Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 10 Preview: Penne -> Gualdo Tadino

Rest Day Recap

On stage 9 we once again so the break caught close to the finish, although this time it was at 3km to go for Masnada who saw his hopes of a dream stage win dashed. It’s a shame as he was certainly the strongest in the move, he’ll get some more chances throughout this race though…

The GC battle therefore turned into a fight for the stage too. We saw a few digs from the riders, namely Ciccone who found himself off the front on two occasions after he decided to chill in the peloton with the big guys all day. Froome was dropped and sensing blood Pozzovivo lit it up at the front of the group, almost sprinting the final 500m. He distanced everyone aside from Yates, Pinot and Chaves who came round him, finishing in that order.

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The result means that the Mitchelton rider strengthens his GC lead: he’s currently 32 seconds ahead of team-mate Chaves, with Dumoulin a further 6 seconds behind in third. With plenty of racing still to go, it will be interesting to see how long he can hold the Maglia Rosa and what approach Mitchelton take.

Tomorrow’s stage should be a quiet one for them, but you never know who is going to go well after a rest day or not. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

A tough day out in the saddle with roughly 4000m of climbing which also happens to be this year’s longest stage at 239km.

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No doubt we’ll see plenty of pictures circulating around Twitter in the morning of guys warming up on the rollers beforehand as the toughest test of the day comes from the gun. There is a little climb followed by a quick drop down before the Cat-2 climb of Fonte della Creta begins at just 5.6km into the day.

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The climb averages just under 6% for 15.7km and will certainly be a rude awakening for some. Expect a fierce pace as a strong group tries to form the break of the day.

Once over the top though, that is the only major climb out-of-the-way for the stage. However, the climbing doesn’t stop and we have a parcours that is very similar to stage 4 where the road is just up or down. The Cat-4 climb of Annifo crests with 30kms still remaining but I’m not sure the 1km at 7% will scare anyone. It could be a nice place to launch an attack though.

The final 18km could see a very tactical battle as riders try to escape while others will want to hold it together.

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It looks flat on the official profile and while there may not be many hills to speak of, the short kickers will thin the bunch out if the pace is high.

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Considering the pretty technical final 1.5km, it appears the organisers do not think this will be a sprint finish. Speaking of which…

How will the stage pan out?

A battle between the break and the sprinters teams.

Given the tough climb at the start of the day we should see a group of strong guys make up the escape but with it being the aforementioned climb that a break most likely forms on, they aren’t exactly going to be the best baroudeurs for the remaining 200km. Luckily for them, there are plenty of small rises throughout the day where they can continue to put the hurt on.

Will we see the sprint squads want to set tempo all afternoon to try to bring it back?

No, is the simple answer!

I am ready and prepared to eat my hat but tomorrow is 100% a breakaway day. I’m intrigued to see how things play out in the final 30km with the “flatter” terrain. It will certainly help if your team has a couple of riders in the move and consequently I think we could see a group of 22 or something similar escape in the end.

Time to play everyone’s favourite game again, although if you follow me on Twitter, the next bit has already been spoiled for you!

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David De La Cruz.

Sky have been abysmal this race so far and with Froome very much sub-par at the moment I think they might try their hand at going for stages. The only issue with this idea is that they’ve only ever took this approach at the Giro once their leader has left the race, so with Froome still here, will they stubbornly stick to Plan A? Tomorrow is the acid test and I think De La Cruz offers them a good stage hunting option. He’s strong enough to make the break on the climb but he’s also fairly handy on the flat too. We’ve seen in Paris Nice that he has a good kick on him against climbers so he might not mind bringing it down to a very reduced sprint.

Fausto Masnada.

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A performance on stage 9 that won many hearts, Masnada is the gutsy type of rider who will go for it again at some point. We saw how strong he was the other day, dropping a lot of good break companions who had no match for his stinging acceleration and hard pace. I’m pretty sure Androni have made the break every day so far and I will be incredibly surprised not to see them in the move again tomorrow, in fact, we’ll probably see a couple of them there. If Masnada replicates the same performance then he will be a tough character to beat if he times his attack correctly!

Tanel Kangert.

Astana went all in on stage 9 for a Lopez victory but he fell short in the end. With that, I think we’ll see a few of their strong domestiques let of the leash tomorrow and the stage looks perfect for the likes of Sanchez and Kangert. Both are more than competent on the climbs and they can hold their own in the closing 30kms. Having the two of those guys there will make the rest of the break easy as they can launch vicious 1-2s until the move sticks. Kangert is slowly finding his form again after 2017 was ruled out due to injury. Can he rekindle that spark he had in 2016?

Krists Neilands.

