Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 5 Preview: Agrigento -> Santa Ninfa

Today’s Recap

A bit of a slow burner despite UAE’s best attempt at stirring some action with over 100km to go. However, things settled down and it was only on the uncategorised climb before the finish that things got spicy, with Conti quickly bridging to a Zardini attack and duly dropping the Wilier rider. He looked strong and for a little while as if he might have a chance of the win as the peloton looked at each other. Lotto FixAll took up the pace setting and were joined by Mitchelton, eventually catching Conti in the final 3km. On the downhill run to the kick up to the line the pace was incredibly high and there was a slight split in the peloton which saw a group of riders start the climb with a small gap.

Wellens powered home to take the win, with Woods following not far behind and Battaglin holding on for third from a charging Yates who was closing by the metre.

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A poor day punting wise but all of the picks started too far back and couldn’t make any places up on the climb itself. With that said, Goncalves was unfortunate with mechanicals and I think Betancur was hindered by the pile-up. Certainly a day for the bookies though as they nailed the 1st, 2nd and 4th riders as their pre-stage favourites.

I was also slightly disappointed at the lack of attacks in the finale but hopefully we’ll see some action a bit further out than 10km from home tomorrow. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Another rolling day in Sicily but there is less vertical gain than today’s stage.

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However, the majority of the climbing comes in the last 60kms, with there barely being any flat kilometres on the run-in so you could argue that it is harder. None of the three Cat-4 climbs are overly tough with the distances and average gradients being as follows; 2.5km at 4%, 8.5km at 3.8% and 5.5km at 4.6%.

After the last categorised climb the road continues to roll though with an unclassified lump of 4.5km at 3.5% before the riders head downhill and towards the finish.

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Like normal, I’ve made a profile of the final 5km that you can view here.

The riders will turn off the main road, taking quite a sharp right-hand bend and instantly hit a climb.

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The final 2km of the day averages 4.2% but the majority of the climbing comes in the first 1.4km of the run-in which is a steeper 6%. There is a short descent for a couple of hundred metres which heads into a very sharp corner.

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Approaching from the road on the right the riders will swing around and complete a tight 180 before continuing on in the final 400m. Interestingly, the road rises all the way to the finish: the gradient isn’t too severe but the 3% average means you don’t want to open up a sprint early.

How will the stage pan out?

Pffft, we’re already at the stage of the race where we could feasibly see a breakaway make it to the line. There are plenty of riders, over 100, who are over 4 minutes down on Dennis already. If a group of 6 or so guys escapes in the morning that are all in that bottom 100 and no-one commits to a chase then we could see them stay away.

However, I think there will be enough guys who want to give tomorrow a go to chase behind. Therefore, I give the morning break a 20% chance of making it.

That then leaves a late-attack or a reduced sprint as the two possible options. Depending on the attitude of the peloton and who makes the attack, I would split the remaining 80%, 43:37 in favour of it being a reduced sprint. I think…

I’ve watched back the finale from today at least 5 times to try to ascertain who was gapped because of being held up by the fall on the run-in, or who finished further back just because the legs weren’t there. It’s not been easy but I have a couple of riders who seemed to finish strongly after being far back and a sign that they might go better tomorrow with some more luck.

As usual, on a stage like this I could name several riders who might have a chance in different situations but we all know how I roll by now so here’s my trio of riders to avoid.

The Terrible Trio

Giovanni Visconti.

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Although the Italian was born in Turin he was raised and lived in Sicily so he will want to put on a good show on what are some of his home roads. After not mentioning him for today’s stage I was hoping he would keep a low profile and go for it tomorrow. He’s even handily lost some time too over the previous days! The easier gradients on the climbs are well suited to the Bahrain rider and I think he should be given a free-role to chase some personal glory; the team did say that he would be allowed chances throughout the race and stage 5 is the last opportunity for Visconti to challenge on home roads. I’ll be intrigued to see how he plays it out; whether he goes in the morning break or waits for a late attack. His performances in the Autumn Italian one-day races were very good and if he is near that level again then he could be hard to beat from a small group.

Jose Goncalves.

I didn’t back him straight away yesterday but couldn’t resist and stuck some cash on him later on in the evening. Of course, the inevatble #HaugheyCurse followed and the Katusha rider suffered several mechanicals ranging from a puncture to loose handlebars. It meant he was constantly chasing on in the final 12kms but still managed to finish a respectable 39th, just behind the likes of Froome and Lopez. If we get a reduced bunch sprint of 30 riders or so then Goncalves should be one of the fastest, if not the fastest guy there. His form seems to be hot right now and a win is coming, it is just a matter of when?

Max Schachmann.

 

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The young German reminds me of better times a couple of months ago and his remarkable win in Catalunya that I somehow predicted. Although luck was definitely on my side that day after the change of course saw only a two-man break go but a strong tailwind on the run in helped them stay away. On today’s stage he was near the head of the group but crashed into some spectators around one of the tight corners on the descent. After managing to gather himself and his bike, he pushed on and finished in 21st place – a very good result all things considered. He certainly lost more in the crash than the 10 seconds he finished behind at the end. Strong and lively enough, I think we could see a late attack possibly stick from him tomorrow; he seems to be in great form at the moment.

Prediction

We all know where this is going…

Come on Jose “#GoOnCalves” Goncalves!

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Betting

1pt EW Goncalves @ 18/1 

1pt WIN Schachmann @ 33/1

0.5pt WIN Visconti @ 33/1

All with Bet365.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de Romandie 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Champéry -> Bulle

Today’s Recap

It looked for a while as if the weather was going to hold out, but it started tipping it down towards the end of the day. Which made for very grizzly conditions going up the last climb. I’m sure if that made the stage easier or not, as the peloton rode it slightly more defensively than I thought, or if the climb was too easy for any gaps to be made.

In the end, it was Albasini who took a great win (a day too late for me)! With Ulissi and Herrada rounding out the podium.

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A damp squib of a stage on the punting front but I’ll soldier on!

The Route

A “sprinters” day tomorrow in Romandie, which means that there is still a fair amount of climbing involved.

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@LasterketaBurua

You can view an interactive profile of the stage here.

There is a chance that they might move the start of tomorrow’s race off the mountain at Champéry and onto the flat valley below. Either way, it shouldn’t have a big impact on the stage.

We do have some relatively tough short climbs out on the course but they come too far from the finish to cause any stress for the sprinters so we should end with some type of bunch kick again.

As there is nothing useful in the road-book, I’ve resorted again to making a Strava profile, this time of the final 5km. You can view that link here.

I’ve went off what information I could take from the interactive profile made by the same guys behind LasterketaBurua as there is no useful information in the RB as to where turns etc are in the finale so apologies if this isn’t 100% correct. But again, I do trust them so I’m assuming it is correct!

Anyway…

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The closing 2.8km averages 2.29% all the way to the line. Not tough, but certainly a long drag! The amount of twists and turns in the closing kilometre should also add to the excitement.

However, it was the 900m lump that starts just before the 4km to go mark that caught my eye. As Strava sometimes doesn’t cope with the contouring on maps that well, especially when the road runs very close to a contour, I thought I’d check it out on Google Streetview to see if the climb was actually that steep.

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View one…
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View two…

It’s definitely a hill, that I’m sure of… 😜

As for how steep it is, I’m still undecided!

Facing up the road, it looks like quite a tough drag but then when looking parallel to the road it doesn’t seem as bad at all. We’ll just have to wait and see tomorrow I guess as to how steep it actually is. I’m holding out that it is the 900m climb at 7% that Strava promises! My instinct though is that it’s probably closer to a 4% average.

Weather

We’re set for another cold day in the saddle.

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Source: Wunderground

Thankfully the riders will be happy to see that there is only a “chance of rain” in the afternoon, but I’m sure they’re bound to get soaked at some point.

There are plenty of riders far enough down on GC to warrant a break win, but I think that’s unlikely and we’ll more than likely see some type of sprint into Bulle.

Contenders

We don’t have many proper sprinters here so a lot of them should be able to compete on this finale.

Viviani is arguably the biggest name here. He’s been climbing a lot better this year, in fact, the best I’ve seen in his whole career. Tomorrow’s finish might be right on his limit but with the Giro looming, you would expect him to be in good shape. Without a win this season, it’s a great chance for him to take victory, but I just can’t see it. Nonetheless, he does surprise occasionally with a great result.

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Albasini is a man in form and he can certainly roll over any of the hills tomorrow. The up-hill finish puts him on a similar level to the really fast guys and I would not be surprised to see him double up. At the very least, he is a safe shout for a podium

Colbrelli in theory should be the favourite for this race, but he seems to be tiring after his great start the year. If he still has some strength in his legs then he will be tough to beat.

This type of finish would have been bread and butter for JJ Lobato circa end of 2014. After switching to Jumbo, the Spaniard has failed to deliver a win for his team so far but that could be put down to the injury that plagued him at the start of the year. An 11th place in Amstel shows that some form is there, but can you put any faith in the enigmatic fast man?

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Race leader Felline will like the look of the drag towards the finish line tomorrow. Clearly in scintillating form, the Italian is taking advantage of it and looks strong in the lead. If he takes the win and 10 bonus seconds tomorrow, he might fancy his chances at winning this race overall…

What about Samuel Dumoulin? The Frenchman has had a fairly solid year but has only picked up one win so far. One of the most consistent riders on an uphill finish, he certainly has a chance if the form is there.

Van der Sande climbed well to finish 17th today but was disappointed to have missed out on getting close to the win. He is clearly going well at the moment and should be Lotto Soudal’s main charge tomorrow as Hofland seems to have fallen by the wayside. A good outsider.

Bilbao will hope to be up there again for Astana. He was close today in 6th place but with the finish being on the climb this time, I’m sure that will suit his abilities more.

Likewise, it will suit former team-mate Goncalves. A favourite of mine, the Portuguese rider has performed OK in the opening part of the season with his new team Katusha, an 11th place at Strade being his best result. Tomorrow’s finish is one that he would eat for breakfast so to say when he was with Caja Rural and I expect to see him up there fighting for the win tomorrow.

Smith, Swift and Richeze might all get involved as well.

Prediction

A tough stage to predict the winner of as firstly I’m still not 100% sure of that penultimate ramp, but it’s also difficult to tell how the peloton will approach the drag to the line.

I do think we’ll see a reduced bunch sprint in the end and I’ll go for a guy who was disappointed today to take the win tomorrow; Tosh van der Sande to step up to the plate and start fulfilling his potential!

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Betting

0.5pt EW Van der Sande @ 22/1 (would take 16s)

0.5pt EW Goncalves @ 400/1 (would take 150s)

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win stage 2? Tomorrow might be a triple preview day with another Romandie stage and potentially Yorkshire Stage 1 and GC, although I might miss the latter if I’m short of time. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Volta ao Algarve Stage 2 Preview; Lagao -> Alto a Fóia

Today’s Recap

What a sprint from Gaviria, the boy is fast! (Not that we didn’t know that already!)

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He managed to hold off Bouhanni and Greipel with the German being his main challenger. Greipel got close to him but never looked as if he had the speed and power to get round the Colombian, who now moves into the leader’s jersey. Unfortunately for him, there’s no chance he’ll be able to hold onto it tomorrow as we head uphill. Let’s take a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

A stage that is all about the closing 20km.

Print

At 3.7km in length and averaging a tad over 8%, the Alto da Pomba will weaken the legs and probably see the sprinters unhitch from the peloton. From there, we have some valley roads before the summit finish.

Fóia isn’t an overly challenging climb. Going off what I can see on Strava (not on the profile above), it is 7.7km long averaging 5.9%. There are some ramps above 10% but conversely we get a couple of false flats and shallow descents. In fact, the toughest section is probably the final 200m where it averages close to 9%.

Last year saw the top 21 coming home in under 25 seconds behind the winner on that day: Luis Leon Sanchez. With the likes of Stybar and Tony Martin being in that front selection you get the idea of who can make it to the top at the head of the race.

With there being bonus seconds on offer, there will be no chance for the break tomorrow and it will be over to the climbers and strongmen to fight it out.

Contenders

Guess we better start with last year’s winner; Luis Leon Sanchez. The Spaniard already has some racing in his legs this season already, finishing a solid 16th on GC at the Tour Down Under. Before his great win last year however, he did have even more racing than he has this time, taking part in Valenciana. He could well go on to repeat the victory tomorrow but I don’t fancy his chances as much this time round! Astana have a handful of options (Scarponi, Moser and Bilbao) and I imagine it will be down to form as to who gets leadership.

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I do think that the rider who came third that day has a good chance though. Primoz Roglic was very impressive in Valenciana after a poor first day, managing a 3rd and 5th place on the two tougher stages. He can climb well and in seemingly better form than he was last year, he has to start as one of the favourites for the win tomorrow.

Dan Martin has to do something on this stage if he wants to have any chance of overall glory. He certainly won’t get dropped on the climb and his punchy finish should be of an advantage to him. However, his favourite status may see him have to follow a lot of attacks which could tire him out. Nonetheless he probably is the favourite on paper!

Lotto have their two-pronged attack in the shape of Benoot and Gallopin. They both finished around 15 seconds back on Sanchez last year but seem to be climbing better this year in comparison. If we get a sprint from 5 riders or so then they’ll be tough to get rid of!

The rest of the GC guys I mentioned will be there or thereabouts too, i.e. the likes of Tony Martin, Kwiatkowski, Guerreiro and Spilak.

There are a couple of riders who won’t have a chance on GC that may fancy their chances here too though…

As I’ve mentioned in the route analysis above, the final climb isn’t overly difficult and there is a chance a strong rider will hold on.

Edvald Boasson Hagen had a cracking start to the season last year; winning a stage in Qatar (should have been the overall too if it were not for a mechanical) and two stages in Oman, plus a 10th place on the Green Mountain. The climb is possibly on his limits but the less severe gradient will be great news for him. With Cav seemingly working for him today on the sprint stage, I think the team must have a lot of confidence in where is form is just now. Certainly a dark horse!

