Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 6 Preview; Vila-Real -> Sagunt

Today’s Recap

*Insert cliché here about having a 250/1 rider finish second…*

The break ended up making it today but for a while it was finely in the balance with Sky doing a lot of the pacing. However, over the penultimate climb of the day no one else in the peloton seemed keen to help with the chase and Sky eased off the pace.

Ahead, Lutsenko and Haller attacked on the descent, gaining quite a bit of time as everyone behind looked around. We saw a splinter move go and start to chase but they never closed the gap to less than 20 seconds.

On the bottom slopes of the climb, Lutsenko dropped his break companion, forging on ahead. Behind Kudus did the same to Gougeard.

However, the Eritrean didn’t have enough in the tank to catch back to Lutsenko, with the Kazakh taking a great win!

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Soler finished strongly from behind, closing the gap quite a lot, taking third on the day.

 

Similar to Lampaert’s win earlier in the week, I’m not too bothered with Lutsenko’s win. He’s a rider who I rate highly and have ranted and raved about for a couple of season’s now so it is good to see him take his first Grand Tour win. Although it is slightly more annoying when I couldn’t get on Kudus EW when placing my punt. Oh well. Onwards and upwards!

Maybe.

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

The Route

If there was ever a stage that was designed for a breakaway, this is it.

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Five categorised climbs litter the day, but with the last cresting at just under 40km to go, it is going to be a very tactical stage.

The opening climb is officially 11km long at 3.4% but the road does rise ever so slightly before then. However, it is not too tough and it is most definitely a “power” climb.

With the crest coming at 48 into the day, I would be unusual for the break not to have formed yet. Although equally, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them still slogging it out as they tackle the following Cat-3 almost instantly.

Puerto de Eslida is shorter but steeper than the previous climb, averaging 5.1% for its 5.3km.

If the break does go here, then there is a chance that the climbers will make the move. Not ideal given the finish, so they’ll have to be inventive later on.

The following two Cat-3 climbs won’t really play any major part in the outcome of the day and they’ll just be used to build the breakaway’s advantage, along with the long valley roads in between them.

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The final climb of the day the Puerto del Garbi averages roughly 5.5% for just over 9km but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

There are two very steep kilometres in the climb that both average over 11% and this is where the lighter climbers up ahead will hope to break the race up.

If a group of 4-5 riders gets ahead and works well at this point then they might not be seen for the rest of the stage. It will take someone brave if they want to go solo from here!

The remaining 40km or so are mostly downhill or on flat roads with a fairly simple run home.

Well, when I say simple, it is mainly straight but there are several roundabouts in the closing few kilometres.

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Thankfull the riders won’t have to make many 90-degree turns though with most of the roundabouts being travelled straight through. Having one at 250m to go will spice things up if a group arrives together.

How will the stage pan out?

A day tailor-made for the breakaway, I would be very surprised if we didn’t see the morning move make it all the way to the line.

There is of course a chance we see it come together for a sprint but who is really going to chase all day?

On Stage 4 we saw Aqua Blue and Quick-Step chase for the majority of the day, with some help from Lotto Soudal as well. Will we see a similar situation this time around? No.

It is a tough stage to control so it is more beneficial for a team to get a guy up the road early and re-assess the day after that. Doing so means they don’t have to chase behind which is ideal on this type of territory. If it is coming back, then they can change-up their plan to work for their sprinter.

The only danger for the breakaway in terms of succeeding, is if a current top 25 interloper is in their midst. In that case, Sky will more than likely keep the break on a tight leash and once we get into the final 40km, the sprinters teams could come to help reel it in.

Break Contenders

Two of the riders who I had pencilled in for this stage actually made the move today, with one of them going on to win the stage. I’m not sure Lutsenko will go for back to back breakaways, but the other rider might…

Alexis Gougeard.

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An incredibly attacking rider, he won a similar type of stage back in the 2015 Vuelta, where the penultimate climb crested with 20km to go that time. He has the fighting spirit to make the break on multiple days in a row, we saw that in the Tour of Wallonie not too long ago. Clearly in great form at the moment, I think he could go even better tomorrow.

Lasse Hansen.

If Aqua Blue aren’t willing to chase all day then sending someone like Hansen up the road is a great idea. The Dane has had a fairly solid season so far, winning a couple of KOM jerseys for his efforts. He came in way down today, which could be a sign that he is struggling, or he could also be saving some energy. Who knows!? I guess we’ll find out tomorrow afternoon. A powerful rider with a fast kick, he might fancy his chances in a small group.

Tobias Ludvigsson.

A rider that I am a massive fan of and you’re bound to be aware of that if you’ve read my blog for a little while now. With FDJ having a real mixed bag of a team here, they’ll be hoping to make the breakaways every day. Maison finished 10th for them today but I’m sure they’ll be hoping for more soon. Big T should be able to cope with the climbs and as a fairly good TTer then he could potentially attack and hold off his breakaway companions.

Bob Jungels.

Not really in the GC picture anymore he is far enough behind to be given some freedom. The perfect type of rider for this style of stage where power is needed for the climbs and for the flat. He struggled in the heat on the earlier stages but he seems to be getting more aclimatised to it now. A big danger if he gets in the breakaway.

Vuelta Picks

Another tough day with a breakaway win looking likely.

“Safe Pick” – GC Contender, i.e. Nibali.

You’re close to the top of the table, so you don’t want to take many risks. Backing a sprinter on a day like this is a very dangerous game as if the breakaway wins then the peloton might roll home together. Nonetheless, a GC rider is more likely to further ahead in the bunch in that situation.

“Wongshot Pick” – Break rider; Jungels.

Have a stab in the dark basically!

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Dunne

He seems to like to adopt the Cummings position on these types of stages.

Prediction

Breakaway to stay away and Jungels to take a solo victory!

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Betting

0.5pt WIN on them all;

Jungels @ 18

Hansen @ 300

Ludvigsson @ 250

Gougeard @ 125

Thanks as always for reading; who do you think will win tomorrow? Is it a nailed on break day? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour Down Under Stage 4; Norwood -> Campbelltown

Today’s Recap

Not as an exciting day that I was hoping for and we ended up with a fairly drab sprint stage. Ewan once again proved that he is the man to beat here, comfortably winning over Sagan and Bonifazio. 

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From a betting perspective it was also a poor day but to give Sagan his due; he was nearly taken out in the crash so to get up for 2nd was a good result. Just not good enough for us!

Will we get a sprint again today? Let’s have a look!

The Route

Strava profile of the stage

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An up and down kind of day again with the riders pretty much climbing from kilometre zero. The pace will be on from the start as I can imagine several riders will hope to get into the breakaway.

There are some short steep climbs out on the course but again these shouldn’t be too much of an issue for the pros. The majority of the final 30km is downhill aside from two kickers; 4.7km at 2.3% (including a short descent) and 2.3km at 2.2%. So once again, nothing for these guys!

Strava profile for the last 10km

 

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However, the end of the stage could throw up a few surprises particularly in the last 3kms. Around 3km to go we have a few sections of 7% gradients which will slow the approach down. The little kicker at 1km to go is 300m at 5.3%, followed by a false flat then a 600m drag of 2.5% to the line.

Timing of the sprint will be very important here as you don’t want to burn out before the end.

I really like the end of this stage as both the puncheurs and sprinters will be convinced that they can do something here.

How will the stage pan out?

This was the stage in my GC preview that I highlighted as a potential breakaway day and I’m sticking to my guns. The reason for this is that we already have fairly decent time gaps and with Willunga looming tomorrow the GC contenders won’t want to go too deep themselves, conserving some energy for that stage.

As for the sprinters, we’ve seen how dominant Ewan is at the moment so I don’t think many teams will fancy their chances chasing down the break if he’s going to be there at the end. On his current form, he should be able to manage the ramps at the end and the closing hill looks particularly like the Vuelta stage he won in 2015.

Therefore I think we’ll see an intense fight for the break in the morning and BMC will be happy to just control the gap to maintain Porte’s GC lead and the majority of the chase work will be left to Orica.

(Or at least that’s how I’d play it if I was a DS of the other sprint and GC teams).

Breakaway Contenders

I’ll be keeping this short and sweet because as you know by now it is a complete lottery!

Lachlan Morton.

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I highlighted him on stage 2 but instead of getting his own chance he did a lot of good work for Haas. The same can be said for yesterday as he was on bottle carrying duty and rolled home 2’13 down. In an interview their DS said they were taking it easy and conserving energy for the days to come. Has Morton been given the nod to go on the attack on this stage? He certainly has the form and climbing legs to do something if he makes the move!

Luke Durbridge.

If the break is to succeed it will need Orica representation and that leaves Durbridge and Howson as the two options. Howson has been doing a lot of the work on the front so may be let off the leash. However, I think he’ll be wanting dual leadership at the Herald Sun Tour so is earning brownie points here! Therefore, Durbridge will be their man. He was the strongest at the Road Nats and has been riding well here. A real danger-man if he makes it!

Adam Hansen.

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One of the Lotto Soudal breakaway experts was up the road yesterday and I think they’ll be up there again today. Hansen stretched his legs on stage one and this type of parcours looks good for him as a strong all round rider. On home roads, he has a chance.

Obviously there are lots of other candidates who are far enough down on GC but it’s fairly redundant me naming them all I think!

Prediction

Break wins and Durbridge takes the stage spoils.

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Or we get some kind of sprint and Ewan wins again…

Betting

Not a stage to get heavily involved with and in-play looks like a good option but I’m backing my 3 break candidates pre-race;

Durbridge 0.3pt WIN @ 80/1 with Betfair/PP (Would take 66/1)

Hansen 0.1pt WIN @ 150/1 with Betfair/PP (Would take 100/1)

Morton 0.1pt WIN @ 400/1 with PP (Would take 200/1 that’s available with Unibet) He was 400/1 with Betfair before I went for my dinner but he’s disappeared from there now!

Again, look out for better prices as more bookmakers release odds later on.

Thanks again for reading! Apologies for this being slightly shorter than normal but I’m a bit more pressed for time and there’s not as much to say. As usual any feedback is greatly appreciated. See you all on Twitter later tonight! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tour Down Under Stage 3 Preview; Glenelg -> Victor Harbor

Today’s Recap

“I think something similar is likely to happen here and unless someone puts in a massive attack the favourites may well mark each other out of the race”

That’s what I wrote in my Stage 2 preview and boy did Porte put in a massive attack! He rode everyone off his wheel and took a very impressive victory. That’s the GC over now for 1st place barring any accident or misfortune but the rest of the podium is still up for grabs on Willunga.

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From a punting perspective we had no stage winner again, but the H2H double came in to cover the day. Hopefully that will be a recurring theme this year when more often than not my outside pick doesn’t win!

Anyway, moving on to Stage 3 and what the riders can expect to face.

The Route

A little bit lumpy but it’s no stage 2!

Link to Strava profile

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The tougher climbs come too early in the stage to be of any issue so it will be the circuit around Victor Harbor that decides the day.

Strava profile of Victor Harbor Circuit

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I did say in my GC preview when highlighting this stage that the first climb was 1.7km at 2.5%. However, that goes to the second peak, which flattens the gradient out a bit and it included some false flat. Using the profile above the main bulk of the climb is actually closer to 800m at 5.25%. This still shouldn’t be too bad for the pro sprinters but it depends on how the peloton attacks it.

Again, I suggested the second climb was 1.3km at 3.7% but it is closer to 1.1km at 4.36%, with the final 300m averaging closer to 7%. Not a massive difference but that 300m section does look like a great launchpad for an attack!

Apologies for the slightly incorrect information beforehand but I didn’t have the time to make a profile of the circuit on its own until now. Anyway, something needs to be kept for these previews, right?! 😉

The run-in to the line itself is fairly technical.

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A sharp right hander at 600m or so to go, followed by another 90-degree turn in quick succession. The riders then have to traverse a roundabout at 300m to go before a slight uphill kick in the final 100m* that averages 5%. They’ll be carrying a lot of speed into the kicker but it is something to think about and makes timing your effort even more important.

*At least that’s where I think the finish is as the organisers aren’t very helpful with their route descriptions. 500m after the last turn and “The Esplanade near Albert Place” has led me to deduce that the finish line is there. Channeling my inner Sherlock!

Weather Watch

With a lot of today’s stage going along the coast there is always a chance that we could get some crosswinds. We may be left disappointed though as the wind doesn’t appear to be strong enough. However, according to the Australian Government’s Bureau of Meteorology there will be some moderate winds in and around the area.

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There is also the possibility of rain late into the stage which would certainly spice things up! But as we know, meteorologists steal a living so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see closer to the time.

How will the stage pan out?

On paper this should really be a sprint, but with the big GC gaps created yesterday there is a chance that a break might be let go and if it does then it’s anybodies guess as to who wins! BMC have no sprinter so will just control the break and only chase hard if there is a threat to Porte’s lead.

Therefore it will be over to the sprinter teams to do most of the hard work and we will most likely see Orica and Bora (it is their namesake stage) share the duties with maybe one or two riders from Sky/Trek helping out.

I’m not going to bore you by going over the sprinters in-depth again so this will be a shorter summary!

I’m concerned with Ewan on this course as he’s not the best climber and does go awry in less than ideal conditions. The Bora pairing will be fired up for this due to the sponsor naming rights, but who sprints for them? I think Sagan will be given his chance this time. Van Poppel possesses a good uphill sprint and is a danger for the win, likewise is Bonifazio, although his lack of a lead-out will let him down. This finish reminds me of the stage Theuns won at the Baloise Belgium Tour last year. He’ll be up there again but I’m going to avoid him this stage. As for the rest, Planckaert may spring a surprise in a tougher sprint.

Some of the puncheurs might even fancy their chances but I think it will be too easy for them unless we get a very hard pace around the circuit. And of course there is always that slim possibility of a late attack sticking!

Prediction

This should end up in some kind of sprint, 90% chance I reckon, with the other 10% being split between morning break and late attack succeeding.

A Bora rider will win the Bora named stage. Sagan takes his first victory in 2017.

He should be able to cope with the circuit and any prevailing weather conditions that we get. The only concern is if they choose Bennett over him, but they seem to have a good working relationship and I reckon the Irishman will let him go for it today!

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Betting

2.3pts WIN Sagan @5/1 with SkyBet (I’d take 4/1 offered elsewhere)

Just in case of a break/late attack adding two small punts;

0.1pt WIN Valgren @200/1 with Betfair/PP.

0.1pt WIN Hansen @ 150/1 with Bet365 (Would take 125/1)

No real H2H that I like so far, but if I change my mind then I’ll add them/put them on my twitter!

 

As usual, thanks for reading! Hoping we get an exciting stage today as it will be the first one I get to watch properly. Any feedback etc is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

They were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 18 Preview: Requena -> Gandía

Today’s Recap

A well-timed attack from Frank and a solid pace up the final climb saw him solo away to victory. Konig and Gesink followed 6 and 11 seconds behind respectively, leaving their move on the climb too late. Not to take anything away from Frank, he definitely deserved a win this Vuelta!

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Behind, the top 4 on GC all rolled in together but there were some time gaps further down the order. Samuel Sanchez performed the worst (losing a minute to his rivals) and has dropped once place, swapping with Talansky. Further down, De La Cruz and Scarponi traded their 9th and 10th on GC. With Dani Moreno now lurking only 11 seconds behind the young Spaniard.