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The rider who sparked Nibali’s Milano Sanremo raid, Neilands is a talented Latvian climber, come one-day rider. His 2018 has been a bit disappointing so far with a 7th place at GP Industria the only result to shout home about. However, he showed a lot of class last year to finish 10th on GC at the Volta a Portgual which is notoriously one of the toughest races of the year outside the Grand Tours. He’s obviously a talented guy! Israel Cycling Academy have been a bit disappointing so far and nowhere near as attacking as I thought they would be. That needs to change, otherwise their wildcard was a waste of time (and Israel’s money). Maybe Neilands has been saving it all for tomorrow?

Prediction

None of them will win though, instead we’ll see a flying Giulio Ciccone take the day.

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He nearly caused a bit of a shock on the last day of racing when he attacked out the GC group and got a bit of a gap. It was an impressive display of power as he went forward, Froome went back. That will certainly give the Bardiani man confidence! The stage departs from Penne tomorrow which is not too far away from Ciccone’s home town and we’ve seen in the past what that can do for motivation – take Visconti’s second place on stage 5 for example. He won Appennino from a three-up sprint, can he repeat the feat tomorrow? Looking back at the results from after the first rest day last year it was a time trial so there is not much to take from it, but guess who won in 2016 after the rest day? Yep, Ciccone!

Betting

Already tweeted out my selections the other day.

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Odds have shortened on them all, but most are backable at their current prices.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Abu Dhabi Tour 2017 – GC Preview

Abu Dhabi Tour 2017 – GC Preview

Started back in 2015, the Abu Dhabi Tour in its first two editions was an end of season filler. Typically consisting of 3 sprint stages and one mountain top finish that decided the GC, it was a race for those winding down at the end of the year; trying to get one final result.

However, that changes ever so slightly this year with its move to the start of the season in February as riders look to build form for their up and coming objectives. Its swanky new World Tour status means that teams will be hunting those elusive WT points so I expect the race to be a little more intense than it has been in the past.

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The defending champion, Tanel Kangert, is back here to defend his crown but it may be hard for him to do so considering some of the climbing talent that we have here for this edition.

First however, let’s have a look at what the riders will face over the coming week.

The Route

Stage 1 features an “out and back” course through the desert, starting and finishing in Madinat Zayed.

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A day that will end in a sprint and the fight for the first leader’s jersey. There is a roundabout at roughly 700m to go that will cause the bunch to be very spread out so positioning will be important. Can the wind have any impact on the stage?

Stage 2 and yep, another sprint.

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This time the riders travel around the outskirts and suburbs of Abu Dhabi itself, before finishing along the marina. A right-hand turn at 300m to go can shake things up.

Stage 3 sees the day that will decide the GC battle with the finish up Jebel Hafeet.

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10.8km long and averaging 6.6%, it is a a fairly challenging climb; especially when you consider that the middle 7km average 8%. This is the section where proper time gaps can be made! Who will be the rider to take the stage and GC glory?

Stage 4 and what is in my opinion, one of the worst stages in the calendar year. 26 laps of the Yas Marina motor racing circuit.

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If you watch more than 10 minutes of this on Sunday instead of Kuurne, we can’t be friends! It does have some technical turns going for it in the final kilometre which may liven things up. But yeah, I despise this stage with a passion.

GC Battle

As I’ve mentioned above, the GC battle for this race all comes down to the climb up Jebel Hafeet. With there being no time-trial or rolling stage to contend with, it is possible for a pure climber to be involved in the shakedown too. The step up to World Tour level has increased the number of contenders here and we should have an exciting battle on our hands! I’ll just run through the start list in order.

Starting with the defending champion Kangert and his Astana team. Unfortunately for the Estonian I can’t see him repeating last year’s performance this season. Instead, the Kazakh outfit will turn to Fabio Aru as their main charge here. Off the back of a solid performance at Oman, Aru will be looking to continue his preparation for the Giro with another good outing here. He many not be at his best to win the race, but he should at least be aiming for a top 5 finish. (Or at least I’m hoping so for my fantasy team!)

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Bardet comes here after a disappointing race in Oman. He was positioned relatively well going into the Green Mountain stage but was one of those riders involved in the crash that day, which really hampered his end result. Making an attack on the final day shows to me that he was frustrated and that his form is good. Certainly don’t discount him after one performance.

Nibali makes his first World Tour outing with new team Bahrain Merida after finishing 8th in San Juan back in January. Always a hard one to judge form wise, I would not be surprised if the Shark wins here, or if he finishes down in 23rd!

After their success in Oman, BMC will be hoping that Tejay Van Garderen can continue the winning streak in the Middle East. Going off of recent history, the American does seem to start of the season very well; finishing 2nd on GC at his opening stage race of the year for 4 seasons in a row. Can he make it 5 here or even finish one place higher?

Rafał Majka will get his first taste of GC leadership with Bora at this race. Another who starts off the year fairly well, he’s only had two race days so far in Spain so it is tough to gauge where he is at. However, with it being only a mountain top finish and no time trial, he certainly has a chance of a podium.

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Quintana obviously starts as the big favourite here after blowing everyone away in Valenciana. The Colombian doesn’t just race to come 7th, he races to win and very rarely misses out on at least a podium at a stage race. If he’s continued that from from Spain, it should be no different here!

Quickstep will turn to Alaphilippe or Brambilla as their GC prospects here. Unfortunately though, they’ll either need to be in excellent form or get a massive dose of luck to challenge for the title here. A top 10 is manageable though!

Kudus will hope to go better than he did in Oman. A great talent, he really needs to develop the race management and tactical nous to his riding. Often he seems to attack too early which costs him in the closing kilometres. If he finally gets that right here then he could sneak onto the podium with a bit of luck!

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Kruijswijk and Gesink will lead a two-pronged attack for Jumbo. On a climb like this, I’d almost say Gesink is better than his counterpart. Can they compete with Quintana and co this early in the season? Meh, probably not. Or maybe they will. I don’t know!

Another rider making his season debut is Tom Dumoulin. The Dutchman had a disappointing end to last year and I’m intrigued to see if he’s recovered mentally from that. It’s once again guesswork as to where his form is. Do you have any idea?! I think he’ll go OK, but not great, maybe 6th or something similar.

Trek come here with two great GC candidates; Contador and Mollema. They’ve both shown good early season form with Contador coming second in Ruta del Sol, and Mollema winning the GC in San Juan. The former says that he is going to work for the latter here, focussing more on Paris Nice which starts in just under two weeks time. An elaborate ruse, or is he telling the truth? Contador does seem like a team player so it is certainly plausible, but I’m more intrigued to see the logistics behind it. Will he attack to force others to follow, with Mollema sitting on? Or will he be the guy chasing attacks down? Either way, I’ll be very surprised if one of them is not on the podium by the end of the week!

Finally, “local” team, UAE Fly Emirates have two riders who can challenge the top 10, in Costa and Ulissi. But I can’t see them doing any better than that.

There are some teams/riders that I’ve missed out, but I don’t want to keep you here all day!

Prediction

Quintana more than likely wins. Boring I know, but I’m hardly ever like this so I’m allowed to do it at least once or twice a season, right?

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Bardet and Mollema to round out the podium!

Betting

Think there is a bit of value away from the top of the order and with my 2 podium shouts. The debate I’m having with myself is if it’s worthwhile backing them for GC, or just waiting until Stage 3?!

Will Bardet start as a 10/1 shot on Stage 3, likewise, will Mollema start at 18/1 (current GC prices with Betfair)?

Hmmmm. I think I’ll just leave it until Saturday: unless of course odds elsewhere are much better! If Bardet is 14s anywhere I’ll take that, the same with Mollema at 22/1.

So a no bet, for now.

 

Thanks for reading and as per usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do oyu think will win? Can anyone beat Quintana? I will have a Stage 1 preview out later today, most likely evening some point when we get more odds available. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tour of Oman 2017 GC Preview

Tour of Oman 2017 GC Preview

Now in its 8th incarnation, the Tour of Oman has cemented itself as the toughest stage race in the Middle East. Well, in my opinion anyway! With a good mix of stages for the sprinters, classics guys and GC men, the race itself usually attracts a very strong start list and that’s no different this year.

The 2016 edition was won by Vincenzo Nibali, after a strong showing on the Green Mountain. With Romain Bardet and team-mate Jakob Fuglsang rounding out the podium.

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This year, the order of the stages has changed ever so slightly, but the parcours remains the same. Let’s have a look!

The Route

Stage 1 should see a sprint at the end of the day and we’ll probably have a battle between Kristoff and Boonen for the first leader’s jersey of the race.

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Stage 2 and a return to the very exciting opening stage we had last year.

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The climb of Al Jissah is 2.5km long at 8%. It is potentially tough enough to create some gaps, but the best climbers here last year matched each other quite well. Instead, it was the downhill run to the line that saw Bob Jungels power away from everyone and take the win.

Stage 3 and a hill-top finish.

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At 2.5km long with an average gradient of 6.9%, it is possible for some of the punchy classics riders to hold on. This was evident last year with Boasson Hagen winning the stage and Van Avermaet finishing in third, with Nibali wedged in between them!

Stage 4 and another opportunity for the punchy classics riders.

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It used to be 4 ascents of the Bousher Al Amerat climb, however, this was changed to 3 last year to try to give the sprinters more of a chance. That didn’t go to plan, as Kristoff finished over a minute down on stage winner Boasson Hagen. Although Gerald Ciolek did finish in 6th, so it is possible!

