Tour de France 2018 Stage 18 Preview: Trie-sur-Baïse -> Pau

Today’s Recap

Shock horror, the grid start was terrible. Nothing exciting really happened from it and nothing great really happened until the final climb. A group of attackers had got away on the opening ascent and it was Tanel Kangert who was the last man standing out of them. However, he was swallowed up and past on the climb by a flying Nairo Quintana. The Colombian followed an initial attack by Dan Martin and dropped the Irishman not long after that move. However, Martin dug in deep and stayed almost consistently 20 seconds behind the Movistar man. With a lot of small attacks followed by looking around and Sky tempo in the Yellow Jersey group, the duo stayed ahead to finish 1-2 on the day.

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Thomas came home in third place after following Roglic’s late attack, before going on to drop the Slovenian and Dumoulin. One of the big shocks of the afternoon was Froome struggling with the reigning champion losing 45 seconds on his team-mate. Bardet also had a “jour sans” and dropped three places in the GC.

It should be a rest day for the overall candidates tomorrow though as a flat day in the saddle awaits.

The Route

Pretty dull day for the viewers with only two Cat-4 climbs on the route.

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I mean there’s not really much to talk about here at all. The final categorised climb that crests with just under 19km to go could be a springboard for an attack but that’s about it!

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There are a few roundabouts to contend with in the closing five kilometres, including one as they just pass under the Flamme Rouge.

As you can see on the video above though, that given the wide roads the roundabouts aren’t really a massive issue. That is assuming we even get a sprint though…

How will the stage pan out?

With Sagan taking a tumble today there is a chance that he will just want an easier day tomorrow, especially when you consider he already has three stage wins under his belt and the green jersey sewn up: if he makes it to Paris. Démare has really struggled these past few days and no doubt will be knackered so will FDJ pull all day for a sprint that he might not win? Ironically with the two better sprinters on paper not in tip-top shape it might actually encourage a few other teams to try to control the break in an effort to set up their man. Maybe Kristoff can nab that win he so desires?

However, I think the likelihood is that we will see a break make it all the way to the line tomorrow as no one will have the energy to chase them down. I’m not too sure if it will be one of those massive breaks that gets let go and the group might be surprisingly small, but you never know. I think it might be 10-12 riders who sneak away.

Time to play everyone’s favourite game again…

TheBreakawayLottery

Break Candidates

It will be interesting to see who gives it a nudge to go in the break tomorrow as the flat route could bring some new names to the fore as the puncheurs take a back seat and wait for Friday. So here goes nothing…

Maciej Bodnar.

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Strong the other day to help pull the break along for his team-mates, the easier terrain should suit him down to the ground. A powerful rider who is often seen at the front of the bunch pacing the peloton, will we see him ahead of the bunch tomorrow? I imagine Bora will be in an attacking mood if Sagan is feeling sore.

 

Thomas De Gendt.

Mr Breakaway, this morning De Gendt talked about having a quieter day  before having a tilt at tomorrows stage as he thinks the sprint teams will be too tired to control the race. He was on the fruitless attempt when Sagan won his last stage but any move that he makes is dangerous. With Stage 19 possibly too difficult for him, tomorrow is his last chance for a win and he’ll go all in.

Oliver Naesen.

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With Bardet struggling today, Naesen might be given a free role in a stage that suits him as one of the strongest barodeurs in the peloton. He’s barely had a chance to show what he is capable of so far in this race and as a result he might want to put on a good performance. If it comes down to a 5 rider sprint he will take his chances.

Julien Vermote.

Dimension Data have had a terrible race so far with no real result to speak of. They could possibly look to a sprint with Boasson Hagen tomorrow but going on the offensive is their best chance. Vermote is another one of the peloton’s strong men so getting into the flat break should suit him well. When he gets into situations like this he is quite tenacious so expect him to ride in an attacking manner.

Prediction

No firepower left to set up the sprint and the breakaway maestro takes another Tour stage win. Step up Thomas De Gendt!

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Betting

0.75pt WN De Gendt @ 100/1

0.75pt WIN Naesen @ 100/1

0.25pt WIN Bodnar @ 300/1

0.25pt WIN Vermote @ 500/1

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think has a chance tomorrow? Will the sprinters come to the fore or will the break succeed? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 19 Preview; Caso. Parque Natural de Redes -> Gijón

Today’s Recap

What a Vuelta the Lotto old-boys are having!

It took a while for the break to go but once it was up the road, that was it gone for the day. Sky mobbed the front of the peloton and no-one seemed overly keen to chase.

In the end, it was a duel between Armée and Lutsenko on the final climb, with the Belgian taking his first pro win. Not bad for someone who is 31 years old. Maybe age just is a number after all?! Visconti sprinted up the final hill to round out the day’s podium.

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There were some GC gaps behind, but nothing too crazy. Lopez being the worst off out of the top 10, losing 37 seconds to Froome.

With only the Angliru left of any major danger, it does look like the Brit has the GC race sewn up.

Unless of course we see any bold attacks tomorrow. Speaking of which, let’s take a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

If today’s stage was close to 100% ideal territory for a breakaway, tomorrow’s parcours hits the full house!

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Too tough for any sprinters team to control, not really difficult enough for the GC contenders to make their mark.

The peloton will descend from the gun almost and it is most likely that we’ll see our break of the day formed on the Cat-1 Alto de la Colladona.

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A fairly hard start to the day, especially when the first kilometre of the climb is false-flat and makes the average gradient a bit shallower!

Expect only fresh riders and good climbers to make the break if it does go here. Although unlikely, I wonder if we’ll see any early GC attacks. I live in hope…

The riders will then face two Cat-3 climbs in the middle of the day; Alto de Santo Emiliana (6.8km at 4.5%) and the Alto de la Falla de los Lobos (4.3km at 8.2%).

The second of those climbs is obviously steep, but it comes awkwardly positioned in the stage and it really shouldn’t be of any major impact to the day’s events.

However, the same can’t be said for the final climb of Alto de San Martin de Huerces…

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Short and steep, this could be a flash point for both the breakaway and the GC riders. The steep gradients will be a real grind and with almost three weeks of racing in the legs, some might surprisingly struggle.

Cresting with just 15km to go, if a rider has 15-20 seconds over the top then they should make it all the way to the finish line.

The descent into Gijón does have a few tricky turns but it isn’t overly technical. The downhill turns to flat at roughly 4km to go as the riders make their way through the outskirts of the town before finishing along the beachfront.

How will the stage pan out?

It is a fairly short stage, so there is a chance that some of the GC teams might try to keep things together and cause some chaos but with Angliru looming and Froome looking solid, that is very unlikely.

So here we are, yet again, playing everyone’s favourite sweepstakes.

TheBreakawayLottery

Breakaway Candidates

I’m tempted to treat myself to 5 names today. How exciting…

To make the break, assuming it goes on the opening Cat-1, a rider will have to be fresh or a good climber. The two of those seem to go almost hand in hand at the back end of a Grand Tour but there are room for some surprises.

Thomas De Gendt.

The Belgian breakaway expert has been fairly quiet as of late in this race, not making as many moves as would be expected of him. Is fatigue setting in, or has he been saving himself for one last dig? He produced a good TT on Stage 16, finishing in the top 20 that day so there must be some form there. At the Tour he made the winning move on Stage 19, can he repeat that tomorrow? I think so.

Odd Christian Eiking.

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A new name for the list and possibly an unusual one. It took a lot for me not to use the expected pun there! Nonetheless, the young Norwegian is a talented rider who took his first pro win earlier this year. A strong climber, he finished fairly well on today’s stage after sticking with the GC group for a lot of the day, coming in just behind Lopez and ahead of Van Garderen and Chaves. Can he turn those good climbing legs into a result tomorrow? Let’s hope he makes the break and we’ll find out.

Soren Kragh Andersen.

He seems to have recovered from the illness that was hampering him a few days ago, as he was in the second group that returned to the GC favourites once the pace had slowed. It depends if the team give him the OK to go and hunt the break because there is a chance he might have to work for Kelderman. If he does make the move, he has the explosiveness to go well on the final climb of the day. I wouldn’t want to take him to a small sprint, that’s for sure.

Nicolas Roche.

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The Irishman said pre-stage today that he would try something. Unfortunately that didn’t come to fruition and he missed the break. I’m sure he’ll be gunning for it tomorrow as the finish looks ideal for him. On a 4km climb like that he should be able to follow most who are up ahead and if he descends like he did on stage 10, then he could easily get a gap on the downhill. Enough to take the win? Quite possibly!

Matvey Mamykin.

Everyone’s favourite young Russian climber. Wait, he isn’t? Just @padsbets and I it is then! Mamykin was strong today in aid of Zakarin and was one of the driving forces behind that impromptu Katusha team time trial. He might be rewarded tomorrow with the freedom of going on the attack. At this point in the race with riders form all over the place, it might be the perfect time for him to also take his first pro win. It seems to be the done thing nowadays!

Vuelta Picks

Much the same as the past few days;

Safe Pick – Kruijswijk.

Choose a random GC guy and hope they come home near the front of the bunch. I assume we’ll see some attacks on the final climb so it should be the case.

Wongshot Pick – Mamykin

He’ll be your favourite Russian climber too!

