Tour de France 2018 Stage 9 Preview: Arras Citadelle -> Roubaix

Today’s Recap

Nothing much happened all day until a crash with roughly 17km to go saw several riders go down. Dan Martin was the biggest GC name to go down and he looked battered and bruised when he got back on his bike. Despite a furious chase from his team who got a helping hand from Cofidis, he would ultimately lose 1’16 to his GC rivals.

In the sprint it was Groenewegen who doubled up, making his effort to the line look very easy – he time it perfectly!

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Greipel produced a solid effort to come second with Gaviria rounding out the podium in third. The less said about Kittel the better, he was awful, no cohesion with his team-mates in the finale.

Onto tomorrow!

The Route

The day every spectator has been waiting for since the route was announced and seemingly the peloton have had the same idea given the lack of action over the past couple of stages.

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It’s cobbles time and the riders will face the largest amount of pavé that has been included in the Tour for a long time: at 21.7km of the stuff.

 

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The majority of the cobbles come in the second half of the stage and they will no doubt lead to nervous racing within the bunch. Some of the sections will be familiar if you’re a regular watcher of Paris-Roubaix (who isn’t?!), such as Mons-en-Pévèle. I could try to decipher which sectors are going to be the most important but given previous history of cobbles in this race, it could be any of them!

Expect some gaps to form at just under the half-way mark as the riders face 4.4km of cobbles in roughly 6kms. From there it will be action throughout the day with the last sector finishing only 6.5km from the line.

stage-9-finish

Given the technical run-in from the last section, I definitely don’t think the organisers intend on a large group coming to the line together. Disappointingly the riders don’t finish inside the Velodrome but instead the finish on the road that is parallel to it. I guess something has to be kept special for Paris Roubaix.

The cobbles and route aren’t crazy compared to the Hell of the North but given the large number of GC riders we have here, they don’t have to be. Some of the overall contenders will no longer be in contention after tomorrow, whether that be through crashes or unfortunately timed mechanicals.

Team Tactics

There are plenty of classics specialists in the peloton who could theoretically win the stage tomorrow but their main role throughout the day might be shepherding their GC man/men. We then have guys without GC men who will definitely be trying to go for the win, then riders who have GC riders but are given a free card. It is just about trying to figure who falls into each category. So below I’m going to try to split some of the contenders into the three categories…

Riders with no GC guy at all: Boasson Hagen, DémareGreipel, Politt.

Riders with a GC guy who might be given freedom: Sagan, GVA, Thomas*, Any QS rider, Kristoff, Stuyven, Degenkolb.**

*Included Thomas here even though he is a GC rider as given his history on the cobbles he should go well. Doubt he gets asked to work for Froome too.

**I think only one of Stuyven/Degenkolb will be given freedom with the other working for Mollema.

Riders with a GC guy who are apparently working for them: Vanmarcke, Phinney, Valgren, Naesen, Rowe, Theuns, Colbrelli, Dubridge, Hayman, +more that I’ve probably missed.

So I’m only going to consider riders from the first two categories for the win.

The Belgian Cobble-trotters

Quick Step arrive with a team that might not be as stacked as their spring campaign but it is not far off of it! They have Jungels for GC, who himself won the junior Paris Roubaix, so it will be interesting to see how many riders they dedicate to his cause. No doubt Declerq, Gaviria, Richeze and Alaphilippe will offer their help but he will probably need the guidance and support of one of the following…

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Niki Terpstra – Winner of this year’s Tour of Flanders, it is hard to deny that the Dutchman is a class act on cobbles. He’s a bit of a divisive character in the peloton but there aren’t many guys who you would rather on your team for this stage. With his success in the Spring, will he be asked to stay behind and work for his GC man? Or will it be the opposite and he’ll get given the go ahead?

Yves Lampaert – As you probably know, I’m a big fan of Yves and it was great to see him win the Belgian championships recently. It is good to see him stepping up and showing the quality that people saw when he was a junior – touted as a half Boonen/Museeuw combo. Often the workhorse, he might be rewarded with a free card to play tomorrow. The Belgian champion winning a cobbled stage at the Tour would be a sight to behold.

Philippe Gilbert – The rider with the most to gain, he could move into the Yellow jersey with a stage win. His quest to win five didn’t exactly go to plan in the Spring and he often ended up playing the good team-mate role, sandbagging the back of groups while his squad rode away up ahead. There’s no doubt in my mind that he will be allowed to do as best as he can tomorrow but will it be enough?

So Gilbert will definitely be given a free card and I think the fact Lampaert is now Belgian Champion helps him massively in the QS pecking order. Therefore, I think Terpstra will be the designated guardian for Jungels. Maybe. It could, and most likely will, just be decided out on the road.

The Two Cobbled Kings

Van Avermaet.

Currently in yellow, the Belgian has made it very clear that he is going for the stage tomorrow and will be allowed to do what he sees fit. Porte even confirmed that after today’s proceedings with the rest of the BMC squad to help him. Van Avermaet didn’t have a great spring campaign and often found himself marked out of races when he wasn’t able to drop everyone. He looks stronger here and I would be surprised not to see him at the head of affairs. Will he be able to beat his nemesis?

Peter Sagan.

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Already a winner in Roubaix this year, Sagan could have the Green Jersey all but sewn up if he takes the stage tomorrow. Not many will be able to match his brute power over the cobbles so it will need to be a tactical race for him to not be in a winning position. Unfortunately for him, I can see that happening.

The Outisde Picks

Yves Lampaert.

Following on from above, I think tomorrow will get very tactical near the end of the day and having numbers at the head of the race will be of a massive benefit for a team. No doubt Quick Step will be in that position. Lampaert will be the least marked of their trident and he might just be able to slip away and take the stage. We’ve seen in the past that if he gets a 20 second gap then it will be very difficult for anyone to bring him back.

Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Slowly building himself into the race, the Dimension Data did a monster turn on the front of the bunch for Cavendish this afternoon. Tomorrow should be all about him and the team will be behind him 100%. After struggling a bit at the start of the year his form has picked up, nabbing a few top 10s here and there. He still hasn’t shown similar form to what he had at this race last year but that could change tomorrow, the route looks perfect for his attributes. If he arrives in a small group of 3 or 4 then he would be a big favourite in the sprint.

Prediction

I’m going for a Jasper Stuyven win though!

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I’ve had this day circled down for him after surprisingly seeing him finish in the front group on stage 5, a day that wasn’t ideal for him so the form must be there. Other than that he has been keeping quiet and I think with one eye on tomorrow. During the spring campaign he was the most consistent rider, managing to finish in the top 10 of E3, Gent Wevelgem, Dwars, Flanders and Roubaix. Not bad! Stuyven is one of those special riders who can power away from people and hold his own in a solo tt, see his win in Kuurne as an example of that. However, he also possesses a fast sprint from a reduced group and he would fancy his chances of a result in a 4-5 rider gallop.

As for the GC riders, who knows how it will go. I wish them all the best of luck!

Betting

1pt EW Stuyven @ 28/1 

0.25pt EW EBH @ 33/1

0.5pt WIN Lampaert @ 18/1

All with Bet365

Using that saved Kittel 1pt on a more sensible bet.

Buy Me A Beer

Back with the shameless self promotion but if you have enjoyed the opening 9 days worth of previews then you can kindly donate the price of a beer/coffee to me through this link. Helps keep me topped up through stages like the past two days. Thanks in advance if you do decide to do so.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

 

 

Paris Roubaix 2017 Preview

Paris Roubaix 2017 Preview

The “Hell in the North” and self-titled “Queen of the Classics” (I’d like to argue about that – it’s no Flanders!) returns this weekend for its 115th edition this weekend. I mean it’s still a cobbled monument, so I’m not going to complain!

Last year’s race saw Mat Hayman take a rather incredible, fairytale victory which I’m sure you’ve already read a lot about this week.

Paris-Roubaix

Can he upset all odds and repeat the feat, or will we get another fairytale with a Boonen win?

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

The Route

You know the score by now; 257km including 29 sectors (55km) of pave. Again, I’m not going to bore you with a massive route analysis (like normal), there are plenty of those floating around this week anyway!

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The first 150km will sap the legs and I wouldn’t expect too much attacking early on, but you never know after the past few cobbles races we’ve had.

It will be interesting to see who makes the “early” break. I say early, as last year it took over 70km for something to finally go!

The Arenberg will more than likely kick off the action in the peloton and from there anything and everything could happen throughout the afternoon.

A race of attrition and team tactics follows with the notable Carrefour de l’Arbre coming only 15km from the finish line. Will things all still be together then? Will a rider have gone solo? Or will we see a small group?

After that, they have 3 more sections but nothing too tricky on the run in to the famous Roubaix velodrome.

How will the race pan out?

Your guess is as good as mine!

The riders will be happy that the weather is good and there seems to be no wind, but that normally leads to a very fast race from the gun. That coincides with the approach we’ve seen teams take in the cobbled races this year; attacking from further out and trying to split the race up early.

Having a number of strong riders in a squad is important so that someone is always up front, following the moves, meaning that team-mates behind can rest-up.

I think we’ll once again see an attacking race here and it might not be the favourites for the race who come away with the victory.

Contenders

All the pre-race coverage is about Boonen, with this being the last professional race of his career. He hopes to bow out with a win and become the most successful rider at Paris Roubaix of all time!

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I’m going to be very controversial here and say that I don’t care for a Boonen win that much, indifferent is what I would call it. I’m not sure if that’s because I only started following the sport in 2008 and properly started paying attention to all the races in 2010 or so. I can understand the hype around him; he’s going well just now and looked strong in Flanders and Schelderprijs. But I think people are getting too emotional with how much they are hyping him up. He’s been talked up so much that he is now pretty much joint favourite and if I’m honest, I’ve not seen enough from him this year for that to be justified. Benefiting from being on the strongest team, he may well go on to win, which would certainly make for a great story. However, in the words of Simon Cowell…

its a no

Quick Step do have several other riders who can win this race, such as Terpstra, Stybar and Lampaert. The former I have banged on for pretty much all of this month and if it wasn’t for QS supposedly working for Boonen 100%, I’d be all over Terpstra like a rash again. If there is one rider who won’t follow team-orders though, it is the Dutchman. He clawed back the gap on the Paterberg to a fallen GVA convincingly in Flanders, taking around 30 seconds out of Gilbert on that climb. He is clearly going exceptionally well. A former winner of the race, I would not be surprised to see him attacking at some point, and he might solo to victory again!

Sagan was left bitterly disappointed after Flanders, but that’s the risk you take for riding close to the barriers. He looked bashed up at the time but seemed to be going OK in his Scheldeprijs training ride. Often underperforming in this race (his best result is 6th in 2014), I think he finds the easier parcours harder to create gaps on. Furthermore, there is a good chance he will once again be marked out of the race and unlike Flanders, he doesn’t have the tough cobbled climbs to just ride away from everyone. It’s hard to write off the World Champion, but I’m putting my neck on the line and doing just that!

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Greg Van Avermaet starts as my favourite for this race. He’s the form rider of the year so far and if not for the crash in Flanders, he had a great chance of winning that too. Even with that unfortunate moment, he managed to get himself up quickly and still sprint for second place. A rider who can win a small sprint but also isn’t afraid to attack, he has a great chance of winning. I wonder if teams will now show him the same type of respect/fear as they do Sagan? They should, if not, it could be game over for them!

Oliver Naesen has carried on his incredible trajectory to the top of cobbled classic racing. Following on from a strong season last year, he has been even better this year! He seemed to be able to cope with Sagan and GVA in Flanders but unfortunately was taken down in that crash. Sustaining an injury to his knee, he worked hard in Scheldeprijs to test it out and things seem to be OK. Like his training partner Van Avermaet, the Belgian isn’t afraid to attack and I think he will benefit from still be underrated within the peloton.

Aside from those guys, some other names to conjure with are Kristoff, Stannard and Demare, who have all shown good form at points throughout the year. They won’t be the favourites, but can’t be discounted.

There are two proper outsiders (triple figures with the bookmakers) that I’d like to mention.

First up is Edward Theuns. I imagine he’ll be one of the riders given the role of following early attacks, allowing his team-leader Degenkolb to rest behind. Yet, as I said in my Flanders preview, I still think the German is missing that 5% and doesn’t look as good as he did when he won here in 2015. Theuns is capable enough to step-up and with a bit of luck he has a chance, packing a fast sprint after a tough day. I really do hope he is given free rein tomorrow and the Trek DS doesn’t put all their eggs in a Degenkolb shaped basket!

Dwars door Vlaanderen

The other is Dylan Groenewegen. Possibly not the first name to spring to the forefront of your thoughts, this will be the youngster’s first Paris Roubaix. He is someone who I think can go really well in this type of race in the future! Much more than a fast sprinter, he can cope with a hard day in the saddle and with the route being flat, it should suit his characteristics. Like Theuns, with a bit of luck and being in the right move, he could be up there at the end of the day.

Prediction

As I’ve said above, Greg Van Avermaet is my favourite on paper, but this race isn’t won on paper and I think teams will finally approach him the same way that they do with Sagan. That will leave it open to a “lesser” rider, although it’s offensive to call him that after the season he’s had. Oliver Naesen will complete his classics transformation and take an incredible victory!

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Betting

1pt EW Naesen @25/1 with PP/Betfair (paying 4 places – would take down to 20s)

1pt WIN Terpstra @16/1 with various (wouldn’t take less)

The two bets I mentioned yesterday;

0.25pt EW Theuns @200/1 (would take 150/1)

0.25pt EW Groenewegen @250/1 (would take 150/1)

One H2H;

5pts Arndt to beat Laporte at 1/1 with Bet365. (Would take 4/6 lowest)

The German is a very solid one-day racer and finished reasonably well in Flanders. Not so sure about the Frenchman’s credentials on this terrain.

