Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 10 Preview: Salamanca -> Fermoselle. Bermillo de Sayago

Rest-day recap

Return of the King? Is that the title we’re going with?

On stage 9 an okay break, not super strong but not bad, escaped early on and they were kept on a fairly tight leash by Groupama. However, the elastic eventually snapped with around 70km to go and they were given enough room to fight it out for the stage.

It then became tactical in the break before the final climb, with a duo of King and Mas escaping. King dropped Mas and his gap grew north of 1’30 before the start of the summit finish. Mollema tried his best to bridge across, getting the gap down to only 18 seconds at one point but he had spent too much and King was just too strong.

King held on for a rather remarkable second stage win of this Vuelta, which is definitely a surprise to most. Can he go better than Marczynski last year and take a third?

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Mollema trailed home for second with other early morning breakee Teuns just managing to take third ahead of some rampaging GC riders.

With over a third of the race complete, the battle for the overall is still wide open and the top 10 is covered by just 48 seconds. Plenty in with chances over the coming two weeks, it’s just about managing your form and timing that peak perfectly.

Anyway enough about that, let’s see what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

A very odd-looking profile as the stage is pretty much as flat as you can get in Spain but because they descend before climbing again, it looks like there is a chunk out of the profile.

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Nothing much to talk about really aside from the Cat-3 that crests at 28km to go. However, the road continues to rise afterwards for 7.2km but it only averages a shade over 2%, so nothing too serious.

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I think we’ll see a sprint: so what is the run in like?

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Easy, really easy!

A slight meander at around 600m to go with is all they have to deal with pretty much: no roundabouts which is a bit surprising. That being said, there is a kink in the road with only 150m or so to go.

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Nothing serious but it is something to note. Coming around the short side will save you a fraction of the second and that could be all that matters. Also, the final few hundred metres rise at an average of 2% to the line, again, nothing crazy, but it means timing is more important.

If I’m honest, I’m not 100% sure that the above is the exact finish as in typical Vuelta fashion there are two different places in the road book. However, given that LaFlammeRouge and Erecce have the same finish point as above, I’ll go with that.

You can see a video of the run in above.

Sprinters

Do I really need to go through all of them again?

Viviani – Very strong when taking his win on stage 3 and he finished fast on the crosswind struck stage 6. However, both on that day and the uphill day where he *might* have had a chance, he was poorly positioned. Very unlike Quick Step that. They’ll need to sort that for tomorrow.

Sagan – Seems to be finding his form again but I think he is still not at 90%. If he was, then there was no way he was losing on Stage 8: he is getting there though. A master at positioning, expect to see him surf wheels given his short lead-out.

Bouhanni – Great to see him take the win earlier in the race. His team performed really well in that stage and that will give him more confidence in them. On his day Bouhanni can be really fast, it is just judging if it is his day or not!

Van Poppel – I was very impressed with his effort on stage 8, I didn’t expect him to finish third that day. What almost impressed me more though was just how well Lotto Jumbo bossed the closing few kilometres. If they can do that again tomorrow, then Van Poppel has a great chance.

Nizzolo – Another who got close on stage 8, he seems to be a nearly man so often. I would like to see him win a stage at a Grand Tour, it is what he deserves after being consistent over the years. I just can’t see it happening tomorrow though.

Consonni, Trentin, Sarreau and Garcia will be in or around the top 10. I wonder if Max “speed bump” Walscheid makes the finish?

Prediction

A simple finish can often be a chaotic and messy finish as everyone thinks they have a chance. We’ll see a big fight for position as riders surge forward and then back again as they run out of steam so luck will somewhat play a factor. A team will want to time their effort perfectly so that they can drop their sprinter off at just the right moment.

I’ll go with Lotto Jumbo to repeat their lead-out feat from stage 8 and put Van Poppel into an unbeatable position.

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Betting

Normally wouldn’t go EW on short sprint odds but given how close things have been so far between them all, I’ll take the “safety net” of a podium.

2pts EW Van Poppel @ 10/1 with William Hill who are actually paying 1/3 odds for 3 places. Would take the 9s or 8s available elsewhere though.

Thanks as always for reading, who do you think is going to win tomorrow? Apologies for this not being as in-depth as normal but there isn’t really much to talk about! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 8 Preview: Linares -> Almadén

Today’s Recap

An OK break made it up the road but Bora were more than happy to help Groupama FDJ keep tabs on it so they were never really given north of 3 minutes. Things spiced up on the penultimate climb with plenty of riders dropped, but it was the descent off of that climb that was the undoing of Kwiatkowski who went down along with two team-mates. With the pace on up ahead and the tough climb to come, he would never make it back on despite his and a few others best efforts.

In the peloton we saw numerous attacks from solo riders and groups, but it was Gallopin who went at the perfect moment. A small lull as the decision as to who would cahse was made ended up being enough for the Frenchman to get a big enough gap to take the stage win.

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It is a result that is nice to see given how much he has suffered from illness or injury this year.

Behind, Sagan sprinted to second place after keeping himself nicely hidden from the tv motorbikes in the final 10km. Seems he is building some form again as he definitely wouldn’t have made this finish a few weeks ago. Pre-stage favourite Valverde trailed home in third place.

Will tomorrow see a similarly aggressive and attacking finish to the day? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

I’m branding it as Stage 7 Lite.

The riders will face only 2100m of climbing compared to today’s 2500m.

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The ascents themselves are less intense too, with the only categorised rise of the day averaging a lowly 3.5% for almost 9km: that’s not the Vuelta I know! Even the finale is a bit of a rip-off of today’s finish.

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Admittedly, the ramps involved in those closing 6.5km are tougher than the steadier 2% drag to the line we had this afternoon but it still equates to pretty much the same finish: a 6km, just over 2% run to the line.

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The final kilometre averages 3%, but it does feature a few switchbacks on a narrow road so positioning will be vital. Expect a big fight for the penultimate turn off the main highway. Also, ignore the poor surface on the image above, that is taken from a 2008 Street View trip (if that’s the right word) but the road has since been done up with some swanky new asphalt.

How will the stage pan out?

With a big day ahead of them on Sunday, I think most will want to keep their powder dry. Despite the rolling hills at the start, it is fairly easy terrain therein for the peloton to control the breakaway. I think we’ll once again see Bora help with the chase and possibly a few of the other sprint teams so I don’t think the break has a very good chance at all tomorrow if I’m honest. It is the Vuelta though so you can never fully discount it.

The only way that it does have a chance is if we see a surprisingly large group of 8 or 9 go clear and everyone else decides not to work with Bora given that Sagan is looking strong again.

I think that is unlikely though, so an uphill sprint it is!

Can anyone stop Sagan?

I didn’t expect to be writing that a few days ago but given his performance today then I think it is a fair question. The run to the line tomorrow will be no issue for the World Champion if he continues to recover and he has to start as the out-and-out favourite for the day. His kick today was impressive and caught a few by surprise, let alone Valverde, who didn’t even realise he was in the main group.

Viviani – Can he make the finish? I think he will and he is the main threat to Sagan. It was only poor positioning that cost him a second stage win on Wednesday. He is punchy enough to deal with the drag and if he shows the same closing speed as he did the other day, then I think he has the beating of the World Champion.

Bouhanni – Now with a stage win, the Frenchman will be full of confidence. I mentioned in one of my earlier previews that Bouhanni is traditionally one of the better climbing sprints in the peloton, having won tough stages in Catalunya in the past. Tomorrow is different, easier in fact, but I can’t help but cast my mind back to the 2014 Vuelta and Stage 13 when Bouhanni finished 5th amongst GC contenders and puncheurs on a tough uphill finish.

Trentin – Just doesn’t seem to be at 100% at the moment. He’s another the finish looks great for but I don’t think he has the speed to beat Sagan if it is more selective and the same goes if it is less selective.

Nizzolo – Has managed okay on these dragging uphill finishes in the past but I’m not certain he has fully returned to his former level yet, therefore, I don’t think he’ll feature.

Outsiders to watch

Simone Consonni.

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I’ve been impressed by the Italian’s development this year in what is his second season in the pro peloton. He’s a solid sprinter but can also hang quite well on the short climbs. It will be tough for him to win but a top 10 on a tough-ish finish like this would be a good result.

Eduard Prades.

Not as much of an outsider as he would have been had he not come 4th today. The Euskadi Murias rider has had a string of very good results this year, particularly in races with tricky finishes. The rise to the finish certainly helps him but against the quality of opposition here then I think another top 10 would be good.

Mike Teunissen.

Given Max “speed bump” Walscheid won’t be competing come the finish, I would expect Sunweb to give Teunnisen the chance to go for a result as they will have plenty of others to help guide Kelderman. We’ve seen so far this year that Teunissen is competent on the short climbs so tomorrow’s drag to the finish should be okay for him. Is he capable of going better than his fifth place result on the opening day of Paris Nice?

Prediction

This is a tough one. I think it comes down to a sprint, the question is who? Sagan is the obvious choice but I do feel both Bouhanni and Viviani have the abilities to challenge him.

Hmmmmm.

Given his season so far, I’ll go with Viviani to win again.

 

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Betting

2pts WIN Viviani @ 8/1

0.5pt EW Teunissen @ 200/1

3pts H2H Double (Consonni > DVP and Bouhanni > Nizzolo) @ 3.2/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Skydive Dubai › Palm Jumeirah

Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Skydive Dubai › Palm Jumeirah

GC Overview

The annual battle in the desert between the sprinters returns this week with 5th edition of the Dubai Tour, and boy, do we have a strong field here!

Kittel, Cavendish, Viviani, Groenewegen, Degenkolb/Nizzolo, Kristoff, Bouhanni, Mareczko, Cort Nielsen and Colbrelli all will start the race, and they’ll all hope to get one over their rivals early on in the year.

Since the change in format after the 2014 edition (that had a TT to open), the GC battle has often came down to the sprinters being able to pick up bonus seconds coupled with their ability to follow home the puncheurs on the Hatta Dam. 2015 and 2016 saw Cavendish and Kittle take enough stage wins/secure enough bonus seconds to hold on for the overall title. While last year saw the Hatta Dam stage cancelled due to high winds, which made it more of a walk in the park for Kittel than what might have been.

This year, the riders will have one more stage to contend with which theoretically makes it even more likely that a sprinter will win the GC. However, given that this is the strongest field that we’ve seen here since the races inception, there is a chance that the stage wins will be spread around enough that a puncheur could sneak the overall win.

Nonetheless, I still think we’ll see a sprinter take the crown.

That man will be Viviani.

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With some racing already in his legs, he should come to this race sharper than a lot of his rivals and that could play a big part throughout the week. Furthermore, with a win to his name already and a string of solid performances down in Australia, he will be buoyed by confidence. I think being freed from the shackles of Sky really helped him and we saw a big change in his performances towards the end of last season when he knew the move to QuickStep was confirmed. Having a team that believes in you makes a massive difference for a sprinter and it clearly has helped the Italian. Some of the Watts he was putting out in Australia were incredibly impressive and I think he’s transforming back to the Viviani that showed so much promise in his early years at Liquigas. Consequently, that means he can actually climb reasonably well and get to some finishes that you might not expect, i.e. his second in Cadel’s Race, or Hatta Dam. QuickStep’s record in this race is remarkable, having won it for the past three years, and I fancy them to make it four in a row this time around.

Vai Vai Viviani!

Will he secure the win on the opening day though? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders on Stage 1.

The Route

Pretty much a carbon copy of last year’s opening day.

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There’s almost no point of me posting any of the stage profiles this week as they’re all flat! The more interesting thing about the stage is the final run.

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The riders come out of a tunnel at roughly 6km to go, before making their way towards the end of the Palm. This marks a fairly tight roundabout and once they are through that point, it is a 3km drag race for the sprint teams. The roundabout can be sketchy and last year’s race saw Colbrelli fall here and ruin any chance of victory.

Considering the distance from the roundabout to the finish line, it is possible for teams to move their riders up in that time. However, you certainly want to be in the first third of the peloton.

It is hard for a team to assert complete control at the front of the peloton and we’ll more than likely see surges from different trains in the closing couple of kilometres.

Normally the riders would be concerned with the wind on this stage, but the forecast is fairly benign with a 10km/h left to right cross-wind predicted for the closing sprint. Nothing too drastic, but coming from the downwind side might just present an opportunity for a rider to surprise. Conversely though, a strong lead-out could hug the right hand side of the road, forcing any competitor into the wind.

Contenders

As I’ve mentioned above, we’re treated to a long list of sprinters here so I’ll try to keep this bit short-ish, otherwise we could be here a while!

Marcel Kittel.

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Winner of this stage last year, it will be interesting to see how he gels into his new team and lead-out train. Katusha are certainly weaker than QS and with Kittel preferring a late dash to the line, pouncing in the closing kilometre a lot last season, I’m not sure the likes of Haller and Zabel have the speed to do that. We’ll see, but I’ll be watching with interest.

Elia Viviani.

The form rider here and my GC favourite. He was very strong in the Tour Down Under and was rewarded with a great stage win as a result. QuickStep bring a team with them here that is built around the Italian. With the power they have, we should see a dominant blue train in the closing kilometres. Can Viviani continue his good form?

Dylan Groenewegen.

Still only 24, the young Dutchman had another solid season last year where he picked up 8 wins, including the iconic sprint along the Champs-Élysées at the Tour. He started his season with a second place on GC here last year and will be looking to go one better this time. With a team dedicated to him, he should be positioned well going into the sprint, and it will be up to him to deliver.

Mark Cavendish.

You can never rule out Cavendish. I did at the 2016 and he absolutely blitzed that, before dropping out to focus on the Olympics. It is fair to say that 2017 was a bit of a disaster for him though, with only one win all year and a crash in the Tour that ruined his season. He arrives here with a tried and tested lead-out train and I’m sure he’ll want to come out of the blocks firing in 2018; reminding everyone that he is still one of the fastest guys in the peloton.

John Degenkolb.

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Having already started his season in Mallorca, Degenkolb has an advantage over some of his competitors in that sense. Furthermore, with two wins to his name, he already has more wins this year than in all of 2017. Trek also bring Nizzolo with them so it will be interesting to see the dynamic between them, but given that Degenkolb has won on Hatta before, I imagine they’ll go with him here. Can he make it 3 wins from 3 starts in 2018?

Alexander Kristoff.

Having moved from Katusha in the winter, where he spent six years of his career, it will be interesting to see how he gets on in his new UAE Emirates team. There will be pressure on the Norwegian to perform in what is a home race for the squad, but his team doesn’t look the best. A lot of pressure will be on the young shoulders of Ganna and Consonni to position him well, which could be his downfall. I’m sure he’ll be disappointed to see it won’t be a headwind sprint either! I think we might see something from him later in the race, but not on the opening day.

Nacer Bouhanni.

The enigmatic Frenchman arrives here with Cofidis receiving an invite to the race for the first time. When he wants to be he is lightning fast but more often than not he is too busy scrapping for someone’s wheel way down the order, before settling for a top 8 finish. If his attitude has improved and that is a big if, then he could have a really good season. The Cofidis management has had a change of approach and seems to be giving him some tough love an I’m intrigued to see how that works. I would not be surprised to see him first or fifteenth.

Sonny Colbrelli.

2017 was a good year for the Italian and his move up to World Tour level was a success, winning a stage of Paris Nice. I’m not sure his raw pace is up to the standard of some of the guys here and he would probably prefer a tougher day out in the saddle, but you never know.

Jakub Mareczko.

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Already with two wins under his belt at the famous Sharjah Tour towards the end of January, he’ll arrive here with confidence. What? You’ve never heard of it? Tut tut. To be fair, all he had to beat was Coquard and some sand so we can’t really take much from it. Nonetheless, I do rate the Wilier rider and he has the speed to compete on very flat days. He’s still a tier or so below the best riders, but given he’s been in the Emirates for a few weeks now, that might be of an advantage to him.

Magnus Cort Nielsen.

Another rider who moved in the winter, he’ll want to impress for new team Astana. On paper, he has the power and climbing ability to “do a Degenkolb” and challenge on the Dam, but a crash in training in December might have halted his build up to the season. Like Colbrelli, he would prefer a few more lumps and bumps, but he can’t be discounted entirely.

Prediction

Pffff, pick a name out of a hat!

Viviani has the form, but I think he might fall short on the first day. Instead, I’ve been drawn towards Cavendish for this opening stage.

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He’s spent a bit of time in the Emirates recently and was out there towards the end of January as an ambassador for Abu Dhabi Tour. Now, I’m unsure if he has just stayed there since, but he’s definitely been out since the 2nd of February and I think that shows some intent to go well on his part. Furthermore, he is playing down his chances and form in the press, which is normally when he ends up going well!

His big goal for the year is to get closer to Merckx’s Tour de France stage win record, but I imagine he will want to hit the ground running after a quite frankly awful 2017 by his accounts, mostly for confidence reasons. Although I don’t think he lacks that…

He’s a racer and with a tried and tested lead-out, he has a good chance of surprising on the opening day.

Betting

3pts WIN Viviani for GC at 9/2 with Bet365

1pt EW Cavendish for Stage 1 at 9/1 with SkyBet

4pts Viviani to beat Groenewegen for Stage 1 at 1/1 with Bet365

1pt Double on Viviani ov Groenewegen & Degenkolb ov Kristoff at 2.66/1 with Bet365.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? We have a plethora of sprinters to choose from so it should be an exciting week of racing. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Today’s Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Route

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

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

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

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

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

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Said sharp turn which is actually a tight roundabout

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will we get a sprint though…

How will the stage pan out?

It really should be a day for the sprinters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Break Candidates

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

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

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

Prediction

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

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

Betting

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

0.25pts WIN on the following (all with Bet365)

LL Sanchez @ 300/1

Zhupa @ 300/1

Albanese @ 500/1

de Buyst @ 500/1

Update;

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

Those were My Two Spokes worth.

 

 

 

 

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

Today’s Recap

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

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

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

The Route

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will the stage pan out?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weather

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

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Source: Windfinder (Ali Terme)

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

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Just North of Ali Terme

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

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

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

Sprint Contenders

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Outsiders?

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

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

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

Prediction

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

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

Betting

2.5pts WIN Greipel @ 5/2 with various

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

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

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

Today’ Recap

I love the Giro!

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

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

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

The Route

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

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

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

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

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You can view it here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will the stage pan out?

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

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

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

Will the weather have any influence in that?

In short, no.

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

Sprinters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Late Attack?

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

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

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

Prediction

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

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

Betting

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

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

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

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

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

The Route

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

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

T13_Jesolo_alt

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

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

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

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

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

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

T04_Praia AM_ARR

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

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

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

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

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

Weather Watch

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

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

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Source: Windfinder

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

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

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

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Source: Windfinder

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

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

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Just North of Cannigione (~30km to go)

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

Echelons?!

I live in hope more than anything!

Sprint Contenders

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

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

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

Andre Greipel Giro d'Italia

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

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

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

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

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

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Can anyone else contend?

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

Prediction

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

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

Betting

I already have;

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

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

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

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth!