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.

 

TDF Stage 20: Megève -> Morzine

Today’s Recap

Hopefully Nieve was let off the leash, got into the break, and won the stage.

Again, I’m writing this preview in advance as I’m away from home all day today so it might be a bit shorter/less succinct. Apologies!

*Edit, looks like it was a GC day instead*

 

The Route

Another short and sharp test for the riders! With Paris metaphorically very much in sight, this will be the last chance for many to try to take a stage win.

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After today’s gruelling start to the stage, the riders will be happy to see a bit of flat at the start of the map. However, this won’t make the racing any less frantic as a break tries to escape. It could even be after the sprint point that it manages to properly form! Before we get to the sprint point though, we have the Col des Aravis. A Cat-2 climb that drags on for 6.7km, averaging a 7% gradient. This won’t be fun for the guys at the bottom of the GC, after they suffered today.

The sprint point comes at the foot-slopes of the next categorised climb, the Col de la Colombière. This is a much longer climb than the previous one (11.7km), but it’s gradient is a lot less severe, averaging only 5.8%.

The second half of the stage is characterised by long valley roads, tough climbs and descents.

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Next up is the penultimate climb of the day, the Col de la Ramaz. 13.9km at 7.1%, it will probably see the break split up here, maybe with 5 or so cresting the climb together. Behind, it shouldn’t really cause any GC difficulties unless of course someone is on a terrible day.

Once again, there is a long descent and a valley road before we reach the final climb of the day; the Col de Joux Plane.

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The toughest climb of the day has been saved for last, it barely goes under 7% for the whole climb, with several 9%+ sections. This in theory should blow the race to pieces, whether that’s in the break or in the GC group. Riders will give it their all on the last major climb of the Tour. Once over the summit they have to cut across the mountain, descending slightly, before climbing another 70m again, up to the peak of the Col du Ranfolly. From there it will be a steep and exciting descent all the way into the finishing town of Morzine.

The riders descend all the way into the final km.

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How will the stage pan out?

Breakaway win, most likely.

If there have been GC fireworks today and the fight for the podium is incredibly close then there is a chance this goes to the main contenders. However, none of the teams have looked strong enough to control a stage like this all day, apart from potentially Astana. Movistar and BMC have been relatively poor this Tour.

Break candidates

Look to all your regulars, such as Majka, Pantano, Zakarin etc.

Again though, I’m going to name three riders who I think can go well here.

Vincenzo Nibali.

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The Shark had a sloppy start to the race, underperforming when in breakaways but seems to have turned a corner. He did a great deal of work, a truly monster turn for Aru on stage 17. This to me shows that his form is getting better. As I’m writing this one day early, I’m going to assume that today he’s worked for Aru and then rolled in to the finish, resting up his legs for tomorrow. He’s a favourite for the Olympic RR so will need a good test of his form, tomorrow looks exactly like that type of stage. If he makes the break, he wins.

Alexis Vuillermoz.

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Another rider going to the Olympics to do the RR, he may have ambitions of going well there. After all, he did win the test event last season! A rider who’s really flown under the radar so far this Tour, he’s done a great deal of work for Bardet. He always seems to be the last man left for his team-mate, I’ve been impressed! Vuillermoz took a solid 3rd on stage 15 but says his form is getting better. As a classics specialist, he loves the steeper gradients and should relish some of the tougher climbs.

Vuillermoz in break today, doubt he’ll go again tomorrow.

Damiano Caruso.

Cycling: BMC Racing Team 2016

A more left-field pick, he’s had a very solid Tour so far, working well for Porte and TVG. So might be given his freedom by the team here to go and have some fun. Having hung on well to the GC favourites group on several occasions, he seems to be climbing well. Furthermore, he packs a good sprint on him so could beat quite a lot of riders if it comes down to a sprint in Morzine with a break companion.

If none of my picks from yesterday’s blog made it into today’s move, they could well give it a go tomorrow. In particular a certain Brit might be targeting this one.

Tirreno Adriatico cycling race

 

Prediction

If we get a break, Nibali wins.

If it’s GC guys, Aru descends like a mad man and steals victory.

Either way, Astana win this penultimate stage!

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Betting

I’ll be backing the 3 riders above, with Nibali receiving most of my money (unless of course he went in the break today), then Vuillermoz, then Caruso. A similar staking structure to previous previews but maybe a bit more on Nibbles than normal. Obviously, I don’t know prices etc, so just have a hunt around yourself. This planning and writing ahead thing is tough!

*Late Friday edit. Nibali shortly priced, gets majority of backing. Caruso gets smaller weighing. 80/20 split.

 

Again, apologies for the slightly shorter preview. Hopefully we get an exciting end to the Tour’s time in the Alps! As usual, any feedback is great and thanks for reading! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth