Tour de France 2018 Stage 15 Preview: Millau -> Carcassonne

Today’s Recap

We were treated to racing on two fronts today as a massive break of 32 riders was allowed to escape and fight for the stage win. Gorka Izagirre attacked on the climb of Berthel and was soon joined by Stuyven and Slagter once they were onto the descent. Their gap grew and they looked comfortable until Slagter wasn’t taking as many turns so Izagirre turned round to harangue the Dimension Data rider. In the meantime, Stuyven decided to just power on ahead and by the time Gorka realised the Belgian was gone.

Stuyven then led solo for over 20kms and onto the final climb of the day. He was cruelly caught though by a charging Omar Fraile who came round him with around 750m to the top of the ascent. Alaphilippe came from behind but could only catch up to the tiring Stuyven.

Fraile cruised around the final kilometre and onto the airstrip and took his first Tour win. He just needs a win in the Vuelta now to complete the set!

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Alaphilippe came home second with Stuyven being rewarded for his efforts by rounding out the podium.

Behind in the GC group, Roglic put in a very strong attack on the climb and managed to gain 8 seconds on Dumoulin/Thomas/Froome. Quintana was a further 10 behind them with a trio of Kruijswijk/Bernal/Bardet arriving 4 behind that. Nothing major but not exactly what a few riders will be wanting just now.

Will they ship some more time tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

A sawtooth profile for the opening 20kms which sees the riders tackle the Côte de Luzençon (3.1km at 5.9%) after only 6kms into the day. By that time they will have faced a short climb from the gun and a fast descent. After the categorised climb something similar happens again with a bit of rolling road before things finally flatten out at the 26km mark.

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It’s then a bit of a wait until the Col de Sié (10.2km at 4.9%) which is a fairly easy climb although the opening few kilometres are steeper while it flattens out a bit later on. The road then once again rolls for about 20km before they slowly head down again.

The Pic de Nore is the final climb of the day and it averages 6.3% for 12.3km.

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As you can see, the opening half of the ascent is the toughest and this is where the climbers will need to put people into difficulty. Otherwise, it will be very hard to make any gaps on the easier ~5% gradient of the latter part of the climb.

It tops out with 41km to go but considering the only proper flat land comes with 6km to go, although the descent gets a lot more shallow with 25km left, the stage could well be decided on the climb and the risks riders take on said descent.

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As for the run in, it is fairly straight forward with only a handful of roundabouts in the closing 5kms. There is a quite tight turn at 600m to go but it shouldn’t cause too many issues as the groups arriving together shouldn’t be too big.

How will the stage pan out?

There is a fair amount of climbing tomorrow but with the long descent and flat approach to the line it is unlikely we’ll see any major GC action. If there was a chance of rain then that could have been the case as it would have made the descent more nervous but I can’t see any of the GC guys wanting to waste energy. I think they will all have changed focus to next week already.

The race dynamic will change though if someone kind of close on GC, i.e. Valverde etc, sneaks into the break. Then we could be in for a deceptively tough stage.

So once again…

TheBreakawayLottery

Almost the opposite of today, the fight to get into the break will be very tough as the opening 25kms are either up or down: there is very little, if not any, flat land. This means that it should suit the climbers better. Somewhat ironically though, the end of the stage will be more difficult for them to deliver than today. The 40kms from the top of the climb to the finish gives plenty of time for those dropped to return to the head of the race if there is a stall up ahead. We could and probably will see some more tactical games being played tomorrow afternoon.

I’m going to go with some familiar names…

Michael Valgren – Astana were on the attack today and I think they will try to have at least one rider up the road again tomorrow while everyone else helps Fuglsang. Valgren was strong on the climbs when in the break last week and the 40kms from the top of the last ascent to the finish gives him a good chance of getting back on. Not many will be able to bring him back if he attacks over the top of them.

Gregor Mühlberger – Solid all around rider (see yesterday’s preview) the former Austrian champion looked great on the descent with Alaphlippe the other day. Could he gap everyone and hold on? He’s due a big result soon.

Gregor-Muhlberger (1)

Elie Gesbert. – The only new name here but Gesbert really impressed me when working for Barguil the other day. A strong climber and attacking rider, Fortuneo were another squad who missed the move this afternoon and will no doubt rectify that tomorrow. As a bit more of an uknown rider, he might just be able to use that to his advantage.

Prediction

Astana to double up and Valgren to win!

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Buy Me A Beer

That weekly shameless plug for my “donate” section. If you’ve enjoyed the previews so far throughout the Tour then you can help me through next weeks struggles by buying me a beer (it will be used for coffee most likely) via this link. Thanks in advance if you do!

Betting

Time to throw some pennies around again..

1pt WIN Valgren @ 33/1

0.5pt WIN Muhlberger @ 125/1

0.5pt WIN Gesbert @ 150/1

Again, I would advise to wait for the exchanges to have some liquidty tomorrow morning as that is when you get best prices. I’ll be waiting until then, but the figures above are just being noted down for the blog.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and how? Will we see another tactical run in? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2018 Stage 14 Preview: Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux -> Mende

Today’s Recap

FDJ and Bora decided they weren’t playing ball today as neither tried to get a man in the break. Once the 4 men went up ahead they controlled it, not letting the gap grow out much further than 2 minutes. Despite Gilbert’s late attack we had a sprint day with the best sprinter here, Sagan, taking the win.

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He edged out Kristoff who in turn edged out Démare to round out the podium. Pretty dull day, let’s hope for some more exciting racing tomorrow. Speaking of which…

The Route

A rolling day that sees a lot of climbing in the latter part.

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A flat start to the afternoon sees an uncategorised drag (roughly 2.9% for 8kms), come after 10kms into the day. The road then goes over several small bumps and some more flat roads for the following 60km before the Cat-4 climb. Will the break have gone by then?

After that, the road goes up from pretty much 95 -> 129km, meaning the average gradient is 2.5% for those 34kms. That of course includes the “proper” climb of Col de la Croix de Berthel which officially clocks in at 5.3% for 9.1kms. The riders will then face a descent before a climb, which will then be rinsed and repeated again.

With a descent and some valley roads, everyone will turn their attention to the closing climb of the day.

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It’s the same finish climb that was used in 2015 when Pinot and Bardet dropped everyone else from the break but they were caught up by a storming Cummings while they were playing games. The climb is tough and it is possible we see some splits in the GC group if it is rode at a crazy pace. Nothing major but a few seconds here and there.

I can’t see anyone wanting to keep this one together so…

TheBreakawayLottery

Break Contenders

Every man and his dog will be trying to get into the break if they can and the fight will be tough. It will take some luck to make the right move but also having good legs is important. Will any GC rider allow a domestique the chance to go for a stage win?

