Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 21 Preview: Rome -> Rome

Today’s Recap

The break was finally given some leeway today despite for a while it looked as if Astana might decide against it. After shepherding Yates home yesterday, Nieve set his stall out attacking the rest of his breakaway companions, eventually riding solo to the line for what was a comfortable win in the end.

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Fellow breakers Gesink and Grossschartner rounded out the podium on the day. Behind, despite some back and forth action, there were no cracks from the GC favourites on the final climb and they all rode in together. Well, aside from Pinot who looked desperately ill and dropped way out of the top 10 as a result of a +25minute time loss.

One stage left to go but that is the GC battle over and Froome is our champion. Hey, at least I got something right this race! It doesn’t sit right with me and I think I’ve made that clear throughout this season but here we are anyway, and I guess we all just have to get on with it.

So for one last time, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

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Pan-flat criterium in Rome to finish.

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A couple of sketchy turns in the closing kilometres but with an almost straight final kilometre, we should see a fairly organised sprint.

Contenders – a.k.a Viviani v Bennett

Viviani has got the ciclamino jersey all but won as Bennett needs to win the stage and pick up some intermediate sprint points, with the Quick Step man not getting any points throughout the day.

Both have shown good speed throughout this race but over the recent sprint stages I think Bennett has looked faster but Viviani has the better lead-out.

With that said and taking into account that Viviani only has to stay on his bike and not take too many risks in the finale then that swings things in favour of the Irishman.

Prediction

Bennett to win.

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Thank You

Although it has been one of the most frustrating Grand Tours to predict and write about that I’ve covered since starting this blog a couple of years ago, it has been enjoyable and unpredictable to watch. I want to thank every one of you for continuing to read the posts daily: it keeps me motivated to plough on and hopefully I’ve produced some enjoyable and engaging content over the past few weeks. On a personal note, the blog viewership has surpassed last year’s Giro by a good amount and even beat last year’s Tour. Onwards from here!

One last time for me to plug my BuyMeABeer section if you want to help rebuild my bank balance after this month haha. If you wish to donate anything then please do so here.

I’ll be taking a few days break but I’ll be back for the Dauphiné which starts in what seems no time. Anyway, for one last time this Giro,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 17 Preview: Riva del Garda -> Iseo

Today’s Recap

Rohan Dennis proved to everyone that he can still deliver an incredibly strong TT when challenging for a good position on GC, as he “romped” home today with a 14 second margin over a rejuvenated Tony Martin who took second.

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Tom Dumoulin brought home the GC riders in third place a result he’ll probably be disappointed with, considering he only took 1’15 from Yates. Yet, the Dutchman did look tired and he’ll need a change of form to win the race now. With that said though, there are still three tough mountain days ahead, on which the current race leader might crack. It’s not over until Rome!

Blog pick Jos Van Emden came home in a respectable but ultimately fruitless 4th place. About sums up my Giro so far! There is always tomorrow though, speaking of which, lets take a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

The last possible sprint stage before Rome, but will the sprinters take advantage of it?

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With an uncategorised 10km climb at 5.3% from the gun, there will be those in the peloton who hope not and no doubt we’ll see plenty of guys on the rollers.

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From there the road continues on what can only be described with the oxymoron “rolling plateau” for the following 12km before it eventually descends. Will a breakaway be established here?

After that there is a lot of flat ground separated by two climbs, one of which is categorised. They aren’t overly tough with Lodrino being 11.5km at 3.6% and the uncategorised rise to San Giovanni measuring 6km at 4.4%. Once off the descent from the latter there are roughly 60km left for teams to get organised and set up a sprint.

As for the finish it’s not too crazy but there are a couple of roundabouts and sweeping turns to negotiate in the closing kilometres, as you can see on the video above.

Will the sprinters be in full flight for it though?

Breakaway v Sprinters

With this the last chance for the sprinters to get a win before Rome then you would expect their teams to help pull on the front and chase the break all day. However, with it only being Bennett and Viviani that seem capable of winning the sprint, will we see a game of bluff between the two squads?

If one of the other sprint teams, namely Jumbo and EF, decide to help then there is a good chance we will see a bunch gallop. If not, then it swings it in favour of the breakaway.

The one thing that helps the breakaway is the fact the first two-thirds of the stage involved the majority of the climbing and will therefore be difficult for the sprint teams to control and keep a lid on things. If the break holds an 10 minute plus advantage with 80km to go then I can see the sprint teams giving up the ghost.

It is in the balance though, particularly when you consider the lack of break days so far this Giro.

I’ll go with the break making it, giving it a 60/40 split advantage. Time to play everyone’s favourite game then!

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Breakaway Lottery Tickets

What is interesting for tomorrow’s stage is that with the first half of the day featuring the majority of the climbing, but the finish being flat, we could see a surprise result. The break will mostly be made up of either good climbers or those who are in good shape at the moment but with the ascent only being at 5%, there is a chance some odd names are there – take Modolo for example the other day. Anyway, here goes nothing…

Mattia Cattaneo.

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Is it really a breakaway day without an Androni rider being present? Cattaneo has been fairly quiet so far this race which is odd as I thought we would have definitely seen him feature in a few breaks and that he would be one of Androni’s best chances of nabbing a stage win. Maybe he’s been saving himself for this final week? His result in the TT today is what caught my eye as it is a discipline he doesn’t normally excel in but a 16th place against the opposition he had is a good effort. A punchy rider, he doesn’t pack the greatest of sprints but after a fast day of racing who knows, maybe he can use that newfound TT ability to solo to the line.

Max Schachmann.

One of the stand-out performers of the first week, the Quick Step rider has since faded to 27th on GC but like Cattaneo, he delivered a strong TT effort today. A lot of tomorrow’s outcome depends on the attitude of QuickStep and their approach to the stage: do they want to chase for a sprint? Getting a man up the road means that there is no pressure on them and Schachmann looks like the ideal candidate. He is strong enough to make the break on the climbs but he is a good enough rouleur to play for his own chances in the finale.

Davide Villella.

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Astana have had a poor Giro compared to what I expected from them but they still have two riders in the top 10, they just haven lit up the race. Tomorrow is a good chance for them to chase a win in the break and no doubt they’ll try to get either Villella, Lutsenko or Sanchez up the road. Villella has made the break already this race but was suffering from a stomach bug and under performed on the day that Bouwman was caught with 1km left. He’s a strong rider who packs a bit of a sprint, can Astana get a few up the road and play the numbers game?

Mads Wurtz Schmidt.

Another who delivered a solid ride today, the Katusha rider was on the attack and made the early morning break on the stage that Mohoric eventually won. That day started with a 19km climb so tomorrow should be a walk in the park for him! This is his first ever Grand Tour so fatigue might be an issue but as I said above, he looked strong today. Schmidt is the fastest rider of the four that I’ve mentioned so he might fancy his chances in a reduced breakaway gallop to the line.

Prediction

Quick Step win this stage no matter what, either with Schachmann in the break or a sprint with Viviani. I’ll go with Max though!

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Betting

Given some of the very short odds though (mainly Schachmann) I can’t back some of the guys I’ve listed so I’ll go with:

0.15pt WIN Coledan @ 500/1

0.5pt WIN Schmidt @ 150/1

0.5pt WIN Cattaneo @ 125/1

0.5pt WIN Villella @ 100/1

0.2pt WIN Benedetti @ 250/1

0.15pt WIN Boivin @ 400/1

 

A handful to say the least.

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

Those wre 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 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.

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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.

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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 8 Preview: Praia a Mare -> Montevergine di Mercogliano

Today’s Recap

Simple break went after Tony Martin’s cheeky move was brought to heel. Consequently it was a pretty easy day for the majority of the peloton. There were a couple of attacks on the run in but the sprinter’s teams had it under control. It was quite a scrappy sprint but in the end it was Sam Bennett who got the timing nailed on today, after going too early on Stage 2 and too late on Stage 3.

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The Bora rider followed Viviani’s wheel excellently in the closing kilometres, eventually coming round the Italian within the closing 25m as the Quick Step rider faded to second. An all-over-the-road Bonifazio managed to get up for third which was a good result considering he had to swap a wheel with 17km left. Was a bit of a dodgy sprint from him mind!

With the GC staying the same, Yates still leads into tomorrow’s summit finish. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

A rolling day with a lot of uncategorised climbing in the opening part of the stage which should see a strong break form.

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At 209km it is a long day for the riders too and the 3000m+ of elevation gain will be a tester on the legs. Thankfully for them, they have a large section of flat to have a rest on before the final climb of the day.

There is an uncategorised drag to the town of Celzi which averages 5.8% for 3.5km but given that it is still 30km to the finish it is unlikely to be the scene of action. With that said, given the strong chance that tomorrow is a day for the break, then we could see a thinning down of the move here.

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The climb of Montevergine di Mercogliano is an easy one by Giro standards, averaging pretty much bang on 5% for 17.1kms. It’s too straight forward for any GC gaps unless someone is on a really bad day. Last time we were here in 2011 when Bart De Clerq just held off from the morning break, nearly being pipped on the line by a large group of GC riders and some.

How will the stage pan out?

Given the relatively easy finish for the GC guys and with a much harder stage to look forward to on Sunday, I think we’ll see the breakaway stay away tomorrow. Unless of course some sneaky character infiltrates the attack. Even then, if they aren’t too much of a threat overall then the move should still stick.

So it looks as if it is time to play everyone’s favourite game!

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Here we go…

Fausto Masnada.

I don’t think Androni have missed a break this Giro so it would be silly not to include one of their riders here! Masnada is not a household name and he is certainly a rider only “hardcore” cycling fans will have heard of but the young Italian is fairly talented. 2017 was his first year in the peloton after being with Lampre as a stagiare for the final few races of 2016. He produced some ok results throughout the year but by far his stand-out performance was a 4th place in the Queen stage at the Tour of Turkey, which cemented a 3rd place overall. Not bad for a first year pro! This year has seen him deliver consistent results with a 3rd at the recent Giro dell’Appennino his best to date. The “easy” gradients of the final climb should suit him. He won’t be hard to spot, he’ll be the guy with the white glasses, rocking and rolling all over his bike!

Jan Hirt.

Astana have stated that they’ll try for stage wins throughout the Giro and they have a few good cards to play for tomorrow with either Hirt or Lutsenko. The former was a revelation at this race last year, finishing a lofty 12th place on GC at the end of the three weeks. On the Etna stage he did a lot of the pulling on the early slopes of the climb, shelling out riders out the back of the peloton. After pulling the plug he cruised home 16 minutes down. His 10th place on GC in the recent Tour of the Alps highlights that he does have some good form at the moment and he would be a big danger in the right move. With the way Astana have performed this season, you wouldn’t rule him out just riding away from everyone.

Koen Bouwman.

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Although Lotto Jumbo have Bennett high on GC, they also have a few climbers who they will hope can chase stage wins from breaks this race: Bouwmann is one of them. The slight Dutch rider is into his third year at WT level and he’s enjoyed some success this year with a 5th place on GC at the Coppi e Bartali. That result could have been so much better though if he had not crashed on the descent while away solo on the Queen stage. He’s not the best climber from a GC group but from a breakaway he certainly will have a chance. Packing a bit of a kick, if it comes down to a small sprint then he will back himself.

Giovanni Visconti.

Giro d'Italia 2017

So close on stage 5, it is a case of “what might have been?” for the Bahrain rider after he expended some crucial energy to bring back his team leader. On a proper mountain top finish with an average of 7% then Visconti would struggle but with the 5% on offer tomorrow it brings him into contention. He’s obviously in good shape just now but it will be interesting to see how recovers after a tumble the other day. If he’s back to 100% then I would be surprised if we don’t see him in the break!

The Wongshot Returns

For those of you have only followed the blog recently then let me do some explaining. Last year I had a terrible Giro prediction wise and I received some wonderful feedback from a “Mr Wong” who said that you would have a better chance of choosing a rider to go well by pinning all the names on a board and throwing a dart at them. So in good spirit, the Wongshot section was made, where I put the startlist into random.org and see who comes up. Funnily enough, I did a very similar RandomRider section the previous year at the Giro but that just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

It’s a good bit of fun for a day like tomorrow, so here goes…

Mattia Cattaneo.

Mattia-Cattaneo-Tour-de-La-Provence

Not actually the worst rider ever to make an argument for, he was my second choice Androni rider but I love Fausto so yeah. Cattaneo is a former winner of the Baby Giro back in 2011 when he beat the likes of Anacona and Aru. While at WT level he never really fulfilled his potential but a step down to Pro-Conti level last year saw his results improve and a renewed faith in his own ability. He had a great year scoring plenty of top 10s in .1 and .HC races, including his first pro win in La Provence. The finish climb tomorrow might be a bit on the long side for him but given his undoubted talent you never know!

Prediction

The break to stay away and Astana to get the stage win they’ve been longing after with Jan Hirt.

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He’ll put everyone into the, ahem, Hirt Locker…

Betting

1pt WIN Visconti @ 25/1 with Bet365

0.5pt WIN on everyone else (including the Wongshot);

Hirt @ 125/1

Cattaneo @ 80/1

Masnada @ 100/1

Bouwman @ 150/1

You might get better prices elsewhere later on but I’m busy this evening so just want to get this published now!

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 7 Preview: Pizzo -> Praia a Mare

Today’s Recap

Well that was a great stage!

