Women’s Individual Time Trial World Championships Preview – Bergen 2017

After the somewhat of a shock win from Sunweb on Sunday in the team effort, our focus now turns to the individual race against the clock and riders are back to riding for their country, not trade teams!

The power course in 2016 saw Amber Neben of the USA take a surprise win, beating Van Dijk and Garfoot into the silver and bronze medal positions respectively.

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The 42 year-old is here to defend her title but there are plenty of others looking to take it from her. First though, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

The women will complete just one “long lap” around Bergen, which is quite disappointing if I’m honest. Especially when you consider that the U23 men completed a “long” and “short” lap for their event today!

Anyway, as per usual I’ve made a Strava/Veloviewer profile of the route that you can view here.

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A fairly flat and not overly technical opening 5.6km will allow the power riders in the peloton to open up the taps and hopefully get into a rhythm. However, after that they will then face the toughest part of the course where that “rhythm” might get thrown out of the window!

Rolling Section Women's TT

Lots of small drags and fast descents for the riders to tackle, the term “rollercoaster route” describes this section perfectly. Averaging 2.7% for the 4.4km it isn’t too tough and the more traditional TTers would hope not to lose too much. Well, that is until we get to the climb that has put to bed some of the contenders chances over the past few days of action.

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A short but very sharp climb, it is important to pace it and not go too deep. The lighter riders will hope to make up some time here but given its length, they won’t be able to make up much. If only the women finish on Mount Floyen too!

The reason pacing is important, is because the riders still have more than half of their ride to complete.

That closing 11kms actually average -1% so it can be a place for riders to gain a lot of time if they nail the descents and put the power down on the flat. We saw this in the women’s TTT with Sunweb gaining roughly 15 seconds on Boels over that section. Can Van Dijk do it again?!

Weather Watch

Over the past few days it has hardly rained. We had a smattering during the women’s junior TT earlier but in the city that is apparently one of the wettest in the world it has been a lot less than expected.

However, that might change tomorrow.

Saying that different forecasts have different outlooks. You can’t trust meteorologists these days!

So I’ll go off of Yr.no (A Norwegian site) which hopefully should be the most accurate*…

*famous last words.

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Source : YR.no

It seems that we’re in for another sprinkling of rain in the afternoon, which in theory should affect those late on in the order.

Speaking of which, Lauren Stephens is first down the ramp at 15:35 local time, with defending champion Neben off last at 16:54.

You can view the full start list and times here.

Contenders

I’m really not sure what to make of this race tomorrow. We have a whole host of riders who in theory could compete on this course, but it all depends on their form!

Lauren Stephens.

First down the ramp, the American will no doubt set the fastest time early on but it could be one that might stand a while. She’s been very impressive so far this season, taking 3 wins to her name, including two-time trials. Possibly benefiting from better weather, can the strong all-rounder shock the peloton?

Anna van der Breggen.

World Championships - Womens TT

The rider who could potentially knock Stephens off that early hot-seat, the Dutchwoman has had a great season; winning a famous Ardennes Triple. Her efforts against the clock have been solid, but she’s failed to win a TT. The course tomorrow suits her as a strong all-rounder but I think she might prefer a few more hills.

We’ll then have to wait a bit for riders to challenge the times of the two above. There will be some who might come close but I can’t see anyone beating them for almost another hour…

Annemiek van Vleuten.

The bookmaker’s favourite for this race “Vleuty” has been incredibly strong this season, bouncing back form her horror crash in Rio last year. Everything she’s touched recently has turned to gold pretty much, it has been a truly remarkable effort. She will arrive her full of confidence after beating Van Dijk in the recent Boels Rental Tour and she has every chance to do that again. My one doubt about her is that as she has been so strong for a large percentage of the year, is she starting to tire now, while others have managed their peaks a lot better?

Ellen Van Dijk.

