never have doubted him for a minute!

C7sly74VsAEzLcT

Valverde won the stage easily, ahead of Froome and Contador. With the stage win and his 21 second gap back to the Brit, the GC battle is well and truly over for the week. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Another rolling day in the saddle. What else can do the riders expect in this region though?!

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 17.52.53
@LasterketaBurua

After a few kilometres of flat right from the gun, the riders will then face the long and gradual Cat3 ascent of the Alt de Bot. This certainly looks a good place for a breakaway to be let go, but considering that everyone knows that it typically won’t be! Instead, it might be the rolling terrain afterwards and around the 4okm at Gandesa where the correct group of riders are finally let go.

More, you guessed it, rolling terrain follows. Before we have three categorised climbs in quick succession. None is tough enough to cause splits in the peloton, but they could do some damage to the break. Especially if there are some riders up the road who don’t want to have a sprint at the end of the day.

We have a descent almost all the way to the line once they have traversed the plateau after of the final climb, although admittedly, some of the descending is more false flat than downhill.

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 18.10.12

The road does rise up in the final few kilometres but it averages over just 1% for the last 2km so nothing too serious. We do have a roundabout at 500m to go which could be used as a ploy for a late attack from the break.

How will the stage pan out?

I think you’ve guessed it by now…

Nestle Breakaway Milk Chocolate Biscuit 8 Pack 152G

Contenders

Names in a hat? As long as they are no threat on GC Movistar will be happy to let them go. That pretty much means anyone outside the top 20 so we have a lot of riders to choose from! Once again, I’ll suggest a few names that might give it a go.

Xandro Meurisse. 

nicoroche_xandromeurisse

The Wanty rider seems to be plodding along quite nicely in this race and is climbing as well as I have seen for a while. Traditionally more of a puncheur, he only finished 15 seconds behind Van Garderen on today’s summit finish. If he gets in the break and can cope with any attacks on the final climb, he has a good chance of winning a sprint!

Peter Kennaugh.

I highlighted him on stage 1 and he did the preview justice on a day I was completely wrong, by giving it a little nudge off the front. He lost 5 minutes today, but considering he was one of the last Sky riders in the front group on Stage 3 I doubt that those losses will be due to bad form. Saving himself for tomorrow?

Gianluca Brambilla.

The Italian was suffering from illness not that long ago, but he’s still racing here which makes me think that he’s now over his bug. He made the break on stage 3 but dropped back to the peloton, but I think that was because teams were still unsure if he was a threat on GC. Or, maybe he is still ill! Nonetheless, he is way out of contention now and the final climb and finish suit him perfectly if he’s back to full fitness. That’s a big if, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take!

Lachlan Morton.

16toustg30488

Morton has had a quiet time of it so far this race, but he has been industrious at the front of the peloton when needed. Namely, doing work for Sbaragli on stages 1 and 4. The Aussie is a very solid climber, finishing 7th on the Green Mountain earlier this year in Oman. With no GC hopes, Dimension Data will be chasing stages and Morton may well be that man!

Prediction

He looked good on Stage 3 and should survive the climb if he’s in the break. If he’s not and we for some reason get a reduced peloton fighting out the stage win, he could well attack once again in the closing kilometres.

Peter “what’s the women’s Giro” Kennaugh to win!

gettyimages_507696512_670 (1)

Betting

Another day I don’t want to get overly involved with but I am most confident in Kennaugh so he gets the majority of the backing!

All B365.

0.7pt WIN Kennaugh @ 25/1

0.3pt WIN Brambilla @ 18/1 

0.25pt WIN Morton @ 250/1

0.25pt WIN Meurisse @ 80/1

 

Thanks for reading as always! Who do you think will win? Tomorrow will be a big day of previews with my final stage preview for this race, but also previews for the men’s and women’s Gent-Wevelgem. I hope you’ll be able to read them all! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Strade Bianche 2017 Preview; Siena -> Siena

Strade Bianche 2017 Preview; Siena -> Siena

One of my favourite races of the year, hands down! It has the mix of everything really; awesome parcours; great start-list; amazing scenery; and some pretty aggressive racing.

Cancellara broke the heart of Brambilla last year, and managed to out-fox Stybar into the final corner, taking a quite excellent win.

4598_fabian-cancellare-wins-strade-bianche-2016

Cancellara is obviously not here this year, so that leaves the door open for a new victor or one of the three former winners that are here to regain their crown.

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

The Route

I’m going to make this section a lot, lot shorter than normal because there are already several previews out there with this information so I don’t want to bore you with it again!

StradeBianche15_alt

SB_ME_15_ukm

There you go…

Basically lots of short sharp punchy hills, although there are a couple of longer ones earlier on, interspersed with gravel sections. Rolling terrain for most of the day means there is little time to rest and the action is always on.