Attacks kept flying from the gun and it took over an hour for the break to eventually form, which saw a 25+ rider group get up the road. Chaves and Henao, along with a few others close on GC snuck their way into the move which made for a very interesting afternoon. As a result the move was never given too much leeway but they started the climb with over a minute on the peloton. The gap varied on the first 10km of the climb before we saw Chaves explode out of the already reduced break. He quickly built up a lead over the rest of the group who were soon swallowed up by the GC contenders. Probing attacks were made and a group including Pozzovivo, Pinot, Yates and Bennett managed to get a gap on the rest of the field. However, their unwillingness to properly work together saw things regroup. Meanwhile Chaves soldiered on ahead, maintaining a 25 second advantage going into the final 2kms. Yates then took advantage of being on the other side from the road of everyone else and as they all were looking at each other, he took off in pursuit of his team-mate. He closed the gap to Chaves remarkably quick and the two of them completed the final few hundred metres together, with the Brit allowing his Colombian team-mate to take the stage win.

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Pinot won the sprint for third from the remainder of the GC group with none of the big GC favourites losing any more time than the 26 seconds they ceded to Yates and Chaves.

The result leaves Yates in the Maglia Rosa and looking at the Mitchelton squad, they certainly have a strong and well-rounded line-up to defend it for a while. Thankfully for them they should have a fairly easy day tomorrow as the sprinters most likely get their chance into Praia a Mare.

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

The Route

An almost pan-flat day but with an interesting little kicker near the finish to entice some attacks.

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Not much really here to talk about until we get to the 140km mark and even then, it is nothing too remarkable.

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The terrain rolls for over 12km with the major focal point being the 4km climb at 3.6%. It shouldn’t be too tough for the sprinters but it will certainly offer up a chance for some to make a bold attack. The continual up and down until the final 4km gives them an opportunity to make it stick, but given the wide open road then it will be tough for them to get away fully.

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The riders will descend through a tunnel which could be a bit sketchy and we do have an elongated chicane at around the 2km to go mark. However, aside from that the finish is simple and it will be a drag race between lead-out trains.

Nailed on sprint?

Most likely yeah, but given we’re almost into the second week of the race tiredness will start to kick in for some riders and they might not be as keen to chase all day for a sprint. Today’s stage was fast right from the gun and that will certainly have taken a lot out of the sprinters so I would say the break has more of a chance than normal on a stage like this but even then it is still unlikely.

One thing that might favour the break is that the rest of the sprint teams need to try something to get an advantage over Quick Step. Not contributing to the chase would be a good start and they could send a man up the road as the perfect excuse.

If we see maybe 3 of the sprinters team send a guy in the break it could work. No doubt though we’ll see a group of 4 squirrel off and it will be controlled nicely all day.

Can anyone beat Viviani then?

Yeah, but they will need a combination of luck and great legs. They’ll be hoping the Quick Step rider struggled a bit today.

However, it will be very tough and I can’t really see it happening but you never know.

Modolo – Closest to Viviani on Stage 3 the EF rider has quite a good lead-out that can get close to Quick Step. He was with the peloton on Stage 5 before completely blowing up on the final climb but his legs must be good to get there.

Bennett – Hesitated on stage 2 and then went early on stage 3 and faded, probably as he cycled a few more metres than anyone else. Selig withdrew the other day and that will be a big loss for him. Bennett has beaten Viviani before this year, he just needs to remain confident.

Mareczko – Wilier have a lot of faith in the young sprinter as they’ve had almost all of their squad back helping him get through the past few stages. Will they have taken too much out of him?

Bonifazio – 4th in the opening sprint but was caught out by the winds on stage 3. He was good in helping bring Pozzovivo back to the front in stage 5 so I think he has fairly good legs. Sometimes he has good days but often blows cold.

Van Poppel – Jumbo’s short lead out hasn’t worked so far but on a simpler finish like this is should help them. For raw power I think DVP can get close to Viviani, he just needs everything to click.

Prediction

I’d like to see a break stay away to spoil the party but I just can’t see it happening. Viviani to take yet another stage win.

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I do think Van Poppel can get onto the podium tomorrow though.

Betting

Hmmm, could be a no bet day but I’ll go with:

1pt EW on DVP at 14/1

I might have a dabble on some potential break riders on the exchange but nothing stands out for me atm.

I do also fancy a H2H;

Venturini to beat Debuscherre at 6/5. (5pts on)

Debuscherre seems to have lost his sprinting legs quite a while ago and I think the AG2R rider is faster than him. On a finish that should be about pure speed and power, I favour the Frenchman.

Thanks as always for reading, who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone stop Viviani? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 6 Preview; Caltanissetta -> Etna

Today’s Recap

Well that was annoying!

After naming three riders in yesterday’s preview they all came home in the top 4 today, but none of them finished on the top step.

It was quite a dull stage until we got into the final 20km when the pace started to ramp up and a crash in the peloton caused a few splits. A couple of GC guys were held up but most made it back into the fold, aside from Lopez who lost 40 seconds come the end of the day, but that was due to his own crash. On the final climb of the day Pozzovivo set a relentless pace at the bottom that shelled some riders and the Bahrain rider was quick to latch onto an attack by Ulissi. 

That set things up for Visconti to catch everyone, aside from today’s eventual winner Battaglin, by opening up his sprint early. It was a head to head drag race between the two on the final straight but the Lotto Jumbo had the strength to hold on in the end. Interestingly, the effort Visconti put in to bring back Pozzovivo before might have cost him the stage. Behind those two we saw a massive charge from both Schachmann and Goncalves who were both poorly positioned around the penultimate turn, leaving them 9 or 10 bike-lengths behind Visconti when he opened up the sprint. The Katusha rider just pipped the current Young Jersey holder on the line to complete the podium.

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Definitely a day of “what ifs?” punting wise. What if Visconti didn’t have to expend energy bringing Pozzovivo back? What if Schachmann didn’t expend energy coming back himself or starting the sprint too far back? What if Goncalves didn’t run a bit wide in the penultimate turn and cost himself a few positions? Alas, this is cycling though and none of that can be changed, and I’m sure I could ask myself various questions after every stage! Kicking myself a bit for not backing them all EW but oh well, I’ll stand by my reasoning for that.

However, it is good to know that my radar is still working pretty well. Bring on tomorrow!

The Route

We’re onto stage 6 and the riders are greeted with the first mountain top finish of the race, on Mt Etna. Cue the numerous puns I can make about volcanoes throughout the rest of this preview, would you lava to hear them? Moving on…

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A fairly short day in the saddle at only 164km but the riders will face over 3000m of elevation gain throughout the day. The opening half of the stage is very rolling, much like what we have had over the past couple of stages. It will be used for either the breakaway to gain time or if a lot of the GC teams are interested in the stage, they can keep the move on a tight leash and use the rolling terrain to wear down their opponents.

The peloton climbed Mount Etna last year, only the 4th time in Giro history, so it is a surprise to see them back so soon. In 2017 the stage was made a bit too dormant due to a strong head wind that saw the GC favourites mark each other out (aside from Zakarin who launched an attack a couple of kilometres from the top), and consequently the early breakaway rider Polanc held on for a very strong stage win.

Interestingly, the race will tackle Etna from a different side for the first time. Will this see some more explosive racing? Before they start the climb proper though, the peloton will be heading upwards for a while.

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The unclassified climb of Belpasso isn’t tough, only averages 3.2% for 14.4km, but it will act as a warm-up/leg-sapper for what is to come. A short descent follows before the climb of Etna begins.

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Averaging 6.5% for 15kms, this approach of Etna is easier than last year (18km at 6.6%). It is quite an irregular climb though which might see some riders find it hard to get into a rhythm. The toughest 4kms of the ascent come near the top, as they average 8%. This is where someone hoping to make up any GC time will need to attack to put others into difficulty as the closing kilometre eases off.

Looking at the wind conditions there seems to be a light breeze of 5 or 6 km/h coming from the East on the climb which should mean it is a crosswind for the majority of it, but with a headwind in the closing few kilometres. However, with the wind being light I don’t think it will have anywhere near as bag an impact as we saw last year so hopefully we should still be in for some attacking racing.

How will the stage pan out?

We saw a rather surprise breakaway win here last year so can Polanc repeat the feat this time around?

It all depends on the attitude of the GC teams. I think BMCs best way to defend the jersey is to let the break take the stage and with it the bonus seconds, meaning Dennis only has to follow the other contenders to hold onto Pink. That is no easy task though!

Normally on a day like this we would see Sky come to control the peloton with but them and Froome being a bit shaky at the moment with their performances, will they do that? Astana could really do with a good result after Lopez’s crash today but his form is a question mark, especially when you consider his pre TT accident too.

Dumoulin will be happy with his current GC position and the fact Sunweb don’t have to commit fully to any chase. They have helped out here and there over the past few stages but it has been more to show face than anything else. It will be interesting to see if they help out tomorrow – does Dumoulin and the team want the pressure of the jersey already?

The two GC teams that I do think will help to chase, especially if the break is kept on a tight leash coming into the final 60km will be Mitchelton and Bahrain. Both Yates and Pozzovivo have looked very lively in the past couple of days which indicates that they are in a confident mood given the tricky finishes we have had. If those teams commit a man to the chase from the gun then the break has no chance, but if not, then we could well see a surprise.

I’m very torn as to how this stage will pan out, as you can probably tell by now!

I’m nailing my colours to the mast and saying if we get a GC showdown it is between Yates and Pozzovivo for the stage but I want to mention a couple of potential breakaway riders as well.

TheBreakawayLottery

Giulio Ciccone.

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The Bardiani rider was flying in the Tour of the Alps, which saw him then going on to win Giro dell’Apennino not long after. He crashed the day before the start of the Giro in Israel, suffering some damage to his hand. As Bardiani’s hopes for the mountains, he’s lost some time on GC over the past couple of stages and I would expect to see him on the attack in stages to come. A very talented rider, he already has a Giro stage to his name when he won a tough stage to Sestola back in 2016 when he was only 21 years old. In fact, adding to that is his Queen Stage win in the Tour of Utah  and it paints the picture of a guy who can go well in the high mountains. If he makes the break and starts Etna with a 2-minute advantage, the peloton won’t see him until the top.

Rodolfo Torres.

Sticking with the Italian pro-conti teams here and Androni’s pure-climber. Torres is a bit of an enigma in that whenever he is going well he seems to be really strong but he often goes missing in a lot of races. So far here he has done nothing noteworthy and now finds himself over 5 minutes down on GC. Androni have been well represented in the break every day and tomorrow would be a good day to try to get the Colombian into the move. If he’s on a good day and makes a break with some average climbers, then he has a good chance.

Prediction

Could see a break, could see a GC showdown. Hmmmm.

Things will get brought back by a keen Mitchelton and Bahrain led chase with both of their main riders attacking in the closing kilometres and getting a gap. I would normally go with Yates on a finish like this given his better sprint but with how red-hot Pozzovivo has been riding so far this past month, I have to go with him to take a “magmanomous” victory! Sorry.

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Betting

These are the types of days where I really don’t like to get involved with GC rider bets pre-stage. Particularly when the odds don’t change too much once the stage starts but they look chunky for Pozzo whereas they look short for Ciccone.

1.15pt EW Pozzovivo @ 14/1 with Bet365

0.2pt WIN Torres @ 200/1

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think is going to win? Could we see a break stay away or will the GC guys come out to play? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 4 Preview: Catania -> Caltagirone

Rest day recap

The wind was strong for the final stage in Israel but much to my disappoint, it was pretty much a tailwind for the majority of the way home. We did get a couple of splits on a short section but the bulk of the peloton arrived together. As predicted, it was rinse and repeat, with Viviani showing that he is the strongest sprinter here, coming round a swerving Bennett to take the win. The Irishman was beaten by Modolo for second place but he held on for third.

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Let’s take a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow on their return to Italy.

The Route

A leg sapping stage made worse by tough Sicilian roads.

stage-4-profile

This is just a typical day out at the Giro: 3000m+ of climbing but only two Cat-4 KOM ascents, classic. There is no real prolonged periods of flat land with the road constantly going up or down, especially in the final 2/3rds of the stage.

We could see some early attacks from stage hopefuls but they’re unlikely to stick, unless the morning break makes it all the way but with BMC wanting as much exposure as possible at the moment then it has less chance than normal.

The decisive part of the day is the final 16kms and what it holds for the riders.

GiroS4Final16km

Like always I’ve made profile that you can view here.

The final 16kms kicks off with the uncategorised climb of San Bartolomeo, which averages a fairly steady 3.7% gradient for almost 8kms.

Brweg

It’s an interesting one as the gradient isn’t too severe but given the length of it, if a team decides to take up the pace and go full gas then we could see the peloton split. Bear in mind the amount of climbing they will have done before this point, but again, it all just depends on how fast and aggressively it is raced.

Once over the top they will have just over 7kms to go on rolling terrain which might present a chance for an opportunist to attack before the finale. The peloton will also have to contend with some narrow roads (like the following image), taken at roughly 3km to go.

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I wonder if we’ll see a rider attack and their team try to block the road/chase? If we don’t get any action on the run-in then it will all come down to the final kick up to the line.

GiroS4FinalClimb

At an average of 8% for 900m it will entice both climbers and puncheurs, with lots of riders possibly fancying their chances at stage glory.

It must not be a popular Strava segment though as there only 77 people who’ve had an attempt at it, but interestingly, a few of them are here. Pinot, Preidler and Roy all “reccied” the stage on the 4th of April, just a couple of days after Geniez and Montaguti had a look at it. Pinot actually holds the KOM with a time of 2’40, whereas everyone else listed there took it a bit more leisurely. Will we see the Frenchman give it a go tomorrow?

Contenders

Given the various different ways this stage could pan out then there are a whole host of riders who *might* have a chance but I’m not going to name 20+ people here, nobody’s got time for that! So instead, I’ll focus on just three guys who could go well.

I’ll give an honourable mention to #GoOnCalves first though who could conceivably take the leader’s jersey with a stage win and a gap to Dennis. Anyway,

Alexandre Geniez.

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I had to choose one of the guy’s who have had a look at the climb before and Geniez is the perfect mix of not being a real GC threat but is solid and strong enough to go well. Although I think his team-mate (Montaguti) might try an early attack. Geniez started the season in flying form winning the GP Marseillaise before taking the overall title in La Provence. Since then he has been a bit quiet results wise but his form has slowly been building in the Tour of the Alps. He surprised me, and a lot of other people, with his win in Tre Valli Varesine towards the backend of last year where he won a very reduced sprint against Pinot. That day Geniez sprung out of the chasing pack to bridge across to the two leaders (Pinot and Nibali) on the last ramps of the final climb. Combining that with his sprint win in Marseillaise but also his breakaway wins in the Vuelta and you get a well-rounded rider. I still think it will be hard for him to beat everyone if he arrives with the peloton at the foot of the climb so he might have to anticipate the action and attack beforehand, but you never know!

Pello Bilbao.

If you’ve read this blog over the past couple of years then you will know I’m a big fan of the Spaniard since his sprightly days at Caja Rural. His debut season at Astana last year didn’t get off to the best of starts but a 4th place on a breakaway stage at the Giro was a sign of things to come. In the Vuelta towards the end of the year he was phenomenal and instrumental in helping Lopez secure a couple of stage wins but also pacing Aru when he was in difficulty. This season we’ve seen a much more consistent rider who’s taken solid GC placings in Valenciana and Itzulia before he recently won the opening stage in the Alps. His opening TT here was a bit of a surprise but given the punchy route we had then maybe it wasn’t too much of a shock, it did indicate that he is in good form though. Tomorrow’s 1km finish looks great for him and with Astana no doubt having plenty of numbers in the front group on the run in, will we see them constantly attacking or trying to set it up for the sprint on the climb? Bilbao has a good shot either way and like Goncalves, he too has a chance of taking the leader’s jersey with a win and a gap to the others.

Carlos Betancur.

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I haven’t seen the Colombian this motivated for a race in a while, he seems to have his head in the right place again. In 2017 he was domestique deluxe for Quintana at the Tour before being given the opportunity to chase stages in the Vuelta. That unfortunately didn’t go to plan as he crashed on the 7th stage while with the main group of favourites. He’s came back this season though and has had solid results in GP Indurain and Amorebieta but it was his opening prologue that really caught my eye. Like Bilbao he’s not exactly a great TT rider, in fact he’s a pretty terrible one, but his form must have been good on the punchy course to get himself round in 10th place. This type of finish we have tomorrow would be bread and butter for the Betancur that finished 5th on GC at this race back in 2013 or dominated Paris Nice in 2014. Is he at that level again? I’m not sure, but tomorrow will certainly be an acid test for him. I think I can speak for the majority of the cycling public in saying that we would all love to see Bananito back at his best!

Prediction

I kind of spoiled this on my Twitter but yeah, Pello Bilbao to win the stage!

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He looks in great form at the moment and with the Astana team as strong as they are they should be able to control proceedings in the finale. Just up to them whether Bilbao attacks early and they block the road on the narrow sections, or to keep it together and watch him fly up the final climb.

Betting

I did tweet out I was backing Bilbao when odds came out yesterday but the price has long since gone but I still would take him at what he is now.

1pt EW Bilbao @ 28/1 with Bet365 (would take 25/1 lowest)

1pt EW Betancur @ 40/1 with various bookmakers, Betfred are paying 4 places. (would take 33/1 lowest)

0.5pt EW Geniez @ 100/1 with Bet365 (Would take 80/1, maybe 66/1 at a push)

**Update – Added 1pt EW Goncalves @ 25/1.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 21 Preview; Monza -> Milano

Today’s Recap

We saw some GC sparklers, not fireworks today, purely because everyone seemed equally on their limit!

