Critérium du Dauphiné 2018 Stage 6 Preview: Frontenex › La Rosière Espace San Bernardo

Just a heads up, this preview will be shorter than normal as I have to write for both tomorrow and Sunday’s stage this evening due to me being away this weekend. It also means that in tomorrow’s preview I’ll just be assuming a few things and there will be no “today’s recap”.

Today’s Recap

A strong break went but they were never given too much leeway from Sky and after Bora took the bait, things were close enough once onto the final climb to ensure that a GC rider was going to win the day.

Dan Martin took advantage of a lull in the pace once things regrouped after a Soler attack, with the UAE rider putting in a stinging dig that no one could, or wanted to, match. Geoghegan Hart returned to the head of what was left of the peloton and set tempo for Thomas, before swinging off at roughly 1km to go. The Welshman attacked and only Bardet could follow, but he could only manage to do so for a few hundred metres before swinging off. It left Thomas to chase down Martin on his own and he was slowly reeling him in all the way until the line but it was too late.

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Martin held on for the win with Thomas finishing 4 seconds behind and Yates sprinted out of the pack to round out the podium in third, a further 10 seconds back.

The result means that Thomas moves into Yellow and increases his lead over everyone bar Martin, with nearest challenger Caruso sitting 1’09 down going into the weekend.

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

The Route

A tad over 4000m of climbing in only 110km, this could be interesting. Furthermore, this will pretty much be a carbon copy of stage 11 on this year’s Tour.

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The climbs are long, but none of them are overly steep, with the toughest ascent of the day being the first. You can just read the percentages on the profile, no time for semantics today!

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As for the final climb it starts off easy and finishes easy, it is just the middle third which has quite a high average gradient. Anyone looking to put their rivals into difficulty will need to do so here.

How will the stage pan out?

Pffffft, no idea!

On paper at least, you would imagine that it should be a GC day given the amount of climbing involved but after Thomas’ dominant performance today, some might not be so keen on having their teams chase all day.

Therefore, we’ll need to see some brave and most likely doomed early attacks from the GC contenders, or Sky will just control things all day. The long, steady climbs are perfect for them. It’s then a question of them making it a GC day or not? They don’t need to as they can afford to ride a defensive race, but when has that ever stopped them before?

Or of course, we could see a hail mary, guns-blazing stage where the peloton is down to 20 guys after the first climb.

I do actually think the break has a decent chance tomorrow because of how strong Thomas and Sky looked today. Even if things get crazy on the opening climb the yellow jersey shouldn’t be exposed and I would expect him to have at least 3 team-mates with him when everyone else is down to one or two. Teams will need to be inventive to beat Sky so sending a man up the road can never hurt as they can always act as a bridge for a GC attack late on. Of course, Sky can then play the bluff game and let the gap extend out too far for the man up the road to be made redundant.

To sum up: I don’t know.

As it is more fun to play the breakaway lottery than just say Thomas will win, I’ll do that…

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Tony Gallopin.

See yesterday’s preview. He was with the main group of GC favourites for a while up the final climb, highlighting he has good form. Bardet couldn’t match Thomas today and it will be a tough ask for him to win the title. Ag2R potentially will change their approach and be aggressive by getting Gallopin up the road.

Guillaume Martin.

Birthday boy, the Wanty rider has impressed me so far and he is definitely one of my favourite Pro-Conti level climbers. He sits a rather awkward 4:15 down on GC so it might cause Sky into chasing but then again, they would fancy reducing the gap on the final climb and he wouldn’t be much of a threat the following day after being in the break all day.

Michael Valgren.

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Yep, you read that right. He’s been super impressive so far this race, staying with Bilbao deep into the climbs. With his team-leader falling away a bit today, the Dane might be given the opportunity to chase his own result tomorrow. He’s a brute of a rider, but when he burst onto the scene he was considered a potential GC rider in the future. Can he roll back the clock? He finished 14th on the similarly short stage in Paris Nice this year.

Dylan Teuns.

The BMC rider just disappeared from the head of the standings on stage 2, where he finished 5 minutes down, and followed that up by coming home 13 minutes behind on stage 4. I thought he could have potentially been ill but a 33rd place today after helping Caruso would suggest that he is either on the mend, or was deliberately losing time. He has the ability to win this tomorrow from a breakaway group.

Short Stages – Overkill?

Just a quick few thoughts on short stages in general.

I can understand where organisers are coming from in trying to put in a short stage here or there to spice things up and throw the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons, but to have three in a row here is just odd and overkill in my opinion. The whole point of having a short stage is so to entice riders into going full gas one day and completely shake up the order of a race. Having more than one in a row means that a rider might be concerned the following stage could be that day so they won’t want to waste their reserves on the wrong day and completely blow up when the action happens. It could, rather ironically, lead to more boring racing if everyone expects a GC raid kind of day and instead just rides defensively.

One of the reasons cycling is so interesting to follow in my opinion is the wide variety of stage you can get, but these short days are all “samey”. I’m a fan of them occasionally, but just not this much!