Let’s move on to tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

Another rolling day, that at the Vuelta is probably classified as a sprint stage.

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There isn’t really much to talk about the route. There’s not a lot of flat within the first half of the stage and only in the second half do the riders find favourable terrain, where they descend to the finish with only a few small rises.

The run in itself will be fast but does have a few technical aspects.

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The pace will be knocked off in the closing kilometre as they have to take the first, sharp exit at a roundabout. However, the final 600m is dead straight so no difficulties should occur here!

How will the stage pan out?

The real question for tomorrow’s stage is if we’ll see a sprint or not. At 200km long and with a lot of lumpy terrain, it will be tough for those who want a sprint to control the stage. A few teams have looked keen so far, namely Giant, Etixx and Trek, to chase the breaks down.

There is the possibility though that a small break gets away in the morning, with only a few teams represented and we do get a sprint, after the gap is easily controlled by a few of the teams.

However, with a few more tough days to come and knowing that they’re guaranteed a sprint in Madrid, there is a chance that they may not put all their eggs in the sprint basket. For these teams, they could decide to try to send a rider in the morning break so that they don’t have to work behind. Of course, that is easier said than done!

There are only 4 more stages left in the race. Only a handful of riders can win the TT, the penultimate stage is for a climber and the final stage in Madrid is sure to end in a bunch sprint. Consequently, tomorrow is the last day for the rouleurs to make their mark on the race, and I expect them to take it.

I go for a break that wins it!

(As long as at least 2/3 of Trek, Giant and Etixx are represented)

Breakaway Hopefuls

Like normal, we’re left sifting our way through the peloton trying to find that elusive break winner! I’ll be naming 5 this time as it’s even more of a lottery and the preview is on the thin side.

 

Kiel Reijnen.

The America rider is a late-comer to the European peloton, only joining Trek this year at the age of 29. He may be used as the teams ploy to infiltrate the break so they get away without having to chase behind. Felline himself would be a great candidate but everyone else would make him chase the moves in the finale, whereas Reijnen isn’t as marked. A solid all-rounder with a fast kick, he would have every chance!

Vegard Stake Laengen. 

Cycling: 99th Tour of Italy 2016 / Stage 11

 

He was in the successful break that made it all the way on stage 13 and managed 5th on that stage. The finale to this stage is better suited to his capabilities and with a strong TT, he could ride away from the rest of his opponents.

Loïc Chetout.

Another rider who was in a breakaway earlier this race (stage 10) he could go well on this course. The talented young Frenchman seemed to be in every break in his build-up races for the Vuelta. Unlike stage 10 where he struggled on the final climb, this flatter end to the stage will be much more appealing to him!

Yves Lampaert.

The talented Belgian had his early season ruined by a trivial incident…screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-19-14-45He seems to be getting back to better form now and was on the attack on stage 13. Similar to Reijnen, he could be used as a ploy by Etixx so that they don’t have to chase behind. If he gets into the move, I don’t expect him to mess it up like he did earlier in the race.

Adam Hansen.

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It wouldn’t be the Vuelta without seeing him off the front at some point. This type of stage looks like it would be perfect for Hansen, as there is a reasonable amount of climbing but nothing serious. The only concern will be that he’s heavily covered in a breakaway situation so it will be tough. If anyone can time his move correctly though, it will be him!

Prediction

As I said above, I give the break the edge on this stage only if a few of the “danger” sprint teams have a man up the road. I’d say it’s a 70:30 chance.

If it does stick, I think Yves Lampaert will go better than he did on stage 13 and take the win here!

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Betting

All straight up WIN:

0.4pt Lampaert @ 100/1 with Ladbrokes (I’d go as low as 66s)

0.2pt Hansen @ 125/1 with Bet365 (I’d go 80/1 lowest)

0.2pt Stake Laengen @ 200/1 with Betfair (I’d go 150)

0.1pt Chetout @ 300/1 with PaddyPower or Betfair (I’d go 200)

0.1pt Reijnen @ 66/1 with various bookmakers (wouldn’t go any lower)

 

Thanks again for reading! Do you think we’ll see a bunch sprint or will the break hold on? As usual, any feedback would be much appreciated!

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 7 Preview; Maceda -> Puebla de Sanabria

Today’s Recap

What a stage, it was full gas from the start! Omar Fraile represented us very well out the front bringing that attacking gusto that I was looking forward to seeing. However, it was not to be for him, or any of the original break in fact. Instead, Simon Yates made a fantastically timed move to follow Dani Moreno on the final climb, going on to pass him before the summit and then finishing solo!

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

The Route

Surprise surprise, another stage with a fair bit of climbing. Especially considering this is supposedly a sprinter-friendly day!

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* No Strava profile today from me as I’m in more of a rush than usual. So climbs & %s made up from the road book*

The climbing tomorrow is spread out a lot more evenly throughout the stage, with the three Cat-3s almost equidistant from each other. Depending how the riders are approaching the stage, the break may not have gone until the first climb; Puerto de Allariz (6.3km at 4.7%). If it does go here, it will certainly be a strong one.

The second categorised climb is a longer affair, 11.2km at 4.4%. The road here-in rises and falls all the way to the start of the final official climb of the day. Alto de Padornelo averages 3.3% for it’s 7km. The sprinters will hope to make it over this.

A long descent comes next, followed by a flat run to the line.

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The run in itself is fairly technical, with a few sweeping bends mixed in with sharp turns within the final few kilometres. Positioning and lead-outs will be key.

How will the stage pan out?

This another stage marked down as a sprint, but after today’s very hot and tough day there might be a few teams feeling the effects. There is more of a chance than normal that a break makes it.

Felline was angry after crossing the line today and is clearly going well at the moment. He’s one of the riders who will get his team to work and will want this stage to end in a sprint. Likewise, so will Etixx who will be hoping that Meersman can complete a hat-trick of victories. Others may well join in, such as Orica and Giant. The latter took the day easy after missing the break, targeting tomorrow’s stage.

Conversely, the classic tactic of sending a man up the road so you don’t have to work behind could well be used tomorrow by a few teams. If 3 out of the 4 sprint teams I’ve mentioned above have a rider up the road, the break makes it.

It’s very much 50/50 if that happens. If today wasn’t so tough and teams weren’t slightly weakened/tired, then tomorrow would be a definite sprint.  Then again, tomorrow is the last chance the sprinters have for several stages so they will not want to miss another opportunity!

Contenders

In-form Meersman looks like the rider to beat, he’s been very impressive so far this race. It’s good to see, because for a while he was a bit off the boil.

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Felline going off of the last sprint seems to be the rider who will challenge him. He’s climbing very well and is very fired up! Cort Nielsen will hope to go better than his third on stage 2. I’m sure he’s capable of that! While Arndt and Giant will be looking to finally getting to compete in the sprint.

Other’s to look for include Prades, Reza, SbaragliVan der SandeRestrepo and Drucker.

A proper sprinting outsider would be Romain Hardy. The Frenchman made it over the climbs today with the GC group and if the bunch gets whittled down tomorrow he may sneak onto the podium.

Breakaway riders? If we’re taking part in the Spanish lottery again, then look to strong all-rounders. Guys like Hansen, Terpstra and Haas all have the capabilities of winning from the break. Their team as said above then has the added bonus of not chasing.

#RandomRider

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Patrick Bevin is the chosen man for tomorrow. Going into this Vuelta I would have assumed that he  would be Cannondale’s sprinter of choice, but he’s failed to break into the top 100 on a stage yet. Potentially ill at the start of the race, he may have been taking it easy until now? He has a good turn of speed from a reduced group and could well podium tomorrow if it comes down to a sprint. If not, he’ll have to try his luck in the break. In either situation, there is more than likely to be someone better than him, but the Vuelta is full of surprises!

