Tour de France 2018 Stage 4 Preview: La Baule -> Sarzeau

Today’s Recap

The classiest TTT team came out on top at the end of the day with BMC taking home the victory and Van Avermaet moving into yellow.

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The margins were small between the stage favourites though with Sky (+4 seconds), Quick Step (+7 seconds), Mitchelton (+9 seconds) and Sunweb (+11 seconds) rounding out the top 5.

In fact, most of the GC contenders will be fairly happy with their team’s effort and we don’t have anyone massively out of touch yet thanks to the splits on the opening day. Quintana at 2’08 is probably the worst off but he is just over a minute behind Froome. All still most definitely to play for and we will no doubt see the GC picture shaken up even more on a couple of stages this week. First though, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Another day for the fast men of the peloton.

Tour Stage 4

195km of flat, albeit ever so slightly rolling terrain as the riders head in land before turning back towards the sea again for the second half of the day.

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By far the easiest run in of the race so far, the riders only have to contend with one roundabout at 4km to go and the rest is on one road with little deviation.

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The final 1.3km is on an arrow straight road with the gradient dragging at an ever so slight 1.4% average. Although the final 500m are flatter compared to the first 800m. The riders will have to be wary of a nagging cross headwind on the run in – you don’t want to launch your sprint too early.

Contenders and Pretenders

We’ve been through the sprinters before and it would be tiresome of me to name them all and list possible reasons for them winning again. So I’m not going to do that. This is a long Tour after all. Instead here are a few tidbits to take from stage 2, if we can take anything again considering the crash.

Sagan is a joy to watch on the bike and his skills are to marvel at. He always seems to find himself in the right position at the right time and he proved to have the speed to finish it off on Sunday. The easier finish tomorrow might not be as good for him but he’ll be up there.

Colbrelli was so close but he just didn’t have enough and he should feature in the top 5 again.

Greipel and Degenkolb were disappointing, as was Kristoff. Interestingly, Degenkolb stated after stage 2 that they were actually going to try to go for the sprint with Stuyven. He could certainly be an outside pick for tomorrow – he has an underrated sprint on a slight drag.

Demare looks good but he gambled and went early. Having his lead-out fully intact tomorrow will help him out, he just needs to be patient.

That’s all we can take from Stage 2 really as everyone else was held up or involved in the crash!

No beating about the bush here, straight into the prediction…

Prediction

I think tomorrow is the day for Groenewegen to step up.

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He and his Lotto Jumbo lead out train have failed on the opening two sprints, mainly because they have been too far back on the tricky run-ins. This is unfortunately a negative of their “leave it fast and late approach”. However, with tomorrow being an arrow-straight closing few kilometres with very little road furniture then their style should thrive. Groenewegen looked to be closing fast on the opening day but he just started miles behind. We’ve seen so far this year how strong he is in the sprints and tomorrow he will show that again, taking the biggest win of his career.

Even though the run in is “easy” we could see a couple of surprise results because of all the jostling around. This has happened a few times this year already when Guardini came second on the opening day of Abu Dhabi. Therefore, I would like to keep an eye on Stuyven too.

Betting

2pts WIN Groenewegen @ 6/1 with Betfred (would take 4/1 lowest but plenty of else in between elsewhere)

0.25pt EW Stuyven @ 250/1 with Bet365 (would take 150/1 lowest)

Going slightly above my 2pt a day rule but if I stick with that from now then it will be 50pt staked throughout the Tour include GC bets.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will come out on top tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

Tour de France 2018 Stage 1 Preview: Noirmoutier-en-l’Île -> Fontenay-le-Comte

Tour de France 2018 Stage 1 Preview: Noirmoutier-en-l’Île -> Fontenay-le-Comte

After much hype and build up, the Tour finally starts tomorrow. So no messing about here, let’s get straight into what the riders have to look forward to on the opening day.

The Route

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An almost pan-flat jaunt along the cause before the road heads inland and towards the finish town.

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With the race travelling along the coast I was really hoping that the wind would play ball and offer some potential opening day echelons. Unfortunately it doesn’t look strong enough and it turns into a headwind as they head towards the finish. Which will demotivate anyone wanting to split it.

The Cat-4 climb will offer someone in the early break a chance of stepping onto the podium at the end of the day and claim the KOM jersey. Although with it coming 28km from the finish line, will they still be away by then?

At 13.5km to go, the riders will have the opportunity to chase some bonus seconds in the GC battle at the brand new sprint points that have been added to the race. They offer no points in the Green Jersey classification but they do offer time bonuses. I think the thinking behind it is to entice some of the GC riders to go for them but I’m not entirely sure how they will play out.

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As you can see on the image above, the major issues on the run in come at 3km to 1km to go with three roundabouts and a “sharp turn” to be covered. This will string the bunch out and we’ll no doubt see a lot of fighting to get into the first roundabout so that a team can take the head of the bunch and control the pace.

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Once through the “sharp turn” which is actually another roundabout, the riders will have just over a kilometre left to go. It will be a fast final kilometre as the road dips down ever so slightly, meaning we will no doubt see some crazy top speeds but it does make it a bit more dangerous.

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The final 100m or so do rise up to the line but given the speed that the riders will be carrying then it shouldn’t be an issue. You can see a mock finish line banner in the distance!