Prediction

The birthday boy to win. Allez Guillaume! (for the second time this race)

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Betting

1pt GMartin @ 25/1

0.5pt Gallopin @ 125/1

0.5pt Valgren @ 100/1

0.5pt Teuns @ 300/1

Thanks as always for reading, who do you think will win tomorrow? How will the stage pan out? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2018 Stage 5 Preview: Grenoble › Valmorel

Today’s Recap

A crazy start to the stage saw no break go for over 50km before the elastic eventually snapped. Cataldo forged on alone and bravely held off the bunch, only to be cruelly caught within the final kilometre. It was actually blog pick Guillaume Martin who kicked off the action in the GC group and he managed to get a bit of a gap over what remained over the peloton. However, Latour came to the front and pulled like crazy before the other Martin (Dan) set off in pursuit. It was a stinging attack that only a handful could follow but he almost rode with some inexperience as he just kept riding on the front which set things up perfectly in the sprint to the line for eventual stage winner Alaphilippe.

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Dan Martin finished in second with Thomas rounding out the day’s podium, with Bardet completing the quartet that finished together.

Interestingly, Kwiatkowski was dropped a little on the run in so it is Moscon who takes over yellow jersey duties, with the Pole and Thomas just 6 seconds back. Sky still very much in the driving seat for this race then. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

It is the easiest of the 4 days in the mountains when looking at the climbing metres, as there are only 2600m of ascent throughout the 130km stage.

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The day starts off with the Cat-2 climb of Côte de Naysord which averages 8.5% for 3.7km. It’s then followed by a false-flat plateau before the Cols des Mouilles which is another short but sharp climb, averaging 7.2% for 3.8km. They’ll then face my favourite oxymoron a rolling plateau, before the road eventually heads downwards after roughly 27km. Given the testing start, I’m sure plenty of riders will be on the rollers!

It is then pretty much flat all day until the final climb of Valmorel.

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A very steady climb that should suit those that can get into a rhythm, the length and gradients do favour a more traditional mountain goat to go well too though. It should be an interesting battle between the two different types of GC riders we have here.

How will the stage pan out?

With a frantic day today and knowing what is to come, I’m sure some in the bunch will want an easier afternoon out tomorrow. Will they get that?

Well, it really depends on the approach of two teams: Sky and AG2R.

Personally I think Sky will want to keep their powder dry for the weekend as their domestiques will need to defend a lot on the tough stages we have so any extra energy saved will be very useful. But then again, once through the first 30km, tomorrow is easy up until the final climb so it will only need a couple of riders making tempo to keep things in check. AG2R showed today that they are willing to ride for Bardet and tomorrow’s finish climb on paper suits him more than what we had today. The same question can be asked of them though, will they want to save some energy for some crazy racing at the weekend?

There is then of course the chance that it takes 50km for the break to form again at which point we’ll only have 80km left and not long for the morning move to get an advantage. That will then possibly entice teams into pulling to bring them back, who originally might not have if the break went within the first 30km.

It’s another stage that is a coin toss for me in terms of if a break makes it or not. I could easily argue for either case, which I kind of have done above. Got myself in a right tizz here deciding what will happen!

Hmm, I’ll go with the break sticking, but it really needs to form early-ish and for no-one to be within 5/6 minutes on GC so that Sky take their foot off the gas, which unfortunately means no Guillaume Martin, shame. Time to play that game again…

TheBreakawayLottery

Tony Gallopin.

If AG2R don’t want to help chase all day then the best thing for them to do is get a rider into the morning move and sit back in the peloton while the others do the work. Gallopin is far enough down not to be a real GC threat but he is a good enough climber and rouleur to make it stick from the break. He had a very strong start to the year but he has since struggled to be at his best and his performance in Paris Nice was disappointing due to an illness he picked up. With his sights set on the Tour, he will want to show well here.

Peter Kennaugh.

He missed the opening part of the season due to a “physical and psychological issue” after his jaunt in Australia but he returned to racing in Romandie. Since then, he has shown no real sign of form but has stated that his legs are returning to what they used to be like. If he wants to make the Bora Tour squad then he needs to deliver a big performance at this race and tomorrow looks the stage best suited to him. Who can forget his win from the break up Alpe d’Huez in this race last year?

Jelle Vanendert.

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The Lotto Soudal rider was fourth on that day but this season seems to be going much better for him, he has been in a rich vein of form in the past couple of months. His lowest finishing position in the Ardennes was 11th place, which included a podium finish in Fleche. After taking a month off racing, he returned at the recent Tour of Belgium and won the queen stage there. The climb at the end of tomorrow’s stage might be too long for him normally but it all depends on who he is up against, I expect Lotto Soudal to be attacking anyway.

Lucas Hamilton.

The neo-pro has impressed me a lot so far in his outings this year with a good showing in Coppi e Bartali his best result. He finished 2nd at the Baby Giro last year and followed it up with a 4th place at the Tour de l’Avenir: he is talented, that’s for sure. A pure climber it would seem, if he manages to infiltrate a break made up mostly of rouleurs then he has a good shot of taking a stunning win.

GC Contenders

If we don’t see a break make it then it is hard to see past a Bardet v Thomas battle for the stage. Both have looked strong and I could make arguments for both on this terrain but I would side with Thomas in his current shape. We could possibly see Alaphilippe competing for the win given that it is only one big climb but I think he’ll just fall short. I’m preparing to eat my words here tomorrow afternoon.

