Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 17 Preview; Villadiego -> Los Machucos

Today’s Recap

Night follows day and Froome wins yet another final week Grand Tour TT.

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Kelderman was his nearest challenger on the day, finishing 29 seconds down. With Nibali, Zakarin and Contador all staying within a minute of the flying Sky rider.

He’s certainly not struggling in going for back-to-back GT wins. To be honest, barring any unfortunate crash/mechanical or a terribly bad day; then Froome has the overall win in the bag.

The fight for the podium could still be exciting though and I hope we’ll see some attacking racing!

Special mention must go to Big T who was in the hot seat for the majority of the day, only being knocked off his perch by 5 of the strongest guys at the race! I guess the later starters must have benefited from the tailwind I mentioned in my preview yesterday. He’s a winner in my eyes…

Anyway, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

A fairly typical final week Vuelta stage!

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The riders will start with a few uncategorised lumps and bumps (6km at 3% is my rough guess off the profile) and a fair chunk of flat plateau before the plunge down the valley at 50km into the stage.

From there, they’ll face a few more uncategorised climbs before the opening Cat-2 of Portillo de Lunada. According to the road book, it is 8.3km long at 5.7%. Not too tough, but it will hurt after the hard racing we have had up to now. It is very unlikely to play any significance in the outcome of the stage though, that will be saved for the final two climbs.

Once the riders summit Lunada they’ll face a long 30km descent, that does pitch back upwards occasionally. Not long after they’ll go through the sprint point before we tackle the final two categorised climbs which both fall in the last 28km of the stage.

First up is the Puerto de Alisas.

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As you can see, it is a very steady climb. Great for Sky to control the tempo and deter attacks! So unless someone is feeling very brave, I don’t think we’ll see any riders escape the peloton here. It will be more a case of people going backwards instead.

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The descent off of the climb does feature some tricky hairpin turns, but I don’t think we should see many gaps. The road seems to be in good condition!

However, the same can’t be said for our final climb of the day which is arguably the most “viral” of the whole Vuelta.

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Alto de Los Machucos translates to “High from the bruises” according to Google; will anyone be licking their wounds tomorrow?

It looks like an absolute corker of a climb to watch as a spectator, not so much to ride up. Incredibly steep gradients interchanged with some shallower sections will make it hard for the riders to get into a rhythm. Furthermore, the road is incredibly narrow and in some places they will only be able to cycle two abreast.

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The now viral concrete slabs.

When you then consider that fans will be standing at the side of the road, it could be single file a lot of the way up.

Team cars won’t be allowed to follow-up the climb due to its narrowness, with only the neutral service cars given the freedom to do so. This will make things very desperate if a rider needs mechanical help and there is no one immediately nearby.

It would be wise to put riders in the morning move to almost cover that option alone.

Speaking of which…

How will the stage pan out?

With the main challenges of the day coming so late on then I’m not so sure that any team will want to take up the brunt of the work by chasing the break down all day.

Instead, it is a much better tactic to try to get one or two guys up the road and then call them back if need be to help your GC leader. If not, then give them the green light to go for the stage.

Froome has a commanding lead, and Sky won’t do any extra effort than what is required so they will be more than happy to let a break go.

The only way we might not see the break hold out for victory is that if a rider from in or around the top 10 gets into the move.

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Those 4 are all relatively close to 10th place Michael Woods (who is 7’06 behind Froome). If they get into the move then there is a good chance that we will see Cannondale come to the front of the peloton to help chase and protect that top 10 on GC. It is not great to watch from a fan’s point of view, but it is understandable. You’ve got to get those WT points!

Nonetheless, I think another break win is the most likely outcome tomorrow.

So once again, let’s play…

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Candidates

150 out of the 164 riders left in the race would most definitely be given enough leeway to go into a break that could take 10 plus minutes on the GC group. So it should be good fun trying to narrow it down!

Obviously to win the rider has to be a very good climber. However, the issue lies in that the first 60km of the day aren’t great for the mountain goats of the peloton to make the move given how “flat” it is. Well, for Vuelta standards!

Inevitably a handful will, like Majka on Stage 14, but some will miss out. That is unless of course a massive group of 25 riders is allowed to roll off the front after 10km or so. Then we might see some more make it.

Anyway, here goes nothing…

Nicolas Roche.

Super strong at the start of the race, he was always going to struggle to keep that form up, especially when we got the longer, higher climbs. Nonetheless, he is still in great shape and is now far back enough to be given freedom to chase stages. The steep gradients of Los Machucos should be to his liking and he’ll certainly be a threat for the win. Has his confidence been knocked though after the past few days?

Jack Haig.

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My “initial-sake” makes his umpteenth return to this section. After Chaves, he is arguably the strongest rider on the Orica team on the mountains at this race. With the Colombian losing a lot of time in the TT today, I think Orica will look to chase stages now. In fact, that was evident on Stage 15 with Yates’ attack. Haig rolled home 6 minutes behind today, saving himself for tomorrow? I think so!

Richard Carapaz.

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The Ecuadorian has performed well on some of the mountain stages this Vuelta when he has finished with the GC group, coming home in the top 15 riders twice. I’m still miffed that he had to do all the work for Rojas on the stage that Mohoric won, the youngster is clearly the better climber and he would have had the better chance in my opinion. It will be interesting to see how is body reacts this deep into his first Grand Tour, but he is one to keep an eye on if he makes it up the road.

Enric Mas.

Quick Step have been incredible so far this Vuelta and they’ll want to keep that going in the final week. Tomorrow looks like a good day to get one of their young climbers into the move; easier said than done though! Mas performed very well in Burgos before the Vuelta on the steep ramps of Picón Blanco so he should find the similar gradients of Los Machucos comforting. Can he win and give QS their 6th stage of the race?!

Vuelta Picks

Another tough day where the break looks like it will win so once again you’ll have to adopt a similar strategy as to other mountain days.

Safe Pick – Lopez.

Any GC rider that you have left would be ideal here. There will be gaps on the final climb but I’m not sure they’ll be fighting out for the stage win, so chose someone who could be given some leeway by their opposition. Lopez is that guy.

Wongshot Pick – Carapaz

Name in a hat time again if you’re being bold and going for a breakaway pick!

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Pfingsten

A consistent low finisher. I like his style!

Prediction

Break to stay away and Roche to make amends for falling down the GC order by winning a stage!

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Behind, Lopez to take some more time in the GC battle as those closer to the podium mark each other out of it.

Betting

0.5pt WIN on them all;

Roche @ 125/1 (would take 66s)

Mas @ 50/1 

Carapaz @ 50/1 

Haig @ 50/1

(Would take no less than 40 for the other three)

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will the break make it, again?! Or will we see a GC showdown on the final slopes? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 7 Preview; Llíria -> Cuenca

Today’s Recap

A weird stage where the break never got more than three minutes but that was all that was needed.

With Luis Leon Sanchez up the road, Sky kept the break in check for a lot of the stage. However, it was Trek and Contador who tore things up on the final climb of the day, shattering the peloton.

We had a slight regrouping on the descent and flat run-in, with the gap coming down to 6 seconds at one point! Yet, three riders from the morning move kept their heads down, eventually increasing the gap and ultimately fighting out the stage win.

Enric Mas lead out the sprint, but it was Marczynski who was the strongest, beating his countryman Poljanski into second place.

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It was a bit of a weird ending to the stage as at one point the Froome/Contador group had 40 seconds on a group containing De La Cruz and Yates. Yet, none of the teams fully committed and in the end DLC only lost 17 seconds.

Will we see something similar tomorrow?

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

The Route

Another 200+km day for the peloton over some undulating roads.

 

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Although we don’t have the same number of categorised climbs that we had on today’s stage, the peloton will actually have to face more elevation gain at 2700m compared to the 2600m today.

There is a lot of uncategorised rolling terrain that once again suits powerful riders.

For example, the opening categorised climb of the day (Puerto La Montalbana) is 8km long at an average of 4.3%. Nothing too strenuous but they do climb for roughly 10km before then!

This is where the break is most likely to form.

Once over the top, there is a short descent followed by another few uncategorised drags. The riders will then tackle a longer descent before the second Cat-3 of the day.

The Alto de Santa Cruz de Moya is another power climb; averaging 4% for 8.7km.

From there, the riders will traverse a plateau of sorts for the following 100km. Kind of flat, but kind of hilly at the same time!

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The last climb of the day is enticingly positioned, cresting just 12km from the finish. I would take some of the gradients and bumps in the profile with a pinch of salt as Strava does sometimes seem to struggle when the route follows contour lines very closely. However, the average percentage for the climb is correct and it does have ramps of 15% or so in it, just maybe not the 25% or so.

Two important things to note about the climb are that it is cobbled, well paved, and it is very narrow in points.

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One car width wide in parts, positioning will be crucial for anyone who wants to contest the stage.

There is a slight plateau after the crest of the climb, but the closing 5kms are all downhill ever so slightly.

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Will it be a solo that comes to the line or will we see a reduced sprint?

How will the race pan out?

Another really tough day to predict. We could easily see a number of situations play out during the stage!

The early break obviously has a good chance at survival given what we’ve seen over the past few days and with terrain that is tough to control. For sprint teams that is.

Contador seems very sprightly just now and he may get his Trek team to help Sky keep check on the break so that he can launch an attack on the final climb. Considering the much shorter distance to the line that today’s stage, he could feasibly hold on with Froome and a few others. But is the climb tough enough for that? I don’t think so.

We could see a couple of teams control the day and hope for a reduced bunch sprint. Trentin was impressive today in making it over the final climb relatively close to the head of the peloton, eventually arriving home just behind the De La Cruz group. Lobato is another rider who might fancy his chances on making it over the short, not too steep climb.

Like today though, it would be wise for QS and Jumbo to send riders in the break so they don’t have to work behind.

Witha fast stage today, some riders will be hoping for a quieter and less stressful day tomorrow. Stage 8 should produce a GC showdown so the overall contenders might want to keep their powder dry for another day.

Consequently, if the right mix of teams and riders goes, then it should be another day for the break to stick!

Time to play everyone’s favourite game at the Vuelta…

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Break Contenders

Time to throw some darts again.

Tobias Ludvigsson.

Big T didn’t make the move today but I’m willing to give him another chance tomorrow. He came home in the Bardet/Moreno/Pozzovivo group today, i.e. the next main one on the road after the groups that included the top 20 on GC and the break. Clearly he has some kind of form and this is a race he seems to perform fairly well at. He climbed well here at the Vuelta last year and I was really hoping to see him push on this season. That’s not happened yet, but could tomorrow be that day?

Richard Carapaz.

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Arguably one of the biggest talents to come out of Ecuador in a long, long time; he is a solid climber and good all-rounder. He impressed early season, picking up a second place behind Adam Yates in Industria, along with a few top 10s on GC in Spanish 2.1 races. However it was his second place overall in the Route du Sud that really highlighted his talents. After Betancur’s fall today Movistar only have one rider in the top 25 in GC so they are guaranteed to be attacking. Can Carapaz turn their bad luck around?

Jetse Bol.

Another rider to make his return to the blog, he spent the day in the break on stage 5. He missed the key move that day but still finished strongly to take an 8th place at the finish. Tomorrow’s stage looks great for the Manzana rider and like many other teams, they’ll be hoping that the break makes it all the way. Bol is a rider who can climb well but he also packs a good sprint, will that see him through?

Pello Bilbao.

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This type of terrain is perfect for the Astana rider, who excels on rolling days. I’m still not 100% sure about his abilities on the long Alpine climbs, but nothing tomorrow should be of difficulty for him if he is fit! Punchy enough to make an attack on the closing climb, he could get a gap that way. However, he also packs a fairly solid sprint so he may hope for a reduced gallop to the line.

Vuelta Picks

Picking a GC rider today was definitely damage limitation for anyone near the top of the table. The same approach tomorrow is definitely advised too.

“Safe Pick” – Simon Yates.

A guy that should be there at the finish and relatively near the front of the bunch. It will save some of the “bigger hitters” for later in the race.

Wongshot Pick – Jetse Bol.

An almost smart Wongshot pick as it covers a possibly reduced sprint and breakaway.

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Lasse Hansen.

One of the many riders suffering from illness.

Prediction

Jetse Bol 2.0 to take a great stage win for Manzana. Vamos!

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Betting

Bol 0.5pt WIN @ 50/1

Ludvigsson 0.25pt EW @ 300/1

Carapaz 0.25pt EW @ 200/1

Bilbao 0.5pt WIN @ 80/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2017 Stage 8 Preview; Albertville -> Plateau de Solaison

Today’s Recap

So as you may have gathered, I didn’t manage to get a preview completed yesterday in between the 2 hours of me getting up and going to work , so yeah, apologies etc!

