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.

 

Amstel Gold Race 2017 Preview

Amstel Gold Race 2017 Preview

The Ardennes classic that isn’t in the Ardennes!

Amstel Gold Race returns once again this year as the opener for our Ardennes classic week, with the 52nd edition of the race. The cobbled classics in the north of France and Belgium are finished with the attention now turning to the rolling hills of the Ardennes and Limburg regions. We’re in the latter on Sunday for Amstel!

Last year saw a late attack over the top of the Cauberg from Gasparotto and Valgren. They managed to just hold on to the line, with the Italian taking an emotional victory, dedicating the win to team-mate Demoitié.

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Behind, it was Colbrelli who won the bunch sprint for third place.

If I’m honest, the reason I prefer the Cobbled Classics over the Ardennes is because the cobbled races are much more attacking (they’ve been even more attacking this year) whereas the likes of Amstel come down to a sprint up the final climb. However, that might change this year due to two reasons; teams seem more keen to attack from far out, and the fact the final ascent of the Cauberg has been taking out.

Speaking of which…

The Route

At 261km in length and with 35 ascents in total, it’s not for the faint-hearted!

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@LasterketaBurua

Although they go over a lot of climbs in the first three-quarters of the route, I expect those climbs to more sap the legs than anything else and for the race to really heat up when we’re into the last 50km of the day.

The fast passage of 4 climbs in succession; Kruisberg; Eyserbosweg; Fromberg; and Keutenberg between the 220km and 235km will be a launch point for some “early” attacks in my opinion. We’ve seen this in the past with the likes of Nibali surging away at this point to put the hurt on the riders behind. Considering the way that the one-day races (aside from MSR) have gone this year so far, it is probably advised for most teams if they stay attentive and try to get at least one rider up the road at this point. Preferably it should be at least a second or third favourite in the team and one they would be relatively confident in winning the race so they have to do no effort whatsoever behind.

I say “early” as it would be early for this race considering its history but there would only be roughly 30km to the finish from that point. We’ve had winning moves go from further out this Spring so far!

The almost 10km of flat between the Keutenberg and the Cauberg will be important in the race. Good co-operation ahead could see that group build a large gap if a lot of the favourites teams are represented and there is an unwillingness to chase behind. Likewise, the opposite scenario has an equal chance of playing out.

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The Cauberg still could play a significant part in the race as it could be another launchpad for attacks. Once over the top, there’s only about 18km left in the race and not long until the penultimate climb; the Geulhemmerberg.

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Not an overly difficult climb, it does have some steepish ramps but it’s position at the end of the race is the main challenge. We then end with the Bemelerberg.

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Again it’s not an overly difficult climb, but depending on the racing before hand, we could see some small gaps here. There are then roughly 5km or so of flat before the sprint to the line, or will it…

How will the race pan out?

I expect an attacking race, although that might be wishful thinking more than anything else.

With the change of finish, the puncheurs can’t sit and wait because if they do, it’s game over as the “sprinters” we have here should be able to cope with the last two climbs easily.

Therefore, I expect attacks to come on the section of 4 climbs I highlighted above (at around 40km left), but I would not be surprised to see something relatively dangerous go even earlier than that.

It all then depends on who and what teams have made the split. As we saw in Brabantse on Wednesday, Direct Energie were very keen to chase to help Coquard but Sunweb were very disappointing in support of Matthews. The latter have a much stronger team here in support of the Aussie but they aren’t the type of riders you would rely on to chase down attacks all day.

The race is delicately poised between being a great afternoon of attacking cycling, or a snoozefest that’s controlled for a reduced bunch sprint. But if there is one race this week that has a chance of being won by what I would call a proper outsider, it is Amstel.

Contenders

There are obvious candidates for the win such as sprinters Matthews/Coquard/Colbrelli and Ardenne’s specialists like Gilbert/Valverde/Kwiatkowski, but as I think there is a chance we might get a relative shock of a winner and I’m nearly at 900 words already, I’m going to just name a shortlist of riders to keep an eye on in varying circumstances. So apologies if you were wanting an exhaustive list!

Lilian Calmejane.

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Aside from Van Avermaet, the Frenchman is arguably the form rider of the year; picking up 6 wins so far this season if you include his three GC wins. Most of his successes have come on rolling terrain and Amstel is the perfect platform for him to continue his outstanding season. Admittedly, this is a step up compared to the races he has been winning, but with a GT stage win already to his name, he must be confident! For him to win, he’ll need to be one of the riders involved in a far out attack and with a lot of teams represented, they stay away. He’s got an OK sprint compared to some other climbers, but more than likely he’ll have to come to the line solo. Allez Lilian!

