Men’s Road Race World Championships Preview – Bergen 2017

After finding success on the rolling course in Richmond back in 2015, Peter Sagan went on defend his title a year later in Doha; winning a reduced bunch sprint.

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Can the Solvakian make it an unprecedented three wins on the trot tomorrow? Let’s take a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Long, at a total of 276.5km! But that is what you would expect for the World Championships.

The riders don’t actually start in Bergen, instead, they’ll start in the town of Rong before heading south along a 40km stretch of exposed road and reaching the finish town. Thankfully or not, depending on what way you look at it, the wind forecast is for it to be very low so we won’t see any echelon action. Much to my disgust!

BergenRR Circuit

 

You can view the interactive version of my profile here.

If you’ve watched any of the action over the past few days then you’ll be familiar with the circuit above.

11 laps will certainly wear down the riders legs, with the total elevation gain for the day being roughly 3500m.

The key focal point for attacks over the past few races has been Salmon Hill and the small climb that comes just before it.

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Taken as a whole it is 3.7km at 4% which doesn’t sound much, but after 200km+ of racing then it certainly can cause some splits. The stronger climbers will be looking to put in their stinging attacks on the steeper ramps; either just before the “top” of the uncategorised climb, or halfway through Salmon Hill. This is where big gaps can be made.

The issue though is that after the summit there are still 10.4km of the course remaining. Any riders that make it away need to work well to ensure that they stay away from the chasers, especially with the final few kilometres being into a head wind.

I’m not going to bore you with any more route analysis though, as we’ve had plenty of that this week already. Instead, I’m going to jump straight into trying to figure this race out and what possible scenario we might see unfold tomorrow afternoon.

How do you stop Sagan?

A question many teams and riders ask themselves throughout the season but it is once again the case here.

Option 1 – Outsprint Him.

With a lot of nations bringing a rider who get involved in a reduced sprint at the end of the day, then there is a chance we might see it held all together to the line. Sagan is obviously fast in these types of situations, especially after a tough days racing. However, he has shown at MSR this year that he is certainly beatable.

Option 2 – Drop Him.

A tough task but some squads will certainly try it. If strong teams such as the Dutch, Belgians and French make constant attacks on Salmon Hill in the closing 80kms, then Sagan might get tired out trying to cover everything. That is of course assuming that he won’t have any team support left to work for him. The pace needs to be high from far out for that to happen though.

Option 3 – Refuse to work, hope your rider gets lucky.

We saw this recently in Quebec where no one wanted to co-operate with Sagan after he attacked in the closing stages. If they did, then there was a good chance they would have caught the group ahead, consequently fighting it for the win. They didn’t though and Sagan just shrugged and moved on. Although this is less likely to happen tomorrow as the Slovak will try to chase everything, it still might just do so. It is a very Sagan thing after all!

Option 4Illness

Bilogical warfare is probably a step too far, but there are rumours flying around on Twitter that he is currently suffering from illness and hasn’t been on the bike in a few days. I’m sure this was the case last year and has been for a few of his other races that he has went on to win. All mind games? We’ll just have to wait and see tomorrow.

Option 4 – Accept defeat.

He can follow almost any rider on the climb and he can match any rider here in a sprint after 200+km. Is there any point in trying?

Of course, and I think we won’t see him take a third title!

Definitely.

Maybe.

Possibly.

Ah who am I kidding, he probably will.

Contenders or Pretenders? The infamous Five

Like with my women’s preview, I’m only going to name a handful of riders here who I think could go well in a variety of situations. So once again apologies if I have not named someone you were hoping for; repeating the names you’ll no doubt have heard of a lot over the week such as Kwiatkowski, Matthews and Gaviria doesn’t appeal to me much!

Alex(bae)ey Lutsenko.

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The first punt I had committed to for this race and it was always going to happen, it was just a matter of time. If you’ve followed the blog over the past year and a half since its inception then you’ll know I have a lot of admiration for the talented Kazakh. He was strong at the start of the year; finishing a very respectable third in Dwars. Yet, it is his recent form at the Vuelta that impressed me most. He was super strong there to get a stage win and a second place finish on two tough breakaway days. The climb tomorrow is probably on his limit if the likes of Dumoulin go crazy in the final lap, but he has the quality to be close and he might infiltrate an earlier move. Will the former U23 champion take the step up?

Petr Vakoc.

My second punt for the race and another rider that was always going to be backed. A brute of a rider, he hasn’t taken as big a step forward in 2016 as I was expecting and hoping for but his performances have been solid. To win he’ll most likely have to go early and hope to be there if the strong climbers attack from behind. Packing a solid sprint from a very reduced group, he might fancy his chances in an 8 rider gallop.

Now that the two “long-term” selections are out of the road, it is time to move on to some other riders who I think could do well. Some are certainly more obscure than others.

Danny Van Poppel.

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Yup, you read that right. The Dutch have been on fire at these Championships so far and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them get a medal again tomorrow. Dumoulin is obviously one of their stronger guys and will be attacking early but if it all comes back for a 40 rider sprint then Van Poppel has a good outside chance. He’s impressed me a lot this season and certainly seems to becoming a more versatile rider. On the short bergs he can follow some of the stronger one-day riders, as was highlighted at BinckBank, but it will be interesting to see how it goes tomorrow. Given the instruction to not waste any energy at all and wait for a sprint, will he get his chance to shine?

Tony Gallopin.

A strong one-day racer, he arrives here in good form after taking two top-10s in Canada which were swiftly followed up by a second place in Wallonie. In terms of career he should be hitting his peak soon and given how strong he looked at San Sebastian in July, I think he’s in for a good couple of years; he just needs some luck. His last two appearances at the World’s have seen him finish 7th in 2015 and 6th in 2014. This course tomorrow in theory suits him very well, and packing a fast sprint he could fancy a small group of favourites battling it out at the line. It will be interesting to see how France approach tomorrow in general, with no “proper sprinter” they will no doubt be attacking throughout the day and making the race tough. Something that will help Gallopin a lot!

Daryl Impey.

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Last man on the list, Impey has had a fairly solid season in support of other riders at Orica. However, when presented with his own chances he has taken them, including a reduced bunch sprint in Catalunya earlier this year. A rider who’s climbing is very hit or miss, he showed some great form in the final week of the Tour, supporting Simon Yates deep into some of the stages. If he has those kind of legs tomorrow then he could be a real dark horse!

Prediction

We’ll see some fairly serious attacks around 50km out as teams try to make the race tough and ensure we don’t see a sprint. This will thin the bunch out going into the final 30km and the penultimate climb of Salmon Hill. Much like the women’s race, a smaller group will get away here but will be brought back due to a lack of cohesion ahead. This will then allow some riders to escape on the run-in before we hear the bell. A lot of the strong teams will be represented and with no impetus from behind, they stay away to the line.

Tony Gallopin to, erm, gallop home and take the win from a 7 rider sprint!

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#SuperGallopinFantastic

Betting

Certainly a day to spread some punts around!

0.25pt EW Lutsenko @ 100/1 (would take 80s)

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

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

0.5pt EW Van Poppel @ 80/1 (would take 66s)

1pt EW Gallopin @ 66/1 (would take 50s)

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Could we see an upset on the cards, or will it be the cream rising to the top? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Grand Prix de Wallonie 2017 Preview

I was going to wait for the World’s to do another preview but after a couple of days of not writing, I’m bored. So here we are again, with a nice race on a Wednesday in Belgium. A time and place where the stars seem to align for me…

Last year’s edition of GP Wallonie saw a reasonably sized group of 35 riders come to the foot of the final climb together. Gallopin launched his attack at 1.1km to go and with a bit of looking around behind, he built up a gap that was too much to close down. Not that Vakoc didn’t try, as the Czech rider surged up from behind and almost stole the win on the line. Jerome Baugnies of Wanty followed home in third place.

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The timing of Gallopin’s attack was important but oddly enough, it was the exact same spot where his team-mate (Debuscherre) went on the offensive and won the race the previous year. Will we see the Lotto 1.1km to go attack this year?

First, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Although ever so slightly different to last year’s route, it follows pretty much the same pattern with the normal climbs at the end of the race.

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The road rolls for most of the day, but it is the final 50km that things will get interesting. We have a lot of up and down before the Côte d’Ermeton. The 8kms of rolling roads before the descent to the foot of the climb average 2%. Not leg-breaking, especially compared to the recent Vuelta, but it is certainly leg-sapping!

The Ermeton itself is only a short climb; at 1.6km in length.

Ermeton

The 4.5% average is enough to see some attacks, but like a lot of the climbs around here, they are suited to the power climbers, not mountain goats.

The riders will then face almost 15kms until the bottom of the next categorised climb; Côte de Lustin.

Lustin

Longer and tougher than the Ermeton, it is much more suited to a thinning out of the peloton. Expect to see some of the stronger riders come to the fore here. They might not attack themselves, but I’m sure some team-mates will. An aggressive team can make the end of this hard!

With only 6kms or so from the top to the next climb, the riders won’t have much time to recover if they went deep with their previous effort.

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Tienne aux Pierres is the penultimate climb of the day and it is one of the toughest the peloton will face. At 3.2km long and averaging 5.2% it will be attacked at a fast pace and is a great platform for some riders to launch a late move.

Riders will be dropped here, but it all then depends on who is up front as to how the race unfolds from there as there is an opportunity for a regrouping on the run in to Namur.

The riders will then climb in the closing 3kms up the snaking road to the Citadelle de Namur.

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As you can see, it isn’t a crazily tough finish, with the final kilometre almost being false flat. Therefore, if you’re a better climber than some others in the group, you have to attack early. Some of the steepest ramps come at just over 1km to go; no wonder that is why Lotto Soudal have launched their attacks at that exact moment over the past two years. Both moves have been winning moves. Will someone be savvy to it this time?

Weather Watch

The race is normally a fairly attritional one, with the stronger guys coming to the fore over the closing 50km.

This could be exacerbated more than normal tomorrow due to the forecasted bad* weather…

*Depends who you ask.

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Source: Windfinder.

The above image is the forecast for just south of Dinant, i.e. roughly 2/3rds into the race.

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The section as they head towards Dinant will be a headwind, with a little cross-head thrown in. However, there are plenty of other areas out on course where the riders will be cycling into a pure crosswind. For example, just before they come to the feed zone in Havelange you have roads such as these…

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Interesting!

Or on the road north as we head towards the Côte d’Ermeton…

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Some climbing and crosswinds you say? Very interesting!

Throw in too, the potential for some showers and we have a manic day on the bike on our hands. It might not be Le Samyn crazy, but it could be pretty close.

How will the race pan out?

Normally the race can be a relatively controlled affair, where some of the stronger teams look to reduce the peloton slowly; leaving roughly 30-40 riders somewhat in contention going into Namur itself. Other times, we see some strong attackers get away on the preceding climbs s a break and fight out the finish themselves.

However, I think the history book will be thrown out of the proverbial window tomorrow.

The conditions will cause some carnage out on the roads and we’ll have a lot of guys DNF after being distanced. In the sections where the wind comes from the side, the riders won’t have to really force to make echelons, they’ll almost happen naturally.

I imagine that the 6 World Tour teams will be well aware of that so they’ll want to be at the front. In theory they should be stronger, but a lot of the PCT and CT teams here are no mugs at cycling in bad, windy conditions.

Consequently, the nervousness in the bunch will make the echelons even more likely (not that they need to be made any more likely!)

This then leads to the next question; will a team have enough riders up the road to control things? Possibly, but the best form of defence is attack . Or so they say.

Therefore I think we’ll see a select group drive clear at some point. As to when that may be? Who knows! The peloton could be completely decimated by the wind and the lead group will form that way, or it may be done on the climbs. We could even see some escape in between the climbs!

Candidates

In a slight change to normal, I won’t go through everyone because in a race that could be all over the road; no one will be able to tell you with confidence how it will pan out.

So this list will be more of a “who to keep an eye on” kind of thing!

The Lotto Soudal triple threat of Wellens/Benoot/Gallopin. It will be interesting to see how they go tomorrow given that they have all been over in Canada racing recently; so jet lag might be a factor. Nonetheless, on paper they are arguably the strongest riders here and they will hope to use that to their advantage. Expect them to be attacking throughout the day! If it does turn wet, then Wellens will have a field day!

Montreal Grand Prix, 2015

Bakelants is another rider who’s been enjoying himself in Canada lately but this is a race where he always goes well. His record here is rather remarkable actually, having won it in 2013 and finishing in 11/2/3/5 in the other 4 years. Not bad! He doesn’t seem like the best rider in crosswinds though and that might come back to haunt him.

Gerts may not be the first name that stands out to you from the BMC line-up but “the Florist” has been building some nice form in Britain over the past week. This is the type of one day race that should suit the youngster and it might finally be the time for him to step up into a leadership role. Could his solid sprint and attacking nature see him take a great win?

Gaviria might have something to say about that. The Colombian returned to racing in Britain after a spell off the bike. He’s hit the ground running since then, picking up a stage win and a string of good placings. A deceptively good rider in tough conditions, he could be the strongest on Quick Step if the likes of Vakoc and Brambilla are suffering from jet lag.

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Van der Hoorn.

 

We’re now getting to the stage of the preview where I’m plucking slightly more obscure names out of the hat and guys that you might not have heard of yet. If you haven’t heard of the best named rider in the peloton, Taco, then you will over the next few years. The young Dutchman recently took the win at a brutally tough Schaal Seis to go with a lot of solid results in various other one day races. Can he take advantage of this purple patch?!

Peyskens.

The WB Veranclassic rider has been a consistent performer in one-day races this season, picking up several top 10s. A good climber on his day, he should be able to cope with the lumps towards the end of the race. His team always seem to go well in the tough races (Kirsch’s second at Le Samyn is an example of that) and tomorrow should be no different!

Backaert.

An eternal breakaway candidate at the Tour this year, the Wanty rider seems to have continued off from where he left of there, attacking in a lot of his subsequent races. He’s picked up a few decent results but nothing overly impressive. However, it is his early season results in Le Samyn and Omloop that have got me thinking for tomorrow. He seems to go well in tough conditions and he might just be able to slip away if some of the bigger names mark each other.

