Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 10 Preview; Caravaca Jubilar -> Elpozo Alimentacion

Yup, I’m still not 100% over Cannondale’s tactics on Stage 9. Moving on…

No “Rest-day recap” or that from today as I am short of time so let’s get straight into what is in store for the riders tomorrow!

The Route

An easy stage by Vuelta standards with only 1350m of  elevation gain…

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It just so happens to be though that the majority of it all comes at once.

The day starts off simply, with a small uncategorised climb at the 6km mark. From there, the next 65km or so are all false-flat descent pretty much, before we hae another 50km of flat.

It will take some luck but also strong legs to get into the break on the day!

There is one clear test for the stage; the back-to-back Cat-3 then Cat-1 ascents. Combined together, it looks like the following.

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21.3km at 4.8% isn’t too tough for a professional peloton, but it is not exactly easy either. The first 15km in fact are perfect for the stronger, all-round guys in the bunch who can put out a massive power. However, it is the final 6km that could be difficult. Averaging just over 7.5%, this is where the lighter, more traditional climbers will hope to make a difference.

Once over the top of the climb, the riders will face a very technical descent which could be made worse by the predicted bad weather.

Let’s hope everyone stays upright!

With 22km of mostly descent to the finish line, there is a good chance the riders over the climb first will contest for the stage win. Unless anyone takes some risks from behind on said descent!

How will the stage pan out?

Another break?

With the way this Vuelta is going then yes, I think that’s what is most likely!

Sky will have been in dreamland after Stage 9, getting a stage win while doing no more than 5% of the work throughout the day. With that chalked off and Froome in a strong position, they no longer need to risk riding for stage glory, and they can let the bonus seconds be taken by a rider up the road. Not that they were chasing for many stages anyway!

The threat of bad weather also helps the breakaway in the sense that a few of the GC guys might want an easier descent and reduce their risk of crashing because they won’t be going full gas. Conversely though, someone who is a very competent descender could make some large gaps. It is perfectly posed in that respect!

We could see a team help chase but I’m scratching my head as to who that would be. Quick Step for Alaphilippe? Or Cannondale again? 🙈

It makes no sense for a team to do that, so we’ll once again see a big fight to get into the break.

Break Candidates

I named 4 hopefuls on Twitter before, but I’m going to add another to that list now…

Tobias Ludvigsson.

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What a showman! The Swede looked very strong in the breakaway on Stage 9 and he was the only rider able to keep up with Soler on the tough, steep climb. Not bad for someone of his size! The start of the stage tomorrow is perfect for him to make the move and he’ll just have to hope that there are only a few good climbers in with him. He’ll eat up the 3rd Cat and be close to the front on the 1st Cat section but it all depends who is in the move with him. Let’s hope he’s rested up well.

Antwan Tolhoek.

I was impressed with how long the youngster held on in the main peloton up the final climb on Stage 9. Unfortunate on the opening day when he crashed in the TTT, he seems to be going better day by day. A bit of an uknown rider at this level, he could use that to his advantage in the break. Still without a pro win he’ll have to dig very deep tomorrow to change that, but I’ve seen stranger things happen.

Antonio Pedrero.

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After coming into professional cycling “late”, the Spaniard has really taken a step up this year. Attacking earlier in the race, he was very strong on the finish of stage 9, only losing 27 seconds and beating Yates (Adam) and Kruijswijk. Not bad! Movistar have nothing to lose now in this race, so they’ll be sending riders up the road every day. He could be one of those guys and given his form, he could well deliver.

George Bennett.

Exceptional in the Tour until his abandon, the Kiwi is easing himself into this race; looking to peak later on. I think 9 stages is a good enough warm up! If he can get back to the form and climbing legs that he had in France then few riders will be able to distance him on the ascent. Can he drop everyone and come to the line solo?

Now, for that added rider…

Ruben Fernandez.

I had completely forgot that I had this stage outlined as a potential one for the Movistar man. “Why?” you ask…Well, he is from Murcia! He made the break earlier in the race but did a lot of work for Soler. I think he’ll be close to full fitness now and the extra motivation of riding on home roads could see him through. It will certainly help knowing every inch of that descent in the rain.

Vuelta Picks

Safe Pick – GC guy, Adam Yates.

You’re running out of GC riders, aren’t you? With another potential break win then you’ll want to be backing an overall contender. We should see some attacks on the climb from the main guys but they might not come to too much. Yates seems in OK form at the moment and it saves the “best” riders for later in the race.

Wongshot Pick – Pedrero, i.e. Breakaway rider.

Go for it, c’mon!

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Schwarzmann

A consistently low finisher, I like his form!

Prediction

Break to win, and I’ll go for heart over head…

No, it’s not Ludvigsson, instead I’ll once again curse Fernandez.

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I’m a big fan of Ruben’s and I’ve enjoyed see him progress steadily over the past few seasons. A Vuelta win in his home town would be an incredible achievement and one that is certainly a possibility!

Betting

I was going to stick with my 2pts a day rule, but I’m chucking that out the window here…

0.5pt EW on them all

Pedrero 100/1 @ Betfred

Ludvigsson 300/1 @B365

Bennett 150/1 @ Lads

Tolhoek 200/1 @ Boyles

Fernandez 150/1 @ Coral

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be the break, or will the GC guys come out to play? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 5 Preview; Benicàssim -> Alcossebre

Today’s Recap

As expected it was a long and tough day for the breakaway and we got the inevitable bunch sprint.

The run in wasn’t without danger though and a crash at 3.2km took out Moreno, Pozzovivo and blog pick for the day Molano to name a few. Good to see the Haughey Curse is back with a vengence!

The final 2kms were incredibly hectic with riders and teams strewn all over the road. Quick Step asserted their dominance leading, but it was Lobato who jumped first and launched his sprint early. However, Trentin quickly got into his slipstream and came round him relatively easily in the end, taking the stage win.

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Lobato held on for second with Van Asbroeck taking third.

*Overused fact alert*

That win makes Trentin the 100th rider to win a stage in all three Grand Tours. Quite the achievement.

It’s unlikely he’ll be doubling up tomorrow though. Let’s take a look at what is store for the riders.

The Route

A rolling day in the saddle that typifies the Vuelta.

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Three Cat-2s and Two Cat-3s (quite the tongue twister there) litter the route, totalling 2733m of elevation gain according to the road book.

With it being a stage that is unlikely to see any massive gaps, the fight will be on to get into the breakaway and we’ll most likely see the move go on the first climb of the day; the Alto del Desierto de las Palmas.

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Averaging only 4.8% for 8.2km, it is a fairly generous Cat-2 climb going by Vuelta standards. However, it is incredibly inconsistent with lots of changes in gradient, especially in the second half. This makes it difficult for riders to settle into a rhythm and should suit the punchier climbers looking to make the move.

Nonetheless, if there is a big fight to get into the move it might not even stick over the top of the first climb. Instead, it could go on the flatter land that follows, or possibly the second climb of the day.

Alto de Cabenes is a fairly easy climb, averaging a lowly 3.8% for 9.4kms. It shouldn’t be of any major difficulty to the majority of the peloton. If we do see a breakaway go here then some of the power climbers could make the move, rather than it just being the more mountain goat style riders.

The Coll de la Bandereta is next on the menu for the riders. With the break having already been established, it shouldn’t cause any issues and the only action it will see is possibly someone chasing KOM points. It is a sharper climb than what the riders will have faced earlier in the day, averaging 6.8% for 4.6km.

At just over 60km to go, the riders will face the penultimate categorised climb of the day.

Sarratella

The Alto de la Serratella is a long climb at just over 14km, but like a few ascents they’ve faced today, it is not that steep. If anyone wants to forge on out ahead, then they will have to do so early on in the climb between kilometres 4-9 where the gradient is the steepest.

Once over the top they face a long descent that features a kick ups, before a few more serious climbs on the “flat section” before the rise to the finish in Alcossebre.

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You can view my full final 6km profile here, if you want to look at the finale in more detail.

After the lower gradients on the previous climbs in the day, this is the typical Vuelta Cat-3  climbs we’ll see throughout the race. It is an absolute leg breaker and the style of finish I love to watch!

Some of it is truly cruel, with 800m at just over 14% (1.7km -> 2,5km in the image above) and 260m at 18.5%; that stops at roughly 400m to the line.

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Just look at that kick up! Hopefully the road surface has been improved, other wise it will be like riding on the cobbles of Roubaix.

How will the stage pan out?

There is of course the chance that the GC teams keep things together to chase for bonus seconds on the line, but I struggle to see that happening. Although saying that, Sky are in the lead and Froome looked very good on the similar last climb during Stage 3. They could fancy his chances and consequently keep tabs on the move. In their report of today’s stage Froome says he won’t give any gifts and fight for bonus seconds and at the finishes. Make of that what you will!

Yet, with the penultimate climb coming a long way from the finish then it becomes less likely. The reason I say that is because Sky would prefer a climb/descent just before the kick up the line so that the pace can be made hard and put everyone else into difficulty.

If they arrive at the bottom of the slope controlling a pretty much full peloton, then there could be a couple of his contenders who go better on this type of finish. Therefore, Sky might keep their powder dry and hope Froome can just gain time on the road instead, rather than bonus seconds.

So it looks like a…

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kind of day again, with backing a GC guy in-play.

However, even that has some permutations.

If the break goes on the second half of the opening climb then we will see more traditional lighter climbers up ahead, but if it goes anytime after that then a few more power climbers could make the move.

With the other climbs on the road not being too difficult (until the finale), then a splinter group of the breakaway could attack anywhere after the penultimate climb. Heck, we could even see a long-range solo attack a la Plaza from 2015 but that would be very hard to maintain for anyone!

Contenders

We have a lot of strong riders who are already 6 minutes plus on GC, with plenty much further back than that.

The issue is trying to figure if they are that far back; out of choice, i.e. wanting to lose time to hunt stages; simply not in form; or ill. Although the last two are kind of linked.

Currently there seems to be a bout of stomach issues going around the peloton with Majka and Contador the notable riders to have complained so far, and Ben King pulling out because of it.

It’s a minefield, but I’ll throw a few darts at it anyway!

Enric Mas.

Incredibly strong in Burgos, he hasn’t been as good as I had expected here so far, shipping a lot of time on Stage 3. Falling into the “possibly ill” category, if he has been bluffing and losing time deliberately to hunt stage wins then tomorrow looks good for him. Aside from Landa and De La Cruz, he was next best on the brutally steep finish of Picon Blanco in Burgos. A similar performance could see him take the win and mean QS take 3 out of the 5 stages.

Alessandro De Marchi.

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Willing to put my faith in the BMC man again, he’ll get in a good move at some point this Vuelta. It will be tough for him to out-climb some mountain goats on the finish so he’ll be hoping for a pre-selection before the last climb itself. If so, he can then attack around 10km before the start of the ramp and hope to win Cummings style. He has the class to do it.

Merhawi Kudus.

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The super light Eritrean climber in theory should be able to cope well with the steep gradients of the final ascent. He was incredible at the start of the year in Llucena and he wasn’t too far off the pace on the steep finish in Burgos recently. Dimension Data are bound to get someone up the road tomorrow and in the right company the Eritrean could win.

Ruben Fernandez.

I have a lot of time for the Movistar man. He has slowly progressed through their system, and although it has not been the meteoric rise since his l’Avenir win that some might have expected/hoped for, he has been very solid. Last year he was great on the steep finish of third stage, taking second place on the day and with it a stint in the leader’s jersey. He’s been a bit off the boil recently, but with no GC leader here as such, I think Movistar will be targeting stage wins. Fernandez could be that guy!

Vuelta Picks

Well it didn’t go well today for me and my Molano pick, after he crashed in the finale. Tomorrow’s stage is a bit of a land mine and we could see a few more hiccups.

“Safe Pick” – Bardet

If you’re near the top of the table take a GC guy and hope that they are near the front of their group at the end of the day. Bardet was one of the strongest on the final climb on S3 and he should be close again.

“Wongshot Pick” – Any Break rider i.e. Mas.

The boat I find myself in just now. You’re almost guaranteed to be out of the overall game so it is time to choose a bold breakaway contender and hope for the stage win. Plus, it saves some GC contenders for later in the race.

“Lanterne Rouge Pick” – Manzin.

The sprinter struggled on Stage 3 and will do so again tomorrow.

Prediction

I think the break will stay away but it is not clear-cut and all depends on Sky’s attitude. If they think Froome can win the final climb they might bring it back. Nonetheless, I would say it is still a 65/35 split.

So with that said, it is the name in a hat time and I’ll go for Fernandez to finally step up for his first pro win.

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Betting

So two of my picks aren’t priced up yet, hoping they will be later…

0.5pt WIN on them all though which currently means;

Kudus @ 250/1

De Marchi @ 28/1

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be a breakaway win or another GC day?

 

Pais Vasco 2017 Stage 5 Preview; Bilbao -> Eibar (Arrate)

Today’s Recap

A flying and ever-attacking Roglic denied those hoping for a reduced bunch sprint. After what seemed his fifth dig off the front, the Slovenian finally got away in the closing couple of kilometres and held on to the line.

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Behind, Matthews sprinted to second, with Visconti re-finding his form from a few years ago to get up for 3rd.

The 2 second margin Roglic gained at the line sees him move up to 2nd on GC, but that will no doubt change after tomorrow’s Queen Stage. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

A short but very intense stage!

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@LasterketaBurua

With 6 climbs in only 138km, it’s sure to be a lively affair.

However, we have almost 40km of flat to start the day off with, and I expect the fight to get into the break to be quite tough. Then again, the first attempt of the day might go!

The first climb of the day comes too far from home to be of any danger, but from our first passage of Ixua, then the race could well be on. Officially the climb is 6.2km long at 7.02%, but as you can see on the profile from the guys at Lasterketa Burua, the final 3.8km of the climb averages 9.7%. Tough!

From thereon, the rest of the stage is either climbing, descending or short valley roads.

The Cat-3 climb isn’t that tough, but the second passage of Ixua crests at only 32km to go. We then have a fast descent before the penultimate climb of the day.

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Only a Cat-3 and with a steady gradient, it shouldn’t be too tough for the peloton. However, that all depends on how the peloton approaches the preceding ascent of Ixua. If they tackle it as fast as I expect, then a few riders might even get dropped here. Or we’ll only be left with the best climbing talents in the peloton.

Another quick descent follows before a slow drag in the valley road and through Eibar itself before the final climb of the day.

4.7km at 9.3% or 3.8km at 10.5%; take your pick, either way it’s not easy!

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A couple of kilometres of false flat at the top will give those dropped a chance to regroup if a rider ahead implodes. However, that seems unlikely and we have a very short drop down to the finish line.

How will the stage pan out?

Normally, I’d be all over a break on a stage like this. No bonus seconds on the line certainly increases the breakaway’s chance of surviving as it doesn’t matter if the leading GC contender to cross the line is 1st or 7th. All that matters is the gap to the other challengers. We saw that last year when Rosa won from the break (crazy long-range attack) on the stage that is very similar to this one, there was still GC movement behind.

A break is what I had in mind for this stage when I first looked at the profiles but, that’s now changed!

My reasoning behind it is mainly due to the stage being around 20km shorter than I had originally thought. At only 140km with 6 categorised climbs, that’s a lot of climbing in a short space of time. Particularly when you consider that the first 30km are flat!

With so many riders still in contention, and some good TTers to boot, the better climbers in the race won’t want to give everyone an easy ride.

I’m looking at Movistar to light the race up.

Valverde is a competent TTer (especially in Spain), but he’ll still be wary of those around him! The finish climb looks great for him and the short steep ramps will suit him down to the ground. Considering how well he was climbing in Catalunya, he will be confident of dropping everyone, even Contador.

Getting rid of domestiques of the other GC favourites will also be of interest to Movistar. Along with Sky, they have the best climbing squad with them. Both teams should be able to turn the pace on and churn out some of the opposition riders. I would expect this to happen on the second passage of Ixua. From there, it will be a race of attrition and an explosive finale up the final climb.

Contenders

I think I’ve made it fairly clear above that Valverde is my favourite for the stage! He was unreal in Catalunya and I can’t see that being any different here.

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Contador will more than likely be one of his biggest challengers, although he might be suffering after his two crashes from today. Nonetheless, he’s one of the toughest riders around and will no doubt bounce back and give it his all.

Henao offers Sky their best opportunity on this type of finish. The Colombian is exceptional on relatively short, but steep climbs and he’ll be looking to gain some time before the TT. Kwiatkowski is a good second option but the climb looks too steep for him in my opinion.

Yates may finally get some freedom but even though he’s over a minute down, he has been heavily marked so far. That could well change tomorrow if there is a moment’s hesitation in the front group.

Alaphilippe would normally love this type of climb but he’s been terribly unlucky so far this race and will more than likely be on super domestique duties for De La Cruz.

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There are a couple of outsiders I’d like to throw into the mix.

Kudus performed spectacularly well on the steep climb of Llucena back in Valenciana in February. He seems to be getting back to top shape after going off the boil for a while. With a poor TT, he will want to attack here and may benefit from being a lesser name. He just needs to attack at the right time for once!

Valverde is not the only Movistar rider who I think might go well here. Ruben Fernandez burst into the general public’s consciousness last year with a great second place on the brutal finish on stage 3 of the Vuelta last year, which resulted in him taking the leader’s jersey. A former Tour de l’Avenir winner, he is an exceptionally classy rider and it is good to see him start to fulfil his potential. After a slow start to the year due to an injury sustained in the offseason, he is my dark horse for this stage!

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Prediction

Crazy stage where it’s full gas from the gun and a race of attrition throughout the rest of the day. Sky and Movistar will set a tough pace, but in the end we all know the outcome, Valverde wins!

Betting

Cojones on the line tomorrow;

Valverde 4pts WIN @ 7/2 with Bet365 (would take 3/1)

Fernandez 0.5pt EW @ 33/1 with Bet365 (would take 25/1)

 

Thanks for reading as always. A bit of a different focus in the preview today, with more of an emphasis on me trying to explain my logic behind how I think the stage will pan out. What do you think will happen? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta Stage 3 Preview: Marín -> Dumbria (Mirador de Ízaro)

Today’s Recap

Well, that was as chaotic as expected!

Experience shone through with veteran Gianni Meersman holding on to take the win after his Etixx team delivered him perfectly in the final kilometre. With it being a headwind finish, they timed the lead out so that Meersman did the shortest sprint possible. Furthermore, taking the quickest line around the last bend also helped. They had their tactics spot on. A great win for him and the team!

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Magnus Cort Nielsen came from miles back it seemed and got up for third. So still a profitable day for the blog at least! Stage favourite Arndt was nowhere to be seen but on a re-watch of the closing kilometres it looked like two riders got held up by Lagutin’s crash, so that could have been Arndt. Would make sense because he finished alongside lead-out man De Koert.

Anyway, moving on to tomorrow’s stage…

The Route

This is the type of stage that typifies the Vuelta. Not overly long and back ended with some steep climbs. I love it!

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We should all be very familiar with the Vuelta and their famous “Cat-3” climbs by now. They are brutal! Especially the short ones.

Tomorrow’s finish was used in the 2012 Vuelta, with Joaquim Rodriguez winning that day. As you can see in the video below, it is a real grind.

More about the final climb later…

Before they reach the finish they have a tough 70km to traverse, featuring over 1500m of elevation. The organisers have been kind and are easing the riders into the race… 😉

Just to get a better idea of the final 78km, I’ve made a Strava profile of it that you can view here. I promise I’m not sponsored by them, I just like the interactivity that the website allows!

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Strava profile of the last 78km

The first Cat 3 is 9km long, averaging 5%. However, the final kilometre is the toughest part with sections over 9%. This will sap some of the legs, but it is too far out for any real moves to be made.

However, the penultimate climb of Paxereiras is very interestingly positioned. This is a proper climb, 8km at 6.7%. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The first 5.5km are a lot more demanding, average roughly 8.3%, with sections above 11%. Due to the climb being around 20km to the finish line, there is a chance we could see some satellite riders being sent up the road here so that their teams don’t have to chase.

Back to the final climb, sorry, I mean wall! It’s just ridiculous, 1.7km long at an average of 13.7%. There are even sections in it that top 30%!

You have to be a light and explosive climber to win here.

How will the stage pan out? Team Tactics?

As I’ve alluded to above, the penultimate climb may be used as a springboard for teams to send riders up the road and try to hold on for the win, but I think this is a relatively unlikely outcome. It’s still possible, but I favour this coming down to a battle on that brutal final climb.

Now, as we saw on the first summit finish at the Vuelta last year the “big” riders often mark each other which paves the way for a “second-tier” rider to take the win. Having a strong team in this situation is crucial.

Before he was pulled out, I had Landa penciled in for this stage. The situation would be that he would attack off the front and Froome would mark the attacks behind. Obviously he’s not here now but I expect something similar to happen, so let’s look at the teams and riders who could be allowed to get away.

Movistar – Quintana and Valverde are leaders/too high-profile, Moreno or Fernandez may be their options. I’d favour Moreno as he goes better on the steep stuff.

Vuelta España - Stage 4

 

Tinkoff – Contador will be watched. Kiserlovski could get away, but he hasn’t been great for a while. Only chance of them winning is Alberto blowing everyone away, which is certainly possible!

Sky – Froome will again be marked. Over to Konig or Kwiatkowski, both good candidates if they’re on form. Might be too steep for them though.

BMC- A team with a few options. Atapuma or Sanchez best plan as it’s too steep for TVG. One massive longshot to keep an eye on is Hermans, who seems to be climbing very well as of late. I think it’s too tough for Gilbert.

Jumbo – Gesink was 4th here in 2012, but has been off the boil since then, although could surprise! Kruijswijk not fit enough yet.

Orica – Chaves won because of this situation last year so he’ll be closely watched this time round. Instead, I think Yates has a real chance here.

Astana – They don’t really have a big name guy, but this climb suits Superman Lopez perfectly. The bunch can’t give him too much room!

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Etixx – Another team without a first-division GC rider, but Brambilla is capable of going well here.

I don’t think any other riders will figure at the pointy end of the race, but I would love for a Caja Rural rider to be up there. They have a good list of punchy climbers, I’m not entirely sure who the finish suits best. Possibly Goncalves (#GoOnCalves) or Bilbao.

Prediction

Like last year, I think we’ll see three “lesser” riders escape the main group. My selections for that situation would be Lopez, Yates & Brambilla, and they’ll make up the podium tomorrow! Now it’s just choosing the winner.

Lopez is a bit of an unknown and how far he can go, but he does have bags of talent. The steep gradients should suit his diminutive figure, but I think youthful exuberance might get the best of him.

Brambilla is probably the weakest of the three, but has been in great form. Plus, as was shown at the Giro, he’s not afraid to attack from distance. But I think this climb is on the limit for him.

Therefore, I think it will be Yates who goes on to win! He rode very well in the TTT and is evidently going well. He’s quietly gone about his business since his return with; a win in Spain; another podium; 7th at San Sebastian; and 4th on GC at Burgos. A rider who goes well in Spain, he is able to cope with the steep stuff.

Taking advantage of the rest of the GC guys marking each other, he’ll be able to repeat Chaves’ success from last year and in the process take the leader’s jersey!

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Betting

Annoyingly, it seems the trader at Bet365 has had a similar line of thought…

0.65pt EW Yates @12/1 (Bet365)

0.2pt EW Lopez @16/1 (Bet365) 22/1 with PaddyPower

0.15pt EW Brambilla @33/1 (Bet365) 50/1 with PaddyPower

Like usual, hunt around once more bookmakers have priced up later and there is a chance that you can get better odds. I’ll update the post/my twitter if I spot anything, I just want to get the preview published!

Hope you enjoyed the read, how do you think it will play out tomorrow? Will we get the 2nd tiered riders up the road, or will the big GC boys come out to play? As usual, any advice/feedback is greatly appreciated! Thanks for reading. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.