Abu Dhabi Tour 2018 Stage 2 Preview; Yas Mal › Yas Beach

Today’s Recap

My echelon dance last night didn’t work and we had a fairly benign day out for the riders, albeit with a fairly strong headwind on the way “home”. The sprint teams were amassed at the front of the peloton and we had a fairly chaotic run-in with sprinters disengaged from their trains as everyone jostled for position.

Some went too early, some went too late, but in the end it was the King of Headwind Sprints a.k.a Alexander Kristoff who took the win.

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A very fast finishing Guardini was somewhat of a surprise in second place, while Ewan managed to hold on for third after opening up his sprint early. The top 10 is a smorgasbord of random riders with a few weird names up there and some notable exclusions.

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

The Route

Much the same as today with a pan-flat parcours for the riders but I’m sure they’ll be happy to know that they’ll have 35km less to ride.

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We do travel along the coast but there will be no chance of echelons unfortunately, much to my disappointment. Not much to shout about then until we get the run in to the finish.

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A long, wide-open road will once again see the sprint teams battle for position as they approach the Flamme Rouge. No StreetView here either so a satellite image will have to suffice for the second day in a row.

The only major pinch point is when they turn off the big highway at 750m to go and the road narrows down to one lane.

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This should in theory stretch things out and it is conceivably long enough for a team to control the closing kilometre. However, with the short sprint trains that we have at this race it will be tough if someone takes it up from far out.

What Can We Take From Today?

A bit, but not a lot!

It was a very chaotic sprint so the lack of structure might have made some results better than others, while also having the opposite impact too. For example, our stage winner Kristoff actually lost the wheel of his lead-out man (Ferrari) in the closing kilometre but latched onto the back of Ewan and effectively used the Mitchelton rider as his last man. An experienced decision that helped him win the stage.

QuickStep looked the most organised for Viviani but they went to the opposite side of the road to everyone which ended up being the Italian’s downfall. The lead-out ran out of steam and when Viviani launched he had no one to draft. In fact, he moved all the way back to the side where the sprinters were but he’d used up too much energy by then and could only settle for fourth. He still looks fast though.

Ewan had a great lead-out but launched too early and just faded in the final 50m. Possibly a bit of inexperience on his behalf. He does seem to be going well though and will fancy his chances in a non-headwind sprint tomorrow.

Guardini finished fast but was it a flash in the pan performance? Who knows! He’ll neeed a similar level of luck/cunning to go well tomorrow but we’ll see.

I have no idea what is wrong with Kittel at the moment. His lead-out was better today, albeit not great, but he just went backwards when he started sprinting. He can’t even argue that he was blocked off or anything as 2016 Kittel would have barged his way through the large gap that was there. He’s possibly ill or it might be his mental attitude that is letting him down but he doesn’t seem at 100% to me.

Jumbo blitzed the front today at around 3km out but they ran out of steam and Van Poppel was way-down in the end. If they time their coming to the head of the peloton better, then they certainly seem to have the firepower to dominate proceedings, they just need to have the patience.

As for the rest of the sprinters, I have no idea as to what happened to them as things were too chaotic or they were just simply too far down.

Prediction

Given what we witnessed today it looks like a Ewan/Kristoff/Viviani showdown.

I think Mitchelton Scott will get the timing much better this time and the young Aussie will get the win.

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Although there is a good chance we get another chaotic sprint and a potential surprise winner.

Betting

No bet.

Thanks for reading as always! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see a similar result or will it be completely flipped around? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Abu Dhabi Tour 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Madinat Zayed -> ADNOC School

GC Overview

The last of the races in the middle-east and the only one that holds World Tour status, the Abu Dhabi Tour features five stages this year. We should have three sprints, one time trial and a mountain top finish with the latter two more than likely deciding the GC.

In 2017 it was Rui Costa who took the win which topped off his cracking start to the year.

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He’s here to defend his crown this year but with the added effort against the clock it will be difficult for him to do so.

Given the TT, anyone who hopes to go well in the GC can’t afford to lose anymore than 30 seconds here and even then, it might be a struggle to gain them back on Jebel Hafeet. So with that said we have a few stand-out candidates.

Tom Dumoulin races for the first time this season but that doesn’t really mean anything as he finished here in 2017 on his first outing. The TT/Mountain top finish combination suits him perfectly and he’ll hope to be close to winning both days. He might not actually get a stage win but it could be enough to secure the GC. Sunweb also have the benefit of having Kelderman here too and it will be interesting to see how the Dutch pair combine.

Rohan Dennis is hoping to develop into a GC rider with this season being a crucial point in that transformation. The best TT rider in the World over a course of this length he’ll hope to end the day with almost a minute of some of the climbers and maybe 15 seconds or so over Dumouln. Holding on to that lead of Jebel Hafeet will be tough but it will be a good acid test for him and his GC abilities.

Jonathan Castroviejo will get his first chance at leadership for Sky here. The British outfit have been flying in TTs as of late, winning both the Algarve and Andalucia efforts against the clock. Castroviejo is an exceptional TT rider but also a competent climber too. Jebel Hafeet will be on his limit but he’ll certainly be hoping to make the top 5 on GC and possibly go a bit better.

Alejandro Valverde isn’t great against the clock, but he’s not bad either. After a return to racing after his crash in the TDF last year, the Movistar man has once again looked imperious in the races he’s competed in so far. He’ll hope to limit his losses in the TT, to maybe 30 seconds at most then it is all up to a big effort on the final day. He’s certainly put a strong dig on Jebel Hafeet during training as he now holds the Strava record for te climb!

Others will be there or thereabouts but I’m not going to bore you with names, Tom Dumoulin to win the GC!

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Right, now let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders on the opening day.

The Route

A boring sprint stage with an almost out and back route through the desert; no need for a profile as it is pan flat.

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It’s pretty much the same stage that was used last year. Expect a lot of images of camels and rocks!

The finale is fairly straightforward with there being only two key pinch points/turns. Apparently Google Streetview isn’t a thing in this part of the Emirates yet so a satellite image of the final 3km will have to suffice.

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One right-hand turn at roughly 2.5km to go is followed by a roundabout at ~1.3km. I’m not sure what way they’ll take the roundabout, whether they go on the inside line (likely) or if it will be taken as a sweeping turn as above. Either way, the teams will have one kilometre dead ahead of them with a final jockey for position before they release their sprinters.

We’ve seen so far this season how simple run ins like this cause a lot of chaos because everyone is fairly evenly matched and they’re all vying for the same road space. We have a stacked sprint field here so I expect this to be equally manic!

Wind Watch

Given that the riders will be travelling into the wide open desert the possibility of echelons increases (much to my excitement). I’ve had my eye on the forecast for the past few days and it has changed a bit. Originally it was supposed to be a crosswind across the main stretch of straight road except that has changed to more of a headwind now.

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You can see on the screen capture above Madinat Zayed at the top of the map with the “turning point” of the stage down at the bottom. The wind is probably not coming from the East enough to cause any crosswinds but there is the point around halfway up the image that the road itself heads more West. Could this be enough to see some echelon action? I would love it, but I’m not holding out hope!

I’ll certainly be doing by crosswind dance before I go to bed tonight though.

If we do get echelons, then expect the majority of sprinters to be present at the front of the race anyway as a lot of them are masters at riding in bad conditions. In that situation it would depend on how many team-mates are there to hold it together for a sprint but it is still likely we’ll see some type of gallop to the line.

Sprinters

It seems as if the whole sprinting peloton is here; so much so, that I’m fairly certain that I could write another 1000 words. I’m not going to bore you with that so I’ll try write a few sentences at most for each rider!

Kittel.

Disappointed with his poor performances in Dubai, he’ll be here to remind everyone that he is the fastest rider in the peloton. A straight forward finish should be good for him but he’ll need to be positioned better.

Cavendish.

Already matching his tally of wins from last season, the Manxman will hope to continue that winning streak here. A tenacious rider, he always seems to rise to the occasion and knowing that the majority of the top sprinters are here he’ll desperately want to get one over them.

Greipel.

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Started the season with a bang in Australia, taking two stage wins. The German seems to be as powerful as ever but his lead-out train lacks a fast last man. Will need to latch onto another train which might cause issues. Headwind sprint helps him a lot though.

Kristoff.

The second rider that I proclaim is the best in the peloton (along with Greipel) in a headwind sprint, he is a master of tricky conditions. After firing a few blanks in his first races, he opened his account in Oman. Can he continue that here?

Ewan.

Was good in Australia but didn’t seem his scintillating best in the sprints. However, he was very strong in Almeria with a comfortable win over Van Poppel. Having a strong, strong lead-out here for him will help massively.

Viviani.

Arguably the in-form sprinter of the season so far, he has been truly exceptional. Arriving with a slightly different train, he has his reliable pilot fish Sabatini and that will be pivotal. Will the winning run continue?

Van Poppel.

Looked good in Valenciana but he’ll have been humbled a bit by Ewan in Almeria. Nonetheless, he’s a strong guy and will be hoping to bounce back. Jumbo nailed the lead-outs for Groenewegen so far this season, will DVP get the same quality?

Bauhaus.

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I’m a fan of the ‘Haus and it will be good to watch his progression again this year. He had a few strong placings in Australia but just missed out on the win. Tipped as the “new Kittel” he’ll be able to rely on the massive engines of Dumoulin and Arndt for a lead-out. He could surprise but would it really be a surprise though?

McLay.

Gets his chance to sprint for EF Education here. No lead-out for him so he’ll have to freestyle but that might work to his advantage. He is capable of pulling a very good result out of the bag but a top 10 will be solid for him nonetheless.

Minali.

Another “M” sprinter who will probably have to fly solo, he looked fast in a few of the finishes in Dubai but he seems very inconsistent. Will require some luck for him to go well.

Guardini. 

My #PFCL4 rider is in high company here and a top 10 result would be nice in a few of the stages. Back in 2015 he was notorious for strong showings in the desert sprints but he has since lost his way. Has he found Bernard’s Watch and rolled back the clock?

There are even more guys to consider such as Ackermann, Bonifazio, Barbier and Halvorsen to name a few but I think that the list is exhaustive enough!

Prediction

After a bit of a wind-battered day in the peloton, the riders will be more fatigued than expected. I have to go with one of two riders that I proclaim are the best in the world in a headwind sprint, no doubt picking the wrong one…

Alexander Kristoff to take the win!

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Having start off the season promisingly but without the result to show for it, it was good to see him get the proverbial monkey off his back in Oman. He looks in great shape, a 4th place on Hatta Dam is testament to that and I think a few people will underestimate him here.

Betting

1pt EW Kristoff at 12/1 with Bet365 (would take 10/1)

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win the opener tomorrow? Will we see some splits in the bunch, or will it be a long day in the saddle? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 5 Preview; Skydive Dubai › City Walk

Today’s Recap

That was exciting!

For a while it looked as if the peloton had misjudged the catch of the breakaway but the dreams of McNulty taking the race lead turned to heartbreak as he was swallowed up on the Hatta Dam climb itself.

Colbrelli shot out of the pack; beating a fast finishing Cort Nielsen into second who himself just edged out a surprisingly good Roosen who came home in third.

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However, the time gaps were not as big as expected and the first 13 riders across the line were granted the same time. Consequently, that means Viviani still holds the lead going into the final day with Cort Nielsen 2 seconds back and Colbrelli 4 in arrears. Bouhanni is realistically the only other rider who can challenge as he is 8 seconds back but there are a few others within striker distance if something crazy happens.

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

The Route

The organisers have left the most technical of finishes this week until the final stage. Although saying that, we’re in Dubai so it isn’t that bad!

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It will be interesting to see if the break survives for both of the intermediate sprints as the bonus seconds could be vital in the end for GC.

The main challenge the teams will face is two right-hand turn in the closing kilometres.

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It is the exact same finish that we had last year so the riders should know what to expect. The first turn at 1.2km to go sees the road narrow down through the corner itself, before opening back up into several lanes again. However, the pace should be on at this point and I’d be surprised to see the peloton more than three riders wide.

From there, it is a sprint to the final right hand turn with roughly 400m to go.

Having a lead-out man in front of the sprinter is crucial so that they can push on and not leave the sprinter at the head of the peloton too early. That is kind of what happened last year and there was a bit of a stall as the guys at the front didn’t want to open up their effort too far out.

A strong train can certainly dominate this finale but they have to be careful of teams dive-bombing the closing 750m.

Sprinters

I think we’ve seen almost every sprinter here have some kind of reasonable run at the finish on the few stages they’ve had so far. The sprints themselves have been chaotic and different riders have looked strong/weak depending on the day and their luck with getting a clean sprint.

Tomorrow’s stage looks like the one that can be controlled well with the peloton naturally being strung out throw the turns. Yet, with the amount of sprinters interested then it could well become chaotic again.

So without wanting to repeat and rehash what I have written on the first 3 days, I’m just going to skip the rest of the broad sprinter overview out.

Prediction

I’ll give Kristoff another chance tomorrow.

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He’s looked good throughout the race but he’s one of the riders who I think hasn’t managed to sprint at 100% yet; there has always been something hindering him. His performance on the Dam today was very impressive considering that he is one of the heavier sprinters here so the early season form is definitely there. Ganna and Consonni will have to arrive late with him and drop him on the wheel of the best lead-out (probably QS) but he certainly has every chance. One thing that might work in his favour is that he won’t be concerned with going for any intermediate sprint points as it is very unlikely he would win GC.

Betting

A stinker of a week so far but Viviani currently leads the GC which might salvage it and make it just a poor week. Unless of course big Alex steps up…

1pt EW Kristoff @ 28/1 (would take 20)

Also, Bet365 are offering a cash out on Viviani for 12pts off of the 3pts stake which I am tempted to take but that’s not my style. All or nothing!

Can’t wait for it to all go up in smoke tomorrow!

Thanks as always for reading! Apologies this is shorter than normal but I don’t think I’d enjoy writing a repeat run-down of the same sprinters and I’m sure you wouldn’t enjoy reading it. I might have an Il Laigueglia preview out tomorrow but don’t hold me to that. If not, I’ll be back with either Algarve or Andalucia, or maybe both. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Skydive Dubai › Palm Jumeirah

Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Skydive Dubai › Palm Jumeirah

GC Overview

The annual battle in the desert between the sprinters returns this week with 5th edition of the Dubai Tour, and boy, do we have a strong field here!

Kittel, Cavendish, Viviani, Groenewegen, Degenkolb/Nizzolo, Kristoff, Bouhanni, Mareczko, Cort Nielsen and Colbrelli all will start the race, and they’ll all hope to get one over their rivals early on in the year.

Since the change in format after the 2014 edition (that had a TT to open), the GC battle has often came down to the sprinters being able to pick up bonus seconds coupled with their ability to follow home the puncheurs on the Hatta Dam. 2015 and 2016 saw Cavendish and Kittle take enough stage wins/secure enough bonus seconds to hold on for the overall title. While last year saw the Hatta Dam stage cancelled due to high winds, which made it more of a walk in the park for Kittel than what might have been.

This year, the riders will have one more stage to contend with which theoretically makes it even more likely that a sprinter will win the GC. However, given that this is the strongest field that we’ve seen here since the races inception, there is a chance that the stage wins will be spread around enough that a puncheur could sneak the overall win.

Nonetheless, I still think we’ll see a sprinter take the crown.

That man will be Viviani.

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With some racing already in his legs, he should come to this race sharper than a lot of his rivals and that could play a big part throughout the week. Furthermore, with a win to his name already and a string of solid performances down in Australia, he will be buoyed by confidence. I think being freed from the shackles of Sky really helped him and we saw a big change in his performances towards the end of last season when he knew the move to QuickStep was confirmed. Having a team that believes in you makes a massive difference for a sprinter and it clearly has helped the Italian. Some of the Watts he was putting out in Australia were incredibly impressive and I think he’s transforming back to the Viviani that showed so much promise in his early years at Liquigas. Consequently, that means he can actually climb reasonably well and get to some finishes that you might not expect, i.e. his second in Cadel’s Race, or Hatta Dam. QuickStep’s record in this race is remarkable, having won it for the past three years, and I fancy them to make it four in a row this time around.

Vai Vai Viviani!

Will he secure the win on the opening day though? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders on Stage 1.

The Route

Pretty much a carbon copy of last year’s opening day.

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There’s almost no point of me posting any of the stage profiles this week as they’re all flat! The more interesting thing about the stage is the final run.

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The riders come out of a tunnel at roughly 6km to go, before making their way towards the end of the Palm. This marks a fairly tight roundabout and once they are through that point, it is a 3km drag race for the sprint teams. The roundabout can be sketchy and last year’s race saw Colbrelli fall here and ruin any chance of victory.

Considering the distance from the roundabout to the finish line, it is possible for teams to move their riders up in that time. However, you certainly want to be in the first third of the peloton.

It is hard for a team to assert complete control at the front of the peloton and we’ll more than likely see surges from different trains in the closing couple of kilometres.

Normally the riders would be concerned with the wind on this stage, but the forecast is fairly benign with a 10km/h left to right cross-wind predicted for the closing sprint. Nothing too drastic, but coming from the downwind side might just present an opportunity for a rider to surprise. Conversely though, a strong lead-out could hug the right hand side of the road, forcing any competitor into the wind.

Contenders

As I’ve mentioned above, we’re treated to a long list of sprinters here so I’ll try to keep this bit short-ish, otherwise we could be here a while!

Marcel Kittel.

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Winner of this stage last year, it will be interesting to see how he gels into his new team and lead-out train. Katusha are certainly weaker than QS and with Kittel preferring a late dash to the line, pouncing in the closing kilometre a lot last season, I’m not sure the likes of Haller and Zabel have the speed to do that. We’ll see, but I’ll be watching with interest.

Elia Viviani.

The form rider here and my GC favourite. He was very strong in the Tour Down Under and was rewarded with a great stage win as a result. QuickStep bring a team with them here that is built around the Italian. With the power they have, we should see a dominant blue train in the closing kilometres. Can Viviani continue his good form?

Dylan Groenewegen.

Still only 24, the young Dutchman had another solid season last year where he picked up 8 wins, including the iconic sprint along the Champs-Élysées at the Tour. He started his season with a second place on GC here last year and will be looking to go one better this time. With a team dedicated to him, he should be positioned well going into the sprint, and it will be up to him to deliver.

Mark Cavendish.

You can never rule out Cavendish. I did at the 2016 and he absolutely blitzed that, before dropping out to focus on the Olympics. It is fair to say that 2017 was a bit of a disaster for him though, with only one win all year and a crash in the Tour that ruined his season. He arrives here with a tried and tested lead-out train and I’m sure he’ll want to come out of the blocks firing in 2018; reminding everyone that he is still one of the fastest guys in the peloton.

John Degenkolb.

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Having already started his season in Mallorca, Degenkolb has an advantage over some of his competitors in that sense. Furthermore, with two wins to his name, he already has more wins this year than in all of 2017. Trek also bring Nizzolo with them so it will be interesting to see the dynamic between them, but given that Degenkolb has won on Hatta before, I imagine they’ll go with him here. Can he make it 3 wins from 3 starts in 2018?

Alexander Kristoff.