Stage 5 and the now traditional Queen stage finish up Jabal Al Akhdar or Green Mountain as it’s otherwise known as.

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This finish is tough! Steep gradients combined with warm (not ridiculously hot, but warm for this time of year) weather normally makes this a real slog for the riders.

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Last year they finished further up the climb, however they’ve returned the finish line to its original position for this year’s race. The winner of this stage normally takes the GC title.

Stage 6 and one stage for the sprinters to finish off the Tour.

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GC Contenders

With the tough finishing climb on Stage 5 it is safe to say that the GC should be won by a very solid climber. Last year, Boasson Hagen managed to win 2 stages and finish 10th on the Green Mountain, but that was only enough to finish 6th overall; a minute down on race winner Nibali. There is the possibility that we could see some gaps before the Queen stage if attacks on stages 2/3/4 aren’t marked by the main contenders.

It’s also very hard to know where riders form is at this current moment. Are they looking to ease themselves into the season? Or do they want to start off strong? Nonetheless…

Astana come here with a strong team; Aru, Fuglsang and Kangert are all capable of leading here. With Fuglsang aiming for a good GC at the Tour this year, I can’t see him going incredibly well here. He does have the advantage of racing in his legs already though, with a 6th place on GC at Valenciana. Will that be enough to win here?! Aru had a fairly poor 2016, but I expect him to be much better this year. Saying that, he never starts the season in scintillating form, often taking a race to get going. He’s been preparing at altitude along with Kangert, so in theory he should be able to cope with the elevation of Green Mountain. Although I imagine the temperature difference between Oman and Sierra Nevada will be quite big! Kangert is certainly a dark-horse for this race.

Romain Bardet will be hoping to go one better than his second place last year. He started off strongly here before having his best season to date. The climb up Green Mountain is good for him, and with is descending skills he may try to take advantage on Stages 2 and 4. Has he arrived here in good condition? If so, a win is certainly achievable!

Ben Hermans finished 2nd at the recent Volta a la Comunnitat Valenciana, behind an exceptionally strong Nairo Quintana. His performance on the Queen Stage there wasn’t mesmerising, just solid. Saying that, he did finish 6 seconds ahead of Fuglsang so will be confident coming up against him here. The slightly less severe gradients in Oman should suit him more than the ones he faced in Spain. A top 5 will be his minimum aim.

After his exceptional win on Stage 1 last year, Bob Jungels slowly drifted down the GC standings, ending up in 23rd place. However, he later went on to shine at the Giro d’Italia, finishing an exceptional 6th on GC. Having already raced in Dubai so far this year and doing monster turns on the front of the peloton there, he could well be given the chance to test his climbing legs here. If not, Quick Step may turn to David De La Cruz as their leader.

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Rui Costa claimed the win on the Queen Stage at the Vuelta San Juan back in January, with an impressive climbing display. Fifth on GC here last year, the parcours certainly seems to suit him and if he’s continued that climbing form then he has a real chance to get on the podium.

Dimension Data will have two, even three (Lachlan Morton), potential leaders with them in Oman. After a great Tour Down Under, Nathan Haas, will be looking to continue that fine form at this race. On paper, Green Mountain is too tough for him but he showed at the TdU he can spring a surprise on a tough climb. He stops racing for over a month after Oman has finished. Will he go out with a bang or peter out? I’m leaning more towards the latter as the Green Mountain really is on his on limits. Therefore, I think it will be Merhawi Kudus leading the team. Still only young, the Eritrean put in a great performance in Valenciana last week, finishing 2nd on the Queen Stage behind Quintana. Sixth on Green Mountain here last year, he’ll need to stop losing time on the “easier” stages to contend for a GC podium but that’s certainly possible!

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Other riders who could make the top 10 are; Rein Taaramäe, Janier Acevedo and Daniel Diaz.

Prediction

Bardet and the Astana boys will be tough to beat but I really liked the way Rui Costa was climbing in San Juan. His team UAE Abu Dhabi have started the season off strong and I expect that to continue. They’ll obviously want to go well in Abu Dhabi itself later in the month, but winning here would be a good starting point!

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Merhawi Kudus to sneak onto the podium too!

Betting

As of now, no bet. Costa and Kudus are remarkably short, was hoping something closer to 10/1 for Rui and 33/1 for Kudus. If we get those prices elsewhere then it might be worth a dabble!

