Tre Valli Varesine 2018 Preview: Saronno -> Varese

After the back-to-back Italian races at the weekend, a lot of the same riders who featured in those events will have had one or two days of rest before they take to the start line tomorrow for the 98th edition of Tre Valli Varesine.

In 2017 we had a pretty selective finish once Bahrain attacked the final rise to the line, with Geniez taking a rather surprising win after beating Pinot and Nibali in the sprint.

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Will we see a similarly close finish tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

After sticking with the same circuit around Varese for recent editions, the organisers have decided to mix things up a bit this year and alter it somewhat.

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After leaving Saronno the riders will tackle 80kms of rolling terrain, before they enter Varese and start the traditional circuit.

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Just tea-leafing the above image from last year’s preview but shout out to @LasterketaBurua for making the original. As you can see, the circuit is almost constantly up and down with very little flat roads which makes it hard to control at times. The climbs on the traditional circuit aren’t too tough but it is the repetitive nature and very little respite that makes it a deceivingly hard day out.

The riders will complete the above circuit 6 times before they start the new “long circuit” which makes up a shade over 40km given the 2 laps.

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The opening climb that they face on the circuit is the same Via Montello climb that has been tackled throughout the day. Depending on which way you look at the ascent, it can either be taken as 1.6km at 5.5% or 1km at 7%. Either way, it is clear that the second half of the ascent is the toughest part and some riders could find themselves in difficulty here.

A quick descent is interrupted by a small plateau before the road continues to head down towards the Lake. Roughly 2kms of flat land awaits the riders and it could well be a place where a lot of looking around happens before things start to kick back up again.

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The next 4.94kms average 4.1% but as you can see on the image above, the road is very narrow for the most part and will be difficult to control, especially with how winding it is.

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That average of 4.1% for almost 5kms doesn’t sound too bad but looking at the profile for it, you can see it can be split into three parts.

An opening 1.7km at 7.2% which contains several steep ramps of above 15%. Ignore that slightly downhill bit near the top of the climb because after viewing it on Street view, I can rest assure you that there is no downhill!

Next on the list is 1.1km of flat/ever so slight descent. Nothing too exciting but it could be a place to launch an attack with everyone on the limit from the previous steep ramps.

Finally, the road then goes up in steps for the following 2kms (4.9% average), with a handful of few hundred metre drags at 7/8% which are quickly back-ended with a few hundred metres of flat before another drag. Rinse and repeat.

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There is a ridiculously narrow street (see above) that leads onto a 15% kicker with around 400m of the climb to go.

Once over the top it is 4.5km of a mainly flat, albeit ever so slightly downhill, run to the line. With that run in taking place on a mostly straight main road, will any would be attackers be able to resist a potential chase from behind?

Team Tactics

Tre Valli is often a very tactical race where teams have numerous options to play and it looks as if tomorrow will be no different, despite the change in course. In theory, the easy final 4.5km does make a reduced bunch sprint at the end of the day a more favourable outcome than it was when they used the “traditional circuit” only. However, the almost 5km climb at 4.1% which has parts that are much harder than those figures suggest will split things up no doubt. It is more likely to split things up in my opinion than the finish climb in previous editions. Yet of course, we could see some teams hold back and commit fully to a sprint finish and save their riders to chase back in the final 4.5km. I don’t think that will happen though and it is wise to try to get riders up the road.

When do you attack though?

Leaving it until the final lap and that last climb will ensure that it is more of the traditional GC riders and strong puncheurs that are competing for the win. However, teams can play the numbers game and send people up the road earlier in the lap, or even on the penultimate circuit.

There are plenty of opportunities to create a gap and if enough of the “right teams” are represented then it could stay away until the finish.

Riders to Watch

As always for a pretty unpredictable race I could have around 20 guys down here and still not name the winner so I’ll do what I normally do and just name a handful for you to keep an eye on over the course of the afternoon. They might not necessarily win the day, but hopefully they put on a show.

Peter Kennaugh.

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After having a tough first half of his season due to various reasons, it was nice to see him take a win in the GP Cerami back in the tail end of July. However, it was his performance in the recent World Championships that really impressed me. On that day he delivered a solid team job, working on the front of the bunch hoping to set up Yates but the Mitchelton man didn’t have the legs. After recovering a little, Kennaugh then launched his own attack but because of the work done earlier, he couldn’t stick with the flying Valgren. Arriving here with more confidence because of that, the testing course should suit him and given its unpredictable nature, it just teases an attack from the former British champion.

Davide Villella.

Having rode two Grand Tours this year working for others, the Italian on the Astana team now arrives at “his time” in the season. Last year he produced a very strong string of results in the Italian Autumn one day races and I expect that to be no different this season. He started it off with a 12th in Emilia but the parcours here looks much more suited to his characteristics and I would expect him to feature at the pointy end. As someone who is possibly under rated by some of his opposition, he might just benefit from that and solo away in the closing kilometres.

Mattia Cattaneo.

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After an incredibly consistent 2017, the former Baby Giro winner has failed to live up to that potential this year. However, some solid results over the past few Italian races suggest that his form is on the up. He was on the attack in Emilia which was ultimately fruitless but at least the intentions were good. A lively rider, he could just be one to surprise.

Giovanni Visconti.

Arriving here as Bahrain’s second option isn’t exactly a bad thing for the veteran Italian. He always seems to come good at this time of year and a tricky course like this will no doubt see him on the attack at some point. Possibly lacking the punch he used to have in previous years, it would still be unwise to underestimate him. One good thing about being on the attack with Visconti is that he will work and it means that a strong Bahrain team will be staying put behind. Is it even a “surprise” result if he wins?

Prediction

A very cagey race gets blown apart on the first passage of the “long circuit” and we see a strong group get clear with the majority of the big teams represented. With all of the main favourites looking at each other behind the group stays away and Villella takes a landmark win.

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Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see a tactical race? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

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Tour of the Alps 2017 Stage 5 Preview; Smarano -> Trento

Today’s Recap

A mad, mad stage but it was a great watch!

For a while it looked as if the break was going to be caught just after the final climb of the day, but then the gap went back out again and we were left with Pirazzi and Frankiny up the road. Dupont attacked from the reduced peloton and spent a good 20km chasing the front two, finally making the bridge at around 6km left. However, not much later did the impetus go from the move and the peloton reeled them in at just over 1km from home.

A bunch sprint ensued and it was Montaguti who took the win, edging out Pinot, with a charging Dennis coming home third.

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That result means Pinot is only 13 seconds behind Thomas going in to tomorrow’s stage. Let’s take a look at what’s in store for them.

The Route

A tough stage to end the Tour that’s been given a 4-star rating by the organisers.

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It will be a fast start as the peloton descends from the gun, dropping down to the valley roads below, before tackling the uncategorised climb of Andalo. At a shade under 9km in length and averaging 5.5%, it’s not exactly an easy opening ramp for the bunch, but it only sets the tone for what’s to come later on in the day.

We then have a long period of shallow descent before the next proper climb on the day and it’s our first classified one; the Passo Durone.

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As you can see, the toughest part of the climb comes in the middle few kilometres, where it averages close to 9.8% for 3kms. It’s definitely too far out from the finish to be the scene of any action, but it will certainly wear the bunch down for the remainder of the stage.

There’s nothing overly exciting in the parcours for the next 40km or so but we then start the main part of the day with just over 75km left.

First of all the Passo Sant Udalrico which is a 7.1km unclassified ascent that averages 6.2%! There’s then a quick descent across the valley before continuing to head upwards and on to the ridiculously long Monte Bondone.

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19km at an average of 6%, ouch!

With several kilometres above 8%, if a team puts the hammer down at the front of the peloton then there could be some serious time gaps.

If you consider the road rises all the way once the peloton travels through Dro then you could say that the climb as a whole is 34.1km at 4.46%…

Yeah, that’s not my idea of fun!

What could almost be decisive as the climb though is the descent that follows, it’s incredibly technical with a lot of hairpin turns. A quick count and I got 30 in total! Clichés of asphalt spaghetti spring to mind.

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If someone is on the limit after the climb and isn’t confident in their descending abilities then they might have an issue here. Luckily for the peloton, it looks to be dry and sunny tomorrow otherwise the descent would be very treacherous and potentially dangerous.

With only 20km left when reaching the bottom of the descent, the riders I’m sure would hope that all the challenges for the day would be over. Well, they’re 90% right, but there is a 2km climb that summits with 7km left. It averages 9% for those 2km so is the perfect springboard for a late attack from the bunch.

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A group won’t have long to organise a chase as they descend all the way until 2km to go, before the run to the line.

How will the stage pan out/Contenders?

I expect fireworks!

Team Sky have been excellent this race so far and have done well to control it considering they only have 6 riders in total. Handily though, they do have two of the strongest riders at this event, in the form of Thomas and Landa. We saw in today’s stage however, that those two were left relatively isolated half-way up the final climb after the rest of the squad had been dropped. Deignan and Elissonde managed to get back on during the descent, but other teams will be looking at that and see it as a positive going in to tomorrow’s stage.

I think we’ll see some riders who aren’t their teams’ main protected rider, but a good second GC option/threat, attempt to get into the morning break on the opening climb of Andalo, i.e. a Cataldo or Bookwalter.  The Astana rider has been very active so far this race.

Consequently, it will force Sky to chase relatively hard from the outset and it will be a long day for their relatively small squad.

Of course, if those type of riders attempt to get into the break then there might not be a break at all for a while and several riders will be dropped from the peloton early. However, I think we will see something go and that will put the onus on Sky.

Nothing much will happen over the next 70km of racing as things settle down but the break will be kept on a tight leash and once we hit the foot slopes of Sant Udalrico we could see only 4 Sky riders at the front of the race. I would imagine that it would be Deignan, Elissonde, Landa and Thomas, and with the latter two being GC options, it’s going to be a tough ask for them to hold things together for the rest of the day.

Maybe the old cliché of “the best form of defence is attack” will come into play?

The Bondone is going to be crazy, expect attacks early and hard!

Cannondale have numbers in the top 10 and they’ll be one of the main protagonists of the stage. Carthy, Formolo and Rolland should be there, alternating attacks and forcing Landa to chase for Thomas.

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The problem is what I mentioned before; that Landa and Thomas look two of the strongest riders in the race and it will be hard to drop them. However, a relentless barrage of moves off the front of the peloton could see them put into difficulty.

They will need to be dropped before the final few kilometres of the climb as that is where it flattens out and Thomas should really be able to put the power down.

 

Oddly enough, after all that is said and done I think the race might still be together at the summit. Well, kind of. We’ll have no more than 12 riders at the head of the race!

From there, attacks or natural gaps on the descent might occur and that will continue onto the final 20km, with Landa and Thomas having to shadow everything.

The elastic will snap eventually with everyone on the limit and one or two riders will manage to get away. Thomas will hope that they aren’t as much of a threat on GC but that will be tough considering the quality that will be at the head of the race.

There are two relative outsiders I want to keep onside for tomorrow though and they’re both from the same team and nation…

Egan Bernal.

The young Colombian has been good so far this week and there is a lot of news circulating about a potential move to a World Tour team next season. Now, this may have a negative effect on him but I imagine it will be the opposite. He was one of the riders who made the original selection today on the final climb and the long ascent tomorrow should suit his diminutive nature. As a former mountain biker, he won’t be afraid of the descent tomorrow, that’s for sure. Considering he’s not as an immediate GC threat as other riders, he might just sneak away and take a momentous win!

Rodolfo Torres. 

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Likewise, Torres also made the front selection today of around 12 riders over the last climb of the day; he was the rider who narrowly avoided Scarponi when the Italian crashed on the descent! Another lightweight climber, he’ll be hoping to use that to his advantage over his more gravitationally challenged competitors. Certainly not a rider to be discounted.

Prediction

It will be a tough race, but the strength of Thomas and Landa will shine through and they’ll be able to mark the likes of Pozzovivo, Pinot etc out of the race. Instead, it will create an opportunity for a “lesser” rider to win the day and I’ll go for the precociously talented Bernal to seal the day!

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Betting

Both with Bet365;

0.5pt EW Bernal @ 66/1 (would take 40s)

0.5pt EW Torres @ 80/1 (would take 50s)

 

Thanks as always for reading and I hope you enjoyed the much longer blog today! Who do you think will win? Next on the blog will be Liege previews for men and women with one of them possibly coming out tomorrow, if not they’ll both be on Saturday. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Trofeo Laigueglia 2017 Preview

Trofeo Laigueglia 2017 Preview

After the GP Etruschi last weekend, Italian Cup action returns this Sunday with the 54th edition of the Trofeo Laigueglia.

Last year’s race was won by a late attack from Andrea Fedi in the final kilometres, holding off a small group behind that had escaped on the closing circuits around Laigueglia. With Colbrelli edging out Bole in the sprint for second place.

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The Route

After changing the route almost every other year, the organisers have this year stuck with the parcours that has been used in the past two editions.

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Big loop -> Medium sized loop -> Circuits of a small loop!

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The first GPM in Paravenna at 60km is 6.8km long, averaging 5.6% in gradient. Not overly tough for the peloton, but certainly a leg opener for later in the race.

We then have a descent and long flat section before the highest peak of the race at erm, ahem, Testico.

Now this climb was a real ball-ache to try to find figures for so I reverted back to what works best and made a Strava profile.

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Now, including that long false flat drag, the climb is 13.9km at 3% in gradient. However, starting at the 7km mark, the remaining 6.9km averages 4.6% with some sections over 9%.

Again, it’s not really challenging for the pros but it will sap the legs for the closing circuit. Speaking of which…

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As per, I’ve also made a strava profile that you can view here.

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The first climb on the circuit is 2km long, averaging 7.8% with ramps of 15% around some of the hairpin turns. Climbing this 3 times with the pace on will certainly hurt and it is a great place for a group to go clear; like we saw last year!

We then get a fast descent, that starts off technical, before reaching the flat roads through Andora and back to the coast line. The road then climbs again for 1.5km, averaging roughly 9.5%. Crest the climb with a good advantage and you have a good chance of making it to the line as there is 2km of a shallow descent followed by a flat finish to home!

How will the race pan out?

It’s only fair really to take into account the last two editions of the race as the course varied so much in the past.

Back in 2015, it was Lampre sprinter Davide Cimolai who managed to take the win. Beating Gavazzi and Tsatevich in a reduced 24-rider bunch sprint. Last year’s event, as mentioned earlier, was won by an attack from Andrea Fedi in the closing kilometres on the final downhill. He managed to hold off a pursuing group of 9 who sprinted for the remaining top 10 places.

I think we’ll see an aggressive race again this year, with maybe 15 riders at most coming home within 30 seconds of the winner.

Contenders

Diego Ulissi has to start as the favourite for this race.

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Off the back of a solid showing at the Tour Down Under, he went on to win GP Etruschi last weekend in miserable conditions. Attacking on the footslopes of the last climb, he quickly built up a good lead and was never seen again by the peloton. Making his move right at the bottom of the climb highlights to me the confidence he has in his condition just now and going off of that performance, he has every right to be confident!

However, the quality of climbers at Etruschi was not as strong as it is here this weekend so Ulissi won’t have it all his own way.

Etoile de Bessèges winner, Lillian Calmejane, arrives with a strong Direct Energie team. The young Frechman has the climbing ability to be able to match Ulissi here and will also be confident after last weeks showing. Having the likes of Chavanel and Voeckler to rely on will be a big aid for him. Being able to send riders on the attack and not have to follow everything, like Ulissi might have to do, should mean Calmejane is well rested for the final circuits. He is certainly capable of winning again this weekend!

Following on from his 3rd place in Etruschi, Francesco Gavazzi will be aiming further up the podium here. Not the best naturalised climber in the peloton, he will be hoping for a coming together in the closing kilometres and a reduced bunch sprint to the line.

Winning the only race he’s finished this year so far, Arthur Vichot will be hoping to continue his 100% record.

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A rider who has promised a lot in one-day races in the past, he certainly has the solid climbing abilities and good kick to contend here. Has he recovered from his flu that saw him pull out of Bessèges?

Delko Marseille will have a couple of cards to play in the form of El Fares and Finetto. The former finished 4th in Marseillaise at the start of the year so seems to be in good form. Likewise, Finetto finished a respectable 7th in that race, before coming home 3rd in a stage at Bessèges; beating Samuel Dumoulin in a sprint. Finetto normally goes well in these types of races and I’ll be very surprised if he doesn’t manage a top 5 placing here!

Astana arrive here with an interesting squad, but I imagine it will be Moreno Moser who will be leading the team. The 2012 winner of this race has struggled in the past after his incredible neo-pro season. However, last year he seemed to return to form with good showings in the Giro and Vuelta and I expect big things from him this year again. With a return from altitude camp on the cards and no racing in his legs, it will be very interesting to see how he performs here.

The team with my favourite hashtag in the peloton, Willier Triestina, will be looking towards Pozzato to either roll the clock back or for Matteo Busato to continue the good progression he showed last year. Although he’s not taken a professional victory yet, Busato took a number of Top 10s last season, including a very impressive 2nd place on the final stage at the Giro del Trentino. Following a pretty much non-existant Dubai Tour, I’m sure he’ll want to impress back on home soil. #LoveMyWillier.

The Italian National team has three candidates to go well here; Felline, Trentin and Bettiol. All on their day have the credentials to take a podium place here but I’m unsure of what their current form will be like.

Other names to keep an eye on are; Andreetta, Bouet and Torres.

Prediction

Ulissi is the clear favourite but I have a sneaking suspicion that Moser will be fired up for this race. He won’t get many chances to lead Astana this year so will want to make his mark nice and early!

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There is absolutely no PFCL fantasy team bias in this preview at all…none…ok…maybe a little.

 

Thanks for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated as always! How do you think the race will play out? Will it be a solo winner, or a reduced bunch sprint? I shall have an Oman GC preview out tomorrow evening sometime. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.