Having moved from Katusha in the winter, where he spent six years of his career, it will be interesting to see how he gets on in his new UAE Emirates team. There will be pressure on the Norwegian to perform in what is a home race for the squad, but his team doesn’t look the best. A lot of pressure will be on the young shoulders of Ganna and Consonni to position him well, which could be his downfall. I’m sure he’ll be disappointed to see it won’t be a headwind sprint either! I think we might see something from him later in the race, but not on the opening day.

Nacer Bouhanni.

The enigmatic Frenchman arrives here with Cofidis receiving an invite to the race for the first time. When he wants to be he is lightning fast but more often than not he is too busy scrapping for someone’s wheel way down the order, before settling for a top 8 finish. If his attitude has improved and that is a big if, then he could have a really good season. The Cofidis management has had a change of approach and seems to be giving him some tough love an I’m intrigued to see how that works. I would not be surprised to see him first or fifteenth.

Sonny Colbrelli.

2017 was a good year for the Italian and his move up to World Tour level was a success, winning a stage of Paris Nice. I’m not sure his raw pace is up to the standard of some of the guys here and he would probably prefer a tougher day out in the saddle, but you never know.

Jakub Mareczko.

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Already with two wins under his belt at the famous Sharjah Tour towards the end of January, he’ll arrive here with confidence. What? You’ve never heard of it? Tut tut. To be fair, all he had to beat was Coquard and some sand so we can’t really take much from it. Nonetheless, I do rate the Wilier rider and he has the speed to compete on very flat days. He’s still a tier or so below the best riders, but given he’s been in the Emirates for a few weeks now, that might be of an advantage to him.

Magnus Cort Nielsen.

Another rider who moved in the winter, he’ll want to impress for new team Astana. On paper, he has the power and climbing ability to “do a Degenkolb” and challenge on the Dam, but a crash in training in December might have halted his build up to the season. Like Colbrelli, he would prefer a few more lumps and bumps, but he can’t be discounted entirely.

Prediction

Pffff, pick a name out of a hat!

Viviani has the form, but I think he might fall short on the first day. Instead, I’ve been drawn towards Cavendish for this opening stage.

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He’s spent a bit of time in the Emirates recently and was out there towards the end of January as an ambassador for Abu Dhabi Tour. Now, I’m unsure if he has just stayed there since, but he’s definitely been out since the 2nd of February and I think that shows some intent to go well on his part. Furthermore, he is playing down his chances and form in the press, which is normally when he ends up going well!

His big goal for the year is to get closer to Merckx’s Tour de France stage win record, but I imagine he will want to hit the ground running after a quite frankly awful 2017 by his accounts, mostly for confidence reasons. Although I don’t think he lacks that…

He’s a racer and with a tried and tested lead-out, he has a good chance of surprising on the opening day.

Betting

3pts WIN Viviani for GC at 9/2 with Bet365

1pt EW Cavendish for Stage 1 at 9/1 with SkyBet

4pts Viviani to beat Groenewegen for Stage 1 at 1/1 with Bet365

1pt Double on Viviani ov Groenewegen & Degenkolb ov Kristoff at 2.66/1 with Bet365.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? We have a plethora of sprinters to choose from so it should be an exciting week of racing. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Ride London-Surrey Classic 2017 Preview

After spending a few years at .HC level, the race makes the step up to WT status for 2017. A decision that I’m not so sure about as with two WT races already going on at the weekend; team’s resources will be stretched to the limit and we could see some weaker teams sent here because of it. Furthermore, it takes away the opportunity for the UK Continental teams to shine. Oh well, it is what it is!

Last year saw the race come back for a relatively large bunch sprint which Tom Boonen won.

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The Aussie duo of Renshaw and Matthews followed the Belgian home to round out the podium.

Will we see a similar outcome this year? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The organisers have slightly shortened the route for this edition, removing one of the climbs that we normally have during the middle of the race.

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Rolling out from London, the riders will face fairly flat roads with only a few minor lumps before reaching the first KOM of the day; Staple Lane.

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Uncategorised in last years race, it’s not an overly tough climb mainly due to the amount of false flat that it has. However, there are a few steep ramps and some longer sections at +5%. I wouldn’t expect it to do any damage to the peloton though.

Staple Hill does kick off the “serious” section of the race where the riders will be facing climbs every 15km or so.

Next on the agenda is Leith Hill.

LeithHill KOM

A more challenging climb than Staple Hill, we could see some of the stronger climbing teams push the pace on here to try to put the sprinters into difficulty early on.

Once over the top they’ll face a long shallow descent before the first passage of Ranmore Common.

Ranmore KOM

Another short climb, the peloton will no doubt fly up it. The gradient does get steepest near the top, peaking at 16%, which does offer a great opportunity to attack. Even more so because there are a few kilometres of false-flat to continue to apply the pressure on once you’re over the summit. The riders will then complete a loop back through Dorking and complete the Ranmore climb for a second time.

With roughly 50km remaining, the riders will face the last KOM of the day; Box Hill.

BoxHill KOM

For the professional peloton it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, but it depends how aggressive the race has been up to that point. If we’ve had some very fast racing over the previous 60km then the 3.9% average gradient might seem a little harder than it is on paper!

When off the descent, the riders will have just over 40km until the finish in London. A lot of the route is flat in general, but the road does roll quite a lot. One thing British roads are known for is being “heavy” and energy sapping. This could really be of the detriment to any group up the road if they’ve already expended a lot of energy and the peloton is chasing keenly behind. Conversely though, narrow roads make it hard for a team to organise a chase.

The finish in London itself is the same we’ve had the past few years with the sprint along the Mall.

Weather Watch

As with most races in the UK, you never know what type of weather you’ll get on the day of the event.

Looking just now, the forecast for Kingston-upon-Thames has some possible localised thunderstorms mid-afternoon.

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Source: Met Office

That could certainly make the run in for home interesting; especially with a strong tailwind helping those staying away.

However, in Dorking (where most of the climbs are near) there is no rain forecast with fairly clear skies promised for the majority of the day!

All of this can change in an instant though and I wouldn’t be surprised if the forecast is different later on this evening compared to what it is when I’m looking at it now (10:30 am).

How will the race pan out?

The past 4 editions of the race have seen a small group stay away two times, with a reduced bunch sprint deciding the winner on the other occasions.

With the race now stepped up to WT level, we could see a race where teams are more happy to control the day hoping for a sprint and to gain some crucial WT points.

The step up also means that teams are able to bring an extra rider; 7 compared to 6 the past few years. Consequently, the bigger teams have another “disposable” rider to try to control the breakaway up ahead.

