Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 21 Preview; Arroyomolinos -> Madrid

Today’s Recap

We did get a fairytale ending after all, with Contador winning the stage atop the mythical Angrilu.

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It was a classic performance from the Trek rider as he put on an aggressive climbing masterclass. He certainly will be missed as a rider, especially as his type seems to be disappearing over the past few years.

Sky put on a dominant display behind, with Poels and Froome finishing on the day’s podium. The result means that barring anything incredibly bizarre happens tomorrow, the Brit has won his first Vuelta title.

It makes him the first rider to win the modern Tour-Vuelta double, and the first since Pantani to complete a double. Quite remarkable!

I bet Froome’s parties aren’t as good though…

With the GC battle over, it is time for the sprinters to have their time in the spotlight tomorrow.

The Route

Zzzzzz.

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Featuring a zzzz circuit.

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I could go on and pretend that there is more to this stage than meets the eye but in the words of Skepta; “that’s not me”.

We could see a late attack stick if some of the sprint teams mess around with the chase duties. Modolo and Lampre (UAE) are here so a Giro cock-up could always be on the cards.

But no, it will be a processional stage followed by a sprint. Simples.

Contenders

Trentin.

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The best sprinter here so far, he also has the added incentive of trying to win the Green jersey too. However, tomorrow’s easy run in looks the least suited to the Quick Step rider who would prefer a trickier finish. Nonetheless, the form is clearly there so he most likely has to start as favourite.

Theuns.

Sprinter turned key hilly domestique for Contador over the past few weeks, the Belgian has performed his duties ably. Will the favour be returned tomorrow? Most likely! He is fast and with De Kort to guide him into position, he’ll be a threat.

Modolo.

Has been a bit meh recently but can’t be discounted in this field. He does seem to go well at the end of a GT.

Cort Nielsen.

The final sprint stage and the first day that the Dane will get a chance to go for the win. He took this day last year so I guess he has some course form. He made the break on a few of the more rolling days so his power output must be fairly solid. A dark horse?

Blythe.

Could Aqua Blue get two wins this Vuelta? Blythe isn’t the fastest sprinter in the world, but in this field and at the end of a Grand Tour then we do often get surprise results.

Van Asbroeck and Lobato will be in or around the top 10 too.

Vuelta Picks

A dangerous day for those near the top of the table but thankfully Degenkolb isn’t here to ruin anyone’s chances on the last stage.

Safe PickTrentin.

Pretty self-explanatory; has some form and will be near the head of the results.

Wongshot Pick – Cort

Not tested in the sprints at all this race but he does have the speed to contend.

Lanterne Rouge Pick – DeClerq

Should be doing some work early in the day.

Prediction

Cort to repeat last year’s success!

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Betting

No bet.

Apologies for the really short preview but the Vuelta has worn me down and my enthusiasm for stages like tomorrow is limited enough anyway! Thanks to all of you for reading every day and interacting on Twitter etc. Helps me to keep going through several break days in a row. The season is nearly over but I’ll be back previwing the World’s in no time!

If you’ve enjoyed the previews and want to thank me (cheeky of me, I know) then a beer would be more than appreciated – Buy Me A Beer. But hey, if you don’t ask, you don’t get!

Anyway,

Those have been My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 13 Preview; Coín -> Tomares

Today’s Recap

A boring breakaway day they said…

Ahead Marczynksi took his second stage win, with Fraile and Rojas rounding out the podium behind.

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However, the majority of the action and excitement came from the GC group. Contador attacked with Roche on the last climb of the day, but the Irishman couldn’t live with the sprightly Spaniard’s pace. He then linked up with Theuns who had been in the break earlier in the day, and the two forged on, working well together. Maybe they were getting some practise in for Duo Normand?

Sky seemed fairly content to set the pace on the front of the peloton, but Froome then had a mechanical and a fall. Although the first mechanical may have been caused by a fall, I’m not too sure! Poels and Nieve dropped back to help him, but it was a tough chase.

Astana, Katusha and Bahrain shared the pace at the front of the peloton, but they became a bit disorganised in the closing few kilometres and allowed the race leader to close somewhat.

With all that said and done at the end of the stage, Contador gained 22 seconds on the “peloton” which itself gained 20 on Froome.

Will we see anything crazy happen tomorrow?

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

The Route

By Vuelta standards we have a sprinters stage on the cards!

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We do have some drags and falls in the opening 90km of the day but with over half the stage remaining the riders will be over the worst of it.

It is all about the finish tomorrow.

Of course, this is the Vuelta so we have approximately 9234323 roundabouts in the closing 5kms.

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The road is particularly narrow in parts so being positioned near the front will be crucial.

The many roundabouts will help to string the bunch out but so will the elevation gain in the closing kilometres.

As per, I’ve made a profile of the end of the stage that you can view fully/interactively here.

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According to VeloViewer/Strava, that opening rise we see is 1.14km at an average of 6.1% with the steepest gradient apparently touching 13%. Although if I’m honest, I do think that is a tad generous.

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It does look fairly steep and on the narrow road it could cause some issues for the riders moving up, while also being a great launchpad for someone to go on the offensive.

That section of climbing then crests with 2.5km left of the day.

The final kilometre of the stage averages 2.6%, with the peloton tackling two roundabouts in that time!

Things could get messy but the uphill drag should make the speeds slower and safer. Hopefully.

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We’ll see the peloton tackle the above roundabout at ~450m to go, before the final dash to the line.

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That dash to the line averages 4% for 350m apparently so the “sprinters” that we have here might find it difficult and there could be a few surprises at the line.

How will the stage pan out?

Given the lack of sprinters here and the amount of moves that have made it to the line over the past week, there is a good chance we might not actually see a sprint at the end of the day.

Instead, the break might be left to fight out stage honours.

Although, with it not being a pure sprint. Then a few teams with punchier riders might fancy their chances at bringing the break back to let their guys off the leash in the closing kilometres.

I think it comes down to the attitude of two teams though; Quick Step and Lotto Jumbo.

The former have a couple of options for a finish like this with Trentin and Alaphilippe both good candidates. If they don’t get anyone in the morning move, then I would expect to see them pull in the hope to bring the break back.

Likewise, Jumbo have a great candidate for stage victory with JJ Lobato. The Spaniard is from a town 100km from the finish so he is fairly “local” in that sense. Tomorrow’s stage looks tailor-made for him and he certainly won’t want to pass up the opportunity.

If these teams don’t get riders in the move and begin to chase, then another couple of teams might chip in with the workload.

With tomorrow being the only chance for a “sprint” until Madrid, I think we’ll see the peloton come to the finish together. Teams will work for their faster guys in the hope that they repay the favour over the coming week.

There is of course the chance that a late attack sticks tomorrow, as things could get very hectic. Lampaert round 2?!

“Sprinters”

Lobato.

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Loves an uphill finish and he should be able to cope with tomorrow no problem. He picked up a win in the Tour de l’Ain before the Vuelta and he followed that up with a second place to Trentin on Stage 4. Arguably one of the best riders in the world on his day on a ramp like this, if he’s in form then he could be tough to beat.

Trentin.

Speaking of in form, the Italian seems to be in great shape at the moment. His stage win from the breakaway was truly remarkable and he should be up there fighting for the honours again tomorrow.

Theuns.

Chicken-smuggling extraordinaire, the finish tomorrow is right on the Belgian’s limit I think. He is climbing better than ever but after a tough day up ahead today, he might be missing something in the finale tomorrow.

Molano.

Struck down by the Haughey Curse on Stage 4, this steeper run to the line is much more up his street so to say. This is his best chance of a good stage result all race and I have a feeling that he has been saving himself for it. Could we see yet another Colombian make his mark at the Vuelta?

Cort.

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With Chaves the only remaining Orica rider anywhere close in contention for GC, will the team use up some resources to help their sprinter? A strong rider, like Theuns, the rise to the line could be on his limit. Nonetheless, if he is there, then he has a great chance given his speed!

Modolo.

Not the first name you would think of for a finish like this but the Italian can climb well when needed. Back in the Tour of Croatia he took a superb win on the closing stage on a tricky finish, somewhat similar to this. He has been a bit “meh” in form as of late but you can’t discount him.

Andersen.

A wildcard rider for a finish like this, the rise in gradient brings him into play. He was 8th on Stage 4 and he’ll be Sunweb’s go to rider here. Both of his pro wins have come on stages that are very similar to this one, with some steady climbing at the end of the day. Can he continue on Sunweb’s great season?

Lutsenko.

Even more of a wildcard, the Kazakh has an under-rated sprint and like Andersen, the rise to the line levels the playing field for him. Who knows what he’ll produce!

Moscon.

Do Sky give one of their strongest rider some freedom to chase stage glory? No one has been given any leeway so far but tomorrow looks like an opportunity where they can do something for little effort. Climbing with some of the best in the race, if Moscon lays down the Watts, not many will be able to follow!

Vuelta Picks

Another tough day where there is a chance we could see a break make it all the way.

Safe Pick – GC rider – Meintjes.

Should finish close to the front of the bunch to avoid any splits.

Wongshot Pick – Sprinter – Andersen

I really rate his chances for tomorrow! Take your pick though…

Lanterne Rouge Pick – De Vreese

Crashed today and rolled home near the back. Will probably come home safely tomorrow as well.

Prediction

The sprinters to be surprised by the difficulty of the finish and a punchier rider to prevail. Soren Kragh Andersen to take the win!

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Betting

Definitely some value out there by not going for the proper “sprinters” so I’m going to up the ante pts wise today…

Andersen 1pt EW @ 66/1

Molano 1pt EW @ 66/1

Moscon 0.5pt EW @ 250/1

Watch it be a break now…

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Escaldes-Engordany -> Tarragona

Today’s Recap

If you don’t like the Vuelta, we can’t be friends!

Quick Step decided they wanted to honour the jersey and try to keep it in the team so they controlled the break for the first 2/3rds of the day, never letting the gap grow much bigger than 5 minutes. Which in some ways was good, as neither of the lottery tickets made the move! So I decided to tweet out some thoughts and back Chaves in-play…

Once onto the penultimate climb Sky took over the pace making duties and just about caught the break at the summit. Although we did see some weird UAE tactics with Costa and Atapuma dangling 10 seconds ahead of the peloton for the last few kilometres of the climb. The break was absorbed on the descent with Atapuma now doing the chasing before all hell lot loose on the last climb.

Rosa sprinted into it before peeling off almost instantly. However, some of the GC guys were already distanced due to the difference in speed at the middle of the peloton compared to the front. Some clawed their way back to the Sky train but others didn’t.

Froome launched a vicious attack that only Chaves could follow and the two built up a 10-second or so advantage. Bardet eventually sent off in pursuit, with Aru quickly following. The Froome/Chaves duo crested the climb with roughly a 5 second gap over Bardet/Aru and a further 15 over a group of chasers.

Bardet and Aru caught up with the lead pair on the descent and the pace dropped ever so slightly; allowing the chasers to return at roughly 1km to go.

Roche put in a half-hearted dig but was closed by Chaves. However, Nibali then made a more serious effort with roughly 300m left and no one seemed bothered about chasing him initially and that was it. The Shark had his stage win!

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What a finish line photo as well!

De la Cruz sprinted to second, with Froome in third. The bonus seconds on the line see the Brit into the leader’s jersey with a trio of riders only 2 seconds behind him.

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

The Route

A much easier day in the saddle, I’m sure they’ll be glad to know!

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There’s not really much of note apart from a Cat-3 climb to break up the very slow descent to the finish line.

Well, it doesn’t descend all the way to the finish line…

The road does rise in the closing kilometres and it is quite a tricky finale that could catch a few out.

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Having to traverse 6 roundabouts in just under 3.5km will certainly make things messy! The “climb” that you see above is more of a drag, but it averages 1.7%% for a 1.2kms, flattening out at the Flamme Rouge.

At 900m to go the riders will take the long way around this roundabout, exiting it on the left hand side.

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Almost as soon as they leave the roundabout they’ll have to make another time. This time it will be a 90-degree turn, that is made even sharper by the fact the riders are funnelled left once exiting the roundabout.

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The road then snakes for the following 200m before it takes “snaking” to the extreme at just under 500m to go.

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Possibly having to knock off their speed, if the bunch is not stretched out by now, it certainly will be after.

We then have a ridiculously narrow roundabout at 250m to go.

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Which is then duly followed up by an equally narrow exit.

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Let’s just hope the local council have done some road works or at least completed paving the finish since the google maps image was taken in 2015!

How will the stage pan out?

It should be a sprint, but given the lack of top-tier sprinters here a few of the teams might decide to have an early rest day and not pull.

I would not be surprised to see a “shock” break stay all the way to the line.

However, the one thing that is massively against the break is the constant 15km/h headwind that they’ll be cycling into all day. That definitely swings things in favour of the sprinters and because of that I’m sure we’ll see a few of the teams come to an agreement to keep the break in check.

We could be in for a long watch though!

Sprinters

Picking a sprinter for this Vuelta seems to be a minefield. We don’t really have much to go off of from stage 2, given how the race was split apart in all of 2kms. The slight uphill drag before the line also makes it more interesting but all of the sprinters here should manage it easily so it doesn’t affect things too much.

With all that said, I’ll be keeping this relatively short and sweet.

Theuns – Made a massive effort to close the gap on Stage 2 and still managed to get up for 4th. He’s clearly in great form and with Contador struggling today, he might get a few more resources at his disposal tomorrow. That is of course unless his team-mate sprints.

Degenkolb – Admitted he was struggling on the first few days but he might have rode into some form after three stages? I still think it is too early for him but this finish does look ideal for the Degenkolb of 2015.

Trentin – Another rider who is in great form at the moment and with the best lead-out he should be up there. QS seem a team full of confidence and that could just make the difference.

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Molano – The Colombian is a rider that I’ve been looking to forward to watching this Vuelta. He’s a very talented sprinter who excels on tough finishes, winning two stages in Portugal earlier this year. This is a big step up for him but the fact he was close to the front on Stage 2 is promising.

Modolo – Looks to be on good form as he was another rider who made the front split on S2. Arguably the fastest sprinter based on his wins in the past, he has a good chance tomorrow if he’s in the right position. He’ll certainly take the risks to get there.

Blythe – Not a bad start to Aqua Blue’s first ever Grand Tour with the Brit delivering a podium result on the opening stage. Can he go better? Possibly!

Cort – Might get dragged into helping his GT leaders again. So could be nowhere again.

Schwarzmann – Good lead out rider, but I don’t rate him too highly as an actual sprinter.

Van Asbroeck – Solid rider who top 10’d on stage 2 and he’ll be there or thereabouts again.

Lobato – Finish looks good for him but his positioning often lets him down. Could be great, could be awful!

Prediction

A chaotic finish that could lead to a surprise result and possibly a few nasty crashes. Consequently it might be a lottery in regards as to where everyone is positioned on the lead in to the final turn.

However, I’ve been looking forward to this stage for a while as the day that Molano really makes his mark on the pro peloton!

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Vuelta Picks

A tricky day…

Safe Pick – Trentin

Wongshot – LL Sanchez (late attack in the chaotic run in)

Lanterne Rouge – Belkov (he’s been consistently near the back every day!)

Betting

1pt EW on Molano @ 33/1 with B365

 

Thanks as always for reading, hope you enjoyed the detailed finale by pictures! Who do you think will win the chaotic sprint? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Nîmes -> Gruissan

Today’s Recap

I should never have doubted them, should I?!

BMC win yet another TTT, being the only team to best the 16 minute mark.

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Dennis was the first man across the line so he is the first rider in the leader’s jersey of the race.

With a sprint finish likely tomorrow, there is a good chance he will hold onto it for a few days.

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

The Route

A flat jaunt along the Mediterranean coastline, with a little change of direction inland before turning back towards the sea for the finish in Gruissan.

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In terms of altimetry, there is nothing much to talk about at all. The highest peak of the day is just over 40m above sea level…

It could be a fairly benign day, but the finish could cause a surprise or two.

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They will tackle a roundabout at 2.5km to go, taking the sharp left.

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Said sweeping roundabout. The riders will have to knock a little bit of speed through it and it will certainly stretch out the peloton.

Will a team then have enough firepower to keep the pace high over the next 2 kilometres? If not, there could be a lot of jostling for position with things getting scrappy.

Especially when the road narrows at ~1km to go as the riders head off the main road and towards the town.

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The slip-road only lasts for 150m or so but it will certainly be a point some of the teams will be racing for. It is much more realistic for a team to control it from there to the finish with a few riders.

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It wouldn’t be the Vuelta without some type of “challenge” in the final kilometre. Tomorrow’s is a roundabout with roughly 350m to go. It’s not too tight, but the riders won’t be able to smooth out the corner completely.

Having one man peeling off just out of the roundabout and leaving the “pilot fish” with the sprinter is the ideal tactic here. Can anyone pull it off?

Weather Watch

We spend a lot of the day travelling parallel to the coast line so of course I have to mention the prospect of crosswinds.

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Although oddly enough, the wind isn’t coming from the sea. Instead, it comes from in-land and pushing towards the coast.

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That makes it less likely for echelons early on in the day but not improbable. There are some exposed sections as we head in land though, such as this part of the D-37 as we head towards Sérignan.

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At around 80km to go, is it too early for a team to try to split it?

They will turn more into a cross-head-wind afterwards so a lot of the riders might not fancy it. But the wind direction is pretty organic, much like the teams attitudes towards crosswinds. If they sense a chance to push it, I’m sure some will try!

If we do see splits then those dropped will hope that the wind direction becomes more of a headwind to deter the teams pushing on. It will be a race to the 30km to go banner in that case as once the riders turn to home, they’ll have a stonkingly big tailwind for the remainder of the day. Anyone gapped will find it difficult to get back.

So do I think we’ll see echelons? I’m hopeful, but not overly confident.

Sprinters

We don’t exactly have a long list of guys here and a the majority of them don’t have much help. Things could be messy…

Degenkolb.

On paper he is the most experienced/best sprinter here but he hasn’t raced since the Tour. Rolling home today makes me think that he still might be finding his legs and tomorrow’s long stage could be a struggle for him this early on. Of course, he could have been conserving energy after giving his all in the first part of the TTT but the signs aren’t good.

Theuns.

If Degenkolb isn’t sprinting then Theuns will be Trek’s main man. Full of confidence after his first World Tour win at the BinckBank Tour, he looked lightning quick then. He is off to a new team so there could be some tension within his current squad but as professionals I wouldn’t expect that to play too big a part. With a lot of helpers for Contador, whoever sprints for Trek will most likely only be able to rely on De Koert and possibly Pantano. A late charge to the front à la Lampre of old?!

Cort Nielsen.

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A double stage winner last year, he certainly enjoyed his first Grand Tour. Fast after a tough, long day, tomorrow’s stage looks good for him and I’m sure he’ll be hoping for crosswinds to reduce the bunch. Although maybe he won’t, as he is supposedly on team help duty before getting his own opportunity if the Orica GC riders are safe within the last 10km. It will be interesting to see how it plays out for him with no lead-out.

Modolo – Won a sprint in Poland but DNF’d that race. He is a really hit or miss rider so who knows how he’ll go tomorrow!

Trentin – He’ll more than likely be QS rider of choice for tomorrow. If they dedicate a lead-out to him then they have a fairly strong team with several strong rouleurs to push things on for him. Looking strong lately, I think he has a good chance of a result.

Blythe – The Brit will be hoping for echelons tomorrow to reduce his opposition. A good classics rider, he should make the first split if he’s being attentive and will fancy his chances in a reduced bunch. He could struggle in a big bunch gallop though, but with it being messy he could seize the opportunity.

Lobato – Seems to be finding form again but this pure flat sprint isn’t great for him. Almost guaranteed to be dropped if the wind picks up.

Van Genechten – Just a bit of a “meh” sprinter and typifies this field we have here. Will struggle to repeat his win from last season.

Debuscherre – Will be praying for echelons as he seems to have lost his way as a big bunch sprinter this year. That lack of confidence won’t help in the slightly sketchy finish.

Schwarzmann – Arguably has one of the strongest sprint lead-outs here in terms of pure power. Often a lead-out man himself, will he grasp his opportunity to shine?

Vuelta Picks

Safe Pick – Cort.

It’s tough to choose a “safe” pick for this stage as anything could happen out on the road with possible echelons and a messy sprint. Not knowing which of the Trek riders will be sprinting, it is wise to avoid them, although I would lean towards Theuns. Cort should be sprinting and as one of the fastest here he should guarantee a top 5.

Wongshot Pick – Theuns.

On form he is arguably the fastest rider here, it just depends if he sprints or not. Hence why he is the wongshot.

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Zurlo.

Fell today so he might be tasked with doing some work early on for Modolo and roll home at the end of the day.

Prediction

Trek to take advantage of Theuns is great form just now, letting him sprint, with the Belgian duly delivering!

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Betting

1pt EW Theuns @ 22/1 with Bet365 (would take 14/1 lowest – others might actually price up higher later on)

Also for a bit of fun I’ve doubled that up Sam Bennett for the Cyclassics at 528/1…

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

BinckBank Tour 2017 Stage 5 Preview; Sittard-Geleen -> Sittard-Geleen

Today’s Recap

A weird stage that ended with the expected sprint, but only just. The pace was high from the gun and the peloton was strung out for the first 40km or so, with the likes of GVA attacking. In the end a trio escaped including blog pick for the day, Greipel. An odd move from him but hey ho!

The peloton brought the trio back just at the start of the final lap which saw a counter attack from Dowsett and Smith with roughly 12km left. They were brought back at around 4km or so left, and Lampaert quickly countered. It looked as if he was going to hold on for the win but he was overhauled at 150m out.

Theuns delivered his first World Tour win after a great lead-out from Stuyven.

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Kump and Merlier rounded out the podium, with a lot of the “big name” sprinters missing out.

No bonus seconds for Sagan certainly makes the title fight an interesting race. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for them tomorrow.

The Route

The GC battle begins in earnest as we travel through Amstel Gold territory.

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@LasterketaBurua

There are no overly tough climbs, but the road is constantly up or down almost all day which could tire the bunch out.

It is a stage that screams out to be attacked and I think we could see some very aggressive racing, or at least I hope!

I feel I don’t need to go over the climbs in too much detail as the great guys at Lasterketa Burua have all the lengths and gradients on the profile above.

Depending on the attitude of the teams, a strong move could feasibly escape before the half-way point of the stage. However, I think we might see our first meaningful move come the first time up the Schatsberg with just over 50km to go.

From there, who really knows what will happen!

By the looks of things, the Golden Kilometre starts just after the second summit of Schatsberg. It will certainly entice some attacks and could be the catalyst for the winning move. Conversely, a strong attack after the race regroups once we’re through the km could also be very successful.

If we do get a reasonably large group come to the line it could be manic.

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Four 90-degree turns in the final kilometre is pretty dangerous and asking for trouble!

Finishing at the Tom Dumoulin bike park, I wonder if the Dutchman will manage to take the victory?

The weather forecast isn’t looking too promising for the riders either. Well, I’m sure some of them will view it as very promising, it depends who you ask I guess.

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We’re set to get most of the rain in the morning, but there are apparently some showers around in the afternoon which will no doubt be temperamental.

It will probably be a bone dry race after all!

How the race might pan out…

Normally I’m fairly bullish with my prediction as to how the race will pan out but I really have no idea as to what will happen tomorrow. As I said above, we feasibly could see a move go at any point of the race if it contains the right riders and teams.

Most likely though we’ll see a whittling down of the pack throughout the day; which will be made quicker if the conditions are poor.

It is then a case of when the favourites launch their attacks. The issue with it all though is, that Sagan should be able to follow almost all of the moves. In any kind of reduced sprint he is obviously the favourite and gifting him 10 bonus seconds isn’t the wisest manoeuvre for anyone targeting the title.

Bora have been great so far this race, but tomorrow is the acid test. If Sagan is isolated early, he’ll have a tough day chasing every move. I do expect Pöstlberger to have a big ride. Will it be enough? I don’t think so.

Everyone’s unwillingness to work with Sagan will see a small group of 6 riders from various teams escape in the final 20km and contest the stage. It might not be the end of the GC battle though!

Here’s my best attempt at guessing who might be in that move.

Belgian Tripel

Sep Vanmarcke.

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Another year, another disappointing classics season hampered by bad luck yet again for the Cannondale man. He “won” the sprint stage of the Hammer Series at the beginning of June, but it is his results since the Belgian Championships, where he finished second, that have really impressed. In the Tour of Austria he took five top 5 places, following that up with a 4th place at Ride London. This is the type of race he can win overall, but at 33 seconds back already, he’ll need to be aggressive. Tomorrow’s rolling stage looks good for the strong man and with a relatively fast kick from a small bunch, he’ll be happy to go to the line with some riders. He just needs some luck for once and the win could be there for the taking!

Jens Keukeleire.

I’m a big fan of the Orica man, so much so I’ve come up with my own Kirby-esque nickname for him; the Keukie-monster. It was great to see him finally take a couple of wins last year after being on a 3-season drought. He’s continued that this year with a second place in Gent Wevelgem and winning the Belgian Tour overall. More importantly though, he was exceptionally strong at the recent Euro Championships; driving the peloton for a lot of the day but also attacking at the end. Like Vanmarcke, he sits roughly 30 seconds down on GC so will need to attack and I think he’ll do just that. Another rider packing a fast sprint from a small group, we could be in for an exciting finale!

Jasper Stuyven.

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Super strong in the final kilometre to help reel in Lampaert at the end of today’s stage, he will be given a free role tomorrow. Almost an ever-present rider at the front of the peloton in tough races like this, he will hope to put his power to good use. Strong enough to hold off a charging peloton, see his Kuurne win last year, he also packs a tidy sprint too. A rider who can win in a variety of ways, much like the other two, he is a big danger if he gets into the move.

Prediction

I like all three of the riders, but I’ll side with my favourite, Keukeleire to win!

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Betting

0.5pt WIN on them all;

Keukeleire @ 33/1

Stuyven @ 33/1

Vanmarcke @ 50/1

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

BinckBank Tour 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Lanaken -> Lanaken

Today’s Recap

A sprint but a messy one, thanks to some rain and a crash in the closing kilometre. There was a big fight for control of the bunch in the final 5kms but no-one really managed to dominate but Trek and Bora definitely came out the best, keeping their sprinter in the top 20 riders at all time.

This paid dividends with the crash at the chicane which splintered the peloton. Drucker from BMC attacked, but he was eventually brought back and it was Sagan who launched his sprint first. The Slovak was strong enough to hold on until the line, beating a fast finishing Theuns and Barbier by a wheel.

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Some of the big names were nowhere; see both of the Sky sprinters, Kittel and Démare. Others were there but just didn’t have the room to sprint fully, or started from too far back. Will they turn it around tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The last of the full bunch sprint days.

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Another fairly innocuous day for the bunch though, with no major difficulties out on the route. The wind is low as well so no chance of cross winds, but we might see a few showers by the time we reach the finish which could make things more interesting/dangerous.

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As you can see, there are a lot of technical and tight turns on the run in, with the riders almost doubling back on themselves at a roundabout with 1.5km to go. If the weather is sketchy then the bunch will be stretched out during those sections and being at the front will be the safest. Everyone will know that, which in turn will make it even more dangerous.

Fortunately, there are no major difficulties once the riders have passed the final roundabout at 1.5km to go.

The final kilometre of the race is fairly simple, along a straight road. It does rise ever so slightly at a close to 1% average.

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Not much, but it does make the timing of the sprint more important as you don’t want to go too early.

Contenders

Sagan.

Can he go 3 from 3 in the sprints and really cement his GC title charge? He and Bora were exceptional today in the final 5 kilometres; always in the top 15-20 guys, but not necessarily on the front. Tomorrow’s slight drag to the line is ideal for him as well and he should be once again fighting for the win. My only concern is that on both stages he’s won, he has seemed to open up his sprint just a bit too early, being closed down right at the end when he tires. He’s got away with it both times, but it might not be third time lucky if he does the same tomorrow on the slight drag.

Groenewegen.

His team was strong today and he was another who was up there well positioned in the final 5km. However, he seemed to get a bit boxed in at the end and when he did get a run he didn’t have the power left to challenge. Maybe it was an off day and he’ll bounce back tomorrow?

Theuns.

Close today, but he started his sprint from too far back which ultimately cost him. He was arguably the fastest guy at the finish but it wasn’t enough. Trek did a great job in the finale, controlling things well in the last 5km and if they do the same tomorrow then he has a good chance. The slight drag to the line certainly benefits the Belgian, he’ll just need to be closer to the front this time!

Kittel.

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Pretty awful again today, he seems to be blaming his mental attitude after DNF’ing at the Tour. It is understandable in some ways but as a top-level sprinter you would expect more from him. At least he is honest though! Nonetheless, will that change tomorrow? Nope, I don’t think so.

Démare.

The rider who Kittel seems to be throwing under the bus with him in his tweets. Or at least that’s who I make it out to be anyway. Equally as awful today as the big German, he was way out of contention in the final 2km. His team did show some intent to move him up and he was near the front at 3km to go so I have no idea how he went backwards so quickly. It is hard to write him off (like Kittel) but after what I watched today, it is also very hard to support him for tomorrow’s stage too!

Greipel.

Another rider who Kittel could be talking about, at least the Gorilla was somewhat in contention today. He was actually in a great position coming out of the chicane, sitting in 5th wheel, but as the pace at the head of the group dropped that became his downfall. Swamped on the outside as they rounded the corner at 200m to go, he was boxed in and had nowhere to go, deciding to sit up. Tomorrow’s straight run in should be good for him and Lotto Soudal have looked like one of the more organised teams here. He should be positioned well, it just needs for him to find his killer instinct again if he wants to take the win.

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Cort Nielsen.

He was there or thereabouts again today. Orica weren’t as organised as I expected which was disappointing. They seemed to make a move up towards the front at 3km to go but some road furniture split them up and Cort Nielsen was left to go solo in the end. I maintain that they have the best lead-out train here, and if they get it right tomorrow, he has a great chance.

Bauhaus.

The Sunweb rider was right in the mix again today but he opened up his final sprint way too early. You can see in the image above that he’s pretty much full gas before the final bend in the road. He then died a thousand deaths and finished 10th. Nonetheless, his form

Others of course may get involved such as Van Poppel, Viviani, Barbier, Zabel and so on but I think it’s a fairly extensive in-depth list!

Prediction

Greipel to shake the proverbial monkey off his back and take a stage win tomorrow. Lotto have looked strong so far and I was surprised to see the German so well positioned on the technical run in. If he can stay in the top 15 riders going into the last 1km then he has a great chance on a finish that suits him perfectly.

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Betting

1.25pts EW Greipel @ 9/1 with Bet365.

 

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will Sagan make it three wins? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Paris Roubaix 2017 Preview

Paris Roubaix 2017 Preview

The “Hell in the North” and self-titled “Queen of the Classics” (I’d like to argue about that – it’s no Flanders!) returns this weekend for its 115th edition this weekend. I mean it’s still a cobbled monument, so I’m not going to complain!

Last year’s race saw Mat Hayman take a rather incredible, fairytale victory which I’m sure you’ve already read a lot about this week.

Paris-Roubaix

Can he upset all odds and repeat the feat, or will we get another fairytale with a Boonen win?

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

The Route

You know the score by now; 257km including 29 sectors (55km) of pave. Again, I’m not going to bore you with a massive route analysis (like normal), there are plenty of those floating around this week anyway!

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The first 150km will sap the legs and I wouldn’t expect too much attacking early on, but you never know after the past few cobbles races we’ve had.

It will be interesting to see who makes the “early” break. I say early, as last year it took over 70km for something to finally go!

The Arenberg will more than likely kick off the action in the peloton and from there anything and everything could happen throughout the afternoon.

A race of attrition and team tactics follows with the notable Carrefour de l’Arbre coming only 15km from the finish line. Will things all still be together then? Will a rider have gone solo? Or will we see a small group?

After that, they have 3 more sections but nothing too tricky on the run in to the famous Roubaix velodrome.

How will the race pan out?

Your guess is as good as mine!

The riders will be happy that the weather is good and there seems to be no wind, but that normally leads to a very fast race from the gun. That coincides with the approach we’ve seen teams take in the cobbled races this year; attacking from further out and trying to split the race up early.

Having a number of strong riders in a squad is important so that someone is always up front, following the moves, meaning that team-mates behind can rest-up.

I think we’ll once again see an attacking race here and it might not be the favourites for the race who come away with the victory.

Contenders

All the pre-race coverage is about Boonen, with this being the last professional race of his career. He hopes to bow out with a win and become the most successful rider at Paris Roubaix of all time!

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I’m going to be very controversial here and say that I don’t care for a Boonen win that much, indifferent is what I would call it. I’m not sure if that’s because I only started following the sport in 2008 and properly started paying attention to all the races in 2010 or so. I can understand the hype around him; he’s going well just now and looked strong in Flanders and Schelderprijs. But I think people are getting too emotional with how much they are hyping him up. He’s been talked up so much that he is now pretty much joint favourite and if I’m honest, I’ve not seen enough from him this year for that to be justified. Benefiting from being on the strongest team, he may well go on to win, which would certainly make for a great story. However, in the words of Simon Cowell…

its a no

Quick Step do have several other riders who can win this race, such as Terpstra, Stybar and Lampaert. The former I have banged on for pretty much all of this month and if it wasn’t for QS supposedly working for Boonen 100%, I’d be all over Terpstra like a rash again. If there is one rider who won’t follow team-orders though, it is the Dutchman. He clawed back the gap on the Paterberg to a fallen GVA convincingly in Flanders, taking around 30 seconds out of Gilbert on that climb. He is clearly going exceptionally well. A former winner of the race, I would not be surprised to see him attacking at some point, and he might solo to victory again!

Sagan was left bitterly disappointed after Flanders, but that’s the risk you take for riding close to the barriers. He looked bashed up at the time but seemed to be going OK in his Scheldeprijs training ride. Often underperforming in this race (his best result is 6th in 2014), I think he finds the easier parcours harder to create gaps on. Furthermore, there is a good chance he will once again be marked out of the race and unlike Flanders, he doesn’t have the tough cobbled climbs to just ride away from everyone. It’s hard to write off the World Champion, but I’m putting my neck on the line and doing just that!

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Greg Van Avermaet starts as my favourite for this race. He’s the form rider of the year so far and if not for the crash in Flanders, he had a great chance of winning that too. Even with that unfortunate moment, he managed to get himself up quickly and still sprint for second place. A rider who can win a small sprint but also isn’t afraid to attack, he has a great chance of winning. I wonder if teams will now show him the same type of respect/fear as they do Sagan? They should, if not, it could be game over for them!

Oliver Naesen has carried on his incredible trajectory to the top of cobbled classic racing. Following on from a strong season last year, he has been even better this year! He seemed to be able to cope with Sagan and GVA in Flanders but unfortunately was taken down in that crash. Sustaining an injury to his knee, he worked hard in Scheldeprijs to test it out and things seem to be OK. Like his training partner Van Avermaet, the Belgian isn’t afraid to attack and I think he will benefit from still be underrated within the peloton.

Aside from those guys, some other names to conjure with are Kristoff, Stannard and Demare, who have all shown good form at points throughout the year. They won’t be the favourites, but can’t be discounted.

There are two proper outsiders (triple figures with the bookmakers) that I’d like to mention.

First up is Edward Theuns. I imagine he’ll be one of the riders given the role of following early attacks, allowing his team-leader Degenkolb to rest behind. Yet, as I said in my Flanders preview, I still think the German is missing that 5% and doesn’t look as good as he did when he won here in 2015. Theuns is capable enough to step-up and with a bit of luck he has a chance, packing a fast sprint after a tough day. I really do hope he is given free rein tomorrow and the Trek DS doesn’t put all their eggs in a Degenkolb shaped basket!

Dwars door Vlaanderen

The other is Dylan Groenewegen. Possibly not the first name to spring to the forefront of your thoughts, this will be the youngster’s first Paris Roubaix. He is someone who I think can go really well in this type of race in the future! Much more than a fast sprinter, he can cope with a hard day in the saddle and with the route being flat, it should suit his characteristics. Like Theuns, with a bit of luck and being in the right move, he could be up there at the end of the day.

Prediction

As I’ve said above, Greg Van Avermaet is my favourite on paper, but this race isn’t won on paper and I think teams will finally approach him the same way that they do with Sagan. That will leave it open to a “lesser” rider, although it’s offensive to call him that after the season he’s had. Oliver Naesen will complete his classics transformation and take an incredible victory!

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Betting

1pt EW Naesen @25/1 with PP/Betfair (paying 4 places – would take down to 20s)

1pt WIN Terpstra @16/1 with various (wouldn’t take less)

The two bets I mentioned yesterday;

0.25pt EW Theuns @200/1 (would take 150/1)

0.25pt EW Groenewegen @250/1 (would take 150/1)

One H2H;

5pts Arndt to beat Laporte at 1/1 with Bet365. (Would take 4/6 lowest)

The German is a very solid one-day racer and finished reasonably well in Flanders. Not so sure about the Frenchman’s credentials on this terrain.

 

Thanks for reading as always and any feedback is greatly appreciated (especially some RTs on Twitter 😉). Who do you think will win the race and how will they do it?! I’m looking forward to what should be a good day’s racing. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Cadel Evan’s Great Ocean Road Race 2017 Preview

Cadel Evan’s Great Ocean Road Race 2017 Preview

Now in its third year, the Cadel Evan’s Great Ocean Road Race (herein CEGORR) has produced exciting racing over the first two editions. The inaugural race saw Gianni Meersman take a very reduced bunch sprint win after the peloton was decimated due to crosswinds out on the course, while last year’s race saw Pete Kennaugh win solo after attacking on a climb with roughly 12km to go and holding off the bunch.

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There seems to be no set pattern as to how this race can be won and it’s this unpredictability that makes it a great watch!

The Route

The course remains unchanged and will feature one large loop (113km) around the south Geelong area, followed by 3 laps of a circuit closer to the city itself.

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The first 50km of the race are almost pan-flat, easing the riders into the day. We’ll see the usual 4/5 man break get away here and quickly build up a good gap as the main contenders team’s behind control the race.

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The latter part of the loop does get hillier and depending on how strong the wind is we may get some splits here. However, if the wind isn’t playing ball then it will be over to the circuits around Geelong to thin the peloton out.

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The main challenge on the circuit is the Challambra Crescent climb (link here) which averages 10% for 1km.

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The climb actually has a few sections where it pitches above 20%. It’s a real leg breaker, but expect the peloton to cover it in under 3 minutes during the race! From there, we have a fast descent before another couple of short ramps up Queen’s Park and Hyland Street. The latter comes at roughly 6km from the end of the race and is 600m long, averaging 5%. However, the final 200m of the climb is closer to 14% and this is the last proper springboard for the puncheurs to make a difference before the shallow descent and flat run to the finish.

Weather wise, it looks as if the riders will get perfect conditions out there on Sunday; clear, sunny skies and not too hot at around 26 degrees Celsius. There is some discrepancy between various sites as to whether or not the wind will have any part to play in the day. Everywhere seems to agree that it will be a SE wind, just how strong varies! I guess we’ll have to see on Sunday how strong it actually it is, but nonetheless, it is coming from the correct direction to cause some problems.

How will the race pan out?

As mentioned before, the first two editions of the race have produced different outcomes; a reduced bunch sprint and a solo winner. The first edition saw the wind cause chaos, whereas last year it was the circuit around Geelong that caused most of the issues. However, both races have had around 30 riders finish less than a minute behind the winner. What does that tell us? That it will be a hard race either way and we should be in for some good, aggressive racing!

Contenders

There are your obvious riders here who should make the finale in almost any situation. I’m thinking along the lines of Haas, McCarthy and Gerrans.

Vuelta a Burgos 2016  stage 4

These type of riders can handle the climbs and have a very strong sprint on them, but also are attacking enough to try to slip away from a small group. McCarthy has never raced here before, but Gerrans was 5th last year and Haas has been 3rd and 6th. I’ll be very surprised if all 3 aren’t in the top 10 come Sunday. Saying that, they will need a tough race to ensure that they will be fighting out for the win because there are other riders who are faster than them at the end of the day. Which leads us on to the sprinters…

With the main obstacle of the course being a 3-minute climb, then the strong sprinters can make it to the finish with the peloton. We saw that last year with the likes of Howard, Bonifazio and Ligthart finishing 2nd->4th. Steele von Hoff even came home 11th and he’s not a great climbing sprinter. Of course, Meersman won the race back in 2015 too!

Therefore, I think the likes of Edward Theuns, Danny Van Poppel, and possibly even Sam Bennett could feature at the pointy end of the race. They will need team-mates left to control the peloton in the closing kilometres but with strong squads supporting them then this could well be the case.

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Anyway, that’s enough of the guys who occupy the top 6 in the betting market. On to what you’re all here for; losing (value?) outsiders!

Travis McCabe.

The Larry H.Miller Tour of Utah 2016 stage-4

The American is a strong sprinter who’s capable of making it over some sizeable climbs too. His 3rd place on a rolling stage at the Tour de San Luis last year is testament to that. After only turning pro in 2014, he’s this year taking the step up to ProConti level with United Health Care after spending the past few years on the US Continental circuit. With Greg Henderson as the team’s road captain, he’ll have a wealth of experience to rely on, but can he hold his nerve? I imagine he’d prefer it to be a tougher race to get rid of the proper fast men like Bennett etc but not overly tough. A fine balance is required! If so, he’ll fancy his chances against Gerrans and co in a straight out sprint.

Cameron Bayly.

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The IsoWhey rider will be here taking part with the national team so expect an attacking race from them. They have some strong youngsters but I would think that Bayly and Meyer will be the protected riders. Finishing 4th in the Road Nationals, Bayly certainly has the climbing legs to compete at this race. He also has a very quick burst of pace but it is his strong engine that would benefit him the most if he managed to get a gap. I was very impressed with him at the criteriums at the start of the year and if he’s kept his form then he is definitely one to watch. Can he pull off a solo win á la Kennaugh?

Jhonatan Restrepo.

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Off the back of a 10th place finish on GC at the Tour Down Under, the young Colombian will be in a buoyant mood. Clearly on good form, he is another good climber with a fast kick. He’ll need a bit of luck to go his way and a selective race but in professional cycling stranger things have happened.

Prediction

Haas is favourite to win and I would love that to happen for my season-long fantasy team, but I think he won’t win because of that very reason. (That he’s favourite, not because he’s in my team. Well…maybe that too!)

I do think we will get a selective race whether that be through the climbing on the circuit, by the winds out on the road, or both! This will reduce the peloton to around 20 riders or so heading into the final lap. With only a few team-mates for the “big” riders it leaves the opportunity open for one of those team-mates or a “lesser” rider to attack as the bigger riders mark each other behind. Step in Cameron Bayly! As I’ve already used a picture of him above, here’s one of my dog instead: Bailey.

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The Aussie has the desired characteristics and attributes to fit the bill perfectly; solid climber, big engine and relatively unknown. Even if a small group of 5 riders manages to escape then he certainly has the speed to finish it off!

So what do we reckon then, a Bayly DNF?! Or will he take the biscuit  😜

Betting

0.25pt EW Restrepo @ 66/1 with various (would take 50s)

0.25pt EW McCabe @ 100/1 with Ladbrokes (would take 66s)

0.25pt EW Bayly @ 200/1 with Betfair/Paddy power (would take 100s)

 

Thanks again for reading! How do you think this race will unfold? Does an outsider actually have a chance for once? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tour Down Under Stage 6 Preview; Adelaide -> Adelaide

*This preview will be short as I’m back to work tonight and have woken up later than expected! Plus, there’s not much to say anyway*

Today’s Recap

👑  The King of Willunga is still the King! 👑

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Porte makes it 4 wins on the bounce with a truly impressive attack and sustained effort. Looking at the footage he seemed to actually go 100m earlier than he normally would, attacking at 1.3km rather than his usual 1.2km. No one could match him this time and the likes of Henao etc. were well and truly dropped before the “S-bend” at 700m to go. Are they not as good as previous years or is Richie just in much better condition? I think the latter!

Once Porte made that attack our stage picks had no chance but a special mention must go to Nathan Earle who got up for a credible 6th place. Also, Nathan Haas sprinted to 2nd which currently leaves him 3rd on GC with some bonus seconds up for grabs out on the road on stage 6; that battle for the podium between him and McCarthy certainly isn’t over yet!

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

The Route

We have the same route that’s featured the past couple of years. I’ll just use the official profile of this stage as my Strava one is a bit messed up. Although saying that, completely ignore the scale on the official profile as it’s wrong! There’s only around 100m elevation gain per lap at most, not 300.

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I can imagine Thomas De Gendt will feature in the break, attempting to wrestle that KOM jersey from Porte. We’ll also possibly see some action from Haas/McCarthy in the intermediate sprints as they look to battle for the podium. Haas could even potentially move up to second too so that should add some excitement to what will be a relatively boring day up until the final 10km.

The final few hundred metres of the circuit does drag ever so slightly up hill but only at around 1% so it shouldn’t be a big deal for any of these guys.

