Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 19 Preview; San Candido -> Piancavallo

Today’s Recap

A hectic stage that was perfectly poised all the way to the finish line. In the end, the breakaway managed to just stay away, with Tejay Van Garderen taking his first ever Grand Tour win, pipping Landa who finished second yet again after being forced to lead-out.

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It was great to see TVG win, and much like Rolland yesterday, it is almost like a redemption ride/performance from them.

Behind, Pinot came home third to claw some time back on his GC rivals and move within touching distance of the podium.

As for Dumoulin, he looked effortless today even giving it a little nudge himself. However, unfortunately for the punting side, he ended up just riding a relatively defensive race in the closing couple of kilometres. I would really have liked to see him go full gas after his attack with about 5km left, but it was not to be!

Quintana and Nibali looked cooked/not strong enough. I noted that it was the first time I’ve seen the Colombian with his jersey unzipped so he must not be feeling 100%. They both just rode to mark Dumoulin in the end and both are now under threat from Pinot/Zakarin.

Dumoulin himself said in a post race interview that he would be happy if they lost their podium slots because of that. Nibali fired back by saying that there is karma and that Dumoulin will pay for what he said on the road.

The Giro is simultaneously hotting up while also cooling down, as I think the Dutchman has it in the bag barring any major misfortune.

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

The Route

A long day in the saddle at nearly 191km. However, compared to some of the previous stages, it’s a relatively benign day out for the peloton.

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We start off with a Cat-3 climb. Although, the riders will be climbing from the gun and taking it as a whole the climb is 13.9km at 3.2%, with the categorised segment coming in at 7.9km at 4.3%, but that does include some steeper ramps.

We then have a long descent that is interrupted with the rise for the intermediate sprint point, before the road once again continues downwards to the foot slopes of the second categorised climb of the day.

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A relatively long climb, the average gradients are quite deceptive due to the several sections at less than 5% and there’s even a bit of downhill thrown in. A lot of the actual climb is closer to 7%.

Will we see any movement in the breakaway here? It is certainly too early for any of the GC guys to come out and play.

From the summit, it is another 70km before we start the final climb of the day.

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At 15.4km long and averaging 7.3%, the Piancavallo is a brute of a climb. The steepest sections come in the first 6km so it will be interesting to see if a team really drills it from the bottom. It does start to ease ever so slightly within the final 5km but there are still some steep enough gradients (7%+) to launch an attack.

With the “flat” (1.4km at 1.4%) run in, will we see a solo rider make it to the line or a very reduced and very tired sprint?

How will the stage pan out?

After today, I think a few of the GC favourites will be demoralised, namely Quintana, knowing that Dumoulin will be tough to crack and instead they might change their focus to stage wins.

Nibali might want to get involved in a dick-measuring contest with Dumoulin after the comments that they both made but I think Nibali knows he only has a very slim chance of dropping Dumoulin.

It will take a lot of effort from a team to control the stage all day to set it up for the final climb so once again, I think we’ll see a breakaway rider take the win.

How big will the break be? Well that depends on where it goes and it once again could be another 20+ rider day.

Like normal though, I’ll throw a few names into the hat to watch out for (or not, as they inevitably won’t make the move).

Breakaway Candidates

Anacona – For what I think is the third time in the space of a week, I’ll name the Colombian as a contender for the stage. He’s made the break on at least two of those occasions but has been called back to work for his leader. However, after today’s stage and Quintana underperforming, I think he will FINALLY be given the freedom to actually chase the win. Clearly one of the top 15 climbers in the race at the moment, he has a very good chance if he makes the break.

Carthy – We’ve not seen much of the Brit so far this race, his best finish position being 21st on Etna way back in week one. However, I think that’s probably due to him attempting to save himself for the final week. Cannondale have been very active in the breakaways the past few stages and I would not be surprised to see a few of them up the road again tomorrow.

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Woods – The other Cannondale rider to make my list, he was instrumental in Rolland’s win on stage 17, marking all of the other contenders to help his team-mate grow his advantage. Like Carthy, Woods took it relatively easy today, coming home over half an hour down on eventual stage winner Van Garderen. The punchy Canadian should enjoy the steep ramps of the final climb but does he have the endurance to match?

Rodriguez – Another rider to make his return on this list. I was very impressed with the Wilier rider at the start of the race, but he has been a bit anonymous recently. Fatigue or saving himself? I’ll hope for the later! A talented bike rider, he was 10th at the Tour de l’Avenir last year but seems to have taken a step up this season. Is a big win on the cards?

Prediction

Just as I’ve finished writing this I see that there are rumours circulating on Twitter that Quintana and Nibali will form a pact to try and beat Dumoulin.

Hmmm, I still can’t see that happening/ending well for them and I’m not convinced that both teams will work on the front all day, draining their resources. Especially when you consider that Dumoulin really just needs to follow them and ride defensively.

So with that said, I still think it will be a breakaway win and I’ll go for arguably the strongest Colombian to take the win…

Anacona to take stage glory.

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I mean, I can’t not use that picture of him again!

Behind, we might see some GC fireworks but Dumoulin won’t lose the jersey.

Betting

Small stakes again for interest on the breakers (All 365);

0.7pt WIN Anacona @ 125/1

0.5pt WIN Carthy @ 200/1

0.5pt WIN Woods @ 150/1

0.3pt WIN Rodriguez @ 300/1

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

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Tour of the Alps 2017 Stage 5 Preview; Smarano -> Trento

Today’s Recap

A mad, mad stage but it was a great watch!

For a while it looked as if the break was going to be caught just after the final climb of the day, but then the gap went back out again and we were left with Pirazzi and Frankiny up the road. Dupont attacked from the reduced peloton and spent a good 20km chasing the front two, finally making the bridge at around 6km left. However, not much later did the impetus go from the move and the peloton reeled them in at just over 1km from home.

A bunch sprint ensued and it was Montaguti who took the win, edging out Pinot, with a charging Dennis coming home third.

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That result means Pinot is only 13 seconds behind Thomas going in to tomorrow’s stage. Let’s take a look at what’s in store for them.

The Route

A tough stage to end the Tour that’s been given a 4-star rating by the organisers.

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It will be a fast start as the peloton descends from the gun, dropping down to the valley roads below, before tackling the uncategorised climb of Andalo. At a shade under 9km in length and averaging 5.5%, it’s not exactly an easy opening ramp for the bunch, but it only sets the tone for what’s to come later on in the day.

We then have a long period of shallow descent before the next proper climb on the day and it’s our first classified one; the Passo Durone.

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As you can see, the toughest part of the climb comes in the middle few kilometres, where it averages close to 9.8% for 3kms. It’s definitely too far out from the finish to be the scene of any action, but it will certainly wear the bunch down for the remainder of the stage.

There’s nothing overly exciting in the parcours for the next 40km or so but we then start the main part of the day with just over 75km left.

First of all the Passo Sant Udalrico which is a 7.1km unclassified ascent that averages 6.2%! There’s then a quick descent across the valley before continuing to head upwards and on to the ridiculously long Monte Bondone.

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19km at an average of 6%, ouch!

With several kilometres above 8%, if a team puts the hammer down at the front of the peloton then there could be some serious time gaps.

If you consider the road rises all the way once the peloton travels through Dro then you could say that the climb as a whole is 34.1km at 4.46%…

Yeah, that’s not my idea of fun!

What could almost be decisive as the climb though is the descent that follows, it’s incredibly technical with a lot of hairpin turns. A quick count and I got 30 in total! Clichés of asphalt spaghetti spring to mind.

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If someone is on the limit after the climb and isn’t confident in their descending abilities then they might have an issue here. Luckily for the peloton, it looks to be dry and sunny tomorrow otherwise the descent would be very treacherous and potentially dangerous.

With only 20km left when reaching the bottom of the descent, the riders I’m sure would hope that all the challenges for the day would be over. Well, they’re 90% right, but there is a 2km climb that summits with 7km left. It averages 9% for those 2km so is the perfect springboard for a late attack from the bunch.

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A group won’t have long to organise a chase as they descend all the way until 2km to go, before the run to the line.

How will the stage pan out/Contenders?

I expect fireworks!

Team Sky have been excellent this race so far and have done well to control it considering they only have 6 riders in total. Handily though, they do have two of the strongest riders at this event, in the form of Thomas and Landa. We saw in today’s stage however, that those two were left relatively isolated half-way up the final climb after the rest of the squad had been dropped. Deignan and Elissonde managed to get back on during the descent, but other teams will be looking at that and see it as a positive going in to tomorrow’s stage.

I think we’ll see some riders who aren’t their teams’ main protected rider, but a good second GC option/threat, attempt to get into the morning break on the opening climb of Andalo, i.e. a Cataldo or Bookwalter.  The Astana rider has been very active so far this race.

Consequently, it will force Sky to chase relatively hard from the outset and it will be a long day for their relatively small squad.

Of course, if those type of riders attempt to get into the break then there might not be a break at all for a while and several riders will be dropped from the peloton early. However, I think we will see something go and that will put the onus on Sky.

Nothing much will happen over the next 70km of racing as things settle down but the break will be kept on a tight leash and once we hit the foot slopes of Sant Udalrico we could see only 4 Sky riders at the front of the race. I would imagine that it would be Deignan, Elissonde, Landa and Thomas, and with the latter two being GC options, it’s going to be a tough ask for them to hold things together for the rest of the day.

Maybe the old cliché of “the best form of defence is attack” will come into play?

The Bondone is going to be crazy, expect attacks early and hard!

Cannondale have numbers in the top 10 and they’ll be one of the main protagonists of the stage. Carthy, Formolo and Rolland should be there, alternating attacks and forcing Landa to chase for Thomas.

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The problem is what I mentioned before; that Landa and Thomas look two of the strongest riders in the race and it will be hard to drop them. However, a relentless barrage of moves off the front of the peloton could see them put into difficulty.

They will need to be dropped before the final few kilometres of the climb as that is where it flattens out and Thomas should really be able to put the power down.

 

Oddly enough, after all that is said and done I think the race might still be together at the summit. Well, kind of. We’ll have no more than 12 riders at the head of the race!

From there, attacks or natural gaps on the descent might occur and that will continue onto the final 20km, with Landa and Thomas having to shadow everything.

The elastic will snap eventually with everyone on the limit and one or two riders will manage to get away. Thomas will hope that they aren’t as much of a threat on GC but that will be tough considering the quality that will be at the head of the race.

There are two relative outsiders I want to keep onside for tomorrow though and they’re both from the same team and nation…

Egan Bernal.

The young Colombian has been good so far this week and there is a lot of news circulating about a potential move to a World Tour team next season. Now, this may have a negative effect on him but I imagine it will be the opposite. He was one of the riders who made the original selection today on the final climb and the long ascent tomorrow should suit his diminutive nature. As a former mountain biker, he won’t be afraid of the descent tomorrow, that’s for sure. Considering he’s not as an immediate GC threat as other riders, he might just sneak away and take a momentous win!

Rodolfo Torres. 

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Likewise, Torres also made the front selection today of around 12 riders over the last climb of the day; he was the rider who narrowly avoided Scarponi when the Italian crashed on the descent! Another lightweight climber, he’ll be hoping to use that to his advantage over his more gravitationally challenged competitors. Certainly not a rider to be discounted.

Prediction

It will be a tough race, but the strength of Thomas and Landa will shine through and they’ll be able to mark the likes of Pozzovivo, Pinot etc out of the race. Instead, it will create an opportunity for a “lesser” rider to win the day and I’ll go for the precociously talented Bernal to seal the day!

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Betting

Both with Bet365;

0.5pt EW Bernal @ 66/1 (would take 40s)

0.5pt EW Torres @ 80/1 (would take 50s)

 

Thanks as always for reading and I hope you enjoyed the much longer blog today! Who do you think will win? Next on the blog will be Liege previews for men and women with one of them possibly coming out tomorrow, if not they’ll both be on Saturday. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 20 Preview: Benidorm -> Alto de Aitana

Today’s Recap

Wow.