Thanks for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated as always! Who do you think will win GC? Any outsiders with a chance? Unfortunately I won’t have daily previews of this race out as I’ll be covering Algarve and Del Sol too so some race has to miss out. Oman’s lack of live TV coverage really letting it down! I will try to maybe do twitter mini-previews for the stages but there will be nothing more than that. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

 

Il Lombardia 2016 Preview

Il Lombardia 2016 Preview

The race with the pretty name, the “Classica delle foglie morte”, is the final Monument of the year. Traditionally a race for the climbers and very strong Ardennes riders, the 2015 edition was won by a commanding Vincenzo Nibali, who attacked on the penultimate descent and managed to hold on to take the win.

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This year the organisers have taken the amount of climbing to a whole new level…

The Route

Ouch!

lombardiasp Just look at that profile, particularly the second half, it wouldn’t look out-of-place as a Grand Tour Queen stage. Saying that, they wouldn’t have a stage at 240km long!

The first real challenge the riders come to is the Valico di Valcava. I’m disregarding the iconic Madonna del Ghisalo purely because it comes too close to the start.valico-di-valcava

The Valcava as you can see is a real brute of a climb. If this was a GT, it would probably be defined as a Cat1/HC depending on what classification you use. The 3km section at 11.6% could rip the peloton to shreds if a team decides to take it up early.

Once the riders have reached the summit, I’m sure they’ll be glad to know that there is just under 100km and 5 climbs left!

Next is the Berbenno; 6.5km in length and at only 5.1% it doesn’t warrant a profile from the organisers. The riders will tackle a fast descent before they go climbing again up the Sant’Antonia Abbandonato.

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Another very steep climb, the average gradient of 8.9% is deceiving because the opening and closing kilometres are significantly easier than the  rest of the climb which averages over 10%. Another plunge into the valley follows before the Miragolo San Salvatore.

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A much steadier and not as harsh climb at only 7% for it’s 8.7km. With it topping out at 40km to go, I can’t see this climb being taken at a leisurely pace. The strong climbers will hope to distance any stragglers here!

A short 5km descent follows before they tackle the penultimate climb of the day.

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With the climb being relatively shallow, it will be tough for the riders to make any real inroads here. A strong group however, would be able to take back/ gain a good bit of time here if there was enough cohesion.

Once crested, the riders face a long 11km descent before roughly 10km of flat-ish road.

5km

The last place the climbers can hope to make a difference is the short 1.2km long drag that comes just over 4km to the finish line. With some steep ramps, if they distance those behind and have around 5 seconds at the top then they should hold on for the win.

It’s the exact same run in that was used in 2014, although the rest of that race was a lot easier!

Weather Watch

Initially, it looked as if the riders were going to miss the bad weather. However, inclement weather seems to be arriving in the area a day early!

As you know by now, meteorologists steal a living so you can’t trust everything completely. Therefore, I’ve tried to use a few sites to get a better idea.

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Good chance of rain in the afternoon at Lake Como (MetOffice).

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Weather.com has a similar outlook for Como.

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Possible thunderstorms a few hours after the race has finished in Bergamo (AccuWeather)

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The MetOffice also think there’s a good chance of rain in Bergamo, more likely in the evening.

Obviously these forecasts could change again by this evening but it’s definitely something to consider.

How will the race pan out?

With the final two climbs not being too difficult, the climbers without a sprint and those who are on an exceptional day will want the pace to be on early.

Looking at the teams, I would expect Astana to set a hard pace up the Valcava, shelling any deadwood and some opposition teammates. Movistar, Orica & AG2R may even lend a hand, and I would not be surprised if we only had around 60 riders left in the peloton after that climb.

A similar pattern will unfold on the Abbandonato. By this time, the bad weather and rain may have close in, which will make this race even more amazing!

A peloton of around 25-30 riders will then reach the Salvatore. With an average gradient of 7%, it is possible to make a difference here and the pace will be incredibly high. Cresting at 40km to go, there is a chance for those dropped to make it back in. The composition of the main group will then shape the rest of the race.

It is possible we get an escape of “lesser” riders forming at this point, while the main favourites mark each other behind. The group will have to include a rider from Astana/Movistar/AG2R/Orica/Sky if it hopes to survive to the end. Look to the likes of Kangert and Izagirre!

Favourites

My number one favourite for this race has to be Chaves. He was up here last year until cramps and a hunger knock took him out of contention. One of the best climbers in the race and not to mention he’s on good form, I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t make the top 3!

Uran arrives off the back of a very good series of races in September and has been unlucky not to take a win. That could well change here! He’s a danger-man.

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Aru is Astana’s main man for this. They’ll be hoping for a performance similar to Nibali from him. However, he’s not been anywhere near to that high standard this Autumn. I’m just not convinced by his ability to compete in a race like this.

Movistar’s main men will be Moreno and Valverde. Both performed very well here last year and Moreno looks in good form just now. Having Valverde in the final group changes the dynamic as no one will want to come to a sprint with him. His form/fatigue is also unknown as he’s done a lot of racing this year. I’d have Moreno as team leader!