The guys looking to win the stage will want to be near the front at 2.5km to go as they enter the more technical section around the park. From there, the pace will be on and it will be hard to move up the bunch without expending a lot of energy. Saying that, the road does widen in the last km so a team can make a last-ditch run to the line.

Stage Contenders

Short and sweet section here.

On current form Ewan looks pretty much unbeatable. He’s exceptional at these time of kermesse races and with Dubrdige/Gerrans/Impey/Kluge to lead him out he has the best support team too. Justifiably, he is the odds on favourite. Can he take 4 wins out of 6 stages?

Bora will once again have the luxury choice of either Sagan or Bennett. This type of sprint would suit the Irishman better and after having done a lot of work for his team on the past few stages he will be returned the favour here I think. He looked fast on Stage 1 and is possibly the only guy who can seriously challenge Ewan.

Van Poppel will once again be up there for Sky and should expect another top 5 placing, with the same being said for Bonifazio.

I hope Theuns actually gets a clear run at the finish this time without being blocked off. A podium placing is certainly within his sights.

As for the rest, expect to see the usual names of Renshaw, Arndt and Planckaert populating the top 10.

Prediction

Should I be boring but most likely correct and say Ewan? Or slightly more interesting and say Bennett? I’ll be boring for once, Caleb wins his 4th stage of the race!

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I’ll go for Bennett and some PFCL bias here, Theuns, to round of the podium!

Betting

No value in Ewan at those odds, especially when anything can happen in bike racing. One badly timed puncture/crash and he’s out of it. However, I do think there is a bit of value in;

Bennett 1pt EW @ 14/1 with Betfair/PaddyPower (I’d take down to 10/1)

No H2H up yet, but I’ll update my Twitter later if I see something I like/get the chance.

 

Thanks to everyone who’s read and shared the blog over the past week. Not been the best of starts in terms of betting/prediction wise but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless! I shall be doing previews of all the WT races this year plus anything we can watch on TV/stream online so expect more content from me this time round. Also, I fully intend on doing previews of all the Women’s World Tour races too. Maybe not daily stage previews but certainly a GC/over-arching race preview!

I’ll be back next weekend for the Cadel Evan’s Great Ocean Road Race. Anyway, thanks again,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

TdU Stage 1 Preview: Unley -> Lyndoch

The People’s Choice Crit on Sunday whetted our appetite for the week ahead with Caleb Ewan taking a very convincing win.

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Bennett and Sagan followed him home and all three riders will be looking to take the opening stage victory and thus the first Ochre Jersey of the Tour.

Let’s have a look at what’s in store for them!

The Route

A relatively flat affair with a few bumps along the way, definitely one for the fast men. Expect a few Aussies to get into the break and go for the opening KOM jersey.

Here’s the Strava profile I made for the stage.

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The three large laps around Lyndoch feature some steepish bumps but they’re only a couple of hundred metres at 7% or so. Nothing for the pros! The run-in itself will be fast as it’s a shallow descent for 5km towards the line with a few sweeping bends. At roughly 500m to go the riders will tackle a “left” turn (it’s pretty much straight on), so the pace shouldn’t be knocked back at all.

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That “left” turn at 500m to go

From there it will be a drag race to the line with the first WT win of the season up for grabs, it should be an exciting and frenetic affair!

Who’s going to be challenging then?

Contenders

The Aussie pocket rocket Caleb Ewan has to start this stage as favourite and I think I would be hard pressed to find anyone who disagrees with that statement. He’s in scintillating form at the moment picking up the national criterium title along with the aforementioned People’s Choice Crit (PCC). The Orica lead-out train seems to be working very well and Kluge has gelled with the rest of the team straight away. They’ll expect nothing less than victory here.

Bora team management will have to make a decision on who sprints; either Sagan or Bennett. Their effort at the PCC was a bit of a mess with both riders doing their own sprint after Bennett lost the wheel of the Slovak. If I was DS, I’d have the Irishman as their rider for this stage. His closing speed was very impressive and if he can follow Sagan then he has a very good springboard and chance to take the stage. Easier said than done though!

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The rider who just missed the podium at the crit was Niccolo Bonifazio. Fourth place was a good result for him, but he was just kind of there and I wasn’t overly impressed. He’s the type of rider who is very hot or cold and without much team support I think he’ll struggle in the more structured sprint of Stage 1 and will finish further down the pecking order. Then again, my track record with bold statements last season wasn’t great 😂

Mark Renshaw is sure to be fired up to impress on home soil as he gets one of his very few changes throughout the year to lead Dimension Data. Not as quick as he once used to be, that disadvantage is overcome by his nationality as he always seems to pull a good result out of the bag here.

Sky rider Danny Van Poppel will hope to go better than his 16th place in the crit which must have been a disappointment. A strong sprinter on his day, he’ll have some strong riders to bring him to the front in the closing kilometres and drop him on Ewan/Sagan’s wheel. Can he deliver from there?

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Vuelta “flop” Nikias Arndt will be under pressure to perform as Sunweb also have another young German sprinter by the name of Phil Bauhaus with them. I would expect the former to get the go ahead on stage 1, but does he have the legs to compete? I’m not so sure.

There are several other smaller sprinters here such as; Marko Kump, Carlos Barbero, Sean de Bie, Lorenzo Manzin and Baptiste Planckaert. Ultimately a top 10 would be a good result for them and a top 5 would be great!

*incoming fantasy team bias/clouded judgement warning*

One rider I think will go well on this opening stage is Edward Theuns.

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With the PCC being his first race back after his injury at the Tour de France, he performed well to get up for 5th in what was a chaotic and potentially dangerous race. However, he was disappointed to lose the wheel of his lead-out-man (Koen De Kort) in the final few hundred metres. With this simpler run in, he should be delivered into a better position and from there he will fancy his chances. On his day he can match the best in the World, but can he do it tomorrow?

Prediction

Going against tradition here…

Man on form + Best lead-out = an odds on favourite Ewan win. Simple!

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With Theuns and whoever the Bora sprinter is rounding out the podium.

Betting

Ewan is too short to back IMO, something along the lines of 13/10 may have tempted me. So I’m going for my outside winner shot and the guy with a good chance of the podium:

0.5pt EW Theuns @ 15/1 with Bet365 or WillHill. Would take 14/1 too. Although he was technically 20/1 when I tweeted I’d back him the other day, I’m not going to be that guy and take that price!

As for a H2H double, I like;

Van Poppel v Arndt & Theuns v Planckaert @ 1.27/1 with WilliamHill. 3pts.

 

Thanks for reading as always! I’m looking forward to the first road stage of the year. Who do you think will take the Ochre jersey? Any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.