Milano-Sanremo 2017 Preview

Milano-Sanremo 2017 Preview

The first monument of the year and the longest race in the calendar returns this weekend; Milan -> Sanremo!

Like most MSR’s, last year’s edition built slowly to a climax, with the closing kilometre being exceptionally exciting.

We had Gaviria crashing, almost taking out Sagan and Cancellara if it was not for some incredible bike handling, but what else would you expect from that pair! That left the door open for some other riders and Roelandts opened up the sprint early which caught everyone off guard. Swift followed (finishing 2nd in the end), Bouhanni looked strong but had a mechanical and came home 4th. Instead, it was a rather dubious win for Arnaud Démare in the end after there were accusations he got a tow from the team car back to the peloton after a crash. Nonetheless, it was an impressive sprint from the Frenchman and with the way he is riding this season so far, he could well make it back to back wins!

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

The Route

A carbon copy of what we’ve had the past few years pretty much.

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A real race of attrition, the peloton doesn’t get close to this distance in any other race. The extra 50km compared to some other monuments and almost 100km on normal stage-race stages really adds another element. The climbs of the Cipressa and the Poggio if taken alone aren’t difficult at all.

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Yet, with them being the only place for the climbers and puncheurs to make a move they are always attacked at a ferocious pace. Plus, with 260km already in the legs, riders will be nervous as to how their body reacts.

We might see some long-range attacks on the Cipressa before the puncheurs try to break the hearts of the sprinters on the Poggio. It’s often a battle between attacking classics riders and the sprinter’s team-mates for control of the race. Once over the crest of the Poggio, it’s time for a daredevil descent into Sanremo itself.

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Once off the descent we have roughly 2km of flat to the finish. There will no doubt be more attacks here as the riders regroup. Will the sprinters have enough team-mates left to chase and control the race? Or will we even see non-sprinters chase down other non-sprinters? Inadvertently helping the sprinters who are with them!

The famous finish along the via Roma awaits.

How will the race pan out?

Going off of recent trends, the race certainly seems to live up to its nickname of “The Sprinter’s Monument”.

In the last 5 years, the number of riders in the leading group at the finish has swelled; 2012 (3); 2013 (7); 2014 (25); 2015 (26); 2016 (31). Why is that?

Well, the removal of the “Le Manie” climb in 2014 swung the race back towards bunch gallops. Although it came around 100km from the finish, it sapped away at the sprinters legs a lot earlier and ensured that they tackled the climbs at the end of the race with a bit more fatigue. You could also argue that sprinters in general seem to have got better at climbing over the past few years, but I’m not sure the likes of Kittel will agree!

Oddly enough though, I do still think we’ll see one of the more attacking MSRs for a while. I’m not saying it won’t come down to a sprint in the end, but with so many puncheurs in great form coming into the race, I’m sure they won’t want to wait until the sprint to end up 6th-10th place. There will be a slight headwind when the riders turn onto the Poggio, but the majority of the climb will be a tailwind. Will this inspire the attackers?

If a select group can make it over the top of the Poggio and work well together then they can make it to the finish. However, the issue is that they have to co-operate, if not, then they have no chance.

I actually think someone like Sagan might attack on the Poggio.

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The World Champion is clearly in scintillating form but I’m sure even he will be concerned with the quality of sprinters that can make it over the final climb if the pace isn’t too high. He is the one of the fastest men in the World after a tough day and I’m sure he’ll do everything in his powers to ensure that he has the best chance at winning the race. Being beaten by Gaviria in Tirreno this week gone by won’t have done his confidence much use, but I guess Sagan being Sagan, he doesn’t need any more confidence!

Another reason I think Sagan might not wait around for a sprint is that Bora also have the handy second card to play of Sam Bennett. The Irishman took a breakthrough and much deserved win in Paris-Nice, beating some of the fastest pure sprinters in the World. That impressed me, but what impressed me more was his intermediate sprint win the next day. “Eh?!” I can imagine you say, thinking I’ve clearly lost the plot. Well, that intermediate sprint came after the stage started with a Cat-1 climb and the peloton was only 60-riders strong over the top, with the likes of Demare being dropped. Not Bennett though, he was up there beating Matthews and Gilbert. He certainly seems to have found his climbing legs and the Poggio shouldn’t be a challenge for him! Which leads me on to the other sprinters here…

Sprinters

We have plenty of them here, with only Kittel, Greipel and Groenewegen being the notable absentees.

I’m not going to bore you with a little bit on each sprint option (plenty of others will cover them more succinctly and concisely), as I’m already close to the 1000 word mark and I have a few other scenarios/riders I want to cover. So like I’ve been doing quite a bit recently, I’m going to focus on one rider and he’s a selection that might surprise you!

Mark Cavendish.

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The 2009 winner has had a relatively uninspiring but solid start to his 2017 season, picking up only one victory so far in Abu Dhabi. He wasn’t competitive at this race last year due to his Olympics build up, but will be hoping for better this year. Nonetheless, he looks like a tough rider to argue for, yet I’ll give it my best shot.

It’s his slow burning season that’s actually making me believe in his chances here. Before the Tour last year I had written him off as he didn’t seem to be having a great year and seemed past it. He went on to win 4 stages. Before the World Champs I ruled him out as he said he was ill in the week leading up to the event and had gone a bit off the boil post TDF, with only a 6th at Paris-Tours being a notable result. He went on to finish second. Really though, he should have won! He just chose the wrong wheel and got a bit boxed in. There is a recurring theme here; just when he seems to be out of it, he bags a result. The Manxman certainly knows how to peak for key targets. His recent performance in Tirreno fits the above agenda quite nicely and reminds me of a certain Irishman.

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The above screenshot is from an interview in Rouleur magazine with Sean Kelly (view it here). Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Write off Cavendish at your peril this weekend!

Outsiders

There are plenty of puncheurs and classics riders I could highlight but I’m returning to Dimension Data for my second rider.

Edvald Boasson Hagen has long been a favourite of mine. The guy oozed class and talent on a bike and it’s a shame for him he’s around in the same era as the likes of Sagan and GVA as I feel he gets overlooked at times.

The Norwegian was on the attack here in the final kilometres last year and only a few managed to follow him. I expect something similar this year, even if Cavendish makes it over the top of the Poggio in the main group. He’s without a win this season but he has looked strong in Strade, bridging across to the front group on his own. Likewise, his two top 10 TT results indicate to me that he’s peaking a lot more slowly this year compared to his blistering start last season. He can win solo by attacking, or could take out a sprint win from a small group and I don’t think there would be many cycling fans out there who would begrudge a Boasson Hagen win!

My final rider is a proper outsider and one that I have mentioned a lot over the past week in Paris Nice; Alexey Lutsenko.

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The Astana man has had a strong but fruitless start to the season. He was never outside the top 30 in Oman and finished a very respectable 11th in the tough TT during Paris Nice. The Kazakh outfit are without a top quality sprinter in their squad, but Lutsenko can certainly fill the void. Like EBH, he is capable of attacking late on in the race or challenging for the win in a very reduced sprint. He did win the U23 World’s in a very similar fashion! A talented rider who I think is going to have a very good season, a win here would certainly shock a few but not me. He will still need some luck to go his way, but who doesn’t here!

Prediction

A sprint is the most likely option but I think we’ll see a more attacking race this year and a move within the final 2km could well stick. He tried it last year and was unlucky to be marked out of it, but I think this year he might just make it with everyone else marking Sagan. Boasson Hagen to take a memorable victory!

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Betting

Cavendish 1pt EW @18/1 with Bet365 (Would take down to 14s available elsewhere)

Boasson Hagen 0.75pts EW @80/1 with Bet365 (Would take down to 50s)

Lutsenko 0.25pts EW @300/1 with PP/Bet365 (Would take down to 200s).

 

Thanks very much for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated as always. Who do you think is going to win La Classicissima? Will we see a sprint or a late attack stick? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Tirreno Adriatico 2017 Stage 3 Preview; Monterotondo Marittimo -> Montalto di Castro

Today’s Recap

Right idea, wrong Sky rider!

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It was Geraint Thomas who managed to solo to the line, after we had a flurry of attacks at the front of the bunch in the closing 10km. The Welshman did look very strong and it could be a case of what might have been for him this week.

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

The Route

Another 200km plus day in the saddle for the riders, good training for MSR at least!

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One of the few chances the sprinters will get in this race, so I imagine that’s what we’ll see. There are some tricky hills out there but I expect it to come back together for a bunch kick.

Therefore, it’s all about the closing kilometres tomorrow and the overall profile is a slightly deceptive one! If you just had a quick glance at the image above, you would be forgiven if you didn’t notice the little kick at the end.

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With the final 750m averaging 3.5%, it’s certainly not a straightforward sprint.

Throw in a few sweeping turns and things get a bit hectic.

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So positioning will have to be important but also the timing of the effort will be key as well.

Contenders

For a finish like this, Peter Sagan has to start as the favourite. The Wold Champion should cope easily with the sweeping nature of the last 1km, but the rise at the end of the stage shouldn’t be an issue to him either. After sprinting to third place today, he seems to have recovered from his sickness that saw him DNF Strade. Can anyone beat him in an uphill drag?

I’m sure Greg Van Avermaet would be offended if I said no! This type of finish looks great for the Belgian rider who is in exceptional form at the moment, which will be a concern for other riders as he will only get better going into April. He’ll be able to rely on a strong lead-out and he certainly has a great chance of winning the stage.

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Dimension Data have a couple of options here but this finish will be right on the limit of Mark Cavendish so instead I imagine it will be Edvald Boasson Hagen that they will be working for. The Norwegian is in fairly good form at the moment, building himself up towards the classics. This type of power sprint really suits him and he’ll be hoping for a good result looking ahead to the rest of the Classics.

With no proper sprinter to speak of here, Trek will most likely turn to Fabio Felline as their main charge for this stage. After a disappointing performance today, I’m sure he’ll want to bounce back and bag a good result tomorrow. Not a slouch in a tough sprint, I image that he’ll want the racing to be hard to tire the legs of his contenders.

A team that do have a proper sprinter with them are Quick-Step and they bring young Colombian sensation Fernando Gaviria to the party. Touted as the “New Sagan” by some, there currently seems to be no ends to his talents whether that be sprinter or classics man. He was up there for a long time on today’s stage, doing a bit of work for Jungels, so he seems to be climbing well. I think he will surprise some tomorrow!

Francesco Gavazzi certainly surprised me today with his 5th place finish, I thought the finale would be too hard for him, preferring tomorrow’s stage. Therefore, if he went well today, he has a chance of equalling or bettering that result tomorrow! A rider much like everyone else listed, he packs a fast kick on a testy finish. Without a win yet this season, he’s finished in the top 10 of all of his one-day races so far, which isn’t a bad record. Another top 10 should be a certainty here, but can he go better?!

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Jens Debuscherre might fancy his chances of maintaining contact with the head of the peloton on this finish. Much more than a fast finisher, he is a rider in the mould of EBH and Sagan. After a disappointing crash in Omloop, he’s picked himself up with a top 10 in West Vlaanderen midweek. It might be tough, but he’s not one to discount.

Old fox Daniele Bennati might just have a run at it tomorrow. He’s the fastest on his squad and the tougher finish will bring him closer to the likes of Sagan and co. It will still be a tall order for the win but a top 10 is possible.

Likewise, Oscar Gatto might like the look of the finish. The Astana rider had a very solid Omloop and is clearly in reasonable shape at the moment. One to keep an eye out for but again, a top 10 would be a good result.

With Caleb Ewan abandoning the race, Orica will probably turn to Luka Mezgec or Daryl Impey. Both present a good option for a top 10 finish.

I think the climb will be too tough for the likes of Viviani etc.

Prediction

The new Sagan beats Sagan. Fernando Gaviria to take a brilliant win!

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With Gavazzi springing a surprise in the chaos and sneaking a podium and GVA in there as well.

Betting

 

Would back Gaviria but not at that price so GVA actually becomes the value bet.

1pt EW GVA @50/1 with Bet365 (would take down to 25/1)

0.25pt EW Gavazzi @ 80/1 with Bet365

Thanks again for reading, I shall be back again tomorrow with another preview double-header. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Tirreno Adriatico 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Camaiore -> Pomarance

Today’s Recap

Easy win for BMC in the end!

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

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

The Route

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

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

The longest climb of the day is up to Volterra.

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

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

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

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

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

How will the race pan out?

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

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

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

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

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

Mattia Cattaneo.

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

Rohan Dennis.

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

Diego Rosa.

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

Prediction

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

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Betting

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

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

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

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

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Eneco Tour Stage 2 Preview: Breda -> Breda

Today’s Recap

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more chaotic sprint on what was a relatively simple, straight run in! Teams hit the front in ones and twos and there was no real cohesion in the final few kilometres. Out of the mess, it was Groenewegen who followed the correct wheel and timed his effort excellently to take the stage win. He’s had a spectacular season!

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It was Bouhanni who had the fastest closing speed after getting squeezed out ever so slightly, and he managed to get up for 2nd place, with Sagan bagging 3rd. As for Nizzolo he opened up the sprint too early, managing to hold on for 6th. Whereas Greipel was disappointing and never really got involved. He lost the wheel here (at around 800m to go) and that was his sprint over.

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As he’s gotten older he seems to lack the desire to get involved in messy situations and that was clearly highlighted today.

Anyway, moving on to tomorrow’s stage!

The Route

A pan-flat, out and back route around Breda. Another stage with not much to say, I think this section will be short and sweet!

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It’s the exact same TT course that was used back in 2014, and on that day Tom Dumoulin was victorious with a time of 10’55, averaging 52.7km/h. That gives you an idea what the course is like!

It’s one for the specialists, with there only being a few corners where the riders have to properly slow down. Although saying that, the course is just longer than what would be classed as prologue distance and with it being an 11 minute effort, a few unusual names may sneak into the top 10.

Thankfully for the riders, the conditions look to be similar all day so there’s no need for a #WeatherWatch.

The Big 3

For a stage like this there are 3 big favourites.

Tom Dumoulin, winner in 2014, would normally start as the favourite for this stage. In fact, he more than likely will! However, he doesn’t seem to perform at his best in short TTs, he’s a lot better at the longer stuff where gauging your effort counts for a lot more than pure power. Saying that, he could quite easily go on to win here. Either way, it will be close!

Tony Martin was win-less this year (not including Nat Champs) up until the recent Tour of Britain TT where he beat Dumoulin and Dennis over a short, 15km course. Brimming with confidence, he won’t expect anything less than a win on a profile that suits him down to the ground. The only question mark with him is that he’s not been consistent this year.

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The final member of the trio, Rohan Dennis, will equally fancy his chances here. The Aussie had a pretty poor opening half of the year. In fact, he hasn’t been that good all year but he did look incredibly strong in Britain. One of his problems in long TTs is that he goes out too fast at times, that won’t be an issue tomorrow. Building form the Worlds, don’t be surprised if he makes a statement here!

Can Anyone Else Compete?

The best candidate to make it onto the podium would be Ion Izagirre. His time trialling has greatly improved this year and he’ll be looking for a big result. The only concern is that he doesn’t seem to go well on purely flat courses.

His team-mate Nelson Oliveira is another who could well cause a surprise. He performed a good TT at the recent Euro Champs, finishing 4th. It’s hard to tell how good he will be tomorrow, as he often isn’t allowed to go full gas on a short TT but the form is certainly there. Alex Dowsett will find the course design to his liking, but it’s probably too short for him!

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Talking about team-mates who could go well, Dennis has two of those in the shape of Phinney and Küng. The American was on track for a good time at the ToB TT but crashed because of the rain. The short course should suit his powerful nature. Likewise, it will suit Küng too who is a former world champion on the track in the individual pursuit.

Jos Van Emden will hope to repeat his TT win from last year. But his form is an unknown as he’s not done anything of note in the final third of this year and pulled out of the Vuelta.

Thomas will probably be in or around the top 10, as will Kelderman and Boom.

Now for those surprises I mentioned earlier…

Edvald Boasson Hagen.

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He absolutely decimated the field in Qatar earlier this year in a flat TT and back in his HTC days he was a very good short TTer. If he’s building form for the end of the season like he did in 2015, he should be firing on all cylinders here, with a free-role looking likely in Qatar. A scary thought, he is an incredible rider. His long sprint today gave a glimpse at how he’s going, and I think the answer to that is well!

When mentioning incredible riders, you can’t leave out Peter Sagan!

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Wins the European Championship one day, sprints to third the following day. Why not compete in a short TT too? Gearing up to defend his World Champions Jersey, he’s at the Eneco Tour chasing World Tour points so he can win that competition as well. He’s not known for his time trialling, but this is the best I think I’ve ever seen him perform and he could well pull a result out the bag. Sorry Edvald, but that’s a scary thought! Remember back to his TT at the Tour of California last year, I expect something very similar from him tomorrow. Watch this space!

*Or don’t, as he crumbles and finishes in 27th*

Prediction

More than likely it will be between the big three, but there is always room for a surprise or two.

Martin has the form (recent win), Dumoulin has course form and home advantage. So yep, as you may have guessed, I’m going for neither of them. Dennis to win! I really liked the way he was riding at ToB and this short course is to his benefit. The beacons are lit, and Rohan will answer!

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Betting

Almost tempted by an EW on Sagan (100s) and Izagirre (50s) but it’s an official no stage bet.

I do like this H2H 4-fold though.

1pt on at 12.93/1.

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Thanks again for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and can anyone upset the big 3? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Eneco Tour Stage 1 Preview: Bolsward -> Bolsward

Eneco Tour Stage 1 Preview: Bolsward -> Bolsward

No proper GC preview from me, but I’ll give a quick insight into how I think it will play out. The TTT will probably shape the race and with BMC the likely winners of that stage, they should have at least 4 riders in the top 10 going into the tougher stages at the end. Playing the numbers game, they should hold on for the win, with GVA or Dennis being their best candidates. I’d go with Van Avermaet to win it!

However, if some teams can stay relatively close in the TTT, such as Tinkoff, then they have a chance to upset the apple cart. The ITT won’t play a huge part in the race, as there won’t be massive time gaps because of it, so it will come down to the TTT and the final two road stages. After Sagan crushing the opposition today at the Euro Champs he’ll be brimming with confidence (like always!) and could claw back some time here. My dark-horse for the week is his team-mate Michael Valgren. A top 5 would be, and require a fantastic performance but a top 10 does look achievable!

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Anyway, let’s have a look at the opening stage.

The Route

The organisers aren’t entirely helpful and there are no official profiles. There are GPX files which you can download so I’ve attempted to make my own stage profile. However, Strava seems to get a bit confused at some point and the route it makes is 6km longer than the official 184km for the stage. Nonetheless, here it is…

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Pan-flat pretty much all day, although with some tiny changes in elevation, but that’s me really scraping the barrel for something to talk about! It is a nailed on sprint stage.

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The final 3km should be fairly straight-forward, although it is important to note that the roads aren’t large open highways. Instead, they’re normal two-lane roads, so there won’t be lots of space for every team at the front. This is particularly interesting with the number of sprinters and lead-out trains that we have here. Speaking of which…

Sprint Contenders

We have a whole host of sprint talent here, as they gear up towards the World’s in Qatar that start in just under a months time.

The fastest man in the world, Marcel Kittel, makes an appearance here. After a poor TDF, only picking up one stage win, he finally returned to racing at the end of last month. He re-found his race pace in Germany doing some work for team-mates, and managed to win GP Fourmies a fortnight ago. However, he was physically sick during the race in Belgium on Friday, forcing him to abandon. I’m not sure if he’ll have recovered fully by tomorrow and he won’t make the podium. Bold claim, I know!

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In fact, if he isn’t feeling 100% Etixx may turn to Boonen as their sprint option. I just think he lacks the top end speed now to match the best on a pure sprint like this. No Etixx rider in the top 5 tomorrow!

Looking to seize his opportunity will be Andre Greipel. The Gorilla has had a very solid season, he always seems to deliver! Winning the opening stage at the Tour of Britain comfortably he then turned his focus to team duties, riding for Debuscherre for the rest of the race. He’ll be back to team leader in the sprints here. With the simple run-in he’ll want to take advantage and remind everyone, particularly the German World’s selectors, that he is the man to beat. With a solid lead-out, the stage is certainly there for the taking!