Nathan Haas.

The Aussie had a great start to the year, finishing a very impressive 4th in the Tour Down Under and coming home 10th on the Green Mountain stage in Oman. Since then he’s struggled with allergies, particularly in Catalunya where he had to withdraw but his return to racing in Brabantse was promising. In fact, he looked good and was attentive at the front of the peloton in the final lap. The race on Wednesday will hopefully have opened the legs up and he’ll be an even greater fighting force come Sunday. I’m sure he’ll just be hoping for a bit more luck…

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Alexey Lutsenko.

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The Astana rider won the U23 World’s on this course back in 2012 after catching everyone by surprise and opening up his sprint early. Funnily enough though, it’s the change of course this year that gives him another chance of victory. The removal of the Cauberg helps the Kazakh as the professional peloton ride the climb more aggressively in Amstel than they did in that U23 2012 Worlds. With a solid sprint he has a chance of being up there in a reduced bunch gallop, but it’s his attacking nature that gives him the best chance of taking victory; whether that be from a breakaway or making a move in the final 3km as everyone hesitates behind. With his third in Dwars this season he’s highlighted his abilities as a rider and that big win is just around the corner for him I think.

Jens Keukeleire.

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A talented rider for a while who seemed to be hampered by bad luck or just underperformed when called upon. However, that changed in the second half of last season when he first of all won a stage in Slovenia but then followed it up with a very impressive sprint victory in the Vuelta. This year he’s been a bit off again so far, but it looked as if he was back to his best in when second in Gent Wevelgem. This change of course in theory should suit him and it will be interesting to see what role he takes in the Orica team along with Albasini/Gerrans/Impey. Definitely not a favourite, but he has a slim outside chance!

Prediction

I’m still torn between this race being great or extremely dull. Obviously I hope if it’s the former! The route change really throws a cat amongst the pigeons in terms of predictions and you’ll struggle to find anyone predicting the race with confidence.

Nonetheless, I’ll go for an exciting race and a win for a rider who’s been chasing that big win for a while, and his first part of the season has been aimed at this event. Nathan Haas to win!

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Betting

Definitely not a race to get heavily involved with;

Haas 0.5pt EW @50/1 with various (take the 4 places at Coral if you can)

Keukeleire 0.25pt EW @200/1 with Bet365 (take 150/1)

I tweeted out the Calmejane and Lutsenko picks midweek but they’ve since shortened.

Calemjane 0.25pt EW @250/1 (take 100s available but no less)

Lutsenko 0.25pt EW @200/1 (take 125s available but no less)

 

Thanks for reading and always any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win? Will it be an open race or a dull one where everything stays together until the end? I’ll have my women’s Amstel preview out tomorrow so return for that! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

De Brabantse Pijl 2017 Preview

De Brabantse Pijl 2017 Preview

With the cobbled classics now finished, the peloton’s attention now turns to the Ardennes with the “warm-up” event of De Brabantse Pijl.

However, it’s offensive to just call it a warm-up race as it is an exciting race in its own right!

Last year after some probing and strong attacks throughout the day, it all came down to a charge up the final climb from an elite group of five. Vakoc stormed up it, dropping everyone, and holding on to the line to take what was his third win of the season.

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It was a good day for me as I had Vakoc at 33/1. I’m not sure we’ll see those type of prices on him again though, but I may be wrong. You’ll just have to find out at the end of this!

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

The Route

More of the same as we saw in the 2016 edition with a route that remains mainly unchanged, although this year the race is 6km shorter.

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A relatively tough day out in the saddle with 26 climbs, some of which are cobbled. Although there is more often than not space to avoid the cobbles themselves and go up the paved section at the side!

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The climbs on the day aren’t too tough, but if they are ridden aggressively gaps certainly can be made. Almost as important is the flat section just after the summit, because riders will be on the limit. Last year the winning move was made at the 4km to go mark, right at the top of the penultimate climb.

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The Bora rider was unable to follow the five out ahead once they rounded the corner and that was race over.

I’m not going to run through all of the climbs individually, but there is a nifty website that lists all 26 of them that you can view here!

The final climb of the day, Schavei, is 500m long and averages roughly 6%.

