Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 4 Preview; Skydive Dubai › Hatta Dam

Apologies once again for no stage 3 preview but I didn’t have the time to write one.

Today’s Recap

We got some echelon action with around 70km left in the stage but the section of road was too short for any meaningful gaps to be made. Things regrouped and with the break caught, we had a long final 50km as everyone looked at each other.

Once again, we had a fairly chaotic sprint as things ebbed and flowed in the bunch in the closing three kilometres. In the end though, it was Cavendish who took the spoils after a masterful display of positioning saw him move up at just the right time, before he delivered a powerful sprint to win fairly comfortably in the end.

Bouhanni finished a rather surprising second, with stage favourite Kittel third.

A time penalty for Groenewegen sees Viviani as the new GC leader but it is all to play for tomorrow with the famous Hatta Dam finish. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Billed as the GC stage, will the sprinters be able to hold onto the puncheurs?

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A stage that is once again back-ended with action, we could possibly see some fireworks earlier in the day though…

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We saw one split in the peloton today due to the crosswinds as they headed North-East through the desert and we could well see the same tomorrow. The 30km section from before Al Madam to just after Al Malahia is mainly exposed desert road such as in the image below.

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The forecast isn’t for crazily high wind speeds, but it is set to be similar to what we had today at roughly 20-25km/h. When the pace is on and with there no real protection at all (aside from some “mountains” on their left), it is easier than you would expect for some gaps to open. I’m not banking on echelons, but I have my hopes!

It will be interesting to see if any team does try to cause some issues, bring back the break and go for the bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint point with roughly 70km to go. Looking at you Quick Step.

The road gradually rises after that but it is nothing to worry the sprinters too much. If we haven’t had any splits in the wind, then this stage is all about the final 20kms.

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Ignore the little double kicker up the Dam wall, I’m not too sure what happened there!

It’s the same approach that we’ve had in the past couple of years and it is possible for some riders to be disengaged on the two climbs we have on the run in.

The average for the first climb is 3.5% for 5kms which is enough to see an upping of the pace and a draining of the sprinters legs. If this was mid-season, then I’d say that all of the sprinters here would get over it but with it being so early in the year, I’m not sure they all will; especially with the final 700m at 9%.

Next is a quick descent and another kicker that should be dealt with easily due to the speed they carry. It is then over to the climb of the Dam Wall itself to decide the day.

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Just over 30 seconds of pure hurt the Wall lends itself both to good climbers, puncheurs and we’ve even seen sprinters go well here, i.e. Degenkolb’s win in 2015 and Kittel finishing 4 seconds back in 2016.

Positioning going into the climb is key and you really want to be in the first 10 riders at the very least if you want to post a good time/result. So no doubt we’ll see a big battle for control in the closing kilometres before the right-hand turn.

Contenders

Pfffft.

The beauty of this stage is the wide variety of riders who could go well here. Just look at the top 10 the past two times the race finished here.

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2015 (PCS)
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2016 (PCS)

There seems to be no real formula as to who the winner might be. We don’t really have a Lobato style rider here who stands out as an ideal candidate.

Plus, when you throw the potential of crosswinds into the mix tomorrow, then it makes it even more difficult to predict. So I’m just going suggest a non-exhaustive list of riders who might have a chance.

Dylan Teuns.

If he’s in good shape at the moment (a big if as he’s not been tested so far) then the Dam finish is great for the BMC rider. Last season was a breakthrough year for him and he seems to finally be living up to the promise he showed back in 2015. Third place at Fleche highlights his ability to go well on the steep stuff but I’m unsure if he’s explosive enough for this type of effort, but who know. Arguably the stage favourite, he might struggle to get a big enough gap to win the GC.

John Degenkolb.

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Winner in 2015, this is the stage he and Trek have been eyeing up all week. Starting his season off in flying form winning two races in Mallorca, he’s struggled a bit this week against stronger competition. Nonetheless, with the sprint stages being shared about, he still has a chance of a good overall position if he wins tomorrow. Is he back to his 2015 level? I don’t know, but we’ll get a good indication tomorrow. He could quite easily be first or twentieth!