Prediction

AG2R to win the day, but it will be Gallopin from the break who will be victorious.

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Betting

Unsure as to how tomorrow will go so just making a play on the breakers. Will look in-play for GC riders if it is going to be the stage honours for them.

0.6pt WIN Gallopin @ 125/1

0.3pt WIN Vanendert @ 300/1

0.2pt WIN Hamilton @ 500/1

0.3pt WIN Kennaugh @ 300/1

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2018 Stage 4 Preview: Chazey-sur-Ain › Lans-en-Vercors

Today’s Recap

A group of blokes went faster, much, much faster than the other groups of blokes. Sky were even more dominant than I thought they would be today, beating BMC by 38 seconds with third placed team Lotto Soudal coming home 53 seconds behind.

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Annoyingly Mitchelton finished 3 seconds down on Soudal in the end to make it an abysmal afternoon. Looking at the split times, it would appear they went out too fast and suffered for it in the end. Oh well, moving on, again!

Team Sky are now in a very strong position GC wise with 4 competent climbers occupying the 1-4 spots in the standings. There is still plenty of racing left though for some to challenge them so let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders on stage 4.

The Route

Tomorrow marks the start of 4 days in the mountains for the riders.

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With 3200m of elevation, it isn’t the toughest test they will face this week but the stage is back loaded with climbing. Don’t expect much to happen until around the 55km to go mark when the ascent of the Col u Mont Noir begins. Arguably one of the toughest climbs in the race, it averages just under 7% for 17.5km.

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As you can see the climb is quite irregular with the percentage of each kilometre constantly changing, but it does mostly stay between the 6-9% range. The toughest gradients come in the middle third of the ascent so if there is any major damage to be done, this will be the place, as it gets slightly easier near the top.

A fast descent follows before the road goes up in steps towards the finish. The initial uncategorised drag is 9.5km at 3.5%, before the oxymoronic rolling-plateau, which is followed by the final climb to the finish line.

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Depending on how aggressively the previous part of the race has been approached, the 4.8km at 7.5% climb could see some GC splits but it is most likely to bear witness to a group of favourites coming to the line together.

How will the race pan out?

There are significant time gaps in the GC after today’s TTT but that was almost expected!

I’ll be intrigued to see if anyone throws the kitchen sink at it tomorrow because there are still three very hard stages to come on Friday through Sunday. Tomorrow’s stage is the most traditional mountain stage as well, coming in at 181km whereas the other remaining days are 130km or less. A lot is expected of these short stages from the organisers and the press, so there is a chance that teams already have one eye on them and might not risk everything tomorrow.

With that said though, Col du Mont Noir is arguably the hardest climb in the race so a lot of riders can be put into difficulty there. The only issue with that is a team will need a good few domestiques left to push the pace on the uncategorised drag and rolling terrain before the final climb itself. If not, it is just a wasted effort.

Sky might play it defensively, knowing what is to come, particularly on Saturday and Sunday but then again, they could be aggressive and send someone on the attack and force other teams to chase. That’s quite unlike them though.

I would love to see someone attack from far out, let’s say Dan Martin for example, but I just think it would be a foolish move to make with tricky valley roads and climbs to negotiate before the actual finish climb.

Therefore I think we’ll see a fairly controlled pace on Mont Noir from Sky, keeping things together going into last ascent. At just under 5km they should have enough firepower to hold things together for the majority of the ascent too and it might be in the final kilometre that we see an attack from a GC rider. Even if they break the Sky stranglehold, they won’t gain more than 15 seconds on them there. It could even come down to a 5-6 GC rider sprint, as I alluded to before.

There is a chance that the break makes it all the way tomorrow but it all depends on how determined Sky are to bring it back together, or if they keep it on a tight-ish leash, who takes the bait and works in the final 40km.

If so, some names to look out for include De Gendt (obviously), Cummings (needs a good performance at some point this race), Gaudu (if he’s recovered from his hand injury), G. Martin (if someone high-up-ish on GC wants to get into the move).

GC Battle

I don’t think anything will come to fruition on Mont Noir so it will all come down to the final climb and we’ll either see a controlled pace from Sky that will lead to an all out last kilometre, or, there will be attacks at the bottom that possibly might be let go dependant on how far down the rider is on GC. Then again, Sky aren’t known for letting that happen too much in races so most likely they’ll be brought back for an all out battle in the final kilometre.

Well, looks like it will be an all out battle in the final kilometre then…

Alaphilippe – If the pace on MN isn’t high then he is stage favourite as a 5km climb is no issue for him, it is when back to back climbs are taken at pace that I worry for him. In a sprint to the line it will be tough for any GC guy to beat him.

Yates – Possibly the only rider here confident of going against Alaphilippe in an uphill sprint on a climb, the Mitchelton rider is very explosive when needed. He’s slowly been building his form looking ahead to the Tour. Can he produce what his brother did in the Giro?

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D. Martin – He’s been awful this year, I’m not going to beat around the bush. Having only managed to top 10s all season, a big result is needed this race for a confidence booster. Normally this finish would be ideal for the Irishman.