A tough closing 20km can see someone get away solo, but there is also the possibility that it all comes down to a sprint up to the Piazza del Campo!

One thing that may have a say in that is the…

Weather

After the brutal conditions in Samyn mid-week, I’m sure the peloton would have been hoping for something less miserable here. The fans certainly want the opposite and it looks as if the weather gods are going to appease the crowds.

screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-11-43-45
Weather in Siena (Source: Wunderground)

Nothing concrete but there is a very good chance we’ll get rain at some point during the race, which would make it even more of a spectacle. I’m sure a lot of you will remember the Giro in 2010…

giro-d-italia-2010-stage-7-vinokourov-attacks

It probably won’t get as torrid as that, but even a smattering of rain could cause some issues for the riders!

Anyway, who’s got a chance of taking the crown this weekend?

Contenders

Where better to start than with the current world champion, Peter Sagan. The Slovak shredded the race to bits in Omloop last Saturday and once again was in the thick of the action on Sunday, managing to win Kuurne. He clearly is in very good form at the moment and he has gone well here in the past. My one issue with him is that he always seems to struggle on the final climb up to the Piazza so he’ll need to ride everyone off of his wheel before then. Not impossible, but I can’t see it happening. Am I being too bold discounting him?

sptdw3070_670

After me playing up his chances for Omloop, Zdenek Stybar, was left bitterly disappointed at the end of the race, visibly shaking his head as he crossed the line. That to me indicates that he knew he could and should have been a key protagonist in the outcome of the race. Held up in the crash that took out Boonen, he tried attacking later on in the race to bridge across to the lead group but couldn’t manage it. I’m sure he’ll want to bounce back this weekend in a race that suits him very well, he did win it in 2015 after all! With Brambilla and Vakoc, he has a strong support team which could very well be crucial.

Picking up the win in Omloop while still not at 100% form shows what a great cyclist Greg Van Avermaet is. The Belgian has done fairly well here in the past but hasn’t managed to win this race yet, with the closest being a second place finish to Stybar in 2015. Good on short, steep climbs and rough terrain, he has all of the characteristics to win this race. Yet, like Sagan, I just have a feeling he won’t and I’m not sure why. BMC do have a very strong team with them and an in-form Hermans could be a very useful second card to play in a tactical race.

Without Cancellara, Trek will turn to Fabio Felline as their main charge for this race. After an explosive start to his season, winning Il Laigueglia, he’s followed that up with a 5th place in the TT at Andalucia and a 4th at Omloop last weekend. This race should suit him perfectly and if he can follow the best over the gravel, he certainly has a very good chance up the punchy climb to the Piazza.

bettiniphoto_0271925_1_originali_670

Sky arrive here with a very solid squad; Kwiatkowski, Rosa and Puccio all have a chance of going well. The Pole seems to slowly be returning to the rider he once was before he joined Sky, finishing 2nd on GC in Algarve earlier in February. However, he still didn’t seem in tip-top shape so this race might be too early for him. On the other hand, Rosa looked very strong in Andalucia and had he not been working for others (again!), could have finished higher up himself. He seems to love one-day racing in Italy and may very well go on to win here, but he’ll need to come to the line alone! Puccio is a bit of a wild-card, but this is his home race and he always manages a fairly decent result here. Well, apart from last year when I had backed him and he had 3 mechanicals while in the front group. I won’t put the #HaugheyCurse on him this year, but I shall be watching with interest.

Benoot and Wellens will lead the charge for Lotto Soudal. Both riders are capable of winning here if they get a bit of luck, but both will need a different type of race to play out. Benoot will be the one happier waiting until the finish line whereas Wellens is much more likely to go on the attack from far out. He’s certainly a danger if given too much leeway!

I’m really intrigued by the selection that Astana bring to this race, because on paper it looks a very strong, well-rounded team. They have a former winner in the shape of Moser and a podium finisher with Gatto. Not to mention Amstel Gold runner-up Valgren, solid one-day racer and climber Sanchez, and Grand Tour winner Aru. The last of those makes his second appearance at this race after finishing 20th here way back in 2013. Often slated for his one-day racing, he’s not as bad at these types of races as he’s made out to be in my opinion, and I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised by Aru tomorrow. The race only being 175km certainly helps him.

_75095369_75092476

FDJ arrive with a solid squad and it seems to be the same riders that are following Pinot around all year. Thibaut himself has had a good start to the season, picking up a very impressive stage win in Andalucia. Anyone who managed to beat Contador there must be going well! Making his debut in this race, he might struggle with some of the surfaces but I think his form will overcome that and he is my dark horse for the win. His team-mate Reichenbach is another good outside candidate if we get a very tactical race where the “second string” riders get sent up the road and manage to end up staying away. Like Pinot, he was also impressive in Andalucia and can’t be discounted.

