Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 8 Preview: Linares -> Almadén

Today’s Recap

An OK break made it up the road but Bora were more than happy to help Groupama FDJ keep tabs on it so they were never really given north of 3 minutes. Things spiced up on the penultimate climb with plenty of riders dropped, but it was the descent off of that climb that was the undoing of Kwiatkowski who went down along with two team-mates. With the pace on up ahead and the tough climb to come, he would never make it back on despite his and a few others best efforts.

In the peloton we saw numerous attacks from solo riders and groups, but it was Gallopin who went at the perfect moment. A small lull as the decision as to who would cahse was made ended up being enough for the Frenchman to get a big enough gap to take the stage win.

Dl77oqUU4AEqKBG

It is a result that is nice to see given how much he has suffered from illness or injury this year.

Behind, Sagan sprinted to second place after keeping himself nicely hidden from the tv motorbikes in the final 10km. Seems he is building some form again as he definitely wouldn’t have made this finish a few weeks ago. Pre-stage favourite Valverde trailed home in third place.

Will tomorrow see a similarly aggressive and attacking finish to the day? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

I’m branding it as Stage 7 Lite.

The riders will face only 2100m of climbing compared to today’s 2500m.

vuelta-a-espana-2018-stage-8

The ascents themselves are less intense too, with the only categorised rise of the day averaging a lowly 3.5% for almost 9km: that’s not the Vuelta I know! Even the finale is a bit of a rip-off of today’s finish.

download (21)

Admittedly, the ramps involved in those closing 6.5km are tougher than the steadier 2% drag to the line we had this afternoon but it still equates to pretty much the same finish: a 6km, just over 2% run to the line.

Screen Shot 2018-08-31 at 16.56.10

The final kilometre averages 3%, but it does feature a few switchbacks on a narrow road so positioning will be vital. Expect a big fight for the penultimate turn off the main highway. Also, ignore the poor surface on the image above, that is taken from a 2008 Street View trip (if that’s the right word) but the road has since been done up with some swanky new asphalt.

How will the stage pan out?

With a big day ahead of them on Sunday, I think most will want to keep their powder dry. Despite the rolling hills at the start, it is fairly easy terrain therein for the peloton to control the breakaway. I think we’ll once again see Bora help with the chase and possibly a few of the other sprint teams so I don’t think the break has a very good chance at all tomorrow if I’m honest. It is the Vuelta though so you can never fully discount it.

The only way that it does have a chance is if we see a surprisingly large group of 8 or 9 go clear and everyone else decides not to work with Bora given that Sagan is looking strong again.

I think that is unlikely though, so an uphill sprint it is!

Can anyone stop Sagan?

I didn’t expect to be writing that a few days ago but given his performance today then I think it is a fair question. The run to the line tomorrow will be no issue for the World Champion if he continues to recover and he has to start as the out-and-out favourite for the day. His kick today was impressive and caught a few by surprise, let alone Valverde, who didn’t even realise he was in the main group.

Viviani – Can he make the finish? I think he will and he is the main threat to Sagan. It was only poor positioning that cost him a second stage win on Wednesday. He is punchy enough to deal with the drag and if he shows the same closing speed as he did the other day, then I think he has the beating of the World Champion.

Bouhanni – Now with a stage win, the Frenchman will be full of confidence. I mentioned in one of my earlier previews that Bouhanni is traditionally one of the better climbing sprints in the peloton, having won tough stages in Catalunya in the past. Tomorrow is different, easier in fact, but I can’t help but cast my mind back to the 2014 Vuelta and Stage 13 when Bouhanni finished 5th amongst GC contenders and puncheurs on a tough uphill finish.

Trentin – Just doesn’t seem to be at 100% at the moment. He’s another the finish looks great for but I don’t think he has the speed to beat Sagan if it is more selective and the same goes if it is less selective.

Nizzolo – Has managed okay on these dragging uphill finishes in the past but I’m not certain he has fully returned to his former level yet, therefore, I don’t think he’ll feature.

Outsiders to watch

Simone Consonni.

807515c1003e2654d0b1-simone-consonni

I’ve been impressed by the Italian’s development this year in what is his second season in the pro peloton. He’s a solid sprinter but can also hang quite well on the short climbs. It will be tough for him to win but a top 10 on a tough-ish finish like this would be a good result.

Eduard Prades.

Not as much of an outsider as he would have been had he not come 4th today. The Euskadi Murias rider has had a string of very good results this year, particularly in races with tricky finishes. The rise to the finish certainly helps him but against the quality of opposition here then I think another top 10 would be good.

Mike Teunissen.

Given Max “speed bump” Walscheid won’t be competing come the finish, I would expect Sunweb to give Teunnisen the chance to go for a result as they will have plenty of others to help guide Kelderman. We’ve seen so far this year that Teunissen is competent on the short climbs so tomorrow’s drag to the finish should be okay for him. Is he capable of going better than his fifth place result on the opening day of Paris Nice?

Prediction

This is a tough one. I think it comes down to a sprint, the question is who? Sagan is the obvious choice but I do feel both Bouhanni and Viviani have the abilities to challenge him.

Hmmmmm.

Given his season so far, I’ll go with Viviani to win again.

 

DlnsV26XcAA7fEh

Betting

2pts WIN Viviani @ 8/1

0.5pt EW Teunissen @ 200/1

3pts H2H Double (Consonni > DVP and Bouhanni > Nizzolo) @ 3.2/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2018 GC Preview

Vuelta a España 2018 GC Preview

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was settling down to write about the Giro, yet here we are three and half months later and it is time to talk about the final GT of the year: the Vuelta. Or “Spain 2018”, depends what I’m allowed to say really…

Last year’s edition of the race saw a dominant Chris Froome take the red leader’s jersey on stage 3 and hold it all the way to Madrid.

2020439_vuelta_001-1200x800

 

He had a couple of nervy moments but never really looked in that much trouble, ultimately beating Nibali by 2’15 with Zakarin 2’51 behind in third place. Froome isn’t here to defend his title this year but we do have three former champions in the shape of Nibali, Aru and Valverde on the start list. However, there is plenty of talent at the race looking to take their maiden Vuelta, or even Grand Tour in general, win.

As always, I’ll be doing daily stage previews I’m just going to gloss over the route completely really. There will be plenty of others who look at key stages etc so I don’t want to bore you with that again!

The Bookmaker’s Favourite

Richie Porte.

The BMC rider arrives at this race after once again failing to complete a Grand Tour without incident; crashing out of the Tour was his downfall again this year. He’s openly admitted that his form is not as good as pre-Tour so he will hope to ride himself into the race and go from there. In fact, he’s not raced since that crash so it will be very interesting to see how he copes in the opening week where there are a few summit finishes. He is the best climber in this race when on form, it is just a question if he is near that level now? I don’t think so, but I’m willing to be proved wrong. There is also then the cloud that looms over his head of Porte not being able to complete a GT without a bad day. It’s happened too many times for it to be classed as “just bad luck” and it will once again be the undoing of him this race. I think we’ll see him here to gain some miles on the clock and re-find his good condition before having a tilt at the Worlds in Innsbruck.

The Main Challengers

Simon Yates.

DdVEevCX0AAE-CQ

Super strong in the opening two-weeks of the Giro, there was no one able to match him on the climbs. However, he cracked massively and his tumble-down the order was dramatic: losing 1 hour and 15 minutes over two stages. He’s back here to have another tilt at GC along with his brother Adam who provides another option for the team, although it has to be said, after a poor Tour from him it will be interesting to see how he bounces back. Simon is their main guy for GC and if he can repeat the form he had in those opening two weeks at the Giro over the three weeks here then he has to start as the favourite. I think both he and the team will have learnt a lot from that experience, gaining a lot both physically and mentally. Although if we see them chasing down every break in the first week – then maybe they haven’t!

Nairo Quintana.

We caught a glimpse of the old Nairo returning at the Tour when he took a rather spectacular stage win on the Col du Portet. However, that was only short-lived after a crash the following day saw him ship a lot of time over the coming stages and he slipped down the order to finish in 10th place overall. If he has recovered from that fall then he should be one of the main contenders for the race. Back in 2016 when he won the Vuelta his third week peak in the Tour was very similar to what this year’s *could* have been. I do expect him to go well this race, but it will once again be a case of him trying to avoid any silly time losses in the opening week before they even get to the mountains proper.

Miguel Angel Lopez.

miguel-angel-lopez-1

A third place finish at the Giro and the young rider’s jersey to boot, this will the Astana man’s first attempt riding, let along being competitive, at two Grand Tours in a season. Theoretically the course is good for him, with lots of summit finishes where he can show his climbing prowess. His recent performance in Burgos was a good indicator that his form is on the up, where he got a stage win but ultimately finished behind a flying Sosa on GC. The long TT isn’t ideal for him and he will definitely ship some time there. Also, he seems like a rider who suffers one bad day in a GT – so will he be able to recoup the TT and bad day losses over the rest of the climbing days? I’m not so sure but he will be there or thereabouts.

The Podium Contenders.

With such an open race, there are several guys who will rate their chances of making the GC podium come the end of the three weeks in Madrid.

Alejandro Valverde – After performing a good supporting role for his team-mates in France, this will be the Grand Tour where Valverde gets his chance to shine. He probably enters the race as co-leader with Quintana and they will see how things pan out throughout the race. There are plenty of opportunities for him to pick up bonus seconds but some of the tougher finish climbs might worry him. Nonetheless, this is Spain and we are in Valverde territory so he can’t be discounted. Will having one eye on the Worlds detract from his performance? I don’t think so.

Rigobero Uran – Disappointing in the Tour before abandoning the race, he arrives here with only San Sebastian in his legs since then. At that race though he did look fairly strong for someone who dropped out of the Tour but will he have been able to re-find that form? If he’s on or close to his 2017 Tour level then he has a very good chance of winning this race.

Fabio Aru – One of the enigmas of Grand Tour cycling, Aru only seems to ever really turn up at the for the big events and even then he’s struggled since 2015 with consistency. His implosion at the Giro was pretty dramatic but even before then he wasn’t really in the fight for the title and found himself sitting 5’33 down on Yates. He does seem to go well in Spain though and he certainly seems more “chipper” on social media which to be indicates that he is in a good place – maybe the results will follow and we’ll see 2015 Fabio again?

bettiniphoto_0222124_1_full_670

David De La Cruz – Sky’s GC man for this race, it was here that he had a breakthrough performance in 2016 when he finished in 7th. At the start of the year he was in good form but he lost the opportunity to chase his own results in races such as the Giro and Tirreno. However, a recent third place in Burgos shows that he is slowly riding himself back into form for the Vuelta. Will we see an attacking Sky for once with Henao and Kwiatkowski also possible outsiders for a good result.

George Bennett – My favourite outsider for the race, I have been really impressed with the Kiwi’s development this year. He had a solid Giro where he finished 8th overall but the Vuelta on paper has the parcours that suits him a lot better. Recently in Poland he was by far the strongest on the short few kilometre climbs and it was just a shame for him that they weren’t just a little bit longer so that he could definitely drop everyone. I did question his tactics on pulling during that final day, but maybe he’ll cash in that favour from Kwiatkowski at some point here? The TT will see him lose a good bit of time but as an attacking rider I think he can gain it back elsewhere.

Ilnur Zakarin – After a successful Giro (5th) / Vuelta (3rd) attempt in 2017, this will be the Katusha riders first effort at the Tour/Vuelta combination. A little bit like Quintana, although not as evident, Zakarin seemed to grow into the Tour in the final week and find some good legs in the closing stages. The number of mountain finishes will be great news for him as it means he can avoid descending to the finish line!

The “Unknowns”

Those with questionable/unkown form or riders that have their sights elsewhere…

Wilco Kelderman – His 4th place last year was his second “breakthrough” GC performance after his 7th in the Giro back in 2014. He was strong in his comeback race in Suisse but he was meant to go to the Tour to support Dumoulin but crashed in training and missed the race. That has resulted in his preparations for here being a bit rushed so no one really has any idea of how he will go. Given what we saw last year, he has to be considered a contender if the form is there. He will love the long TT.

Vincenzo Nibali – Unjustly forced to abandon the Tour after he was taken out by a spectator, he says that his current shape is miles off where it needs to be. I kind of believe him but this is Nibali after all and if he has a chance of winning the race in the final week, he’ll turn up. However, I do think this is all just preparation for the Worlds at which he has a serious chance of winning.

Richard Carapaz – One of the standout performances at the Giro where he took a very impressive 4th place on GC. Will he be here to help Quintana and Valverde, or will he get another chance to chase glory? Who knows!

01ba7e31-242b-46a9-8c4f-6998096cb940

Thibaut Pinot – Another who completely capitulated at the Giro, he looked good on his return to racing in Poland earlier in the month. I see a lot of people are touting him for success here and given the field, he is one of the riders with a solid pedigree. However, my main concern with him for this race is the heat: he notoriously struggles in the warm weather and the opening week looks like it will be typical Spanish August weather. So a with a return to an old blog favourite, take it away Simon…

its a no

Mas, Buchmann and Ion Izagirre all fall into the same category for me of “solid top 10 potential but I struggle to see them fighting for anything further up the order”. A stage win and a top 10 would be a good result for them!

I think I’ve covered everyone, there are certainly plenty of guys to cover…

Prediction

Is this the most open Grand Tour we’ve seen in recent memory? I think so. We could be in for some surprises over the coming few weeks as teams and riders battle for control. As for who will win? I’m not overly confident in choosing any of the contenders as a clear candidate so I’ll stick to tradition in this situation and go for someone slightly left-field…

George Bennett to take home the title!

Screen Shot 2018-08-22 at 15.47.06

Both he and his team have looked lively over the past couple of weeks and I think they will continue that form into the Vuelta.

Betting

I’m not normally one to make many antepost bets but the odds of 50/1 on offer a few days ago were too good to pass up.

Bennett is still available at 40/1 in some places but I would even accept the 33/1 that is common.

1pt EW Bennett at 50/1 (take the 33/1).

As for other antepost markets, I made a short KOM thread on my twitter yesterday and pointed to two potential candidates for that: Nick Schultz (300/1) and Thomas de Gendt (14/1), but both of their prices have dropped dramatically – now 80/1 and 9/1 respectively, I think TDG is still back-able at that price, Schultz not so much.

Likewise, for the points jersey I fancy Kwiatkowski (33/1) to go well but that price has shortened to 16/1 with Bet365. However, he is still available at those same odds with Ladbrokes/Coral.

Thanks for reading as always. Who do you think will win the race overall and why? I shall be back with my stage 1 preview on Friday evening so hope to see you then! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 21 Preview; Arroyomolinos -> Madrid

Today’s Recap

We did get a fairytale ending after all, with Contador winning the stage atop the mythical Angrilu.

DJS6J2wWsAE0z-s

It was a classic performance from the Trek rider as he put on an aggressive climbing masterclass. He certainly will be missed as a rider, especially as his type seems to be disappearing over the past few years.

Sky put on a dominant display behind, with Poels and Froome finishing on the day’s podium. The result means that barring anything incredibly bizarre happens tomorrow, the Brit has won his first Vuelta title.

It makes him the first rider to win the modern Tour-Vuelta double, and the first since Pantani to complete a double. Quite remarkable!

I bet Froome’s parties aren’t as good though…

With the GC battle over, it is time for the sprinters to have their time in the spotlight tomorrow.

The Route

Zzzzzz.

Screen Shot 2017-09-09 at 18.03.36

Featuring a zzzz circuit.

stage-21-finish

I could go on and pretend that there is more to this stage than meets the eye but in the words of Skepta; “that’s not me”.

We could see a late attack stick if some of the sprint teams mess around with the chase duties. Modolo and Lampre (UAE) are here so a Giro cock-up could always be on the cards.

But no, it will be a processional stage followed by a sprint. Simples.

Contenders

Trentin.

matteo-trentin-655x368

The best sprinter here so far, he also has the added incentive of trying to win the Green jersey too. However, tomorrow’s easy run in looks the least suited to the Quick Step rider who would prefer a trickier finish. Nonetheless, the form is clearly there so he most likely has to start as favourite.

Theuns.

Sprinter turned key hilly domestique for Contador over the past few weeks, the Belgian has performed his duties ably. Will the favour be returned tomorrow? Most likely! He is fast and with De Kort to guide him into position, he’ll be a threat.

Modolo.

Has been a bit meh recently but can’t be discounted in this field. He does seem to go well at the end of a GT.

Cort Nielsen.

The final sprint stage and the first day that the Dane will get a chance to go for the win. He took this day last year so I guess he has some course form. He made the break on a few of the more rolling days so his power output must be fairly solid. A dark horse?

Blythe.

Could Aqua Blue get two wins this Vuelta? Blythe isn’t the fastest sprinter in the world, but in this field and at the end of a Grand Tour then we do often get surprise results.

Van Asbroeck and Lobato will be in or around the top 10 too.

Vuelta Picks

A dangerous day for those near the top of the table but thankfully Degenkolb isn’t here to ruin anyone’s chances on the last stage.

Safe PickTrentin.

Pretty self-explanatory; has some form and will be near the head of the results.

Wongshot Pick – Cort

Not tested in the sprints at all this race but he does have the speed to contend.

Lanterne Rouge Pick – DeClerq

Should be doing some work early in the day.

Prediction

Cort to repeat last year’s success!

NIELSEN-Magnus-Cort037p-630x420 (1)

Betting

No bet.

Apologies for the really short preview but the Vuelta has worn me down and my enthusiasm for stages like tomorrow is limited enough anyway! Thanks to all of you for reading every day and interacting on Twitter etc. Helps me to keep going through several break days in a row. The season is nearly over but I’ll be back previwing the World’s in no time!

If you’ve enjoyed the previews and want to thank me (cheeky of me, I know) then a beer would be more than appreciated – Buy Me A Beer. But hey, if you don’t ask, you don’t get!

Anyway,

Those have been My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 20 Preview; Corvera de Asturias -> Alto de L’Angliru

Today’s Recap

A big break formed relatively early on with a second group of chasers including Bardet, joining after the first climb of the day.

Sky were happy to let them go and so were the rest of the GC teams.

Numerous moments of attacks/counters/riders dropped/regrouping happened throughout the day but we ended with a small bunch sprint that was one by De Gendt.

DJNnIvBXYAUtEoz

It was made all the sweeter with the Lotto rider being one of the blog picks for today. That win now puts him into an esteemed club of stage winners at all three Grand Tours. Not bad!

Behind, Contador put in an attack on the final climb but was ultimately reeled in by Sky and Sunweb so no GC change.

Is it all to play for tomorrow? Probably not, but who knows.

Let’s have a look at what is in store for them, even though you probably have a very good idea!

The Route

A stage everyone seems to be waiting for, with the mythical finish up the l’Angrilu.

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 15.45.43

3500m of climbing in less than 120km of racing; it sounds less than ideal for those hoping just to make it to Madrid!

The riders will start the day off with an uncategorised climb from the gun; 12.7km at 3.46%. Fairly simple, but given what is to come in the rest of the stage, the pace could be very fast and some riders might find themselves in difficulty early on.

From there, the riders will descend before beginning a very slow and gradual rise all the way to the bottom of the opening Cat-1 climb; Alto de la Cobertoria.

Corbeew

At an average of 8.5% for 7.8km it is a stiff test and sets the mood for what is to come in the remainder of the day. The kilometre at almost 15% just sounds brutal! A bold rider will attack here, going “early” in the day. I say “early” as once they crest there are only 38km left.

The descent is fast and twisting, which could become dangerous if the roads are wet.

An important factor is the fact that the riders almost climb straight away again, so there is very little time for them to recover from any efforts that they made on the previous ascent.

Alto del Cordal is up next and is another steep Cat-1 climb.

el cordal

The organisers do love to find some gems for us spectators. That closing 1.6km at 11.7% is crazy. We might see some of those in the top 10 crack big time and if they do, I’m afraid it is not going to get much better for them…

A fast descent before the final climb of the Vuelta, which definitely won’t be tackled in a quick fashion!

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 19.05.42

I don’t really need to say much about the Angliru.

The name itself should be enough to resonate with any cycling fan around the world but with a 6km section that averages 13.7% we could be in for some big time gaps tomorrow if things are all guns blazing from far out.

Only the best will come to the fore on this climb!

Or Chris Horner.

Weather Watch

As I alluded to above, things aren’t looking great weather wise tomorrow. Or they could be, it really depends on your preference!

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 18.49.53

That’s the forecast for Hotel el Angliru (Source : YR)

I’m not saying we’ll get rain throughout the day, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we did!

That will make things a lot more nervous in the bunch, especially on the tricky descents. I hope we don’t see any crashes, but with riders giving it their all to try to take any advantage they can, I have an uneasy feeling that it might be somewhat inevitable.

How will the stage pan out?

Looking at recent trends in the Vuelta, 4 out of the past 5 years the penultimate stage has seen a breakaway stay away and fight out for stage honours. That includes King Kenny’s (Elissonde) win on the Angliru back in 2013.

A lot of those stages have been longer days in the saddle though, with only the Angliru stage being sub 150km.

A similar trend can be seen at the Giro, where the majority of stages have went to the break. But there, even the ridiculosuly short and tough Bonette stage in 2016 saw the move stick.

What will be the difference tomorrow?

Well, maybe that question should be changed to “who?”.

I think you know the answer…

Contenders

Contador.

It’s the Spaniard’s last Vuelta and last mountain stage as a pro and he will desperately want a stage win. The steep ramps look great for him and he is bound to cause some chaos/panic out on the road tomorrow. However, although he has looked good on the shorter climbs, I am still concerned about his ability to hold a high wattage for the longer tests. I think if he and Froome come to the line together, then the current race leader will gift him the stage. Does Alberto have a bullet left to fire one more time?

WATSON_00004088-019-630x420

Froome.

Looked terrible a few days ago on Los Machucos but he seemed to recover from that blip on the shorter finish of stage 18. He does have the advantage of having the strongest team here and the current race leader will rely on them a lot tomorrow. If he’s in with a chance of the win at 5km out and he sees everyone suffering then he might give it a nudge. If not, then he has the luxury of “just” being able to follow wheels as his gap is comfortable. On an off day though, and things could get sketchy!

Zakarin.

Will we see a Zak-attack tomorrow? Yes. That’s almost a guarantee! Will it be enough to distance everyone? Probably not, the rangy Russian seems to struggle on the steeper slopes at time but he has actually looked like one of the riders who has grown into this race. He could well surprise!

Nibali.

The yin to Froome’s yang. The Shark was very strong on Los Macuchos, putting a lot of time into the race leader, only to go and lose quite a bit of it the following day. A bad weather expert he will no doubt test the *ahem* water on the descents. I hope he’s recovered from the other day so that we see a good battle between him and Froome. It is the last week of a Grand Tour, so he can’t be discounted.

Lopez.

DI4-d-hWsAIKK_H

Double stage winner so far, Superman should enjoy the amount of climbing tomorrow as that is his speciality. Not an instant threat on GC, he could be given some leeway. If he gets given too much rope, then that could be him gone for the day. He seemed in difficulty on Stage 18 so the form might be fading in the final week of his first Grand Tour. Who knows!

Kelderman.

He’s been the quiet rider of the race so far who happens to find himself very much in the podium battle. Tomorrow doesn’t suit him at all, he seems to be a rider who prefers a more traditional Alpine pass, none of this crazy Spanish stuff! He’ll do well to hold onto the podium.

Vuelta Picks

Same old stuff again!

Safe Pick – Zakarin

Should be close to the top GC guys and might be given some freedom if Froome just focusses on Nibali.

Wongshot PickLopez.

Seems to be fading but he could well turn it around.

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Dunne

Good luck Conor!

Prediction

I’ll go for none of the riders I’ve listed above though…

Instead, I think Majka wins tomorrow.

DIuylMjXcAEStQo

After his stage win almost a week ago he has been conserving himself, rolling home with the grupetto most of the time. He did give it a nudge on Los Machucos and finished 6th on the stage so his form is still clearly there.

He can either win from the break, or use his fresher legs to his advantage and attack out of the peloton and I’m pretty sure no one would follow him. If he is given a 30-40 second advantage going onto the Angliru then I’m hard pressed to think of anyone who could catch him.

Betting

I did say tomorrow was likely to be a no bet but after De Gendt’s success today I’m going to have a dabble. Still sticking to the 2pts a day keeps the debt collector away rule though…

2pts WIN Majka @ 11/2 with Bet365. You’ll probably get the same price elsewhere later once the other bookmakers have copied!

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow’s brutal day? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 19 Preview; Caso. Parque Natural de Redes -> Gijón

Today’s Recap

What a Vuelta the Lotto old-boys are having!

It took a while for the break to go but once it was up the road, that was it gone for the day. Sky mobbed the front of the peloton and no-one seemed overly keen to chase.

In the end, it was a duel between Armée and Lutsenko on the final climb, with the Belgian taking his first pro win. Not bad for someone who is 31 years old. Maybe age just is a number after all?! Visconti sprinted up the final hill to round out the day’s podium.

DJIhyVyWsAEjMaV

There were some GC gaps behind, but nothing too crazy. Lopez being the worst off out of the top 10, losing 37 seconds to Froome.

With only the Angliru left of any major danger, it does look like the Brit has the GC race sewn up.

Unless of course we see any bold attacks tomorrow. Speaking of which, let’s take a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

If today’s stage was close to 100% ideal territory for a breakaway, tomorrow’s parcours hits the full house!

Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 15.25.57

Too tough for any sprinters team to control, not really difficult enough for the GC contenders to make their mark.

The peloton will descend from the gun almost and it is most likely that we’ll see our break of the day formed on the Cat-1 Alto de la Colladona.

Profile_13_AltodeColladona

A fairly hard start to the day, especially when the first kilometre of the climb is false-flat and makes the average gradient a bit shallower!

Expect only fresh riders and good climbers to make the break if it does go here. Although unlikely, I wonder if we’ll see any early GC attacks. I live in hope…

The riders will then face two Cat-3 climbs in the middle of the day; Alto de Santo Emiliana (6.8km at 4.5%) and the Alto de la Falla de los Lobos (4.3km at 8.2%).

The second of those climbs is obviously steep, but it comes awkwardly positioned in the stage and it really shouldn’t be of any major impact to the day’s events.

However, the same can’t be said for the final climb of Alto de San Martin de Huerces…

Huerces

Short and steep, this could be a flash point for both the breakaway and the GC riders. The steep gradients will be a real grind and with almost three weeks of racing in the legs, some might surprisingly struggle.

Cresting with just 15km to go, if a rider has 15-20 seconds over the top then they should make it all the way to the finish line.

The descent into Gijón does have a few tricky turns but it isn’t overly technical. The downhill turns to flat at roughly 4km to go as the riders make their way through the outskirts of the town before finishing along the beachfront.

How will the stage pan out?

It is a fairly short stage, so there is a chance that some of the GC teams might try to keep things together and cause some chaos but with Angliru looming and Froome looking solid, that is very unlikely.

So here we are, yet again, playing everyone’s favourite sweepstakes.

TheBreakawayLottery

Breakaway Candidates

I’m tempted to treat myself to 5 names today. How exciting…

To make the break, assuming it goes on the opening Cat-1, a rider will have to be fresh or a good climber. The two of those seem to go almost hand in hand at the back end of a Grand Tour but there are room for some surprises.

Thomas De Gendt.

The Belgian breakaway expert has been fairly quiet as of late in this race, not making as many moves as would be expected of him. Is fatigue setting in, or has he been saving himself for one last dig? He produced a good TT on Stage 16, finishing in the top 20 that day so there must be some form there. At the Tour he made the winning move on Stage 19, can he repeat that tomorrow? I think so.

Odd Christian Eiking.

NCR_6816

A new name for the list and possibly an unusual one. It took a lot for me not to use the expected pun there! Nonetheless, the young Norwegian is a talented rider who took his first pro win earlier this year. A strong climber, he finished fairly well on today’s stage after sticking with the GC group for a lot of the day, coming in just behind Lopez and ahead of Van Garderen and Chaves. Can he turn those good climbing legs into a result tomorrow? Let’s hope he makes the break and we’ll find out.

Soren Kragh Andersen.

He seems to have recovered from the illness that was hampering him a few days ago, as he was in the second group that returned to the GC favourites once the pace had slowed. It depends if the team give him the OK to go and hunt the break because there is a chance he might have to work for Kelderman. If he does make the move, he has the explosiveness to go well on the final climb of the day. I wouldn’t want to take him to a small sprint, that’s for sure.

Nicolas Roche.

image (1)

The Irishman said pre-stage today that he would try something. Unfortunately that didn’t come to fruition and he missed the break. I’m sure he’ll be gunning for it tomorrow as the finish looks ideal for him. On a 4km climb like that he should be able to follow most who are up ahead and if he descends like he did on stage 10, then he could easily get a gap on the downhill. Enough to take the win? Quite possibly!

Matvey Mamykin.

Everyone’s favourite young Russian climber. Wait, he isn’t? Just @padsbets and I it is then! Mamykin was strong today in aid of Zakarin and was one of the driving forces behind that impromptu Katusha team time trial. He might be rewarded tomorrow with the freedom of going on the attack. At this point in the race with riders form all over the place, it might be the perfect time for him to also take his first pro win. It seems to be the done thing nowadays!

Vuelta Picks

Much the same as the past few days;

Safe Pick – Kruijswijk.

Choose a random GC guy and hope they come home near the front of the bunch. I assume we’ll see some attacks on the final climb so it should be the case.

Wongshot Pick – Mamykin

He’ll be your favourite Russian climber too!

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Houle

What the Houle…

Prediction

Break to stay away and Søren Kragh Andersen to take the win!

sptdw7017_670

Betting

As it’s unlikely I’ll be backing anything on Angliru, this could be one of the last days of punting so I’m treating myself.

Roche 1.25pt WIN @ 20/1

De Gendt 1.25pt WIN @ 25/1

Eiking 1pt WIN @ 66/1

Andersen 0.75pt WIN 100/1

Mamykin 0.75pt WIN 150/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 18 Preview; Suances -> Santo Toribio de Liébana

Today’s Recap

The break stayed away to the end today, but it was only one man who survived out in front ahead of the GC battle behind.

Aqua Blue’s Denifl lit up the final climb of the day, taking the Irish outfit’s first Grand Tour stage win. Not a bad start to their first year as a team!

DJDb__3XoAQojMp

The Austrian produced a great performance and didn’t lose too much of his starting gap. In fact, he actually gained time on some of the GC guys.

Behind, Contador attacked and forged on ahead, finishing second on the day. A group 4 then came in led by Lopez 36 seconds down on the Spaniard. Followed not so far behind from Woods and Kelderman. However, Froome was the worst off of the GC contenders today, shipping 1’18 to Contador and 42 seconds to Nibali and co.

It leaves the GC battle somewhat back on as the Shark closes to 1’16 on the current leader. However, the following few stages aren’t too difficult so it could all come down to a big battle on the Angliru.

Yet, with Contador in his current mood, who knows what might happen.

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

The Route

Normally at this point in the race, tomorrow’s route would be an ideal breakaway day.

Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 17.47.48

The stage starts off with some undulating terrain but nothing too serious for the riders although they will have to tackle a few 2-3km climbs at low percentages.

Tomorrow is all about the closing 65km.

ejwfwe

The riders will face 2 Cat-3s, 1 Cat-2 and a Cat-3 finish all in that closing 65km. It certainly could be tough enough to entice some GC men into audacious attacks.

The first of the climbs is Collada de Carmona.

Carmona

As you can see, at average of 7.1% for 4.7km it isn’t exactly easy and if attacked at a fast pace then the peloton could be reduced quite drastically here. It does peak at 10% at points, but the “steady” gradients should suit Sky and Froome.

The riders will then descend for just over 10km before they start heading back towards the heavens again.

Ozalba

 

Collada de Ozalba is of a similar gradient to the previous Carmona but is 1km longer and a lot more irregular. A classic Vuelta Cat-3 you might say that averages 7% for 5.7km. Would be a 2xHC climb at the Tour of Britain! The punchy gradients certainly suit a certain Spaniard who looked lively today. I wonder if this is where we’ll see an early attack?

A shorter descent this time of 6kms follows before the only Cat-2 of the day, which stats wise, is actually the easier of the three.

Hoz

Averaging 5.4% for 7.6km is easy for these guys, but that figure is distorted somewhat by the almost 2km of false flat right at the start and the 500m at the end. The 2kms at 9.7% are certainly steep enough for riders to attack and drop their rivals. Will anyone try?

The only issue with doing so is that once they are over the summit of the climb then they still have 29km left in the day.

You’ll certainly need some strong team-mates up ahead to drop back and drag you along the valley roads until the final kicker.

Subido

Another couple of kilometres at just over 9%, it will be interesting to see how the riders will cope if the last 60km have been raced aggressively. In theory the time gaps should not be massive, but you never know; this Vuelta has been fast and there is certainly some fatigue in the legs of the GC guys.

How will the stage pan out?

Hmmm.

On paper this has break written all over it, but after today’s escapades I’m not so sure.

Froome looked tired, but he did well to somewhat limit his losses. We’ve seen this from him before and he comes out fighting the next day. The one saving grace for him is that his Team was strong today. He had 5 riders supporting him going onto the final climb and if they are in the same position tomorrow, he should be ok.

Yet, Sky have done a lot of work throughout this race and that is bound to catch up with them at some point. If they show any weakness tomorrow, then Froome could be exposed.

The closing 66km look as if they’re almost straight out of a hilly one-day race. I heard Nibali is not too bad at those!

I expect to see Astana/Bahrain/Trek/Katusha all attempt to put the pressure onto Sky tomorrow by setting a fast pace on the run in to the first of the climbs, almost testing the water so to say. If they manage to put them into trouble then they’ll continue on. If not, they’ll wait until the final climb and hope their GC rider can gain some more seconds back then.

So will that all happen at the front of the race, or behind the break?!

I really don’t know to be honest.

Either way, teams will want to send riders up the road so that they can work for the team leader in the final valley. Therefore, we’ll see another big fight to get into the move.

Sky will probably once again call the bluff of the other teams and let the gap grow so at that point we’ll know who is interested in the stage if they start chasing.

I’m leaning towards to situations.

If we get GC chaos and attacks on the first climb, then the break has no chance. But, if it doesn’t happen until the penultimate climb of the day, Collado de Hoz, then the break should have enough of a gap left and favourable terrain to take the win.

As much as I hope for some aggressive racing in the bunch, I think Sky will be strong enough to neutralise any early moves so we’ll see the break hold on to fight for stage victory.

TheBreakawayLottery

Break Candidates

Names in a hat time again! After naming all of the riders of over the past few weeks, I am not going to explain my reason for choosing them this time round in massive depth.

Enric Mas.

Good climber, solid on the flat. Certainly capable of winning on the steep final climb.

Tobias Ludvigsson.

Great performance in the TT so form is clearly there. Might not find the last climb great, so an early attack could work for him.

Marc Soler.

Much the same as Mas, the Spaniard is good on the flat but much more proficient at going up hills. Movistar really need something out of this race.

Matej Mohoric.

Already won a stage this Vuelta but he has been a bit quiet since then. Had a tumble today but seems okay. He can certainly put out the power when required and could be an outsider if he makes the move.

Vuelta Picks

Another tricky day for those near the top of the table with the potential breakaway day. Like always though, on an uphill finish choosing a GC rider is the sensible idea.

Safe Pick – Zakarin

Looked strong today and should be up near the front again tomorrow.

Wongshot Pick – Mohoric

Double stage winner on the cards for the top-tube descender?

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Mertz

The Lotto youngster is bound to be fatigued by now!

Prediction

Even now, I’m still not 100% sure as to how the stage will go and I’ve changed my mind several times since writing the above sections.

It really depends on the attitude of the 4 main teams and how weak/strong Sky look on the opening climb. There is no point Astana/Bahrain etc burning matches on a day where they aren’t going to make any inroads on Froome if Sky are strong. Instead, letting the British team do some work and tire them out for future days.

But, I think we could see Sky falter and an unexpected GC day…

Contador to get that stage win his has been longing!

Alberto-Contador-Trek-Segafredo-2017-climb-pic-Sirotti

 

Betting

1pt EW Contador @ 50/1

 

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see Contador and co go early or will the break survive? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 17 Preview; Villadiego -> Los Machucos

Today’s Recap

Night follows day and Froome wins yet another final week Grand Tour TT.

6D0ELR6J-kq1D-U110116879467UYC-1024x576@LaStampa.it

Kelderman was his nearest challenger on the day, finishing 29 seconds down. With Nibali, Zakarin and Contador all staying within a minute of the flying Sky rider.

He’s certainly not struggling in going for back-to-back GT wins. To be honest, barring any unfortunate crash/mechanical or a terribly bad day; then Froome has the overall win in the bag.

The fight for the podium could still be exciting though and I hope we’ll see some attacking racing!

Special mention must go to Big T who was in the hot seat for the majority of the day, only being knocked off his perch by 5 of the strongest guys at the race! I guess the later starters must have benefited from the tailwind I mentioned in my preview yesterday. He’s a winner in my eyes…

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

The Route

A fairly typical final week Vuelta stage!

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 12.52.32

The riders will start with a few uncategorised lumps and bumps (6km at 3% is my rough guess off the profile) and a fair chunk of flat plateau before the plunge down the valley at 50km into the stage.

From there, they’ll face a few more uncategorised climbs before the opening Cat-2 of Portillo de Lunada. According to the road book, it is 8.3km long at 5.7%. Not too tough, but it will hurt after the hard racing we have had up to now. It is very unlikely to play any significance in the outcome of the stage though, that will be saved for the final two climbs.

Once the riders summit Lunada they’ll face a long 30km descent, that does pitch back upwards occasionally. Not long after they’ll go through the sprint point before we tackle the final two categorised climbs which both fall in the last 28km of the stage.

First up is the Puerto de Alisas.

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 17.32.06

As you can see, it is a very steady climb. Great for Sky to control the tempo and deter attacks! So unless someone is feeling very brave, I don’t think we’ll see any riders escape the peloton here. It will be more a case of people going backwards instead.

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 17.44.22

The descent off of the climb does feature some tricky hairpin turns, but I don’t think we should see many gaps. The road seems to be in good condition!

However, the same can’t be said for our final climb of the day which is arguably the most “viral” of the whole Vuelta.

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 17.54.00

Alto de Los Machucos translates to “High from the bruises” according to Google; will anyone be licking their wounds tomorrow?

It looks like an absolute corker of a climb to watch as a spectator, not so much to ride up. Incredibly steep gradients interchanged with some shallower sections will make it hard for the riders to get into a rhythm. Furthermore, the road is incredibly narrow and in some places they will only be able to cycle two abreast.

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 18.03.10
The now viral concrete slabs.

When you then consider that fans will be standing at the side of the road, it could be single file a lot of the way up.

Team cars won’t be allowed to follow-up the climb due to its narrowness, with only the neutral service cars given the freedom to do so. This will make things very desperate if a rider needs mechanical help and there is no one immediately nearby.

It would be wise to put riders in the morning move to almost cover that option alone.

Speaking of which…

How will the stage pan out?

With the main challenges of the day coming so late on then I’m not so sure that any team will want to take up the brunt of the work by chasing the break down all day.

Instead, it is a much better tactic to try to get one or two guys up the road and then call them back if need be to help your GC leader. If not, then give them the green light to go for the stage.

Froome has a commanding lead, and Sky won’t do any extra effort than what is required so they will be more than happy to let a break go.

The only way we might not see the break hold out for victory is that if a rider from in or around the top 10 gets into the move.

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 18.53.18

Those 4 are all relatively close to 10th place Michael Woods (who is 7’06 behind Froome). If they get into the move then there is a good chance that we will see Cannondale come to the front of the peloton to help chase and protect that top 10 on GC. It is not great to watch from a fan’s point of view, but it is understandable. You’ve got to get those WT points!

Nonetheless, I think another break win is the most likely outcome tomorrow.

So once again, let’s play…

TheBreakawayLottery

Candidates

150 out of the 164 riders left in the race would most definitely be given enough leeway to go into a break that could take 10 plus minutes on the GC group. So it should be good fun trying to narrow it down!

Obviously to win the rider has to be a very good climber. However, the issue lies in that the first 60km of the day aren’t great for the mountain goats of the peloton to make the move given how “flat” it is. Well, for Vuelta standards!

Inevitably a handful will, like Majka on Stage 14, but some will miss out. That is unless of course a massive group of 25 riders is allowed to roll off the front after 10km or so. Then we might see some more make it.

Anyway, here goes nothing…

Nicolas Roche.

Super strong at the start of the race, he was always going to struggle to keep that form up, especially when we got the longer, higher climbs. Nonetheless, he is still in great shape and is now far back enough to be given freedom to chase stages. The steep gradients of Los Machucos should be to his liking and he’ll certainly be a threat for the win. Has his confidence been knocked though after the past few days?

Jack Haig.

sptdw80049_670

My “initial-sake” makes his umpteenth return to this section. After Chaves, he is arguably the strongest rider on the Orica team on the mountains at this race. With the Colombian losing a lot of time in the TT today, I think Orica will look to chase stages now. In fact, that was evident on Stage 15 with Yates’ attack. Haig rolled home 6 minutes behind today, saving himself for tomorrow? I think so!

Richard Carapaz.

gf-movistar-Soler

The Ecuadorian has performed well on some of the mountain stages this Vuelta when he has finished with the GC group, coming home in the top 15 riders twice. I’m still miffed that he had to do all the work for Rojas on the stage that Mohoric won, the youngster is clearly the better climber and he would have had the better chance in my opinion. It will be interesting to see how is body reacts this deep into his first Grand Tour, but he is one to keep an eye on if he makes it up the road.

Enric Mas.

Quick Step have been incredible so far this Vuelta and they’ll want to keep that going in the final week. Tomorrow looks like a good day to get one of their young climbers into the move; easier said than done though! Mas performed very well in Burgos before the Vuelta on the steep ramps of Picón Blanco so he should find the similar gradients of Los Machucos comforting. Can he win and give QS their 6th stage of the race?!

Vuelta Picks

Another tough day where the break looks like it will win so once again you’ll have to adopt a similar strategy as to other mountain days.

Safe Pick – Lopez.

Any GC rider that you have left would be ideal here. There will be gaps on the final climb but I’m not sure they’ll be fighting out for the stage win, so chose someone who could be given some leeway by their opposition. Lopez is that guy.

Wongshot Pick – Carapaz

Name in a hat time again if you’re being bold and going for a breakaway pick!

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Pfingsten

A consistent low finisher. I like his style!

Prediction

Break to stay away and Roche to make amends for falling down the GC order by winning a stage!

image (1)

Behind, Lopez to take some more time in the GC battle as those closer to the podium mark each other out of it.

Betting

0.5pt WIN on them all;

Roche @ 125/1 (would take 66s)

Mas @ 50/1 

Carapaz @ 50/1 

Haig @ 50/1

(Would take no less than 40 for the other three)

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will the break make it, again?! Or will we see a GC showdown on the final slopes? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 16 Preview; Circuito de Navarra -> Logroño

Rest-day Recap

Stage 15 turned into more of a damp squib than I was expecting with the majority of GC riders coming home together. Well, apart from Superman Lopez who forged ahead to take another stage win. I told you pre-Vuelta to keep an eye on him!

DI4-d-hWsAIKK_H

Froome though is still in control of the race with closest rival Nibali just over a minute behind and third placed Zakarin 2’08 in arrears.

There is still a lot to play for going into the final week and the battle for the podium should be a great one, even if the GC win might be out of reach.

Will that be the case after tomorrow’s TT? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

A 40km individual effort against the clock that could (will) have a big say on the outcome of this race overall.

Web

In terms of the route itself, it is book-ended by two fairly technical sections. The stage starts on the motor racing “Circuito de Navarra” which has a lot of tight turns that will mean the riders can’t get up to full speed. Saying that, it is a fairly wide track so it is not like a street circuit where they would have to go really slow!

Once out and through Los Arcos they will power along mainly straight roads but with a few sharp turns littered throughout the itinerary. Nonetheless, it should be mainly full gas until they enter Logroño.

Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 17.40.28

The riders will have several roundabouts to traverse (classic Vuelta) and a very tricky closing kilometre. A good bit of time could be gained or lost here!

As for the parcours itself I’ve made a VeloViewer/Strava profile of the stage, as is tradition. You can view that here.

 

It is by no means a completely flat TT, as the official profile somewhat suggests, but it isn’t crazily difficult.

Vuelta TT Updated

We have a couple 1-2km drags at roughly 2.5-3% in the first 15km of the stage, before we reach the “hillier” part of the route.

HillySectionTT

 

The above image is from 15.5 -> 19.9km into the route.

As you can see it is not leg-breaking, especially by Vuelta standards, but it will still require riders to manage their effort well. Quite a bit of it is false flat mixed in with some more standard climbing metres at 5% etc, but there are a few steep 10% ramps thrown in for good measure too!

From there, the riders will be onto the easier part of the course.

Vuelta Last 20kms TT

The second half of the TT dos have a few kick ups as you can see, which will knock some of the speed off from the descent, but the majority of it is mainly downhill.

Will riders keep enough in the tank to tackle the more rolling final 3kms?!

Weather Watch

As is often the case in time trials, the weather can play a big part in the outcome of the day due to the long time period between the first and last rider setting off.

Dunne will be the first rider down the ramp, starting at 13’34 local time, with Froome beginning his effort over 3 hours later at 16’52.

A full start list can be viewed here.

Fortunately for everyone they should all face the same road conditions, with no rain forecast for the area at all.

However, they will have different wind conditions…

Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 18.13.30
Source: Windfinder

Those starting later will have a lower wind speed, but a much more favourable direction, with a tailwind for the majority of the course. Whereas those who’re off at the start will have a less desirable cross-tail wind.

It might not play a massive part, but it is something to consider.

Unless of course that massive change in wind speed comes in a bit earlier then Froome might fly along the course!

Winner

With Dennis now gone, it does open up the stage for some riders. Well, I had originally wrote that I thought Froome would run the Australian close due to the latter’s not so great form on longer TTs recently. So with that said…

Froome.

Has to start as the overwhelming favourite. His past results in second week Grand Tour TTs are rather impeccable; 3/1/1 in the Tour/Vuelta/Tour. It is that win at the Vuelta last year that really stands out for me. In my preview for that day I wrote that I thought Froome looked tired after the previous stages and didn’t seem to be at his best fitness anymore. Sound familiar? He went on to crush that day and secure his second place. I think he’ll crush it tomorrow and secure his first place on GC.

VaE-Froome-TT-Win-610x350

Podium Contenders

There are a whole host of riders who’ll be lining up to hopefully take the win if Froome misfires, but they have a more realistic chance of taking the podium behind the Sky rider.

Oliveira.

The Portuguese rider has been targeting this stage all race and he should be close to the front by the end of tomorrow. He started off the Vuelta very strongly but has faded recently. Whether that was due to him getting ill, or saving energy, we’ll only really find out tomorrow through his performance.

Lampaert.

DHr0mIJXYAAi0Kz

Winner on the opening road stage, the Belgian TT champ has ridden well in service of his team-mates over the past couple of weeks. Tomorrow is his chance to shine as an individual again though and he’ll certainly be up there. He finished 4th at last year’s TT and will hope to go better this time round!

Kelderman.

Seems to have avoided the illness that has plagued his team as of late, but he was slow to respond to his podium challenger Zakarin on the last stage. Was that a sign of weakness? He used to be considered a fairly strong TT rider while at Jumbo, but he seems to have regressed since his move to Sunweb. I don’t think we’ll see him on the podium tomorrow.

Luis Leon Sanchez.

The experienced hand at Astana always seems to go fairly well in long TTs at Grand Tours. He’s looked good in this race, picking days to attack but also willing to sacrifice himself for Aru and Lopez. On stage 14 he did a lot of the driving work to help pull the break back somewhat so I think his form is there. He took it a bit easier the following day and with Astana leading the Team Classification, I think he’ll go full gas tomorrow.

Ludvigsson.

I could not mention Big T, now could I?! Third on the final TT last year, the FDJ man has looked comfortable this race, but he’s not been as prominent and attacking as I had hoped for. Nonetheless, he will give it a good bash tomorrow and will certainly be in contention for another top 5 result.

Jungels.

Another rider who falls into the “strong team-mate who might be eyeing up this stage” category. The former Luxembourg champion should have the power to match the best over this type of distance, it just depends if he goes 100% or not. He was third on the similar TT during the Giro this year. Can he repeat that here?

As for some others, I’m quietly hopeful for a good time from Superman! He produced a very good time in the Tour de Suisse last year. That TdS result did come at altitude which could have helped him a bit. Nonetheless, with his current form, he should be closer to others than expected.

Vuelta Picks

Safe – Froome.

This is the day I have been saving the Brit for!

Wongshot – LLS.

A Spanish rider who’s going well and has a proven track record over the distance.

Lanterne Rouge – Blythe

The Brits to book-end the day.

Prediction

You haven’t been paying attention, have you? I told you above – Froome to win!

Luis Leon to sneak onto the podium somewhere and Superman Lopez to remain in the GC podium hunt going into the last few stages.

Betting

The good prices on Froome are gone now after Dennis’ withdrawal. Some bookmakers might Rule 4 any previous bets that you’ve made but I still think his current odds of 4/5 in some places offer value. He’s 10/11 on the exchanges if you can get there.

I genuinely can’t see past anyone else and although I don’t like advising odds on for stages;

5pts WIN on Froome @ 4/5 

2pts LLS to finish Top 3 (with B365)

Then 1pt on this H2H treble…

Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 19.39.22

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be Froome domination, or can someone upset the apple cart? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 15 Preview; Alcala La Real -> Sierra Nevada

Today’s Recap

For so long it looked as if all of the break  was going to finish ahead of the main GC guys. However, Bahrain/Astana/Trek all had a different idea for how the day was going to pan out and they started to chase.

The gap tumbled but Majka forged on at the bottom of the climb and the talented Polish climber held on for the stage win.

DIuylMjXcAEStQo

It is going to be interesting to watch him over the coming week, now that he is back to his best. Another stage win or two are certainly possible!

Behind after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, the GC gaps weren’t overly significant. Lopez once again confirmed that his form is on the way up, nabbing a few seconds ahead of a chase group which was led home by Nibali.

Saying that, some riders did lose over 20 seconds and we seem to have a strong 6 that are a bit better than everyone else at the moment.

Will there be more significant gaps tomorrow?

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

The Route

What a stage!

Screen Shot 2017-09-02 at 14.48.21

Two Cat-1s and an Especial climb all rolled into 129km of racing. This is going to be hectic!

The race starts off somewhat benignly, with a couple of uncategorised 3% rises in the first 20km of racing before the race plummets down to the 30km mark and Pinos Puente. From there, the riders will face 27km of false flat (0.8%), hitting the official start of the opening climb with 71.7kms remaining.

S15end

I would say that those remaining kilometres certainly fall into the “tough” section.

AltodelHazzal

The Cat-1 climb of Alto de Hazallanas averages a fairly low 5.8% for 15.1km. However, when taking out the 3km of descent and false flat, that gradient shoots up to 7.2%. That sounds a bit harder!

The second part of the climb is the hardest though, with the final 7.6km averaging a very sore 9%. It is the perfect launchpad for riders to take some risks with an early move.

Once over the top the riders get some respite on 18km of descent, before some valley roads and the double ascent to finish the day.

I’m not even going to bother to distinguish between the Cat-1 and the Especial climb, just lumping it all together!

faegewgw

That looks like great fun…

27.7km at 5.9%, some riders are going to suffer tomorrow. Thankfully, or not, depending on who you ask, the opening 6km of the climb are the toughest (the Cat-1), averaging close to 10%.

From there things get “easier” and the closing 14km are great for riders who like to ride tempo, with the gradient only edging just over 5.5%. However, those ramps will feel a lot tougher considering the inevitable fast pace throughout the day and because of the duration of the climb itself.

We then also have the small factor of altitude to consider too.

Roughly the last 8km of the climb are at over 2000m. With the air being thinner, the riders who come from flatter lands could struggle and find themselves not as comfortable as they would hope.

How will the race pan out?

I’m hoping for chaos.

This is one of the stages I’ve been looking forward to all Vuelta and I hope that with all the hype it doesn’t become a damp squib.

We’ll see a big fight to get into the break as the GC contenders try to get some of their team-mates up the road. The battle to get into the move could easily take until the sprint point at 45km into the day.

Astana, Bahrain and Trek were lively today in their efforts to chase down the break today and I’ll be looking to them to bring the fireworks tomorrow.

We could well see a GC rider attack on the opening climb of the day; all eyes on Contador for that now typical banzai attack. From there, all hell will break loose if that is the case. Especially if someone like Nibali follows the Spaniard.

I would be interested to see what would happen if Lopez and Contador went. They aren’t immediate dangers to Froome’s lead, but they aren’t exactly the type of riders who you want to give a few minutes to either.

One thing that the opposition teams will take from today’s stage is that although Froome looked strong, his team was the weakest they have been so far. Nieve cracked a lot earlier than was expected and it was only Poels who was left at the business end. Froome needs a big day from the Dutchman tomorrow. If not, our race leader could be tired out by chasing a lot of attacks. Even though he is clearly in stellar form, he can’t mark everyone by himself. Unless of course he just rides away from everyone!

Contenders

Froome.

froome_vuelta_2017_9-640x293

He’s been tested so far this race but the Sky rider hasn’t looked as if he is going to falter anytime soon. However, he will be very worried about tomorrow, especially after his team looked tired today. Nonetheless, Froome is a great climber and he should be there fighting for victory at the end of the stage. He’s never won a stage that has finished with a +2000m summit, so it will be interesting to see how he copes.

Nibali.

Froome’s immediate rival and main concern tomorrow, the Shark has looked ominous recently. He was strong today and when Contador didn’t want to work with him, he seemed to knock things back a bit. However, he produced a fast finishing to take third on the day and pick up some vital bonus seconds. Unlike Froome, he has had previous for performing well on days where the altitude has really kicked up and he’ll be hoping to go well tomorrow.

Lopez.

My guy! It is great to see the Colombian grow into the race after being lumped with the Haughey Curse at the start of the race. Not an immediate threat to the podium he could once again be given a bit of leeway like we have witnessed the past two summit finishes. If Bilbao makes the break, they could form a deadly duo on the last climbs. Oh yeah, Lopez’s home town is situated at 2800m so tomorrow should be a walk in the park for him!

Contador.

Alberto-Contador-Trek-Segafredo-2017-climb-pic-Sirotti

The rider that everyone will look to, to animate the stage. He wouldn’t disappoint now, would he?! After his mishap in the first mountain test, El Pistolero has followed almost every move and forged on himself at times. I reckon he’ll light the stage up, but he just won’t have enough to finish it off. Nonetheless, he’ll vault up the GC.

Kelderman and Zakarin.

I’m taking these two as a duo as they seem to be just below the level of the four above. It will need some attacking racing from them if they want to escape the clutches of the better climbers, but that could well happen if there is some looking around. Yet, I think they’ll fall a bit behind tomorrow.

Chaves.

I almost feel like I have to put him in here due to his Colombian background and Bogota residence. However, the Smiling Assassin has been just off the pace the past few stages and it will take a lot for that to be turned around tomorrow.

Vuelta Picks

Safe Pick – Lopez

Should top 5 at least barring any misfortune!

Wongshot Pick – Bilbao

Sky call everyone’s bluff and the break gets a big advantage. Bilbao gets the nod to go for the stage win.

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Haga

There’s an illness floating about the Sunweb camp.

Prediction

It should be a Froome v Lopez v Nibali battle.

Lopez has the advantage of being further back on GC and an altitude native. So yup, you guessed it, I’m going with Nibali.

DHxCzwNXcAER3Fw

He really impressed me on the final climb and I get the feeling that he could have followed Lopez today if he had wanted to. His history in big altitude stages is great and that should help him out tomorrow as well.

Betting

In what should be a three-horse race, I’m going to play a bit of a safety net and go EW on Nibali as he should surely podium…

2.5pts EW Nibali @ 8/1

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 14 Preview; Écija -> Sierra de La Pandera

Today’s Recap

A solid break went up the road, but it was a break more suited to rolling terrain than what we had today. Villella gave up after securing some KOM points, leaving just 4 up ahead and their task was made even tougher.

Quick Step took on the brunt of the work behind, getting some assistance from Cannondale and Lotto Jumbo.

In the end, the last survivor from the break (De Marchi) was caught in the closing 10km and we had our sprint.

Well, it was a very reduced sprint to the line.

After all the work that his team had done throughout the day, Trentin delivered, taking his third stage win of the race.

matteo-trentin-655x368

Moscon showed that he’s much more than a one-trick pony sprinting to second, with Kragh Andersen finishing in third.

Finally a good day for the pre-stage blog punts!

With the sprinters having their last chance for a while today, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

We’ve had a stage that almost descended from the gun to the finish (aside from a categorised climb) but tomorrow we have one that pretty much rises from the get go.

Screen Shot 2017-09-01 at 16.01.31

Well, it is a very gradual rise from the start! Over the opening 70kms the peloton will only gain roughly 200m of elevation.

They will face some harder tests with the first categorised climb Puerto el Mojón starting at 77km into the day. However, it isn’t anything crazy…

Puerto de Mojon (1)

An average of 4.4% over 8.4km should see everyone make it over the top together. Once the descent has finished, the riders will tackle a lot of uncategorised rises, including a 4km effort not long before the Sprint Point.

At 33km to go, the riders will be able to warm up for the summit finish with the Cat-2 climb of Alto Valdepeñas de Jaén. Again though, it is nothing too troublesome for the bunch; averaging a fairly lowly 4.8% for 8.5km.

Therefore, it seems that tomorrow is all about the Especial finish climb – Sierra de la Pandera.

La Pandera

As I was unsure of the official profile I just decided to make my own as per usual!

12.8km at 7.2%, it is a tough test to end the day for the riders. That gradient does include some false flat sections and even a couple of downhills. Therefore when the road is going up, the gradient is probably closer to an 8% average.

The key point on the climb though is most likely at the ~5km to go point. From there until the little descent, its is 4.3km at 9.8%. That is certainly steep enough for some gaps to be created; we saw what happened on Stage 11.

At 1km to go the riders will drop down for 500m before the road rises back up again to the finish line.

Screen Shot 2017-09-01 at 18.01.32

That hairpin with 200m to go could be interesting if we don’t have riders arriving solo…

How will the stage pan out?

Once again we’re treated to the question of “break or no break?”

In theory, the stage is easy for some GC teams to control. Not an overly hard opening to the day, followed by a lumpier second half is ideal for them to keep the break on a tight leash. However, after Orica tried something on Stage 11 (that backfired) I’m not so sure if we’ll see anyone offer assistance to Sky early on.

Trek of course could try something but the Cat-3 and Cat-2 are nowhere near hard enough for Contador to drop his rivals. Plus, with one eye on Sunday’s crazy stage, I think most teams will be happy to see Sky tire themselves out by having to do a lot of the work.

Consequently, I think we’ll once again see the breakaway make it all the way to the line.

It won’t be simple to make the move though as the opening 50km are fairly straight forward, albeit rising, so we’ll no doubt have a fast pace from the gun again. This means that strong riders should find it easier to make the move compared to the lightweight climbers.

Conversely though, the end of the stage is much more suited to the mountain goats. It could be a case of one or two strong climbers make the move and in that case, they’ve lucked out. If that does happen, then a long-range attack might stick as no-one will want to tow the better guys to the foot of the climb.

Anyway, time to play…

TheBreakawayLottery

Breakaway candidates

Enric Mas.

Quick Step have been in sensational form this race so far and they’ll no doubt be in the hunt again tomorrow. They have DLC in a good GC position but the team is aggressive enough to send someone in the breakaway and potentially fight for stage glory. Mas was one of the strongest on the climbs of stage 6. He’ll certainly be a danger tomorrow if he makes the move. Rolling home today near the back of the bunch after doing some work early on, does he have one eye on tomorrow?

Pello Bilbao.

news_idnews862_photo_1497548751

He’s taken some time to find his form in this race but he has been great the past few stages for his leaders. On Stage 11 he was instrumental in helping Aru lose as little time as possible on GC, eventually finishing 14th on the stage. It depends on how keen Astana are to defend their Team Classification lead, but they could well try to get someone up the road tomorrow. In his current form, Bilbao will be there or thereabouts come the end of the stage.

Rui Costa.

It has been an oddly quite Vuelta so far Costa. Something I didn’t expect before the race; I thought we’d see him in numerous breakaways. The only thing of note he’s done so far is that bold and ultimately pointless attack on stage 3. Nonetheless, he is a classy, classy rider and can’t be discounted.

Tobias Ludvigsson.

Token Big T mention.

I was staring at the start list and results for a few minutes trying to think of who else to include aside from obvious riders such as Majka (who might not even make the break on the flat anyway). So I just decided to stick with ma boy!

Vuelta Picks

Same shit, different day…

“Safe Pick” – Zakarin

Should be close to the head of the GC group at the finish, and you don’t want to risk going for a breakaway pick.

“Wongshot Pick” – Bilbao

It requires Astana to be bold and attacking to defend the team classification, but then also requires for the Basque rider to make the move. Yolo, as the young kids would say…You’re already sitting down in the bottom half of the table. Why not go for glory?!

“Lanterne Rouge Pick” – Tuft

Pretty self explanatory, Tuft ain’t not climber!

Prediction

Breakaway to win, but we will see some GC fireworks behind and a top 10 rider to lose quite a bit of time. As to who that may be, ask me tomorrow!

Rui Costa to take the stage win after being quiet all race.

bettiniphoto_0269770_1_originali_670 (1)

 

Betting

Spreading some pennies on the breakers but it looks a good day for some in-play action.

(all B365)

0.6pt WIN Mas @ 40/1

0.6pt WIN Costa @ 80/1

0.5pt WIN Bilbao @ 66/1

0.3pt WIN Ludvigsson @ 300/1

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will the break once again make it all the way to the line? Or will the GC teams chase it down and go for the stage?