Prediction

I think tomorrow is going to be an incredible day’s viewing.

We’ll have very tough conditions that will wear down the riders but then team tactics will also play a massive part in the outcome of the race. I’ll go for someone in form and a non-WT rider to upset the apple cart again.

That man is the rider with the best first name in the peloton; Taco van der Hoorn.

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His form is great at the moment and he should be close to the front in the splits. Being more of an “unknown” will work to his advantage as the WT teams mark each other out of it. Can we get another GVK-style prediction right on what looks set to be a very similar day?!

Unfortunately, there seems to be nowhere pricing up the race, in the UK anyway. I know Kirolbet are offering odds and I assume a few Belgian bookmakers will be too. We might get something here after this! 😉

Thanks for reading as always! Cycling isn’t about the big races 100% of the time so it was nice to preview a smaller event – they often tend to be the most exciting! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 17 Preview; Tirano -> Canazei

Today’s Recap

Well, that didn’t disappoint!

The stage had everything, although for a while it did look as if it was turning into a damp squib. That was until chaos ensued when Dumoulin had some bowel pressure just before the start of the final climb.

Should the peloton have waited?

In my opinion, I would say no but I think that for most situations during a race.

There needs to be a larger consensus amongst the peloton about what to do in these types of situations. For one, I would in fact not be bothered if they stopped, but they would have to stop every time something like this happened to a rider. There would need to be consistency as unwritten, morally based rules don’t provide any clear guidance at all.

Just to play devil’s advocate here as well; why do people have a different view towards the GC leader, compared to lets say the Sprint leader if they are held up before the end of a stage? Both leading a classification, both with a chance of retaining the jersey but one is viewed as poor sportsmanship while the other is just racing…

While I’m being controversial, the peloton didn’t really push on much at the start of the climb, it looked as if they were just riding tempo. Quintana even radioed to the team car and it looked as if he was struggling to figure out what to do. It was then Zakarin’s attack that forced the other GC riders to close and Bahrain started riding more aggressively on the front.

But ya know, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion as to what happened and how it should have been dealt with. I’m sure some of you will agree with me, some of you will disagree and that’s OK, debate is good!


Back to the stage, and week-three Nibali reared his head to drive the group on near the top of the Umbrailpass, before dropping them all on the descent and in the meantime catching Landa. Those two forged on, with the Shark outsmarting/out-sprinting the Sky rider to the line.

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Quintana came home not long after in third place.

Dumoulin still keeps the leader’s jersey though and he will be looking to recover (that is if he is actually ill and it was not a freak occurrence) during tomorrow’s stage. Let’s have a look at what is in store for them.

The Route

Another long stage with a lot of climbing coming in the first half of the day.

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We have a double header of Cat-2 climbs with the Aprica (12.3km at 6.3%) and the Passo del Tonale (11km at 5.7%), in the first 60km of the stage. Whoever makes the morning move will certainly have to be a solid climber!

From there, the stage is up and down for the rest of the day but nothing too severe. The stage profile makes it look tougher than it actually is and the last 70km averages just over 1% in gradient. After today’s stage though, that will/could certainly feel like more!

As for the run in to Canazei itself, the road snakes its way through the valley towards the finish line.

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Rising ever so slightly through the Flamme Rouge before descending to the finish line. Well, when I say descending, it’s -0.8% for 750m so pretty much flat!

How will the stage pan out?

After today’s monster of a stage you would expect it to be a breakaway day and that is the most likely outcome. There will be a lot of tired legs in the peloton and I’m sure a lot of riders will be happy to see a large group of 15 guys go up the road and for that to be that.

However, I do wonder if some of the sprinters who are left might fancy their chances. As I mentioned above, the profile makes the stage look deceptively hard, but I definitely think someone like Gaviria could manage the end of the day. If not him, Stuyven certainly would have a chance in this type of company. Even Modolo, can climb well enough to make the end of the day.

It is just a question of whether their respective teams want to put the resources into a chase or instead play the famous…

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Breakaway Candidates

Of course, we might even see some of those sprinters try to make the morning move but it will be tough considering the start of the stage we have. Like usual, I’ll throw a couple of names into the hat.

I’ve been waiting for this day for a while, and those of you who have been reading this blog since last year will no exactly where I’m going with this…

Daniel Teklehaimanot.

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Yup, it’s Eritrean Independence Day! After my ill-fated backing of Kudus last year, this Giro I’m turning my attention to the affectionately known “Tickler”. I’m deciding to ignore his team-mate and fellow countryman Berhane because he was in the break today. Teklehaimanot is an all round solid bike rider, who is good on the climbs but also on the flat. He isn’t known for his fast kick, but he did look strong earlier in the rest sprinting for mountain points. It will take some Steve Cummings cunning to win tomorrow, but he has a good a chance as anyone else!

Cesare Benedetti.

The first KOM leader of the race is from the region of Trentino, hailing from the town of Rovereto. Although the stage doesn’t go through his home town, I imagine the Italian will have plenty of local support and I would not be surprised to see his friends and family out on the roadside cheering him on. He’s been relatively anonymous recently so I think he might have been saving himself, with one eye on this stage. Another all-rounder, he’ll need a bit of luck to win but you can’t count him out!

Prediction

It really is a tough stage to call, and it all depends on who makes the break/doesn’t. As I’ve mentioned above, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few of the faster riders to make the move, such as a Stuyven or Gaviria.

However, being flamboyant and all of that, I’ll go for the Tickler to take a memorable stage win on a national holiday for his country! He’ll attack solo in the final 10km à la Cummings, and while everyone bickers behind as to who should start chasing, he builds up an insurmountable gap.

Here’s some music for you to listen to tonight… 😉

Betting

Small stakes plays again to have an interest in the day;

All with Bet365

0.5pt WIN Teklehaimanot @ 100/1

0.5pt WIN Benedetti @ 200/1

1pt WIN Gaviria @ 40/1

Thanks as always for reading, any feedback is greatly appreciated as normal. Who do you think will win? Will we see a break make it all the way to the line or will the sprinters spring a surprise? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 13 Preview; Reggio Emilia -> Tortona

Today’s Recap

Gaviria won his third stage and made it look remarkably easy!

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However, he owes Richeze several beers. The Argentinian lead-out man was simply sublime and dropped Gaviria off with 75m to go, even managing to finish 5th himself!

Mareczko followed Gaviria’s slipstream to finish second, with Bennett coming home third.

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

The Route

Another pan-flat stage that you can tune into for the last 20km.

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I was hoping to look at the forecast for some wind to liven up the day but alas, there is nothing of note! There is a good chance of rain/thunderstorms though which could make the run in interesting…

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As for the finish itself it is fairly technical with a few roundabouts in the closing 5kms or so. There is a relatively sharp turn at 450m to go which is actually around another roundabout. Similarly to what we have witnessed on some previous stages, the road narrows from two-wide lanes into one just before the roundabout.