Thomas – I think he’s flying at the moment and would not be surprised to see him win tomorrow. He would have won the prologue and he was strong today in the TTT – it will be interesting to see how that relates to climbing legs though.

Bardet – The rider everyone will be watching, he has said he is here to win the race. Currently sitting 1’52 behind Kwiatkowski, some of that deficit needs to be cut tomorrow. Capable of a stinging uphill attack, he has a good chance.

Zakarin – Will we see a #ZakAttack? With the uphill finish he will certainly fancy it compared to some of the days that are filled with treacherous descents. At 2 minutes down, he won’t be immediately marked.

Prediction

The remnants of the break to make it all the way with Guillaume Martin taking a surprising stage win after beating De Gendt on the final climb.

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Maybe, who knows.

GC wise, Thomas to stamp his authority on the race.

Betting

De Gendt too short for my liking so

1pt WIN G Martin @ 66/1

1pt WIN Gaudu @ 40/1 (hoping he’s recovered from his crash)

Might back a GC rider in-play.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2018 Stage 3 Preview: Pont-de-Vaux › Louhans-Châteaurenaud

Today’s Recap

Despite the spirited attempts of morning breakee Stalnov, we ended up with a reduced bunch sprint this afternoon of around 80 riders. After coming home third on yesterday’s stage, Ackermann made amends and proved what a good talent he is, taking home a rather commanding victory.

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A rejuvenated Boasson Hagen sprinted for second place with Stage 1 winner Impey coming home in third. A result that puts the Mitchelton rider into Yellow for tomorrow.

Speaking of yellow jersey’s, the previous leader of the race Kwiatkowski crashed within the final 2km today and sustained some superficial injuries but nothing too serious it would seem. It might have a bit of an effect in the coming days though but who knows.

As for the blog pick Teunissen he finished in the second group, possibly suffering from some of the illness that is floating around the Sunweb camp. No idea why I didn’t pick Ackermann or Impey though as I said in yesterday’s preview it was hard to see past them, sometimes I just make weird decisions!

Anyway, let’s move on and have a look at what is in store for the riders and a day which will shake the GC up a bit.

The Route

An almost pan-flat, dead-straight team time trial course awaits the riders.

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They start in the town of Pont-de-Vaux and head in a north-east direction towards Louhans-Chateaurenaud.

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At just under 35km it mimics the distance they will face in the Tour in a months time, so it will be a good test in race conditions for the teams.

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There is a slightly tricky finish that awaits the riders but aside from that there is nothing else to talk about route wise. It is a pretty straight forward day out in the saddle: go as fast as you can for the whole course!

Weather Watch

Often a TT or TTT can be decided by varying weather conditions but it appears that the majority of the teams will get the same treatment tomorrow so there should be no surprises due to stronger winds at one point in the day etc.

There is potential for a tiny spot of rain but it will only be a very short shower, while the wind looks set to remain a constant ~13km/h gentle breeze from the south – meaning a slight cross tailwind for the run. It does turn around slightly for those later on which might mean a little bit more a tailwind, but it shouldn’t be much.

Contenders

Team Sky.

After their strong display in the prologue, it would appear that Sky have got over their Giro TT bleep and returned to their early season dominance of efforts against the clock. Saying that, they did only manage to come third in the TTT at Tirreno so they aren’t unbeatable. Looking at their squad though they have a team full of guys who can push a big gear on the flat, with Geoghegan Hart being the only passenger but even then he delivered a good individual performance in California. They start as the favourites but they’ll need to get through an afternoon where they all stay on their bikes, the lack of corners tomorrow will help them…

Mitchelton Scott.

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A surprise second place in Tirreno, the team of the current race leader have a solid squad but it does look weaker than their effort in Tirreno, I think. They’ve swapped out big TT engines such as Durbridge and Bauer and although they’ve been replaced by strong riders like Edmondson and Howson, I don’t think they are as good in a TT. However with that said, they did take home the Hammer Series TTT with a squad that included Impey, Howson and Hamilton, all of whom are here. On that day they beat a fairly strong BMC by almost a minute. Write them off at your peril! I certainly won’t and I have somewhat changed my mind throughout this section. Hmmmmm. Going off last will give them the advantage of knowing their splits compared to the other teams.

BMC.

The TTT Kings: there are few team efforts against the clock that these guys don’t win and it would be a shock to see them not fighting for the top step of the podium tomorrow. However, their squad here looks to be more of a “B-team” as they are missing several of their star TT riders. I think this is the first TTT in a while where I’ve not been convinced that they will win it. Nonetheless, as a team they are the best at the discipline and therefore can’t be discounted.

Quick Step.

An outfit made up of strong, powerful riders but with no stand-out TT guy then they will need to rider very cohesively as a unit. A lot of pressure will be on the shoulders of Jungels, Terpstra and Alaphilippe. Normally a danger for a podium spot, I think it will be hard for them to go any further than that tomorrow.

Lotto Jumbo.

Really hit or miss, who knows what Jumbo will turn up tomorrow. With the likes of Boom, Van Emden and Powless they should be able to deliver a good time but a podium would be a very good result, I’ll be shocked if they did any better.

I think the 5 teams listed above should be the top 5 on the day but there is room for the likes of Jumbo to replaced by their Lotto counterpart but that’s about it.

Prediction

A battle between Sky, BMC and Mitchelton for the win, they are the best teams here. I’ve almost made a complete U-turn with how I felt about Mitchelton before the start of this but I’m sticking to my guns, Sky will win.

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As was shown in the prologue, they have the best strength in-depth and equipment for this type of effort. Unless of course Thomas and Kwiatkowski are feeling a bit worse for wear after their crashes then one of the other two has a good chance of taking the win so step up Mitchelton in that case.

Betting

4pts Mitchelton Top 3 at 4/1

6pts Mitchelton to beat Lotto Soudal at 5/6

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think wins tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2018 Stage 2 Preview: Montbrison › Belleville en Beaujolais

Today’s Recap

The morning break of three never had a chance and it was actually Vital Concept who kept them in check before Quick Step came to help out later on. The gap tumbled and the break was caught once we were onto the circuit. On the final ascent Teuns launched a probing attack but was reeled in, however, Alaphilippe then launched a strong counter that was followed by race-leader Kwiatkowski. That move was then neutralised and a greatly reduced bunch plummeted down towards the final kilometre. There were a few more probing attacks but none of them got much leeway and things were set up for a sprint.

Alaphilippe opened it up early but he was no match for Impey who surged passed the Quick Step rider and took a very dominant win. It looked easy for him in the end!

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Ackermann rounded out the podium which was a very impressive result from him, much better than team-mate McCarthy. As for blog pick Kwiatkowski, it looked as if he just ran out of steam and didn’t have the kick to match the others at the finish, possibly paying for his earlier efforts. Interestingly, we didn’t see anything of Impey until the final few hundred metres, he hid away perfectly, conserving energy and going all in for the sprint. Risky but ultimately smart riding. Can he double up tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Another rolling day that is littered with a few climbs in the second half of the stage.

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With 2300m of climbing it is similar to today’s stage in that regard but the finish is much easier. The climbs aren’t overly difficult but the majority of them are longer than what they faced today. You can see their lengths and gradients on the profile above.

Arguably the toughest ascent of the day is the Col du Fût d’Avenas which so happens to be the last categorised climb.

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It will be a fairly steady effort for the riders though and the Cat-3 ranking might be a bit generous – it’s no Spanish or Italian Cat-3, that’s for sure!

With the peak coming at just under 30km to go, the riders will face a long descent that is interspersed with a few kickers and plateaus. They don’t really stop descending until the final 4km of the day.

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A fairly simple run in but a double roundabout just under the flamme rouge will line things out and it is important to not be too far back here.

How will the stage pan out?

If today was one for the puncheurs, then tomorrow does look more like a traditional sprint, with the flat run to the line. However, given that the riders pretty much climb/descend for 70km before a drawn out descent to the line, then we could see some of the sprinters put into difficulty. It all depends on who sets the pace on the ascents.

There is more of a chance that the break makes it compared to today’s stage in my opinion. This afternoon we saw Sky happy to take a back seat and I think they will adopt a similar approach tomorrow, letting other teams chase it down for a stage win. If no one takes full control then Sky might just ride tempo and not let things get silly, knowing that they will more than likely take the time back on whoever is up the road later on in the week.

I think we’ll once again see Vital Concept take to the front to try to control things but they will need better luck (Reza’s crash today) and more numbers with COquard in the finale to set him up well. Likewise, we saw Quick Step help to control things today and they will probably chase for either Jakobsen, riding fairly slowly, or they will try and make things difficult to set up Alaphilippe. It will be interesting to see if Mitchelton and Bora now help with pace setting as Impey was imperious today and has a good chance of going into yellow and of course Ackermann was a bit of a surprise package in third, with tomorrow seemingly suiting him more.

Contenders and Pretenders

I’ve pretty much just listed the majority of them above!

Impey – Clearly in great shape just now, we might see Mitchelton drill it in an attempt to reduce the bunch down to a similar size to what we had today. Has a good chance of doubling up.

Coquard – Disappointing today after his team did a lot of the hard work. He should be able to cope with the climbs but will need someone to help lead him out in the finish, I don’t trust his wheel surfing abilities.

Alaphillipe – Needs it tough but has a chance if that’s the case. Can’t afford to waste energy with pointless attacks.

Jakobsen – Needs it to be an ok tempo, otherwise he will be dropped.

Bauhaus – Will be dropped.

Teunissen – My dark horse as I expect him to be sprinting instead of the aforementioned Bauhaus. He was very impressive at the start of the year and seems to be finally delivering on some of the potential he showed early in his career.

Kwiatkowski – See Alaphillipe.

Boasson Hagen – Form seems a bit iffy but he is not a million miles off. Normally he should contend.

Keukeleire – In great form at the moment, he will need it to be selective but he will fancy his chances in a flat sprint against the guys here.

Break Candidate(s)

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A nice and more than likely deliberate 6’46 time loss for De Gendt today. Expect to see him out there tomorrow, along with the likes of Teklehaimanot and Brandle. 

