Women’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race 2019 Preview

In 2018 we saw the 3rd running of this event for the women and the first time it was a 1.1 level race, meaning a slightly more international field. An unpredictable race to call, in the three editions we’ve had a different race outcome every time; with 2016 being a solo win, 2017 a 5 rider sprint and 2018 a 20-strong bunch gallop.

It was Chloe Hosking who surprised many last year by making it over the Challambra Crescent climb with what remained of the peloton, before taking the win with relative ease after a dominant sprint.

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Gracie Elvin came away with second after her Mitchelton Scott team had done a lot to control things in those final 5 kilometres, while the now retired Giorgia Bronzini rounded out the podium in third.

Will Hosking be able to double up this year? First, let’s take a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

It seems the organisers are a fan of the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” analogy as we have the exact same route as last year.

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At just over 113km long, it isn’t exactly the longest race the women will face all season but given the Australian heat, some of the Europeans will be very happy about that. Saying that, it is meant to be slightly cooler over the weekend at only 27℃.

The opening 80km will act as almost a warm-up for the riders, but it will be the final 35km where we could see a potential race winning move go. The first place we might see shakeout is at 30km to go where the riders will be greeted by a small drag in the road. Fairly innocuous, averaging only 3.1% for 2.1km, it will be interesting to see how the riders attack it. Furthermore, as it is placed on a fairly open stretch of road, the wind direction and strength will also add another factor that has to be considered. Once over the top of that climb, the riders will have to contend with almost 10km of flat/slightly descending roads before the quick double climb into Ceres.

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Waste not want not, reusing last year’s images!

The first ramp is only 500m long but it averages 4.6%. A stinging attack here could certainly line out the bunch before a fast descent and the second, longer part of the climb begins. At 1.8km in distance and averaging 4.4%, it is tough enough for some of the stronger riders in the race to create some gaps. Who will be brave enough to go all in 16km from the finish?

If gaps are made, then they should be held or even extended with the short flat section before the road plummets all the way down for the next 4 kms as they approach Challambra.

There is a little 300m kicker (6%) which will disrupt their rhythm 600m or so before the start of Challambra itself.

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Not an easy climb as you can see, with it going up in various ramps. Not ideal for those who like to keep a steady pace and if a few riders attack this hard then we will no doubt see some fairly large time gaps at the top of it. From there, the road mainly heads downwards for the remaining 9km, albeit there is one last kick up and a chance for a climber to try to distance someone. That comes just after they cross the small bridge with the 800m section averaging 4%, but they do carry a lot of speed onto the rise from the descent so its impact is negated a little.

It is then a final few kilometres along the Geelong waterside before the dash to the line.

How will the race pan out?

As I’ve mentioned above, this is a very unpredictable race with three different outcomes since the first running of it. Was the sprint last year indicative of it what is to come with the upping of the races’ level, or was it more of an anomaly? I think more of the latter because if Stultiens, van Vleuten and Garfoot co-operated together there was a very good chance that they would have stayed away to the finish line. In fact, there was no chance they would have been caught.

Mitchelton Scott arrive here as the team to beat and they will want to make the race aggressive because they know from last year that Hosking can make the finish and they won’t want to risk bringing it down to a bunch gallop if they don’t have to. Obviously, everyone will be looking at them to make the race but they have a strong enough squad to put the other teams into difficulty. I think we’ll see them try to string things out and reduce the size of the group before they get to Challambra, but some of that will depend on if the wind is in their face or not – there’s no point going full gas into a block head wind. Looking at the forecast just now, it appears that there will be a slight tail wind on the run in past Ceres and into Geelong, so I’m expecting some attacks on the earlier rises and the race to be split there.

Having several riders in the front group will be important so the stronger teams will be at an advantage. If we do see splits before Challambra, this is who I expect to be up there in numbers:

Mitchelton – Spratt, Kennedy, Brown and Williams

Trek – Winder, Wiles and Longo Borghini

Tibco – Jackson and Stephens

I can’t see many other teams having a lot of riders at the head of the race and consequently it will be more difficult for them to win, especially if the teams with numerous riders are constantly pinging attacks off the front of the bunch. For the likes of Neylan, Moolman and Doebel-Hicock, it will be all about timing your effort and going with the right move.

Of course, there is a chance the race hasn’t fully split up by Challambra but it most definitely will by the top of that climb.

Prediction

There’s no point me even prolonging this much longer, I saw enough at the TDU to know who wins this – Amanda Spratt.

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Her level on Mengler’s Hill was just phenomenal and no one will be able to match her on Challambra, with team-mate Kennedy possibly her biggest rival. I think we’ll see Spratt cross the top of the climb with a 15 second gap on her competitors which will only be extended by them all being completely in the red on the flat few hundred metre section before the descent starts. With a couple of team-mates behind sand-bagging any attempted chase, she won’t be seen again until the finish.

Things will regroup behind though and we’ll see another 20 or so rider sprint to the line, with Hosking beating Lepistö for the final podium spots.

Coverage

We’ll get to see the race live and in full I think, with Channel 7 in Australia showing it on free to air television. I’m not too sure if it will be streamed online anywhere (Facebook etc, like the Crit was) or if you will need a VPN to access it. However, there will no doubt be a slightly less than legal stream of it somewhere so I’ll tweet it out when I find it.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think is going to win and in what manner? Will it be a return to winning ways here for Mitchelton Scott or will someone upset the party? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Women’s Herald Sun Tour 2018 Preview

Women’s Herald Sun Tour 2018 Preview

Originally I wasn’t intending on writing a preview for this race, but then I thought it would be rude not to cap off the Aussie summer of racing with another blog piece. Plus, it keeps me on track with my new years resolution of writing more about women’s racing.

2018 will be the first year of the Herald Sun Tour in the women’s peloton. Calling it a “Tour” might be a bit farfetched though, as we only have two days worth of racing, but at least it is something I guess!

Anyway, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders over the next two days.

The Route

Stage 1.

On paper the more decisive of the two days; the peloton will tackle the longest and arguably toughest climbs that they will have faced over their fortnight of racing in Australia.

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@LasterketaBurua

The opening 50km or so will see the riders attack some fairly flat terrain, with a few sparing rises in the road. It is possible that we’ll see a conventional breakaway form on this stage, which is something that doesn’t often happen in women’s racing, but the parcours is certainly suited to it.

Old Warburton Road (4.4km at 4.5%) marks the first test for the riders, but given it only crests halfway through the stage, I can’t see anything crazy happen here.

Instead, the real racing will start once they pass through the finish line in Healesville for the first time, with the pace ramping up and riders jockeying for road position. Why?

Well, the climb of Myers Creek Road starts not long after the passage of the line.

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It is not the steepest of climbs, but given its length, it is probably as close to Alpine as you’re going to get in the region. The average of 5.8% will wear down the peloton and I’m sure we’ll start to see gaps appear, possibly just after the 2km mark where the road pitches up to 9-10% for a few hundred metres.

I’m really intrigued to see how the teams approach this climb. Will we see some early attacks, forcing other riders to chase?

This exact route was used in the first stage of the men’s race back in 2016; which saw Froome and Kennaugh attack on the climb, opening up a 20 second or so gap.

Once over the top, they managed to hold off the pursuing bunch as the road descends almost all the way back into Healesville.

Will we see something similar tomorrow?

Stage 2.

If there aren’t significant gaps on the opening day, then it will all come down to the short, pan-flat TT the following day.

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At only 1.6km in length it is more of a prologue than a normal TT, in fact, the same course will be used as the men’s prologue later in the day. Does that make it an epilogue for the women then? I’m calling it an epilogue.

It will all be over in a flash, but some technical corners will create gaps, along with the pure power sections.

Will the leader from the previous day have enough of a lead to hold on?