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There is time for a regrouping once over the top, but on the contrary, riders can maintain a gap all the way to the finish line.

Will it be a reduced sprint or solo winner this year?

Well, there is one factor that could have an influence…

Weather Watch

Yep, you guessed it; more racing in Belgium and more windy conditions!

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Source: Windfinder

With a constant and fairly strong Westerly wind, the riders will face a variety of wind directions as they go through the race.  Starting mainly with a cross-headwind, before some cross winds, then a cross-tail on the run in to the closing circuit.

As a viewer this has amped up my excitement for this race even more, not so much as a preview writer though because it adds another element of unpredictability to it all. I’m sure the peloton will have a similar view with some wind-natives licking their lips at the prospect.

How will the race pan out?

Before I had looked at the forecast I thought the race would be an attacking one this year, with the peloton continuing their aggressive racing from the cobbles classics onto the lumpier events.

The wind should ensure that it is aggressive and there will be plenty of teams looking to take advantage and I think we’ll see some large splits out on the road before we reach our final circuit.

Which in turn should make the last 60km of the race even more attacking because there in theory should be less team-mates to control things.

Or at least I’m hoping so!

Contenders

Quick Step come here with two big favourites in the form of Vakoc and Gilbert. The reigning champion looked good in Catalunya, building some nice form for his assault on the Ardennes. A brute of a rider, he really comes into his own on this type of terrain and certainly has a chance to double up tomorrow. Of course in Gilbert they have a rider who is on exceptional form. He’s won this race twice in the past (2011/2014/2017?) so knows what is required here! They have some strong domestiques and I expect them to be one of the main teams to try to split things up in the wind, hoping to drop the “sprinters”.

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QS aren’t the only strong Belgian team here, Lotto Soudal also have a stacked team with them! I imagine Wellens and Benoot will be team leaders and they are a duo that can certainly challenge for the race win. The former has had a quieter part in his season recently but he looked good following the moves on the stage into San Sebastian in Pais Vasco, and I think he’ll go well this coming week. His lack of explosivity is a downfall, but he is sure to go on the attack at some point. If no one follows quickly, then he could be tough to bring back!

I was disappointed to see Benoot not picked for Paris Roubaix after he has had a terrible cobbled classics campaign due to bad luck. This type of course suits him though and he is much more explosive than his team-mate and I think he’s a dark horse for this race.

Matthews has a great chance to finally win this race after being close on several occasions. In cracking form, his 6th on the TT in Pais Vasco was incredible, he might approach this race differently than in previous years. Normally would hold off for the sprint, but this year he might have to attack as his team doesn’t look that great. However, I fear for him in the wind!

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His old team Orica have a few good options to play tomorrow. In Gerrans and Impey they have two strong riders who can follow attacks but also pack a fast sprint after a tough day. I can’t see them chasing everyone down like they did last year!

BMC have a team packed full of young talent who will be looking to impress, lead by a relative veteran compared to his team-mates; Ben Hermans. After a barnstorming start to the season, he’s went off the boil recently but will be hoping to go well in the Ardennes so he should be getting back to his best shape here. If not, keep an eye out for Vliegen as a Kirby inspired, “cheeky side bet”.

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Bahrain bring with them a team to support Gasparotto and Colbrelli. Well, when I say support they might be there for the first 100km. The two Italians can mix it up in the sprint after a tough day and both finished in the top 6 last year. Gasparotto has been disappointing this year and has recently returned from a training camp so it will be interesting to see how he goes. Conversely, Colbrelli has been going well for most of the year so you would expect him to decline in form soon, but that probably won’t happen until after Amstel. Like Matthews, I fear for both of them in the windy conditions!

I don’t think Coquard will have a chance this year.

A few other, some less well-known, names to conjure with are Haas and Sbaragli (Dimension Data), Meurisse (Wanty), Bouet (Fortuneo) and Tusveld (Roompot).

Prediction

We’ll get a hectic first half of the race before we get to the circuit and the peloton will be split in the wind. That will then make the closing laps even more aggressive than normal and luck will be as important as form, and so will having strong team-mates.

I’ll go for a rider who’s been down on luck recently, but that will change here. He’s a great punchy classics man and this route suits him perfectly, but will just have to hope Gilbert isn’t the QuickStep representative up front…

Benoot to win his first pro race!

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It also gives me a good opportunity to share my favourite cycling related Instagram post…

View this post on Instagram

Forza Tiesj Benoot! 🎉 @tiesj #ohn

A post shared by Sporza (@sporza.be) on

Betting

Hoping #WinningWednesdays can continue…

1pt EW Benoot @40/1 with Bet365

0.5pt EW Vliegen @28/1 with Bet365

 

Thanks for reading as always and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win the race and how will they do it?! Amstel men’s and women’s previews will be next for me this weekend. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Dwars Door Vlaanderen 2017 Preview

Dwars Door Vlaanderen 2017 Preview

The 72nd edition of this race returns tomorrow and marks the start of the run up to the Tour of Flanders a week on Sunday. Dwars Door often provides exciting racing and the route is finely balanced between a small bunch sprint or a group of strong men making it to the line. Plus it’s midweek Belgian cobbled racing! Who doesn’t like midweek Belgian cobbled racing?!

Last year saw a prematurely celebrating Coquard beaten to the line by Debuscherre, with Theuns rounding out the podium.

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That was one of the larger bunch sprints for a while but still only 34 riders crossed the line in that front group. It gives you an idea of how tough and attritional this race can be!

Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders in 2017.

The Route

Much the same as the route we’ve had the past few years, apart from an 800m cobbled section has been added around 7km from the finish line.

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Profile once again by @LasterketaBurua.

An easy start to the day, the second half of the route is pretty challenging. There is either a hill or some cobbles to traverse roughly every 10 kilometres from 90km to go until the finish. This makes it a battle of attrition at times, and is why we often don’t see a bunch sprint into Waregem.

Several of the famous cobbled climbs are raced over here, such as; the Taiienberg; the Oude Kwaremont; and the Paterberg. It is these famous stretches of road that can tear the peloton in to bits and help a group of strong riders escape.

Once through the Varent cobbled section at roughly 23km to go, the chase could well be on from the remnants of the peloton but only if there are enough teams interested in bringing a break back and if they cooperate together.

The run in to the line is fairly simple with only a few roundabouts to negotiate.

One factor that often can play a massive part on this race is the…

Weather

The riders I’m sure, well apart from the Belgians, will be happy to know it looks as if it won’t rain during the day. Even if it does, it should only be a sprinkling! Much to the viewers disappointment.

However, it does look as if we will get reasonably strong winds. Now that’s more promising and what I like to hear!

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Forecast for Wevelgem. Source: Wunderground.

25km/h crosswinds aren’t crazily strong, but they are enough to cause splits and echelons in the peloton if the pressure is on. Here’s hoping!

 How will the race pan out?

I think we’ll see a more attacking race than we got last year and the day won’t come down to a 40 rider sprint.

The reason I say this is similar to my reasoning for an attacking MSR; so many of the puncheurs and cobbled riders seem to be in form at the moment and going very strongly. Most teams arrive with sprint and attacking options, so I think it’s very unlikely that we’ll just see them settle for a nice-group ride and a sprint to the line.

However, this all depends on the composition of the group that makes it up the road and the strong teams will need to be there. I imagine that the attack will need to contain riders from at least the following teams; Lotto Soudal, Quick Step and Trek. You can probably add Orica, FDJ and BMC to that list too!

So for the contenders I won’t be including sprinters.

Contenders

Defending champions Lotto Soudal have a strong team with them but I imagine Benoot and Roelandts will be their co-leaders. The former was unlucky with a crash earlier in the season but he is exceptionally talented and I’m sure will be looking to bounce back before the Ronde and Paris Roubaix. With a solid sprint after a tough day he has a chance of taking his first pro win, but he will need some luck. Like his younger counterpart, Roelandts’ packs a good kick and he’ll be counting on experience to pull through for him!

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Quick Step have a ridiculously strong squad with them and the race itself probably hinges on their attitude. Looking down the start list I could quite feasibly argue for most of their squad making any split in the race. From there, it’s just a case of how they play it. In the past they’ve been quite defensive (the 3 on 1 against Stannard springs to mind) but they should in my opinion approach this aggressively. Or at least I would, which probably means they won’t! Terpstra is the obvious choice to send up the road, but Gilbert and Lampaert offer good options as well. I think Stybar will be saving himself for later in the week.

Theuns will be Trek’s main card to play here, but he’ll be ably supported by Felline. Both of the riders are similar in style, but the Belgian is better on the cobbles with Felline being the better climber. Theuns has finished 2nd and 3rd here the past two years and will be hoping to go one spot higher this time round. I sure would love that as he’s in my season long fantasy team! A very capable rider, he should make the splits on the cobbled climbs and from there it’s a case of making the right moves and getting a bit lucky.

Dwars door Vlaanderen

Orica have a few riders who could challenge here if their on a good day, and in particular Durbridge and Keukeleire. I always think Durbridge is older than he is, I’m amazed he’s only 25, he’s been around for what seems an eternity! Once just a TT specialist, he has really transformed in to a great all round rider, his 6th place in Strade is testament to that. Certainly not a guy that should be given much leeway off the front of the bunch. As for Keukeleire, it was good to see him back challenging at the pointy end of a race in the Vuelta last year, after a few seasons of underperforming. With a fast sprint after a tough day, he could certainly take victory if a small group comes to the line!

A few other riders to keep an eye out on who could well go on the attack and be up there at the finish are Naesen (AG2R), Lutsenko (Astana), Backaert (Wanty), Ligthart (Roompot) and Petit (Direct Energie).

Prediction

As I’ve stated above, I think with the wind conditions we’ll get this edition, the race will be harder than last year and we won’t see a reduced bunch sprint of around 40 riders. Instead, there will be a couple of selections throughout the day and having numbers near the end of the race will be important. I can guarantee Quick Step will have numbers and if Gaviria is not in the group they won’t be waiting around for a sprint. Conversely, they may also even attack if he is in the group as they will be leant on by the other teams!

So I’m going to go for a Quick Step rider who can time trial and sprint from a very reduced group to cover both options of a late attack or sprint. Yep, that’s right, local hero Yves Lampaert to win!

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The rider from Izegem is one that I rate highly and mentioned during the earlier cobbled semi-classics. Heralded as the next big Belgian cobbled talent, he has failed to live up to the mark so far, but that might just well change tomorrow!

Betting

Difficult race to predict and one I don’t want to overly get involved with so a few bets for interest;

1pt WIN Lampaert @ 66/1 with various (would take 50s)

0.5pt EW Keukeleire @ 66/1 with various (would take 50s)

 

Thanks for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we get a big bunch sprint, reduced sprint or a sol attack?! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Paris Nice 2017 Stage 5 Preview; Quincié-en-Beaujolais -> Bourg-de-Péage

*This will be short and sweet!*

Today’s Recap

Ahahaha, I should stop with the bold statements. It was the rider who I completely gave no chance to that ended up going on to win the stage. Julian Alaphilippe took a remarkable victory, he was flying!

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That result now puts QuickStep in a very good position for the overall and should ensure some attacking racing for the rest of the week.

As for Tony Martin, he seemed to be struggling on the bike and it was not a good sign when he didn’t set the fastest time at the intermediate check point. Oh well, onto the next stage!

The Route

A pretty uninspiring day compared to what we have in Tirreno.

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A lumpy start to the day will certainly inspire the breakaway and give them a good opporunity to build up a lead, but the latter half certainly lends itself to a bunch sprint.

The finish is technical. Well, from 3km to 1.5km to go is very technical!

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The three roundabouts will certainly string out the bunch, but thankfully for the riders they go round the same side of them all. We then get a sweeping road in the final kilometre, which will keep things strung out. Positioning and a good lead out will be key!

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It will be fast too as the riders descend ever so slightly before the road kicks up in the last 300m.

Could very well be another chaotic day!

Contenders

As much as I would like to try and argue that a break makes it, this is a sprint stage 100% and the last one we’ll see this race.

Kittel could potentially get involved but with his team now fully focussed on GC he more than likely will have to surf wheels and he’s not the best at that. So…

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Greipel has been poor in the sprints so far but he is capable of turning it around at any time. He just seems a bit tired at the moment, maybe an easy day today will have helped him?

Kristoff looked strong on stage 3 but just went too early and faded away at the end. If he can get the timing of his sprint right then he has a great chance on a finish that suits him.

Bennett was the one who benefitted from Kristoff’s early sprint on stage 3. The Irishman looked strong then but his lack of a lead-out may hinder him here.

Groenewegen was left reeling after crashing on stage 3. He looked in a great position and said his legs felt good. He’ll want to make ammends tomorrow.

McLay saw his Fortuneo team do a great deal of work on the front of the bunch but just got blocked on the wrong side. With a podium finish at a Tour stage, the Brit is not one to be underestimated here!

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Démare will want to taste stage glory again after losing his yellow jersey lead. He looks good, his team looks good; can they get it right again tomorrow?