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Alaphilippe is 3rd favourite with the bookies, but there is too much climbing for him in my opinion! He won’t be there at the end.

Bardet should be in the mix for AG2R and is a podium contender. On form, Ulissi and Costa will be in or around the top 10. The Italian was climbing exceptionally well in the Giro and will hope to do the same tomorrow.

There are some riders others will mention as potential favourites but their form hasn’t been good enough for me to fancy their chances; Martin, Mollema, Poels, Brambilla and Landa namely.

Outsiders?

There is always the opportunity for those further down the pecking order. I like the look of Majka for this. Completely contradictory to what I said above re-Martin and co, I just think this course suits the Pole very well. He normally goes well at the end of the year and can handle the distance.

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Majka’s reaction when he hears that the #HaugheyCurse has been set upon him

Others I like the look of are Reichenbach and Kelderman. The Swiss rider is going very well at the moment and has been attacking in his recent races. He’s a very good climber on his day, but probably isn’t the quality of the big favourites. This could work to his advantage as the others just watch each other. The same can be said for Kelderman, who seemed to be going nicely in the Eneco Tour and in Canada. Another danger man if given too much leeway! I do like the back-up Astana rider option and Kangert would be my man for that situation.

Prediction

Chaves should win, he’s arguably the best climber here, a good descender and in very good form!

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But we do get a surprise every so often, especially if the weather is bad. Keep an eye out for my 4 outsiders!

Betting

1pt WIN Chaves @ 6/1 with PaddyPower or Betfair

0.2pt EW Majka @ 80/1 with Bet365

0.15pt EW Reichenbach @100/1 with Bet365/PP/Betfair (or take 80/1 with Ladbrokes but 4 places)

0.1pt EW Kelderman @ 150/1 with Bet365/PP/Betfair

0.1pt EW Kangert @250/1 with Ladbrokes (4 places)

 

Hope you all enjoyed the preview and thanks for reading! How do you think the race will pan out? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rio Olympics 2016 – Men’s Road Race

Rio Olympics 2016 – Men’s Road Race

*Apologies again, as I’m holiday this will be “shorter” than normal, with more focus on candidates and potential winning outcomes*

The Route

A long day in the office, featuring a tough climb that they go over 3 times. It’s not the hardest climb in the world but it’s place in the race makes it more difficult.

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Again, there will be others who go over the route in more depth. If you want an interactive profile check out this one here.

How will the race pan out?

This race could well end up being a tactical mess and in some ways is a very tough race to call.

Due to the way that the numbers of riders are allocated, teams come here with varying squad sizes. The “big” nations of Belgium, Colombia, Great Britain, Italy & Spain all come here with 5 riders. The numbers then decrease depending on the nations UCI coefficient.

Having only 5 riders makes the race very tough to control, especially considering some teams have 2 leaders. Getting a rider into the break will mean that the rest of the team doesn’t work, but is it worth burning riders out early on?

Conversely, saving riders until the final 100km could well see your chance go if none of the opposition teams want to work with you.

It really comes down to the big teams to control the early moves;

  • Belgium have De Plus and possibly Pauwels as domestique.
  • Colombia don’t really have any domestiques as such. Maybe they’ll send Lopez into the break.
  • GB have Stannard and possibly Cummings.
  • Italy have Caruso an De Marchi for early on. With Rosa probably working later on.
  • Spain have Erviti and Castroviejo for early in the day, with Izagirre being the go-to rider late on.

The Italians and Spaniards like usual have teams perfectly set up for these types of races that mimic the World Championships. Out of all the teams, they’ll probably be the key to controlling the break and setting up the “expected” GC-style blow-out on the final climbs.

The rest of the teams will probably hedge their chances by trying to send a rider into the early break, leaving their strongest climbers with the peloton, i.e. Portugal might choose to have Nelson Oliveira up the road with Costa left behind.

It’s also important to consider the length of the course, so look to long stages in the Grand Tours/Classics/World Champs for riders who can last the distance.

The Potential winners

Like the San Sebastian preview, I’m going to go through in team order.

Belgium have two potential winners in their squad. GVA has shown at the Tour that he is climbing very well, he should be able to cope with the climbs if the pace isn’t too high. The flat run in is great for him, as it could bring the race back together.

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Philippe Gilbert will be hopeful here, but I can’t see him recording a win here. I think GVA is better in every possible outcome where Gilbert could potentially win. Instead, Tim Wellens will add another dimension to the Belgian squad. He will be used as the long-range attacker and could well manage to steal the day. Furthermore, if he makes it over the final climb in the front group, he could attack then to draw out the other nations.

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TW interview with the Lotto Soudal team.

Reading between the lines, Wellens seems to think that the route is manageable for riders like him, possibly the Ardennes types. Again though, I can imagine this is dependant on the pace and attitude of the peloton!

Colombia’s whole squad could potentially win this in the right situation. They have to be very aggressive and force some kind of selection and I can see them being very attacking throughout the day. It will be an all or nothing approach for them. I would love to see Esteban Chaves go well here (I have a soft-spot for the Smiling Assassin). He’s been away in Colombia preparing for the Vuelta so is a bit of an unknown quantity, but like others, I think he’ll be going well.

Team GB come here with the Tour winner, Froome in their ranks. The Brit has never been great in one-day classics. In fact, he’s notoriously a DNF merchant. However, if there was ever a race and a year that he could complete and go well in, it would be this one. If he’s on the same form that he was at the Tour, he could ride away from everyone on the climb and TT his way to the finish.

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Thomas is probably the next best option for the squad, as Yates seems to be tired after his efforts at the Tour.

Italy will turn to Nibali and Aru. I’m not sure I can see Nibali winning this. He won’t rider away from everyone on the climb and his sprint isn’t the best from a group. I think Aru actually has more of a chance in theory, mainly because he won’t be considered as much of a threat compared to Nibali. The question is if he’s recovered from his implosion at the end of the Tour? Rosa will be the rider to mark attacks and potentially profit from it himself.

Spain come with their ever-present conundrum over the past few years; Valverde or Rodriguez? There is a lot of bad blood between those two and that could be the cause of their demise. Izagirre will be the key for them (Valverde). With 4 Movistar riders in the squad, I think it’s clear who they’ll be backing, with Rodriguez maybe having to fly solo. I can’t really back either of them with great confidence.

Away from the big teams there are several other GC riders who can compete; Poels & Mollema (NED), Bardet (FRA), Costa (POR), Martin (IRE). Any of these riders on their day could win here. I’d fancy Poels and Bardet over the rest of them, I really rate both of their chances and a podium is a very achievable target!

Some of the riders from smaller nations could play a big part in the outcome here. Looking at those who can last the distance (WCs from previous years), there are three riders who I like as big, big outsiders.

First up is Andrey Amador.

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The Costa Rican had a great Giro, wearing the Maglia Rosa. He should be able to cope with the climbs (especially if it’s not as tough as expected), but as the only representative from his nation, he’ll more than likely have to attack to win. At the Giro he put a show on with his great descending skills, they could be invaluable here!

TanelKangert could well pull off a wonderful victory here.

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The Estonian had a very solid Tour in support of Aru, after being a key domestique for Nibali at the Giro. This will more than likely be his last big race for a while before a period of rest, so he’ll be giving it his all. He has the speed to win from a small group, but won’t be afraid to attack and catch the favourites off guard. The distance won’t be a problem to him.

The final rider is one that I have already mentioned; Nelson Oliveira.

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He’ll be used as a ploy from Costa to draw others to chase, but the move might just stick. A rider who can cope with the distance, he can use his TTing ability to distance the field on the descent and final run in. If he has a gap of 20 seconds going into the flat section the race is over!

 

Prediction

A race with several potential outcomes, I hope it lives up to its potential! As for who can win it? We may well see a surprise winner, but I really like the chances of Romain Bardet. He’s just came off his best ever Tour finish and will be brimming with confidence. He can manage the distance well and will hope to attack on the final climb and grow the gap on the descent, and hope for a lack of cohesion behind. If not, he’ll try a late-attack (he’s a fearless rider) or will rely on a solid sprint.

Romain bardet

Betting

I have a few small ante-post bets from a while back (Chaves, Aru, Bardet and Poels).

However, I’m going to re-back Bardet more heavily. I really liked what I saw at the Tour. Along with my 3 long, long shots!

Bardet 0.7pt EW at 33/1 with Coral or Betfred (I’d take down to 25/1, 22 at the lowest).

Amador 0.1pt EW at 200/1 (widely available)

Kangert 0.1pt EW at 250/1 with Ladbrokes (paying 4 places), I’d take the 200/1 with Coral.

Oliveira 0.1pt EW 300/1 with Bet365 or SkyBet

 

Hope you all enjoyed this “shorter” but long preview! Who do you think will win? Any feedback is appreciated as normal! I should hopefully have a women’s RR preview out tomorrow, if I can find the time to do it. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tour de France – KOM Preview

Tour de France – KOM Preview

Much like the sprinters and their Green jersey competition, the King of the Mountains classifications offers the climbers who aren’t going for GC a chance to win a jersey.*

*Although, Chris Froome did win it last year.

How does it work?

Like the stages being classified going on the difficulty of them, climbs are categorised in a similar fashion.

