Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 16 Preview: Santillana del Mar -> Torrelavega (ITT)

Rest Day Recap

Amazingly, we had the GC teams fight out for the stage win for the second day in a row. Something must be up…

On Lagos de Covadonga it followed a similar pattern for a few kilometres after Astana had done all the pace work and it was identical almost to Stage 14: Lopez attacks, Quintana chases; Quintana attacks, Lopez chases. This happened a good few times before a decrease in pace saw the GC group almost crawling their way up the mountain. Pinot took advantage of the looking around and with his not-immediate threat to GC, he was let go. Phony attacks kept happening but now Yates and Mas were getting involved too. The on-screen graphics/timing were way off as Pinot had a much more comfortable margin than it appeared and he ended up taking the stage win by almost 30 seconds.

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Lopez eventually managed to get a bit of a gap but with Yates’ sprint for third place behind, he only gained a few seconds on his rivals in the end.

A lot has been made of Quintana, his lack of an offensive mindset and wheel sucking escapades, but to me he did nothing wrong. He put in a couple of attacks himself and closed down Lopez a few times before being on the limit. It is hard to attack when you’re on the limit and everyone else is climbing at 6.2w/Kg.  Yates then berated him for not working but I just don’t think Nairo had the legs, if so, he still wouldn’t have been hanging around then. Furthermore, Valverde did enough pulling for Quintana to sit back and rest up once he was in the red. Just sticking up for my little Colombian, that’s all!

Anyway, yesterday’s result still leaves things very much up in the air going into the final week with the top 5 on GC only separated by less than 1’30. Will we see a big change after the important TT tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Billed by PezCycling before the race as “fast and flat”, I would like to know what they’ve been smoking! Have they not been paying attention to the Vuelta in the past few years and know that Javier Guillén is the biggest patter merchant around?

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As with all TTs, I’ve made the whole route (as you can see above, obv) and you can view it directly on VeloViewer here.

I’m somehow missing a kilometre from the route (no idea how that has happened as I’ve followed the map perfectly) but anyway, according to the Strava/VV profile there is 547m of elevation gain and LaFlammeRouge suggest 425. Call it evens and go for 480ish? Either way, the TT is certainly not “flat”!

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The riders will be aware of this almost as soon as they leave the start ramp because they face a one kilometre climb that averages 6% pretty much straight away. A nice one to get the legs opened up on…

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After the short descent, the terrain then constantly rolls for the following 10kms, including an 800m (6% average) climb on what looks to be a very narrow road.

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Once over that climb the riders rejoin the main road and slowly start to head South. Yet, it is only 2kms later until they start to head upwards again with the following test.

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Taking place on a twisty road, the 2.1km at 5.3% will be tough on a TT bike and it will be tough for some to settle into a rhythm despite the fairly consistent gradients.

All of the above happens in just the opening 14kms. Again, I would like to remind you that some have said this is flat, ha! To be fair, the remaining 17kms of the day are much easier and will be a lot faster for the riders as it is mostly descents and flat they will have to contend with.

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That doesn’t mean there is no climb though because as soon as the riders turn onto a two-lane road and head East towards the finish they have to face a 2.2km drag that averages 3%.

With 10kms to go I can say that all the main climbs of the day are over with and they will have a descent and flat-ish run to the line because as of course given this is Spain, there are still a couple of small drags here and there.

Can anyone stop Dennis?

I asked the same question before the opening day against the clock and the answer was no. I think it is most likely the same for tomorrow. However, there are question marks over his ability to cope with the distance but a few of those poor performances have been down to bad luck; whether that be a crash or numerous mechanicals. Yet, those will still linger over him a bit.

He did reverse things a bit at the Giro when he won the 34km long TT there in the final week of the race but that was his first pro TT win in a distance that was over 20km. It was a convincing performance though and a sign that things might be changing and that his endurance has picked up.

Furthermore, it all depends on where his form is at just now. Obviously he is building towards having a good tilt at the Worlds but we haven’t seen him at the front all race. It really is an unknown.

Nonetheless, he does start as the clear favourite and it will be hard to beat him.

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But not impossible. I don’t call him the best short TT rider in the World for nothing, he has yet to show consistency over the longer distances.

Two Main Challengers?

After Kwiatkowski’s fall the other day, it looks as if the two who can challenge Dennis’ potential domination are Campenaerts and Castroviejo.

The former showed some good form when in the break last week and he is the type of TT rider who can deal with some hills so the course is good for him. Likewise the same can be said for Castroviejo who will certainly get an advantage of riding in front of his home crowd. However, he is much like Dennis in that we haven’t really seen him do anything all race so far. I think he’s been resting up and will be fine tomorrow.

Rule Of Thumb #1

For the opening TT I mentioned a rule that you have to back either a BMC, Sky, Jumbo or Sunweb rider for a time trial as they always seem to produce the best results. On that day 7 out of the top 10 were from those teams and I think we might see a similar-ish spread tomorrow. Although the longer course does give opportunities for stronger riders in other teams to shine.

Rule of Thumb #2

We’re in Spain.

Spanish riders always go well in Spain and so do Spanish teams. It is just the way it is. They just need to be a little less obvious about the moto drafting than the Italians and Aru/Ulissi at the Giro.

Rule of Thumb #3

We’re now into a third week of a Grand Tour so the GC riders often throw up some surprise results in the TT. Have a look back at the TT result last year in the Vuelta, the top 5 on that day were the top 5 riders on GC. Albeit before the start Dennis had to pull out in the morning so there wasn’t a proper TT test, aside from Froome himself being one.

Rule of Thumb #3.5

It’s after a rest day and some riders perform better after a rest day. As to why that is, well, we’ll leave that for now.

Any outsiders to go watch?

Oliveira has a good chance of delivering another solid result. He is always a consistent performer in these types of TTs.

Gallopin is riding as well as I have seen him all year and he is in my opinion one of the better GC TT riders. He has lost time over the past couple of mountain stages but he should have the power to go well in this TT and he might surprise.

Zakarin’s GC chances were ruined by a fall early into this race but he is the type of guy who can pull out a very good effort against the clock when needed.

How will the Top 5 GC riders fare?

Yates – His TT has got better and he *only* shipped 1’37 to Dennis in the Giro. Tomorrow’s slightly more rolling terrain does suit him better than that day and we have seen over the previous stages that he is the form rider here. He can have really bad days on the TT bike so you never really know with him. He will still hope to be in red after the stage.