Carlos Barbero may not be a household name yet but the 25-year old Movistar certainly has some talent. With a lot of racing in his legs already this season he should be coping well with the pace in the peloton. He’s a bit of an unusual rider to place as he can climb quite well, winning the tough Philly Classic for example, but he also has a decent turn of speed – Very much a poor man’s Valverde. If he turns out to be half as good as El Bala, then he should have a good career at Movistar. This climb tomorrow, like Boasson Hagen, will be on his limits but from a small 5-10 man sprint he has a chance!

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Regular readers of the blog during the Vuelta will know of a certain Portuguese rider who I have a slight soft spot; Jose Goncalves. He may be here as a support rider for Tony Martin but this type of finish looks perfect for him and I would love to see him get given the opportunity to play his own cards in the finale.

Prediction

I can’t see the top 20 being split by more than 30 seconds and it could come down to a small sprint to the line from some of the better climbers. I’ll go with a man who’s in form and will enjoy the shallower gradients…

Tony Gallopin to take the stage win!

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Betting

Skybet priced up today’s stage this morning, so it might be the same case with them tomorrow morning. Keep an eye out though!

 

Thanks for reading as usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win? Fancy an outsider? I should have my Andalucia preview out by 9pm GMT at the latest. See you all then! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour Down Under Stage 2 Preview; Stirling -> Paracombe

Today’s Recap

I told you it was simple! The pocket rocket Caleb Ewan wins and takes the opening Ochre jersey of the race.

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Although it wasn’t all plain sailing for the Aussie as Van Poppel and Bennett ran him very close with Ewan winning by about half a bike length. Saying that, he never looked as if he was going to be overhauled.

Unfortunately from a punting side, Theuns went a bit early and never got near the podium. He was even overhauled on the line by Planckaert which ruined the H2H double, but oh well, moving on!

Ewan has no chance of retaining Ochre after today/tonight/whatever day this is stage, so let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders who want to win this race overall.

The Route

The Queen stage and the toughest in Tour Down Under history. The riders will be thankful that it appears if it will be a lot cooler than the searing heat of stage 1 and we might even get a small rain shower.

Here’s a link to the Strava profile

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At just over 3,300m of elevation gain over 150km,  this will be a sore one for the peloton. The laps around Stirling won’t see any major action aside from movement in the breakaway, it will just be a case of a slow increase in pace back in the peloton.

Unlike 2015, the riders approach the Paracombe ascent via a different route. Instead of the fast descent in that edition, this year they climb for the majority of it, with a few minor descents thrown in. This certainly changes how the riders will approach the finish.

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Link to the above Strava profile can be found here

The finish can be split into three sections; 4.6km at 1%; 4km at 4.1%; and 1.8km at 7.8%.

The pace will be high in Section 1 as the riders will still be carrying a lot of speed from their descent away from the Stirling circuit. I wouldn’t expect anything too crazy to happen here but this is where we will most likely see the sprinters unhitch as they look to conserve some energy. Unless of course they’ve already been dropped on the circuit!

Section 2 will see the GC teams come more to the head of the peloton. With some segments of the climb being around 8% it is certainly possible for a few riders to try to go for a long attack and get a gap. Satellite riders could be sent up the road here from teams that have two GC candidates (i.e. Gerrans/Chaves) and cause panic behind. Or those who won’t fancy their chances coming to the bottom of Paracombe with the GC group may also give it a dig.

Finally we reach the big test and with an opening 500m at 10.2% some time can be lost if you’re on a bad day. The climb does get easier afterwards and as we saw in 2015 there is a chance it can regroup. If that happens a well-timed late attack, à la Dennis, can succeed or we could get a small group sprint.

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This really is a tough stage to call which hopefully should make it a great one from a viewing perspective but it’s not so great for me just now trying to write this!

Contenders

The GC favourites for the race such as Porte, Henao, Chaves and co are all short odds with the bookmakers and you’d expect that with this being the Queen stage. However, from a racing stand point I find it quit hard to split them on this climb. We saw back in 2015 Porte give it a nudge but he was marked by Evans and Pozzovivo with no real inroads being made. I think something similar is likely to happen here and unless someone puts in a massive attack the favourites may well mark each other out of the race. Consequently, this will open it up for a “lesser” rider to take the stage. My favourite type of preview to write!

Annoyingly, it’s still not clear-cut as this could be done by an attack on Section 2 and staying away, or with a late surge on Section 3.

I guess we should start with the Aussies!

One of my outside punts for GC, Nathan Haas has already taken himself one bonus second out on the road on stage 1 so clearly he feels up to challenging for the overall title. I’m not too sure what the best approach would be for him, but with a fast sprint he could risk holding out for a re-grouping at the end of the stage. He’s looking very thin just now and can definitely surprise!

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Also, Haas’ team-mate Lachlan Morton could be used as a satellite rider that may well just hold on to the end. An even better climber than Haas, his performances in the Tour of Utah were very impressive last year and if he’s in similar shape I wouldn’t give him too much leeway.

Jay McCarthy is another who took bonus seconds out on the road today. A rider of similar ilk to Haas, McCarthy possesses a fast sprint (his surge on Stage 1 was very impressive) but I’d say he’s naturally a better climber than Haas. Someone who won’t be as heavily marked by the peloton, he has a big chance of taking this stage.

Chris Hamilton is here as Sunweb’s leader and is a great young Australian talent. The Hurricane as he’s affectionately known has been doing recon of this stage over this past week. Finishing 14th on GC here last year was a great result and he’ll want to step up this year. A good result on this stage will go a long way to do that!

An even younger Hamilton (Lucas) could well be another that springs a surprise. Winner of the KOM jersey at the Tour de l’Avenir and 3rd on GC at the Ras, the boy is strong! He’ll hope to use his anonymity to his advantage. I wouldn’t give him too much space, that’s for sure!

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Away from the Australians, some outsiders to look out for are Luis Leon Sanchez, Petr Vakoc and Jose Goncalves.

There are the other obvious Europeans such as Ulissi etc, but I don’t think they’ll win here. Unless of course Diego has brought his inhaler with him!

Prediction

We’ll get an Aussie victor that will continue to please the home crowds. It won’t be the obvious Gerrans or Porte but instead, it will be young Jay McCarthy. I liked what I saw from him on stage 1 in that intermediate sprint, it was a very powerful surge to overhaul Goncalves. Furthermore, he finished 12th on the stage which highlights to me that he’s being attentive and doesn’t want to lose time which in turn means that he’s going very well and really wants to challenge the GC this year. He rolled the dice at the Aussie Nats and I’m intrigued to see how he plays this one, but he certainly has the strength/speed to pull off either approach!

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I do also have fond memories of him winning at 100/1 on the Stirling stage last year which led to this post student night out tweet. Aptly in my uni-town of Stirling too…

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Betting

0.8pt EW McCarthy @ 25/1 with Betfair/PP (I’d take down to 20/1)

0.25pt EW Chris Hamilton @150/1 with Betfair/PP (I’d take down to 100/1)

0.1pt EW Morton @ 150/1 with Bet365/Ladbrokes (I’d take down to 100/1)

0.1pt EW Lucas Hamilton @250/1 with Bet365 (I’d take down to 200/1)

H2H Double; McCarthy v Gerrans and Hamilton v Meintjes @2.3/1 with Bet365. 1.5pt.

Keep an eye out later as more bookmakers price up, there might be better odds available!

 

Thanks again for reading, hopefully the stage lives up to the hype! As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 5 Preview: Viveiro -> Lugo

Today’s Recap

Another stage, another break! The three guys I highlighted (we’ll pass over Devenyns 😉 ) made the move but unfortunately none of them could take the win. Instead, it was young Frenchman Lilian Calmejane who took home a great stage. He’s another talented junior rider, hopefully he kicks on from this!

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Atapuma moves into the GC lead, much to the delight of Carlton Kirby, with Valverde and Froome roughly 30 seconds behind.

Anyway, moving onto tomorrow’s minefield of a stage!

The Route

It’s another stage that is back loaded with climbing. There’s a real mix of everything tomorrow and a lot of riders will fancy their chances.

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The flat start to the day could mean we’re in for another ferocious pace as the riders try to make the break. However, it is almost as likely that a break could be formed quickly and the sprinters teams take control of the bunch.

The second half of the stage is much tougher and is constantly up and down.

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Profile of the final 50km. Find it here

As you can see, it’s a real sawtooth profile. However, the actual changes in altitude/elevation are not that high, only varying by roughly 50m. Depending on the pace of the peloton though, this will sap the legs and tire the sprinters before the finish.

The finish itself is very interesting.

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Final 7km profile. Find it here

Over the course of the 7km, the road rises at an average of 1.4%. Not exactly challenging.

The toughest section is 3-4.8km (in the profile above) which averages 4%. However, there are some steep ramps of around 8%. It looks like a nice launchpad for a solo attack, or for a team to attack it aggressively, putting a few of the sprinters in trouble.

The final 700m of the stage is all up-hill as well, averaging 3%. It will be a long drag for some!

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The run-in itself is technical and will be difficult to control, or organise the lead-out.

How will the race pan out?

Pfffft, who knows?!

Before the start of the Vuelta I would have been very confident calling this one as a reduced bunch sprint. However, with there already being 2 break wins out of 3 road stages then we could well see the same again tomorrow!

Will BMC want to expend resources to hold onto the GC lead? Possibly. It will be good for the team to retain the jersey just now as they won’t be at the pointy end of the race by the finish! Therefore any break will have to be made up of riders far down on GC. There’s a good chance of that as anyone outside the top 50 is over 6 minutes behind Atapuma already.

So they’ll most likely take on the duty of setting the pace of the peloton and usher the sprint teams through to assist. Will they? The majority of the “sprinters” here will fancy their chances so the majority of teams will have an interest in bringing the break back. However, that all depends on the make-up of the breakaway. If they have a rider up the road, they don’t have to work.

It’s a very tactical day and a nightmare to preview!

A break/late attack/sprint are all possible and equally as likely outcomes.

Stage Contenders

For the sprinters, look to those involved on stage 2. With the “lower-quality” field here at the Vuelta, none of the so-called sprinters are actually pure sprinters, and most should relish the uphill run to the line. I would almost be tempted to go with Cort Nielsen again. He looked fast on Sunday and this finish reminds me of the stage he won in Denmark.

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The break could be made up of anyone really, and for late-attackers look to regulars such as LL Sanchez, Hansen & Terpstra.

I’ve decided to approach this stage by picking three guys who could do everything and cross my fingers! There’s also a Snoop Dogg inspired pattern too…

Gilbert has been climbing very well so far this Vuelta and he seems to have a spring in his step now that he has a contract for next year. Sitting in the magical 55th place on GC (8’23 down) he will be given freedom. Furthermore, BMC can play the “we have a man up the road card and don’t care about Atapuma’s red jersey” tactic. A play-book classic that one! 😉 Otherwise, he can put in a big acceleration on the toughest section of the run in. He looked lively on stage 2! Or he’s saved for the up-hill sprint at the end that looks right up his street.

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Gerrans sits in 72nd position on GC and is a very good breakaway candidate for Orica. I say this because he’s not needed to protect Chaves, and he wasn’t involved in the lead-out for Cort on stage 2. Practically the only guy left in the team once those jobs are taken away! Like Gilbert, he’ll be used as the rider up the road so Orica don’t have to chase. Also, he could attack away on the final rise. Or if Orica aren’t confident in Cort’s sprint, they may turn to him for the dash to the line.

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Prediction

However, I’m not backing either of those riders to win. His surname does begin with G though…

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Like today’s stage, I’ll be backing a Caja Rural rider to win and that man is Jose Goncalves. The Portuguese rider can handle all three potential outcomes very well. He rolled in today within the grupetto and after saying he felt very good  yesterday, I can only assume he’s saving energy for tomorrow (maybe wishful?!). As we saw today, Caja are a very attacking team so will have riders up the road in the break. Goncalves showed on stage 3 that he can handle the steep ramps well, and has the potential to attack late. However, his main asset will be his up-hill sprint. These types of finishes are his bread and butter and he was going very well in at his preparation race; Volta a Portugal, earlier this month.

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I expect him to be firing on all cylinders tomorrow!

#GoOnCalves

Betting

Goncalves 0.5pt EW @ 100/1 with Bet365 (I’d take as low as 50)

Gilbert 0.25pt Win @ 22/1 with Bet365 (I’d take 20s)

Gerrans 0.25pt Win @ 50/1 with Bet365 (Would take 33/1)

 

Hope you enjoyed the preview! How do you think this difficult to call stage will go? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 3 Preview: Marín -> Dumbria (Mirador de Ízaro)

Today’s Recap

Well, that was as chaotic as expected!

Experience shone through with veteran Gianni Meersman holding on to take the win after his Etixx team delivered him perfectly in the final kilometre. With it being a headwind finish, they timed the lead out so that Meersman did the shortest sprint possible. Furthermore, taking the quickest line around the last bend also helped. They had their tactics spot on. A great win for him and the team!

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Magnus Cort Nielsen came from miles back it seemed and got up for third. So still a profitable day for the blog at least! Stage favourite Arndt was nowhere to be seen but on a re-watch of the closing kilometres it looked like two riders got held up by Lagutin’s crash, so that could have been Arndt. Would make sense because he finished alongside lead-out man De Koert.

Anyway, moving on to tomorrow’s stage…

The Route

This is the type of stage that typifies the Vuelta. Not overly long and back ended with some steep climbs. I love it!

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We should all be very familiar with the Vuelta and their famous “Cat-3” climbs by now. They are brutal! Especially the short ones.

Tomorrow’s finish was used in the 2012 Vuelta, with Joaquim Rodriguez winning that day. As you can see in the video below, it is a real grind.

More about the final climb later…

Before they reach the finish they have a tough 70km to traverse, featuring over 1500m of elevation. The organisers have been kind and are easing the riders into the race… 😉

Just to get a better idea of the final 78km, I’ve made a Strava profile of it that you can view here. I promise I’m not sponsored by them, I just like the interactivity that the website allows!

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Strava profile of the last 78km

The first Cat 3 is 9km long, averaging 5%. However, the final kilometre is the toughest part with sections over 9%. This will sap some of the legs, but it is too far out for any real moves to be made.

However, the penultimate climb of Paxereiras is very interestingly positioned. This is a proper climb, 8km at 6.7%. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The first 5.5km are a lot more demanding, average roughly 8.3%, with sections above 11%. Due to the climb being around 20km to the finish line, there is a chance we could see some satellite riders being sent up the road here so that their teams don’t have to chase.

Back to the final climb, sorry, I mean wall! It’s just ridiculous, 1.7km long at an average of 13.7%. There are even sections in it that top 30%!

You have to be a light and explosive climber to win here.

How will the stage pan out? Team Tactics?

As I’ve alluded to above, the penultimate climb may be used as a springboard for teams to send riders up the road and try to hold on for the win, but I think this is a relatively unlikely outcome. It’s still possible, but I favour this coming down to a battle on that brutal final climb.

Now, as we saw on the first summit finish at the Vuelta last year the “big” riders often mark each other which paves the way for a “second-tier” rider to take the win. Having a strong team in this situation is crucial.

Before he was pulled out, I had Landa penciled in for this stage. The situation would be that he would attack off the front and Froome would mark the attacks behind. Obviously he’s not here now but I expect something similar to happen, so let’s look at the teams and riders who could be allowed to get away.

Movistar – Quintana and Valverde are leaders/too high-profile, Moreno or Fernandez may be their options. I’d favour Moreno as he goes better on the steep stuff.

Vuelta España - Stage 4

 

Tinkoff – Contador will be watched. Kiserlovski could get away, but he hasn’t been great for a while. Only chance of them winning is Alberto blowing everyone away, which is certainly possible!

Sky – Froome will again be marked. Over to Konig or Kwiatkowski, both good candidates if they’re on form. Might be too steep for them though.

BMC- A team with a few options. Atapuma or Sanchez best plan as it’s too steep for TVG. One massive longshot to keep an eye on is Hermans, who seems to be climbing very well as of late. I think it’s too tough for Gilbert.

Jumbo – Gesink was 4th here in 2012, but has been off the boil since then, although could surprise! Kruijswijk not fit enough yet.

Orica – Chaves won because of this situation last year so he’ll be closely watched this time round. Instead, I think Yates has a real chance here.

Astana – They don’t really have a big name guy, but this climb suits Superman Lopez perfectly. The bunch can’t give him too much room!

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Etixx – Another team without a first-division GC rider, but Brambilla is capable of going well here.

I don’t think any other riders will figure at the pointy end of the race, but I would love for a Caja Rural rider to be up there. They have a good list of punchy climbers, I’m not entirely sure who the finish suits best. Possibly Goncalves (#GoOnCalves) or Bilbao.

Prediction

Like last year, I think we’ll see three “lesser” riders escape the main group. My selections for that situation would be Lopez, Yates & Brambilla, and they’ll make up the podium tomorrow! Now it’s just choosing the winner.

Lopez is a bit of an unknown and how far he can go, but he does have bags of talent. The steep gradients should suit his diminutive figure, but I think youthful exuberance might get the best of him.

Brambilla is probably the weakest of the three, but has been in great form. Plus, as was shown at the Giro, he’s not afraid to attack from distance. But I think this climb is on the limit for him.

Therefore, I think it will be Yates who goes on to win! He rode very well in the TTT and is evidently going well. He’s quietly gone about his business since his return with; a win in Spain; another podium; 7th at San Sebastian; and 4th on GC at Burgos. A rider who goes well in Spain, he is able to cope with the steep stuff.

Taking advantage of the rest of the GC guys marking each other, he’ll be able to repeat Chaves’ success from last year and in the process take the leader’s jersey!

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Betting

Annoyingly, it seems the trader at Bet365 has had a similar line of thought…

0.65pt EW Yates @12/1 (Bet365)

0.2pt EW Lopez @16/1 (Bet365) 22/1 with PaddyPower

0.15pt EW Brambilla @33/1 (Bet365) 50/1 with PaddyPower

Like usual, hunt around once more bookmakers have priced up later and there is a chance that you can get better odds. I’ll update the post/my twitter if I spot anything, I just want to get the preview published!

Hope you enjoyed the read, how do you think it will play out tomorrow? Will we get the 2nd tiered riders up the road, or will the big GC boys come out to play? As usual, any advice/feedback is greatly appreciated! Thanks for reading. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 2 Preview: Ourense -> Baiona

Today’s Recap

Well, the crossbar was well and truly hit today as Sky pipped Movistar by less than a second! I did think that the British team would be in contention, but that was very close. Both teams rode great negative splits, leaving almost a full complement of riders for the testing final climb. They obviously had read the preview 😉

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The biggest loser on the day has to be Contador who shipped 52 seconds to Froome and Quintana; 46 to Yates and Chaves; and 45 to TVG/Sanchez/Atapuma. Not catastrophic, but not exactly ideal for the pre-race favourite!

Anyway, moving onto tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

A typical sprinters stage in the Vuelta, where they have to negotiate a tricky Cat 3 climb mid stage. They don’t do pan-flat here!

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The profiles of the race make writing the blog more interesting, that’s for sure. I was initially intrigued at that little “bump” that crests around 10km from the finish, hoping that we would have another typical Vuelta, non-categorised climb at 5% etc. However, according to the little segment I made on Strava, it’s more a case of 6km at 2% average. Even going off of the Vuelta road book, it’s 4.2km at just over 3% average. This shouldn’t be a problem for the sprinters, especially the one’s we have here!

The riders will also be happy to see that it’s a flat run in, with no real turns at all within the final kilometre.

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It looks to be set up perfectly for a pure and “proper” sprint where lead-outs, timing and raw speed will be important. Let’s have a look at the potential stage winners!

The “Sprinters”

Due to the incredibly tough parcours this year, we don’t have any of the big name sprinters here. Instead, we have a lot of younger riders who will get a chance to show what they have on the big stage. All of the guys that are here can climb fairly well so the little bump aforementioned shouldn’t be a serious challenge for them.

The team with the best lead-out here is Giant-Alpecin, and they’ll be supporting young German sprinter, Nikias Arndt. They did a pretty poor TTT but oddly enough, one of the riders seemed to be smiling (looked like big T Ludvigsson) as they crossed the finish line. Maybe keeping something in the tank for tomorrow? De Koert & Waeytens will look to pilot Arndt in the final 500m, with the rest of the team doing work beforehand. He’ll probably start as favourite.

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Arguably the fastest rider here, Niccolo Bonifazio has had a fairly poor season since his move to Trek, picking up only one win. However, he does have the raw talent and speed to go well if he’s on form. I just don’t think he’s there yet, he was a bit “meh” in Norway and I’m not convinced he’ll go well this early in the race. He’ll need to build in to it. In fact, Trek may turn to his team-mate Felline who as I pointed out in my San Sebastian preview will be one to watch this race. The flat finish doesn’t really suit him though!

A veteran in this field, Gianni Meersman will be Etixx’s chosen man. A rider with so much promise, he’s flattered to deceive as of late and I can’t see that changing here. Although in saying that, he will have a great powerhouse of a lead-out. Maybe he can hold on for a podium.

Magnus Cort Nielsen will get a rare chance to sprint for Orica in a Grand Tour. The young Dane was excellent towards the end of last month, but has had a few weeks off getting ready for this race. He’ll be able to count on a solid lead-out, including Tuft, Gerrans & Keukeleire. Orica are great at positioning their sprinters. I expect him to go well, but again, he maybe would have preferred a tougher finish.

Kristian Sbaragli will be Dimension Data’s option for the sprints. His one and only pro win so far came at this race last year. He’ll have an OK lead-out, not great, and might have to surf the wheels. My worry is that he’s too much of a “top 10” sprinter, and not a winner!

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BMC will have to face the decision if it’s Gilbert or Drucker that they’ll work for, potentially even Dillier. Too many chefs? It will more likely be the latter on the flat sprints. However, like a few others, I think he flatters to deceive and goes well in the smaller races, going missing on the big stage. I could well be proved wrong here, but I doubt it 😉

Who else is left? Van der Sande, Van Genechten and Bennati will all be in or around the top 10. I look forward to seeing Goncalves (#GoOnCalves) have a go in the sprint, he should also be in the mix but isn’t fast enough on the proper flat stages. A top 10 would be a good result for him!

Prediction

The opening sprint stage of a Grand Tour is often a chaotic affair, so I’m turning to a team who are great at timing the run to the line perfectly and are capable of positioning their rider well inside the final 200m. Therefore, I think Magnus Cort of Orica BikeExchange will win tomorrow’s stage. He looked incredibly strong in Denmark, and if he’s maintained his form he will be a real threat. I wouldn’t expect the OBE train to hit the front until the final 2/1.5km, guided by the experienced Sven Tuft. Then Gerrans and Keukeleire will take over, dropping Cort off perfectly with 150m to go and he won’t be caught! By doing so he’ll take the race lead as well.

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Confidence is key, but all of the sprinters will fancy their chances so it could end up being a messy one. Just making an early excuse for myself…

Betting

Cort 0.5pt EW widely available at 12/1.

 

Hope you enjoyed the preview! Who do you think will win the sprint? As usual, any feedback and discussion is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.