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

Today’s Recap

Should have just stuck to that Twitter preview then!

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

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

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

Onto tomorrow’s mountain top finish.

The Route

A short sharp, tough day out in the saddle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will the stage pan out?

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

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

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

Candidates

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

Mikel Nieve.

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

Steve Cummings.

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

Simon Geschke.

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

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

Prediction

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

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

Betting

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

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

Cummings 0.2pt EW @100/1 with Betfair

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

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

TDF Stage 18 Preview: Sallanches -> Megève

Today’s Recap

We got another race on two fronts, which seems to be the norm so far this Tour!

The break took an incredibly long time to form, it was only after around 60km that it got away. Unfortunately for our main pick of Kelderman, he made an earlier move that got reeled back but wasn’t in the crucial selection.

The break split up on the descent off the penultimate climb, with Pantano and Majka teaming up again. Once onto the final ascent, Zakarin jumped across to the duo and swiftly dropped them with Pantano only being able to hold on for a few hundred metres. That was how the top 3 finished on the day, with the Russian taking a great win.

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Behind, Movistar and Astana attempted to weaken Sky but it was to no avail. Poels and Nieve managed to pull back attacks from Valverde and Martin. Froome then looked very comfortable responding to Porte’s dig, getting over to his wheel with relative ease. He now has an even greater lead over 2nd place Mollema. At least the race for the podium is getting closer!

Onto tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

A “mountain-ish” time trial.

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This is nowhere near as tough a test that we had at the Giro or Dauphiné earlier this year. Those stages were very much uphill all the way, and at tough gradients for the majority of the stage. At the Tour, the organisers have been kinder to the sprinters with not as sharp gradients (aside from the 2km over 10%), false flats for them to get some recovery and even a downhill run to the line! Although saying that, it is still going to be a tough day in the saddle for a few of them.

As usual for TTs, I’ve made a route on strava that you can view here. I always find it interesting comparing the official profile to that on strava. Sometimes the route profile accentuates features of the stage and vice versa.

This really is a mix bag of a mountain TT. Four km of flat to start off with allows the non-mountain goats to build up some kind of advantage here, before they enter the toughest part of the route: 2.5km at 9.4%. After that, the route gradually climbs all the way pretty much up to its highest point. Although there are some steeper gradients and false flats thrown in the mix! Once over the summit the riders descend all the way to the finish line.

I’m intrigued to see if we get any bike swaps after the first 4km of the stage.

Weather Watch

With the riders having a glorious day out in the saddle today, they could be faced with worse conditions tomorrow, with the threat of thunderstorms and rain. This could have a potential impact on the later starters. Although, other sites suggest that the rain will come earlier. We’ve seen this before!

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Weather.com (Megève)
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World weather online (Megève)

We probably won’t even get any rain after all of this.

The start times for the riders can be viewed here.

I was surprised to see that during the first TT the riders went out incredibly early and were split in 2 minute gaps. Normally they go out much later and only have the minute between them. The same thing is set to happen tomorrow, with the latter of the GC men having 3 minutes in-between their start times.

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Screenshot from the road book

This means that weather, like the previous  TT, plays even more of an impact due to how spread out the riders will be. It is very unlikely that we’ll get similar conditions all day!

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Stage Favourites

This really is only a two-horse race, Froome v Dumoulin.

Froome has looked impeccable all race, and never in danger. He always seems very much in control of what he’s doing and knows that he’s better than everyone if he just rides to his potential. I felt bad for Porte today as Froome just glided up to his wheel and sat on, he was just toying with him! This type of effort should suit Froome down to the ground. He was by far the closest of the GC guys to Dumoulin during the last TT and would fancy to gain time on him over the steeper uphill sections. He is a worthy favourite.