Roglic, Haas, Dumoulin and Vanmarcke could all go well with a bit of luck.

Prediction

Like my women’s preview (shameless plug, view it here) I’ve had this rider in mind all week for this race. Unlike that preview though, I have had my doubts about him but that’s been purely based off of his odds being shorter than I would have liked. Nonetheless, after much deliberation I still think he’ll take the victory, capitalising on some good early season form. If we get bad conditions, that makes it even better for him. Stybar to win!

zdenek-stybar-strade-bianche-etixx-quick-step_3273699

Betting

As mentioned above, I was almost backing out of this one purely because I would have hoped for something like 10/1 on Stybar. But the more I think about it, the 6-7/1 on offer in places is still good value IMO.

Stybar 2pts WIN @7/1 with PaddyPower (would take 6/1 available elsewhere)

I tweeted these two out yesterday after prices were released but they have subsequently been shortened;

Pinot 0.25pts EW @200/1 with Bet365 (would still take 125/1 with PP or the 100/1 with William Hill)

Reichenbach 0.25pts EW @ 300/1 with Bet365 (would still take the 200/1 with PP or the 150/1 widely available)

I don’t really like any of the H2H available at the moment. Might change my mind later.

 

Once again, thanks for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win this incredible race? I’ll be back again tomorrow with a Paris-Nice GC and Stage 1 preview so keep an eye out for them. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Abu Dhabi Tour 2017 – GC Preview

Abu Dhabi Tour 2017 – GC Preview

Started back in 2015, the Abu Dhabi Tour in its first two editions was an end of season filler. Typically consisting of 3 sprint stages and one mountain top finish that decided the GC, it was a race for those winding down at the end of the year; trying to get one final result.

However, that changes ever so slightly this year with its move to the start of the season in February as riders look to build form for their up and coming objectives. Its swanky new World Tour status means that teams will be hunting those elusive WT points so I expect the race to be a little more intense than it has been in the past.

skysports-nicolas-roche-tanel-kangert-abu-dhabi-tour_3815348

The defending champion, Tanel Kangert, is back here to defend his crown but it may be hard for him to do so considering some of the climbing talent that we have here for this edition.

First however, let’s have a look at what the riders will face over the coming week.

The Route

Stage 1 features an “out and back” course through the desert, starting and finishing in Madinat Zayed.

abu-dhabi-tour-2017-stage-1-1487410888

A day that will end in a sprint and the fight for the first leader’s jersey. There is a roundabout at roughly 700m to go that will cause the bunch to be very spread out so positioning will be important. Can the wind have any impact on the stage?

Stage 2 and yep, another sprint.

abu-dhabi-tour-2017-stage-2-1487410950

This time the riders travel around the outskirts and suburbs of Abu Dhabi itself, before finishing along the marina. A right-hand turn at 300m to go can shake things up.

Stage 3 sees the day that will decide the GC battle with the finish up Jebel Hafeet.

abu-dhabi-tour-2017-stage-3-1487411000

abu-dhabi-tour-2017-stage-3-1487411027

10.8km long and averaging 6.6%, it is a a fairly challenging climb; especially when you consider that the middle 7km average 8%. This is the section where proper time gaps can be made! Who will be the rider to take the stage and GC glory?

Stage 4 and what is in my opinion, one of the worst stages in the calendar year. 26 laps of the Yas Marina motor racing circuit.

abu-dhabi-tour-2017-stage-4-1487411099

If you watch more than 10 minutes of this on Sunday instead of Kuurne, we can’t be friends! It does have some technical turns going for it in the final kilometre which may liven things up. But yeah, I despise this stage with a passion.

GC Battle

As I’ve mentioned above, the GC battle for this race all comes down to the climb up Jebel Hafeet. With there being no time-trial or rolling stage to contend with, it is possible for a pure climber to be involved in the shakedown too. The step up to World Tour level has increased the number of contenders here and we should have an exciting battle on our hands! I’ll just run through the start list in order.

Starting with the defending champion Kangert and his Astana team. Unfortunately for the Estonian I can’t see him repeating last year’s performance this season. Instead, the Kazakh outfit will turn to Fabio Aru as their main charge here. Off the back of a solid performance at Oman, Aru will be looking to continue his preparation for the Giro with another good outing here. He many not be at his best to win the race, but he should at least be aiming for a top 5 finish. (Or at least I’m hoping so for my fantasy team!)

_75095369_75092476

Bardet comes here after a disappointing race in Oman. He was positioned relatively well going into the Green Mountain stage but was one of those riders involved in the crash that day, which really hampered his end result. Making an attack on the final day shows to me that he was frustrated and that his form is good. Certainly don’t discount him after one performance.

Nibali makes his first World Tour outing with new team Bahrain Merida after finishing 8th in San Juan back in January. Always a hard one to judge form wise, I would not be surprised if the Shark wins here, or if he finishes down in 23rd!

After their success in Oman, BMC will be hoping that Tejay Van Garderen can continue the winning streak in the Middle East. Going off of recent history, the American does seem to start of the season very well; finishing 2nd on GC at his opening stage race of the year for 4 seasons in a row. Can he make it 5 here or even finish one place higher?

Rafał Majka will get his first taste of GC leadership with Bora at this race. Another who starts off the year fairly well, he’s only had two race days so far in Spain so it is tough to gauge where he is at. However, with it being only a mountain top finish and no time trial, he certainly has a chance of a podium.

Rafał-Majka-1.jpg

Quintana obviously starts as the big favourite here after blowing everyone away in Valenciana. The Colombian doesn’t just race to come 7th, he races to win and very rarely misses out on at least a podium at a stage race. If he’s continued that from from Spain, it should be no different here!

Quickstep will turn to Alaphilippe or Brambilla as their GC prospects here. Unfortunately though, they’ll either need to be in excellent form or get a massive dose of luck to challenge for the title here. A top 10 is manageable though!

Kudus will hope to go better than he did in Oman. A great talent, he really needs to develop the race management and tactical nous to his riding. Often he seems to attack too early which costs him in the closing kilometres. If he finally gets that right here then he could sneak onto the podium with a bit of luck!

merhawi-kudus-valencia-stage-4

Kruijswijk and Gesink will lead a two-pronged attack for Jumbo. On a climb like this, I’d almost say Gesink is better than his counterpart. Can they compete with Quintana and co this early in the season? Meh, probably not. Or maybe they will. I don’t know!

Another rider making his season debut is Tom Dumoulin. The Dutchman had a disappointing end to last year and I’m intrigued to see if he’s recovered mentally from that. It’s once again guesswork as to where his form is. Do you have any idea?! I think he’ll go OK, but not great, maybe 6th or something similar.

Trek come here with two great GC candidates; Contador and Mollema. They’ve both shown good early season form with Contador coming second in Ruta del Sol, and Mollema winning the GC in San Juan. The former says that he is going to work for the latter here, focussing more on Paris Nice which starts in just under two weeks time. An elaborate ruse, or is he telling the truth? Contador does seem like a team player so it is certainly plausible, but I’m more intrigued to see the logistics behind it. Will he attack to force others to follow, with Mollema sitting on? Or will he be the guy chasing attacks down? Either way, I’ll be very surprised if one of them is not on the podium by the end of the week!

Finally, “local” team, UAE Fly Emirates have two riders who can challenge the top 10, in Costa and Ulissi. But I can’t see them doing any better than that.

There are some teams/riders that I’ve missed out, but I don’t want to keep you here all day!

Prediction

Quintana more than likely wins. Boring I know, but I’m hardly ever like this so I’m allowed to do it at least once or twice a season, right?

imagen-16809927-2

Bardet and Mollema to round out the podium!

Betting

Think there is a bit of value away from the top of the order and with my 2 podium shouts. The debate I’m having with myself is if it’s worthwhile backing them for GC, or just waiting until Stage 3?!

Will Bardet start as a 10/1 shot on Stage 3, likewise, will Mollema start at 18/1 (current GC prices with Betfair)?

Hmmmm. I think I’ll just leave it until Saturday: unless of course odds elsewhere are much better! If Bardet is 14s anywhere I’ll take that, the same with Mollema at 22/1.

So a no bet, for now.

 

Thanks for reading and as per usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do oyu think will win? Can anyone beat Quintana? I will have a Stage 1 preview out later today, most likely evening some point when we get more odds available. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Il Lombardia 2016 Preview

Il Lombardia 2016 Preview

The race with the pretty name, the “Classica delle foglie morte”, is the final Monument of the year. Traditionally a race for the climbers and very strong Ardennes riders, the 2015 edition was won by a commanding Vincenzo Nibali, who attacked on the penultimate descent and managed to hold on to take the win.

170959529-8d3df921-f2f8-4de2-9ab9-26c277c1e472

This year the organisers have taken the amount of climbing to a whole new level…

The Route

Ouch!

lombardiasp Just look at that profile, particularly the second half, it wouldn’t look out-of-place as a Grand Tour Queen stage. Saying that, they wouldn’t have a stage at 240km long!

