Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Skydive Dubai › Palm Jumeirah

Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Skydive Dubai › Palm Jumeirah

GC Overview

The annual battle in the desert between the sprinters returns this week with 5th edition of the Dubai Tour, and boy, do we have a strong field here!

Kittel, Cavendish, Viviani, Groenewegen, Degenkolb/Nizzolo, Kristoff, Bouhanni, Mareczko, Cort Nielsen and Colbrelli all will start the race, and they’ll all hope to get one over their rivals early on in the year.

Since the change in format after the 2014 edition (that had a TT to open), the GC battle has often came down to the sprinters being able to pick up bonus seconds coupled with their ability to follow home the puncheurs on the Hatta Dam. 2015 and 2016 saw Cavendish and Kittle take enough stage wins/secure enough bonus seconds to hold on for the overall title. While last year saw the Hatta Dam stage cancelled due to high winds, which made it more of a walk in the park for Kittel than what might have been.

This year, the riders will have one more stage to contend with which theoretically makes it even more likely that a sprinter will win the GC. However, given that this is the strongest field that we’ve seen here since the races inception, there is a chance that the stage wins will be spread around enough that a puncheur could sneak the overall win.

Nonetheless, I still think we’ll see a sprinter take the crown.

That man will be Viviani.

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With some racing already in his legs, he should come to this race sharper than a lot of his rivals and that could play a big part throughout the week. Furthermore, with a win to his name already and a string of solid performances down in Australia, he will be buoyed by confidence. I think being freed from the shackles of Sky really helped him and we saw a big change in his performances towards the end of last season when he knew the move to QuickStep was confirmed. Having a team that believes in you makes a massive difference for a sprinter and it clearly has helped the Italian. Some of the Watts he was putting out in Australia were incredibly impressive and I think he’s transforming back to the Viviani that showed so much promise in his early years at Liquigas. Consequently, that means he can actually climb reasonably well and get to some finishes that you might not expect, i.e. his second in Cadel’s Race, or Hatta Dam. QuickStep’s record in this race is remarkable, having won it for the past three years, and I fancy them to make it four in a row this time around.

Vai Vai Viviani!

Will he secure the win on the opening day though? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders on Stage 1.

The Route

Pretty much a carbon copy of last year’s opening day.

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There’s almost no point of me posting any of the stage profiles this week as they’re all flat! The more interesting thing about the stage is the final run.

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The riders come out of a tunnel at roughly 6km to go, before making their way towards the end of the Palm. This marks a fairly tight roundabout and once they are through that point, it is a 3km drag race for the sprint teams. The roundabout can be sketchy and last year’s race saw Colbrelli fall here and ruin any chance of victory.

Considering the distance from the roundabout to the finish line, it is possible for teams to move their riders up in that time. However, you certainly want to be in the first third of the peloton.

It is hard for a team to assert complete control at the front of the peloton and we’ll more than likely see surges from different trains in the closing couple of kilometres.

Normally the riders would be concerned with the wind on this stage, but the forecast is fairly benign with a 10km/h left to right cross-wind predicted for the closing sprint. Nothing too drastic, but coming from the downwind side might just present an opportunity for a rider to surprise. Conversely though, a strong lead-out could hug the right hand side of the road, forcing any competitor into the wind.

Contenders

As I’ve mentioned above, we’re treated to a long list of sprinters here so I’ll try to keep this bit short-ish, otherwise we could be here a while!

Marcel Kittel.

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Winner of this stage last year, it will be interesting to see how he gels into his new team and lead-out train. Katusha are certainly weaker than QS and with Kittel preferring a late dash to the line, pouncing in the closing kilometre a lot last season, I’m not sure the likes of Haller and Zabel have the speed to do that. We’ll see, but I’ll be watching with interest.

Elia Viviani.

The form rider here and my GC favourite. He was very strong in the Tour Down Under and was rewarded with a great stage win as a result. QuickStep bring a team with them here that is built around the Italian. With the power they have, we should see a dominant blue train in the closing kilometres. Can Viviani continue his good form?

Dylan Groenewegen.

Still only 24, the young Dutchman had another solid season last year where he picked up 8 wins, including the iconic sprint along the Champs-Élysées at the Tour. He started his season with a second place on GC here last year and will be looking to go one better this time. With a team dedicated to him, he should be positioned well going into the sprint, and it will be up to him to deliver.

Mark Cavendish.

You can never rule out Cavendish. I did at the 2016 and he absolutely blitzed that, before dropping out to focus on the Olympics. It is fair to say that 2017 was a bit of a disaster for him though, with only one win all year and a crash in the Tour that ruined his season. He arrives here with a tried and tested lead-out train and I’m sure he’ll want to come out of the blocks firing in 2018; reminding everyone that he is still one of the fastest guys in the peloton.

John Degenkolb.

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Having already started his season in Mallorca, Degenkolb has an advantage over some of his competitors in that sense. Furthermore, with two wins to his name, he already has more wins this year than in all of 2017. Trek also bring Nizzolo with them so it will be interesting to see the dynamic between them, but given that Degenkolb has won on Hatta before, I imagine they’ll go with him here. Can he make it 3 wins from 3 starts in 2018?

Alexander Kristoff.

Having moved from Katusha in the winter, where he spent six years of his career, it will be interesting to see how he gets on in his new UAE Emirates team. There will be pressure on the Norwegian to perform in what is a home race for the squad, but his team doesn’t look the best. A lot of pressure will be on the young shoulders of Ganna and Consonni to position him well, which could be his downfall. I’m sure he’ll be disappointed to see it won’t be a headwind sprint either! I think we might see something from him later in the race, but not on the opening day.

Nacer Bouhanni.

The enigmatic Frenchman arrives here with Cofidis receiving an invite to the race for the first time. When he wants to be he is lightning fast but more often than not he is too busy scrapping for someone’s wheel way down the order, before settling for a top 8 finish. If his attitude has improved and that is a big if, then he could have a really good season. The Cofidis management has had a change of approach and seems to be giving him some tough love an I’m intrigued to see how that works. I would not be surprised to see him first or fifteenth.

Sonny Colbrelli.

2017 was a good year for the Italian and his move up to World Tour level was a success, winning a stage of Paris Nice. I’m not sure his raw pace is up to the standard of some of the guys here and he would probably prefer a tougher day out in the saddle, but you never know.

Jakub Mareczko.

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Already with two wins under his belt at the famous Sharjah Tour towards the end of January, he’ll arrive here with confidence. What? You’ve never heard of it? Tut tut. To be fair, all he had to beat was Coquard and some sand so we can’t really take much from it. Nonetheless, I do rate the Wilier rider and he has the speed to compete on very flat days. He’s still a tier or so below the best riders, but given he’s been in the Emirates for a few weeks now, that might be of an advantage to him.

Magnus Cort Nielsen.

Another rider who moved in the winter, he’ll want to impress for new team Astana. On paper, he has the power and climbing ability to “do a Degenkolb” and challenge on the Dam, but a crash in training in December might have halted his build up to the season. Like Colbrelli, he would prefer a few more lumps and bumps, but he can’t be discounted entirely.

Prediction

Pffff, pick a name out of a hat!

Viviani has the form, but I think he might fall short on the first day. Instead, I’ve been drawn towards Cavendish for this opening stage.

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He’s spent a bit of time in the Emirates recently and was out there towards the end of January as an ambassador for Abu Dhabi Tour. Now, I’m unsure if he has just stayed there since, but he’s definitely been out since the 2nd of February and I think that shows some intent to go well on his part. Furthermore, he is playing down his chances and form in the press, which is normally when he ends up going well!

His big goal for the year is to get closer to Merckx’s Tour de France stage win record, but I imagine he will want to hit the ground running after a quite frankly awful 2017 by his accounts, mostly for confidence reasons. Although I don’t think he lacks that…

He’s a racer and with a tried and tested lead-out, he has a good chance of surprising on the opening day.

Betting

3pts WIN Viviani for GC at 9/2 with Bet365

1pt EW Cavendish for Stage 1 at 9/1 with SkyBet

4pts Viviani to beat Groenewegen for Stage 1 at 1/1 with Bet365

1pt Double on Viviani ov Groenewegen & Degenkolb ov Kristoff at 2.66/1 with Bet365.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? We have a plethora of sprinters to choose from so it should be an exciting week of racing. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Tre Valli Varesine 2017 Preview

After missing writing a preview for Emilia and Begheli due to some other things that cropped up, I thought it was only fair to get back into the swing of things with the next Italian one-day race; Tre Valli Varesine.

This is a time of the season that I enjoy. There is something about the Italian one-day races that are really special and this one is no different. A tricky circuit finish around Varese lends itself to some aggressive and tactical racing and we could see a whole host of outcomes tomorrow.

Last year it all came back together despite several attacks in the closing 10kms and Sonny Colbrelli won a very reduced sprint, beating Uran and Gavazzi.

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Will we see a similar outcome this year?

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

The Route

Pretty much the same as previous years with the riders leaving Saronno and completing almost 80km before they reach Varese and the traditional lap finish.

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Credit goes to @LasterketaBurua for the two main profiles I’ll be using today. Go check them out on Twitter and thank Ricky and Rafaelle!

The key part of the day is obviously the circuit in Varese that they will face 9 times. You can view an interactive profile of it here.

An undulating parcours, there are two important tests that the riders will face.

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First up is the short 1km (at 7.3%) climb. Due to its proximity near the start of the circuit it is hard for any winning moves to be made here, but it can be used to put the strain on the opposition. It is certainly tough enough though that some riders from several of the strong teams can breakaway here and not be seen again.

Once over the climb, the riders face a mixed-bag of descents and flat before they reach the final 4km.

These areas of flat often see an attack made, but only for the rider to gain 30m or so and be reeled in. Another will go, but the same will happen again! It is similar to the climb in the sense that a move could escape here but it would require either the right number of teams represented, or that the chasing “peloton” behind is actually only 8-10 riders big and no one wants to work together.

More often than not though, the race is decided by the final drag.

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With the steepest ramps coming right at the bottom, riders normally attack the final turn coming off of the descent so that they can be the first into the climb. This is what Nibali did rather brilliantly in 2015 on his way to victory.

I hope you didn’t get motion sickness after watching that!

Gaps can be made on the ascent but you need to be a very strong rider to maintain them if there is a concerted effort behind to chase. The one thing that does aid the solo rider is that things are very strung out from the bottom so it is hard for help to come from behind.

Anything that is brought back though then leaves the group open to counter-attacks again as the road then flattens out going into the final kilometre.

If things do stick together we’re most likely to see a group of no more than 20 riders contest a reduced bunch sprint.

How will the race pan out?

It beats me – this is arguably the most stacked start list this race has had in a long time, which certainly throws a few proverbial spanners in the works. There are several World Tour squads here who bring very strong teams and a selection of riders that can compete in differing scenarios.

Looking at the past three years you might think that a reduced bunch sprint is the most likely option.

Yet, given that it has happened 6 out of the last 9 editions, a solo rider winning is statistically the most likely outcome. However, with the much stronger teams here, then in theory it will be very hard for someone to stay away on their own.

The only way this can happen is if the race is ridden very aggressively from 3 or 4 laps out and the peloton is really stretched out going into the final circuit.

However, I think a group getting away early (i.e. before the last lap) to contest the finish or a reduced bunch sprint are the more likely options. Of course, with the former option we could see a solo victor!

Trying to cover my back as much as possible here 😉.

Names to look out for

Like always I’ll only suggest a few names to look out for as you and I could be here for a while otherwise!

Tom Dumoulin.

Superb in the time trial at the World’s he will come here full of confidence. With that race being his main target for the end of the season, there is a chance he could take his foot off the gas here. Unlikely! With Lombardia not too far away, he could well test his legs here. Given his incredible power at the moment, he is someone who could attack out of a small bunch  and stay away to the line. For that to happen he would need some luxury team-mates behind to mark everyone out and I guess he is in luck as he has just that!

Steve Cummings.

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His recent win in Toscana was a big middle finger to the British World Champs selectors, a course that he potentially could have animated in the finale. With Sbaragli most likely to be involved in any reduced sprint, then Cummings will be given the nod to mark out any attacks and make the race aggressive himself in the closing. I said above that the flat sections during the descent are ideal for a strong rider to attack an incohesive group; what I meant to say was that it looks ideal Cummings territory. He’s one of the few in the peloton who I think could get away and make it stick!

Davide Villella.

The Italian was very strong in these races towards the end of last season and I’m sure he’ll be looking to be at the same level this year. Giro dell’Emilia was his first race back after his KOM success at the Vuelta. Working for Uran, he put in a fairly solid performance and the favour might be returned here. Packing a fairly solid sprint from a small group, he could surprise.

Michael Valgren.

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Attacking in both of his recent races, the Danish rider seems to have carried some good form into the end of the season. Given his ability to cope with the short climbs, the course tomorrow looks ideal for him. Astana arrive without a sprinter so they will have to animate the race to make it successful and I think Valgren presents one of their better chances. A powerful rider, he should be able to churn up the final drag!

Marco Canola.

I have to include a PCT Italian rider in here somewhere! Canola has performed very consistently over the past few weeks, finishing no lower than 16th in all of the races he has competed in during September – not bad. He won the hilly Limburg Classic earlier this year, along with a tricky circuit stage in the Tour of Utah. He’ll probably have a tough task winning against the opposition here, but stranger things have happened.

Prediction

I think we’ll see the World Tour teams try to make this as an aggressive race and we’ll see the toughest Tre Valli Varesine in a while. Consequently, it will be unlikely that the bunch will be held together enough for a reasonable sized bunch sprint of 20 riders. There is a chance we could see 5 or so riders come to the line but I don’t think it will be any more than that.

Nibali looked exceptional in Emilia, but I think the drag up to the finish is suited much more to the new TT World Champion.

Dumoulin to attack and manage to hold off everyone behind thanks to Matthews marking anyone trying to follow as they won’t want to take the Aussie to a sprint.

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Betting

Not sure who else has prices, but in the UK SkyBet do.

1pt EW Dumoulin @ 33/1

0.75pt EW Valgren @ 66/1

 

Thanks as always for reading and as usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win and how? I think we’ll be in for a very exciting race! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 21 Preview; Montgeron -> Paris

Today’s Recap

One second. Again! Think this must be the 6th time in two years that the rider I’ve backed for a timed event has lost out by one second.

Kwiatkowski rode a great TT but was just pipped by fellow countryman Bodnar, the latter getting revenge for being crushed by the Sky rider at nationals. After Sagan’s dismissal and Majka’s withdrawal it is good to see Bora still going well and challenging when they can!

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Froome came home third to convincingly take his 4th Tour title. Well, convincingly might not be the best word to use as he has looked anything but that this race, however the two TTs have won it for him! I wonder how the GC would have panned out if we had Valverde and Porte still here.

Oh well, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders on their final day of racing.

The Route

You know the score by now, a little jaunt from the outskirts of Paris that finishes with some laps of the Champs-Élysées.

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A processional stage that will get more exciting once we hit the laps themselves.

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Coming out from the underpass first with a few lead-out men in front of your sprinters is important. From there, being able to lead it through the sweeping bends with 500m to go will put your sprinter into a prime position into the closing straight.

That’s about that for the route, nothing more needs to be said really!

Weather wise the riders will start out in overcast conditions but that could all change later on in the stage depending on how processional they make the day.

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A wet finish could certainly make things a bit more lively.

Sprinters

This is the Tour, not the Giro, so we will see a sprint finish tomorrow. With Kittel no longer here, the door has been opened for the rest of the fast men to take a stage win and it could consequently become a bit hectic because of that.

Matthews.

The Green Jersey winner (as long as he finishes tomorrow) will be looking to go out with a bang. With arguably one of the best lead-out trains, he should be put into a good position. Brimming with confidence just now, does he have the speed to finish off a great Tour for Sunweb?

Boasson Hagen.

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After getting a richly deserved stage win the Dimension Data will be looking to double up tomorrow. The other rider with a strong lead-out, he should be placed into a good position in the final straight. No doubt we’ll see Van Rensburg do another monster turn to get him there! There are questions about his willingness to take risks though which could see him start his sprint from further back.

Greipel.

Has won a stage at every Grand Tour he’s started over the past few years. He left it late last year, taking the final stage that time round and he’ll need to do that again this year if he wants to continue that record. His experience of managing his body through a race could be vital.

Groenewegen.

The flying Dutchman hasn’t really set sail this Tour so far, picking up two podium places along the way. However, he did look like one of the fastest riders on the pure sprint into Pau and with Kittel gone he’ll be hoping to go better.

Bouhanni.

Poor. That’s how I’ll describe his Tour so far. He’s a sprinter that I think can do really well but he’s just been very disappointing during this race. He’s been positioned well only for him to decide to fight for wheels instead, or just completely lack the kick to get involved in the dash to the line. He could turn it around tomorrow and he’ll probably be doing a rain dance tonight, but it I think it’s unlikely we’ll see him on the top step.

Degenkolb.

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He’s been okay this race, especially when you consider that his original aim was to help Contador on the flat days and then look after himself. Now that he’s been freed from those shackles, he’ll hope to have the favour returned to him by the team. He would prefer a tougher finish but he should be in or around the top 5.

Kristoff.

Another rider who falls into the poor category. He was close in some of the opening few stages but has fallen by the wayside recently. Crashing the other day hasn’t helped and he’s looked a bit sketchy since then. Maybe he’ll be hoping for poor weather to help turn his race around?

Petit, Colbrelli, Cimolai, Bennati and Selig will all be fighting for the Top 10.

Prediction

My angle of thought for today’s stage nearly worked: pick a rider who is clearly still in form at the end of the race.

So with that being said, I think Matthews will win the stage tomorrow.

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He may not be known as the fastest rider on a pure flat sprint, but after the past week he is the only one to have shown that he is in great form. His ability to climb over some of the mountains we’ve had should see him fresher for tomorrow’s finish. Brimming with confidence, he’ll take a memorable stage win in Paris wearing Green.

Betting

1.5pt EW Matthews @ 12/1 with PP/BF (Would take 10/1 elsewhere)

 

Thanks as always for reading but a big thanks if you’ve stuck with me through the past 3 weeks. It’s your continued support that makes me keep going when I’ve gone on awful stage prediction runs etc! During the Tour the blog surpassed 50,000 views for the year which is incredible so thanks once again. I hope that a few of you new readers will stick around for the rest of the season as we still have plenty more racing to go.

Next on the schedule for me will be San Sebastian and both the Ride London races.

Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Tour de France 2017 Stage 10 Preview; Périgueux -> Bergerac

Rest-day Recap

A crazy stage filled with everything and it was certainly one of the most exciting I’ve watched in recent years. It was a stage that I’m sure even a non-cycling fan would be able to sit down to and enjoy for 5 hours.

In the end Uran managed to win a 6 rider sprint while effectively on a fixie. That just topped off a remarkable day!

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Day-long escapee Barguil finished second, while Froome nabbed third to pick up some bonus seconds and extend his GC lead over closest challenger Aru.

Of course, we had some very unfortunate crashes that took out some big names. However, that’s part of racing and it is nothing more than unfortunate. The riders push as fast as they want and are safe with, if they want to take risks, that’s up to them! It might be a slightly unpopular opinion but I see nothing wrong with yesterday’s stage lay-out; going downhill is as an important skill as going uphill. If not, why not just set up some turbos and see who can do the highest W/kg for an hour?!

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

The Route

The riders will be glad to ease themselves back into racing after the rest-day with a fairly simple stage tomorrow.

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There are only two Cat-4 climbs out on course but the first one is generously given that classification as it only averages 3.3% for 3.5km. The second is slightly tougher but even then it is only 2.1km at 5.6%. Not exactly tough for the peloton!

As for the finish itself, there are a couple of roundabouts at roughly 3km to go but they won’t be too much of an issue.

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There are then two left-hand turns in the closing kilometre which could throw a spanner in the works for the lead-out trains.

The first one isn’t too sharp a bend but it is made tight due to some road furniture, effectively blocking off one side of the road. Or at least making the longer way around harder to go!

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Left Hand Turn #1

The narrowing road should ensure that the bunch is relatively strung out coming out of the turn. Which in theory will make the second left-hand corner easier.

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Left Hand Turn #2

I just hope that they’ve got rid of those gates! 😜

It will then be a 500m drag race to the line and we should see the fastest rider sprint for stage victory. Or should we…

How will the stage pan out?

It should be a sprint stage but post rest-day racing always produces some kind of odd result every now and then. Remember what I said in my Stage 7 preview…

With Kittel being so dominant, I’m not sure many of the other sprint teams will want to contribute to the pace setting. They’ll let Quick Step do the majority of the work, hoping to tire them out and take advantage of it later on in the stage. However, there is a chance that QS could call their bluff. The German already has three stage wins to his name so there is no pressure on him to win again. He didn’t look too great in his win on Stage 7, looking down at his power meter a lot, suggesting that he wasn’t feeling as strong. With a commanding lead in the Green Jersey competition the team also has room to ride defensively. Potentially give Martin an easier day after his crash yesterday?

Sprint Contenders

Kittel starts as the clear favourite but he is beatable. Especially now that Trentin is gone, that could be crucial for him. Although in fairness, his lead-out wasn’t firing on all cylinders anyway and he has three stage wins to his name.

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Greipel has been close but he hasn’t looked like winning any stage yet. Nonetheless, the experienced German has to be respected in a Grand Tour sprint. Will he be able to pick up a win tomorrow to keep his streak going?

Bouhanni might actually have a chance if he positions himself well. I still rate him as a fast rider and his acceleration could be key tomorrow to sprint out of the corners. Nonetheless, he’ll no doubt find himself 10 bike-lengths behind and that will be that.

Boasson Hagen arguably has the beast lead-out here now. So, so close to a win on Stage 7, Dimension Data were excellent; especially van Rensburg. The other sprinters will be aware of his strength now though so he might find it more difficult tomorrow.

Groenewegen will be there or thereabouts again. Two 5th place finishes for him so far, but he’ll be expecting more. He is fast and the finish does look to suit him. Can he make the step up and take a grand tour podium or even better, a win??

Kristoff has a great last man in Zabel and should be dropped off in a great position. He seems to be getting better as the race goes on, returning to his form of previous years? If so, he has the speed to win!

Matthews finished fast on Stage 7 but I’m still unsure if he has the raw-speed to compete on a pure flat sprint. His powers of recovery might be better than some of the proper sprinters, but he did have a big day out yesterday and I think that will take its toll tomorrow.

Colbrelli, Cimolai and McLay will be fighting for top 10 spots.

Break Candidates

I’d say the chance of the break sticking are better than any sprint stage so far, but it is still only a 10% chance at most. There will need to be some strong riders up the road and ideally be a 6-7 rider group.

I’ll throw a couple of names into the proverbial hat, sticking with some home-talent…

Thomas Boudat.

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The Frenchman is a young sprint talent who’s getting his first taste at Grand Tour riding. However, Direct Energie seem to be going with Petit for the big bunch sprints, with Boudat left to take opportunities from the break. Hailing from Langon, which is 80km from the finish in Bergerac, I imagine that a lot of his friends and family from home will be out to see him race. What better motivation to get into the morning breakaway than that?! He might not have the experience, but he will be tough to beat in a sprint if the break makes it all the way to the line.

Yoann Offredo

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A rider who was in the break on the first open road stage (with Boudat), he and Phinney nearly managed to hold on until the line, getting caught in the final few kilometres. Wanty are clearly motivated to try to get a rider into the move every day on the flat stages and that will be no different tomorrow. If he’s as aggressive and strong as he was on Stage 2 then he has a chance. His breakaway companions will certainly be Offredo him…

I’ll get my coat.

Prediction

We’ll probably still see a sprint and Kittel will probably win, again!

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I think that Kristoff could be his biggest challenger though. Although he only finished 4th on Stage 7, he showed some signs he’s riding back into good form. In search of a contract for next year, a good result tomorrow would certainly help that!

Betting

Definitely not lumping on Kittel tomorrow and almost tempted for a no bet, however…

0.8pt EW Kristoff @ 10/1 with William Hill

0.1pt EW Boudat @ 350/1 with BetVictor (would take 250s lowest elsewhere)

0.1pt EW Offredo @ 600/1 with Bet365 (would take 500s elsewhere)

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone beat Kittel? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Tour de France 2017 Stage 6 Preview; Vesoul -> Troyes

Today’s Recap

A fast day in the saddle. the race finished a good bit ahead of schedule. With a strong break going from the gun, we easily could have seen them build up a 6-8 minute advantage. However, BMC had other ideas and began setting tempo at the front of the bunch early on, never allowing the advantage to go much further north than 3 minutes.

Once onto Belles Filles itself, Kwiatkowski took over and set a terrific tempo for Sky, resulting in riders slowly being churned out the back of the peloton. Yet, it was such an infernal pace that it put his own team in difficulty. Landa and Henao never managed to put their nose in the wind at all, and it was left to Nieve to take over.

Aru sensed the Spaniard was slowing and attacked with 2.2km to go. A foolish move considering Sky’s ability to drag those attacks back in the past, except he just kept getting further away. Thomas closed down an attack from Yates, but wasn’t able to offer too much more after that so Froome himself went on the offensive. Only Porte, Bardet and Martin could follow the yellow-jersey elect, but after some looking around the group behind caught up again with around 800m to go.

By then though, Aru had the stage in the bag, taking a great victory for the blog! And himself too I guess…

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What really impressed me was the gutsiness of his attack, but more importantly the way he kept driving to the line, only posting up to celebrate once over the finish.

Behind, Martin launched a terrific attack to gain time on the rest and finish second on the day. While Froome managed to pip Porte to third. I’m sure the latter will be disappointed after his team did most of the work today.

There’s still a long way to go and plenty of mountains left, just not mountain top finishes, but it is promising that it isn’t going to be a complete two-horse race.

The GC riders will take a back foot tomorrow with the sprinters having another chance at glory. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for them.

The Route

A fairly benign and long day in the saddle at 216km – it is a typical transitional stage!

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Nothing major to note until we get towards the finish in Troyes. I got mildly excited when looking at the weather forecasts as we do have some 25m/h crosswinds early in the stage but they die down once we get to 50km to go. So we won’t see any echelon action!

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The final 5km gets progressively more technical. Aside from a roundabout at around 5.5km to go, the lead-outs will be able to organise themselves and we’ll no doubt see a big fight to get to the tight turn just before 2km to go first.

From there, the road slowly bends around to the right. Holding the inside line will force opposition teams to take the outside route, elongating their own run in, and potentially tiring them out/ruining their timing.

More crucially though, it is important to be at the front going under the flamme rouge as things will get messy.

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Just as they pass under the kite the riders will be faced with this roundabout where they will be funnelled around the right-hand side. Well, according to the road book anyway.

The riders will then have to contend with another roundabout at what appears to be ~250m to go.

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However, it is not as bad as it sounds, with it really only being a slight kink in the road. The worst part though is that the road narrows from three lanes to two and some riders might find themself running out of space!

Contenders

With some of the key sprinters now gone from the race or injured, we should in theory have a safer run-in as fewer people will be competing for the win.

Démare has had the best/most consistent results out of all the sprinters so far with a second place and a win to his name. He was somewhat lucky to get away with cutting across Bouhanni on Stage 4 but there is no doubt he is one of the strongest here. He has a lead-out train long/strong enough to control it in the final 2kms but they’ve been disappointing so far. Can they turn it around tomorrow and see Démare take a second win?

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Kittel was never in it on Stage 4. Positioned too far back, he never got close to the top 10 of the race before it was decimated by the crashes. Another lead-out that was fairly disappointed, with a team as good as QuickStep, you would expect them to turn that around tomorrow. The crazy on sprint on stage 2 shows the German has form, but will he be in a position to show that again?

With Cavendish and Sagan now gone, it certainly opens up the sprints more and in theory should make them less chaotic as we’ll have fewer lead-out trains fighting for position.

Kristoff and his Katusha team were keen to do some work on Stage 4 but possibly took it up too early. The Norwegian came away with a second place but I’m not too sure what we can fully read into it. I’m still not convinced he’s as strong as he was in 2015 but with Zabel he has a very good last man he can trust. Another podium is a possibility.

Greipel picked up another podium on Stage 4 but he seemed to be really struggling today and was one of the first riders dropped. Ill? Or was he just using his experience and saving as much energy as possible?

Bouhanni is one that interests me a bit for tomorrow. Clearly riding himself back into a bit of form after his crash in Yorkshire, he was unlucky to be blocked by Démare on Stage 4. The technical final kilometre should suit the brave Frenchman and he does have the speed to compete. Will the win be too much? Only 1.19% (or 1/84) of the previous 4 Tour stages have been won by a rider riding at Pro-Conti level.

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Credit to @padsbets for that stat.

Groenewegen, Colbrelli and Matthews will be close and fighting for the top 5 but they should get a top 10.

Prediction

Kittel will return to winning ways!

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But I think we’ll see Bouhanni sneak onto the podium, the finish looks good for him. Just need Démare to stay out of his way!

Betting

Not willing to risk Kittel at his odds, so I’m once again going with a better value play on Bouhanni.

1pt EW Bouhanni @ 16/1 with SkyBet. (Would take 14s lowest elsewhere).

After two successful H2Hs in a row, I’ll play the profit up for tomorrow. The 3.6pt was turned into 7.92pt today so I’ll put…

4pt Bouhanni to beat Greipel @5/4 with WillHill.

Risky, but I like the Frenchman’s trajectory.

 

Thanks as always for reading, who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be an easy win for Kittel or will someone else challenge him? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Mondorf-les-Bains -> Vittel

Today’s Recap

An exciting finale that had a little bit of everything but in the end the result was inevitable, wasn’t it? After managing to clip back into his pedal after unclipping, Sagan still had enough power to hold off a charging Matthews on the line to take a great stage victory.

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Dan Martin was the best of the GC guys, coming home in third place and taking 4 bonus seconds on the line plus a 2 second time gap back to the main GC group. Yates was the worst off today, losing 8 seconds to the likes of Froome/Porte etc.

A special mention must also go to Démare who managed to hold on to the wheels of the climbers and eventually finished 6th. He’s in stupendous form at the moment!

Will he get a chance to go for the win tomorrow?

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

The Route

A fairly simple stage with not too much to talk about!

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It should be a day for the sprinters so the stage is all about the final few kilometres.

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The road does rise and fall in the final 5kms but it’s nothing too severe. The climb that you see on the profile above averages roughly 1.8% for 2kms, so nothing more than false flat. Likewise, the finish itself does ramp up but it is only 1.7% for the final kilometre.

I’m sure all of the sprinters would expect to be there!

As for the run-in itself, it is more technical than what we had on stage 2.stage-4-5km

So here comes a little preview by pictures…

The first challenge the riders will have to face is the turn onto Rue de la Vauviard after they come off the short descent.

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Having gathered up a lot of pace, they’ll have to be careful not to misjudge the bend as it is a lot tighter than I expected going off of the stage map. From there, they will face a sweeping road until the “tight turn” at roughly 1.5km to go.

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Said “tight turn”

On a two-lane wide road the fight for position will be important as the best way to take the turn at maximum speed is to sweep from left to right. From there, they continue towards a roundabout which is a lot more precarious than the road book suggests.

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The two lanes that they approach on are split by some nasty looking road furniture, with the roundabout itself being very narrow. I hope we don’t see any accidents as every tries to funnel right.

Once through the roundabout the riders will hit the Flamme Rouge and from there things get a lot easier with no more sharp turns and slightly wider roads.

Conteders

Can anyone beat Kittel? Probably not.

The German was incredibly strong on the opening stage and if he produces the same amount of power tomorrow then he should eat up the finish. He will be hoping for a better lead-out though as he can’t afford to go too early on the rise as it could catch him (or anyone) out.

Démare again looks like his main challenger. The Frenchman missed his structured lead-out on stage 1 and he’ll bo hoping that changes tomorrow. They have the numbers to control the final 3km which is a huge advantage. Not afraid of a slight drag to the line, he has a good chance of going better than stage 2.7087035_1-0-1561477825_1000x625

Greipel loves a tougher sprint finish like this and he no doubt will be there at the end again. His train isn’t the best, he’ll need to use all of his experience to stay near enough to the front through the technical sections.

Cavendish took some promise from his result on stage 2. With another day of racing in his legs, will his form be on the up? Who knows! I’ll repeat what I said for the last sprint stage, his result won’t surprise me either way!

Bouhanni is the local boy and he will relish the technical finish. However, I’m still not convinced he’s at 100% after his crash in Yorkshire. He’ll give it his all and like Cavendish, I won’t be surprised with whatever he does.

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Groenewegen normally goes well on tougher run ins. The young Dutchman has no fear so he should be well positioned going into the final kilometre. Does he have the legs to compete with the best? A 5th on Stage 2 was promising and he may well sneak a podium tomorrow.

Matthews produced a very impressive final few hundred metres today, but it was too little too late. Not the fastest in a pan-flat sprint, the ever so slight gradient does bring him closer to the other sprinters.

Degenkolb was never really involved in the sprint on stage 2 and he might struggle with a lack of support. However, he looked very strong at the start of the year and you have to imagine that he will be close to that form again due to it being the Tour. If things click tomorrow, we might see a good result from the German sprinter.

Sagan will of course be up there again. Hampered on Stage 2, he was truly exceptional today. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go back to back.

Colbrelli and Kristoff will looking to top 10 again.

Prediction

Boring, but Kittel wins again most likely!

Cue the glaringly obvious Kittel wins in Vittel headlines.

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He certainly can be challenged though and a few riders will fancy their chances, it won’t be as “easy” for him as it was on stage 2.

Betting

No value in Kittel but there are two “outsiders” I’d like to back because the odds are just ridiculous for them.

0.7pt EW Matthews @ 80/1 with PP/BF (Would take 66s)

The Sunweb rider actually has a fairly solid lead-out train with him and theory could be one of the better positioned riders in the finale tomorrow. He got blocked off on Stage 2 so could never really make any effort to go for the win. His finish today gives me a lot of confidence in his power right now and I think he could be up there tomorrow again. Definitly should be lower than a 66 or 80/1 shot.

0.3pt EW Degenkolb @150/1 with Sky/PP/BF (would take 125s)

He’s not been great as of late but that doesn’t warrant his massive price, I think his form is actually on the up. Another rider who didn’t really sprint at all on Stage 2, he might get lucky tomorrow. I find it absurd that he’s that price while McClay/Kristoff/Colbrelli are all shorter, and by some margin.

Probably another two losing “value” bets, but they could run close in a hectic finish.

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2017 Green Jersey Preview

While a lot of the cycling world bemoans the easier route for this year’s Tour, there is one group of riders who will be happy with the flatter parcours: the sprinters.

The organisers have been kind to the fast men, with there looking to be 7 sprint stages but that could be increased to 9 or even 10 depending on how the peloton attacks the race.

Having won the jersey for the last 5 years in a row, Sagan is the rider to beat.

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Can he make it 6 this season?

First though, let’s have a look at how the points system works.

Scoring Points

The stages are categorised based on their difficulty, with the easier stages awarding more points to the winner at the end of the day.

The following table comes from @searchhhh on the Velorooms forums, that I have tea-leafed because I’m too lazy to make it myself!

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As for which stages fall into each category;

  • Stages 2, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 19, 21 are Cat 1, i.e. score maximum points
  • Stages 3, 5 , 8, 14, 15, 16 are Cat 2
  • Stages 1, 9, 12, 13, 17, 18, 20 are Cat 3

With 8 stages that reward 50 points at the line, it is possible for a dominant sprinter to build up a strong points tally. The sprinters will have to come out firing if they want to contest green because half of the “big” sprint stages come in the opening week of racing.

Sagan normally makes his mark by winning the Cat-2 stages and being close on the Cat-1 days. However, this year 3 and 14 look like the only days where we could have a reduced bunch sprint. Stage 5 will be a GC day and so could stage 8, with stage 15 looking like a breakaway day. Furthermore, Stage 16 actually looks like a stage where most of the sprinters could make it to the line as most of the climbing comes in the first half of the day.

Another way that Sagan cements his position in Green is by going on the hunt for the intermediate sprint points during the more rolling stages as his competitors normally can’t follow in the breakaway these days.

Yet, this year the organisers have seemed to “nerf” that aspect of his attack, with having most of the intermediate sprints on flatter parts of the route and before the big obstacles on the day. It’s really only on stages 9/15/17 that they’re in places inaccessible to most sprinters!

Even Stage 9 might be a little hard for Sagan to chase the points…

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Therefore, there is certainly a lot more emphasis on placing highly at the end of stages this year and picking up some minor points at the intermediates to keep the tally ticking over.

Contenders

With all that being said though, Sagan is still the clear favourite for the jersey. He looked lightning fast at the recent Tour de Suisse and he always ups his game in the sprints at the Tour. Even if he doesn’t win any of the flat stages, he’ll no doubt podium in at least 3 of them while picking up top 5s in a lot of the others. That will give him a good base of points to go and pick up some more during Stage 3 etc and some mountain breakaways.

So a rough points total for him could be;

2 Cat-2 wins (60pts), 2 Cat-1 2nds (50pts), 2 Cat-1 3rds (40pts), Top 10s in Cat-1s (~50 – 70pts), Intermediate Sprints (~70 – 100 pts) = 270 -> 320pts as an estimate.

A tough score to beat, but not impossible.

Kittel looks like Sagan’s biggest challenger, on paper anyway. Arguably the fastest sprinter in the world, a lot of these flatter stages will suit the fantastically haired German. His Tour didn’t go to plan last year, only winning one stage in the end. Not great for a man of his abilities. He’ll be hoping to go a lot better this year and that Cavendish arrives undercooked. If so, he could feasibly win 4 of the 8 Cat-1 stages, and get close on some others.

Picking up a few podiums and top 5s on the other stages as well as some intermediate sprint points, he will be there or thereabouts with Sagan’s total. It looks promising for him to launch a proper tilt at the Green Jersey this year.

Marcel-Kittel

And what about Cavendish? He took me and almost everyone else by surprise last year with his dominant performance in the sprints after seemingly coming into the Tour not on great form and possibly past his prime. This year, he faces an even tougher battle after recovering from the Epstein Barr Virus and only returning to racing a couple of weeks ago at the Tour of Slovenia. He only managed a second place there and was OTL at the British Championships (not a great sign but only 12 riders came home in time) so it’s not looking too good for his chances this year. Yet…

Now, you can call me crazy, but I have a feeling he will turn up and will be going well. Dimension Data won’t have wasted a spot for him on their team if he was going to use the first week as training, hoping to pick up a win later on in the race. Furthermore, a telling sign is that they’ve brought a strong lead-out train with them. That train could well be for Boasson Hagen, but it seems a bit over the top if it’s just for him.

On form, Cavendish is as fast as Kittel so he could well repeat last season’s performance and win 4 stages, putting him right in contention for the Green jersey. I’m certainly not ruling him out, that’s for sure.

Greipel will pick up his regular Grand Tour stage but at the Giro he went missing a lot in the sprints so he’ll need to be a lot more consistent to challenge for the jersey and I can’t see that happening.

Arnaud Démare is France’s best hope for a long time to win the Green jersey. He has been exceptional this year and his win at the recent French Nationals was truly dominant. As close to being a tier-1 sprinter without being one, he may well move up the rankings after this Tour. I expect good things from him this race and he is the most likely of all French riders to win a stage. With a team almost 100% focussed around him, the pressure will be on. Will he thrive under that pressure or crumble?

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I can’t really see anyone else being consistent enough to challenge for the jersey.

Groenewegen is a great talent but he has the propensity to be 1st or nowhere at times. A stage win for him would be a great result and that’s certainly a possibility, but to challenge for the jersey will be too tough an ask.

Matthews (as much as I like and rate him), is a poor man’s Sagan for this competition. Not as fast as others on the flat, not a good enough climber to win mountainous breakaway days.

The same can be said for Colbrelli.

Kristoff has been poor this season and his team seems to be against him.

Bouhanni still seems to be suffering from his crash in Yorkshire, possibly a lack of confidence which is surprising for him.

Prediction

Don’t get me wrong, Sagan should win the jersey again. He is fast enough to compete on the flat stages and strong enough to be there at the end when no other sprinters are. However, I just have a feeling that Cavendish will be as electric as he was last year and dominate the flat sprints.

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I expect this to all fall flat on its face when he doesn’t contest the sprint on Stage 2…

Betting

Now, it’s obviously a gamble but hey, that’s what betting is about!

If Cavendish is on fire, his current price is massive. If he is still under the weather, it is grossly under-priced. It would kill me to see him romp away with some stages this year knowing exactly what he did last year. Therefore, I’m willing to take the “gamble” on his form and back him EW for the Green Jersey and almost accept it could be a losing bet.

1pt EW Cavendish for Green Jersey @ 18/1 with Bet365 (and others)

Make sure you get 1/4 odds for 3 places, as some bookies are going 1/3 odds for 2.

Also, as I won’t be putting out any more Tour blogs until the stage 1 preview on Friday, I’ve backed Lotto Jumbo (0.5pt on) for the Team Classification @ 80/1 with Betfair. Would take 66s availalbe elsewhere.

Bit of an outside bet but they have an AG2R of 2013 feel about them where they should have 2 guys near the front of most stages and will be looking for breakaway success too.

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win the Green Jersey? Is Sagan a shoe-in? And have I really lost the plot before the Tour has even started?

I’ll have my “Big fuck off” Giro Rosa guide out tomorrow which I would greatly appreciate if you shared and have a read of! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2017 Stage 5 Preview; La Tour-de-Salvagny -> Mâcon

*Previews will be “short” for the rest of the week as don’t have a lot of free time on my hands, especially when I’ll be doing three a day come this weekend when the Tour de Suisse starts. Sorry!*

Today’s Recap

A barnstorming performance from Porte saw him beat the current World Champion (Tony Martin) by 12 seconds with Valverde a very impressive third place.

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Froome and Contador shipped a bit of time to the Australian, but nothing that will concern them too much. Although with the way Porte has been climbing this year, it might do!

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

The Route

A rolling day but one that should end in a sprint.

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The peloton will climb from the gun, albeit briefly, with a short and sharp climb that averages 8.6%. I’m sure there will be several riders on the rollers who will be looking to get into the morning breakaway.

From there, we have some small uncategorised lumps and a Cat-4 climb before the main test of the day: the Cat-2 Col du Fut d’Avenas. Averaging 5.1% for 8.8km, it certainly will drain the sprinters legs but it surely comes too far out from the finish to be of any major difficulty for them. That is unless of course a team decides to up the tempo!

The road then “rolls” for the second half of the day, with lots of small uncategorised peaks.

The riders will pick up some speed for a technical finale as the road descends ever so slightly from the 4km to go banner for just over a kilometre.

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We have several tight turns, twists and kinks, and even a roundabout to contend with in the closing kilometres. A strong lead-out train and good positioning will be important, but thankfully most of the technical aspects are finished by 1.5km to go so things shouldn’t be too chaotic!

Contenders

The stage should end in a sprint but we’ve only had one stage won by the bunch so far in this race so who knows!

Nonetheless, with the days to come, I would expect the sprint teams to take control as this will be their last opportunity of the race.

Démare on current form seems to be the fastest rider, having won stage 2 and the bunch sprint on stage 3. His lead-out train seems to be firing well too, so he is certainly the rider to beat. He has gone missing in the past in technical finishes but with his confidence levels sky-high just now, I can’t see that being the case!

Coquard at least got a bit closer on stage 3 but it is hard to tell how hard some of the other guys were trying once they knew the stage was gone. He won’t be a massive fan of the flat finish.

Boasson Hagen has been knocking on the door all week but hasn’t managed to take advantage of his good form. Can Thwaites drop him off in the perfect position?

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Bouhanni will thrive in the technical run in and with one of the most dedicated teams here, they should be able to take control of the race earlier than others. Will they have enough men left from 1.5km to go to deliver Bou-Bou into the right place?

Kristoff is another rider that will benefit from a strong team around him. They were strong on stage 2 but seemed to run out of steam just too early. The Norwegian was apparently suffering from a cold but is he over that now?

Ackermann, Bauhaus, Colbrelli, Richeze and Swift should all be there or thereabouts too.

Prediction

I’ll go for a French win, but not the rider you might expect. I’m hoping after the past few stages that Bouhanni will be up to race speed again and even more competitive than his third place on stage 2.

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*insert fighting cliché* 😜.

Betting

No value, no bet.

Thanks as always for reading, and once again apologies for the ever so slightly shorter format. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2017 Stage 3 Preview; Le Chambon-sur-Lignon -> Tullins

*Short preview as I’m short of time – too busy making Women’s Tour profiles. Normal service shall resume tomorrow!*

Today’s Recap

We did end up with a big bunch sprint and it was Arnaud Démare who powered his way to stage victory, winning by a comfortable margin in the end!

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Kristoff and Bouhanni rounded out the podium. A good result for the Frenchman considering the crash he suffered in Yorkshire not so long ago.

As for the blog pick of Boasson Hagen, he was up fighting in the top 10 riders in the closing kilometres but unfortunately went backwards/lost position at the wrong time. He eventually recovered to finish 6th and I’m sure he’ll give it another go tomorrow!

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

The Route

Another rolling day but the easiest stage so far.

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We have several small climbs out on course but the last one (Côte de Roybon) comes too far from the finish line to be of any detriment to the sprinters.

The run in to the line is fairly simple as well, much to the delight of the sprint trains.

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There are a couple of roundabouts to traverse, and the one taken at just after 1km to go could cause some issues but aside from that there are no other difficulties. The road does rise ever so slightly in the last kilometre but it’s only at 0.8% so it should make no real difference!

Weather Watch

On a relatively easy day, the one thing that could derail the sprinters chances is the weather.

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Source: Wunderground

It looks as if we will get rain at some point during the stage but it should have disappeared from the finishing town (where the above forecast is from) by the time we reach there.

However, slick roads could lead to a more nervous peloton!

Nonetheless, it should end in a sprint.

Contenders

We’ll have all the usual suspects competing for victory.

Can Démare double up? He certainly looked very strong today and his two-man lead-out timed their move to the front perfectly. It is a move we’ve seen them do quite a bit recently: his win over Bouhanni in GP de Denain was very similar. Having his best season so far, I would not be surprised to see him on the top spot of the podium again.

Kristoff did well to get up for second but that was mainly thanks to his great lead-out. He never seemed to have the kick to match Demare when the Frenchman launched his sprint. In my opinion, he still doesn’t look back to top form and if he’s out of position I can’t see him coming around anyone. Nonetheless, he is a great sprinter so can’t be discounted!

Bouhanni looked fairly strong today but I think he benefited greatly from following Demare up the inside line, using his compatriots slipstream. I’m still not convinced his form is fully there yet but you can never discount Bou-Bou.

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Colbrelli and his Bahrain team looked strong in the final 5km but they seemed to run out of steam at roughly 1km to go. The Italian managed to finish strongly but I think he would need a tougher finish than the one we have tomorrow.

Bauhaus impressed me today, as did his Sunweb lead-out train. Like Bahrain, they seemed to come to the party early, but were one of the teams with the most numbers in the closing kilometres. If they can get the timing right tomorrow, I think the young German can spring a surprise, he was finishing fast today!

Ackermann, Swift, Boasson Hagen, Coquard and Richeze should all be in or around the top 10 again.

Prediction

It will be tough to beat Démare as he seems to be in great shape at the moment. Nonetheless, I still think he can be beaten and I’m looking towards a team buoyed by confidence at the moment to do just that.

Bauhaus appears to have the speed to match the best and if his Sunweb team can lead into and through the final roundabout with a few guys ahead of him, I think he is able to challenge for the win. Using those Giro legs to his advantage!

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Betting

1pt EW Bauhaus @ 12/1 (with Bet365)

Awful price for everyone, but at least it gives an interest

 

Thanks as always for reading and as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Apologies again for the shorter preview, but there’s not really much extra to say anyway! I’ll have two previews out tomorrow; Dauphine Stage 4 and my OVO Women’s Tour Stage 1/GC Preview.

Speaking of which, join my Velogames.com league for the Tour, use the code “05185053” to gain entry. No prizes on offer, just pride!

Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Saint-Chamond -> Arlanc

Today’s Recap

Well, out of all the possibilities I think the morning break staying away was at the bottom of my list!

However, De Gendt did what he does best, powering away from breakaway companion Domont on the final climb, and managing to hold on to win the day by a comfortable margin.

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In the fight for third, Ulissi won a three up sprint against Latour and Buchmann, after the trio had escaped just before the summit of the final climb.

Colbrelli won the “bunch” sprint for 6th, with a whole host of GC riders finishing inside the top 20.

An annoying stage in some respects as my “reading” of it was fairly spot on, with a group of around 50 riders coming to the finish together. Slightly larger than I had thought, but that may have been different if the break had been caught before the final climb. Oh well, moving on!

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

The Route

Another up and down kind of day for the riders.

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Starting on a Cat-3 climb should stretch the legs of the riders. The road even continues to rise once they’re over the summit, which should in theory means that the morning breakaway is a strong one!

Over the next 50kms the action will lull before we hit a triple-threat of categorised climbs rolled almost into one.

First up is the Col de Verrières-en-Forez (9km at 4.8%), then the Col de Baracuchet (6.2km at 4.9%). Taking it as a whole (from Montbrison to Baracuchet) then the climb is 23km at 3.8%, however that figure should be taken lightly as it does include over a kilometre or so of flat before the road actually starts rising, it’s probably closer to just over a 4% average for the whole climb!

Once past the summit, the riders will face a plateau before tackling the Cat-4 Col des Supeyres (2.9km at 5.6%). It shouldn’t really cause any issues but it all depends on how aggressive the racing is.

We then have a long descent and some flat roads to contend with before the riders head through the finish line for the first time.

As you can see on the profile, there is an uncategorised rise just after that first passage which has no figures attached to it. So once again I’ve made a Strava profile of the closing loop to hopefully clear some things up/gain some more information about the course! You can view it here.

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Based off of the altimetry data from Strava, the climb appears to average 3% for 7.3km. It should definitely be a Cat-4 climb at least!

The road then “rolls” for the following 15kms as they negotiate a twisting/winding part of the stage, including some tight hairpin turns and kilometre long sections at +6%.

The descent itself is fairly technical but the peloton should be able to cope with it! Once we reach the bottom of the descent, there is roughly 4kms of flat/false flat before the 400m rise at 4% to the finish line.

How will the stage pan out?

It all depends on how aggressively the middle section of the stage is raced. A lot of the sprinters could be dropped here if a few of the teams with stronger riders fancy their chances.

For example Bahrain (Colbrelli) and Dimension Data (EBH) might push the pace on to drop some of the pure sprinters, many of whom unhitched early today and rolled home 16 minutes behind.

If something similar happens tomorrow, then it is hard to look past the two riders listed above.

However, it will take a lot of work and commitment early on from those teams to drop the sprinters and I can’t see that happening. Instead, we might see them turn the pace on over the uncategorised 7km climb near the finish.

The 400m rise to the line is interesting as well because it is borderline whether the sprinters will be able to make it up near the head of the race. The first 200m will be taken very quickly due to the run-in speed that they have, but things will slow down after that.

I think a few of the “big men” might go pop but there are certainly some that can compete.

Contenders

Colbrelli seems to be unaffected after his break from racing, sprinting home to 6th place today and winning the bunch kick. He clearly seems to have good legs already and he will relish tomorrow’s finish. He has to start as the favourite!

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Boasson Hagen was denied the opportunity to sprint today after an untimely mechanical in the final few kilometres. Never looking in trouble today, he’s is obviously carrying the good form that he showed in the Tour des Fjords and is a dangerman tomorrow.

Coquard in theory should also be another sprinter who will enjoy this type of finish. The Frenchman is still without a World Tour win on his palmares and tomorrow presents a great opportunity to change that. His form doesn’t seem to be great though after finishing so far back today and struggling in the Baloise Belgium Tour towards the end of May.

Dumoulin, a.k.a The Pocket Rocket, will be hoping to go well tomorrow. The veteran French rider has a great uphill kick and out of the sprinters (aside from EBH and Colbrelli) he was the one who finished highest today. He could spring a surprise!

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I’m not too sure about the likes of Demare, Bouhanni, Kristoff etc after their poor showings today. They all could well feature if the pace is easier on the climbs but I wouldn’t trust them!

An outsider that I am interested in is Valgren.

The Danish rider performed well today, sprinting to 10th place. Astana don’t have a proper sprinter as such and on a finish that suit the Ardennes specialist, he might be given the nod to go for it. If we get a selective day, he is one to watch out for!

Prediction

He will have been left disappointed today after his team did a lot of work, but Boasson Hagen will repay them tomorrow by taking a great win!

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Betting

1.5pt WIN Boasson Hagen @ 9/1

0.5pt EW Dumoulin @ 50/1

0.25pt EW Valgren @ 125/1 

(all with Bet365)

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see an early selection in the race, or will it all come down to a mass bunch gallop? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.