HSBC UK National Road Race Championships 2017 Preview; Douglas -> Douglas

After an “easy” route last year which saw two relatively large bunch sprints, with Blythe and Barnes being crowned champions, the organisers have certainly came up with a grippier parcours this time round.

2016 British Cycling National Road Championships - Stockton-on-Tees

Will the reigning champions be able to defend their crowns? Let’s have a proper look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

All profiles are courtesy of @LasterketaBurua / @raffilpt so go and give them a follow or check out their site!

The men’s race will incorporate two laps of the large circuit and 10 of the smaller circuit, totalling 193km. Whereas the women will only do one lap of the large circuit and 6 of the smaller one, totalling 103km.

You can view an interactive route profile here.

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As you can see, the main focal point of the opening circuit is the tough climb of ‘Mountain Mile” that averages 7% for 4.8km. Tough enough to see riders get dropped early on, it will be interesting to see how whittled down the group gets here and if we see any early attacks from the big hitters.

Compared to the opening loop and Mountain Mile, the closing circuit is fairly benign. However, the repeated nature of it and aggressive racing will certainly wear the riders down!

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The gradients are fairly shallow but there are some steeper pitches involved with some percentages of around ~8% in places. In fact, the second climb on the image above is closer to 8% for 400m but it flattens out at the top to bring the percentage down.

With only just over 2km from the top of the climb to the finish, those lacking a sprint will certainly be looking to make their move here.

Weather Watch

Along with the course, one thing that could shape the race is the weather. It looks as if the riders will have a dry day, but it is the wind that they will be more concerned about.

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Source: Met Office

With consistent winds of roughly 13mph (20kph) and gusts up to 24mph (38kph) the riders could certainly be caught out by crosswinds, especially on the larger opening circuit.

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Areas like the one above (just after Mountain Mile) are certainly exposed to the wind and it could potentially but the riders on the gutter on the left hand side of the road as the wind will be coming from their right.

However, it should only be the opening circuit that sees any echelon/crosswind action because the majority of the finishing laps are protected by trees and hedgerows.

Women’s Race

Given current form it is hard to argue against current champion Hannah Barnes regaining her title. Very strong in the TT on Thursday, she was incredibly consistent at the recent Women’s Tour and seems to have taken another step up again this year. She can climb, she’s strong on the flat and she can sprint. Ideal for this course! Will all of this racing catch up with her though?

Lizzie Deignan took a much more considered approach to the Women’s Tour but she will certainly be ready for this race. Having won a tough Tour de Yorkshire with a dominant ride, the 3-time National Champion will be looking to take home here 4th jersey here. Like Barnes, she can do everything and is the rider everyone will fear the most even though she has been a bit anonymous recently.

Women's Tour de Yorkshire 2017

Still an U-23 rider Hannah’s sister, Alice Barnes, could possibly compete here as well. The climb of Mountain Mile will be difficult for her but if she makes it to the final circuit with the lead group then she has as good a chance as any. Arguably a faster sprinter than her sister, can she win family bragging rights and more this time around?

After a solid third place in the TT, Katie Archibald will be looking for another strong performance in the road race. The Scot has really impressed me this season so far as she transitions from a track rider into a very versatile “roadie”. She won’t be dropped on the climbs but it her may be her inexperience in the wind that could be her undoing.

Dani King for a while looked as if she was going to hold on to the coat-tails of the flying Boels duo at the Tour de Yorkshire but it wasn’t to be.I’m still confused as to why she didn’t make the Olympic squad last year but that’s a debate for another day. A very consistent rider, she had a quiet Women’s Tour but still managed to finish 9th on GC, not bad! After being a loyal domestique for a few years, learning the trade, she moved teams during the winter to take more leadership opportunities. No better place to take your first pro win than at Nationals!

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Others who could be in contention include; Simmonds, Garner, Barker and Christian.

Men’s Race

There are two strong favourites for this course in my opinion and they were 1-2 on Alpe d’Huez not too long ago…

Pete Kennaugh will be looking to make history this year by being the first male rider to win the road race three times. A great one-day racer for this type of parcours, I’m sure he’ll be bitterly disappointed about missing out on the Tour squad. With that in mind, he will no doubt be going all out to win here. Will the local support be enough to see him win?

Ben Swift performed exceptionally well to come second behind Kennaugh on Alpe d’Huez, only losing ~15 seconds in the end. An under-rated climber, he should be able to cope with everything that he will face tomorrow. With a fast sprint as well, he is a force to be reckoned with. He’ll be out-numbered by other teams but that might not matter if he’s able to follow the best in an attacking race. The one issue is that no one will really want to bring him to the line.

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The same can be said for a recovering Mark Cavendish. The Manxman would have been relishing the opportunity to race for the national title on home roads but he has only just returned to racing after missing a large chunk of the season with Epstein Barr virus. He notched up a second place on a stage at the Tour of Slovenia and with the Tour de France around the corner, I have a feeling he’ll be going better than he says he is. He might not even show it tomorrow, but a hard race will do him good before next week.

 

Kennaugh isn’t Sky’s only option, Tao Geoghegan Hart is another candidate. The youngster produced a very solid time trial on Thursday, a discipline that’s not his strong point. He clearly is in good form and we could see Sky adopt some attacking tactics, using Geoghegan Hart to go in an early move that might just stick.

In a race that could become very open due to the attacking nature of it and the wind conditions there are several Continental riders who could have a chance.

Bibby (JLT), Holmes (Madison Genesis) and Williams (One Pro) are all riders to consider.

There is one rider I am going to keep a watchful eye on though and that is Scott Davies of Team Wiggins.

Scott-Davies

He won the U-23 TT on Thursday. More importantly, he was very impressive at the recent Baby Giro, finishing that race 4th on GC. Flying at the moment, he may take advantage of still being a “lower-level” rider and surprise a few tomorrow. The way he’s been riding, he shouldn’t be dropped on the climbs, that’s for sure!

Prediction

I’ll go for Hannah Barnes and Kennaugh wins, but with Davies to podium too!

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Betting

No women’s odds yet, but SkyBet might have something tomorrow. They had TT odds on the day of the event. As for the men…

Not much value in Kennaugh, but I’m willing to double him up with Aru in what is a hilly Italian course.

Kennaugh/Aru 1pt EW Double @ 65/1 with Bet365

Also backing…

Davies 0.5pt EW @ 50/1 with Bet365.

 

Thanks as always for reading, and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win the races tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2017 Stage 8 Preview; Albertville -> Plateau de Solaison

Today’s Recap

So as you may have gathered, I didn’t manage to get a preview completed yesterday in between the 2 hours of me getting up and going to work , so yeah, apologies etc!

It turned out to be a day for the breakaway, like I thought it might, and in the end Kennaugh took a strong win ahead of former team-mate Swift.

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Herrada held onto an attacking Bardet and outsprinted the Frenchman to nab third place on the day.

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Maybe I should blog less often?!

Behind, Porte looked imperious with only Fuglsang able to hold onto the wheel of the Australia, with Froome coming off worst out of the GC contenders. It means that Porte has a minute buffer over the Brit going into the final stage tomorrow and you would expect that to be enough to hold on for title.

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

The Route

A short and intense day to end the race!

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The road rises from the gun with a tricky, uncategorised climb before flattening out and rising almost all the way until the first summit of the day. I expect a lot of riders to be on rollers!

The opening three climbs aren’t too difficult in terms of average gradient but with them coming in quick succession we might see a few riders who are on a bad day struggle.

With 35km to go the riders will crest the penultimate climb and face a 15km descent before hitting the valley roads that see them travel to the foot slopes of the Plateau de Solaison.  The “easy” gradients on the earlier climbs are certainly made up for here!

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11.3km at 9.2% it’s another brute of a climb for the riders to deal with! Thankfully for some, the gradient does ease a little by the top down to a measly 7% roughly…

Will we see a solo winner again?

How will the stage pan out?

It’s a really tough stage to call as we could see some early GC fireworks but there is also the possibility the break makes it all the way.

With Porte having such a big lead and looking so strong, I’m not sure how willing other riders will be to spend a lot of energy early on to animate the race only for the Australian to be able to follow everything easily. Furthermore, BMC have looked strong so far and have been able to hold everything together reasonably well and I would expect a similar performance from them tomorrow.

It also all depends on where the breakaway goes and who’s represented. I think we’ll see it get up the road on the first categorised climb so it should be filled with strong climbers who are capable of winning the stage. If no GC rider has sneaked their way in and enough teams are represented then I think it can go all the way.

So time for everyone’s favourite game again…

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Candidates

A few darts to be thrown here…

Jack Haig.

The young Austrailian has been very consistent so far this Dauphiné and finds himself sitting 26th on GC, almost 10 minutes down on his compatriot. With Yates and Chaves underperforming, Orica will no doubt be looking towards the breakaway for success. Could Haig take a memorable win?

Serge Pauwels.

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The winner of the Tour de Yorkshire this year, the Belgian always seems to find himself in a breakaway at some point during a week-long stage race. He’s not been in one so far, but that could well change tomorrow! Having been so close to a win at the Tour last year (on the farcical Alpe d’Huez stage) coming up against a flying De Gendt, he has proven that he can climb exceptionally well. In the right move he has every chance.

Michal Kwiatkowski.

After his early season return to form, the Pole but in a great shift for Froome today, pacing the GC group. Is he eyeing up a spot in their Tour mountain train?! With Froome suffering, I think we could see Kwiatkowski “set-free” like Kennaugh was and to chase his own personal glory. Clearly going well, I have him as my favourite for the stage. He just has to make the break first…

Richard Carapaz.

I like to throw an obscure name into these every so often, but the Ecuadorian is a rider you will be hearing a lot about over the next few years. Extremely talented, he picked up a second place behind Yates (Adam) and ahead of Uran at the GP Industria earlier in the year. Since then, he has gone on to pick up two top-10s on GC at 2.1 races. Not bad for a first season in Europe and in the pro peloton! I’m not sure how he’ll fare over the longer climbs but I am keen to watch on with interest!

Prediction

As I said above, if Kwiatkowski makes the move, then I can’t see many riders beating him. Sky to go back to back!

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Betting

Tweeted this out before…

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I think they’re still both value at 66/1 and 80/1 respectively so would still recommend it.

 

Thanks as always for reading and as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be another GC showdown or will the break have its day again?

I’ve decided I won’t be doing daily previews for Tour de Suisse but I’ll still be tweeting out some stage picks so give me a follow if you don’t already. There are others who will be doing daily previews so check out @insidethepeloton96 and @cyclingmole for those!

I shall be back for the British national champs (men and women) and if I get bored, then maybe a .1 or .HC race in-between somewhere. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Volta Catalunya Stage 6 Preview; Tortosa -> Reus

Today’s Recap

I should never have doubted him for a minute!

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Valverde won the stage easily, ahead of Froome and Contador. With the stage win and his 21 second gap back to the Brit, the GC battle is well and truly over for the week. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Another rolling day in the saddle. What else can do the riders expect in this region though?!

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@LasterketaBurua

After a few kilometres of flat right from the gun, the riders will then face the long and gradual Cat3 ascent of the Alt de Bot. This certainly looks a good place for a breakaway to be let go, but considering that everyone knows that it typically won’t be! Instead, it might be the rolling terrain afterwards and around the 4okm at Gandesa where the correct group of riders are finally let go.

More, you guessed it, rolling terrain follows. Before we have three categorised climbs in quick succession. None is tough enough to cause splits in the peloton, but they could do some damage to the break. Especially if there are some riders up the road who don’t want to have a sprint at the end of the day.

We have a descent almost all the way to the line once they have traversed the plateau after of the final climb, although admittedly, some of the descending is more false flat than downhill.

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The road does rise up in the final few kilometres but it averages over just 1% for the last 2km so nothing too serious. We do have a roundabout at 500m to go which could be used as a ploy for a late attack from the break.

How will the stage pan out?

I think you’ve guessed it by now…

Nestle Breakaway Milk Chocolate Biscuit 8 Pack 152G

Contenders

Names in a hat? As long as they are no threat on GC Movistar will be happy to let them go. That pretty much means anyone outside the top 20 so we have a lot of riders to choose from! Once again, I’ll suggest a few names that might give it a go.

Xandro Meurisse. 

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The Wanty rider seems to be plodding along quite nicely in this race and is climbing as well as I have seen for a while. Traditionally more of a puncheur, he only finished 15 seconds behind Van Garderen on today’s summit finish. If he gets in the break and can cope with any attacks on the final climb, he has a good chance of winning a sprint!

Peter Kennaugh.

I highlighted him on stage 1 and he did the preview justice on a day I was completely wrong, by giving it a little nudge off the front. He lost 5 minutes today, but considering he was one of the last Sky riders in the front group on Stage 3 I doubt that those losses will be due to bad form. Saving himself for tomorrow?

Gianluca Brambilla.

The Italian was suffering from illness not that long ago, but he’s still racing here which makes me think that he’s now over his bug. He made the break on stage 3 but dropped back to the peloton, but I think that was because teams were still unsure if he was a threat on GC. Or, maybe he is still ill! Nonetheless, he is way out of contention now and the final climb and finish suit him perfectly if he’s back to full fitness. That’s a big if, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take!

Lachlan Morton.

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Morton has had a quiet time of it so far this race, but he has been industrious at the front of the peloton when needed. Namely, doing work for Sbaragli on stages 1 and 4. The Aussie is a very solid climber, finishing 7th on the Green Mountain earlier this year in Oman. With no GC hopes, Dimension Data will be chasing stages and Morton may well be that man!

Prediction

He looked good on Stage 3 and should survive the climb if he’s in the break. If he’s not and we for some reason get a reduced peloton fighting out the stage win, he could well attack once again in the closing kilometres.

Peter “what’s the women’s Giro” Kennaugh to win!

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Betting

Another day I don’t want to get overly involved with but I am most confident in Kennaugh so he gets the majority of the backing!

All B365.

0.7pt WIN Kennaugh @ 25/1

0.3pt WIN Brambilla @ 18/1 

0.25pt WIN Morton @ 250/1

0.25pt WIN Meurisse @ 80/1

 

Thanks for reading as always! Who do you think will win? Tomorrow will be a big day of previews with my final stage preview for this race, but also previews for the men’s and women’s Gent-Wevelgem. I hope you’ll be able to read them all! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.