Tour Down Under 2018 – Stage 5 Preview; McLaren Vale -> Willunga Hill

Stage 4 Recap

That didn’t disappoint, although I did think the race would be slightly more selective. We saw attacks from many riders throughout the closing 10kms, all of which looked at some point as if they might be “the one”. However, things were eventually brought back together for a super fast sprint into Uraidla, with Sagan showing his raw power by overcoming Impey in the closing 50m. Luis Leon Sanchez rounded out the podium.

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That result means the World Champion is in Ochre heading in to the classic Willunga stage. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders; this will be brief!

The Route

If you’ve watched the Tour Down Under at any point then you’ll know what is coming.

Santos Tour Down Under 2018 - Stage 5
@LaFlammeRouge

Nothing all day really until we get to the final 25km and the first ascent of Willunga.

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In the grand scheme of things it is not an overly difficult climb but the combination of the heat and the speed they ascend, makes it tougher than it seems.

Porte has flown up here the past few years, normally launching his attack from ~1.2km to go, and fully dropping everyone by the S-bends at ~800m to go. Will we see the same this year?

Weather Watch

After the ridiculously hot conditions of the past few days, it will ease in temperature a bit for Willunga. The following is the forecast for nearby Mount Terrible.

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Source: Windfinder

There is one thing that has caught my eye though…Look at that wind. I didn’t expect to get the opportunity to speak about the possibility of echelons this early into the season!

They are unlikely, but given we’ve seen some teams try before, I’m hoping that might be the case this year. It all depends on what way the wind ends up blowing.

The 4kms along McMurtie Road could offer a prime opportunity if the wind does come from the south.

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Likewise, the same can be said for the 3.5km of Main Road as the riders head directly south for town of Willunga, if the wind has swung round.

How will the stage pan out?

With so many riders still close on GC, there are 33 riders within 14 seconds, then I hope we see some aggressive racing early. Leaving it to the last ascent of Willunga really narrows down the list of riders who can win this race overall.

Ideally, I’d love to see a few teams set a very hard pace up Willunga the first time followed quickly by some counter-attacks over the top. This could create some really interesting, tactical racing.

Will we see that though?

I fear not and once again it will be a sprint up Willunga but the headwind will play a big part and we might not see as wide margins as we have in the past.

Can anyone stop Porte?

Probably not, he looked strong on stage 4 and seems as lean as ever going by the pictures floating around social media. However, there are reports that he was suffering from a bit of an illness on Friday, although that didn’t really show the other day! Yet, if that has matured into something worse, then it certainly could be highlighted on Willunga. Porte has attacking spot nailed down; putting in a strong dig at 1.2km and not slowing down until the finish. With the headwind though he might have to hold on until later, meaning his winning gap might not be as big in the end.

From what we’ve seen so far there are a few riders who might go close to the BMC rider.

McCarthy has been consistently strong throughout this race and he impressed me on the climb of Woods Hill in yesterday’s stage. He’s not a pure climber, but given his current form he certainly should be up at the pointy end on Willunga. The headwind is a massive advantage for him as it plays nicely into his good sprint. He’ll hope to finish no more than a few seconds behind Porte if possible, then pick up some bonuses on the final day.

Pozzovivo is lurking and has been climbing to the fore on the few tests we’ve had so far. Bahrain still have three riders close which could play wonderfully into their hands if they attack the race. The Izagirre brothers have been solid too and I really hope we see them go full gas on the first ascent. It will be hard to beat the King of Willunga, but if they can isolate him early then who knows.

Canty.

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A bit of an outsider, he was one of the standout riders for me yesterday. On the passage of Norton Summit he was very attentive, coming over the crest in third place behind Gerrans and Porte. Then once we got onto Woods Hill he made a move with Gorka Izagirre. That didn’t last too long but he was one of the first to follow when Porte went again later. To me that suggests he’s going well and feeling confident. Completing his first Grand Tour last year will have a positive effect on him this season; will we see that come to fruition on Willunga?

Prediction

The King will be dethroned!

Porte will try his best to get rid of everyone on Willunga but the headwind will scupper him and he’ll rue the missed opportunity to work with his successor on stage 4…

George Bennett to win!

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I was really impressed with the Kiwi on stage 4 and he arguably looked the strongest on Woods Hill Road; a great sign for Willunga. It was a shame that Porte soft-pedalled a few turns when the two of them had got a gap, but it will only make Bennett hungrier to beat the BMC rider on his own turf.

He is a classy rider who took a big step forward last year and I think that upwards trajectory will continue in 2018!

Betting

B365 have been boring and went 1/5 odds for 3 places not the usual 1/4, but anyway;

1pt EW Bennett @ 14/1 

0.5pt EW Canty @ 50/1

3pts on Canty to beat Hamilton @ 1/1

 

Thanks as always for reading. Apologies that this is a slightly truncated preview but given that it is the same route every year and I’m a bit knackered after the past few days; what can you do?! Who do you think will win on Willunga this year? Can Porte really be dethroned? Can Sagan somehow hold on enough to be in with a chance on Stage 6? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

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

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

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

The Route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s hope everyone stays upright!

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

How will the stage pan out?

Another break?

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

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

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

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

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

Break Candidates

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

Tobias Ludvigsson.

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

Antwan Tolhoek.

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

Antonio Pedrero.

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

George Bennett.

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

Now, for that added rider…

Ruben Fernandez.

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

Vuelta Picks

Safe Pick – GC guy, Adam Yates.

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

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

Go for it, c’mon!

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Schwarzmann

A consistently low finisher, I like his form!

Prediction

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

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

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

Betting

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

0.5pt EW on them all

Pedrero 100/1 @ Betfred

Ludvigsson 300/1 @B365

Bennett 150/1 @ Lads

Tolhoek 200/1 @ Boyles

Fernandez 150/1 @ Coral

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Pais Vasco 2017 Stage 3 Preview; Gasteiz -> Donostia

Today’s Recap

A really dull day which was good because it meant I could get my Scheldeprijs preview finished while it was on!

The slow day resulted in the final kicker being a non-event and we got a very high-speed sprint. Typically it was Albasini who was sprinting for Orica today and he took out the win. I should have stuck to my guns and not jumped ship, but oh well!

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Richeze and De Bie rounded out the podium. It’s been a fairly boring race so far and very unlike a normal Pais Vasco, but hopefully that changes tomorrow as the terrain gets more lumpy. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

After two days of fairly benign routes, we get a stage that is typically Basque.

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@LasterketaBurua

With 6 categorised climbs it will be a very tough day out in the saddle. There are some discrepancies between the official profile and the one I’m using above, but I trust the gradients of the guys at @LasterketaBurua more than I do those, that the organisers provide!

I’ll discount the first three climbs of the day because they come too far from the finish to be of any major concern.

The next two climbs aren’t too difficult either to be honest and will probably be the scene of a gradual rise in pace within the peloton, as those on a bad day get dropped. However, I think we could see the likes of Movistar start to put the pressure on towards the summit of Andazarrate climb and we might get a rather reduced peloton as we descend gradually towards the final climb of the day.

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The graphic above is from Altimetrias.net but is for the full Mendizorrotz climb. The route tomorrow will tail off just after the Venta de Orio. As you can see, it’s a short but fairly steep climb, averaging 6.2% for the 5km. However, there is a kilometre that averages 8.1% and ramps of 13% and 14% in some parts. A stinging attack here could certainly make a difference.

We then get a bit of false flat before the descent to Donostia (San Sebastian) begins. The descent will be fast but the 3km of flat at the end of it might discourage some riders from trying to go solo.

If we do get a regrouping expect attacks to be flying from all over the place on the run in, which itself does not suit any type of bunch kick.

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Two 90-degree turns in the last kilometre and a little chicane should be exciting viewing but a very manic end of the day for the riders.

How will the stage pan out?

When I originally looked at this stage I thought it might be one for the puncheurs, someone along the likes of Bilbao. I had a whole bit planned linking to a tweet on how he has recon-ed this stage etc, but the more I think about it (never a good thing!) the more I lean towards this being an even more selective day than I originally thought.

That final climb is tough, especially the opening 4kms and if they race up it at pace like I expect Movistar to, then not many will be left near the front over the top. Only a group of 30 riders at most may be in contact over the top and therefore in with a chance of a win.

I don’t think the likes of Gerrans will get over the climb in contention.

Now the next question is, do Movistar go at such a pace to deter attacks on the climb? Or do we see them go hard but then stop so Valverde can attack?

With no bonus seconds on the line, a group of favourites might be more inclined to work with Valverde to gain an advantage over other GC contenders. Then again, they might not bother!

If we do get a regrouping will a team have enough riders to control the small bunch, or will a late attack stick?

I think the latter…

Late Attackers

Alaphilippe looks like an ideal candidate for this as he should be at the front of the peloton over the climb and is no longer a GC threat. With a fast sprint he could even challenge Valverde in a small group. Will he be as short odds as I think and thus put me off of him? Probably!

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There are two GC riders who I want to mention that have a chance of going well on this stage in my opinion.

Simon Yates.

The recent winner of the GP Indurain and a stage in Paris Nice, the young Brit is certainly going well just now. He should be able to cope with the short climbs in the area competently and as we have witnessed over the past few weeks, isn’t afraid of an attack from reasonably far out. He descended like a stone in Paris Nice and could certainly maintain a gap if the others sit up and have an argument about who’s going to chase behind. He’s my rider for a more long-range attack at the top of the climb!

George Bennett.

05-06-2016 Criterium Du Dauphine Libere; Tappa Prologo Les Gets; 2016, Lotto Nl - Jumbo; Bennett, George; Les Gets;

The Kiwi is my “he’s not a threat” late attack option. He was climbing well in Catalunya and would expect to make it over the last climb with the peloton. During that race he was quite lively at times, putting in a few probing attacks. In a group of around 20 or so at the end, he has a good a chance as anyone to make an attack that sticks!

Prediction

I think Movistar attack the day hard and we get a selective GC day and I’ll go for the descending stone that is Simon Yates to take the win!

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Betting

1.25pt EW Yates @28/1 with Bet365

0.5pt EW Contador @100/1 with Bet365 (far too big a price for a selective day)

0.25pt EW Bennett @300/1 with Bet365.

 

Thanks for reading as always and apologies that this is a bit more rushed than my Scheldeprijs preview. How do you think tomorrow will play out? Will it be as selective as I think? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.