The third Dutch rider/potential winner on the start list, she was instrumental in helping Sunweb to the TTT title on Sunday. A powerhouse on the bike, the course looks almost ideal for her. She is one of the last riders down the start ramp so she’ll be hoping any rain holds off until after she has finished, but she will be up there fighting either way. I imagine she will be satisfied with nothing less than Rainbow at the end of the day.

Amber Neben.

Last year’s somewhat of a shock winner, we could well be in for another surprise again. I personally don’t know much about her as I only started following the women’s side of the sport a few years ago, but she apparently can put out some serious watts. At 42 years old though, surely this is a step too far? Then again, winning your first Worlds at 41 kind of negates that a bit…

Olga Zabelinskaya.

10-08-2016 Giochi Olimpici Cronometro Elite Donne; 2016, Russia; Zabelinskaia, Olga; Rio De Janeiro;

A strong TT rider with a “dubious” racing history, she always seems to go fairly well at the big events. Her form this season has been poor though and she disappointed at the Euro Champs. However, given her ability to surprise then who knows what we’ll get from her tomorrow!

Katrin Garfoot.

Not too far off the pace last year, where she somewhat avoided the Haughey Curse and managed to take third; she will obviously be hoping to go better this time round. Like Van Dijk, this course looks great for the naturalised Aussie who can manage on the climbs but also put the power down on the flat. She has been slowly building some form and a third place during the Tour of Norway is promising. Watch out for her!

Others to look out for to be in and around the top 10 include Villumsen, Brennauer, and Duyck.

Prediction

Hmmm, I’m still really torn on this one.

The course suits a rider who can climb fairly well but is strong enough on the flat to put the power down. Before the Championships started I had this down as van Vleuten’s to win, but after watching the opening few days of racing I’m not so sure. In fact, I’ve changed my mind and I think Van Dijk has the best chance for the Dutch team.

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The European Champion to add a World title to her collection!

Watch out for Garfoot though, I think she could sneak a podium place and possibly even better…

Betting

The 7/2 available for Van Dijk to win is very tempting but I’m still not overly convinced. So to take out any “shocks” we might see, I think that the 2/1 to beat Van Vleuten offers some value.

I’m also tempted to back the Garfoot to beat Villumsen H2H at 5/4 as on this course I would have the Aussie as favourite.

I also think Garfoot is way overpriced as an outside podium contender at 22/1. As a rider who turned pro late (back in 2014) she’s since gone on and finished 11th/4th/3rd over the past three World TT competitions. Not bad. I think she’ll be close again tomorrow and has to be backed at the price.

So with all that said (including some of me talking through my logic) my punts are as follows –

3pts Van Dijk to beat van Vleuten @ 2/1 (would take 13/8)

5pts Garfoot to beat Villumsen @ 5/4 (would take at 10/11)

1pt EW Garfoot to win @ 22/1 (would back down to 14/1)

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? I think we’ll be in for an exciting and close afternoon of TT action. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Women’s Road Race World Championships – Doha 2016

Women’s Road Race World Championships – Doha 2016

On a very different course last year, we saw Lizzie Deignan (née Armitstead) win a a sprint from a group of strong climbers/one-day racers, after the race was blown to bits on the final lap. It was a great show of strength from the Brit!

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The 2016 edition however doesn’t seem to be one that will suit Deignan and it will see a different type of rider come to the fore.

Let’s have a look at the course.

The Route

A glorified criterium is the best way to describe it if I’m being honest. The riders will have roughly 28km to travel through the suburbs of Doha before reaching the Pearl Circuit that has been the focal point for these Championships.

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There’s not much to talk about here if you’ve managed to watch any of the races so far. The Pearl Circuit itself is fairly technical with a lot of roundabouts and sharp corners, and this technical nature will be more evident in the road race compared to the time trial as riders won’t have the time to pick their own lines around the corners.

Therefore, it is important to be relatively close to the front of the bunch. Herein lies the problem, as everyone will be fighting to be in that top 40 riders. Which could cause some crashes/splits like we saw in the U23 men’s race today!

Conversely to the technical nature of the course, the closing kilometre or so of the circuit is very open and this means riders are able to move up, and the peloton spreads across the road. This creates a very messy sprint, but being able to follow the right wheel or your own sprint train is key, but luck and bravery will also play a big part.

Around the 200m to go mark the road dips down before rising again to the finish.

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Screenshot of the U23 race, showing the final 100m.

As you can see above it’s not a severe hill and considering the speed at which the riders should be going at then it won’t cause too much difficulty. But it is certainly something to note and you don’t want to be opening up your sprint too early, that’s for sure!

It should end in a bunch sprint but there will be a a few teams who will want to roll the dice in a breakaway/late attack.

Weather Watch

The women seem to be striking lucky with the weather and they should be in for a relatively relaxing day.

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The wind isn’t that strong at all and it probably won’t affect the race. Although, there seems to have been barely any noticeable wind at all in Qatar so far. That was particularly evident when there were high winds predicted for today. Maybe high winds = low, and vice versa?!

Temperature wise, it’s what the riders would expect but it is forecast to be a few degrees lower than we’ve had in the past few days. I’m sure the peloton will be glad to hear that!

Contenders

For this, I’ll go through the major nations highlighting those with a chance followed by those from the smaller teams.

Where best to start than with defending champion Deignan and the Great Britain team. As I said in the introduction, this course is probably too easy for Deignan so she may not be the best option for them. Instead, I think they should turn to Hannah Barnes for the sprint. She put in a very solid TT (not her favourite discipline) on Tuesday so there is clearly some form there. With a fast finish she could challenge here but will probably need a bit of luck as I don’t think she is as fast compared to some of her competitors. Team GB may try and stir things up with a late attack, watch out for Dani King if that’s the case.

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The Queen of Qatar, Kirsten Wild, arrives her with an incredible Dutch team. Four time winner of the GC in the Tour of Qatar, she knows how to handle the wind and conditions here. Supporting her lead-out, she will have Chantal Blaak, Amy Pieters and Marianne Vos, not bad eh?! The one thing that concerns me is that everyone on the Dutch team could potentially win this race in varying situations. Put it this way, out of the top 15 favourites (by the bookmakers), 7 of them are Dutch! I’d be feeling left out if I was Roxane Knetemann. Will they put all their eggs in one basket and will they want to? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see on Saturday.

Another nation with a similar problem is the Italians. They’ve brought a team stacked with sprinting talent. Again, I’m not entirely sure who their lead rider will be, either; Bronzini, Bastianelli or Guarischi. All of them have their pros and cons, but I would narrow it down to Bronzini or Guarischi. Bronzini is the experienced and reliable rider but Guarischi is more of a “pure-sprinter” and she has beaten the other two most recently. In my opinion, I would have Guarischi as Plan A and Plan Bronzini. If Guarischi can be positioned well then she has a good chance of a podium!

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A team that has arrived with a plan is Australia. They’re all in for their sprinter Chloe Hosking. With a strong set of rouleurs and lead-out riders in the team, including TT Bronze medalist Garfoot, they should have the pulling power to position Hosking perfectly at the end of the day. It will then be over to the 26-year old to finish it off. Winning on her last start (GP Beghelli) she’ll be brimming with confidence and I think she might just do it.

Belgium will turn to their star sprinter Jolien d‘Hoore to take home the rainbow jersey. She doesn’t have the strongest of teams with her and the lead-out looks a bit scarce but that shouldn’t impede her too much. She’ll be disappointed with anything less than a podium.

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With the field being so stacked and the fact I’ve already rambled on a bit, the rest of this will be slightly shorter than intended!

Coryn Rivera will have the full backing of her US teammates. As a rider who’s came from crit-racing she’ll love this course and could certainly spring a surprise.