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Due to how narrow it is, the sprint trains will be desperate to lead into the turn. If you come out of it with two lead-out guys in front of your sprinter, with the lead rider pealing off just after the turn, it will be very hard for anyone to come around your sprinter!

This consequently could make the end of the stage dangerous if there is a big race to that final turn, we might see a few crashes as the road narrows. Especially with it being the last sprint stage, I’m sure there will be some riders willing to take more risks. Hopefully that’s not the case though!

Contenders

A definite sprint stage but can anyone beat today’s winner?

Gaviria – He’s been exceptional so far this Giro and with Richeze as his last man, tomorrow looks like another day that they can jump in the last 500m and win. If they repeat today’s performance he is the man to beat!

How can the others beat him though?

I think it is possible to out-gun the Quick Step on the run in to the finish tomorrow, but the teams will need to get their timing perfectly. We say today that Bora took up the pace just a bit too early, with Selig tiring at just the wrong time for Bennett. If a team takes it up fully after the roundabout before the 2km sign, then it will be hard for others to come round them.

Who can do this?

Well Bennett‘s Bora team look the best equipped to do that. They were fantastic today but as I’ve mentioned, just ran out of steam too early. From what I’ve witnessed the past few sprint stages, they have the best traditional lead-out. But as a relatively new outfit and with some young guys, then they’re still learning and lacking experience. Their DS will be crucial in telling them when to go full gas tomorrow. Bennett has the speed to challenge if in the right place and he could nab his first Grand Tour win tomorrow.

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Orica are the other team with the fire power to control the front of the race. Ewan was lightning at the start of the Giro but didn’t get a stage win, however, he got that monkey off his back on Stage 7. He went missing today but according to their press release, he hit another rider and his brake pad bent, meaning it was impossible to sprint. The Aussie loves a technical finish and he won’t be afraid to take any risks in the closing kilometres. He just needs to get the rub of the green again!

I was disappointed with Greipel today and his Lotto train seemed poor as well, maybe he’ll allow Hofland to sprint tomorrow?

Modolo at least showed in the top 10 again after recovering from allergies in the first week. UAE have a solid lead-out but they’ve failed to deliver anyone properly this Giro, can they get it right this time around?

As for Mareczko, he’ll need to follow the fastest rider again and hope that’s good enough for another podium.

Prediction

Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?

Orica have the best lead-out for this type of finish and after being massively disappointed today Ewan will bounce back and take the win tomorrow. He is incredibly fast and if gets the chance to showcase his form that he had at the start of the race, then he will no doubt be up there.

You better run, you better take cover.

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Betting

2pts WIN Ewan @ 9/2 with Bet365

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will tomorrow? Will Gaviria make it 4, or will someone else triumph? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 12 Preview; Forlì -> Reggio Emilia

Today’s Recap

An exciting stage that saw a very fast start to the day!

However, things did eventually calm down and a large breakaway group established itself. We did have two attackers ahead of them though, in the form of Landa and Fraile, but they were eventually brought to heel on the lower slopes of the last climb.

A lot of to-ing and fro-ing then occurred towards the top of the summit, on the descent and the run to the line but we were treated to a reduced sprint from the breakaway riders.

After being in front for most of the day taking KOM points, Fraile still had enough left in the tank for a very impressive sprint, beating Costa and Rolland into the lower podium placings.

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Behind, there were a few probing GC attacks but nothing too serious. Although Thomas and Kruijswijk did lose almost 50 seconds to the rest of the contenders.

It was slightly disappointing not to see more GC action, especially after the crazy start to the stage, nonetheless, it was a good day’s worth of racing. Will we see a good day of racing tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Longest stage of the race and another “transitional” day.

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A fairly innocuous stage with two categorised climbs that come too far out from the finish to be of any danger GC wise. 110km of shallow descending/flat from the final peak do offer a chance for the sprint teams to get organised and chase down the breakaway.

The run in is pan-flat and not overly technical.

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There are a few sweeping turns in the closing 2kms but nothing too serious as the road is quite wide. Unless of course the organisers decide to put some barriers in place!

How will the stage pan out?

You would expect it to be a sprint. There are still a reasonable amount of teams left with fast-men and with most probably leaving the race after Stage 13, they’ll want to make the most of the opportunities they have left.

The good news for sprinters is the distance from the last climb to the line, there is plenty of opportunity for their team-mates to close the gap. It all depends on how many riders and what teams, make the breakaway.

This is the Giro after all and when you consider how tough today was, a few riders might want an extra rest day tomorrow. It would be useful to know how the sprinters and their teams have recovered but I guess we’ll not find out until we start the stage!

So on a day where it should be a sprint, there is an ever so slight chance that we get a breakaway but even then it’s only a 10% (at most) chance I would say.

Sprinters

Looks to be a 4-horse race.

Gaviria – Already has two stage wins to his name and was electric when nearly beating Ewan to the line on Stage 7. The flatter finish isn’t ideal for him but he will be full of confidence. In Richeze he has a great lead-out rider who will deliver him perfectly. Will it be enough to take a third win?

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Ewan – Finally got his stage win but the young Aussie was one of the last riders to finish today, struggling on the tough climbs. He is the rider I fear today may have taken the most out of and with a long stage tomorrow, his sprint might just be lacking at the end of it.

Greipel – Almost a definite for leaving in a few days time the German will be hoping to go home with more than the one win he has so far. His lead-out hasn’t clicked yet on the technical finishes, but with tomorrow’s stage being more straight-forward they can possibly get it right?!

Bennett – The nearly man so far, with two podium places to his name. After being placed under the Haughey curse (and being ill) he has seemed to re-find his sprinting legs and is now on the mend. Grand Tours aren’t exactly the best way to recover but I’m sure all of his competitors will be too. With a strong lead-out, he has another good shot at a podium.

Aside from those 4 it will be tough for others to win but I’m sure Stuyven, Modolo (if he sprints) and Sbaragli will all be up there vying for a possible podium or better.

Maybe even Mareczko can repay his team-mates after being dragged over the final climbs!

Prediction

A dull day that is all about the last 5km and I’ll go for the most experienced sprinter to take the win after conserving energy today. Greipel to seal victory!

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Unless of course the sprinters and their teams can’t be arsed and we get a breakaway stay away.

Betting

No bet.

Tempted to throw a few pennies on some 1000/1 escapees on the exchanges later but that’s that.

Thanks again for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Sorry that this preview is shorter than normal, there’s just nothing extra to say, a pretty dull stage. The same can be said for the following day as well! Maybe we can get a large breakaway that gets a lot of time to make it an exciting watch?! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 7 Preview; Castrovillari -> Alberobello

Today’s Recap

The break did make it all the way today with Dillier taking a fantastic uphill sprint win ahead of Stuyven, with the latter looking like he was closing but just run out of steam in the end.

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Former Maglia Rosa wearer Pöstlberger came home third after being distanced right before the finish.

I was surprised to see such a small break and with so few teams represented when I tuned into the coverage. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see how it formed properly, we only got glimpses at the end of the day. It looked like a larger group had some kind of gap but wasn’t co-operating, so they were brought back. The highlights at the end then jumped to the 5 we had so I’m not really sure what can be deduced from that!

