Vuelta Stage 20 Preview: Benidorm -> Alto de Aitana

Today’s Recap

Wow.

Froome smoked everyone.

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He managed to beat the guy who smoked everyone else, Castroviejo, by 44 seconds. An utterly dominant display. I mean, he only beat him by 4 seconds at Rio on a much longer TT. Plus, all the local advantages that Castroviejo had, it’s just an insanely unbelievable, strong ride!

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Anyway, enough about today, on to tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

Last chance saloon for the GC riders as we reach the penultimate stage of the race. In typical Vuelta, and Grand Tour fashion, the organisers have created a tough-ish day out on the bike. It’s not the Queen stage, but probably the Princess!

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Four Cat-2 climbs followed by an Especial ascent.

With the GC battle now a lot closer after today, we could see all hell break loose on tomorrow’s stage. Sky might try to take it up early on the first climb of the day; Coll de Rates. 13km at 3% and it’s a Cat 2? Well a lot of the elevation gain (230m -> 505m) is made at the start; 5kms at 5.5%. Before a plateau (if you can call it that) then another kick up at the end.

I don’t think the following two climbs will have an impact on the outcome of the day so I’ll miss them out and get onto the penultimate climb. Although even then, the Puerto de Tudons isn’t overly difficult, coming in at 7.1km long, averaging 5.4%. Nothing the GC guys can’t handle.

So it looks as if it’s over to the final climb. The Alto de Aitana.

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Long, but not very steep with only a 5.9% average gradient. There are a few steeper sections within the climb but if anything will create gaps between the GC guys it’s the length of the climb, at 21km. Combine this with the amount of ascending we’ve had at the Vuelta so far and there could be some splits.

How will the stage pan out?

Before today’s reshuffling I had this down as a breakaway day. Like most days have been at the Vuelta and something we see commonly on the last “proper” day of a Grand Tour.

However, Froome’s time gain does throw somewhat of a spanner in the works in regards to a breakaway victory. Some people will suggest that Sky will go all guns blazing tomorrow to try and isolate/weaken Quintana and we’ll have another epic stage on our hands.

Yes, it is feasible, I mean, nothing is impossible but it seems implausible to me. Not that I’m controversial or anything 😉 Let me explain.article-2043608-0E278F2700000578-613_306x423

The only problem with that plan, is that in the mountains Quintana hasn’t been in trouble at all this entire race. He only lost small amounts of time to Froome on Stage 3, but since then he’s been at least on an equal footing with the Brit and has beaten him several times. As I’ve said above, the climbs tomorrow aren’t overly difficult (which actually favours Froome) but Quintana should have no issue following. Unless he cracks majorly. Heck, he can afford to lose a minute, which is an enormous amount of time for these guys.

Isolating Quintana through the use of Froome’s team-mates doesn’t make much sense either. If it’s left as a 1 v 3 then all the Colombian has to do is follow Froome’s wheel. Numerical advantage won’t make a difference. Bet they regret not having Konig up there on GC now!

Finally and most important of all, I think Froome knows that Quintana’s better than him in the mountains just now. He’s tried a couple of times to crack him and has failed. It would be a big loss mentally for next season if he tries again and it doesn’t work. As bad as it is, I think he might be happy with his 2 stage wins and 2nd on GC.

So once again, I think we’re left with a…

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Candidates

There are a lot of guys who’ll be keen to get in the move to showcase themselves but especially because they will fancy their chances on the final climb.

Look to your obvious guys, such as Fraile and Elissonde who both have to make the move to continue the KOM battle. Gesink will probably be there too. However, I’m not suggesting any of them. Coincidentally, the guys I am naming took it “easy” today as well, all finishing outside the top 100, saving their legs… (?)

Joe Dombrowski.

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A regular pick of mine at the Giro earlier in the year, he’s a great climber with a solid engine. One of the most naturally gifted cyclists in the peloton, much like Ryder Hesjedal, he’s someone who seems to get better as a race progresses. Before the Vuelta, Talansky said that Dombrowski would win a stage here. He’s not done so yet, and tomorrow is his only chance. 3rd on the penultimate stage in the Giro, he’ll be hoping for better tomorrow!

Darwin Atapuma.

2nd on that same stage, Atapuma has been very quiet since taking the leader’s jersey earlier in the race. With Sanchez’s unfortunate crash today BMC have lost their top 10 rider and will want to go on the attack. Hermans may be that guy, but Atapuma has a lot more time leeway to play with. An exceptional climber on his day, the final ascent should be a walk in the park for him.

Hugh Carthy.

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The Lancashire lad has had a Vuelta full of learning experiences. He was unfortunate enough to crash and need stitches to his hand earlier on in the race, but he did manage to make it into Froome’s group on that very chaotic Stage 15. This type of stage suits him perfectly (the climbs are consistent) and I hope he’s recovered and makes the break, just to remind everyone what he’s capable of!

Gianluca Brambilla.

The winner of that incredible stage 15, Brambilla has taken it relatively easy since. Rolling home a few minutes down each day, saving some energy. Coming into this race, I thought he was a decent outside shot of a top 10 on GC. However, that is obviously beyond him now, but it highlights the quality of rider that he is. He’ll be able to stick in on the final climb because it’s not so difficult and he could out-sprint anyone to the line.

Prediction

I say Brambilla takes his second stage win!

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Behind, we might see some GC action, but Quintana still wins the Vuelta. All he has to do is stick on Froome’s back-wheel all day and I’m confident he’s capable of that. Even if he does end up losing 20 seconds at most. There might be some more movement within the top 10 itself. The battles for 5th and 7th look exciting!

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Betting

0.45pt WIN Brambilla @ 22/1

0.25pt WIN Dombrowski @ 80/1

0.15pt WIN Atapuma @ 50/1

0.15pt WIN Carthy @ 125/1

All of these are with B365 as they’re the only bookie to price up by half 8. Hopefully others will be more favourable later!

Hope you all enjoyed the preview. How do you think the penultimate stage will go? Am I completely wrong, and will we see a massive GC fight throughout the stage? Does the break have any chance? Like always, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta Stage 8 Preview: Villalpando -> La Camperona

Today’s Recap

Another day, another messy finale.

For a while, the stage looked like it would be a snoozefest as the sprint teams had the break well under control and were comfortable riding tempo on the front of the peloton. Astana, however, got bored and changed the speed completely with around 50km to go. The break was caught, and on the lower slopes of the final climb Luis Leon Sanchez attacked. He was joined by 5 others, but it was the Spaniard and Simon Clarke who pushed on during the descent and onto the “flat” run-in. Unfortunately for them, they were caught within the final kilometre and Jonas van Genechten took a wonderful sprint victory.

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Behind, we saw a relatively large crash with its main casualty being Alberto Contador who seemed to go down quite badly. In post race interviews he sounded as if he was already in a lot of pain. Not a great Vuelta for him. As for Arndt, he came across the line in 26th smashing his handlebars, clearly not happy with the way the stage ended. Maybe he was held up by the crash, but being honest, if he was that far back he wouldn’t have won the stage anyway. Lack of inexperience from him there!

Anyway, what do we have in store for us on stage 8?

The Route

Not much to talk about tomorrow. The majority of the stage is flat followed by our toughest ascent yet! The climb was actually used back in the 2014 edition of the race, with Hesjedal taking a spectacular win from that days break. It brings back bad memories as I had second placed Zaugg at 80/1!

 

Swiftly moving on…

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The 170km of flat means this is more than likely a stage to tune in late on to. In theory, it should be relatively easy for the teams to control the break. This is all about the final climb.Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 11.30.15 As you can see it isn’t exactly an easy summit finish. The average of 7.4% for 8.5km is tough but is also deceptive. As you can see on the graphic above, the second half of the climb is a lotmore grippy.

Back to normal today and I’ve created a strava profile of the final 2.5km that you can view here. It’s just insane, averaging 15.3% for that final segment with several ramps above 20%.

Team-mates are of no real aerodynamic use when the gradients get that steep, it’s all about the individual rider. Of course, they’re an advantage in the sense of one attacking to try to get the others to chase.

How will the stage play out?

Pre-Vuelta this was a nailed on GC day. A long flat amble along to the one major obstacle of the day means that the break can easily be controlled. However, we’ve seen this Vuelta so far that a lot of teams don’t want to put the effort in to chase. Aside from BMC who will honour the jersey, only Movistar, Sky and Orica are likely to put any manpower on the front of the peloton.