The French will turn to Roxane Fournier most likely, who took a big win at La Route de France earlier in the year. I’m not convinced she has the legs to win, but a top 5 would be a great result.

Canada have two sprint options in the form of Leah Kirchmann and Joëlle Numainville. Kirchmann is probably the faster of the two but again it will probably come down to who’s feeling best on the day.

Lisa Brennauer will most likely be the sprinter for Germany, but she probably would have preferred a slightly harder circuit.

Lepistö (Finland), Moberg (Norway), Majerus (Luxembourg), Bujak (Poland) and Dideriksen (Demark) will all be fighting for a top 10 placing which would a good result, with Lepistö the most likely to get any higher than that.

Prediction

I’ve had this rider in mind for a while and I may be slightly biased as she’s in my fantasy team, but I think this is Chloe Hosking‘s big chance to win the Rainbow Jersey. She might not be as fast as Wild and d’Hoore, but she is very close to them in that sense. Finishing 1st and 2nd at the Tour and Vuelta races respectively, highlights just how fast she is and will be confident from those results. Her main asset however, will be a dedicated lead-out. The rest of the team should be able to look after her throughout the day, making sure she makes as little effort as possible until that final sprint. Furthermore, they’ll be able to position her perfectly at the front with 150m to go, and Hosking will duly deliver!

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Betting

I’ve been wanting to back this for a while (and it’s a shame the male rider in question had a very strong Eneco Tour and his odds have shortened)…

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Sticking to my guns;

Hosking and Sagan double @34.75/1 with William Hill, 0.8pt EW. Also available at B365 @31.5/1. 

Other bookmakers will hopefully price up the women’s race soon and you might be able ot find better odds somewhere. Both of them should hopefully podium at least for some kind of return!

One rider that I do think is overpriced for the women’s race is:

Guarischi @ 80/1 with Bet365, 0.2pt EW on her.

 

Thanks again for reading! How do you think the race will play out? Will the sprinters have their day, and if so, who do you think will win? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Women’s ITT World Championship – Doha 2016

Women’s ITT World Championship – Doha 2016

Last year saw an incredibly close race, with the top 4 riders separated by less than 10 seconds. It was New Zealand rider Linda Villumsen who came out on top edging Anna Van der Breggen to the title, with Lisa Brennauer rounding out the podium.

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With Villumsen not here this year, there is a chance for someone else to step up and win the Rainbow Jersey. It won’t be an easy task for the riders though as they’ll have to contend with tough conditions. Let’s take a look at what’s in store for them.

The Route

The Elite women tackle the exact same course that we saw the U23 Men complete today. Almost two full laps of the Pearl circuit, totalling 28.9km.

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There a few tight roundabouts and corners, but most of the circuit is fast and sweeping with very little elevation gain. Being able to carry speed through the corners will help massively so good bike handling skills are essential, but also a bit of bravery to take more risks out on course will help to set a good time. That’s about it really, nothing much else to say!

However, the main challenge for the riders will be the conditions.

Weather Watch

As we’ve witness in both the team time trial and the U23 TT today, the heat plays a huge part in the outcome of the race. Heat management and efficient use of energy are crucial in the 35 degree plus weather. The riders will be bitterly disappointed to see that they’re in for more of the same tomorrow, but what else can be expected when the World Champs are held in a desert!

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Windfinder data for Doha

With the temperature set to be even hotter than today there could be more riders struggling tomorrow. The late starters will benefit from a slight drop in temperature but the wind appears to pick up for them. The section of the course furthest from the start (most easterly) will be the area where those riders will face a stiff headwind. However, for the rest of the course it should even itself out and as we saw today, the wind direction and speed can change almost instantaneously.

The start order can be found here.

Contenders

My unsuccessful pick for the Olympic TT, Ellen Van Dijk, starts as the bookies favourite and deservedly so. Aside from running off the road in Rio, where she would have finished on the podium otherwise, and third at the Chrono Champenois, Van Dijk has looked incredibly strong this year. This type of power course will suit here well but her sometimes lackadaisical bike handling could be of detriment. If she stays upright and is confident in the corners then she will be tough to beat. Not impossible, but tough!
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Her Dutch team-mate Anna Van der Breggen will be hoping to do just that. Arguably one of the riders of the season, the Olympic and European road race champion is a very solid TTer too, having made the podium at both those events in the individual discipline. She would probably want a hillier course to have a better chance but she can’t be ruled out because of her form. I just think there are riders more suited to this terrain than her.

One of those is Olympic silver medalist Olga Zabelinskaya. The 36-year old Russian is in the twilight of her career but has pulled off some remarkable rides this season and if she has continued that form then she is a real contender. She recently finished 2nd at the Chrono Champenois, beating Van Dijk.

The rider who beat them both that day? Katrin Garfoot. The Aussie champion has had one of her best seasons on the bike to date. She’s a solid climber but her area of expertise is time trialling. Finishing just off the podium at last year’s event, she’ll be here for revenge and looks in good form. Keep an eye out for her!

The third prong in the Dutch arsenal is Annemiek van Vlueten. After her horror crash at the Olympics she bounced back to win the Lotto Belgium Tour which was great to see! Another rider who can do a bit of everything the current Dutch TT champ will be aiming for nothing less than the top spot! She goes out the earliest of her team-mates so could benefit from the weaker wind or conversely suffer more in the heat.

Cycling - Road - Olympics: Day 2

As for the other riders?

I’m not confident of Lisa Brennauer‘s chances. Third last year, her time trialling has been a bit hit and miss so far this year and she’s yet to win an event. Managing to pick up numerous podiums, maybe I am being a bit on harsh on her, but the signs aren’t great. Nonetheless, Canyon performed better than expected in the TTT, so maybe she can turn it around too?

Amber Neben and Carmen Small could be in or around the top 5 for the USA as well.

There is one outsider I like the look of and that’s Ashleigh Moolman. The South African is in great form at the moment and will relish the tough conditions. She rode well for her team on Sunday which will have given her confidence for this event. Another rider who would probably prefer a hill or two, she certainly will give it her all!

Prediction

Now for that time I cast the #HaugheyCurse upon some poor soul. There is a great chance we could see a Dutch 1-2-3, but it’s bad enough me ruining one riders chances, let alone a whole nation’s 😉

Van Dijk rightly is favourite, but I do really rate the chances of Katrin Garfoot for this course. Out of the top 5 favourites, she’s probably the rider who will benefit most from the flat course. Performing well in the Tour of Qatar earlier this year, she will be no stranger to the tough conditions and combining that with her good recent form, I think she’s on the cusp of a great victory!

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Sincerest apologies Katrin!

Betting

1pt WIN Garfoot at 5/1 with Unibet (I’d take the 9/2 with Bet365/Ladbrokes/Skybet)

0.25pt EW Moolman at 50/1 with Bet365/Ladbrokes

*Update* Added this H2H treble with B365 that I like.

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0.5pt on at 4.37/1

 

Thanks for reading! Can you see past the Dutch trio and will the #HaugheyCurse finally be over? Who do you think will win? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. I shall have the men’s TT preview out tomorrow evening. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

La Course Preview

La Course Preview

In a slight change from normal, I’ll be giving women’s cycling the attention it deserves by having a look at the 3rd edition of “La Course”.

It may not be the most prestigious race in women’s cycling, but due to it being coupled with live broadcasts of the men’s Tour, it’s very important for the growth and exposure of the sport.

The first two editions of the race saw fast and aggressive action from the riders with the peloton splitting up around the streets of Paris. In 2014, the imperious Marianne Vos took a sprint victory out of a reduced group of around 20 riders. Last year saw the weather cause havoc out on the course, with there being numerous crashes and pile-ups. Anna van der Breggen seized her opportunity and time trialed away from the bunch on the final lap, winning with enough time to sit up for a victory salute as a chasing “peloton” of 10 riders finished one second behind.

