Pais Vasco 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Iruñea -> Eltziego

Today’s Recap

I have to admit, I overslept after last nights shift and only caught the last 5km! In that time we had Alaphilippe attack over the summit of the final drag, only to have a mechanical. A counter group then went with the likes of Valverde and Roche, only for it all to be brought back together for a sprint. The blog pick of Albasini was indeed on lead-out duty for Gerrans, but it was another Aussie and stage favourite Matthews who took the win. McCarthy finished in second place to give the podium a Tour Down Under feel to it!

C8gYUrTXUAIUvx-

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

The Route

Another typical rolling Basque stage.

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 17.43.09
@LasterketaBurua

A tough climb at the start of the stage should see a strong break get up the road. However, aside from the Cat-3 climb at 60km to go there is no real other big obstacle out on course. The official profile makes the closing 30km look very testing but most of it is false flat at 1-2% or so at most. However, there is a little ramp (1.1km at 6%) that crests at roughly 6.5km to the finish.

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 17.49.55

The run in to the line is downhill all the way from 6.5km out. It’s not too severe a descent, averaging only -3%, so it’s one for the bigger chain ring! The riders will be thankful there are no tight turns only a few sweeping bends for them to contend with.

How will the stage pan out?

We saw today that a small rise of 1.4km at 3.5% was enough to cause some urgency in the bunch so a 1.1km ramp at 6% will probably do the same tomorrow! With the run in being downhill, although not too steep, it does give any would be escapees a better chance of making it to the line.

Yet, a reduced bunch sprint is also a very likely option. It all depends on what riders attempt to get off the front of the peloton. If the attack group contains a GC threat then there will be more impetus behind to chase or a lack of co-operation in the group ahead, like we saw with Valverde’s attack today. However, if we get a few GC favourites away and enough teams then it might just stick.

It’s a tough one to call!

Late Attackers

There are your obvious choices of attackers such as Wellens and Cummings but like always, I’ll name a couple of other more unorthodox picks who might have a go.

Toms Skuijnš.

24-03-2017 Settimana Internazionale Coppi E Bartali; Tappa 02 Riccione - Sogliano Al Rubicone; 2017, Cannondale - Drapac; Skujins, Toms; Sogliano Al Rubicone;

The Latvian is in great form at the moment, taking a storming win in Coppi e Bartali towards the end of March. He followed that up with a solid 10th place in GP Indurain on Saturday. Not a GC threat and packing a fast sprint after a tough stage, he has a good chance of winning from a group of 5 or so.

Michael Valgren.

Hadsten_2014_Michael_Valgren_Andersen.jpg

Building some nice form for the Ardennes, the Dane has continued his racing after completing Flanders in a very credible 11th place on Sunday. That ride might be taking its toll on him but he is a bull of a rider and I think he’ll have recovered well enough by now. Like Skuijns, he packs a fairly good sprint from a reduced group. Heck, he even beat Colbrelli to 6th place in E3 recently!

Sprint?

If we do get a sprint, Matthews has shown that he is a step ahead of everyone else and he should be the clear favourite for it. The last climb will be of no challenge to him, he’ll just hope that he has team-mates to chase or if another team wants to set it up for a bunch gallop.

Who could that team be? Orica are the most likely allies as they look to set up either Gerrans or Albasini. The former obviously sprinted today so will he get the chance again tomorrow? It will be tough for them to beat Matthews though!

McCarthy, Restrepo and Swift will hope to feature too. I think the Brit will go much better than he did today and is one to keep an eye on if we do get a sprint.

Prediction

An interesting one to predict and it really is in the balance between a late attack sticking and a reduced bunch gallop. Hmmmmm.

I think it will come back together and Matthews will win again!

Betting

No value in Matthews at his price due to the risky and unpredictable nature of the finale. Of course there is value if you think it is a nailed on sprint but that bit of doubt puts me off of him. There are a few angles I still want to play though;

0.75pt EW Swift @ 20/1 with Betfair/PP (would take down to 16s)

0.25pt WIN Skuijns @ 100/1 with Bet365 (would take down to 66s)

0.25pt WIN Valgren @ 250/1 with Bet365 (would take down to 66s)

 

Thanks for reading and any feedback is appreciated as always. Who do you think will win and by what means? I’ll be back again tomorrow with a slightly longer preview! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Milano-Sanremo 2017 Preview

Milano-Sanremo 2017 Preview

The first monument of the year and the longest race in the calendar returns this weekend; Milan -> Sanremo!

Like most MSR’s, last year’s edition built slowly to a climax, with the closing kilometre being exceptionally exciting.

We had Gaviria crashing, almost taking out Sagan and Cancellara if it was not for some incredible bike handling, but what else would you expect from that pair! That left the door open for some other riders and Roelandts opened up the sprint early which caught everyone off guard. Swift followed (finishing 2nd in the end), Bouhanni looked strong but had a mechanical and came home 4th. Instead, it was a rather dubious win for Arnaud Démare in the end after there were accusations he got a tow from the team car back to the peloton after a crash. Nonetheless, it was an impressive sprint from the Frenchman and with the way he is riding this season so far, he could well make it back to back wins!

861460-demare

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

The Route

A carbon copy of what we’ve had the past few years pretty much.

MSR_16_plan-1-926x1024

MSR_16_alt-1-1024x663

A real race of attrition, the peloton doesn’t get close to this distance in any other race. The extra 50km compared to some other monuments and almost 100km on normal stage-race stages really adds another element. The climbs of the Cipressa and the Poggio if taken alone aren’t difficult at all.

img_salite2015

Yet, with them being the only place for the climbers and puncheurs to make a move they are always attacked at a ferocious pace. Plus, with 260km already in the legs, riders will be nervous as to how their body reacts.

We might see some long-range attacks on the Cipressa before the puncheurs try to break the hearts of the sprinters on the Poggio. It’s often a battle between attacking classics riders and the sprinter’s team-mates for control of the race. Once over the crest of the Poggio, it’s time for a daredevil descent into Sanremo itself.

MSR_16_ARR-1-1024x671

Once off the descent we have roughly 2km of flat to the finish. There will no doubt be more attacks here as the riders regroup. Will the sprinters have enough team-mates left to chase and control the race? Or will we even see non-sprinters chase down other non-sprinters? Inadvertently helping the sprinters who are with them!