Dumoulin on the other hand has looked great when he needed to be, on his stage 9 success up the mountains in Andorra or his incredible TT on stage 13. However, he did look a bit shaky when in the break last Sunday. Some will suggest that the climbing is too much for him, but I’d kindly like to remind you of his incredible TT win in Aia at Pais Vasco last year. Those were some incredibly steep ramps, this 9% nonsense is a walk in the park compared to the 14% average of that wall! Dumoulin has also had the advantage of resting up today and not having to push it into the red, finishing over 22 minutes down on the GC group. Although it didn’t look like Froome went into the red either!

Aside from those two, Porte is probably the biggest challenger. He seems to be the only one who can remotely challenge Froome. However, as I stated above, Froome easily had him covered today so I can’t see that being any different tomorrow.

The other GC guys could go well, but for two outsiders look to Poels and Kelderman.

Poels arguably looks the strongest guy in the race at the moment. He truly is on incredible form right now and could steal the stage if he’s given the all clear to go full gas. I think he might actually be given freedom. The reason that I think this is that Sky are now only 2’20 behind Movistar on the team classification. We’ve already seen how competitive Sky are, going for KOMs etc., they’ll want to win this classification too. They’ll need 3 riders to go well and I would be shocked if Poels wasn’t one of them.

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Kelderman fought to get into the break today but missed out. He’s a very good TTer and climber on his day. With nothing from this race so far, he might want to go out and impress. Conversely, he could as easily go on a club run and save himself for a later stage.

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Prediction

As much as I said this on Twitter earlier:

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I can’t help but think that Dumoulin has just too much class in this discipline to lose. He’s shown on many occasions that he can climb very well and his measurement of effort is fantastic. With practically another rest day today, I think he just has enough in the tank to beat Froome. But don’t get me wrong, it will be very close! Unless of course Poels turns up and smokes them both 😉

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Betting

An official no bet day for the blog. Although personally I’m backing Dumoulin and the two outsiders, but that’s because I’m a bit reckless.

I’m more looking forward to seeing the time gaps at the end of the day tomorrow in the GC battle than concerned with the stage win. I think Froome will have pulled out another chunk and will lead 2nd place by 3 minutes. Can you see Tom Dum beating Froome? As usual, any feedback is great! 🙂 Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

TDF Stage 17: Berne -> Finhaut-Emosson

Rest-day Recap

Firstly, we got the exciting end to stage 16 that I was hoping for. The fast run in, coupled with the cobbles and the two sharp hills resulted in only the strongest riders being left at the front. We saw a mix of GC guys, classics specialists and only the strongest of sprinters battle out for the win and it was Sagan who pipped Kristoff on the line, taking stage glory. A special mention must go to youngster Holst Enger who got up to take third, he has a real future ahead of him!

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As for Albasini, he finished in a lowly, but nice and round, 100th place. In an interview that was broadcast during the race Matt White said that Albasini was suffering and not in good condition so would be supporting Matthews instead. A shame, especially not knowing that information pre-stage, but oh well!

GC wise, the second week has increased the gaps between the riders. Froome has looked unbeatable, he’s made some unbelievable seated attacks and looks to have the race won bar any misfortune. Sky themselves look incredibly strong and riders such as Valverde, Rolland and TVG say that’s almost impossible to attack them because of the pace that they’re setting. TVG was even dropped on stage 15 when the rest of the contenders came in together. Going into the final week the top 20 looks like this.

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Let’s have a look at stage 17…

The Route

Flat, two little “bumps”, a descent into the valley followed by the main event: a Cat-1 climb and a HC climb back to back. Easy to very difficult!

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I’ll skim over the two Category-3 climbs. As you can see in the profile above, they aren’t anything too severe both averaging under 5%. The sprinters and those who are suffering from injuries/illness will hope to make it over them with the peloton. In fact, they’ll hope to make it to the Cat 1 climb; the Col de la Forclaz.

They’ll be quickly out the back here though. 13km at 7.9%, I think it’s a bit harsh to only have it as a Cat-1! The climb is relentless, with the gradient staying very consistent all the way up. Good for those riders who like to ride tempo! Here’s a link to the Strava segment of the climb.