Either way, Cannondale couldn’t fight their way out of a paper bag so to speak on flat terrain. A few more rouleurs were needed on that team today as I’m sure Woods will be lamenting the fact they could barely make a dent in the gap. However, it is harsh to put all the blame on them because with that finish, a few of the GC guys could have been up there and nabbed some bonus seconds. Maybe Orica could have helped out the chase to get Yates up there for example?

It seems to be a recurring theme this Giro so far where we have a “too many chefs” type situation with all the GC leaders. Several team-mates are being asked to protect them and not enough are being given any leeway to go for stage wins. Yet, the GC guys themselves don’t seem bothered about stage wins, being more concerned with saving energy for later in the race. Unfortunately, a situation like this might keep occurring this week until after the finish in Blockhaus when there should be some more gaps between the big contenders. Unless of course we get a headwind on that climb as well!

Anyway, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders on tomorrow’s very uninspiring stage.

The Route

Another 200+km stage for the riders and the second longest of the race at 224km in total. Looking at the parcours though, it is definitely a classical “transition stage”.

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Starting on a descent, the riders then have over 100km of flat roads to contend with before we get our only “major” climb of the day; a 15.4km long drag at 2.6% (if you take it as a whole).

After that, there’s not too much to write home about until the end which gets a bit iffy.

T07_Alberobello_ukmThe road is “rolling” for the last few kilometres and it will be interesting to see how the teams approach it.

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We have roughly 800m at 4% followed by false flat and another short kick up. Once over that second little kick up the riders will have to tackle quite a sharp right-hand turn before descending down towards the 2km to go banner.

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Said sharp turn which is actually a tight roundabout

It is important to note that when they get to 2km left, the road narrows and rises at 2.8% for 500m.

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As you can see, the road narrows from 2 lanes into what I would call 1 and a bit! Positioning will be important here as the race will get even more strung out than it already is.

Once we reach around 1.7km to go there is an unmarked (well on the stage profiles anyway) chicane/kink in the road.

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The riders at the front of the bunch should be able to take it without slowing down, but those behind might get caught out if they try to come up the inside.

From there we have a sweeping right hand turn at roughly 1.5km left before the peloton descends ever so slightly through the Flamme Rouge and towards the last right-hand turn through a roundabout with about 600m to go.

The final 500m rises ever so gradually at roughly 1-2% so the riders will need to time their effort a little more meticulously as they won’t want to open up their sprint early and run out of steam.

Will we get a sprint though…

How will the stage pan out?

It really should be a day for the sprinters.

With no real obstacles to speak of out on course the sprint teams in theory should be able to control the break on the flat roads, bringing it back before it all kicks off in the last 10km.

However, a few of the sprinters might look at this finish and not fancy their chances. It’s technical, dangerous and pretty tough! The road is up and down, with some narrow roads and tight bends.

Quick Step and more importantly, Gaviria, seem to be better than anyone else at the moment and this finish suits the Colombian perfectly. Will other teams be willing to work to help the chase if it gives Gaviria another chance at the win.

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A fully fit Modolo or Nizzolo would love this type of finish as well but they’ve been off the boil so far this race. Although the former did hold on reasonably well today.

I’m not sold on Ewan and Greipel for this run-in either, with both of them disappointing on a simpler finish on Stage 5.

Therefore, it will be very interesting to see what teams want to get in the break at the start of the day. If one or two of the sprinters teams send a rider up the road, then I think it will be hard for Quick Step to chase back with very little help. They’ll just turn their attention to protecting the leader’s jersey.

So contrary to what it originally looks like, I think the break might have a reasonable chance at survival but that is only if it there are 8 or so riders up the road and after the past few days, that is a big IF.

Furthermore, the twisting and turning nature of the finale could also lend its hand to a late attacker. Someone like Luis Leon Sanchez might attack off the front on the 800m rise and not be seen again on the narrow roads.

Break Candidates

This is even more like a shot in the dark than normal because almost any rider could make the move and the peloton might (probably will) think differently to how I currently am!

I’m sure Willier won’t be missing the move tomorrow so I expect one of their riders to be up there. Maybe Busato will give it a go or Zhupa will get up the road to continue his challenge in the Fuga Pinarello prize?

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Luis Leon Sanchez himself could try to get in the break, or maybe youngster Albanese will be up there for Bardiani?

Prediction

Should be a sprint and if so, then Gaviria will win. He has the best lead-out and is the fastest rider on this type of finish. Simple!

But it’s the Giro and things don’t always go to plan so there is a chance we could see a late attack go or the break might even stick.

Betting

Absolutely no value in the sprinters, few break picks/late attackers for fun. Early prices aren’t great and I imagine you’ll be able to pick up several 1000/1 riders later on today on the exchanges, which I shall be doing, but for the sake of the blog;

0.25pts WIN on the following (all with Bet365)

LL Sanchez @ 300/1

Zhupa @ 300/1

Albanese @ 500/1

de Buyst @ 500/1

Update;

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

Those were My Two Spokes worth.

 

 

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 5 Preview; Pedara -> Messina

Today’s Recap

We did end up with a break winner and it was the only rider left standing from the original move, Jan Polanc, who took a wonderful win, holding off the GC favourites.

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Behind, Zakarin attacked and gained back some of the time he lost the other day coming home solo in second place, with Thomas winning the GC bunch sprint for 3rd.

That result leaves Jungels in pink with a whole host of other overall contenders not too far behind. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

The riders head south from Pedara before heading north and skirting past Etna, eventually heading along the coast towards Messina.

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The first half of the stage is what I would call “rolling”, with a lot of uncategorised climbs out on the route but nothing too severe. In fact, we only have one Cat-4 climb to reward the breakaway with KOM points.

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There is roughly 2500m of elevation gain throughout the stage and most of that comes in the first 100km; deceptively tough! However, the rest of the stage is almost pan-flat for the remaining 60km as the road hugs the Sicilian coast line so the sprint teams will hope to use that to pull back any break.

When we enter Messina itself, the riders will face a local circuit that they’ll complete 1 full lap of, but join the circuit with roughly 2/3rds left for a first “lap”.

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As you can see it is a fairly technical finish with a few 90-degree turns littered throughout the circuit. However, the only real challenge towards the end is the roundabout they have to do a 180º turn on at roughly 1.7km to go.

It *should* be a fairly straightforward sprint for the peloton…

How will the stage pan out?

With the rolling parcours in the first half of the race some of the sprinters teams might not be too keen to control the stage from the off and instead chance it until they get to the flat coastal section.

Jungels being in the Maglia Rosa has really thrown a spanner into the works regarding my thinking for this stage though. If let’s say for example Thomas was in Pink, Sky don’t have a designated sprinter so as long as there is no GC threat then they would be happy to let the break go. Quick Step obviously do have a sprinter in the form of Gaviria so they’ll be more likely to pull hard over the opening part of the stage to keep the break in check.

Once onto the flat section we might get representatives from the other sprint teams, namely Lotto and Orica, coming to help with the pace making and bring it all back.