Movistar have two contenders for the stage, with both Valverde and Quintana looking strong. They will fancy their chances tomorrow, although Valverde may have bad memories of going too early and blowing up here in 2014, losing almost 30 seconds to Froome that day. Their squad does have good rouleurs such as Castroviejo and Erviti who can control the break on the flat. But I think Valverde will fancy this, it’s just a case if his team wants to do all the work.

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Orica will turn to Chaves tomorrow. The Smiling Assassin has quietly gone about his business so far, with his only real day in the spotlight being on the incredibly tough finish on stage 3 where he finished 5th. His diminutive frame suits this type of finish well. We’ve already seen Orica come to the front and drive the peloton on stage 6, so there is a good chance they’ll work tomorrow. Furthermore, Yates seems to be getting better and they’ll hope he’ll last with Chaves for a while.

Finally, that leaves us with Sky and Froome. The highest placed GC finisher in 2014, the Brit will be hoping of a repeat performance here. That time round, he used a very similar tactic to what we saw on stage 3, where he paced himself up the climb slowly picking off riders as he rode past them. He could very well deploy a similar tactic here tomorrow. We were promised a different Sky this Vuelta, one where they wouldn’t work as much on the front and their mountain train isn’t as prominent. Tomorrow is the true acid test of that!

Aside from those 4, I can’t see any other GC rider winning the stage. There will be large time-gaps tomorrow!

Breakaway Contenders

With this being another coin-toss between break and GC riders, I’ll suggest a few riders like usual who could surprise.

Sergio Pardilla.

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Winner of the GC at Vuelta a Burgos before this race, Pardilla has had a relatively quiet race so far. A very solid climber, he’ll be a threat in any break that makes it all the way. He’ll look to use his experience and grind away up the final climb, not going too deep too early.

Romain Hardy.

Yesterday I was nominating him for a sprint podium today a mountain top finish. He climbed well at the Tour de l’Ain earlier in August and has clearly carried some of that form on. Finishing 25th on the steep ramps of stage 3 shows that he can cope fairly well with the steep stuff. He could well be one of the surprises of the Vuelta!

Omar Fraile. (Again)

He took it easy today looking after Anton. He may well save himself tomorrow for days later on in the race, with more KOM points available. But as we saw the other day, he is a very attacking rider, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him up the road!

Prediction

Torn between two again. As I said before, I had this is as a GC day before the Vuelta. However, the attitude of the peloton has kind of put me off this idea. No-one seems overly keen to work, and there is a lot of tough riding ahead. Then again, the parcours lend itself to a team taking control.

Hmmm.

I’m not sitting on the fence this time…

In a shock twist the break stays away and Romain Hardy pulls off an equally shocking win!

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(Or maybe the GC guys win 😉 )

Betting

Small punts on the three breakaway guys. Tomorrow is most definitely an in-play day! Even if you do think the GC guys win, there’s no point backing them pre-stage because their price won’t change that much during the race and you have much more information on how things will unfold.

0.25pt WIN Hardy @ 125/1 with Bet365

0.125pt WIN Fraile @ 100/1 with Bet365

0.125pt WIN Pardilla @ 100/1 with Bet365

As usual, hunt around when more bookmakers price up. B365 were the only ones priced up by half 8.

Hope you enjoyed the preview! Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll enjoy tomorrow’s race until around 20km to go. Do you think we’ll see a break stay away, or will the GC guys finally get their act together? Any feedback is great as usual! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

TDF Stage 19 Preview: Albertville -> Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc

Today’s Recap

Should have just stuck to that Twitter preview then!

Froome rode the classic negative split tactic, clawing back time on his rivals, and smashing them by the end. A comfortable 21 second win over Dumoulin once the dust settled. That’s the Tour well and truly over, but I think we all know that its been over for a while.

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Aru, Porte and Bardet all recorded very good times, coming home within a minute of the Brit. They all look to be going in the right direction heading into the next two stages.

Poels and Kelderman went for club runs today, but were not as slow as TVG who seemed to crawl round the course.

Onto tomorrow’s mountain top finish.

The Route

A short sharp, tough day out in the saddle.

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Another stage where a fast start is inevitable. The Collet de Tamié isn’t even categorised but it’s a tough climb; 8.1km at 7%. I’d give it a Cat-2 ranking, Cat-3 at worst.

The sprint point comes not long after the climb, and although Sagan has the Green Jersey competition wrapped up, I would not be surprised to see him try to join the break. Just for fun!

The next 50km are dominated by periods of flat broken up by one mountain, the Col de la Forclaz, but by two seperate passages of it. The first comes in at 9.8km with an average gradient 6.9%, with the latter being a shorter sharper incline (5.6km at 7.8%). After the second passage, the riders are soon onto the toughest test of the day.

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It starts off tough and gets tougher, with the second half averaging over 9%. We might see some GC fireworks here, but with the way Sky have been riding then I can’t see it.

The route then tackles a long descent, broken up by a false flat drag, before the start the final ascent of the day.

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A testy climb, it’s toughest section comes right at the start. Riders could be distanced here if the pace has been high on the previous climbs. We then get a section of “calm” with gradients of around 4% before it kicks back up in irregular sections all the way to the line. This will definitely cause some damage in the GC group, but will they be fighting for the stage? That is the question.

There is a risk of rain at some point throughout the stage, but who really trusts weathermen these days?!

How will the stage pan out?

Froome’s dominance today means that the GC battle for first place is well and truly over. The battle for the podium is getting even more exciting though! Will those who looked strong (other than Froome) today keep it together for a GC showdown on the final mountain. That would require BMC/Astana/AG2R to keep it together. The first two could manage it but the way Froome is riding, they could end up losing the stage to him. A lot of effort and risk for a chance of it all going up in the air. I don’t think they’ll do that. Froome himself already has two stage wins so he won’t be as concerned with getting a third. Therefore Sky won’t chase hard, they’ll just ride tempo. Sky will let a break get away as early as they can so that Rowe and Stannard can control the race.

So as we’ve seen often in this Tour, I think it will be a break that makes it to the finish line.

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With the incredibly hard start to the stage it will only be the strong riders who get away. The stage does have the potential for some of the GC teams to try to get a rider who is in contention for a top 5/10 away in it, however, with Sky’s strength it’s almost a pointless move. I don’t think they’ll bother that early on. Instead, they’ll look to get teammates in the break and maybe try something on the last two climbs of the day. Look for a couple of representatives from a few of the big teams. However, the break might have a large advantage by that point, I think it will, so those riders in turn will hunt for stages.

Candidates

Like my other previews, I’ll highlight 3 riders that I don’t think many others will mention that could give it a go if circumstances are right.

Mikel Nieve.

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I’ve said this countless times before, I hope Sky send someone in the break tomorrow. It would endear them to the general cycling public that they’re all not “robotic” etc., plus getting someone in the break and to go for the stage win shows that they want to reward their domestiques by giving them their own opportunities. Froome has the race sewn up, he only needs a few strong guys with him. Poels is strongest so will stay with Froome, while Thomas and Henao are maybe just too close on GC. They’ll need Rowe, Stannard and Kiry to control the early stage. Landa hasn’t looked great. Process of elimination leaves the Spaniard. He’s shown at the Giro earlier this year that he goes very well in the final week and can pull off some great performances. If he does get in the move then he’ll be a serious threat as well because he’s evidently on great form being the 2nd last man for Froome over the past few stages.

Steve Cummings.

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The Brit has had a very solid Tour so far, taking a memorable stage earlier on in the race. Since then he’s been fairly quiet, doing a lot of work for Cavendish and EBH. He did a monster turn on the front the day the stage finished into Berne. The form is clearly still there. If he’s targeted this stage then we could be in for a treat! The steep gradients might not suit him down to the ground but he’ll definitely give 100%.

Simon Geschke.

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A bit of a left-field pick this one, but he did win an excellent mountain stage last year at the Tour. This stage could be too much for him, especially as he’s not done anything all year really. However, if he manages to get into the break and it splits up, then he could cause a surprise! He will enjoy some of the steep gradients, that’s for sure.

For other candidates look towards the likes of Nibali, Rosa, Zakarin, Majka, Kelderman, Barguil, Rolland et al.

Prediction

More out of hope than anything else, Sky put someone in the break tomorrow, and that man goes on to win the stage. A memorable win for Nieve, who will build on Sky’s already remarkable Tour!

Behind, we’ll see a GC battle. Froome and Poels will mark any attacks, but we might see a reshuffling of the top 10. Bardet/Porte/Aru all seem on an upwards trajectory.

Betting

All these prices are quite early on, hunt around later for better prices.

Nieve 0.45pt EW @ 150/1 with PP/Betfair (I’d take 100/1)

Cummings 0.2pt EW @100/1 with Betfair

Geschke 0.1pt EW @300/1 with various bookmakers.

 

Hope you enjoyed the preview! How do you think the stage will pan out? Is it a case of another race on two fronts, or will the GC guys take stage glory? As usual any feedback is greatly appreciated, thanks for all your kind words so far, it means a lot. 🙂 Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

TDF Stage 12 Preview: Montpellier -> “Mont Ventoux”

Today’s Recap

A real stop-start stage today. Echelon action followed by periods of the bunch sitting up, followed by more echelon action. It looked destined for a bunch sprint in the last 15km. That was until Tinkoff attacked into one of the corners and put it in the gutter. Sagan and Bodnar found themselves on the front and went for it. They were swiftly followed by a very proactive Froome, and a little less swiftly by Thomas who forged across the gap. Kristoff tried to get across but didn’t make it. The time difference shot out to around 25 seconds and was slowly reeled in after the other teams got organised. However, it was too little too late and Sagan held on for a great stage win. He really is the best World Champion we’ve had in a long time. Froome gained a valuable 12 seconds (6 on the stage plus the 6 bonus seconds) over his GC rivals.

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As for Kristoff, he won the bunch sprint behind for 4th place. I’m back to my Giro form now 😉 Moving onto tomorrow’s stage!

The Route

Flat, little bump then a mountain. Simple.

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Well, due to high winds, the riders won’t actually be going all the way up Mont Ventoux. Instead, they’ll be finishing at Chalet Reynard, which is roughly 6km before the end and conveniently marked out on the stage profile.

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Amazingly enough, changing the climb hasn’t altered the average gradient that drastically. It’s now 9.1% instead of the 8.8%. Either way, it’s still a brute. In fact, the shorter climb will have made it even more of an explosive effort. They don’t get that respite km of 5.5%. A few riders who would have struggled all the way up may fancy their chances more here. In theory, Sky’s mountain train shouldn’t be as effective here because of the steepness of the climb, but I’ll get back to that later.

How will the stage pan out?

Before the shortening of the Ventoux climb I would have said this was definitely a GC-winner kind of day. However, not reaching the summit has an impact on that I think. This is purely because they won’t have really won on “Mont Ventoux”. The prestige and all that goes with it won’t be there for the winner. Yes, they’ll have won a brutally tough end to a stage, but they didn’t make it all the way to the top alone. They won’t join the names such as Merckx, Poulidor, Virenque, Pantani etc. (although Froome already has that honour). Do modern cyclists think like that? I don’t know any of them personally to tell but I’m sure Wiggins would!

So do we get a breakaway take the win? Possibly.

What’s stopping it? The wind.

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Wind statistics for St-Rémy-de-Provence (just before the intermediate sprint point)

The average wind speed and gusts are predicted to be even higher tomorrow than they were today. Looks ideal for more crosswind action. With Sky exposing the weakness in Quintana’s armour, they may go full gas before they even reach Ventoux, hoping to shred the peloton and distance the Colombian. I’m sure the likes of BMC and possibly Trek might offer assistance, but it will be down to Sky if any splits are made. If they go at this fast pace, then the break has no chance.

If we do get a break, then look to the French riders, after all, it is Bastille Day. Pinot, Voeckler, Vuillermoz and Alaphilippe are all names that spring to mind. Out of those, I like the prospects of Alaphilippe the most. The young Frenchman has had a tough time as of late but the steep gradients of Ventoux suit him down to the ground. He shouldn’t be on Martin duty as the rest of the Etixx team should be able to protect the Irishman on the flat, the toughest part for him will be to join the break. If he gets in it, he could be tough to beat!

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If the pace is wild from the peloton then the key question will be: who makes it to the foot-slopes together?

Froome will be there. Dan Martin should be there. Porte & Van Garderen should be there. Mollema should be there. Kreuziger should be there.

These are the riders whose teams have shown their competencies in the wind, especially on today’s stage. As for the other riders, it will be luck of the draw if they make it. I would expect Movistar to not make the same mistakes tomorrow. They were very switched on at the start of the stage but got too relaxed in the final 20km. They’ll be tuned in from the start.

On form Froome has to start as favourite. He’s looked unbeatable all things considered. With it being a headwind finish, the likes of Yates and Martin will hope to follow him and out-sprint him near the top. Can they? If Froome really goes for it I don’t think they can.

Due to the head wind, this is where Sky’s mountain train can actually work for Froome on the steep gradients. If they just ride a reasonable tempo then no one can attack/ will want to attack because they’ll have to come out into the wind, wasting energy.

The only man who can follow (like he has on the other hill/mountain finishes) is Quintana. If they both make it to the bottom I fancy the Colombian to beat Froome. He needs to remind everyone what he is capable of. On the flat he just needs to glue himself on the back of the Sky rider’s wheel. Easier said than done!

With there being a TT the following day, I don’t think Sky/Froome will want to go too deep with their efforts on the flat in the cross winds, so all the contenders are more likely to make it to the bottom of the climb together. I’d say a 60/40 chance, but it could easily swing the other way!

Prediction

Very tough stage to call because of the conditions, I’m unsure if a break will make it or not. They certainly have more of a chance due to the climb length being reduced, but possibly will struggle to build up an advantage because of the wind. So I’m going to cop-out and say if we get a GC showdown, then Quintana wins.

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If we get a break make it all the way, pick a Frenchman out of the hat. I say Julian Alaphilippe makes it. I’m sure Carlton Kirby will be happy with that!

Betting

Should be a no bet day, but Alaphilippe’s price is too good to refuse.

Available at 200/1 with Paddy Power. (check other places when more prices get released)

0.25pt EW.

As Ray Winston says, “It’s all about the in-play”.

 

Hope you liked the blog. Tomorrow’s stage is definitely one for the cycling fan connoisseur with all of the varying outcomes and tactics. I hope we get a gripping days racing! How do you think it will go? GC/Reduced GC/Break? As always, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

TDF Stage 8 Preview: Pau -> Bagnères-de-Luchon

Today’s Recap

Well, I got that wrong. Very wrong.

In fairness though, for a lot of the race it looked like it was to be a GC show-down. However, just over the Cat 4 climb the break started attacking each other, which they needed to do, and a stronger group of 4 formed up ahead. Before Nibali and Co caught the four up the road, Cummings attacked and was not seen again until the finish line. Another perfectly timed attacked from him. A big middle finger to the Olympic selectors.

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Behind, we saw some of the GC riders struggle in the heat. The most notable of those was Pinot who lost over 2 and a half minutes on the rest of the GC contenders. Then there was Flamme Rouge Gate, these dangerous finishes eh…Amateur from the ASO it has to be said. Hopefully Yates’ injuries are only superficial.

Onto tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

A tough day in the saddle (184km) awaits the riders with 4 categorised climbs and a sawtooth profile.

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We could get another fast start to the day as riders try to get into the breakaway. The opposite is easily foreseeable and the peloton might want a slow start to the day after today’s fast and frenetic stage. The first break might well stick.

With the sprint point being before the climb we could well see some of the sprinters try to get away again. There is a chance for another mass break.

The opening ascent of the day is a tough one, with the first HC categorised climb of the Tour: the Col du Tourmalet.

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A long tough climb (19km at 7.4%) this could possibly split the break up. The sprinters and those struggling from injuries will be hoping there is no one of danger up the road and that the peloton takes this at a relatively leisurely pace.

Over the Tourmalet comes a descent before the road kicks up again for the Cat 2 Hourquette d’Ancizan. In this stage it’s apparently so insignificant that there isn’t even a profile of it in the road-book! Supposedly 8.2km at 4.9% going off the stage profile, this is the closest actual climb profile I could find that climbs from Lac de Payolle.

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Again once over the climb the riders get a bit of respite on the descent. This time round they actually have a bit of flat to contend with before the penultimate climb up the Col de Val Louron-Azet.

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Another tough climb follows. There is a pattern here! 10.7km at 6.8%, it starts off relatively easy but gets grippier during the middle. The break will hope to still have a good advantage here. Depending on the feeling within the GC teams, we might get a push on from them here.

The final ascent of the day is a Tour classic, the Col de Peyresourde.

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7.1km at 7.8%, this climb is relentless. Hopefully we get some GC attacks here, but with a long descent to the finish I’m not sure we’ll see many splits, but what do i know?!

The finish in Bagnères itself is relatively technical within the final kilometre. Perfect for a lone rider.Stage-1464953383

How will the stage pan out?

I’ve had this stage circled as a break day since before the Tour started. As far as I can remember (I have no stats to back this up, just going off the top of my head), the stage that involves Bagnerès-de-Luchon more often than not ends up in a break victory. With today’s stage victory coming from a break, it has cast a little doubt in my mind. However, I’m sticking to my guns and saying that a break makes it. Partly because I’m rather stubborn, but also because the following stage has a summit finish in which the GC guys can make more of a difference.

So that begs the question…

Who are the break candidates? 

At least for this stage it’s easier to narrow down because the rider will have to be a good climber to stand a chance. They also have to be strong on the flat to make the break. There are a lot of guys far down on GC so there isn’t much of a concern in that case. Like other previews that I’ve done, I’m going to list some riders who could make it. I’m being greedy and going for 4 this time.

First up is a man I’ve previously mentioned, Ruben Plaza. I admire this guys aggressive tactics in the mountains. He’s not afraid to attack from far out. After seeing Cummings go well today, he’ll want to remind everyone what he can do! The only concern is that he might be on protection duties for Yates. However, I think he could get given the nod and freedom tomorrow.

Second is Stef Clement.

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The IAM rider has been trying and failing to get into the break in the past few stages. He has the climbing ability to win out of a break and by the sounds of it is going very well at the moment.

Steve Morabito is another who could be given some freedom. With Pinot faltering today I think FDJ will try and put someone in the break tomorrow. On paper (aside from Reichenbach), Morabito is their strongest climber. He had a very good opening to the year, can he return to those ways here?

I feel like I have to mention a Dimension Data rider considering the way they’re going at the moment. That man is Daniel Teklehaimanot a.k.a The Tickler.

Tour de France 2015 - stage 6

Former Tour KOM wearer and this years Dauphiné KOM winner, the Tickler has been keeping himself towards the bottom of the GC. Saving energy for a breakaway possibly. Can he continue DD’s incredible start to this race?

For other break candidates look to the likes of De Gendt, Majka and Voeckler and those who want to feature in the King of the Mountains competition.

Prediction

So narrowing down those 4 breakaway contenders above, I’m coming to the same answer as an earlier preview. Orica will go one better tomorrow and Plaza will win the stage. He is a class act in a mountain break. Hopefully if he gets away, then he can manage to build up some KOM points as a bonus too.

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Betting

There aren’t many bookmakers who have odds up for tomorrow so hunt around later on.

0.6pt EW Plaza @66/1 with PP (He’s available at 100s with Coral)

0.25pt EW Clement @200/1 with Bet365

0.25pt EW Morabito @200/1 with Bet365

0.15pt EW Teklehaimanot @300/1 with Bet365

I’m hoping the prediction luck will turn soon. Either way, we should be in for a gruelling stage tomorrow. Enjoy it wherever you’re watching it from. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

TDF Stage 5 Preview: Limoges -> Le Lioran

Today’s Recap

Another day, another fest on my words for dinner. Kittel produced an incredibly strong sprint to win the day. Etixx definitely got his lead out right this time! My two favourites for the stage finished 2nd and 3rd. However, the blog “outsiders” were nowhere to be seen. I have to admit and hold my hands up when wrong, I just thought the stage/finish was going to be tougher. Fair play to those who backed Kittel! Onto tomorrow’s stage.

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The Route

The most difficult stage of the Tour so far, there are six categorised climbs out on the course.

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Looking at the left of the profile map, you can see that the riders actually reach a reasonalbe altitude. There is a lot of ups and downs on the stage, with the highest point being the 2nd Category Pas de Peyrol at 1589m.

With the climbs back-loaded towards the end of the stage, this promises to be tough day out in the saddle. The Ardennes riders will be licking their lips at the profile!

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However, the two cat 2 climbs are brutes. The Pas de Peyrol averages just over 11.5% for its final 3kms, with the Col du Perthus also having segments over 11%. The saving grace for the Ardennes riders and Peter Sagan is that the Col du Font de Cère isn’t an overly difficult climb. If they make it there, they will fancy themselves on the sprint up to the line, which has a very similar profile to today’s finishing ramp.

How will the stage be won?

Tomorrow is the first stage that I can feasibly see being won by a breakaway. There are plenty of riders far enough down on GC not to worry Sagan’s lead as long as they aren’t given too much headway. Furthermore, one of the Tinkoff DS reiterated the fact that they were still here to win the GC with Contador, so they don’t want to waste any extra energy in preserving Sagan’s lead.

Etixx could feasibly chase in the hope to set up Alaphilippe in a finish that looks to suit him well. However, if he’s there I’m sure that Sagan and Valverde will be there too and they can definitely challenge/beat him for the stage.

Consequently, I think if the right break gets away then it could make it. (50/50 chance)

Break Candidates

Realistically you need to look to riders who are 3mins+ down on the GC for the break to succeed because I’m not too sure on how keen Sagan will be on losing the jersey. Although saying that, he is a very laid back guy!

Furthermore, they have to be able to climb well to make it over the Cat 2s with the rest of the break.

Some riders who fit this category are Herrada, Albasini, Cummings, Navarro and De Gendt to name a few. Like normal, I’m going to highlight three riders who I think can go well.

First up is my main KOM hope and mountain break specialist Ruben Plaza. It may be too early in the race for him to go on the attack, but after losing over on 12mins on the GC then he could quite well have been targeting this early stage. A great climber from the break, he should be able to cope with the two Cat-2 climbs and then he’d hope to solo away to the finish.

Second is Alexey Lutsenko.

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A strong baroudeur, the Kazakh won a stage at Paris Nice earlier in the year by making a solo attack after the final climb on the day. He may not be the best climber ever, but he’s certainly strong enough to make the break on the flat. If he gets in it, I wouldn’t back against him! Furthermore, he has a decent turn of speed as well.

The final rider is one that has been in the break already this Tour, Jan Barta.

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Bora have been very active so far this Tour and I expect that to continue tomorrow. A strong TTer, Barta can make the break on the flat. Furthermore, he’s a fairly solid climber so could be capable of finishing it off, depending on his breakaway companions!

If it’s not a breakaway?

As I’ve mentioned above, this is a tough stage to call straight up and I think there’s a 50/50 chance of the break making it. If not, look towards those who featured on stage 2. The trio I said earlier: Sagan, Alaphilippe and Valverde all have very good chances of taking the result. However, there is one rider that I like outside those three favourites. That man is Tony Gallopin. He was very disappointed after Stage 2 to only finish 8th. His form is clearly very good after coming 3rd in the French National TT plus finishing 2nd in the road race. I think the TT result is more evident of that because he’s not known for going great in that particular discipline.

The likes of Matthews could make the finish as well and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that we see a late attack sticking if people sit up and look at each other.

Prediction

I’m going to have to cheat here and give two predictions: one for the break and the other for a favourites showdown.

I have fond memories of Plaza winning Stage 20 at the Vuelta last year. I had him at 80/1 that day, he’s the same price for tomorrow. The omens are good. He looked strong in the Giro and he’s the type of rider who can maintain a solid level of form for a while. If he makes it into the break, everyone else will be worried! He’s my breakaway man.

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But at the end of the day, the breakaway is a lottery so my guess is as good as yours! Speaking of which…

For the favourites I think it’s fairly obvious who I’m going to pick. Yes, Sagan/Alaphilippe/Valverde all rightly start as the trio to beat, but I have a feeling that big Tony will go well here. He’s my man if it comes back together for some kind of bunch finish!

Tony-Gallopin

Betting

0.75pts EW Gallopin @20/1 with Various bookmakers

0.25pts EW Plaza @80/1 with PP (paying 5 places)

0.125pts EW Lutsenko @200/1 with SkyBet

0.125pts EW Barta @300/1 with PP (5 places again)

 

Hope you all enjoyed the preview, we should be in for the most exciting stage so far tomorrow in my opinion! Watch this become a borefest now haha. 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.

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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.

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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.