Tour de France 2018 Stage 20 Preview: Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle -> Espelette

Today’s Recap

Guess they were saving the best until last?

Really enjoyable stage to watch that had a bit of everything. Both of the nominated riders (Jungels and Nieve) made the early break but because Jungels was there, Katusha decided to chase and keep it close before launching Zakarin on the Tourmalet. Landa, Bardet and Majka followed and they eventually bridged to the original break of the day. Attacks flew from both the break and the peloton on the trio of climbs but things would ultimately end up with a group of 10 cresting the last ascent together.

Roglic really piled on the pressure on the descent and the elastic eventually snapped, with the Slovenian taking the stage win and leap-frogging Froome onto the podium.

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Thomas came home in second to take even more time on Dumoulin with Bardet rounding out the podium for the day. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the rider’s tomorrow.

The Route

TT day and the last chance for a GC shake-up.

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A quick glance at the official profile would make you think that the TT has some mountains in it but the climbs are exaggerated a little. However, it is a very rolling day in the saddle and certainly not one for the typical TT powerhouse riders, well, the non-GC TT powerhouses.

As is tradition, I’ve made my own Strava/Veloviewer profile that you can view here.

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As you can see, it can certainly be described as rolling but almost more importantly the road seems to be constantly twisting. It might make it more difficult for some to maintain their tempo.

Facing a 1.2km climb that averages 6% only a few hundred metres into the day will set the tone for the riders. There are several more drags of 4-6% throughout the route but they only last for a few hundred metres. The biggest challenge they will face is the Col de Pinodiéta.

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On narrow roads the steep climb is followed by a quick descent and only a shade over 1km of flat to the line, although it does drag from around 400m to go.

Contenders

Has anyone in the peloton been saving themself for this effort? Possibly, but given the course and the way that the GC men are flying then I don’t think anyone else has a chance. Look at the final TT in the Vuelta last year for example. It was fairly easy with nowhere near as rolling a parcours as we have tomorrow and the top 5 on that day were the current top 5 on GC. I think we will see something similar here.

Tom Dumoulin.

Current TT World Champion, he is a class act when it comes to the time trial bike. He’s looked strong throughout this whole race which is a surprise to me as I thought his Giro exploits would have taken something out of him. Still, he finds himself too far back to win the title so the big battle will be with Roglic and Froome for the podium positions and potential order. He was a little disappointing in the Giro TT and I think he might disappoint a little tomorrow too. His words after the stage made him sound like he was a rider right on the limit and with the way others were going today, I don’t see him winning the stage. At least we’ll get to see his very nice aero position!

Primoz Roglic.

The silver medalist at those TT Worlds last year, he produced a blinder of a descent to take the stage today. It wasn’t just on the descent that he looked strong though as he put attack after attack on the climbs today. He wasn’t explosive enough to fully distance everyone but his good legs were clear for all to see. One of the best in the World at this discipline combined with his scintillating form, he starts the stage as favourite in my opinion.

Chris Froome.

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He’s looked even more ragged than normal over the past couple of days but he is still within touching distance of the podium. If there is anyone who can turn around their form in the peloton, it is him. Given what I have seen from him in recent stages I think he will fall short and not finish on the podium. However, I have been wrong about him in the past when I thought he was dead and buried, the TT at the 2016 Vuelta springs to mind.

Geraint Thomas.

Barring accident or any major (probably need several) mechanicals tomorrow, the Welshman has the GC wrapped up. The strongest rider in the race by far, he has fully taken advantage of his early GC position, just having to follow most of the attacks. However, he has shown with his two stage wins that he certainly has more in his locker than just the ability to attack. Will he want to push it and go for a third stage win in yellow? I think so.

Sky could quite easily put 5 riders in the top 10 with Castroviejo, Kwiatkowski and Bernal all potential challengers. Then look to the likes of Küng, Bodnar and Latour to make up the rest of the spots at the top of the order but I can’t see any of them winning it.

Prediction

The freshest rider in the race wins, Geraint Thomas crowns his Tour victory with a third stage.

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Roglic surpasses Dumoulin for second place on GC with the Dutchman just holding onto third.

Betting

2pts WIN Thomas @ 5/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Tour de France 2018 Stage 16 Preview: Carcassonne › Bagnères-de-Luchon

Rest Day Recap

Stage 15 was a bit of an eventful day for the three blog breakaway candidates. Mühlberger got involved in one of the more promising early moves but given that he was in just a trio they were never going to be allowed away. Unfortunately that meant he didn’t have the energy to make the decisive break which happened to involve Valgren.

Majka attacked on the main climb of the day but was brought back on the run to the line by a chasing group of seven. Team tactics were played out and the three squads who had numbers in the group kept attacking and eventually they got away, unfortunately the Astana man who made the split wasn’t Valgren. Instead it was his team-mate Cort who would ultimately go on to win the sprint for the stage win!

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Some unusual tactics from Izagirre and Mollema (who finished 2nd and 3rd respectively) as they pretty much just towed the Astana man, a known sprinter, to the line. Izagirre tried once to attack but that was it. Maybe they were just happy with the podium? A bit of a frustrating day though with Valgren looking so strong, another “what if?” scenario.

Then of course the third break pick Gesbert was involved in some drama during the stage when Moscon swung at him. A new and odd #HaugheyCurse that one. The Sky rider has subsequently been sent home by the organisers. Not ideal for the squad as they enter a tough few stages where having him to control the early part of the day would be vital.

Speaking of which, let’s take a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Mainly flat then some tougher climbs later on in the day.

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With 140km of mainly flat, slightly rolling terrain before we get to any serious climbing it will be interesting to see what the composition of the breakaway will be like. Given the tougher climbs to come then ideally a team would like a natural climber to get into the move but it isn’t exactly easy given the terrain!

The peloton will hit the first “proper” climb of the Col de Portet-d’Aspet at almost 150km into the stage. With an average of 7.1% it is fairly steep and typical of the region but at only 5.4km long it shouldn’t see any exciting attacks. The riders will then dive down the other side before climbing straight away once they hit the valley floor. The Col de Menté is a steep climb averaging 8.1% for a shade under 7km and this could be the scene of some long-range hail mary attacks from guys further down the bunch. With 47km to go from the summit and a lot of dragging valley roads to contend with, I’ll be watching along like…

Bold strategy cotton

After those said valley roads the peloton will tackle the final climb of the day with roughly 18km of the route remaining.

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The Col du Portillon isn’t the toughest climb ever and the gradients are fairly consistent which should suit those looking for a steady pace. However, it is steep enough still that some damage can be done with a few stinging attacks. Arguably more important than the climb itself though, is the descent off of it.

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With 10kms to lost ~650m of altitude it is going to be a fast run in. There are several tight hairpin turns on which the better descenders can put pressure on their rivals. This is all going to be exacerbated though given the weather forecast…

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It’s meant to rain from mid-afternoon onwards with a few thunderstorms in the area causing heavy showers at points – not exactly sure how this 17.8mm of rain is going to fall in an hour, that is crazy!

How will the race pan out?

Pfffft, it could be a day for the break but it could also be a GC day. It all just depends on who wants to control the afternoon. If it is just Sky that set tempo then they will no doubt be happy to let the break gobble up the bonus seconds ahead and then let the GC battle happen behind. However, with the 140km of relatively flat roads then it is easier for teams to control the break, especially if it is not that big. Do Ag2R, Jumbo and Sunweb come to an agreement and keep tabs on the move? We might even see a rogue UAE rider help out in the hope of a Dan Martin stage win.

If none of those teams decide they want to work then it should be a day for a break. The issue with choosing some riders to make the move is the amount of flat roads before the climbs will make it difficult for a mountain goat to be at the head of the race. Their best hope is that the break goes on the first Cat-4 climb but even then it will be difficult to snap the elastic.

We could see a really weird composition of 14 riders or so with one or two lucky climbers who make it. Of course, none of the other guys in the move will want to tow them to the climbs, especially the last one, so an attack in the valley roads is likely.

I’m not overly convinced with either outcome for the day but I do lean towards the GC riders fighting out for the stage. However, it would be foolish not to consider a couple of potential break threats, both of whom I have backed before.

Gregor Mühlberger.

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I still think he has a big win coming at some point in the near future. Unfortunate not to make the second decisive move after being in the initial attack trio that had escaped. Majka will probably be Bora’s go to man tomorrow but I think he might find it difficult to join the break on the flat. If so, the Austrian is a much better all-rounder and better equipped to do so. If we do get one of those weird week 3 breaks where no real climber makes it, then he is certainly one to watch. A demon descender, the rain will be of no issue to him.

Gorka Izagirre.

Despite me saying never trust a man with two hooped earrings, here I am again. If only the Bahrain rider had stuck with Stuyven rather than complaining about Slagter’s work rate then he might have had a stage win. A strong climber who can descend well, he’s not too bad on the flat either. Bahrain will be keen to get several riders into the move as they aren’t too far off Movistar’s lead in the team classification. That could be an interesting battle over the coming days.

Prediction

I think that Jumbo, Ag2R and Sunweb will combine forces to keep tabs on the break and try to attack Sky on the wet descents later on in the race. We’ve already seen one rider escape from a Sky based peloton on the descent and I think we’ll se the same tomorrow. Tom Dumoulin to win!

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Betting

Want to cover the two break shots but also Dumoulin EW too as I think his price is too big so foregoing the 2pt rule. Was never really going to last, was it?

1pt WIN Gorka @ 66/1 with various, although he’s 75s on the exchange

0.5pt WIN Muhlberger @ 125/1 with various

1pt EW Dumoulin @ 28/1 with Betfred/Boyles (Would take down to 22s lowest)

Thanks as always for reading! How do you think tomorrow’s stage is going to go? Will we see a break stick or will the GC riders contend for the win? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2018 GC Preview

Tour de France 2018 GC Preview

In 2017 we saw a rather dominant Chris Froome win by ‘only’ 54 seconds ahead of Rigoberto Uran with Romain Bardet edging Landa by one second to round out the GC podium.

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I say ‘only’ above as it was actually Froome’s smallest winning margin in all 4 of his victories so far, but he never looked in that much trouble throughout the three weeks. Obviously it was a measured effort so that he could go on to win the Vuelta later in the year, then the Giro this year. Can he make it an incredible 5th Tour win and 4th GT win in a row?

No fancy business here because as I’ll be doing daily stage previews I’m just ducking any route analysis here and just jumping straight into the favourites. I would recommend this preview from Road.cc though as they cover each stage in concise paragraphs. Much better than my ramblings!

I’m also going to be blunt with some riders as I don’t really rate their overall chances. Also you’ll have read many previews by now and if I’m honest, I can’t really bothered to rehash what others have said.

Anyway, onto the contenders and pretenders…

The Favourite 

Chris Froome.

Despite what your opinion is (I’m sure you all know mine by now) on the whole salbutamol case, the bottom line is that Froome is cleared and is here to race. Nothing like a bit of pre-Tour drama though with ASO apparently going to ban him before UCI/WADA announcing the following day that his case was dropped. More drama than Love Island!

At the Giro Froome was seemingly way off the pace but two remarkable days on the bike, Zoncolan and Stage 19, saw him claw back an almost 3 minute deficit to Dumoulin with some more left in the bag. With an extra week between the Giro and Tour, he should have recovered reasonably well. His team is super strong, as you would expect, and he will have a lot of support on the flat and in the mountains. It will be interesting to see how he can handle the cobbled stage – it will certainly bring back bad memories from crashing out in 2014. No doubt he starts as the favourite and will gain time in the efforts against the clock but can we really expect a rider to win four Grand Tours in a row? I hope not, for the sake of the sport.

The Waiting for Froome to falter-ers

Richie Porte.

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Can Richie survive a Grand Tour without a bad day? That is the million dollar question. If he does, then he will play a massive role in the outcome of this race. Arguably the best rider on a 15 minute climb in the World, he will hope to display some of that trademark out of the saddle “sprint-climbing” in this race. At the Tour de Suisse he was strong and took home that race but I get the sense that he still wasn’t at 100%, there is still room for improvement from him. Compared to what he has been used to in the past couple of seasons this looks like his strongest BMC support team. They have all terrain covered to shepherd Porte around France and he should be able to rely on Van Garderen and Caruso deep into many of the mountain days. I started off this season thinking that Porte would win the race and although my mind has been slightly changed, he still starts as one to beat if he stays on his bike.

Romain Bardet. 

The AG2R man has finished on the podium the past two years and will be hoping for a similar result this year, if not better. A third in the recent Dauphiné was a good and highlights that his form is heading in the right direction but that he has not peaked too soon. In last year’s edition of the race I loved the way AG2R attacked Sky in the mountains and they bring an even stronger squad with them this time out. He shouldn’t lose a crazy amount of time in the TTT as a result but I do have a slight worry for him on the cobbled stage. Then again, who of the GC contenders will truly be comfortable then? A big day is needed from Naesen! In the mountains he (alongside Porte) is one of the few riders I am confident can actually challenge Froome. With a few stages ending in descents from climbs, he will be in his element and certainly put pressure on the other GC contenders.

Nairo Quintana.

Is the Colombian back to his climbing best? It looks like it after his strong showing in the Tour de Suisse and he was particularly impressive holding off the group of GC contenders on the shallow drag before the final steeper ramps of Arosa. He forms a very strong attacking trident with Valverde and Landa and I’m really looking forward to see how they approach the race. I just hope that at least two of them are in contention after the cobbled stage. We saw in 2015 just how strong Nairo can be in the final week of the race in the high mountains and the rest of his challengers will be concerned if he is within 2 minutes going into the closing stages. No doubt we’ll certainly see some enthusiastic Colombian fans at the side of the road!

The Podium Outsiders

Right, shorter musings from now on.

Vincenzo Nibali.

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Winner of the Tour when the race last visited the cobbles, the Bahrain rider has had a pretty average year so far. However, he knows how to peak for a race and he can never be discounted. With a strong team to support him, we will probably see him on the attack as he will no doubt have to claw some time back after the TTT.

Rigoberto Uran.

A surprising second place last year, I think it will be hard for the Colombian to repeat the feat this time around. He found some race sharpness in Slovenia recently but I just don’t think he has enough to do it. Then again, no one really mentioned him last year and look what happened.

Alejandro Valverde.

Mr Evergreen, Valverde has been incredibly strong this season so far, having won the GC of every stage race he has competed in. It was scary how easy things were for him in the recent La Route d’Occitanie, using the attacks of Elissonde and Navarro as training – deliberately letting gaps grow so he could close them down. He’s another that will probably be chasing time after the TTT but I look forward to his venture onto the cobbles – he didn’t do too badly in Dwars this year.

Adam Yates. 

Have Mitchelton learnt from his brother’s epic collapse at the Giro? In strong form after his second in the Dauphine (the gap to Porte would have only be a handful of seconds if it was not for the TTT), he will be able to rely on a well-rounded squad focussed solely on him. Can he handle the pressure?

Jakob Fuglsang.

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If there was ever a year when Fuglsang could seriously challenge for a podium spot then this would be it. He has a solid team built around him that should be able to support him on most terrain. Back in 2014 he was the one doing the majority of the work when Nibali gained a load of time on the cobbles so no doubt he’ll be licking his lips at that stage. We saw in the Tour de Suisse that he was stronger than Porte on the last day of climbing and he followed that up with a blistering TT. Has he managed to hold form?

Top 10 Fillers

Ilnur Zakarin.

The Katusha man is one of those riders that could really fall into a couple of categories in this preview. I fear he’ll lose some time in the TT and given his poor bike handling the cobbles will be an issue too. However, we saw in the Vuelta last year that he was one of the best climbers in the last week. It all depends on the opening 9 days though.

Geraint Thomas.

Team Sky Plan B but when has a Team Sky Plan B ever actually won a race? I certainly can’t recall a time. Needs Froome to drop out within the opening 9 days for him to get a dedicated team around him. Will he wait for his captain on the cobbles as theoretically he should be one of the strongest GC riders. It will be interesting to see how it plays out within the team.

Bob Jungels.

I rate him as a rider but I feel he’s just going to be a “he’s there” kind of rider this Tour. Top 10 would be a good result.

Daniel Martin.

Terrible team means he will lose a lot of time in the TTT and he will lose a lot of time on the cobbles too. Stage hunting later in the race would be a good idea if he just doesn’t want to ride for a top 10.

Steven Kruijswijk.

See Jungels.

Bauke Mollema.

See Kruijswijk.

The Pretenders

Riders that won’t top 10 despite a lot of people thinking they will. Ready to eat my hat here.

Primoz Roglic.

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He seems to be everyone’s favourite wildcard for the race but I just can’t see it. Having won both Itzulia and Romandie he then returned to racing recently and took the crown at his home tour. Unproven and untested, I think he will once again go for stage wins and focus on contending for the GC in a GT next year.

Tom Dumoulin.

The Sunweb rider has never done two GTs back to back while going for GC. After the brutally tough Giro I think he will fall short here and instead focus on going for some stage wins. The way that Sunweb approached this race to me seemed that Kelderman was going to be their GC candidate with Dumoulin acting as a decoy to deflect attention but unfortunately Kelderman crashed and can’t take the start.

Mikel Landa.

The boldest of the three riders listed here, I just can’t get behind the Landa train. I think something will go wrong for him on one of the days and with the two more established Movistar riders possibly getting a little extra support, Landa will lose his hopes on the cobbles. If he is in contact though I would love to see Rogue Landa again.

Egan Bernal.

Exceptional talent but he’ll fall into line, a.k.a behind Thomas and Poels. We might see something similar to Moscon at the Vuelta where he is exceptional for a while but due to his age he won’t be consistent.

Prediction

Probably Froome, innit.

But after resigning myself to that fate at the Giro I’m going to predict a more fairytale result here and go with Bardet to take home the first French win in a long time.

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Allez Romain!

Betting

Three pre-Tour bets for me, all that I’ve tweeted out over the past couple of weeks.

2pts EW Bardet @ 18/1 for GC (he’s actually out to 20/1 with Betfair Sportsbook but I would take the 16/1 widely available elswhere)

1.5pt Valverde Top 3 at 7/1 (available at Bet365 and Will Hill)

1pt EW Demare Points Classification at 20/1 (with Coral/Lads)

I had set aside 10pts for outright market bets but this is not the year to bet on KOM pre race but I might fancy something during the race.

Let’s just hope for a better Tour than Giro punting wise, I’ll be sticking to my favourite rule: 2pts a day keeps the debt collector away!

Thanks for reading as always and hope you enjoyed the preview. Who do you think will go on to win the race overall? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 19 Preview: Venaria Reale -> Bardonecchia

Today’s Recap

The Giro is the Giro.

In typical fashion we had a break made up mainly of rouleurs that was allowed to go and contest the stage win. I honestly have no idea what the teams who chased so fervently yesterday were doing today allowing a break get away today that had only a handful of climbers in it.

And after me backing him for yesterday’s stage Schachmann went on to win today. Sums this race up perfectly really!

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I will admit that it is quite nice that Morkov and Schachmann who are roomies, planned this move yesterday evening.

Plaza was second with Cattaneo in third.

It looked as if it was going to be a dull GC day but a series of attacks ultimately led to Yates having a mini-crisis, from which he lost 28 seconds to Dumoulin, Pozzovivo and Froome. Consequently it means that he is only the same margin ahead of the Sunweb rider going into a very tough double-header. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Arguably the hardest stage at the Giro, the riders will face 5000m of climbing throughout the afternoon.

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Climbing from the gun, albeit gently to start off with, the riders will summit the Colle del Lys after 48km of racing. Plenty of time for riders to be shelled out the back if there is a big fight to get into the breakaway.

A long descent and a good portion of valley roads follows before this year’s Cima Coppi: the Colle delle Finestre.

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45 hairpins over 18.5km and a climb that averages roughly 9%. I suppose the riders can take some solace in the fact that at least it is steady…Oh, the second half of it is also on gravel roads. Just to add to the excitement.

Another quick and technical descent follows before the drag up to the ski station of Sestrière. However, it will be the easier ascent the will tackle this year so it shouldn’t amount to much.

It will be then over to the final climb to decide the day.

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It’s a tough one too as the Jaffereau averaging 9% for 7.2kms. With some of the steepest sections coming right at the end, it is perfect for an explosive lightweight climber. But after what they will have had to face before then, it might just be a case of who has anything left in the tank.

How will the stage pan out?

If Yates didn’t show any sign of weakness today then there would have been a chance that the break sticks all the way tomorrow. It still has a chance but given how aggressively I expect the other GC teams to race it now then you will need to be a very good climber to possibly hold on.

If I was Mitchelton I would play a very ballsy and risky game tomorrow. Everyone expects the likes of Sky, Sunweb and Bahrain to get a guy into the morning move to act as a bridge for their GC contender later on. So in that situation Mitchelton should just let the break get so far ahead that the rider up the road is redundant. Of course, this plan backfires a bit if lets say someone like Poels slips away.

Will we see any long-range attacks on the Finestre? I think that is a possibility but a rider will need a lot of team support ahead of them because there are still 70kms to the finish after that.

Of course, it is not just the ascents where attacks can be made and the technical descents may be just as pivotal tomorrow, especially if we get some of the rain that is forecast.

There is a good chance that things get brought back together and we have a very select group fight it out on the final climb, as the long valley roads in between the ascents might put an end to any rangey solo attacks.

Before today’s GC shake up I would have had this as a breakaway day in a 60:40 split, because of those valley roads. But after Yates’ few cracks appearing today, then I’ll reverse that and suggest it will be a GC rider who will take the win. Although I’m not completely discounting the break because it could still stick in the right situation.

Contenders

Tom Dumoulin.

Has he peaked perfectly for the final week? He certainly looked strong today but the final climb suited him very well. Tomorrow will be a big test for one of the heavier GC contenders but he seems to be in good form at the moment. With the gap down to just 28 seconds now, he will feel within touching distance of Yates, so he might not take as many risks as he would have done otherwise tomorrow.

Chris Froome.

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What’s the next best stage to win after Zoncoloan, probably the day with the Cima Coppi in it. Both Froome and Poels seem to be growing into this race which might worry their rivals but the Sky rider is probably too far back on GC to take the win. This is the Giro though, so who knows. He was attacking today and I think we might try to see a gutsy move from him on the Finestre tomorrow. The steep finishing climb will suit his washing machine cadence, that’s for sure.

Simon Yates.

Just a bad day, or something worse? He says that he should be fine tomorrow but will he really be. There’s only one way to find out and I’m sure we’ll all find out at the same time as he does tomorrow. I think he could bounce back, but he needs to not show any weakness until the final climb. It will be a big day for him and his team and unless he finds that flying form he had in the opening two weeks, it won’t be a stage win for him.