Prediction

As you all know by now, I do love to suggest that a break makes it and I’m very much on the fence for tomorrow’s stage. So I’m going to cop-out and give two predictions. If the break makes it, Nathan Haas wins. The Aussie did well in the break on stage 5 on a finish that didn’t particularly suit him. Tomorrow’s stage is more his cup of tea and he would expect to go well in a sprint from a breakaway group.

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If we do get the (probably more likely) bunch sprint, then I think Giant and Nikias Arndt will turn it around. He didn’t seem to badly hurt in his crash the other day, and they’ve highlighted how they saved their legs today for a sprint tomorrow. They have the best lead-out train here and in tomorrow’s tricky finale that will be the crucial factor.

Betting

Going against my rule and backing both a sprinter and a breakaway.

Arndt 0.5pt EW 33/1  (Bet365)

Haas 0.2pt WIN  80/1 (PP)

Hansen 0.15pt WIN 80/1 (PP)

Terpstra 0.15pt WIN 150/1 (PP)

 

Thanks for reading! Do you think we get a sprint? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

TDF Stage 10 Preview: Escaldes-Engordany -> Revel

Rest Day Recap

Stage 9 saw a break make it all the way to the line and we got the battle on two fronts with the GC contenders duking it out behind. It was Tom Dumoulin who took the win up ahead, attacking just before the final climb, not to be seen again. It was a bit of a weird move from his breakaway companions. All of the other moves were marked and closed down, yet the best TTer in the group was allowed to get away. His winning margin was made up on the few kilometres leading up to the climb. That’s not to take anything away from the Dutchman, it was still a great win, especially because he looked to be struggling on the previous climb!

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I’m still confused as to what happened to our pick of Diego Rosa. He looked very strong on that penultimate climb and I was feeling pretty confident going into the last ascent. I went for a drink, which maybe took a minute at most, came back through to where my tv was and he was gone. All of the other riders were there. It was very odd. Anyway, moving on!

Behind, we got a bit of a GC shake up, but nothing crazy. The two big guns came in together, along with Adam Yates. Who’s looked very impressive so far. Dan Martin and Porte trailed in just a couple of seconds behind them. With a group including Mollema and Meintjes not too far down either. The worst off were Aru and Barguil who lost a minute to Froome and Co. Leaving us with a top 20 that looks like this going into the second week.

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Onto tomorrow’s stage then!

The Route

Another tough opener for the riders, starting off with a Cat-1 climb. Anyone who’s not warmed up properly on the rollers could end up in some difficulty!

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It’s important to note that the climb isn’t overly difficult in terms of gradient, it’s just very long!

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Although saying that, the second part of the climb is much more difficult than the first. Also, with it being the Souvenir Henri Desgrange, I expect there to be quite the fight to get into the break, especially from the French riders. With there being next to no chance the GC riders will attempt to make any moves on this stage then it won’t be as crazy as Stage 9. Instead, the attention will turn to the sprinters teams to control the break.

Once over the climb it should be fairly easy for them to do so. A long gradual descent and over 100km of flat follow.

The main focal point of the stage is the Cat 3 Côte de Saint-Ferréol that’s located within the final 10km.

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A short but sharp test for the peloton to face, the climb itself is very irregular. Some steep ramps over 11% followed by false flats and even a short descent. This is a lot clearer on the Strava profile which can be viewed here. Credit goes to Arjan who sent me the link to that! You can follow the climb on Google Streetview here as well.

I’ve made a profile of the last 10km on Strava. I personally prefer using it compared to relying 100% on the Tour graphics as they sometimes are a little bit off. Check that out here! I also like being able to scroll over the map and see the altimetry at each certain point etc. Anyway, I digress.