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Valverde – The man who is most likely to overhaul Yates, Valverde has been strong throughout this race, only losing a handful of seconds on the summit finishes. Arguably a stronger rouleur than Yates, he is theoretically a better TT rider. Plus, when you account for Rules 2 through 3.5 above, then he has a good chance of getting into red. He’s finished in the Top 5 a total of 22 times in TTs throughout his career (not including nationals) and 18 of those were in Spain.

Quintana – Really needs a big turnaround as to me he just didn’t seem to have the legs the last two days, which is somewhat odd, as he looked very comfortable on La Camperona. He’s done well in TTs in Spain before but he has also struggled an awful lot in TTs. The times he has gone strongly have been when he has been climbing well. Unfortunately, I think he’ll lose a chunk of time.

Lopez – Everyone seems to think Lopez is a great GC TT rider but hot take: he’s not! Don’t worry though, I too have fallen for the 2016 Tour de Suisse performance before. I think he was helped massively that day by the rolling course and that the TT was at quite a high altitude. His performance in the Giro was dire, even though he looked like one of the stronger climbers. Will that be the same tomorrow? I think so.

Kruijswijk – Arguably the most consistent of the GC riders in an effort against the clock, the Jumbo rider should deliver a solid time that will more than likely vault him very close to Lopez and Quintana but I think it will be difficult for him to overtake them with his current deficit.

Special mention goes to Kelderman who I would be ranting and raving about had he not massively gone pop yesterday. Likewise Ion Izagirre who has lost some time too.

Prediction

I think it will be tough for anyone to topple Dennis but I’m going to put my neck on the line and say that someone will, just for the fun of it…

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The stars will align for the current Spanish champion who I think has been saving himself for this day since the start of the race almost. He might also get the advantage of some friendly motos…

Fun fact, since 2015 he currently holds a 3:1 lead over Dennis in TTs that they’ve both competed in which have been over 20km. Food for thought!

Betting

A sensible decision would be a no bet but when playing for fun, then why not…

1pt WIN Castroviejo @ 12/1 (various bookmakers)

4pts Castroviejo to beat Campenaerts @ 5/4 (WillHill)

Then it wouldn’t be a GT TT without a stupid acca…

0.5pt on this 5-fold

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Thanks as always for reading, hope you enjoyed the preview! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone stop Dennis? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour Down Under 2018 – GC Preview

Tour Down Under 2018 – GC Preview

So with the women’s race now finished, it is time for the men to take centre stage over the coming week with the riders battling it out to take home Ochre. A race that has been dominated by the Australians in recent years, with the last 4 GC titles going to the home riders; expect to see some fast racing coupled with sweltering temperatures.

It might not have the best race route in the grand scheme of the cycling season but given its position as the season opener, I think most of us will take it!

Richie Porte - Willunga Hill 2017

After finally getting his hands on the GC win last year the King of Willunga (a.k.a Richie Porte) is back here to defend his crown along with a strong BMC team. In fact, the last 3 winners of the race are all riding for that outfit this year, which is very ominous for the rest of the field. However, they won’t have it all their own way and there are certainly some other riders out there who could challenge their dominance.

First, let’s have a quick look at what is in store for the riders over the six days of action.

The Route

I won’t bore you here though, as I’ll have plenty of time over the coming week to drain you with an in-depth route analysis of each stage. This will simply be more of an overview!

There are three stages that are most likely to have the biggest impact on GC, although that could change if the wind blows strongly on some of the more exposed days. We saw the women’s peloton battered by cross winds through the Barossa Valley.

Stage 2 is the first important day with the traditional finish in Stirling.

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A rolling circuit that will see the peloton whittled down, some of the stronger sprinters will be happy to see that the organisers have reduced the number of laps that they will complete. Back in 2016 when Jay McCarthy won this stage, the riders had to contest with 6 laps, but this time it will just be 4. In theory, this should make it easier and see the stage switch from a puncheurs finish to more of a strong sprinters day. However, this of course all depends on how aggressively the teams race. If the fast men of the peloton are eliminated from the group then it is a great chance for the likes of Haas and McCarthy to pick up some valuable bonus seconds in their fight for GC.

Stage 4 will see the peloton tackle a new finish here at the Tour Down Under, featuring a climb that is well-known by the local Aussies.

Santos Tour Down Under 2018 - Stage 4

Norton Summit is not a new climb for the Tour though, with it being used right at the start of Stage 4 in 2016. It took the riders roughly 11’30 to complete the climb that day but I imagine that time will be faster this year round given it’s position on the course. Once over the “summit” the riders will have 7.5km left but instead of a drop straight down, they’ll instead face a kilometre or so of false flat before an uncategorised ramp up Woods Hill Road. Could this be a launchpad for a late attack? With only 3.5km of shallow descending all the way to the line, it certainly could be.

Stage 5 will once again play host to the summit finish of Willunga Hill.

Santos Tour Down Under 2018 - Stage 5

If the GC is still close at this stage, then it will all come down to the final ascent of Willunga. Porte has owned this climb for the past four years and he’ll hope to make it five in a row this time. Will it be enough for the overall title though? From a tactics point of view, it is much easier to ride a defensive race on Willunga than attacking one, as it is a difficult climb to make massive gains on. Although lil’ Richie might have something to say about that…

GC Contenders

Given the recent form of the Australians at this race, they’ve won 6 out of the last 7 years, then it is really hard to back against them on their own turf.

Porte comes into the race as the bookmakers favourite and rightly so given his performances on Willunga the past few years. If everything is kept together on stages 2 & 4, with his opponents not gaining any bonus seconds, the race is his to lose. However, this is the least suited route to Porte for a while and I think he’ll desperately miss the Paracombe finish that we had last year. He might well win on Willunga again, but I don’t think it will be by as big a margin as he has done in previous years.

McCarthy will be waiting in the wings, hoping to capitalise on the new stage and sprint for some bonus seconds on days 2 and 4, feasibly giving himself a 20 second buffer going into Willunga. He’s a rider that I have grown fond over and one that I had backed when he took out the stage in Stirling in 2016. At the Aussie Nationals recently, he looked incredibly strong, sprinting away from the chase group in the closing few hundred metres. His trajectory in this race has been on the up as well, with a 4th in 2016 and a 3rd last year. Will he go one or two steps higher this time around?

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Haas is a rider similar to McCarthy and he too will be looking to nab some bonus seconds on stages 2 & 4. With a winter move to Katusha, the former Dimension Data rider comes here in some good form with a 5th place finish in both the road race and time trial at the Aussie Champs. An attacking rider, he will no doubt give it a go on Stage 4 in an attempt to get clear. However, I sometimes think that he is too attacking; using up a lot of his resources before it is necessary. Will that be his downfall again?

Can a non-Aussie win?

Probably not.

Some might suggest Sagan has a chance, especially after his strong showing in today’s criterium. However, he will be here for training more than anything, possibly getting involved in a few sprints but nothing more than that.

Ulissi is a very solid finisher and will no doubt again be in or around the top 5 but I can’t see him having enough form early in the year to take the win. Yet, he is the type of rider who could well prove me wrong! His team-mate Rui Costa might be another to watch, he was flying at the start of last year.

Bernal arrives here as Team Sky’s best chance on paper, the young rider is truly exceptional. His form will be unkown but as we’ve seen with Henao in the past, Colombians seem to go well here. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go with the best on Willunga, but his lack of a sprint might let him down for the overall.

Prediction

I’ll go for none of the above to win though.

Instead, I’ll suggest that Rohan Dennis will take home another Tour Down Under title.

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The current Aussie TT champion blitzed away his opposition recently, putting over a minute into a very lean Luke Durbridge and almost two minutes into team-mate Porte, regaining his title with ease. He DNF’d the road race, but I think he was using that race as training more than anything else.

Almost have way through his “4-year GC plan”, this should be the year where he takes another step forward in that quest. He certainly looks very fit going by some of the pictures I’ve seen floating around social media over the past week. There has also been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between himself and Porte as to who the leader of BMC will be for the week, both downplaying their own chances and talking up their team-mate. First race mind-games!

With the introduction of the interesting finish on stage 4 this year I think it is very beneficial for a team to have two possible winners in their squad and I’m sure BMC will use that to their advantage. Norton Summit looks ideal for the powerhouse and Dennis certainly has the TT engine to attack and hold a gap, especially with Porte and possibly Gerrans behind marking out any efforts to close him down.

Being in Ochre going into Willunga means BMC will be able to ride a defensive race, and who wouldn’t want the King of Willunga himself to act as a super-domsetique for you that day?! Porte should be able to keep things together and Dennis won’t lose enough time to be toppled, with Porte even nabbing the bonus seconds away from his competitors on the line.

Simple!

Betting

First race of the season so it would be rude not to have a flutter on the GC market. I tweeted it out a few days ago but…

1pt EW Dennis @ 20/1 with Coral/Ladbrokes.

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. I hope you enjoyed my first men’s preview of the season. I’ll be back with daily stage previews of the Tour Down Under starting from tomorrow. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Men’s Individual Time Trial World Championships Preview – Bergen 2017

Last year saw Tony Martin smash the opposition on a pan-flat course in Doha but it is very unlikely he’ll manage to defend his title this time round. In fact, the second (Kiryienka) and third (Castroviejo) finishers from 2016 have a better chance than the German.

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Will any of them be able to match the big favourite for the event Tom Dumoulin? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders over the afternoon.

The Route

The riders will complete almost two full laps of what has been known as the “short” circuit for the TTs that we’ve had over the previous days.

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The laps are rolling but not overly difficult and the riders should be able to maintain a fairly high-speed of roughly 50km/h or so.

The biggest test they will face out on the route is a staggered climb that starts at roughly 5km into the day.

Bergen Short Lap Climb

At an average of only 3.5% for 1.5km in length, the more traditional TT riders shouldn’t lose too much time here. With that being said though, some of the steeper ramps involved in the climb do allow those who are less gravitationally challenged to gain a bit of an advantage. Nonetheless, it is one for the power riders to attack and it shouldn’t make a massive difference either way unless someone is on a bad day.

Tomorrow though is all about the final 3.5km which have been well documented about in the run up to these Championships with the ascent up Mount Floyen.

Mount Floyen

Tough!

So tough in fact that we will inevitably see bike changes in the special bike exchange zone just before the climb itself.

At an average of 9.3% for just over 3km this test will put to bed the hopes of Martin etc who are far too heavy to go close on this type of route. It is similar to the Mont Brouilly TT that we had in Paris Nice earlier in the year, but the closing climb is even harder here in Bergen.

Weather Watch

With the riders starts being so spread out due to the lap nature of the course, Lutsenko is first off at 13:05 while Martin starts at 17:03, then changing weather could no doubt have a massive impact in the outcome of the race.

You can view all of the start times here.

Once again, varying reports suggest different things, but we are sure to get rain at some point throughout the day.

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Source: Yr.no

After a fairly accurate forecast for today Yr.no suggests that the riders will be in for consistent rainfall throughout the day, but it will pick up more for the riders who are starting their efforts towards the end of the 3rd wave and those off at the start of the 4th wave.

The “big hitters” going off at close to 17:00 might not have the same levels of rain fall but they will have to contend with a wet route.

That is of course assuming that the forecast is close to being correct!

Ultimately though, I don’t think the weather will play too big of a part in the outcome of the race, with the rider’s legs doing the talking so to say.

Bike Change Kerfuffle

One of the hotly debated topics in the run of to tomorrow’s race is if rides will change from a TT bike to their road machines to tackle Mount Floyen.

Such a fuss was kicked up that the UCI have designated a specific “bike exchange zone” that is 20m long and is located just before the start of the climb. If you have watched any of the action over the past few days, you’ll recognise the section as the slight cobbled drag the riders have had to contest with.

The whole thing doesn’t sit right with me if I’m being honest. Yes, they should be allowed to change a bike if they want to, but there shouldn’t be a specific zone. Furthermore, by the sound of it riders will have a mechanic waiting road-side to make their change more seemless. In my opinion if a rider is wanting to change bike then it should still have to be taken from the roof of their following car. But hey, what do I know!

There is also a lot of confusion as to the rules that are to be followed in the exchange zone. I’m sure if you have been on social media today then you will have stumbled across videos of riders practicing their change-overs. In most videos you will see the riders get a 10-15m push from their mechanics to get them up to speed again.

Except, this is not allowed according to the UCI. I have a feeling that it might be a bit of a kerfuffle tomorrow!

If there is no pushing allowed, is that running and pushing, or just a static push? The latter isn’t so bad but it will need a UCI commissaire there to make sure everyone is doing it properly. Will they have the guts to DSQ a favourite if they make an improper change? I guess we’ll just have to wait and find out…

Contenders

Tom Dumoulin.

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On paper this is the Dutchman’s race to lose. He arrives here as arguably one of the freshest riders in the bunch, with this TT being his main focus in the second part of the season. He’ll be one of the fastest over the rolling section and the short climb where he can push out a lot of Watts is ideal too. We witnessed what he can do on an uphill at the Giro and more specifically with his win on Oropa. Can he handle the pressure of being the favourite?

Chris Foome.

The likely contender who is having his best ever season. Following on from winning the Tour, the Brit went on to clinch the Vuelta with a rather dominant performance, completing an unprecedented Tour-Vuelta double. The craziest thing is that when finishing the Vuelta he didn’t even look that tired, which is really ominous for his competitors here. Furthermore, a 31km effort isn’t going to add much to his current fatigue levels so he has as good a chance as any.

Rohan Dennis.

The Aussie looked very strong in the TTT and was putting his team-mates into the red which could have potentially cost them the title. The shorter length of the TT is great for Dennis who is the best short TTer in the world, a title awarded by me! However, although he is a good climber, I think he might struggle on Floyen. Furthermore, he is known to go out too fast and if he does that tomorrow, then he will go backwards on the final climb.

Vasil Kiryienka.

World Championships - Mens TT

Champion back in 2015, he is a rider who always turns up and performs on the big stage at the Worlds. A diesel engine, TTs of over 30km are good for him as he only seems to properly get going after 20km! One of Sky’s super domestiques, he will no doubt crush the opening two laps of the route but I’m intrigued to see how he goes on Floyen. He shouldn’t lose too much time, but compared to some of the better climbers he might struggle. Will he have enough experience to see him through?

Primoz Roglic.

One of the breakthrough riders of 2016, the Jumbo man has taken a step up in his performances this year. A very strong all-rounder he could be great tomorrow. However, his form has been a bit hit or miss lately and he did struggle at the Worlds last season. A year on though will he cope with the pressure better? I’m not so sure and I think he will fall flat. I’m ready to be pleasantly surprised though.

Jonathan Castroviejo.

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He is my dark horse for the podium and possibly better. Although saying he is a dark horse is unfair but that is what he is according to the bookmaker’s odds! His performances at the World’s in the past three years have been 10th/4th/3rd; a nice bit of progression and similar to Garfoot in the women’s race. Furthermore, he has shown form in longer TTs such as his Euro Champs win last year and 4th place at the Olympics. It was his 3rd last year on a completely flat course that really impressed me. Given his smaller build, he should in theory struggle on the flat and go better on the hills. Tomorrow’s route looks a lot better for him than last year! His build up to the race hasn’t been great with a bit of a lacklustre performance in Britain but he is a classy rider who has to be given some respect.

Jungels, Kelderman, Bodnar, Campenaerts and Küng will all be fighting for the top 10.

Prediction

I nailed my colours to the mast almost a week ago; Froome to win.

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As I’ve said above, he looked unbelievably fresh at the end of the Vuelta and if he has carried that form, which I think he will have, then he should win here.

Dumoulin to follow him home with Castroviejo to equal last year’s result in third!

Betting

I tweeted this out a few days ago;

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I would say that he is still back-able at the 4/1 or even 7/2 you an get in some places. So I’ll play up some of the profits from today’s women’s race..

Froome 4pts WIN @ 4/1 (with William Hill)

Castroviejo 1pt EW 125/1 with Bet365 (would take 80/1 or even 66/1)

He is just so massively overpriced – falls into the value bet like Garfoot today.

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see the expected dual between Froome and Dumoulin? Or will another rider cause an upset?

Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Tour de Pologne 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Tarnowskie Góry -> Katowice

Today’s Recap

Orica and Bora controlled the break for most of the day and they had them within touching distance at 40km to go. Not wanting to catch them too early, they let the gap extend again, eventually reeling them in just before the start of the final circuits.

There were a few attacks off the front from Oss and Marczynski, followed by Martinelli in the closing kilometre.

However, they were all in vain as it was brought back for a big bunch sprint. Sagan launched relatively early but his acceleration was immense and he quickly got a gap. Ewan tried to close, and he did, but the finish line came too soon, the World Champion took the win!

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Van Poppel finished fast for Sky to take home third.

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

The Route

Another day that if you looked at the official profile, you might be confused for thinking this is a day for the puncheurs. Alas, it is another sprint.

TDP Stage 2 Profile

We finish with the same circuit that we’ve had in Katowice the past few years and it has thrown up a few surprising results.

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The circuit itself undulates a little bit but the climbs aren’t too difficult. However, taken at increasing pace they will wear down the legs a little bit for the sprint. That is if we get a sprint…

It’s almost a guarantee that someone will try to attack before the finish. Just after the 2km to go mark the road does rise all the way until the roundabout where the riders will make a “180-degree” turn. The rise itself averages 2.8% for 750m. Enough to cause a bit of panic in the sprinters teams if there is a bit of a stall in chasing.

Final 2km Stage 2 Poland

The downhill run to the line makes it a very odd sprint where riders stay seated most of the time. It is a sight to behold!

It sometimes produces an odd result where a rider can sit in the slipstream and pop out in the final 50m to seize the day. Van Genechten’s win in 2014, video above, is a great example of that.

A tale of two sprinters – again?

It was clear today that Sagan and Ewan are just a cut above the rest of the riders here.

The World Champion in theory suits tomorrow’s finish even more. A stronger rider, he should in theory be able to put a lot more power into the pedals while seated. We saw this at the Tour de Suisse where he trounced everyone in a slightly downhill effort on the final day of racing. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him double up tomorrow. There is always a concern with Sagan though that he gives a chance for a team-mate to go for glory, especially now that he has his own stage win. Maybe Baška?

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However, Ewan can’t be counted out. He finished very fast today, indicating that he is in good form. With Mezgec as his lead-out man he should be put into a good position, but will he be able to finish it off?

They won’t have it all their own way on a finish like this.

Van Poppel – Looked strong today, finishing very fast. If he’s in a good position tomorrow he could finish higher than 3rd.

Minali – Likewise, I was impressed with the Italian. He was the first to launch his sprint and held on strongly for 4th. He looks like a powerful rider so a seated effort might suit him.

Bonifazio – Fast but poorly positioned. The ultimate hot and cold sprinter. He seemed to glide through the peloton when I had backed him on the opening road stage of the Tour de Suisse, but it was too late as Gilbert already had the stage won. Can he make amends tomorrow?

Late Attack

We saw today that the finish was very chaotic with riders coming up in dribs and drabs to try to control the peloton. With Sagan and Ewan seemingly the strongest here, a few of the other sprint teams might not co-operate and it leaves a gap open for a strong rider to attack.

