Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 5 Preview; Skydive Dubai › City Walk

Today’s Recap

That was exciting!

For a while it looked as if the peloton had misjudged the catch of the breakaway but the dreams of McNulty taking the race lead turned to heartbreak as he was swallowed up on the Hatta Dam climb itself.

Colbrelli shot out of the pack; beating a fast finishing Cort Nielsen into second who himself just edged out a surprisingly good Roosen who came home in third.

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However, the time gaps were not as big as expected and the first 13 riders across the line were granted the same time. Consequently, that means Viviani still holds the lead going into the final day with Cort Nielsen 2 seconds back and Colbrelli 4 in arrears. Bouhanni is realistically the only other rider who can challenge as he is 8 seconds back but there are a few others within striker distance if something crazy happens.

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

The Route

The organisers have left the most technical of finishes this week until the final stage. Although saying that, we’re in Dubai so it isn’t that bad!

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It will be interesting to see if the break survives for both of the intermediate sprints as the bonus seconds could be vital in the end for GC.

The main challenge the teams will face is two right-hand turn in the closing kilometres.

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It is the exact same finish that we had last year so the riders should know what to expect. The first turn at 1.2km to go sees the road narrow down through the corner itself, before opening back up into several lanes again. However, the pace should be on at this point and I’d be surprised to see the peloton more than three riders wide.

From there, it is a sprint to the final right hand turn with roughly 400m to go.

Having a lead-out man in front of the sprinter is crucial so that they can push on and not leave the sprinter at the head of the peloton too early. That is kind of what happened last year and there was a bit of a stall as the guys at the front didn’t want to open up their effort too far out.

A strong train can certainly dominate this finale but they have to be careful of teams dive-bombing the closing 750m.

Sprinters

I think we’ve seen almost every sprinter here have some kind of reasonable run at the finish on the few stages they’ve had so far. The sprints themselves have been chaotic and different riders have looked strong/weak depending on the day and their luck with getting a clean sprint.

Tomorrow’s stage looks like the one that can be controlled well with the peloton naturally being strung out throw the turns. Yet, with the amount of sprinters interested then it could well become chaotic again.

So without wanting to repeat and rehash what I have written on the first 3 days, I’m just going to skip the rest of the broad sprinter overview out.

Prediction

I’ll give Kristoff another chance tomorrow.

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He’s looked good throughout the race but he’s one of the riders who I think hasn’t managed to sprint at 100% yet; there has always been something hindering him. His performance on the Dam today was very impressive considering that he is one of the heavier sprinters here so the early season form is definitely there. Ganna and Consonni will have to arrive late with him and drop him on the wheel of the best lead-out (probably QS) but he certainly has every chance. One thing that might work in his favour is that he won’t be concerned with going for any intermediate sprint points as it is very unlikely he would win GC.

Betting

A stinker of a week so far but Viviani currently leads the GC which might salvage it and make it just a poor week. Unless of course big Alex steps up…

1pt EW Kristoff @ 28/1 (would take 20)

Also, Bet365 are offering a cash out on Viviani for 12pts off of the 3pts stake which I am tempted to take but that’s not my style. All or nothing!

Can’t wait for it to all go up in smoke tomorrow!

Thanks as always for reading! Apologies this is shorter than normal but I don’t think I’d enjoy writing a repeat run-down of the same sprinters and I’m sure you wouldn’t enjoy reading it. I might have an Il Laigueglia preview out tomorrow but don’t hold me to that. If not, I’ll be back with either Algarve or Andalucia, or maybe both. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 4 Preview; Skydive Dubai › Hatta Dam

Apologies once again for no stage 3 preview but I didn’t have the time to write one.

Today’s Recap

We got some echelon action with around 70km left in the stage but the section of road was too short for any meaningful gaps to be made. Things regrouped and with the break caught, we had a long final 50km as everyone looked at each other.

Once again, we had a fairly chaotic sprint as things ebbed and flowed in the bunch in the closing three kilometres. In the end though, it was Cavendish who took the spoils after a masterful display of positioning saw him move up at just the right time, before he delivered a powerful sprint to win fairly comfortably in the end.

Bouhanni finished a rather surprising second, with stage favourite Kittel third.

A time penalty for Groenewegen sees Viviani as the new GC leader but it is all to play for tomorrow with the famous Hatta Dam finish. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Billed as the GC stage, will the sprinters be able to hold onto the puncheurs?

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A stage that is once again back-ended with action, we could possibly see some fireworks earlier in the day though…

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We saw one split in the peloton today due to the crosswinds as they headed North-East through the desert and we could well see the same tomorrow. The 30km section from before Al Madam to just after Al Malahia is mainly exposed desert road such as in the image below.

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The forecast isn’t for crazily high wind speeds, but it is set to be similar to what we had today at roughly 20-25km/h. When the pace is on and with there no real protection at all (aside from some “mountains” on their left), it is easier than you would expect for some gaps to open. I’m not banking on echelons, but I have my hopes!

It will be interesting to see if any team does try to cause some issues, bring back the break and go for the bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint point with roughly 70km to go. Looking at you Quick Step.

The road gradually rises after that but it is nothing to worry the sprinters too much. If we haven’t had any splits in the wind, then this stage is all about the final 20kms.

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Ignore the little double kicker up the Dam wall, I’m not too sure what happened there!

It’s the same approach that we’ve had in the past couple of years and it is possible for some riders to be disengaged on the two climbs we have on the run in.

The average for the first climb is 3.5% for 5kms which is enough to see an upping of the pace and a draining of the sprinters legs. If this was mid-season, then I’d say that all of the sprinters here would get over it but with it being so early in the year, I’m not sure they all will; especially with the final 700m at 9%.

Next is a quick descent and another kicker that should be dealt with easily due to the speed they carry. It is then over to the climb of the Dam Wall itself to decide the day.

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Just over 30 seconds of pure hurt the Wall lends itself both to good climbers, puncheurs and we’ve even seen sprinters go well here, i.e. Degenkolb’s win in 2015 and Kittel finishing 4 seconds back in 2016.

Positioning going into the climb is key and you really want to be in the first 10 riders at the very least if you want to post a good time/result. So no doubt we’ll see a big battle for control in the closing kilometres before the right-hand turn.

Contenders

Pfffft.

The beauty of this stage is the wide variety of riders who could go well here. Just look at the top 10 the past two times the race finished here.

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2015 (PCS)
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2016 (PCS)

There seems to be no real formula as to who the winner might be. We don’t really have a Lobato style rider here who stands out as an ideal candidate.

Plus, when you throw the potential of crosswinds into the mix tomorrow, then it makes it even more difficult to predict. So I’m just going suggest a non-exhaustive list of riders who might have a chance.

Dylan Teuns.

If he’s in good shape at the moment (a big if as he’s not been tested so far) then the Dam finish is great for the BMC rider. Last season was a breakthrough year for him and he seems to finally be living up to the promise he showed back in 2015. Third place at Fleche highlights his ability to go well on the steep stuff but I’m unsure if he’s explosive enough for this type of effort, but who know. Arguably the stage favourite, he might struggle to get a big enough gap to win the GC.

John Degenkolb.

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Winner in 2015, this is the stage he and Trek have been eyeing up all week. Starting his season off in flying form winning two races in Mallorca, he’s struggled a bit this week against stronger competition. Nonetheless, with the sprint stages being shared about, he still has a chance of a good overall position if he wins tomorrow. Is he back to his 2015 level? I don’t know, but we’ll get a good indication tomorrow. He could quite easily be first or twentieth!

Elia Viviani.

Yup, my man for GC gets a mention here. If Degenkolb can win, Nizzolo finish second and Kittel not too far back either, then I see no reason as to why Viviani can’t challenge here tomorrow. He’s arguably been one of the best riders in this early season and has good form at the moment. Given the climb is more of a 30-40 second power test then Viviani might be up there, especially if he repeats the numbers he did in the closing sprint in Cadel’s Race. Another thing that gives Viviani a good chance is his team. The result tomorrow is 30% positioning at the foot of the climb and Quick Step have been great at that so far. They just need to deliver the Italian at the bottom of the slope and let him go full gas.

Sonny Colbrelli.

Similar to Degenkolb in many ways, Colbrelli likes a sprint at the end of a tough day. The climbing during the stage tomorrow won’t be of any difficulty to him and he’ll fancy his chances on the rise to the finish. A winner of Brabantse Pijl and a contender in Amstel, it will be interesting to see how he goes on an 18% ramp, not an 8% one! He’s quite slight for a sprinter and that might be a big advantage tomorrow.

Nacer Bouhanni.

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The “Wongshot™” of these five he impressed me with his sprint on today’s stage. Now, like Colbrelli and Viviani, Bouhanni is one of the lighter sprinters that we have in the peloton which should help with tomorrow’s “w/Kg – 30 second sprint test” that the riders will face. He’s performed well on hill-top finishes in the Vuelta in the past so he’s not one to discount. My only concern is that his team isn’t the best at positioning and he’s pretty awful in the crosswinds himself. This was clear today when he was gapped in the small split we had and that it is not ideal expending unnecessary energy in the tougher stage we have tomorrow.

Prediction

No idea but I’m going to go with the man in form who’s already shown his strong 30 second sprint potential over the past month, and with a strong team that will position him well in any crosswinds and in the run to the bottom of the climb.

Vai vai Viviani!

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Betting

Was tempted to leave it after my horror few days and considering Viviani is leading GC, but where is the fun in that?!

1pt EW Viviani @ 18/1 with Bet365. (would take down to 14/1)

 

Thanks for reading as always! I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s stage and I hope we see some crosswind action to make the earlier part of the stage exciting. Who do you think will win? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 2 Preview; Skydive Dubai › Ras al Khaimah

Today’s Recap

Well that was messy!

It looked as if QuickStep had everything under control but they got swamped at roughly 2km to go. They then reasserted their dominance going under the Flamme Rouge and looked to have Viviani in prime position. However, Jumbo delivered Groenewegen at just the right time and caught Viviani napping. The Dutchman held his line well, tactically using the barriers to block the QS rider off. He didn’t have it all his own way though, as Cort Nielsen pushed him all the way to the line and the finish was much closer than I originally thought given the camera’s focus on the Groenewegen/Viviani battle.

In the end, Groenewegen won it with a bike lunge, beating Cort Nielsen into second, with Viviani trailing home in third.

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Everyone else was a mile behind all things considered but it will be interesting to se if we have the same top 3 tomorrow.

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

The Route

Flat, again, but what do you expect?

Another day that will all be about the battle in the final 10kms.

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The exact same finish as last year, the first big battle will be to the left hand turn at 1.5km to go. It sweeps around enough that the peloton should be stretched out once they exit and head towards the flamme rouge.

There is enough time here for teams further back to come up, but they need to do it fairly fast as at roughly 800m to go there is a roundabout which stretches things out again.

Being in the first 15 riders here is important for a good stage result.

After that, the road bends around to the right, with the shortest line obviously being the inside hogging the barriers. Or you could just do what Kittel did last year and power down the middle!

What Can We Take From Stage 1?

The Good.

  • Groenewegen’s short but sharp train that delivered him to the front at exactly the right moment. Roosen did a great job to weave through the QS bunch, which Groenewegen then followed up with a great bit of tactical sprinting, giving Viviani just enough room on the barriers for it to be safe, but not too much so that he had a chance of coming round.
  • QuickStep as a whole looked great and seemed to be in control of the closing kilometres. They only lost that control at two points; ~2km out and 750m to go. Unfortunately, that gave Jumbo the opportunity to come through and put Viviani in difficulty. If they do the same as today in stage 2, then Viviani has every chance of going better.
  • Cort Nielsen’s solo escapades. After more than half his team was taken down by a crash, the Dane had to fly solo in the closing kilometres and it seemed to serve him well. He took advantage of Jumbo’s jump to the front, but was impeeded when Roosen pulled over. MCN swerved to the side (a bit dramatically I hasten to add) and it might have been that swerve that cost him the stage.

The Bad.

  • Kittel’s chain. It looked as if the German was in a good position but in swerving to avoid MCN, he seemed to jump his chain and that completely ruined his chances. Katusha were a bit over the place in the lead in, but I was impressed with Haller who found Kittel again to deliver him back near the head of the race.
  • Cavendish losing his team-mates wheel. An amateur mistake from the experienced rider who couldn’t hold the back wheel of Renshaw in the run closing kilometre after being outmuscled by what looked like Adam Blythe. Possibly a confidence issue for the Manxman after his Tour crash?

The Ugly.

  • The spill at over 3km to go which made an already nervous peloton even more twitchy.
  • All of the argy-bargy in the bunch in the closing kilometres, but I guess that is what you would expect when the roads are so wide and we have so many world class sprinters here trying to move around.

Prediction

Hmmm.

The first two riders on the podium today were strong, but I get the feeling we only saw Viviani sprinting at 90% as he was hindered by Groenewegen. He appeared as if he was itching to get past the Dutchman but he just couldn’t find the road to do it.

Furthermore, Kittel can’t be discounted as he was in a prime position to strike today but was just unlucky with his mechanical.

Therefore, I actually think it will be a Viviani v Kittel showdown, despite what we saw today.

QS have the better train and after messing up today, Viviani will want to put things right tomorrow, especially when you consider it is his birthday. He’s shown in the Tour Down Under and Cadel’s Race the raw speed that he has; it’s just about him being able to put it into practice.

Yet, of the brief glimpse we saw of Kittel today I just have a hunch he’s going very well at the moment. He was powerful enough to effectively give himself a mechanical after all! That won’t happen happen tomorrow though, and he’ll storm horm for the win, just pipping his old team to the line, with Groenewegen coming home in third.

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Betting

A complete blowout today which is not ideal. Viviani at least took some bonus seconds for the GC hunt and he has looked strong.

Going back in with a H2H double though;

3pts on Kittel ov Cav & Viviani ov Groenewegen @ 1.64/1 with Bet365

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be a similar front three to the opening stage or will some other names appear at the top of the order. As for my stage 3 preview, I’m unsure what it will comprise of. I’m away visiting my sister at Uni, so I won’t have too much time to do anything but I’ll try to get something out. If not, I’ll give some thoughts on Twitter and be back for the Hatta Dam stage! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Skydive Dubai › Palm Jumeirah

Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Skydive Dubai › Palm Jumeirah

GC Overview

The annual battle in the desert between the sprinters returns this week with 5th edition of the Dubai Tour, and boy, do we have a strong field here!

Kittel, Cavendish, Viviani, Groenewegen, Degenkolb/Nizzolo, Kristoff, Bouhanni, Mareczko, Cort Nielsen and Colbrelli all will start the race, and they’ll all hope to get one over their rivals early on in the year.

Since the change in format after the 2014 edition (that had a TT to open), the GC battle has often came down to the sprinters being able to pick up bonus seconds coupled with their ability to follow home the puncheurs on the Hatta Dam. 2015 and 2016 saw Cavendish and Kittle take enough stage wins/secure enough bonus seconds to hold on for the overall title. While last year saw the Hatta Dam stage cancelled due to high winds, which made it more of a walk in the park for Kittel than what might have been.

This year, the riders will have one more stage to contend with which theoretically makes it even more likely that a sprinter will win the GC. However, given that this is the strongest field that we’ve seen here since the races inception, there is a chance that the stage wins will be spread around enough that a puncheur could sneak the overall win.

Nonetheless, I still think we’ll see a sprinter take the crown.

That man will be Viviani.

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With some racing already in his legs, he should come to this race sharper than a lot of his rivals and that could play a big part throughout the week. Furthermore, with a win to his name already and a string of solid performances down in Australia, he will be buoyed by confidence. I think being freed from the shackles of Sky really helped him and we saw a big change in his performances towards the end of last season when he knew the move to QuickStep was confirmed. Having a team that believes in you makes a massive difference for a sprinter and it clearly has helped the Italian. Some of the Watts he was putting out in Australia were incredibly impressive and I think he’s transforming back to the Viviani that showed so much promise in his early years at Liquigas. Consequently, that means he can actually climb reasonably well and get to some finishes that you might not expect, i.e. his second in Cadel’s Race, or Hatta Dam. QuickStep’s record in this race is remarkable, having won it for the past three years, and I fancy them to make it four in a row this time around.

Vai Vai Viviani!

Will he secure the win on the opening day though? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders on Stage 1.

The Route

Pretty much a carbon copy of last year’s opening day.

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There’s almost no point of me posting any of the stage profiles this week as they’re all flat! The more interesting thing about the stage is the final run.

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The riders come out of a tunnel at roughly 6km to go, before making their way towards the end of the Palm. This marks a fairly tight roundabout and once they are through that point, it is a 3km drag race for the sprint teams. The roundabout can be sketchy and last year’s race saw Colbrelli fall here and ruin any chance of victory.

Considering the distance from the roundabout to the finish line, it is possible for teams to move their riders up in that time. However, you certainly want to be in the first third of the peloton.

It is hard for a team to assert complete control at the front of the peloton and we’ll more than likely see surges from different trains in the closing couple of kilometres.

Normally the riders would be concerned with the wind on this stage, but the forecast is fairly benign with a 10km/h left to right cross-wind predicted for the closing sprint. Nothing too drastic, but coming from the downwind side might just present an opportunity for a rider to surprise. Conversely though, a strong lead-out could hug the right hand side of the road, forcing any competitor into the wind.

Contenders

As I’ve mentioned above, we’re treated to a long list of sprinters here so I’ll try to keep this bit short-ish, otherwise we could be here a while!

Marcel Kittel.

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Winner of this stage last year, it will be interesting to see how he gels into his new team and lead-out train. Katusha are certainly weaker than QS and with Kittel preferring a late dash to the line, pouncing in the closing kilometre a lot last season, I’m not sure the likes of Haller and Zabel have the speed to do that. We’ll see, but I’ll be watching with interest.

Elia Viviani.

The form rider here and my GC favourite. He was very strong in the Tour Down Under and was rewarded with a great stage win as a result. QuickStep bring a team with them here that is built around the Italian. With the power they have, we should see a dominant blue train in the closing kilometres. Can Viviani continue his good form?

Dylan Groenewegen.

Still only 24, the young Dutchman had another solid season last year where he picked up 8 wins, including the iconic sprint along the Champs-Élysées at the Tour. He started his season with a second place on GC here last year and will be looking to go one better this time. With a team dedicated to him, he should be positioned well going into the sprint, and it will be up to him to deliver.

Mark Cavendish.

You can never rule out Cavendish. I did at the 2016 and he absolutely blitzed that, before dropping out to focus on the Olympics. It is fair to say that 2017 was a bit of a disaster for him though, with only one win all year and a crash in the Tour that ruined his season. He arrives here with a tried and tested lead-out train and I’m sure he’ll want to come out of the blocks firing in 2018; reminding everyone that he is still one of the fastest guys in the peloton.

John Degenkolb.

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Having already started his season in Mallorca, Degenkolb has an advantage over some of his competitors in that sense. Furthermore, with two wins to his name, he already has more wins this year than in all of 2017. Trek also bring Nizzolo with them so it will be interesting to see the dynamic between them, but given that Degenkolb has won on Hatta before, I imagine they’ll go with him here. Can he make it 3 wins from 3 starts in 2018?

Alexander Kristoff.

Having moved from Katusha in the winter, where he spent six years of his career, it will be interesting to see how he gets on in his new UAE Emirates team. There will be pressure on the Norwegian to perform in what is a home race for the squad, but his team doesn’t look the best. A lot of pressure will be on the young shoulders of Ganna and Consonni to position him well, which could be his downfall. I’m sure he’ll be disappointed to see it won’t be a headwind sprint either! I think we might see something from him later in the race, but not on the opening day.

Nacer Bouhanni.

The enigmatic Frenchman arrives here with Cofidis receiving an invite to the race for the first time. When he wants to be he is lightning fast but more often than not he is too busy scrapping for someone’s wheel way down the order, before settling for a top 8 finish. If his attitude has improved and that is a big if, then he could have a really good season. The Cofidis management has had a change of approach and seems to be giving him some tough love an I’m intrigued to see how that works. I would not be surprised to see him first or fifteenth.

Sonny Colbrelli.

2017 was a good year for the Italian and his move up to World Tour level was a success, winning a stage of Paris Nice. I’m not sure his raw pace is up to the standard of some of the guys here and he would probably prefer a tougher day out in the saddle, but you never know.

Jakub Mareczko.

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Already with two wins under his belt at the famous Sharjah Tour towards the end of January, he’ll arrive here with confidence. What? You’ve never heard of it? Tut tut. To be fair, all he had to beat was Coquard and some sand so we can’t really take much from it. Nonetheless, I do rate the Wilier rider and he has the speed to compete on very flat days. He’s still a tier or so below the best riders, but given he’s been in the Emirates for a few weeks now, that might be of an advantage to him.

Magnus Cort Nielsen.

Another rider who moved in the winter, he’ll want to impress for new team Astana. On paper, he has the power and climbing ability to “do a Degenkolb” and challenge on the Dam, but a crash in training in December might have halted his build up to the season. Like Colbrelli, he would prefer a few more lumps and bumps, but he can’t be discounted entirely.

Prediction

Pffff, pick a name out of a hat!

Viviani has the form, but I think he might fall short on the first day. Instead, I’ve been drawn towards Cavendish for this opening stage.

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He’s spent a bit of time in the Emirates recently and was out there towards the end of January as an ambassador for Abu Dhabi Tour. Now, I’m unsure if he has just stayed there since, but he’s definitely been out since the 2nd of February and I think that shows some intent to go well on his part. Furthermore, he is playing down his chances and form in the press, which is normally when he ends up going well!

His big goal for the year is to get closer to Merckx’s Tour de France stage win record, but I imagine he will want to hit the ground running after a quite frankly awful 2017 by his accounts, mostly for confidence reasons. Although I don’t think he lacks that…

He’s a racer and with a tried and tested lead-out, he has a good chance of surprising on the opening day.

Betting

3pts WIN Viviani for GC at 9/2 with Bet365

1pt EW Cavendish for Stage 1 at 9/1 with SkyBet

4pts Viviani to beat Groenewegen for Stage 1 at 1/1 with Bet365

1pt Double on Viviani ov Groenewegen & Degenkolb ov Kristoff at 2.66/1 with Bet365.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? We have a plethora of sprinters to choose from so it should be an exciting week of racing. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Dubai Tour Stage 5 Preview; Dubai -> City Walk

Today’s Recap

What a fast stage, it was over in a blur!

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The Extreme Weather Protocol was put into action as freak, totally unpredicted winds were in the local area.😉

Stage cancelled and with it the GC is all but over. Nonetheless, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Pan flat stage in and around Dubai.

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There’s not much else to say really about the bulk of the stage!

With the itinerary on the organiser’s website being a bit guff, I’m not entirely sure where the finish line is but I’ll trust those at Velorooms who have produced this;

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The riders will make two 90-degree turns in the closing few kilometres, with the first coming at roughly 1.4km to go and one at 450m left.

The turn at 450m to go is very interesting and might end up rather messy. As streetview isn’t a thing for this part of town I struggled for a while to find out how sharp the turn is. However, I did manage to find the following on google maps as a photo sphere. Shout out to Shian Gao!

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So not overly sharp, more sweeping. But at only one lane wide, riders will only manage two abreast at full speeds.

At first glance the finish straight itself looks quite dangerous with a mini-roundabout at 150m to go. Once again the local council putting in a sever lack of effort with their roundabouts. No roundabout here at all, just some crossroads.

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Therefore, it looks like it will be full gas once through the turn at 450m to go and positioning will be key coming out of the turn. It will be very hard to make up 10 places with so little left and the bunch being strung out.

Stage Contenders

I’m sure you’re all fairly aware by now as to who is going to be mixing it up in the sprints.

Kittel is the guy to beat. Maybe people could ask Mr Grivko for some tips? 😏  Groenewegen isn’t far off the pace and can challenge, especially if his lead-out gets it right here. Cavendish has been unlucky but also gone missing at times. Can he be arsed? Degenkolb can spring a surprise. Mareczko can get low but he’s no Ewan. Viviani has been very cold so far but could turn on the heat here.

However, I’m going to go for none of the above just to be a bit different. Because hey, when has that ever stopped me before?!

Prediction

That corner at 450m to go looks the perfect place for an Italian duo on a Middle-Eastern team to dive bomb the inside and be in the best position coming out. This rider has been there or thereabouts all week and with a bit of luck can certainly pull something out the bag. Modolo to take a surprise win!

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Or we get a boring stage with a boring winner *cough* Kittel *cough*.

Betting

0.5pt EW Modolo @ 33/1 with Bet365. (Would take 25s)

And this 4-fold that pays 6.9/1  1.5pts on.

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Thanks for reading this week! It’s a shame that today’s stage was cancelled as the racing has been quite boring otherwise and the GC battle is over. I’ll be back with the next preview for Oman I think, I’m sure that’s the next televised race?! Might do something for Laigueglia if I find the time. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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.

Dubai2015_T02_plan

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