The first real challenge the riders come to is the Valico di Valcava. I’m disregarding the iconic Madonna del Ghisalo purely because it comes too close to the start.valico-di-valcava

The Valcava as you can see is a real brute of a climb. If this was a GT, it would probably be defined as a Cat1/HC depending on what classification you use. The 3km section at 11.6% could rip the peloton to shreds if a team decides to take it up early.

Once the riders have reached the summit, I’m sure they’ll be glad to know that there is just under 100km and 5 climbs left!

Next is the Berbenno; 6.5km in length and at only 5.1% it doesn’t warrant a profile from the organisers. The riders will tackle a fast descent before they go climbing again up the Sant’Antonia Abbandonato.

antonio-abbandonato

Another very steep climb, the average gradient of 8.9% is deceiving because the opening and closing kilometres are significantly easier than the  rest of the climb which averages over 10%. Another plunge into the valley follows before the Miragolo San Salvatore.

miragolo-san-salvatore

A much steadier and not as harsh climb at only 7% for it’s 8.7km. With it topping out at 40km to go, I can’t see this climb being taken at a leisurely pace. The strong climbers will hope to distance any stragglers here!

A short 5km descent follows before they tackle the penultimate climb of the day.

selvino

With the climb being relatively shallow, it will be tough for the riders to make any real inroads here. A strong group however, would be able to take back/ gain a good bit of time here if there was enough cohesion.

Once crested, the riders face a long 11km descent before roughly 10km of flat-ish road.

5km

The last place the climbers can hope to make a difference is the short 1.2km long drag that comes just over 4km to the finish line. With some steep ramps, if they distance those behind and have around 5 seconds at the top then they should hold on for the win.

It’s the exact same run in that was used in 2014, although the rest of that race was a lot easier!

Weather Watch

Initially, it looked as if the riders were going to miss the bad weather. However, inclement weather seems to be arriving in the area a day early!

As you know by now, meteorologists steal a living so you can’t trust everything completely. Therefore, I’ve tried to use a few sites to get a better idea.

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-15-42-51

Good chance of rain in the afternoon at Lake Como (MetOffice).

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-15-45-08

Weather.com has a similar outlook for Como.

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-15-41-41

Possible thunderstorms a few hours after the race has finished in Bergamo (AccuWeather)

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-15-43-21

The MetOffice also think there’s a good chance of rain in Bergamo, more likely in the evening.

Obviously these forecasts could change again by this evening but it’s definitely something to consider.

How will the race pan out?

With the final two climbs not being too difficult, the climbers without a sprint and those who are on an exceptional day will want the pace to be on early.

Looking at the teams, I would expect Astana to set a hard pace up the Valcava, shelling any deadwood and some opposition teammates. Movistar, Orica & AG2R may even lend a hand, and I would not be surprised if we only had around 60 riders left in the peloton after that climb.

A similar pattern will unfold on the Abbandonato. By this time, the bad weather and rain may have close in, which will make this race even more amazing!

A peloton of around 25-30 riders will then reach the Salvatore. With an average gradient of 7%, it is possible to make a difference here and the pace will be incredibly high. Cresting at 40km to go, there is a chance for those dropped to make it back in. The composition of the main group will then shape the rest of the race.

It is possible we get an escape of “lesser” riders forming at this point, while the main favourites mark each other behind. The group will have to include a rider from Astana/Movistar/AG2R/Orica/Sky if it hopes to survive to the end. Look to the likes of Kangert and Izagirre!

Favourites

My number one favourite for this race has to be Chaves. He was up here last year until cramps and a hunger knock took him out of contention. One of the best climbers in the race and not to mention he’s on good form, I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t make the top 3!

Uran arrives off the back of a very good series of races in September and has been unlucky not to take a win. That could well change here! He’s a danger-man.

WATSON_00004544-011-630x423.jpg

Aru is Astana’s main man for this. They’ll be hoping for a performance similar to Nibali from him. However, he’s not been anywhere near to that high standard this Autumn. I’m just not convinced by his ability to compete in a race like this.

Movistar’s main men will be Moreno and Valverde. Both performed very well here last year and Moreno looks in good form just now. Having Valverde in the final group changes the dynamic as no one will want to come to a sprint with him. His form/fatigue is also unknown as he’s done a lot of racing this year. I’d have Moreno as team leader!

article-2043608-0E278F2700000578-613_306x423

Alaphilippe is 3rd favourite with the bookies, but there is too much climbing for him in my opinion! He won’t be there at the end.

Bardet should be in the mix for AG2R and is a podium contender. On form, Ulissi and Costa will be in or around the top 10. The Italian was climbing exceptionally well in the Giro and will hope to do the same tomorrow.

There are some riders others will mention as potential favourites but their form hasn’t been good enough for me to fancy their chances; Martin, Mollema, Poels, Brambilla and Landa namely.

Outsiders?

There is always the opportunity for those further down the pecking order. I like the look of Majka for this. Completely contradictory to what I said above re-Martin and co, I just think this course suits the Pole very well. He normally goes well at the end of the year and can handle the distance.

PIC482498794
Majka’s reaction when he hears that the #HaugheyCurse has been set upon him

Others I like the look of are Reichenbach and Kelderman. The Swiss rider is going very well at the moment and has been attacking in his recent races. He’s a very good climber on his day, but probably isn’t the quality of the big favourites. This could work to his advantage as the others just watch each other. The same can be said for Kelderman, who seemed to be going nicely in the Eneco Tour and in Canada. Another danger man if given too much leeway! I do like the back-up Astana rider option and Kangert would be my man for that situation.

Prediction

Chaves should win, he’s arguably the best climber here, a good descender and in very good form!

maxresdefault

But we do get a surprise every so often, especially if the weather is bad. Keep an eye out for my 4 outsiders!

Betting

1pt WIN Chaves @ 6/1 with PaddyPower or Betfair

0.2pt EW Majka @ 80/1 with Bet365

0.15pt EW Reichenbach @100/1 with Bet365/PP/Betfair (or take 80/1 with Ladbrokes but 4 places)

0.1pt EW Kelderman @ 150/1 with Bet365/PP/Betfair

0.1pt EW Kangert @250/1 with Ladbrokes (4 places)

 

Hope you all enjoyed the preview and thanks for reading! How do you think the race will pan out? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 20 Preview: Benidorm -> Alto de Aitana

Today’s Recap

Wow.

Froome smoked everyone.

cr7u-yhweaa8dyk

He managed to beat the guy who smoked everyone else, Castroviejo, by 44 seconds. An utterly dominant display. I mean, he only beat him by 4 seconds at Rio on a much longer TT. Plus, all the local advantages that Castroviejo had, it’s just an insanely unbelievable, strong ride!

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-18-20-20

Anyway, enough about today, on to tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

Last chance saloon for the GC riders as we reach the penultimate stage of the race. In typical Vuelta, and Grand Tour fashion, the organisers have created a tough-ish day out on the bike. It’s not the Queen stage, but probably the Princess!

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-10-48-48

Four Cat-2 climbs followed by an Especial ascent.

With the GC battle now a lot closer after today, we could see all hell break loose on tomorrow’s stage. Sky might try to take it up early on the first climb of the day; Coll de Rates. 13km at 3% and it’s a Cat 2? Well a lot of the elevation gain (230m -> 505m) is made at the start; 5kms at 5.5%. Before a plateau (if you can call it that) then another kick up at the end.

I don’t think the following two climbs will have an impact on the outcome of the day so I’ll miss them out and get onto the penultimate climb. Although even then, the Puerto de Tudons isn’t overly difficult, coming in at 7.1km long, averaging 5.4%. Nothing the GC guys can’t handle.

So it looks as if it’s over to the final climb. The Alto de Aitana.

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-18-47-54

Long, but not very steep with only a 5.9% average gradient. There are a few steeper sections within the climb but if anything will create gaps between the GC guys it’s the length of the climb, at 21km. Combine this with the amount of ascending we’ve had at the Vuelta so far and there could be some splits.

How will the stage pan out?

Before today’s reshuffling I had this down as a breakaway day. Like most days have been at the Vuelta and something we see commonly on the last “proper” day of a Grand Tour.

However, Froome’s time gain does throw somewhat of a spanner in the works in regards to a breakaway victory. Some people will suggest that Sky will go all guns blazing tomorrow to try and isolate/weaken Quintana and we’ll have another epic stage on our hands.

Yes, it is feasible, I mean, nothing is impossible but it seems implausible to me. Not that I’m controversial or anything 😉 Let me explain.article-2043608-0E278F2700000578-613_306x423

The only problem with that plan, is that in the mountains Quintana hasn’t been in trouble at all this entire race. He only lost small amounts of time to Froome on Stage 3, but since then he’s been at least on an equal footing with the Brit and has beaten him several times. As I’ve said above, the climbs tomorrow aren’t overly difficult (which actually favours Froome) but Quintana should have no issue following. Unless he cracks majorly. Heck, he can afford to lose a minute, which is an enormous amount of time for these guys.

Isolating Quintana through the use of Froome’s team-mates doesn’t make much sense either. If it’s left as a 1 v 3 then all the Colombian has to do is follow Froome’s wheel. Numerical advantage won’t make a difference. Bet they regret not having Konig up there on GC now!

Finally and most important of all, I think Froome knows that Quintana’s better than him in the mountains just now. He’s tried a couple of times to crack him and has failed. It would be a big loss mentally for next season if he tries again and it doesn’t work. As bad as it is, I think he might be happy with his 2 stage wins and 2nd on GC.

So once again, I think we’re left with a…

break1

Candidates

There are a lot of guys who’ll be keen to get in the move to showcase themselves but especially because they will fancy their chances on the final climb.

Look to your obvious guys, such as Fraile and Elissonde who both have to make the move to continue the KOM battle. Gesink will probably be there too. However, I’m not suggesting any of them. Coincidentally, the guys I am naming took it “easy” today as well, all finishing outside the top 100, saving their legs… (?)

Joe Dombrowski.

Giro d'Italia - Stage 16

A regular pick of mine at the Giro earlier in the year, he’s a great climber with a solid engine. One of the most naturally gifted cyclists in the peloton, much like Ryder Hesjedal, he’s someone who seems to get better as a race progresses. Before the Vuelta, Talansky said that Dombrowski would win a stage here. He’s not done so yet, and tomorrow is his only chance. 3rd on the penultimate stage in the Giro, he’ll be hoping for better tomorrow!

Darwin Atapuma.

2nd on that same stage, Atapuma has been very quiet since taking the leader’s jersey earlier in the race. With Sanchez’s unfortunate crash today BMC have lost their top 10 rider and will want to go on the attack. Hermans may be that guy, but Atapuma has a lot more time leeway to play with. An exceptional climber on his day, the final ascent should be a walk in the park for him.

Hugh Carthy.

unspecified-37-790x445.jpeg

The Lancashire lad has had a Vuelta full of learning experiences. He was unfortunate enough to crash and need stitches to his hand earlier on in the race, but he did manage to make it into Froome’s group on that very chaotic Stage 15. This type of stage suits him perfectly (the climbs are consistent) and I hope he’s recovered and makes the break, just to remind everyone what he’s capable of!

Gianluca Brambilla.

The winner of that incredible stage 15, Brambilla has taken it relatively easy since. Rolling home a few minutes down each day, saving some energy. Coming into this race, I thought he was a decent outside shot of a top 10 on GC. However, that is obviously beyond him now, but it highlights the quality of rider that he is. He’ll be able to stick in on the final climb because it’s not so difficult and he could out-sprint anyone to the line.

Prediction

I say Brambilla takes his second stage win!

CrhZA6_WgAAMcpt

Behind, we might see some GC action, but Quintana still wins the Vuelta. All he has to do is stick on Froome’s back-wheel all day and I’m confident he’s capable of that. Even if he does end up losing 20 seconds at most. There might be some more movement within the top 10 itself. The battles for 5th and 7th look exciting!

Screen Shot 2016-09-09 at 19.49.11.png

Betting

0.45pt WIN Brambilla @ 22/1

0.25pt WIN Dombrowski @ 80/1

0.15pt WIN Atapuma @ 50/1

0.15pt WIN Carthy @ 125/1

All of these are with B365 as they’re the only bookie to price up by half 8. Hopefully others will be more favourable later!

Hope you all enjoyed the preview. How do you think the penultimate stage will go? Am I completely wrong, and will we see a massive GC fight throughout the stage? Does the break have any chance? Like always, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta Stage 3 Preview: Marín -> Dumbria (Mirador de Ízaro)

Today’s Recap

Well, that was as chaotic as expected!

Experience shone through with veteran Gianni Meersman holding on to take the win after his Etixx team delivered him perfectly in the final kilometre. With it being a headwind finish, they timed the lead out so that Meersman did the shortest sprint possible. Furthermore, taking the quickest line around the last bend also helped. They had their tactics spot on. A great win for him and the team!

CqZVPi5WAAAfayZ

Magnus Cort Nielsen came from miles back it seemed and got up for third. So still a profitable day for the blog at least! Stage favourite Arndt was nowhere to be seen but on a re-watch of the closing kilometres it looked like two riders got held up by Lagutin’s crash, so that could have been Arndt. Would make sense because he finished alongside lead-out man De Koert.

Anyway, moving on to tomorrow’s stage…

The Route

This is the type of stage that typifies the Vuelta. Not overly long and back ended with some steep climbs. I love it!

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 16.25.17

We should all be very familiar with the Vuelta and their famous “Cat-3” climbs by now. They are brutal! Especially the short ones.

Tomorrow’s finish was used in the 2012 Vuelta, with Joaquim Rodriguez winning that day. As you can see in the video below, it is a real grind.

More about the final climb later…

Before they reach the finish they have a tough 70km to traverse, featuring over 1500m of elevation. The organisers have been kind and are easing the riders into the race… 😉

Just to get a better idea of the final 78km, I’ve made a Strava profile of it that you can view here. I promise I’m not sponsored by them, I just like the interactivity that the website allows!

