Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 20 Preview: Susa -> Cervinia

Today’s Recap

Well shit, that was insane.

Love him or hate him, you have to admire just how ballsy and mental that ride from Foome was today. Team Sky set him up perfectly on the Finestre and the Brit attacked once onto the gravel section, with still a good portion of the climb to go, let alone the remaining 70 odd kilometres. But he did it, unbelievably, he managed to hold off the remaining GC group of Dumoulin/Pinot/Lopez/Carapaz but a good bit of that can be attributed to the lack of organised chase, especially between the two young jersey riders.

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His time gap when he crossed the line was 3 minutes to second placed finisher Carapaz with Pinot finishing another 7 seconds behind. More importantly though, Dumoulin was even further behind and Froome now consequently leads the race by 40 seconds which should be enough to see him crowned champion.

A few riders had bad days in the saddle with Pozzovivo losing his podium position but Yates had a terrible day and he’s dropped down to 18th place on GC.

It will have been a tough day out for all though as the last rider home came in over 45 minutes down. Not fun. Good thing there is an easy stage tomorrow, oh wait…

The Route

It is easy to start off with to be fair but the final third is very cruel!

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130kms of mainly flat ground which will see a fight to get into the break before three tough cat-1 climbs in the closing 80km of the day to play host to any final changes in GC.

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First up is the Col Tsecore and it is arguably the toughest climb the riders will face all day, averaging 7.7% for its 16kms. That includes a 3km section of 11.4%. I would say it is too far out for any action but you never know. Once over the crest the riders will plunge straight down for the following 20kms on what could be a treacherous descent.

No time for respite though, because after a kilometre or so of valley roads they once again start heading upwards, this time for the Col Sant Pantaléon.

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Another climb that averages north of 7%, this time 7.2%, for its 16.5km, the riders will have weary legs once they reach the top no doubt. With the toughest section coming in the closing 2km, it is the perfect launchpad for an attack before committing full gas to the descent.

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The finish climb to Cervinia is the easiest of the day but with the tough double-header before and taking into account just how aggressive this Giro has been, a few rider’s might get some nasty surprises from their legs here.

How will the stage pan out?

Today well and truly turned the race on its head, so much so that Froome’s 40 second gap to Dumoulin seems too big for the Dutchman to overcome. Especially if the Sky rider is as good as he was today. We saw just how strong his team was this afternoon and it will take a lot for Sunweb to shake off Poels, Henao and Elissonde. We’ll no doubt see a vintage Sky mountain train tomorrow where they ride tempo to deter any attacks on the first two climbs. It depends on Dumoulin’s mood but he said post-stage today that he felt pessimistic about tomorrow, which to me signals that he knows he’s lost.

Sky will be happy for a large break to get up the road with no dangermen from GC and they’ll just control things behind.

Tomorrow is 90% a breakaway day but it all depends on who makes the move. If someone on the cusp of the top 10 sneaks into the move then we’ll see whoever is going to be knocked out of that position’s team chasing to hold onto that spot. It’s disappointing to see, but a Top 10 in a GT means a lot for some of these teams and riders.

The only real dangerous riders to watch out for in that situation though are Formolo, Geniez, Dennis and Poels.

If none of them make the break then I can see it winning by 10+ minutes again.

Making the break

Something that is a lot easier than it sounds but with everyone in the peloton knowing that a break is likely to stick, there will be a lot of fighting to get ahead. You need to be lucky with what move to follow but also need to manage your effort well and choose what break attempts to go in wisely.

Furthermore, we saw after Schachmann’s stage win that Van Poppel had tried to get into the break with one of their leader’s for the stage (probably Eg, knowing my luck), but he was not able to follow the Dutchman’s wheel. These things happen and it will be similar tomorrow where the morning terrain suits the rouleurs but to win the stage you need to go well uphill too.

Anyway, time to play everyone’s favourite game again.

TheBreakawayLottery

Jack Haig.

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With Yates well and truly out of the GC picture now, Mitchelton will probably go on the offensive tomorrow to try to win another stage. Haig impressed a lot in the Vuelta last year and he has continued that development this season, working incredibly well for his leader over the past few weeks. In the previous two stages we have had, the Aussie rider has taken it “easy” (well, as easy as it can be in a GT), so he should be a bit fresher than he was. We’ve seen so far in this race how strong he can be on the climbs and not many in the break will fancy their chances if he’s there.

Jose Goncalves.

I’ve not mentioned Mr #GoOnCalves for a while and that’s because he’s mainly been riding a really awkward race for me to do so, sitting on the cusp of the top 15 and too close on GC to try anything. Today he came home in a respectable 19th but at more than 26 minutes down on GC, he can finally go on the attack and be allowed some freedom. He is riding very well so far this race and has surpassed my expectations of what he could possibly do as a rider – can he take a stage to round it off?

Joe Dombrowski.

For old time’s sake. We’re into the final week of a Grand Tour and I’ve only mentioned Dombrowski once before so it feels right to do it again. The American has great powers of recovery and with a tough stage today, it should level the playing field a bit for him tomorrow. He has one of the best endurance engines I’ve seen in the peloton, and I genuinely think he’d be a contender in a 6-week race! The tricky climbs will see him at home tomorrow and would be great to see him finally deliver on that junior performance.

Carlos Betancur.

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Much to the dismay of his faithful following, Betancur dropped out of the top 20 on GC today after coming home 34 minutes down. Is he cooked, or saving himself for one final shot at stage glory? We all know what type of rider he can be when he wants, and he seems to be getting to that stage again. This race is normally a good stomping ground an I’m sure the majority of the cycling public would love to see the Colombian raise his arms at the end of the day.

Prediction

#GoOnCalves.

José-Gonçalves

That is all.

Betting

I think I should be giving out a gamble responsibly mission statement here. None of the prices really appeal to me just now so hoping they get better later.

Thanks as always for reading, who do you think will win tomorrow and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 19 Preview: Venaria Reale -> Bardonecchia

Today’s Recap

The Giro is the Giro.

In typical fashion we had a break made up mainly of rouleurs that was allowed to go and contest the stage win. I honestly have no idea what the teams who chased so fervently yesterday were doing today allowing a break get away today that had only a handful of climbers in it.

And after me backing him for yesterday’s stage Schachmann went on to win today. Sums this race up perfectly really!

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I will admit that it is quite nice that Morkov and Schachmann who are roomies, planned this move yesterday evening.

Plaza was second with Cattaneo in third.

It looked as if it was going to be a dull GC day but a series of attacks ultimately led to Yates having a mini-crisis, from which he lost 28 seconds to Dumoulin, Pozzovivo and Froome. Consequently it means that he is only the same margin ahead of the Sunweb rider going into a very tough double-header. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Arguably the hardest stage at the Giro, the riders will face 5000m of climbing throughout the afternoon.

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Climbing from the gun, albeit gently to start off with, the riders will summit the Colle del Lys after 48km of racing. Plenty of time for riders to be shelled out the back if there is a big fight to get into the breakaway.

A long descent and a good portion of valley roads follows before this year’s Cima Coppi: the Colle delle Finestre.

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45 hairpins over 18.5km and a climb that averages roughly 9%. I suppose the riders can take some solace in the fact that at least it is steady…Oh, the second half of it is also on gravel roads. Just to add to the excitement.

Another quick and technical descent follows before the drag up to the ski station of Sestrière. However, it will be the easier ascent the will tackle this year so it shouldn’t amount to much.

It will be then over to the final climb to decide the day.

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It’s a tough one too as the Jaffereau averaging 9% for 7.2kms. With some of the steepest sections coming right at the end, it is perfect for an explosive lightweight climber. But after what they will have had to face before then, it might just be a case of who has anything left in the tank.

How will the stage pan out?

If Yates didn’t show any sign of weakness today then there would have been a chance that the break sticks all the way tomorrow. It still has a chance but given how aggressively I expect the other GC teams to race it now then you will need to be a very good climber to possibly hold on.

If I was Mitchelton I would play a very ballsy and risky game tomorrow. Everyone expects the likes of Sky, Sunweb and Bahrain to get a guy into the morning move to act as a bridge for their GC contender later on. So in that situation Mitchelton should just let the break get so far ahead that the rider up the road is redundant. Of course, this plan backfires a bit if lets say someone like Poels slips away.

Will we see any long-range attacks on the Finestre? I think that is a possibility but a rider will need a lot of team support ahead of them because there are still 70kms to the finish after that.

Of course, it is not just the ascents where attacks can be made and the technical descents may be just as pivotal tomorrow, especially if we get some of the rain that is forecast.

There is a good chance that things get brought back together and we have a very select group fight it out on the final climb, as the long valley roads in between the ascents might put an end to any rangey solo attacks.

Before today’s GC shake up I would have had this as a breakaway day in a 60:40 split, because of those valley roads. But after Yates’ few cracks appearing today, then I’ll reverse that and suggest it will be a GC rider who will take the win. Although I’m not completely discounting the break because it could still stick in the right situation.

Contenders

Tom Dumoulin.

Has he peaked perfectly for the final week? He certainly looked strong today but the final climb suited him very well. Tomorrow will be a big test for one of the heavier GC contenders but he seems to be in good form at the moment. With the gap down to just 28 seconds now, he will feel within touching distance of Yates, so he might not take as many risks as he would have done otherwise tomorrow.

Chris Froome.

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What’s the next best stage to win after Zoncoloan, probably the day with the Cima Coppi in it. Both Froome and Poels seem to be growing into this race which might worry their rivals but the Sky rider is probably too far back on GC to take the win. This is the Giro though, so who knows. He was attacking today and I think we might try to see a gutsy move from him on the Finestre tomorrow. The steep finishing climb will suit his washing machine cadence, that’s for sure.

Simon Yates.

Just a bad day, or something worse? He says that he should be fine tomorrow but will he really be. There’s only one way to find out and I’m sure we’ll all find out at the same time as he does tomorrow. I think he could bounce back, but he needs to not show any weakness until the final climb. It will be a big day for him and his team and unless he finds that flying form he had in the opening two weeks, it won’t be a stage win for him.

Domenico Pozzovivo.

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The Bahrain man has done a fantastic ride so far this Giro and finds himself currently sitting on the podium. He and his team will be very concerned with a reinvigorated Froome though but the Italian did seem to follow the Sky rider’s attack today with some ease. There has been a lot of talk throughout this Giro about his lack of support in the mountains after Siuitsou crashed before the race began. Will that show itself tommorrow?

Miguel Angel Lopez.

One of today’s stronger performers, the current young jersey holder produced an impressive climbing display on the one and only hill. He caught up to Poels in what seemed like no time, although it is hard to tell if he was waiting up for Froome a bit. Nonetheless, the Colombian seems to be really growing into the race and with the alititude involved tomorrow, he will be at home.

That’s it, all of the other GC top 20 have no chance of winning the stage.

Reichenbach Returns

After today’s calamitous affair I want to re-highlight Reichenbach again for tomorrow’s stage, because yaknow, Schachmann won the day after I had mentioned him so here’s hoping it is the same with Sebastien.

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I pointed out on Twitter that during the final slopes today he seemed to be the one setting tempo for Pinot bit considering we had a few attacks he wasn’t going full gas and I assumed that’s because Pinot was cooked. They were hoping to bluff it but as soon as the big guys came out to play the FDJ leader went backwards. Reichenbach stuck with him the whole climb but I just can’t see a way back for Pinot now. He is only going to go backwards. He and the team should reward his loyal domestique with some freedom to chase the stage win tomorrow.

Reichenbach is part of only a handful of guys who might win the day if it is not a GC contender, with the others being Aru, Ciccone and Woods.

Prediction

An Astana hail-mary, with all in for Lopez and we’ll see Superman fly!

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He is in great shape but also has the advantage of being far enough behind not to be an immediate threat.

Betting

Feck it, balls to the wall time.

2pts WIN Lopez @ 11/4 

1pt WIN Reichenbach @ 50/1

Plus 1pt on this treble…

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The 6pts on Bennett to beat Carapaz at 11/8.

I think tomorrow suits the Jumbo rider a lot more and Carapaz might lack the experience of going deep into a Grand Tour as a GC rider.

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think is going to win tomorrow and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 18 Preview: Abbiategrasso -> Prato Nevoso

Today’s Recap

The Giro happened, that’s what went on today.

After a fairly big group of riders managed to establish itself off the head of the peloton, Bora kept it on a bit of a leash hoping to hold it together for a sprint with Bennett. However, the gap kept extending until UAE decided to help as they had missed the move and it was consequently brought back together. This all happened in the first 30km by the way.

Another large group managed to escape again but this time the two big sprint teams were represented. Well, who would chase behind? A combination of a few teams that had missed the break such as Katusha and Trek but also some of the GC teams saw an end to the move because 16th placed Formolo was there. That move was brought back.

I then went out for an hour as I had a dentist appointment, hoping to arrive back to a calmed down day. Hahaha, how wrong was I. Once home I see an escape of 4 up the road that included Poels, LLS, De Marchi and Hermans, which I suppose could be called the break of the day.

They were never given much leeway though as some sprint teams contributed to the chase.

In a hectic and rain-soaked final kilometre it was Quick Step who came out the strongest, delivering Viviani the perfect lead-out and the Italian duly delivered.

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Bennett was the fastest finisher but could only manage second in the end, after he lost some positions in the closing kilometre and started from too far back. Bonifazio got up well for second and given the treacherous conditions, he wasn’t actually that much of a danger to his opponents for once.

The whole stage was just bonkers though and with an average speed of 46.51km/h today, there will be some sore legs tomorrow. Good thing it’s not a mountain top finish, oh, wait…

The Route

Flat, little hill, more flat, BIG HILL.

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I’ll not beat about the bush here, this is all about the final climb to Prato Nevoso.

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It’s not the toughest climb the riders will face at an average of just 6.9% for 13.9km but given that it is the only real ascent of the day then we could see a few rider’s legs respond oddly, especially after today.

However, with the second-half of the climb “only” averaging 6.6% it is hard to believe that there will be big GC gaps but with this being the third week of a GT and given how crazy this Giro has been so far, there might just be.

How will the stage pan out?

It is an easy day for the GC teams to control if they want to set up a showdown on the final climb. The one issue with that is just how unflappable our current Maglia Rosa looks and how perfect the final climb is for him. If they try to keep it together then there is a very real chance that Yates just sprints for the win and extends his lead even more.

I think the outcome of the day relies on the approach of Sky and Mitchelton. The former will sniff the podium and potentially more, so they might want to hold things together for a Froome attack on the final slopes. We saw just how lively they were today. The latter know they have the best climber here and he could get another famous stage win while in Pink but they don’t need to do that. He and the team just need to ride a defensive race, something which they haven’t done at all so far and that has me a bit worried they might try something tomorrow. Surely not though, as the following two stages will see their squad put under a whole lot of pressure and they will need as relaxing a day as possible.

If the morning break goes and features riders from UAE, Astana and Sky that are no threat to the overall, then I see it going all the way. They will struggle to get a stage win otherwise and if they are going to attempt a raid on Friday/Saturday, need the majority of their firepower fresh for then.

Could this finally be the stage where a breakaway sticks? A day that on paper looks like one which could be controlled easily for a GC showdown. Would be typical of this Giro.

Time to play everyone’s most hated game (I imagine by now anyway)…

TheBreakawayLottery

Break Contenders

It will be interesting to see the aspirations of some riders tomorrow. The finish would be ideal for someone like Ciccone or Aru, but will they save themselves for a day with more mountain points on offer or a more prestigious set of mountains. I think so…

Jan Hirt.

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Astana have been on the offensive the past few days and seem really keen for a stage win. There is a chance Miguel Angel Lopez could take the day if they keep things together but with a strong Yates then their best chance lies in the break. After his barnstorming appearance at this race in 2017, Hirt has been quiet so far this year, working ably to help support his leaders. Last year we saw how strong he was in the final week and if he arrives at the foot of the climb with a few minutes advantage over the peloton then they won’t be able to catch him.

Sebastien Reichenbach.

Super impressive in helping Pinot on both the Zoncolan and Sappada stage finishes, the FDJ man has slowly ridden his way into form here. With his GC captain losing a bucket load of time in the TT and complaining of felling unwell, he might be allowed the freedom to chase his own result here. In fact, he was one of the riders who made one of the many breakaways today so his legs must be feeling good. In the right breakaway, he has a big chance of taking a career-changing win.

Niklas Eg.

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My proper wild card of the list as he is only in his first Grand Tour and in his neo-pro year but boy is he talented. Last year he finished 4th on GC at the baby Giro and then followed that up with a 3rd place at the Tour de l’Avenir, clearly he can climb well. In the opening part of the season he impressed many with a 7th place finish on Jabel Hafeet, but it was his performance in Croatia that really stood out. On the toughest mountain finish he set a very strong pace at the front of the bunch, slowly whittling it down for his team leader. But when the attacks came, Brambilla didn’t have anything left to follow and ultimately Eg finished almost a minute ahead of him. Who knows what could have been if he was allowed to go for his own result. Tomorrow’s finish ascent looks great for the slight climber, can he announce himself on the big stage?

Jan Polanc.

With UAE determined to get a stage win at some point, I would be very surprised not to see a few of them in the breakaway tomorrow. Polanc seems to save the best of himself for the Giro but he’s not had the chance to shine brightly on any stages so far. Both of his World Tour wins have come at this race and they’ve both been mountain top finishes. With only one climb to deal with tomorrow he should do well as he seems to get worn down when there are multiple climbs littered throughout the route – he’ll certainly be hoping for better legs than when he was on the attack on Stage 8. Will UAE be rewarded for their aggression the past few days?

Prediction

The break to finally stick and we’ll see the strongest climber take the win, step up Sebastien Reichenbach.

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Although we’ll no doubt see some GC team set it up for their rider only for them to finish in 9th and Yates take another stage…

Betting

0.7pt WIN Reichenbach @ 125/1

0.5pt WIN Polanc @ 80/1

0.5pt WIN Hirt @ 100/1

0.3pt WIN Eg @ 300/1

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

Those were my Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 16 Preview: Trento -> Rovereto (ITT)

Rest Day Recap

Does it still count as a GC raid if it is the GC leader that is doing it? Sunday’s racing saw yet another superb performance from Simon Yates who took another stage victory and extended his lead in the overall classification to a quite large 2’11 over nearest rival Dumoulin.

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Dumoulin himself finished in third on the day after valiantly fighting back to a group of other GC contenders that included Carapaz, Pinot, Pozzovivo and Lopez, the latter of whom took second on the stage.

After his heroics on Zoncolan Froome reverted to his first week ways and lost even more time. Just after he seemed to just squeeze back into the fray he once again looks fragile. Is he out of the hunt now? Probably, but who knows with him.

It really could have been a day for the break but it took a long, long time for it to form, especially when the likes of Poels, Bilbao and Aru were trying to infiltrate it. None of them succeeded and a large group of 26 riders eventually escaped, most thought it would be the first moved that stuck all race. But EF Education First probably need taught a lesson themselves after their DS told the squad to pull on the front so they could launch Woods across to the head of the race. The closest he got was 55 seconds away and he soon returned to the peloton with his tail between his legs. Not the most tactically astute bit of riding I’ve seen from the former Cannondale outfit but they do have previous for this type of thing!

Anyway, looking ahead tomorrow and the day which has been talked about for such a long time in this race, shaping the narrative throughout with the question: will Yates have enough time over Dumoulin?

Let’s have a look at what is in store for them.

The Route

A 34.2km “pan-flat” TT but considering we’re in Italy, it is never actually pan-flat.

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As per usual with a TT, I’ve made the route on Strava/Veloviewer that you can take a look at here.

Interestingly, the profile on Veloviewer does make the course seem more rolling than the official profile, it is just a case of trying to figure out what errors and discrepancies there are due to the route mostly being in the valley and therefore close to contours on the map which might not actually be hills in real life. Ya get me?

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The first little hump you see is definitely a hill but it is one you don’t actually see on the official profile, admittedly it isn’t anything too serious but averages close to 4% for 900m.

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One thing that could also be a concern for the riders through this section is just how narrow the roads are: they’re stereotypical small Italian town roads.

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Not ideal, especially if the roads are slick from rain.

The bigger kicker once they’re just out-of-town looks to be #FakeNews but it is hard to tell with the wide road and open valley. It might rise a little but not the amount the Veloviewer profile suggests.

Once into the final third of the TT it does get a bit more rolling but again, the gradients aren’t too severe. The toughest climb of the day starts at roughly 22km into the stage, averaging 3.7% for 1.5km, however the majority of the climbing is made in the final 700m which average 6.5%.

The final 3kms of the day drag up to the finish line at 1% or so, which is certainly not enough to put off the TT specialists.

One thing that I have taken note of looking through the route on Streetview and I’m sure the riders will have during their reconnaissance today, is that although there are plenty of wide open main roads, once into the towns the roads are very narrow and quite sketchy in some places. Taking a few risks through the turns could save quite a few seconds and energy.

Weather Watch

As is always the case with a TT that spans the course of a few hours, the weather gods might be more kind to some than others. But as per usual the few websites I’ve looked at have confilcting information, classic.

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Windfinder has the above forecast for Romagnano, whereas, Meteo.it has the following for the just more southerly Aldeno, the point of the first intermediate check point.

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So one suggests rain for the early starters, the other late, while both kind of suggest that the early starters should get a slightly more helpful tailwind.

Saying that, I looked at the forecast yesterday and it was going to be a slight headwind all day – who knows what is going to happen!

The TT Specialists

There are several riders here who will have had one eye on this event since their failed attempts in Jerusalem, more than likely soft pedalling their way around Italy as much as they can to go well here. However, the race has been really fast and tough, so it will be interesting to see how much energy they’ve actually managed to save!

Victor Campenaerts.

Bitterly disappointed to have missed out on the Pink Jersey at the start of the race, this has been the Lotto rider’s main aim since then. The European champion has only taken three wins in his career but all have been in TTs. He’s the powerful type of rider who can go well on a course like this but I do have my concerns about his team bike, the Ridley he is riding just isn’t as good as the Bianchi he left at the “other Lotto”. Speaking of which…

Jos Van Emden.

Winner of the final TT at this race last year, tomorrow’s effort looks right on the distance limit for him as he seems to struggle at the really long, 40km days in the saddle. His win last year came as a bit of a surprise to me as I thought the 30km would be too long: can he hack the extra 4km this year? I think he has a good chance, he’s looked strong on the open road days when pulling on the front for Van Poppel.

Alex Dowsett.

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The Brit has had a hectic few days after his hotel room was broken into while he was sleeping, which was then followed up with him being caught up in a crash on Sunday and having to chase on almost all day. A winner of a TT at the Giro in the past, he hasn’t pushed on to the lofty heights many people expected of him. He could win, he could come 13th – either way I wouldn’t be surprised.

Tony Martin.

Long gone are the days that the Panzerwagen would start as favourite for an event like this. He’s not really looked himself over the past few years and the winning of the Worlds in 2016 was more of a blip than anything else. Is his career on a downward spiral? One thing Martin does have going for him is that he has been more visible during this race than previous GTs and that can only be a good sign.

Ryan Mullen.

Due a big win, it will be interesting to see how well the Irish champion goes at this stage of the race given it is his first GT. Given that fact, I don’t he’ll be fighting for the win.

Vasil Kiryienka.

Sky were appalling on the opening day, completely going against their previous TT efforts this season. A course like this suits Kiryienka perfectly but will he be given the green light to go for it?

The TT Specialists come GC riders

Tom Dumoulin.

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This is his big day – he needs to take a good amount of time out of Yates but I just can’t see him taking enough to move into Pink. There is a very good chance that he takes the stage win but Dumoulin hasn’t looked as unflappable as he did last year, with some cracks starting to show. He is the class rider in the field for an event like this but with how tough the Giro has been, we could get a surprise result from him. I do love watching him on a TT bike though, his position is incredible – it is like poetry in motion. Will there be a poetic end to his day?

Rohan Dennis.

He’s had an incredibly quiet race aside from his taking of the Maglia Rosa on the second stage. The fact it has been an under the radar performance from him is good, it means that on his first proper attempt at going for GC in a three-week GT he hasn’t fully cracked yet, currently sitting on the cusp of the top 10. It will be interesting taking into account just how much these past two weeks have taken their toll on him and what that will do for a TT in this position in the race. This is perfect Dennis distance, but I think the racing will just have taken too much out of him.

Chris Froome.

No TT dominance from Sky on stage 1 and that day has really set up their whole Giro – they’ve been well below their normally impeccable standards. The finish to Zoncolan was the one day that they’ve performed to what you would expect from them. This is a TT in the second half of a GT which means that Froome can never be discounted. It all just depends what one turns up and I don’t think he’ll be good enough.

The GC riders who might surprise

As is often the case when we get to the final week of a GT there are some shock results. Tomorrow’s effort reminds me a lot of the TT that we had in the Vuelta last year which was a 40km TT that had roughly 500m of climbing (according to my Strava profile of it), very similar to the 420m in 34km on offer here. The top 5 on that day looked like the following…

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The GC guys as you can see came to the fore, although admittedly it was a fairly lacklustre TT field. That stage came after a rest day, before which the riders faced two very tough days of climbing – sound familiar?

Simon Yates.

Who knows where his abilities will end, he has looked sensational so far this race and makes me kick myself every day that I didn’t back him pre-race at 40/1. Apparently he has done a lot of work over the winter to find a position that might not be as aerodynamic as the one he had before, but he is able to sustain it a lot longer and put more power as a result. Mitchelton have been flying in TTs as of late too, the women did very well in the Bira at the weekend. I would be surprised to see him in the top three, but then again, I wouldn’t. He is the form rider after all.

Thibaut Pinot.

Can he rekindle his TT form that he had two years ago? I hope so, for the sake of the race it would be good to see! He’s looked strong so far but just not as strong as Yates and I think it will be the same tomorrow.

Pozzovivo and Lopez can TT well on occasion but I think it will be a bit of a stretch for them tomorrow, but you never know.

“It’s the Giro after all.”

Prediction

Bit of a shock result but Van Emden will double up after last year’s success.

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I also think we’ll see Yates get very close to the podium.

Betting

1pt EW Van Emden at 14/1 (would take the 12/1 widely available)

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Yates has shortened in to 250/1 which is just about back-able.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see a surprise? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 14 Preview; San Vito al Tagliamento -> Monte Zoncolan

Today’s Recap

Sprint day, despite Coledan’s best efforts in the closing kilometre.

Viviani showed everyone that one bad day doesn’t mean a bad race, as he romped home for the win.

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Bennett came home second, with Van Poppel in third.

Everyone’s attention has changed focus quickly though as one of the most iconic finishes in cycling awaits tomorrow, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The day that everyone has been waiting for both in the peloton and the watching public. Will the stage live up to expectations? With the finishing climb that we have, I think it will be hard for the finale not to be dramatic anyway!

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As for the rest of the stage, we’ll have to wait and see though as I’m not too sure we’ll see any GC movement before the Zoncolan, but I hope I’m wrong.

The day starts out easy with a long section of almost flat roads for 40km which will no doubt bear witness to a big fight to get in the break, everyone wants to be up ahead on the famous finish. It is possible that the break won’t have gone before the first categorised climb of the day, the Monte di Ragogna. A mini-Zoncolan, it will whet the appetite for what is to come with its 10.3% average gradient over 2.75km. Avaglio is similar with a long section above 13% but it has the easier average.

However, both of these climbs too far out for any action and even the Cat-2 Passo Duron (9.7% for 4.4km) might see a lot of eye-balling.

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If a team decides to put the pressure on though then we could see some domestiques out the back early on.

The likelihood is that we won’t see any serious pressure applied until the penultimate climb of the day.

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Unfortunately for anyone hoping to make an early attack here, Sella Valcalda is the easiest climb of the day and it be hard to distance any GC favourites. The only chance for a surprise move to go is on the steeper slopes between 4 and 5.5km on the graphic above where the gradient averages roughly 9%.

Once over the top a fast descent follows before a short dip into the valley and on to one of cycling’s most mythical climbs – Monte Zoncolan.

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Words don’t do it justice and I’m not going to bother to try to ramble on about it. Just look at those gradients. Team-mates will be of very little use here and it will me mano o mano between the GC contenders.

Zoncolan Time Gaps

What can we expect from the GC favourites here? How much time will they take/lose compared to each other?

The last time Zoncolan was used was back in 2014 but it was the penultimate stage of the race and with Quintana in a commanding GC lead the race was all but over. Therefore we didn’t see too many time gaps, with Quintana/Uran gaining 15 seconds on Rolland/Pozzovivo/Majka/Aru.

However, back in 2011 it was featured as the summit finish on stage 13 and we saw much bigger gaps between the favourites. Eventual stage winner Igor Anton took 2’24 out of 10th place finisher Joaquim Rodriguez.

I think we’ll see something similar to that tomorrow.

Just to show how hard the climb is, the break that day (Tankink, Rabottini and Brambilla) had a 4’30 gap with 10km to go: they finished 5’54, 6’43 and 11’24 respectively. If we do see a break stick all the way tomorrow, it will need to be made up of strong climbers and they will need 3 minutes at the bottom to have a chance. Speaking of which…

Break or GC win?

The daily conundrum for a stage at the Giro but this year has been weird as we have yet to see the break hold out for the whole day. Recent history is on the side of the breakaway when in 2014 Rogers held on from the morning move. However, slightly less recent history, i.e. every other time we’ve raced up Zoncolan, the winner has been a GC contender. Interestingly, in 2003 (Simon) and 2010 (Basso) the rider who crossed the line first on the famous slope went on to take the win overall and on the other two occasions the eventual Maglia Rosa came home 4th (Di Luca in 2007) and 2nd (Contador in 2011).

In an almost spooky coincidence, the votes on my Twitter poll are nearly a carbon copy of what the previous stats would suggest.

I’m still really on the fence, it just depends as to whom makes the move and who wants to chase behind. Given how strong Yates has looked, do the other teams help chase all day potentially gifting him 10 bonus seconds, or do they instead just sit in and let Mitchelton use up their resources? That strategy would certainly be helpful with a tricky stage to come on Sunday.

Hmmm, in the spirit of trying to defy the odds, I’ll go with the breakaway and a few riders who probably aren’t at the top of everyone’s list.

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Ben Hermans.

The Belgian made a big money move over the winter to join Israel Cycling Academy from BMC but it has not been an ideal year for him so far with no real results to his name. Before the race he was a potential outside contender for a top 10 spot on GC but he set his sights on losing time to chase stages. So far he has been on the attack on Etna, where he finished second best of the morning break (behind Chaves), coming home in 11th on the day. He was also part of the doomed early move on stage 10 that was rather ironically pulled back because of Chaves’ implosion. He seems to be hand-picking his stages and given his post on Instagram the other day, I think he’s looking forward to go on the attack tomorrow.

Jan Hirt.

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I raved about Astana’s super strong team before this race but they’ve been a little disappointing so far, especially Lopez who seems a bit off the pace at the moment. We could of course see it all be turned around tomorrow, but I think they will be focussing on chasing stage wins from the break and seeing what happens behind. Hirt has done a lot of work for his team-mates so far but once his job is over, he’s tried to conserve as much energy as possible. On the occasions that we’ve seen him pull on the front he has started to shred the peloton, so he must be in reasonably good shape. A climber who likes the steep slopes, none come steeper than the Zoncolan.

Wout Poels.

A bit of a wild card here but Sky tried to sneak Poels into one of the breaks the other day and I think they might take the same approach tomorrow. Poels, and Sky for that matter, haven’t been as strong as in previous Grand Tours but they could be saving it for one last push in the second half of the race. Poels climbed well here in 2014, riding strongly in support of Uran. He is reasonably close on GC to potentially worry Mitchelton, so they might not let the move get too far ahead, but if he starts the climb with 2 minutes, there is every chance he holds on.

Joe Dombrowski.

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We’re nearly into week three and we’re in a Grand Tour so there’s one man I’ll be backing on numerous occasions over the next few days. Dombrowski seems to be one of the riders who gets better and better as the race goes on, give him a 6 week GT and he might just win it. The American is an incredibly talented rider who naturally has a big engine, he’s just never been able to fully utilise it. So far in this race he has been quiet on the attacking front, working his way into form for the mountains. Instead, you will have been able to find him pulling on the front with fellow, well-known rouleur Hugh Carthy. An appearance at Duo Normand later in the season is on the cards for them I reckon! Could this be the race Dombrowski finally delivers on his talent?

GC Battle

It really is hard to say what will happen with the GC guys, they’ve not had to face a climb this tough yet. Going on what we have seen though, it looks as if Yates, Dumoulin, Pinot and Pozzovivo are the strongest.

Yates – Should enjoy the gradients of the climb but has he peaked too early? A big test for him but if he’s still on great form, he will want to take as much time out of everyone as possible.

Dumoulin – Slowly but surely riding his way into form and this will concern everyone else involved. The steep gradients tomorrow aren’t ideal for the Sunweb rider, but given it is consistently steep, he should be able to get into a rhythm and grind his way up.

Pinot – Has looked lively but has been outsprinted to the line on a few occasions. Was strong in the Alps, and now we’re onto a proper mountain he will want to show his resolve.

Pozzovivo – Another who has looked lively but he seems to lack the punch to distance everyone. When he has put a sustained attack in it has distanced a lot of people, see the finish to Gran Sassolo. Can he do the same tomorrow?

Everyone else hasn’t really shown an awful lot but we could see a few surprises, this is the Giro after all. Lots have suggested they’re trying to peak for this weekend and the whole of next week. Who’s timed it right?

Prediction

The remnants of the breakaway to hold on, just, and I’ll go with Ben Hermans to take the win.

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Sooo, it’s probably going to be a GC day now!

Betting

Worth throwing a few darts then looking in-play during the stage.

0.5pt WIN on the breakers;

Hirt 50/1, Dombrowski 66/1, Poels and Hermans at 80/1.

B365 prices.

Thanks as always for reading, who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 13 Preview: Ferrara -> Nervesa della Battaglia

Today’s Recap

Dull sprint stage they said, well they weren’t wrong but it was the Sky which was particularly dull in the closing 30kms. We saw torrential rain fall on the riders and with a little bit of a wind and on a sketchy descent, the peloton split in two before we even hit the final circuit.

Things were brought mostly back together but there was one big omission as pre-stage favourite Viviani was in the group behind.

Wellens attacked as things regrouped and held on until the final 10km but he was caught on the climb. Some attacks flew but nothing major stuck until Betancur and Mohoric slithered away out the front of the peloton on the descent. Thanks to the Slovenian’s skills, they managed to hold off the charging bunch going under the Flamme Rouge but as it flattened out the Movistar rider refused to take a pull. So taking a leaf out of Sagan’s book, Mohoric just sat up and let the bunch catch them. After the stage he was quoted saying “unlucky for Carlos I’ve already won a stage”. Love it. Although he maybe was a bit over amorous in his attempts to drop Betancur on the descent.

Bennett didn’t know that those two were going to sit up though and he launched an audacious sprint from 350m to go after them, catching all the other sprinters sleeping behind. He opened up a gap quickly and it was enough to see him hold on for a second stage win!

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Van Poppel was best of the rest with Bonifazio rounding out the podium. More of the same tomorrow?

The Route

Yes, parcours wise anyway.

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Except it is easier than it was today, with the only categorised climb of the day cresting at just under 20kms to go.

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An easy ascent, it would be a shock to see any sprinters dropped here but you never know. We don’t have Mareczko or Guardini at this race anymore so it is doubtful!

The finish itself is straight forward too with there being no major turns or obstacles in the closing 4km, just a few roundabouts and sweeping bends to negotiate.

Expect to see a big battle between the sprint trains. If it is anything like the “simple” run in on stage 7 then it will be very messy.

Sprinters

Sam Bennett 

Imperious today, his winning move was one that brimmed with confidence and I wonder would he have pulled it off if he hadn’t won stage 7 already? He’s clearly in stupendous form at the moment and there is a big chance of him going back-to-back tomorrow. There will be more pressure on his team’s shoulders to chase down the break which might leave him a little short in the sprint, so he’ll need to be shrewd with what wheel he chooses to follow. He’s not unbeatable but given his performance today, he will be tough to beat!

Elia Viviani.

He looks a shadow of the rider that dominated in Israel. These past few stages he has been dropped on climbs that he shouldn’t have been and today he was one of the guys caught behind when the peloton split. He should have been there are is regrouped but for some reason he missed out again, ultimately rolling home 9 minutes down in 145th place. What is odd is that he went for the intermediate sprint points behind the breakaway and “won” both of them during the stage. Is he ill and trying to score as many points at the intermediate sprints knowing he won’t compete at the finish, hoping his illness will pass? Something doesn’t seem right with him either way. Tomorrow is the acid test.

Danny Van Poppel.

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The Jumbo rider looked strong in today’s sprint but the group just left it too late. He’s been slowly riding his way into this race and on his day I think he can match Viviani and Bennett for speed. His lead-out is a bit inexperienced but they have a group of strong guys who can string things out in the finale. Will they get the timing right tomorrow?

Sacha Modolo.

His team did a lot of work for him today but he ran out of steam in the end and finished in 13th place. Not ideal. On the previous sprint days he has shown some potential though and with a good placing on the tough stage 11 finish I think he’s just had a bad day today. He’ll be back to prove something tomorrow.

Niccolo Bonifazio.

The most reckless sprinter I have seen in a long time, he just squeezes through gaps that really aren’t there. I somewhat admire him for it, but sometimes he pushes the limits to the extreme. His bike was swinging all over the road today but he still got up for third. Maybe if he went straight he could have a better chance! He was one of the fastest finishers today and I’m intrigued to see what he can do when put into a good position.

The rest will probably be fighting for minor honours again but if Viviani is ill, then we might see a surprise rider make it onto the podium.

Prediction

The man on form makes it three wins, Bennett goes back to back!

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Betting

Chasing some EW value here.

I’ve seen enough from Modolo on the other sprint stages to hope that he can get on the podium tomorrow. Especially if Viviani is unwell.

Modolo 1pt EW at 12/1 with Bet365

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 12 Preview: Osimo -> Imola

Today’s Recap

We saw a big fight to get into the morning breakaway as several moves were brought back in the first 20km of the day. Eventually Sanchez and De Marchi managed to forge clear, with Masnada, Maestri and Turrin slowly joining them one by one. After all the effort that teams put into make the move, it was a somewhat disappointing group that went clear so those behind turned their attention to setting it up for their riders late on.

A brave effort from Sanchez and De Marchi saw them caught within the final 5km where Stybar and Wellens launched an attack from the peloton. They were never given too much leeway though and once onto the final rise the pink jersey flew from the front of the bunch, on a mission to take as much time as possible. A coming together of wheels behind had seen a few of the other GC candidates lose some crucial time but in the end Yates’ margin of victory wasn’t anything crazy over his nearest rival as he only gained two seconds (before bonuses) on Dumoulin who himself finished second..

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Formolo showed that he’s in good form after his one bad day last week, taking home third place.

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

The Route

Pretty dull day in the saddle until the final 20km. Definitely not one to watch from the start!

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So I’m going to cut right to the chase here and skip those opening 194km along the coast as the wind isn’t playing ball for echelons. Boo.

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With a 4.35km climb that averages 4.2% cresting with only 7.6km to go, it offers a perfect chance for opportunists to launch a late attack. This is especially paramount when the last 600m of the climb comes in at over 7.5%. With a descent almost all the way to the line, albeit it is shallow with a gradient of -3% until it flattens out under the Flamme Rouge. A chase will have to organised quickly if they don’t want anyone disappearing on them!

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The finish itself is pretty simple and on wide roads too as they use the Imola motor racing circuit.

How will the stage pan out?

It looks set to be a battle between the late attackers and the sprinters tomorrow. Last time we were here a break managed to stay away but the route was a lot harder that day. Although given how weird this Giro has been so far, we’ll probably see the morning move of 4 stick…

The Tre Monti climb is hard enough to put the sprinters into difficulty if it is ridden at an aggressive pace, especially with the few kilometres where the gradient is above 7%. A team can drill the first steep part of the climb, putting the sprinters into the red before continuing the hurt on the flat mid-section, after which their rider of the day will launch a stinging attack in the closing kilometre of the climb that none of the sprinter’s teams can cope with.

It will then be a frantic descent for both anyone out front and those behind who want to set it up for the sprint.

Potential Attackers

Looking at the teams I’m going to highlight some guys who might be given freedom to chase a result tomorrow:

AG2R – Montaguti

Astana – LLS / Lutsenko / Villella / Kangert, pretty much their whole team aside from Lopez and Bilbao!

Bahrain – Mohoric / Boaro / Visconti

BMC – Roche / De Marchi

Israel – Hermans / Plaza

Lotto FixAll – Hansen / Van der Sande

Katusha – Martin / Goncalves

Trek – Pantano / Pedersen

UAE – Ulissi / Conti

There are a few teams I’ve left off there but for the likes of Androni and Bardiani we could see any of their riders go on the attack. Likewise, I’ve left off the majority of the “bigger” sprinter’s teams as I think they’ll be all in for their fast man.

I’ve highlighted the rider from each team who I think would do best.

Sprinters

It will be an interesting battle to see which of the sprinters hangs on best over the climb and what team-mates they have organised and ready to chase down any attack.

Viviani – Shown he can be beaten but if he is on form he should make it over this climb. Into the second week of a GT who knows.

Bennett – One of the only sprinters to make the front group on stage 10, he was actually one of the lower finishes today. Saving energy or cooked?

Modolo – The opposite of Bennett today, he finished only a minute down on Yates and alongside team-mate Woods. Is he getting better?

Van Poppel – Probably not good enough to make it over the climb.

Bonifazio – Not seen his climbing legs as of late but he in theory should be one of the better climbing sprinters. We’ll know how he’s going as to when/if Mohoric attacks.

The other sprinters will be fighting for positions 4-10.

Prediction

I think a late attack might actually stick tomorrow, especially if we get a small group of 4 or 5 guys away on the final climb who co-operate well together until the final kilometre.

I’ll go with the local Matteo Montaguti to take the honours.

Matteo-Montaguti

He hails from the town of Forli, where the second intermediate sprint of the day is. Back in 2015 when the stage finished here he was in the break of the day then, but his competition was just too hard. Tomorrow with only one ascent of the climb he certainly has a good chance of launching a strong attack. If not, he might fancy his chances in a reduced bunch sprint.

Vai vai Matteo!

Betting

Someone like Mohoric would also be ideal for this stage but I’m not taking him at that price. I can’t really back a pure sprinter with confidence either so the late attackers who can pack a punch it is…

0.5pt EW Van der Sande @ 80/1 (would take 66/1)

0.5pt EW Montaguti @ 250/1 (Would take 150/1)

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 11 Preview: Assisi -> Osimo

Today’s Stage

Easy breakaway stage they said and I guess it was as a two-man group stayed away until the end. That is if you ignore everything else that happened throughout the stage.

All hell broke loose on the opening climb after Chaves popped and we saw the other GC teams come to the front to drive home the advantage. Long story short, that is the Colombian’s GC tilt over for the year and today can be summed up with the classic “It’s the Giro”.

Eventually we saw some attacks in the finale and it was Mohoric who got away with Denz after they managed to drop Villella on the final few rises. In the two-up sprint the Bahrain rider took it up early and it looked as if Denz was going to come round him but the German just didn’t have enough to do so.

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Bennett “won” the bunch sprint behind to round out the podium.

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

The Route

A fairly easy day out in the saddle but one that packs a sting in the tail.

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There are two Cat-3 climbs for the riders to contend with on the route but it is the rolling finish that will be where the stage is decided.

First up is the uncategorised climb of Filottrano, which just happens to be the spot of the second intermediate sprint of the day.

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With an average of 8.7% for 1.6km, it is a very short but tough kicker, especially when there are several hundred metre segments that average above 10%. The climb crests with just under 30kms to go and slowly heads downhill for the next 10km.

It is the closing 13km once we approach the finish town of Osimo that things will really get interesting.

Final13km

You can view the profile here.

The first climb you see on the profile above averages 7.9% for 1.2km and it precedes roughly 6kms of rolling road which will make it very difficult to control for any team who wants to set up a frantic finale in the last 5km. Speaking of which, they look perfect for opportunists.

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The opening climb is 1.1km at 7.6% and even features a section of pave, which just happens to be on the steepest section.

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A pretty sketchy descent follows before the final 2km which are predominantly uphill, averaging just over 6%.

This is a finish that will excite a lot of riders.

Looking at the forecast though and the predicted rain showers throughout the day, it will make this a very nervous finish because of the narrow and twisty town roads. There is potential for some GC riders to lose time.

Break or No Break?

A recurring theme throughout the Giro so far which I’ve got wrong pretty much every time. Although to be fair, Bouwman was caught with 1km to go and Masnada at 3km so it’s not as if they’ve been miles away and with teams acting differently they could have stayed away. Today was actually the first “breakaway” win we’ve had this Giro but you could almost class it as a late attack. However, with the winning move technically going at over 30kms from home, I’ll call it a breakaway just so my hat stays intact!

After today’s tough stage will some in the peloton want an easier day tomorrow and be happy to let the break go? Possibly.

It is one of those stages where a lot of guys will fancy their chances, including our current GC leader, but will they commit to a day of chasing for the stage? Possibly.

The way this Giro has gone so far I don’t think I can commit fully to either but I give the break he edge, just 60:40.

The Astana Factor

Tomorrow’s stage is in part a memorial to Scarponi as they pass Filottrana which was where he resided. I would expect Astana to have a big say in the outcome of the stage and they will no doubt either be involvedi n the break of the day, or work hard to pull it back to set someone up.

If we see them get into the break expect it to be Lutsenko, Sanchez or Villella who represent them, with Sanchez (again) or Bilbao the likely candidates for the finish. Although Lopez also might fancy his chances.

I think they’ll go with Lutesnko though. He’s been very quiet so far this race which is fair enough considering this is his first event back after injury. He should be up to race speed by now and I think he’s just been bluffing somewhat and saving himself for a big dig some day soon. We saw at the Vuelta last year just how strong he can be. Can he repeat the feat?

The Groundhog Picks

I could name many riders again who might feature but I’ll just keep my rotation small and go with two guys I’ve previously mentioned. This might be quite short then!

Giulio Ciccone.

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He’s been very lively so far and was off the front in the doomed morning break before attacking for KOM points late on. Clearly on good form, the sprightly and punchy rider should enjoy the climb to the finish. Can he take his second Grand Tour win?

Fausto Masnada.

The second rider to make my selection for the second day in a row, Masnada was the Androni rider we saw attack off the front of the peloton later on in today’s stage before Vendrame countered. Again, with him being the last of the break to survive on stage 9 then he is clearly in good form. If he manages to sneak away and take the win then he’ll secure Androni’s first win at the Giro since 2012.

The Wongshot.

Given the bad luck with picks the past couple of days, I thought it would be a good time to bring the Wongshot out for the second time this race. The magic oracle (i.e. random.org) has spoken…

Marco Marcato.

Tour de France 2017

The UAE rider is possibly a bit past his prime and is nowhere near the same rider that he was at Vacansoleil but he isn’t the worst candidate for a stage like this from an average looking break. Formerly a very strong one-day racer who can go well on short climbs, take his good results in the Tour of Denmark or GP Marseillaise for example. As a whole his team have been pretty disappointing this race but they have some cards to play and while Marcato is further down the pecking order than Conti or Ulissi, that might just work to his advantage. He’ll launch an audacious attack in the final 15km and while everyone looks at each other to chase his gap will grow to an insurmountable amount.

Prediction

I’ll go break and I’ll go Masnada.

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Betting

1pt WIN Ciccone @ 50/1

1pt WIN Lutsenko @ 66/1

0.5pt WIN Masnada @ 125/1

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 10 Preview: Penne -> Gualdo Tadino

Rest Day Recap

On stage 9 we once again so the break caught close to the finish, although this time it was at 3km to go for Masnada who saw his hopes of a dream stage win dashed. It’s a shame as he was certainly the strongest in the move, he’ll get some more chances throughout this race though…

The GC battle therefore turned into a fight for the stage too. We saw a few digs from the riders, namely Ciccone who found himself off the front on two occasions after he decided to chill in the peloton with the big guys all day. Froome was dropped and sensing blood Pozzovivo lit it up at the front of the group, almost sprinting the final 500m. He distanced everyone aside from Yates, Pinot and Chaves who came round him, finishing in that order.

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The result means that the Mitchelton rider strengthens his GC lead: he’s currently 32 seconds ahead of team-mate Chaves, with Dumoulin a further 6 seconds behind in third. With plenty of racing still to go, it will be interesting to see how long he can hold the Maglia Rosa and what approach Mitchelton take.

Tomorrow’s stage should be a quiet one for them, but you never know who is going to go well after a rest day or not. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

A tough day out in the saddle with roughly 4000m of climbing which also happens to be this year’s longest stage at 239km.

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No doubt we’ll see plenty of pictures circulating around Twitter in the morning of guys warming up on the rollers beforehand as the toughest test of the day comes from the gun. There is a little climb followed by a quick drop down before the Cat-2 climb of Fonte della Creta begins at just 5.6km into the day.

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The climb averages just under 6% for 15.7km and will certainly be a rude awakening for some. Expect a fierce pace as a strong group tries to form the break of the day.

Once over the top though, that is the only major climb out-of-the-way for the stage. However, the climbing doesn’t stop and we have a parcours that is very similar to stage 4 where the road is just up or down. The Cat-4 climb of Annifo crests with 30kms still remaining but I’m not sure the 1km at 7% will scare anyone. It could be a nice place to launch an attack though.

The final 18km could see a very tactical battle as riders try to escape while others will want to hold it together.

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It looks flat on the official profile and while there may not be many hills to speak of, the short kickers will thin the bunch out if the pace is high.

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Considering the pretty technical final 1.5km, it appears the organisers do not think this will be a sprint finish. Speaking of which…

How will the stage pan out?

A battle between the break and the sprinters teams.

Given the tough climb at the start of the day we should see a group of strong guys make up the escape but with it being the aforementioned climb that a break most likely forms on, they aren’t exactly going to be the best baroudeurs for the remaining 200km. Luckily for them, there are plenty of small rises throughout the day where they can continue to put the hurt on.

Will we see the sprint squads want to set tempo all afternoon to try to bring it back?

No, is the simple answer!

I am ready and prepared to eat my hat but tomorrow is 100% a breakaway day. I’m intrigued to see how things play out in the final 30km with the “flatter” terrain. It will certainly help if your team has a couple of riders in the move and consequently I think we could see a group of 22 or something similar escape in the end.

Time to play everyone’s favourite game again, although if you follow me on Twitter, the next bit has already been spoiled for you!

TheBreakawayLottery

David De La Cruz.

Sky have been abysmal this race so far and with Froome very much sub-par at the moment I think they might try their hand at going for stages. The only issue with this idea is that they’ve only ever took this approach at the Giro once their leader has left the race, so with Froome still here, will they stubbornly stick to Plan A? Tomorrow is the acid test and I think De La Cruz offers them a good stage hunting option. He’s strong enough to make the break on the climb but he’s also fairly handy on the flat too. We’ve seen in Paris Nice that he has a good kick on him against climbers so he might not mind bringing it down to a very reduced sprint.

Fausto Masnada.

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A performance on stage 9 that won many hearts, Masnada is the gutsy type of rider who will go for it again at some point. We saw how strong he was the other day, dropping a lot of good break companions who had no match for his stinging acceleration and hard pace. I’m pretty sure Androni have made the break every day so far and I will be incredibly surprised not to see them in the move again tomorrow, in fact, we’ll probably see a couple of them there. If Masnada replicates the same performance then he will be a tough character to beat if he times his attack correctly!

Tanel Kangert.

Astana went all in on stage 9 for a Lopez victory but he fell short in the end. With that, I think we’ll see a few of their strong domestiques let of the leash tomorrow and the stage looks perfect for the likes of Sanchez and Kangert. Both are more than competent on the climbs and they can hold their own in the closing 30kms. Having the two of those guys there will make the rest of the break easy as they can launch vicious 1-2s until the move sticks. Kangert is slowly finding his form again after 2017 was ruled out due to injury. Can he rekindle that spark he had in 2016?

Krists Neilands.

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The rider who sparked Nibali’s Milano Sanremo raid, Neilands is a talented Latvian climber, come one-day rider. His 2018 has been a bit disappointing so far with a 7th place at GP Industria the only result to shout home about. However, he showed a lot of class last year to finish 10th on GC at the Volta a Portgual which is notoriously one of the toughest races of the year outside the Grand Tours. He’s obviously a talented guy! Israel Cycling Academy have been a bit disappointing so far and nowhere near as attacking as I thought they would be. That needs to change, otherwise their wildcard was a waste of time (and Israel’s money). Maybe Neilands has been saving it all for tomorrow?

Prediction

None of them will win though, instead we’ll see a flying Giulio Ciccone take the day.

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He nearly caused a bit of a shock on the last day of racing when he attacked out the GC group and got a bit of a gap. It was an impressive display of power as he went forward, Froome went back. That will certainly give the Bardiani man confidence! The stage departs from Penne tomorrow which is not too far away from Ciccone’s home town and we’ve seen in the past what that can do for motivation – take Visconti’s second place on stage 5 for example. He won Appennino from a three-up sprint, can he repeat the feat tomorrow? Looking back at the results from after the first rest day last year it was a time trial so there is not much to take from it, but guess who won in 2016 after the rest day? Yep, Ciccone!

Betting

Already tweeted out my selections the other day.

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Odds have shortened on them all, but most are backable at their current prices.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 9 Preview; Pesco Sannita -> Gran Sasso d’Italia

Today’s Recap

Sigh.

For a while it looked as if it was guaranteed the break was going to make it, then with the weather turning sour and Katusha coming to the front things were quickly closed down to under 2 minutes before the start of the climb. The gap was cut again when Groupama got a bit frisky, making it only 1 minute with roughly 8kms left. However, things slowed a bit and the gap was just whittled down ever so slightly over the next little while. With 3kms to go and 25 seconds advantage, blog pick Bouwman made a move and immediately dropped everyone else from the break. Montaguti tried to bridge but couldn’t, meanwhile in the peloton Froome crashed going uphill for a bit of unusual comic relief for the day.

A couple of attacks were launched from the peloton with Richard Carapaz flying out the front of the bunch and no-one wanted to, or could follow. He quickly caught up and passed Bouwman at roughly 1km to go, continuing his charge to take his first Grand Tour stage win.

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Behind Formolo finished second, showing that he still has good legs despite his blow up on Etna, with Pinot coming home in third to take a few bonus seconds.

The GC stays pretty much the same aside from a few movers, with Yates leading heading into the last stage before the second rest day. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

After a pretty tiring stage today, I’m sure the riders will be less than pleased to see that they’ll be doing 225km tomorrow.

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4000m of climbing and a finish at altitude, it could be a very good watch!

The day starts off with some rolling terrain but there is nothing too tough for the riders to worry about in the opening 80km. They’ll face an unclassified climb then which averages 4.7% for 8.5km – a nice little warm-up for what is to come. The Cat-2 Roccaraso follows. Again, it is not crazily difficult but it does have several kilometres at over 7%. It is too far out for any action.

It is once the riders get into the final 45km that things will get really tough: they pretty much spend it going uphill! In fact, once the riders pass the “178.2km” part on the profile above the final 46.8km average 3.7%, ouch.

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The climb of Calascio is steady, averaging a solid 6% for 13kms. The riders well then face a long period of “easy” climbing, with the gradients averaging well under 4% for the following 30km. But with the road almost always rising, it will start to build up the lactate in their legs for what could be a punishing finale.

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The final 7.5km average 6.5% and taken alone that would be a pretty interesting finish to the day. However, when you consider that it takes place north of 200km in the legs, then it should make things exciting. The last 4km averages roughly 8% and we could see some fairly big GC gap here if there are some tired legs in the bunch and things get wild.

Break or no break?

Hmmm, much like today it could really go either way.

It is a long day out in the saddle and it will be hard for one team to control everything in the peloton, so it will need a considered effort from a few teams to keep things within touching distance. If someone sneaks into the break that could be a danger on GC then it could spell the end for the break before it has begun. I think we’ll see a big fight to get into the morning move and the majority of teams will want to have at least one, if not two guys up the road for later in the day. Will there be enough co-operation ahead for them to stay away?

There are a couple of teams who were fairly quiet today, namely Astana, although they did have Villella in the break, who I imagine will try to throw a few cats among the pigeons tomorrow. Will they go for the stage win from the break or try to control things to set up Lopez? The Colombian does have previous on summit finishes at altitude – he taking a spectacular win to Sierra Nevada at the Vuelta last year.

Interestingly, after today’s stage Chaves said in an interview that he thinks the break will make it all the way.

I really can’t make up my mind, I’m well and truly on the fence! There are valid points to both arguments, I’m struggling to fully commit to one side. So I thought I’d have a look at stages before a rest day in previous Grand Tours (the past three years) to see if there was any pattern.

Giro – 2015 (Break), 2016 (N/A – TT day), 2017 (GC)

Tour – 2015 (N/A – TTT day), 2016 (Break), 2017 (GC)

Vuelta – 2015 (N/A – Sprint), 2016 (GC), 2017 (GC).

Not really as conclusive as I would have hoped for but the GC days edge it 4 to 2.

The issue that I keep coming back to though is the length of the stage tomorrow. At 225km, it really is tough for the GC teams to keep everything within touching distance if a strong group goes away, especially on the rolling terrain the riders will face. Then again, you could argue a motivated chase behind will eat into a tired break on the closing 45km climb…

As I hope we see two races in one tomorrow, I’ll break tradition and say that the break actually makes it.

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Jan Hirt.

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*See yesterday’s preview*

Joking aside, Hirt is strong enough to win a stage like this. He’s the perfect Astana rider to get in the break as he is a very competent climber but is far enough down on GC not to see any chase from Mitchelton. Sanchez is another option for them but he could compromise the move given he is less than 5 minutes from Yates.

Giulio Ciccone.

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Given that tomorrow’s finish is a tribute to Marco Pantani, I have to include the Bardiani rider who climbed Mt Etna in the drops. He was unlucky on that day as he definitely seemed the strongest from the breakaway, just a shame for him that the GC guys came out to play. Since then on the past few stages he has rolled home saving plenty of energy. Enough for a dig tomorrow?

Prediction

Neither of them will win though and instead we’ll see someone double up at this race…

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Wellens has lost time on a few stages so that he can continue to chase more wins rather than go for an ok GC position. He was involved in a tangle today but seems to have come through unscathed, instead rolling home pretty far down the order. Active early on this afternoon, he didn’t make the break but he is certainly lively enough to try again tomorrow. This year he has really taken a level up and I think he can cope with the final climb. Interestingly, his maiden Grand Tour win was at the Giro in 2016 on Stage 6 where they happened to finish on Roccaraso (although it was a different approach) which is the opening categorised climb tomorrow. More of the same? I hope so!

Betting

A classic day of backing some break riders then turn to GC riders if it looks as if it is going to be for them.

1.5pt WIN Wellens @ 25/1

1pt WIN Ciccone @ 18/1

0.5pt WIN Hirt @ 66/1

Buy Me A Beer (Coffee)

I’ve been slacking with my shameless self promotion recently, mainly because I am quite ashamed but if you’ve enjoyed the previews so far then you can “Buy me a beer” via this link and thank me for losing you some money!

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.