Tour de France 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Düsseldorf -> Liège

Today’s Recap

Luck, bravery and a stonkingly strong effort from Thomas saw him take Yellow at the end of a very tricky and tough day.

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Don’t think many people would have predicted that!

Küng and Kiryienka rounded out the podium, with Froome being the best GC rider (not including Thomas of course), beating his closest rivals by around 25 seconds.

It was a course fraught with danger due to the wet and greasy surface which unfortunately meant several riders crash. The #HaugheyCurse already managed to rear its head on stage one with Roglic going down and ruling him out of stage contention. However, more disappointingly we’ve had two abandons in the form of Valverde and Izagirre, both of whom were top 10 contenders for the overall at the very least.

The organisers will be looking for a much more mundane day out tomorrow. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

A fairly flat day out where the sprinters should get their first chance to go for stage glory.

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We should see a fairly exciting start to the day as several riders will no doubt be gunning for the early KOM. After that though it should be a fairly benign day as they travel through Germany until the terrain starts to get more rolling once they enter Belgium and the province of Liège.

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We do have some uncategorised rises and a Cat-4 climb that crests with 20km to go but they should be of no difficulty to the fast men.

The run is a sprinters delight and I’m sure the GC riders will be happy with it too, no first road stage nervousness!

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Facing a few technical turns, the biggest difficulty is a right-handed turn at 3km to go. After that, it will be a drag race between the lead-out trains with the final kilometre being dead straight.

Weather Watch

One thing that could upset the apple cart though is the weather. We might have a few showers throughout the day and there are some consistent winds forecast throughout the day.

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Weather forecast for Aachen (Source: Windfinder)

Strong enough to create some echelons when the route is heading South/South-West (so most of the stage), I will be intrigued to see if any team tries to split it in the wind.

It’s quite hard to tell how exposed some of the course is due to the strange reason that Google Streetview hasn’t covered any of the area south of Mönchengladbach. Can anyone tell me why?!

Looking at the satellite images, it appears like flat German farmland that could be fairly exposed to the wind.

As for when the riders enter Belgium, we have typical small Belgian towns, some exposed roads but some fairly well sheltered.

I think it’s unlikely we’ll see any splits but you never know. Some teams/riders are already facing an uphill battle on GC so if they sense any opportunity they’ll go for it.

Sprint Contenders 

The first sprint of a Tour is always an interesting one as riders/teams aren’t sure of what to expect. Everyone will fancy their chances so it often leads to a rather chaotic finale. It will also be a cross-headwind finish so timing your effort will be important.

Marcel Kittel starts as the favourite for the day. The German has a team built to support him and it is arguably one of the longest proper sprint trains that we’ve seen in a Grand Tour since the HTC days. Quick Step will be able to put the power down in the closing few kilometres and with Sabatini (Kittel’s trusted lead-out man) dropping him off at 150m to go, will anyone be able to beat him?

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Arnaud Démare on current form looks like his main challenger, with the Frenchman dominant in his last few races. The reason I said “arguably” for Kittel’s lead-out is that Deémare will have everyone in his team apart from Pinot working for him. The signings of Cimolai and Guarnieri have really brought some high-end speed into the top end of the order. He might not beat Kittel when the German is up to full race speed but since he’s not raced in a while, Démare has every chance. I’m sure he’ll be doing his rain dance too!

Peter Sagan will be close to the top of the order, like always! He really seems to up his game in the sprints at the Tour and is one of the fastest riders here. Sagan doesn’t really have a lead-out train to the same extent as Kittel and Demare do but he still has some fire power. Selig will be his last man and he’s a rider who I’ve really rated this season, he’s done great work for Bennett etc, so he’ll be expected to continue that for Sagan here. Can the World Champion make an early claim for Green with a win?

Andre Greipel is a bit of a hit or miss character in the sprints recently and I think it is clear he’s sorely missing Henderson. Lotto Soudal shortened their lead-out train on the final day of the Tour last year and it seemed to work for them then so they’ve taken a similar approach this year. He’ll more than likely have to latch onto the back of someone elses lead-out and I think it will be tough for him to take the win, but he is certainly strong enough on his day to do so.

Mark Cavendish is the unknown quantity. He says he doesn’t know where his form is, although he most definitely will, and I’m intrigued to see how he copes. With a strong lead-out, he is almost capable of anything tomorrow. I would not be surprised with a win or if he was nowhere.

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Dylan Groenewegen has the speed and fearlessness to get himself a podium position. He recently beat Kittel and Greipel at Ster ZLM so will be full of confidence, although he did struggle at the Nationals recently. I think he would prefer the finish to be a bit more technical. He has a chance but it will be tough!

As for the rest, they should be there or thereabouts but I think it will be hard for them to win.

Prediction

Arnaud Démare to take advantage of his fine form while he can and take the win, sending the French public/media into disarray!

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Betting

As I said yesterday, today was most likely to be a no bet and it will remain that way. Almost tempted with a couple of loose change punts on Naesen and Lutsenko at crazy prices and do my wind dance. I think I’ll save my money though to waste on future stages!

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone beat Kittel? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Green Jersey Preview

While a lot of the cycling world bemoans the easier route for this year’s Tour, there is one group of riders who will be happy with the flatter parcours: the sprinters.

The organisers have been kind to the fast men, with there looking to be 7 sprint stages but that could be increased to 9 or even 10 depending on how the peloton attacks the race.

Having won the jersey for the last 5 years in a row, Sagan is the rider to beat.

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Can he make it 6 this season?

First though, let’s have a look at how the points system works.

Scoring Points

The stages are categorised based on their difficulty, with the easier stages awarding more points to the winner at the end of the day.

The following table comes from @searchhhh on the Velorooms forums, that I have tea-leafed because I’m too lazy to make it myself!

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As for which stages fall into each category;

  • Stages 2, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 19, 21 are Cat 1, i.e. score maximum points
  • Stages 3, 5 , 8, 14, 15, 16 are Cat 2
  • Stages 1, 9, 12, 13, 17, 18, 20 are Cat 3

With 8 stages that reward 50 points at the line, it is possible for a dominant sprinter to build up a strong points tally. The sprinters will have to come out firing if they want to contest green because half of the “big” sprint stages come in the opening week of racing.

Sagan normally makes his mark by winning the Cat-2 stages and being close on the Cat-1 days. However, this year 3 and 14 look like the only days where we could have a reduced bunch sprint. Stage 5 will be a GC day and so could stage 8, with stage 15 looking like a breakaway day. Furthermore, Stage 16 actually looks like a stage where most of the sprinters could make it to the line as most of the climbing comes in the first half of the day.

Another way that Sagan cements his position in Green is by going on the hunt for the intermediate sprint points during the more rolling stages as his competitors normally can’t follow in the breakaway these days.

Yet, this year the organisers have seemed to “nerf” that aspect of his attack, with having most of the intermediate sprints on flatter parts of the route and before the big obstacles on the day. It’s really only on stages 9/15/17 that they’re in places inaccessible to most sprinters!

Even Stage 9 might be a little hard for Sagan to chase the points…

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Therefore, there is certainly a lot more emphasis on placing highly at the end of stages this year and picking up some minor points at the intermediates to keep the tally ticking over.

Contenders

With all that being said though, Sagan is still the clear favourite for the jersey. He looked lightning fast at the recent Tour de Suisse and he always ups his game in the sprints at the Tour. Even if he doesn’t win any of the flat stages, he’ll no doubt podium in at least 3 of them while picking up top 5s in a lot of the others. That will give him a good base of points to go and pick up some more during Stage 3 etc and some mountain breakaways.

So a rough points total for him could be;

2 Cat-2 wins (60pts), 2 Cat-1 2nds (50pts), 2 Cat-1 3rds (40pts), Top 10s in Cat-1s (~50 – 70pts), Intermediate Sprints (~70 – 100 pts) = 270 -> 320pts as an estimate.

A tough score to beat, but not impossible.

Kittel looks like Sagan’s biggest challenger, on paper anyway. Arguably the fastest sprinter in the world, a lot of these flatter stages will suit the fantastically haired German. His Tour didn’t go to plan last year, only winning one stage in the end. Not great for a man of his abilities. He’ll be hoping to go a lot better this year and that Cavendish arrives undercooked. If so, he could feasibly win 4 of the 8 Cat-1 stages, and get close on some others.

Picking up a few podiums and top 5s on the other stages as well as some intermediate sprint points, he will be there or thereabouts with Sagan’s total. It looks promising for him to launch a proper tilt at the Green Jersey this year.

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And what about Cavendish? He took me and almost everyone else by surprise last year with his dominant performance in the sprints after seemingly coming into the Tour not on great form and possibly past his prime. This year, he faces an even tougher battle after recovering from the Epstein Barr Virus and only returning to racing a couple of weeks ago at the Tour of Slovenia. He only managed a second place there and was OTL at the British Championships (not a great sign but only 12 riders came home in time) so it’s not looking too good for his chances this year. Yet…

Now, you can call me crazy, but I have a feeling he will turn up and will be going well. Dimension Data won’t have wasted a spot for him on their team if he was going to use the first week as training, hoping to pick up a win later on in the race. Furthermore, a telling sign is that they’ve brought a strong lead-out train with them. That train could well be for Boasson Hagen, but it seems a bit over the top if it’s just for him.

On form, Cavendish is as fast as Kittel so he could well repeat last season’s performance and win 4 stages, putting him right in contention for the Green jersey. I’m certainly not ruling him out, that’s for sure.

Greipel will pick up his regular Grand Tour stage but at the Giro he went missing a lot in the sprints so he’ll need to be a lot more consistent to challenge for the jersey and I can’t see that happening.

Arnaud Démare is France’s best hope for a long time to win the Green jersey. He has been exceptional this year and his win at the recent French Nationals was truly dominant. As close to being a tier-1 sprinter without being one, he may well move up the rankings after this Tour. I expect good things from him this race and he is the most likely of all French riders to win a stage. With a team almost 100% focussed around him, the pressure will be on. Will he thrive under that pressure or crumble?

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I can’t really see anyone else being consistent enough to challenge for the jersey.

Groenewegen is a great talent but he has the propensity to be 1st or nowhere at times. A stage win for him would be a great result and that’s certainly a possibility, but to challenge for the jersey will be too tough an ask.

Matthews (as much as I like and rate him), is a poor man’s Sagan for this competition. Not as fast as others on the flat, not a good enough climber to win mountainous breakaway days.

The same can be said for Colbrelli.

Kristoff has been poor this season and his team seems to be against him.

Bouhanni still seems to be suffering from his crash in Yorkshire, possibly a lack of confidence which is surprising for him.

Prediction

Don’t get me wrong, Sagan should win the jersey again. He is fast enough to compete on the flat stages and strong enough to be there at the end when no other sprinters are. However, I just have a feeling that Cavendish will be as electric as he was last year and dominate the flat sprints.

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I expect this to all fall flat on its face when he doesn’t contest the sprint on Stage 2…

Betting

Now, it’s obviously a gamble but hey, that’s what betting is about!

If Cavendish is on fire, his current price is massive. If he is still under the weather, it is grossly under-priced. It would kill me to see him romp away with some stages this year knowing exactly what he did last year. Therefore, I’m willing to take the “gamble” on his form and back him EW for the Green Jersey and almost accept it could be a losing bet.

1pt EW Cavendish for Green Jersey @ 18/1 with Bet365 (and others)

Make sure you get 1/4 odds for 3 places, as some bookies are going 1/3 odds for 2.

Also, as I won’t be putting out any more Tour blogs until the stage 1 preview on Friday, I’ve backed Lotto Jumbo (0.5pt on) for the Team Classification @ 80/1 with Betfair. Would take 66s availalbe elsewhere.

Bit of an outside bet but they have an AG2R of 2013 feel about them where they should have 2 guys near the front of most stages and will be looking for breakaway success too.

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win the Green Jersey? Is Sagan a shoe-in? And have I really lost the plot before the Tour has even started?

I’ll have my “Big fuck off” Giro Rosa guide out tomorrow which I would greatly appreciate if you shared and have a read of! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Scheldeprijs 2017 Preview

The “festival of sprinting” returns again this year and once again we have a whole host of fast men on the start line.

Last year the race saw Marcel Kittel just edge out Mark Cavendish, with Andre Greipel coming home third.

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We had horrible conditions last year, with rain pounding the peloton almost all afternoon. Nonetheless, the sprinters weren’t deterred and we ended with the traditional bunch sprint, although only 28 riders finished within 10 seconds of Kittel.

More of the same this year?

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

The Route

The organisers have decided to honour Tom Boonen in his last Belgian race of his career, changing the traditional route, and starting the day in his hometown of Mol. They’ll do a local lap there before heading west towards Antwerp (Schoten).

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Parcours wise the race is pretty much pan-flat, but what else would you expect in a race that’s often dubbed as the unofficial sprinter’s world championship.

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Once we reach Schoten, the riders will complete laps of the same closing circuit that we’ve had for the past few years. This does feature 1.7km of cobbles but compared to what we’ll witness on Sunday in Roubaix, they should be of no real influence in the race unless they cause an untimely puncture.

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Positioning at the end of the race will be important due to the two 90-degree turns at 1.1km and 700m to go. We saw last year Quick Step lead through this part of the course with two riders in front of Kittel and he was dropped off perfectly at around 200-150m to go.

It’s also important to be at the head of the peloton so that you can take the shorter inside line through the sweeping bend at the finish line, rather than have to go around the rider in front.

Weather

The wind didn’t have much of an impact on the race last year but it was the rain which turned the day into one of attrition.

I’m sure the riders will be happy to know that it looks to be a dry edition this year. However, I’m intrigued to see if the wind has a bigger part to play with the changed route. I say this as the riders will be travelling in mainly the same direction (west) for the majority of the day before they reach Schoten.

 

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Forecast for Retie (78km done) Source: Windfinder

The constant 20km/h NW wind looks ideal to split the race up on some of the more exposed sections, as it will be a cross or cross-head wind for the peloton. Unfortunately for us the viewers, the riders won’t be traversing anything like De Moeren, and the road isn’t as exposed as I was hoping for! Nonetheless, there are some sections where there is no tree cover and open fields so fingers crossed for some splits. It all comes down to how aggressively the teams ride the course though, they can make it tough enough for echelons or ride at a more conservative pace and keep everything together.

Sprinters

Ultimately though, the race should come down to a sprint, barring something crazy happening, it’s just a case of how big the peloton will be. Most of the sprinters tend to be good in windy conditions so they should make the splits if we do get any echelon action!

Marcel Kittel will start as the big favourite. Last year’s winner and most successful rider in the history of the race, the German looked very good at the back-end of De Panne. His win in the sprint (stage 3A) after coming from far back was truly exceptional, and the performance in the TT wasn’t bad either. He’s the rider to beat! (Unless of course they decide to work for Boonen but that is very, very unlikely.)

Aside from the fantastically haired German, there are a lot of sprinters here looking to take his crown if he falters. Although notable in his absence is Mark Cavendish.

Andre Greipel, on paper at least, looks best of the rest. The Gorilla as he is affectionately known, was just putting in the training miles in Flanders on Sunday…He made his usual daredevil attack but was eventually brought back to heel. Nonetheless he managed to bag a top 20 and arrives here in good form. More importantly for him, he arrives with an almost full strength lead-out train that can challenge the likes of Quick Step.

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Smarting after his crash in Flanders, Peter Sagan may well want to have a hit out here before going on to Roubaix this Sunday. If he does, then he is fast enough to challenge after a tough day. Yet, he sometimes goes missing in this type of race, so Bora may turn to Matteo Pelucchi instead. Although, if Sagan sometimes goes missing, Pelucchi never turns up to start off with! A team to avoid backing with any sort of confidence.

One rider who is always confident in his abilities is Nacer Bouhanni. The Frenchman had a disappointing Paris Nice and had to drop out due to illness, but since then he’s looked good. People seem to forget how fast he is at times and is certainly a rider not to give an inch to because he will certainly take a mile!

Edward Theuns has performed consistently well here on his first two appearances, placing 2nd and 4th. He arrives with the full backing of his team and they have a strong lead-out train to support him. On stage 2 of De Panne he looked fast, but appeared to struggle in stage 3A when he looked to be very well positioned. Maybe it was a case of hesitancy? Or he just didn’t have the legs and is tired after his classics campaign? We’ll have to wait and see but I’ll certainly be watching with interest. A top 3 result would not surprise me!

Dwars door Vlaanderen

Dylan Groenwegen arrives after a fairly poor race in Limburg and he’ll be hoping to go much better tomorrow. He started the year off very strongly but is without a win yet this season which might dent his confidence a bit. Nonetheless, he is very talented in a tough race and if the wind blows you would expect him to make the split. In a tired peloton, he is a danger for the win. Like Bouhanni, he is fearless and will go for any gap if you give him half a chance!

Demare has a chance but he’s went off the boil since his barnstorming start to the year.

Bonifazio goes well when you least expect it, and I expect him to go poorly tomorrow. Top 5 result incoming!

Viviani is similar, he has been poor this year but might pop up with a top 5 if he follows the right wheel.

Planckaert, Jans and McLay will be in or around the top 10.

Prediction

I expect there to be a small-ish peloton fighting it out for the win again come tomorrow afternoon. Whether that be through the race breaking up due to the wind out on course, or just becoming disengaged and disinterested in the final lap of the race.

Kittel is the favourite and should win, but keep an eye out for a flying Frenchman too!

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Betting

No value in Kittel and almost tempted with the odds on Sagan, but…;

Bouhanni 1pt EW @8/1 with Bet365. (Wouldn’t take much lower, but you might get a better price from elsewhere later on, I’m just in a rush to get this published.)

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win? Will the wind play any part in the race? My Pais Vasco stage 3 preview will be out soon as well so keep an eye out for that. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Paris Nice 2017 Stage 5 Preview; Quincié-en-Beaujolais -> Bourg-de-Péage

*This will be short and sweet!*

Today’s Recap

Ahahaha, I should stop with the bold statements. It was the rider who I completely gave no chance to that ended up going on to win the stage. Julian Alaphilippe took a remarkable victory, he was flying!

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That result now puts QuickStep in a very good position for the overall and should ensure some attacking racing for the rest of the week.

As for Tony Martin, he seemed to be struggling on the bike and it was not a good sign when he didn’t set the fastest time at the intermediate check point. Oh well, onto the next stage!

The Route

A pretty uninspiring day compared to what we have in Tirreno.

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A lumpy start to the day will certainly inspire the breakaway and give them a good opporunity to build up a lead, but the latter half certainly lends itself to a bunch sprint.

The finish is technical. Well, from 3km to 1.5km to go is very technical!

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The three roundabouts will certainly string out the bunch, but thankfully for the riders they go round the same side of them all. We then get a sweeping road in the final kilometre, which will keep things strung out. Positioning and a good lead out will be key!

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It will be fast too as the riders descend ever so slightly before the road kicks up in the last 300m.

Could very well be another chaotic day!

Contenders

As much as I would like to try and argue that a break makes it, this is a sprint stage 100% and the last one we’ll see this race.

Kittel could potentially get involved but with his team now fully focussed on GC he more than likely will have to surf wheels and he’s not the best at that. So…

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Greipel has been poor in the sprints so far but he is capable of turning it around at any time. He just seems a bit tired at the moment, maybe an easy day today will have helped him?

Kristoff looked strong on stage 3 but just went too early and faded away at the end. If he can get the timing of his sprint right then he has a great chance on a finish that suits him.

Bennett was the one who benefitted from Kristoff’s early sprint on stage 3. The Irishman looked strong then but his lack of a lead-out may hinder him here.

Groenewegen was left reeling after crashing on stage 3. He looked in a great position and said his legs felt good. He’ll want to make ammends tomorrow.

McLay saw his Fortuneo team do a great deal of work on the front of the bunch but just got blocked on the wrong side. With a podium finish at a Tour stage, the Brit is not one to be underestimated here!

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Démare will want to taste stage glory again after losing his yellow jersey lead. He looks good, his team looks good; can they get it right again tomorrow?

Colbrelli will also be gunning for a second stage victory. The Italian should appreciate the ever so slight up-hill drag but his positioning sometimes lets him down and that again could be his downfall tomorrow.

Matthews was going strongly in the TT today until a crash on the uphill. He’s been up there on the sprints so far but not really involved. (If that makes any sense).

Degenkolb will have a good lead-out at his disposal and this finish suits him down to the ground. A second and a third so far, can he get onto that top step?

Cort, Sbaragli, Coquard and Minali could all be up there equally too on a crazy day.

Prediction

He was left bitterly disappointed today in the time trial as he was on for a good placing. Clearly on form and getting better as the race goes on, Michael Matthews has a real chance here. He has a very solid lead-out train and should be one of the best positioned going into the final kilometre. If he’s near the front for the final 300m he should have the power to take the win!

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Betting

Matthews 1pt EW @28/1 with Bet365 (Would take down to 18s)

 

Thanks for reading and aplogies for this being slightly shorter than normal! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Paris Nice 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Rochefort-en-Yvelines -> Amilly

Today’s Recap

Sprint stage they said?! Madness ensued.

Rain and wind tore the peloton apart and we had several groups all over the road. In the end, it was Arnaud Démare who won a two-up sprint against Alaphilippe, after the latter attacked on the final climb of the day, with only Démare able to follow.

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A slightly annoying day as I had the race pretty much perfectly planned out; with it being split up in the wind; GC gaps; and a late attack succeeding. Just a shame I didn’t have the correct riders! Although I guess 2 out of the top 3 were sprinters so it would have taken something special to have the winner.

GC wise, there are some fairly large gaps now but nothing too drastic and the race is still very much on. It should certainly ensure some attacking racing for the rest of the week.

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

The Route

The dullest stage of the week parcours wise and one that in theory should be a nailed on sprint.

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The run in to the line is fairly simple with no real obstacles to deal with in the final kilometres, just a few seeping bends.

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It’s practically pan-flat too, so once again the only thing that may stop a bunch sprint is some inclement weather.

Weather

Another miserable day in store for the peloton and it could be a long day in the saddle for them too. The reason I say that is because it looks as if we’ll get a cross-headwind for the first half of the day.

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Weather in Boiscommon (Source: Wundeground)

However, as the day progresses the wind swirls around and there is a good chance we’ll get some strong crosswinds at points. Will the bunch split in them? Quite possibly. As we saw today, a nervous bunch means crashes and splits.

The section from Châtillon-Coligny to the final circuit looks particularly exposed and the road travels in the correct direction for some echelon action.

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If a team really wants to split it here I think they can. Everyone will know that so the fight for position itself will be incredibly intense which in turn will cause nervousness and the possibility of crashes that I mentioned above. It only takes one person who’s on the limit to pop for a gap to be formed.

We will get a sprint of some sort in Amilly. Heck, even the peloton might regroup on the final circuit but there will certainly be some tired bodies out there!

Sprinters

You could argue that those who made the front selection today are the strongest sprinters here, and to be honest, you would pretty much be correct.

Today’s winner Démare looks in splendid form, something that I’ve said for a few weeks now but he typically goes on to win when I’ve not backed him. He’s an excellent rider in bad conditions and should make any split we have tomorrow. His lead-out train is good, not great, but good and in Guarnieri he has a very capable last man. Full of confidence, he’ll fancy his chances of doubling up.

Kittel went pop on the final climb today but that was expected. He did well to make it into the front group and will be hoping for more of the same tomorrow. Easily the fastest flat-sprinter in the world right now, he’ll relish the easier run in. Can he put on another dominant display?

DUBAI TOUR: ARRIVES FIRST STAGE

I was very impressed with the selfless work that Greipel did today at the front of the bunch. He put in a great shift and some massive turns for Gallopin and will hope that the favour will be returned tomorrow. Not with his normal lead-out, the Gorilla will have to surf some wheels but he certainly seems in good shape at the moment and I rate his chances.

Kristoff won the bunch gallop for 3rd today. Would he have beaten Démare? Who knows! Personally, I don’t think he would have as although he has 4 wins to his names so far this year; 3 of them have been against second-rate sprint opposition in Oman. He’s yet to test himself fully against the proper fast men of the peloton. I’m not fully discounting him as he is a classy bike rider, but I don’t think he’ll win tomorrow.

One rider who will be bitterly disappointed after today’s performance will be Nacer Bouhanni. The Frenchman was one of the first riders dropped in the crosswinds and that was his day well and truly over. He’ll need to turn that around drastically tomorrow if he wants to be in contention.

Groenewegen had such a non-existent day that I completely forgot about him until having a quick look at the odds for tomorrow. He’s another who could get involved tomorrow but not for me.

Away from the “bigger” names of the sprinting peloton there are two riders I would like to highlight.

Magnus Cort Nielsen is fast becoming one of the most promising tough sprinters in the peloton. The Orica rider was in the second group on the road today, doing a lot of work for the team’s GC leader. With Yates having lost a reasonable amount of time, I think the Dane will be given the opportunity to ride for himself tomorrow, even if Yates does get caught behind in a split. A very fast finisher after a tough day in the saddle, he is one to keep an eye on.

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The other is Sam Bennett. Like Cort, the Irishman was in the second group for the majority of the day but with a lack of team support his options were limited. Normally a very good rider in bad conditions, he’ll be hoping to make the first split tomorrow. Certainly not a rider to be discounted, he is criminally underrated from a reduced bunch sprint in my opinion.

Prediction

I was impressed by not only the work he did today, but also his closing speed in the final stage of Abu Dhabi. I think Greipel is on superb form but is masking it quite well just now. He should make any split and without there being any GC springboard at the end of the race he should be sprinting out for the win!

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Betting

2pts WIN Greipel @9/2  widely available (would take 4s)

0.5pt EW Bennett @ 40/1 with Betfair/PP (would take down to 33s)

0.5pt EW Cort @ 50/1  with Betfair/PP (would take down to 33s)

 

Thanks for reading as always! Do you think the race will be blown to bits again tomorrow? Or will we see a full peloton sprinting it out? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Paris-Nice 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Bois-d’Arcy -> Bois-d’Arcy

*Apologies, this will be short and sweet as I’m busy with work/got pre-occupied watching Strade*

Stage one and a day that should on paper end in a sprint but might entice the risk-takers of the peloton.

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A fairly simple day terrain wise, this stage is all about the closing few kilometres, it’s very technical.

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This means that the peloton will be very stretched out , with several roundabouts and turns to negotiate. Not to mention there is a 1km-long climb to be traversed at 2km left in the stage.

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It looks to average roughly 5% for that kilometre so appears to a great launchpad for a late attack from someone in my opinion. The road then descends until 500m to go where we have a 90-degree turn, before it rises ever so slightly to the line again. This finish is going to be chaotic and certainly not for the faint hearted!

Another thing that will make this a challenging day is the…

Weather

Looking at the forecast for the region, it is set to be wet and windy for the majority of the day.

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Bois-d’Arcy forecast (Source: Wunderground)

Those strong winds could cause carnage out on the course and there is a very good chance that we might see some crosswinds, depending on how aggressively the teams approach the day. With there only being a couple of clear GC days, I do think a few squads will be looking to cause some havoc tomorrow and the race will get split up out on course.

Sprinters

We do have some of the best sprinters in the world here with the two main Germans heading the field.

I don’t think Kittel will fancy a finish like this and in poor weather, he backed out of one in Abu Dhabi like this. To give Greipel his credit, he proved me wrong in that same sprint in the Middle East so he could have a chance here. The climb will be on his limits but I think he could be there!

Behind them, there are a whole host of guys who will fancy their chances, such as Bouhanni (who will LOVE this finish), Kristoff and Démare to name a few.

Yet, as I said above, I’m not entirely sure we’ll see a sprint and since we’ll more than likely see a bunch gallop on Stage 2 I’m going to leave it at that for today with them.

Instead…

Late Attackers

I really think this finale is conducive to a late attack sticking, especially if the conditions whittle down the peloton before we reach the finish town. I have three riders in mind to keep an eye out for who all kind of fit the same mould, but are ever so slightly different;

Oliver Naesen.

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The AG2R man has had a very solid start to the season, picking up a 7th and 8th in Omloop and Kuurne respectively last weekend. An attacking rider, this short climb looks perfect f0r him to try to spring a surprise, hoping to put his good cobbles form to use. He’s not a slouch in a reduced sprint too so if a group of 5 or so get clear then he has a chance in that situation too.

AlexeyLutsenko.

The best Kazakh rider since Vinokourov, Lutsenko picked up a truly impressive stage win at this race last year holding off a charging peloton on Stage 5. He’s started this year well too without picking up a proper result, not finishing outside of the top 30 on any stage in Oman. Most recently he was part of the Kazakh team that won the Asian Cycling Championships TTT, but I’m not really sure what to take from that. Either way, he’s the type of guy not afraid to give it a go!

Mauro Finetto.

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Unlike the other two he already has a win to his name this season, taking home the Classic Sud Ardeche from a small bunch sprint. A proper journeyman of a rider, he might finally have found a place to showcase his talents with Delko. He’s without a World Tour win in his career but that might all change tomorrow!

Prediction

A late attack prevails after the race has been battered by wind and rain. A man who has no issues in those conditions will be victorious, Lutsenko to win! The guy oozes class on a bike and is an U23 World Champion let’s not forget. I think he’s in for a big year and this may well be the start of it.

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Betting

I did tweet the selection out previously and their price did stay like that for a while so that’s what they’re being noted down as! 0.25pt WIN on them all;

Lutsenko @ 100/1 with Bet365

Naesen @ 100/1 with Bet365

Finetto @ 100/1 with Betfair

I would take 66/1 lowest price with them all. Others may price up favourably later on so keep an eye out!

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Apologies again for this being shorter than normal. Who do you think will win tomorrow?  My GC preview is up on the site too if you missed that earlier. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Abu Dhabi Tour Stage 4 Preview; Yas Marina -> Yas Marina

The Route

I think you know what I think of this stage by now… 💩 💩 💩

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The most disheartening 22 laps of a race-track you’ll ever see. The one saving grace that this stage has is that the finale is normally relatively exciting.

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Lots of turns in the closing 2km means that lead-outs are crucial. A strong team can really string the peloton out and control the race in that final section. You can see from last year’s sprint that the top 3 at the end of the day, were the first three sprinters into the final turn.

The closing turn also present the opportunity for a gap to made and the lead out rider to ping off the front. We almost saw that last year with Renshaw and is something that the Directeur Sportif’s could consider. Although they probably won’t!

Contenders

With two sprint stages already to get an idea as to who’s going well, we haven’t actually learnt much more than we knew going into this race; the top 4 are still ahead of everyone else. Sorry Viviani, you’ve been demoted to your own second tier.

Kittel reasserted his dominance on Friday, coming from very far back to nab the victory from Ewan on the line. The crash clearly didn’t affect him! The one the that does concern me is the fact he had to come from far back because his lead-out hasn’t been as great as it normally is. For example, it looked good on Stage 1 up until the crash, but looked very disorganised on Stage 2. If it’s disorganised again tomorrow and Kittel isn’t behind the right wheel, then there’s no chance of him coming back.

The other rider who went down in the crash but seems unaffected is Ewan. The Aussie pocket rocket had the stage won but lost it in the closing metres because he stopped pedalling to celebrate. His train looked good and he looked good, I’m sure he’ll want to rectify his mistakes tomorrow!

Cavendish looked fairly good again but his lead-out was messier on Stage 2 compared to Stage 1. He tried to come round Ewan but seemed to missing that final kick. You can’t rule him out though!

Greipel had an abysmal day of it on stage 2. His lead-out was non existent and when trying to surf wheels solo, he got blocked off with around 1km to go and that was his chance of a win out the window. To get up for 9th place after all of that was not a bad result!

This finish does allow for a solo rider to do well if they’re brave going into that final corner and chop up some lead-outs, so we could see a surprise podium finisher, but probably not.

Prediction

His lead-out on Stage 2 was exceptional and I think that will be the same tomorrow. Wanting to make up for his mistakes, Caleb Ewan wins!

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Betting

 Nothing appeals to me odds wise at the moment

Thanks for reading! I think I might give this stage a miss tomorrow though, probably something more exciting on; twitter highlights will do. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Abu Dhabi Tour 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Abu Dhabi -> Abu Dhabi

Today’s Recap

A very messy end to a rather dull day.

It was Mark Cavendish who took a reduced sprint ahead of Greipel and Bonfiazio, after there was a crash in the closing kilometre that took out the likes of Kittel and Ewan.

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Viviani came home a disappointing fifth but at least the H2H won so a small profit on the day.

It was a rather annoying result considering I’d backed Cavendish hand over foot in Dubai, but I was waiting for stage 2 this race. Oh well, that ship has sailed now!

Tomorrow the sprinters will get another chance at stage glory, so let’s take a look at what lies ahead.

The Route

A trip around the suburbs of the city, finishing along the Marina.

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Parcours wise, it’s once again incredibly flat. What else would you expect though?!

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So like stage one, it’s down to the closing few kilometres to make the race exciting as there is no chance of crosswinds causing any issue here.

This exact finish was used on stage 2 of last year’s race so the riders, and us the viewers, have a rough idea what to expect.

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We shall see a race to the first swooping right hand turn at 1.3km to go, but it’s not too important to be right at the front here. However, you need to be making your move to the head of the peloton by the flamme rouge.

The reason I say this, is that last year they implemented some barriers (at roughly the 600m to go banner) to narrow the road from 4 lanes to 2. This obviously then makes it more difficult for teams to move their sprinters up after that. Now, I don’t know for certain if that will be the case again this year but I’m willing to guess that it more than likely will be.

We saw today that they implemented similar barriers in the last kilometre so there is a very good chance they’ll feature tomorrow.

Then, we have another relatively tight corner at 300m to go, before the dash along the finishing straight to the line.

Sprinters

Cavendish and his Dimension Data team got it perfect today. They always looked in control in the last 3km, moving to the front at exactly the correct moment. Some luck was on their side as Renshaw and Cavendish managed to avoid the crash, but that’s not to take away from a great performance. They’ll certainly be full of confidence now looking ahead at the rest of the week and I wouldn’t discount Cavendish picking up back to back wins!

The rider who got closest to the Manxman was Greipel. He managed to match him for speed, but was never really able to pull up alongside him once he moved out of the slipstream. If it was the opposite way round I wonder what the outcome would have been? I think they’re as close on form as this result suggests.

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Unfortunately we didn’t get to see Kittel sprint it out today. His team did a lot of work on the front, and although they were hideously unorganised from around 3->1.2km to go, they seemed to have things together approaching the Flamme Rouge. That was until a touch of handlebars saw them go down. With the same numbers left as Dimension Data, would they have challenged them in the drag race to the line? I think they would have been very close! Kittel’s wounds seem superficial and he’ll be fired up to exact revenge tomorrow.

Ewan also went down in the crash which is also a shame, particularly considering that their lead-out looked very promising. On the instant replay it looked as if Ewan was one of the worst hurt, but he managed to get up and finish the stage. However, he is still going to the hospital for precautionary scans so as of yet we’re unaware as to the extent of his injuries. Even if he doesn’t get involved tomorrow, I’m sure he’ll try to solider on and compete on Sunday. After all, he is a tough little fella!

Viviani disappointed today, although he did start his sprint from far back in fairness to him. However, with his main lead out man suffering some injuries today, he may be left in an even worse position come tomorrow.

I was impressed by Bonifazio and Consonni‘s ability to negotiate the mayhem, particularly the neo-pro, who performed ahead of his years. Yet, I don’t think they’ll do any better tomorrow. If they can sneak into the top 5 again then that would be great!

One random sprinter might sneak into the top 5, but I’m not going to hazard a guess as to who.

Prediction

An angry Kittel = a fast Kittel.

He’ll carve through this field like a hot disk brake through shoes! Oh, too soon?

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Betting

No value in the stage betting market IMO. I like the look of this 1.25/1 double though…

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Cavendish’s train is better than Greipel’s, Renshaw should be dropping Cav off further ahead of De Bie. Would fancy him to roll home ahead.

Guardini not at the races today whereas Bonifazio got involved. The latter seems to have had the better start to the year as well.

2.5pts on it at 1.25/1 with Bet365. (Would take down to Evens).

 

Thanks for reading and as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win the stage? I’ll be back with a double preview tomorrow with Stage 3 of this race but also Omloop. More than likely it will be Omloop out first, some time in the afternoon, followed by Abu Dhabi in the evening. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Abu Dhabi Tour Stage 1 Preview; Madinat Zayed -> Madinat Zayed

The opening stage of the race and one that should be decided by the sprinters.

The Route

An “out and back” style course through the desert.

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As you can see, it’s almost as flat as pancake with very little elevation change at all! The wind may be a factor out in the open desert.

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However, looking at the forecasts for Madinat Zayed and Mezairaa it doesn’t look promising for echelon action. We may get consistent 14 hm/h winds which may have caused some issue if they were coming from the correct direction, but that’s not the case. Instead it will be a headwind when they leave Madinat Zayed, that turns into a tail wind for a bit out on the course, then back to a head wind as they return to the starting town.

Maybe we still might get something? I mean, that tail -> head wind doesn’t happen instantly! No? I think I’m clinging onto too much hope here. So instead, this stage will all be about the closing kilometres.

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It’s the exact same finish that was used last year and I expect a similar dash to the final left hand turn at roughly 1km to go.

The peloton will be fairly strung out through it but the pace will ramp up even more as they approach a roundabout with 700m to go. Once through the roundabout, the riders will possibly be in single file and it will take a lot of extra energy to come from 20 places back and win the stage.

Last year it was a messy sprint as riders lost their lead-out men and it was in fact Mark Renshaw who did the perfect lead-out for Giacommo Nizzolo (not Cavendish), with the Italian going on to take the win.

Therefore it’s safe to say timing in the sprint is very important. You either want to have 2 riders left in front of the sprinter when leading out of the roundabout and power home from there. Or use the slight lull in action as sprint trains look for their sprinter, to then bring your rider forward in the final 300m.

Who’ll be competing for stage honours then?

Sprint Contenders

The perfectly-haired German, Marcel Kittel, has to start as the clear favourite for this stage. He started the season off in scintilating form, picking up 3 stage wins and the GC in Dubai. Not arriving with his normal lead-out may hinder him a bit. However, he does arrive with his favourite lead-out man Sabatini. Possibly not as dominant as in other races, he will still be the rider to beat!

Cavendish comes here after a very weird start to the year. Mechanicals and bad luck hampered him in Dubai, before he seemed to be on lead out duty for Boasson Hagen in the Algarve. As an ambassador for this race, he’ll be hoping for a much better showing than those previous starts. I’m not entirely sure that will happen on stage 1 as he has had a hectic schedule over the past few days. Nonetheless, with Renshaw by his side, he is a rider who can turn it on at anytime so can’t be discounted!

Off the back of a very good stage win in Algarve, Greipel will be in a buyouant mood ahead of this week. Another rider who is arriving here without his normal lead-out, he will probably be relying on De Bie to drop him off in a good position in the closing kilometres. It will then be over to Andre to follow the correct wheel, can he?

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Caleb Ewan arrives with a short, but rather strong lead-out; relying on Mezgec and Kluge to get him in position. They are the type of guys who could perfectly execute the old “move up in the final kilometre” tactic that I mentioned earlier. Ewan was unbeatable in Australia a month ago, has he managed to sustain that form?

Hot or cold sprinter Viviani will be hoping to profit in a messy run in here. One of the best riders in the world at positioning himself without a lead-out, this race he can at least rely on Doull and Dibben to pilot fish him a bit further up the bunch before he has to ride solo. I don’t know why, but I think he’ll go well here!

Aside from the riders listed above, Pelucchi, Bonifazio, Guardini and Ruffoni will be hoping to get in the mix.

One other rider I am intrigued to see perform this week is young Astana sprinter Riccardo Minali. He made very steady, but impressive improvements throughout the week in Dubai, ultimately finishing 3rd on the final stage. Can he repeat that peformance here, or go even better? I’ll be watching with interest, that’s for sure!

Prediction

Kittel probably wins this, doesn’t he? But I can’t be releasing two previews in a day that both have the favourite as the winner, so to mix things up a bit and I’ll go with Viviani.

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He’s the one sprinter out of them all who benefits most from a finish like this, and if he manages to come out of the right slipstream then he will be hard to beat. After all, he is no slouch!

Betting

0.75pt EW Viviani at 18/1 with Betfair (Paddy Power). Would take down to 14/1.

5pts on Minali to beat Bauhaus at 1/2 with Bet365

Thanks for reading. Can you see anyone beating Kittel? I’ll be back again tomorrow with a stage 2 preview. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dubai Tour Stage 5 Preview; Dubai -> City Walk

Today’s Recap

What a fast stage, it was over in a blur!

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The Extreme Weather Protocol was put into action as freak, totally unpredicted winds were in the local area.😉

Stage cancelled and with it the GC is all but over. Nonetheless, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Pan flat stage in and around Dubai.

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There’s not much else to say really about the bulk of the stage!

With the itinerary on the organiser’s website being a bit guff, I’m not entirely sure where the finish line is but I’ll trust those at Velorooms who have produced this;

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The riders will make two 90-degree turns in the closing few kilometres, with the first coming at roughly 1.4km to go and one at 450m left.

The turn at 450m to go is very interesting and might end up rather messy. As streetview isn’t a thing for this part of town I struggled for a while to find out how sharp the turn is. However, I did manage to find the following on google maps as a photo sphere. Shout out to Shian Gao!

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So not overly sharp, more sweeping. But at only one lane wide, riders will only manage two abreast at full speeds.

At first glance the finish straight itself looks quite dangerous with a mini-roundabout at 150m to go. Once again the local council putting in a sever lack of effort with their roundabouts. No roundabout here at all, just some crossroads.

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Therefore, it looks like it will be full gas once through the turn at 450m to go and positioning will be key coming out of the turn. It will be very hard to make up 10 places with so little left and the bunch being strung out.

Stage Contenders

I’m sure you’re all fairly aware by now as to who is going to be mixing it up in the sprints.

Kittel is the guy to beat. Maybe people could ask Mr Grivko for some tips? 😏  Groenewegen isn’t far off the pace and can challenge, especially if his lead-out gets it right here. Cavendish has been unlucky but also gone missing at times. Can he be arsed? Degenkolb can spring a surprise. Mareczko can get low but he’s no Ewan. Viviani has been very cold so far but could turn on the heat here.

However, I’m going to go for none of the above just to be a bit different. Because hey, when has that ever stopped me before?!

Prediction

That corner at 450m to go looks the perfect place for an Italian duo on a Middle-Eastern team to dive bomb the inside and be in the best position coming out. This rider has been there or thereabouts all week and with a bit of luck can certainly pull something out the bag. Modolo to take a surprise win!

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Or we get a boring stage with a boring winner *cough* Kittel *cough*.

Betting

0.5pt EW Modolo @ 33/1 with Bet365. (Would take 25s)

And this 4-fold that pays 6.9/1  1.5pts on.

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Thanks for reading this week! It’s a shame that today’s stage was cancelled as the racing has been quite boring otherwise and the GC battle is over. I’ll be back with the next preview for Oman I think, I’m sure that’s the next televised race?! Might do something for Laigueglia if I find the time. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.