Tour de France 2017 Stage 11 Preview; Eymet -> Pau

Today’s Recap

Offredo made the break but was only joined by one other rider (Gesbert) so it was doomed from the outset really! At least my breakaway radar is working better than it has over the past few months.

Much to my bemusement though, several of the other sprint teams decided to help chase the two-man move all day. They even did all of the work in the closing kilometres. However, even that didn’t stop the inevitable and Kittel managed to take his 4th stage win of the race.

 

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It’s just too easy for the fantastically haired German!

Degenkolb did very well to finish second and is showing good signs of recovery after the crash last week. Yet, all he did was follow Kittel’s wheel. He never looked like winning. Maybe that’s a good tactic for anyone hoping to finish on the podium in the next few sprint stages! Groenewegen finally came good to get his GT podium finish, and he actually hit the highest speed out of all the sprinters. But again, he was nowhere near the win. Will that change tomorrow?

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

The Route

Another almost pan-flat day that looks ideal for the sprinters.

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The riders travel almost directly south from Eymet to Pau, which would make it a stage that could be affected by crosswinds if the direction/strength of the wind is correct. We will get some 18-20km/h Westerly winds at points throughout the stage but a lot of the route is well protected by trees etc, so I can’t see it coming to anything substantial.

As for the end of the stage itself, the final few kilometres are ever so slightly downhill which should make for a fast finish.

It’s not exactly the easiest of run ins either…

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Four roundabouts to contend with in the last 5km could make for a dicey stage. However, I don’t really expect the first two to have that much of an impact as they come too far out and there is a lot of straight road afterwards for teams to organise themselves again.

The roundabout that comes at just before 2km to go should see the riders funnelled around the left-hand side.

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It’s quite a wide road so there shouldn’t be too many difficulties but you never know! The riders will then take a slight left kink in the road before charging towards the Flamme Rouge.

Just before the flag though, they’ll face a tough left-hand turn which will no doubt string things out.

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The second roundabout you see on the profile above isn’t difficult at all as the riders are able to smooth out the corner, and should be able to go at full speed.

The turn onto Rue Michelet at ~600m to go is more difficult than it appears though, opposite to how the roundabout initially seems.

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It’s almost an unsighted turn and is definitely greater than 90-degrees initially before it straightens back out again. A few riders could be caught out here. I guess it will all depend on where the barriers are placed in the car park as the road/run off from the turn can be made wider.

They’ll then face a 500m straight to the finish.

How will the stage pan out?

Another stage that looks like it will be a sprint, but surely the other sprint teams don’t help the QS chase at all?! They made it oh so easy for them today by happily putting a man up to share the work load and that got them nowhere. Lotto and Katusha were the ones most willing to chase and that got them 12th and 5th respectively. Not great!

Do they do the exact same tomorrow? Because if so, they pretty much hand Kittel another victory. I wouldn’t and in fact, I would be looking to put a rider in the breakaway to make QS work for it harder. Maybe that’s just me though.

I said in my stage 7 preview that we might see a breakaway survive on a sprint stage once Kittel has 5 wins to his name but I think there is a chance tomorrow could be that day.

For that to happen though, the break will need to be strong and certainly be more than just two riders like we had today. It also requires the sprint teams to “grow some balls” so to speak and let QS do all of the work at the head of the peloton. Katusha/Lotto/Cofidis etc aren’t winning stages while doing some work, so why is that going to suddenly change tomorrow if they do the exact same?

At this point I’m practically pleading with the sprint team’s DS to try to do something different and animate the race.

We always seem to have a breakaway winner in Pau!

However, it will need some strong rouleurs if it is to stay away so…

Breakaway Candidates

Guillaume van Keirsbulk.

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A rider who I will always have a soft spot for after his win in Le Samyn earlier this year, the Belgian has already spent a day off the front of the race. Wanty are keen to animate these flat stages and he would be a suitable choice for tomorrow. A strong TTer with a decent kick, he can’t be underestimated.

Tim Wellens.

Bit of a wildcard one this as it requires Lotto to play an aggressive stage. He’s not been great so far this Tour and expended a lot of energy on some of the breakaway days in the mountains all for nothing. Nonetheless, he would still be a good rider to have up the road and put some power down.

Vegard Stake Laengen.

The tall Norwegian has already made the break once before this race and UAE seem keen to try to get riders up the road. With Swift still not looking 100% they could well go for that tactic again and get some TV exposure. A good rider to have in the break if you are in the break yourself as he provides a nice wind break!

Sylvain Chavanel.

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He’s not been as active in this Tour as I expected, only making one break of note so far. Direct Energie have no hope in the sprints but with a stage win already, the pressure is off for them at least. He might sense that the sprint teams don’t want to chase tomorrow and use his experience to seize an opportunity.

Prediction

With that all being said, no doubt we’ll still see this man romp home to victory.

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Oh how I’d love to be wrong!

Betting

No value in any of the sprinters, but considering I managed a profit today (albeit a measly 0.4pts) thanks to an in-play bet, I’m going to waste that on the breakers tomorrow.

0.1pt on them all to win, all with Bet365;

Van Keirsbulk @ 500/1

Wellens @ 400/1

Laengen @ 400/1

Chavanel @ 250/1.

 

Thanks as always for reading and as usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone stop Kittel? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Green Jersey Preview

While a lot of the cycling world bemoans the easier route for this year’s Tour, there is one group of riders who will be happy with the flatter parcours: the sprinters.

The organisers have been kind to the fast men, with there looking to be 7 sprint stages but that could be increased to 9 or even 10 depending on how the peloton attacks the race.

Having won the jersey for the last 5 years in a row, Sagan is the rider to beat.

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Can he make it 6 this season?

First though, let’s have a look at how the points system works.

Scoring Points

The stages are categorised based on their difficulty, with the easier stages awarding more points to the winner at the end of the day.

The following table comes from @searchhhh on the Velorooms forums, that I have tea-leafed because I’m too lazy to make it myself!

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As for which stages fall into each category;

  • Stages 2, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 19, 21 are Cat 1, i.e. score maximum points
  • Stages 3, 5 , 8, 14, 15, 16 are Cat 2
  • Stages 1, 9, 12, 13, 17, 18, 20 are Cat 3

With 8 stages that reward 50 points at the line, it is possible for a dominant sprinter to build up a strong points tally. The sprinters will have to come out firing if they want to contest green because half of the “big” sprint stages come in the opening week of racing.

Sagan normally makes his mark by winning the Cat-2 stages and being close on the Cat-1 days. However, this year 3 and 14 look like the only days where we could have a reduced bunch sprint. Stage 5 will be a GC day and so could stage 8, with stage 15 looking like a breakaway day. Furthermore, Stage 16 actually looks like a stage where most of the sprinters could make it to the line as most of the climbing comes in the first half of the day.

Another way that Sagan cements his position in Green is by going on the hunt for the intermediate sprint points during the more rolling stages as his competitors normally can’t follow in the breakaway these days.

Yet, this year the organisers have seemed to “nerf” that aspect of his attack, with having most of the intermediate sprints on flatter parts of the route and before the big obstacles on the day. It’s really only on stages 9/15/17 that they’re in places inaccessible to most sprinters!

Even Stage 9 might be a little hard for Sagan to chase the points…

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Therefore, there is certainly a lot more emphasis on placing highly at the end of stages this year and picking up some minor points at the intermediates to keep the tally ticking over.

Contenders

With all that being said though, Sagan is still the clear favourite for the jersey. He looked lightning fast at the recent Tour de Suisse and he always ups his game in the sprints at the Tour. Even if he doesn’t win any of the flat stages, he’ll no doubt podium in at least 3 of them while picking up top 5s in a lot of the others. That will give him a good base of points to go and pick up some more during Stage 3 etc and some mountain breakaways.

So a rough points total for him could be;

2 Cat-2 wins (60pts), 2 Cat-1 2nds (50pts), 2 Cat-1 3rds (40pts), Top 10s in Cat-1s (~50 – 70pts), Intermediate Sprints (~70 – 100 pts) = 270 -> 320pts as an estimate.

A tough score to beat, but not impossible.

Kittel looks like Sagan’s biggest challenger, on paper anyway. Arguably the fastest sprinter in the world, a lot of these flatter stages will suit the fantastically haired German. His Tour didn’t go to plan last year, only winning one stage in the end. Not great for a man of his abilities. He’ll be hoping to go a lot better this year and that Cavendish arrives undercooked. If so, he could feasibly win 4 of the 8 Cat-1 stages, and get close on some others.

Picking up a few podiums and top 5s on the other stages as well as some intermediate sprint points, he will be there or thereabouts with Sagan’s total. It looks promising for him to launch a proper tilt at the Green Jersey this year.

Marcel-Kittel

And what about Cavendish? He took me and almost everyone else by surprise last year with his dominant performance in the sprints after seemingly coming into the Tour not on great form and possibly past his prime. This year, he faces an even tougher battle after recovering from the Epstein Barr Virus and only returning to racing a couple of weeks ago at the Tour of Slovenia. He only managed a second place there and was OTL at the British Championships (not a great sign but only 12 riders came home in time) so it’s not looking too good for his chances this year. Yet…

Now, you can call me crazy, but I have a feeling he will turn up and will be going well. Dimension Data won’t have wasted a spot for him on their team if he was going to use the first week as training, hoping to pick up a win later on in the race. Furthermore, a telling sign is that they’ve brought a strong lead-out train with them. That train could well be for Boasson Hagen, but it seems a bit over the top if it’s just for him.

On form, Cavendish is as fast as Kittel so he could well repeat last season’s performance and win 4 stages, putting him right in contention for the Green jersey. I’m certainly not ruling him out, that’s for sure.

Greipel will pick up his regular Grand Tour stage but at the Giro he went missing a lot in the sprints so he’ll need to be a lot more consistent to challenge for the jersey and I can’t see that happening.

Arnaud Démare is France’s best hope for a long time to win the Green jersey. He has been exceptional this year and his win at the recent French Nationals was truly dominant. As close to being a tier-1 sprinter without being one, he may well move up the rankings after this Tour. I expect good things from him this race and he is the most likely of all French riders to win a stage. With a team almost 100% focussed around him, the pressure will be on. Will he thrive under that pressure or crumble?

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I can’t really see anyone else being consistent enough to challenge for the jersey.

Groenewegen is a great talent but he has the propensity to be 1st or nowhere at times. A stage win for him would be a great result and that’s certainly a possibility, but to challenge for the jersey will be too tough an ask.

Matthews (as much as I like and rate him), is a poor man’s Sagan for this competition. Not as fast as others on the flat, not a good enough climber to win mountainous breakaway days.

The same can be said for Colbrelli.

Kristoff has been poor this season and his team seems to be against him.

Bouhanni still seems to be suffering from his crash in Yorkshire, possibly a lack of confidence which is surprising for him.

Prediction

Don’t get me wrong, Sagan should win the jersey again. He is fast enough to compete on the flat stages and strong enough to be there at the end when no other sprinters are. However, I just have a feeling that Cavendish will be as electric as he was last year and dominate the flat sprints.

Mark-Cavendish-wins-stage-14-of-the-2016-Tour-de-France_Grahah-Watson-630x420

I expect this to all fall flat on its face when he doesn’t contest the sprint on Stage 2…

Betting

Now, it’s obviously a gamble but hey, that’s what betting is about!

If Cavendish is on fire, his current price is massive. If he is still under the weather, it is grossly under-priced. It would kill me to see him romp away with some stages this year knowing exactly what he did last year. Therefore, I’m willing to take the “gamble” on his form and back him EW for the Green Jersey and almost accept it could be a losing bet.

1pt EW Cavendish for Green Jersey @ 18/1 with Bet365 (and others)

Make sure you get 1/4 odds for 3 places, as some bookies are going 1/3 odds for 2.

Also, as I won’t be putting out any more Tour blogs until the stage 1 preview on Friday, I’ve backed Lotto Jumbo (0.5pt on) for the Team Classification @ 80/1 with Betfair. Would take 66s availalbe elsewhere.

Bit of an outside bet but they have an AG2R of 2013 feel about them where they should have 2 guys near the front of most stages and will be looking for breakaway success too.

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win the Green Jersey? Is Sagan a shoe-in? And have I really lost the plot before the Tour has even started?

I’ll have my “Big fuck off” Giro Rosa guide out tomorrow which I would greatly appreciate if you shared and have a read of! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 3 Preview; Tortolì -> Cagliari

Today’s Recap

A long dull stage that ended in a bunch sprint with Greipel taking his standard Giro stage win!

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Ferrari of all people finished second, with Stuyven coming home third.

Annoyingly, Bennett fell ill last night and was struggling all day. A shame, but it’s one of those things about this sport that you never find out until you see them dangling off the back!

Oh well, moving on swiftly and onto tomorrow’s much shorter stage. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The last day on the island of Sardinia and the easiest stage so far with barely any altitude gain at all!

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The profile makes it look the day look more rolling than it actually is, instead it is pretty much pan flat all day. At 148km long, it could be a short and explosive stage as the riders travel down the coast towards Cagliari.

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Like today, the run in tomorrow is fairly simple with only a few roundabouts and turns to contend with.

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There is a bit of pavé at the 350m to go mark all the way to the finish, but it really shouldn’t have an effect on the sprint at all.

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Definitely a case of “paved stone” rather than cobbles!

Weather

The big talking point regarding tomorrow’s stage is the strong winds that are forecast. Travelling almost directly south for almost 100km, there is a chance that if we get a constant East or Westerly wind we may get, ahem, crosswinds…

 

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Source: Wunderground

The above image is the forecast for Tertenia which is near the start of the stage but as you can see, it looks windy! As I highlighted in the preview for stage 2 though, a lot of the island is covered with trees etc so the riders have been protected from the wind thus far. God damn Sardinia for its beautiful scenery!

Tomorrow though, there are some areas exposed areas at the start of the stage.

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Location: North of Tertenia

Will it be full gas from the start like we have seen in the past at the Vuelta? After the two very slow days I think it could be…

How will the stage pan out?

I think we will see some of the GC teams try and split the race in the crosswinds. After the relatively quiet opening stages they’ll have a lot left in the tank and with a rest day to follow, it could be manic.

There are still sheltered areas where things won’t be affected by the wind as much, and although the route is pan-flat some of the surrounding area is hilly which will surely have an impact on the prevailing conditions.

Nonetheless, I expect there to be some echelon action.

Most of the route southbound looks like the following…

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They go closer to the hills at times but then skirt away from them again into more open areas like the one above.

Sky and Bahrain certainly look like the most eager GC teams to try something and I think that could be the case tomorrow. Although the British team have started to gain a reputation recently of being caught out on day’s like this. As I said above, with a rest day coming up I’m sure they’ll be more willing to try something riskier as they can recover the following day.

It’s a bit of a lottery trying to figure out who would be on the wrong side of a split GC-wise, because everyone will know that there is the potential for echelons so will be trying to position their overall candidates high up the bunch. This in itself could cause some issues and splits.

As for the stage, if it really does get manic then it will be a bit of a lottery, however, sprinters tend to go well in tough conditions so a good few of them should be there. Then again, some will probably miss out too just by being poorly positioned or through some bad luck (i.e. a badly timed mechanical).

We could end up seeing a similar top 10 to what we had on Stage 2 of the Tour in 2015 with a mix of GC riders and sprinters.

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Although with all that said, there is a chance I’m just wishfully thinking after the relatively dull opening stages we’ve had and it may all end in a big bunch sprint.

Prediction

It’s clear that Ewan and Greipel are the fastest riders here going off of the first two stages. Gaviria isn’t too far behind but he doesn’t seem to be 100% yet. Will having two days of racing in his legs change that?

The German is the best out of the sprinters in bad conditions so factoring that in, I think he wins tomorrow, doubling up after only three days!

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As to how many guys end up there for the sprint, who knows, it all depends on how aggressively the GC teams ride due to the wind and more importantly, if the wind is strong enough to do some damage! Anyone know what teams are sharing hotels?! 😏

I think we could see a small group come to the line and in that case it might be hard to control, therefore look out for strong all-round GC guys who should be there no matter what. Someone along the lines of Thomas or Jungels who are both powerful enough to get close in a very, very reduced sprint or attack and solo to the line. The former has been really attentive so far this race and I think he might order his Sky team to try and instigate something, especially with a rest day coming up.

Betting

No value in Greipel as his price is too short with the unpredictability of tomorrow and it’s too early in the race for me to go gung-ho with him and place a sizeable bet of 5pts etc. The sensible decision would be a no bet. But I’m not sensible!

So instead, I’m going to throw (waste) some money on the two GC guys I’ve listed in the chance that we get a crazy day. I would normally go WIN only, but if we get a small group of guys like that 2015 Tour stage, I’ll be gutted if one of them podiums so EW it is.

0.25pt EW Thomas @ 250/1 with SkyBet

0.25pt EW Jungels @ 200/1 with various

 

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be a Greipel, Thomas, Jungels podium?! Will we have a race that’s faster than a club run? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TDF Stage 21 Preview: Chantilly -> Paris

Today’s Recap

A good stage, won by a perfectly controlled climb and bold descent from Ion Izagirre. He showed composure and no fear when descending down to Morzine in treacherous conditions. Pantano and our pick of Nibali rounded off the podium.

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Behind, Froome was never in danger, but we did get a slight reshuffle in the top 10. Rodriguez and Kreuziger were the big movers, with Mollema and Aru being the losers on the day.

With all of the classifications wrapped up;

Froome – Overall

Yates – Young Rider

Majka – KOM

Sagan – Points

Tomorrow’s stage is all a case of restoring pride for some of the sprinters.

I’ll be keeping this preview shorter than normal, it’s a pretty basic sprint stage and there shouldn’t be anything that surprises us!

The Route

Stage 21 sees the usual processional stage into Paris, finishing along the Champs-Élysées. Nothing much to see on the stage profile, we do have our final categorised climb though, which might entice some riders into the break for that extra prize money!

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I wonder if De Gendt will make a breakaway move? He’s not far off the combative prize, i.e. the most kilometres spent off the front of the race. Aside from that it will probably be a slow day until we reach the closing circuit.

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Nothing new here, all the favourite tourist destinations will be passed along the way, as the riders traverse the cobbles, exact same circuit as the previous years.

As we’ve seen in the past, positioning is pretty crucial within the last 1km.

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The riders will need to be near the front to take the sweeping bends at Place de Madeleine. Therefore, lead-outs or wheel surfing ability is important tomorrow.

Contenders

On paper Kittel is the fastest man here, but like many, he has disappointed so far this Tour. He still has his full complement of lead-out men which is good, and he should be positioned perfectly into the final few hundred metres. The question will be if he can go full gas for his whole sprint; sometimes he’s went early and faded.

Greipel is the sprinter who has disappointed me the most. Apart from getting pipped by Cav on stage 3 he really hasn’t gotten involved in some of the bunch gallops. He is very much a confidence sprinter, and certainly seems to be low on that just now! Furthermore, he’ll be missing Debuscherre in the lead-out train. His record of winning a stage every Grand Tour he’s been at is very much under threat.

Kristoff has been on the rise as the race has went on. He really should have had a win when they arrived in Bern, but was done by a lunge on the line by Sagan. He’ll be out for revenge and to remind everyone what he can do.

Sagan himself has a great chance. He’s so strong right now, it’s incredible! The Slovak has been joining the break for fun on these mountain stages while his sprint competitors have been struggling off the back. He’s already managed to beat his record points tally, but I’m sure he’ll want more!

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Away from those four I’m not overly convinced by anyone. Matthews will have coped well in the mountains so will be less fatigued than some, but he doesn’t have the raw speed to win. Coquard showed an incredible turn of speed on this stage last year, but I feel he’s peaked too soon this year. He looks jaded. Degenkolb is on the way back to his best, but I can’t see it from him. Groenewegen will be tired in his first Tour. Although he says his legs still feel good. He does have the speed to challenge.

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Bennett is still struggling with his finger. McLay has been off the back on a few mountain stages so is clearly suffering. EBH doesn’t have the top speed on this type of finish anymore. Holst Enger would prefer a tougher run in. Dumoulin has been non-existent. Laporte has been an OK late sprinting replacement for Bouhanni but isn’t at the required standard here.

Prediction

Therefore, it’s between the Big 4 that I mentioned.

Kittel and Greipel seem to be going the wrong way on form so…

 

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Leaving Kristoff and Sagan. If this was 2015, I’d definitely be backing Kristoff, but I don’t think he has the same closing speed as he used to. He’s definitely not shown it so far this year, therefore…

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Sagan has looked incredible all race and seems to have his mojo back, it’s great to see! His turns today were ridiculous, he was putting down some serious power. If he can transfer that into top speed then I can see him winning tomorrow. It will cap off a great Tour for him, so…

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Tinkoff-Saxo rider Sagan of Slovakia gives a thumb up as he wears the green best sprinter jersey on the podium after the 16th stage of the Tour de France cycling race

Betting

I’m just backing Sagan outright for the stage. Nothing wild.

Available at 7/1 with Ladbrokes. Might be better prices later for him so keep an eye out.

Thanks

A massive thanks to everyone who has read and shared the blog over the past month. I’ve had a lot of great comments from people, and reading them made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It was weird.

I’m proud to see the blog grow and I hope it continues! It’s also great the interaction that I’ve had with a lot of you on Twitter, it makes the races a lot more enjoyable. The blog will continue with previews for all the World Tour races and anything that’s on TV pretty much. Like I said in my La Course preview (shameless plug), I hope to add more previews on women’s cycling. If you have any other ideas that I could do, maybe interviews or something like that? Then any feedback and advice is always welcome! 🙂

But for the last time this Tour, I hope you enjoyed the preview and enjoy watching the stage tomorrow, wherever that may be from. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

TDF Stage 14 Preview: Montélimar -> Villars-les-Dombes Parc des Oiseaux

Today’s Recap

A day where two riders very much set their stall out. Tom Dumoulin took a magnificent stage win, absolutely crushing the opposition and now surely has to be the favourite for Gold at the Olympics next month. He looks so smooth on a time trial bike, a joy to watch!

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Chris Froome finished just over a minute down on the Dutchman but now extends his GC lead, with his nearest rival being Bauke Mollema who’s 1″47 down. The way he’s riding, this Tour is Froome’s to lose. Only by misfortune, either through injury or illness will stop him. He looks simply unbeatable!

I do think Quintana has to be ill, he doesn’t look his normal self. Nonetheless, the battle for the podium does look very exciting, with a lot of riders still in contention and a lot of tough stages left.

Let’s have a look at tomorrow’s stage!

The Route

At first look, the stage appears to be a straight forward flat sprint stage. However, there is a reasonable amount of climbing, both categorised and uncategorised. Nothing crazy, but it’s definitely not pan flat!

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This climbing is particularly apparent in the middle section of the stage, from around 75kms to 150kms.

Aside from that, there is nothing really exciting to note for the stage.

The run in is flat, so it won’t catch anyone out and the finish is probably the least technical we’ve had all race.

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It’s pretty much going to be a drag race after the 3km mark. We might see a more traditional sprint here with a few sprint trains lined up across the road.

So a straight forward sprint day then?

Well, nothing is ever straight forward at the Tour is it, as we’ve seen over the past few days.

The previous stages will have taken a lot out of the riders; crosswind action, a tough mountain finish, plus a demanding TT today. Some of them will be hoping for a club-run tomorrow!

Therefore, we could very well see a break stay away tomorrow.

Sky won’t be overly concerned if a break makes it, neither will any of the other GC teams. It will be over to the sprint teams to control the day. With a very demanding day in the mountains on stage 15, some of them might not fancy it.

Orica and Katusha could well keep their powder dry to look after their GC hopes. I can’t see Etixx doing the same and telling Kittel that they won’t work for him.

LottoS and Dimension Data both have stage wins to their name, will they really want to control it all day?

I think we could see a similar situation to that on stage 10, where a break full of riders from the sprinters teams made it to the finish. The same that was said for that stage can be said for this one. If 75% of the sprint teams get one rider or more in the break, it stays away. Although this is probably weighted towards the “bigger” sprinters teams. At least 3 out of the 4 of LottoS/Ettix/DD/Katusha will need someone in there. The likes of Direct Energie and Bora don’t have the power to bring it back themselves, but they would aid a chase if a couple of the big teams wanted it back.

One thing that does go against the breakaway’s chances is the potential headwind that they will have all day.

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Wind forecast at Leyrieu (around 40km from the finish)

This will certainly make it easier for those behind to keep the riders up front within touching distance.

Breakaway Candidates

The normal teams will try to get in the escape, i.e. Cofidis, Bora etc. and if we do get the situation above then strong baroudeurs from the sprint teams might try to get involved. Like other previews when I’ve mentioned potential break picks I’ll name 3 here, I don’t want to keep you all night!

Adam Hansen.

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The Australian hasn’t been of the front so far this race which is unlike him. He’s been doing a good bit of work for the team and Greipel. If the sprint teams decide to play around he definitely has the ability to finish it from a break.

Oscar Gatto.

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The Cat is another rider who’s kind of cruised through this Tour, although doing a lot of work for Sagan. He’s made the front group on both the crosswind days which shows he’s going well. He has a fast sprint and would be a danger-man if a break goes all the way.

Chris Juul-Jensen.

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The Joker always seems to be in a good mood on Orica’s backstage pass videos. A strong rider, I fancy him to be the type of guy Orica send up the road to cover the breakaway. As we saw on stage 10, they’re experts at sniffing out break days when there should be sprints.

After all this though, the most likely outcome is still a sprint. 70/30 chance I make it. If there was no head-wind then that would increase the breaks chances.

Sprint Contenders

Basically all of the guys that are still here and I’ve gone through them all before so won’t go into too much detail.

Cav & Kittel once again have to be favourites. Cav based on form, and Kittel based on, well, he’s Marcel Kittel.

Lotto Soudal’s train should definitely be a help to Greipel here. They should be able to get organised and deliver him perfectly to the final 150m.

The same can be said for Groenewegen. I’ve been impressed by Jumbo and the way they’ve brought the youngster to the front. He’s just not managed to finish it off. That could quite possibly change here.

Kristoff a.k.a the headwind sprint specialist definitely has to be respected. He’ll be very disappointed after winning the peloton sprint for 4th on Stage 11.

Sagan, Matthews, Coquard, McLay, Degenkolb, Enger and Laporte could all get in the mix too.

Prediction

We’ll most likely see a sprint tomorrow but I’d like to see a break upset the odds and stay away. If it does stay, I say Gatto wins.

In the sprint it will be hard to beat the big two but I fancy Groenewegen to go well for some reason. It’s just a hunch. Not that any of my hunches have went well so far this race! Groenewegen definitely has the raw power to match the best if he’s on a very good day. Furthermore, he will be able to cope with the climbing early in the stage due to his one-day racing background. Tomorrow could be his day to take a memorable win.

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* * * I apologise in advance for tomorrow’s preview. I’m away visiting a friend all day and going out at night so I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to watch the stage/write anything. I plan on doing a route analysis and prediction tonight so there should still be something out * * *

Betting

0.6pt EW Groenewegen @33/1 with PP (Available at 28/1 with others that I’d take)

Fun bets incoming…

0.1pt Hansen @300/1 with Various bookmakers

0.1pt Gatto @400/1 with PP/Ladbrokes

0.1pt Chris Juul-Jensen @500/1 with PP/Bet365

 

Hopefully tomorrow won’t be another long day in the saddle but I fear it might. Almost glad that I won’t be watching it all! Do you think the break has any chance? Or am I just being optimistic as usual?! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TDF Stage 6 Preview: Arpajon-sur-Cère -> Montauban

Today’s Recap

Well, the break made it as I kind of thought would happen. GVA took a fantastic win attacking away from De Gendt on the final Cat 2 climb and was never to be seen again! A great result for him after his Spring campaign was ruined by a crash. He now moves into yellow with a commanding 5 minute lead over the GC favourites.

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How long can he hold on? Well it really depends how aggressively the parcours are covered on this weekend’s stages. He’d hope to at least make it to Stage 8 in the lead.

As for our stage picks, none of them made it into the break and because of the massively increased pace behind, Gallopin was dropped too. Not good. Swiftly moving on!

The Route

Tomorrow we have our last chance for the sprinters for a while, well it should be their stage. There is a chance that a break builds up a large gap on the opening part of the stage.

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There could be a fast start to the day tomorrow if the riders sense that some of the sprinters are tired from today’s efforts. If we get a strong enough break then it could stick. However, this is very, unlikely. This isn’t the Giro, the sprint teams here at the Tour won’t mess up.

The final 30km of the stage are almost pan-flat so the break will probably have to have 4 minutes here to have a chance. There is a slight rise within the final 10km but it should have no real impact on the stage.

The most challenging feature of the finale tomorrow is the run-in itself. It’s very technical!

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There is barely a straight road in sight within the final 5km. The route constantly meanders through the finishing town of Montauban.

The final kilometre itself is tricky, with the passage of a roundabout at approximately 700m to go, heading left. They then swing back round to the right and onto the finishing straight. You’ll need to be within the first 10 riders at this point to have any chance of winning the stage. Therefore, lead out trains will be crucial.

Stage Contenders

Kittel has to start as the favourite for the stage. He had a sloppy start to the race and his lead-out wasn’t working. However, they got their act together on stage 4, managing to deliver Kittel perfectly. His sprint on that stage shows that he’s on very good form, normally he wouldn’t podium on a finish like that. Tomorrow’s stage suits him down to the ground. If he gets through that roundabout safely, no one well beat him…

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Before the Tour I had Greipel‘s Lotto Soudal team as the best lead-out in the race. They have been good so far, but there is room for improvement. Furthermore, the Gorilla hasn’t delivered a stage win yet. He really should have won stage 3. It’s well documented that Greipel doesn’t like a technical finish, however, he put those claims behind him after he won a tricky finish in the Giro earlier this year. Thankfully for him too, the weather looks like it will be kind and there will be no rain.

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I have to now include Cavendish along with these two. Like many before the Tour, I was writing off his chances in the bunch sprints, but boy has he proved me wrong! His team Dimension Data seemed to have found their rhythm in the lead outs and on form probably have one of the best in the race. Cav seems to have regained his top end speed to go with his devastating kick. Can he make it 3 wins here? He has an incredible chance!

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Away from these three main contenders we have:

Sagan who will hope to have regained some of his strength after today’s exertion. He has the technical ability to easily deal with the tricky finale tomorrow. No doubt, he’ll manage to find his way onto the back of the wheels of the best lead-out. Can he come round the sprinter in front of him? I don’t think so.

Kristoff looked much better on stage 4 and slowly seems to be finding his feet again. However, that stage suited him much more than this one. He’ll be hoping to sneak onto the podium but I can’t see it personally.

Coquard isn’t known for his pure flat sprint, but his result on Tuesday will have given him confidence. In Adrien Petit he has a great pilot fish, and I can envisage the pairing attempting the Ferrari/Modolo technique where they get in the mix only in the last 500m.

Groenewegen is growing into his first GT quite nicely. He came from way back on stage 4, another good indication of his form. He’ll hope to top 5 here and possibly sneak onto the podium.

The other usual suspects such as Theuns, Dumoulin & McClay etc will all hope for another top 10 finish.

So does the breakaway have a chance?

Simply put, not really no.

However, if the right composition gets away where several of the sprint teams have representatives in it, then it could stay to the line. The opening half of the race looks ideal to build up a large advantage. There would probably need to be at least a rider from 2 of the following Etixx/LottoS/DD for it to have any chance I think. BMC won’t chase if there is no one that will threaten the GC.

You’ll be able to tell after the opening 20km if it will make it or not. I’m not even going to bother to speculate names who could be involved. It’s hard enough to make an educated guess on a rolling/mountainous day, a sprint day is nigh on impossible!

Prediction

We get a sprint and everything returns to normal. Kittel wins.

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Betting

Kittel 5pts win at 13/8 with Paddy Power.

Thanks for reading! We should be in for a good show of strength from the sprint teams tomorrow, enjoy wherever you’re watching it from. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TDF stage 1 preview: Mont-Saint-Michel -> Utah Beach

This week seems to have dragged on for a while, but the first stage of the Tour is finally upon us! The Yellow Jersey appears to be destined for the shoulders of one of the many sprinters that are here at this race come tomorrow afternoon. But first, let’s take a look at the route the riders will have to traverse.

The Route

Not a challenging parcours in terms of climbing, the opening stage is a fairly flat affair. There are some bumps along the way but nothing overly worrying for the fast men.

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We’ll probably see a slightly tougher than normal fight to get into the morning breakaway with the two categorised climbs coming within the first 40km. The winner of these two climbs will get to pull on the Polka Dot jersey at the end of the day. Expect the usual suspects and teams to go after it.

The main obstacle that the riders will have to face on this stage is the threat of crosswinds.

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With the race never straying far from the coast-line, the action could start soon after the final KOM climb.

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Wind direction/ speed / max gusts (Granville) (All speeds km/h)

The above screenshot is taken from windfinder.com and focusses on the town of Granville which is situated roughly 51km into the stage. The wind direction and speed definitely looks strong enough to create some echelons! The same can be said later on in the stage too, with the following screenshot taken of the town of Lessay, which is 110km into the race.

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If some of the teams decide to put the hammer down then we could see some splits and time-gaps. Although there is a long way to go after this point (just over 75km), the race comes slightly more in land and should benefit from a cross-tailwind, cross-headwind and finally a tailwind coming into the finish at Utah Beach. Any reasonable-sized gaps made earlier in the stage will be very hard to bring back!

Stage Contenders

If it comes down to a fair sprint then there really are only two contenders; Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel. They are quite evenly matched in this type of finish but I’d have to give Kittel the edge, and he is rightly the favourite for the stage. If Greipel wants to beat his countryman then he’ll have to start his sprint ahead of him. This is certainly possible as Greipel has the best lead out train in the race in my opinion!

Who will try to split the race?

Some of the GC teams (Sky, Tinkoff etc) will give it a shot, but annoyingly for some of the other sprinters Etixx and Lotto Soudal are capable of doing some damage as well. So there is a very good chance that they’ll be around at the end no matter what. More than likely, the rest of the sprinters will probably be fighting for third place.

However, with this being the first stage the usual peloton nervousness will be exacerbated by the potential tricky conditions and I think we’ll see some unfortunate crashes and possibly some GC/sprint casualties. Therefore, I don’t think we’ll get a full sprint at the end of the stage. It could very much be like stage 2 from last years Tour, where only 24 riders finished within 15 seconds of the winner on that day, Andre Greipel.

The numbers and composition of that group, who knows?!

There are two riders who if the race gets tough that I’d like to highlight. First up is Fabian Cancellara.

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The Swiss rider is about to start his final ever Tour de France and after missing out on wearing the Maglia Rosa at the Giro, he’ll be incredibly fired up here to make amends. He managed to sprint for third on last years wind-affected stage, pipping Mark Cavendish on the line. If the group gets whittled down to round 15 riders, he is a definite danger man.

The other rider is his team-mate and Tour debutant, Edward Theuns.

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Making the step up to World Tour level this year, the Belgian has delivered some good results this year, finally getting his first win for Trek at the Baloise Belgium Tour. A rider not afraid of wind (and rain), he’ll definitely be one of the fastest riders left in a reduced group. After all, he came 4th at Scheldeprijs (A.K.A The Sprinters World Championships) so is no slouch.

Prediction

It’s the boring and simple pick, but I can’t really see past a Marcel Kittel win here. He’s the fastest man in the world, and now riding for Etixx (arguably the best echelon creating team) they’ll be able to safeguard him in the bad conditions.

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However, there is a slight chance that there is absolute carnage out on the road tomorrow and if that’s the case then look to Cancellara or Theuns to possibly sneak on the podium or even better.

Betting

This really should be a no bet stage. I personally have money on Kittel at 9/4 from pre-Giro, however those odds are long gone and I can’t recommend him at the price he is just now (around evens) in a race that could be wild.

Just because I’ve mentioned them as possibilities if things do get crazy, I’m going to put a little fun stake (0.1pt EW) on Cancellara and Theuns.

Cancellara @ 300/1 (Betfred or Totesport) or 250/1 with Skybet.

Theuns @ 400/1 (Paddy Power).

 

Hopefully we do get some crosswind action to make the stage more exciting, otherwise it will be a dull and long day until the final 20km. Enjoy the race wherever you’re watching it from! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Tour de France – Green Jersey Preview

Tour de France – Green Jersey Preview

With the GC candidates getting to fight it out for the Maillot Jaune, the sprinters get to challenge for the Maillot Vert. Points are awarded to the winner of the stage, along with the top 15 on that day. The person with the most points at the end of the Tour is the winner. Simple!

How are points awarded?

The stages are classified into the following categories;

  • Class 1 (“No particular difficulty”)
  • Class 2 (“Hilly stage”)
  • Class 3 (“Very hilly stage”)
  • Class 4 (“Mountain stage”)
  • Class 5 (“Toughest mountain stages”)
  • Class 6 (ITT)
  • Class 7 (MTT)
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Stage classifications (Screenshot from the Race Regulations)

As you can see above there are a lot of Class 1 stages, 9 to be exact. These stages garner the most points for the Green jersey, with 50 points available to the winner of the stage.

Class 2&3 give out a mid-range amount of points, with the remaining classes giving out the lowest.

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Table highlighting the amount of points available.

Intermediate sprint points also contribute to the Green jersey competition, using the same points system as the lowest stage classification. Therefore, theoretically the maximum amount of points a rider can get on one stage is 70.

Seems pretty straight forward, doesn’t it?

Well, not all of the Class 1 stages are what I’d call proper, flat sprints. That’s either because they have a tough climb close to the end (i.e. stage 2), or there is a drag up to the finish. This will reduce the winner candidates on those stages and in my opinion reduce the chances of one fantastically haired German for the Jersey.

Without giving too much away for my more detailed stage previews that will follow, I only make stages 1/6/11/14/21 traditional flat or flat-ish sprints. The others all have some kind of kink or difficulty. Anyway, enough about the points system and stages, onto the contenders!

Five in a row for the defending champion? 

In short, most likely!

Sagan has been dominant in this competition over the past few years and I expect more of the same this year. Barring any accident or illness he should retain his crown. However, there will be others keen to impress and I think this could be one of the closest green jersey competitions for a while. When I say close, someone might get within 50 points of him!

Let’s start with the two German powerhouses.

Marcel Kittel. 

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Arguably the fastest man in the world right now, he’ll be targeting several stage wins during the Tour. Especially book-ending it with wins on the opening and closing stages. It’s important to note that whatever sprinter wins stage 1 will wear the Maillot Jaune. An extra incentive if it was ever needed! Kittel will hope for a repeat of the Giro where he was unbeatable over the first few sprint stages. I think he’ll come away with 2 or 3 stage wins at most, but that won’t be enough for him to win the jersey. Furthermore, he was dealt a confidence blow at the German National Championships, losing to Greipel in a sprint.

Andre Greipel.

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The Gorilla had an incredible Tour last year, winning 4 stages. He might not be as dominant but he should definitely win at least 2. He’s the only guy who can really challenge Kittel for out and out power, but he can also cope well on drags up to the line. As was proven with his incredible win on Stage 5 at this years Giro. I think he is more likely to challenge for the Green jersey over Kittel and would have him second favourite. His lead-out here looks very solid!

Away from those two, Bouhanni, Cavendish and Kristoff will hope to get involved in the mix. The Frenchman is the most likely out the trio to go well, but he’s flattered to deceive this year, going well at some races but being incredibly inconsistent.

Youngsters Theuns, Bennett and Groenewegen will hope to podium during one of the stages, anything better would be a dream. The young Dutchman looks the most likely.

It would be nice to see John Degenkolb get involved, but unfortunately he still hasn’t recovered fully from the horrible accident earlier in the year.

Aside from “pure” sprinters, there are those who can handle a hilly parcours fairly well.

Michael Matthews is one of those. The Australian has been touted as one of the rider’s of his generation and it’s not hard to see why. He seems to be able to do almost anything. He’ll hope to get a stage win, possibly on stage 2 and take the yellow jersey. However, I don’t really think he’ll be as interested on the flat stages to go for the Green Jersey.

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One rider who I think will get involved on the flat stages and really go for the green jersey is Bryan Coquard. The mercurial Frenchman has had his best season so far, winning 12 races (if you include a GC win)! Admittedly they have been in lower tiered races but as they say, you can only beat who’s in front of you.

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Some will suggest that he doesn’t have the top end speed required to challenge the big boys. If you’re one of those people, I suggest re-watching the final sprint of last years Tour. At this years edition he’ll be accompanied by his trusted lead-out man: Adrien Petit. They’ve made a great pairing this year and Petit seems to know the exact moment when to deliver Coquard to the front. Furthermore, he’ll enjoy some of the aforementioned “sprint” stages where there is a drag up to the line. These efforts really are his forte.

Prediction

It will be incredibly difficult to topple Sagan from his pedestal and he is the most likely winner of the competition.

However, professional cycling can throw up a few surprises and I think his two most likely challengers will be Greipel and Coquard. The German has the best lead-out train at the race and should dominate the flat/power sprints. Coquard on the other hand will hope for top 5s on the really flat stages and pick up points on those Class 1 stages that head upwards in the final Km. For the fun of it, I’ll say the Coq will come first and win the jersey!

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(Although I really think Sagan will retain his crown, I do expect those three riders to make up the podium).

Betting

I think there’s some value in backing my two outsiders EW for the title. You can get;

Greipel @ 9/1 with Betway. 1pt EW. (I’d take the 8/1 available with other bookmakers)

and

Coquard @ 20/1 with William Hill. 0.5pt EW.

 

Hope you enjoyed this Green jersey preview, I will be back tomorrow with a look at the KOM competition! As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated 🙂 Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.