Conversely though, quite a few teams bring squads where they have riders who can cover both options.

I think I’m hoping more than anything else that we’ll get an exciting, attacking race, but I fear that it could end up being a relatively dull and controlled day.

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The majority of you seem to think the same way!

Sprinters

Matthews.

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Off the back of a great Tour de France, the Aussie will arrive here looking to keep the momentum going. As one of the best climbing sprinters in the world, he might actually get his team to apply some pressure on the KOMs during the middle of the race. He’s not the fastest on a pure flat sprint like the one we have tomorrow so he needs to take advantage elsewhere. He has a solid lead-out but it’s made up of mostly sprinters so they might be a bit disorganised. His team doesn’t really have anyone that will ride tempo on the front of the peloton all day so I’m intrigued to see if they try to get someone into the break.

Greipel.

Bitterly disappointed with his performance at the Tour, he’ll be here hoping to make amends tomorrow. In this type of field he should be making it over the climbs if they’re not rode aggressively and he should be there at the finish. Is he getting past his prime and starting to decline in prowess? Unfortunately, I think so. He just doesn’t seem as fast as he used to be and that’s shown at the Giro and Tour. I wouldn’t be placing my house on him to win tomorrow!

Bennett.

After picking up a handful of podiums at the Giro but just missing out on that elusive Grand Tour win, he bounced back with two wins in Slovenia. However, he’s not raced since the Irish Road Champs over a month ago so it will be interesting to see where his form is at. A rider I rate highly, he should be able to get over the climbs in fairly good shape and will be one of the fastest guys at the finish. If he’s on form…

Viviani.

According to an interview with Doull, Team Sky are backing Viviani 100% and that the Italian is in good form. Are they that confident in him or is that a bluff? Because to be honest, I wouldn’t be confident in Viviani winning! Sky have a few cards to play if the race does become attacking, such as Kennaugh or Stannard, so maybe they’re trying to play mind games with everyone. To be fair to Viviani, he did win a couple of stages in Austria recently but the field was hardly stacked with sprinting talent; Vanmarcke came home behind him in 2nd and 3rd on those two days.

Kristoff.

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Another rider who was poor at the Tour, he did seem to grow into the race as it progressed. However, he was then involved in a crash and that put a halt to things for him. If this was Kristoff of 2014 or 2015 vintage, there would be no point in having anyone else turn up as he would have this race in the bag. Can he roll back the years tomorrow? I’m sure he’ll be doing a rain dance tonight anyway!

Aside from those guys, there are plenty of riders who could get involved in a sprint including;

Drucker – Former winner, would need some of the faster guys to be distanced. In good form at the moment, picking up a win in Wallonie.

Theuns – I’m a big fan of his and without Degenkolb here he’ll now be designated sprinter. With De Kort and Stuyven he has a strong short lead-out. Does he have the legs to compete?

Cort Nielsen – After promising so much towards the end of last year he’s been a bit “meh” so far this season. A good climbing sprinter, he’ll probably want a tough race. If he’s not there, Orica might turn to Impey.

There are others, but I don’t want to list 20% of the start list!

Breakers/Late Attackers?

There are a few names I want to throw into the proverbial hat for this section.

Naesen.

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The Belgian Champion was one of the MVPs of the Tour, working selflessly for Bardet every day. Due to how well his team-mate was going, Naesen never got a chance to shine himself but tomorrow could be that day. AG2R arrive with an attacking team, as let’s be honest, Barbier isn’t going to win the sprint. A super strong rider on the short climbs and on the flat, he should be good enough to get into the moves.

Bauer.

A rider who earned a lot of my respect during the Tour, he often found himself last man standing as support for Dan Martin. Climbing better than ever before, he tried to get into the winning break on the penultimate road stage but just missed out. Quick Step don’t bring a proper sprinter as such, although that is doing Trentin a little bit of a disservice, so they’ll be trying to animate the race as much as possible. Bauer could be the man who makes it two in a row for them!

Van Baarle.

Another rider just out of the Tour, he was also climbing well on a few of the mountain stages, helping his team-leader Uran. Much more of a classics rider, tomorrow’s route suits him quite well and he is certainly a guy who can attack in the middle part of the race. Cannondale have an aggressive team and I expect to see Van Baarle on the move at some time. Will Tour legs benefit him?

Prediction

I really hope we see an attacking and exciting race but I think there will be enough motivation behind to bring things back for a sprint.

In that situation, I’ll go for a Bennett win.

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I’ll be waiting (possibly with bated breath) for a Bauer / Naesen / Van Baarle attack though…

Betting

No real value at the top of the order and if you’re to back a sprinter it is definitely an in-play day but I might avoid that completely.

Happy to have a gamble on two of my outsiders though;

0.5pt WIN on them both at B365;

Bauer @ 200/1

Van Baarle @ 100/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 21 Preview; Montgeron -> Paris

Today’s Recap

One second. Again! Think this must be the 6th time in two years that the rider I’ve backed for a timed event has lost out by one second.

Kwiatkowski rode a great TT but was just pipped by fellow countryman Bodnar, the latter getting revenge for being crushed by the Sky rider at nationals. After Sagan’s dismissal and Majka’s withdrawal it is good to see Bora still going well and challenging when they can!

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Froome came home third to convincingly take his 4th Tour title. Well, convincingly might not be the best word to use as he has looked anything but that this race, however the two TTs have won it for him! I wonder how the GC would have panned out if we had Valverde and Porte still here.

Oh well, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders on their final day of racing.

The Route

You know the score by now, a little jaunt from the outskirts of Paris that finishes with some laps of the Champs-Élysées.

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A processional stage that will get more exciting once we hit the laps themselves.

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Coming out from the underpass first with a few lead-out men in front of your sprinters is important. From there, being able to lead it through the sweeping bends with 500m to go will put your sprinter into a prime position into the closing straight.

That’s about that for the route, nothing more needs to be said really!

Weather wise the riders will start out in overcast conditions but that could all change later on in the stage depending on how processional they make the day.

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A wet finish could certainly make things a bit more lively.

Sprinters

This is the Tour, not the Giro, so we will see a sprint finish tomorrow. With Kittel no longer here, the door has been opened for the rest of the fast men to take a stage win and it could consequently become a bit hectic because of that.

Matthews.

The Green Jersey winner (as long as he finishes tomorrow) will be looking to go out with a bang. With arguably one of the best lead-out trains, he should be put into a good position. Brimming with confidence just now, does he have the speed to finish off a great Tour for Sunweb?

Boasson Hagen.

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After getting a richly deserved stage win the Dimension Data will be looking to double up tomorrow. The other rider with a strong lead-out, he should be placed into a good position in the final straight. No doubt we’ll see Van Rensburg do another monster turn to get him there! There are questions about his willingness to take risks though which could see him start his sprint from further back.

Greipel.

Has won a stage at every Grand Tour he’s started over the past few years. He left it late last year, taking the final stage that time round and he’ll need to do that again this year if he wants to continue that record. His experience of managing his body through a race could be vital.

Groenewegen.

The flying Dutchman hasn’t really set sail this Tour so far, picking up two podium places along the way. However, he did look like one of the fastest riders on the pure sprint into Pau and with Kittel gone he’ll be hoping to go better.

Bouhanni.

Poor. That’s how I’ll describe his Tour so far. He’s a sprinter that I think can do really well but he’s just been very disappointing during this race. He’s been positioned well only for him to decide to fight for wheels instead, or just completely lack the kick to get involved in the dash to the line. He could turn it around tomorrow and he’ll probably be doing a rain dance tonight, but it I think it’s unlikely we’ll see him on the top step.

Degenkolb.

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He’s been okay this race, especially when you consider that his original aim was to help Contador on the flat days and then look after himself. Now that he’s been freed from those shackles, he’ll hope to have the favour returned to him by the team. He would prefer a tougher finish but he should be in or around the top 5.

Kristoff.

Another rider who falls into the poor category. He was close in some of the opening few stages but has fallen by the wayside recently. Crashing the other day hasn’t helped and he’s looked a bit sketchy since then. Maybe he’ll be hoping for poor weather to help turn his race around?

Petit, Colbrelli, Cimolai, Bennati and Selig will all be fighting for the Top 10.

Prediction

My angle of thought for today’s stage nearly worked: pick a rider who is clearly still in form at the end of the race.

So with that being said, I think Matthews will win the stage tomorrow.

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He may not be known as the fastest rider on a pure flat sprint, but after the past week he is the only one to have shown that he is in great form. His ability to climb over some of the mountains we’ve had should see him fresher for tomorrow’s finish. Brimming with confidence, he’ll take a memorable stage win in Paris wearing Green.

Betting

1.5pt EW Matthews @ 12/1 with PP/BF (Would take 10/1 elsewhere)

 

Thanks as always for reading but a big thanks if you’ve stuck with me through the past 3 weeks. It’s your continued support that makes me keep going when I’ve gone on awful stage prediction runs etc! During the Tour the blog surpassed 50,000 views for the year which is incredible so thanks once again. I hope that a few of you new readers will stick around for the rest of the season as we still have plenty more racing to go.

Next on the schedule for me will be San Sebastian and both the Ride London races.

Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Tour de France 2017 Stage 10 Preview; Périgueux -> Bergerac

Rest-day Recap

A crazy stage filled with everything and it was certainly one of the most exciting I’ve watched in recent years. It was a stage that I’m sure even a non-cycling fan would be able to sit down to and enjoy for 5 hours.

In the end Uran managed to win a 6 rider sprint while effectively on a fixie. That just topped off a remarkable day!

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Day-long escapee Barguil finished second, while Froome nabbed third to pick up some bonus seconds and extend his GC lead over closest challenger Aru.

Of course, we had some very unfortunate crashes that took out some big names. However, that’s part of racing and it is nothing more than unfortunate. The riders push as fast as they want and are safe with, if they want to take risks, that’s up to them! It might be a slightly unpopular opinion but I see nothing wrong with yesterday’s stage lay-out; going downhill is as an important skill as going uphill. If not, why not just set up some turbos and see who can do the highest W/kg for an hour?!

Anyway, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

The riders will be glad to ease themselves back into racing after the rest-day with a fairly simple stage tomorrow.

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There are only two Cat-4 climbs out on course but the first one is generously given that classification as it only averages 3.3% for 3.5km. The second is slightly tougher but even then it is only 2.1km at 5.6%. Not exactly tough for the peloton!

As for the finish itself, there are a couple of roundabouts at roughly 3km to go but they won’t be too much of an issue.

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There are then two left-hand turns in the closing kilometre which could throw a spanner in the works for the lead-out trains.

The first one isn’t too sharp a bend but it is made tight due to some road furniture, effectively blocking off one side of the road. Or at least making the longer way around harder to go!

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Left Hand Turn #1

The narrowing road should ensure that the bunch is relatively strung out coming out of the turn. Which in theory will make the second left-hand corner easier.

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Left Hand Turn #2

I just hope that they’ve got rid of those gates! 😜

It will then be a 500m drag race to the line and we should see the fastest rider sprint for stage victory. Or should we…

How will the stage pan out?

It should be a sprint stage but post rest-day racing always produces some kind of odd result every now and then. Remember what I said in my Stage 7 preview…

With Kittel being so dominant, I’m not sure many of the other sprint teams will want to contribute to the pace setting. They’ll let Quick Step do the majority of the work, hoping to tire them out and take advantage of it later on in the stage. However, there is a chance that QS could call their bluff. The German already has three stage wins to his name so there is no pressure on him to win again. He didn’t look too great in his win on Stage 7, looking down at his power meter a lot, suggesting that he wasn’t feeling as strong. With a commanding lead in the Green Jersey competition the team also has room to ride defensively. Potentially give Martin an easier day after his crash yesterday?

Sprint Contenders

Kittel starts as the clear favourite but he is beatable. Especially now that Trentin is gone, that could be crucial for him. Although in fairness, his lead-out wasn’t firing on all cylinders anyway and he has three stage wins to his name.

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Greipel has been close but he hasn’t looked like winning any stage yet. Nonetheless, the experienced German has to be respected in a Grand Tour sprint. Will he be able to pick up a win tomorrow to keep his streak going?

Bouhanni might actually have a chance if he positions himself well. I still rate him as a fast rider and his acceleration could be key tomorrow to sprint out of the corners. Nonetheless, he’ll no doubt find himself 10 bike-lengths behind and that will be that.

Boasson Hagen arguably has the beast lead-out here now. So, so close to a win on Stage 7, Dimension Data were excellent; especially van Rensburg. The other sprinters will be aware of his strength now though so he might find it more difficult tomorrow.

Groenewegen will be there or thereabouts again. Two 5th place finishes for him so far, but he’ll be expecting more. He is fast and the finish does look to suit him. Can he make the step up and take a grand tour podium or even better, a win??

Kristoff has a great last man in Zabel and should be dropped off in a great position. He seems to be getting better as the race goes on, returning to his form of previous years? If so, he has the speed to win!

Matthews finished fast on Stage 7 but I’m still unsure if he has the raw-speed to compete on a pure flat sprint. His powers of recovery might be better than some of the proper sprinters, but he did have a big day out yesterday and I think that will take its toll tomorrow.

Colbrelli, Cimolai and McLay will be fighting for top 10 spots.

Break Candidates

I’d say the chance of the break sticking are better than any sprint stage so far, but it is still only a 10% chance at most. There will need to be some strong riders up the road and ideally be a 6-7 rider group.

I’ll throw a couple of names into the proverbial hat, sticking with some home-talent…

Thomas Boudat.

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The Frenchman is a young sprint talent who’s getting his first taste at Grand Tour riding. However, Direct Energie seem to be going with Petit for the big bunch sprints, with Boudat left to take opportunities from the break. Hailing from Langon, which is 80km from the finish in Bergerac, I imagine that a lot of his friends and family from home will be out to see him race. What better motivation to get into the morning breakaway than that?! He might not have the experience, but he will be tough to beat in a sprint if the break makes it all the way to the line.

Yoann Offredo

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A rider who was in the break on the first open road stage (with Boudat), he and Phinney nearly managed to hold on until the line, getting caught in the final few kilometres. Wanty are clearly motivated to try to get a rider into the move every day on the flat stages and that will be no different tomorrow. If he’s as aggressive and strong as he was on Stage 2 then he has a chance. His breakaway companions will certainly be Offredo him…

I’ll get my coat.

Prediction

We’ll probably still see a sprint and Kittel will probably win, again!

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I think that Kristoff could be his biggest challenger though. Although he only finished 4th on Stage 7, he showed some signs he’s riding back into good form. In search of a contract for next year, a good result tomorrow would certainly help that!

Betting

Definitely not lumping on Kittel tomorrow and almost tempted for a no bet, however…

0.8pt EW Kristoff @ 10/1 with William Hill

0.1pt EW Boudat @ 350/1 with BetVictor (would take 250s lowest elsewhere)

0.1pt EW Offredo @ 600/1 with Bet365 (would take 500s elsewhere)

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone beat Kittel? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Tour de France 2017 Stage 6 Preview; Vesoul -> Troyes

Today’s Recap

A fast day in the saddle. the race finished a good bit ahead of schedule. With a strong break going from the gun, we easily could have seen them build up a 6-8 minute advantage. However, BMC had other ideas and began setting tempo at the front of the bunch early on, never allowing the advantage to go much further north than 3 minutes.

Once onto Belles Filles itself, Kwiatkowski took over and set a terrific tempo for Sky, resulting in riders slowly being churned out the back of the peloton. Yet, it was such an infernal pace that it put his own team in difficulty. Landa and Henao never managed to put their nose in the wind at all, and it was left to Nieve to take over.

Aru sensed the Spaniard was slowing and attacked with 2.2km to go. A foolish move considering Sky’s ability to drag those attacks back in the past, except he just kept getting further away. Thomas closed down an attack from Yates, but wasn’t able to offer too much more after that so Froome himself went on the offensive. Only Porte, Bardet and Martin could follow the yellow-jersey elect, but after some looking around the group behind caught up again with around 800m to go.

By then though, Aru had the stage in the bag, taking a great victory for the blog! And himself too I guess…

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What really impressed me was the gutsiness of his attack, but more importantly the way he kept driving to the line, only posting up to celebrate once over the finish.

Behind, Martin launched a terrific attack to gain time on the rest and finish second on the day. While Froome managed to pip Porte to third. I’m sure the latter will be disappointed after his team did most of the work today.

There’s still a long way to go and plenty of mountains left, just not mountain top finishes, but it is promising that it isn’t going to be a complete two-horse race.

The GC riders will take a back foot tomorrow with the sprinters having another chance at glory. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for them.

The Route

A fairly benign and long day in the saddle at 216km – it is a typical transitional stage!

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Nothing major to note until we get towards the finish in Troyes. I got mildly excited when looking at the weather forecasts as we do have some 25m/h crosswinds early in the stage but they die down once we get to 50km to go. So we won’t see any echelon action!

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The final 5km gets progressively more technical. Aside from a roundabout at around 5.5km to go, the lead-outs will be able to organise themselves and we’ll no doubt see a big fight to get to the tight turn just before 2km to go first.

From there, the road slowly bends around to the right. Holding the inside line will force opposition teams to take the outside route, elongating their own run in, and potentially tiring them out/ruining their timing.

More crucially though, it is important to be at the front going under the flamme rouge as things will get messy.

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Just as they pass under the kite the riders will be faced with this roundabout where they will be funnelled around the right-hand side. Well, according to the road book anyway.

The riders will then have to contend with another roundabout at what appears to be ~250m to go.

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However, it is not as bad as it sounds, with it really only being a slight kink in the road. The worst part though is that the road narrows from three lanes to two and some riders might find themself running out of space!

Contenders

With some of the key sprinters now gone from the race or injured, we should in theory have a safer run-in as fewer people will be competing for the win.

Démare has had the best/most consistent results out of all the sprinters so far with a second place and a win to his name. He was somewhat lucky to get away with cutting across Bouhanni on Stage 4 but there is no doubt he is one of the strongest here. He has a lead-out train long/strong enough to control it in the final 2kms but they’ve been disappointing so far. Can they turn it around tomorrow and see Démare take a second win?

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Kittel was never in it on Stage 4. Positioned too far back, he never got close to the top 10 of the race before it was decimated by the crashes. Another lead-out that was fairly disappointed, with a team as good as QuickStep, you would expect them to turn that around tomorrow. The crazy on sprint on stage 2 shows the German has form, but will he be in a position to show that again?

With Cavendish and Sagan now gone, it certainly opens up the sprints more and in theory should make them less chaotic as we’ll have fewer lead-out trains fighting for position.

Kristoff and his Katusha team were keen to do some work on Stage 4 but possibly took it up too early. The Norwegian came away with a second place but I’m not too sure what we can fully read into it. I’m still not convinced he’s as strong as he was in 2015 but with Zabel he has a very good last man he can trust. Another podium is a possibility.

Greipel picked up another podium on Stage 4 but he seemed to be really struggling today and was one of the first riders dropped. Ill? Or was he just using his experience and saving as much energy as possible?

Bouhanni is one that interests me a bit for tomorrow. Clearly riding himself back into a bit of form after his crash in Yorkshire, he was unlucky to be blocked by Démare on Stage 4. The technical final kilometre should suit the brave Frenchman and he does have the speed to compete. Will the win be too much? Only 1.19% (or 1/84) of the previous 4 Tour stages have been won by a rider riding at Pro-Conti level.

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Credit to @padsbets for that stat.

Groenewegen, Colbrelli and Matthews will be close and fighting for the top 5 but they should get a top 10.

Prediction

Kittel will return to winning ways!

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But I think we’ll see Bouhanni sneak onto the podium, the finish looks good for him. Just need Démare to stay out of his way!

Betting

Not willing to risk Kittel at his odds, so I’m once again going with a better value play on Bouhanni.

1pt EW Bouhanni @ 16/1 with SkyBet. (Would take 14s lowest elsewhere).

After two successful H2Hs in a row, I’ll play the profit up for tomorrow. The 3.6pt was turned into 7.92pt today so I’ll put…

4pt Bouhanni to beat Greipel @5/4 with WillHill.

Risky, but I like the Frenchman’s trajectory.

 

Thanks as always for reading, who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be an easy win for Kittel or will someone else challenge him? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Mondorf-les-Bains -> Vittel

Today’s Recap

An exciting finale that had a little bit of everything but in the end the result was inevitable, wasn’t it? After managing to clip back into his pedal after unclipping, Sagan still had enough power to hold off a charging Matthews on the line to take a great stage victory.

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Dan Martin was the best of the GC guys, coming home in third place and taking 4 bonus seconds on the line plus a 2 second time gap back to the main GC group. Yates was the worst off today, losing 8 seconds to the likes of Froome/Porte etc.

A special mention must also go to Démare who managed to hold on to the wheels of the climbers and eventually finished 6th. He’s in stupendous form at the moment!

Will he get a chance to go for the win tomorrow?

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

The Route

A fairly simple stage with not too much to talk about!

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It should be a day for the sprinters so the stage is all about the final few kilometres.

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The road does rise and fall in the final 5kms but it’s nothing too severe. The climb that you see on the profile above averages roughly 1.8% for 2kms, so nothing more than false flat. Likewise, the finish itself does ramp up but it is only 1.7% for the final kilometre.

I’m sure all of the sprinters would expect to be there!

As for the run-in itself, it is more technical than what we had on stage 2.stage-4-5km

So here comes a little preview by pictures…

The first challenge the riders will have to face is the turn onto Rue de la Vauviard after they come off the short descent.

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Having gathered up a lot of pace, they’ll have to be careful not to misjudge the bend as it is a lot tighter than I expected going off of the stage map. From there, they will face a sweeping road until the “tight turn” at roughly 1.5km to go.

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Said “tight turn”

On a two-lane wide road the fight for position will be important as the best way to take the turn at maximum speed is to sweep from left to right. From there, they continue towards a roundabout which is a lot more precarious than the road book suggests.

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The two lanes that they approach on are split by some nasty looking road furniture, with the roundabout itself being very narrow. I hope we don’t see any accidents as every tries to funnel right.

Once through the roundabout the riders will hit the Flamme Rouge and from there things get a lot easier with no more sharp turns and slightly wider roads.

Conteders

Can anyone beat Kittel? Probably not.

The German was incredibly strong on the opening stage and if he produces the same amount of power tomorrow then he should eat up the finish. He will be hoping for a better lead-out though as he can’t afford to go too early on the rise as it could catch him (or anyone) out.

Démare again looks like his main challenger. The Frenchman missed his structured lead-out on stage 1 and he’ll bo hoping that changes tomorrow. They have the numbers to control the final 3km which is a huge advantage. Not afraid of a slight drag to the line, he has a good chance of going better than stage 2.7087035_1-0-1561477825_1000x625

Greipel loves a tougher sprint finish like this and he no doubt will be there at the end again. His train isn’t the best, he’ll need to use all of his experience to stay near enough to the front through the technical sections.

Cavendish took some promise from his result on stage 2. With another day of racing in his legs, will his form be on the up? Who knows! I’ll repeat what I said for the last sprint stage, his result won’t surprise me either way!

Bouhanni is the local boy and he will relish the technical finish. However, I’m still not convinced he’s at 100% after his crash in Yorkshire. He’ll give it his all and like Cavendish, I won’t be surprised with whatever he does.

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Groenewegen normally goes well on tougher run ins. The young Dutchman has no fear so he should be well positioned going into the final kilometre. Does he have the legs to compete with the best? A 5th on Stage 2 was promising and he may well sneak a podium tomorrow.

Matthews produced a very impressive final few hundred metres today, but it was too little too late. Not the fastest in a pan-flat sprint, the ever so slight gradient does bring him closer to the other sprinters.

Degenkolb was never really involved in the sprint on stage 2 and he might struggle with a lack of support. However, he looked very strong at the start of the year and you have to imagine that he will be close to that form again due to it being the Tour. If things click tomorrow, we might see a good result from the German sprinter.

Sagan will of course be up there again. Hampered on Stage 2, he was truly exceptional today. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go back to back.

Colbrelli and Kristoff will looking to top 10 again.

Prediction

Boring, but Kittel wins again most likely!

Cue the glaringly obvious Kittel wins in Vittel headlines.

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He certainly can be challenged though and a few riders will fancy their chances, it won’t be as “easy” for him as it was on stage 2.

Betting

No value in Kittel but there are two “outsiders” I’d like to back because the odds are just ridiculous for them.

0.7pt EW Matthews @ 80/1 with PP/BF (Would take 66s)

The Sunweb rider actually has a fairly solid lead-out train with him and theory could be one of the better positioned riders in the finale tomorrow. He got blocked off on Stage 2 so could never really make any effort to go for the win. His finish today gives me a lot of confidence in his power right now and I think he could be up there tomorrow again. Definitly should be lower than a 66 or 80/1 shot.

0.3pt EW Degenkolb @150/1 with Sky/PP/BF (would take 125s)

He’s not been great as of late but that doesn’t warrant his massive price, I think his form is actually on the up. Another rider who didn’t really sprint at all on Stage 2, he might get lucky tomorrow. I find it absurd that he’s that price while McClay/Kristoff/Colbrelli are all shorter, and by some margin.

Probably another two losing “value” bets, but they could run close in a hectic finish.

 

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

Peter-Sagan-Stage-11a

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!

Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 15.26.23

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.

Marcel-Kittel

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.

Mark-Cavendish-wins-stage-14-of-the-2016-Tour-de-France_Grahah-Watson-630x420

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.