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Houle

What the Houle…

Prediction

Break to stay away and Søren Kragh Andersen to take the win!

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Betting

As it’s unlikely I’ll be backing anything on Angliru, this could be one of the last days of punting so I’m treating myself.

Roche 1.25pt WIN @ 20/1

De Gendt 1.25pt WIN @ 25/1

Eiking 1pt WIN @ 66/1

Andersen 0.75pt WIN 100/1

Mamykin 0.75pt WIN 150/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

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

Today’s Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Route

Another up and down kind of day for the riders.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will the stage pan out?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contenders

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

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

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

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

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

An outsider that I am interested in is Valgren.

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

Prediction

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

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Betting

1.5pt WIN Boasson Hagen @ 9/1

0.5pt EW Dumoulin @ 50/1

0.25pt EW Valgren @ 125/1 

(all with Bet365)

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Volta Catalunya 2017 Stage 3 Preview; Mataró -> La Molina

*Apologies – this preview will be short and sweet as I myself am short of time having to do two write-ups this evening. Normal service shall resume tomorrow!*

Today’s Recap

A charging Movistar won the stage by 2 seconds ahead of BMC, with Team Sky finishing in third.

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However, the BMC riders were not happy with some of the Movistar riders pushing their team-mates and started a trial by social media. For some strange reason, only a few of the Movistar riders were punished by the commissaries, not the whole team. Either way, it’s a farcical end of the day to a fairly dull and uninspiring stage. Moving swiftly on to tomorrow!

The Route

A day back loaded with climbing. Credit for the route profile once again goes to @LasterketaBurua.

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It’s the exact same finish to the third stage from last year.

The two cat-1 ascents before the finishing climb will certainly tire the legs but I can’t see them being overly demanded for the peloton. Unless of course a team were to come to the front and set a really tough tempo.

As you can see in the above video from last year, time gaps will be minimal at the end of the stage if we don’t get a team take it up from far out.

The finish isn’t that difficult and suits the punchy climbers such as Dan Martin and Valverde.

How will the day pan out?

We could well see a break make it all the way. There are already sufficient gaps on GC to some good enough climbers far down on the standings for them to get away and not be a threat.

Movistar are traditionally hapless at chasing down breakaways when you think they would be nailed on to, so I wouldn’t trust them 100% to close it down for stage favourite Valverde. They’ll be hoping the likes of Sky, Trek and BMC help, but after today’s farce, I’m fairly certain the American team won’t be lending a hand!

Possible breakees include Weening, De Gendt (who won the Queen Stage from a break here last year), Navarro and Geniez.

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In the Peloton

If we do get the more likely option of a GC battle on the mountain then look towards those further down in the order to be given a bit of leeway when they attack.

There are plenty of high quality riders that are 2 mins down that won’t be given a second look if they make a move.

Last year’s winner Dan Martin is one of those. The Irishman seems to be in very good form just now, picking up a 3rd on GC in Paris Nice. This finish climb is tailor-made for him and I would be surprised to not see him on the podium at the end of the day.

Cycling: 96th Volta Catalunya 2016 / Stage 3

Romain Bardet will be looking to make amends after his disqualification in Paris Nice. The Frenchman is quite a punchy climber with a decent uphill sprint so could challenge here. He certainly has no fear when attacking! Pierre Latour gives AG2R another option, he looked good in the Queen Stage at PN.

Ilnur Zakarin will want to repeat his dogged sprint that saw him beat Thomas in PN last year. The finish on that day reminds me of this one. The Russian is certainly a sight to behold when gunning for the line.

Rafal Majka could give it a nudge but he had a fairly poor Tirreno so his form might not be there yet.

I’m intrigued to see how Jakob Fuglsang goes. The Dane has had a quiet season so far but has been there or thereabouts, can he go better here?

Any of the Cannondale climbers could be there but they’ve had an awful start to the year and I would even avoid them with a ten-foot barge pole.

Prediction

I wouldn’t trust Movistar to chase the break, but I do think Sky and Trek will eventually lend a hand and we should see a GC winner. I’ll go for someone further down the order to slip away, Romain Bardet to win.

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Betting

Could and maybe should be a no bet day, but that’d be boring. Although after my past few weeks, back with caution. 😉😂

Bardet 1pt WIN @22/1 with Betfair/PP

plus a handful of breakers (0.125pt WIN each all Betfair)

Weening @ 250/1

De Gendt @ 500/1

Geniez @ 80/1

Navarro @ 150/1

Thanks for reading and apologies for the shorter preview. How do you think tomorrow will play out? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 4 Preview: Betanzos -> San Andrés de Teixido

Today’s Recap

An unusual day’s racing and not the desired outcome from the blog’s prediction perspective, but it was still an exciting day full of drama!