Vakoc tried his hand two years ago but was swiftly brought to heel. A few years stronger, I think he has the power to get a gap and maintain it if there is some hesitation behind. He’s one to watch out for as Quick Step don’t have a sprinter here. The Czech rider did provide 10 seconds worth of excitement back in 2015 when I had backed him at 400/1…

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If not him, maybe Terpstra will give it a go?

Dennis is another rider who could squirrel away. BMC like QS have no designated sprinter and they were interested in trying something today. Tomorrow’s stage is a lot more suited for a late attack. Could anyone stop the best short TTer in the world if he gets a gap?

Prediction

Most likely we’ll get a sprint and most likely it will be Sagan who’ll take the win again!

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I think Minali can sneak onto the podium if he times his effort better, he looks good just now!

Betting

Not taking a risk on Sagan at his price but I do think Minali is a good EW play, plus a bit on Vakoc, for old times sake;

0.9pt EW Minali @ 16/1 with Bet365

0.2pt WIN Vakoc @ 200/1 with Bet365

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be a bunch sprint or will a late attacker prevail? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Cefalù -> Etna

Recap

Stage 3 wasn’t as fraught with crosswind danger as I was hoping for, but we did get some action in the last 10km. Quick Step were the main protagonists behind the splits that we did get and their young Colombian sprint sensation, Gaviria, duly delivered the result taking first place and the Maglia Rosa too.

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Selig took second, with Nizzolo coming home in 3rd. It was a frustrating watch for me with 200/1 man Jungels looking the strongest in the group! There was one moment that a gap started to form and even with my incandescent shouting at my TV, telling him to “Go!”, Richeze decided it was a great idea to close him down.

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Richeze spoiling my fun

Still miffed about that, but oh well!

Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders after the early rest day.

The Route

Toughest stage of the race so far with two very long climbs, including a summit finish up Mount Etna.

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The first climb of the day, Portella Femmina Morta is an absolute monster in terms of length, coming in at a whopping 32.75km! Gradient wise it’s not so bad, averaging roughly 4.5% for the whole climb.

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It does pitch up to 8% in some areas but it’s certainly not a climb for attacking, just tempo riding all the way to the top.

We then have a reasonably long descent before the first intermediate sprint, which is actually on top of a hill. But I guess the organisers needed to fit it in somewhere! The road then descends again before the second intermediate sprint in Biancavilla.

From there, all focus will turn to Etna and the approach to it.

The riders will be able to stretch their legs on the prelude to the main event, an uncategorised climb from Santa Maria di Licodia to Ragalna. At 6.6km in length and average a shade over 5% it’s not tough, but if the pace is on already then we could see a few riders shed from the peloton here.

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At 17.95km it’s another long climb but it is steeper than the previous climb on the day, averaging 6.6%. However, the most important thing about the climb is its irregularity. There are several sections that go well above the average gradient and the kilometre at almost 12% half way up could be a launch-pad for the proper mountain goats to attack.

Will they go on to take the win though…

How will the stage pan out?

The first mountain top finish of a Tour is a tough one to predict (getting my excuses in early). You would expect Quickstep to honour the jersey, but how deep will they really be willing to go knowing that it might be tough for Jungels at the end of the stage to hold onto it? I’m not sure if they’ll burn all their matches and instead will look to other teams for help.

Who of the GC favourites will want to take the jersey early and spend energy over the following stages protecting it until Blockhaus?

Well, I’m sure Nibali would. The Shark as he is affectionately known is from Sicily itself, but more importantly he is from Messina where we finish stage 5. I’m sure he would love to wear the Maglia Rosa into his home town.

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Will his Bahrain team get any help from anyone else? I’m not so sure, but Sky certainly have the squad here to control the race if they want to. It’s the first time I’ve looked at a Sky team for the Giro and thought that it could match what we have seen at the Tour over the past few years. With a two-pronged threat in Landa and Thomas they have the ability to let one attack while the other sits in.

There is going to be a slight headwind on the climb and that might discourage riders from attacking but given that it’s the first summit finish of a Grand Tour I highly doubt everyone will sit in the wheels!

With it being the first summit finish though and as it comes so early in the race there is a chance we could see an “outsider” win. A rider who is a good top 10 candidate but isn’t seen as an immediate threat for the overall GC.

In that situation there are two riders I have in mind.

Domenico Pozzovivo – The Italian looked very sprightly at the Tour of the Alps and he was a feature at the pointy end of the race in the mountain top finishes. He always seems to wane in the last week of a GT so I imagine he’ll want to take advantage of his current form here. Due to his terrible/atrocious/awful (delete as appropriate) time trial, he probably isn’t viewed as a massive threat for the GC, so he might just be given some leeway.

Tejay van Garderen – He probably would have been the last rider on my list from the GC contenders had you asked 2 weeks ago who I thought would be competing here. However, he was very strong in Romandie and that has changed my mind! Like Pozzovivo, Tejay often is let down by having one bad day at some point during a three-week race so he will want to make the most of his form. He might surprise one or two tomorrow!

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Breakaway Hopes?

There is always a chance that the break stays away on a stage like this. Last year’s race saw Wellens win the first mountain top finish of the Giro. Although that finishing climb was a lot easier, we could still see a similar situation play out tomorrow. I think QS would be quite happy to relinquish jersey duties and as I mentioned above, I’m not so sure many others will want to take over this early.

Therefore, I think it’s a 50-50 split and it’s a tough one to call! Like normal though, I’ll buy a few lottery tickets and name a couple of break contenders.

Rohan Dennis – Bitterly disappointed after his crash on Stage 3, the Aussie says that his GC attempt is all but over. However, he says that he will continue and see how far he can push himself in the race, trying to take some opportunities over the next few weeks. Why not start tomorrow?! He is in very good form at the moment and looked strong in the Tour of the Alps, although he did have one bad day there. Nonetheless, I think if he makes the break it is unlikely that there will be many better riders than him that are up the road as well.

Giovanni Visconti –  Riding for Nibali’s Bahrain team, Visconti may be sent up the road earlier in the day as a ploy to have a man up the road for a Nibali attack. However, if the gap is too big to the breakaway then Visconti himself could challenge for the win. Always lively at this time of year, he’ll be hoping to repeat something similar to his very impressive performance on the Green Mountan in Oman from back in February.

Prediction

I’m looking forward to a good race but I think there is a chance we might see a race on two fronts, with the break taking the stage but there still being some fireworks behind. I’ll go for a feisty Australian to turn things around from the break, Dennis to be a menace and win!

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If not, I think we might see Pozzovivo take a surprise win ahead of the other GC contenders.

Betting

Not a day I can advise backing GC guys before the off, although the EW odds on my two highlighted riders look tempting, it’s just not worth it. The odds won’t change too drastically after the start of the stage so I might go in-play on them if it looks like it will be a GC day, but pre-stage I’m just backing my two breakers;

0.5pt WIN Dennis @ 150/1 with Ladbrokes/Coral (Would take 125/1)

0.5pt WIN Visconti @ 150/1 with Bet365 (Would take 125/1)

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow and how will the stage be won; break or GC? I hope we get an exciting stage either way! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Fight for the Maglia Rosa – Giro d’Italia 2017 GC Preview

Fight for the Maglia Rosa – Giro d’Italia 2017 GC Preview

With the Spring Classics now finished the peloton moves into the next phase of the season, starting with the Giro d’Italia. Arguably my favourite Grand Tour out of the three, the race celebrates its 100th edition this year with a spectacular route.

Last year’s race saw a dogged Nibali win the overall on the penultimate stage, with Chaves in second and ever-green Valverde rounding out the podium.

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Would he have won if Kruijswijk hadn’t famously crashed? I guess we’ll never know, but no doubt the Dutchman will want to make amends this year.

The Route

As I’ll be doing daily stage previews, this section won’t be that extensive at all!

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Stage 1 will should see a sprinter take the leaders jersey, but they will be hard fought to hold onto it the following day where an opportunist might seize his chance.

Stage 4 could see an early GC shake up before we get a few more sprint/opportunist stages. We’re then treated to the big mountain top finish at Blockhaus on stage 9.

A rest day follows, but so does the first TT of the race and no doubt Dumoulin will be hoping to take over the leader’s jersey here. Over the next few days there are more rolling, testing routes before the final rest day.

It all kicks off in the final week though with one of the wackiest routes I’ve seen; the amount of climbing is crazy!

However, it may all even come down to the final TT into Milan as it is certainly long enough for there to be large time gaps.

So…

Contenders

Nairo Quintana.

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Where else to start than with the clear favourite? The Colombian had a “poor” Tour last year but still managed to finish on the podium and he followed that up by winning the Vuelta at the end of the year. So far this season he has shown impeccable form in the stage races he has taken part in, we’ll just not mention the shadow boxing at Abu Dhabi. In his last build-up race (Vuelta Asturias) and his first since a long period in Colombia, he managed to take a stage win but couldn’t take the overall title. In fact, on the two main climbing days he was unable to drop the eventual winner Raul Alarcon. I guess he doesn’t want to peak too early if he’s going to do the Giro-Tour double!

Thibaut Pinot.

After talking him up for Tour success last season, he failed miserably after falling ill and losing all form. Dare I say that he looks as good as he did before that Tour? So far this season he’s beaten Contador on a mountain top finish and he was never outside the top 5 on any stage at the recent Tour of the Alps. An improved time trial rider the Frenchman really has a great chance at the podium and without the pressure of a home crowd we might see him thrive.

Tom Dumoulin.

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The Sunweb rider has had a fairly light race schedule so far and has spent a lot of time recently at altitude camp with some of his team-mates. He made his return to racing at Liege and finished a respectable 22nd place. The Giro is his main focus this year and with the number of TT kilometres he has a very good chance of going well. Yet, his TT ability is regressing as he becomes more of a Grand Tour contender, which is quite refreshing to see actually. I still have reservations about his abilities to cope in the high mountains and the final week might be a step too far for him I think.

Steven Kruijswijk.

Would he have won last year’s race if he had not crashed? I guess we’ll never know, but he certainly looked comfortable up until that moment. Another rider who’s season is based around this race, the Jumbo rider got a scare in Yorkshire last week after being involved in the crash on stage 1. Luckily, it seems to be nothing serious but withdraw before the final stage just to make sure. He’s a solid TT rider and will hope to use that to his advantage.

Geraint Thomas.

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The first of two Sky riders on the list, Thomas has really taken another step forward this season in his quest for Grand Tour success. Forever the loyal second in command to Froome at the Tour, he will have his own chance to go for glory at the Giro. Fifth on GC at Tirreno after the mess that was Sky’s TTT was a hint at what was to come and he looked imperious in the recent Tour of the Alps, taking overall victory. I have said for a while (at least since my Trentino preview) that he will go well at this race and I have seen nothing to make me think otherwise! A podium finish is on the cards.

Mikel Landa.

Thomas’ biggest threat could come from within his own team, but the two riders have shown that they have a good working relationship and compliment each other well. Landa for a while has failed to live up to his lofty expectations but he looked ominously strong in the Alps, doing a massive amount of work in support of Thomas. Could Sky get two riders on the podium in Milan?!

Vincenzo Nibali.

The defending champion has had a fairly good early season by his standards but arrives at the Giro as a relative outsider in my opinion. His team is a lot weaker now at Bahrain than compared to when he was at Astana last season, although Pellizotti and Siutsou did look strong in Croatia but that was against lesser opposition. Nibali will want to be in Pink after the Etna stage so that he is in the race lead going into his hometown. Can he hold that peak for the remaining two weeks of the race? I doubt it, but he does always seem to surge again after the last rest day!

Adam Yates.

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Another rider who’s had a relatively light race schedule this year, I have been impressed with his form whenever he has been active. Without an overly strong team, he’ll have to do a lot of the work himself but with a 4th place at the Tour already on his palmarès there’s no reason why he can’t replicate that result here.

Ilnur Zakarin.

Fighting for podium honours last year until he crashed out on Stage 19, Zakarin has been a bit “hit or miss” so far this season. He looked strong on the Queen Stage in Abu Dhabi but was lacklustre in Romandie. A top 10 is certainly on the cards, but I can’t see him breaking the top 5 this time round.

Bauke Mollema.

An ever-present rider in the top 10 at the Tour, this will be his first time riding the Giro as leader. He was in scintillating form at the start of the season but he has went off the boil a bit since. Nonetheless, you can’t write the dogged Dutchman off due to his consistency in the big races and he should be in contention going into the final week.

Tejay van Garderen.

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The final rider on the list, I’m not sure I would have included him if he didn’t look somewhat promising in Romandie. He managed the second fastest time up the Leysin climb on the penultimate stage of that race behind his team-mate Porte. The following day he produced a very solid time trial which will give him a lot of hope considering the amount of TT miles in this Giro. However, he still seems to always have one bad day and I can’t help but think that will happen again to him this year.

As for the likes of Jungels, Formolo and Dennis, they’ll be in or around the top 10 but nothing higher.

Prediction

It’s got to be Nairo, doesn’t it?!

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However, I do think he will susceptible to losing time in the opening couple of weeks and this is where his rivals will need to make ground before the Colombian smashes the last week.

I’ll go with Pinot and Thomas to round out the podium.

Betting

No bet.

I personally have Thomas at 25/1 EW but he’s no longer value at the price available.

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win? Can anyone stop Quintana? I shall be back again tomorrow with my stage 1 preview! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Tour of the Alps 2017 Stage 3 Preview; Villabassa -> Funes

Another brief preview as this is the third of the day and even though I love cycling, I’m slowly losing the will to live writing this one. Plus, with one route change already, who knows if there might be another tomorrow!

Today’s Recap

Heavy snow fall meant the race was shortened by 60km which may have had an impact on the outcome of the stage at the end of the day. Either way, I was hopelessly wrong again which isn’t good. I haven’t got to grips with this race yet and I don’t like it!

Dennis powered his way home ahead of Pinot and a very impressive ride from Ballerini who got up for third.

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A total of 67 riders finished on the same time as our Aussie winner, which is definitely a lot less selective than I thought it would be.

Swiftly moving on to tomorrow!

The Route

The original route has already been changed once due to snow and that might happen again tomorrow morning!

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They’ve taken out the big climb at the start of the day but we still have the long and steep Alpe Rodengo Zumis to tackle, which crests at just under 40km to go.

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A very tough climb and it will be freezing at the top of it! I wonder if any teams will risk taking up the pace this early?

Once over the summit, we have a long descent followed by around 25km of valley roads before reaching the foot slopes of the final climb of the day.

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Another tough climb, although easier than the previous Alp in the day, the gradients are severe enough for some big time gaps. Especially when you consider the conditions look set to be pretty grim, with a good chance of rain/snow throughout the afternoon.

Contenders

GC day so only the best can compete here;

Scarponi v Pinot v Thomas v Pozzovivo v Dennis v Formolo.

The last rider on that list, Formolo, seems to be the weakest going by form at the moment so I’ll discount him.

Dennis was good today but I’m still not convinced by him on long climbs and the 8.7km test to finish tomorrow is right on his limit. So…

its a no

That leaves us with 4.

I had discounted Pozzovivo at the start of the race, because if I’m honest, I think he’s past his big performances and has never really looked the same after his horror crash in the Giro. However, he looked good on stage 1 but there is a difference between a 3km climb and an almost 9km effort. So he’s out as well!

A fine trio remain.

Scarponi surprised everyone on Stage 1 taking a great sprint win. On that climb he looked composed and relatively comfortable on a stage that really shouldn’t have suited him. The longer efforts are more his forte and he should appreciate tomorrow’s slog to the line.

Pinot was a bit out of position at the start of the climb on stage 1 but slowly made his way back to the attackers, eventually finishing. He then went and improved on that today with a good second place and that trajectory could well continue tomorrow! On a finish like this and in this field, he is probably the rider with the best pedigree.

Thomas will be hoping to change that over the coming weeks though. He has been incredible so far this year and I’m convinced he can podium at the Giro. Strong on stage 1, he just didn’t have enough in the tank to drop everyone. A longer climb may help him fatigue the others before putting in a stinging attack.

Prediction

I’ll go for a Pinot win.

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Just like his namesake wine, the Frenchman is much better when chilled.

Betting

No bet. Odds too tight and the risk of another route change is too high.

Apologies again for this being short, but with the two other previews today, this one was always going to take a hit. Nonetheless, who do you think will win tomorrow’s stage? We might even see another route change in the morning. 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.

 

Tirreno Adriatico 2017 Stage 7 Preview; San Benedetto del Tront -> San Benedetto del Tront (ITT)

Today’s Recap

We got a sprint in the end and it was Gaviria who took the win, edging out Sagan.

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A prelude for next weekend?

Cavendish was no where to be seen. He annoyingly only seems to do well when I’ve not picked him! Oh well, on to tomorrow’s final stage. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

 

The Route

A fairly simple, pan-flat, 10km individual time trial.

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Nothing challenging parcours wise for the riders, unless of course you’re a lightweight climber!

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The course isn’t technical either, just a simple out and back pretty much, with only a few 90-degree turns thrown in.

It’s certainly one for the specialists and strong men of the peloton.

Weather

It should be a fairly sunny day with little chance of rain.

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Forecast for San Benedetto del Tront (Source: WindfinderWindfinder)

As you can see in the image above, it looks as if it is going to be a reasonably windy day on the Adriatic coast, with the wind speed picking up mostly around midday.

This will unfortunately hamper the early starters, because on an out-and-back course, the increased tailwind speed does not negate the increased head-wind speed. It’s the opposite in fact!

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Source: Sheldonbrown.com

So if we do get the forecasted wind tomorrow, that should favour the late starters.

Contenders

We have two world-class time trial riders here at Tirreno.

Tom Dumoulin has started his season in imperious form and a good performance tomorrow could see him finish in the top 3 on GC of another stage race. A great TTer, I’m sure he would have preferred the course to be slightly longer and have a little climb in it somewhere. Nonetheless, as he proved at the Giro last year, he’s still no slouch over a short, flat route!

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His biggest rival will be Rohan Dennis. I’ve been very impressed with the Aussie so far this race and he’s already sitting in a podium position, but I’m sure he’ll be aiming further up than the third he currently occupies. One of the best short TT riders in the World and to be honest, I would strongly argue that he is the best! He was flying as part of BMC’s TTT effort and I expect much of the same from him tomorrow.

Aside from those two, there are a plethora of riders who could duke it out for stage honours or a podium placing on the day at least.

Primoz Roglic almost beat Dumoulin in that Giro TT, missing out by less than a second, in what was a breakthrough performance for him. He seemed to struggle a bit in the TT at the Volta ao Algarve recently, so a transformation in to more of a GC rider may have hindered him in that respect. Nonetheless, he could still pull something out the bag!

Geraint Thomas could put in a shift here. The Sky rider has been in sensational form this Tirreno so far and I’m sure he’ll be ruing the awful TTT, otherwise he could well be close enough to Quintana to take the title. A bit inconsistent in the discipline recently, the shorter distance will suit the former track rider.

Jonathan Castroviejo won the TT in Algarve recently over a similar parcours, apart from that stage being ever so slightly longer. The Spaniard is a very good on flat TTs considering his slight nature and he is certainly a danger here if he’s still going well!

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Ryan Mullen was going exceptionally well in Algarve and if it hadn’t been for an untimely mechanical, he may have been challenging for the win. He’s been rolling around here for the past few stages, poor form or one eye on tomorrow?

Matthias Brandle has been doing a fair bit of work on the front of the bunch for his team-mates this week, but like Mullen, he’s then rolled home on every stage. He was bitterly disappointed with his performance in Andalucia, but the course didn’t really suit him then. This flatter parcours does and he certainly has the abilities to sneak into the top 3.

Can everyone’s favourite Swede, Tobias Ludvigsson step up and deliver a good result? Like others, he’s been doing a lot of good work for his team leaders and looked solid in the TTT. In Strade he looked particularly annoyed (smashed his handlebars) after a mechanical and long wait for the car forced him to abandon, so I think he must be in reasonable form. Finishing 9th in Andalucia with a dropped chain isn’t a bad result, but he’ll need to avoid crashing/bad luck for once if he’s to go well here!

There are several other riders in with a top 5 shout depending on their performance on the day; Durbridge; Kiryienka, Dowsett, Van Emden and Kung to name a few!

Prediction

The best short TTer in the World wins this!

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Dennis is absolutely flying right now, his high GC placing is testament to that, and there is no one here who can match his speed over 10km. I always back him in time trials of this length and probably will continue to do so for a long time. Well, apart from when I picked him in the preview for Stage 2 of Eneco last year but didn’t put any money down.

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I’m not letting that happen again. The beacons are lit, and Rohan will answer!

Betting

Another big day and the price is tight, was hoping for 7/4 at least, but yeah…

Dennis 7pts WIN @5/4 with Bet365 (would take evens)

Mullen 0.5pts EW @150/1 with Bet365 (paying 3 places at 1/4 odds, would take 80s)

Plus the 4-fold @5.69/1. 2pts on.

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Thanks for reading as always! Can anyone stop Dennis or Dumoulin? And will we have a shake up at the top of the GC standings? There won’t be any previews on here for a few days but I’ll be back with MSR, the Women’s Trofeo Binda and Catalunya before the Belgian racing starts up again. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Tirreno Adriatico 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Camaiore -> Pomarance

Today’s Recap

Easy win for BMC in the end!

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I did say Team Sky were my outsiders if something crazy happened, but I did not expect a wheel explosion! It was an awful TT for them, with Landa and Rosa also suffering punctures, resulting in them losing 1 minute 42 seconds on the day. They’ll have to have an attacking race to salvage something now.

Could tomorrow offer an opportunity? Let’s take a look.

The Route

A long, long day in the saddle for the riders at 228km. Good practice for Milan – San Remo I guess though?!

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Nothing really happens in the first 120km of the stage but once they’re into the final 100km the road is up and down all day.

The longest climb of the day is up to Volterra.

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9.85km in length, it averages 4.45% in gradient so not overly difficult. It will be interesting to see if any team comes to the front and increases the pace.

After that, we have a descent followed by some valley roads before we reach our penultimate climb of the day. There’s no official information in the road book about it, but I’ve managed to locate the Strava segment (I think!). View it here.

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It’s 4.4km long, averaging 5.2% in gradient. However, as you can see, the climb itself is very irregular with some ramps above 15%. Cresting at just over 20km to go, will it be a launchpad for an attack?

Another fast descent follows as we head to our uphill finish in Pomarance.

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A punchy finish is what I’d certainly call it; a few steep ramps separated by a lot of false flat. It’s the same finishing town that we had last year, with Stybar winning, but it’s a slightly different finale this time round.

How will the race pan out?

This stage in theory could suit a multitude of riders, with the likes of Sagan and EBH potentially fancying their chances at the line. However, I think after the events that we saw today, tomorrow will be a much more explosive and attacking day than initially thought.

Late attack? Reduced sprint? Group of 5 or so get away? They’re all possibilities!

Sky will be really bitter and embarrassed after today and with almost being out of the race already they will have to change their approach to a more aggressive one. Not something they’re used to! I reckon they’ll get Kiryienka to set a fairly tough pace on the penultimate two climbs to try and get rid of the fast finishers such as Sagan and co. Or at least some of their squad mates.

So in my scenario we might have a peloton of 75 riders or so approaching the run in to Pomarance and then we get some fireworks.

I’m going to do my usual in this situation where the stage outcome is tough to call and name a few riders and how they can win it…

Mattia Cattaneo.

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The Italian has started the season very well with his new team, picking up the win in the final stage of La Provence. He was on the attack again in Industria mid-week, but could only manage 4th there. Nonetheless, he still seems to be on good shape! As part of the Androni squad, no doubt Giani Savio will be demanding that his riders are attacking throughout the stage. They’ll put someone in the break but save Cattaneo and Gavazzi for the end of the day. It would be bad for the peloton to underestimate him when he makes his move in the final 5km!

Rohan Dennis.

The rider who finished second on the stage Cattaneo won in La Provence, Dennis managed to hold on for the overall title. He seemed in scintillating form today in the TTT so he should manage this climb easily. Apparently he wants to be a legitimate second GC option here for them, so a win and some bonus seconds would help his cause! With his TT prowess, if he gets a 10 second gap then he will be tough to reel back in. Also, if the race is made too tough for GVA (will need to be ridiculously fast paced), then he will be the teams sprint option.

Diego Rosa.

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As I mentioned above, Sky will not be very happy after today and will want an immediate response. With 4 potential options on a stage like this, I imagine Rosa will actually be the one least marked. He is a brute of a rider and is capable of riding away from everyone behind on the tougher lower slopes of the climb. With a lack of co-ordination behind he could manage to hold on!

Prediction

I’ll go for an outsider from a favourites team, Rohan Dennis to win!

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Betting

After today’s big stakes, I don’t want to get overly involved in tomorrow’s stage. Swithered about going EW but have decided against it!

Dennis 0.6pt WIN @ 100/1 with Betfair/PP (Would take 80s)

Rosa 0.6pt WIN @ 50/1 with Bet365 (Would take 33s)

Cattaneo 0.3pt WIN @ 66/1 with Betfair/PP

 

Thanks for reading like always! How do you think tomorrow is going to play out? I’m hoping for an exciting last 100km. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.