Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 6 Preview; Reggio Calabria -> Terme Liugiane

Today’s Recap

We did get that inevitable sprint in the end, with no turning of the wind in the morning. Much to my disappointment!

It was Gaviria and QuickStep who timed the charge to the line perfectly in a tricky head-wind sprint, beating a fast finishing Mareczko and Bennett to the line.

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Will the Colombian be there to compete at the finish line tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Back onto mainland Italy, we head north along the west coast of the country to Terme Liugiane. At 217km it is a long day out in the saddle for the riders but surprisingly it is only the 6th longest stage of the race!

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A flat start to the day changes after 25km where we have the first categorised climb of the day, before a descent and a run towards the TV’s which really should be KOMs more than anything!

Once we pass the second TV, the parcours is flat for the following 100km or so but it is in the last 30km of the day where things start to get interesting and the road starts undulating more seriously again. At roughly 25km to go we have a 1.5km climb that averages over 7% and this should shake out some of the sprinters. A short descent follows before it kicks up again for another kilometre before continuing the descent again.

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The penultimate rise before the line which crests at 5km to go. Averaging 5.9% for a kilometre it’s not too tough but it will be attacked at a fast pace because there is a very technical section once they are over the top.

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The quick succession of hairpins will string things out even more as they continue towards the finish. A series of false flat and shallow descending will take riders to the 2km to go banner where they turn left and start climbing to the line.

Initially the rise is not that steep, roughly 2% for a kilometre, but the second kilometre is closer to 7% with a 10% max gradient.

You don’t want to open up the effort too early and be left flagging by the line. It’s the same finished that was used back in 2003 so you can get a rough idea of who will be fighting for the win.

Break or no break? That is the question.

As so often is the case when we get stages that don’t have a clear narrative, i.e. the nailed on sprint stage such as today, we’re once again left discussing if the break makes it or not.

Over the past few stages we have had no “fight” at all to make the move, with the longest it taking being 11km back on stage 3 for the escapees to get a sizeable gap. Furthermore, we haven’t had a big group go yet either, with most of the breakaways consisting of 4 riders.

However, I think all of that will change tomorrow and there will be a greater motivation within the peloton to send riders up the road.

The reason for this is that as I have mentioned above, there is no clear-cut outcome for this stage so it will take a lot of resources from a team if they want to control it. Secondly, there are big enough GC gaps now to let riders get in the move and not be worried about the overall picture. QuickStep might even be happy to relinquish the jersey for a few days! With a few awkward stages to come and with one-eye on Blockhaus, I don’t think the GC guys will be overly fussed about keeping it together for a crazy final 20km, hoping to sprint for bonus seconds.

Therefore, I think the break has a good chance of making it all the way. We’ll see a move of around 10-12 riders go and that will be it for the day.

Contenders

Like normal, I’ll throw a few names into the hat; some sensible-ish, some curveballs and hopefully at least get someone up the road!

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Thinking cap on…

Matteo Busato.

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The Willier rider has been very quiet this race so far, rolling home every day. That could be because he is conserving as much energy as possible and targeting a few stages, or he might just be ill. I’m obviously hoping it’s the former! Still without a pro win in his career, he is a solid climber who packs a good sprint so he should be able to handle this explosion finish. Firstly it is a question of making the break, but then who is there with him. He certainly has a chance of taking his first win in the correct company.

Enrico Battaglin.

A strong rider who has taken two wins at the Giro in the past, he seems to be turning his hand to the sprints at this race. Nonetheless, he is much more adept at the short hills and tomorrow’s stage looks ideal for him. Exceptionally impressive at this race last year, working as the main lieutenant for Kruijswijk in the first couple of weeks, he looks back to that form again. I think he might be given the freedom to attack tomorrow before returning to team duties later in the race. He is a rider the others will be wary of if he makes the move.

Patrick Konrad.