Prediction

Things will most likely come back for a reduced sprint and it will be hard to see past Impey and Ackermann after today’s showing. Yet, I’ll go for a bit of a surprise result with Teunissen winning the gallop.

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He seems to be coming into form at the moment with a good result in the prologue and a commendable 9th place today. Watching back the sprint from this afternoon he kicked and looked to be coming up the inside but was blocked off and had to sit back in the saddle before stamping on the pedals again. As he crossed the line he shook his head, I think he knows a better result was possible with good positioning. If he can follow the right wheel, I think he can surprise from an 80 rider group…

Betting

1pt EW Teunissen @ 40/1

 

I would have backed TDG if he was 20+ but anything less than that is too short.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2018 Stage 1 Preview: Valence › Saint-Just-Saint-Rambert

Today’s Recap

A bloke went faster than some other blokes around the town of Valence.

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Kwiatkowski delivered a stunning ride to beat Van Emden by a second, after the Dutchman had spent most of the early afternoon in the hot seat. Team Sky returned to their dominant TT performances of the Spring with Moscon coming home in third.

They could have quite possibly had 3 guys in the first 4 as Thomas crashed with 3.3km to go and ultimately finished 21 seconds down on his team-mate. Going from the rolling clock he was just getting back onto his bike at around the 20 second mark after his fall so considering all the lost momentum then he certainly would have been competing for the win. I do find it weird though that he crashed on a completely dry course on a rather innocuous corner; he’s making a bad habit of that!

As for the blog pick, Bevin finished in 5th which was respectable but just not good enough for the win. Boom was a disappointing after being only 2 seconds down at the split but he faded quite badly in the second half.

Jungles obviously lost by a second to Brandle which means I’m continuing off from where I left off at the Giro (not counting the last day winning hiccup with Bennett). Oh well, on to tomorrow and what looks like an interesting and unpredictable stage!

The Route

A fairly rolling day out in the saddle with some interestingly positioned climbs in the finale.

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The riders will be climbing from the gun, facing the toughest ascent of the day, the Col de Leyrisse. At an average of 4.5% for 8.5km then it isn’t Alpine by any means, but it will certainly have a few guys worried, especially if they’ve been watching the Giro. A short descent follows before the road drags up again at roughly 3% for another 4km.

We then have a longer descent which is followed by a 2-for-1 categorised climb deal: not sure it’s an offer I’d like to see. For the pros though the ~4.8% average for 11km shouldn’t be too much of an issue and we’ll no doubt see a nice controlled tempo.

After that the road rolls with a few small rises but it is mainly flat, before we get into the final 40km which features 3 categorised climbs, albeit just Cat-4s. More importantly though, they will complete a couple of laps of a circuit so the riders will be familiar with the parcours the second time round.

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There are two main rises in the circuit, the first is a fairly steady 1.9km at 3.4% before the slightly tougher second climb that averages 4.3% for 1.5km, with a few steeper pitches thrown in early on. Neither are very difficult and we won’t see any GC action but they do offer the perfect opportunity for a late attack from a puncheur.

The start of the descent is a little technical but for the majority of it the riders will have to pedal it in the big ring.

The final few hundred metres are uphill so any sprint will have to be timed perfectly.

How will the stage pan out?

It’s one of those days where anything could happen: breakaway, late attack or reduced sprint are all possible outcomes and equally as likely. Well saying that, with Sky now in the race lead I wonder if we will see a typically controlled stage from them and closing everything down to protect that yellow jersey? Consequently, I think the likelihood of a morning breakaway is much reduced but the chances of a late attack sticking are still quite high.

I’ll go 10% (Breakaway), 35 % (Late attack), 55% (Reduced sprint).

Sprinters

The race isn’t blessed with a great selection of sprinters but to be fair, who can blame them – there are only a couple of days that *might* end in a bunch kick and the rest are all GC days. Looking at ProCyclingStats, these are the top 15 sprinters here…

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Definitely not a stacked field when Nibali is the 8th guy on the list!

Out of them all, I would only class Ackermann, Jakobsen and Bauhaus as pure sprinters, while Impey, EBH and Coquard are “tough sprinters” then the rest are puncheurs or lead-out men, and Nibali.

I think the climbs will see the chances of the pure sprinters disappear tomorrow so it will be over to the tough sprinters and the puncheurs to battle it out on the run in to the line.

There are two riders that I like for tomorrow’s stage and one of them is currently in yellow.

Michal Kwiatkowski.

This type of parcours and finish is perfect for the Pole as he possesses a fast enough kick to compete with most, especially with the riders we have here. I expect Sky to control the race and hope to set him up for the sprint and gain some bonus seconds as every little bit of time here and there will be very helpful for the weekend. His performance today shows that he is in good form and the rise up to the line definitely favours him.

Jay McCarthy.

One of my favourite riders in the peloton, the Aussie is really developing into a great rider and tomorrow’s finish looks like a carbon copy of the uphill drag he won in Itzulia. This is his first race back after a period of rest and training after the Ardennes classics but a 34th place today was a pretty good result by his standards so I think he’ll be going well.

Late Attackers

As for late attackers, pick a name out of a hat as to who might give it a go. We’ll probably see something from De Gendt, Valgren and Terpstra. The latter of whom I think might actually have a chance as he delivered a good time today and was lively in the recent Hammer series.