Contenders

The list of contenders all depends on how aggressively the opening day is raced. We should see the race blown to bits on Myers Creek but there is the slight chance that things stay more compact than expected, especially if we have a headwind on the climb.

Furthermore, if there is a lack of co-operation up the road, then riders who have been dropped on the climb can make it back on the long run in back to Healesville. If that is the case, then look out for the podium to look very similar to what we saw in Cadel’s Race, with Hosking, Elvin and Bronzini all looking very sharp at the moment.

Nonetheless, it looks set to be a race for the climbers.

Katrin Garfoot.

Garfoot

Arguably the strongest rider on the climbs in both of the races so far (TDU and Cadel’s  Race), Garfoot will love the look of Mylers Creek. The average gradient should suit her characteristics very well, allowing her to set a solid tempo, trying to ride everyone off her wheel. Given her TT prowess, she has the potential to maintain a gap of 20 seconds once over the top if there are only a few riders behind her. The same can be said for the “epilogue” the following day where you would expect the veteran rider to shine. Ably supported by a strong Aussie selection, she has to start the race as favourite.

Annemiek van Vleuten.

Along with getting to show her climbing legs, this race will be the first time the newly crown TT world champion will get to wear her rainbow stripes. I am intrigued to see how she goes on the longer, shallow climb of Mylers Creek as she seemed to struggle on the steep slopes of Challambra on Saturday. Packing a good sprint from a reduced group, she has a good chance if 5 riders come to the line. Bonus seconds could be crucial in shaping the GC. Well, at least I think there are bonus seconds?!

Lucy Kennedy.

This race is possibly the reason as to why the Mitchelton rider was left out of Cadel’s Race on Saturday, which kind of makes my dismay in the previous preview look a bit stupid now! The climb of Mylers Creek is well suited to the rangy Australian and it will be interesting to see how she goes against Garfoot on this type of ascent. Admitting she can’t sprint, then she’ll more than likely have to arrive alone to win. But if Mitchelton play the numbers game well, then there is every chance she can do so.

Sabrina Stultiens.

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One of the stand-out performers on Saturday, much to the surprise of Phil Liggett. However, any knowledgeable cycling fan would know that Stultiens has a lot of class and showed great promise back in 2014/15 when breaking onto the scene. 2016 was a write off for her due to a long-term knee injury that plagued her, which meant 2017 was a year where she had to re-find her feet but I think she’ll come good this year. Marianne Vos wanted her on WaowDeals which speaks a lot about the type of rider Stultiens is! She is a rider to watch out for and one that shouldn’t be given a lot of leeway.

Audrey Cordon.

The French rider is known as a good time trial rider but she can also climb well too. The fairly shallow gradients of Myers will suit her style and rhythm and she’ll hope to be near the front of the bunch when things start to split up. Sprinting to 4th on Saturday, she has a good turn of speed from a small group and might surprise a few people if we get a 5-8 rider gallop to the line.

McIlroy, Brown and Malseed are other names to look out for if we get some chaotic and fast paced racing on Myers.

Prediction

I’m still really torn as to how this one will play out. Myers is long enough to create some gaps but the fairly shallow gradient does allow for some of the “less-climby” types to hold on.

Nonetheless, I think we’ll see the Korda-Mentha team and Mitchelton Scott attempt to rip it up from the bottom, dropping the likes of Hosking etc.

We’ll be left with a select group including the 5 main contenders I’ve mentioned above. Team tactics will play a part with Mitchelton Scott constantly attacking and counter-attacking, trying to get away.

Kennedy will get away, but she’ll be followed by Cordon and Stultiens, as van Vleuten and Garfoot mark each other out behind.

The trio work together well, but Cordon eventually rolls them in the sprint taking home the opening stage. The bonus seconds (if there are any) and her strong TT, will be good enough to see her take home the overall crown.

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Allez Audrey!

Coverage

There is no live coverage of the race but there will be highlights on SBS which I’m sure will be available at some point.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win? Will Mylers be as explosive and decisive as I think, or will some of the sprinters hold on? Anyway,

Those have been My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Ride London Classique 2017 Preview

The “richest race in women’s cycling” returns for its 5th edition, but second at World Tour level.

Last year saw Kirsten Wild take home the big prize, winning a bunch sprint ahead of ahead of Kessler and Kirchmann.

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The race has a lot of positives going for it; big prize pool and live TV coverage are the main things.

However, the organisers can never seem to get the magical triple* just right, can they?

*Prize Money / Tv Coverage / Good Route

Which brings me onto another women’s preview where I annoyingly start by moaning and having a go at something, but after the nonsense TT (chase) we had last weekend, I’m past the point of caring!

Can we stop glorifying what are pretty much criterium races as progress for women’s cycling please? I’m not trying to be some internet white knight but they deserve better than this. Last week the opening “stage” of La Course was fantastic with the finish on the Izoard but making that only 67km was a little bit insulting. Having a criterium that is the same length and branding it as “spectacular” just takes the piss.

Why can the women not do the nearly the same route (the UCI limit of 155km will stop them doing it all) as the men, heck, they could even do the last 120km of it. I don’t understand why that is such a big issue for the organisers!

I miss the start of the season when we had races such as Strade Bianche etc, proper races that gave the women a chance to shine on a taxing course. Obviously, there needs to be a balance between having races for climbers and sprinters but I don’t see why races for the latter group have to be tamed down so much. Even at the recent Giro Rosa and Women’s Tour we had sprint stages of 100+km so there is no real reason why that couldn’t be the same here.

Anyway, let’s have a look at what’s getting me worked up.

The Route

A pretty much pan-flat 5.5km circuit around London taking in some famous sites. Maybe that’s what makes it “spectacular”?

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I was going to create a route profile on Strava but there is not much detail to know more than there are a few false flat sections!

I’m not entirely sure how many times they’ll be doing the circuit as there is no official information on the website as to the number of laps, but last year it was 12 x 5.5km laps so I imagine it will be the same this year.

The one positive from this route is that fans get to see their favourite female cyclists 12 times…

We should see a sprint at the end of the day, it has ended in that manner in each previous edition, but there is always that 5% chance that a strong group gets away and there is no co-operation behind. That is very unlikely though!

Sprint Contenders

Kirsten Wild.

The defending is champion is back here looking to take another victory. A little bit underwhelming so far this season, only taking two wins to her name. However, this type of racing suits her down to the ground and she can’t be ruled out. On form I would say it is hard for her to win, but given her nature I’d say it is very possible that she goes back to back!

Jolien d’Hoore.

The Belgian Bullet is arguably her biggest contender. The newly crowned Belgian champion got the better of Wild on two occasions in Chongming earlier this season. What’s even more impressive about that is that she was riding with an injury for the majority of the race! Having taken some more wins to her name since then, she has to start as the favourite in my opinion.

Chloe Hosking.

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After her breakthrough season last year, Hosking has continued her success in 2017; notching up a few wins, including a strong sprint victory at the Women’s Tour. All of this has resulted in her contract being extended with Alé Cipollini, the Italian team have a lot of faith in her. In last years race she was boxed in and never really got going so she’ll be hoping to go better this time. With a 1st and 2nd at La Course and Madrid Challenge respectively last season, it is clear Hosking goes well on these type of kermesse style races. Having a rider like Bastianelli to lead her out means she should begin her sprint from a good position. Will she be challenging for the win tomorrow?

Lotta Lepistö.

After a storming start to her season in the Spring, Lepistö returned to racing recently winning the National Championships double. More impressively though, she followed it up with a win and two second places at the tough Giro Rosa. A sign she is back up to race speed nicely! Her team support here isn’t great so she will have to go solo and jump onto another team’s lead-out but that is something she is capable of. She is a strong outside candidate for a good result.

Coryn Rivera.

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A stand out performer in the Spring, the Sunweb rider picked up a couple of podium places at the Giro. Used to criterium style races thanks to her US up-bringing she will be strong on a course like this. With riders such as Brand, Kirchmann and Van Dijk on her team, I would argue that she has the strongest lead-out in the race. Can she finish it off?

Marianne Vos.

A preview isn’t complete without the best female rider of her generation. After crashing out of the Women’s Tour, Vos returned to racing at the BeNe Ladies Tour. It didn’t start off ideally for her when she crashed in the opening prologue, but from there it went exceptionally well! She picked up two second places and two wins to take the overall GC title. Is another win on the cards here?

Alice Barnes.

The young Brit will be full of confidence after recently taking her first win at the aforementioned BeNe Ladies Tour. She escaped with Vos on the opening stage and managed to beat her in a two-up sprint, not bad! I have been very impressed with her this season so far and I think she’s capable of another good result here.

Every team has a rider or two who could be involved at the pointy end of the day so some riders to keep a look out for are;

Pieters/Blaak (Boels)

Cucinotta/Confalonieri (Lensworld)

Barnes/Guarischi (Canyon)

Fournier (FDJ)

Elvin (Orica)

Kessler/Moberg (Hitec)

Prediction

There are too many teams interested in a sprint for us not to get a bunch gallop. With Bronzini leading her out, d’Hoore should be placed into a great position for the run to the line. These types of races are her bread and butter! She’s not let me down before, so I’ll go for her again, the Belgian Bullet to take the win!

The Ovo Energy Women's Tour of Britain Stage 5 - The London Stage

I think Alice Barnes might sneak onto the podium too.

Coverage

The last 40 minutes of the race are being shown live on BBC2 (from 6pm GMT), with the whole event being shown via the Red Button (from 5pm GMT).

As for international coverage I’m not too sure, but there are plenty of sites out there where you can stream BBC2! Maybe the BBC site itself will work via VPN?

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giro Rosa 2017 Preview – The BFOG

Giro Rosa 2017 Preview – The BFOG

The only “Grand Tour” in the women’s peloton the Giro Rosa starts again this Friday for its 28th edition with a stacked peloton looking to make their mark on the race.

Last year’s GC was won by Boels’ Megan Guarnier, with team-mate Stevens coming home second and van der Breggen in third.

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Will we see a similar sort of dominance from the Dutch-team, who now of course have van der Breggen on board as well, or will some other riders be fighting for the overall victory?

First though, let’s have a look at what the riders will faced with over the coming 10 days.

The Route

All of the profiles used here are courtesy of @LasterketaBurua, so go and give them a follow on Twitter!

The questionable, poor quality route maps will be from the organisers website that I’ve screen shot. To be fair, the race is run on a shoe-string budget. Anyway…

Stage 1.

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A pan-flat late afternoon team time trial over 11km will set the early GC order. A discipline that is rarely practiced in the women’s peloton we could see some surprising time gaps.

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With there being little in the way of technical difficulties, this TTT will all be about pure power. Although it is important to note that they pass over a causeway and the wind might play a part in the outcome depending on their start times. Looking at early forecasts it’s supposed to be a 16kmph cross headwind when the first team starts at 16:45, but it is meant to increase to around 18kmph by the time the final team leaves the start house. Furthermore, there is a higher chance of rain for the later starters. It could be a dicey opening day.

As far as stage contenders go though, Boels will no doubt start as the favourites. The current TTT World Champions are bringing a very strong team to the race and they’ve won the only TTT of the year so far at the Healthy Ageing Tour. However, they won’t have it all their own way with Canyon, Cervélo and possibly even Orica challenging for the win.

I particularly like the look of the Cérvelo team. They have a lot of strong time trial riders and will wan to put Moolman at an early advantage on GC over their opposition. I expect them to be Boels’ closest rivals.

Stage 2.

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A tease of a stage, it’s a relatively straight forward day until we get to the one categorised climb of the day. The road rises very gradually from around 30kms in all the way until the foot slopes of the Forcella di pala Barzana at 93km. At 5.3km long and averaging 7.6% it is a tough climb and I’ll be interested to see how the peloton approaches it. There are still 24km to go from the summit, of which 12km are descent.

I think we’ll see a selection on the climb. How select? That I’m unsure of. It looks tough enough for the best climbers to properly drop everyone, but will they feel confident going solo to the line with ~10km to the line left once they reach the bottom?

Therefore, I think we’ll get a group of 10 riders or so crest the climb together. From there, it will be a case of numbers/luck/timing as to if we see a small bunch sprint or a successful late attack stick. Van Vleuten and van der Breggen are two ideal candidates to win from this situation, both are great climbers and they both have fast sprints.

A lesser known rider to watch out for though is Arlenis Sierra. I have to admit, before this season I didn’t know much about he Cuban rider, but she has impressed me a lot so far this year. Second at Trofeo Binda and third on GC in California, she packs a great sprint and might just pick up her first World Tour win this week!

Stages 3 & 4.

Both are days for the sprinters so I thought I’d club them together.

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Stage 3 is the more rolling of the two, with some short and steep climbs out on course. However, there is enough time for the sprint teams to bring everything back together after the Poggio.

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Stage 4 is about as pan-flat as you can get – a definite sprint!

So who will contend on these days?

The Belgian Bullet (Jolien d’Hoore) will arrive here confident after her victory on the final day of the Women’s Tour. I think she’s one of the fastest pure sprinters in the peloton and with Bronzini as lead-out rider, they will form a formidable pairing. The latter might even sprint on a few of the days.

Kirsten Wild might have something to say about the above statement though. The Dutch powerhouse is ever-present at the pointy end of sprint stages finishing on the podium 7 times so far this season, winning 3 times.

Canyon have the choice between Barnes and Guarischi. The former obviously had an, ahem, barnstorming Women’s Tour and she’ll probably be their go to on the tougher days like stage 3. Whereas, Guarischi, a former winner at the Giro Rosa prefers things a lot flatter so she might be given the nod for stage 4. Either way, the team will be disappointed not to make the podium.

Chloe Hosking will be hoping to take a couple of wins for her Italian trade team Alé Cipollini who she has just signed a new contract for. After a great 2016, she’s really continued her upwards trajectory and is now much more than a good flat stage sprinter. She can manage the climbs well too, as was highlighted by her win in the Women’s Tour when she came home first in a peloton of only 45 riders.

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Coryn Rivera was the sensation of the Spring, winning Binda and Flanders. Although that’s probably unfair as since the start of March she hasn’t finished outside the top 10 in any race/stage she’s competed in. A truly remarkable record! She hasn’t raced much such California but recently came second at the US National Championships. I expect her to get a few top 3s this week and possibly win a stage. Even the difficult stage 2 could be on her radar.

Lotta Lepistö made her return to racing at the Finnish national championships recently, managing to secure both the road and TT title. Having won Gent-Wevelgem in a sprint against the likes of d’Hoore and Rivera earlier in the year, she is no slouch either! Like a few others, I think she might be targeting a few of the harder days in the saddle.

Boels have a number of sprint options; newly crowned Dutch Champion Chantal Blaak, newly crowned UK Champion Lizzie Deignan, or current World Champion Amelie Dideriksen. Not a bad list that! I’m not sure based on pure speed if any of them are the best sprinter here but they will certainly benefit from the strongest lead-out.

As for others who could be in the top 10 on sprint stages, look out for Moberg (Hitec), Confalonieri (Lesnworld), Fidanza (Astana), Huang (Servetto) and Scandolara (WM3).

Stage 5.

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After a few days unlikely to cause a GC shake-up, stage 5 certainly will.

Out of interest and in TT tradition, I’ve actually made a Strava profile of the TT that you can view here.

A tough ITT of 13km, with the routes main focal points being two climbs. It is one of those typical Giro stages that doesn’t look too bad on the profile until you delve a little deeper.

The first climb of Santa Lucia is 1.2km long and averages 10%. Ouch! The road then continues to rise at 4% for the next kilometre or so before we get a flattening out and a descent.

Once the riders pass the 10km to go mark the road rises almost all the way to the finish with a notable 300m section at 20%! The preceding 1.8kms averages around 5.5% which will make the seep ramp even tougher.

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The image the riders will be faced with. Notice the 20% ramp sign at the side of the road.

It does turn into false flat for the final few hundred metres so the riders will need to keep something in reserve for one final push, and not blow up too early.

I’m intrigued to see if riders will use their TT bikes at all or just stick to road bikes with bars on. I would certainly be looking to take the latter option!

As for who could win this stage, newly crowned Italian TT Champ Longo Borghini has a great chance. She was 4 seconds off the win in last year’s TT and this route seems to suit her even more. A strong showing here will cement her GC challenge.

She won’t have it all her own way as usual suspects van Vleuten, Moolman and van der Breggen.

Stage 6.

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A lap circuit without any real difficulties. There is one 1.4km climb (averaging 3.7%) that the riders will tackle once on each of their four laps. Normally this would be a day for the sprinters but with the summit of the last climb coming 4km from the top, it will certainly entice late attacks from the bunch. The sprinters really shouldn’t be dropped from the peloton, it is more a case of people escaping off the front. A technical descent could see a small group maintain their lead and fight it out for the win.

If that’s the case, look for opportunists such as Cecchini, Spratt and Brand.

However, if we do get a sprint win I’ll go for Hosking. She should be able to cope with the climb easily and her team is capable of monitoring attacks etc.

Stage 7.

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A classic breakaway day, with the race starting on a climb it will ensure only strong riders get into the move. Will anyone close on GC try to sneak away? I doubt it, but there is a chance they might throw a spanner into the works.

There is a possibility that sprint teams might try to bring it back but it is another one of the stages where there is a lot of uncategorised climbs out on the course. Therefore, I think they’ll be happy to keep their powder dry.

It’s hard to tell who’ll be far enough back to be given some freedom but I’ll go for young Italian talent Sofia Beggin to take the win. A rider to look out for the future, she’s already produced some good performances this season with a 12th place in Strade and a 5th at the recent Italian Road Nats so there is clearly some form there. Furthermore, she’s the Madcon mash-up inspired pun (Beggin, Beggin you) team-name for my Velogames squad, so I have to include her in this at some point!

Another name that could be there though is Sheyla Gutiérrez. In her second season with Cylance the newly crowned Spanish champion will want to show her stripes off in an aggressive manner this Giro. Having won Le Samyn from a break earlier in the year, she is also a good candidate for a stage like this.

Stage 8.

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The Queen Stage of the race? Yes, in terms of climbing. However, the gradients of the climbs aren’t too hard, with them barely touching over 5%. Therefore it will be difficult for the pure climbers to make their mark on the stage.

However, with that being said, I still think we’ll see a selection on the day with the overall contenders going clear. I say this because of how long the climbs are, if a tough pace is set at the bottom then riders will be slowly churned out of the back of the peloton. We might see a group of 10-20 riders crest the Cuccaro Vetere together. From there it will be a mix of being strong and lucky to make the winning counter-move that is bound to follow. Can Niewiadoma repeat her win in the Women’s Tour?

Stage 9.

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A fairly tough opening half to the stage, the riders will do a lot of climbing which could allow the break to get a large gap. However, as this is the last chance for the sprinters I expect co-operation from all the teams to bring back the escape and we’ll have a bunch sprint in Polla.

With a straightforward closing circuit, I’ll go for a d’Hoore win here.

Stage 10.

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The final stage of the Giro sees the riders take on a circuit around Torre del Greco with a little trip (around a third) up Mount Vesuvius. The lap circuit isn’t too difficult, there are a few short climbs but nothing too serious. However, one of the major difficulties they’ll face is this ridiculously narrow street…

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Hopefully they’re well strung out as they enter it, if not, I fear we could see some crashes.

The stage will be decided on Vesuvius and it could well go to a breakaway or one of the GC contenders. The climb itself averages roughly 6% for 5.2km but the closing 1.2km average 9.5%. It is certainly steep enough for the best climbers to create gaps.

The riders will then face a fast and technical descent (passing through that narrow street at ~3km to go) all the way to the finish line.

Will the rider who wins the stage win the overall title too?

GC Contenders

I guess I better start with the defending champion Megan Guarnier. She’s been a shadow of the rider she was last season and given recent form, it is hard to say she will be competing here. However, this may have been her main target all season and she is potentially quietly peaking to go well here. Yet, I can’t see it happening for her unfortunately.

Waiting in the wings though will be team-mate van der Breggen. After a slow start to the year, she went on to win a famous Ardennes triple with some truly incredible performances. Following on from that she was instrumental in helping Deignan win the Tour of Yorkshire, before going on to win the GC in California. This route suits the Olympic Champion down to the ground and given her achievements she has to start as the favourite. However, her results haven’t been that great recently so maybe she is on a mid-season lull before peaking again for the end of the year?

Cycling: 4th Amstel Gold Race 2017 / Women

Moolman will no doubt be challenging for the overall win this year. After struggling with an injury that hampered her early Spring season, she shook that off by the time the Ardennes classics came around. Finishing in the top 10 in each race was a sign she was returning to her spectacular best. Since then she’s been in great form, notching up three victories. Has she managed to keep that form up?

Longo Borghini comes to this race in a confident mood having won both national championship events. Suffering from illness earlier in the year, she missed some events and form for some of the key races in the calendar. However, he lighter schedule in theory should see her come here fresher than her opposition. Still only relatively young at 25 years old, she’s improving each and every year and I think she has a great chance of overall victory here.

Speaking of young riders, recent Women’s Tour winner Niewiadoma will be here looking to continue her incredible 2017. The WWT leader has been anything but exceptional this year, finishing in the top 10 in almost every race she’s entered! She only seems to race the big events and no doubt she’ll be looking to make it back-to-back GC wins at WT level. The TTT and ITT could hinder her chances but she can more than make up for it on her own on the climbs. I’ll be watching with interest!

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Van Vleuten is another rider in stellar form. The Orica star has a strong team here to support her, with Garfoot and Spratt expected to last the distance on a lot of the climbs. Maybe not as strong as some of the other women on the long climbs, she’ll be looking to attack at the end of stages where there are short ramps that act as launchpads. The Dutch TT champ will be looking to put in a good time in the individual effort and sees where that leaves her for the rest of the week.

I can’t really see anyone else challenging for the win but there are some outsiders who will be fighting for a top 5/10 and with a bit of luck, even better!

Sierra is an unkown quantity for this type of race. She really stepped up at the Tour of California finishing third on GC there. I’m not sure how she’ll cope with a longer stage race but a good performance here isn’t unlikely. If she manages another top 10, a move to a “bigger” WT team for next year could be on the cards.

Gillow comes here with a good chance of a top 10. A very consistent rider, the Aussie will be at the pointy end in most stages. If you watched any of the Women’s Tour, you’ll know she was off the front attacking in the final two stages, honing some form for this race.

Prediction

I think not being on form for some of the Spring will be a blessing in disguise for Longo Borghini and she’ll take the crown here. She will lose some time in the opening TTT, but I think she has enough quality both on the climbs and the ITT to over-turn that.

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Niewiadoma and Moolman to round out the podium, with the Boels riders shockingly falling by the wayside!

Coverage

Unfortunately there is no live tv coverage of the race, but there will be daily highlights on RAI.