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Could we be in for a similar situation this year? Let’s take a look at the route.

The “La Course” course

A simple circuit around the Champs-Élysées, using the same roads that have become iconic in the men’s race as a traditional end to the Tour.

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The nature of the fast flowing circuit will ensure that the race will be covered at a remarkable pace, with it probably being completed in around 2 hours.

la-course-by-le-tour-de-france-2016-1469266780The circuit itself climbs a little bit here and there, but nothing too crazy, gaining around 50m in elevation. Completing it 12 times will drain some of the riders. Especially considering the aggressive racing that we so often see, and that I absolutely love, in women’s cycling.

One thing that the majority of the riders will be thankful for is that the weather forecast is much better this year. It looks set to be sunny all day, so they should have dry cobblestones and there hopefully should be fewer crashes.

How will the race pan out?

The aggressive tactics really opens the race up. With the most likely outcome being some kind of sprint by the end of the race.

In 2014 we had good conditions and 25 riders came home within 10 seconds of the winner (Vos) and oddly enough, during the tough conditions last year 25 riders also came home within the same amount of time. So we’ll get a peloton of 25 coming to the line together then…simple!

Yet, there’s a chance that might not happen.

Smaller teams (6 riders max) means that the races are quite tough to control, so the majority of the teams adopt the old adage of “attack is the best form of defence”. Therefore, we’ll see teams with very strong sprinters such as Wiggle High5 possibly send riders up the road, Dani King for example, to cover moves from other teams.

These attacks can often stick, which opens up the possibility of a whole host of riders who can win the race.

The Sprinters

2014 winner Marianne Vos has to come into this race as favourite. She’s had a great 2016 so far, after being out pretty much all of last year through injury. Winning 3 stages at the recent Thüringen Rundfahrt, she’s evidently in great form. Capable of winning a sprint from both small and large groups, she is a real danger!

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The team with the best lead-out in the race has to be Canyon SRAM. As reigning World TTT champions, they are a massively powerful unit. They’ll have a choice of two sprinters; Barbara Guarischi or Lisa Brennauer. The former will be there if there is a large bunch sprint of around 50 riders, whereas I suspect Brennauer will be their card to play in a reduced bunch gallop.

Chloe Hosking or Amy Pieters will be Wiggle High5s sprinters of choice, with Hosking probably getting the number 1 card. She took a great win at the Giro Rosa earlier in the year, and will get the chance to lead the team after working for D’hoore last year. Pieters will be the option if the race gets wild, she did finish 3rd last year after all!

Team Liv Plantur will look towards their Canadian sprinter, come all-rounder, Leah Kirchmann. She’s had a great maiden season in Europe, after joining from Optum at the start of the year. Capable of mixing it in big bunch kicks, but also smaller sprints, she’ll be aiming for a podium. After all, she finished 3rd in the inaugural edition of La Course.

Boels Dolmans have several cards to play like always, they are incredibly strong! I’d fancy Chantal Blaak or Christine Majerus to be their team leaders.

Other sprinters include; Coryn Rivera, Lotta Lepistö, Roxanne Fournier & Marta Bastianelli.

There are a whole host of riders who will fancy their chances if the favourites play games with each other. I’m not going to go through them all but some names to listen out for during the stage are; Brand, Van Dijk, Cromwell, Cucinotta & Zabelinskaya.

Prediction

The most likely outcome tomorrow is a sprint. In tradition of my previews, I’ll go for a bit of an outsider and say that the sprightly Aussie, Chloe Hosking, will take a memorable win! She’s done a lot of work for team-mates here in the past and will be duly rewarded tomorrow.

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Hope you enjoyed this preview! I want to focus on women’s cycling whenever I can, and when the races are broadcast. I find the racing more exciting than the mens at times, it’s a lot less predictable. Would you like to see more previews? As usual, any feedback is great 🙂 Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.