 

Thanks for reading as always and any feedback is greatly appreciated (especially some RTs on Twitter 😉). Who do you think will win the race and how will they do it?! I’m looking forward to what should be a good day’s racing. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Ronde van Vlaanderen 2017 Preview

Ronde van Vlaanderen 2017 Preview

It’s time for my favourite event of the year and a special race as it marks one year of this blog! To thank you all for your continued support I’ll be doing a competition tied in with my women’s preview (that will be out tomorrow), for a chance to win one of The Handmade Cyclist’s artworks. Well, more specifically their “De Ronde” one, obviously. So yeah, make sure you return tomorrow!

Right, now that those formalities are out of the road, let’s focus on this incredible race.

Last year saw an imperious Peter Sagan just ride away from Sep Vanmarcke on the Paterberg and even with a surging Fabian Cancellara the duo could not catch the Slovak.

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Will Sagan be able to double up this year? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

I’m not going to bore you with a massive route analysis (like I normally would), as I’m sure if you’re anything like me you’ll have read plenty about it already this week!

The route in general is pretty much more of the same that we had last year, apart from they have added the Muur at around 90km to go. Although iconic, it will more than likely be too far out for a race winning move to be made there. Instead, we might see some lesser riders attempt to get up the road before it all kicks off.

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It’s once we pass the Paterberg for the first time at around 70km to go that the race starts to kick into action and theoretically a race winning move could go from this point onwards. However, the second passage of the Paterberg, which swiftly follows the Oude Kwaremont, will desolate the peloton if it’s still together.

From there, we’ll have attacks go up the road; groups working; groups not working; solo moves; teams having wrong riders in the right move, etc etc. It all gets a bit hectic to say the least!

With only 17km to go the riders then tackle the Oude Kwaremont once again.

This is where Sagan dropped everyone from the group in front apart from Vanmarcke, likewise Cancellara dropped those behind as he motored ahead trying to catch up. The open highway that follows the Kwaremont can see a regrouping, before they tackle the final climb of the day; the last ascent of the Paterberg.

Sagan blew the wheels off of Vanmarcke here last year.

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Once over the top it’s a 13km TT between the leaders and any chasers, before the traditional finish in Oudenaarde.

Normally the weather will play a part in this race but it looks pretty benign just now so I’m going to completely skip that section!

How will the race pan out? Team tactics.

Flanders is arguably the race in which the winner is more often than not the strongest rider on the day who gets a bit of luck. The reason for this in my opinion is due to the relentless nature of the cobbles and climbs in the closing third of the race, and due to the severe length of the event itself! A strong rider can create a massive gap on the Kwaremont and Paterbeg combination and with only 13km left, it’s hard to get a concerted chance organised.

Last year you could say without doubt that Sagan and Cancellara were the strongest riders in the peloton. Sagan in a sense you could argue got lucky that Cancellara didn’t follow the attacks at 31km left, and it’s hard to say how the race would have panned out if those two arrived at the bottom of the Paterberg together.

A similar situation may occur this year between Van Avermaet and Sagan, who are one step ahead of everyone else in my opinion, and probably yours too!

The only thing that can stop them is the attitude of Quick-Step. The Belgian outfit need to ride as aggressively as they did in Dwars and E3 if they want to have a good chance of success. They need to be in every move that goes up the road, either by following every move or attacking themselves. But more on that later!

Contenders

As I’ve just mentioned above, there are two clear favourites going by the bookmakers and anyone who watches this sport!

Defending champion Peter Sagan has looked his usual exceptional self this year. His attack in Milan San Remo was incredible, as was his stage win in Fermo during the Tirreno Adriatico, but oddly enough there are some people who suggest he’s not going well. He has only won one one-day race this season so far, Kuurne Brussels Kuurne, which is pretty poor from him so they might be right…

Is he suffering from being Sagan? Yeah, I think so, but this is the one race a year where being Sagan doesn’t matter as much. If he’s feeling good, he can simply ride away from everyone on the final double ascent of the Kwaremont/Paterberg like we saw last year. The issue for him will be ensuring that he’s in contention going into that final 15km. Therefore, he’ll need to attack/follow the attacks from where he did last year. Re-watching last week’s Gent Wevelgem, he clawed back almost 8 bike lengths on his main rival Van Avermaet on the Kemmelberg. That’s Flanders winning form!

Talking about Van Avermaet, he was the number one performer of the week just gone by and is Sagan’s main challenger.

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Three one-day World Tour wins already this season, the Olympic champion is flying. He’s beaten Sagan in a sprint (Omloop); won against tough opposition in another sprint (E3); and outsmarted his opponents (Gent Wevelgem). Results wise, he is the rider to beat! He doesn’t seem to pack the same punch up the cobbled climbs as Sagan does, but he benefits tactically from not being Sagan. He seems not to have the same aura amongst the peloton and riders are more inclined to work with him.

However, I think that might change going into this weekend and he’ll struggle with being Van Avermaet. If you’re going to lose to Sagan in a sprint, you’re more than likely going to lose to Van Avermaet in a sprint as well. So why work with him more than the Slovak?

But hey, as you know if you’ve read this blog for a while, DS’ don’t seem to think as outside the box as I do!

Quick-Step have the best chance of beating the two favourites, due to the number of riders in their team that theoretically could have a chance of winning this race, sorry Keisse and Vermote! The rest, all on their day and given the right group could win. Gilbert will be their pre-race favourite and given his scintillating form, he certainly looks the rider best suited to challenge Sagan and GVA.

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He will be able to follow them for the majority of the race and that’s what I would have him do. Let him sit in for most of the race, marking those two out of it. It’s a defensive strategy, using their form rider to mark others, but that’s the teams best chance of winning.

Boonen hasn’t looked in tip-top shape but with only two races left in his career, you would expect him to go well. As much as he would love to win this, I think it might be all about for Roubaix with him. I would save him all-day, hoping he can get close on the Paterberg and that it comes back for a reduced sprint.

Therefore, QS should be attacking from around 70km left with the rest of their riders. Although Lampaert did great in Dwars for the blog, he’s just not strong enough yet on the cobbled climbs to compete here in my opinion. Like Boonen, he is more of a Roubaix kind of guy. I’m not saying he won’t try to get up the road, but he’s not their best option for that.

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So that leaves the triple header of Trentin, Stybar and Terpstra, the three riders who made the front group of around 16 in Gent Wevelgem. Trentin is probably the weakest on this terrain and his past results haven’t been that great. Yet, he’s looked very good this season so far and seems to have taken a step up on the cobbled climbs so he can’t be ruled out, especially if he goes in a move at around 50km to go that stays away until the end. Stybar and Terpstra are their aces in the pack though for long-range moves and I would suggest they both need to be up the road before GVA and Sagan make their attack. If they are, I would be confident enough in Gilbert nullifying them before we get to the last 17km and by then it might be too late to bring back.

The only issue with that is if another big team misses the move and has enough firepower to chase. Who will that team be working for?

Kristoff looks the best of the rest on current form. He’s been unlucky in the first few cobbled classics but his efforts in De Panne were exceptional. In particular, it was his TT that stood out for me. Not a discipline he favours, he lost only 2 seconds to Durbridge who himself is going very well just now. The Norwegian loves this race, having finished 15th/4th/5th/1st/4th in the past 5 years. He will be there or thereabouts at the end of the race!

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Trek have one of the strongest teams here so they will likely aid in a chase if they miss a move. Degenkolb has looked OK so far this season, but it pains me to say, that he is still missing that extra 5% after his crash last year. I can’t see him winning here unless he goes early, but I think he’ll be marked out of it in that situation. Theuns looked tired towards the end of De Panne and Stuyven has been struggling the past week or so with his form. Time for Felline to step up and make that crucial early move!

Naesen (AG2R) has performed exceptionally well over the past 6 months but this could be a tough ask for him, he’s bound to dip in form soon. Surely?!

Lotto have been awful but their saviour Benoot returns this weekend after missing Gent Wevelgem. He almost guarantees a top 10 result but needs to be attacking to get higher up the pecking order, which he might just do.

Sky have been awful the past week and I haven’t seen anything to think they’ll turn that around here. Which is always when they seem to go well!

Boasson Hagen and Thwaites have been going well, albeit quietly, the past few weeks. Like so many others, they’ll need to be up the road before the fireworks kick off behind.

Durbridge will hope to continue his good form but he seems more of a Roubaix man. The same goes for Demare.

I’d love to see Lutsenko get a top 10 placing which I think is a possibility. He’s been 22nd then 14th in the past two editions.

Vanmarcke still doesn’t look great after his injury and illness.

Prediction

I’m really stuck on the fence with this one because I don’t know if I can trust Quick Step to use the same tactics I would. If they do, the race is theirs for the taking, as long as they get some help from other teams to beat GVA and Sagan.

If not, the race is Sagan’s to lose. I know GVA is in great form but even he will fear what Sagan can do on the Paterberg. If there is a 3 second gap at the top, then it’s race over!

Hmmmmm.

Right…

I think the teams will take a similar approach to GVA as they do to Sagan and will not want to work with him 100%. Therefore, various teams will be keen to get numbers ahead before the final 20km. With Gilbert shadowing the Big 2, QS will get Terpstra and Stybar up the road, along with Felline and a few others, with maybe the likes of Oss there for BMC.

He and his team didn’t get it right in GW, but they won’t make that mistake here. Terpstra to win!

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Betting

Already have 1pt WIN on Terpstra from the other week at 25/1 (would take 22s)

Adding;

Stybar 1pt WIN @25/1 with various bookmakers (would take 22s)

Felline 0.5pt EW @ 80/1 with various bookmakers (would take 66s)

Kristoff to beat Degenkolb at 11/10 with PaddyPower (would take it at 4/6 elsewhere Betfair/Bet365). 6pts.

 

Thanks for reading as always and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win and how will they manage to do so? Remember to return tomorrow for my women’s preview and the competition! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Dwars Door Vlaanderen 2017 Preview

Dwars Door Vlaanderen 2017 Preview

The 72nd edition of this race returns tomorrow and marks the start of the run up to the Tour of Flanders a week on Sunday. Dwars Door often provides exciting racing and the route is finely balanced between a small bunch sprint or a group of strong men making it to the line. Plus it’s midweek Belgian cobbled racing! Who doesn’t like midweek Belgian cobbled racing?!

Last year saw a prematurely celebrating Coquard beaten to the line by Debuscherre, with Theuns rounding out the podium.

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That was one of the larger bunch sprints for a while but still only 34 riders crossed the line in that front group. It gives you an idea of how tough and attritional this race can be!

Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders in 2017.

The Route

Much the same as the route we’ve had the past few years, apart from an 800m cobbled section has been added around 7km from the finish line.

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Profile once again by @LasterketaBurua.

An easy start to the day, the second half of the route is pretty challenging. There is either a hill or some cobbles to traverse roughly every 10 kilometres from 90km to go until the finish. This makes it a battle of attrition at times, and is why we often don’t see a bunch sprint into Waregem.

Several of the famous cobbled climbs are raced over here, such as; the Taiienberg; the Oude Kwaremont; and the Paterberg. It is these famous stretches of road that can tear the peloton in to bits and help a group of strong riders escape.

Once through the Varent cobbled section at roughly 23km to go, the chase could well be on from the remnants of the peloton but only if there are enough teams interested in bringing a break back and if they cooperate together.

The run in to the line is fairly simple with only a few roundabouts to negotiate.

One factor that often can play a massive part on this race is the…

Weather

The riders I’m sure, well apart from the Belgians, will be happy to know it looks as if it won’t rain during the day. Even if it does, it should only be a sprinkling! Much to the viewers disappointment.

However, it does look as if we will get reasonably strong winds. Now that’s more promising and what I like to hear!

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Forecast for Wevelgem. Source: Wunderground.

25km/h crosswinds aren’t crazily strong, but they are enough to cause splits and echelons in the peloton if the pressure is on. Here’s hoping!

 How will the race pan out?

I think we’ll see a more attacking race than we got last year and the day won’t come down to a 40 rider sprint.

The reason I say this is similar to my reasoning for an attacking MSR; so many of the puncheurs and cobbled riders seem to be in form at the moment and going very strongly. Most teams arrive with sprint and attacking options, so I think it’s very unlikely that we’ll just see them settle for a nice-group ride and a sprint to the line.

However, this all depends on the composition of the group that makes it up the road and the strong teams will need to be there. I imagine that the attack will need to contain riders from at least the following teams; Lotto Soudal, Quick Step and Trek. You can probably add Orica, FDJ and BMC to that list too!

So for the contenders I won’t be including sprinters.

Contenders

Defending champions Lotto Soudal have a strong team with them but I imagine Benoot and Roelandts will be their co-leaders. The former was unlucky with a crash earlier in the season but he is exceptionally talented and I’m sure will be looking to bounce back before the Ronde and Paris Roubaix. With a solid sprint after a tough day he has a chance of taking his first pro win, but he will need some luck. Like his younger counterpart, Roelandts’ packs a good kick and he’ll be counting on experience to pull through for him!

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Quick Step have a ridiculously strong squad with them and the race itself probably hinges on their attitude. Looking down the start list I could quite feasibly argue for most of their squad making any split in the race. From there, it’s just a case of how they play it. In the past they’ve been quite defensive (the 3 on 1 against Stannard springs to mind) but they should in my opinion approach this aggressively. Or at least I would, which probably means they won’t! Terpstra is the obvious choice to send up the road, but Gilbert and Lampaert offer good options as well. I think Stybar will be saving himself for later in the week.

Theuns will be Trek’s main card to play here, but he’ll be ably supported by Felline. Both of the riders are similar in style, but the Belgian is better on the cobbles with Felline being the better climber. Theuns has finished 2nd and 3rd here the past two years and will be hoping to go one spot higher this time round. I sure would love that as he’s in my season long fantasy team! A very capable rider, he should make the splits on the cobbled climbs and from there it’s a case of making the right moves and getting a bit lucky.

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Orica have a few riders who could challenge here if their on a good day, and in particular Durbridge and Keukeleire. I always think Durbridge is older than he is, I’m amazed he’s only 25, he’s been around for what seems an eternity! Once just a TT specialist, he has really transformed in to a great all round rider, his 6th place in Strade is testament to that. Certainly not a guy that should be given much leeway off the front of the bunch. As for Keukeleire, it was good to see him back challenging at the pointy end of a race in the Vuelta last year, after a few seasons of underperforming. With a fast sprint after a tough day, he could certainly take victory if a small group comes to the line!

A few other riders to keep an eye out on who could well go on the attack and be up there at the finish are Naesen (AG2R), Lutsenko (Astana), Backaert (Wanty), Ligthart (Roompot) and Petit (Direct Energie).

Prediction

As I’ve stated above, I think with the wind conditions we’ll get this edition, the race will be harder than last year and we won’t see a reduced bunch sprint of around 40 riders. Instead, there will be a couple of selections throughout the day and having numbers near the end of the race will be important. I can guarantee Quick Step will have numbers and if Gaviria is not in the group they won’t be waiting around for a sprint. Conversely, they may also even attack if he is in the group as they will be leant on by the other teams!

So I’m going to go for a Quick Step rider who can time trial and sprint from a very reduced group to cover both options of a late attack or sprint. Yep, that’s right, local hero Yves Lampaert to win!

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The rider from Izegem is one that I rate highly and mentioned during the earlier cobbled semi-classics. Heralded as the next big Belgian cobbled talent, he has failed to live up to the mark so far, but that might just well change tomorrow!

Betting

Difficult race to predict and one I don’t want to overly get involved with so a few bets for interest;

1pt WIN Lampaert @ 66/1 with various (would take 50s)

0.5pt EW Keukeleire @ 66/1 with various (would take 50s)

 

Thanks for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we get a big bunch sprint, reduced sprint or a sol attack?! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Paris Nice 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Beaujeu -> Mont Brouilly

Today’s Recap

An annoying day prediction wise. The peloton decided to take it easy, letting a small group get up the road, ensuring a sprint finish.

It was Sam Bennett who took an excellent win at the end of the stage, surging past his competitors to a comfortable victory!

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He finally has a big result to show for his good early season work. Certainly one to watch in Milan San Remo if Sagan isn’t feeling up to it.

Anyway, let’s move on to tomorrow’s stage and what was supposed to be the first GC shake-up of the race.

The Route

A 14.5km individual time trial finishing atop Mont Brouilly.

As is tradition with TTs I’ve made the route profile on Strava that you can view here.

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The first two-thirds of the stage will be  fast. The riders start on a shallow descent before a false flat rise before they descend again towards Saint-Lager. A little kicker just as they come into town (800m at 4.25%) will slow their progress a bit before they then start the irregular climb up Mont Brouilly.

We have two different official profiles for the climb with the one from this year’s road book suggesting that it’s 3km at 7.7%, with the profile from 2014 suggesting 3km at 8.4%. Strava has it as 2.9km at 7.6%.

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In my opinion, this year’s profile is correct in terms of average gradient, but the 2014 edition gives a much better idea of the inconsistencies in the steepness of the slopes. So yeah, you just need to combine the two really!

I’m really intrigued by this route. The start of it really favours those who are masters of the discipline and are able to power along on the flat, but obviously the finale is a fairly steep 3km climb where the climbers can make up ground. It’s a similar route to the traditional final TT that we see in Etoile de Besseges every year, but with a slightly harder final climb.

I wonder if we’ll see any bike changes?

Another thing to consider is the weather.

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Forecast for Saint-Lager (Source: Wunderground)

We should get roughly similar conditions all day, although those who start later may benefit from a slight drop in the wind speed. I’m also particularly interested in the wind direction, as it looks to be a head/cross-head wind for the majority of the “flat” section. This certainly won’t help the small climbers, favouring the strong TTers. Once we get onto the climb itself the wind direction will change a lot due to the several hairpins the riders go round, but it will mainly be a crosswind.

Contenders

As I mentioned above, this stage reminds me a lot of the final TT we get in Etoile de Besseges ever year, except with a slightly harder climb. Riders who’ve won there in the past few years include; Gallopin (2017), Coppel (2016), Jungels (2015), Ludvigsson (2014).

A variety of riders, although they all fit roughly the same mould. Guys that are good climbers (not mountain goats) but they are also very solid on the flat.

Now the debate I’ve been having with myself for the past half hour or so is if the slightly steeper climb negates the strong flat start that we have. Then you throw in the potential for a head-wind which hinders the climbers more and I’m back at square one! Right, I’ve made my mind up…I think…

Porte could go crazy on this day and smash the TT, or he could quite easily keep his powder dry for later in the week and go for a mountain stage instead. He’ll have lost a bit of confidence in himself after the first two stages but tomorrow presents a good opportunity to relight the spark. I think he’ll struggle in the first part but dance up the climb. Will that be enough to take the win?

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Contador will fare similarly to Porte but he’s in the position where he’s at least guaranteed to give it 100%. The flat section into the headwind will be tough but he’ll love the climb. However, I think there will be riders who will go better than him on the day.

Two of those are very similar; Zakarin and Izagirre. They both need to make up some time after losing a minute on the first day. The pair of them are solid TTers on the flat and are obviously good climbers too. They in theory should have a lead over Porte/Contador going onto Mont Brouilly. If they have 10 seconds at that point then they have a great chance of taking the stage!

Gallopin isn’t known for his TT ability but he did take his first professional victory in the discipline at Etoile earlier in the year. Obviously going well in this race, making all of the splits so far, he is a real danger-man for stage honours. With the climb only being 3km long he should be able to put out power close to that of the proper mountain goats. I’m very intrigued to see how he does.

You can’t have a TT preview without mentioning Tony Martin. The World Champion has had an up-and-down start to the season; winning a stage in Valenciana, coming second in a TT in Algarve but crashing heavily in Kuurne. He also crashed in yesterday’s stage but it supposedly wasn’t anything too serious, however, it’s yet to be seen if he’s back at 100%. I have been impressed with the bits of work he’s done at the front of the race, particularly on stage one. He looked really strong there, single-handedly closing the gap to the group up front by around 30 seconds. The climb at the end might be an issue, but he was going well uphill in Valenciana for his stage win!

I don’t think Alaphilippe will go well here. That’s all I have to say about him!

Lampaert might get involved in the top 10, but he could also be told to save himself for team duties later in the week. Kruijswijk is very hot or cold in TTs and could pull something out of the bag tomorrow. As a super joker, I’m going to keep an eye on how Michael Matthews does. In theory he should be strong on the flat and the climb won’t be too challenging for him, it all just depends on how he approaches the day. He was impressive on a tough course in Switzerland last year!

Prediction

I’m still not entirely convinced about what way this is going to go. Which hopefully should make it a great time trial to watch! But I think the head-wind at the start of the stage will have a larger impact on the small climbers, than the climb at the end will have on the bigger all-rounders at the end of the day. I’ll go for the World Champion (Tony Martin) to take his first victory of the season in his Rainbow Bands!

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Betting

Tough stage to call and not one to get heavily involved with.

1pt EW Martin @ 9/1 with Betfair/PP (Would take the 8/1 available elsewhere). My thinking behind going EW is that he hopefully should at least place and we get some kind of return.

 

Thanks for reading my third preview of the day, I’m sure it’s been a slog for you! How do you think the TT will play out tomorrow? Will it be a GC winner or do the specialists have a chance? You can read my Tirreno previews on the site if you haven’t seen them already! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Kuurne – Bruxelles – Kuurne 2017 Preview

Kuurne – Bruxelles – Kuurne 2017 Preview

This will be short and sweet today as I need to get two previews ready before work. Apologies!

The second part of our opening weekend double header is Kuurne – Bruxelles – Kuurne, or KBK for short!

With Omloop traditionally being the harder race, where those hoping to feature in the likes of Flanders and Roubaix later in the year want to test their legs, KBK tends to be more of a race for the sprinters.

However, Jasper Stuyven upset the applecart last year, taking a magnificent solo victory after a tough race.

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Will we get another surpise this year, or will the sprinters come out to play? Let’s have a look at the route first of all.

The Route

Rolling parcours to start off with but a flat run-in to the line.

Once again credit must go to @LasterketaBurua who made the following profile.

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We do make the iconic ascent of the Oude Kwaremont but there is a good chance that it will be too early to make a difference.

It does twist and turn before the finish on the local laps, like almost everywhere in this part of the world, but it’s nothing crazy! There is a sharp turn with around 650m to go and this will see a fight for position in the bunch but the riders should traverse it ok.

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Overall, the parcours of the race isn’t too tough, but that all depends on the attitude of the peloton and the weather…

Weather Forecast

Similar conditions to today, but there is ever so slightly more chance of rain.

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Like today, it looks as if we could get some crosswind sections out on the course with a SSW wind.

It is possible to make the going tough!

How will the race pan out?

Aside from last year, this race is traditionally a sprinters race. Yet, with the change of the UCI Calendar this year, there are a lot of sprinters away in Abu Dhabi just now; so are we going to see the same impetus to keep this together for a bunch sprint?

Today in Omloop we had a lot of crashes with the likes of Boonen and Kristoff involved. As I’m writing this, it’s not been confirmed how serious these crashes were but if those two aren’t in tip-top shape then the sprint field is lacking some strong contenders.

If Quick Step lose their main guy for a sprint, and with them being relatively poor today, I’m sure they’ll be attacking tomorrow. They won’t want to have a quiet opening weekend in the Belgian classics so I expect them to be aggressive. Likewise, this could possibly be said for the likes of Sky and Trek who would have been disappointed with the outcome from today. They will both have sprint options, but would also be welcome to the possibility of a reduced group of strongmen getting away.

I still think it will end in a sprint, I weigh it about 60:40.

Nonetheless, like for my Omloop preview I’ll throw a few names into the hat for a breakaway win and this list certainly won’t be exhaustive.

Would be attackers…

Ian Stannard.

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Sky will be kicking themselves after today. They looked in a fantastic position, having 3 riders in the front bunch of about 20 that had regrouped after the Taaienberg. After that they fell asleep as our podium from today just rode of the front, along with a few others and that was that. They do have Van Poppel who certainly could be up there in a sprint but I imagine we’ll see some aggressive action at the front from them. Stannard looks the ideal candidate after a relatively quiet finish to his race today so he should be fairly fresh. An ox of a rider who seems in good form, his diesel engine will be of great advantage to any escape!

Yves Lampaert.

The very talented, often overlooked, young Belgian might get a bit of leeway tomorrow if Boonen isn’t feeling 100%. In fact, Lampaert in his junior days was often compared to Boonen himself! As I’ve said above, I think QuickStep play this very aggressively tomorrow and Lampaert might just be given the nod in a “lesser” race. A strong time trialist, cobbled rider and packing a good punch after a tough day, Yves is certainly not one to be discounted if he makes the selection!

See, not exhaustive at all 😉

 

Sprinters

I’m not going to run through all of the riders for this situation either, but there are two that I like.

Arnaud Demare. (Again)

I liked him for today and he finished reasonably high up, he just lost too much time on the Taaienberg and that was it for the day. Whether the time was lost because he was held behind the crash or not, I’m not sure! My reasons for liking him for tomorrow’s race are similar to that of today; he’s fast, on great form and loves the cobbles. He has previous form too at this race!

Magnus Cort.

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The Orica rider is fast becoming a very good semi-classics rider. He was up there today in the second group on the road for a lot of the race, eventually finishing in 16th place. No slouch either, he would probably prefer a hard race to knock the stuffing out of some of his opposition’s legs. Clearly on good early season form, picking up two wins already, he is a force to be reckoned with!

Prediction

I think this will come back together for some type of sprint at the end. How big though? I’m not sure, but Demare will be there anyway to take the win!

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If we do get some kind of attacker, I’ll go for Lampaert as my cheeky side-bet. (As Kirby would say).

Betting

My H2H confidence has been shook after today, so I’ll be avoiding them tomorrow.

0.75pt EW Demare @ 16/1 (Bet365)

0.5pt EW Cort @ 25/1 (Sky)

0.3pt WIN Stannard @66/1 (Bet365)

0.2pt WIN Lampaert @100 (Various)

 

Thanks for reading like always! How do you think tomorrow’s race will pan out? Hoping for some exciting action again. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

 

 

 

 

Men’s ITT World Championship Preview – Doha 2016

Men’s ITT World Championship Preview – Doha 2016

The final time trial of the Championships is upon us and it’s time for the Elite men to go up against the clock.

In 2015 we had a relatively surprising winner in the form of Vasil Kiryienka. Surprising in the sense that it wasn’t one of the Big 3 (Dumoulin/Dennis/Martin) but considering Kiryienka came 4th at the final TT in the Vuelta and is known for his big engine, then not so much.

World Championships - Mens TT

The rest of the podium was against all predictions too, as Malori and Coppel finished 2nd and 3rd respectively, with Castroviejo coming 4th. The Big 3 only managed 5-7th places, all finishing over a minute down. They’ll be out for revenge here!

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

The Route

The men will cover the same route as the trade teams did for the TTT on Sunday.

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Starting at the Lusail Sports Complex, the riders will be faced with a fairly technical 14km section that they could struggle to find a rhythm in due to the relatively short sections and several obstacles (roundabouts/90-degree corners etc) in their way. However, as we saw in the TTT, a lot of these corners can be taken at speed with the correct line.

They then make their way south along a very exposed, straight highway. It will be possible for the riders to maintain a high speed if the wind is in their favour! Once into the outskirts of the city the road gets a bit more sweeping but nothing major of note. They then complete a truncated lap around the Pearl, missing out the east section that we saw today, before reaching the finish line.

Weather Watch

Once again, the riders will be faced with very hot conditions and a bit of a breeze.

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Forecast for Qatar University – 2nd intermediate time check. (Windfinder)

The wind isn’t overly strong and as we saw today, the speed and direction can change pretty quickly in this part of the world. If we do get a correct forecast, then the riders will have a cross-tailwind for the long section in the middle of the desert. Expect very fast times if that’s the case!

With the riders setting off at 1’30 intervals and there being no wave system, there’s only an hour and 40 minutes between the first and last rider to set off, then changeable conditions won’t be as much of an issue as they should all get similar weather out on course. Therefore there isn’t an obvious advantage for the early or late starts respectively. But as I’ve said above, the desert wind can change very quickly so who knows!

The start times for the riders can be found here.

Contenders

Where else to start than with the Big 3?

Rohan Dennis comes here as the bookies favourite and will be confident after his convincing win at the Eneco Tour. However, that TT was only over 10km, this is TT is four times that length. It is in the longer TTs that Dennis suffers but this one isn’t long by World Championship standards and the Aussie will be hopeful here. I’m just not convinced by his lack of consistency over this distance to be confident in him. Watch him prove me wrong now!

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Tom Dumoulin has continued on from where he left off in his breakthrough 2015 season, managing to wear the leader’s jersey at the Giro and win two stages at the Tour, along with winning a silver medal at the Olympics. Not bad! His form has been a bit patchy as of late but he was 4th on the Queen stage of Eneco which is a good indicator and he looked solid in the TTT too. He’s definitely not a right off like some people may suggest.

Tony Martin was instrumental in Etixx winning the TTT on Sunday and he looks back to his best after changing his position on the bike and reverting back to his old technique. Picking up his first win of the season at the Tour of Britain really helped him, it’s amazig what a bit of confidence can do! This type of flat, power-based parcours is ideal for the Panzerwagen and he’ll be gunning for victory. Second favourite with the bookmakers, he certainly has a very good chance!

2016 EQS Camp - Calpe, Spain

As for the rest?

You can’t rule out Kiryienka on a course like this, although he would prefer it longer. But after his poor 2016 season he’s made no indication of a turnaround in form for here so I can’t see him retaining his crown.

Castroviejo is probably the main challenger to the Big 3. On the back of winning the European Championships, he was left disappointed in the TTT after having to make a bike change early on. Having “Vuelta legs” could help him if he’s managed to sustain that form and he’s certainly one to keep an eye on.

There are a handful of other riders who could challenge for a medal if the others fall by the wayside; Bialoblocki, Phinney, Lampaert, Jungels and Oliveira.

I don’t really rate the chances of Bodnar, Durbridge and Van Emden. Contrary to the bookies who have them priced up as 7/8/9th favourites. Bodnar and Van Emden normally don’t go well over this distance and Durbridge was suffering in the TTT, plus has struggled in long TTs recently.

Prediction

Despite his slightly off the boil form recently, I think Tom Dumoulin will win this. He was going well towards the end of Eneco and looked good in the TTT. He is one of the most fluid riders on a TT bike that I’ve witnessed in my short 10 years of following cycling. He’s like poetry in motion! The distance is also very good for him too; a perfect balance for his speed/endurance abilities. He’s not been loud and brash about his form either, in fact playing it down at times, but he’s quietly confident of going well and I am too!

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I think Dennis will go out too hard and blow up later on in the race and we’ll have Castroviejo sneak onto the podium again, with Martin finishing 2nd.

Betting

I have to admit, the odds swayed this prediction slightly. Even with questionable form, no way should both Dennis and Martin be under 2/1, while Dumoulin is 3-4 times that price in most places.

1.5pt WIN Dumoulin @ 8/1 with Betfair Sportsbook (take the 6/1 with B365, or I’d even go down to the 11/2 available elsewhere)

I’ve also backed this H2H 4-fold with Bet365.

0.5pt on at 6.43/1

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Thanks again for reading! The blog recently hit over 20,000 views which is incredible 🙂 Who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone beat the top 3 and am I being optimistic with Dumoulin? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 19 Preview: Xàbia -> Calp

Today’s Recap

A long, relatively boring day.

A weak break managed to escape, made up of only 5 riders and no sprint teams, so we were destined for a sprint at the end of the day. It was Giant and Arndt who looked to have things all under control, but the Giant lead-out man tired slightly early than he would have liked. Behind him, Arndt hesitated and Cort took advantage of that with a magnificently timed sprint launch and was never to be passed. A great win!

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Onto tomorrow.

The Route

Time Trial time and the single most pivotal stage of the Vuelta. Well, at least it was billed as that before the racing actually started. It’s where Froome is supposed to gain 2 minutes on Quintana and potentially the Vuelta too, but all hope looks gone by now.

Let’s have a look at the course.

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Now that’s the official profile but as is traditional on a time trial day, I’ve made a strava profile of the whole route that you can view here.

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Like we saw on the first TTT, the scale on the Strava profile distorts some of the climbs as it’s only a 0-200m scale, whereas the road book profile has 0-600m scale. Consequently some lumps have to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Nonetheless, “rolling” is how I’d describe the stage! The biggest challenge the riders will face is the climb that actually starts just after 5km. Although the road only rises ever so slightly, taking it from here makes it 7km at 2.1%. However, the “big” kick up at the end is 1.7km long at 6.5%. The strong climbers will hope to gain some time here.

An interesting thing to note is that the official profile only has 330m of elevation, whereas Strava suggests there’s 675m of elevation gain. Hmmmm.

There are a few more drags in the second half of the stage. 1.5km at 3.4% for example, that peaks at around the 25km mark. However, the riders will be able to put it in the big ring and power over these tests, although they certainly will sap the legs of energy.

Weather

A major factor in the outcome of TTs over the past few years has been the changing weather conditions throughout the day. The riders start times will be spread out over roughly 3 hours. Thankfully for the riders, they will all get dry conditions. However, the wind may play a part.

So back to a favourite website of mine, Windfinder.com

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Wind speeds in km/h, and max gusts @ Teulada

As you can see in the image above, the average wind speed actually picks up for those who start later on in the day. Although the differences are small, the direction looks as if it will switch from a cross-headwind to more of a headwind.

Ultimately though, I don’t think the weather will have that much of an impact on the favourites. It may favour a rouleur more than a climber, but the differences will be minimal.

Stage Contenders

A TT in Spain, so where best to start than with Movistar and Castroviejo? The Spaniard has to start as the favourite for this stage in my opinion. 4th in the Olympics, he’s been doing a lot of work for Quintana and was pivotal for the Colombian on the race splitting move during stage 15, but he’ll have had one eye on this stage.

Froome may start as the favourite though.

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He beat Castroviejo by 4 seconds at the Olympics and will hope to do the same here. He needs to pull a big performance out the bag here if he wants to put any pressure on Quintana going into the penultimate stage, but also to protect his second place. He’s seemed to re-find his TT ability this year and I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins. I just think he looks a bit too tired!

Luis Leon Sanchez will hope to go well here. He’s looked great all race and has been very active either in the breaks or the front of the bunch. In years gone by, he’d be threatening for the win but he doesn’t seem to be as good on the TT bike anymore. However, he can’t be discounted!

Nairo Quintana.

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Bit of a curveball, I know, but he was TTing exceptionally well at the start of the season. In fact, he was going so well that I had talked him up for taking the TT at the Tour. Unfortunately, he wasn’t firing on all cylinders then, but he seems to be on it here! Often during a TT at the end of a Grand Tour there is a mix of GC guys and specialists and it sometimes just comes down to who has the legs. Quintana certainly has the legs just now. I’d watch out for him.

Tobias Ludvigsson.

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If you’ve been somewhat paying attention to this blog then you’ll know that I’m a massive fan of Big T. He’s had a very underrated but quietly exceptional Vuelta so far, climbing better than ever. This TT will be a big goal for him and he’s stayed out of the breaks on the past few stages, saving energy for this. He has the quality and now the confidence to play a big part in this stage!

Aside from the five who I’ve mentioned, keep an eye out for Lampaert, Campenaerts, Moser, Felline and Valverde (it’s Spain!) to throw up a few surprises.

Prediction

I just can’t see past Castroviejo;

  • He’s an excellent TTer
  • The course suits him very well
  • He’s a Movistar rider
  • It’s Spain

Simple. Castroviejo wins!

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Unless of course Big T and Quintana surprise 😉

Betting

1.5pt WIN Castroviejo @ 7/4 (Bet365)

0.25pt EW Ludvigsson @ 20/1 (Bet365)

0.5pt EW Quintana @ 125/1 (Bet365)

Like normal, hunt around later when there are more prices out.

Thanks for reading as per! Who do you think will win the TT? Are we in for a shock? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Enjoy the race wherever you’re watching it from. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 18 Preview: Requena -> Gandía

Today’s Recap

A well-timed attack from Frank and a solid pace up the final climb saw him solo away to victory. Konig and Gesink followed 6 and 11 seconds behind respectively, leaving their move on the climb too late. Not to take anything away from Frank, he definitely deserved a win this Vuelta!

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Behind, the top 4 on GC all rolled in together but there were some time gaps further down the order. Samuel Sanchez performed the worst (losing a minute to his rivals) and has dropped once place, swapping with Talansky. Further down, De La Cruz and Scarponi traded their 9th and 10th on GC. With Dani Moreno now lurking only 11 seconds behind the young Spaniard.

Let’s move on to tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

Another rolling day, that at the Vuelta is probably classified as a sprint stage.

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There isn’t really much to talk about the route. There’s not a lot of flat within the first half of the stage and only in the second half do the riders find favourable terrain, where they descend to the finish with only a few small rises.

The run in itself will be fast but does have a few technical aspects.

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The pace will be knocked off in the closing kilometre as they have to take the first, sharp exit at a roundabout. However, the final 600m is dead straight so no difficulties should occur here!

How will the stage pan out?

The real question for tomorrow’s stage is if we’ll see a sprint or not. At 200km long and with a lot of lumpy terrain, it will be tough for those who want a sprint to control the stage. A few teams have looked keen so far, namely Giant, Etixx and Trek, to chase the breaks down.

There is the possibility though that a small break gets away in the morning, with only a few teams represented and we do get a sprint, after the gap is easily controlled by a few of the teams.

However, with a few more tough days to come and knowing that they’re guaranteed a sprint in Madrid, there is a chance that they may not put all their eggs in the sprint basket. For these teams, they could decide to try to send a rider in the morning break so that they don’t have to work behind. Of course, that is easier said than done!

There are only 4 more stages left in the race. Only a handful of riders can win the TT, the penultimate stage is for a climber and the final stage in Madrid is sure to end in a bunch sprint. Consequently, tomorrow is the last day for the rouleurs to make their mark on the race, and I expect them to take it.

I go for a break that wins it!

(As long as at least 2/3 of Trek, Giant and Etixx are represented)

Breakaway Hopefuls

Like normal, we’re left sifting our way through the peloton trying to find that elusive break winner! I’ll be naming 5 this time as it’s even more of a lottery and the preview is on the thin side.

 

Kiel Reijnen.

The America rider is a late-comer to the European peloton, only joining Trek this year at the age of 29. He may be used as the teams ploy to infiltrate the break so they get away without having to chase behind. Felline himself would be a great candidate but everyone else would make him chase the moves in the finale, whereas Reijnen isn’t as marked. A solid all-rounder with a fast kick, he would have every chance!

Vegard Stake Laengen. 

Cycling: 99th Tour of Italy 2016 / Stage 11

 

He was in the successful break that made it all the way on stage 13 and managed 5th on that stage. The finale to this stage is better suited to his capabilities and with a strong TT, he could ride away from the rest of his opponents.

Loïc Chetout.

Another rider who was in a breakaway earlier this race (stage 10) he could go well on this course. The talented young Frenchman seemed to be in every break in his build-up races for the Vuelta. Unlike stage 10 where he struggled on the final climb, this flatter end to the stage will be much more appealing to him!

Yves Lampaert.

The talented Belgian had his early season ruined by a trivial incident…screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-19-14-45He seems to be getting back to better form now and was on the attack on stage 13. Similar to Reijnen, he could be used as a ploy by Etixx so that they don’t have to chase behind. If he gets into the move, I don’t expect him to mess it up like he did earlier in the race.

Adam Hansen.

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It wouldn’t be the Vuelta without seeing him off the front at some point. This type of stage looks like it would be perfect for Hansen, as there is a reasonable amount of climbing but nothing serious. The only concern will be that he’s heavily covered in a breakaway situation so it will be tough. If anyone can time his move correctly though, it will be him!

Prediction

As I said above, I give the break the edge on this stage only if a few of the “danger” sprint teams have a man up the road. I’d say it’s a 70:30 chance.

If it does stick, I think Yves Lampaert will go better than he did on stage 13 and take the win here!

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Betting

All straight up WIN:

0.4pt Lampaert @ 100/1 with Ladbrokes (I’d go as low as 66s)

0.2pt Hansen @ 125/1 with Bet365 (I’d go 80/1 lowest)

0.2pt Stake Laengen @ 200/1 with Betfair (I’d go 150)

0.1pt Chetout @ 300/1 with PaddyPower or Betfair (I’d go 200)

0.1pt Reijnen @ 66/1 with various bookmakers (wouldn’t go any lower)

 

Thanks again for reading! Do you think we’ll see a bunch sprint or will the break hold on? As usual, any feedback would be much appreciated!

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.