Katusha pushed the pace early on which ultimately lead to a Zakarin attack on the final climb and he was joined by Pozzovivo. Unfortunately for them; Pinot, Nibali and Quintana bridged just after the KOM point.

We had a bit of cat and mouse-ing between that group and it looked for a while as if those dropped on the climb were going to get back on. However, thanks to some close motorbikes and some dodgy time gaps anyway, they were able to duke it out in the sprint to the line, holding onto a 15 second advantage from Dumoulin and co.

Pinot asserted his dominance as the fastest sprinter in the group, taking his first Giro win.

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Zakarin came home second with Nibali picking up some bonus seconds in third.

It leaves everything finely balanced going into the final TT.

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

The Route

A pan-flat course suited to the powerful riders in the peloton.

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The course descends at a very shallow rate from around 9km to go all the way to the finish. It won’t be too noticeable but it should certainly ensure that the speed will be kept high!

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Furthermore, it’s not an overly technical route either, with several long straights for the riders to put the power down. It is only once we get close to the centre of Milan that things get a bit more dicey.

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As you can see, there are a lot of 90-degree (some sharper) turns within the closing 5km so a rider willing to take some risks and carry speed through the corners can gain an advantage.

Thankfully for the riders, the weather looks to be holding up for most of the day and they should all face similar conditions.

Contenders

Dumoulin obviously will start the stage as favourite and rightly so. He absolutely decimated the opposition in the first time trial and compared to his GC rivals, this course suits him even better. However, has the past week taken too much out of him? He really struggled yesterday but coped relatively well today, commenting post stage that he had good legs. Riding a good TT after a tough Grand Tour is a completely different beast compared to resting for a few days and pulling out a result. It would be stupid of me to dismiss him, but I don’t think he’ll have it all his own way.

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From the GC contenders Zakarin, Pinot and Jungels look the most likely to contend with the Dutchman. The first two riders can pull off a good TT on their day and will be hoping for a much better performance than their first efforts against the clock. Although I’m sure both would prefer a slightly more undulating route. Jungels will definitely like the power course and he is a serious challenger to Dumoulin for the stage. Yet again though, it depends on how much the race has taken out of him but he has looked strong the past few stages after seemingly cracking on stage 18.

Who out of the non-GC riders will be contending?

Kiryienka  – Depends if he tries or not. If he does, he really should be up there but he only properly gets going after 20km so I’m sure he would have loved an extra 10km on top.

Luis Leon Sanchez – The first of the non-GC riders home in the first time trial, the Spaniard has been active this race in the mountains. He looked tired on yesterday’s stage but had a relatively quiet day in the saddle today, saving himself for tomorrow?

Jos Van Emden – After managing to finish in the top 10 on the first TT, the Dutchman should enjoy this flatter course even more. He rolled home today in the gruppetto and I would not be surprised to see him go well tomorrow.

As for some outsiders…

Stef Clement.

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He of Wongshot fame gets another mention. The Jumbo rider is a solid TT rider on his day but has been a bit anonymous in the discipline over the past few years. However, if he manages to find his legs then he can definitely compete as he is one of those riders who excels at this distance.

Tobias Ludvigsson.

I couldn’t go the whole Giro without naming one of my favourite riders, could I?! Working in support of Pinot, Ludvigsson has performed well as a domestique this Giro. He survived a fall a few stages ago and even ended up in the break the day after. With Pinot needing a good bench-mark time to aim at from his team-mates, Ludvigsson is the ideal candidate for that situation.

Prediction

It more than likely has to be Dumoulin, but that’s no fun, so I’ll go for everyone’s favourite Swede to upset the apple cart and beat his former team-mate.

08-05-2016 Giro D'italia; Tappa 03 Nijmegen - Arnhem; 2016, Giant-alpecin; Ludvigsson, Tobias; Arnhem;

Betting

Tweeted out my selections before;

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So avoid those two at all costs!

 

Thanks again for reading, especially if you’ve stuck with my awful predictions for this Giro! Your continued support means a lot.

I’m not sure what’s next on the blog as I haven’t even spared any thought to the upcoming races yet. Most likely the Dauphine and the Women’s Tour. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

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

Today’s Recap

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

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

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

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With Costa and Rolland following him home.

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

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

The Route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will the stage pan out?

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

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

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

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

I’m not so sure.

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

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Contenders

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

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

Diego Rosa.

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

Omar Fraile.

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

GC Contenders

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

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

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Prediction

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

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Betting

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

1pt WIN Rosa @ 33/1

1pt WIN Fraile @ 40/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.