Tre Valli Varesine 2017 Preview

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

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

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

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Will we see a similar outcome this year?

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

The Route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will the race pan out?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Names to look out for

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

Tom Dumoulin.

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

Steve Cummings.

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

Davide Villella.

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

Michael Valgren.

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

Marco Canola.

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

Prediction

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

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

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

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Betting

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

1pt EW Dumoulin @ 33/1

0.75pt EW Valgren @ 66/1

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 8 Preview; Molfetta -> Peschici

Today’s Recap

Dull day, great finish.

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We ended up with a three-up sprint almost, with Ewan finally getting his stage win, beating Gaviria and Bennett in the process.

Nothing much else to talk about as the day was a typically dull transition stage. Hopefully things are slightly more exciting tomorrow. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

A medium mountain stage with all of the climbing packed into the second half of the day.

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With almost 80km of flat roads, the fight for the breakaway could be pretty intense. Well, it normally would, but this Giro has been different in that regard so who knows. The route does hug the coast-line for all of that opening 80km but early forecasts show the wind to be a little benign so it is unlikely that we’ll see some echelons. How disappointing!

The Cat 2 climb of Monte Sant’Angelo is 9.5km long, averaging just over 6%. It’s not overly tough and comes too far from the finish to cause any hassle.  Likewise, the following Cat 4 ascent of Coppa Santa Tecla is still too far from the end of the stage to be an issue for both the bunch and the break.

It looks as if it will be a stage that will come down to the final 15km.

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We don’t get much information about the uncategorised climbs before the descent and rise to the finish, which you can see above, so you know the drill…

Strava profile, viewable here.

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If you take the rise as a whole, then it is roughly 5 km at 3.9%. Not bad, but it can be split into 1.9km at 6.3% and 2.4km at 4.7%, with a little bit of descent in between. The steepest ramps of the second section come at the start of the climb, so a lightweight rider might want to attack there before it flattens out down to 2-3% before the top.

We then have our fast descent and climb to the line.

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It is important to note how technical the climb is itself with a sharp hairpin at around 300m to go and it still even twists and turns from there.

Who will be raising their arms aloft as they cross the finish line first?

How will the stage pan out?

It should be a break. There might be a few teams who will fancy controlling it and setting up a certain rider but that will be very hard to do.

I’m sure most of the teams will want it to be a break, especially with the tough finish of Blockhaus coming the following day, they’ll want to conserve as much energy as possible.

So it’s that time again where we play…

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Candidates

It’s even more difficult to successfully pick someone for the break tomorrow because the opening half of the stage, where the break will be formed, is completely different to what they’ll face at the end of the day. When has that ever stopped me before though?!

There seems to be a recurring theme at this Giro so far where teams with GC contenders have been a bit wary about getting guys up the road, with the only exception being Trek and BMC on Stage 6. Will this pattern continue as the main contenders look towards stage 9? Quite possibly, so I’ll be considering riders from teams without a GC contender, or one that can at least mount a reasonable top 5 charge.

Cristián Rodríguez.

The young Wilier rider has impressed me a lot during this race so far. He was up with the GC contenders on Etna until a very untimely mechanical saw him drop out of that group. Nonetheless, he got himself going again, limiting the damage to one minute. He lost a lot of time on the echelons of stage 3, so he is no immediate threat on GC. Clearly in great form, he would have a great chance if he makes the move.

Davide Villella.

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After Cannondale made a mess of Stage 6, I’m sure they won’t make the same mistake tomorrow. Looking at their squad, Villella looks like an ideal candidate for this type of strong man’s finish. A former winner of the Baby Il Lombardia, he finished 5th there in the full edition last season. Packing a solid uphill kick, his fellow breakees will not want to bring him to the line.

Matej Mohoric.

The former U23 World Champion is slowly finding his feet at World Tour level and with UAE active in attacks so far, they’ll no doubt try to send someone up the road tomorrow. A coming of age performance is on the cards!

Now for something a bit different…

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll know that on the preview for today’s stage (6) that I received a very constructive comment from a Mr Wong.

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So I thought I’d take this feedback on board with a brand new segment for breakaway days or stages that are in the balance…

Wong’s Wildcard/ The Wongshot

Basically, I’ve copied the startlist and created a list on random.org and well, erm, randomised it for a rider. I’ll then create a possible scenario where and how said rider might win. Tomorrow’s guy is…

Stef Clement.

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Although the Dutch rider is on domestique duty for Kruijswijk, his team leader gives him the nod to chase stage honours. As a strong all-rounder, Clement makes the break with ease but also follows well on the hills as some of the other escapees put in probing attacks. Coming into the closing 15km, Clement knows that his form isn’t that great and he’s not explosive enough to beat the other guys on the final climb, so he decides to attack on a pan-flat section with 17km left. With some hesitation behind, the gap quickly grows to 30 seconds as everyone else looks around. They eventually get organised but it’s too late, and the Dutchman holds on to take a great win!