The Austrian arrived here as Bora’s long-shot GC hope but he drifted way out of contention on Etna and finds himself over 10 minutes behind Jungels. Maybe he has caught whatever Bennett had the other day? If not, like a few others he could well just be conserving energy to attack some stages. Tomorrow looks like a good day for him as he is a strong all-rounder but packs a fast-punchy sprint which will suit him in good stead for the final rise to the line. His 7th on GC in Pais Vasco at the end of April is testament to his climbing ability as well!

Edward Ravasi.

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A promising young Italian climber, the UAE Emirates rider finished second at the Tour de l’Avenir last year. Not a big name in the peloton just now, he may benefit from that anonymity to surprise from the break!

Prediction

I’ll go for a rider who seems to go well here to take the win. The finish looks great for him and he has a chance from both the break and if we get a bigger group come to the line. Battaglin to steal the day!

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Anyone clock my awfully sly (or just plain awful) Twitter link pun?

Betting

As it’s a break day, I’ll go WIN Only on everyone, all with Bet365;

1.3pt Battaglin @ 16/1

0.4pt Konrad @ 80/1 

0.3pt Ravasi (Not priced)

0.4pt Busato @ 125/1 

0.4pt Ravasi (priced eventually) @ 200/1

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will take the stage and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour of the Alps 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Innsbruck -> Innervillgraten

This will be short and sweet as I need to get this done quickly so I can get ahead with my writing for tomorrow’s triple header of previews, so apologies!

Today’s Recap

Safe to say I got that one wrong! Bernal looked quite comfortable sitting second or third wheel until he went pop massively at roughly 1km to go. We were left with a reduced group of favourites sprinting to the line and it was wily old fox Scarponi who took the win, beating Thomas and Pinot, with a handful of other riders coming home on the same time.

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A much needed win for Scarponi and Astana as it is their first win of the year!

Will they double up tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

An easier day out for the riders but we once again end with an uphill finish.

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@LasterketaBurua

Like stage 1, tomorrow’s stage is about the closing 30kms or so. Averaging 8.4% for 4.5km, or 8.2% for 4.8km (depending on your source), the St Justina climb is tough either way! If a team wants to take up the pace here they could really do some damage to the peloton, and drastically reduced the numbers in the bunch before the final climb.

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However, with the steepest ramps coming near the start, I can’t see that happening too drastically.

We then have a fast descent and travel through some valley roads before climbing to the finish line.

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Again, gradients and lengths vary for the climb but it’s a long steady false flat drag, with a 5% ramp or so in the closing couple of hundred metres. Not an overly difficult end to the day!

Weather Watch

It looks set to be another miserable day for the peloton…

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Source; Tyrol.com

With potential of it snowing at the end of the day, I wonder if we’ll see any route changes?!

Hopefully not and the rest of this preview will be wrote assuming that the route will stay the same.

How will the stage pan out?

Who will be contesting the finish all depends on how the peloton races the penultimate climb. Considering the rise to the finish line is relatively easy, there is no point in a team making a devastating pace to reduce the peloton because the GC favourites shouldn’t be distanced in the finale. Therefore, I think we could see a relatively large group, of maybe around 20 riders or so coming into the last few kilometres.

It’s then a question of late attack, or a sprint to the line?

There are several riders who lost a reasonable amount of time today so won’t be as heavily marked if they make a move, but with the easy gradients, a quickly organised chase should be able to bring them to heel. The key word there being organised! It’s a finely balanced stage and one that could go either way.

Contenders

As I mentioned above, I’m short for time so this list won’t be exhaustive, that’s for sure! Instead, I’ll throw a few names into the hat.

Danilo Celano.

 

The Italian was close to the head of the race today and managed to follow some of the attacks but just didn’t have enough juice in the tank and ultimately finished 17 seconds down. Tomorrow’s less steep finish should suit the relatively unknown Italian as he seems to have a great turn of pace. He should benefit from his anonymity!

Davide Villella.

The Cannondale rider showed some good legs in today’s stage, finishing inside the top 20 on a climb that didn’t really suit his characteristics. Tomorrow’s finale is better for him and he should be able to power over the easier gradients. I expect Cannondale to have numbers near the front which is always useful in a reduced group and packing a solid sprint, he certainly has a chance.