Once over the crest, the riders face a period of “flat” before making a left turn to start the descent. The downhill itself should see a very fast pace in the bunch. There are a few technical turns but more or less it should be taken quickly. In the final 3km the route descends ever so slightly (25m going off of the Strava profile. 0.8% average.) Nothing substantial, but it should ensure that the pace is high.

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That could then be an issue with this roundabout/90° corner combo within the last kilometre. If we do get a sprint, then positioning and lead outs will be key here as the high pace will mean the race will be strung out, but also because the concertina effect could well be evident here. If you’re further down than 10-15th place then you have no chance.

So a sprint finish?

Well, before the Tour I had this marked down as a reduced bunch sprint and that is the most likely outcome on the day. It could be difficult for the pure sprinters such as Kittel and Greipel to make it over the final climb if some of the teams attack it at a fast pace. I would expect Sagan to be there along with Coquard and Matthews.

However, there are several situations that could unfold tomorrow!

Situation 1.

The first of these regards the make-up of the breakaway. I would not be surprised to see a few of the sprinters teams attempt to get a rider into that move, meaning they wouldn’t have to chase behind. I’m not sure how confident Kittel and co will be of making the finish line so I expect some of the following teams to be represented Ettix/Lotto S/Jumbo/DD. If they all make it into the break then it will be down to Orica/Tinkoff/Direct Energie to chase.

Now, Orica are usually very canny in these types of situation. We’ve seen it before at the Giro even when they’ve been in Pink they send someone up the road, so I could envisage them getting someone in the move. It’s all over to Tinkoff/Direct Energie then. Both of the teams would fancy their riders in a reduced bunch sprint but do they put someone in the break, just in case? If they do, then the break makes it all the way.

Situation 2.

Although some of these teams get riders in the breakaway, the likes of Etixx/LS/Movistar want to set an incredibly fast pace on the final climb to get rid of all the “sprinters” and set up the likes of Alaphilippe/Gallopin/Valverde for the stage win.

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Situation 3. 

The climb is taken at a controlled pace because the break has been caught and we see Kittel etc make it over. I think this is very unlikely.

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Situation 4.

The break has been caught, the climb is attacked, reducing down the peloton. However, there is a stall in pace at the top and someone makes an attack that sticks to the finish.

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I think we can discount situations 2 & 3 as they are the least likely to happen in my opinion. Situations 1 & 4, along with a reduced bunch sprint could all easily happen.

If we get a reduced sprint I’d have to say that Sagan is the favourite for the stage, Coquard to get a podium too. If some of the “heavier” sprinters get dropped, look out for Jens Debuscherre. He might get a chance to sprint if Greipel isn’t there.

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If Situation 1 comes true then it’s another case of the breakaway lottery. As I said above, look to riders from sprint teams such as; Teklehaimanot, Lindeman, Hansen. One rider I like for this situation is Orica’s Daryl Impey. He’s been climbing incredibly well this Tour and has been in the break already. He should have the explosiveness/speed to finish it off.

For a late attacker look towards the likes of Steve Cummings, Adam Hansen or LL Sanchez.

Prediction

Sprint – Sagan Wins

Break – Impey Wins

Late attack – Hansen Wins

Who’ll Revel in stage glory?

Betting

A day not to get heavily involved with. Screams out “in-play” once the Cat 1 climb is covered. Few small break picks for me and then I’ll probably back someone during the stage. If I do, I’ll say so on my Twitter!

0.1pt Outright on the following

Hansen @150/1 with Betfair (I’d take 100/1)

Debuscherre @350/1 with Bet365

Impey @125/1 with PaddyPower (I’d take 80/1)

Vanmarcke @125/1 with various bookmakers

Maté @300/1 with PP (I’d take 200/1)

 

Hope you enjoyed a more “in-depth” preview. I think we could get a few outcomes for tomorrow, what do you think? It will inevitably now be a straightforward sprint stage! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth