Milano-Torino 2018 Preview

Another day, another Italian race and this time it is the oldest one-day event in the country: Milano Torino.

Last season saw a barnstorming Rigoberto Uran take the win after attacking quite early on the final climb of the day and holding on to the finish.

Cycling: 98th Milano - Torino 2017

A fast finishing Adam Yates could only manage second with Aru, who attacked even earlier than Uran, rounding out the podium. Will the Colombian manage to make it two in a row this year and three for his nation? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Fans of the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, the organisers have once again came up with a pretty similar route this year. There is a slight change in the middle of the day with a few more hills and an extra 14kms of riding to boot.

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Nonetheless, it should all come down to the final 30kms and the two ascents of Superga.

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On the first effort the riders will complete only 4.29km of the climb, making it ever so slightly steeper than when the climb is taken as a whole. Well, when I say that, the average gradient is 9.137% for that part of the climb. Compared to the 9.081% for the ascent as a whole then there isn’t much difference, I’m just being pedantic!

That’s about it for the route, nothing too exciting but the riders do make the race.

How will the day pan out?

The race tends to be very formulaic until we get to the first ascent of the Superga: a breakaway makes it up the road and is then controlled by the teams of the favourites and of those without a rider in the move. Fairly standard procedure.

However, we then have a few potential outcomes as to what could happen from there.

Given that the first passage crests with just under 20km to go, then it is very feasible that a counter attack launched here could make it all the way to the line. Of course, for it to succeed then many of the favourites’ teams would need to be represented. If not, there will probably be enough firepower behind to bring it back, but it will have a lasting impact as to how the race is controlled from there.

In 2016, we saw Kennaugh hold on from the original break until the flat 5km section that bridges the descent and the climb. Once he was caught, the impetus went from the peloton and a splinter group made it off of the front. As the majority of teams were represented, there was very little cohesion behind (although there was little up ahead too to be fair), the front group managed to gain a reasonable time gap. Our top two on the day ended up being from that selection and there is a possibility something like that happens again this year; where the “second in command” riders get up the road while the favourites stay behind and mark each other out.

Of course, the final option is that everything is held together until the final climb and that the best rider on the day wins. That’s what happened back in 2015 when Diego Rosa took off at 2.6km to go and was never seen again. To make that win even better, he managed to make the move in front of his own fan club!

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Similarly, it is the same option/race outcome that we had last year when Uran won.

So how will it pan out this year?

I’m not entirely sure, both the splinter group getting away or a main contender showdown are almost equally likely in my opinion. What is interesting is that we have a few of the big names for Saturday deciding to skip this race; Nibali, Uran, Woods, Bardet and Roglic to name a few. Will that make their teams ride more aggressively? Will other squads try to seize the opportunity and hold things together knowing some of the better guys aren’t here. We saw today that Pinot is in great form at the moment and Valverde was there where he needed to be too. A win for either of them would be great but I’m sure they’ll be confident enough of there form and might just have one eye on Saturday. Consequently, that tips it ever so slightly in favour of a splinter group getting away and fighting it out for the win so that’s the option I’ll go with.

Four to Watch

Like with my preview for Tre Valli Varesine, I’m just going to highlight some guys to keep an eye out for throughout the day and who will hopefully be active, even if they don’t win.

Tiesj Benoot.

After what seems like an injury plagued second half to the season, Benoot has performed well in the two one-day races he has completed since the Vuelta. He had a poor day at the Worlds but showed that there is still form there with a good 6th place in Paris Tours. A possible “what could have been day” had he not punctured and have to chase back on. Arriving at this race as co-leader with Wellens, I would expect them to animate the race on the first ascent of Superga. Despite his original career trajectory as a one-day Classics rider, Benoot has shown so far this season that he can more than handle his own on the climbs too. Will this be another “breakthrough” ride in that sense?

Diego Rosa.

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A former winner of this race and with his fan club no doubt at the 2.6km to go mark (see above), the Sky rider will be motivated for this one tomorrow. However, the issue lies with the fact his form hasn’t exactly been sparkling as of late. He looked a bit lacklustre in Tre Valli and struggled to close a gap to the head of the race but he seems fairly positive in his latest Instagram post so who knows. One thing he has going for him is before that great win in 2015, his form was arguably equally as uninspiring so who knows. I’d expect him to go on that attack at some point but will he have enough to take the win? Probably not.

Gianluca Brambilla.

Oh so close to a great result in Emilia before he fell foul of the #HaugheyCurse and punctured at the bottom of the San Luca climb. Brambilla was so enraged at that he didn’t even bother to finish the race and if I’m honest, I don’t blame him – the win was his for the taking. Returning to racing today in TVV, he looked solid and finished in the chase group behind our winner, sprinting to 10th place. I would like to see him go on the attack early because I don’t think he has the legs to win it from the peloton, unless there is some looking around, but he seems in great shape just now and I wouldn’t underestimate him.

Jan Hirt.

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Now where did I put my overused “Hirt locker” joke? Astana arrive here with a strong squad that on paper has several options, with Fuglsang and Lopez as the arguable leaders. However, Hirt is a very good card to play and the Czech rider came out of the Vuelta with some decent shape; finishing a very respectable 17th at the Worlds. He’s not had many chances to chase his own results in what is his first year with the world tour outfit but he showed in 2017 just what he can do on the steep slopes. I think he is a danger man. Just waiting for that inevitable DNF now…

Prediction

A tactical race where a lot of the main players want to keep their powder dry for Saturday, allowing for a group to escape clear before the final ascent and fight out for the win. I’ll go with a lively Brambilla to make it two from two for Trek.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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Tour de Pologne 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Kraków -> Kraków

GC Thoughts

As I don’t have enough time to do a full GC preview I thought I’d include them at the start of this preview.

Last year we saw Tim Wellens secure the overall title in absolutely horrendous conditions on Stage 5.

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He won that stage by almost 4 minutes and it highlights how bad the weather can get in the region. There is some rain forecast for this week but it changes severity and when/where it will fall every day so there is no point looking too far ahead.

As for the stages themselves, it will be stages 3, 6 and 7 that decide GC. Although it will mainly be 6 and 7. Stage 6 is almost a carbon copy of the stage Wellens won last year, with Stage 7 very similar to the day that was cancelled last year due to the weather.

The bookmakers have made Sagan their favourite, which is hilarious. I know that we will most likely see Tour Sagan here,  meaning that he can climb better than Spring Sagan, but the final two days will be too tough for him, even with the bonus seconds he should get. They’re proper GC days.

However, calling an actual winner of the race will be tough. Riders arrive all over the place in terms of form and looking towards the end of the season. We have no real dominant teams with stand-out riders so to speak, and most squads have a couple of guys who could theoretically challenge. Therefore, I’m hoping that we see some aggressive and unpredictable racing over the coming week!

As for a name to throw into the hat, I think Jan Hirt could go well here. With a breakthrough performance at the Tour of Croatia, swiftly followed up by an even more outstanding 12th on GC at the Giro, he really is having the best season of his career so far. Riding for Polish Pro-conti team CCC Sprandi Polkowice, I imagine they’ll have targeted this race to go well at. Looking at their squad, Hirt looks like the rider best suited for a GC push and if he picks up where he left off at the Giro, he is a dark horse here.

Enough of me throwing about wild outsiders for the overall, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the opening day of racing

The Route

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You might be tricked into thinking that tomorrow is a day that wouldn’t look out-of-place in the Ardennes. However, once you realise that they Y-axis is completely messed up then you’ll realise it is a straight forward sprinters stage!

TDP Stage 1

Like I have done for throughout the Tour of Poland, I have made a profile of the opening stage. (The one you see above).

It is almost pan-flat throughout the day with very little to worry the sprinters. The only thing that might cause them some concern is the little 6.7% kicker in the closing circuit, but I mean that is really stretching things as it only lasts for 135m!

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The closing circuit itself is very straightforward with only a few tight turns. Once the riders pass under the Flamme Rouge it is a straight run in to the line. There is one traffic island that splits the road briefly at ~800m to go but that is all there is by means of difficulties for the riders.

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We should see a really fast sprint and a big fight for position between the lead-outs. Unfortunately, this could lead to a crash as it often seems to be on the most simple run-ins that riders come into difficulty.

Sprint Contenders – A Two Horse Race?

Ewan.

The Aussie pocket rocket starts as the bookmakers favourite and I can understand why. A flat stage with a criterium style finish sounds right up the Orica riders street. He’s proven himself to be one of the fastest sprinters in the world on these types of finishes and in a lacklustre field he will fancy his chances. Having Mezgec as last man for him could be crucial.

Sagan.

Bitterly disappointed to be kicked out of the Tour, he will no doubt be here with a point to prove. With his season’s goals now shifted ever so slightly; I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him go to the Vuelta. This race will be ideal for him to keep his legs ticking over. He was flying in the pure sprints at the Tour de Suisse and I see no reason for that to be any different here. He’ll be Ewan’s biggest rival.

Away from those two we have several riders who will be hoping to challenge for the podium and with a bit of luck, possibly sneak the win. I won’t talk much about them as I don’t really know what to expect after most of them not having raced for a while.

Modolo.

Tour of Croatia 2017

Has shown a lot of promise this year, including a fairly strong cobbled campaign. God-awful at the Giro (I’ll blame myself for that one), he bounced back fairly strongly to win d’Argovie, yet he was trounced by Sagan in Suisse. I think the latter might happen again.

Bonifazio – A hot and cold sprinter. Sometimes seems like he could be the next big thing, but more often than not is out of position and finishes fast.

Van Poppel – Hasn’t really had an opportunity to shine at Sky this season but on his day he has a good turn of speed.

Walscheid – Has taken 5 pro sprint wins in his career, all of which were at Hainan last year. Can he make the step up at World Tour level? In this field he has a chance.

Sbaragli – Would prefer something tougher but the Dimension Data rider has one of the best lead-outs here. Will that be enough to see him onto the podium?

Debuscherre – Not really taken the step forwards that I had hoped this season. A fast rider on his day, he doesn’t have much support so will have to freewheel.

Minali – Fast young Italian sprinter who should enjoy the pan-flat nature of the route. Could surprise like he did at the start of the season.

Prediction

Two horse race and going purely off of form, I have to give this one to Sagan!

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He was on another level in Suisse and who knows what he could have done at the Tour. After losing out to Ewan in January, he’ll want to remind him and everyone that’s watching of how fast he is!

Betting

GC wise I’m going to have a small one on;

Hirt 0.25pt EW @ 150/1 with various.

Stage 1;

2.5pts WIN Sagan @ 3/1 with SkyBet. (Would take 11/4 with others)

 

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow and the race overall? If you haven’t already, please do check out my Ride London Classique and San Sebastian previews that are on the site already. Thanks! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 15 Preview; Valdengo -> Bergamo

Apologies again, but this will be swift as I’ve been away out this afternoon for my Granddad’s birthday so don’t really have enough time do a massively in-depth preview. Unfortunately that means no time for the #Wongshot.

Today’s Recap

Wow, wow, wow!

I didn’t think Dumoulin would lose much time today, less than ten seconds or so but instead the Dutchman gained time on his rivals. Zakarin was closest, with a valiant Landa finishing third on the day.

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As for Quintana, he came home fourth in the end. Maybe in hindsight it would have been better for him to sit in until around 2km to go and use his explosive kick there as he seemed to go too early, allowing for Dumoulin to TT his way back up to him.

It leaves the Dutchman in a commanding position going into the final week with tomorrow’s breakaway stage unlikely to cause any GC splits.

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

The Route

A stage similar today in the sense that it starts relatively flat, before the majority of the climbing action happens in the final third.

The route also pays homage to Il Lombardia, with the final 50m being the same that we saw in the 2016 edition of that race.

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With that being said, it is actually undulating for most of the stage tomorrow and at almost 200km long, I’m sure a lot of the riders will be looking at it and hoping for another rest day.

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The Miragolo San Salvatore is the first major obstacle of the day and the Cat-2 climb averages almost 6.9% for its 8.7km. Although that average is brought down due to an easier start, the majority of the climb is over 7.5%.

We could see an early selection from the break here.

Once over the summit there is a fast descent before the Cat-3 climb of Selvino.

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An easier climb at only 5.4% average for 6.9km. It will be ridden at a steady tempo but it will be tough to drop anyone, unless of course they’re still struggling from the pressure on the previous ascent.

The riders will then descend (although a lot less severely in some parts) to the final kicker of the day before the run in to the line.

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Short, sweet, but tough! Averaging 7.9% for 1.6km, but including a ramp at 12% and a 500m stretch at close to 10%, this is where any remaining break will explode. If you get over the summit with a few seconds then you should be able to hold it all the way to the line!

As I mentioned above, the stage isn’t difficult enough for any GC action but is too tough for the sprinters so you guessed it, time to play everyone’s favourite game…

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Contenders

Like today’s stage, the quandary is that to win the stage you need to be a good climber, but to get into the break you need to be solid on the flat and also have a large slice of luck. I like to call it the breakaway cocktail! Anyway, I’ll throw a few names into the hat of riders that definitely won’t be making it into the move after I curse them.

Winner Anacona – The other Movistar Colombian looks electric right now and I have been very impressed with the power he’s been putting down at the front of the race. He even put his own team-mate Amador into difficulty today. With Quintana struggling today, Movistar will look to bounce back with a stage win tomorrow and Anacona could be that man. Far enough down on GC not to be an issue in the break, I’m not sure anyone will be able to drop him on the uphill.

Jan Hirt – I was pleasantly surprised to see the CCC rider finish in 12th place today, indiciating that he has some good form towards the end of this second week. He’s been fairly anonymous this Giro so far after a good showing in Croatia but that may be due to saving himself for stage wins. Sitting 20th on GC, he’s still far enough behind the top 10 to be given some leeway tomorrow and he could well surprise again! Can he put the Hirt on everyone else?

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Rudy Molard – With Pinot struggling a bit today, the FDJ DS might give the nod for a couple of their “second-tier” domestiques to chase a stage win. Molard has had a solid debut season for the French outfit after switching from rivals Cofidis at the end of last year, picking up a top 10 at Fleche and a top 20 at Liege along the way. I like his explosive kick and would fancy him to hold his own on the steep closing ramps tomorrow. Can he solo away for victory?

Sebastian Henao – There has to be a Sky rider on every list from now until the end of the race and I’ll go with my second Colombian! He lasted fairly long on the climb today, helping Landa get positioned near the front of the peloton, in fact, I think he was the last helper for the Spaniard. Small in stature, he might struggle to get into the break on the flat-lands but he was up there fighting today so I think he’ll give it another go tomorrow. It will be a massive opportunity for him to ride for his own glory for once, can he take it?

Prediction

Definite break winner, both the rider and I just have to be lucky about getting in it!

I’ll go for Movistar to bounce back and Anacona to take the win. He has looked exceptional on the climbs so far and it will be tough for anyone to beat him if he makes the move!

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Plus, he gives me the best “headline”!

Betting

Small punts on each of the riders (0.5pt on them all);

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Would take 80/150/150/200 at the lowest price for all of them.

Right, thanks for reading as always and apologies that this is slightly more skimmed than normal. Although saying that, it is still pretty much 1000 words long! Any feedback is greatly appreciated as normal. Who do you think will take the win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.