I mean it should be a sprint after all of that, and if you were to only look at the profile then it would seem nailed on. Yet, at the Giro nothing ever seems to be nailed on 100%.

We often see expected sprint days turn into breakaway wins at the Giro as teams don’t co-operate 100% behind to bring the race back and tomorrow does have that sort of feel about it. With a lot of climbing today, some of the riders might be wanting an easier day in the saddle tomorrow.

One other thing that has to be taken into consideration is the…

Weather

It looks set to be another sunny day in Sardinia but that’s not what interests me! Sounding very much like a broken record here, it is the wind and its direction that I care for most.

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Source: Windfinder (Ali Terme)

The above image is for Ali Terme which is roughly 45km from the finish line. As you can see, there is a reasonably moderate wind coming from the South/South-SouthEast which looks to be fairly consistent throughout the afternoon. Consequently, the riders will have a cross-tail wind for the majority of the flat run in to the line. Admittedly, it’s not as strong as the wind we had towards the end of stage 3 but it can still cause some damage.

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Just North of Ali Terme

The road to Messina from Ali Terme looks like this for the majority of the way. Sea to the right, or cliffs to the left. There is no real room to hide from the wind at all, especially on the relatively narrow roads.

I think we could see some splits on the run in tomorrow and unfortunately they might be caused by crashes due to the nervous and fast racing.

With that in mind, the break should be brought back but then it is just a case of whether or not we do get the splits and if we do; who makes them.

Sprint Contenders

If it is a full bunch sprint, going off of form it looks to be a battle between Greipel / Ewan / Gaviria.

Greipel made the front echelon on Stage 3 before an unfortunate collision took him out of contention. He seems in great form and will want to make amends tomorrow.

Gaviria obviously won that stage and you would expect him to be challenging again, especially when you consider how strong Quick Step are in crosswinds. Nonetheless, he is still young and if he is not being shepherded at all times, I fear he may miss out if there is a split due to that inexperience. QS may then look to Richeze as a possible option.

Ewan will be bitterly disappointed coming away from Sicily empty-handed. He was dominant in the sprint for second on stage 1 and who knows how we would have fared on stage 2 had he not had the mechanical. He made the second group on stage 3 and will hope to make any splits this time. However, like Gaviria I think his inexperience might get the better of him.

Away from those three, Nizzolo looks the best sprinter on a flat day and he rode well for 3rd place on stage 3. He seems to be growing into this race.

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After talking him up pre-race, Modolo has disappointed so far but I would expect him to go better tomorrow. Or I at least hope so, he needs to do something!

 

Outsiders?

If it does get crazy then we could have a few groups on the road before we do get into Messina but the likelihood is we get some kind of sprint, unless it gets ridiculous which even I can’t see it being.

Look to second sprint options from teams, such as Hofland and Mezgec for example.

One rider I am interested in is Filippo Pozzato. The Italian veteran has been very quiet this race so far, saving energy with targeted stages in mind. Now, I’m not saying that tomorrow will be one of those targeted days, it is more a case that his young compatriot Mareczko has been pretty disappointing so far this race and I can’t see him turning that around tomorrow. If we do get some splits tomorrow, Pozzato may well be given the chance to go for the sprint. He’s not a spring chicken anymore, but he’s still no slouch and could be up there if he’s lucky!

Prediction

We’ll get a sprint of some description at the end of the day and Greipel will make amends for what happened on stage 3, making his experience count and taking his second stage of the race!

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Watch out for a wily Italian though if things get choppy out there!

Betting

2.5pts WIN Greipel @ 5/2 with various

0.25pt EW Pozzato @ 300/1 with PP/BF (would take 250/1 elsewhere)

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Olbia -> Tortolì

Today’ Recap

I love the Giro!

A stage that should have ended with a sprint winner, Lukas Pöstlberger decided that wouldn’t be the case and attacked from the head of the peloton in a chaotic finale. With the bunch hesitating he seized his opportunity and didn’t look back until 100m to go where he sat up to salute the crowd.

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Behind Ewan was very fast and took second comfortably, beating Greipel into third. Modolo blew his load too quickly and was the first sprinter to jump when they were all looking at each other, eventually fading to 5th. Nonetheless, it means a small profit on the day which after that stage result, I’ll happily take!

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

The Route

A much hillier affair than today’s opening stage, the riders head down the east side of the island to the finish town of Tortolì. At 221km in length, it’s not exactly a short stage either!

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There’s a lot of rolling, uncategorised climbing in the opening half of the day so the breakaway in theory should be relatively strong but we have seen it in the past where teams are quite happy to sit up early and just let the first move go.

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There’s a chance we will see a new leader in the KOM jersey after the stage and that will most likely go to whoever crests the final climb of the day first.

Speaking of which there is no official profile of the climb itself so as is tradition, I have made a Strava profile of the final 75km.

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You can view it here.

Going off of the official profile, the Cat 2 climb averages 3.63% for a very long 26.6km! However, as you can see it does go up in steps and there are some steeper sections involved in the climb; with 2km at 6.7% and 1km at 8.1% for example.

Nonetheless, the official route profile for the stage as a whole seems to be pretty bang on, which is surprising for the Giro!

The descent is a lot grippier than some of the riders would have hoped for, with a few pitches back uphill before they get down to sea-level with only 10km remaining.

From there it will be a flat-out run to the line and a battle between any escapees and those pulling for a sprint behind.

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The finish itself is very simple and should see a drag race to the line over the last 2km.

Who will be there to contest it though? Which leads us nicely onto…

How will the stage pan out?

I’m intrigued to see how some of the teams approach the last climb; gradient wise it’s not tough, but it is very long and grippy.

This could obviously put some of the sprinters into trouble if some puncheurs get their teams to set a fast pace which I can see happen. Yet, I can almost equally see the break kept on a tight leash by the sprinters teams from early in the stage so that they don’t have to go too deep on the climb to control it.

Ultimately though, I think we’ll see some sort of middle ground, where a few of the fast guys will be dropped but there will be those that make it over. It’s just trying to figure out who makes it that’s the tricky part!

Will the weather have any influence in that?

In short, no.

It looks set to be another glorious day and although the wind is blowing strongly from the West, most of the route is protected from it. But, I’ll live in hope once again!

Sprinters

I think the day will be too tough for someone like Greipel, you can never count him out but I just can’t see him making it. Likewise with Ewan, I’m on the fence. He looks great just now and is a small guy so that will benefit him, but I’m unsure if he has the climbing pedigree to contend.

I don’t really know why I think that those two might not make it but the following guys will?! Anyway…

One sprinter that you would expect to make it over the climb is Gaviria.

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He’s an exceptionally talented rider and although he is a bit unknown on a long steady climb like this then I think he has the talent to make it with the front group. Will it take too much out of him for the sprint in the end? Possibly, but after being bitterly disappointed with today’s result he’ll want to make amends.

Modolo – Looking back to last year’s Giro and more specifically stage 11 to Asolo; Modolo was one of two “sprinters” who are at this Giro to make the finish with the GC favourites that day. That was a tough stage with a very steep climb coming near the end of the race, but will the Italian be able to cope with the longer drag tomorrow? We’ll just have to wait and see but I think he’ll be up there again.

Nizzolo – The other rider who featured on that stage last year, I was surprised with his 4th place finish today. He is a rider I rate highly and I’m looking forward to seeing him back in full flight later in the year but I fear this stage could be too tough, too early! Nonetheless, he is certainly a danger. If he doesn’t make it, Trek might turn to Stuyven who won a similar stage at the Vuelta in 2015.

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Bennett – After their incredible first day, Bora will more than likely turn to the Irishman tomorrow. Pelucchi got dropped on the little bump today so has no chance tomorrow. Of course, there is a chance they will defend the jersey but in his post race interview Bennett said he was hopeful of a sprint tomorrow and getting his own opportunity. He’s under-rated as a climbing sprinter in my opinion. One thing that is prominent in my mind while writing this is that he won the intermediate sprint point after the Cat-1 Col de l’Espigoulier on Stage 6 of this year’s Paris Nice. What was most impressive about it all, was the peloton was climbing from the gun and that was the first summit of the race, plenty of other sprinters were dropped but Bennett made it over. With confidence flowing through the team just now, he’s one to watch tomorrow.

Sbaragli, Montaguti and co will all be fighting for another top 10 placing. I am intrigued to see if Dimension Data try to pace the climb because they’ll be confident in Sbaragli’s climbing ability.

Late Attack?

It is possible that we see a late attack make it but the pan-flat final 10km aren’t great news for any would be escapees.

Nonetheless, I’m sure there will be some who will give it a go. Look to Sanchez, Campenaerts and Pozzato for example!

After all that though, I think it will come down to a reasonably large sprint of maybe 80-100 riders.

Prediction

Bora to continue their race and Bennett to take the win.

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He’ll make it over the climb no bother and power home to victory, with the Maglia Rosa on lead-out duties! The best way to defend the jersey is to win again 😉.

Betting

1pt EW Bennett @ 18/1 with Bet365 (would take down to 12/1)

That’s all for now but if I see anything I like later, H2H wise, then I’ll put them up on my Twitter.

Thanks again for reading and as always any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be a “sprinter” as such, or will some of the puncheurs make the pace hard? Should be an interesting closing 60km either way! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Alghero -> Olbia

The first day of racing is upon as and a stage that should end in a sprint but could throw up a surprise or two! Who will get to wear the famous Maglia Rosa at the end of the day? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

A long day to start of the Giro, the riders travel 206km from Alghero to Olbia along the Sardinian coast-line.

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The route is fairly flat, by Giro standards at least, with a few rolling hills and some Cat-4 climbs so that the organisers can award the KOM jersey at the end of the stage.

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The stage is all about the final 25km and the climb of San Pantaleo that crests with just under 21km to go.

At 3.2km long and averaging 5.6%, it is certainly tough enough to put some of the poor climbing sprinters in difficulty.

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The gradients of the climb itself are fairly irregular and it does have a 500m metre section at 9.6%, with a maximum pitch of 12%.

It is a possible attack point for some of the bolder riders in the peloton but I don’t think they’ll get that far. Unless of course the chase is left solely to UAE (formerly Lampre), who couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery at times!

Nonetheless, I do think we’ll get a bunch sprint into Olbia with only maybe a couple of riders dropped (I’m looking at you Pelucchi).

The run in itself altimetry wise is easy after the climb but the actual route layout is a lot more difficult and technical.

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With several sweeping bends and 90-degree turns in the final 4km the finish will certainly reward those with a strong lead-out but also those who are willing to take some risks.

On paper the final kilometre doesn’t look too bad, but the riders do have to traverse a roundabout. Thankfully they should be funnelled into the middle lane so there will be no last-minute choice as to how to take the roundabout which could cause some issues/crashes.

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However, the road obviously does narrow quite drastically from the three-lane wide road to just the one which in itself may cause some problems. Positioning will be important!

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The roundabout itself might cause some difficulties as again the approach road narrows even further.

Once they exit along the sea-front then there are roughly 400m left until the finish line.

Weather Watch

It looks set to be a sunny and dry day out in the saddle for the riders, if not a bit overcast at times.

However, like a lot of the time it seems, it is the wind that I am more concerned with!

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Source: Windfinder

The above image is the forecast for near Isola Rossa which is roughly half-way into the stage.

It looks as if for the majority of the day as the cyclists head North-East, they will be riding into a block head-wind. However, the road does twist and turn a bit which could present the opportunity for echelons if they are in an exposed crosswind section for long enough.

When they turn at the head of the island and travel southwards, the wind on the East coast seems to come from an ever so slightly different direction.

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Source: Windfinder

The second image is from Palau (roughly 45km to go) and as you can see, it becomes more of a crosswind at that point.

I’m sure the riders will be thankful to know that most of the route is protected by trees that weaken and block the wind, while they’re a few hundred metres from the coast itself. However, there are some parts of the stage where they are right next to the coast line…

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Just North of Cannigione (~30km to go)

Will any team try to take advantage of these stretches and dare I say it, create…

Echelons?!

I live in hope more than anything!

Sprint Contenders

Analysing sprint trains isn’t my forte so I’ll try to keep this as concise and succinct as possible!

Gaviria – He should get over the climb at the end easily but he’s not completed a race since the end of March so it will be interesting to see where his form is. He has a solid lead-out train and in Richeze he has a great pilot fish. Those two seem to form a great pairing and they’ve proven in the past that they work well together. Gaviria probably starts as the justifiable favourite.

Greipel – A proven Giro stage winner, the Gorilla has taken a victory in every edition of the race he has competed at so far. Lotto Soudal have quite an inexperienced lead-out with them and it will be interesting to see how Hofland works as a last man. Nonetheless, Greipel is experienced enough to be able to surf wheels, although that isn’t exactly his strong point. He’ll need a bit of luck in that respect to win, but I certainly wouldn’t put it past him!

Andre Greipel Giro d'Italia

Ewan – The young Aussie was unfortunate not to take a stage win in Yorkshire last week after being boxed in on both occasions. He’s missing Kluge but in Mezgec he has an experienced replacement who should deliver him well, not to mention Edmondson who is flying just now and he will probably be third man. Orica are normally very good at timing their efforts on these technical finishes which will certainly give Ewan a great chance of winning.

Those three riders head the betting markets but there are another trio of riders waiting in the wings.

Bennett – As I think Pelucchi may get dropped, Bennett will be Bora’s man for stage 1. He’s not had an outstanding season, often finding himself working for Sagan or withdrawing from races. However, his win in Paris Nice was incredible and if he is 100% fit for this race then he will be confident of pulling off something similar.

Modolo – If you follow me on Twitter then you’ll know over the past few days I’ve been bombarding my timeline with various Modolo based punts. For what it’s worth, I think he wins the points classification this year as the three “big” sprinters will drop out. His win on the last stage in Croatia was amazing and I expect him to have carried on that form here. With the technical finish, he has a good chance of a podium spot tomorrow.

Nizzolo – Returning from an injury that plagued the start of his season, the Italian Champion arrives at the Giro lightly raced, having only taken part in Croatia. He might struggle with the pace on the opening few days but he is a rider that I rate highly so I’m not discounting him. Can he take that elusive Giro stage win tomorrow? Probably not.

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Can anyone else contend?

Bauhaus, Sbaragli and Mareczko will all be fighting for the top 10 but it will take something special to go any better.

Prediction

I’ll go for a rider who tore it up at the start of the season to do the same again tomorrow, Ewan wins!

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I like the look of his lead-out, short but very explosive, just like the Aussie himself. He was solid in Yorkshire and compared to some of the other guys he has shown good recent form. The same can be said for Modolo who I think will be on the podium and run Ewan close!

Betting

I already have;

1pt EW Modolo @ 20/1 with PaddyPower that I tweeted out the other day. I would still take the 12/1 that is available as I think that’s still value.

I’m just deliberating whether to take Ewan for the stage, or in a slightly “safer” H2H against Greipel…Hmmm…

3pts Ewan to beat Greipel at 4/5 with WilliamHill (Would take 4/6).

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will there be echelons? Will many sprinters if any, get dropped on the climb? I’m just hoping for an exciting opening stage. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth!

Gent – Wevelgem 2017 Preview

Gent – Wevelgem 2017 Preview

The final race of our Belgian triple-header this week is upon us, and we finish with the longest outing yet; the 249km long Gent Wevelgem. Shame, as this is my favourite week of cycling in the whole calendar year!

Last year saw Peter Sagan get revenge for being bested in E3, taking a superb win ahead of Vanmarcke, Kurznetsov (who survived from the morning break) and Cancellara.

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Will we see another exciting day of racing? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

Long day in the saddle that like most of the cobbled races, builds slowly for an eventful final 100km.

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Profile once again courtesy of @LasterketaBurua.

This is both the easiest and hardest of the 3 races. There are barely any cobbled sections in comparison to the other races, but the sheer length of the race and repeated nature of hills in the final third take their toll.

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We might see some action up the Kemmelberg first time round, but if not, the plugstreets could cause some damage.

They are pretty much loose gravel roads (for the uninitiated amongst you 😉).

There is often a lot of wind and open landscape around that area which can often lead to splits when the pressure is on.

The Kemmelberg will be the last major obstacle for the riders to tackle and its second ascent comes at around 35km to go. In fact, they approach the climb from the steeper side the second time round. The organisers decided to change it from the “easier” ascent which they tackle earlier in the race, to this tougher approach (max 23%) to make the race more open and exciting. You can see how difficult it is from the highlights of last year’s edition.

From the summit, it’s a TT effort between those who make it over ahead and the chase from behind.

Weather

The weather can often play a massive part in how the race pans out here but it certainly won’t be as bad as it was in the 2015 edition…

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Nonetheless we look to have a consistent 20km/h Easterly wind for most of the day, with some stronger gusts blowing up.

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Source: Windfinder

Now that doesn’t mean that we’re guaranteed to get crosswinds but on the open and exposed areas of road they are certainly a possibility. It may also affect the end of the race as we could have cross-head winds for most of the run in. Which will tire out both those riders ahead and the chase!

How will the race pan out?

I think once again we’ll see an attacking race and there won’t be many teams wanting to hold it together for a sprint.

As we have witnessed in the first two race this week, it is much better to have at least one rider up the road so that you can just follow the moves behind. Therefore there is a chance an early move makes it, but I think instead we’ll see one selection on the plugsteets, followed by a further selection on the final ascent of the Kemmelberg. From there, it will be a case of who’s made the front group and who’s left to chase behind.

I fancy there to be enough fire-power up the road for it not to be brought back for a sprint. Or sorry, I’ll rephrase that, there won’t be enough power and willing workers behind to bring it back for a sprint!

Contenders

Peter Sagan missed out in E3 due to being held up by a crash, but as I said in that preview, I don’t think he really cares that much for that race. Instead, he’ll do something similar to last year where he’ll now want to test his legs here, and test his legs I’m sure he will. He was the rider who put in the killer attack on the Kemmelberg last year and he will no doubt do the same this time round. He will make the front selection and he will more than likely win this race! Sagan also will have the benefit of knowing Bennett will be in the group behind to sprint, so the Slovak can leave it all out on the road up ahead.

So who can beat him?

Quick Step probably have the best chance. In Boonen and Gaviria they have two riders who will fancy their chances of beating Sagan in a sprint, but I just can’t see that happening. Instead if I was DS, I would do my upmost to try to get Stybar and Terpstra in a move with Sagan and try to work him over. Those two riders are the only one’s who can follow him on the Kemmelberg (I’m assuming Gilbert will be tired after his first two races). They can co-operate for a while with Sagan, but then take turns attacking the group at the end. Because if they hold things together for a sprint, they won’t win. Even though he didn’t win, I was still incredibly impressed with Terpstra in E3. There were a few  times he missed the front split due to crashes etc, but soon after he was up front again and looking content. He is going very, very well but is without a result yet. That could come here!

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Fresh from his victory in E3, Greg Van Avermaet will be hoping to repeat that feat here. He was exceptionally strong on Friday and there is no reason to believe that won’t continue at this race. One of the only guys who can follow Sagan and has a proven track record of beating him. Van Avermaet certainly won’t be scared to take the Slovak on in a sprint from a reduced group.

After a terrible first two races, Trek bring their A-squad to this one. Stuyven, Degenkolb, Theuns and Felline are all potential winners if they play their cards right and get a bit of luck on the day. I imagine they’ll keep either Degenkolb or Theuns as a designated sprinter, but the remaining three will be used to attack throughout the day. Stuyven popped in E3 but Felline looked strong all day and was left frustrated in the group behind. He’s my dark horse for this race.

Another rider left frustrated behind in the second group in E3 was Tony Martin. The German comes here as Katusha’s main protagonist for this race and he certainly can go well. It will be tough for him to follow the best on the Kemmelberg, but if a selection is made before that then he certainly has a chance to TT away from everyone.

Sky have their duo of Rowe and Stannard here but they were a bit disappointing in E3. Rowe looked the better of the two but he looked a far cry from his attacking self that we saw in Omloop and Kuurne earlier in the year.

Prediction

I’m being boring here, but Sagan wins. I had similar thoughts last year to this race and Sagan went on to win after a “poor” E3. Now this year’s E3 was actually poor results wise, but that was due to him being held up by a crash. If he can be bothered, no one here can beat him!

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There are a few riders though who do have a chance if things get tactical and they’ll be covered below.

Betting

Big day to end an exciting week and I’m playing up some of the Lampaert winnings before I return to a more conservative approach in the next few weeks!

Sagan 4.5pts WIN @11/4 with Betfred (Would take the widely available 5/2 though)

Terpstra 1.25pt EW @ 50/1 with Bet365/PP/BF (Would take 40s)

Felline 1.25pt EW @ 50/1 with Bet365 (Would take 40s)

Martin 1pt WIN @ 100/1 with various (Would take 80s)

 

Thanks for reading as always! Who do you think will win? Can anyone stop Sagan? Check out my women’s preview if you haven’t already. 2 out of 3 previews done for today…Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.