Prediction

Sky are in Yellow so everything is controlled and Kwiatkowski doubles up, simple!

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Betting

1pt EW Kwiatkowski @ 16/1

1pt EW McCarthy @ 16/1

0.5pt WIN Terpstra @ 125/1

(All with Bet365)

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and how? It should be a good finish to the stage. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2018 Prologue Preview: Valence -> Valence

Critérium du Dauphiné 2018 Prologue Preview: Valence -> Valence

The Route

A pretty much pan-flat 6.6km hit out around Valence. As with all TTs I’ve made the route on Strava/Veloviewer and that’s the profile I’ll be using here as you can’t really make out much in the official one! You can of course access the Veloviewer profile through this link.

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The route is like a very stretched out basin, with the riders descending for the first part before they regain the altitude in the latter half, well, over a few hundred metre segment. That is the most challenging part of the route, the 660m section near the end of the day which averages a very modest 3.3%. Not really that tough then is it? But of course, you want to have something left to power through it, especially when the road rises after a turn so their speed will be knocked down ever so slightly.

You can actually watch a streetview recce of the whole route in the following video. I’d recommend 0.5x speed to get a better understanding.

 

I would ignore the end of the video ever so slightly though as I’m fairly certain the riders will be on the road, not the cobbled pavement that is parallel to it.

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One thing to note from it though is that the majority of the roads, although sweeping, will be able to be taken at full speed. However, there is a sequence of a nasty and tight turns around the 2km mark which I’m certain the riders will be trying to perfect their lines through when they have a practice run in the morning as a good amount of time/speed can be gained or lost there.

With all that said though, the course looks as if it should suit the power riders in the peloton.

Contenders

Jos Van Emden.

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The Jumbo rider starts as the bookmakers favourite and in this field it is understandable why, he always seems to go very well in these short efforts against the clock. One of the best in the world at a <10km TT, without Dennis here then he is the justifiable favourite. The one question mark that lingers over his head is: how much did the Giro take out of him? We’ve seen “Tour legs” be a thing in the past where riders who go well at the Tour notoriously go well in San Sebastian not long after. Can Van Emden reap the benefits?

Lars Boom.

Van Emden isn’t the only Jumbo rider who could post a good time, with “puncheur” Boom capable of delivering a very good effort when needed. He seems to be slowly getting back to good form after his heart operation in the off-season, stating that good sensations are returning. In Romandie he was very close to the top of the order at the intermediate split before a mechanical ruined his chance of a good result in that prologue, I expect more from him here.

Tom Bohli.

So close to a win in that Romandie prologue, the flat course should suit the young BMC rider even more. A strong rider who seems to produce his best results in short TTs, I would not be surprised to see him in the top 5 tomorrow, or even fighting for the win.

Patrick Bevin.

The second BMC rider to make the list, he has really upped his game this year since the change of team, with 8/14/2/2 being his results against the clock this season. Tomorrow’s power course should be up his street and like Bohli, I would be surprised not to see him near the top of the order. It was at the prologue in Paris Nice a couple of years ago that he broke onto the scene, can he go better than his results so far and take a WT win?

Victor Campenaerts.

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He was bitterly disappointed in the Giro to have missed out on the Pink Jersey on the opening day but his performance in the second TT was pretty poor and he duly abandoned the race the day after. There is no doubt that Campenaerts is a very talented rider but I mentioned it in the Giro TT preview: he just doesn’t seem to win enough.

Geraint Thomas.

Flying at the start of the year, he was then sub-par in Romandie so who knows where his form will be at the moment. Apparently he is approaching the Tour as if he is going to be leader but I can’t really see that being the case, so he might arrive at this race a bit sharper than others, wanting to take advantage of their form. Sky were flying as a team in TTs this year up until the Giro which was odd. Thomas could pull any result out of the bag here. Likewise, the same can be said for Kwiatkowski and Castroviejo, even Van Baarle. We could see 4 of them in the top 10 again, or we could get the Giro vintage of Sky in TTs.

Mathias Brandle. 

Crashing out while practicing the Romandie prologue was not ideal for the Trek rider as it meant he missed out of competing at the Giro. The Dauphiné will be his first race back after that collarbone injury so it will be interesting to see where his form is at. The short power course is good for him (like many) but I think he himself will fall short due to lack of form.

Others to look out for who might cause a surprise include Gougeard, Jungels and De Gendt.

Prediction

The form TT team will take a win with the form TT rider who has been knocking at the door this season, Patrick Bevin to step up to the big time leagues here!

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The podium will then be filled with Jumbo riders.

GC Preview in 50 Words

TTT to set the scene. Four mountain top finishes to create some gaps. Short stages to entice the action, maybe too many, damp squib? GC battle hopefully should go down to final day. Numbers will be key. Sky dominant team – Thomas to win and prove himself before the Grand Boucle.

Betting

1pt EW Bevin @ 12/1

1pt EW Boom @ 20/1

Both with Bet365.

I also think Brandle might be a bit undercooked so willing to take him on in a H2H with Jungels.

4pts Jungels to beat Brandle @ 11/8 (Ladbrokes)

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think is going to win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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

Today’s Recap

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

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

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

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Maybe I should blog less often?!

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

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

The Route

A short and intense day to end the race!

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

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

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

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

Will we see a solo winner again?

How will the stage pan out?

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

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

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

So time for everyone’s favourite game again…

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Candidates

A few darts to be thrown here…

Jack Haig.

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

Serge Pauwels.

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

Michal Kwiatkowski.

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

Richard Carapaz.

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

Prediction

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

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Betting

Tweeted this out before…

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

 

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

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

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2017 Stage 6 Preview; Villars-les-Dombes -> La Motte-Servolex

Today’s Recap

I have to admit that I didn’t see today’s stage so this section will be brief…

The peloton finally decided to work together to catch the break, although from reading online reports it was in the balance for a while. Nonetheless, everything came down to a large bunch sprint and it was the blog’s pick for stage 3 who came good; Phil Bauhaus. A couple of days late but it’s good to see the young German taking his first (of many?) World Tour win.

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Démare continued his good run of form with a second place, with Coquard rounding out the podium.

The attention now switches to the GC riders and climbers of the peloton as we come to the business end of this race tomorrow. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

A relatively easy day out in the saddle to start off with before the riders have to tackle one of the hardest climbs in France!

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We could see a tough fight to get into the morning break along the flatlands at the start of the stage, or it could go from the gun. It’s one of those days! The first test for the peloton will be the Cat-3 Côte de Corlier but it won’t really have any impact on the stage. The road then rolls a bit, going through the feed-zone before the peloton can stretch their climbing legs/get warmed up again on the Côte de Jongieux. At 3.3km long and averaging 5% it’s not tough. However, considering there are only 5.5km from the summit to the bottom of Mont du Chat, then I expect it to be attacked at a fast pace as the GC riders look to position themselves before the monster of a climb. Speaking of which…

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It starts off with an “easy” kilometre of 7.5%, before never dipping below 9% for the rest of the climb. My legs hurt just looking at the profile!

We have max gradients of 15%, but I think it will be the 6th and 7th kilometres where the damage will be done. For those two kilometres it averages 12% and a lot of time can be made here if you’re stronger than your rivals, before it “eases” back down to 9.5% in the final kilometre of the climb.

Once over the top the riders will plunge down the other side on a descent that starts off quite technical, before getting easier around 2/3rds down the climb. The final few kilometres are almost pan flat as we head into the finish town.

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Will this scupper the chances of a solo rider taking the win?

If we do get a small group arriving together at the finish, taking the quicker inside line will be important!

How will the race pan out?

There is a chance the breakaway wins, but I think that’s unlikely considering the GC teams will be fighting for position a lot during the day. Furthermore, with bonus seconds on the line, they will want to give themselves as big a chance as possible of beating Porte in the overall.

Therefore, we’ll see a big GC battle on Mont du Chat with all the favourites coming to the fore!

Contenders

Valverde – On a stage with a descent almost all the way to the finish line but with a flat final 2km, the imperious Spaniard probably has to start as favourite. If he can hold onto the better climbers, he could potentially drop them on the descent or at least out-sprint them at the finish. Saying that, the way Valverde has been climbing this year, it would not surprise me to see him attack everyone on the climb. A strong TT is an indication that he is still in very good form just now!

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Contador – Similar to Valverde, El Pistolero delivered a better than expected TT which highlights that he is going well despite saying that he isn’t too bothered about how he does at the Dauphiné. It’s almost guaranteed that he will attack on the climb, but will it be enough for him to get away? If not, he’ll have to play it cannily as they approach the line as he doesn’t have the best sprint…

Froome – Relatively disappointing in the TT, the Brit has had a “poor” season by his standards so far. Maybe he didn’t want to give it his all in the TT, bluff a bit and not take any risks? But on a course that wasn’t too technical, I think that the power just wasn’t there. I could be wrong though and he could well turn it around. I think he doesn’t care for this race too much and it’s all about the Tour for him!

Porte – GC rider of the season, he blitzed everyone on a relatively flat TT so for him, the power is clearly there. Ridiculously impressive on short 15 minute climbs, I’m intrigued to see if he can sustain the Watts per Kg for a longer effort. He managed that in Paris-Nice and with the way he is riding just now, I can see him doing it again.

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@ammattipyoraily

Obviously those who struggled in the TT might have a chance of stage glory due to being further down on GC and not an immediate threat.

Bardet – A demon descender the Frenchman will not hold anything back on the downhill sections. He’s also not afraid to attack on the uphill and I think we’ll see him try to go early.

Martin, Yates and Aru could also find themself in a similar position!

Prediction

Originally I thought this stage would be great for someone like Bardet. My mind then switched to Valverde. But the more I think about it, the more I think we’ll see Porte ride away from everyone on Mont du Chat and cement his winning position in this race. He has been truly incredible this season, his power output has been amazing. He just needs to stay upright on the descent because I think we could see him crest the summit of the climb with a 30 second advantage.

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Betting

2pts WIN Porte @ 11/2 with Bet365

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will a “lesser” GC rider manage to escape or will it be ont of the leading contenders? 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.