Domenico Pozzovivo.

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The Bahrain man has done a fantastic ride so far this Giro and finds himself currently sitting on the podium. He and his team will be very concerned with a reinvigorated Froome though but the Italian did seem to follow the Sky rider’s attack today with some ease. There has been a lot of talk throughout this Giro about his lack of support in the mountains after Siuitsou crashed before the race began. Will that show itself tommorrow?

Miguel Angel Lopez.

One of today’s stronger performers, the current young jersey holder produced an impressive climbing display on the one and only hill. He caught up to Poels in what seemed like no time, although it is hard to tell if he was waiting up for Froome a bit. Nonetheless, the Colombian seems to be really growing into the race and with the alititude involved tomorrow, he will be at home.

That’s it, all of the other GC top 20 have no chance of winning the stage.

Reichenbach Returns

After today’s calamitous affair I want to re-highlight Reichenbach again for tomorrow’s stage, because yaknow, Schachmann won the day after I had mentioned him so here’s hoping it is the same with Sebastien.

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I pointed out on Twitter that during the final slopes today he seemed to be the one setting tempo for Pinot bit considering we had a few attacks he wasn’t going full gas and I assumed that’s because Pinot was cooked. They were hoping to bluff it but as soon as the big guys came out to play the FDJ leader went backwards. Reichenbach stuck with him the whole climb but I just can’t see a way back for Pinot now. He is only going to go backwards. He and the team should reward his loyal domestique with some freedom to chase the stage win tomorrow.

Reichenbach is part of only a handful of guys who might win the day if it is not a GC contender, with the others being Aru, Ciccone and Woods.

Prediction

An Astana hail-mary, with all in for Lopez and we’ll see Superman fly!

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He is in great shape but also has the advantage of being far enough behind not to be an immediate threat.

Betting

Feck it, balls to the wall time.

2pts WIN Lopez @ 11/4 

1pt WIN Reichenbach @ 50/1

Plus 1pt on this treble…

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The 6pts on Bennett to beat Carapaz at 11/8.

I think tomorrow suits the Jumbo rider a lot more and Carapaz might lack the experience of going deep into a Grand Tour as a GC rider.

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think is going to win tomorrow and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 14 Preview; San Vito al Tagliamento -> Monte Zoncolan

Today’s Recap

Sprint day, despite Coledan’s best efforts in the closing kilometre.

Viviani showed everyone that one bad day doesn’t mean a bad race, as he romped home for the win.

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Bennett came home second, with Van Poppel in third.

Everyone’s attention has changed focus quickly though as one of the most iconic finishes in cycling awaits tomorrow, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The day that everyone has been waiting for both in the peloton and the watching public. Will the stage live up to expectations? With the finishing climb that we have, I think it will be hard for the finale not to be dramatic anyway!

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As for the rest of the stage, we’ll have to wait and see though as I’m not too sure we’ll see any GC movement before the Zoncolan, but I hope I’m wrong.

The day starts out easy with a long section of almost flat roads for 40km which will no doubt bear witness to a big fight to get in the break, everyone wants to be up ahead on the famous finish. It is possible that the break won’t have gone before the first categorised climb of the day, the Monte di Ragogna. A mini-Zoncolan, it will whet the appetite for what is to come with its 10.3% average gradient over 2.75km. Avaglio is similar with a long section above 13% but it has the easier average.

However, both of these climbs too far out for any action and even the Cat-2 Passo Duron (9.7% for 4.4km) might see a lot of eye-balling.

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If a team decides to put the pressure on though then we could see some domestiques out the back early on.

The likelihood is that we won’t see any serious pressure applied until the penultimate climb of the day.

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Unfortunately for anyone hoping to make an early attack here, Sella Valcalda is the easiest climb of the day and it be hard to distance any GC favourites. The only chance for a surprise move to go is on the steeper slopes between 4 and 5.5km on the graphic above where the gradient averages roughly 9%.

Once over the top a fast descent follows before a short dip into the valley and on to one of cycling’s most mythical climbs – Monte Zoncolan.

stage-14-zoncolan

Words don’t do it justice and I’m not going to bother to try to ramble on about it. Just look at those gradients. Team-mates will be of very little use here and it will me mano o mano between the GC contenders.

Zoncolan Time Gaps

What can we expect from the GC favourites here? How much time will they take/lose compared to each other?

The last time Zoncolan was used was back in 2014 but it was the penultimate stage of the race and with Quintana in a commanding GC lead the race was all but over. Therefore we didn’t see too many time gaps, with Quintana/Uran gaining 15 seconds on Rolland/Pozzovivo/Majka/Aru.

However, back in 2011 it was featured as the summit finish on stage 13 and we saw much bigger gaps between the favourites. Eventual stage winner Igor Anton took 2’24 out of 10th place finisher Joaquim Rodriguez.

I think we’ll see something similar to that tomorrow.

Just to show how hard the climb is, the break that day (Tankink, Rabottini and Brambilla) had a 4’30 gap with 10km to go: they finished 5’54, 6’43 and 11’24 respectively. If we do see a break stick all the way tomorrow, it will need to be made up of strong climbers and they will need 3 minutes at the bottom to have a chance. Speaking of which…

Break or GC win?

The daily conundrum for a stage at the Giro but this year has been weird as we have yet to see the break hold out for the whole day. Recent history is on the side of the breakaway when in 2014 Rogers held on from the morning move. However, slightly less recent history, i.e. every other time we’ve raced up Zoncolan, the winner has been a GC contender. Interestingly, in 2003 (Simon) and 2010 (Basso) the rider who crossed the line first on the famous slope went on to take the win overall and on the other two occasions the eventual Maglia Rosa came home 4th (Di Luca in 2007) and 2nd (Contador in 2011).

In an almost spooky coincidence, the votes on my Twitter poll are nearly a carbon copy of what the previous stats would suggest.

I’m still really on the fence, it just depends as to whom makes the move and who wants to chase behind. Given how strong Yates has looked, do the other teams help chase all day potentially gifting him 10 bonus seconds, or do they instead just sit in and let Mitchelton use up their resources? That strategy would certainly be helpful with a tricky stage to come on Sunday.

Hmmm, in the spirit of trying to defy the odds, I’ll go with the breakaway and a few riders who probably aren’t at the top of everyone’s list.

TheBreakawayLottery

Ben Hermans.

The Belgian made a big money move over the winter to join Israel Cycling Academy from BMC but it has not been an ideal year for him so far with no real results to his name. Before the race he was a potential outside contender for a top 10 spot on GC but he set his sights on losing time to chase stages. So far he has been on the attack on Etna, where he finished second best of the morning break (behind Chaves), coming home in 11th on the day. He was also part of the doomed early move on stage 10 that was rather ironically pulled back because of Chaves’ implosion. He seems to be hand-picking his stages and given his post on Instagram the other day, I think he’s looking forward to go on the attack tomorrow.

Jan Hirt.

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I raved about Astana’s super strong team before this race but they’ve been a little disappointing so far, especially Lopez who seems a bit off the pace at the moment. We could of course see it all be turned around tomorrow, but I think they will be focussing on chasing stage wins from the break and seeing what happens behind. Hirt has done a lot of work for his team-mates so far but once his job is over, he’s tried to conserve as much energy as possible. On the occasions that we’ve seen him pull on the front he has started to shred the peloton, so he must be in reasonably good shape. A climber who likes the steep slopes, none come steeper than the Zoncolan.

Wout Poels.

A bit of a wild card here but Sky tried to sneak Poels into one of the breaks the other day and I think they might take the same approach tomorrow. Poels, and Sky for that matter, haven’t been as strong as in previous Grand Tours but they could be saving it for one last push in the second half of the race. Poels climbed well here in 2014, riding strongly in support of Uran. He is reasonably close on GC to potentially worry Mitchelton, so they might not let the move get too far ahead, but if he starts the climb with 2 minutes, there is every chance he holds on.

Joe Dombrowski.

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We’re nearly into week three and we’re in a Grand Tour so there’s one man I’ll be backing on numerous occasions over the next few days. Dombrowski seems to be one of the riders who gets better and better as the race goes on, give him a 6 week GT and he might just win it. The American is an incredibly talented rider who naturally has a big engine, he’s just never been able to fully utilise it. So far in this race he has been quiet on the attacking front, working his way into form for the mountains. Instead, you will have been able to find him pulling on the front with fellow, well-known rouleur Hugh Carthy. An appearance at Duo Normand later in the season is on the cards for them I reckon! Could this be the race Dombrowski finally delivers on his talent?

GC Battle

It really is hard to say what will happen with the GC guys, they’ve not had to face a climb this tough yet. Going on what we have seen though, it looks as if Yates, Dumoulin, Pinot and Pozzovivo are the strongest.

Yates – Should enjoy the gradients of the climb but has he peaked too early? A big test for him but if he’s still on great form, he will want to take as much time out of everyone as possible.

Dumoulin – Slowly but surely riding his way into form and this will concern everyone else involved. The steep gradients tomorrow aren’t ideal for the Sunweb rider, but given it is consistently steep, he should be able to get into a rhythm and grind his way up.

Pinot – Has looked lively but has been outsprinted to the line on a few occasions. Was strong in the Alps, and now we’re onto a proper mountain he will want to show his resolve.

Pozzovivo – Another who has looked lively but he seems to lack the punch to distance everyone. When he has put a sustained attack in it has distanced a lot of people, see the finish to Gran Sassolo. Can he do the same tomorrow?

Everyone else hasn’t really shown an awful lot but we could see a few surprises, this is the Giro after all. Lots have suggested they’re trying to peak for this weekend and the whole of next week. Who’s timed it right?

Prediction

The remnants of the breakaway to hold on, just, and I’ll go with Ben Hermans to take the win.

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Sooo, it’s probably going to be a GC day now!

Betting

Worth throwing a few darts then looking in-play during the stage.

0.5pt WIN on the breakers;

Hirt 50/1, Dombrowski 66/1, Poels and Hermans at 80/1.

B365 prices.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tre Valli Varesine 2017 Preview

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

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

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

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Will we see a similar outcome this year?

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

The Route

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

TreValle

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

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

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

TVVLap

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

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

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

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

TTV

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

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

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

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

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

How will the race pan out?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Names to look out for

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

Tom Dumoulin.

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

Steve Cummings.

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

Davide Villella.

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

Michael Valgren.

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

Marco Canola.

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

Prediction

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

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

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

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Betting

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

1pt EW Dumoulin @ 33/1

0.75pt EW Valgren @ 66/1

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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.

Screen Shot 2017-09-19 at 19.11.19
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.

Clásica Ciclista San Sebastian 2017 Preview

One of my favourite races of the year returns this weekend for its 37th edition. The Klasikoa marks the shift in the season from post-Tour blues to pre-Vuelta hype! An exciting Spanish one-day race that offers those a chance at glory for Ardennes style riders along with GC talents looking to prove a point after La Grand Boucle.

In 2016 we saw the latter, with Mollema taking a great solo victory.

Cycling: 36th Clasica San Sebastian 2016

He crested the final climb of the day along with Gallopin, Valverde and Rodriguez but the Trek rider decided to seize his opportunity and attack; not looking back until the finishing straight.

Given the two Spaniards discontent for each other, Gallopin was stuck with the world’s hardest negotiating job trying to get the trio to work together. In the end, he did the majority of the work but it was too late. He managed to sprint for 2nd, a slight consolation but it was a case of what could have been for the Frenchman, with Valverde following wheels into third.

Will we see something similar this year?

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

The Route

The organisers have stuck with a very similar route to what we had last year, although there seems to be a lot more climbing earlier in the day compared to 2016.

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@LasterketaBurua

However, I don’t expect the racing to get exciting until the first passage of the Jaizkibel at 127km, just over halfway through the race. Saying that, it probably won’t be until the second passage at roughly 60km to go that we will see the race liven up as this is a potential for a race winning move if the group contains the right riders and teams.

More than likely though, it will come down to the final climb of the Murgil and the descent/run to the line that follows.

Now, I wouldn’t call the climb Tontorra and I’m sure there was a similar issue last year where the organisers labelled the climb Murgil Tontorra when it should be called Murgil Bidea. That’s just me nitpicking though!

The climb itself is short but very sharp. However, its severity does depend on the source you are looking at. On the profile above it is a 1.9km long climb at 10.2% average. That’s close to the 1.7km at 10.3% that Strava suggests it is.

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The profile of which you can view here.

Yet, the organisers on their website claim it is 2.5km at a 9% average. The road does rise a little bit before the climb starts properly but to say it is that length is probably a bit generous. So I think there might be a mistake on their website!

Last year Devenyns managed the Bidea climb in 5’42 according to the Strava segment above. Watching the footage from the race, he seems to crest the summit ~18 seconds after the front 4 so that gives you an idea of the time of the ascent for the front group; 5’24.

Borderline between tipping the scales towards the pure climbers and away from those Ardennes specialists, it should produce an exciting finish.

The race doesn’t end at the summit though and we are often treated to a tactical battle on the false-flat/descent/flat run in to the line.

With no Valverde and Rodriguez here this year, we might actually see a group co-operate if they get away off the front!

Tour Legs?

A big cause of debate is how much does completing a Grand Tour help a riders legs and form. We often hear of riders saying that they feel the benefits of it the following year, but there are also short-term benefits too.

If the race isn’t too hard, then riders can carry their form over to some races the following months and we often see riders use the Vuelta as preparation for the World Championships for example.

The same can be said for the Tour and some of the races that follow at the end of July/start of August.

In fact, the last 10 editions of San Sebastian have been won by a rider who has came from the Tour.

Screen Shot 2017-07-24 at 13.39.44

The table above highlights the top 3 at the last 10 editions of Klasikoa with their GC positions at the Tour in brackets. NR means that the rider did not compete at the Tour.

Looking at the table in more depth, it seems that riding the Tour is key for a good result in San Sebastian with only 6/30 of the podium places occupied by those who didn’t race La Grand Boucle. That trend seems to be even more prevalent as of late as only Meersman and Gilbert have podiumed in the last 5 years without having completed the Tour.

The average GC position of the winner for the last 10 years is 26.8 and with Romain Hardy’s Fortuneo team not competing here, we’ll round-up and go with Dani Navarro for the win…

Joking aside, it does seem that those coming from the Tour have an advantage but these “rules” can be broken!

Let’s have a look at who’ll be in the mix come the end of the race.

Contenders

Mollema.

One of the first four riders to crest the climb and eventual race winner, he returns back this year to defend his title. Having taken his first ever Tour win a few weeks ago he will be buoyed with confidence. Being able to take it “easy” during some of the stages should mean that he is fresher here than he was last year, where he seemed to be dead on his feet by the end of the race. Maybe that will have the opposite effect than what was expected?

Gallopin.

Second place last year, the Frenchman has a very impressive record at this race and it seems to suit him very well. I thought the climb might have been on his limit last year but it is proof that the race suits those who can put out a lot of watts for a short period of time! After his crash in the opening TT he was really attacking in the second half of the Tour, getting into the breakaway every few days. He’s a good candidate for another top 5 result. Team-mate Benoot could also be in the mix.

Kwiatkowski.

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So close to a win in the final TT of the Tour, Kwiatkowski was arguably the best domestique of the whole race. The length and quality of turns he did on the front of the race was incredible. Interestingly though, he lost the majority of his time during the TT on the short climb. So I’m beginning to wonder if he was lost some of his explosivity in exchange for more endurance. Will he be able to follow the best tomorrow?

Landa.

If Kwiatkowski isn’t there, then you would expect Landa to be there or thereabouts. He was incredible for the majority of the Tour but he did seem to tire at the end. Is doing the Giro and Tour finally taking a toll on his legs? I wouldn’t be surprised to see him ride everyone off his wheel tomorrow, or blow up early. I’m leaning towards the latter happening.

Uran.

The Colombian rode the Tour of his life to finish second overall, notching up a stage win along the way. He is clearly in scintillating form but how much has that race taken out of him? This season he seemed to be transforming into more of a one-day racer and he goes well on courses like this; he really should have won Lombardia at the end of last year. He has shown in the past few weeks he has the power to follow the best on the climbs and the speed to finish it off, can he do it again tomorrow?

Barguil.

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The rider who was the focal point of one of my favourite photos from the whole Tour arrives here as Sunweb’s leader, or does he? Dumoulin might have a say in that! Nonetheless, Barguil was incredible over the past three weeks; two stage wins, the KOM jersey and a top 10 on GC. In that final week of the race, he was putting out climbing numbers only the top guys on the overall standings could match. If he has kept that form up, then he should be in the front group on the final climb. Like Uran, he also packs a handy sprint from a small group. This looks like his best opportunity in a while to take a one-day race win!

Van Avermaet.

Bookmaker’s favourite, he is another rider with a good history at this race. He famously crashed into a motorbike while attacking away from everyone in 2015, while last year he couldn’t follow the best on the climb. Fairly disappointing at the Tour, I think we might see a repeat of last year’s performance from him. The same can be said for another rider of a similar build, Gilbert. I think it’s too early after his illness at the Tour for him to go well.

Yates.

Hoping to repeat his brother’s success, the White Jersey winner will come into the race with some pressure on his shoulders. His team tried to set the race up for him last season but he couldn’t follow the pace on the climb, probably because he didn’t have the Tour in his legs! This year he has, but he did look a little bit jaded towards the end of the race. Is he going to do a Mollema though?

There are a handful of possible outsiders who could go well such as Roglic or even Lammertink (Maurits).

As for those who weren’t at the Tour, they’ll find it hard to compete. Nonetheless, I think we could see Lopez, Dumoulin and possibly Fraile be in or around the top 10.

Prediction

Tour legs will shine through so I’ll go for one of the form riders of the race, it is just a case of who…

I have two in mind, either Barguil or Uran.

Hmmmm.

Given his better sprint, I’ll go for Uran to take the win, he is flying just now and a result here will top off a great July for him!

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Betting

I wouldn’t normally go EW on the two of them at their current odds but given that both could sprint for second or third behind a solo winner then I think it is worth it.

1pt EW on them both;

Uran @ 16/1 with Boyles (paying 4 places) would take 14/1 elsewhere

Barguil @ 20/1 with Ladbrokes/Coral

 

Thanks as always for reading, who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see a small sprint to the line or will a solo rider take the day? Anyway,

They were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

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

Today’s Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Route

Another up and down kind of day for the riders.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will the stage pan out?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contenders

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

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

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

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

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

An outsider that I am interested in is Valgren.

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

Prediction

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

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Betting

1.5pt WIN Boasson Hagen @ 9/1

0.5pt EW Dumoulin @ 50/1

0.25pt EW Valgren @ 125/1 

(all with Bet365)

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 21 Preview; Monza -> Milano

Today’s Recap

We saw some GC sparklers, not fireworks today, purely because everyone seemed equally on their limit!

Katusha pushed the pace early on which ultimately lead to a Zakarin attack on the final climb and he was joined by Pozzovivo. Unfortunately for them; Pinot, Nibali and Quintana bridged just after the KOM point.

We had a bit of cat and mouse-ing between that group and it looked for a while as if those dropped on the climb were going to get back on. However, thanks to some close motorbikes and some dodgy time gaps anyway, they were able to duke it out in the sprint to the line, holding onto a 15 second advantage from Dumoulin and co.

Pinot asserted his dominance as the fastest sprinter in the group, taking his first Giro win.

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Zakarin came home second with Nibali picking up some bonus seconds in third.

It leaves everything finely balanced going into the final TT.

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

The Route

A pan-flat course suited to the powerful riders in the peloton.

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The course descends at a very shallow rate from around 9km to go all the way to the finish. It won’t be too noticeable but it should certainly ensure that the speed will be kept high!

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Furthermore, it’s not an overly technical route either, with several long straights for the riders to put the power down. It is only once we get close to the centre of Milan that things get a bit more dicey.

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As you can see, there are a lot of 90-degree (some sharper) turns within the closing 5km so a rider willing to take some risks and carry speed through the corners can gain an advantage.

Thankfully for the riders, the weather looks to be holding up for most of the day and they should all face similar conditions.

Contenders

Dumoulin obviously will start the stage as favourite and rightly so. He absolutely decimated the opposition in the first time trial and compared to his GC rivals, this course suits him even better. However, has the past week taken too much out of him? He really struggled yesterday but coped relatively well today, commenting post stage that he had good legs. Riding a good TT after a tough Grand Tour is a completely different beast compared to resting for a few days and pulling out a result. It would be stupid of me to dismiss him, but I don’t think he’ll have it all his own way.

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From the GC contenders Zakarin, Pinot and Jungels look the most likely to contend with the Dutchman. The first two riders can pull off a good TT on their day and will be hoping for a much better performance than their first efforts against the clock. Although I’m sure both would prefer a slightly more undulating route. Jungels will definitely like the power course and he is a serious challenger to Dumoulin for the stage. Yet again though, it depends on how much the race has taken out of him but he has looked strong the past few stages after seemingly cracking on stage 18.

Who out of the non-GC riders will be contending?

Kiryienka  – Depends if he tries or not. If he does, he really should be up there but he only properly gets going after 20km so I’m sure he would have loved an extra 10km on top.

Luis Leon Sanchez – The first of the non-GC riders home in the first time trial, the Spaniard has been active this race in the mountains. He looked tired on yesterday’s stage but had a relatively quiet day in the saddle today, saving himself for tomorrow?

Jos Van Emden – After managing to finish in the top 10 on the first TT, the Dutchman should enjoy this flatter course even more. He rolled home today in the gruppetto and I would not be surprised to see him go well tomorrow.

As for some outsiders…

Stef Clement.

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He of Wongshot fame gets another mention. The Jumbo rider is a solid TT rider on his day but has been a bit anonymous in the discipline over the past few years. However, if he manages to find his legs then he can definitely compete as he is one of those riders who excels at this distance.

Tobias Ludvigsson.

I couldn’t go the whole Giro without naming one of my favourite riders, could I?! Working in support of Pinot, Ludvigsson has performed well as a domestique this Giro. He survived a fall a few stages ago and even ended up in the break the day after. With Pinot needing a good bench-mark time to aim at from his team-mates, Ludvigsson is the ideal candidate for that situation.

Prediction

It more than likely has to be Dumoulin, but that’s no fun, so I’ll go for everyone’s favourite Swede to upset the apple cart and beat his former team-mate.

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Betting

Tweeted out my selections before;

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So avoid those two at all costs!

 

Thanks again for reading, especially if you’ve stuck with my awful predictions for this Giro! Your continued support means a lot.

I’m not sure what’s next on the blog as I haven’t even spared any thought to the upcoming races yet. Most likely the Dauphine and the Women’s Tour. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.