Colbrelli will also be gunning for a second stage victory. The Italian should appreciate the ever so slight up-hill drag but his positioning sometimes lets him down and that again could be his downfall tomorrow.

Matthews was going strongly in the TT today until a crash on the uphill. He’s been up there on the sprints so far but not really involved. (If that makes any sense).

Degenkolb will have a good lead-out at his disposal and this finish suits him down to the ground. A second and a third so far, can he get onto that top step?

Cort, Sbaragli, Coquard and Minali could all be up there equally too on a crazy day.

Prediction

He was left bitterly disappointed today in the time trial as he was on for a good placing. Clearly on form and getting better as the race goes on, Michael Matthews has a real chance here. He has a very solid lead-out train and should be one of the best positioned going into the final kilometre. If he’s near the front for the final 300m he should have the power to take the win!

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Betting

Matthews 1pt EW @28/1 with Bet365 (Would take down to 18s)

 

Thanks for reading and aplogies for this being slightly shorter than normal! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Paris-Nice 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Bois-d’Arcy -> Bois-d’Arcy

*Apologies, this will be short and sweet as I’m busy with work/got pre-occupied watching Strade*

Stage one and a day that should on paper end in a sprint but might entice the risk-takers of the peloton.

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A fairly simple day terrain wise, this stage is all about the closing few kilometres, it’s very technical.

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This means that the peloton will be very stretched out , with several roundabouts and turns to negotiate. Not to mention there is a 1km-long climb to be traversed at 2km left in the stage.

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It looks to average roughly 5% for that kilometre so appears to a great launchpad for a late attack from someone in my opinion. The road then descends until 500m to go where we have a 90-degree turn, before it rises ever so slightly to the line again. This finish is going to be chaotic and certainly not for the faint hearted!

Another thing that will make this a challenging day is the…

Weather

Looking at the forecast for the region, it is set to be wet and windy for the majority of the day.

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Bois-d’Arcy forecast (Source: Wunderground)

Those strong winds could cause carnage out on the course and there is a very good chance that we might see some crosswinds, depending on how aggressively the teams approach the day. With there only being a couple of clear GC days, I do think a few squads will be looking to cause some havoc tomorrow and the race will get split up out on course.

Sprinters

We do have some of the best sprinters in the world here with the two main Germans heading the field.

I don’t think Kittel will fancy a finish like this and in poor weather, he backed out of one in Abu Dhabi like this. To give Greipel his credit, he proved me wrong in that same sprint in the Middle East so he could have a chance here. The climb will be on his limits but I think he could be there!

Behind them, there are a whole host of guys who will fancy their chances, such as Bouhanni (who will LOVE this finish), Kristoff and Démare to name a few.

Yet, as I said above, I’m not entirely sure we’ll see a sprint and since we’ll more than likely see a bunch gallop on Stage 2 I’m going to leave it at that for today with them.

Instead…

Late Attackers

I really think this finale is conducive to a late attack sticking, especially if the conditions whittle down the peloton before we reach the finish town. I have three riders in mind to keep an eye out for who all kind of fit the same mould, but are ever so slightly different;

Oliver Naesen.

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The AG2R man has had a very solid start to the season, picking up a 7th and 8th in Omloop and Kuurne respectively last weekend. An attacking rider, this short climb looks perfect f0r him to try to spring a surprise, hoping to put his good cobbles form to use. He’s not a slouch in a reduced sprint too so if a group of 5 or so get clear then he has a chance in that situation too.

AlexeyLutsenko.

The best Kazakh rider since Vinokourov, Lutsenko picked up a truly impressive stage win at this race last year holding off a charging peloton on Stage 5. He’s started this year well too without picking up a proper result, not finishing outside of the top 30 on any stage in Oman. Most recently he was part of the Kazakh team that won the Asian Cycling Championships TTT, but I’m not really sure what to take from that. Either way, he’s the type of guy not afraid to give it a go!

Mauro Finetto.

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Unlike the other two he already has a win to his name this season, taking home the Classic Sud Ardeche from a small bunch sprint. A proper journeyman of a rider, he might finally have found a place to showcase his talents with Delko. He’s without a World Tour win in his career but that might all change tomorrow!

Prediction

A late attack prevails after the race has been battered by wind and rain. A man who has no issues in those conditions will be victorious, Lutsenko to win! The guy oozes class on a bike and is an U23 World Champion let’s not forget. I think he’s in for a big year and this may well be the start of it.