I’m also breaking a few of my rules today as I’ll be naming five guys below, shocking, I know. Here goes nothing…

Gorka Izagirre.

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He looked strong in the breakaway during stage 11 before an untimely mechanical or bout of cramp (still don’t which it is) ruined any chance of going for stage glory. With Nibali no longer at the race Bahrain will be very active over the remaining stages and Gorka looks their best bet for tomorrow. As I mentioned in the preview for stage 11, this season is the best I have ever seen him ride; his climbing is exceptional. He was just unlucky not to be able to showcase it that day. With his good kick he could win a gallop to the line.

Julian Alaphilippe.

The current King of the Mountains has been very smart with his energy use over the past few stages, going hard for the first HC or Cat-1 climbs of the day and then swiftly exiting the break. He’s clearly planned this one out in advance. With only a few points available on Stage 15, I think he might chance his arm and go for the stage win tomorrow. If there was one rider in the peloton (not a GC contender) that you had to pick for this final climb then it would be Alaphilippe. If he makes the break then not many will want to drag him to the bottom of it so he might be susceptible to longer range attacks. Nonetheless, he starts the stage as favourite.

Gregor Mühlberger.

On the attack during the Alpe d’Huez stage, Mühlberger is fast becoming one of my under rated (favourite) domestiques in the peloton – he’s a classy bike rider. He has a bit of everything as he can go well on the flat but can also cope well with hilly terrain. During the Tour de Suisse he was close to a stage win, well kind of, but was brought back by some flying GC riders. Nonetheless, he still managed to hold on for 4th place that day. One who could possibly attack before the final climb and use his good descending skills to advantage. He has a great chance if he starts the ascent with a 30 second advantage.

Jelle Vanendert.

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Lotto Soudal only have half of their roster left in the race but they have been active despite that. One of their riders that has been quiet though is Vanendert. Maybe he has been targeting this stage for a while? His Spring campaign was successful with a string of strong results in the Ardennes classics. Will saving those legs reap the benefits against a tired peloton?

Simon Geschke.

Bit of a wild card here because it requires Dumoulin to allow the German on the attack. His performance on the Alpe d’Huez stage was nothing short of phenomenal though and he was one of only a few domestiques left at the foot of the climb. It is the best I’ve seen him go up some hills since his win at this race in 2015. Has he found his mojo again? A danger man that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Prediction

Alaphilippe, all day.

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Betting

Even as much as I think Alaphilippe has a great chance I just can’t back him at that price for a stage with many variables.

1pt WIN G Izagirre @ 33/1

0.5pt WIN Mühlberger @ 150/1

1pt WIN Vanendert @ 40/1

0.75pt WIN Geschke @ 66/1

Again, you could possibly wait for the Exchanges to open, most likely get better prices there.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2018 Stage 12 Preview: Bourg-Saint-Maurice Les Arcs -> Alpe d’Huez

Today’s Recap

Well that was something else, wasn’t it?

For a while it looked as if the break was going to have its day but Valverde’s attack on the second climb saw a shift in the balance. Nibali oddly ordered Pelizotti to the front of the peloton near the top of the third climb of the day but it was actually Dumoulin who attacked on the descent. He then bridged to Valverde on La Rosière before swiftly dropping the Movistar man.

Things kept getting cranked up in the peloton behind and after a massive Kwiatkowski pull there was no Sky domestique left. Thomas chose those moment to attack and set out in pursuit after Dumoulin who had bridged to breakee Caruso. A lot of looking around by the rest of the GC favourites saw Bardet attack several times but he was brought back by different riders before a flying attack from Dan Martin (who had been dropped a few hundred metres earlier) caught everyone off guard and only Froome could follow. That duo then set off in pursuit of the Thomas group while in the mean time it looked as if Nieve would hold on for the stage win ahead, surviving from the early break.

Yeah nah, Thomas had other ideas as he accelerated to 40km/h on a 4% gradient and crushed the dreams his former team-mate had of being a stage winner in all three Grand Tours, closing down a 16 second gap in only a few hundred metres, passing Nieve at 400m to go.

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It was enough to secure him the stage win and move into Yellow. It’s going to be tough for anyone to dislodge him in his current form, that’s for sure!

Behind, Froome had already dropped Martin and tried to do the same to Dumoulin but he was pipped to second place by the Dutchman. With breakaway rider Caruso pipping fellow breakee Nieve for 4th.

Today’s result leaves Sky 1-2 in the standings with Froome 1’25 behind Thomas and Dumoulin a further 19 seconds back. Will we see any of the contenders try something tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for them.

The Route

Another day in the mountains and the final day in the Alps and the organisers have saved the iconic Alpe d’Huez.

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Three big climbs (and one small one) await the riders, totalling over 5200m of ascent. This is a monster day in the saddle!

A shallow descent leads into the first climb of the day, the Col de la Madeleine. A tough climb that averages 6.2% for 25.3kms but too far out for anything to happen. The same can even be said for the next climb of Col de la Croix de Fer with its 5.2% average for 29kms.

I was going to post the profiles for both of the climbs but what is the point? We’ll just see Sky tempo up them after today and with some of the GC implosions we had no-one is going to want to attack from that far out, especially with the 14km of flat before we reach Huez.

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On of the most famous climbs in world cycling, the 21 hairpin bends might allow some riders to be out of sight and out mind. The final couple of kilometres of the climb are easier so anyone hoping to damage to their rivals has to go a little bit earlier than what they would possibly like. Teams somehow need to get Sky down to their barebones by 6kms to go and attack but I can’t see how they manage that without burning their own matches first.

How will the stage pan out?

Beats me.

After today’s dominant Sky-train display despite Movistar’s best efforts then I think many will be happy to sit in the wheels and let the race leader’s control proceedings all the way until Alpe d’Huez. We might even see Rowe make it but that just depends on if Froome or Thomas want to win the sage.

Given the strength of their squad then it is possible that they are able to control the breakaway and then set a blistering tempo on the climb and set their two leaders up to one-two attack before one of them eventually gets away.

Sky do like to try to win on the iconic climbs of cycling and they might be confident after today’s performance of almost burying the Tour tomorrow. But it is a tough day for them to control for the stage win and I don’t think any other GC team will help them, therefore I think the breakaway has a good chance of surviving.

That time again…

TheBreakawayLottery

Antwan Tolhoek – Promising young climber that was the last rider to stay with his two team-leaders. 13th on GC in California was followed up with a solid 11th in the Dauphiné. He seems to be in good form at the moment and with his dimunitive figure he should be able to light up the final climb. Could well be used as a foil for an attack behind but if the break is too far ahead he might be given the light to chase his own success.

