Team Time Trial World Championships – Doha 2016 Preview

Team Time Trial World Championships – Doha 2016 Preview

The last and main TTT of the year will once again see a trade team crowned as the World Champions. The winners really should get some kind of jersey/marking on the trade team jersey to signify their victory in my opinion! It’s also a shame that the discipline isn’t utilised more by race organisers in the World Tour or even at ProConti level. Anyway, I digress…

Team time trials are a great watch for the cycling purist, with a fine balance between power, speed and finesse. Last year saw BMC win the men’s race with Velocio-Sram taking home the women’s race.

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That victory was an incredible 4th in a row for Velocio (formerly Lululemon and now Canyon SRAM)! Can they make it 5 here? Let’s take a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Both the men and women will compete over the exact same 40km course. Leaving from the Lusail sports complex and finishing on the Pearl of Qatar.

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As you can see, the course is bookended by two technical sections with a big ol’ power section in between. On closer inspection the jaunt around the Lusail Sports Centre is actually 14km long. This includes several roundabouts, sharp 90-degree corners and a few hairpin turns for good measure! These obstacles are separated by 500m to 1km long straights where the power can be put down.

The pure power section follows, with approximately 10km of almost dead-straight road before we start getting into a more populous area again. The final 8.5km of the race features no less than 18 roundabouts to traverse! Some of them can be taken full speed as the racing line is straight, however there are others that will knock the speed off. It could be a case of who’s willing to take the most risks. Aside from the roundabouts, the best way to describe the Pearl section is “sweeping”.

This video shows what the riders will be faced with come Sunday; how wide the roads are etc. Pretty wide is the answer, as you would expect in Qatar! Therefore a lot of these roundabouts can be taken closer to full speed than they first may seem. Again, it could come down to who takes the biggest risks.

Men’s Race

The favourites for the men’s event has to be BMC. Reigning champions, they are a very powerful unit and have mastered the art of this discipline perfectly. We saw at Eneco that they looked comfortable, although their winning margin doesn’t suggest that, on a course that didn’t really suit them perfectly. This course is 75% about pure power and BMC are the best TTT unit for that. The opening 10km will be a challenge for them but if they can get through that unscathed then they will be tough to beat. The only lingering doubt is can they handle the pressure of being favourites?

Their main challengers will probably be Etixx. They were the team that ran them closest at Eneco and are traditionally a very good TTT unit, having won this race back in 2012 and 2013. With a team full of strong rouleurs this course suits them very well and they’ll be quietly confident about winning it. I would expect nothing less than a podium from them!

Cycling: 10th Tour de San Luis 2016 / Stage 1

Movistar arrive with a very good team on paper but they often flatter to deceive in team time trials, especially of this length. They took a breakthrough third place last year but their form in the discipline this year has been a bit so-so. I’m not confident that they’ll be able to turn it around here.

A team that I am more confident can turn their poor form around is Orica. The Aussie outfit was famed for their TTT ability in the early years after their formation but they’ve stagnated recently. For Doha, they’ve brought a quietly unassuming team but one that is very well-rounded. With the majority of the riders being from the southern hemisphere (poor old Svein Tuft) they should in theory cope with the heat better than most. I expect them to podium, if not better!

As for the other teams? LottoNL Jumbo could potentially pull off a surprise but if they were ever going to get a TTT result it was going to be at Eneco. They didn’t manage then so I don’t see them going well here. Astana and Giant will hope to sneak in to the top five which would be a great result for them. Sky? Great TTT in the Vuelta but the team has been in disarray since this whole TUE malarkey and I can’t see them being fully focussed to go well.

Women’s Race

Disappointingly there are only 8 teams here, with the favourites being Boels Dolmans. If you think BMC are clear favourites for the men’s race, they aren’t a patch on Boels if you look at results. The squad has been utterly dominant in TTTs this year winning every race, except for the Tour of California TTT. A group of very talented riders, the only way they will lose this is by making mistakes out on the course or if one of the other teams has an incredible day. Both of which are possible!

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Canyon SRAM will be looking for their 5th title in a row, but they have performed below expectation this year. They finished 1:41 down on Boels at the Vargarda TTT (also 40km) back in August but came home second in the slightly more recent Ladies Tour event. Will they continue this upward trajectory and pull something out of the bag? Probably not.

Both Cervelo Bigla & Rabo-Liv have come close to beating Boels this year and will both be confident of making the podium. The real challenge for them will be if they can make it all the way on to the top step. On a good day they most certainly could and I’m hoping they perform well to run Boels close, potentially cleaning up if the Dutch outfit make a mistake.