Who will be competing for the win though?

The Old Guard vs the New Wave

Are we seeing a shift in power between the sprinters with some of the older riders passing the baton onto the newer generation coming through? Let’s start off by looking at some of the old guard.

Mark Cavendish.

What Cav will turn up this year? In 2016 everyone wrote him off (including myself) but he arrived at the race absolutely flying and racked up 4 stage wins to his name. Last year he seemed pretty lively but we never got to see where he was at after he was involved in a crash, partly or mainly caused by himself – that depends on who you ask. Since then he has had pretty terrible luck with illness and crashes hampering the end of 2017 and the majority of this year. Seemingly lacking confidence at the moment, he only has one win to his name in 2018 but with a team almost fully dedicated to him, there will be pressure on him to deliver. On form he doesn’t really have a chance but you can never rule out a guy with 148 wins in his career that includes 30 stage wins at the Tour, can you?

Andre Greipel.

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The Gorilla started off this year with a bang by taking two strong stage wins Down Under but back in Europe he has struggled to find his feet in the WT bunch sprints with two podium places the only results to shout home about. He fell (twice) in Milan SanRemo, that #HaugheyCurse striking again, which was a shame as he was climbing as well as I have seen from him in a long time. After his lay off he returned he bullied his way to two stage wins in both Dunkerque and the Belgium Tour. His recent run in Suisse wasn’t great but I think he was using that more for training rather than anything else. With a quite powerful lead-out train, NewLottoSoudal will hope to be one of the teams controlling the run in. The slight kick up to the line is good news for the powerful Greipel and with a potential headwind sprint, he has a chance. Remember the rule?

Alexander Kristoff.

The second part of that rule, Kristoff unfortunately seems a little past his heyday in the big bunch sprints, he needs a slightly reduced group to shine against the very best. He has no real lead-out to speak of and I just can’t see him winning or finishing on the podium tomorrow. I am ready to eat my hat.

Marcel Kittel.

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Devoid of confidence, he looks a shell of the man he was at Quick Step last year. With only two wins to his name this year, both at Tirreno Adriatico, his team seem to have lost faith in him too as they only bring a reduced lead-out train with him. Not ideal. There is no doubt he has the talent but he seems to be missing a few watts due to his lack of confidence. For his sake, I hope he bags a result at some point this race and it is not great from a fan’s perspective to see one of the best sprinters struggle.

John Degenkolb.

He’s just never been the same since that crash and he doesn’t have the speed to compete on this type of finish.

Now onto the new guard…

Fernando Gaviria.

The Colombian sprint sensation arrives here with seven wins to his name so far this season, including a dominant display in California. In his recent outing in Switzerland he was the bridesmaid on three occasions but that won’t have knocked his confidence, it will only make him hungrier. The lack of Keisse is a big loss but Quick Step still bring a strong and powerful lead out and no doubt we’ll see them come to the front in the closing stages. With his trusted pilot fish Richeze, Gaviria should be positioned well in the final kilometre – he just needs to get his timing right.

Dylan Groenewegen.

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The most successful sprinter so far this season with 8 wins, the Lotto NL Jumbo man comes into the race full of confidence. Some of his victories this season have seen him almost bully his sprint opposition and he will no doubt be expecting similar results this time. His team have stuck with the short and late lead-out approach this season which has worked in the majority of races but if they get the timing wrong, then it is very difficult for him to make up ground. On a run in like tomorrow expect them to sit a little back until they hit near they come around the final turn and go full gas from there. Sitting further back though does run the risk of being detached from the lead out or getting caught up in a crash. He does start as the favourite given the season he is having though.

Arnaud Demare.

 

Technically Demare is the form sprinter as he has won the most recent bunch sprint and if you read my GC preview yesterday, you will know that I have backed him for the green jersey. I was really impressed with his train in that Suisse stage and they could very easily pull off something similar here and boss the final couple of kilometres Last year at the Tour he was in the Green Jersey for a few stages and well in the running before unfortunately falling ill and having to withdraw. No longer wearing the French champions jersey, I’m sure he won’t mind if he pulls on Yellow tomorrow.

The I couldn’t fit them into a category-ers…

Peter Sagan.

What can the World Champ not do? Win a full bunch sprint at the Tour, that’s what. Well, maybe until this year. Despite having won 8 stages at this event, they have all came in reduced sprint days where some of the fast men have been left behind. Does he have the speed to compete? Most certainly but he will have to ride solo, not that that has stopped him before. He’s very consistently on or around the podium in WT sprints and he might benefit tomorrow from others having some first stage nerves as he will no doubt manage to keep his cool.

Sonny Colbrelli & Michael Matthews.

Very similar riders who will find it difficult on a finish like this, they would prefer a slightly tougher day. Both have little help from their teams so a podium on the stage would be a wonderful result. I would think that Colbrelli would have more of a chance.

I’ve probably missed someone but time is marching on so apologies!

Prediction

A tough one to call in what will no doubt be a frantic and messy sprint but I think Demare’s lead out will prevail and the Frenchman will kick off the big race with a win.

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Groenewegen to come fast and late but just miss out and come second with wily old Greipel coming home in third.

Betting

1pt WIN Demare at 8/1 (with Skybet although you can get better odds on BF Exchange)

0.5pt EW Greipel at 18/1 (with Bet365 and others)

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

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

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

GC Overview

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

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

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

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

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

That man will be Viviani.

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

Vai Vai Viviani!

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

The Route

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contenders

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

Marcel Kittel.

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

Elia Viviani.

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

Dylan Groenewegen.

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

Mark Cavendish.

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

John Degenkolb.

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

Alexander Kristoff.

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

Nacer Bouhanni.

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

Sonny Colbrelli.

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

Jakub Mareczko.

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

Magnus Cort Nielsen.

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

Prediction

Pffff, pick a name out of a hat!

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

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

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

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

Betting

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

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

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

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

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

BinckBank Tour 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Lanaken -> Lanaken

Today’s Recap

A sprint but a messy one, thanks to some rain and a crash in the closing kilometre. There was a big fight for control of the bunch in the final 5kms but no-one really managed to dominate but Trek and Bora definitely came out the best, keeping their sprinter in the top 20 riders at all time.

This paid dividends with the crash at the chicane which splintered the peloton. Drucker from BMC attacked, but he was eventually brought back and it was Sagan who launched his sprint first. The Slovak was strong enough to hold on until the line, beating a fast finishing Theuns and Barbier by a wheel.

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Some of the big names were nowhere; see both of the Sky sprinters, Kittel and Démare. Others were there but just didn’t have the room to sprint fully, or started from too far back. Will they turn it around tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The last of the full bunch sprint days.

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Another fairly innocuous day for the bunch though, with no major difficulties out on the route. The wind is low as well so no chance of cross winds, but we might see a few showers by the time we reach the finish which could make things more interesting/dangerous.

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As you can see, there are a lot of technical and tight turns on the run in, with the riders almost doubling back on themselves at a roundabout with 1.5km to go. If the weather is sketchy then the bunch will be stretched out during those sections and being at the front will be the safest. Everyone will know that, which in turn will make it even more dangerous.

Fortunately, there are no major difficulties once the riders have passed the final roundabout at 1.5km to go.

The final kilometre of the race is fairly simple, along a straight road. It does rise ever so slightly at a close to 1% average.

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Not much, but it does make the timing of the sprint more important as you don’t want to go too early.

Contenders

Sagan.

Can he go 3 from 3 in the sprints and really cement his GC title charge? He and Bora were exceptional today in the final 5 kilometres; always in the top 15-20 guys, but not necessarily on the front. Tomorrow’s slight drag to the line is ideal for him as well and he should be once again fighting for the win. My only concern is that on both stages he’s won, he has seemed to open up his sprint just a bit too early, being closed down right at the end when he tires. He’s got away with it both times, but it might not be third time lucky if he does the same tomorrow on the slight drag.

Groenewegen.

His team was strong today and he was another who was up there well positioned in the final 5km. However, he seemed to get a bit boxed in at the end and when he did get a run he didn’t have the power left to challenge. Maybe it was an off day and he’ll bounce back tomorrow?

Theuns.

Close today, but he started his sprint from too far back which ultimately cost him. He was arguably the fastest guy at the finish but it wasn’t enough. Trek did a great job in the finale, controlling things well in the last 5km and if they do the same tomorrow then he has a good chance. The slight drag to the line certainly benefits the Belgian, he’ll just need to be closer to the front this time!

Kittel.

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Pretty awful again today, he seems to be blaming his mental attitude after DNF’ing at the Tour. It is understandable in some ways but as a top-level sprinter you would expect more from him. At least he is honest though! Nonetheless, will that change tomorrow? Nope, I don’t think so.

Démare.

The rider who Kittel seems to be throwing under the bus with him in his tweets. Or at least that’s who I make it out to be anyway. Equally as awful today as the big German, he was way out of contention in the final 2km. His team did show some intent to move him up and he was near the front at 3km to go so I have no idea how he went backwards so quickly. It is hard to write him off (like Kittel) but after what I watched today, it is also very hard to support him for tomorrow’s stage too!

Greipel.

Another rider who Kittel could be talking about, at least the Gorilla was somewhat in contention today. He was actually in a great position coming out of the chicane, sitting in 5th wheel, but as the pace at the head of the group dropped that became his downfall. Swamped on the outside as they rounded the corner at 200m to go, he was boxed in and had nowhere to go, deciding to sit up. Tomorrow’s straight run in should be good for him and Lotto Soudal have looked like one of the more organised teams here. He should be positioned well, it just needs for him to find his killer instinct again if he wants to take the win.

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Cort Nielsen.

He was there or thereabouts again today. Orica weren’t as organised as I expected which was disappointing. They seemed to make a move up towards the front at 3km to go but some road furniture split them up and Cort Nielsen was left to go solo in the end. I maintain that they have the best lead-out train here, and if they get it right tomorrow, he has a great chance.

Bauhaus.

The Sunweb rider was right in the mix again today but he opened up his final sprint way too early. You can see in the image above that he’s pretty much full gas before the final bend in the road. He then died a thousand deaths and finished 10th. Nonetheless, his form

Others of course may get involved such as Van Poppel, Viviani, Barbier, Zabel and so on but I think it’s a fairly extensive in-depth list!

Prediction

Greipel to shake the proverbial monkey off his back and take a stage win tomorrow. Lotto have looked strong so far and I was surprised to see the German so well positioned on the technical run in. If he can stay in the top 15 riders going into the last 1km then he has a great chance on a finish that suits him perfectly.

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Betting

1.25pts EW Greipel @ 9/1 with Bet365.

 

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will Sagan make it three wins? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 21 Preview; Montgeron -> Paris

Today’s Recap

One second. Again! Think this must be the 6th time in two years that the rider I’ve backed for a timed event has lost out by one second.

Kwiatkowski rode a great TT but was just pipped by fellow countryman Bodnar, the latter getting revenge for being crushed by the Sky rider at nationals. After Sagan’s dismissal and Majka’s withdrawal it is good to see Bora still going well and challenging when they can!

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Froome came home third to convincingly take his 4th Tour title. Well, convincingly might not be the best word to use as he has looked anything but that this race, however the two TTs have won it for him! I wonder how the GC would have panned out if we had Valverde and Porte still here.

Oh well, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders on their final day of racing.

The Route

You know the score by now, a little jaunt from the outskirts of Paris that finishes with some laps of the Champs-Élysées.

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A processional stage that will get more exciting once we hit the laps themselves.

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Coming out from the underpass first with a few lead-out men in front of your sprinters is important. From there, being able to lead it through the sweeping bends with 500m to go will put your sprinter into a prime position into the closing straight.

That’s about that for the route, nothing more needs to be said really!

Weather wise the riders will start out in overcast conditions but that could all change later on in the stage depending on how processional they make the day.

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A wet finish could certainly make things a bit more lively.

Sprinters

This is the Tour, not the Giro, so we will see a sprint finish tomorrow. With Kittel no longer here, the door has been opened for the rest of the fast men to take a stage win and it could consequently become a bit hectic because of that.

Matthews.

The Green Jersey winner (as long as he finishes tomorrow) will be looking to go out with a bang. With arguably one of the best lead-out trains, he should be put into a good position. Brimming with confidence just now, does he have the speed to finish off a great Tour for Sunweb?

Boasson Hagen.

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After getting a richly deserved stage win the Dimension Data will be looking to double up tomorrow. The other rider with a strong lead-out, he should be placed into a good position in the final straight. No doubt we’ll see Van Rensburg do another monster turn to get him there! There are questions about his willingness to take risks though which could see him start his sprint from further back.

Greipel.

Has won a stage at every Grand Tour he’s started over the past few years. He left it late last year, taking the final stage that time round and he’ll need to do that again this year if he wants to continue that record. His experience of managing his body through a race could be vital.

Groenewegen.

The flying Dutchman hasn’t really set sail this Tour so far, picking up two podium places along the way. However, he did look like one of the fastest riders on the pure sprint into Pau and with Kittel gone he’ll be hoping to go better.

Bouhanni.

Poor. That’s how I’ll describe his Tour so far. He’s a sprinter that I think can do really well but he’s just been very disappointing during this race. He’s been positioned well only for him to decide to fight for wheels instead, or just completely lack the kick to get involved in the dash to the line. He could turn it around tomorrow and he’ll probably be doing a rain dance tonight, but it I think it’s unlikely we’ll see him on the top step.

Degenkolb.

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He’s been okay this race, especially when you consider that his original aim was to help Contador on the flat days and then look after himself. Now that he’s been freed from those shackles, he’ll hope to have the favour returned to him by the team. He would prefer a tougher finish but he should be in or around the top 5.

Kristoff.

Another rider who falls into the poor category. He was close in some of the opening few stages but has fallen by the wayside recently. Crashing the other day hasn’t helped and he’s looked a bit sketchy since then. Maybe he’ll be hoping for poor weather to help turn his race around?

Petit, Colbrelli, Cimolai, Bennati and Selig will all be fighting for the Top 10.

Prediction

My angle of thought for today’s stage nearly worked: pick a rider who is clearly still in form at the end of the race.

So with that being said, I think Matthews will win the stage tomorrow.

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He may not be known as the fastest rider on a pure flat sprint, but after the past week he is the only one to have shown that he is in great form. His ability to climb over some of the mountains we’ve had should see him fresher for tomorrow’s finish. Brimming with confidence, he’ll take a memorable stage win in Paris wearing Green.

Betting

1.5pt EW Matthews @ 12/1 with PP/BF (Would take 10/1 elsewhere)

 

Thanks as always for reading but a big thanks if you’ve stuck with me through the past 3 weeks. It’s your continued support that makes me keep going when I’ve gone on awful stage prediction runs etc! During the Tour the blog surpassed 50,000 views for the year which is incredible so thanks once again. I hope that a few of you new readers will stick around for the rest of the season as we still have plenty more racing to go.

Next on the schedule for me will be San Sebastian and both the Ride London races.

Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

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 Stage 10 Preview; Périgueux -> Bergerac

Rest-day Recap

A crazy stage filled with everything and it was certainly one of the most exciting I’ve watched in recent years. It was a stage that I’m sure even a non-cycling fan would be able to sit down to and enjoy for 5 hours.

In the end Uran managed to win a 6 rider sprint while effectively on a fixie. That just topped off a remarkable day!

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Day-long escapee Barguil finished second, while Froome nabbed third to pick up some bonus seconds and extend his GC lead over closest challenger Aru.

Of course, we had some very unfortunate crashes that took out some big names. However, that’s part of racing and it is nothing more than unfortunate. The riders push as fast as they want and are safe with, if they want to take risks, that’s up to them! It might be a slightly unpopular opinion but I see nothing wrong with yesterday’s stage lay-out; going downhill is as an important skill as going uphill. If not, why not just set up some turbos and see who can do the highest W/kg for an hour?!

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

The Route

The riders will be glad to ease themselves back into racing after the rest-day with a fairly simple stage tomorrow.

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There are only two Cat-4 climbs out on course but the first one is generously given that classification as it only averages 3.3% for 3.5km. The second is slightly tougher but even then it is only 2.1km at 5.6%. Not exactly tough for the peloton!

As for the finish itself, there are a couple of roundabouts at roughly 3km to go but they won’t be too much of an issue.

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There are then two left-hand turns in the closing kilometre which could throw a spanner in the works for the lead-out trains.

The first one isn’t too sharp a bend but it is made tight due to some road furniture, effectively blocking off one side of the road. Or at least making the longer way around harder to go!

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Left Hand Turn #1

The narrowing road should ensure that the bunch is relatively strung out coming out of the turn. Which in theory will make the second left-hand corner easier.

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Left Hand Turn #2

I just hope that they’ve got rid of those gates! 😜

It will then be a 500m drag race to the line and we should see the fastest rider sprint for stage victory. Or should we…

How will the stage pan out?

It should be a sprint stage but post rest-day racing always produces some kind of odd result every now and then. Remember what I said in my Stage 7 preview…

With Kittel being so dominant, I’m not sure many of the other sprint teams will want to contribute to the pace setting. They’ll let Quick Step do the majority of the work, hoping to tire them out and take advantage of it later on in the stage. However, there is a chance that QS could call their bluff. The German already has three stage wins to his name so there is no pressure on him to win again. He didn’t look too great in his win on Stage 7, looking down at his power meter a lot, suggesting that he wasn’t feeling as strong. With a commanding lead in the Green Jersey competition the team also has room to ride defensively. Potentially give Martin an easier day after his crash yesterday?

Sprint Contenders

Kittel starts as the clear favourite but he is beatable. Especially now that Trentin is gone, that could be crucial for him. Although in fairness, his lead-out wasn’t firing on all cylinders anyway and he has three stage wins to his name.

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Greipel has been close but he hasn’t looked like winning any stage yet. Nonetheless, the experienced German has to be respected in a Grand Tour sprint. Will he be able to pick up a win tomorrow to keep his streak going?

Bouhanni might actually have a chance if he positions himself well. I still rate him as a fast rider and his acceleration could be key tomorrow to sprint out of the corners. Nonetheless, he’ll no doubt find himself 10 bike-lengths behind and that will be that.

Boasson Hagen arguably has the beast lead-out here now. So, so close to a win on Stage 7, Dimension Data were excellent; especially van Rensburg. The other sprinters will be aware of his strength now though so he might find it more difficult tomorrow.

Groenewegen will be there or thereabouts again. Two 5th place finishes for him so far, but he’ll be expecting more. He is fast and the finish does look to suit him. Can he make the step up and take a grand tour podium or even better, a win??

Kristoff has a great last man in Zabel and should be dropped off in a great position. He seems to be getting better as the race goes on, returning to his form of previous years? If so, he has the speed to win!

Matthews finished fast on Stage 7 but I’m still unsure if he has the raw-speed to compete on a pure flat sprint. His powers of recovery might be better than some of the proper sprinters, but he did have a big day out yesterday and I think that will take its toll tomorrow.

Colbrelli, Cimolai and McLay will be fighting for top 10 spots.

Break Candidates

I’d say the chance of the break sticking are better than any sprint stage so far, but it is still only a 10% chance at most. There will need to be some strong riders up the road and ideally be a 6-7 rider group.

I’ll throw a couple of names into the proverbial hat, sticking with some home-talent…

Thomas Boudat.

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The Frenchman is a young sprint talent who’s getting his first taste at Grand Tour riding. However, Direct Energie seem to be going with Petit for the big bunch sprints, with Boudat left to take opportunities from the break. Hailing from Langon, which is 80km from the finish in Bergerac, I imagine that a lot of his friends and family from home will be out to see him race. What better motivation to get into the morning breakaway than that?! He might not have the experience, but he will be tough to beat in a sprint if the break makes it all the way to the line.

Yoann Offredo

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A rider who was in the break on the first open road stage (with Boudat), he and Phinney nearly managed to hold on until the line, getting caught in the final few kilometres. Wanty are clearly motivated to try to get a rider into the move every day on the flat stages and that will be no different tomorrow. If he’s as aggressive and strong as he was on Stage 2 then he has a chance. His breakaway companions will certainly be Offredo him…

I’ll get my coat.

Prediction

We’ll probably still see a sprint and Kittel will probably win, again!

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I think that Kristoff could be his biggest challenger though. Although he only finished 4th on Stage 7, he showed some signs he’s riding back into good form. In search of a contract for next year, a good result tomorrow would certainly help that!

Betting

Definitely not lumping on Kittel tomorrow and almost tempted for a no bet, however…

0.8pt EW Kristoff @ 10/1 with William Hill

0.1pt EW Boudat @ 350/1 with BetVictor (would take 250s lowest elsewhere)

0.1pt EW Offredo @ 600/1 with Bet365 (would take 500s elsewhere)

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Tour de France 2017 Stage 6 Preview; Vesoul -> Troyes

Today’s Recap

A fast day in the saddle. the race finished a good bit ahead of schedule. With a strong break going from the gun, we easily could have seen them build up a 6-8 minute advantage. However, BMC had other ideas and began setting tempo at the front of the bunch early on, never allowing the advantage to go much further north than 3 minutes.

Once onto Belles Filles itself, Kwiatkowski took over and set a terrific tempo for Sky, resulting in riders slowly being churned out the back of the peloton. Yet, it was such an infernal pace that it put his own team in difficulty. Landa and Henao never managed to put their nose in the wind at all, and it was left to Nieve to take over.

Aru sensed the Spaniard was slowing and attacked with 2.2km to go. A foolish move considering Sky’s ability to drag those attacks back in the past, except he just kept getting further away. Thomas closed down an attack from Yates, but wasn’t able to offer too much more after that so Froome himself went on the offensive. Only Porte, Bardet and Martin could follow the yellow-jersey elect, but after some looking around the group behind caught up again with around 800m to go.

By then though, Aru had the stage in the bag, taking a great victory for the blog! And himself too I guess…

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What really impressed me was the gutsiness of his attack, but more importantly the way he kept driving to the line, only posting up to celebrate once over the finish.

Behind, Martin launched a terrific attack to gain time on the rest and finish second on the day. While Froome managed to pip Porte to third. I’m sure the latter will be disappointed after his team did most of the work today.

There’s still a long way to go and plenty of mountains left, just not mountain top finishes, but it is promising that it isn’t going to be a complete two-horse race.

The GC riders will take a back foot tomorrow with the sprinters having another chance at glory. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for them.

The Route

A fairly benign and long day in the saddle at 216km – it is a typical transitional stage!

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Nothing major to note until we get towards the finish in Troyes. I got mildly excited when looking at the weather forecasts as we do have some 25m/h crosswinds early in the stage but they die down once we get to 50km to go. So we won’t see any echelon action!

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The final 5km gets progressively more technical. Aside from a roundabout at around 5.5km to go, the lead-outs will be able to organise themselves and we’ll no doubt see a big fight to get to the tight turn just before 2km to go first.

From there, the road slowly bends around to the right. Holding the inside line will force opposition teams to take the outside route, elongating their own run in, and potentially tiring them out/ruining their timing.

More crucially though, it is important to be at the front going under the flamme rouge as things will get messy.

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Just as they pass under the kite the riders will be faced with this roundabout where they will be funnelled around the right-hand side. Well, according to the road book anyway.

The riders will then have to contend with another roundabout at what appears to be ~250m to go.

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However, it is not as bad as it sounds, with it really only being a slight kink in the road. The worst part though is that the road narrows from three lanes to two and some riders might find themself running out of space!

Contenders

With some of the key sprinters now gone from the race or injured, we should in theory have a safer run-in as fewer people will be competing for the win.

Démare has had the best/most consistent results out of all the sprinters so far with a second place and a win to his name. He was somewhat lucky to get away with cutting across Bouhanni on Stage 4 but there is no doubt he is one of the strongest here. He has a lead-out train long/strong enough to control it in the final 2kms but they’ve been disappointing so far. Can they turn it around tomorrow and see Démare take a second win?

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Kittel was never in it on Stage 4. Positioned too far back, he never got close to the top 10 of the race before it was decimated by the crashes. Another lead-out that was fairly disappointed, with a team as good as QuickStep, you would expect them to turn that around tomorrow. The crazy on sprint on stage 2 shows the German has form, but will he be in a position to show that again?

With Cavendish and Sagan now gone, it certainly opens up the sprints more and in theory should make them less chaotic as we’ll have fewer lead-out trains fighting for position.

Kristoff and his Katusha team were keen to do some work on Stage 4 but possibly took it up too early. The Norwegian came away with a second place but I’m not too sure what we can fully read into it. I’m still not convinced he’s as strong as he was in 2015 but with Zabel he has a very good last man he can trust. Another podium is a possibility.

Greipel picked up another podium on Stage 4 but he seemed to be really struggling today and was one of the first riders dropped. Ill? Or was he just using his experience and saving as much energy as possible?

Bouhanni is one that interests me a bit for tomorrow. Clearly riding himself back into a bit of form after his crash in Yorkshire, he was unlucky to be blocked by Démare on Stage 4. The technical final kilometre should suit the brave Frenchman and he does have the speed to compete. Will the win be too much? Only 1.19% (or 1/84) of the previous 4 Tour stages have been won by a rider riding at Pro-Conti level.

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Credit to @padsbets for that stat.

Groenewegen, Colbrelli and Matthews will be close and fighting for the top 5 but they should get a top 10.

Prediction

Kittel will return to winning ways!

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But I think we’ll see Bouhanni sneak onto the podium, the finish looks good for him. Just need Démare to stay out of his way!

Betting

Not willing to risk Kittel at his odds, so I’m once again going with a better value play on Bouhanni.

1pt EW Bouhanni @ 16/1 with SkyBet. (Would take 14s lowest elsewhere).

After two successful H2Hs in a row, I’ll play the profit up for tomorrow. The 3.6pt was turned into 7.92pt today so I’ll put…

4pt Bouhanni to beat Greipel @5/4 with WillHill.

Risky, but I like the Frenchman’s trajectory.

 

Thanks as always for reading, who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be an easy win for Kittel or will someone else challenge him? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Mondorf-les-Bains -> Vittel

Today’s Recap

An exciting finale that had a little bit of everything but in the end the result was inevitable, wasn’t it? After managing to clip back into his pedal after unclipping, Sagan still had enough power to hold off a charging Matthews on the line to take a great stage victory.

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Dan Martin was the best of the GC guys, coming home in third place and taking 4 bonus seconds on the line plus a 2 second time gap back to the main GC group. Yates was the worst off today, losing 8 seconds to the likes of Froome/Porte etc.

A special mention must also go to Démare who managed to hold on to the wheels of the climbers and eventually finished 6th. He’s in stupendous form at the moment!

Will he get a chance to go for the win tomorrow?

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

The Route

A fairly simple stage with not too much to talk about!

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It should be a day for the sprinters so the stage is all about the final few kilometres.

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The road does rise and fall in the final 5kms but it’s nothing too severe. The climb that you see on the profile above averages roughly 1.8% for 2kms, so nothing more than false flat. Likewise, the finish itself does ramp up but it is only 1.7% for the final kilometre.

I’m sure all of the sprinters would expect to be there!

As for the run-in itself, it is more technical than what we had on stage 2.stage-4-5km

So here comes a little preview by pictures…

The first challenge the riders will have to face is the turn onto Rue de la Vauviard after they come off the short descent.

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Having gathered up a lot of pace, they’ll have to be careful not to misjudge the bend as it is a lot tighter than I expected going off of the stage map. From there, they will face a sweeping road until the “tight turn” at roughly 1.5km to go.

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Said “tight turn”

On a two-lane wide road the fight for position will be important as the best way to take the turn at maximum speed is to sweep from left to right. From there, they continue towards a roundabout which is a lot more precarious than the road book suggests.

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The two lanes that they approach on are split by some nasty looking road furniture, with the roundabout itself being very narrow. I hope we don’t see any accidents as every tries to funnel right.

Once through the roundabout the riders will hit the Flamme Rouge and from there things get a lot easier with no more sharp turns and slightly wider roads.

Conteders

Can anyone beat Kittel? Probably not.

The German was incredibly strong on the opening stage and if he produces the same amount of power tomorrow then he should eat up the finish. He will be hoping for a better lead-out though as he can’t afford to go too early on the rise as it could catch him (or anyone) out.

Démare again looks like his main challenger. The Frenchman missed his structured lead-out on stage 1 and he’ll bo hoping that changes tomorrow. They have the numbers to control the final 3km which is a huge advantage. Not afraid of a slight drag to the line, he has a good chance of going better than stage 2.7087035_1-0-1561477825_1000x625

Greipel loves a tougher sprint finish like this and he no doubt will be there at the end again. His train isn’t the best, he’ll need to use all of his experience to stay near enough to the front through the technical sections.

Cavendish took some promise from his result on stage 2. With another day of racing in his legs, will his form be on the up? Who knows! I’ll repeat what I said for the last sprint stage, his result won’t surprise me either way!

Bouhanni is the local boy and he will relish the technical finish. However, I’m still not convinced he’s at 100% after his crash in Yorkshire. He’ll give it his all and like Cavendish, I won’t be surprised with whatever he does.

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Groenewegen normally goes well on tougher run ins. The young Dutchman has no fear so he should be well positioned going into the final kilometre. Does he have the legs to compete with the best? A 5th on Stage 2 was promising and he may well sneak a podium tomorrow.

Matthews produced a very impressive final few hundred metres today, but it was too little too late. Not the fastest in a pan-flat sprint, the ever so slight gradient does bring him closer to the other sprinters.

Degenkolb was never really involved in the sprint on stage 2 and he might struggle with a lack of support. However, he looked very strong at the start of the year and you have to imagine that he will be close to that form again due to it being the Tour. If things click tomorrow, we might see a good result from the German sprinter.

Sagan will of course be up there again. Hampered on Stage 2, he was truly exceptional today. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go back to back.

Colbrelli and Kristoff will looking to top 10 again.

Prediction

Boring, but Kittel wins again most likely!

Cue the glaringly obvious Kittel wins in Vittel headlines.

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He certainly can be challenged though and a few riders will fancy their chances, it won’t be as “easy” for him as it was on stage 2.

Betting

No value in Kittel but there are two “outsiders” I’d like to back because the odds are just ridiculous for them.

0.7pt EW Matthews @ 80/1 with PP/BF (Would take 66s)

The Sunweb rider actually has a fairly solid lead-out train with him and theory could be one of the better positioned riders in the finale tomorrow. He got blocked off on Stage 2 so could never really make any effort to go for the win. His finish today gives me a lot of confidence in his power right now and I think he could be up there tomorrow again. Definitly should be lower than a 66 or 80/1 shot.

0.3pt EW Degenkolb @150/1 with Sky/PP/BF (would take 125s)

He’s not been great as of late but that doesn’t warrant his massive price, I think his form is actually on the up. Another rider who didn’t really sprint at all on Stage 2, he might get lucky tomorrow. I find it absurd that he’s that price while McClay/Kristoff/Colbrelli are all shorter, and by some margin.

Probably another two losing “value” bets, but they could run close in a hectic finish.

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Düsseldorf -> Liège

Today’s Recap

Luck, bravery and a stonkingly strong effort from Thomas saw him take Yellow at the end of a very tricky and tough day.

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Don’t think many people would have predicted that!

Küng and Kiryienka rounded out the podium, with Froome being the best GC rider (not including Thomas of course), beating his closest rivals by around 25 seconds.

It was a course fraught with danger due to the wet and greasy surface which unfortunately meant several riders crash. The #HaugheyCurse already managed to rear its head on stage one with Roglic going down and ruling him out of stage contention. However, more disappointingly we’ve had two abandons in the form of Valverde and Izagirre, both of whom were top 10 contenders for the overall at the very least.

The organisers will be looking for a much more mundane day out tomorrow. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

A fairly flat day out where the sprinters should get their first chance to go for stage glory.

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We should see a fairly exciting start to the day as several riders will no doubt be gunning for the early KOM. After that though it should be a fairly benign day as they travel through Germany until the terrain starts to get more rolling once they enter Belgium and the province of Liège.

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We do have some uncategorised rises and a Cat-4 climb that crests with 20km to go but they should be of no difficulty to the fast men.

The run is a sprinters delight and I’m sure the GC riders will be happy with it too, no first road stage nervousness!

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Facing a few technical turns, the biggest difficulty is a right-handed turn at 3km to go. After that, it will be a drag race between the lead-out trains with the final kilometre being dead straight.

Weather Watch

One thing that could upset the apple cart though is the weather. We might have a few showers throughout the day and there are some consistent winds forecast throughout the day.

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Weather forecast for Aachen (Source: Windfinder)

Strong enough to create some echelons when the route is heading South/South-West (so most of the stage), I will be intrigued to see if any team tries to split it in the wind.

It’s quite hard to tell how exposed some of the course is due to the strange reason that Google Streetview hasn’t covered any of the area south of Mönchengladbach. Can anyone tell me why?!

Looking at the satellite images, it appears like flat German farmland that could be fairly exposed to the wind.

As for when the riders enter Belgium, we have typical small Belgian towns, some exposed roads but some fairly well sheltered.

I think it’s unlikely we’ll see any splits but you never know. Some teams/riders are already facing an uphill battle on GC so if they sense any opportunity they’ll go for it.

Sprint Contenders 

The first sprint of a Tour is always an interesting one as riders/teams aren’t sure of what to expect. Everyone will fancy their chances so it often leads to a rather chaotic finale. It will also be a cross-headwind finish so timing your effort will be important.

Marcel Kittel starts as the favourite for the day. The German has a team built to support him and it is arguably one of the longest proper sprint trains that we’ve seen in a Grand Tour since the HTC days. Quick Step will be able to put the power down in the closing few kilometres and with Sabatini (Kittel’s trusted lead-out man) dropping him off at 150m to go, will anyone be able to beat him?

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Arnaud Démare on current form looks like his main challenger, with the Frenchman dominant in his last few races. The reason I said “arguably” for Kittel’s lead-out is that Deémare will have everyone in his team apart from Pinot working for him. The signings of Cimolai and Guarnieri have really brought some high-end speed into the top end of the order. He might not beat Kittel when the German is up to full race speed but since he’s not raced in a while, Démare has every chance. I’m sure he’ll be doing his rain dance too!

Peter Sagan will be close to the top of the order, like always! He really seems to up his game in the sprints at the Tour and is one of the fastest riders here. Sagan doesn’t really have a lead-out train to the same extent as Kittel and Demare do but he still has some fire power. Selig will be his last man and he’s a rider who I’ve really rated this season, he’s done great work for Bennett etc, so he’ll be expected to continue that for Sagan here. Can the World Champion make an early claim for Green with a win?

Andre Greipel is a bit of a hit or miss character in the sprints recently and I think it is clear he’s sorely missing Henderson. Lotto Soudal shortened their lead-out train on the final day of the Tour last year and it seemed to work for them then so they’ve taken a similar approach this year. He’ll more than likely have to latch onto the back of someone elses lead-out and I think it will be tough for him to take the win, but he is certainly strong enough on his day to do so.

Mark Cavendish is the unknown quantity. He says he doesn’t know where his form is, although he most definitely will, and I’m intrigued to see how he copes. With a strong lead-out, he is almost capable of anything tomorrow. I would not be surprised with a win or if he was nowhere.

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Dylan Groenewegen has the speed and fearlessness to get himself a podium position. He recently beat Kittel and Greipel at Ster ZLM so will be full of confidence, although he did struggle at the Nationals recently. I think he would prefer the finish to be a bit more technical. He has a chance but it will be tough!

As for the rest, they should be there or thereabouts but I think it will be hard for them to win.

Prediction

Arnaud Démare to take advantage of his fine form while he can and take the win, sending the French public/media into disarray!

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Betting

As I said yesterday, today was most likely to be a no bet and it will remain that way. Almost tempted with a couple of loose change punts on Naesen and Lutsenko at crazy prices and do my wind dance. I think I’ll save my money though to waste on future stages!

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.