Froome smoked everyone.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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 6 Preview: Monforte de Lemos -> Luintra

Today’s Recap

That was messy, with Meersman taking a very reduced bunch sprint.

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We saw the attacks off the front on that penultimate ramp that I expected, Gilbert to boot. Followed by several crashes as the road narrowed and there were a few suspect/unmarked bits of road furniture along the way. Not great from the organisation and UCI.

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Goncalves was up there and was in a great position with around 700m to go. But as those in front slowed down (Gilbert stopped the lead-out), he was forced into the inside, right along the barriers. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get out after that and only managed 10th place. A bit of inexperience on his behalf. Oh well, on to tomorrow’s stage!

The Route

Much to the surprise of everyone, oh wait, maybe not, we have another stage with a lot of climbing metres. This is another classic “hilly” day at the Vuelta.

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Like several of the stages that we’ve already had, the majority of the climbing comes in the second half of the day.

You know the drill by know, Strava profile of the final 75km viewable here.

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Said profile.

Just over 2,000m worth of climbing in the final 75km, it won’t be an enjoyable experience for the heavier set riders!

The first climb is 4.1km long, averaging roughly 5.5%. Nothing to challenge the GC men, but it will test those who are trying to control the race.

Afterwards we start the drag up to “Castro Caldelas” (Strava segment here). This climb averages closer to 6% and goes on for much longer, at 9.5km. The toughest part may well be the plateau afterwards, especially if the pace is increased where those who are struggling will be put under pressure.

A long descent follows before the “Barxacova – miradoiro de Cabezoás”, 15.3km at close to 4% average (Strava segment here). Nothing overly challenging but the second half of the climb is the more difficult part (4.8km at 6.7%). This is where we’ll start to see some attacks from the breakaway.

The final obstacle on the course is the hardest. The rather aptly and ingeniously named segment Ou 0508 Climb (here) is 2.2km long, averaging 7.6%. With the toughest section of the climb coming within the final 400m (ramps of 15%), it’s a proper springboard for a late attacker. I say this as the descent will be fast and there isn’t much time for anyone to organise a chase. The road to the finish line itself rises ever so slightly at roughly 2%.

How will the race be won?

Break. 100%.

Teams aren’t strong enough or willing enough to put the effort in to bring the break back. The only way the break is brought back if there is a rider dangerous to Atapuma and Valverde really fancies his chances for the stage.

So it’s time to enter the Spanish Lottery!

Let’s narrow down the criteria;

  • 192 riders left in the race;
  • Take away the top 52 (all under 10mins on GC);
  • Remove “non-climbers”

And we’re left with approximately 80 breakaway candidates. Then there’s the fight of getting into the break. Although that should be left to the “climbers” tomorrow as the opening 10km are all up-hill.

It’s really a stab in the dark so like normal, I’ll name three guys who could go well.

Luis Angel Maté.

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The Spaniard always seems to get himself into breakaways that stick. He’s a solid climber who should be able to cope with the challenges we have tomorrow. One thing that is a deterrent is that he’s not really a winner, only 2 pro wins, but that could all change!

Joe Dombrowski.

The American was ever-present throughout my Giro previews as a breakaway candidate. He is a real talent with a massive engine. Working well recently for Talansky in California, if he’s let off the leash then he could play a massive part in the outcome of tomorrow’s stage.

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Omar Fraile.

 

The Spaniard has had a pretty poor season so far this year by his standards. He had stomach problems at the start of the Vuelta but seems to be over them now. On his day, he is an exceptional climber, with a very attacking mindset. Great for the fans! Hopefully, he’s 100% fit and goes for it tomorrow.

Now for something slightly different…

Inspired by one of my friends who came out with this

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when he was asking about how I go about my selection process for a breakaway. So I’ve decided to consult https://www.random.org/lists/ to come up with a rider for tomorrow’s stage. I’ve put in all riders names, and this is the random rider who topped the list…

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So how can Carthy win tomorrow’s stage? I say he has a good chance if he makes the break. The only concern is that he may be ill, but he’s been loitering around the back of the peloton all race, saving energy. It seems pretty clear to me that he’s saving himself and targeting a stage. Tomorrow could well be that day, but I’m sure someone out there knows better than me! He is a very solid pick and one that I considered myself.

Prediction

Break wins and I’ll go for a Spaniard. Omar Fraile takes the stage.

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Betting

Small punts on each of the riders listed above (even Carthy!)

0.125pt EW on each. Fraile & Mate 100/1, Carthy and Dombrowski 150/1 (All Bet365). Again, hunt around later when more bookies are priced up

 

 

 

 

La Vuelta a España 2016 GC Preview

La Vuelta a España 2016 GC Preview

Jeez, this year has went fast and the third and final Grand Tour is upon us! Arguably the most exciting of the Grand Tours, the Vuelta always offers exciting and unexpected racing, throwing up a few surprises here and there.

Last year saw Tom Dumoulin take centre stage as a GC prospect and it looked for a while that he was going to take the leaders jersey all the way to Madrid. However, his well-documented and massive capitulation on the penultimate stage saw him slip from first to 6th on GC. Fabio Aru took a well-planned win, with Rodriguez and Majka rounding out the podium.

As I’m doing daily previews for the stages, I won’t focus on the route here at all. You just need to know that it’s a typical Vuelta route: tough!

Previous Winner Patterns?

The Vuelta start-list is always full of riders who are at different parts of their own personal seasons. Some will be coming here from the Tour, hoping to continue the good form that they had then or if they were misfiring there, try to prove the doubters wrong here. Others come to Spain after a block of training, or doing some of the smaller preparation races, having possibly done the Giro earlier in the year.

Traditionally the Vuelta is the key preparation race for the Worlds. But considering the very tough nature of the race this year, and the sprinter friendly World Champs course most have decided against it.

It’s therefore hard to gauge just where everyone is at. Which is great from a viewing perspective, not from a preview/prediction perspective!

Is there are a clear pattern from previous winners or those in the top 10? Hmmm, let’s have a look.

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The table above shows the top 10 on GC at the Vuelta, and if they completed another GT in the same year. In brackets is the finishing position at that Grand Tour.

A quick glance and it seems obvious that the winner will be someone who hasn’t completed a GT in that year, with 2015 being a bit of an irregularity. Everything seems to point towards an Alberto Contador win here. However, a more in depth analysis shows that the other years results are actually a bit more odd.

In 2014, both Froome and Contador crashed out of the Tour and used the good legs that they would have had to smash the opposition here. Especially El Pistolero who won by over a minute. Would they have done as well if they’d finished the Tour? It’s hard to say.

2013 and Horner. One of those surprises that I mentioned earlier!

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Swiftly moving on…

2012 saw Contador win after his return from his back-dated drugs ban that saw him miss the Tour that year. Would he have been competing for the win here even if he was at the Tour? Quite possibly, he always seems to go well in Spain, but again, it’s hard to know!

Finally, 2011 had the another unexpected winner Juan Jose Cobo, followed by Tour DNF Wiggins in second. This was the race where Froome came to the fore as a potential GC candidate, with a real mix bag of a top 10.

What can we take from this? There’s an equal split (15 each) for those finishing the Giro or Tour getting a top 10 at the Vuelta. With those not completing a GT earlier in the year taking up the remaining 20 spaces.

If you narrow it down to the top 5 the split is; Giro (7), Tour (11), Neither (7). So when it comes to the business end, it seems that doing the Tour is the best route into the Vuelta. Although looking at the finishing positions of the riders, doing well at the Tour isn’t always the best. Interestingly, those who finish around 20-30th go equally as well, if not better than those on the podium at the Tour. In fact, making the top-3 at the Giro seems to be a more consistent path to the top of the pile at the Vuelta.

All of this of course, is discredited if you are a certain Alejandro Valverde, who’s done both this year!

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Who are the riders to watch then?

As you can probably guess from my yabbering on above, I’m finding this one particularly hard to nail down. There are so many variables regarding riders form etc, that makes this the toughest Grand Tour to predict!

And with almost 750 words wrote up to this point, I really don’t want to keep you here for the same again so I’ll keep this next part short(ish) and maybe sweet. With a sentence or so for each challenger.

Splitting the riders into the categories above (Giro/Tour/Neither) here are those who could make a mark at this years Vuelta.

Giro

Chaves – The runner up at the Giro is a favourite rider of mine and he made his “breakthrough” performance here last year. He’ll be aiming for a podium spot that looks possible.

Kruisjwijk – For so long it looked like he was set to win the Giro before his crash. He’ll be back to prove that wasn’t a one off. If he climbs like he did at the Giro, the others will be worried.

Atapuma – 9th at the Giro, he will probably be 3rd choice for BMC but can’t be discounted. Another top 10 is possible.

Scarponi – arguably the best climber at the Giro this year, he will probably be working for Lopez but the veteran will be up there on all of the mountain top finishes.

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Brambilla – Bit of an outsider but he rode excellently at the Giro. A top 10 would be a great result!

Tour

Froome – The Tour winner will look to do the double here. If he’s performing like he was in France then it is very possible. A downside for him is his weaker team.

Quintana – Third for him ended up being a good result, he seemed to be struggling through the whole race. If he’s got over his illness/whatever was wrong then he will be a force to be reckoned with.

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Valverde – Mr Consistent has done both GTs so far, winning this well be a step too far for him. A top 10 would be a fantastic achievement for him!

Meintjes – The peloton ticket-collector, I really like his style of riding. However, I think it will be too much for him to go well here, he’s too young to do back-to-back GTs.

Barguil – Never really got going at the Tour. His two professional wins came at the 2013 Vuelta. Another stage win here would be good.

Van Garderen – Struggled in France and BMC are supposedly working for Sanchez. He’ll still be protected and has the pedigree to compete if he’s refound his form.

Neither

Contador – The favourite for the race, he comes here after winning in Burgos. He isn’t as good as he used to be, but he always goes well in Spain. His team is weak, a big hinderance to him.

Yates – Someone I’ve not seen mentioned much, if Adam can, then so can Simon! Might be supporting Chaves, but it’s more beneficial having two riders in contention than just one.

Sanchez – Supposedly leading BMC, I don’t know why. I guess a top 10 is good enough for them.

Lopez – The young Astana rider is the real deal, winner of the Tour de Suisse. However, this is his first GT and I think it will be too much for him. A stage win or the KOM jersey should be his goal in my opinion.

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Carthy – A great talent, but he’s fully aware that his first Grand Tour is a learning experience. Not sure what to expect from him, a stage win would be great!

There are others too that I haven’t mentioned, such as Talanksy and Gesink, but I don’t think they’ll be up to much. I would like to see Dombrowski go well.

Prediction

Did I mention already that this is a tough race to predict and that I’m struggling? 😉

So here goes…

Despite suggesting that those who podium at the Tour don’t always go well here, and that those coming from the Giro and no GTs have a much better chance.

Quintana will put his “poor” Tour behind him and take the win here. It’s amazing to think that he struggled all the way around France, yet still had enough quality to finish on the podium. He is one of the most naturally talented Grand Tour riders! I hope for him more than anything, that he has recovered to go well and prove any doubters wrong. He has the strongest team here to support him, which as we saw with Froome at the Tour, is vital. I hope to be shouting “QUINTANA, QUINTANA, QUINTANA!” several times this month!

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Sorry Nairo, I’ve just put the #HaugheyCurse on you 😦

Betting

I don’t do GC betting week 1 of a GT. Almost tempted by an EW play on Yates at 100/1 but I’m sticking to my rules!

 

Thanks again for reading! Hope you enjoyed the preview, who do you think wins the most unpredictable race of the year? We should be in for some exciting racing over the next 3 weeks, I can’t wait! Any feedback as usual is greatly appreciated.

I was intending on doing a points & KOM preview but I don’t think I’ll have the time. Instead, I’ll share any thoughts on Twitter so give me a follow on there @JamieHaughey. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.