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Matteo Busato.

I harked on about him for today’s stage, but the closing climb was too tough. Like many others though, tomorrow’s false-flat style drag to the line should be more attractive to him. Another rider with a solid sprint, he has a good opportunity in that scenario, but having lost 42 seconds today, he also has enough breathing space to launch an attack.

Brent Bookwalter.

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Probably not the first rider to spring to mind, the American is another rider like Villella who should benefit from being the “lesser” threat compared to his team-mates. An attack or sprint from a reduced group, Bookwalter can do both and he he’s a dark horse for the stage if tactics play into his hands.

Prediction

I was going to go for Busato and continue my season long fantasy bias, but I can’t ignore the shape Celano is in. He seems to be flying just now, his attack in Appennino the other week was unbelievable! I think he got a bit giddy today in terms of the illustrious company he was keeping but will have learnt from his mistakes and take advantage of his good form tomorrow by taking the biggest win of his career.

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Betting

Tempted to cover the 4 names above, but I think that would be too far, so I’ll just stick with Celano instead;

0.75pt EW Celano @  33/1 with Bet365 (would take 25/1 lowest)

 

Thanks as always for reading and apologies for how brief this was but I won’t have time tomorrow to write all three previews so need to get another finished this evening. Nonetheless, who do you think tomorrow? Will we see a shock victor like Celano, or will the more established names come to the fore? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tour of the Alps 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Kufstein -> Innsbruck

GC Overview

I don’t have enough time to do a proper GC preview but here are a quick few words! Tough course with several stages that end in tricky climbs. Some short and steep but we do have longer, ahem, Alps here too!

So the winner of the race needs to be a very good climber and with a lack of TT, the proper mountain goats will be licking their lips. Sky have the luxury of two contenders with last years winner Landa and Giro contender Thomas. The Spaniard is supposed to be co-leader at the Giro but he’s not offered much this season so will need a big performance here and I think we’ll see just that.

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Pinot has a good chance for FDJ, along with Scarponi who will be Astana’s main hope of picking up a result and I’m also intrigued to see Formolo go for GC in a race without a TT! As for outside top 10 hopefuls I think Busato might sneak into that category. He was 11th last year and although the climbs are a lot tougher in this edition, he seems to be going well at the moment. An 8th place in Appeninno after crashing relatively hard during the race is testament to that. Likewise, Firsanov also crashed hard in that race while in the leading group. After a slow start to the year, the Russian is getting back to the shape he was in here last season, when he managed to finish 4th on GC. The longer climbs will be tough for him, but you never know! I would expect to see Torres up there fighting for a top 5 as well.

I’ll go for a Landa win though.

Right, onto stage 1 now…

The Route

Not exactly an easy day to start the race off with!

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@LasterketaBurua

Rolling terrain mixed in with some steep climbs. The stage is all about the final 25km though.

We have a tough ascent of Schlögelsbach, 3km long and averaging 9.1%, and it’s not even categorised. Tricky enough to put some riders in trouble, it will be interesting to see if any teams decide to take up pace-making duties there.

A technical descent then follows before some more rolling terrain as the riders reach Innsbruck and the final climb up to Hungerburg.

At only 3.6km long there shouldn’t be too many time gaps, but with an average gradient of 7.3% we might see some probing attacks from GC riders. The finish reminds me of the final climb we had at the end of stage 2 last year, although this year it is not as steep!

Contenders

GC rider or a punchy climber? That’s the conundrum I’m dealing with just now. I guess with the start-list we have, there is a lot of crossover between the two!

Thomas and Landa probably start as favourites. Both exceptional climbers, they have the added advantage of being able to pull off a 1-2 punch. With Thomas returning from altitude, it will be interesting to see how he fares on his first day back in the peloton. However, with some tougher stages to come, will they keep their powder dry? Probably not, expect an attacking closing climb from them!

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The finish isn’t ideal for Pinot, yet again, he was 2nd on the stage into Fermo in Tirreno last month. With no Sagan here, he has a much better chance of the win this time round! However, he hasn’t raced since Tirreno so it is yet to be seen where his form is.