One rider who will have something to say about that is Nacer Bouhanni. The mercurial Frenchman has his full lead-out train with him here. Having felt hard done by in the past few months with being relegated in a sprint and supposedly the whole world against him, he’s going to come out fighting! A very fast rider on his day, people seem to forget he has a great kick. With Kittel not 100% and Greipel not a fan if things get messy, Bouhanni is a serious threat!

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Kristoff comes here after dominating his local race, the Tour des Fjords. Admittedly, the level of sprinters there wasn’t that high but confidence is key for sprinters, so Kristoff will come here with high levels of expectations. Can he deliver? Quite possibly. He’ll be hoping for a headwind sprint!

Orica come here with two options, Matthews or Ewan. I think they’ll go for the latter in tomorrow’s sprint. With it being pan-flat, it suits Ewan’s characteristics a lot more. However, as fast as he is, I don’t think he’s at the level to win against this competition consistently, not just yet. Maybe next year and certainly in years to come!

One rider I am interested in seeing how they go here is Giacomo Nizzolo. The Italian has had a bit of a so-so season, but as his country’s main hope for a medal at the World’s he’ll be coming here in good form. He crashed in Britain, but seemed to be over that, winning Coppa Bernocchi midweek. The Trek team here is surprisingly strong, with Stuyven, Van Poppel and Bonifazio to lead him out. A rider who’s promised a lot in the past, I think he’ll get a win this week. Is tomorrow his day?

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How can I leave out the new European Champion too! Sagan was incredibly strong today, but can he pull off back to back wins? It will be tough but he his capable of doing it. He’s looking in great shape for the Worlds, but will he risk that chance to mix it up in the sprints here?

Aside from those mentioned above, there are still several guys who could get in the mix; Groenewegen, Degenkolb, Danny Van Poppel, Wippert, Démare, Modolo, Kreder, Capiot, Van Lerberghe, Jans, Dehaes, Van Genechten, Renshaw, EBH & GVA. Quite the list! Eat your heart out CyclingQuotes 😉

The first three in that list are most likely to challenge.

Prediction

Flat sprint, straight roads and a team that normally starts with a bang. Greipel to take the win and make a big statement!

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Betting

With a stage that could cause a few surprises, a sensible decision would be a no bet. But we all know I’m not very sensible and don’t like sitting on the fence!

Greipel 1pt WIN @ 5/1 with Bet365

Nizzolo 0.25pt EW @28/1 with Various bookmakers.

 

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed the preview?! How do you think the first sprint stage will go down? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

TDF Stage 21 Preview: Chantilly -> Paris

Today’s Recap

A good stage, won by a perfectly controlled climb and bold descent from Ion Izagirre. He showed composure and no fear when descending down to Morzine in treacherous conditions. Pantano and our pick of Nibali rounded off the podium.

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Behind, Froome was never in danger, but we did get a slight reshuffle in the top 10. Rodriguez and Kreuziger were the big movers, with Mollema and Aru being the losers on the day.

With all of the classifications wrapped up;

Froome – Overall

Yates – Young Rider

Majka – KOM

Sagan – Points

Tomorrow’s stage is all a case of restoring pride for some of the sprinters.

I’ll be keeping this preview shorter than normal, it’s a pretty basic sprint stage and there shouldn’t be anything that surprises us!

The Route

Stage 21 sees the usual processional stage into Paris, finishing along the Champs-Élysées. Nothing much to see on the stage profile, we do have our final categorised climb though, which might entice some riders into the break for that extra prize money!

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I wonder if De Gendt will make a breakaway move? He’s not far off the combative prize, i.e. the most kilometres spent off the front of the race. Aside from that it will probably be a slow day until we reach the closing circuit.

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Nothing new here, all the favourite tourist destinations will be passed along the way, as the riders traverse the cobbles, exact same circuit as the previous years.

As we’ve seen in the past, positioning is pretty crucial within the last 1km.

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The riders will need to be near the front to take the sweeping bends at Place de Madeleine. Therefore, lead-outs or wheel surfing ability is important tomorrow.

Contenders

On paper Kittel is the fastest man here, but like many, he has disappointed so far this Tour. He still has his full complement of lead-out men which is good, and he should be positioned perfectly into the final few hundred metres. The question will be if he can go full gas for his whole sprint; sometimes he’s went early and faded.

Greipel is the sprinter who has disappointed me the most. Apart from getting pipped by Cav on stage 3 he really hasn’t gotten involved in some of the bunch gallops. He is very much a confidence sprinter, and certainly seems to be low on that just now! Furthermore, he’ll be missing Debuscherre in the lead-out train. His record of winning a stage every Grand Tour he’s been at is very much under threat.

Kristoff has been on the rise as the race has went on. He really should have had a win when they arrived in Bern, but was done by a lunge on the line by Sagan. He’ll be out for revenge and to remind everyone what he can do.

Sagan himself has a great chance. He’s so strong right now, it’s incredible! The Slovak has been joining the break for fun on these mountain stages while his sprint competitors have been struggling off the back. He’s already managed to beat his record points tally, but I’m sure he’ll want more!

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Away from those four I’m not overly convinced by anyone. Matthews will have coped well in the mountains so will be less fatigued than some, but he doesn’t have the raw speed to win. Coquard showed an incredible turn of speed on this stage last year, but I feel he’s peaked too soon this year. He looks jaded. Degenkolb is on the way back to his best, but I can’t see it from him. Groenewegen will be tired in his first Tour. Although he says his legs still feel good. He does have the speed to challenge.

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Bennett is still struggling with his finger. McLay has been off the back on a few mountain stages so is clearly suffering. EBH doesn’t have the top speed on this type of finish anymore. Holst Enger would prefer a tougher run in. Dumoulin has been non-existent. Laporte has been an OK late sprinting replacement for Bouhanni but isn’t at the required standard here.

Prediction

Therefore, it’s between the Big 4 that I mentioned.

Kittel and Greipel seem to be going the wrong way on form so…

 

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Leaving Kristoff and Sagan. If this was 2015, I’d definitely be backing Kristoff, but I don’t think he has the same closing speed as he used to. He’s definitely not shown it so far this year, therefore…

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Sagan has looked incredible all race and seems to have his mojo back, it’s great to see! His turns today were ridiculous, he was putting down some serious power. If he can transfer that into top speed then I can see him winning tomorrow. It will cap off a great Tour for him, so…

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Tinkoff-Saxo rider Sagan of Slovakia gives a thumb up as he wears the green best sprinter jersey on the podium after the 16th stage of the Tour de France cycling race

Betting

I’m just backing Sagan outright for the stage. Nothing wild.

Available at 7/1 with Ladbrokes. Might be better prices later for him so keep an eye out.

Thanks

A massive thanks to everyone who has read and shared the blog over the past month. I’ve had a lot of great comments from people, and reading them made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It was weird.

I’m proud to see the blog grow and I hope it continues! It’s also great the interaction that I’ve had with a lot of you on Twitter, it makes the races a lot more enjoyable. The blog will continue with previews for all the World Tour races and anything that’s on TV pretty much. Like I said in my La Course preview (shameless plug), I hope to add more previews on women’s cycling. If you have any other ideas that I could do, maybe interviews or something like that? Then any feedback and advice is always welcome! 🙂

But for the last time this Tour, I hope you enjoyed the preview and enjoy watching the stage tomorrow, wherever that may be from. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

TDF Stage 4 Preview: Saumur -> Limoges

Today’s Recap

Well, I didn’t expect that, Cavendish wins again! I think I’ve been guilty over the past year of writing him off for bunch sprints but I won’t be making that mistake anymore. He showed a great turn of speed and an intuitive track lunge to pip Greipel on the line (via a photo finish). It’s been a great opening to the race for him, and it’s nice to see him back at his best.

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Coquard came 3rd, with Sagan 4th. Not the best, but I expect more from them soon. Kittel/Etixx were disappointing, they seemed to get lost in the final 2km. His sprint was impressive but from too far back! Anyway, onto tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

Another long transitional stage at 237.5km long, the longest in the race! Snoozeville pt 2 probably. As someone pointed out on Twitter to me…

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But alas, only one KOM point on offer tomorrow. Great.

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The KOM point even comes after the intermediate sprint. I’d hate to be the poor soul at one of the Pro-Conti teams who’s manager has told them to get in the break for exposure. However, I do think we could be in for a more exciting stage than today’s damp squib.

Firstly, the stage is deceptively harder than it looks. Mainly due to the slow, long climbing that happens in the second half of the race. The road constantly rises from 139km to 210km. If they’re going at a reasonable pace then that could potentially put some of the sprinters in trouble.

This profile by CyclingStage might give a better indication of the possible problems the riders could face out on the road.

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Furthermore, this route goes through a similar area to where the race was blown to bits by crosswinds back in 2013. However, the forecast doesn’t look good in that sense and a lot of the roads are sheltered by trees, but you never know!

The run in at the end of the stage isn’t overly difficult.

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There are a few roundabouts and sweeping turns but nothing that the peloton shouldn’t be able to cope with. The real test comes with the altimetry of he closing 10kms.

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As you can see it’s relatively lumpy with a few steep-ish sections. This will probably stretch out the peloton as riders struggle with the change in gradients. However, the main difficulty is that 500m (going off of the profile) drag up to the finish line. It looks to rise at roughly 5% too.

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Looking down from the finish line. Here’s a link to the google maps spot.

This is a harder finish than today in my opinion. Although shorter and more explosive, the build up from the earlier part of the stage will have a big effect on the outcome here.

Stage Contenders

After not including him in the past few sprint stages, I guess I have to include Cavendish here. However, old habits die-hard, and I don’t really fancy him for this one. The stage itself is too lumpy for him considering his track preparation, and even if he makes it to the end the 5% ramp is not his cup of tea. Watch him go on to win now!

Greipel has a chance here too but I’m not convinced any of the “heavy” sprinters will make it up the ramp at the end in contention for the podium. That goes for Kittel who might not make it to the sprint with the peloton!

Sagan has to start as clear favourite for this stage. His dominant display on stage 2 shows that he’s climbing very well, and this steeper incline suits him even more than today. I would not be surprised if he went on to win. In fact, it will be the opposite. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t make the top 3. But hey, sport is full of surprises!

Coquard will also fancy his chances here. As I said yesterday, uphill sprints like this are his bread and butter. He should go close.

Theuns will hope to top 5 again.

Matthews, Groenewegen & Kristoff will all hope to put in a solid effort here. However, they’ve been unconvincing so far.

A couple of “outsiders” who I’d like to highlight are as follows.

Julian Alaphilippe. As stated above, I’m not sure that Kittel makes it. Therefore Alaphilippe could do the sprint for Etixx. He has a fast kick and it was his inexperience that cost him against Sagan on stage 2. With some kind of lead-out here he could go very well!

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Greg Van Avermaet has had a quiet start to the race, with an 8th place on Stage 2. Apart from that he’s not bothered with the bunch sprints. This type of finish reminds me of the two times he’s beaten Sagan this year; at Omloop and Tirreno. He could pull a surprise out of the bag!

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EBH, if Cavendish isn’t feeling up for it (and Edvald has recovered fully from his crash on stage 1) then he could be Dimension Data’s chosen man here. Unbeatable on these type of finishes at the start of the season, it would be nice for him to get given free rein here.

One super joker I’d like to mention is Vakoc. He’s more than likely behind Kittel/Alaphilippe/Richeze for this type of finish. However, he could be a rider sent up the road near the bottom of the climb, or with around 5km to go so that the other teams have to chase and Etixx get an easier run in.

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Prediction

A tough one to call, I’d have Sagan and Coquard as favourites. However, I think we could get a “surprise” winner. Cav’s a nice lad. He’ll know when a stage is too tough for him and he’ll realise Edvald’s strengths. Boasson Hagen to boss the finish and take his first Tour win since 2011.

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Betting

I can’t back Coquard and Sagan at the prices they’re at so going to back my 4 named riders again. Spread the load etc…

Alaphilippe 0.3pt EW @50/1 with Ladbrokes

GVA 0.4pt EW @66/1 with Betfair

EBH 0.45pt EW @ 100/1 with PP

Vakoc 0.1pt EW @400/1 with PP

If you enjoyed the preview, any feedback would be great as usual. Hopefully we’re in for a more exciting stage tomorrow! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.