The famous finish along the via Roma awaits.

How will the race pan out?

Going off of recent trends, the race certainly seems to live up to its nickname of “The Sprinter’s Monument”.

In the last 5 years, the number of riders in the leading group at the finish has swelled; 2012 (3); 2013 (7); 2014 (25); 2015 (26); 2016 (31). Why is that?

Well, the removal of the “Le Manie” climb in 2014 swung the race back towards bunch gallops. Although it came around 100km from the finish, it sapped away at the sprinters legs a lot earlier and ensured that they tackled the climbs at the end of the race with a bit more fatigue. You could also argue that sprinters in general seem to have got better at climbing over the past few years, but I’m not sure the likes of Kittel will agree!

Oddly enough though, I do still think we’ll see one of the more attacking MSRs for a while. I’m not saying it won’t come down to a sprint in the end, but with so many puncheurs in great form coming into the race, I’m sure they won’t want to wait until the sprint to end up 6th-10th place. There will be a slight headwind when the riders turn onto the Poggio, but the majority of the climb will be a tailwind. Will this inspire the attackers?

If a select group can make it over the top of the Poggio and work well together then they can make it to the finish. However, the issue is that they have to co-operate, if not, then they have no chance.

I actually think someone like Sagan might attack on the Poggio.

C6uqu7dWgAAjZKU

The World Champion is clearly in scintillating form but I’m sure even he will be concerned with the quality of sprinters that can make it over the final climb if the pace isn’t too high. He is the one of the fastest men in the World after a tough day and I’m sure he’ll do everything in his powers to ensure that he has the best chance at winning the race. Being beaten by Gaviria in Tirreno this week gone by won’t have done his confidence much use, but I guess Sagan being Sagan, he doesn’t need any more confidence!

Another reason I think Sagan might not wait around for a sprint is that Bora also have the handy second card to play of Sam Bennett. The Irishman took a breakthrough and much deserved win in Paris-Nice, beating some of the fastest pure sprinters in the World. That impressed me, but what impressed me more was his intermediate sprint win the next day. “Eh?!” I can imagine you say, thinking I’ve clearly lost the plot. Well, that intermediate sprint came after the stage started with a Cat-1 climb and the peloton was only 60-riders strong over the top, with the likes of Demare being dropped. Not Bennett though, he was up there beating Matthews and Gilbert. He certainly seems to have found his climbing legs and the Poggio shouldn’t be a challenge for him! Which leads me on to the other sprinters here…

Sprinters

We have plenty of them here, with only Kittel, Greipel and Groenewegen being the notable absentees.

I’m not going to bore you with a little bit on each sprint option (plenty of others will cover them more succinctly and concisely), as I’m already close to the 1000 word mark and I have a few other scenarios/riders I want to cover. So like I’ve been doing quite a bit recently, I’m going to focus on one rider and he’s a selection that might surprise you!

Mark Cavendish.

MILAN SAN REMO

The 2009 winner has had a relatively uninspiring but solid start to his 2017 season, picking up only one victory so far in Abu Dhabi. He wasn’t competitive at this race last year due to his Olympics build up, but will be hoping for better this year. Nonetheless, he looks like a tough rider to argue for, yet I’ll give it my best shot.

It’s his slow burning season that’s actually making me believe in his chances here. Before the Tour last year I had written him off as he didn’t seem to be having a great year and seemed past it. He went on to win 4 stages. Before the World Champs I ruled him out as he said he was ill in the week leading up to the event and had gone a bit off the boil post TDF, with only a 6th at Paris-Tours being a notable result. He went on to finish second. Really though, he should have won! He just chose the wrong wheel and got a bit boxed in. There is a recurring theme here; just when he seems to be out of it, he bags a result. The Manxman certainly knows how to peak for key targets. His recent performance in Tirreno fits the above agenda quite nicely and reminds me of a certain Irishman.

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 15.49.09

The above screenshot is from an interview in Rouleur magazine with Sean Kelly (view it here). Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Write off Cavendish at your peril this weekend!

Outsiders

There are plenty of puncheurs and classics riders I could highlight but I’m returning to Dimension Data for my second rider.

Edvald Boasson Hagen has long been a favourite of mine. The guy oozed class and talent on a bike and it’s a shame for him he’s around in the same era as the likes of Sagan and GVA as I feel he gets overlooked at times.

The Norwegian was on the attack here in the final kilometres last year and only a few managed to follow him. I expect something similar this year, even if Cavendish makes it over the top of the Poggio in the main group. He’s without a win this season but he has looked strong in Strade, bridging across to the front group on his own. Likewise, his two top 10 TT results indicate to me that he’s peaking a lot more slowly this year compared to his blistering start last season. He can win solo by attacking, or could take out a sprint win from a small group and I don’t think there would be many cycling fans out there who would begrudge a Boasson Hagen win!

My final rider is a proper outsider and one that I have mentioned a lot over the past week in Paris Nice; Alexey Lutsenko.

lutshenko

The Astana man has had a strong but fruitless start to the season. He was never outside the top 30 in Oman and finished a very respectable 11th in the tough TT during Paris Nice. The Kazakh outfit are without a top quality sprinter in their squad, but Lutsenko can certainly fill the void. Like EBH, he is capable of attacking late on in the race or challenging for the win in a very reduced sprint. He did win the U23 World’s in a very similar fashion! A talented rider who I think is going to have a very good season, a win here would certainly shock a few but not me. He will still need some luck to go his way, but who doesn’t here!

Prediction

A sprint is the most likely option but I think we’ll see a more attacking race this year and a move within the final 2km could well stick. He tried it last year and was unlucky to be marked out of it, but I think this year he might just make it with everyone else marking Sagan. Boasson Hagen to take a memorable victory!

sptdw702_670

Betting

Cavendish 1pt EW @18/1 with Bet365 (Would take down to 14s available elsewhere)

Boasson Hagen 0.75pts EW @80/1 with Bet365 (Would take down to 50s)

Lutsenko 0.25pts EW @300/1 with PP/Bet365 (Would take down to 200s).

 

Thanks very much for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated as always. Who do you think is going to win La Classicissima? Will we see a sprint or a late attack stick? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

paris-nice-2017-stage-1-1487779674

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

screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-15-01-18

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

screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-15-01-35

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

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

Weather

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

screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-14-52-00
Bois-d’Arcy forecast (Source: Wunderground)

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

Sprinters

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

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

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

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

Instead…

Late Attackers

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

Oliver Naesen.

bettiniphoto_0261225_1_2000px_670

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

AlexeyLutsenko.

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

Mauro Finetto.

632050348_670

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

Prediction

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

lutshenko

Betting

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

Lutsenko @ 100/1 with Bet365

Naesen @ 100/1 with Bet365

Finetto @ 100/1 with Betfair

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

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Ruta del Sol Stage 1 Preview; Rincón de la Victoria -> Granada

Opening stage of the race and it looks like it could be a cracker!

The Route

A rolling, hilly day that is a real mixed bag and not what you might expect. At 155km, it will be short and sharp!

vuelta-a-andalucia-ruta-ciclista-del-sol-2017-stage-1-1485552148

If you were to just take a quick glance at the profile you might assume that the final climb will reduce the bunch somewhat but we should end up in some kind of sprint. Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to happen…

Typical of Spanish races, the organisers have made the scale on the Y-axis almost twice as large as it really needs to be and this makes the climbing on the stage look a lot easier than it actually is.

We climb from sea-level early in the stage up to 1000m by the 50km mark. From there it’s up and down for 30kms before a long, shallow descent and the final test of the day, the El Purche.

As per usual, I have made a Strava profile of the climb itself and the run into it, that can be viewed here.

screen-shot-2017-02-13-at-20-45-50

The road rises ever so slightly for 9km before the start of the ascent. The climb itself can be viewed as either 6.2km at 9.2% or 8.3km at 7.9%, depending on what peak you take the summit to be! Either way, there are sections of the climb that go well into the double figures gradient wise, it’s sure to be a shock to the system for the bunch.

Once over the top we have around 14km of proper descending , then a flat-ish run in. The road twists and turns a bit in the final 3km but it shouldn’t be of too much difficulty for the small group that we should have. It might just help a solo escapee though!

How will the stage pan out?

The beauty of this stage is that no one really knows and can say with any real confidence how many riders will crest the summit of the final climb together/how many will make it back on the descent/what happens if there is a regrouping.

That hasn’t stopped me before though!

Valverde has to start as favourite for the stage purely because he can win in any situation. He has the form to possibly ride away from everyone on the climb and come home solo, or he definitely has the speed to win from a small group of 5-15 riders.

Nonetheless, I like the idea that the stage will be won solo, so to avoid just repeating everyone from my GC preview, I’m going to highlight a couple of riders who could have a chance.

The Late Attackers

First up is a rider with two wins to his name already this year, Tim Wellens.

tim-wellens-2

Not afraid to attack, the Belgian so often used to ride with his heart over his head. However, he has more recently toned down his ridiculously timed attacks and taken a more considered approach but still managing to hold onto some panache. If he times the move perfectly tomorrow then he will be hard to bring back!

Remember when I talked briefly about this next rider in my GC preview and I said I would be mentioning him again several times throughout the year? Well, it’s that time already; step up Tobias Ludvigsson. Now, the climb is on his limit and if they absolutely fly up it then he might struggle but if we get a slowing of the pace then he can make it over at the head of the peloton. He was climbing very well at the end of last year and that form seems to have continued into the start of this season, with a very impressive 15th on the Llucena stage that did not suit him at all. He’ll hope to utilise his TT ability on the run in.

I was trying to think of a third but no one else on the start list really fits the same criteria as the above two so I’ll just leave it at that!

Prediction

I think you all know where this is going, on yoursel’ Big T!

ludvigsson-jpg

Or Valverde wins which is much more likely. 😉

Betting

No value in Wellens, so a wild punt on Ludvigsson for the fun of it!

0.25pt WIN @ 300/1 with Bet365 (would take down to 150/1)

*Adding another 0.25pt WIN on Reichenbach at 250/1 with Bet365 (would also take down to 150/1)

I might add some H2Hs later once I’ve had a proper look at them, you’ll find them on my Twitter!

Thanks as always for reading, any feedback is greatly appreciated! How do you think the stage will play out? Anyway,

That was My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour Down Under Stage 3 Preview; Glenelg -> Victor Harbor

Today’s Recap

“I think something similar is likely to happen here and unless someone puts in a massive attack the favourites may well mark each other out of the race”

That’s what I wrote in my Stage 2 preview and boy did Porte put in a massive attack! He rode everyone off his wheel and took a very impressive victory. That’s the GC over now for 1st place barring any accident or misfortune but the rest of the podium is still up for grabs on Willunga.

skysports-richie-porte-tour-down-under-bmc-racing_3872495

From a punting perspective we had no stage winner again, but the H2H double came in to cover the day. Hopefully that will be a recurring theme this year when more often than not my outside pick doesn’t win!

Anyway, moving on to Stage 3 and what the riders can expect to face.

The Route

A little bit lumpy but it’s no stage 2!

Link to Strava profile

screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-15-09-59

The tougher climbs come too early in the stage to be of any issue so it will be the circuit around Victor Harbor that decides the day.

Strava profile of Victor Harbor Circuit

screen-shot-2017-01-18-at-19-30-19

 

I did say in my GC preview when highlighting this stage that the first climb was 1.7km at 2.5%. However, that goes to the second peak, which flattens the gradient out a bit and it included some false flat. Using the profile above the main bulk of the climb is actually closer to 800m at 5.25%. This still shouldn’t be too bad for the pro sprinters but it depends on how the peloton attacks it.

Again, I suggested the second climb was 1.3km at 3.7% but it is closer to 1.1km at 4.36%, with the final 300m averaging closer to 7%. Not a massive difference but that 300m section does look like a great launchpad for an attack!

Apologies for the slightly incorrect information beforehand but I didn’t have the time to make a profile of the circuit on its own until now. Anyway, something needs to be kept for these previews, right?! 😉

The run-in to the line itself is fairly technical.

screen-shot-2017-01-18-at-19-32-32

A sharp right hander at 600m or so to go, followed by another 90-degree turn in quick succession. The riders then have to traverse a roundabout at 300m to go before a slight uphill kick in the final 100m* that averages 5%. They’ll be carrying a lot of speed into the kicker but it is something to think about and makes timing your effort even more important.

*At least that’s where I think the finish is as the organisers aren’t very helpful with their route descriptions. 500m after the last turn and “The Esplanade near Albert Place” has led me to deduce that the finish line is there. Channeling my inner Sherlock!

Weather Watch

With a lot of today’s stage going along the coast there is always a chance that we could get some crosswinds. We may be left disappointed though as the wind doesn’t appear to be strong enough. However, according to the Australian Government’s Bureau of Meteorology there will be some moderate winds in and around the area.

screen-shot-2017-01-18-at-18-14-49

There is also the possibility of rain late into the stage which would certainly spice things up! But as we know, meteorologists steal a living so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see closer to the time.

How will the stage pan out?

On paper this should really be a sprint, but with the big GC gaps created yesterday there is a chance that a break might be let go and if it does then it’s anybodies guess as to who wins! BMC have no sprinter so will just control the break and only chase hard if there is a threat to Porte’s lead.

Therefore it will be over to the sprinter teams to do most of the hard work and we will most likely see Orica and Bora (it is their namesake stage) share the duties with maybe one or two riders from Sky/Trek helping out.

I’m not going to bore you by going over the sprinters in-depth again so this will be a shorter summary!

I’m concerned with Ewan on this course as he’s not the best climber and does go awry in less than ideal conditions. The Bora pairing will be fired up for this due to the sponsor naming rights, but who sprints for them? I think Sagan will be given his chance this time. Van Poppel possesses a good uphill sprint and is a danger for the win, likewise is Bonifazio, although his lack of a lead-out will let him down. This finish reminds me of the stage Theuns won at the Baloise Belgium Tour last year. He’ll be up there again but I’m going to avoid him this stage. As for the rest, Planckaert may spring a surprise in a tougher sprint.

Some of the puncheurs might even fancy their chances but I think it will be too easy for them unless we get a very hard pace around the circuit. And of course there is always that slim possibility of a late attack sticking!

Prediction

This should end up in some kind of sprint, 90% chance I reckon, with the other 10% being split between morning break and late attack succeeding.

A Bora rider will win the Bora named stage. Sagan takes his first victory in 2017.

He should be able to cope with the circuit and any prevailing weather conditions that we get. The only concern is if they choose Bennett over him, but they seem to have a good working relationship and I reckon the Irishman will let him go for it today!

peter-sagan-tour-de-suisse-2

Betting

2.3pts WIN Sagan @5/1 with SkyBet (I’d take 4/1 offered elsewhere)

Just in case of a break/late attack adding two small punts;

0.1pt WIN Valgren @200/1 with Betfair/PP.

0.1pt WIN Hansen @ 150/1 with Bet365 (Would take 125/1)

No real H2H that I like so far, but if I change my mind then I’ll add them/put them on my twitter!

 

As usual, thanks for reading! Hoping we get an exciting stage today as it will be the first one I get to watch properly. Any feedback etc is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

They were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eneco Tour Stage 6 Preview: Riemst -> Lanaken

Today’s Recap

BMC won, but a “not-completely ruled out” Etixx pushed them very close!

bmc

It was a strong win from the Swiss outfit but not as convincing as I had expected and it leaves the GC battle well poised going into the final two stages, with several strong riders less than a minute behind. Here’s what the top 20 looks like.

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-16-43-02

It’s great from a viewing perspective as a lot of riders will still fancy their chances, but it makes it harder from a previewing slant because it becomes more unpredictable and open.

Speaking of which, let’s have a look at tomorrow’s stage!

The Route

A mini-Amstel?

This stage is certainly not as tough as in previous years, but the organisers yet again haven’t been kind and provided proper information for the stage. So like on the previous road stages, I’ve had to consult several sources to try to get my head around this stage!

Although that’s not entirely helpful as several sites somehow take the one GPX file and produce varying figures of elevation gain; 1431m (ridewithgps), 1969m (Strava), 1116m (google maps on Maplorer), 4121m (raw data from GPX on Maplorer), 1272m (cronoescalada) and 2027m (utrack.crempa).

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-14-30-49

csqfgnnw8aa7ppz

The first profile you see above is from the Maplorer website, with the second being from @LasterketaBurua (Go check them out on Twitter!).

I’ve decided to put both profiles in as it provides a good comparison of how the scale can change how severe a climb looks. It’s also interesting to see that the profiles are pretty much identical in shape, yet the elevation gain is very different!

As you can see on the 2nd profile, we have a few short, sharp ascents around 50km from the finish. Potentially too far out from the finish to do any damage but you never know.

The Golden Kilometre (GK) starts 200m before the foot of the Hallembaye climb, which itself is 800m at 8.6%, with the end of the GK being at the summit. There is a 200m section of above 12%, which will sting the legs!

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-17-16-22

We then have a shallow descent/flat until the final climb of the day, the Muizenberg at 18km left. The climb itself isn’t very tough, only 650m at 6.6%, but if the racing has been on early on then it is a potential launchpad for a group of riders to escape.

The final 3km is fairly technical, with a few sharp turns and roundabouts to navigate.

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-17-23-59
Strava profile viewable here

 

The final 500m section of the stage rises at roughly 2.2%, with a max gradient of around 4.5%. Not exactly Amstel-esque!

How will the race pan out?

That very much depends on the attitude of the teams.

The stage isn’t overly tough and a few of the sprinters would hope to make it to the end of the day in the peloton. However, the 140-155km section is key. If some of the teams go crazy here, (looking at you Etixx!), then this could put an end to the sprinters hopes and make the final 40km incredibly exciting.

The only problem with this is that there are still 40km left.

There are the two hills that I’ve highlighted above, but the majority of it is flat-ish road. The Golden Kilometre will tempt the Ardennes riders into action. That may be on the toughest section mentioned above, or on the actual climb itself. But there is still plenty of road left for teams to re-organise and bring them back. Unless of course we get the right mix of riders and a highly motivated escape group!

I think the bonus seconds on offer later on in the stage will result in the day’s early breakaway not making it all the way.

So we’re left with two probable outcomes; a GC selection at around 50km to go that makes it to the line, or some kind of reduced bunch sprint. Both outcomes come with an attached “late-attack” option.

Either way, this man will be there.

gf-eneco-tour-stage3-5

Outcome 1 -> GC shake-up

In this situation we get a strong group of around 20-30 riders getting clear with about 40km to go. Due to the amount of teams and strong riders represented they manage to stay away as the chase behind is unorganised and lacking in firepower.

Once the gap has been established it will be incredibly tactical! A battle between BMC and Etixx as they both have 4 riders within 40 seconds of the race lead. Etixx actually have 5, but I’m discounting Kittel because I don’t think he would be able to follow over the quick succession of climbs.

Anytime an Etixx rider attacks, BMC will follow and vice versa. The danger for BMC is that looking forward to Sunday’s stage, they might not be overly confident with how Dennis will cope on the cobbles of the Muur, so they can’t rest on his 16 second advantage. Therefore, Van Avermaet is their trump card. He’s the rider that they would be most confident in following anyone (Sagan) up the Muur so they will need to keep him close in GC tomorrow.

Dennis may use his TTing abilities himself and go on the offensive himself!

cszfw0sxeaardyj

This tactical battle between BMC/Etixx/Sagan could see other teams benefiting from it. A rider could launch a late attack in the final 10km and with no real organisation behind it could stick until the finish. Look to the likes of Izagirre, Dumoulin, Naesen, Navardauskas or Wellens.

Of course, we could see this group come to the line together, or even a fragment of it (10 riders or so) and get an uphill sprint.

No-one will want to tow Sagan to the line though!

Outcome 2 – Reduced Bunch Sprint

The damp squib option.

With the parcours not being overly difficult a few of the better climbing sprinters could make the split if the pace isn’t too high over that now famous 140-155km section.

In this situation, we would probably have a peloton of around 80 or 90 riders come to the line together.

There would more than likely be a split in that group when they pass the golden kilometre, but in this situation it would regroup afterwards, much like we saw in Stage 4.

Like Outcome 1, there is the possibility of a late attack sticking if they are the correct rider(s), strong enough, and there is no co-operation behind.

If we do get some kind of sprint I would expect Matthews, Kristoff, Degenkolb, Nizzolo, Boasson Hagen, Trentin and possibly Greipel to make it.

watson_00004604-005-630x419

Of course, GVA and Sagan will be there too.

But no-one will want to tow Sagan to the line though!

Prediction

Hmmmm. It’s a tough one.

Sagan is a favourite in every situation, so much so that he won’t win in my opinion. Unless he just decides to ride away from everyone!

I think Outcome 1 is more likely, but I favour some kind of late attack. Whether that be solo or a small group of 5-10 riders getting away. For it to succeed there will need to be at least 1 Etixx/BMC rider in it.

I’ve already mentioned a few riders I like for this situation above, but another few I’d like to throw into the ring are Stybar & Degenkolb.

Stybar because he looked incredibly strong in the Vuelta, has won this race before, not afraid of an uphill sprint and he is reasonably far down on GC at 40 seconds.

Degenkolb is more of a long-shot but if this was last year then he’d be up there with Sagan on the “don’t tow to the line” wagon. He seems to be re-finding his feet after the horrific accident earlier in the year, and I would love to see him go well here. He should be able to cope with the climbs, possibly with that GC selection Option and the uphill sprint is right up his street! Far enough down on GC to find himself in that late attack if he doesn’t fancy it against Sagan in the sprint.

But I’ll go for neither of them and say that Nelson Oliveira winsMovistar are a team without a sprinter and will be going on the offensive. Oliveira isn’t a real danger on GC as he should struggle on Sunday, so could well be given some leeway!

nelson-olveira-movistar-696x464

I did have this down as a Naesen win but the odds are too short and I can’t suggest someone to win and not have backed them!

 

Betting

A day for small stakes and putting eggs in several baskets!

0.1pt EW on the following;

Ion Izagirre @ 250/1

Nelson Oliveira @ 300/1

Navardauskas @ 150/1

Devenyns @ 200/1

Kelderman @ 200/1

 

Thanks again for reading, hope you enjoyed this slightly longer preview. How do you think tomorrow’s stage will play out? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 12 Preview: Los Corrales de Buelna -> Bilbao

Today’s Recap

For once the break didn’t make it and we got back-to-back GC stage winners. This time round it was Froome who pipped Quintana in a sprint to the line. The Brit always goes well after a rest-day as I highlighted in yesterday’s preview!

Chris-Froome-1

The gaps were not big to the rest of the GC contenders but if it wasn’t a two-horse race before today, it definitely is now, and boy do we have a race on our hands!

GC action should be put on pause tomorrow and we’re set for a really interesting stage.

The Route

An up and down day with a flat finish.

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 16.59.41

An un-categorised climb to start the day will be a bit of rude awakening for some. If it’s anything like today’s stage then the break may not go until the Cat-1 climb.

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 17.12.18

Not the toughest cat-1 climb, it probably is given that categorisation due to it’s length. The average gradient of 6% should be manageable for the riders, unless of course the pace is still on and the break hasn’t formed. If it does form here, it will be awfully strong.

The stage though is defined by the double ascension of the Cat-2; Alto El Vivero.

The road book is back to it’s best today, with no graphic for the final climb. The directions and diagrams are also a bit vague, but I’m sure I have the right approach…

After a few days off, the Strava profile makes a return. View it here.

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 18.41.14
Profile of the final 20km.

The final climb itself is 4.2km long at 8.4% average gradient. Like a lot of the climbs in this area, it is very irregular. The toughest section comes almost right at the start, with a kilometre (0.3 -> 1.3km) averaging 11.8%. There are a couple of false flats along the way for the riders to recompose themselves and push hard again.

The same finale was used in the opening stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in 2015:

That day saw Michael Matthews take a reduced bunch sprint finish.

How will tomorrow’s stage pan out?

The stage itself is a nightmare to predict, with a few options that are very feasible.

We could well see the morning break stick and fight out for stage glory as there is a reasonable amount of climbing and the sprint teams won’t be confident of their riders making it over. Saying that, it’s not impossible for a team to control the race and go for a sprint (as we saw in 2015). Felline, Sbaragli, Van der Sande, Valverde & Gilbert will all probably fancy their chances in that situation. However, it is a lot more difficult to control the finale of a grand tour and if the break is brought back, we could well see a late attack stick.

See, it’s not easy!

The sprinters above that I’ve mentioned are the only ones I can really see make it over the final climb. Out of them, I’d probably say that Felline has the fastest flat sprint after a tough day, so he should be the guy to look out for in that situation.

As for late attackers, Luis Leon Sanchez would be the perfect candidate. He looks incredibly strong just now and has the TT engine to hold off the bunch. So could Tobias Ludvigsson who’s climbing better than ever and should make it over the climb if we’re getting set for a reduced sprint.

Breakaway Candidates

There’s a template of rider who I’m going with here. Someone who can climb, but also packs a decent sprint!

JJ Rojas.

59977_rojas

The Movistar road captain may be told to get in the breakaway to defend their lead in the Team classification. Sky (who looked strong today) and Cannondale (who will have at least two men in the move) are both less than 10 minutes behind. The Spanish team do love to win that competition, so will start defending it soon. It could start tomorrow. Rojas has turned himself in to a jack of all trades and should be able to cope with the final climb. He has a good turn of speed and would probably be the favourite if a small group of escapees came to the line together.

Pello Bilbao.

The Caja rider, like a lot of them, is local to the area. He’s been a bit lost in this race so far, having a few crashes etc. However, he does seem to be slowly re-finding himself and building some form. A guy who on his day can climb with the best, he really should have won the GC in Turkey this year but had to withdraw due to illness. This type of profile suits him very well.

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 20.02.27

Nathan Haas.

20165270_294187_670

I’ve already highlighted him for a stage earlier in this Vuelta but he didn’t make the move that day. The climb will be on his limit but considering his performance on stage 4, then he has a chance of being in contact with the lead riders as they summit. Like Rojas, he has a very solid sprint after a tough days racing. You don’t want to be leading him out in the finale!

Prediction

I’m unsure how the stage will go, but I lean towards a breakaway. That of course all depends if there are a few of the “sprint” teams who co-operate and bring the break back. Nonetheless, I’ll stick my neck out on the line and say that the break will win.

I think you know where I’m going with this one. Especially considering my fondness with suggesting riders for whimsical reasons…

Bilbao to win in Bilbao. Simple and poetic.

_bh16516_670

I can’t pass up a rider who has the same surname as the finish town and is from the region!

Betting

Small punts on the three breakaway guys

0.3pt Bilbao at 40/1 (Various)

0.1pt Haas at 100/1 (Various)

0.1pt Rojas at 200/1 (Bet365 & BF)

After today’s successful H2H I’m hoping to find one for tomorrow, but nothing has caught my eye/I’ve not done enough research. If I do find something, I’ll update it on my Twitter!

Hope you enjoyed the read, apologies for it being shorter than normal! How do you think the stage will play out? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 6 Preview: Monforte de Lemos -> Luintra

Today’s Recap

That was messy, with Meersman taking a very reduced bunch sprint.

1472054528_565159_1472055063_noticia_normal_recorte1

We saw the attacks off the front on that penultimate ramp that I expected, Gilbert to boot. Followed by several crashes as the road narrowed and there were a few suspect/unmarked bits of road furniture along the way. Not great from the organisation and UCI.

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 17.35.08

Cqo5b2PXgAAY5I0 (1)

 

Goncalves was up there and was in a great position with around 700m to go. But as those in front slowed down (Gilbert stopped the lead-out), he was forced into the inside, right along the barriers. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get out after that and only managed 10th place. A bit of inexperience on his behalf. Oh well, on to tomorrow’s stage!

The Route

Much to the surprise of everyone, oh wait, maybe not, we have another stage with a lot of climbing metres. This is another classic “hilly” day at the Vuelta.

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 16.10.51

Like several of the stages that we’ve already had, the majority of the climbing comes in the second half of the day.

You know the drill by know, Strava profile of the final 75km viewable here.

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 16.18.56
Said profile.

Just over 2,000m worth of climbing in the final 75km, it won’t be an enjoyable experience for the heavier set riders!

The first climb is 4.1km long, averaging roughly 5.5%. Nothing to challenge the GC men, but it will test those who are trying to control the race.

Afterwards we start the drag up to “Castro Caldelas” (Strava segment here). This climb averages closer to 6% and goes on for much longer, at 9.5km. The toughest part may well be the plateau afterwards, especially if the pace is increased where those who are struggling will be put under pressure.

A long descent follows before the “Barxacova – miradoiro de Cabezoás”, 15.3km at close to 4% average (Strava segment here). Nothing overly challenging but the second half of the climb is the more difficult part (4.8km at 6.7%). This is where we’ll start to see some attacks from the breakaway.

The final obstacle on the course is the hardest. The rather aptly and ingeniously named segment Ou 0508 Climb (here) is 2.2km long, averaging 7.6%. With the toughest section of the climb coming within the final 400m (ramps of 15%), it’s a proper springboard for a late attacker. I say this as the descent will be fast and there isn’t much time for anyone to organise a chase. The road to the finish line itself rises ever so slightly at roughly 2%.

How will the race be won?

Break. 100%.

Teams aren’t strong enough or willing enough to put the effort in to bring the break back. The only way the break is brought back if there is a rider dangerous to Atapuma and Valverde really fancies his chances for the stage.

So it’s time to enter the Spanish Lottery!

Let’s narrow down the criteria;

  • 192 riders left in the race;
  • Take away the top 52 (all under 10mins on GC);
  • Remove “non-climbers”

And we’re left with approximately 80 breakaway candidates. Then there’s the fight of getting into the break. Although that should be left to the “climbers” tomorrow as the opening 10km are all up-hill.

It’s really a stab in the dark so like normal, I’ll name three guys who could go well.

Luis Angel Maté.

Luis+Angel+Mate+bsA2H9yeb9em

The Spaniard always seems to get himself into breakaways that stick. He’s a solid climber who should be able to cope with the challenges we have tomorrow. One thing that is a deterrent is that he’s not really a winner, only 2 pro wins, but that could all change!

Joe Dombrowski.

The American was ever-present throughout my Giro previews as a breakaway candidate. He is a real talent with a massive engine. Working well recently for Talansky in California, if he’s let off the leash then he could play a massive part in the outcome of tomorrow’s stage.

WATSON_00004621-020.jpg

Omar Fraile.

 

The Spaniard has had a pretty poor season so far this year by his standards. He had stomach problems at the start of the Vuelta but seems to be over them now. On his day, he is an exceptional climber, with a very attacking mindset. Great for the fans! Hopefully, he’s 100% fit and goes for it tomorrow.

Now for something slightly different…

Inspired by one of my friends who came out with this

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 15.51.19.png

when he was asking about how I go about my selection process for a breakaway. So I’ve decided to consult https://www.random.org/lists/ to come up with a rider for tomorrow’s stage. I’ve put in all riders names, and this is the random rider who topped the list…

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 19.36.32

So how can Carthy win tomorrow’s stage? I say he has a good chance if he makes the break. The only concern is that he may be ill, but he’s been loitering around the back of the peloton all race, saving energy. It seems pretty clear to me that he’s saving himself and targeting a stage. Tomorrow could well be that day, but I’m sure someone out there knows better than me! He is a very solid pick and one that I considered myself.

Prediction

Break wins and I’ll go for a Spaniard. Omar Fraile takes the stage.

sptdw9150_670

Betting

Small punts on each of the riders listed above (even Carthy!)

0.125pt EW on each. Fraile & Mate 100/1, Carthy and Dombrowski 150/1 (All Bet365). Again, hunt around later when more bookies are priced up

 

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 5 Preview: Viveiro -> Lugo

Today’s Recap

Another stage, another break! The three guys I highlighted (we’ll pass over Devenyns 😉 ) made the move but unfortunately none of them could take the win. Instead, it was young Frenchman Lilian Calmejane who took home a great stage. He’s another talented junior rider, hopefully he kicks on from this!

Cqjw_ArWAAA6dys

Atapuma moves into the GC lead, much to the delight of Carlton Kirby, with Valverde and Froome roughly 30 seconds behind.

Anyway, moving onto tomorrow’s minefield of a stage!

The Route

It’s another stage that is back loaded with climbing. There’s a real mix of everything tomorrow and a lot of riders will fancy their chances.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 15.19.45

 

The flat start to the day could mean we’re in for another ferocious pace as the riders try to make the break. However, it is almost as likely that a break could be formed quickly and the sprinters teams take control of the bunch.

The second half of the stage is much tougher and is constantly up and down.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 18.01.17
Profile of the final 50km. Find it here

As you can see, it’s a real sawtooth profile. However, the actual changes in altitude/elevation are not that high, only varying by roughly 50m. Depending on the pace of the peloton though, this will sap the legs and tire the sprinters before the finish.

The finish itself is very interesting.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 18.10.47
Final 7km profile. Find it here

Over the course of the 7km, the road rises at an average of 1.4%. Not exactly challenging.

The toughest section is 3-4.8km (in the profile above) which averages 4%. However, there are some steep ramps of around 8%. It looks like a nice launchpad for a solo attack, or for a team to attack it aggressively, putting a few of the sprinters in trouble.

The final 700m of the stage is all up-hill as well, averaging 3%. It will be a long drag for some!

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 18.47.21

The run-in itself is technical and will be difficult to control, or organise the lead-out.

How will the race pan out?

Pfffft, who knows?!

Before the start of the Vuelta I would have been very confident calling this one as a reduced bunch sprint. However, with there already being 2 break wins out of 3 road stages then we could well see the same again tomorrow!

Will BMC want to expend resources to hold onto the GC lead? Possibly. It will be good for the team to retain the jersey just now as they won’t be at the pointy end of the race by the finish! Therefore any break will have to be made up of riders far down on GC. There’s a good chance of that as anyone outside the top 50 is over 6 minutes behind Atapuma already.

So they’ll most likely take on the duty of setting the pace of the peloton and usher the sprint teams through to assist. Will they? The majority of the “sprinters” here will fancy their chances so the majority of teams will have an interest in bringing the break back. However, that all depends on the make-up of the breakaway. If they have a rider up the road, they don’t have to work.

It’s a very tactical day and a nightmare to preview!

A break/late attack/sprint are all possible and equally as likely outcomes.

Stage Contenders

For the sprinters, look to those involved on stage 2. With the “lower-quality” field here at the Vuelta, none of the so-called sprinters are actually pure sprinters, and most should relish the uphill run to the line. I would almost be tempted to go with Cort Nielsen again. He looked fast on Sunday and this finish reminds me of the stage he won in Denmark.

gettyimages_584170108_670

The break could be made up of anyone really, and for late-attackers look to regulars such as LL Sanchez, Hansen & Terpstra.

I’ve decided to approach this stage by picking three guys who could do everything and cross my fingers! There’s also a Snoop Dogg inspired pattern too…

Gilbert has been climbing very well so far this Vuelta and he seems to have a spring in his step now that he has a contract for next year. Sitting in the magical 55th place on GC (8’23 down) he will be given freedom. Furthermore, BMC can play the “we have a man up the road card and don’t care about Atapuma’s red jersey” tactic. A play-book classic that one! 😉 Otherwise, he can put in a big acceleration on the toughest section of the run in. He looked lively on stage 2! Or he’s saved for the up-hill sprint at the end that looks right up his street.

CYCLING-ITA-TOUR

Gerrans sits in 72nd position on GC and is a very good breakaway candidate for Orica. I say this because he’s not needed to protect Chaves, and he wasn’t involved in the lead-out for Cort on stage 2. Practically the only guy left in the team once those jobs are taken away! Like Gilbert, he’ll be used as the rider up the road so Orica don’t have to chase. Also, he could attack away on the final rise. Or if Orica aren’t confident in Cort’s sprint, they may turn to him for the dash to the line.

http-%2F%2Fcoresites-cdn.factorymedia.com%2Frcuk%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2016%2F01%2FSimon-Gerrans-sprint-ochre-jersey-salute-Tour-Down-Under-2016-Ben-Swift-Team-Sky-Orica-GreenEDGE-stage-four-pic-Sirotti-1020x678

Prediction

However, I’m not backing either of those riders to win. His surname does begin with G though…

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 19.21.05

Like today’s stage, I’ll be backing a Caja Rural rider to win and that man is Jose Goncalves. The Portuguese rider can handle all three potential outcomes very well. He rolled in today within the grupetto and after saying he felt very good  yesterday, I can only assume he’s saving energy for tomorrow (maybe wishful?!). As we saw today, Caja are a very attacking team so will have riders up the road in the break. Goncalves showed on stage 3 that he can handle the steep ramps well, and has the potential to attack late. However, his main asset will be his up-hill sprint. These types of finishes are his bread and butter and he was going very well in at his preparation race; Volta a Portugal, earlier this month.

fc01eb35b559ba210c5eb0d30dd90b94

I expect him to be firing on all cylinders tomorrow!

#GoOnCalves

Betting

Goncalves 0.5pt EW @ 100/1 with Bet365 (I’d take as low as 50)

Gilbert 0.25pt Win @ 22/1 with Bet365 (I’d take 20s)

Gerrans 0.25pt Win @ 50/1 with Bet365 (Would take 33/1)

 

Hope you enjoyed the preview! How do you think this difficult to call stage will go? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

TDF Stage 16 Preview: Moirans-en-Montagne -> Berne

Today’s Recap

I’m hoping we got an exciting stage and Pantano won it!

More than likely though, exactly the opposite of what I thought would happen, happened.

Or maybe not…

CnlIGULVYAAFtLj

The Route

A “flat” day with only one categorised climb. However, closer inspection of the stage profile indicates that the route is pretty undulating.

Stage-1464948942

The stage is categorised by small rises and falls. After the previous days efforts it looks like it won’t be plain sailing for the sprinters, especially if some of them suffered and just made it home.

There’s nothing else to mention about the opening of the stage apart from they enter Switzerland just after the half way mark.

The riders are greeted by the only categorised climb of the day at 26km left, the Côte de Mühleberg. It’s only 1.2km at 4.8% so it shouldn’t cause many difficulties but we may see some riders out the back here. The road then rolls its way into the finish in Berne.

Stage-1464952465

Like the rest of the stage, these final 5kms are what I would call “undulating”. Oh, and did I mention that some of the streets are cobbled? Well it’s pavé, but still!

Screen Shot 2016-07-16 at 00.58.35
Streetview of the road surface. Link here.

Annoyingly, the streetview car hasn’t been down that section where the camera is facing. That’s the 250m section at 7%. The riders come up from that road and take the hairpin turn left onto the plateau (still cobbled) before the road kicks up again.

Stage-1464953428

The section of road on the bridge is actually pavé as well, with the road only returning before the roundabout and the left hand turn up the hill. The hill itself is pretty steep and is 600m at 6.5% according to the stage profile. Looking at it on streetview those figures do seem right, it does seem pretty steep in sections (View it here).

Once over the hill, the riders are greeted by the Flamme Rouge and a straight, flat road to the finish line.

How will the stage pan out?

With this being the last chance for some kind of sprint before the riders reach the Champs-Élysées, this stage will 100% see the peloton make it into Bern together. Will we 100% see a sprint at the end? I’m not so sure!

I have to say, I really like the way the final 5kms are organised. It’s a real Heinz 57 finish, there’s a bit of everything!

Going off the profile I make that final stretch before the Flamme Rouge to be roughly 1.4km long. The road rises 60 metres in that time (504m -> 564m) which gives that section as a whole an average gradient of 4.29%. Almost identical to the Cat-4 climb earlier, but I think that is too tough for some of the sprinters when the race is going full gas. If not, it’s most definitely on their limits. The saving grace for them is the kilometre of flat where their lead-outs can swiftly be reorganised.

I would expect Sagan and Matthews to be at the head of the peloton no matter what. The same can be said for EBH if he’s not on Cav guarding duties. Coquard theoretically should be there too. As for the rest of the pure sprinters, it’ll be a tough ask. Greipel and Kristoff have the best chances going on their history.

This stage ending is also conducive to a late attack. Either a slightly long-range one at 2.5km to go, or on that final ramp with 1.5km left. If someone really puts in an effort here then they could be hard to catch!

A whole host of riders might fancy making a move here such as Alaphilippe, Costa or Gallopin.

But with it finishing in Bern, you have to consider the Swiss riders and the Swiss teams (IAM & BMC) as they’ll be out to impress on the biggest stage of all on home roads.

5184

BMC have a great card to play in this finish with Greg Van Avermaet. As a cobbled classic specialist he should soar up the climb, plus he’s shown his great form so far this race. I remember hearing in an interview after he lost the Yellow that he would target this stage. He could be hard to beat. Or Swiss rider Schar could be let off on a long-range effort.

IAM have a few Swiss riders in their team; Frank, Elmiger and Hollenstein, but their best chance could be Holst Enger (if he’s not too tired in his first GT). Pantano would normally be good on this stage, but I’m going to discount him as I’m assuming he won today’s stage and will be tired from his efforts 😉

Local hero Cancellara will no doubt give it a go. He was poor in the TT, stating that his form wasn’t there. However, he only the other day tweeted how his legs were feeling good. A classic double bluff, or is he really not good? We’ll know on this day once he puts in an attack if he is 100%.

Special mention must go to Rast, Reichenbach and Morabito but I can’t see them doing anything here.

There is one Swiss rider who I’ve not mentioned so far. 10 MTSW points if you can guess who it is…

Prediction

Michael Albasini.

487989933

He had an incredible Spring campaign with 7th at Fleche and 2nd at LBL. The way he ate up the cobbled climb at the end of Liege was truly impressive. I fancy him to be given free rein by Orica on this finish, especially now that Gerrans is gone. He’ll be used as their satellite rider up the road in the final 5km to mark attacks, or make them himself to force other teams to chase. Meanwhile Matthews will sit near the front of the peloton ready for the sprint, probably protected by Impey. I can see a late attack sticking here, and Albasini has the raw power on the climbs and the sprint to finish it off, if he comes to the line with others. It will be another tactical masterclass from Orica and he’ll be the benefactor.

Betting

25/1 with Bet365, 0.5pt EW. (Other places might be more generous later)

 

Like my grovelling apology on yesterday’s preview, I’m sorry if there are some errors in this. I’ve just wrote three back-to-back previews (stages 14, 15 and now 16) so I might be getting a bit sloppy and it’s now 1:45am on Saturday morning. Nonetheless, I hope we do get the exciting end to the stage that this finish deserves! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.