It turned out to be a day for the breakaway, like I thought it might, and in the end Kennaugh took a strong win ahead of former team-mate Swift.

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Herrada held onto an attacking Bardet and outsprinted the Frenchman to nab third place on the day.

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Maybe I should blog less often?!

Behind, Porte looked imperious with only Fuglsang able to hold onto the wheel of the Australia, with Froome coming off worst out of the GC contenders. It means that Porte has a minute buffer over the Brit going into the final stage tomorrow and you would expect that to be enough to hold on for title.

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

The Route

A short and intense day to end the race!

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The road rises from the gun with a tricky, uncategorised climb before flattening out and rising almost all the way until the first summit of the day. I expect a lot of riders to be on rollers!

The opening three climbs aren’t too difficult in terms of average gradient but with them coming in quick succession we might see a few riders who are on a bad day struggle.

With 35km to go the riders will crest the penultimate climb and face a 15km descent before hitting the valley roads that see them travel to the foot slopes of the Plateau de Solaison.  The “easy” gradients on the earlier climbs are certainly made up for here!

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11.3km at 9.2% it’s another brute of a climb for the riders to deal with! Thankfully for some, the gradient does ease a little by the top down to a measly 7% roughly…

Will we see a solo winner again?

How will the stage pan out?

It’s a really tough stage to call as we could see some early GC fireworks but there is also the possibility the break makes it all the way.

With Porte having such a big lead and looking so strong, I’m not sure how willing other riders will be to spend a lot of energy early on to animate the race only for the Australian to be able to follow everything easily. Furthermore, BMC have looked strong so far and have been able to hold everything together reasonably well and I would expect a similar performance from them tomorrow.

It also all depends on where the breakaway goes and who’s represented. I think we’ll see it get up the road on the first categorised climb so it should be filled with strong climbers who are capable of winning the stage. If no GC rider has sneaked their way in and enough teams are represented then I think it can go all the way.

So time for everyone’s favourite game again…

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Candidates

A few darts to be thrown here…

Jack Haig.

The young Austrailian has been very consistent so far this Dauphiné and finds himself sitting 26th on GC, almost 10 minutes down on his compatriot. With Yates and Chaves underperforming, Orica will no doubt be looking towards the breakaway for success. Could Haig take a memorable win?

Serge Pauwels.

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The winner of the Tour de Yorkshire this year, the Belgian always seems to find himself in a breakaway at some point during a week-long stage race. He’s not been in one so far, but that could well change tomorrow! Having been so close to a win at the Tour last year (on the farcical Alpe d’Huez stage) coming up against a flying De Gendt, he has proven that he can climb exceptionally well. In the right move he has every chance.

Michal Kwiatkowski.

After his early season return to form, the Pole but in a great shift for Froome today, pacing the GC group. Is he eyeing up a spot in their Tour mountain train?! With Froome suffering, I think we could see Kwiatkowski “set-free” like Kennaugh was and to chase his own personal glory. Clearly going well, I have him as my favourite for the stage. He just has to make the break first…

Richard Carapaz.

I like to throw an obscure name into these every so often, but the Ecuadorian is a rider you will be hearing a lot about over the next few years. Extremely talented, he picked up a second place behind Yates (Adam) and ahead of Uran at the GP Industria earlier in the year. Since then, he has gone on to pick up two top-10s on GC at 2.1 races. Not bad for a first season in Europe and in the pro peloton! I’m not sure how he’ll fare over the longer climbs but I am keen to watch on with interest!

Prediction

As I said above, if Kwiatkowski makes the move, then I can’t see many riders beating him. Sky to go back to back!

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Betting

Tweeted this out before…

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I think they’re still both value at 66/1 and 80/1 respectively so would still recommend it.

 

Thanks as always for reading and as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be another GC showdown or will the break have its day again?

I’ve decided I won’t be doing daily previews for Tour de Suisse but I’ll still be tweeting out some stage picks so give me a follow if you don’t already. There are others who will be doing daily previews so check out @insidethepeloton96 and @cyclingmole for those!

I shall be back for the British national champs (men and women) and if I get bored, then maybe a .1 or .HC race in-between somewhere. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.