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Table showing the points break-down over each summit

The harder the climb, the more points available. Simple!

It’s also important to note that points on a summit finished are doubled. For example, the winner of stage 12 up Mont Ventoux will score 50 points.

What type of rider will win it?

Like I said above, it is traditionally a climber a who goes in breakaways and is no real threat on GC that wins the jersey. For example, Mikel Nieve started to mount a serious charge for the KOM jersey at the Giro after being in the break of the day on stage 13. This kind of highlights the weird nature of the KOM jersey as any real tilt at the title isn’t made until the second half of the race.

In the table below I’ve highlighted the maximum amount of points available out on the road.

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After Froome winning last year, the organisers seem to have reduced the number of summit finishes. Hoping to favour the non-GC guys.

Stages 8 and 9 offer a lot of points out on the road, but for any half-decent climber to make the break on these stages they’ll have had to lose time in the previous days. How will that happen? Well, there might be splits due to echelons in the first few stages, an unfortunate crash, or they might just lose time deliberately to hunt for stages/the KOM later in the race.

Similarly, some of the stages in the final week offer a lot of points out on the road. These will be crucial in shaping the KOM jersey. You probably need to make the break on stage 15 and 19 to be in with a chance.

One of the major deciding factors for where the jersey will end up are those 76 points that can be won in the final 20km of stages. It really depends on how the GC guys ride these stages. For example, stages 7, 8 and 15 all have a Cat-1 climb before a descent to the finish. Will the GC guys try to put their rivals in trouble here, or be happy to let the break go. The honest answer is I don’t know. It’s too far ahead to predict how the race will be poised at that stage. I would think at least two of those stages will go to the break, the same can be said for stage 20. Therefore, I do think this years KOM jersey will be won by a non-GC rider.

But who you say?

Let me just have a look…

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Firstly, I think we can discount any Team Sky rider. They’ll be all in for Froome.

Secondly, you have to be a good climber to win the jersey, but also be relatively attacking and opportunistic. This gets rid of a large chunk of the peloton.

However, from the outset we’re probably left with around 40 riders who could feasibly win the jersey if circumstances went their way. So like stage picks for breakaway days. I’ll narrow it down to three riders (of varying odds) who could give it a crack.

Ruben Plaza. 

Tour de France - Stage 16

The veteran Spaniard (who now rides for Orica) has become a bit famous for his long-range solo attacks on mountain stages. He won a stage at both the Tour (picture above) and the Vuelta last year. Supporting Chaves at the Giro in May, he rode very strongly when called upon and impressed me. Here at the Tour, Orica don’t really come with any GC aspirations so their climbers will be given free roles. I would not be surprised to see Plaza lose time during the first week to be given freedom later in the race. I’m sure we’ll see him in a few breakaways! If he gets near the lead of the jersey then he’s the type of rider to keep fighting for it.

Arnold Jeannesson.

Arnold-Jeannesson-Criterium-International-Credit-ASO-B.Bade_-676x359

He had a very good start to the year with 11th on GC at Paris Nice and 4th on GC at Critérium International, highlighting that he can climb with the best. Since then, he’s been a bit off the boil. Cofidis’ main GC rider will be Navarro so I expect Jeannesson to be given free rein in the mountains to hunt stages or the KOM jersey. It would be great for the Pro Conti team to end up with a jersey at the end of the Tour.

Tanel Kangert.

tanel-kangert-hakkab-laupaeval-itaalia-magesid-vallutama-ja-suhtleb-kodustega-71392769

A very solid and reliable rider, Kangert seems to have re-found his form this year, finishing 2nd at the Giro del Trentino. He put in a solid bit of team-work for Nibali at the Giro but hasn’t raced since. He’s one of those riders at Astana who could be given a bit of a Carte Blanche in this race. He’ll be tough to beat if he makes the right break.

Prediction

As I’ve said earlier in this preview, this jersey is incredibly tough to make a pre-race prediction for. However, it would be dull if I didn’t stick my neck on the line and make a prediction.

I do lean towards it being a non-GC rider and I’ll go with someone who I guarantee will make the beak on a few occasions this Tour. Ruben Plaza will be the King of the Mountains.

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Betting

One of the more fun markets to have a bet on. I’m going to back the three of my selections here to keep me interested over the three weeks.

Plaza 0.3pt EW @ 50/1 available with various bookmakers, Ladbrokes/PaddyPower etc

Jeannesson 0.1pt EW @ 200/1 with various bookmakers, Paddy Power/Betfair etc.

Kangert 0.1pt EW @ 300/1 with various bookmakers, Bet365/PaddyPower etc.

 

Hope you enjoyed my interpretation of how the KOM jersey will pan out this year. What are your thoughts? I should have a Young Rider (and other) preview out tomorrow. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.