Dennis might give it a nudge and in this quality of field, he certainly has a chance of stealing the victory, but I’m not overly convinced. Instead, I think BMC should also let Caruso have the chance to lead the team. The Italian is a criminally underrated domestique who climbs well and has a fast finish. He could well win a sprint to the line from the climbers.

I can’t really see anyone from Astana winning the stage. Scarponi isn’t explosive enough and the climb is probably just too long for Moser. Maybe Luis Leon Sanchez might have a go?!

Formolo definitely offers Cannondale their best chance on this type of terrain. Like many here, the young Italian is building towards the Giro and will want to put in a good performance. He’s been a bit off the boil so far this season but has shown glimpses of what he can do in races like Catalunya. Maybe Villella can even hang on?

This type of finish though does open it up to some riders from the ProConti teams and there are a few I’d like to highlight.

Busato has still to take a professional victory but he was flying in Appennino until the crash. This type of finish looks good for him, although on his limit, and I think he could surprise a few people!

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Firsanov was the first to cross the line behind Landa on Stage 2 of this race last, which had a very similar finish compared to tomorrow’s climb. As I mentioned above, he’s been poor this year so far, but his form seems to be heading in the right direction. Not someone to be properly marked, he has a good shot at taking the stage win.

Finally, relatively unknown rider Danilo Celano is worth a mention. He was the eventual winner of Appennino, flying up the final climb. Riding here for the Italian national team, if he’s retained any of that form then he is a proper dark horse for the win. Keep an eye on him!

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Prediction

I’ll go for none of the above though and instead opt for young Colombian sensation Egan Bernal to take the victory.

After making his breakthrough performance at this race last year, winning the young riders classification, he’s continued his development with some great results this year. The explosive, steep gradients of the finish climb suit him well and he has a handy sprint after a tough climb, if a group of 3 or so arrive at the summit together.

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Betting

No GC bet, so just stage 1 picks all with Bet365;

4pts Bernal to beat Pozzovivo  @5/4 (he was 11/8 but I was waiting for stage odds, would take down to 10/11 lowest)

 

 

Thanks as always for reading as always! Who do you think will win the opening stage? Will we see a lesser known rider take the spoils? I hope to see an attacking/exciting finale. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Trofeo Laigueglia 2017 Preview

Trofeo Laigueglia 2017 Preview

After the GP Etruschi last weekend, Italian Cup action returns this Sunday with the 54th edition of the Trofeo Laigueglia.

Last year’s race was won by a late attack from Andrea Fedi in the final kilometres, holding off a small group behind that had escaped on the closing circuits around Laigueglia. With Colbrelli edging out Bole in the sprint for second place.

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The Route

After changing the route almost every other year, the organisers have this year stuck with the parcours that has been used in the past two editions.

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Big loop -> Medium sized loop -> Circuits of a small loop!

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The first GPM in Paravenna at 60km is 6.8km long, averaging 5.6% in gradient. Not overly tough for the peloton, but certainly a leg opener for later in the race.

We then have a descent and long flat section before the highest peak of the race at erm, ahem, Testico.

Now this climb was a real ball-ache to try to find figures for so I reverted back to what works best and made a Strava profile.

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Now, including that long false flat drag, the climb is 13.9km at 3% in gradient. However, starting at the 7km mark, the remaining 6.9km averages 4.6% with some sections over 9%.

Again, it’s not really challenging for the pros but it will sap the legs for the closing circuit. Speaking of which…

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As per, I’ve also made a strava profile that you can view here.

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The first climb on the circuit is 2km long, averaging 7.8% with ramps of 15% around some of the hairpin turns. Climbing this 3 times with the pace on will certainly hurt and it is a great place for a group to go clear; like we saw last year!

We then get a fast descent, that starts off technical, before reaching the flat roads through Andora and back to the coast line. The road then climbs again for 1.5km, averaging roughly 9.5%. Crest the climb with a good advantage and you have a good chance of making it to the line as there is 2km of a shallow descent followed by a flat finish to home!

How will the race pan out?

It’s only fair really to take into account the last two editions of the race as the course varied so much in the past.

Back in 2015, it was Lampre sprinter Davide Cimolai who managed to take the win. Beating Gavazzi and Tsatevich in a reduced 24-rider bunch sprint. Last year’s event, as mentioned earlier, was won by an attack from Andrea Fedi in the closing kilometres on the final downhill. He managed to hold off a pursuing group of 9 who sprinted for the remaining top 10 places.

I think we’ll see an aggressive race again this year, with maybe 15 riders at most coming home within 30 seconds of the winner.

Contenders

Diego Ulissi has to start as the favourite for this race.

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Off the back of a solid showing at the Tour Down Under, he went on to win GP Etruschi last weekend in miserable conditions. Attacking on the footslopes of the last climb, he quickly built up a good lead and was never seen again by the peloton. Making his move right at the bottom of the climb highlights to me the confidence he has in his condition just now and going off of that performance, he has every right to be confident!

However, the quality of climbers at Etruschi was not as strong as it is here this weekend so Ulissi won’t have it all his own way.

Etoile de Bessèges winner, Lillian Calmejane, arrives with a strong Direct Energie team. The young Frechman has the climbing ability to be able to match Ulissi here and will also be confident after last weeks showing. Having the likes of Chavanel and Voeckler to rely on will be a big aid for him. Being able to send riders on the attack and not have to follow everything, like Ulissi might have to do, should mean Calmejane is well rested for the final circuits. He is certainly capable of winning again this weekend!

Following on from his 3rd place in Etruschi, Francesco Gavazzi will be aiming further up the podium here. Not the best naturalised climber in the peloton, he will be hoping for a coming together in the closing kilometres and a reduced bunch sprint to the line.

Winning the only race he’s finished this year so far, Arthur Vichot will be hoping to continue his 100% record.

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A rider who has promised a lot in one-day races in the past, he certainly has the solid climbing abilities and good kick to contend here. Has he recovered from his flu that saw him pull out of Bessèges?

Delko Marseille will have a couple of cards to play in the form of El Fares and Finetto. The former finished 4th in Marseillaise at the start of the year so seems to be in good form. Likewise, Finetto finished a respectable 7th in that race, before coming home 3rd in a stage at Bessèges; beating Samuel Dumoulin in a sprint. Finetto normally goes well in these types of races and I’ll be very surprised if he doesn’t manage a top 5 placing here!

Astana arrive here with an interesting squad, but I imagine it will be Moreno Moser who will be leading the team. The 2012 winner of this race has struggled in the past after his incredible neo-pro season. However, last year he seemed to return to form with good showings in the Giro and Vuelta and I expect big things from him this year again. With a return from altitude camp on the cards and no racing in his legs, it will be very interesting to see how he performs here.

The team with my favourite hashtag in the peloton, Willier Triestina, will be looking towards Pozzato to either roll the clock back or for Matteo Busato to continue the good progression he showed last year. Although he’s not taken a professional victory yet, Busato took a number of Top 10s last season, including a very impressive 2nd place on the final stage at the Giro del Trentino. Following a pretty much non-existant Dubai Tour, I’m sure he’ll want to impress back on home soil. #LoveMyWillier.

The Italian National team has three candidates to go well here; Felline, Trentin and Bettiol. All on their day have the credentials to take a podium place here but I’m unsure of what their current form will be like.

Other names to keep an eye on are; Andreetta, Bouet and Torres.

Prediction

Ulissi is the clear favourite but I have a sneaking suspicion that Moser will be fired up for this race. He won’t get many chances to lead Astana this year so will want to make his mark nice and early!

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There is absolutely no PFCL fantasy team bias in this preview at all…none…ok…maybe a little.

 

Thanks for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated as always! How do you think the race will play out? Will it be a solo winner, or a reduced bunch sprint? I shall have an Oman GC preview out tomorrow evening sometime. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.