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 18.16.37
Strava profile of the last 78km

The first Cat 3 is 9km long, averaging 5%. However, the final kilometre is the toughest part with sections over 9%. This will sap some of the legs, but it is too far out for any real moves to be made.

However, the penultimate climb of Paxereiras is very interestingly positioned. This is a proper climb, 8km at 6.7%. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The first 5.5km are a lot more demanding, average roughly 8.3%, with sections above 11%. Due to the climb being around 20km to the finish line, there is a chance we could see some satellite riders being sent up the road here so that their teams don’t have to chase.

Back to the final climb, sorry, I mean wall! It’s just ridiculous, 1.7km long at an average of 13.7%. There are even sections in it that top 30%!

You have to be a light and explosive climber to win here.

How will the stage pan out? Team Tactics?

As I’ve alluded to above, the penultimate climb may be used as a springboard for teams to send riders up the road and try to hold on for the win, but I think this is a relatively unlikely outcome. It’s still possible, but I favour this coming down to a battle on that brutal final climb.

Now, as we saw on the first summit finish at the Vuelta last year the “big” riders often mark each other which paves the way for a “second-tier” rider to take the win. Having a strong team in this situation is crucial.

Before he was pulled out, I had Landa penciled in for this stage. The situation would be that he would attack off the front and Froome would mark the attacks behind. Obviously he’s not here now but I expect something similar to happen, so let’s look at the teams and riders who could be allowed to get away.

Movistar – Quintana and Valverde are leaders/too high-profile, Moreno or Fernandez may be their options. I’d favour Moreno as he goes better on the steep stuff.

Vuelta España - Stage 4

 

Tinkoff – Contador will be watched. Kiserlovski could get away, but he hasn’t been great for a while. Only chance of them winning is Alberto blowing everyone away, which is certainly possible!

Sky – Froome will again be marked. Over to Konig or Kwiatkowski, both good candidates if they’re on form. Might be too steep for them though.

BMC- A team with a few options. Atapuma or Sanchez best plan as it’s too steep for TVG. One massive longshot to keep an eye on is Hermans, who seems to be climbing very well as of late. I think it’s too tough for Gilbert.

Jumbo – Gesink was 4th here in 2012, but has been off the boil since then, although could surprise! Kruijswijk not fit enough yet.

Orica – Chaves won because of this situation last year so he’ll be closely watched this time round. Instead, I think Yates has a real chance here.

Astana – They don’t really have a big name guy, but this climb suits Superman Lopez perfectly. The bunch can’t give him too much room!

sptdw5068_670

Etixx – Another team without a first-division GC rider, but Brambilla is capable of going well here.

I don’t think any other riders will figure at the pointy end of the race, but I would love for a Caja Rural rider to be up there. They have a good list of punchy climbers, I’m not entirely sure who the finish suits best. Possibly Goncalves (#GoOnCalves) or Bilbao.

Prediction

Like last year, I think we’ll see three “lesser” riders escape the main group. My selections for that situation would be Lopez, Yates & Brambilla, and they’ll make up the podium tomorrow! Now it’s just choosing the winner.

Lopez is a bit of an unknown and how far he can go, but he does have bags of talent. The steep gradients should suit his diminutive figure, but I think youthful exuberance might get the best of him.

Brambilla is probably the weakest of the three, but has been in great form. Plus, as was shown at the Giro, he’s not afraid to attack from distance. But I think this climb is on the limit for him.

Therefore, I think it will be Yates who goes on to win! He rode very well in the TTT and is evidently going well. He’s quietly gone about his business since his return with; a win in Spain; another podium; 7th at San Sebastian; and 4th on GC at Burgos. A rider who goes well in Spain, he is able to cope with the steep stuff.

Taking advantage of the rest of the GC guys marking each other, he’ll be able to repeat Chaves’ success from last year and in the process take the leader’s jersey!

FOTO-4031-630x422

Betting

Annoyingly, it seems the trader at Bet365 has had a similar line of thought…

0.65pt EW Yates @12/1 (Bet365)

0.2pt EW Lopez @16/1 (Bet365) 22/1 with PaddyPower

0.15pt EW Brambilla @33/1 (Bet365) 50/1 with PaddyPower

Like usual, hunt around once more bookmakers have priced up later and there is a chance that you can get better odds. I’ll update the post/my twitter if I spot anything, I just want to get the preview published!

Hope you enjoyed the read, how do you think it will play out tomorrow? Will we get the 2nd tiered riders up the road, or will the big GC boys come out to play? As usual, any advice/feedback is greatly appreciated! Thanks for reading. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.