Jesper Hansen. – With Fuglsang struggling a bit today, I think we’ll see Astana try to get into the breaks. They were active today and I expect that to continue tomorrow. Hansen is one of their better climbing domestiques and he saved his legs today. Possibly could be the one to go for it tomorrow. It will be a tough ask but it all depends on his breakaway companions.

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David Gaudu – The next French climbing sensation, the former Tour de l’Avenir is here to chase some stage wins from the break this year and tomorrow looks perfect for him. A proper talent, will the opening 11 days of racing taken something out of him?

Ian Boswell – After Zakarin struggling again today, then Boswell might be given the freedom to go for the stage win. He’s performed consistently well so far in this Tour but it would take a little bit of luck for him to win. You just never know though.

Prediction

Sky to let the break stay out and Gaudu to take the win!

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Betting

1pt WIN Gaudu @ 40/1

0.5pt WIN Tolhoek @ 80/1

0.3pt WIN Hansen @ 200/1

0.2pt WIN Boswell @ 500/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2018 GC Preview

Tour de France 2018 GC Preview

In 2017 we saw a rather dominant Chris Froome win by ‘only’ 54 seconds ahead of Rigoberto Uran with Romain Bardet edging Landa by one second to round out the GC podium.

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I say ‘only’ above as it was actually Froome’s smallest winning margin in all 4 of his victories so far, but he never looked in that much trouble throughout the three weeks. Obviously it was a measured effort so that he could go on to win the Vuelta later in the year, then the Giro this year. Can he make it an incredible 5th Tour win and 4th GT win in a row?

No fancy business here because as I’ll be doing daily stage previews I’m just ducking any route analysis here and just jumping straight into the favourites. I would recommend this preview from Road.cc though as they cover each stage in concise paragraphs. Much better than my ramblings!

I’m also going to be blunt with some riders as I don’t really rate their overall chances. Also you’ll have read many previews by now and if I’m honest, I can’t really bothered to rehash what others have said.

Anyway, onto the contenders and pretenders…

The Favourite 

Chris Froome.

Despite what your opinion is (I’m sure you all know mine by now) on the whole salbutamol case, the bottom line is that Froome is cleared and is here to race. Nothing like a bit of pre-Tour drama though with ASO apparently going to ban him before UCI/WADA announcing the following day that his case was dropped. More drama than Love Island!

At the Giro Froome was seemingly way off the pace but two remarkable days on the bike, Zoncolan and Stage 19, saw him claw back an almost 3 minute deficit to Dumoulin with some more left in the bag. With an extra week between the Giro and Tour, he should have recovered reasonably well. His team is super strong, as you would expect, and he will have a lot of support on the flat and in the mountains. It will be interesting to see how he can handle the cobbled stage – it will certainly bring back bad memories from crashing out in 2014. No doubt he starts as the favourite and will gain time in the efforts against the clock but can we really expect a rider to win four Grand Tours in a row? I hope not, for the sake of the sport.

The Waiting for Froome to falter-ers

Richie Porte.

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Can Richie survive a Grand Tour without a bad day? That is the million dollar question. If he does, then he will play a massive role in the outcome of this race. Arguably the best rider on a 15 minute climb in the World, he will hope to display some of that trademark out of the saddle “sprint-climbing” in this race. At the Tour de Suisse he was strong and took home that race but I get the sense that he still wasn’t at 100%, there is still room for improvement from him. Compared to what he has been used to in the past couple of seasons this looks like his strongest BMC support team. They have all terrain covered to shepherd Porte around France and he should be able to rely on Van Garderen and Caruso deep into many of the mountain days. I started off this season thinking that Porte would win the race and although my mind has been slightly changed, he still starts as one to beat if he stays on his bike.

Romain Bardet. 

The AG2R man has finished on the podium the past two years and will be hoping for a similar result this year, if not better. A third in the recent Dauphiné was a good and highlights that his form is heading in the right direction but that he has not peaked too soon. In last year’s edition of the race I loved the way AG2R attacked Sky in the mountains and they bring an even stronger squad with them this time out. He shouldn’t lose a crazy amount of time in the TTT as a result but I do have a slight worry for him on the cobbled stage. Then again, who of the GC contenders will truly be comfortable then? A big day is needed from Naesen! In the mountains he (alongside Porte) is one of the few riders I am confident can actually challenge Froome. With a few stages ending in descents from climbs, he will be in his element and certainly put pressure on the other GC contenders.

Nairo Quintana.

Is the Colombian back to his climbing best? It looks like it after his strong showing in the Tour de Suisse and he was particularly impressive holding off the group of GC contenders on the shallow drag before the final steeper ramps of Arosa. He forms a very strong attacking trident with Valverde and Landa and I’m really looking forward to see how they approach the race. I just hope that at least two of them are in contention after the cobbled stage. We saw in 2015 just how strong Nairo can be in the final week of the race in the high mountains and the rest of his challengers will be concerned if he is within 2 minutes going into the closing stages. No doubt we’ll certainly see some enthusiastic Colombian fans at the side of the road!

The Podium Outsiders

Right, shorter musings from now on.

Vincenzo Nibali.

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Winner of the Tour when the race last visited the cobbles, the Bahrain rider has had a pretty average year so far. However, he knows how to peak for a race and he can never be discounted. With a strong team to support him, we will probably see him on the attack as he will no doubt have to claw some time back after the TTT.

Rigoberto Uran.

A surprising second place last year, I think it will be hard for the Colombian to repeat the feat this time around. He found some race sharpness in Slovenia recently but I just don’t think he has enough to do it. Then again, no one really mentioned him last year and look what happened.

Alejandro Valverde.

Mr Evergreen, Valverde has been incredibly strong this season so far, having won the GC of every stage race he has competed in. It was scary how easy things were for him in the recent La Route d’Occitanie, using the attacks of Elissonde and Navarro as training – deliberately letting gaps grow so he could close them down. He’s another that will probably be chasing time after the TTT but I look forward to his venture onto the cobbles – he didn’t do too badly in Dwars this year.

Adam Yates. 

Have Mitchelton learnt from his brother’s epic collapse at the Giro? In strong form after his second in the Dauphine (the gap to Porte would have only be a handful of seconds if it was not for the TTT), he will be able to rely on a well-rounded squad focussed solely on him. Can he handle the pressure?

Jakob Fuglsang.

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If there was ever a year when Fuglsang could seriously challenge for a podium spot then this would be it. He has a solid team built around him that should be able to support him on most terrain. Back in 2014 he was the one doing the majority of the work when Nibali gained a load of time on the cobbles so no doubt he’ll be licking his lips at that stage. We saw in the Tour de Suisse that he was stronger than Porte on the last day of climbing and he followed that up with a blistering TT. Has he managed to hold form?

Top 10 Fillers

Ilnur Zakarin.

The Katusha man is one of those riders that could really fall into a couple of categories in this preview. I fear he’ll lose some time in the TT and given his poor bike handling the cobbles will be an issue too. However, we saw in the Vuelta last year that he was one of the best climbers in the last week. It all depends on the opening 9 days though.

Geraint Thomas.

Team Sky Plan B but when has a Team Sky Plan B ever actually won a race? I certainly can’t recall a time. Needs Froome to drop out within the opening 9 days for him to get a dedicated team around him. Will he wait for his captain on the cobbles as theoretically he should be one of the strongest GC riders. It will be interesting to see how it plays out within the team.

Bob Jungels.

I rate him as a rider but I feel he’s just going to be a “he’s there” kind of rider this Tour. Top 10 would be a good result.

Daniel Martin.

Terrible team means he will lose a lot of time in the TTT and he will lose a lot of time on the cobbles too. Stage hunting later in the race would be a good idea if he just doesn’t want to ride for a top 10.

Steven Kruijswijk.

See Jungels.

Bauke Mollema.

See Kruijswijk.

The Pretenders

Riders that won’t top 10 despite a lot of people thinking they will. Ready to eat my hat here.

Primoz Roglic.

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He seems to be everyone’s favourite wildcard for the race but I just can’t see it. Having won both Itzulia and Romandie he then returned to racing recently and took the crown at his home tour. Unproven and untested, I think he will once again go for stage wins and focus on contending for the GC in a GT next year.

Tom Dumoulin.

The Sunweb rider has never done two GTs back to back while going for GC. After the brutally tough Giro I think he will fall short here and instead focus on going for some stage wins. The way that Sunweb approached this race to me seemed that Kelderman was going to be their GC candidate with Dumoulin acting as a decoy to deflect attention but unfortunately Kelderman crashed and can’t take the start.

Mikel Landa.

The boldest of the three riders listed here, I just can’t get behind the Landa train. I think something will go wrong for him on one of the days and with the two more established Movistar riders possibly getting a little extra support, Landa will lose his hopes on the cobbles. If he is in contact though I would love to see Rogue Landa again.

Egan Bernal.

Exceptional talent but he’ll fall into line, a.k.a behind Thomas and Poels. We might see something similar to Moscon at the Vuelta where he is exceptional for a while but due to his age he won’t be consistent.

Prediction

Probably Froome, innit.

But after resigning myself to that fate at the Giro I’m going to predict a more fairytale result here and go with Bardet to take home the first French win in a long time.

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Allez Romain!

Betting

Three pre-Tour bets for me, all that I’ve tweeted out over the past couple of weeks.

2pts EW Bardet @ 18/1 for GC (he’s actually out to 20/1 with Betfair Sportsbook but I would take the 16/1 widely available elswhere)

1.5pt Valverde Top 3 at 7/1 (available at Bet365 and Will Hill)

1pt EW Demare Points Classification at 20/1 (with Coral/Lads)

I had set aside 10pts for outright market bets but this is not the year to bet on KOM pre race but I might fancy something during the race.

Let’s just hope for a better Tour than Giro punting wise, I’ll be sticking to my favourite rule: 2pts a day keeps the debt collector away!

Thanks for reading as always and hope you enjoyed the preview. Who do you think will go on to win the race overall? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 21 Preview; Montgeron -> Paris

Today’s Recap

One second. Again! Think this must be the 6th time in two years that the rider I’ve backed for a timed event has lost out by one second.

Kwiatkowski rode a great TT but was just pipped by fellow countryman Bodnar, the latter getting revenge for being crushed by the Sky rider at nationals. After Sagan’s dismissal and Majka’s withdrawal it is good to see Bora still going well and challenging when they can!

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Froome came home third to convincingly take his 4th Tour title. Well, convincingly might not be the best word to use as he has looked anything but that this race, however the two TTs have won it for him! I wonder how the GC would have panned out if we had Valverde and Porte still here.

Oh well, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders on their final day of racing.

The Route

You know the score by now, a little jaunt from the outskirts of Paris that finishes with some laps of the Champs-Élysées.

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A processional stage that will get more exciting once we hit the laps themselves.

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Coming out from the underpass first with a few lead-out men in front of your sprinters is important. From there, being able to lead it through the sweeping bends with 500m to go will put your sprinter into a prime position into the closing straight.

That’s about that for the route, nothing more needs to be said really!

Weather wise the riders will start out in overcast conditions but that could all change later on in the stage depending on how processional they make the day.

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A wet finish could certainly make things a bit more lively.

Sprinters

This is the Tour, not the Giro, so we will see a sprint finish tomorrow. With Kittel no longer here, the door has been opened for the rest of the fast men to take a stage win and it could consequently become a bit hectic because of that.

Matthews.

The Green Jersey winner (as long as he finishes tomorrow) will be looking to go out with a bang. With arguably one of the best lead-out trains, he should be put into a good position. Brimming with confidence just now, does he have the speed to finish off a great Tour for Sunweb?

Boasson Hagen.

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After getting a richly deserved stage win the Dimension Data will be looking to double up tomorrow. The other rider with a strong lead-out, he should be placed into a good position in the final straight. No doubt we’ll see Van Rensburg do another monster turn to get him there! There are questions about his willingness to take risks though which could see him start his sprint from further back.

Greipel.

Has won a stage at every Grand Tour he’s started over the past few years. He left it late last year, taking the final stage that time round and he’ll need to do that again this year if he wants to continue that record. His experience of managing his body through a race could be vital.

Groenewegen.

The flying Dutchman hasn’t really set sail this Tour so far, picking up two podium places along the way. However, he did look like one of the fastest riders on the pure sprint into Pau and with Kittel gone he’ll be hoping to go better.

Bouhanni.

Poor. That’s how I’ll describe his Tour so far. He’s a sprinter that I think can do really well but he’s just been very disappointing during this race. He’s been positioned well only for him to decide to fight for wheels instead, or just completely lack the kick to get involved in the dash to the line. He could turn it around tomorrow and he’ll probably be doing a rain dance tonight, but it I think it’s unlikely we’ll see him on the top step.

Degenkolb.

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He’s been okay this race, especially when you consider that his original aim was to help Contador on the flat days and then look after himself. Now that he’s been freed from those shackles, he’ll hope to have the favour returned to him by the team. He would prefer a tougher finish but he should be in or around the top 5.

Kristoff.

Another rider who falls into the poor category. He was close in some of the opening few stages but has fallen by the wayside recently. Crashing the other day hasn’t helped and he’s looked a bit sketchy since then. Maybe he’ll be hoping for poor weather to help turn his race around?

Petit, Colbrelli, Cimolai, Bennati and Selig will all be fighting for the Top 10.

Prediction

My angle of thought for today’s stage nearly worked: pick a rider who is clearly still in form at the end of the race.

So with that being said, I think Matthews will win the stage tomorrow.

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He may not be known as the fastest rider on a pure flat sprint, but after the past week he is the only one to have shown that he is in great form. His ability to climb over some of the mountains we’ve had should see him fresher for tomorrow’s finish. Brimming with confidence, he’ll take a memorable stage win in Paris wearing Green.

Betting

1.5pt EW Matthews @ 12/1 with PP/BF (Would take 10/1 elsewhere)

 

Thanks as always for reading but a big thanks if you’ve stuck with me through the past 3 weeks. It’s your continued support that makes me keep going when I’ve gone on awful stage prediction runs etc! During the Tour the blog surpassed 50,000 views for the year which is incredible so thanks once again. I hope that a few of you new readers will stick around for the rest of the season as we still have plenty more racing to go.

Next on the schedule for me will be San Sebastian and both the Ride London races.

Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Tour de France 2017 Stage 20 Preview; Marseille -> Marseille

Today’s Recap

I was disappointed to wake up this afternoon to see a 20-rider breakaway up the road and none of the picks represented. Even more disappointed when scrolling through the Le Tour Race Centre feed to see that Bauer and McCarthy were involved in an earlier move, oh well!

The breakaway stayed together over the last climb and we were treated to a very tactical battle in the final 40km.

Countless attacks went and were brought back but we did see a split over a slight rise which cut the group in half. From there, we had even more attacks but it was a roundabout inside the final 3km that decided the race. The majority of the front group took the left side, whereas Arndt and Boasson Hagen took the right, much shorter side.

The Norwegian picked up the pace just as Arndt was reaching his limit and swung over. Using a friendly moto he got a 5-10m gap and that was the race over from there! After all his close calls so far this race it is good to see him take the win.

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Arndt held on to finish second, with Keukeleire winning the reduced bunch gallop for third.

With all the GC riders rolling home together, let’s have a look at what’s in store for them tomorrow.

The Route

A pan-flat TT apart from one very short and sharp climb.

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The route is a very interesting one as the climb only makes up just over 5% of the stage. However, being an average of 9.5% for that 1.2km it will probably take the riders closer to roughly 12% of their total time.

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The climb is steep and will certainly ruin the rhythm of the TT specialists. I wonder if we’ll see any bike changes before it? Personally I would say it is not worth it but you never know!

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Aside from the climb, the course is more technical than the opening TT we saw in Düsseldorf. The roads are narrow, particularly along the Corniche, with the riders having to contend with a few tight turns and roundabouts. However, there are plenty of long straight sections for the powerhouses in the peloton to put the Watts down.

It will be a close battle between the TT specialists and the all-round GC riders for the stage win.

Quite often in a TT the changing weather throughout the day will play a part in deciding the outcome. However, it appears tomorrow that all the riders should have dry conditions with the later starts possibly benefiting from a drop in wind speed. Although that depends on what source you look at!

Contenders

Roglic.

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After crashing in the opening TT, the Jumbo rider has since turned things around and took an excellent stage win a couple of days ago. An excellent rider against the clock he should be there or thereabouts but I think he might have actually preferred a harder course with a longer descent!

Froome.

The last TT in a Tour means Froome normally turns up. He crushed Dumoulin last year in the closing time trial and the same can be said for his effort in the Vuelta TT where he put 45 seconds into joint stage favourite Castroviejo. The route looks ideal for the Brit with power sections where he can, erm, put the power down, but the climb should be suited to him too. The only issue is that he hasn’t looked great this Tour so far, yet he finds himself in Yellow. He’s the type of rider who will want to win a stage on his way to winning the race overall and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the top step tomorrow.

Küng.

Second place in the opening TT, the Swiss rider did very well to set a fast time when everyone else around him seemed to be struggling in the wet weather. He’s been anonymous since then but has possibly been saving himself for this effort. Tomorrow’s route looks similar to recent closing TT in the Tour de Suisse where he was second behind a flying Dennis. Can he repeat that performance tomorrow?

Martin.

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After failing to make a dream start to his race back in Düsseldorf, Martin has dabbled in a few breakaways since then. The climb is really steep for a guy like him, we saw what happened to him on the steep slopes during his solo breakaway. However, at only 1.2km long he will fancy his chances of powering up it. He should finish in the top 5 but I’m not too confident in his form just now.

Kwiatkowski.

If Froome and Landa want the best info as to how the course rides at race pace then they’ll need a team-mate earlier in the day to go full gas. Given how well he is currently riding, Kwiatkowski could be that man. The course looks a perfect distance for “Kawasaki” and he will probably want to honour his national champions jersey by giving it a good go. The only concern is that he might decide to have an extra rest day considering all of the work he has done so far.

Castroviejo.

The Spaniard is another rider who has had a quiet time this Tour, possibly with an eye on tomorrow’s stage. A great time trial rider he will be challenging again for the win.

As for an outsider who could challenge, I’ll once again highlight Bauer. The New Zealand TT champion got into one of the early moves today so his form is still there. Having taken it easy on the opening day, I think he might give it a nudge tomorrow. It will be tough for him to win but he could possibly sneak onto the podium if he gets lucky.

Predcition

This one is tough.

I’ve chopped and changed my mind between some of the riders listed above several times so far. Making cases for and against all of them and not really coming to any concrete/confident conclusion.

Right…

If he gets to go full gas then I really think Kwiatkowski has a chance of taking a stage win and be truly rewarded for all his work over the past three weeks!

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Betting

Bit of a lottery, and the 9/4 on Froome looks tempting but he’s still too short given his not so dominant performances recently.

1.35pts EW Kwiatkowski @ 20/1 with Ladbrokes/Coral (1/4 odds for 3 places)

0.15pts EW Bauer @ 500/1 with various

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 19 Preview; Embrun -> Salon-de-Provence

Today’s Recap

A big break went early and for a while it looked as if they would contest the stage. However, AG2R drove an infernal pace before the Izoard reducing the gap to a bridgeable amount.

Barguil was the first rider to launch a major attack from the peloton and he quickly dropped Contador who initially followed.