Due to a lack of co-operation behind (no-one worked with Sky), the break’s gap managed to grow massively before the penultimate climb. Something then clicked in the peloton, but it ended up being too late. All of the break was caught apart from Geniez who held on for a memorable victory.

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Behind, the GC touch-paper was well and truly lit! We got some relatively large gaps for what was only a 1.7km climb. Ruben Fernandez brought the peloton home and now leads the GC by 7 seconds over his team-mate Valverde, with Froome a further 4 seconds back. Both Chaves and Quintana are 17 seconds behind. Three Movistar riders in the first 5, ominously strong! Contador again lost time, and now sits 1’20 behind Froome, not great.

Let’s look ahead to tomorrow’s mountain top finish.

The Route

Following today’s stage that was back loaded with climbing (totalling 2,980m), the climbing tomorrow is a lot more evenly spread out throughout the day. However, there is still an awful lot of ascending to be done: 3,295m to be exact (according to the road book).

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The first climb of the day should see the break escape, meaning it will more than likely be a strong one, made up of very good climbers. The course then rolls for the rest of the day, tackling another Cat-3 climb, before reaching the final test of the day.

The Cat-2 San Andrés de Teixido.

The finish is very reminiscent of that at the end of stage 6 at the Giro, which Tim Wellens won from a breakaway. It’s actually two separate climbs, but it creates a much clearer picture if both of them are combined. Again, I’ve created a strava profile (view it here).

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The first section is 5.5km long at 6.4%, nothing too stressful for the main GC contenders. This then leads into a fairly short descent of around 1.5km before it kicks up again. The descent itself although short, is relatively technical and goes down narrow roads. We could see someone try to get a gap here.

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The second half is more challenging, coming in at 4.1km in length, averaging 7.3% However, the climb is anything but steady. There are several changes of gradient with some sections topping 12% and even another 200m of shallow descending. It makes finding a rhythm quite difficult, something that is common here at the Vuelta!

What does this mean for tomorrow?

Aside from what I’ve said, I still don’t think the final climb is tough enough to make any real difference in the GC. There may be a 20 second spread between the top 10 but I can’t see anything more than that. None of the GC riders aside from Froome & Chaves have looked great so far, so I can’t see them using their teams to chase, leaving it all to Movistar.

With the time-gaps that have already opened up after today and Movistar’s eagerness not to work then its breakaway day again tomorrow. Of course, Movistar will more than likely chase if there is a rider up the road who can threaten the GC lead but there are plenty of quality riders who are far enough behind that a good, strong break can make it.

Like in previews gone by, I’ll highlight three riders who could potentially win tomorrow if they make the break!

Angel Madrazo. 

 

A fan favourite, Madrazo was the first man on the move today, however, he was brought to heel pretty quickly. He’s clearly been tasked with trying to get into the break. Picking up a win earlier in the year, he’s had his best season so far. Moving away from Caja next season, he’ll want to go out with a bang during this race and reward his team/show his new employers what he can do. A very good climber on his day, the last climb is well within his capabilities if he makes the move. Being a former Movistar rider too, they might be kind and let the move stick, you never know. He would be a very popular winner!

Dries Devenyns.

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The Belgian rider has had a fantastic year, climbing exceptionally well, claiming a 10th place at San Sebastian recently. He’s much better on short climbs compared to the longer stuff but the constant change of gradient tomorrow should suit him very well. With a return to Etixx sealed next year, like Madrazo, he’ll want to show his new employers what he can do. Furthermore, he’ll want to take advantage of the freedom that he has at IAM. He is one to watch if he makes the move!

 

Thomas de Gendt.

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Stage winner at the Tour earlier in the summer, De Gendt is long thought of as a breakaway expert. Not racing since the Tour has seen him take a slow start to this race, but I prefer to think that he’s saving himself and targeting stages and tomorrow looks right up his street! If not tomorrow, he’ll be in the break later in the race.

Prediction

Breakaway days are notoriously difficult to pick, so I’ll keep this short and sweet.

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Madrazo will be successful in his attempt to get away tomorrow, joining the break that sticks. He’ll solo away on the final climb, taking a magnificent win to the delight of Twitter!

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Betting

Due to the nature of the stage, I’m not backing any of the riders EW.

0.2pt Madrazo @ 150/1 with PP *I’d take 66/1*

0.15pt De Gendt @ 125/1 with PP. *I’d take 33/1*

0.15pt Devenyns  Not priced up anywhere.

Update –

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Hope you all enjoyed the preview, do you think the break makes it tomorrow? Any feedback and discussion is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.