You should be able to access them via VPN I think but give Pam (@motorcycleMTNS) a follow on Twitter as she will no doubt have all the links or will record them and upload them to her Youtube channel.

Futhermore, we should expect highlights on the UCI Youtube Channel and the Giro Rosa has a YT Channel itself so we might see stuff there too.

During the stages themselves it will be a case of following on Twitter via the #GiroRosa hashtag. I would recommend following @richiesteege though (the Boels mechanic) who is one of the best sources for information during the race.

Velogames

As the betting industry is in the dark ages and never offers odds on the races, I guess they’re just copying the coverage we get (I’ll stop before I get myself in trouble)…

I’ve set up a Velogames league for you all to join so that you can have an interest following the race.

Use the code “27002603” to join. I look forward to you all beating me 😳.

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated like normal! I don’t usually beg for RTs etc on Twitter but if you can do to raise awareness of this exciting race that’s run on a shoe-string, then that would be fantastic. Also, from a selfish point of view too, I’d like this to reach as many people as possible. I’ve not wrote 3200 words for nothing! It is after all the most comprehensive Giro Rosa guide on the internet 😉.

I shall be back tomorrow for the Tour with my stage 1 preview. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

OVO Women’s Tour 2017 Stage 5 Preview; London -> London

Today’s Recap

A very attacking stage by the sounds of it, with a few riders up the road throughout the day.

For a while it looked as if the break was going to win comfortably as Niewiadoma was shouldered with a lot of the work. However, some sprinters/GC teams came to the fore and helped to bring the gap down.

Nonetheless, a trio of riders managed to stay ahead until the end. With Majerus and Kirchmann doing a lot of the work pushing on for GC, it was Roy who took advantage in the end: taking a very strong sprint win!

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Majerus and Kirchmann move up to 2nd and 3rd on GC, mimicking their places on the stage. Niewiadoma has the GC sealed up though, with only one stage left in London tomorrow.

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

The Route

A pan-flat jaunt around London.

OVO Women's Tour Stage5

14 laps of a 6.2km long circuit, too long to be a crit, I’d say it’s more of a kermesse!

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Quite a technical course, positioning will be important coming into the last right hand turn before the slight drag to the finish line.

I’m not going to beat around the bush here, it should end in a sprint. There is of course a chance that we get some type of late attack, à la van der Breggen at La Course in 2015. But yeah, 99.99999% chance it ends in a sprint!

So, late attack? 😉

Contenders

Chloe Hosking.

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With a stage win under her belt already, the Aussie sprinter will be full of confidence going into tomorrow’s stage. She’s in great form this year but would probably prefer a slightly tougher course. The slight drag to the line will help her though!

Jolien d’Hoore.

Leader of the intermediate sprints competition, the Wiggle rider hasn’t had a chance to shine at the end of a stage yet. However, it is hard to deny that she is probably the fastest sprinter in the peloton at the moment, having won 2 stages in Chongming not too long ago. This type of circuit suits her down to the ground and with Bronzini as a pilot fish, she should be guided into the perfect position with 150m to go.

Hannah Barnes.

Leader of the Best Brit category (just ahead of her sister), I imagine the Canyon rider will be sprinting to keep ahold of that title. Cursed at the start of the week by me naming her as my GC favourite, she’s not down too badly to be in 5th place. On stage 2 where she finished second, I think she actually looked like the fastest rider but was just caught out of position. Obviously tomorrow’s stage is a lot easier but she should be up there again. Some bonus seconds on the line could see her move onto the podium!

Alice Barnes.

As much as they say there’s no sibling rivalry and that they get on well, the younger of the Barnes sisters will be gunning for victory tomorrow. Having taken a real step up this year performance wise and used to this style of racing due to her appearances in the Tour Series; I think she can feature prominently tomorrow.

Lizzie Deignan.

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With Majerus unlikely to move from second on GC, I think Boels will turn to the Tour de Yorkshire winner tomorrow. Well, unless they go for Blaak or Pieters, the latter could move into the top 10 if she gets some bonus seconds. Anyway, Deignan has been very quiet so far this race doing a lot of the work for the team, stating that she is here to build form for the national championships. I think she’ll want to test her legs in a sprint and what better to do so than at race pace tomorrow?! With the lead-out that Boels have, whoever they chose to be the sprinter has a great chance!

If we do get a late attack, look out for Ellen van Dijk. She’s looked very strong this week and is one of the few riders who can hold off a charging peloton.

Prediction

I’ll go for the Belgian Bullet Jolien d’Hoore to take the win!

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Thanks as always for reading and as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated! Hope you’ve enjoyed my take on this week’s racing. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

OVO Women’s Tour 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Chesterfield -> Chesterfield

Today’s Recap

Gillow and Uttrup Ludwig did the blog some justice by getting in a mid-stage break but it was eventually clawed back by Sunweb who got a little bit of assistance from Boels.

We had a crash marred final 20km with several riders going down in various incidents, but the race ended in a relatively large bunch sprint.

Hosking took a great win, ahead of Barnes (Alice) and Van Dijk. The latter justified her teams hard-work all day, picking up some bonus seconds and moving into 2nd on GC.

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

The Route

The toughest stage of the race going off of elevation gain, the riders are set to face a lot of uncategorised climbs throughout the day.

OVO Women's Tour Stage 4

Here’s a link to the interactive version of the profile.

Most of the climbs come early but that doesn’t mean they won’t be attacked and we could see a significantly reduced group by the time the riders pass the second categorised climb of the day in Crich.

From there the route does get easier in the second half of the stage, allowing for some regrouping if the pace up ahead doesn’t stay constant. With some sore bodies after today’s stage, it will be hard to keep everything together.

There is a relatively long uncategorised drag of 3.1km at 3% that crests with just 6km to go and this looks like a perfect launchpad for some riders to put in one last dig!

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The finish into Chesterfield is quite technical with a few kinks in the road in the closing few hundred metres.

Will we see another sprint?

How will the stage pan out?

With this being the last stage where the GC order can really change, I expect a fast and attacking day throughout. The other teams will not want to admit it, but they’ll relish the fact that Vos has now unfortunately had to leave the race due to a broken collarbone that she suffered in a crash today. It means that Niewiadoma will be very exposed because as I said in my stage 2 preview; I’m not sure how long Kitchen and Koster will be able to hold onto the peloton for.

I think we’ll see strong teams such as Sunweb and Boels set a fierce pace early in the stage, looking to isolate the GC leader before the half-way point.

From there, I expect attacks to come thick and fast off the front of the peloton from several teams: forcing Niewiadoma to do a lot of the chasing.

Eventually, something will stick and as long as several of the main teams are represented, it won’t come back.

Will Niewiadoma make the split? Well, it all depends on where it goes. She’s clearly in stellar form at the moment and if they try to attack her on a climb she should be able to follow it. Whereas, if it goes on the flat then it reduces her chances. She may well adopt the adage of attack = best form of defense.

Depending on who makes the move will decide how important the final uncategorised climb will be. If there are a few strong climbers then they may want to try to distance others, not trusting their sprints.

The gap that they have will also be a factor. We might see them work together extremely well right until the end of the day to ensure they overhaul Niewiadoma’s GC lead.

Contenders

Hannah Barnes.

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Riding exceptionally well at the moment, my pre-race GC pick finds herself sitting 4th on GC but on the same time as her sister who is in third. Climbing well, she’s been prominent in all of the stages so far, with 14th being her worst result. A strong all-rounder with a fast sprint she will hope any group comes together to the line as that seems to be her best chance of winning. Nonetheless, the local rider isn’t afraid to attack either!

Ashleigh Moolman.

The South African is having a quiet but strong Women’s Tour so far, currently occupying 6th place on GC. She was one of the best on the climbs of stage 2, but it was a case of “too many cooks” that day. One of the only riders who I think can drop everyone on the rises tomorrow, she’ll co-operate with any group but hope to attack them on the final rise. I think she has a good chance of taking the win.

Amy Pieters.

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After her win on stage 2, Boels were intending to ride for the Dutchwoman today but unfortunately she was involved in a crash before the finish. Nothing too serious but a bit shaken up, she didn’t want to contend the sprint. If she has recovered from that then she has a good chance tomorrow. With 4 riders in the top 30, Boels will no doubt race the stage aggressively. Any of their riders could win, but Pieters seems to be climbing well and obviously sprinting well too so she covers both options!

Ellen van Dijk.

Second on GC and looking the most likely to usurp Niewiadoma, the Sunweb rider should like the look of tomorrow’s route. The climbs aren’t too tough and should suit her powerful riding style. Futhermore, if she makes it into a small group, she has the strength required to escape and TT her way to the line. I’m sure everyone will be very wary of her!

Of course, we could see plenty of other riders contend tomorrow’s stage. It could well be as we say in Scotland a “belter”! Just a shame it won’t be live…

Prediction

I’ll go for one of the form riders in the peloton at the moment, Ashleigh Moolman to take the win.

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No fancy hats as prizes here though! 😔

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will Niewiadoma hold onto her lead? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

 

 

 

OVO Women’s Tour 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Daventry -> Kettering

Back now for its 4th edition, the Women’s Tour now has a new headline sponsor – Drake! Joking aside, we should be in for a good week of racing with a whole host of talented riders here looking to take the crown.

GC Overview

Deignan is here to defend the title she took last year, but can she manage it?

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I’m unsure if she will or not! On paper, the route looks a lot easier than the previous editions and some riders have highlighted that themselves. Nonetheless, it will all depend on how aggressively they attack the route and of course, the typically bad British weather might play its part too.

If we get a selective race then on form Moolman looks the rider to beat. She’s won the last three races that she has entered and seems to be fully recovered from her crash at the end of last year. Packing a solid sprint after a tough day, she can challenge in a lot of situations.

Deignan obviously will be expected to go well, and the same can be said for her team-mate van der Breggen. There are many other names to consider as well such as Longo Borghini, Gillow and Vos. The latter is also in imperious form and seems back to her sublime best, winning the last three of her races!

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However I am unsure if it will be as a selective race in comparison to last year’s edition. I’m really on the fence with this one!

We have some good climbing sprinters such as d’Hoore and Hosking who might fancy their chances of making it over some of the climbs towards the end of the stages. If they do, then they’ll be tough to beat.

Stages 2 and 4 look to be the most difficult with climbs coming in the final 20kms that could well be a launchpad for attacks.

Nonetheless, I’m going to go for a bit of an outsider to take the win…

I think Hannah Barnes has the credentials to step up here. I was very impressed with her climbing performance in the Tour of Yorkshire and the current British Champion seems to be coming of age this year at Canyon. A fast sprinter after a tough day, she should be there at the end of every stage and will be looking to use her local knowledge to gain an advantage over her competitors!

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Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders on the opening day!

The Route

A relatively easy day out in the saddle that should end in a bunch sprint.

OVO Women's Tour Stage 1
Interactive profile viewable here.

We have a few QOM points in the first half of the stage but nothing too severe, with the route being mostly flat throughout the day. Although with that said, the roads can be viewed as “grippy”!

The run in to the line isn’t too bad but there are a few 90-degree turns in the closing 5km.

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The major danger is a very tight right hand turn at ~2km to go. It’s more than a 90-degree turn and could be a real choke point if teams are starting their lead-outs.

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Interestingly, the road does kick up ever so slightly before the final corner, so the sprint might not be as straight-forward as it initially seems. Furthermore, there is some road furniture before the road goes up.

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As crazy as it sounds, maybe the riders will bunny hop the middle section? Either way, I hope it is properly marshalled as it could become very dangerous. I imagine they’ll be sent around the left-hand side of the traffic island, that looks the quickest way to me!

You can see the road rising in the distance. How selective that rise will be depends on how much speed the riders can carry through the tricky section highlighted above.

We then have a left hand turn at roughly 150m to go. Exit that corner in first place and you have a great chance of winning.

The finish reminds me a lot of Liege, just not as severe a rise before hand!

Contenders

Where else to start than with my winner of this race overall; Barnes. As I’ve mentioned above, she has a fast kick after a tough day and this finish should put her on a more equal footing with some of the faster riders in the peloton so she certainly has a chance.

d’Hoore – The Belgian sprinter is more than just one of the fastest riders in the peloton, she can also climb well. A classics specialist, the strong Wiggle rider should be able to make it over the rise to the line. Winning several stages in Chongming while injured highlights her strength and if she’s maintained that form then she is one of the main riders to beat!

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Wild – Another strong sprinter, the Cylance rider failed to take a win in the Tour of California but she never finished lower than second in Chongming. Her sprinting legs are clearly there, it’s just a question if her climbing legs are too. She’ll be expecting to fight for the win and nothing less.

Hosking – One of my favourite sprinters, the Australian has continued on from her great 2016 season with a very solid start to the 2017 season. In the early races she was climbing the best that I have ever seen from her and I see no reason why that will have changed by now. Having not raced for a month she might be lacking a little kick, but the same can be said for the majority of the peloton.

Blaak/Pieters/Deignan – I’m not sure who Boels will be pulling for in this stage, maybe Deignan will be given home bias? Either way, they should have someone in the top 5 at the end of the stage.

Elvin, Mackaij and Vos will all be in the mix as well.

Prediction

I’ll go for an impressive win from Hosking!

Drentse Acht van Westerveld 2017

Climbing better than ever and sprinting better than ever, the Aussie will take care of business and steal the headlines! Channeling her inner Drake…

Coverage

Unfortunately there’s no live coverage but you can follow the race on twitter via the #OVOWT. However, there will be a daily highlights show on ITV4 during the evening (I’m not sure where else it is shown worldwide).

I’ll re-plug my Velogames.com league again for this race. Join using the following code: 05185053.

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win GC and stage 1? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Women’s Gent – Wevelgem 2017 Preview

Women’s Gent – Wevelgem 2017 Preview

Last year saw this race take the step up to World Tour status along with a lot of other races in the cycling calendar due to the WWT. That meant that the field was even more stacked than normal and we had an incredibly tough, attritional race.

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It was Chantal Blaak who attacked from far out, winning by a comfortable margin in the end as her Boels team-mates marked any moves behind. Lisa Brennauer and Lucinda Brand rounded out the podium over a minute down.

More of the same exciting racing this year? Let’s take a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The organisers have taken advantage of the increased race distance that was permitted by the UCI so this year the riders will have tackle 146km, compared to the 115km in last year’s edition!

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The peloton will cover a lot of flat lands at the start of the race, but the most decisive section will be from 70-110km, when we tackle some climbs. Both cobbled and not! On the run in to home we also have some small rises that create an opportunity to attack. Even the flat run in can be a launchpad if we get a tactical finale.

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The run in to the finish line is pretty much pan-flat and dead-straight for the final 3km.

Weather

One of the major factors that can often play a part in the outcome of this race is the weather and in particular, the wind!

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Source: Windfinder.

It looks as if we’ll get a fairly constant wind throughout the day, with some potential for stronger gusts. The wind direction means that a lot of the middle of the race will be crosswinds, but as the road constantly changes, so will the affect that the wind has on the bunch; cross, tail, head wind etc.

It looks as if the run-in will be a cross-head wind, which would not favour a solo rider. But after a tough day on the bike, there might not be much left to chase behind!

Contenders

The defending champion, Chantal Blaak, arrives with a strong team on paper to support her. Yet, I am wary as to how well the Boels team will go because they had to pull out of Dwars mid-week due to widespread illness in the team. For example, Deignan has had to pull out of the race as she is still unwell. Blaak herself has yet to win this season, but she is very consistent over this type of terrain and I wouldn’t rule her out. Likewise, Amy Pieters has performed well but is without a win too. She pulled out Trofeo Binda due to not feeling well so she’ll be hoping to have recovered for this! World Champion Amalie Dideriksen picked up Boels’ first WT win of the season in Ronde van Drenthe and she may well be the teams best chance of another victory here. She is flying at the moment, and her sprint in the final of Van Drenthe was very similar to that of her male WC counterpart.

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Team Sunweb have been my team of the early season so far. They’ve animated every race that they have been entered in and I expect more of the same from them tomorrow! In Brand and Van Dijk they have great options to attack early and try to force splits in the peloton, which I can almost guarantee they will do. Whereas, I imagine Rivera will shadow moves from other teams and be an option for the squad if we get a reduced bunch sprint. She is exceptionally fast and took a dominant win in Trofeo Binda, more of the same here?

Elisa Longo Borghini will be hoping to maintain her WWT lead after this race. The Italian has been exceptional this year so far, finishing inside the top 10 of all three WT events. However, she seemed to struggle here last year, finishing over 2 minutes down. Will her great form compensate for that? I think so. Wiggle also have the luxury of Belgian sprinter come cobbles expert Jolien d’Hoore who I expect to be there at the pointy end of the race.

Orica have been very active in recent races but are without a win to show for it. They once again bring an attacking team, with Van Vleuten, Spratt and Elvin they’ll be hoping to go better here. I would suggest that Van Vleuten is their best option!

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After a 5th place in Dwars, Thalita De Jong has staked her claim for this race. The former Cyclocross World Champion loves tough terrain and I fancy her to go well here. Now riding for the Lares-Waowdeals she will be the de-facto leader and have the full support from her team. Can she cope with the pressure?

Another rider I’m keeping an eye on this season is Lotto’s Lotte Kopecky. The 21 year-old is a great talent and has featured near the front in all of the races she’s entered so far this year. Terribly unfortunate in Van Drenthe, crashing out of the lead group, I imagine she’ll be wanting to make amends here. With a good kick after a tough day, she’s not one to rule out!

There are several riders from other teams who I expect to feature in the top 20, but I don’t have enough time to go over them in-depth;

Uttrup Ludwig and Lepisto (Cervelo),

Hosking and Ensing (Ale Cipollini),

Barnes and Cecchini (Canyon).

Prediction

It will be another attritional race but the cross-head wind on the run in may be detrimental to lone attackers. Unless of course you are Ellen Van Dijk! Therefore, I think we might get a small sprint from around 5 riders and I’ll for a bit of an outsider; Kopecky to win. The extremely talented Belgian should have the speed required to beat her competitors at the end of a tough day!

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Thanks for reading the preview as always, and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Unfortunately, there will be no live coverage but there should be highlights at some point. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Women’s Ronde van Drenthe 2017

Women’s Ronde van Drenthe 2017

After the rip-roaring success of last weekend’s race and preview, I’m back this weekend to look at a one-day race and its rubbish climb…

No, seriously! The riders have to traverse the VAM-berg which is genuinely just a grass and road covered rubbish dump. How scenic!

Last year the race was won by Chantal Blaak after a group of 4 made it clear on the final cobbled section. Managing to work well for the remaining 60km of the race, before duking it out in a sprint.

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

The Route

More of the same this year in terms of parcours and route, with the race being extended by 14km to 152km in total.

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We are treated to an official profile from the organisers that appears as if it was made on Microsoft Paint.

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One ascent of the VAM-berg is followed by 7 sectors of pavé, totalling 13.2km of cobbled action! As we saw last year, this is one of the places where a race-winning move can be made. However, it is more often than not the double passage of the VAM-berg which is a launchpad for an attack.

The climb itself is short and sharp, but it’s the location at the start of the season which means it causes a lot of damage to the peloton.

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It’s only a few hundred metres long but does kick up to 20% in some places!

The finishing circuit around Hoogeveen is pretty simple and it’s all about either working well to maintain a lead, or the peloton co-operating to bring the race back together for a sprint.

There is one other factor that normally has an impact on the race and that is the wind.

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Wind forecast near Hoogeveen (Source: Windfinder)

The wind direction is favourable for cross-winds but the speed isn’t. Although you never know, a determined (and tired) peloton can still be ripped apart.

I’m fairly confident that the racing will be aggressive and we won’t see a full bunch sprint. There might be a situation where we have a group of 20 riders coming to the line together but that will be the most!

Contenders

Where better to start than with the defending champion and her team?! Boels are still without a win this season, a far cry from last year’s dominating start. However, they once again arrive with the strongest team on paper and 4 potential winners. Chantal Blaak will obviously be wanting to retain her crown and she seems to have started the season in good form, finishing 2nd at Omloop. She’ll probably want a tough selective race like last year, hoping to win a sprint from a small group. Or of course like all the Boels riders, they may play the numbers game up front and she might solo to the win. A rider very much similar to Blaak is Amy Pieters. The Dutchwoman has been exceptional form at the start of the year and without bad luck hampering her, she could have picked up a few better results by now. I imagine she’ll be reeling with herself after only managing second in Le Samyn and this would be a good race to turn it around! World Champion Amelie Diedriksen will be kept as the sprinter for the team, so I think it will be tough for her to win. Likewise, Anna van der Breggen may struggle in her first race of the season after skipping Strade due to illness. However, you can never write off the European and Olympic champion and she will certainly find the VAM-berg to her liking, she has won La Flèche the past two years in a row!

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Anna van der Breggen winning La Flèche

Team Sunweb send a very balanced squad with them and one that could certainly challenge Boels. Rider of the season so far (an award I have made up just now) Lucinda Brand will arrive as their main charge. She was strong in her opening race, winning Omloop, and was very unlucky in Strade to finish off of the podium. Clearly in great form, you would have to expect her to be near the front whatever happens tomorrow! Ellen van Dijk has had a very consistent start to the season, finishing in the top 10 of all three races she’s started. An incredibly tough all-round rider, she has the time trial abilities to get and maintain a gap on the bunch. Young classic prodigy Floortje Mackaij is a good option for a sprint after a tough day, but as we saw in Strade, she’s not afraid to go on the attack either. Likewise, Leah Kirchmann can mix it up over the climbs and in the sprint, I imagine she’ll play a similar role to van der Breggen.

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Floortje Mackaij winning Gent Wevelgem

Marianne Vos will be hoping for a winning return to a race that she’s not attended since clinching the title in 2013. With the climb not being too long, she should be able to follow any attacks and if she makes the front group then she’s an obvious danger. In Lauren Kitchen and Anouska Koster she has two strong team-mates who can help keep her protected for a lot of the race.

Orica Scott arrive with another strong team but it seemed to be a case of “too many chefs” at Strade. Unlike Boels, they haven’t managed to get the great rider to keen worker balance right. However, with the likes of Garfoot, Van Vleuten and Elvin they will certainly still be in contention for a good result.

Canyon SRAM also arrive with a few options for the race but I think Hannah Barnes will be the protected rider. The Brit has started the season well, grabbing a top 10 in Le Samyn after attacking late in the race with Van Dijk. She has a fast sprint on her, but has been turning herself into a very good classics rider as of late and is certainly one to keep an eye on.

We do have the likes of Hosking, D’Hoore and Wild here, but as I’ve said above, I think it will be very unlikely if we get a bunch sprint here.

Prediction

This race really hinges on the attitude of Sunweb and Boels, they both have incredibly strong teams. Brand and Blaak are the obvious favourites for the race, but I think they could mark each other out of it and instead that will open the door for their team-mates. I think we’ll see a similar race to last year where a selection is made on the cobbles, rather than the VAM-berg. If the group contains a rider from Boles, Sunweb, Orica, Canyon, WM3 and one of the sprinters teams then that will be it gone for the day. Obviously there might be more than one rider from each of those teams and then we get a really tactical battle!

After being horribly unlucky in her first two races, and picking up a second place just over a week ago, I fancy Amy Pieters to pick up Boels’ first win of the season here. She’s clearly in good form and loves the cobbles. Not only packing a strong sprint after a tough day, she’s a very attacking rider so won’t be afraid to take it up from far out.

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Coverage

You should be able to follow the race live on Saturday at 1pm GMT, either here or here.

 

Thanks for reading as always and any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win? Will we see a dominant display from Sunweb and Boels? Or will an outsider sneak away? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Women’s Road Race World Championships – Doha 2016

Women’s Road Race World Championships – Doha 2016

On a very different course last year, we saw Lizzie Deignan (née Armitstead) win a a sprint from a group of strong climbers/one-day racers, after the race was blown to bits on the final lap. It was a great show of strength from the Brit!

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The 2016 edition however doesn’t seem to be one that will suit Deignan and it will see a different type of rider come to the fore.

Let’s have a look at the course.

The Route

A glorified criterium is the best way to describe it if I’m being honest. The riders will have roughly 28km to travel through the suburbs of Doha before reaching the Pearl Circuit that has been the focal point for these Championships.

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There’s not much to talk about here if you’ve managed to watch any of the races so far. The Pearl Circuit itself is fairly technical with a lot of roundabouts and sharp corners, and this technical nature will be more evident in the road race compared to the time trial as riders won’t have the time to pick their own lines around the corners.

Therefore, it is important to be relatively close to the front of the bunch. Herein lies the problem, as everyone will be fighting to be in that top 40 riders. Which could cause some crashes/splits like we saw in the U23 men’s race today!

Conversely to the technical nature of the course, the closing kilometre or so of the circuit is very open and this means riders are able to move up, and the peloton spreads across the road. This creates a very messy sprint, but being able to follow the right wheel or your own sprint train is key, but luck and bravery will also play a big part.

Around the 200m to go mark the road dips down before rising again to the finish.

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Screenshot of the U23 race, showing the final 100m.

As you can see above it’s not a severe hill and considering the speed at which the riders should be going at then it won’t cause too much difficulty. But it is certainly something to note and you don’t want to be opening up your sprint too early, that’s for sure!

It should end in a bunch sprint but there will be a a few teams who will want to roll the dice in a breakaway/late attack.

Weather Watch

The women seem to be striking lucky with the weather and they should be in for a relatively relaxing day.

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The wind isn’t that strong at all and it probably won’t affect the race. Although, there seems to have been barely any noticeable wind at all in Qatar so far. That was particularly evident when there were high winds predicted for today. Maybe high winds = low, and vice versa?!

Temperature wise, it’s what the riders would expect but it is forecast to be a few degrees lower than we’ve had in the past few days. I’m sure the peloton will be glad to hear that!

Contenders

For this, I’ll go through the major nations highlighting those with a chance followed by those from the smaller teams.

Where best to start than with defending champion Deignan and the Great Britain team. As I said in the introduction, this course is probably too easy for Deignan so she may not be the best option for them. Instead, I think they should turn to Hannah Barnes for the sprint. She put in a very solid TT (not her favourite discipline) on Tuesday so there is clearly some form there. With a fast finish she could challenge here but will probably need a bit of luck as I don’t think she is as fast compared to some of her competitors. Team GB may try and stir things up with a late attack, watch out for Dani King if that’s the case.

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The Queen of Qatar, Kirsten Wild, arrives her with an incredible Dutch team. Four time winner of the GC in the Tour of Qatar, she knows how to handle the wind and conditions here. Supporting her lead-out, she will have Chantal Blaak, Amy Pieters and Marianne Vos, not bad eh?! The one thing that concerns me is that everyone on the Dutch team could potentially win this race in varying situations. Put it this way, out of the top 15 favourites (by the bookmakers), 7 of them are Dutch! I’d be feeling left out if I was Roxane Knetemann. Will they put all their eggs in one basket and will they want to? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see on Saturday.

Another nation with a similar problem is the Italians. They’ve brought a team stacked with sprinting talent. Again, I’m not entirely sure who their lead rider will be, either; Bronzini, Bastianelli or Guarischi. All of them have their pros and cons, but I would narrow it down to Bronzini or Guarischi. Bronzini is the experienced and reliable rider but Guarischi is more of a “pure-sprinter” and she has beaten the other two most recently. In my opinion, I would have Guarischi as Plan A and Plan Bronzini. If Guarischi can be positioned well then she has a good chance of a podium!

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A team that has arrived with a plan is Australia. They’re all in for their sprinter Chloe Hosking. With a strong set of rouleurs and lead-out riders in the team, including TT Bronze medalist Garfoot, they should have the pulling power to position Hosking perfectly at the end of the day. It will then be over to the 26-year old to finish it off. Winning on her last start (GP Beghelli) she’ll be brimming with confidence and I think she might just do it.

Belgium will turn to their star sprinter Jolien d‘Hoore to take home the rainbow jersey. She doesn’t have the strongest of teams with her and the lead-out looks a bit scarce but that shouldn’t impede her too much. She’ll be disappointed with anything less than a podium.

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With the field being so stacked and the fact I’ve already rambled on a bit, the rest of this will be slightly shorter than intended!

Coryn Rivera will have the full backing of her US teammates. As a rider who’s came from crit-racing she’ll love this course and could certainly spring a surprise.

The French will turn to Roxane Fournier most likely, who took a big win at La Route de France earlier in the year. I’m not convinced she has the legs to win, but a top 5 would be a great result.

Canada have two sprint options in the form of Leah Kirchmann and Joëlle Numainville. Kirchmann is probably the faster of the two but again it will probably come down to who’s feeling best on the day.

Lisa Brennauer will most likely be the sprinter for Germany, but she probably would have preferred a slightly harder circuit.

Lepistö (Finland), Moberg (Norway), Majerus (Luxembourg), Bujak (Poland) and Dideriksen (Demark) will all be fighting for a top 10 placing which would a good result, with Lepistö the most likely to get any higher than that.

Prediction

I’ve had this rider in mind for a while and I may be slightly biased as she’s in my fantasy team, but I think this is Chloe Hosking‘s big chance to win the Rainbow Jersey. She might not be as fast as Wild and d’Hoore, but she is very close to them in that sense. Finishing 1st and 2nd at the Tour and Vuelta races respectively, highlights just how fast she is and will be confident from those results. Her main asset however, will be a dedicated lead-out. The rest of the team should be able to look after her throughout the day, making sure she makes as little effort as possible until that final sprint. Furthermore, they’ll be able to position her perfectly at the front with 150m to go, and Hosking will duly deliver!

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Betting

I’ve been wanting to back this for a while (and it’s a shame the male rider in question had a very strong Eneco Tour and his odds have shortened)…

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Sticking to my guns;

Hosking and Sagan double @34.75/1 with William Hill, 0.8pt EW. Also available at B365 @31.5/1. 

Other bookmakers will hopefully price up the women’s race soon and you might be able ot find better odds somewhere. Both of them should hopefully podium at least for some kind of return!

One rider that I do think is overpriced for the women’s race is:

Guarischi @ 80/1 with Bet365, 0.2pt EW on her.

 

Thanks again for reading! How do you think the race will play out? Will the sprinters have their day, and if so, who do you think will win? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.