Prediction

Breakaway stays away and I’ll for an impressive young Spaniard to have the required kick on the final climb to steal stage honours. Rodríguez to win!

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In before Clement wins…

Betting

Small punts on breakaway guys(all Bet 365);

Rodriguez 0.3pt WIN @ 300/1

Mohoric 0.4pt WIN @ 80/1 

Villella is too short at 40/1 for a breakaway pick so instead I’m backing…

Grosschartner 0.3pt WIN @ 200/1

 

Also, I would like to point out now that the blog has gained a bit more traction during the Giro that I don’t see myself as a proper tipster or anything like that. It was never the intention when starting this whole thing up. It’s more a case that I enjoy writing the previews and trying to deconstruct how the race might plan out, often with an extravagant twist. I see them more as a guide to the following day’s racing more than anything else. My very original posts had no “pts” etc advised on them, just a general idea of who I was backing. However, people requested that I do so and I eventually just added them in at the end of each preview.

I don’t charge for the previews, you’re not forced to back anyone I do. I just put a few bets on to have someone to back for the day and make the sport even more enjoyable to watch! Don’t wager anything more than you can afford to lose.

Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour of the Alps 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Innsbruck -> Innervillgraten

This will be short and sweet as I need to get this done quickly so I can get ahead with my writing for tomorrow’s triple header of previews, so apologies!

Today’s Recap

Safe to say I got that one wrong! Bernal looked quite comfortable sitting second or third wheel until he went pop massively at roughly 1km to go. We were left with a reduced group of favourites sprinting to the line and it was wily old fox Scarponi who took the win, beating Thomas and Pinot, with a handful of other riders coming home on the same time.

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A much needed win for Scarponi and Astana as it is their first win of the year!

Will they double up tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

An easier day out for the riders but we once again end with an uphill finish.

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@LasterketaBurua

Like stage 1, tomorrow’s stage is about the closing 30kms or so. Averaging 8.4% for 4.5km, or 8.2% for 4.8km (depending on your source), the St Justina climb is tough either way! If a team wants to take up the pace here they could really do some damage to the peloton, and drastically reduced the numbers in the bunch before the final climb.

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However, with the steepest ramps coming near the start, I can’t see that happening too drastically.

We then have a fast descent and travel through some valley roads before climbing to the finish line.

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Again, gradients and lengths vary for the climb but it’s a long steady false flat drag, with a 5% ramp or so in the closing couple of hundred metres. Not an overly difficult end to the day!

Weather Watch

It looks set to be another miserable day for the peloton…

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Source; Tyrol.com

With potential of it snowing at the end of the day, I wonder if we’ll see any route changes?!

Hopefully not and the rest of this preview will be wrote assuming that the route will stay the same.

How will the stage pan out?

Who will be contesting the finish all depends on how the peloton races the penultimate climb. Considering the rise to the finish line is relatively easy, there is no point in a team making a devastating pace to reduce the peloton because the GC favourites shouldn’t be distanced in the finale. Therefore, I think we could see a relatively large group, of maybe around 20 riders or so coming into the last few kilometres.

It’s then a question of late attack, or a sprint to the line?

There are several riders who lost a reasonable amount of time today so won’t be as heavily marked if they make a move, but with the easy gradients, a quickly organised chase should be able to bring them to heel. The key word there being organised! It’s a finely balanced stage and one that could go either way.

Contenders

As I mentioned above, I’m short for time so this list won’t be exhaustive, that’s for sure! Instead, I’ll throw a few names into the hat.

Danilo Celano.

 

The Italian was close to the head of the race today and managed to follow some of the attacks but just didn’t have enough juice in the tank and ultimately finished 17 seconds down. Tomorrow’s less steep finish should suit the relatively unknown Italian as he seems to have a great turn of pace. He should benefit from his anonymity!

Davide Villella.

The Cannondale rider showed some good legs in today’s stage, finishing inside the top 20 on a climb that didn’t really suit his characteristics. Tomorrow’s finale is better for him and he should be able to power over the easier gradients. I expect Cannondale to have numbers near the front which is always useful in a reduced group and packing a solid sprint, he certainly has a chance.

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Matteo Busato.

I harked on about him for today’s stage, but the closing climb was too tough. Like many others though, tomorrow’s false-flat style drag to the line should be more attractive to him. Another rider with a solid sprint, he has a good opportunity in that scenario, but having lost 42 seconds today, he also has enough breathing space to launch an attack.

Brent Bookwalter.

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Probably not the first rider to spring to mind, the American is another rider like Villella who should benefit from being the “lesser” threat compared to his team-mates. An attack or sprint from a reduced group, Bookwalter can do both and he he’s a dark horse for the stage if tactics play into his hands.

Prediction

I was going to go for Busato and continue my season long fantasy bias, but I can’t ignore the shape Celano is in. He seems to be flying just now, his attack in Appennino the other week was unbelievable! I think he got a bit giddy today in terms of the illustrious company he was keeping but will have learnt from his mistakes and take advantage of his good form tomorrow by taking the biggest win of his career.

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Betting

Tempted to cover the 4 names above, but I think that would be too far, so I’ll just stick with Celano instead;

0.75pt EW Celano @  33/1 with Bet365 (would take 25/1 lowest)

 

Thanks as always for reading and apologies for how brief this was but I won’t have time tomorrow to write all three previews so need to get another finished this evening. Nonetheless, who do you think tomorrow? Will we see a shock victor like Celano, or will the more established names come to the fore? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tour of the Alps 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Kufstein -> Innsbruck

GC Overview

I don’t have enough time to do a proper GC preview but here are a quick few words! Tough course with several stages that end in tricky climbs. Some short and steep but we do have longer, ahem, Alps here too!

So the winner of the race needs to be a very good climber and with a lack of TT, the proper mountain goats will be licking their lips. Sky have the luxury of two contenders with last years winner Landa and Giro contender Thomas. The Spaniard is supposed to be co-leader at the Giro but he’s not offered much this season so will need a big performance here and I think we’ll see just that.

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Pinot has a good chance for FDJ, along with Scarponi who will be Astana’s main hope of picking up a result and I’m also intrigued to see Formolo go for GC in a race without a TT! As for outside top 10 hopefuls I think Busato might sneak into that category. He was 11th last year and although the climbs are a lot tougher in this edition, he seems to be going well at the moment. An 8th place in Appeninno after crashing relatively hard during the race is testament to that. Likewise, Firsanov also crashed hard in that race while in the leading group. After a slow start to the year, the Russian is getting back to the shape he was in here last season, when he managed to finish 4th on GC. The longer climbs will be tough for him, but you never know! I would expect to see Torres up there fighting for a top 5 as well.

I’ll go for a Landa win though.

Right, onto stage 1 now…

The Route

Not exactly an easy day to start the race off with!

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@LasterketaBurua

Rolling terrain mixed in with some steep climbs. The stage is all about the final 25km though.

We have a tough ascent of Schlögelsbach, 3km long and averaging 9.1%, and it’s not even categorised. Tricky enough to put some riders in trouble, it will be interesting to see if any teams decide to take up pace-making duties there.

A technical descent then follows before some more rolling terrain as the riders reach Innsbruck and the final climb up to Hungerburg.

At only 3.6km long there shouldn’t be too many time gaps, but with an average gradient of 7.3% we might see some probing attacks from GC riders. The finish reminds me of the final climb we had at the end of stage 2 last year, although this year it is not as steep!

Contenders

GC rider or a punchy climber? That’s the conundrum I’m dealing with just now. I guess with the start-list we have, there is a lot of crossover between the two!

Thomas and Landa probably start as favourites. Both exceptional climbers, they have the added advantage of being able to pull off a 1-2 punch. With Thomas returning from altitude, it will be interesting to see how he fares on his first day back in the peloton. However, with some tougher stages to come, will they keep their powder dry? Probably not, expect an attacking closing climb from them!

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The finish isn’t ideal for Pinot, yet again, he was 2nd on the stage into Fermo in Tirreno last month. With no Sagan here, he has a much better chance of the win this time round! However, he hasn’t raced since Tirreno so it is yet to be seen where his form is.

Dennis might give it a nudge and in this quality of field, he certainly has a chance of stealing the victory, but I’m not overly convinced. Instead, I think BMC should also let Caruso have the chance to lead the team. The Italian is a criminally underrated domestique who climbs well and has a fast finish. He could well win a sprint to the line from the climbers.

I can’t really see anyone from Astana winning the stage. Scarponi isn’t explosive enough and the climb is probably just too long for Moser. Maybe Luis Leon Sanchez might have a go?!

Formolo definitely offers Cannondale their best chance on this type of terrain. Like many here, the young Italian is building towards the Giro and will want to put in a good performance. He’s been a bit off the boil so far this season but has shown glimpses of what he can do in races like Catalunya. Maybe Villella can even hang on?

This type of finish though does open it up to some riders from the ProConti teams and there are a few I’d like to highlight.

Busato has still to take a professional victory but he was flying in Appennino until the crash. This type of finish looks good for him, although on his limit, and I think he could surprise a few people!

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Firsanov was the first to cross the line behind Landa on Stage 2 of this race last, which had a very similar finish compared to tomorrow’s climb. As I mentioned above, he’s been poor this year so far, but his form seems to be heading in the right direction. Not someone to be properly marked, he has a good shot at taking the stage win.

Finally, relatively unknown rider Danilo Celano is worth a mention. He was the eventual winner of Appennino, flying up the final climb. Riding here for the Italian national team, if he’s retained any of that form then he is a proper dark horse for the win. Keep an eye on him!

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Prediction

I’ll go for none of the above though and instead opt for young Colombian sensation Egan Bernal to take the victory.

After making his breakthrough performance at this race last year, winning the young riders classification, he’s continued his development with some great results this year. The explosive, steep gradients of the finish climb suit him well and he has a handy sprint after a tough climb, if a group of 3 or so arrive at the summit together.

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Betting

No GC bet, so just stage 1 picks all with Bet365;

4pts Bernal to beat Pozzovivo  @5/4 (he was 11/8 but I was waiting for stage odds, would take down to 10/11 lowest)

 

 

Thanks as always for reading as always! Who do you think will win the opening stage? Will we see a lesser known rider take the spoils? I hope to see an attacking/exciting finale. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Volta Catalunya 2017 Stage 7 Preview; Barcelona -> Barcelona

*Apologies in advance, this preview has taken the brunt of me trying to do 3 in a day so it’s fairly short and sweet!*

Today’s Recap

Can I claim that it was kind of a breakaway day? Even I think I would be pushing my luck with that one!

We had a really exciting day of which the exciting part was not televised. The peloton splintered after around 40km of racing with a group of 50 riders ahead, but second placed Froome in the group behind. The gap hovered at around a minute for a long time but the elastic eventually snapped and the Froome group rolled in 26 minutes down!

It was Daryl Impey who won the stage in a reduced bunch sprint, ahead of Valverde and Vichot.

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Will this have an impact on tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

We finish the race with the traditional circuit around Barcelona.

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@LasterketaBurua

This stage is all about the circuit, the opening Cat 2 climb is inconsequential!

The Alt de Montjuic on its own isn’t too difficult, but when it’s repeated 8 times over 50km then it certainly takes its toll.

I’ve made a Strava profile of the final circuit that you can view here.

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Like always with Strava profiles, you can smooth out the sudden peaks, but you get a good idea from it anyway!

The riders will mainly be either climbing or descending for the majority of the circuit so it’s a route that really favours the puncheurs. The second little kick on the course averages roughly 5.9% for 700m. So a split can be made here before the down-hill run to the line.

Last year’s race was very attacking, but that was due to the time gaps between the favourites being minimal. This year we have larger gaps but that still doesn’t mean it won’t be an attacking race!

Saying that though, Valverde is the best one-day racer out of the GC riders and he’s in the lead so it will be very hard for any one to beat him.

Contenders

I think we’ll see something similar to last year where some strong one-day racers take the stage, while the GC riders mark each other behind. So I’ll through two names into the hat for that situation.

*Thankfully I didn’t start this section before today’s coverage as there were a few riders I wanted to include who were too close on GC, but now they’re not!*

Jarlinson Pantano.

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The Colombian has been a great domestique for Contador this race but was caught up behind the split today. He’s now way out of contention and with his team-leader more than likely settling for 2nd on GC (after today’s failed probing attack), Pantano may be given the nod to chase the stage. Currently in exceptional form, he has a good chance of going better than the third place last year!

Geraint Thomas.

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After their truly disastrous stage today, Sky will approach tomorrow in a typically bullish way. They’re a bit short in numbers but Thomas  is a great candidate for the stage. He is clearly in great form just now, although admitted he felt poor on the stage to Lo Port. If he has recovered from that blip, then the final circuit should be suited to his abilities. With a gap, he could be tough to bring back!

A few other outsiders I think could go well are Davide Villella and Ondrej Cink, but it will be tough to beat the other two!

Prediction

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you will know I love a tenuous reason to help my selections…

Pantano to win in front of his mum who’s following the race, and go better than he did last year!

Betting

(All B365)

0.6pt WIN Pantano @ 20/1

0.6pt WIN Thomas @ 15/1

0.15pt WIN Villella @ 66/1

0.15pt WIN Cink @ 150/1

 

Thanks for reading and apologies again for this being shorter than normal. As much as I enjoy writing about the sport; trying to combine writing 3 normal length previews on a Saturday and have some time to socialise is too much!

I might have something out for De Panne or Limburg, but if not it will be Flanders that I’ll be back for next weekend! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.