With a bit of stalling behind, Landa shot up off the road but he didn’t look as strong as he did a week ago in the Pyrenees. Froome, Bardet and Uran eventually bridged but it was too late for the stage win.

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Barguil caught and past the only remaining breakaway rider (Atapuma) just before the last kilometre, beating the Colombian by 20 seconds in the end. This is the second Grand Tour in a row that Atapuma has finished second on the final mountain stage, coming home behind a Frenchman both times.

Bardet outsprinted Froome to gain 4 bonus seconds, while Uran lost a couple of seconds to the pair.

After all that though, the Brit is still in the driving seat to take his 4th Tour win with a TT still to come. However, there is still another road stage before then.

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

The Route

A rolling day that could/should/might end in a sprint.

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The longest stage of the whole race, the organisers must have been feeling a bit cruel when they came up with the route!

It’s not exactly a straightforward stage either, with a lot of rolling roads in the first part of the stage that it will make it difficult for the sprinters teams to control.

With the last categorised climb peaking out roughly 45km from the finish, will we see a charge from behind to catch the break?

The run-in itself is fairly technical and it will be fast as the road descends from about 5km to go until the Flamme Rouge, flattening out for the final kilometre.

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A couple of tight turns could make it a messy run-in, but with the two close together the peloton should be strung out. Will anyone further behind through that section be able to close the gap in the closing 400m straight?

How will the stage pan out?

A big battle between the breakaway and sprinters.

Firstly, it depends on the attitude of the peloton. After a couple of tough mountain stages there will be a lot of tired bodies and I’m sure a lot of riders will be looking forward to a quieter day.

However, with only a TT and the processional final stage left, tomorrow is the only opportunity for anyone who is not a sprinter or TT specialist to have a good go for a result.

Matthews has the Green Jersey sewn up as long as he stays on his bike and with two stage wins to his name already, will he really make his team chase all day for a third? I think they deserve a rest!

It could actually be the other sprinters who might put their teams to work but with Kristoff and Degenkolb struggling today, I think it would only be Lotto Soudal and Dimension Data who would be willing to chase. Even then, it is a tough day for them to do that and they both have cards they could play in the break instead.

So with that all said, I think we could be in for a big breakaway day again with a group of 25-30 riders escaping up the road.

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Candidates

Two new names and two previous blog picks here;

Tony Martin.

He gave us a lot of excitement with his long-range attack on Stage 15 but was unfortunately undone by a tough climb. The rises in tomorrow’s stage are a lot easier and the powerful German should be able to handle them. If he can stay with the front group over the final Cat-3, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him try another solo attack when they reach the flatter lands and there’s a lull in the action. As everyone will expect it, he’ll have to time the move to perfection but it is certainly something he is capable of.

Jay McCarthy.

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Anyone that can average 775 Watts (12.2 w/Kg) for a minute deserves to make this list! That’s what the Aussie did when he charged through the pack towards the end of stage 14 only to fall just short and finish 5th. What could have been with better positioning! He’s been quiet since then but tomorrow looks like a good stage for him to get into the move. A good punchy climber, the ascents tomorrow shouldn’t be too hard for him and he’ll hope to make it over with the front of the breakaway. Packing a strong sprint from a reduced group, that will be his best chance of victory tomorrow. He best just hope Matthews doesn’t decide he wants to spend a day up-front!

Jack Bauer.

One of the riders of the race so far in my opinion, he has been selfless in his work for both Kittel and Martin. The work he’s done for the latter has been particularly impressive, hanging with the best on some of the toughest mountains and in a very reduced peloton. He’s clearly going very well just now! With Kittel out of the race and Martin “safe” tomorrow, I imagine Quick Step will be keen to get guys into the breakaway.

Stefan Küng.

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No stranger to a breakaway, the Swiss rider won a stage at the Tour of Romandie from the early morning move back in April. He finished second on the opening stage but has been quiet since then, apparently not being allowed to go in breakaways because he’s too tough to bring back. Although that rumour was shot down by the rider himself. Like Martin he might try to rest for the TT the following day, or alternatively he could go on the attack to test where his legs are at. He’s a strong candidate to get a result if he makes the break and I’m sure BMC will have several riders up there.

Prediction

With no sprint team really wanting to chase the breakaway fully, the morning move will stay away. Luck will be important but so will good legs! Having been so agonisingly close to a Tour stage win back in 2014, after being caught within the final 10m, Jack Bauer will get his “revenge” and take the day!

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Betting

Tweeted the selections out before…

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Wouldn’t take less than 50/1 for any of them!

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

Tour de France 2017 Stage 18 Preview; Briançon -> Izoard

Short preview as I’m short for time, apologies.

Today’s Recap

A weird day that managed to be both exciting and fairly dull at the same time!

One rider survived from the early morning break to take the day. It was great to see Roglic cross the line first after I have talked him up so much before and throughout this Tour. It was also mildly annoying not to have backed him though! Nonetheless, a great win and one he can hopefully kick on from for future GTs to come.

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Behind, the GC riders did split up on the ascent and descent of the Galibier, with Aru being the main loser on the day.

Uran sprinted to second for some valuable bonus seconds which moves him up to 2nd on GC, only ahead of Bardet due to the fractions of a second difference during the opening TT. While Froome extended his lead over everyone else with his 3rd place sprint on the day, meaning he has 27 seconds over both the Colombian and the Frenchman heading into the final summit finish of the race tomorrow.

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

The Route

A fairly simple day that will be decided by one climb at the end.

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There is a Cat-1 positioned almost temptingly far out from the finish for some long-range attacks but any that go there will be a hail-mary more than something meaningful.

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At 14.1km with an average gradient of 7.3% it is a brute, but is also fair to say that the first half of the climb starts off relatively “easy”. Well, when you look at the rest of it the climb that is!

The opening 7km average only 5.6%, whereas the second half is a much more painful sounding 9%. You better hold something back for the end of the day, that’s for sure.

How will the stage pan out?

It would make sense for Sky to let the break go on to take the stage. Doing so will get rid of the bonus seconds and increase Froome’s chance of overall glory come Paris.

However, Sky are prone to doing exactly the opposite from what makes sense tactically. Today they kept the break close, almost tempting people such as Contador to attack on the Croix de Fer. It worked out for them in the end, but they play a dangerous game and with how explosive Uran and Bardet have looked recently there is a chance they could take some more time tomorrow.

For some reason though I think Froome turns up tomorrow. It’s weird, but he has been underwhelming compared to his usual self so far yet is still in Yellow and with a TT to come he has a great chance of another Tour victory.

He can afford to ride a bit more defensively tomorrow with that in mind but I think he’ll want to go for the stage win.

In his past 3 Tour de France wins he has won an “open road” stage and I’m sure he would like to see that streak continue.

Prediction

Having found himself in Yellow after looking questionable, Froome will assert his dominance on the race tomorrow and motor away from everyone on the Izoard and secure his 4th Tour win in the process!

Cycling - Tour de France cycling race - Stage 21 from Chantilly to Paris, France

Betting

After another horrid day and a wasted 2pts on a H2H I tweeted out, that’s the blog now down to 1.87pt profit for the race so…yolo.

3pts WIN Froome @ 3/1 with BF/PP

Thanks as always for reading and apologies for this being a lot shorter than normal. I’m suffering from end of Tour fatigue like the riders and my La Course preview took a lot longer than expected to write. Speaking of which, you should definitely check that out…

Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 17 Preview; La Mure -> Serre-Chevalier

Today’s Recap

A day where I had 99% of the stage planned out to perfection, it’s just a shame about the final 1%!

The action was on from the start as riders tried to jump away and we had several strong moves that looked as if they could stick. However, with Matthews attacking, Quick Step were keen to chase it down, even having Dan Martin as the man following the Aussie’s moves. In hindsight though, it was a terrible idea. Kittel blew up on the climb and that was his day done and as several of his team-mates waited to pace him back, Martin was left exposed at the end of the stage.

Speaking of which, we had echelons in the closing 15km. Naesen did an incredible job to bring Bardet to the front group as they were initially distanced. The Frenchman was even quoted post-race saying that “Naesen saved my life”.

Dan Martin and Meintjes were less fortunate though and both ended up shipping 51 seconds, with Contador losing 1’33.

Matthews took the stage with a strong sprint win, beating a fast finishing Boasson Hagen and Degenkolb.

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A deserved victory for the Sunweb rider after his team did the majority of the work all day; I’m sure their DS will be pleased! The result now moves him closer to Kittel in the Green Jersey competition, only 29 points behind the German.

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

The Route

The day that in my GC preview I heralded as arguably the Queen stage.

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Starting off fairly tamely, the riders will face a shallow descent before 10km of uncategorised rising roads before the first official climb of the day begins. At only 5.1km and averaging 6.7% it’s not too difficult an opening test and I’d be very surprised if we saw some GC movement here. Well, there is one rider I think might give it a go but I’ll get to that later. What could be more interesting though is if Matthews makes the split, which I think he has a very good chance at doing.

Once over the top of the climb, the riders will descend into the valley where we have the intermediate sprint point of the day. If Matthews is capable of winning that, then he reduces the gap to Kittel in the Green Jersey competition to only 9 points.

That would certainly spice things up for the following stages!

Soon after the sprint point the riders will face the first of two HC climbs on the day; the Col de la Croix Fer. The paltry average of 5.2% is quite deceptive as the climb goes up in steps, with several kilometres above 9% but also false-flat or descending kilometres. However, it is too far out to be of any major issue and will more than likely be a place where some riders get shed out of the back, rather than anyone go off the front.

The riders will have just over 40km from the summit of the Croix Fer until they hit the foot slopes of the climbs that will shape the day; the double-header of Télégraphe and Colombier.

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I don’t really need to go into detail about those climbs too much, the graphic above tells you enough! One thing is for sure, I think the Télégraphe is harshly categorised as a Cat-1 as it certainly could be an HC climb.

The steep closing ramps combined with high altitude of the Galibier provide the perfect launchpad for an attack from the GC favourites.

Will they be able to make it stick on the run in? It depends on who they are/who is behind and if they are co-operating. The descent averages -4% for the final 28km but it is a lot steeper at the start and flattens off a bit in the final 6kms.

Could we see a reduced sprint contest the stage?

How will the stage pan out?

With the first half of the stage not being conducive to a big GC hit-out there is a chance that a big breakaway forms on the Cat-2 climb and builds up a massive advantage. It of course depends on who makes that move as to how big the gap will be, while also depending on the attitude of Sky. Will they want to chase the stage win?

Having conducted a Twitter poll, the most popular selection is a break win but the verdict is split, with there being no majority. Another hung vote!

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I’m really unsure as to how I think it will go as well. On one hand, I really fancy the break to get a big lead over the first two climbs and that be that. Yet, I have a nagging suspicion that we could see a GC battle as people attempt to put Froome under pressure.

Right…

We’ll see a strong break go with representatives from a lot of teams up there but Sky will outfox them all by letting the break get too far ahead so that having team-mates up the road will become redundant.

Therefore, we’ll see the break fight out for the stage.

(Maybe).

B is for Breakaway and…

Bakelants.

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A rider who as impressed me in the past few Grand Tours that he has been in, the Belgian has been active so far this race, making the breakaway on a few occasions. AG2R will want men up the road for both the team classification but also for the possibility to help Bardet later but if his advantage is too big then Bakelants might be given the nod to go for the win. He’s the right mix of strong climber but far enough back on GC not to be a real threat. Compared to some of the purest climbers he might struggle, but in the final week of a Grand Tour you always get some shock results.

Buchmann.

0161 Manny on the map? Well, the German has been a bit off the radar so far this race after his very impressive display at the Dauphiné. An attacking rider, I’m surprised not to have seen him in more breakaways. Instead, he seems to have tried to follow the GC guys as long as possible before fading away. On his day though, I think he could contend for a stage and no doubt Bora will be looking to infiltrate any move, with Buchmann being their best hope for a result.

Of course there are plenty of other riders who could feature tomorrow, depending on what type of stage we get.

Barguil will no doubt be attacking off the front chasing mountain points and securing that title, along with another stage win.

I also have a feeling that Contador might try something but he’ll struggle to win the day as the finish isn’t great for him. He would have to drop everyone on the final climb, which is certainly possible if he has re-found his climbing legs from somewhere.

There then is of course the chance that the GC teams do actually close things down and we get a showdown between the favourites on the Galibier.

Prediction

I’ll go for Buchmann to take the win from the break, sprinting from a small selection that regrouped on the descent.

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Betting

0.25pt EW on both of the selections;

Bakelants @ 250/1

Buchmann @ 125/1

Tomorrow is definitely a day for in-play though once the race situation has settled, hence why I’ve only spread 1pt across a couple of longshots.

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 16 Preview; Le Puy-en-Velay -> Romans-sur-Isère

Rest-day Recap

An exciting breakaway day that was a great mix of tactics and strength! One of our picks Tony Martin did exactly what I thought he would, but unfortunately there were enough team-mates and motivated riders behind to keep him on some kind of leash before the final climb. Starting it with only 1’30 was never going to be enough for the German, and he was caught ~3km from the top. The group that was ahead then reformed on the descent, and a perfectly timed attack saw Mollema slip clear, quickly building up a big advantage. The stage was over from that point, despite the efforts of Ulissi and Gallopin who finished on the podium, but also Roglic and Barguil too.

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The Dutchman held off to take his first ever Tour win. A great result that I’m sure a lot of people would be happy with, he seems like a top bloke!

As for the GC battle, we nearly had a very exciting stage with Froome dropped on a descent due to a mechanical. However, some good pacing from his team and work from the Brit himself, he made it back to the favourites group. Some people lamented the lack of attacking from Bardet etc once Froome was isolated, but the finish wasn’t too great for that as it was more of a power descent rather than a technical one, on which the Frenchman would shine. Furthermore, Landa would have been able to follow and mark them out of it anyway. Unless of course they wanted to drag him to the line!

Anyway, with another rest day in the legs the riders will be prepared for the final week of racing. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for them tomorrow.

The Route

A day for the sprinters?

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The day starts with a long drag and the Cat-3 climb of the Côte de Boussoulet. Officially 4.5km at 6.3%, it’s not too tough a climb but the riders will be climbing from the gun. Taking that into consideration, you could argue that the climb is 20.5km at 2.87%. A real leg sapper!

Once over the top the riders will face something that resembles a plateau for the next 50km but isn’t really at all considering the uncategorised climbs and descents. As they reach the 70km mark though they’ll descent almost for the following 40km, aside from a few kick ups and false flats that have been thrown into the mix.

Reaching “flat-ground” at 55km to go, it will be interesting to see how big of an advantage the break has and who is chasing behind. Will they catch them before the finish?

Speaking of the finish, it’s not exactly a simple run-in either, with the final kilometre being very technical!

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Three roundabouts in the last kilometre could make for an “interesting” end to the day. Now a tradition on tough run-ins, here is my Preview by Pictures™ of the finish.

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Roundabout #1 sees the riders head pretty much straight on, taking a soft right-hand turn. However, the road does narrow through the kink of the roundabout and on exit so positioning near the front will be important.

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The road widens again about 10m after the exit of the roundabout but those at the head of the peloton will want to drift from right to left before Roundabout #2. As you can see, once again some road furniture will force the riders looking for the quickest line into one side of the road, before they take the left at the roundabout. A small traffic island will keep the riders in the left hand lane as they exit, which is where you want to be for the next part of the course.

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As the road bends round to the left, taking and holding the inside line will be the fastest route. Doing so will also force any opposition riders to come around the outside, wasting energy.

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Just before the final roundabout (at roughly 450m to go) the riders will have to be wary as the road narrows once again.

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Being first into the final roundabout will be key. According to the graphic above they will take the right-hand lane, before funneling through another narrow passage on the exit.

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From there it is roughly 300m to the finish line!

How will the stage pan out?

Looking at the weather forecast there is a chance of crosswinds tomorrow which might entice some GC teams into action, but a lot of the route looks protected by trees etc so I can’t see it having a big impact. The only area that might be dangerous is the 9km section between Châteauneuf-sur-Isère and Alixan as the road looks like this.

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With a tailwind run-in then it is possible for any gaps that are created to be held.

However, I think it will be another case of the stage hunters/breakaway experts against the sprinters.

With the start of the stage being on a long drag, we could see Sunweb try to take control of the peloton, setting a fierce tempo in an effort to drop Kittel. The issue with that tactic is that once the opening 20km are over with, they then have to continue that for the rest of the stage and I’m not sure they have the firepower capable of doing so. Furthermore, if Kittel gets dropped then I think we’ll see the majority of the Quick-Step team (bar Brambilla and Martin) fall back to help pace the German back to the peloton.

The opening 2/3rds of the day are quite hard to keep the race under control as well, considering it is up or down a lot of the time. It looks ideal territory for a break to form! Matthews may fancy his chances of sneaking into the move but if that happens he’ll be marked out of it by Quick-Step’s powerhouses and I can’t see it getting away.

So will the pace be so high that it stops the breakaway from forming for a long time, almost guaranteeing a sprint finish? Or will the Sunweb/QS battle end up cancelling itself out and we’ll see a large group go up the road and stay away?

In my opinion, if we get a sprint, Kittel will be there. Does Kittel win? Probably. But on a run-in like this, there is the possibility he could be beaten by a good lead-out from another team. With QS and Sunweb working all day it will leave their squads depleted for the finale, and opens the door for another team to take control.

This leads me onto my two picks* for the stage, both can win from different situations, but they’re both from the same team…

*Only going to mention two riders as I’ve rambled on enough anyway!

A Different Dimension?

Steve Cummings.

Cummings-wins-stage-14-630x420

The British champion found himself in the breakaway on Stage 12 but was swallowed up by the GC favourites as they battled out for stage victory. A rider that picks a few stages per race to target, tomorrow’s rolling stage looks suited to him. Normally an expert at timing his attack, he will no doubt attempt to slip off the front of the break going into the final 20km. Will he be strong enough to hold the rest of them off? Given how easily he rode away from De Gendt on Stage 12, I think he has the power to do it! It’s two years since he won his first Tour stage and having taken a stage last year as well, he’ll be hoping to make it three Tour’s in a row.

Reinardt Janse van Rensburg.

I have been very impressed with the South African champion so far this race, and he seems to have really taken a step up in the lead-outs. Some of the turns he has done for EBH have been incredible. A rider that could go in the break, he has a chance of winning the sprint from that situation. However, I can also envisage him doing a “Pöstlberger” if we get a sprint finish. With the depleted resources of Sunweb and QS after their stressful day, Dimension Data are the team that I think will take control of the sprint. Due to the technical run in, the riders will more than likely be in single file heading into the final roundabout. Now, it is a bit sly, but if RJVR is leading out EBH (so many acronyms!) then the Norwegian could let the wheel go and give the South African a gap, essentially blocking the road behind. In the panic that ensues, van Rensburg will ride away from everyone, winning the day á la Pöstlberger. Alternatively, EBH may even re-pay van Rensburg’s hard work over the past few stages and lead him out. He’s no slouch either, having just lost to Degenkolb in a similar, uphill drag sprint back at the start of the year.

Oh, did I mention it was Mandela Day as well?

Prediction

I’ll go for the poetic win for the South African champion on Mandela Day.

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Betting

Already tweeted out the selections before;

1pt WIN Cummings @ 33/1 with most bookmakers

0.5pt EW van Rensburg @ 250/1 with Coral/Ladbrokes (would take 150s)

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.