Elia Viviani.

Yup, my man for GC gets a mention here. If Degenkolb can win, Nizzolo finish second and Kittel not too far back either, then I see no reason as to why Viviani can’t challenge here tomorrow. He’s arguably been one of the best riders in this early season and has good form at the moment. Given the climb is more of a 30-40 second power test then Viviani might be up there, especially if he repeats the numbers he did in the closing sprint in Cadel’s Race. Another thing that gives Viviani a good chance is his team. The result tomorrow is 30% positioning at the foot of the climb and Quick Step have been great at that so far. They just need to deliver the Italian at the bottom of the slope and let him go full gas.

Sonny Colbrelli.

Similar to Degenkolb in many ways, Colbrelli likes a sprint at the end of a tough day. The climbing during the stage tomorrow won’t be of any difficulty to him and he’ll fancy his chances on the rise to the finish. A winner of Brabantse Pijl and a contender in Amstel, it will be interesting to see how he goes on an 18% ramp, not an 8% one! He’s quite slight for a sprinter and that might be a big advantage tomorrow.

Nacer Bouhanni.

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The “Wongshot™” of these five he impressed me with his sprint on today’s stage. Now, like Colbrelli and Viviani, Bouhanni is one of the lighter sprinters that we have in the peloton which should help with tomorrow’s “w/Kg – 30 second sprint test” that the riders will face. He’s performed well on hill-top finishes in the Vuelta in the past so he’s not one to discount. My only concern is that his team isn’t the best at positioning and he’s pretty awful in the crosswinds himself. This was clear today when he was gapped in the small split we had and that it is not ideal expending unnecessary energy in the tougher stage we have tomorrow.

Prediction

No idea but I’m going to go with the man in form who’s already shown his strong 30 second sprint potential over the past month, and with a strong team that will position him well in any crosswinds and in the run to the bottom of the climb.

Vai vai Viviani!

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Betting

Was tempted to leave it after my horror few days and considering Viviani is leading GC, but where is the fun in that?!

1pt EW Viviani @ 18/1 with Bet365. (would take down to 14/1)

 

Thanks for reading as always! I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s stage and I hope we see some crosswind action to make the earlier part of the stage exciting. Who do you think will win? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dubai Tour Stage 4 Preview; Dubai -> Hatta Dam

*So I’ve just woken up from a nap after writing this out before the route-change. There is an amended section (in italics) at the bottom which takes into consideration the new route very briefly. However, unfortunately or hilariously, depending on how you look at it, I placed my bets just there before checking Twitter to see said route change.  Erm, so yeah… 😂  The parts of the original preview that no longer apply are still in this, just with a strikethrough.*

Today’s Recap

A really weird stage that was both incredibly exciting and dull in equal measures. The “two-halves” cliché springs to mind! It ended with Degenkolb taking a very messy sprint ahead of Van Rensburg and Colbrelli.

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The first half of the day saw the peloton shredded to bits out in the desert as the winds swirled up a Sandstorm.

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Someone in the front group even got a bit Darude to Kittel in the ensuing chaos and an elbow connected to the Germans head. That rider, Grivko, has now been disqualified from the race! There seemed to be a rider-led neutralisation of the stage for a while to sort out the kerfuffle and this allowed the group behind to rejoin the front of the race and we once again had a full peloton. This happened to be when the international feed for Eurosport went live and from then it was another classic, boring Dubai sprint day. A real shame as it was a stage the promised a lot.

As for the blog punts, the neutralisation put an end to any surprise winner. Vliegen was up the road in the days breakaway, with Trentin and Moscon making the front split. So who knows how it could have played out! In the end, the regrouping did allow Fenn back in who beat De Kort in the matchbet, but with Vliegen being out in front all day he rolled home in 40th, whereas his team-mate Gerts finished 17 places ahead of him. Swings and roundabouts!

Oh well, moving onto tomorrow and the day that will shape the GC!

The Route

Facing the riders is the now classic finish up the Hatta Dam Wall.

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In a carbon copy of last year’s stage, the riders will traverse the desert, then a few testing ramps before the Dam Wall itself.

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The finale tomorrow is as much about positioning as anything else. You need to really be within the first 5 riders as you make the turn to start the climb if you want any chance of winning.

Silvan Dillier holds the Strava effort for the climb at 32s which he attained during last years race. However, it is safe to assume that the winner on that day, Lobato, managed the effort in under 30 seconds given that he finished 4 seconds ahead of Dillier and they started in roughly the same position.

Lobato launched his sprint at the perfect time, getting out of the saddle just as the gradient kicked up, managing to maintain some of his approach speed. He’ll be hoping for similar this year!

With it being such a short effort, it is very possible for the “proper” sprinters to get involved, with Nizzolo and Kittel testament to that last year.

Unlike last year however, there might be a bit more action out on the road beforehand…

Wind Watch

The winds tomorrow are forecast to be even stronger than they were today.

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Forecast at Jebel Fayah

This means that the similar exposed desert region could again be the scene of echelons. With a West -> East wind the riders could face cross-tail and crosswinds out on course in the middle third of the race.

If we do get some crazy sandstorm again, I don’t think there will be any form of truce this time round. I expect it to be carnage out there again tomorrow with no favours being handed out! A combination of echelons followed by some draining climbs will see us consequently reach the bottom of Hatta with the smallest peloton ever, maybe around 20 riders at most. Of course, if things really split up out on course then a small group of 5, or even a solo rider may arrive at the bottom of the climb. But even I think that’s a stretch too far!

What can we take from today’s stage looking ahead to tomorrow?

Well, Cavendish and his team never miss a beat as he and practically the whole Dimension Data team made it into the first split of the peloton. They certainly will be hoping for more of the same tomorrow and I don’t see why it can’t happen for them. Except this time round I don’t think they’ll pander to the needs of the leader’s jersey as much and will look to exploit Kittel if he’s in trouble. Leading on to the next point…

Kittel looked weak-ish in the wind. It never has been a strong point of his. Disappointingly for him, his team wasn’t great either; with a lot of them being caught in that second group too. Unless of course they were 100% on protecting duty with him. The same can be said for Degenkolb and Groenewegen. But in Groenewegen’s case it looked like he was the only one day dreaming as a lot of his team made the front.

Nonetheless, they were all there or thereabouts and I imagine that some, if not most, of them will make up the front split tomorrow. All it takes is for a couple of them to make the front with the majority of their team-mates then their group will be very tough to bring back.

So…

Prediction

Echelon chaos, with only 14 riders arriving at the bottom of Hatta together. Resulting in a surprise winner. I’ll go for a guy who’s already put in a few long sprints this week and hasn’t been outside the top 10 so far. Dylan Groenewegen to take a shock win.

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The sprinters have proven in the past that they can get up and compete on this terrain. The weather beforehand only levels the playing field even more in my opinion!

Am I behind stupid? Probably, but hey it’s only fun!

Betting

Happy to have a few fun punts on the 3 main sprinters as I certainly wouldn’t be backing the top 3 in the market with the conditions we might get;

Groenewegen 0.2pt EW @200/1 with Various (would take 150/1)

Kittel 0.15pt EW @ 100/1 with Betfair/PaddyPower (wouldn’t take less)

Cavendish 0.15pt EW @ 200/1 with Various (would take 150/1)

Kittel > Drucker @1/1 with Bet365 2pts.

 

*AMENDED SECTION *

New Route;

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New profile;

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Wind forecast for Hatta (not sure how much the local landscape will affect this);

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It looks like the road does climb up and down a lot more. However, it only seems to change by 100m in elevation at most at one time, so I’m not entirely sure how tough the climbs will be. Might open it up to a Vliegen style rider. Who knows! The wind might still rip the race to shreds or the hills may protect them. Groenewegen to pull out a masterful display either way! 😉

With myself not being 100% confident in what the route is actually like, the blog changes from a few fun bets to keep you entertained, to a no bet. I’ll be sitting with my Kittel/Cav/Groenewegen tickets hoping for wind to split things up and the climbs not being so severe!

Thanks again for reading! I imagine you won’t agree with me on this one, so who do you think will win? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.