Tour de France 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Düsseldorf -> Liège

Today’s Recap

Luck, bravery and a stonkingly strong effort from Thomas saw him take Yellow at the end of a very tricky and tough day.

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Don’t think many people would have predicted that!

Küng and Kiryienka rounded out the podium, with Froome being the best GC rider (not including Thomas of course), beating his closest rivals by around 25 seconds.

It was a course fraught with danger due to the wet and greasy surface which unfortunately meant several riders crash. The #HaugheyCurse already managed to rear its head on stage one with Roglic going down and ruling him out of stage contention. However, more disappointingly we’ve had two abandons in the form of Valverde and Izagirre, both of whom were top 10 contenders for the overall at the very least.

The organisers will be looking for a much more mundane day out tomorrow. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

A fairly flat day out where the sprinters should get their first chance to go for stage glory.

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We should see a fairly exciting start to the day as several riders will no doubt be gunning for the early KOM. After that though it should be a fairly benign day as they travel through Germany until the terrain starts to get more rolling once they enter Belgium and the province of Liège.

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We do have some uncategorised rises and a Cat-4 climb that crests with 20km to go but they should be of no difficulty to the fast men.

The run is a sprinters delight and I’m sure the GC riders will be happy with it too, no first road stage nervousness!

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Facing a few technical turns, the biggest difficulty is a right-handed turn at 3km to go. After that, it will be a drag race between the lead-out trains with the final kilometre being dead straight.

Weather Watch

One thing that could upset the apple cart though is the weather. We might have a few showers throughout the day and there are some consistent winds forecast throughout the day.

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Weather forecast for Aachen (Source: Windfinder)

Strong enough to create some echelons when the route is heading South/South-West (so most of the stage), I will be intrigued to see if any team tries to split it in the wind.

It’s quite hard to tell how exposed some of the course is due to the strange reason that Google Streetview hasn’t covered any of the area south of Mönchengladbach. Can anyone tell me why?!

Looking at the satellite images, it appears like flat German farmland that could be fairly exposed to the wind.

As for when the riders enter Belgium, we have typical small Belgian towns, some exposed roads but some fairly well sheltered.

I think it’s unlikely we’ll see any splits but you never know. Some teams/riders are already facing an uphill battle on GC so if they sense any opportunity they’ll go for it.

Sprint Contenders 

The first sprint of a Tour is always an interesting one as riders/teams aren’t sure of what to expect. Everyone will fancy their chances so it often leads to a rather chaotic finale. It will also be a cross-headwind finish so timing your effort will be important.

Marcel Kittel starts as the favourite for the day. The German has a team built to support him and it is arguably one of the longest proper sprint trains that we’ve seen in a Grand Tour since the HTC days. Quick Step will be able to put the power down in the closing few kilometres and with Sabatini (Kittel’s trusted lead-out man) dropping him off at 150m to go, will anyone be able to beat him?

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Arnaud Démare on current form looks like his main challenger, with the Frenchman dominant in his last few races. The reason I said “arguably” for Kittel’s lead-out is that Deémare will have everyone in his team apart from Pinot working for him. The signings of Cimolai and Guarnieri have really brought some high-end speed into the top end of the order. He might not beat Kittel when the German is up to full race speed but since he’s not raced in a while, Démare has every chance. I’m sure he’ll be doing his rain dance too!

Peter Sagan will be close to the top of the order, like always! He really seems to up his game in the sprints at the Tour and is one of the fastest riders here. Sagan doesn’t really have a lead-out train to the same extent as Kittel and Demare do but he still has some fire power. Selig will be his last man and he’s a rider who I’ve really rated this season, he’s done great work for Bennett etc, so he’ll be expected to continue that for Sagan here. Can the World Champion make an early claim for Green with a win?

Andre Greipel is a bit of a hit or miss character in the sprints recently and I think it is clear he’s sorely missing Henderson. Lotto Soudal shortened their lead-out train on the final day of the Tour last year and it seemed to work for them then so they’ve taken a similar approach this year. He’ll more than likely have to latch onto the back of someone elses lead-out and I think it will be tough for him to take the win, but he is certainly strong enough on his day to do so.

Mark Cavendish is the unknown quantity. He says he doesn’t know where his form is, although he most definitely will, and I’m intrigued to see how he copes. With a strong lead-out, he is almost capable of anything tomorrow. I would not be surprised with a win or if he was nowhere.

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Dylan Groenewegen has the speed and fearlessness to get himself a podium position. He recently beat Kittel and Greipel at Ster ZLM so will be full of confidence, although he did struggle at the Nationals recently. I think he would prefer the finish to be a bit more technical. He has a chance but it will be tough!

As for the rest, they should be there or thereabouts but I think it will be hard for them to win.

Prediction

Arnaud Démare to take advantage of his fine form while he can and take the win, sending the French public/media into disarray!

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Betting

As I said yesterday, today was most likely to be a no bet and it will remain that way. Almost tempted with a couple of loose change punts on Naesen and Lutsenko at crazy prices and do my wind dance. I think I’ll save my money though to waste on future stages!

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone beat Kittel? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Düsseldorf -> Düsseldorf

A shorter preview to mimic a shorter opening day!

Last year saw the sprinters take glory with Mark Cavendish getting to wear Yellow after his opening day success. In 2017 though, it will once again be the turn of the TT specialists and powerhouses who will be looking to make their mark in the race of truth.

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Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders on the opening day.

The Route

A pan-flat TT that closely follows the Rhine.

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The only elevation we get is when the riders cross the bridge over the river. I wonder if anyone will be chasing that Strava KOM?!

As for the technicality of the route goes, it is fairly simple too.

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A lot of the stage will be done at full gas and the riders will barely have to touch the breaks. There are a few 90-degree turns that they might have to slow down for but in some places the road is quite wide so they can take the corners at full pace and “sweeping”.

It is a fast course, similar to the one we saw in Utrecht back in 2015. Will we similarly fast times?

That could possibly depend on the start times of the riders as one of the main talking points throughout this week has been the potential rain we’ll get throughout the day tomorrow.

Weather Watch

According to different forecasts it’s meant to rain at various times throughout the day so I’m not sure anyone’s overly confident at how quickly the rain will pass. Some think it will be gone by 4 but others have it raining until the evening.

The general consensus seems to be the following though.

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Source: Wunderground

The riders who start early will more than likely get some rain, with the course getting progressively drier later on.

It is a bit of an unkown though and wet/drying/dry roads should add to the drama on the opening day!

You can view all the start times on the Tissot website here.

Contenders

Given the nature of the route, there are only a handful of riders in with a good chance of winning the stage.

Tony Martin, current German and World TT Champion has to start as favourite for the stage. The route looks custom-built to suit Martin’s characteristics with long straights where he can churn out a load of power in a massive gear. He’s not been great this season though, with his only TT win coming at the recent German Championships. His year is built around this effort though, to take Yellow in his home country so he will (here comes the clichés) want it a bit more than others and that will give him an extra 10%. Will that be enough though?

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Primoz Roglic has continued his meteoric rise through the pro peloton this season after a break-out performance at last year’s Giro in the TTs. Losing out to Dumoulin on the opening day of that Giro by less than a second, he’ll be fighting for another jersey this time. He would probably prefer a few more corners out on the course, as he is one of the best bike handlers in the peloton, and that would be where he makes up a lot of time. Nonetheless, he has the power to contend over this distance and his recent win at the Ster ZLM prologue give him plenty of confidence. There were rumours earlier in the week that he was ill but he gets the last spot out for his team which suggest they’re equally confident in his chances and that he may not be ill after all!

Jos van Emden is the second of the Jumbo riders who will be at the pointy end of proceedings come tomorrow evening. Another rider who has really stepped up over the past couple of seasons in the TT, this distance is his bread and butter. It will be interesting to see how he goes with the Giro already in his legs, as he seemed a bit cooked at the Dutch National championships. Although he did have one of the fastest early splits, maybe just preparing for this distance?

Stefan Küng arrives as BMC’s challenge to take Yellow on the opening day and has been given the honour of last man out for them. He won his first TT recently (the Swiss Championships), not long after a very impressive display on the last day of racing at the Tour de Suisse where he finished second in a TT that didn’t really suit him to his team-mate Dennis. He’ll go well and is almost a shoe-in for a top 10 at least, but he is very hit and miss at times with his efforts against the clock so I’m a bit wary if he’ll go well here. He’s a type of rider that whatever time he records, the result won’t surprise me!

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Those 4 are the top contenders but there are certainly others who could get be in the mix.

Steve Cummings is clearly flying at the moment and will be a danger man for the podium. The British Champion could even make it back to back opening day yellow jerseys for Dimension Data.

Jonathan Castroviejo would have preferred a rolling course. Nonetheless, at the World’s last year he proved he can mix it on the pure flat terrain against some of the bigger guys. He won a flat TT against Martin and Roglic in Algarve earlier in the year, can he repeat that tomorrow?

He’s not the only Movistar rider in with a chance as they have young German Jasha Sütterlin. He delivered a promising result in the Dauphiné and only finished 15 seconds behind Martin at Nationals. One to keep an eye on!

Prediction

I nailed my colours to the mast earlier this week and I’ll stick to my guns. Roglic to win!

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It should be a close battle though between him and Martin and I expect very little between them. I also fancy Cummings to round out the podium given his current form.

Betting

I took Roglic at 2/1 mid-week but he’s now drifted out to 3/1 so…

3pts WIN Roglic @ 3/1 with Betfred/SkyBet/Betway/BF Exchange

I’m also wary of Cummings so I’ll be backing him EW as well.

1pt EW Cummings @ 28/1 with Betway (would take the 25s widely available elsewhere).

Going in a little bit heavier than I would normally but Stage 2 is more than likely going to be a no bet (unless the wind starts to play up) so I’m just doubling up the stakes here.

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win? Will it be a German win or will someone upset the narrative? I’ll be back again tomorrow with my Stage 2 preview. Until then,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.