Dubai Tour Stage 4 Preview; Dubai -> Hatta Dam

*So I’ve just woken up from a nap after writing this out before the route-change. There is an amended section (in italics) at the bottom which takes into consideration the new route very briefly. However, unfortunately or hilariously, depending on how you look at it, I placed my bets just there before checking Twitter to see said route change.  Erm, so yeah… 😂  The parts of the original preview that no longer apply are still in this, just with a strikethrough.*

Today’s Recap

A really weird stage that was both incredibly exciting and dull in equal measures. The “two-halves” cliché springs to mind! It ended with Degenkolb taking a very messy sprint ahead of Van Rensburg and Colbrelli.

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The first half of the day saw the peloton shredded to bits out in the desert as the winds swirled up a Sandstorm.

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Someone in the front group even got a bit Darude to Kittel in the ensuing chaos and an elbow connected to the Germans head. That rider, Grivko, has now been disqualified from the race! There seemed to be a rider-led neutralisation of the stage for a while to sort out the kerfuffle and this allowed the group behind to rejoin the front of the race and we once again had a full peloton. This happened to be when the international feed for Eurosport went live and from then it was another classic, boring Dubai sprint day. A real shame as it was a stage the promised a lot.

As for the blog punts, the neutralisation put an end to any surprise winner. Vliegen was up the road in the days breakaway, with Trentin and Moscon making the front split. So who knows how it could have played out! In the end, the regrouping did allow Fenn back in who beat De Kort in the matchbet, but with Vliegen being out in front all day he rolled home in 40th, whereas his team-mate Gerts finished 17 places ahead of him. Swings and roundabouts!

Oh well, moving onto tomorrow and the day that will shape the GC!

The Route

Facing the riders is the now classic finish up the Hatta Dam Wall.

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In a carbon copy of last year’s stage, the riders will traverse the desert, then a few testing ramps before the Dam Wall itself.

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The finale tomorrow is as much about positioning as anything else. You need to really be within the first 5 riders as you make the turn to start the climb if you want any chance of winning.

Silvan Dillier holds the Strava effort for the climb at 32s which he attained during last years race. However, it is safe to assume that the winner on that day, Lobato, managed the effort in under 30 seconds given that he finished 4 seconds ahead of Dillier and they started in roughly the same position.

Lobato launched his sprint at the perfect time, getting out of the saddle just as the gradient kicked up, managing to maintain some of his approach speed. He’ll be hoping for similar this year!

With it being such a short effort, it is very possible for the “proper” sprinters to get involved, with Nizzolo and Kittel testament to that last year.

Unlike last year however, there might be a bit more action out on the road beforehand…

Wind Watch

The winds tomorrow are forecast to be even stronger than they were today.

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Forecast at Jebel Fayah

This means that the similar exposed desert region could again be the scene of echelons. With a West -> East wind the riders could face cross-tail and crosswinds out on course in the middle third of the race.

If we do get some crazy sandstorm again, I don’t think there will be any form of truce this time round. I expect it to be carnage out there again tomorrow with no favours being handed out! A combination of echelons followed by some draining climbs will see us consequently reach the bottom of Hatta with the smallest peloton ever, maybe around 20 riders at most. Of course, if things really split up out on course then a small group of 5, or even a solo rider may arrive at the bottom of the climb. But even I think that’s a stretch too far!

What can we take from today’s stage looking ahead to tomorrow?

Well, Cavendish and his team never miss a beat as he and practically the whole Dimension Data team made it into the first split of the peloton. They certainly will be hoping for more of the same tomorrow and I don’t see why it can’t happen for them. Except this time round I don’t think they’ll pander to the needs of the leader’s jersey as much and will look to exploit Kittel if he’s in trouble. Leading on to the next point…

Kittel looked weak-ish in the wind. It never has been a strong point of his. Disappointingly for him, his team wasn’t great either; with a lot of them being caught in that second group too. Unless of course they were 100% on protecting duty with him. The same can be said for Degenkolb and Groenewegen. But in Groenewegen’s case it looked like he was the only one day dreaming as a lot of his team made the front.

Nonetheless, they were all there or thereabouts and I imagine that some, if not most, of them will make up the front split tomorrow. All it takes is for a couple of them to make the front with the majority of their team-mates then their group will be very tough to bring back.

So…

Prediction

Echelon chaos, with only 14 riders arriving at the bottom of Hatta together. Resulting in a surprise winner. I’ll go for a guy who’s already put in a few long sprints this week and hasn’t been outside the top 10 so far. Dylan Groenewegen to take a shock win.

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The sprinters have proven in the past that they can get up and compete on this terrain. The weather beforehand only levels the playing field even more in my opinion!

Am I behind stupid? Probably, but hey it’s only fun!

Betting

Happy to have a few fun punts on the 3 main sprinters as I certainly wouldn’t be backing the top 3 in the market with the conditions we might get;

Groenewegen 0.2pt EW @200/1 with Various (would take 150/1)

Kittel 0.15pt EW @ 100/1 with Betfair/PaddyPower (wouldn’t take less)

Cavendish 0.15pt EW @ 200/1 with Various (would take 150/1)

Kittel > Drucker @1/1 with Bet365 2pts.

 

*AMENDED SECTION *

New Route;

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New profile;

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Wind forecast for Hatta (not sure how much the local landscape will affect this);

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It looks like the road does climb up and down a lot more. However, it only seems to change by 100m in elevation at most at one time, so I’m not entirely sure how tough the climbs will be. Might open it up to a Vliegen style rider. Who knows! The wind might still rip the race to shreds or the hills may protect them. Groenewegen to pull out a masterful display either way! 😉

With myself not being 100% confident in what the route is actually like, the blog changes from a few fun bets to keep you entertained, to a no bet. I’ll be sitting with my Kittel/Cav/Groenewegen tickets hoping for wind to split things up and the climbs not being so severe!

Thanks again for reading! I imagine you won’t agree with me on this one, so who do you think will win? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dubai Tour Stage 3 Preview; Dubai -> Al Aqah

Today’s Recap

Another stage and another win for Kittel!

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Although it wasn’t all plain sailing for the German as he seemed to lose the wheel of his lead-out at around 1.4km to go. However, he was brought back up expertly by one of his team-mates (not sure who!), heading into the closing 500m. He still had a lot do, but proved his power with a very strong late surge, winning relatively comfortably in the end by around a bike-length. Groenewegen held on for 2nd with a fast, and very low Mareczko pipping Degenkolb to the line in third place.

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Mareczko trying his best Ewan impression

Will Kittel make it a hat-trick tomorrow? Let’s have a look…

The Route

Another pan flat day, but we travel from coast to coast, west to east and to a new finishing town of Al Aqah.

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I’ll touch on the desert and the coast in a moment, but the finish itself will be similar today with a sweeping final couple of kilometres. It appears that the race finishes just before a roundabout so it won’t be as messy as it could be, however, it will be fast as the last km is mainly a shallow descent before a slight rise up to the finish again.

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Last 2km profile

Now onto the slightly more exciting bit…

Wind Watch

The section across the desert is an open and exposed highway, the perfect playground for some teams to split the race up in the wind. Taking the average estimated speed from the race itinerary the riders will be in the area at roughly 13:00 local time.

The forecast for Al Malahia (near Jebel Fayah) at that time (source Windfinder) looks like the following.

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A strong tail-wind is all but guaranteed. However, there is a good chance it may turn into a cross-tailwind and that could be dangerous for the peloton. It will mean extremely fast and nervous racing which in turn could increase the likelihood of splits as riders jockey for position or there are an unfortunate touch of wheels. The section just after Al Malahia and before they turn off that road to go through the hills, looks one particular area where echelons can be formed.

Along the coast, we are also set to get strong winds. Now, it could be argued that the hills nearby will weaken the winds but I would imagine that the forecasts for these areas consider that already!

Khor Fakkan is roughly half-way between Fujairah, where the start going up the coast, to the finish. They’re expected to reach the town at roughly 15:00 local time, with the forecast set to look like the following.

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I will be very surprised if we don’t see some type of echelons along the coast tomorrow.

How will the race pan out?

As a viewing spectacle I most certainly hope we get some crosswind action and I am fairly confident it will happen. The riders have enjoyed a couple of relaxing days so far but are fully aware that things are about to get grippy…

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In what way will this affect the race? I’m not so sure. As I alluded to in my GC preview, the sprinters tend to be the riders who cope well in tough conditions. So it will be tough to drop them. Not impossible, but tough! Quickstep and Kittel have looked very strong so is the obvious pick if the bunch does stick together.

Nonetheless I think it will be a messy stage tomorrow so can’t confidently pick a sprinter. Back to my usual self, I will name a few outsiders who might be there if things get wild.

Gianni Moscon.

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The Italian is Sky’s GC man for this race but for him to contend the overall then they need to gain time on Kittel somewhere other than on the Hatta stage. Tomorrow could be that opportunity. They lack their proper classics talent, but Knees and Golas are two very strong riders in tough conditions so will be able to look after Moscon well and attempt to force some echelons. Moscon himself is an incredible talent and a great all-rounder. If there are no sprinters left in the front group he could win from a sprint or put in a stinging attack.

Andy Fenn.

Former Sky rider, the Scot has spent the past few years in the shadows, happily putting in great work for his team-mates in the Classics. He’s a very strong rider, and his move to Aqua Blue sees him step out of those shadows and into more leadership roles. Blythe will be their number one go to guy here, but Fenn is a solid sprinter himself after a tough day. If he manages to infiltrate the front group then he has every chance in the dash to the line.

Loic Vliegen.

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BMC have been very active this race so far, sending riders in the break to get bonus seconds. I think they know that it will be tough to beat Kittel on GC if things stick to the status quo and they make the race easy for him. Therefore, I think they’ll be one of the first teams to try to animate things tomorrow in the wind. Vliegen is another great young talent but his speciality seems to lie in one-day racing. He was 4th in the ridiculously windy Le Samyn last year but can also climb relatively well too – 9th at Amstel highlights that. If the conditions are right, he could spring a surprise and become a real GC wildcard going into Hatta.

I really wanted to include Jungels in this, he’s been incredibly strong on the front the past few days. However, considering he rolled home 42 seconds down today, he’ll definitely be on team work duty tomorrow. The long-shot GC dream is over for him 😢

Prediction

Kittel will probably win again, but as I said picked yesterday I’ll go for one of my outsiders.

Oan yersel Andy!

Trofeo Mallorca - Stage Two

Betting

Good luck if you’re backing Marcel! I’ll be taking small punts on my 3 outsiders and a few H2H;

0.1pt EW Fenn @ 300/1 with Betfair or PP (would take 200/1 lowest)

0.1pt EW Moscon @ 250/1 with Bet365 (would take 150/1)

0.1pt EW Vliegen @ 300/1 with Betfair/PP (would take 200/1)

H2H bets;

Vliegen > Gerts @6/5 with Bet365. 1.2pts

Both have finished ahead of each other once so far, in and around the top 20. Would think Vliegen has more of a chance tomorrow.

Fenn > De Kort @ 8/11 with Bet365. 1.5pts

Both on lead-out duties, 1-1 so far. Like above, I think Fenn will suit the conditions better.

Vliegen and Fenn double at 9/5 with Bet365. 0.7pts

*UPDATE – Wanted another QuickStep rider before but the one I wanted was too short odds. However, it’s been pointed out that he’s available at 150/1 with Coral; 0.25pt EW Trentin.*

 

Thanks again for reading, bit longer today! How do you think tomorrow will play out? Any chance of crosswinds or will we get another sprint? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

 

 

Dubai Tour Stage 2 Preview; Dubai -> Ras al Khaimah

I’ll not keep you long today…

Today’s Recap

Well I got that wrong! I was slightly concerned when Dimension Data hit the front at 7km to go. It was a good plan from them keeping Cavendish safe out of the tunnel but it seemed too early and indeed turned out to be. They ran out of riders at around 1.5km to go and Renshaw/Cavendish were left to surf the wheels. Quick-Step cruised past them with an expertly timed lead-out and from there it was plain sailing for Kittel!

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Gronewegen did well to get up for second, he’s definitely becoming a threat for GC now if there’s no wind, and Cavendish held on for third, even with a flat tyre.

Onto tomorrow’s stage and another sprint on the cards…

The Route

Pan flat once again.

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Nothing exciting about the route at all really! The wind isn’t strong enough to create echelons so it’ll be another day to just watch the last 10km of action.

We get a sweeping last 3km as we enter Ras Al Khaimah, with a left hand turn at 1.8km to go that we will probably see a race to itself. Although it doesn’t seem to sharp and the riders should be able to smooth out the turn.

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With it being a two lane road, teams can still move up in the last 1.5km. Timing is very important!

There is roundabout with roughly 600m (?) to go. Google street view isn’t a thing here, so satellite image it is…

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The local council here seems to spend more money on their roundabouts here and we get one where the riders will actually have to make an effort to go round. Whoever leads into the roundabout with 2 riders in front of their sprinter will win.

Contenders

Can’t really see past the top 5 from today.

Kittel seems to be going really well just now and has a lot of faith in his train but will be lent on here to do much of the work. Cavendish will want to play it more conservatively this time and hope to do what QuickStep did to them today, pouncing in the final 2km. Groenewegen did well to get up for second considering how far back he was positioned. That positioning will let him down again tomorrow unless he gets left on the right wheel with 2km to go, I’m not too keen on his lead-out. Degenkolb got a bit lost today but looked strong in the finale. If he gets positioned well a podium is in his sight. Viviani and Sky tried their best Modolo impression, making a late charge but he wasn’t up to much.

Prediction

Revenge for Cav? Nah, Kittel wins again.

Betting

No bet, although I am sorely tempted with an EW punt on Degenkolb at 20/1 as I think he can podium. But it’s an official no bet for the blog.

Thanks for reading! As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! I shall be back with something slightly more in-depth tomorrow if the wind keeps up. Might share some thoughts on Twitter about the other races this week later this evening. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

 

 

Dubai Tour Stage 1 Preview; Dubai -> Palm Jumeirah

The Route

Pan flat jaunt around the city and its outskirts, with a little trip out to the camel track.

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I doubt there will be much action at all until we get into the final 10km when the sprint teams start to properly get themselves organised. Once onto the Palm, they’ll enter the tunnel that was the scene of a crash last year, with around 7km to go.

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From there they take a left, continue on for a couple of kilometres, make a U-turn and head towards the finish. The riders do have to negotiate a few pinch-points and traverse a couple of roundabouts; there is even one at around 400m to go. Surely this will cause panic?! Well, I use the term “roundabout” loosely…

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All that money and they make a shoddy little roundabout. Tut, tut.

No problems for the sprinters here, straight on it is, finishing beside the big hotel further up the road!

Contenders

Billed as a showdown between Kittel and Cavendish and to be honest that’s a good summary.

Kittel comes here with a solid lead-out. He’ll be able to rely on the likes of Trentin and Vermotte, but Sabatini will probably be his last man. That pairing didn’t work too well last year so I’m intrigued to see how it plays out this time round. It’s a good lead-out, but not amazing.

Cavendish arrives with a much better lead-out train in my opinion. Eisel will control the road in the final few kilometres, bossing everyone around. I like the addition of Thwaites to the team and I imagine he’ll fit into third man in the train here. The Manxman can then rely on his favourite pilot-fish, and the Barry to his Paul Chuckle, Mark Renshaw. One of the best in the business, Renshaw will be able to deliver Cav in the perfect position and from there it will be a drag race to the line.

Aside from those two, there are still some other fast-men here.

Groenewegen might be the sprinter they fear the most as he’s pretty much fearless himself; attempting to squeeze through any gap he can in the final kilometre. Last year he started the year with a stage win in Valenciana, can he do the same here?

Viviani already has some racing in his legs at San Juan, picking up three 2nd places behind QuickStep riders. He’s very hot or cold with his sprinting and I think he might be a bit cold here the first few stages but will be better later on. No real reason, just an inkling!

ModoloDegenkolb, and Mareczko could all well be in the mix too and they’ll hope for a podium place. Especially Degenkolb who will fancy his chances at the overall title.

Prediction

Like I said in my GC Preview, I think Cavendish will be amped-up and ready to go from the gun here. He’ll want to put an early season marker down, and take the mental advantage over Kittel. Although he’s talking down his chances, suggesting that he’s not in great shape etc, I think his winning instinct will take over.

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Betting

Should be a no bet if you’re sensible. I’m not sensible.

2pts WIN on Cavendish at 9/4. Would take down to 7/4.

Thanks for reading! These Dubai Tour stage previews will probably be shorter than normal, aside from days that the wind could wreak havoc, purely because it’s almost a copy/paste job! As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Dubai Tour 2017 – GC Preview

Dubai Tour 2017 – GC Preview

A relatively new race to the cycling calendar, starting back in 2014, we’re this year treated to its 4th edition. A combination of maintaining a 2.HC status and the generally good weather means the race can attract some of the biggest stars in World Cycling. Some appearance fees help too!

Last year saw Marcel Kittel take the crown after a very impressive display up the now famous Hatta Dam Wall finish, in between some great sprint victories.

2016 Dubai Tour, stage 1:

Since dropping the TT after the first edition, the past two years have seen a delicately poised GC battle between 1 or 2 dominant sprinters and the puncheurs. Both times, the sprinters have prevailed with 2 stage wins being enough to take GC victory as long as they don’t lose drastic amounts of time on Hatta. This year the race has actually been extended to 5 stages, much to my surprise as I only found out when starting this write-up! Does this give the sprinters an even better chance of overall victory? Let’s take a quick look at what’s in store for them…

The Route

The organisers aren’t entirely helpful and we don’t actually have any official stage profiles aside from that of Stage 4. It shouldn’t really matter though as the rest of the stages are mainly flat affairs anyway!

Stage 1.

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A trip around some of the famous landmarks are in store for the riders before the inevitable sprint finish along the Palm Jumeirah.

Stage 2.

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Stage 2 sees a trip up the coast and a finish at Ras al Khaimah. Another sprint is on the cards but with it being close to the coast, could we get crosswinds? The early wind forecast doesn’t look promising even with winds coming from the best direction for crosswinds as they’re only 10km/h strong. Hopefully this changes!

Stage 3.

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The riders travel from coast to coast, traversing through the desert on their way. Another sprint finish is likely but I do like the look of the long-range wind forecast for Thursday…

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Strong winds from a cross-tail direction, could see some chaos out on the roads.

Stage 4.

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The *cough* Queen *cough* stage of the Dubai Tour and the return to Hatta Dam. The organisers have decided to use the exact same route that they did last year. Again, we could get some strong winds out on course. The long-range forecast again looks like the section going NE to Al Malaha could be a bit exposed…

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The climbs before the finish themselves can cause splits in the peloton and those who aren’t in great shape can be dropped, and depending on the pace/winds a fair few more might not make the Dam Wall with the peloton as well. The all-out sprint up the 20% 150m section will ensue. It is important to note that the road does rise ever so slightly for a couple of kilometres beforehand and this will sap the legs before the massive anaerobic, 30-second effort.

Stage 5

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Another sprint day to end the race!

GC Contenders

The extra sprint day does swing the race even more in favour of the sprinters. As I’ve mentioned above, 2 stage wins has been enough in the previous editions to take the GC win and this year round it is much the same. In fact, even 4 trips to the lesser spots on the podium should be enough as long as there isn’t one dominant sprinter.

Marcel Kittel starts as favourite for this race according to the bookmakers. The defending champ had a much better season last year and really came out of the blocks flying at this event. Two stage wins and an impressive 6th up Hatta saw him secure the title. He managed that even with a messed up sprint on Stage 2. If he’s on similar form, then he could be hard to beat.

Mark Cavendish won this event back in 2015. He outclassed everyone at the Tour last year but will he be as amped up for this race so early in the year? With him he has a full strength sprint team and I think that’s a sign of intent to mount a serious challenge to Kittel.

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Those two riders are a cut above in terms of flat sprinting prowess and they could quite easily share all the flat stage wins.

Groenewegen and Viviani are in the tier below them but are capable of causing an upset. The Dutchman probably has a greater chance at the overall than the Italian who’s climbing is very hit or miss.

Two riders who will be hoping that the above four share the sprinting spoils and sneak onto the podium themselves on the flat stages are Degenkolb and Lobato. Both winners on Hatta Dam (2015 & 2016 respectively) they should gain time on that stage. Will it be enough to take the win though?

So it’s a sprint-fest then?

Yes and no.

Stages 1 and 5 should be bunch sprints as they are in urbanised areas protected from any prevailing weather conditions. However, the wind does look favourable for some cross winds on a couple of the stages. Namely the coastal finish on Stage 3 to Al Aqah and Stage 4 to Hatta Dam could get interesting before we even reach the wall!

Roughly 40km/h winds are being forecast for those days and we’ve seen numerous times what can happen out in the desert if there are strong winds; World Champs and Tour of Qatar from last year are great examples. This could be the first year that the wind plays a part in shaping the GC at this race.

Rather annoyingly, sprinters tend to be quite good in the wind so unless if it is absolute chaos (which I’m really hoping for) then it might be hard to completely drop them. It is however, more likely to isolate them. If that is the case, we could see some attacks from team-mates or more classics style riders once the race has been blown apart. Therefore, there are two riders I want to highlight who might spring a surprise this week.

Bob Jungels.

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The 24-year old had an exceptionally good first half of last year; winning a stage in Oman but more impressively finishing 6th on GC at the Giro and consequently winning the Young Riders classification. He tapered out a bit after then but was part of the World’s TTT winning squad at the end of the year. He’s a real powerhouse of a rider who can climb well but also has a great TT engine. If we do get a very reduced group of around 15 riders or so in the last 10km of a stage he has every chance of attacking and time trialling his way to the line. With a decent gap, he would be tough to beat for the rest of the race!

Dylan Teuns.

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The Belgian really sprung onto the scene back in 2014 at the Tour of Britain, finishing 10th on GC riding as a stagiare for BMC. Since then he’s been a bit anonymous and 2016 was a relatively poor year from him, with only a couple of top 20 places in the classics (Liege & Fleche) and a 3rd on a stage at the Tour of Luxembourg. I think he’ll want to come out of the blocks firing here and is a serious contender for the Hatta stage. The wind playing up will be great for him too, after all, he is Belgian! 😏

Prediction

I think Cavendish will do the business here, but if the wind starts blowing then it could be anyones game! I’ll go for Jungels in that situation.

Betting

No value in those at the top of the race, especially with dodgy conditions. Small punts on Teuns and Jungels;

0.125pt EW Teuns @ 300/1 with Bet365

0.12pt EW Jungels @ 200/1 with Bet365

 

Thanks again for reading! Who do you think will come out on top? Will the wind be a major factor or will it be another year for the sprinters? As usual any feedback is greatly appreciated. I will be doing daily previews for this race but they will probably be short as there isn’t that much to talk about! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth