Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 10 Preview: Salamanca -> Fermoselle. Bermillo de Sayago

Rest-day recap

Return of the King? Is that the title we’re going with?

On stage 9 an okay break, not super strong but not bad, escaped early on and they were kept on a fairly tight leash by Groupama. However, the elastic eventually snapped with around 70km to go and they were given enough room to fight it out for the stage.

It then became tactical in the break before the final climb, with a duo of King and Mas escaping. King dropped Mas and his gap grew north of 1’30 before the start of the summit finish. Mollema tried his best to bridge across, getting the gap down to only 18 seconds at one point but he had spent too much and King was just too strong.

King held on for a rather remarkable second stage win of this Vuelta, which is definitely a surprise to most. Can he go better than Marczynski last year and take a third?

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Mollema trailed home for second with other early morning breakee Teuns just managing to take third ahead of some rampaging GC riders.

With over a third of the race complete, the battle for the overall is still wide open and the top 10 is covered by just 48 seconds. Plenty in with chances over the coming two weeks, it’s just about managing your form and timing that peak perfectly.

Anyway enough about that, let’s see what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

A very odd-looking profile as the stage is pretty much as flat as you can get in Spain but because they descend before climbing again, it looks like there is a chunk out of the profile.

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Nothing much to talk about really aside from the Cat-3 that crests at 28km to go. However, the road continues to rise afterwards for 7.2km but it only averages a shade over 2%, so nothing too serious.

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I think we’ll see a sprint: so what is the run in like?

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Easy, really easy!

A slight meander at around 600m to go with is all they have to deal with pretty much: no roundabouts which is a bit surprising. That being said, there is a kink in the road with only 150m or so to go.

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Nothing serious but it is something to note. Coming around the short side will save you a fraction of the second and that could be all that matters. Also, the final few hundred metres rise at an average of 2% to the line, again, nothing crazy, but it means timing is more important.

If I’m honest, I’m not 100% sure that the above is the exact finish as in typical Vuelta fashion there are two different places in the road book. However, given that LaFlammeRouge and Erecce have the same finish point as above, I’ll go with that.

You can see a video of the run in above.

Sprinters

Do I really need to go through all of them again?

Viviani – Very strong when taking his win on stage 3 and he finished fast on the crosswind struck stage 6. However, both on that day and the uphill day where he *might* have had a chance, he was poorly positioned. Very unlike Quick Step that. They’ll need to sort that for tomorrow.

Sagan – Seems to be finding his form again but I think he is still not at 90%. If he was, then there was no way he was losing on Stage 8: he is getting there though. A master at positioning, expect to see him surf wheels given his short lead-out.

Bouhanni – Great to see him take the win earlier in the race. His team performed really well in that stage and that will give him more confidence in them. On his day Bouhanni can be really fast, it is just judging if it is his day or not!

Van Poppel – I was very impressed with his effort on stage 8, I didn’t expect him to finish third that day. What almost impressed me more though was just how well Lotto Jumbo bossed the closing few kilometres. If they can do that again tomorrow, then Van Poppel has a great chance.

Nizzolo – Another who got close on stage 8, he seems to be a nearly man so often. I would like to see him win a stage at a Grand Tour, it is what he deserves after being consistent over the years. I just can’t see it happening tomorrow though.

Consonni, Trentin, Sarreau and Garcia will be in or around the top 10. I wonder if Max “speed bump” Walscheid makes the finish?

Prediction

A simple finish can often be a chaotic and messy finish as everyone thinks they have a chance. We’ll see a big fight for position as riders surge forward and then back again as they run out of steam so luck will somewhat play a factor. A team will want to time their effort perfectly so that they can drop their sprinter off at just the right moment.

I’ll go with Lotto Jumbo to repeat their lead-out feat from stage 8 and put Van Poppel into an unbeatable position.

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Betting

Normally wouldn’t go EW on short sprint odds but given how close things have been so far between them all, I’ll take the “safety net” of a podium.

2pts EW Van Poppel @ 10/1 with William Hill who are actually paying 1/3 odds for 3 places. Would take the 9s or 8s available elsewhere though.

Thanks as always for reading, who do you think is going to win tomorrow? Apologies for this not being as in-depth as normal but there isn’t really much to talk about! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 8 Preview: Linares -> Almadén

Today’s Recap

An OK break made it up the road but Bora were more than happy to help Groupama FDJ keep tabs on it so they were never really given north of 3 minutes. Things spiced up on the penultimate climb with plenty of riders dropped, but it was the descent off of that climb that was the undoing of Kwiatkowski who went down along with two team-mates. With the pace on up ahead and the tough climb to come, he would never make it back on despite his and a few others best efforts.

In the peloton we saw numerous attacks from solo riders and groups, but it was Gallopin who went at the perfect moment. A small lull as the decision as to who would cahse was made ended up being enough for the Frenchman to get a big enough gap to take the stage win.

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It is a result that is nice to see given how much he has suffered from illness or injury this year.

Behind, Sagan sprinted to second place after keeping himself nicely hidden from the tv motorbikes in the final 10km. Seems he is building some form again as he definitely wouldn’t have made this finish a few weeks ago. Pre-stage favourite Valverde trailed home in third place.

Will tomorrow see a similarly aggressive and attacking finish to the day? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

I’m branding it as Stage 7 Lite.

The riders will face only 2100m of climbing compared to today’s 2500m.

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The ascents themselves are less intense too, with the only categorised rise of the day averaging a lowly 3.5% for almost 9km: that’s not the Vuelta I know! Even the finale is a bit of a rip-off of today’s finish.

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Admittedly, the ramps involved in those closing 6.5km are tougher than the steadier 2% drag to the line we had this afternoon but it still equates to pretty much the same finish: a 6km, just over 2% run to the line.

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The final kilometre averages 3%, but it does feature a few switchbacks on a narrow road so positioning will be vital. Expect a big fight for the penultimate turn off the main highway. Also, ignore the poor surface on the image above, that is taken from a 2008 Street View trip (if that’s the right word) but the road has since been done up with some swanky new asphalt.

How will the stage pan out?

With a big day ahead of them on Sunday, I think most will want to keep their powder dry. Despite the rolling hills at the start, it is fairly easy terrain therein for the peloton to control the breakaway. I think we’ll once again see Bora help with the chase and possibly a few of the other sprint teams so I don’t think the break has a very good chance at all tomorrow if I’m honest. It is the Vuelta though so you can never fully discount it.

The only way that it does have a chance is if we see a surprisingly large group of 8 or 9 go clear and everyone else decides not to work with Bora given that Sagan is looking strong again.

I think that is unlikely though, so an uphill sprint it is!

Can anyone stop Sagan?

I didn’t expect to be writing that a few days ago but given his performance today then I think it is a fair question. The run to the line tomorrow will be no issue for the World Champion if he continues to recover and he has to start as the out-and-out favourite for the day. His kick today was impressive and caught a few by surprise, let alone Valverde, who didn’t even realise he was in the main group.

Viviani – Can he make the finish? I think he will and he is the main threat to Sagan. It was only poor positioning that cost him a second stage win on Wednesday. He is punchy enough to deal with the drag and if he shows the same closing speed as he did the other day, then I think he has the beating of the World Champion.

Bouhanni – Now with a stage win, the Frenchman will be full of confidence. I mentioned in one of my earlier previews that Bouhanni is traditionally one of the better climbing sprints in the peloton, having won tough stages in Catalunya in the past. Tomorrow is different, easier in fact, but I can’t help but cast my mind back to the 2014 Vuelta and Stage 13 when Bouhanni finished 5th amongst GC contenders and puncheurs on a tough uphill finish.

Trentin – Just doesn’t seem to be at 100% at the moment. He’s another the finish looks great for but I don’t think he has the speed to beat Sagan if it is more selective and the same goes if it is less selective.

Nizzolo – Has managed okay on these dragging uphill finishes in the past but I’m not certain he has fully returned to his former level yet, therefore, I don’t think he’ll feature.

Outsiders to watch

Simone Consonni.

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I’ve been impressed by the Italian’s development this year in what is his second season in the pro peloton. He’s a solid sprinter but can also hang quite well on the short climbs. It will be tough for him to win but a top 10 on a tough-ish finish like this would be a good result.

Eduard Prades.

Not as much of an outsider as he would have been had he not come 4th today. The Euskadi Murias rider has had a string of very good results this year, particularly in races with tricky finishes. The rise to the finish certainly helps him but against the quality of opposition here then I think another top 10 would be good.

Mike Teunissen.

Given Max “speed bump” Walscheid won’t be competing come the finish, I would expect Sunweb to give Teunnisen the chance to go for a result as they will have plenty of others to help guide Kelderman. We’ve seen so far this year that Teunissen is competent on the short climbs so tomorrow’s drag to the finish should be okay for him. Is he capable of going better than his fifth place result on the opening day of Paris Nice?

Prediction

This is a tough one. I think it comes down to a sprint, the question is who? Sagan is the obvious choice but I do feel both Bouhanni and Viviani have the abilities to challenge him.

Hmmmmm.

Given his season so far, I’ll go with Viviani to win again.

 

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Betting

2pts WIN Viviani @ 8/1

0.5pt EW Teunissen @ 200/1

3pts H2H Double (Consonni > DVP and Bouhanni > Nizzolo) @ 3.2/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 3 Preview: Mijas -> Alhaurín de la Torre

Today’s Recap

Well I pretty much had today’s stage bang on in yesterday’s preview, if we just ignore the part where I decided to dream about a Benoot victory…The Lotto Soudal rider was with the front group but pulled off and swung left at roughly 2km to go, possibly struggling with the heat and rhythm of the bunch.

De Plus launched a very strong attack with just over 1km left and gained a reasonable gap while there was a bit of marking out behind. Valverde bit the bullet (see what I did?) and hit out to close him down, with only Kwiatkowski being able to stick to his wheel. The Pole came round Valverde at 250m to go, leading into the last corner. It worked out perfectly though for the Movistar man who was able to use Kwiatkowski’s slipstream and launch past him in the final metres to take the win.

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De Plus held on for third with a whole host of GC riders coming trailing in behind.

The result on the day means that Kwiatkowski moves into the leader’s jersey, 14 seconds ahead of Valverde and 25 ahead of Kelderman. With the parcours to come tomorrow, he should hold on to it, but who knows. Let’s have a look at what is in store for them…

The Route

A classic Vuelta “sprint day” where the riders have to traverse two categorised climbs, including the first Cat-1 of the race, and several other unclassified ascents, totalling over 3000m of altitude gain. Javier Guillén is the biggest patter merchant going!

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The Cat-1 climb of Puerto del Madroño averages 4.4% for 23.5km so it isn’t too tough gradient wise, but it is the length and heat combined that will cause some issues. If we don’t see the break form until here, then expect it to be strong again and it might be one that could go all the way.

The terrain continues to roll for pretty much the remainder of the day, taking in the Cat-3 Puerto del Viento (6.4km at 4.3%) and the uncategorised rise just after the feed zone which comes in at 4.1% for 6kms.

A long descent follows before yet more rolling terrain and some rises before the intermediate sprint point with only 25km left in the day.

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As you can see on the profile above, there are a few rises in the closing 7kms, with the most notable of them being a 1.2km drag (3.6%) average that ends with just 2.5km left in the day. From there, it is mainly flat, if not ever so slightly downhill all the way to the line.

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There are 4 roundabouts to traverse in those closing 2.5km, just a typical Vuelta finish really. The last of those comes with roughly 600m left but it is quite open so it shouldn’t be too bad.

Question Number 1: Break or no break?

The stage looks great for a breakaway to establish a good gap before the sprinters teams can start chasing properly once they are over the Cat-1 climb and normally it would be a good stage to get into the move. However, the issue lies with the fact that Kwiatkowski currently leads the overall and Sky might be keen to keep him in that position so they will keep things on a fairly tight rope, hoping to get some assistance later on. Consequently, I don’t think we’ll see the break win tomorrow despite the favourable profile, although I’ll still give it an 20% chance of it happening.

Question Number 2: Big bunch sprint or reduced bunch sprint?

We saw today that several of the sprinters bailed out early on what was an easier stage than tomorrow. It is hard to read into that though as many of them wouldn’t have rated their chances at all and just decided to save their energy.

However, we are in for a similarly hot day tomorrow and more climbing metres (roughly 400m more), then we could see several sprinters dropped early and not make it back. It will be interesting to see who pushes the pace on and given their current form, I think both Valverde and Kwiatkowski might fancy their chances in a reduced bunch gallop. Consequently, we could see Sky and Movistar form an entente cordiale at the start of the stage and drop most of the fast men on the opening climb. As looking at the stage profile, there isn’t really a lot of flat land where a team can make a concerted chance to get back if the pace is on at the head of the race. It’s not really until 40km to go that the major difficulties of the afternoon are out-of-the-way.

The slightly rolling run-in to the line as well could see some surprisingly lose contact after a tough day. If not, their zip might be gone.

It’s a tough one to call, but I think we’ll see a reduced bunch sprint of maybe 70-90 riders.

Contenders

Elia Viviani.

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Arguably the best sprinter this year, Viviani has had a truly incredible season. He recently won the Cyclassics Hamburg in rather dominant fashion but somewhat disappointed today. I would have expected him to stay with the bunch for longer but as mentioned above, he might just have decided to write the day off and focus on tomorrow. If he can manage the climbs and make it to the line, then he has to be the clear favourite.

Matteo Trentin. 

Another who disappointed me today, he finished ahead of the gruppetto but not by much, coming home almost 11 minutes down. Sensational in this race last year, will he get given the same free role now with Mitchelton? Theoretically he should be one of the fastest “climbing sprinters” here, but does he have the form…His win in Glasgow would suggest so but today’s performance doesn’t. Hmmmm.

Michal Kwiatkowski.

He just seems to be able to continue his great form, doesn’t he?! Today he got played by Valverde who let him lead into the final turn and the Pole will be desperately gutted to have missed out on the stage win, again. Being in the red leader’s jersey isn’t a bad consolation but he will want more. Sky have a strong team to put the sprinters into trouble early and if they form an alliance with other squads, we could see the current race leader sprinting for the win from a reduced bunch. He clearly has the form and speed at the moment to go well and the rises before the line will help to bring him closer to the fast men.

Alejandro Valverde.

Can El Bala make it two in a row? Much like Kwiatkowski, Valverde packs a good sprint on the flat too and he’ll no doubt want to chase some bonus seconds so he can move into the race lead. If the race is aggressive and attritional tomorrow then he has a great chance.

Tom Van Asbroeck.

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Slightly left-field pick but he impressed me a lot on the tougher finishes in the Vuelta last year and he seems to be arriving here in good shape. He was the best finishing “fast man” today, coming home only 2’15 down on Kwiatkowski. He should make it over the climbs with the main group tomorrow and if some of the properly fast guys have been dropped then he has a great chance of pulling off what is a shock result.

Nacer Bouhanni.

I still remember fondly the 2014 Vuelta and just how strong Nacer was then, it is a shame to see him a shadow of his former self, or is he? Today he came home alongside Nibali and Benoot: not exactly bad company for a sprinter on a tricky finish. To me that indicates that his climbing legs are starting to come back and I think he will be up for it tomorrow. On his day Bouhanni can climb very well and I keep harking back to his win in Catalunya last year. One to watch.

Ivan Garcia Cortina.

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The Bahrain rider really announced himself with a third place from the breakaway during last year’s Vuelta on what was a difficult day out. Like Bouhanni, he finished alongside his team-mate Nibali today so there is obviously a reasonable amount of form there at the moment. With Bahrain looking a little lacklustre GC wise already, only Ion is left, then they might turn their attention to Garcia tomorrow: he certainly could challenge for the podium in a reduced gallop.

Note I’ve left out Sagan (probably at my peril) because I still don’t think he’s 100% and isn’t fit enough to compete. Also left out Walscheid as he can barely get over a speed bump.

Prediction

Reduced sprint with some of the sprinters missing out.

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Kwiatkowski to get that win!

 

 

Betting

Backing two riders…

1pt EW Kwiatkowski @ 18/1

1pt EW Van Asbroeck @ 40/1

Should cover a few bases. Maybe not a Viviani win though!

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see a sprint, reduced bunch sprint or even a breakaway contesting for stage honours? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 13 Preview: Ferrara -> Nervesa della Battaglia

Today’s Recap

Dull sprint stage they said, well they weren’t wrong but it was the Sky which was particularly dull in the closing 30kms. We saw torrential rain fall on the riders and with a little bit of a wind and on a sketchy descent, the peloton split in two before we even hit the final circuit.

Things were brought mostly back together but there was one big omission as pre-stage favourite Viviani was in the group behind.

Wellens attacked as things regrouped and held on until the final 10km but he was caught on the climb. Some attacks flew but nothing major stuck until Betancur and Mohoric slithered away out the front of the peloton on the descent. Thanks to the Slovenian’s skills, they managed to hold off the charging bunch going under the Flamme Rouge but as it flattened out the Movistar rider refused to take a pull. So taking a leaf out of Sagan’s book, Mohoric just sat up and let the bunch catch them. After the stage he was quoted saying “unlucky for Carlos I’ve already won a stage”. Love it. Although he maybe was a bit over amorous in his attempts to drop Betancur on the descent.

Bennett didn’t know that those two were going to sit up though and he launched an audacious sprint from 350m to go after them, catching all the other sprinters sleeping behind. He opened up a gap quickly and it was enough to see him hold on for a second stage win!

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Van Poppel was best of the rest with Bonifazio rounding out the podium. More of the same tomorrow?

The Route

Yes, parcours wise anyway.

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Except it is easier than it was today, with the only categorised climb of the day cresting at just under 20kms to go.

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An easy ascent, it would be a shock to see any sprinters dropped here but you never know. We don’t have Mareczko or Guardini at this race anymore so it is doubtful!

The finish itself is straight forward too with there being no major turns or obstacles in the closing 4km, just a few roundabouts and sweeping bends to negotiate.

Expect to see a big battle between the sprint trains. If it is anything like the “simple” run in on stage 7 then it will be very messy.

Sprinters

Sam Bennett 

Imperious today, his winning move was one that brimmed with confidence and I wonder would he have pulled it off if he hadn’t won stage 7 already? He’s clearly in stupendous form at the moment and there is a big chance of him going back-to-back tomorrow. There will be more pressure on his team’s shoulders to chase down the break which might leave him a little short in the sprint, so he’ll need to be shrewd with what wheel he chooses to follow. He’s not unbeatable but given his performance today, he will be tough to beat!

Elia Viviani.

He looks a shadow of the rider that dominated in Israel. These past few stages he has been dropped on climbs that he shouldn’t have been and today he was one of the guys caught behind when the peloton split. He should have been there are is regrouped but for some reason he missed out again, ultimately rolling home 9 minutes down in 145th place. What is odd is that he went for the intermediate sprint points behind the breakaway and “won” both of them during the stage. Is he ill and trying to score as many points at the intermediate sprints knowing he won’t compete at the finish, hoping his illness will pass? Something doesn’t seem right with him either way. Tomorrow is the acid test.

Danny Van Poppel.

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The Jumbo rider looked strong in today’s sprint but the group just left it too late. He’s been slowly riding his way into this race and on his day I think he can match Viviani and Bennett for speed. His lead-out is a bit inexperienced but they have a group of strong guys who can string things out in the finale. Will they get the timing right tomorrow?

Sacha Modolo.

His team did a lot of work for him today but he ran out of steam in the end and finished in 13th place. Not ideal. On the previous sprint days he has shown some potential though and with a good placing on the tough stage 11 finish I think he’s just had a bad day today. He’ll be back to prove something tomorrow.

Niccolo Bonifazio.

The most reckless sprinter I have seen in a long time, he just squeezes through gaps that really aren’t there. I somewhat admire him for it, but sometimes he pushes the limits to the extreme. His bike was swinging all over the road today but he still got up for third. Maybe if he went straight he could have a better chance! He was one of the fastest finishers today and I’m intrigued to see what he can do when put into a good position.

The rest will probably be fighting for minor honours again but if Viviani is ill, then we might see a surprise rider make it onto the podium.

Prediction

The man on form makes it three wins, Bennett goes back to back!

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Betting

Chasing some EW value here.

I’ve seen enough from Modolo on the other sprint stages to hope that he can get on the podium tomorrow. Especially if Viviani is unwell.

Modolo 1pt EW at 12/1 with Bet365

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 7 Preview: Pizzo -> Praia a Mare

Today’s Recap

Well that was a great stage!

Attacks kept flying from the gun and it took over an hour for the break to eventually form, which saw a 25+ rider group get up the road. Chaves and Henao, along with a few others close on GC snuck their way into the move which made for a very interesting afternoon. As a result the move was never given too much leeway but they started the climb with over a minute on the peloton. The gap varied on the first 10km of the climb before we saw Chaves explode out of the already reduced break. He quickly built up a lead over the rest of the group who were soon swallowed up by the GC contenders. Probing attacks were made and a group including Pozzovivo, Pinot, Yates and Bennett managed to get a gap on the rest of the field. However, their unwillingness to properly work together saw things regroup. Meanwhile Chaves soldiered on ahead, maintaining a 25 second advantage going into the final 2kms. Yates then took advantage of being on the other side from the road of everyone else and as they all were looking at each other, he took off in pursuit of his team-mate. He closed the gap to Chaves remarkably quick and the two of them completed the final few hundred metres together, with the Brit allowing his Colombian team-mate to take the stage win.

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Pinot won the sprint for third from the remainder of the GC group with none of the big GC favourites losing any more time than the 26 seconds they ceded to Yates and Chaves.

The result leaves Yates in the Maglia Rosa and looking at the Mitchelton squad, they certainly have a strong and well-rounded line-up to defend it for a while. Thankfully for them they should have a fairly easy day tomorrow as the sprinters most likely get their chance into Praia a Mare.

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

The Route

An almost pan-flat day but with an interesting little kicker near the finish to entice some attacks.

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Not much really here to talk about until we get to the 140km mark and even then, it is nothing too remarkable.

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The terrain rolls for over 12km with the major focal point being the 4km climb at 3.6%. It shouldn’t be too tough for the sprinters but it will certainly offer up a chance for some to make a bold attack. The continual up and down until the final 4km gives them an opportunity to make it stick, but given the wide open road then it will be tough for them to get away fully.

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The riders will descend through a tunnel which could be a bit sketchy and we do have an elongated chicane at around the 2km to go mark. However, aside from that the finish is simple and it will be a drag race between lead-out trains.

Nailed on sprint?

Most likely yeah, but given we’re almost into the second week of the race tiredness will start to kick in for some riders and they might not be as keen to chase all day for a sprint. Today’s stage was fast right from the gun and that will certainly have taken a lot out of the sprinters so I would say the break has more of a chance than normal on a stage like this but even then it is still unlikely.

One thing that might favour the break is that the rest of the sprint teams need to try something to get an advantage over Quick Step. Not contributing to the chase would be a good start and they could send a man up the road as the perfect excuse.

If we see maybe 3 of the sprinters team send a guy in the break it could work. No doubt though we’ll see a group of 4 squirrel off and it will be controlled nicely all day.

Can anyone beat Viviani then?

Yeah, but they will need a combination of luck and great legs. They’ll be hoping the Quick Step rider struggled a bit today.

However, it will be very tough and I can’t really see it happening but you never know.

Modolo – Closest to Viviani on Stage 3 the EF rider has quite a good lead-out that can get close to Quick Step. He was with the peloton on Stage 5 before completely blowing up on the final climb but his legs must be good to get there.

Bennett – Hesitated on stage 2 and then went early on stage 3 and faded, probably as he cycled a few more metres than anyone else. Selig withdrew the other day and that will be a big loss for him. Bennett has beaten Viviani before this year, he just needs to remain confident.

Mareczko – Wilier have a lot of faith in the young sprinter as they’ve had almost all of their squad back helping him get through the past few stages. Will they have taken too much out of him?

Bonifazio – 4th in the opening sprint but was caught out by the winds on stage 3. He was good in helping bring Pozzovivo back to the front in stage 5 so I think he has fairly good legs. Sometimes he has good days but often blows cold.

Van Poppel – Jumbo’s short lead out hasn’t worked so far but on a simpler finish like this is should help them. For raw power I think DVP can get close to Viviani, he just needs everything to click.

Prediction

I’d like to see a break stay away to spoil the party but I just can’t see it happening. Viviani to take yet another stage win.

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I do think Van Poppel can get onto the podium tomorrow though.

Betting

Hmmm, could be a no bet day but I’ll go with:

1pt EW on DVP at 14/1

I might have a dabble on some potential break riders on the exchange but nothing stands out for me atm.

I do also fancy a H2H;

Venturini to beat Debuscherre at 6/5. (5pts on)

Debuscherre seems to have lost his sprinting legs quite a while ago and I think the AG2R rider is faster than him. On a finish that should be about pure speed and power, I favour the Frenchman.

Thanks as always for reading, who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone stop Viviani? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Abu Dhabi Tour 2018 Stage 3 Preview; Nation Towers > Big Flag

Today’s Recap

We did get some crosswind action out on the road today albeit fairly brief. Things regrouped with only 30 riders or so missing the cut.

Teams jostled for position and it was a fairly chaotic sprint once again although it was certainly more “traditional” than what we had on the opening day. QuickStep put on a masterclass in bringing their man to the front and Viviani duly delivered with the win after romping home by what seemed a country mile.

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The Italian has continued his sparkling start to the season and seems to be at the top of his game at the moment.

Van Poppel managed to come home second, after rounding an impressive Ackermann in the closing metres.

Will we see similar QuickStep domination tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Pan flat, once again!

stage-3-route

The stage is pretty much a sightseeing tour around the main attractions that Abu Dhabi has to offer. At only 133km in length it is also the shortest of the open road stages we have this week.

The finish is fairly straightforward aside from a few sweeping turns.

stage-3-finish

Once again having a good lead-out will help a lot but it is not the end of the world if a sprinter can follow the right wheels and get lucky.

Like today, there is a small chance of echelons when the riders make their way along the top part of the loop, along the exposed causeway. It is forecast for ~20km/h winds coming from the north so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens!

Prediction

I’m not even going to bore you with going through the sprinters again today as it is much the same as over the past few stages and if I’m honest, I can’t be arsed. Gives me more time to write Omloop instead!

Anyway, I think it was clear today who the fastest rider here is and with the best lead-out he should make it back to back wins, Viviani to finish first again.

Betting

No bet, again.

Thanks as always for reading and apologies for this truncated preview but I’d much rather focus on a more exciting race than this!  Tomorrow’s TT write-up should be longer although I think a one-word post of “Dennis” might suffice. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Abu Dhabi Tour 2018 Stage 2 Preview; Yas Mal › Yas Beach

Today’s Recap

My echelon dance last night didn’t work and we had a fairly benign day out for the riders, albeit with a fairly strong headwind on the way “home”. The sprint teams were amassed at the front of the peloton and we had a fairly chaotic run-in with sprinters disengaged from their trains as everyone jostled for position.

Some went too early, some went too late, but in the end it was the King of Headwind Sprints a.k.a Alexander Kristoff who took the win.

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A very fast finishing Guardini was somewhat of a surprise in second place, while Ewan managed to hold on for third after opening up his sprint early. The top 10 is a smorgasbord of random riders with a few weird names up there and some notable exclusions.

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

The Route

Much the same as today with a pan-flat parcours for the riders but I’m sure they’ll be happy to know that they’ll have 35km less to ride.

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We do travel along the coast but there will be no chance of echelons unfortunately, much to my disappointment. Not much to shout about then until we get the run in to the finish.

stage-2-finish

A long, wide-open road will once again see the sprint teams battle for position as they approach the Flamme Rouge. No StreetView here either so a satellite image will have to suffice for the second day in a row.

The only major pinch point is when they turn off the big highway at 750m to go and the road narrows down to one lane.

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This should in theory stretch things out and it is conceivably long enough for a team to control the closing kilometre. However, with the short sprint trains that we have at this race it will be tough if someone takes it up from far out.

What Can We Take From Today?

A bit, but not a lot!

It was a very chaotic sprint so the lack of structure might have made some results better than others, while also having the opposite impact too. For example, our stage winner Kristoff actually lost the wheel of his lead-out man (Ferrari) in the closing kilometre but latched onto the back of Ewan and effectively used the Mitchelton rider as his last man. An experienced decision that helped him win the stage.

QuickStep looked the most organised for Viviani but they went to the opposite side of the road to everyone which ended up being the Italian’s downfall. The lead-out ran out of steam and when Viviani launched he had no one to draft. In fact, he moved all the way back to the side where the sprinters were but he’d used up too much energy by then and could only settle for fourth. He still looks fast though.

Ewan had a great lead-out but launched too early and just faded in the final 50m. Possibly a bit of inexperience on his behalf. He does seem to be going well though and will fancy his chances in a non-headwind sprint tomorrow.

Guardini finished fast but was it a flash in the pan performance? Who knows! He’ll neeed a similar level of luck/cunning to go well tomorrow but we’ll see.

I have no idea what is wrong with Kittel at the moment. His lead-out was better today, albeit not great, but he just went backwards when he started sprinting. He can’t even argue that he was blocked off or anything as 2016 Kittel would have barged his way through the large gap that was there. He’s possibly ill or it might be his mental attitude that is letting him down but he doesn’t seem at 100% to me.

Jumbo blitzed the front today at around 3km out but they ran out of steam and Van Poppel was way-down in the end. If they time their coming to the head of the peloton better, then they certainly seem to have the firepower to dominate proceedings, they just need to have the patience.

As for the rest of the sprinters, I have no idea as to what happened to them as things were too chaotic or they were just simply too far down.

Prediction

Given what we witnessed today it looks like a Ewan/Kristoff/Viviani showdown.

I think Mitchelton Scott will get the timing much better this time and the young Aussie will get the win.

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Although there is a good chance we get another chaotic sprint and a potential surprise winner.

Betting

No bet.

Thanks for reading as always! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see a similar result or will it be completely flipped around? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Abu Dhabi Tour 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Madinat Zayed -> ADNOC School

GC Overview

The last of the races in the middle-east and the only one that holds World Tour status, the Abu Dhabi Tour features five stages this year. We should have three sprints, one time trial and a mountain top finish with the latter two more than likely deciding the GC.

In 2017 it was Rui Costa who took the win which topped off his cracking start to the year.

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He’s here to defend his crown this year but with the added effort against the clock it will be difficult for him to do so.

Given the TT, anyone who hopes to go well in the GC can’t afford to lose anymore than 30 seconds here and even then, it might be a struggle to gain them back on Jebel Hafeet. So with that said we have a few stand-out candidates.

Tom Dumoulin races for the first time this season but that doesn’t really mean anything as he finished here in 2017 on his first outing. The TT/Mountain top finish combination suits him perfectly and he’ll hope to be close to winning both days. He might not actually get a stage win but it could be enough to secure the GC. Sunweb also have the benefit of having Kelderman here too and it will be interesting to see how the Dutch pair combine.

Rohan Dennis is hoping to develop into a GC rider with this season being a crucial point in that transformation. The best TT rider in the World over a course of this length he’ll hope to end the day with almost a minute of some of the climbers and maybe 15 seconds or so over Dumouln. Holding on to that lead of Jebel Hafeet will be tough but it will be a good acid test for him and his GC abilities.

Jonathan Castroviejo will get his first chance at leadership for Sky here. The British outfit have been flying in TTs as of late, winning both the Algarve and Andalucia efforts against the clock. Castroviejo is an exceptional TT rider but also a competent climber too. Jebel Hafeet will be on his limit but he’ll certainly be hoping to make the top 5 on GC and possibly go a bit better.

Alejandro Valverde isn’t great against the clock, but he’s not bad either. After a return to racing after his crash in the TDF last year, the Movistar man has once again looked imperious in the races he’s competed in so far. He’ll hope to limit his losses in the TT, to maybe 30 seconds at most then it is all up to a big effort on the final day. He’s certainly put a strong dig on Jebel Hafeet during training as he now holds the Strava record for te climb!

Others will be there or thereabouts but I’m not going to bore you with names, Tom Dumoulin to win the GC!

Team-Sunweb_Tom-Dumoulin_Giro-d-Italia-stage-4_photo-by-Cor-Vos

Right, now let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders on the opening day.

The Route

A boring sprint stage with an almost out and back route through the desert; no need for a profile as it is pan flat.

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It’s pretty much the same stage that was used last year. Expect a lot of images of camels and rocks!

The finale is fairly straightforward with there being only two key pinch points/turns. Apparently Google Streetview isn’t a thing in this part of the Emirates yet so a satellite image of the final 3km will have to suffice.

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One right-hand turn at roughly 2.5km to go is followed by a roundabout at ~1.3km. I’m not sure what way they’ll take the roundabout, whether they go on the inside line (likely) or if it will be taken as a sweeping turn as above. Either way, the teams will have one kilometre dead ahead of them with a final jockey for position before they release their sprinters.

We’ve seen so far this season how simple run ins like this cause a lot of chaos because everyone is fairly evenly matched and they’re all vying for the same road space. We have a stacked sprint field here so I expect this to be equally manic!

Wind Watch

Given that the riders will be travelling into the wide open desert the possibility of echelons increases (much to my excitement). I’ve had my eye on the forecast for the past few days and it has changed a bit. Originally it was supposed to be a crosswind across the main stretch of straight road except that has changed to more of a headwind now.

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You can see on the screen capture above Madinat Zayed at the top of the map with the “turning point” of the stage down at the bottom. The wind is probably not coming from the East enough to cause any crosswinds but there is the point around halfway up the image that the road itself heads more West. Could this be enough to see some echelon action? I would love it, but I’m not holding out hope!

I’ll certainly be doing by crosswind dance before I go to bed tonight though.

If we do get echelons, then expect the majority of sprinters to be present at the front of the race anyway as a lot of them are masters at riding in bad conditions. In that situation it would depend on how many team-mates are there to hold it together for a sprint but it is still likely we’ll see some type of gallop to the line.

Sprinters

It seems as if the whole sprinting peloton is here; so much so, that I’m fairly certain that I could write another 1000 words. I’m not going to bore you with that so I’ll try write a few sentences at most for each rider!

Kittel.

Disappointed with his poor performances in Dubai, he’ll be here to remind everyone that he is the fastest rider in the peloton. A straight forward finish should be good for him but he’ll need to be positioned better.

Cavendish.

Already matching his tally of wins from last season, the Manxman will hope to continue that winning streak here. A tenacious rider, he always seems to rise to the occasion and knowing that the majority of the top sprinters are here he’ll desperately want to get one over them.

Greipel.

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Started the season with a bang in Australia, taking two stage wins. The German seems to be as powerful as ever but his lead-out train lacks a fast last man. Will need to latch onto another train which might cause issues. Headwind sprint helps him a lot though.

Kristoff.

The second rider that I proclaim is the best in the peloton (along with Greipel) in a headwind sprint, he is a master of tricky conditions. After firing a few blanks in his first races, he opened his account in Oman. Can he continue that here?

Ewan.

Was good in Australia but didn’t seem his scintillating best in the sprints. However, he was very strong in Almeria with a comfortable win over Van Poppel. Having a strong, strong lead-out here for him will help massively.

Viviani.

Arguably the in-form sprinter of the season so far, he has been truly exceptional. Arriving with a slightly different train, he has his reliable pilot fish Sabatini and that will be pivotal. Will the winning run continue?

Van Poppel.

Looked good in Valenciana but he’ll have been humbled a bit by Ewan in Almeria. Nonetheless, he’s a strong guy and will be hoping to bounce back. Jumbo nailed the lead-outs for Groenewegen so far this season, will DVP get the same quality?

Bauhaus.

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I’m a fan of the ‘Haus and it will be good to watch his progression again this year. He had a few strong placings in Australia but just missed out on the win. Tipped as the “new Kittel” he’ll be able to rely on the massive engines of Dumoulin and Arndt for a lead-out. He could surprise but would it really be a surprise though?

McLay.

Gets his chance to sprint for EF Education here. No lead-out for him so he’ll have to freestyle but that might work to his advantage. He is capable of pulling a very good result out of the bag but a top 10 will be solid for him nonetheless.

Minali.

Another “M” sprinter who will probably have to fly solo, he looked fast in a few of the finishes in Dubai but he seems very inconsistent. Will require some luck for him to go well.

Guardini. 

My #PFCL4 rider is in high company here and a top 10 result would be nice in a few of the stages. Back in 2015 he was notorious for strong showings in the desert sprints but he has since lost his way. Has he found Bernard’s Watch and rolled back the clock?

There are even more guys to consider such as Ackermann, Bonifazio, Barbier and Halvorsen to name a few but I think that the list is exhaustive enough!

Prediction

After a bit of a wind-battered day in the peloton, the riders will be more fatigued than expected. I have to go with one of two riders that I proclaim are the best in the world in a headwind sprint, no doubt picking the wrong one…

Alexander Kristoff to take the win!

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Having start off the season promisingly but without the result to show for it, it was good to see him get the proverbial monkey off his back in Oman. He looks in great shape, a 4th place on Hatta Dam is testament to that and I think a few people will underestimate him here.

Betting

1pt EW Kristoff at 12/1 with Bet365 (would take 10/1)

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win the opener tomorrow? Will we see some splits in the bunch, or will it be a long day in the saddle? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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

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

Today’s Recap

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

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

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

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

The Route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HattDam

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

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

Contenders

Pfffft.

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

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2015 (PCS)
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2016 (PCS)

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

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

Dylan Teuns.

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

John Degenkolb.

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

Elia Viviani.

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

Sonny Colbrelli.

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

Nacer Bouhanni.

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

Prediction

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

Vai vai Viviani!

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Betting

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

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

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Today’s Recap

Well that was messy!

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

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

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

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

The Route

Flat, again, but what do you expect?

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

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

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

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

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

What Can We Take From Stage 1?

The Good.

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

The Bad.

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

The Ugly.

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

Prediction

Hmmm.

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

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

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

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

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

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Betting

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

Going back in with a H2H double though;

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

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.