Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 11 Preview: Mombuey -> Ribeira Sacra. Luintra

Today’s Recap

Viviani won.

Moving on…

Just kidding, it was a pretty dull day so it all came down to the expected big bunch sprint. Quick Step delivered one of the best lead-outs I’ve seen all season, dropping the Italian champion off in the perfect position at just over 150m to go. No one was coming round him after that.

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Sagan came home second and Nizzolo rounded out the podium in third. I think the rest of the sprinters and their teams got scared to take it up too early in case they ended up in a poor position. However, with everyone riding a phony tempo on the front of the bunch it just worked into Quick Step’s hands as they could save themselves and hit it fully from 2.5km out. If there was some disorganisation then some of the other sprinters might have had a chance. That’s a big might though…

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

The Route

The longest stage of the race at a tad under 208km, it is no easy day in the saddle for the riders though with 3700m of climbing throughout the afternoon.

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As you can see on the profile there are no real mountains as such, just several long hills with shallow 4-5% average gradients. To add to that, there are also numerous uncategorised kickers and drags throughout the afternoon: the road is barely ever flat!

We might see a Ruben Plaza 2015-style solo 114km attack from the break but considering I think that is unlikely, tomorrow will be decided by a tactical final 50km.

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The road rises through the intermediate sprint point before the road descends into an uncategorised 2.9km at 5.8%. We will then see the peloton tackle the last categorised climb of the day.

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As you can see, it isn’t an overly difficult climb and stays very consistent. It definitely suits the all-rounders better than the pure climbers so to speak. The road then descends for almost 12km, although it is very shallow in some parts with that 12km only averaging -2%.

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At around 5.6km to go, the riders will face the above uncategorised climb. It is steep and long enough for the puncheurs to try to make a difference but those hoping to grind their way up it will think the opposite. It really is a perfect climb for its position in the day. Given the almost 2kms at 7.8% though, I think it tips it in favour of the puncheurs.

With it cresting with just over 3km to go, will a rider be able to solo to the line, or will we see a slight regroupment?

Breakaway Day

No beating around the bush here, tomorrow is most definitely a day for a break in my opinion. With the constant rolling terrain throughout the afternoon, it will be nigh on impossible for a team to control a strong group ahead. Furthermore, it will take a lot of energy expenditure to even try that – not exactly what anyone wants to do with the more important GC days to come. Unless of course Mitchelton Scott haven’t learnt anything from the Giro and decide to close everything down just for the sake of it. I wouldn’t count that out actually now I think about it a little more…

Nonetheless, time to play everyone’s favourite game. Again.

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The Fruitless Four

Steve Cummings.

Yep, it’s finally that day. I’ve had this day marked down as possible Cummings territory from before this race and since he has done absolutely nothing so far in this race, then I’m equally both more and less confident in the pick at the same time. He has been pretty rubbish this season, even he has admitted that, but he would have had a stage win in Austria had it not been for a mechanical in the closing kilometres. The rolling terrain of tomorrow suits Cummings well and I would expect to see him attack the breakaway around the final categorised climb and try to hold on to the finish.

Victor Campenaerts.

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After the tricky finish on stage 7 I promised I’d back Campenaerts on a rolling breakaway and tomorrow is that. Obviously a strong rider on the flat, the Belgian can actually go well on the hills too due to his quite slight nature. Lotto Soudal have had a pretty poor Vuelta so far, marred by crashes, but a good result tomorrow would set them up nicely for the final week.

Tao Geoghegan Hart.

When was the last time Team Sky had a rider in the breakaway at a Grand Tour? It certainly seems a while ago, that’s for sure. However, with De La Cruz and Kwiatkowski not looking convincing in their GC tilt at the moment, Sky might change their approach. Geoghegan Hart has had an exceptional season so far, proving to be one of the stronger climbing domestiques in the peloton at races like Dauphine. If he’s at that same level again in the break, then there won’t be many there stronger than him.

Vincenzo Nibali.

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Nibali might just be that guy who is stronger than Geoghegan Hart. He tried to escape with Trentin earlier on in the race but was still deemed too close on GC to be given any leeway, that’s how much his competitors respect him. The Shark of Messina has been struggling with form since crashing out of the Tour but he looked a lot more sprightly after his rest day this afternoon and I think he’ll be eyeing up one of the stages over the coming days. Does he have the legs to deliver?

Prediction

Yup, I’m going there.

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Steve Cummings to win and save his season, continuing Dimension Data’s great Vuelta.

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see a break survive all the way to the end? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

HSBC UK National Road Race Championships 2017 Preview; Douglas -> Douglas

After an “easy” route last year which saw two relatively large bunch sprints, with Blythe and Barnes being crowned champions, the organisers have certainly came up with a grippier parcours this time round.

2016 British Cycling National Road Championships - Stockton-on-Tees

Will the reigning champions be able to defend their crowns? Let’s have a proper look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

All profiles are courtesy of @LasterketaBurua / @raffilpt so go and give them a follow or check out their site!

The men’s race will incorporate two laps of the large circuit and 10 of the smaller circuit, totalling 193km. Whereas the women will only do one lap of the large circuit and 6 of the smaller one, totalling 103km.

You can view an interactive route profile here.

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As you can see, the main focal point of the opening circuit is the tough climb of ‘Mountain Mile” that averages 7% for 4.8km. Tough enough to see riders get dropped early on, it will be interesting to see how whittled down the group gets here and if we see any early attacks from the big hitters.

Compared to the opening loop and Mountain Mile, the closing circuit is fairly benign. However, the repeated nature of it and aggressive racing will certainly wear the riders down!

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The gradients are fairly shallow but there are some steeper pitches involved with some percentages of around ~8% in places. In fact, the second climb on the image above is closer to 8% for 400m but it flattens out at the top to bring the percentage down.

With only just over 2km from the top of the climb to the finish, those lacking a sprint will certainly be looking to make their move here.

Weather Watch

Along with the course, one thing that could shape the race is the weather. It looks as if the riders will have a dry day, but it is the wind that they will be more concerned about.

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Source: Met Office

With consistent winds of roughly 13mph (20kph) and gusts up to 24mph (38kph) the riders could certainly be caught out by crosswinds, especially on the larger opening circuit.

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Areas like the one above (just after Mountain Mile) are certainly exposed to the wind and it could potentially but the riders on the gutter on the left hand side of the road as the wind will be coming from their right.

However, it should only be the opening circuit that sees any echelon/crosswind action because the majority of the finishing laps are protected by trees and hedgerows.

Women’s Race

Given current form it is hard to argue against current champion Hannah Barnes regaining her title. Very strong in the TT on Thursday, she was incredibly consistent at the recent Women’s Tour and seems to have taken another step up again this year. She can climb, she’s strong on the flat and she can sprint. Ideal for this course! Will all of this racing catch up with her though?

Lizzie Deignan took a much more considered approach to the Women’s Tour but she will certainly be ready for this race. Having won a tough Tour de Yorkshire with a dominant ride, the 3-time National Champion will be looking to take home here 4th jersey here. Like Barnes, she can do everything and is the rider everyone will fear the most even though she has been a bit anonymous recently.

Women's Tour de Yorkshire 2017

Still an U-23 rider Hannah’s sister, Alice Barnes, could possibly compete here as well. The climb of Mountain Mile will be difficult for her but if she makes it to the final circuit with the lead group then she has as good a chance as any. Arguably a faster sprinter than her sister, can she win family bragging rights and more this time around?

After a solid third place in the TT, Katie Archibald will be looking for another strong performance in the road race. The Scot has really impressed me this season so far as she transitions from a track rider into a very versatile “roadie”. She won’t be dropped on the climbs but it her may be her inexperience in the wind that could be her undoing.

Dani King for a while looked as if she was going to hold on to the coat-tails of the flying Boels duo at the Tour de Yorkshire but it wasn’t to be.I’m still confused as to why she didn’t make the Olympic squad last year but that’s a debate for another day. A very consistent rider, she had a quiet Women’s Tour but still managed to finish 9th on GC, not bad! After being a loyal domestique for a few years, learning the trade, she moved teams during the winter to take more leadership opportunities. No better place to take your first pro win than at Nationals!

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Others who could be in contention include; Simmonds, Garner, Barker and Christian.

Men’s Race

There are two strong favourites for this course in my opinion and they were 1-2 on Alpe d’Huez not too long ago…

Pete Kennaugh will be looking to make history this year by being the first male rider to win the road race three times. A great one-day racer for this type of parcours, I’m sure he’ll be bitterly disappointed about missing out on the Tour squad. With that in mind, he will no doubt be going all out to win here. Will the local support be enough to see him win?

Ben Swift performed exceptionally well to come second behind Kennaugh on Alpe d’Huez, only losing ~15 seconds in the end. An under-rated climber, he should be able to cope with everything that he will face tomorrow. With a fast sprint as well, he is a force to be reckoned with. He’ll be out-numbered by other teams but that might not matter if he’s able to follow the best in an attacking race. The one issue is that no one will really want to bring him to the line.

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The same can be said for a recovering Mark Cavendish. The Manxman would have been relishing the opportunity to race for the national title on home roads but he has only just returned to racing after missing a large chunk of the season with Epstein Barr virus. He notched up a second place on a stage at the Tour of Slovenia and with the Tour de France around the corner, I have a feeling he’ll be going better than he says he is. He might not even show it tomorrow, but a hard race will do him good before next week.

 

Kennaugh isn’t Sky’s only option, Tao Geoghegan Hart is another candidate. The youngster produced a very solid time trial on Thursday, a discipline that’s not his strong point. He clearly is in good form and we could see Sky adopt some attacking tactics, using Geoghegan Hart to go in an early move that might just stick.

In a race that could become very open due to the attacking nature of it and the wind conditions there are several Continental riders who could have a chance.

Bibby (JLT), Holmes (Madison Genesis) and Williams (One Pro) are all riders to consider.

There is one rider I am going to keep a watchful eye on though and that is Scott Davies of Team Wiggins.

Scott-Davies

He won the U-23 TT on Thursday. More importantly, he was very impressive at the recent Baby Giro, finishing that race 4th on GC. Flying at the moment, he may take advantage of still being a “lower-level” rider and surprise a few tomorrow. The way he’s been riding, he shouldn’t be dropped on the climbs, that’s for sure!

Prediction

I’ll go for Hannah Barnes and Kennaugh wins, but with Davies to podium too!

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Betting

No women’s odds yet, but SkyBet might have something tomorrow. They had TT odds on the day of the event. As for the men…

Not much value in Kennaugh, but I’m willing to double him up with Aru in what is a hilly Italian course.

Kennaugh/Aru 1pt EW Double @ 65/1 with Bet365

Also backing…

Davies 0.5pt EW @ 50/1 with Bet365.

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de Yorkshire Stage 3 Preview; Bradford -> Fox Valley (Sheffield)

Today’s Recap

There were a flurry of attacks near the end of the stage but it came down to a sprint.

In the end it was easy for Bouhanni, who took a very comfortable win.

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With Ewan taking second, just ahead of the early sprinting Hivert.

All still to play for tomorrow, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

What a stage and the toughest in this race’s short history!

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The road is up and down all day with barely any respite for the peloton and not to mention the stage is nearly 200km long!

With 4 categorised climbs early in the day, the race could well be split up before the half-way point. It all depends on how aggressively the peloton decides to attack the day.

There is a potential for the race to lull in action in the middle section of the day, but the parcours is still challenging.

The final 20km is a killer though and once they’re through the Intermediate Sprint in Stocksbridge they are either climbing or descending all the way to the finish line.

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View the Strava profile here.

If the race hasn’t been blown to smithereens already, it will be after these 4 climbs and I’ll be very surprised if we see more than 3 riders come to the finish line together.

Speaking of which, it’s not exactly an easy closing few hundred metres…

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Things could get dicey if we see a few riders arrive together.

Weather Watch

It looks as if it’s meant to be a dry but overcast day in Yorkshire. Although at this moment in time, there are supposed to be showers in the area in the late evening so that forecast may change quite a bit come tomorrow.

Nonetheless, it’s not the rain the riders will be overly concerned about: it’s the wind!

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Skipton forecast @50km in. Source: Windfinder

The above is the forecast for Skipton which comes at roughly 50km into the stage and it’s set to be similar throughout the rest of the day which can only mean…

Echelons!

Although not as exposed as some of the racing was on the opening day, there are still plenty of opportunities for teams to try and split the race in the wind.

Such as this one after Leeming.

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Here’s hoping some teams do just that and make it a crazy day out in the saddle.

Contenders

To have a chance of winning here a rider will have to he a strong climber but also good in classics types races, so that they can position themselves well in the crosswinds.

It’s hard to tell where riders are in their season in terms of performance and some will certainly go better than expected, while others will turn in a poor or disappointing result compared to what they were expecting. Just getting my excuse in early for this preview… 😜

As I’m short of time I’ll throw a few names into the hat.

Brent Bookwalter.

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The American is arguably the in-form rider in the Yorkshire peloton after recently finishing 11th on GC in the Alps, nabbing a second place on Stage 5 along the way. A good punchy climber who packs a decent kick, he’ll want to try and get rid of some of the more established names in the bunch before the final 4 climbs. He certainly has a good chance though!

Tao Geoghegan Hart.

The young Brit looked sprightly enough at the end of stage 1, chasing down Voeckler’s half hearted attack with ease. However, he was one of the unfortunate riders to be involved in the crash in the closing straight. The wounds seemed to be superficial and Sky will be hoping their young prodigy can make the most of his lightweight frame on the steep climbs of Yorkshire.

Mauro Finetto.

I’m like a broken record this week, with the Italian getting his third mention in my previews. I mean, it would be rude not to include him again?! Not having raced for a while, he’s had the opening two stages to re-find his form and get up to race speed. In a field that’s not stacked with big named climbing talent, he could surprise.

Tom Stewart.

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The One Pro rider is a very handy climber, finishing 11th here on GC last year. He’s not shown as well in this race so far and was one of those to be collected in the stage 1 pile up, but he suffered no injuries. I think he might be able to spring a surprise tomorrow!

One other name I’d like to throw into the hat is Maurits Lammerink. The Katusha rider in theory should enjoy this type of stage as he has gone well on steep ramps in the past. He’s not been great so far for his new team this season, but a 25th in Fleche highlights that the form might be coming.

The likes of Kruijswijk etc could feature as well but I think he might keep his powder dry for the Giro.

Prediction

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know exactly where this is going…

Super Mauro!

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It is a bit of a lottery of a stage which should hopefully make it a great watch.

Betting

Not going wild, so…

(all with 365)

0.5pt WIN Finetto @ 16/1

0.125pt EW Stewart @ 200/1

0.125pt EW Pearson @ 100/1

 

Thanks as always for reading and apologies again that this is a bit shorter than normal. Who do you think will win tomorrow and what race situation will we see into Fox Valley? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.