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Betting

I did tweet the selection out previously and their price did stay like that for a while so that’s what they’re being noted down as! 0.25pt WIN on them all;

Lutsenko @ 100/1 with Bet365

Naesen @ 100/1 with Bet365

Finetto @ 100/1 with Betfair

I would take 66/1 lowest price with them all. Others may price up favourably later on so keep an eye out!

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Apologies again for this being shorter than normal. Who do you think will win tomorrow?  My GC preview is up on the site too if you missed that earlier. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Ruta del Sol Stage 5 Preview; Setenil de las Bodegas -> Coín

Today’s Recap

No breakaway success and it was Coquard who took a relatively easy sprint victory in the end.

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A solid performance from Norwegian Hoelgaard saw him come home in second, but I was more impressed with the speed of Cofidis’ Hofstetter who seemed to match Coquard in the closing 150m. It’s a shame he started much further back!

Anyway, moving on to tomorrow’s final stage.

The Route

A rolling day with a tough start!

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The riders will start the day with a nice little climb to open the legs; 4.7km at 4%. We then have a descent into the valley, followed by a 5km climb at 3.5%.

If the break hasn’t gone by then, it may be up the first categorised climb that it finally disappears. The climb itself is 6.2km at 4.3% but has some steep sections, even above 10% in parts.

The next few climbs probably won’t play a big part in the race so I’m going to skip over them.

We do get a climb in the last 20km but it’s not overly difficult and I can’t see Contador trying anything here.

If it does come down to a sprint it might get a little messy in the closing kilometres as it is reasonably technical, but nothing compared to today!

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How will the race pan out?

I said a break would make it today but that never happened. I’m going to roll the dice again for tomorrow’s stage; breakaway day.

Why?

Well Movistar have no real need to hold the race together. They just need to make sure Contador doesn’t try something and with the route not being conducive for a long-range attack I cant’ see the happening. Although, with the sprint we had today, Valverde might fancy his chances in a dash to the line!

Following on from that, none of the other sprint teams will really want to contribute to the chase now, knowing that Coquard is the guy to beat here.

So to conclude;

Not motivated GC team + Weak main chase team = Breakaway!

Potential Candidates

Like normal, I’ll take a stab in the dark and highlight a few guys who might get involved. With the parcours being a lot more challenging than today, the break candidates will need to be fairly solid climbers.

Romain Sicard.

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If Direct Energie sense that they’re not going to get any help chasing the break all day, they may just send someone up the road. Sicard is by far their best climber, having previously finished 13th and 15th at the Vuelta.

Tobias Ludvigsson.

You all know by now my appreciation of him as a rider. He’s been a bit off the boil here so far and was disappointed with is TT, where he had chain problems and bad legs. I’d say finishing 9th considering all of that isn’t bad. I also couldn’t live with myself if he does get away tomorrow and I’ve not mentioned him!

Maciej Paterski.

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One of Carlton Kirby’s flames of the week, Paterski on his day is a very solid all-rounder. He took a brilliant breakaway victory on the opening stage of Catalunya back in 2015, out-sprinting Rolland and De Clerq to the line. CCC have been active this week and he could well be the guy to make the move for them tomorrow.

Vasil Kiryienka.

Bit of a curve ball this one but considering there should be no GC action, the Sky bosses might let one of their riders off the leash. He managed an OK TT on a course that didn’t suit him properly so it is hard to gauge what his form is like. He definitely shouldn’t be underestimated if he makes the move, potentially utilising his TT abilities to attack from far out.

Prediction

Break wins, whoever that may be and for old times sake I’ll go for everyone’s favourite Swede again. Tobias Ludvigsson to take the honours!

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Betting

Small stakes on break selections again (all with Bet365)….

0.25pt WIN Ludvigsson @ 250/1 (would take 150/1)

0.25pt WIN Paterski @ 80/1 (would take 66/1)

0.25pt WIN Kiryienka @

0.25pt WIN Sicard @

With those two not priced I’ll add Le Bon 300 (would take 200) and Bille 250 (would take 150)

 

Thanks for reading this week! Apologies this is slightly shorter than normal, but I’m back to work and a bit under the weather. Nonetheless, do you think the break wins? Or do we get another sprint? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Ruta del Sol Stage 4 Preview; La Campana -> Sevilla

Today’s Recap

In the words of Frank Schleck we were “one lousy second” off of stage victory with Valverde. Swings and roundabouts though, as the result meant he moved one second ahead of Contador into the GC lead!

But nothing should take away from a great ride from Victor Campenaerts, who was erm, the victor!

09-09-2016 Vuelta A Espana; Tappa 19 Xabia - Calp; 2016, Lotto Nl - Jumbo; Campenaerts, Victor; Calp;

I discounted him yesterday in my preview having not seen much from him this year so far and alas I was proven very wrong. He’s continued on his good form on from the back-end of last year and with a Vuelta now in his legs he looks set to have a good year.

With the next couple of stages not being too difficult for the overall contenders we shouldn’t see any changes to the GC, but you just never know. Anyway, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Easy -> Tough -> Easy.

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There isn’t really much to say about this stage route as the main difficulties come in the middle of the stage.

After the exciting racing of the past few days, this one definitely isn’t going to be a classic.

There are a few kick ups in the closing kilometres but they won’t have any impact on the race!

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The thing that will have an impact on the race (if it comes to a bunch sprint) is the technicality of the closing  1.5kms.

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A sharp, but fairly open left hand hairpin starts it off for the riders at 1.5km to go.

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They then progress 500m or so, passing under the flamme rouge before taking on a “kinky” roundabout. From there, it’s another few hundred metres of straight road before cutting through the greenery.

This area has a couple of turns too but they shouldn’t be too bad as they look fairly open and the final turn actually looks like it can be taken at pace.

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Once through the final turn it will be a 300m sprint to the line.

How will the stage pan out?

The pressing question is if we will actually see a bunch sprint at the end of the day or not? Compared to Algarve and even Oman, the sprint field here is very weak and that’s fair enough considering the tough parcours we have at this race. Bryan Coquard is the main attraction and he is much better than the rest of the guys here. I mean, the likes of Kreder, Capiot, Maikin, and Hofland are all solid sprinters, but they aren’t the cream of the crop. Will their teams really spend all day on the front of the peloton when there is a chance they might even lose to the likes of Valverde?!

So with that being said, I think tomorrow is a breakaway day. There are plenty of riders far enough back on time not to worry the GC teams, we might even see a large group of 10 guys get away. As to who might be in it? Your guess is as good as mine, but like usual I’ll highlight a few riders I think might try to make the morning move. There are more obvious candidates, such as Wellens, but I’m going to try to pick some riders from the “lesser” teams, assuming that they’ll be more keen to go on the attack. First up is…

Yukiya Arashiro.

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The Japanese rider doesn’t win that much but he is always a shoe-in for a breakaway at least once a race. On his day he can be a very tough rider to beat and he possesses a fairly fast kick from a reduced bunch. If a group of 5 or so riders came to the line together then he definitely would have a good chance. He probably would need the breakaway to be formed before the climbing start as he’s not as strong as he used to be in that discipline. With the team losing their GC rider today they’ll be keen to make amends in the coming stages.

Gaetan Bille.

The Belgian may not be well known but he is a fairly solid climber and all rounder. Riding for the Verandas Willems team, they’re bound to get someone up the road tomorrow and that could well be Gaetan.

Mark McNally.

After making the step up to Pro-Conti level last year, the Brit had a fairly solid year with his new team Wany Groubert picking up 2 seconds places. One of those was after being part of the breakaway at the Eneco Tour. In his race preview with @cyclingmole he seemed to air around the idea of trying to getting into a break this week. He’s not managed to make it in yet, is tomorrow that day?

Pim Ligthart.

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A rider taking a step down from World Tour to Pro-Conti this year to chase personal ambitions and get more leadership opportunities he might be given the nod to try and get in the break here. With a second place already this year in Valenciana and after putting in a solid TT today, he seems to be in decent form. Roompot won’t want to put all their eggs in a Kreder’s sprint basket and Ligthart is a great option to have up the road.

Prediction

Breakaway winner and I’ll go for Mark McNally to get his first pro victory. Why the hell not!

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Betting

0.125pt WIN on the following with Bet365;

McNally @ 100/1

Arashiro @ 200/1

Brandle @ 300/1

Ludvigsson @ 300/1

Not backing Bille (as he’s not quoted) and Ligthart’s odds are poor. Brandle and Ludvigsson both offer good alternatives.

Thanks for reading. Do you think we’ll see a breakaway win or will it come back to a group sprint? Will we maybe even see some GC action?! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.