Twenty-16 were the team that beat Boels in the Tour of California. However, there is a big difference between a 20km TTT in your home country, compared to a 40km effort elsewhere. They do have some very talented track pursuit riders in their team but I think it will be too much for them. I can’t really see any surprises from the other 3 teams but you never know. Zabelinskaya may pull Bepink round herself!

Prediction

BMC should win, but I have a very good feeling about Orica for some strange reason. (Not that that has ever helped before 😉 ) So instead of going for the favourites I’ll suggest the Aussie outfit win it by less than 5 seconds!

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Similar situation in the women’s race. Boels are clear favourites but it’s boring going for odds on favourites. Instead, I’ll pluck for Rabo-Liv to take home the race!

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Watch BMC and Boels go on and win comfortably now.

Betting

The favourites are priced accordingly, if not a bit conservatively by the bookies but I’ve found a couple of angles I like.

0.5pt EW Orica @ 18/1 with Ladbrokes. 

They’re paying out 1/3 odds for 2 places and I think there’s a good chance Orica could make the top 2 or at least should be thereabouts. Looks a good value bet in comparison to poor odds for Movistar and Etixx. Other bookmakers might offer more places later on, or a top 3 market, but I wouldn’t hold your breath on that!

0.125pt WIN Cervelo Bigla @ 25/1 with Ladbrokes.

0.125pt WIN Rabo Liv @ 16/1 with Bet365.

Unfortunately there’s no EW betting for the women’s race, as both of these teams are priced on the generous side if you could get a top 2/3 place. Nonetheless, I think they offer a bit of value just in case if Boels mess up or these teams are on an incredible day.

 

Congrats if you made it all the way down to here and thanks again for reading! How do you think the races will pan out? Will both of the obvious favourites win comfortably? Or is there a chance of an upset? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Eneco Tour Stage 7: Bornem -> Geraardsbergen

Today’s Recap

That didn’t go to script, did it?

Somehow the early break managed to hold on for the win. That was an option I had completely ruled out! Pibernik was the rider who came out best in the sprint to the line, taking his first professional victory. Not too shabby that it came in the World Tour.

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Not taking it away from Pibernik, but that stage was the dampest of squibs. Incredibly dull with nothing exciting happening at all. The less said about it the better! GC remains as it was moving ahead to the final stage tomorrow.

The Route

We’re treated to the queen stage on the final day of the race.

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Now that’s a profile I like the look of! Credit once again goes to @LasterketaBurua for the image.

The first half of the stage is pretty benign but then it all kicks off in the second half.

We have a circuit that’s completed 3 times. In it, there is the Denderoordberg. Seven hundred metres of uphill cobbles at 8%. Followed by the famous Muur, another cobbled climb at 1.1km long, averaging 8.7%.

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Muur profile

The last cobbled climb is the Bosberg. It’s an easier affair at only 6% on average for the kilometre. The circuit is concluded with a climb (not cobbled, the riders will be glad to hear) up the Onkerzelestraat. This is a much easier climb, at 1.5km long it averages only 3%.

It’s important to point out that the Golden Kilometre starts half-way up the Bosberg’s final passage, at 20.8km left in the race.

The riders once again climb the Denderoordberg at only 6km to go.

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Strava profile of the final 6km, including Denderoordberg. Viewable here.

You can see on the image above that the run-in to the finish is technical once it gets into the town of Geraardsbergen itself. The most dangerous segment will be the downhill U-turn and the sweeping bends that follow it. Thankfully the dangerous turns within the last 500m are all uphill so speeds will be slow.

That 500m dash to the line averages 6.8% with some ramps of above 9%. It’s also lightly cobbled too!

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A tasty end to the day.

Weather Watch

To spice things up a bit more, it appears we might get our first day of bad weather tomorrow.

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Weather forecast for Geraardsbergen

The riders might just avoid the rain as it looks to be worse later in the evening but that could quickly change.

How will the stage pan out?

I’m willing to make a fool of myself again and say that the break has no chance. There should be enough incentive behind to bring it back and gain the bonus seconds, but you never know. I’ll give it a  5% chance just to err on the side of caution!

BMC will obviously control the break if there is anyone dangerous in it, but I expect Tinkoff to take the reins early on to keep the move in check.

The peloton will be softened up on the first lap of the circuit but I would imagine some moves are made on the second passage if they haven’t already started. We’ll get a group of 30 riders at most finishing that second lap together. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be some riders up the road by then. It’s (hopefully) going to be chaos!

Numbers are obviously important, so once again I’ll point to BMC and Etixx with their 4 men each within 40 seconds of the lead. Jumbo have 3, but they aren’t known for their cobbles prowess, likewise are Movistar’s 4. A team with a couple of riders who could go well are IAM; Naesen, Elmiger and Devenyns will fancy their chances.

However, numbers are irrelevant if you’re number one – Sagan.

The peloton will fear what he can do on a stage like this. The way he’s riding, a repeat performance like Flanders is on the cards.

“It’s very hard to work with other guys, because nobody wants to work with me. It’s always better to drop everybody, I think,” (Sagan after Flanders win)

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So to counteract Sagan, riders and teams will have to go early. To do this though, you can’t be too close on GC. For example, we may see Devenyns, Boom, Thomas and Benoot try to distance those ahead of them on GC before the final lap.

 

I hope to see Etixx attempt and light the race up. Stybar and Trentin will be their early cards to play and they have to isolate the four BMC riders that are high up on GC. Oss will be a key rider for the Swiss outfit tomorrow.

Of course what BMC could do is send riders on the attack themselves. If I was the DS I would definitely be adopting that approach. If they don’t, and just play it defensively then there will be no one left to control the race in the final 20km. As I suggested yesterday, GVA and his shiny bike is their trump card and should be let off to attack while Phinney and Quinziato stay with Dennis. Van Avermaet is in sensational form and is one of the few riders here who can go toe-to-toe with Sagan.

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Saying all of that, the stage will greatly be shaped by two factors; who’s made the move on the first lap or two of the circuit; and when Sagan decides to attack.

If we get a compliant group of riders who BMC and Etixx are happy with, i.e. if they have one rider each in it, then that could make it all the way to the finish because there probably won’t be enough firepower behind to pull it back. Remember I’m assuming we have a peloton of 40 riders at tops going into that second lap.

If Sagan attacks late, I think we could see a group stay away to the finish ahead of him, but if he goes early then they have no chance. Unless they have a concerted chase behind to bring him to heel, or if some riders can sit in his wheel and attack on the final climb.

Like yesterday’s preview, no-one will want to tow him to the line, but the parcours today was tough for an individual to make gaps on. That’s most definitely not the case tomorrow and a strong rider can really put the hurt on others. That applies to anyone on a good day, not just Sagan!

Prediction

Sagan should be the clear favourite for this stage and because of that, I’m not backing him. I do love an outsider!

Instead, I think there is an opportunity for a small group attack from far out (30-40km to go) sticking to the end. As everyone behind looks/marks each other. Obviously the right teams need to be represented! A BMC and Etixx rider have to be in that move, having a Movistar and IAM rider in there will help too.

However, I go for no-one from those teams and suggest that  Geraint Thomas will win the stage!

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He did a lot of work for team-mates in Canada but showed solid form, and he was attentive at the front of the bunch today. That highlights to me that he’s feeling better and keen to go on the attack.  At over a minute down, he won’t be an immediate concern for those at the pointy end of the GC but he’ll probably need to be in a move with others to build a gap. He can then use his great all-round abilities to attack and solo to the finish line! If it does rain that’s even better for him, he loves the tough conditions.

Betting

Another day of eggs in several baskets. (All prices B365 – only bookmaker priced up by 21:15)

Thomas 0.5pt @ 40/1

Devenyns 0.2pt @ 100/1

Van Baarle 0.2pt @ 150/1

Rowe 0.1pt @400/1 (if we do get an early break succeeding. Been poor recently but has bags of quality in this type of terrain)

 

Thanks again for reading! How do you think tomorrow will play out? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Eneco Tour Stage 6 Preview: Riemst -> Lanaken

Today’s Recap

BMC won, but a “not-completely ruled out” Etixx pushed them very close!

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It was a strong win from the Swiss outfit but not as convincing as I had expected and it leaves the GC battle well poised going into the final two stages, with several strong riders less than a minute behind. Here’s what the top 20 looks like.

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It’s great from a viewing perspective as a lot of riders will still fancy their chances, but it makes it harder from a previewing slant because it becomes more unpredictable and open.

Speaking of which, let’s have a look at tomorrow’s stage!

The Route

A mini-Amstel?

This stage is certainly not as tough as in previous years, but the organisers yet again haven’t been kind and provided proper information for the stage. So like on the previous road stages, I’ve had to consult several sources to try to get my head around this stage!

Although that’s not entirely helpful as several sites somehow take the one GPX file and produce varying figures of elevation gain; 1431m (ridewithgps), 1969m (Strava), 1116m (google maps on Maplorer), 4121m (raw data from GPX on Maplorer), 1272m (cronoescalada) and 2027m (utrack.crempa).

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The first profile you see above is from the Maplorer website, with the second being from @LasterketaBurua (Go check them out on Twitter!).

I’ve decided to put both profiles in as it provides a good comparison of how the scale can change how severe a climb looks. It’s also interesting to see that the profiles are pretty much identical in shape, yet the elevation gain is very different!

As you can see on the 2nd profile, we have a few short, sharp ascents around 50km from the finish. Potentially too far out from the finish to do any damage but you never know.

The Golden Kilometre (GK) starts 200m before the foot of the Hallembaye climb, which itself is 800m at 8.6%, with the end of the GK being at the summit. There is a 200m section of above 12%, which will sting the legs!

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We then have a shallow descent/flat until the final climb of the day, the Muizenberg at 18km left. The climb itself isn’t very tough, only 650m at 6.6%, but if the racing has been on early on then it is a potential launchpad for a group of riders to escape.

The final 3km is fairly technical, with a few sharp turns and roundabouts to navigate.

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Strava profile viewable here

 

The final 500m section of the stage rises at roughly 2.2%, with a max gradient of around 4.5%. Not exactly Amstel-esque!

How will the race pan out?

That very much depends on the attitude of the teams.

The stage isn’t overly tough and a few of the sprinters would hope to make it to the end of the day in the peloton. However, the 140-155km section is key. If some of the teams go crazy here, (looking at you Etixx!), then this could put an end to the sprinters hopes and make the final 40km incredibly exciting.

The only problem with this is that there are still 40km left.

There are the two hills that I’ve highlighted above, but the majority of it is flat-ish road. The Golden Kilometre will tempt the Ardennes riders into action. That may be on the toughest section mentioned above, or on the actual climb itself. But there is still plenty of road left for teams to re-organise and bring them back. Unless of course we get the right mix of riders and a highly motivated escape group!

I think the bonus seconds on offer later on in the stage will result in the day’s early breakaway not making it all the way.

So we’re left with two probable outcomes; a GC selection at around 50km to go that makes it to the line, or some kind of reduced bunch sprint. Both outcomes come with an attached “late-attack” option.

Either way, this man will be there.

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Outcome 1 -> GC shake-up

In this situation we get a strong group of around 20-30 riders getting clear with about 40km to go. Due to the amount of teams and strong riders represented they manage to stay away as the chase behind is unorganised and lacking in firepower.

Once the gap has been established it will be incredibly tactical! A battle between BMC and Etixx as they both have 4 riders within 40 seconds of the race lead. Etixx actually have 5, but I’m discounting Kittel because I don’t think he would be able to follow over the quick succession of climbs.

Anytime an Etixx rider attacks, BMC will follow and vice versa. The danger for BMC is that looking forward to Sunday’s stage, they might not be overly confident with how Dennis will cope on the cobbles of the Muur, so they can’t rest on his 16 second advantage. Therefore, Van Avermaet is their trump card. He’s the rider that they would be most confident in following anyone (Sagan) up the Muur so they will need to keep him close in GC tomorrow.

Dennis may use his TTing abilities himself and go on the offensive himself!

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This tactical battle between BMC/Etixx/Sagan could see other teams benefiting from it. A rider could launch a late attack in the final 10km and with no real organisation behind it could stick until the finish. Look to the likes of Izagirre, Dumoulin, Naesen, Navardauskas or Wellens.

Of course, we could see this group come to the line together, or even a fragment of it (10 riders or so) and get an uphill sprint.

No-one will want to tow Sagan to the line though!

Outcome 2 – Reduced Bunch Sprint

The damp squib option.

With the parcours not being overly difficult a few of the better climbing sprinters could make the split if the pace isn’t too high over that now famous 140-155km section.

In this situation, we would probably have a peloton of around 80 or 90 riders come to the line together.

There would more than likely be a split in that group when they pass the golden kilometre, but in this situation it would regroup afterwards, much like we saw in Stage 4.

Like Outcome 1, there is the possibility of a late attack sticking if they are the correct rider(s), strong enough, and there is no co-operation behind.

If we do get some kind of sprint I would expect Matthews, Kristoff, Degenkolb, Nizzolo, Boasson Hagen, Trentin and possibly Greipel to make it.

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Of course, GVA and Sagan will be there too.

But no-one will want to tow Sagan to the line though!

Prediction

Hmmmm. It’s a tough one.

Sagan is a favourite in every situation, so much so that he won’t win in my opinion. Unless he just decides to ride away from everyone!

I think Outcome 1 is more likely, but I favour some kind of late attack. Whether that be solo or a small group of 5-10 riders getting away. For it to succeed there will need to be at least 1 Etixx/BMC rider in it.

I’ve already mentioned a few riders I like for this situation above, but another few I’d like to throw into the ring are Stybar & Degenkolb.

Stybar because he looked incredibly strong in the Vuelta, has won this race before, not afraid of an uphill sprint and he is reasonably far down on GC at 40 seconds.

Degenkolb is more of a long-shot but if this was last year then he’d be up there with Sagan on the “don’t tow to the line” wagon. He seems to be re-finding his feet after the horrific accident earlier in the year, and I would love to see him go well here. He should be able to cope with the climbs, possibly with that GC selection Option and the uphill sprint is right up his street! Far enough down on GC to find himself in that late attack if he doesn’t fancy it against Sagan in the sprint.

But I’ll go for neither of them and say that Nelson Oliveira winsMovistar are a team without a sprinter and will be going on the offensive. Oliveira isn’t a real danger on GC as he should struggle on Sunday, so could well be given some leeway!

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I did have this down as a Naesen win but the odds are too short and I can’t suggest someone to win and not have backed them!

 

Betting

A day for small stakes and putting eggs in several baskets!

0.1pt EW on the following;

Ion Izagirre @ 250/1

Nelson Oliveira @ 300/1

Navardauskas @ 150/1

Devenyns @ 200/1

Kelderman @ 200/1

 

Thanks again for reading, hope you enjoyed this slightly longer preview. How do you think tomorrow’s stage will play out? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Eneco Tour Stage 5 Preview: Sittard-Geleen -> Sittard-Geleen

Today’s Recap

King Sagan comes out on top again! Although it wasn’t as comfortable as he would have liked, with Greipel closing very fast right at the last, but Sagan managed to win with a track lunge.

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I only managed to catch the closing 30km but it was a very exciting end to the stage. We saw attacks from Martin and Dumoulin reeled back in, before Stuyven made a move on the final climb. He joined up with a strong Astana pair (Gruzdev & Grivko) who’d been out the front for the past 25km or so. They managed to hold on until the final 3km, where once again we had another relatively chaotic finish. There were crashes, sprint trains were all over the road and Laporte even ended up leading out Kristoff! As for Nizzolo, he was once again held up a couple of times and had to check his speed. Either bad luck or poor positioning, depends what way you look at it.

Anyway, moving on to a stage that will have a big impact on the GC.

The Route

A nice 20.9km Team Time Trial. The last chance for teams to get a race-day practice in before the Worlds!

The good thing about a TT is that I can accurately make the stage profile myself, so the Strava profile makes its return today. Huzzah!

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You can view the full profile here.

As per usual, the profile is exaggerated by the scale, with the route being mainly flat apart from the two climbs. However they are not as severe as the image above would suggest! There is only 145m of total elevation gain.

If you take the first climb’s start to be just after the 4km mark on the profile, it comes in at 3km long at 1.9%. However, there is a 600m stretch that averages 5.1%, or a 300m segment averaging 6%. Not exactly a leg-breaker of a climb but it will upset the rhythm of the teams. Niki Terpstra holds the Strava KOM for the whole thing, completing it in just over 4 minutes which highlights the type of rider who can power up here.

The second climb is much shorter. At 0.9km it averages an eye-watering (no sarcasm at all…) 4.2%!

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Then it’s a short descent followed by a flat run to the line. This is very much a rouleurs course, one for the strongmen and in this case teams.

A One-Horse Race?

BMC come into this stage as everyone’s favourite and rightly so! The back to back TTT World Champions have 5 out of 6 riders from their 2015 winning squad with them here and they’re by no means weakened with the addition of Rosskopf, Bohli and GVA. A truly formidable line-up! If you want, you can probably stop reading the preview now as they should be the winners barring any misfortune. But there are a few surprises further on, which is very unlike me, so keep on reading if you want! 😉

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Best of the rest

There are a few other teams who will be close in their battle for the podium spots or there to take the win if BMC mess up.

Movistar have a strong squad with them, managing to get 3 riders in the top 11 during the individual time trial. They’re always a very solid unit in this discipline, but rarely perform outside of Spain. Can they change that here?

Sky would normally be a team that I’d fancy to go well, especially considering their recent rejuvenation in the discipline. Although they do have a strong team of rouleurs here, their performances in the ITT and low finishing positions today does concern me. Furthermore, with Kiryienka pulling out today, I can’t see them turning it around tomorrow.

Etixx have a great core of strong TTers here with the likes of Martin, Terpstra and Jungels. However, it was actually Kittel who performed best in the individual event. If they click tomorrow then a podium spot is well within their capabilities, but they seem out of sorts recently and they’ll sorely miss Boonen. I’m not ruling them out fully like Sky, but I’m not as keen on them as I was pre-race.

Cycling: 10th Tour de San Luis 2016 / Stage 1

One of the teams that was well represented during the ITT was LottoNL-Jumbo. They ended up with three riders inside the top 6. Now, they’ve not been great in the team version recently but they do have a squad of strong rouleurs. A top 5 would be a good result, but with a great ride they could sneak onto the podium.

The same can be said for Giant Alpecin. With Dumoulin, Kragh-Andersen and Haga, they were well represented in the individual time trial. A strong unit, they could go on to surprise a few.

Orica send a fairly weak TTT squad by their standards, and with Hayman not finishing today they’ve lost a big engine. I don’t think they’ll make the podium.

Tinkoff, Astana, Trek, Cannondale and IAM are all capable of pulling out a shock performance here but realistically they’ll be aiming for a top 10 and not losing too much time on GC.

Prediction

I already told you above, BMC win!

As for the podium, I expect Movistar to finish upon it but there is space for a “surprise” team to make it on. Either Giant or Jumbo and I’ll go for the bumblebees with that home advantage!

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Betting

No bet so far. Will post any H2H on my Twitter if there’s something I like. Or when other odds come up.

Thanks again for reading and well done if you didn’t leave early! Can you see anyone beating BMC and will there be any surprise performances? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 21 Preview: Las Rozas -> Madrid

*Apologies again, this preview will be very short as I’m away out for a family dinner this evening*

Today’s Recap

An insane stage that had a bit of everything!

As I predicted it was the break that fought it out for the stage win. Throughout the final climb there were several riders who looked as if they had the stage victory in their grasps. Sanchez looked good on the early slopes, then Conti looked as if he was the winner elect. However, neither of them made the top 10! Instead, it was Latour and Atapuma who entered a dog-fight and it was the Frenchman who just had enough at the end of the stage. One of the best finales to a Grand Tour stage I’ve seen in a while, everyone in every group was on their limit!

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Behind, Chaves repeated Orica’s tactics from Stage 14, attacking on the penultimate climb and bridging to team-mates. Doing so has saw him creep onto the GC podium, 13 seconds ahead of Contador. Another tactical masterclass from the Aussie outfit.

Froome tested Quintana but the Colombian always had the measure of him. The biggest loser on the day has to be Scarponi who dropped out of the top 10.

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Anyway, let’s look ahead at the processional stage into Madrid.

The Route

Nothing overly exciting.

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An expected flat bunch sprint and no real focal points to talk about.

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A straightforward and fast circuit within Madrid to end the day and the Vuelta. There are a few sharp hairpin turns that will stretch the bunch out. Positioning into that final hairpin just before 1km to go will be key. If you’re too far back then you have no chance.

Sprinters

The few sprints we’ve had so far this Vuelta have been fairly messy which makes tomorrow even more unpredictable.

Saying that, I do expect a few teams to take control tomorrow.

Etixx will control it for Meersman, Orica now devoid of GC duties will possibly control it for Cort and Giant will work hard for Arndt.

I can’t really see anyone else competing with those three. Possibly Drucker, Felline, Sbaragli & Van Genechten could get in the mix but it’s very unlikely.

Looking at the teams three lead-outs, Etixx and Giant are a cut above Orica.

On a stage like this, Orica will probably adopt the Lampre tactic where Gerrans-Keukeleire-Cort try and ambush the front of the race within the last 1.5km. In a messy sprint, this could be very effective!

Both Etixx and Giant so far have shown a willingness to control the race from far out and command the final 5km. Therefore there is no chance that a break makes this, it’s not the Giro! 😉

I was very impressed with the lead-out from Giant on Stage 18, they are finally getting things together. They were just unlucky it didn’t go their way in the end.

On a flat sprint, I would say that Arndt is faster than Meersman. Cort has shown if he’s in the right position he can go well too.

Prediction

Arndt finally gets his stage win! I mean, they surely have to get it right, don’t they?!

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Betting

2.6pts WIN Arndt @ 4/1 with Bet365

0.2pt EW De Koert @ 400/1 with Bet365.  Only doing this as Arndt came dead last today, might not be 100%. De Koert would be the go to sprint option.

Massive thanks to everyone who has read and shared the blog throughout the Vuelta! I know my predictions haven’t been the best, but thanks for sticking with me. I’m not sure what other races I’ll be doing this year but I’ll definitely be doing the Worlds, both men and women. 

Apologies again for this being shorter than normal! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Vuelta Stage 18 Preview: Requena -> Gandía

Today’s Recap

A well-timed attack from Frank and a solid pace up the final climb saw him solo away to victory. Konig and Gesink followed 6 and 11 seconds behind respectively, leaving their move on the climb too late. Not to take anything away from Frank, he definitely deserved a win this Vuelta!

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Behind, the top 4 on GC all rolled in together but there were some time gaps further down the order. Samuel Sanchez performed the worst (losing a minute to his rivals) and has dropped once place, swapping with Talansky. Further down, De La Cruz and Scarponi traded their 9th and 10th on GC. With Dani Moreno now lurking only 11 seconds behind the young Spaniard.

Let’s move on to tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

Another rolling day, that at the Vuelta is probably classified as a sprint stage.

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There isn’t really much to talk about the route. There’s not a lot of flat within the first half of the stage and only in the second half do the riders find favourable terrain, where they descend to the finish with only a few small rises.

The run in itself will be fast but does have a few technical aspects.

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The pace will be knocked off in the closing kilometre as they have to take the first, sharp exit at a roundabout. However, the final 600m is dead straight so no difficulties should occur here!

How will the stage pan out?

The real question for tomorrow’s stage is if we’ll see a sprint or not. At 200km long and with a lot of lumpy terrain, it will be tough for those who want a sprint to control the stage. A few teams have looked keen so far, namely Giant, Etixx and Trek, to chase the breaks down.

There is the possibility though that a small break gets away in the morning, with only a few teams represented and we do get a sprint, after the gap is easily controlled by a few of the teams.

However, with a few more tough days to come and knowing that they’re guaranteed a sprint in Madrid, there is a chance that they may not put all their eggs in the sprint basket. For these teams, they could decide to try to send a rider in the morning break so that they don’t have to work behind. Of course, that is easier said than done!

There are only 4 more stages left in the race. Only a handful of riders can win the TT, the penultimate stage is for a climber and the final stage in Madrid is sure to end in a bunch sprint. Consequently, tomorrow is the last day for the rouleurs to make their mark on the race, and I expect them to take it.

I go for a break that wins it!

(As long as at least 2/3 of Trek, Giant and Etixx are represented)

Breakaway Hopefuls

Like normal, we’re left sifting our way through the peloton trying to find that elusive break winner! I’ll be naming 5 this time as it’s even more of a lottery and the preview is on the thin side.

 

Kiel Reijnen.

The America rider is a late-comer to the European peloton, only joining Trek this year at the age of 29. He may be used as the teams ploy to infiltrate the break so they get away without having to chase behind. Felline himself would be a great candidate but everyone else would make him chase the moves in the finale, whereas Reijnen isn’t as marked. A solid all-rounder with a fast kick, he would have every chance!

Vegard Stake Laengen. 

Cycling: 99th Tour of Italy 2016 / Stage 11

 

He was in the successful break that made it all the way on stage 13 and managed 5th on that stage. The finale to this stage is better suited to his capabilities and with a strong TT, he could ride away from the rest of his opponents.

Loïc Chetout.

Another rider who was in a breakaway earlier this race (stage 10) he could go well on this course. The talented young Frenchman seemed to be in every break in his build-up races for the Vuelta. Unlike stage 10 where he struggled on the final climb, this flatter end to the stage will be much more appealing to him!

Yves Lampaert.

The talented Belgian had his early season ruined by a trivial incident…screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-19-14-45He seems to be getting back to better form now and was on the attack on stage 13. Similar to Reijnen, he could be used as a ploy by Etixx so that they don’t have to chase behind. If he gets into the move, I don’t expect him to mess it up like he did earlier in the race.

Adam Hansen.

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It wouldn’t be the Vuelta without seeing him off the front at some point. This type of stage looks like it would be perfect for Hansen, as there is a reasonable amount of climbing but nothing serious. The only concern will be that he’s heavily covered in a breakaway situation so it will be tough. If anyone can time his move correctly though, it will be him!

Prediction

As I said above, I give the break the edge on this stage only if a few of the “danger” sprint teams have a man up the road. I’d say it’s a 70:30 chance.

If it does stick, I think Yves Lampaert will go better than he did on stage 13 and take the win here!

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Betting

All straight up WIN:

0.4pt Lampaert @ 100/1 with Ladbrokes (I’d go as low as 66s)

0.2pt Hansen @ 125/1 with Bet365 (I’d go 80/1 lowest)

0.2pt Stake Laengen @ 200/1 with Betfair (I’d go 150)

0.1pt Chetout @ 300/1 with PaddyPower or Betfair (I’d go 200)

0.1pt Reijnen @ 66/1 with various bookmakers (wouldn’t go any lower)

 

Thanks again for reading! Do you think we’ll see a bunch sprint or will the break hold on? As usual, any feedback would be much appreciated!

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

La Vuelta Stage 1 Preview

La Vuelta Stage 1 Preview

The first stage of the final Grand Tour of the year is upon is, and going with recent Vuelta tradition, we start with a Team Time Trial. Great, I do love a TTT! This year’s effort isn’t going to be as farcical as the route we had last year along the beach to Marbella where GC times were neutralised. Let’s take a look at the stage.

The Route

A nice flat TTT for the specialist’s seems to be the memo.

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Going off the official profile it would be safe to assume that it’s a straightforward day, where the proper TT engines of the peloton come to the fore along fairly flat roads. Well you’d be wrong my friend, this is the Vuelta after all, where stage profiles should be taken with a pinch of salt!

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My strava profile of the stage

In TT tradition, I’ve created a profile on Strava for the stage that you can view here. At first glance, this profile looks nothing like the official profile. This is due to the different vertical axis that have been used. In the Strava profile it goes from 80m-180m whereas the official profile is 0-600m. Quite the difference!

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that my Strava profile grossly exaggerates some of the rises and lumps, particularly in the middle part of the stage. However, it does give a better idea of the rolling nature of the course. For example, the first kilometre is pretty much all up-hill, averaging roughly 4-5% but there is no suggestion of that in the official profile. GCN highlight this in their video preview of the stage.

The most demanding climb on the course is from 21.8km to 24.2km to go, which averages a lowly 3.6% for those 2.4km. However, the final 500m of that section averages close to 8%. Again, this is just a small little bump on the official profile.

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The start of that 500m section

There are some fast and technical sections along the route too, particularly the descent off of the climb mentioned above.

So in summary, the route is more difficult than originally thought and brings a few more teams into the equation. There are some testing ramps that result in constant changes of tempo at times and this definitely benefits a few teams more than others. In contrast, the proper TTT powerhouses will still fancy their chances. It should make for some good racing!

However, there are still only 7 teams at most that can win this in my opinion.

Stage Contenders

Where best to start than with the current World Champions, BMC. They only have two of that world’s winning squad here with them (TVG & Dillier), but they are still a very strong and powerful unit. All of the riders should be able to cope with the undulating nature of the course and they will definitely be the team to beat.

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Second at the World’s last year was Etixx – Quick Step and they’ll be hoping to go one better here. Like BMC, they also have two of that squad here with them (Terpstra & Lampaert) with the rest of the squad filled out with powerful riders. They’ll go well here.

Orica traditionally go well in TTTs and have two of their last World’s squad with them as well (Tuft & Bewley). Again, a strong team that’s not outstanding, they will hope for a strong result but I can’t see them winning this.

Astana are normally very hit and miss with their TTTs, the squad that arrives here suggests that they’ll do the former. They have a good mix of strong rouleurs and solid climbers. I expect a surprise from them, a podium would be good!

After winning the Tour, Team Sky come here with a lot less pressure on them. They have a solid squad, a real mix bag of riders. They were great at TTT’s a few years ago, but lost their way recently. This almost mirrors Froome’s individual TT performance, will we see a similar return to form? It is very much on the cards I think!

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Next up are a team that always go well in Spain: Movistar. The only Spanish World Tour team save their best for home soil and yet again they bring a strong squad here. With the route being more undulating than originally thought will help them as they have a solid group of climbers on the team.

Tinkoff usually go fairly well and with Contador’s GC hopes, they’ll have to do the same here. Bodnar & Bennati are very strong in this type of discipline. I can’t see them challenge the top spot, but if they get a bit of luck a podium isn’t out of reach. Instead, I think a top 5 would be a good result for them!

Those teams will all be fighting for the top 5. The rest of the squads with GC contenders will just be hoping not to lose much time. We could see some reasonable time gaps!

Prediction

I think we all know where this is going…

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Guess the Spanish team will have to do then; Movistar to win the TTT! The knowledge of home/local roads and a mixture of good climbing abilities combined with power on the flats will see them through. It’s just a question of who they will put in the leader’s jersey, most likely one of the team’s “old-heads”, Erviti or Rojas.

Rojas in Rojo has a nice ring to it!

For what it’s worth, Sky and BMC will make up the podium.

Betting

Backing Movistar to win. 2pts WIN @3/1 with Bet365 (hunt around later when more bookies price up, I just want to get the preview out!)

I also like a H2H double with them too;

MOVISTAR to beat Lotto Jumbo, and ETIXX to beat Tinkoff.

3pts on  at 1.87/1

 

Thanks again for reading! Can you see any team beating the Spaniards? As usual, any feedback/discussion is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.