Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 18 Preview; Suances -> Santo Toribio de Liébana

Today’s Recap

The break stayed away to the end today, but it was only one man who survived out in front ahead of the GC battle behind.

Aqua Blue’s Denifl lit up the final climb of the day, taking the Irish outfit’s first Grand Tour stage win. Not a bad start to their first year as a team!

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The Austrian produced a great performance and didn’t lose too much of his starting gap. In fact, he actually gained time on some of the GC guys.

Behind, Contador attacked and forged on ahead, finishing second on the day. A group 4 then came in led by Lopez 36 seconds down on the Spaniard. Followed not so far behind from Woods and Kelderman. However, Froome was the worst off of the GC contenders today, shipping 1’18 to Contador and 42 seconds to Nibali and co.

It leaves the GC battle somewhat back on as the Shark closes to 1’16 on the current leader. However, the following few stages aren’t too difficult so it could all come down to a big battle on the Angliru.

Yet, with Contador in his current mood, who knows what might happen.

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

The Route

Normally at this point in the race, tomorrow’s route would be an ideal breakaway day.

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The stage starts off with some undulating terrain but nothing too serious for the riders although they will have to tackle a few 2-3km climbs at low percentages.

Tomorrow is all about the closing 65km.

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The riders will face 2 Cat-3s, 1 Cat-2 and a Cat-3 finish all in that closing 65km. It certainly could be tough enough to entice some GC men into audacious attacks.

The first of the climbs is Collada de Carmona.

Carmona

As you can see, at average of 7.1% for 4.7km it isn’t exactly easy and if attacked at a fast pace then the peloton could be reduced quite drastically here. It does peak at 10% at points, but the “steady” gradients should suit Sky and Froome.

The riders will then descend for just over 10km before they start heading back towards the heavens again.

Ozalba

 

Collada de Ozalba is of a similar gradient to the previous Carmona but is 1km longer and a lot more irregular. A classic Vuelta Cat-3 you might say that averages 7% for 5.7km. Would be a 2xHC climb at the Tour of Britain! The punchy gradients certainly suit a certain Spaniard who looked lively today. I wonder if this is where we’ll see an early attack?

A shorter descent this time of 6kms follows before the only Cat-2 of the day, which stats wise, is actually the easier of the three.

Hoz

Averaging 5.4% for 7.6km is easy for these guys, but that figure is distorted somewhat by the almost 2km of false flat right at the start and the 500m at the end. The 2kms at 9.7% are certainly steep enough for riders to attack and drop their rivals. Will anyone try?

The only issue with doing so is that once they are over the summit of the climb then they still have 29km left in the day.

You’ll certainly need some strong team-mates up ahead to drop back and drag you along the valley roads until the final kicker.

Subido

Another couple of kilometres at just over 9%, it will be interesting to see how the riders will cope if the last 60km have been raced aggressively. In theory the time gaps should not be massive, but you never know; this Vuelta has been fast and there is certainly some fatigue in the legs of the GC guys.

How will the stage pan out?

Hmmm.

On paper this has break written all over it, but after today’s escapades I’m not so sure.

Froome looked tired, but he did well to somewhat limit his losses. We’ve seen this from him before and he comes out fighting the next day. The one saving grace for him is that his Team was strong today. He had 5 riders supporting him going onto the final climb and if they are in the same position tomorrow, he should be ok.

Yet, Sky have done a lot of work throughout this race and that is bound to catch up with them at some point. If they show any weakness tomorrow, then Froome could be exposed.

The closing 66km look as if they’re almost straight out of a hilly one-day race. I heard Nibali is not too bad at those!

I expect to see Astana/Bahrain/Trek/Katusha all attempt to put the pressure onto Sky tomorrow by setting a fast pace on the run in to the first of the climbs, almost testing the water so to say. If they manage to put them into trouble then they’ll continue on. If not, they’ll wait until the final climb and hope their GC rider can gain some more seconds back then.

So will that all happen at the front of the race, or behind the break?!

I really don’t know to be honest.

Either way, teams will want to send riders up the road so that they can work for the team leader in the final valley. Therefore, we’ll see another big fight to get into the move.

Sky will probably once again call the bluff of the other teams and let the gap grow so at that point we’ll know who is interested in the stage if they start chasing.

I’m leaning towards to situations.

If we get GC chaos and attacks on the first climb, then the break has no chance. But, if it doesn’t happen until the penultimate climb of the day, Collado de Hoz, then the break should have enough of a gap left and favourable terrain to take the win.

As much as I hope for some aggressive racing in the bunch, I think Sky will be strong enough to neutralise any early moves so we’ll see the break hold on to fight for stage victory.

TheBreakawayLottery

Break Candidates

Names in a hat time again! After naming all of the riders of over the past few weeks, I am not going to explain my reason for choosing them this time round in massive depth.

Enric Mas.

Good climber, solid on the flat. Certainly capable of winning on the steep final climb.

Tobias Ludvigsson.

Great performance in the TT so form is clearly there. Might not find the last climb great, so an early attack could work for him.

Marc Soler.

Much the same as Mas, the Spaniard is good on the flat but much more proficient at going up hills. Movistar really need something out of this race.

Matej Mohoric.

Already won a stage this Vuelta but he has been a bit quiet since then. Had a tumble today but seems okay. He can certainly put out the power when required and could be an outsider if he makes the move.

Vuelta Picks

Another tricky day for those near the top of the table with the potential breakaway day. Like always though, on an uphill finish choosing a GC rider is the sensible idea.

Safe Pick – Zakarin

Looked strong today and should be up near the front again tomorrow.

Wongshot Pick – Mohoric

Double stage winner on the cards for the top-tube descender?

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Mertz

The Lotto youngster is bound to be fatigued by now!

Prediction

Even now, I’m still not 100% sure as to how the stage will go and I’ve changed my mind several times since writing the above sections.

It really depends on the attitude of the 4 main teams and how weak/strong Sky look on the opening climb. There is no point Astana/Bahrain etc burning matches on a day where they aren’t going to make any inroads on Froome if Sky are strong. Instead, letting the British team do some work and tire them out for future days.

But, I think we could see Sky falter and an unexpected GC day…

Contador to get that stage win his has been longing!

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Betting

1pt EW Contador @ 50/1

 

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see Contador and co go early or will the break survive? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 14 Preview; Écija -> Sierra de La Pandera

Today’s Recap

A solid break went up the road, but it was a break more suited to rolling terrain than what we had today. Villella gave up after securing some KOM points, leaving just 4 up ahead and their task was made even tougher.

Quick Step took on the brunt of the work behind, getting some assistance from Cannondale and Lotto Jumbo.

In the end, the last survivor from the break (De Marchi) was caught in the closing 10km and we had our sprint.

Well, it was a very reduced sprint to the line.

After all the work that his team had done throughout the day, Trentin delivered, taking his third stage win of the race.

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Moscon showed that he’s much more than a one-trick pony sprinting to second, with Kragh Andersen finishing in third.

Finally a good day for the pre-stage blog punts!

With the sprinters having their last chance for a while today, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

We’ve had a stage that almost descended from the gun to the finish (aside from a categorised climb) but tomorrow we have one that pretty much rises from the get go.

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Well, it is a very gradual rise from the start! Over the opening 70kms the peloton will only gain roughly 200m of elevation.

They will face some harder tests with the first categorised climb Puerto el Mojón starting at 77km into the day. However, it isn’t anything crazy…

Puerto de Mojon (1)

An average of 4.4% over 8.4km should see everyone make it over the top together. Once the descent has finished, the riders will tackle a lot of uncategorised rises, including a 4km effort not long before the Sprint Point.

At 33km to go, the riders will be able to warm up for the summit finish with the Cat-2 climb of Alto Valdepeñas de Jaén. Again though, it is nothing too troublesome for the bunch; averaging a fairly lowly 4.8% for 8.5km.

Therefore, it seems that tomorrow is all about the Especial finish climb – Sierra de la Pandera.

La Pandera

As I was unsure of the official profile I just decided to make my own as per usual!

12.8km at 7.2%, it is a tough test to end the day for the riders. That gradient does include some false flat sections and even a couple of downhills. Therefore when the road is going up, the gradient is probably closer to an 8% average.

The key point on the climb though is most likely at the ~5km to go point. From there until the little descent, its is 4.3km at 9.8%. That is certainly steep enough for some gaps to be created; we saw what happened on Stage 11.

At 1km to go the riders will drop down for 500m before the road rises back up again to the finish line.

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That hairpin with 200m to go could be interesting if we don’t have riders arriving solo…

How will the stage pan out?

Once again we’re treated to the question of “break or no break?”

In theory, the stage is easy for some GC teams to control. Not an overly hard opening to the day, followed by a lumpier second half is ideal for them to keep the break on a tight leash. However, after Orica tried something on Stage 11 (that backfired) I’m not so sure if we’ll see anyone offer assistance to Sky early on.

Trek of course could try something but the Cat-3 and Cat-2 are nowhere near hard enough for Contador to drop his rivals. Plus, with one eye on Sunday’s crazy stage, I think most teams will be happy to see Sky tire themselves out by having to do a lot of the work.

Consequently, I think we’ll once again see the breakaway make it all the way to the line.

It won’t be simple to make the move though as the opening 50km are fairly straight forward, albeit rising, so we’ll no doubt have a fast pace from the gun again. This means that strong riders should find it easier to make the move compared to the lightweight climbers.

Conversely though, the end of the stage is much more suited to the mountain goats. It could be a case of one or two strong climbers make the move and in that case, they’ve lucked out. If that does happen, then a long-range attack might stick as no-one will want to tow the better guys to the foot of the climb.

Anyway, time to play…

TheBreakawayLottery

Breakaway candidates

Enric Mas.

Quick Step have been in sensational form this race so far and they’ll no doubt be in the hunt again tomorrow. They have DLC in a good GC position but the team is aggressive enough to send someone in the breakaway and potentially fight for stage glory. Mas was one of the strongest on the climbs of stage 6. He’ll certainly be a danger tomorrow if he makes the move. Rolling home today near the back of the bunch after doing some work early on, does he have one eye on tomorrow?

Pello Bilbao.

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He’s taken some time to find his form in this race but he has been great the past few stages for his leaders. On Stage 11 he was instrumental in helping Aru lose as little time as possible on GC, eventually finishing 14th on the stage. It depends on how keen Astana are to defend their Team Classification lead, but they could well try to get someone up the road tomorrow. In his current form, Bilbao will be there or thereabouts come the end of the stage.

Rui Costa.

It has been an oddly quite Vuelta so far Costa. Something I didn’t expect before the race; I thought we’d see him in numerous breakaways. The only thing of note he’s done so far is that bold and ultimately pointless attack on stage 3. Nonetheless, he is a classy, classy rider and can’t be discounted.

Tobias Ludvigsson.

Token Big T mention.

I was staring at the start list and results for a few minutes trying to think of who else to include aside from obvious riders such as Majka (who might not even make the break on the flat anyway). So I just decided to stick with ma boy!

Vuelta Picks

Same shit, different day…

“Safe Pick” – Zakarin

Should be close to the head of the GC group at the finish, and you don’t want to risk going for a breakaway pick.

“Wongshot Pick” – Bilbao

It requires Astana to be bold and attacking to defend the team classification, but then also requires for the Basque rider to make the move. Yolo, as the young kids would say…You’re already sitting down in the bottom half of the table. Why not go for glory?!

“Lanterne Rouge Pick” – Tuft

Pretty self explanatory, Tuft ain’t not climber!

Prediction

Breakaway to win, but we will see some GC fireworks behind and a top 10 rider to lose quite a bit of time. As to who that may be, ask me tomorrow!

Rui Costa to take the stage win after being quiet all race.

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Betting

Spreading some pennies on the breakers but it looks a good day for some in-play action.

(all B365)

0.6pt WIN Mas @ 40/1

0.6pt WIN Costa @ 80/1

0.5pt WIN Bilbao @ 66/1

0.3pt WIN Ludvigsson @ 300/1

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will the break once again make it all the way to the line? Or will the GC teams chase it down and go for the stage?

 

 

 

 

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 7 Preview; Llíria -> Cuenca

Today’s Recap

A weird stage where the break never got more than three minutes but that was all that was needed.

With Luis Leon Sanchez up the road, Sky kept the break in check for a lot of the stage. However, it was Trek and Contador who tore things up on the final climb of the day, shattering the peloton.

We had a slight regrouping on the descent and flat run-in, with the gap coming down to 6 seconds at one point! Yet, three riders from the morning move kept their heads down, eventually increasing the gap and ultimately fighting out the stage win.

Enric Mas lead out the sprint, but it was Marczynski who was the strongest, beating his countryman Poljanski into second place.

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It was a bit of a weird ending to the stage as at one point the Froome/Contador group had 40 seconds on a group containing De La Cruz and Yates. Yet, none of the teams fully committed and in the end DLC only lost 17 seconds.

Will we see something similar tomorrow?

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

The Route

Another 200+km day for the peloton over some undulating roads.

 

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Although we don’t have the same number of categorised climbs that we had on today’s stage, the peloton will actually have to face more elevation gain at 2700m compared to the 2600m today.

There is a lot of uncategorised rolling terrain that once again suits powerful riders.

For example, the opening categorised climb of the day (Puerto La Montalbana) is 8km long at an average of 4.3%. Nothing too strenuous but they do climb for roughly 10km before then!

This is where the break is most likely to form.

Once over the top, there is a short descent followed by another few uncategorised drags. The riders will then tackle a longer descent before the second Cat-3 of the day.

The Alto de Santa Cruz de Moya is another power climb; averaging 4% for 8.7km.

From there, the riders will traverse a plateau of sorts for the following 100km. Kind of flat, but kind of hilly at the same time!

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The last climb of the day is enticingly positioned, cresting just 12km from the finish. I would take some of the gradients and bumps in the profile with a pinch of salt as Strava does sometimes seem to struggle when the route follows contour lines very closely. However, the average percentage for the climb is correct and it does have ramps of 15% or so in it, just maybe not the 25% or so.

Two important things to note about the climb are that it is cobbled, well paved, and it is very narrow in points.

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One car width wide in parts, positioning will be crucial for anyone who wants to contest the stage.

There is a slight plateau after the crest of the climb, but the closing 5kms are all downhill ever so slightly.

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Will it be a solo that comes to the line or will we see a reduced sprint?

How will the race pan out?

Another really tough day to predict. We could easily see a number of situations play out during the stage!

The early break obviously has a good chance at survival given what we’ve seen over the past few days and with terrain that is tough to control. For sprint teams that is.

Contador seems very sprightly just now and he may get his Trek team to help Sky keep check on the break so that he can launch an attack on the final climb. Considering the much shorter distance to the line that today’s stage, he could feasibly hold on with Froome and a few others. But is the climb tough enough for that? I don’t think so.

We could see a couple of teams control the day and hope for a reduced bunch sprint. Trentin was impressive today in making it over the final climb relatively close to the head of the peloton, eventually arriving home just behind the De La Cruz group. Lobato is another rider who might fancy his chances on making it over the short, not too steep climb.

Like today though, it would be wise for QS and Jumbo to send riders in the break so they don’t have to work behind.

Witha fast stage today, some riders will be hoping for a quieter and less stressful day tomorrow. Stage 8 should produce a GC showdown so the overall contenders might want to keep their powder dry for another day.

Consequently, if the right mix of teams and riders goes, then it should be another day for the break to stick!

Time to play everyone’s favourite game at the Vuelta…

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Break Contenders

Time to throw some darts again.

Tobias Ludvigsson.

Big T didn’t make the move today but I’m willing to give him another chance tomorrow. He came home in the Bardet/Moreno/Pozzovivo group today, i.e. the next main one on the road after the groups that included the top 20 on GC and the break. Clearly he has some kind of form and this is a race he seems to perform fairly well at. He climbed well here at the Vuelta last year and I was really hoping to see him push on this season. That’s not happened yet, but could tomorrow be that day?

Richard Carapaz.

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Arguably one of the biggest talents to come out of Ecuador in a long, long time; he is a solid climber and good all-rounder. He impressed early season, picking up a second place behind Adam Yates in Industria, along with a few top 10s on GC in Spanish 2.1 races. However it was his second place overall in the Route du Sud that really highlighted his talents. After Betancur’s fall today Movistar only have one rider in the top 25 in GC so they are guaranteed to be attacking. Can Carapaz turn their bad luck around?

Jetse Bol.

Another rider to make his return to the blog, he spent the day in the break on stage 5. He missed the key move that day but still finished strongly to take an 8th place at the finish. Tomorrow’s stage looks great for the Manzana rider and like many other teams, they’ll be hoping that the break makes it all the way. Bol is a rider who can climb well but he also packs a good sprint, will that see him through?

Pello Bilbao.

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This type of terrain is perfect for the Astana rider, who excels on rolling days. I’m still not 100% sure about his abilities on the long Alpine climbs, but nothing tomorrow should be of difficulty for him if he is fit! Punchy enough to make an attack on the closing climb, he could get a gap that way. However, he also packs a fairly solid sprint so he may hope for a reduced gallop to the line.

Vuelta Picks

Picking a GC rider today was definitely damage limitation for anyone near the top of the table. The same approach tomorrow is definitely advised too.

“Safe Pick” – Simon Yates.

A guy that should be there at the finish and relatively near the front of the bunch. It will save some of the “bigger hitters” for later in the race.

Wongshot Pick – Jetse Bol.

An almost smart Wongshot pick as it covers a possibly reduced sprint and breakaway.

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Lasse Hansen.

One of the many riders suffering from illness.

Prediction

Jetse Bol 2.0 to take a great stage win for Manzana. Vamos!

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Betting

Bol 0.5pt WIN @ 50/1

Ludvigsson 0.25pt EW @ 300/1

Carapaz 0.25pt EW @ 200/1

Bilbao 0.5pt WIN @ 80/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

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

Today’s Recap

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

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

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

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Lobato held on for second with Van Asbroeck taking third.

*Overused fact alert*

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

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

The Route

A rolling day in the saddle that typifies the Vuelta.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarratella

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

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

VueltaS5Fin

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

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

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

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

How will the stage pan out?

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

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

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

So it looks like a…

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

However, even that has some permutations.

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

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

Contenders

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

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

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

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

Enric Mas.

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

Alessandro De Marchi.

De-marchi-BMC

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

Merhawi Kudus.

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

Ruben Fernandez.

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

Vuelta Picks

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

“Safe Pick” – Bardet

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

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

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

“Lanterne Rouge Pick” – Manzin.

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

Prediction

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

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

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Betting

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

0.5pt WIN on them all though which currently means;

Kudus @ 250/1

De Marchi @ 28/1

 

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

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 3 Preview; Prades Conflent Canigo -> Andorra la Vella

Today’s Recap

A fast day in the saddle with a nervous peloton that never allowed a breakaway to get up the road.

With all the hype surrounding possible echelons, we had nothing overly exciting all day; only a few minor splits. Well, that was until I tuned into the action at 15kms to go (you can thank me later).

Sky pushed it on in the closing 10kms and we had a group of  20 properly detached, with another 40 or so chasing on roughly 30 seconds behind. That looked as if that was going to be the end of it, until QS came up at three km to go, charing into the penultimate roundabout.

Things strung out and then the front of the peloton imploded as they were battered by a crosswind coming from their left. Theuns put in a massive effort in the gutter to close what looked like a 2m gap to those in front.

However, it was Lampaert who stole the day; attacking from roughly 1km out and holding on until the line. A great win for him and the team!

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A rider I like a lot, I wasn’t even mad that Theuns ended up finishing just outside the places in 4th, after he was beaten in the sprint by Trentin and Blythe. After the effort the Trek rider put in to get across to that front group, it would have taken a monumental performance to win. Oh well, at least I wasn’t a mile off!

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

The Route

The Vuelta organisers didn’t seem to get the memo from those at ASO about easing riders into Grand Tours…

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Two Cat-1 climbs and one cat-2 all in 158.5km of racing. Definitely not what some of the riders would have been wanting on the first weekend of the race.

The road essentially climbs all the way from the gun until we “crest” the Cat-1 climb of Col de la Perche at 34.8km.

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At 22.7km long in length and averaging 4.2%, it is certainly not the easiest way to start the day. The slightly low average gradient and its position right at the beginning of the stage mean that it will most likely be attacked at a fast pace. In the searing heat could we see some riders dropped early?

 

It all depends when the break is formed really.

Once over the summit, they will face an incredibly long, shallow descent for 70km. Pretty much a negative false flat!

The road then drags ever so slightly as they head towards Andorra and the second Cat-1 of the day.

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Averaging 6.8% for 13.3km is fairly hard but it is what you would expect in this part of the world. However, the first half of the climb is certainly the toughest, with the gradient averaging closer to 8%.

Peaking at just over 30km to go, will we see any crazy attacks from the peloton here, as the riders plunge straight down the other side of the mountain?

The final ascent of the day is the Alto de la Cornella. Used back in the 2015 Vuelta it is a fairly short but steep climb.

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The close to 8% average gradient certainly suits the punchier riders compared to the “sloggers” of the world such as Jungels. We should see the peloton climb it in under 12 minutes at race pace. Damiano Caruso holds the Strava KOM for it when it was used on Stage 9 of the Tour last year, completing it in 12:34. I expect them to go up faster this time round given its place as the final obstacle on the stage!

Although the 28-degree heat might slow them down a bit.

The descent begins off technical, but the final few kilometres into Andorra la Vella itself are straightforward.

How will the stage pan out?

To be honest, I have no bloody idea what to make of it!

We could see a few of the GC guys fancy their chances and make the stage tough, with a select group cresting the final climb together. Things could be slightly easier and a larger group of 20 or so riders come to the line for a sprint. A late attack from someone not deemed a “real” GC threat is a possibility. Then of course there is the breakaway staying away.

We wouldn’t normally expect to see a breakaway stay away this early at a Grand Tour but Polanc did manage it on Stage 4 of the Giro this year. Furthermore, this stage does have a very similar feel to the stage that Van Avermaet won at the Tour in 2016.

Will Quick-Step be happy to relinquish the leader’s jersey?

I would be if I was them! This Vuelta is exceptionally tough and you don’t want to be wasting needless resources early on in the race to protect a jersey that Lampaert is never going to keep all the way to Madrid.

Let another team take the strain of chasing breaks and setting tempo over the next few days. We all know Sky will do it anyway!

So I think we could be playing that game again…

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Two is company?

As I really have no idea who might be competing tomorrow I’m just going to name two break candidates for the stage. Plus, with three KOM candidates I don’t want to go crazy. Obviously anyone who wants to compete needs to be a good climber!

Alessandro De Marchi.

The guy that only ever wins at World Tour level and in fact, out of his three pro wins, two have been at La Vuelta. He was very strong in the opening TTT, helping drive his team towards victory and he seems to be in good shape for this race; like always! An attacking rider who is not a bad climber; all three of his pro wins have been from breakaways on mountain days, he certainly has a chance if he makes the move. After losing the jersey today, BMC will want to make amends tomorrow! He doesn’t seem to mind the heat which is a massive bonus.

Jan Polanc.

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The early GT breakaway king, can he do the same as he did at the Giro? UAE bring a very aggressive team to this race and they’re bound to get someone into the morning move. Polanc has really taken a step up this season in terms of his climbing ability and he should be able to cope with tomorrow’s stage. My only concern is that I have no idea how well he manages in the heat. I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

Vuelta Picks

“Safe Pick” – Chaves

A tough stage to predict in general but with a climb near the end, you want to be picking a GC rider. If it turns into a GC stage then they should be there, but will also be there in a relatively low scoring position if the break or late attack wins. Take a random dart at a GC favourite, but Chaves seemed fairly attentive today.

“Wongshot Pick” – De Marchi

You picked Degenkolb didn’t you and you’ve already thrown in the towel for the overall? Although you’re not completely out of it, the game is still early, you may want to be bold and pick a breakaway rider. Hoping to gain back some points, or score a crucial stage win.

Lanterne Rouge Pick” – Fournier

Close today with Zurlo, I think the young French rider might struggle tomorrow in the heat. Well, I say young but he’s 6 days older than me! In the last group today, it could be the same situation on stage 3.

Prediction

The break to stay away and De Marchi to add to his Vuelta stage win haul!

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Betting

Sticking to my 2pts a day, keeps the debt collector away rule*

1.5pt WIN De Marchi @ 50/1 (would take 40s)

0.5pt WIN Polanc @ 125/1 (would take 100s)

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

 

 

 

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 20 Preview; Pordenone -> Asiago

Today’s Recap

So apparently I missed a lot while sleeping this morning after work!

I woke up to see the riders on the final climb and Dumoulin slowly losing contact, but a quick scroll down Twitter also suggested that something else happened earlier in the stage. Either Dumoulin lost time and was gapped on a descent or the others attacked him while he was stopping for a nature break. Reading what the Sunweb director said, I think it was the former.

Up the road, Landa finally took a deserved stage win while simultaneously securing his KOM jersey.

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With Costa and Rolland following him home.

We did get some GC gaps and Quintana moves into Rosa after Dumoulin suffered on the final climb. Pinot has handily moved himself up to within a minute of Quintana and his certainly not out of it either. We should be in for an interesting final two days.

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

The Route

A tough day out but certainly not the hardest that the riders have faced.

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We have almost 100km of flat before we get the start of the climb to Monte Grappa.

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At 24.1km it’s long but only averages 5.3%. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story as the first 8.5km of the climb averages 7.8%, which is certainly difficult enough to shed some riders out the back of the group.

The only issue with that is once we get to the summit of the climb, there is just under 70km to go to the line. With no Contador here, I think it’s unlikely we’ll see any kamikaze GC attacks on Grappa but you never know. I would love it if there was!

The riders will have to tackle a descent that is as long as the climb they’ve just been up, before traversing some valley roads to reach the foot slopes of Foza.

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A more regular climb than Grappa, Foza averages 6.7% for 14km. It is long/steep/close enough to the finish to put some riders into difficulty.

The only issue for some riders is that we have a 15km section of undulating road after the peak, with the last 5km being downhill.

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I’m sure a few riders will be happy to know that the downhill isn’t too technical aside from the last kilometre where it starts to flatten out anyway.

How will the stage pan out?

Another day where we have the conundrum of break or no break?

The first 100km of the stage in theory are easy to control for a team but who will take up the mantle? The onus will obviously be on Movistar to set tempo for the stage but Quintana has looked underwhelming so far this race, although he has managed to get into Pink!

Nibali today didn’t look great either, shipping a couple of seconds on the line. In fact, the two riders who looked the strongest were Pinot and Zakarin, both of whom are very much in podium contention now.

Are any of these teams dedicated/strong enough to set tempo all day to keep the break within touching distance?

I’m not so sure.

I think they’ll see how the race unfolds on the day and if the break is within touching distance over Monte Grappa, they might start pulling. If not, I think it will be another day to play…

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Contenders

The flat start makes it a difficult stage for the climbers to get into the break so we might get a mixed bag.

As I’m losing the will to live in terms of recycling names for this, I’ll come up with a couple of new names;

Diego Rosa.

The Italian was very strong in helping Landa on Stage 18, driving the break for the majority of the first three climbs. With the Spaniard now having a stage win and the KOM secured, Sky will now most likely turn to their other riders and give them a few opportunities. Rosa is strong enough on the flat to make the break, but he is an exceptional enough climber to win from a group as well.

Omar Fraile.

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With a stage win already in the bag, Fraile can go into this stage without any pressure. Brutishly strong on the stage he won, the Spaniard has the engine to join the break on the flat, but also the climbing ability to win. An attacking rider, he certainly won’t give up if he makes the move, taking the approach of finishing last is the same as 2nd.

GC Contenders

I think it will be hard to drop a lot of the GC favourites, but as I said above, Zakarin and Pinot look the strongest just now. In theory, the “flat” final 15km should suit those two and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them attacking over the top of Foza when the lighter climbers are isolated and weak.

If we do get a GC battle, I’ll go for a Zakarin win.

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Prediction

However, I think we’ll once again see a race on two fronts and the break will stay away. Sky will take back to back wins, with Diego Rosa coming out on top.

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Betting

The usual 2pts spread across the break duo as odds on Zakarin won’t change much when they go in-play.

1pt WIN Rosa @ 33/1

1pt WIN Fraile @ 40/1

Thanks for reading as always. Apologies that this is shorter than normal but I’m suffering from preview burnout! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 19 Preview; San Candido -> Piancavallo

Today’s Recap

A hectic stage that was perfectly poised all the way to the finish line. In the end, the breakaway managed to just stay away, with Tejay Van Garderen taking his first ever Grand Tour win, pipping Landa who finished second yet again after being forced to lead-out.

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It was great to see TVG win, and much like Rolland yesterday, it is almost like a redemption ride/performance from them.

Behind, Pinot came home third to claw some time back on his GC rivals and move within touching distance of the podium.

As for Dumoulin, he looked effortless today even giving it a little nudge himself. However, unfortunately for the punting side, he ended up just riding a relatively defensive race in the closing couple of kilometres. I would really have liked to see him go full gas after his attack with about 5km left, but it was not to be!

Quintana and Nibali looked cooked/not strong enough. I noted that it was the first time I’ve seen the Colombian with his jersey unzipped so he must not be feeling 100%. They both just rode to mark Dumoulin in the end and both are now under threat from Pinot/Zakarin.

Dumoulin himself said in a post race interview that he would be happy if they lost their podium slots because of that. Nibali fired back by saying that there is karma and that Dumoulin will pay for what he said on the road.

The Giro is simultaneously hotting up while also cooling down, as I think the Dutchman has it in the bag barring any major misfortune.

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

The Route

A long day in the saddle at nearly 191km. However, compared to some of the previous stages, it’s a relatively benign day out for the peloton.

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We start off with a Cat-3 climb. Although, the riders will be climbing from the gun and taking it as a whole the climb is 13.9km at 3.2%, with the categorised segment coming in at 7.9km at 4.3%, but that does include some steeper ramps.

We then have a long descent that is interrupted with the rise for the intermediate sprint point, before the road once again continues downwards to the foot slopes of the second categorised climb of the day.

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A relatively long climb, the average gradients are quite deceptive due to the several sections at less than 5% and there’s even a bit of downhill thrown in. A lot of the actual climb is closer to 7%.

Will we see any movement in the breakaway here? It is certainly too early for any of the GC guys to come out and play.

From the summit, it is another 70km before we start the final climb of the day.

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At 15.4km long and averaging 7.3%, the Piancavallo is a brute of a climb. The steepest sections come in the first 6km so it will be interesting to see if a team really drills it from the bottom. It does start to ease ever so slightly within the final 5km but there are still some steep enough gradients (7%+) to launch an attack.

With the “flat” (1.4km at 1.4%) run in, will we see a solo rider make it to the line or a very reduced and very tired sprint?

How will the stage pan out?

After today, I think a few of the GC favourites will be demoralised, namely Quintana, knowing that Dumoulin will be tough to crack and instead they might change their focus to stage wins.

Nibali might want to get involved in a dick-measuring contest with Dumoulin after the comments that they both made but I think Nibali knows he only has a very slim chance of dropping Dumoulin.

It will take a lot of effort from a team to control the stage all day to set it up for the final climb so once again, I think we’ll see a breakaway rider take the win.

How big will the break be? Well that depends on where it goes and it once again could be another 20+ rider day.

Like normal though, I’ll throw a few names into the hat to watch out for (or not, as they inevitably won’t make the move).

Breakaway Candidates

Anacona – For what I think is the third time in the space of a week, I’ll name the Colombian as a contender for the stage. He’s made the break on at least two of those occasions but has been called back to work for his leader. However, after today’s stage and Quintana underperforming, I think he will FINALLY be given the freedom to actually chase the win. Clearly one of the top 15 climbers in the race at the moment, he has a very good chance if he makes the break.

Carthy – We’ve not seen much of the Brit so far this race, his best finish position being 21st on Etna way back in week one. However, I think that’s probably due to him attempting to save himself for the final week. Cannondale have been very active in the breakaways the past few stages and I would not be surprised to see a few of them up the road again tomorrow.

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Woods – The other Cannondale rider to make my list, he was instrumental in Rolland’s win on stage 17, marking all of the other contenders to help his team-mate grow his advantage. Like Carthy, Woods took it relatively easy today, coming home over half an hour down on eventual stage winner Van Garderen. The punchy Canadian should enjoy the steep ramps of the final climb but does he have the endurance to match?

Rodriguez – Another rider to make his return on this list. I was very impressed with the Wilier rider at the start of the race, but he has been a bit anonymous recently. Fatigue or saving himself? I’ll hope for the later! A talented bike rider, he was 10th at the Tour de l’Avenir last year but seems to have taken a step up this season. Is a big win on the cards?

Prediction

Just as I’ve finished writing this I see that there are rumours circulating on Twitter that Quintana and Nibali will form a pact to try and beat Dumoulin.

Hmmm, I still can’t see that happening/ending well for them and I’m not convinced that both teams will work on the front all day, draining their resources. Especially when you consider that Dumoulin really just needs to follow them and ride defensively.

So with that said, I still think it will be a breakaway win and I’ll go for arguably the strongest Colombian to take the win…

Anacona to take stage glory.

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I mean, I can’t not use that picture of him again!

Behind, we might see some GC fireworks but Dumoulin won’t lose the jersey.

Betting

Small stakes again for interest on the breakers (All 365);

0.7pt WIN Anacona @ 125/1

0.5pt WIN Carthy @ 200/1

0.5pt WIN Woods @ 150/1

0.3pt WIN Rodriguez @ 300/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 18 Preview; Moena -> Ortisei

Today’s Recap

Just like buses…

After waiting almost two years for a World Tour win, Cannondale got their second in one week with Pierre Rolland taking a fine stage victory today!

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He was not only the strongest in the break but also the tactically most astute, attacking the big group at the perfect time. With a disorganised chase behind, the Frenchman had enough time to sit up and properly celebrate his win.

Costa won the “bunch” sprint for second with Izagirre third.

All the GC contenders rode home safely, keeping their powder dry for tomorrow. Let’s tae a look at what’s in store for them.

The Route

A short but very sharp stage!

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At only 137km the riders will be in for a fast day in the saddle, albeit with five categorised climbs to contend with.

The road rises steadily from the gun (14.1km at 1.7%) before the peloton will tackle the first climb of the day. The Passo Pordoi is a fairly steady climb, averaging 6.7% for 11.85 kilometres.

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The same can be said for the following Cat-2 climb of Passo Valparola which averages a shade over 6.4% for almost 13km.

The riders then descend again before tackling the third climb of the day. However, by then a break will have been formed and it’s not difficult enough for the GC riders so I’m just going to gloss over it!

On the long descent that follows, the road does rise back up briefly for the Cat-3 climb and it could cause some issues with a peak gradient of 15%.

However, the stage should come down to the Cat-1 climb of Pontives and the run in to the line that follows it.

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At only 9.3km, it is not the longest climb the peloton will face, but after a stage that is constantly up and down it certainly won’t be easy. Averaging 6.8%, it is the final 3km which could cause some splits as it averages a more stinging 9.3%. This is where we could see some attacks from the GC favourites and those on a bad day might crack and go backwards.

Once over the summit, the riders won’t be at the finish line just yet and will have to contend with another 4km of rising road.

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A tough drag, riders struggling over the KOM could really struggle here as false-flats after a big effort can be a massive challenge. The road pitches up to 13% with 450m to go and any riders looking to avoid a sprint to the line will no doubt attack here.

How will the stage pan out?

With it being such a short day, it will be hard for a breakaway to build up much of a lead. Particularly when considering the way that Bahrain Merida have been riding over the past few stages. They set a fierce pace in the peloton over the first two climbs today and I expect them to do the same tomorrow.

Consequently, it will be another chance for the GC riders to go for stage glory on the day!

Contenders

It’s tough to see past those who were near the pointy end on Stage 16.

Nibali –  Obviously won that stage and is riding himself into form in the final week of a grand tour and in classic week-three Nibali style, he looks like he can follow anyone. On the steepest section of the closing climb, only Quintana was able to stick with the Shark and he will be hoping for something similar on the steep ramps towards the top of Pontives. Will the shark take a second bite out of the GC lead?

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Quintana – Supposedly still not at 100% after his crash, the Colombian looked relatively comfortable following Nibali but lost some time on the descent. He’ll be happy the stage ends with only a little descent! My only issue with him is that the finish isn’t ideal for him with the few kilometres of false flat after the steepest parts of the main climb. He’ll struggle to maintain any gap there.

Zakarin – Will be very glad that the stage ends on the top of a mountain after he lost over 30 seconds on the descent during stage 16. He’s always willing to attack (not always at the correct times morally), so he is sure to give it another go tomorrow.

Pozzovivo – It was nice to see him at the head of the race again but like Quintana, his light frame isn’t ideal for tomorrow’s finish. He’ll no doubt give it a go off the front though if he senses an opportunity.

Landa – Although not a GC candidate as such, the Sky rider was very strong on Stage 16 and it was only his naivety/poor cornering that allowed Nibali to win. Not being a GC threat, he will hope to be given some leeway.

As for the riders in the second group on Stage 16, I like Yates the best for a finish like this.

Prediction

However, I’ll go for none of the above.

Instead, I think current Maglia Rosa Tom Dumoulin will take another stage win.

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His nature break was clearly a freak occurrence because he climbed the Umbrailpass in an almost identical time to his rivals. That’s very impressive considering he rode most of it on his own while others were paced for a lot of the way! Taking tomorrow’s final climb on it’s own, it looks very similar to the finale into Oropa that Dumoulin won. After no one waited for him on Stage 16, I think he won’t be holding anything back and will want to re-stamp his authority on this race.

Betting

I was going to go EW on him, but his price has fallen from 18/1 to 12/1 when I’ve been finishing this off so the EW value has diminished a bit. So I think with that in mind I’ll just go;

2pts WIN Dumoulin @ 12/1 (with Bet365).

 

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.

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 16 Preview; Rovett -> Bormio

Recap

My hopes were raised when I woke up to see Molard in the break, but they were quickly diminished when I saw Orica chasing and the small gap that they had!

Things were eventually brought to heel just as the peloton entered the final 3km and we were treated to a small flurry of attacks from the GC favourites. However, it came down to a very fast sprint and Jungels came out victorious.

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I wonder if he had that massive chain-ring on again?!

Quintana of all people got up for second, with Pinot third.

Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders after the final rest day.

The Route

I imagine some riders wish they could have the rest of the week off looking at the profiles and the action all kicks off tomorrow.

Not exactly an easy day for the riders to ease themselves back into racing after the rest day, with 222km ahead of them and three massive mountains that all go above 1800m.

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The riders start with a nice bit of descending before the road gradually rises for the next 60km before they start the climb of the Mortirolo officially.

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12.6km at 7.6% average, the climb will certainly be a leg opener for the peloton. It *probably* comes too early in the stage to be of any real significance for the day, but you just never know! Expect those who are after KOM points to be battling it out here.

Once over the top, the riders will face a 14km descent before they start the approach towards the Stelvio. Again, the road rises for those 30km but the climb officially begins with just over 100km to go.

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21.7km at 7.1%, the passage also acts as the Cima Coppi for the race. A brutally tough and draining climb, the steep pitches in the final few kilometres look great for an attack from the bunch.

A long descent follows before the peloton re-climbs the Stelvio but this time from the Swiss side. The first time this has ever been done in the Giro!

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13.4km at 8.4%, the organisers have cruelly left the toughest climb of the day until the end. With very little respite, a rider on the limit can lose a massive amount of time here if they go too far into the red and pop.

The race then ends with a descent into Bormio.

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Almost as important as the climb, a rider can lose a lot of time here if they aren’t fully switched on because they’re tired from their previous efforts. With how technical the closing few kilometres are, let’s just hope a rider arrives solo or a group of three at most!

Weather Watch

Many of you will have memories of that stage back in 2014 when the Stelvio was covered in snow and Quintana didn’t see that the race was being neutralised…

Thankfully, the weather doesn’t look that bad this year.

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Source: Wunderground

The forecast for Bormio suggests that it will be a relatively pleasant day in the saddle with only a small chance of rain. However, as we know, this can change pretty quickly, especially in the mountains!

With the wind coming from the North, it will be a slight headwind for the traditional passage of the Stelvio, before being a tailwind for the Swiss ascent.

How will the stage pan out?

This is a tough one to predict on the best of days but it is made even more difficult after the rest day. Some riders might come out firing, whereas others might take a few climbs to get going!

It really depends on the composition of the morning break as to the size of an advantage the move can get. There are lots of riders way down on GC who will be given plenty of freedom. Even someone like Rui Costa who is 16 minutes behind in 17th place might get some leeway. However, if a rider such as Ben Hermans infiltrates the move, then a few other teams might start riding defensively to protect their top 10 position.

I imagine teams will be very keen to get riders up the road for later in the day so we could see a large breakaway of 20 guys or so. The issue is the amount of flat at the start of the stage which makes it more difficult for climbers to be there.

Ultimately though, it depends on Movistar’s attitude to the stage. They need to take a few minutes out of Dumoulin and I’m very intrigued to see how they approach that job. No doubt they’ll get someone ahead of the peloton to work for Quintana later, but when will the Colombian attack? Most likely near the top of the Stelvio I think.

Will the gap to the break be too big for the Colombian to win the stage after then, quite possibly and like always, I’m leaning towards that being the case.

What Sunweb need to do in my opinion is completely sit up when the break goes so that it gets a huge advantage of 10mins plus so that it becomes nigh on impossible for Quintana to attack and bridge to his team-mates, or any other GC rider for that matter. Play their contenders at their own game, and just trust Dumoulin to be able to follow his competitors’ wheels.

So once again, I think we’ll see a race on two fronts with the breakaway taking stage honours and a massive GC battle behind.

Breakaway Candidates

There will obviously be riders chasing the KOM jersey who try to get into the move, such as Fraile, Rolland and Landa, but I’m going to take a slightly different approach.

With the GC teams wanting to get riders up the road, we should see a few strong climbers from the big teams represented. If Sunweb are then ballsy enough to not properly chase, then a few of those riders might be given the chance to go for stage honours rather than be told to sit up and help their leader.

Winner Anacona.

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The Colombian seems to be in better form than Amador at the moment and I think would be more of an aid to Quintana than the Costa Rican. However, if the gap is too big for Quintana to bridge, then Anacona could be given the green light to go for the stage. He is in exceptional form at the moment and I think that there won’t be many riders capable of beating him.

Sebastien Reichenbach.

Another left-hand man for a GC contender, the Swiss rider has had a very solid race so far in aid of Pinot, often being one of the last domestiques standing amongst the GC guys. He seems to be slowly finding some form this race, building for a big last week. With the stage crossing into his home country, I’m sure he’d like to put on a show!

Carlos Verona.

The Spaniard has been mostly anonymous so far this Giro, but he showed on the front on the previous stage, doing a lot of work for Yates. He’s another rider who seems to building some form nicely. A very strong climber, he should like tomorrow’s terrain and could well take the day. With Yates not too close to the head of the GC order, I think Orica will be happy to let Verona or Plaza go for the stage with the Brit doing what he can behind.

Joe Dombrowski.

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Third week of a Grand Tour so time to start backing the American again! One of the strongest riders in the peloton going by numbers, he still has to master some racing craft. Nonetheless, if he gets into the break it will be tough for a lot of riders to follow him on the climbs.

GC Contenders

It is hard to see past Quintana for this. Although I am bitterly aware I said that on the finish to Oropa! Nonetheless, when considering the altitude the riders will be over, it really does benefit the Colombian over the likes of Dumoulin.

The Dutchman has been strong so far but this is his acid test. If he comes through the day relatively unscathed, losing roughly a minute, he will be very confident of taking the Giro overall.

As for the other contenders, who knows! Nibali always goes well in the final week and after his bad day on Oropa, you would expect Pinot to hopefully bounce back here on a stage with a lot more climbing that is suited to him. Zakarin is also looking strong and will hope to cement his podium charge.

Prediction

I think the break will build up a big enough gap to take the stage honours, it is a 222km long day after all so the GC teams won’t want to go too crazy early on.

I say hesitantly before we get a full gas stage from the start and half the peloton OTL.

Nonetheless, with a few strong climbers up the road and a couple of GC riders cracking behind, I think we’ll see a good climbing domestique take the win. Reichenbach to take the day after the stage goes through his home country!

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Betting

Small stakes on the breakaway punts as it’s too risky to be backing Quintana for the stage.

0.5pt WIN on them, all with Bet365 as well (although also available with PP/BF);

Reichenbach @ 125/1

Anacona @ 125/1

Dombrowski @ 150/1

Verona @ 250/1

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated as normal! Who do you think will win? Will we see a breakaway make it all the way to the line, or will a GC rider take the stage? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.