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A short 7km descent follows for the riders to get some respite before they tackle the Finhaut-Emosson. The road actually climbs before they get to Finhaut itself and this is included in the stage profile categorisation above, meaning the ascent comes in at 10.4km at an 8.4% average. In comparison to the Strava segment that only starts from Finhaut. Either way, the climb is very difficult with the hardest and steepest section coming right at the end. Only the strongest riders on the day will win here, you have to be 100%, which sometimes isn’t the case after a rest day. Some of them might get a shock when they get here.

This succession of climbs was actually used at the end of Stage 7 at the 2014 Dauphiné, which saw a break claim the day, with Contador putting time into Froome behind.

How will this stage pan out then?

Much the same as the Dauphiné edition I reckon. A break day for sure.

We’ll see another massive fight to get into the move early on in the stage. It could be a case of another 30-man break. There’ll be a mix of rouleurs and climbers that make it into the move because of the terrain we start on. Some will have no hope at the finish though!

The reason I’m confident that it will be a break day is very much similar to the reasons I gave for stage 15, but are even added to further by the performance on that stage. Sky are incredibly strong and with there only being the two climbs of danger on the route, they don’t really need to chase. Why bother closing down a break? They already have a comfortable GC lead and a stage win. Plus, they’ve looked a little bit shaky with Henao getting dropped the other day. They won’t want to waste any excess energy. Marginal gains and all!

I doubt any of the other teams will commit to a chase, their resourses are already low in comparison to Sky and it’s too early for a Hail Mary team-attack and there aren’t enough mountains for that.

Once Sky get to the climbs they’ll work through their mountain lead-out, setting a relentless tempo that almost makes it pointless to attack. The other teams know this, referring back to what Valverde etc have said, so their best chance of stage glory is sending team-mates in the break. If it does all kick off behind then they have riders up the road who can work.

The break will probably need over 6’30-7 minutes going up the Forclaz because the final two climbs are very tough and the gap can be closed down pretty quickly. With the relatively flat opening 2/3rds of the profile and the likelihood of a large group, this is very much achievable.

As per usual, I’m going to name 3 potential breakaway candidates.

Vasil Kiryienka.

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With Stannard and Rowe more than likely able to control and pace the peloton by themselves, Sky could send the Belarusian up the road to hunt the stage win. He’s been his usual workmanlike, unassuming self so far this Tour but has done a great job for the team. He could potentially be tired by now, but so will a lot of the peloton! A very strong guy on the flat, if he’s given the nod then he should be able to join the move. If he gets into it and with the way Sky are riding, he could be tough to beat. I also hope he gets some freedom after he was told to do a go-slow on the TT. Quite disrespectful to the World Champ in my opinion!

Wilco Kelderman.

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The Dutchman seemed to be riding well at the start of the Tour, maintaining a high position on GC until his crash on a descent during Stage 8. Since then he’s not done much and had been complaining of some injuries due to said crash. However, he seems to have found some kind of form again, coming home in the front group on Monday’s stage. He was one of the riders at the Dauphiné in 2014, managing to finish 12th on the day, losing 40 seconds to Froome. Pre-race he was supposedly given a Carte Blanche to hunt stages and due to unfortunate circumstances hasn’t been able to do that so far. I think this might change tomorrow!

Winner Anacona.

 

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The leaders of the Team Classification will want riders up the road to help maintain, if not increase their lead in the competition. Anacona has shown in the past that he can go well in the final week. He is also a rider who has recon-ed these final climbs (as can be seen on the Strava link above) so will know the roads reasonably well. With Pantano going well, Anacona will want to regain the Colombian limelight.

There are other obvious names that can be thrown about such as Costa, Majka, Zakarin et al.

Prediction

A break makes it all the way tomorrow (I’m 95% sure). The only way it doesn’t is if someone relatively close on GC makes the move. However, I don’t think any of the teams are risky/will want to burn all their chances when there are still a few stages to go. Especially considering the tough Mountain Time Trial the following day.

With this recent renaissance in Dutch cycling, I say Kelderman takes a famous and memorable victory!

Behind, we’ll once again see Sky set an incredible tempo, only this time Froome will attack and put the race well and truly to bed here. Unless of course Quintana has recovered and puts everyone to the sword. I think that’s just wishful thinking from me though!

Betting

Kelderman 0.4pt EW @250/1 with PP/BV. I’d take 200/1 and possibly 150.

Kiryienka 0.15pt EW @300/1 with PP. I’d take 200/1 with others

Anacona 0.2pt EW @150/1 with Various.

 

Hope you liked my take on this stage, do you think the break can make it? If so, who wins? As usual we any feedback is great! Hope we’re in for a good stage. 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…

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The Route

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

TDF Stage 15 Preview: Bourg-en-Bresse -> Culoz

Today’s Recap

Something happened and someone won a bike race.

I’m writing these previews (this one and stage 16) in advance and probably won’t be doing a daily recap. Just a heads up!

The Route

Oh my, what a route! A brutally tough day all packed in to 159km of racing.

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An awful lot of climbing metres, both categorised and uncategorised. 2 x Cat-3s, 1 x Cat-2, 2x Cat-1s, 1x Cat-HC.

The riders start on an uncategorised climb, followed by undulating roads before reaching the Cat-1, Col du Berthiand which is 6km at 8.1%. That is not how I like my eggs in the morning. If the pace is high here, which it might be if the break hasn’t formed, then we could be saying bye to the sprinters for the day.

A slight descent followed by an uncategorised 8km (roughly) drag. Looks to me to be about a 2.75% going off the scale. Again followed by a descent that leads us into our second categorised climb of the day the Col du Sappel. Being 8.8km in length with an average gradient of only 5.6% the riders will welcome it. I expect the breakaway will have formed by here so the peloton should be on a go slow to let any team-mates who were dropped back into the bunch. Looking at you Rowe and Stannard!

Once they make the crest there is a fast descent before they start climbing again. This time it’s the Cat-3 Col de Pisseloup. With a relatively shallow gradient (5.8% over 4.9km), it could be an aptly named climb for a nature break!

The stage then approaches the Intermediate Sprint point within the valley. We might see Sagan in the break and taking the points here, that would not surprise me! Almost straight after the sprint point the road starts climbing again and we have another relatively easy climb. The Col de la Rochette tops out at 1113m, with the climb itself being 5.1km in length and a 5.4% average gradient. Easiest climb of the day!

Again, the race descends and ascends in the valley before the HC climb of the Grand Colombier is tackled. This climb combines steepish gradients with a long distance to travel, coming in at 12.8km averaging 6.8%. After what has come before it, this will sting some legs. If we did have a regrouping of the peloton before, the race will really be on here. The sprinters will go out the back and that will be them for the day, a battle of survival to make the time cut. The climb is very irregular which suits some riders more than others, there are steep 14% sections, but false flats too. It will be hard for the riders to get into a proper rhythm.

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They then have a long descent and a ride through the finish line before tackling the Grand Colombier again, but this time it’s the Laces edition. Pretty much there will be a load of hairpin bends and the climb will look very picturesque. Doubt it will have anything on the Lacets de Montvernier though! This passage is shorter (8.6km) but steeper (averaging 7.6%). I expect there to be GC time gaps here, some riders might go pop.

There is a chance for them to regroup on the descent and flat to the finish line and we might see 5 GC guys come home together.

How will the stage pan out?

I think this stage 100% is a breakaway day. Sky/Froome have a comfortable lead over all the other contenders so can ride a more conservative and defensive race. Like I said above, they’ll be happy to let a break go (if there’s no one dangerous) so that the likes of Rowe and Stannard can make it back and do the majority of the work in the opening 2/3rds of the stage. They won’t be too bothered about the stage/bonus seconds going to the break so I think once again we’ll see a battle on two fronts.

Like usual I’ll name 3 potential riders who could win from a break.

Jarlinson Pantano.

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The Colombian took a great win at the Tour de Suisse and this stage looks ideal for him. He’s not any threat on GC so will be given the freedom. Furthermore, he’s put in a few probing attacks from the peloton on some of the mountain finishes, showing good intent. More importantly, he has a very good turn of speed from a reduced group so he can win from a sprint or solo.

Wout Poels.

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One of Sky’s key men in the second half of a GT, he could be sent up the road to mark satellite riders from rival teams. If the break gets a big advantage like I think it well, he definitely has the credentials to win from it. I don’t think anyone will be able to climb better than him, the question will be can they match him?

Jan Bakelants.

14-02-2016 La Mediterraneenne; Tappa 04 Bordighera; 2016, Ag2r La Mondiale; Bakelandts, Jan; Bordighera;

The Belgian has had a solid year so far, picking up a win way back in his first race of the season. Since then he’s plodded along so to say, but placed a rather unassuming 17th on GC at the Dauphiné. A very good result for him. He’s not featured personally so far this Tour but has done a lot of work for Bardet. Also, he recently became a father on the day of stage 11. He hasn’t been in the break yet but a stage like this would suit him and possibly act as a satellite rider for Bardet, although as I’ve said numerous times I think the break makes it. I’m not sure how long he’ll stay in the race, he may even leave on the next rest day. It would be some way to go out with a stage win!

Prediction

The break makes it, with Pantano coming home the winner. We get another race on two fronts with Froome being comfortable all day. He’ll come to the line with another two riders; Mollema and Yates. With the other GC riders splintered behind!

Betting

No idea of the odds as I’m writing this, I’ll be backing my three break selections. No wild stakes, but I’ll be favouring Pantano.

Hope you enjoyed the blog, there is a good chance I won’t see it until tomorrow but any feedback is great as usual. I’m also writing the stage 16 preview in advance just after this. I thought Monday was the rest day but it’s not. Annoying because there is no way I’ll manage to do anything on Sunday hungover and without a laptop. Also apologies if there are any mistakes in this, it’s currently half 12 on Friday night/Saturday morning and I still have Stage 16 to do. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

TDF Stage 14 Preview: Montélimar -> Villars-les-Dombes Parc des Oiseaux

Today’s Recap

A day where two riders very much set their stall out. Tom Dumoulin took a magnificent stage win, absolutely crushing the opposition and now surely has to be the favourite for Gold at the Olympics next month. He looks so smooth on a time trial bike, a joy to watch!

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Chris Froome finished just over a minute down on the Dutchman but now extends his GC lead, with his nearest rival being Bauke Mollema who’s 1″47 down. The way he’s riding, this Tour is Froome’s to lose. Only by misfortune, either through injury or illness will stop him. He looks simply unbeatable!

I do think Quintana has to be ill, he doesn’t look his normal self. Nonetheless, the battle for the podium does look very exciting, with a lot of riders still in contention and a lot of tough stages left.

Let’s have a look at tomorrow’s stage!

The Route

At first look, the stage appears to be a straight forward flat sprint stage. However, there is a reasonable amount of climbing, both categorised and uncategorised. Nothing crazy, but it’s definitely not pan flat!

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This climbing is particularly apparent in the middle section of the stage, from around 75kms to 150kms.

Aside from that, there is nothing really exciting to note for the stage.

The run in is flat, so it won’t catch anyone out and the finish is probably the least technical we’ve had all race.

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It’s pretty much going to be a drag race after the 3km mark. We might see a more traditional sprint here with a few sprint trains lined up across the road.

So a straight forward sprint day then?

Well, nothing is ever straight forward at the Tour is it, as we’ve seen over the past few days.

The previous stages will have taken a lot out of the riders; crosswind action, a tough mountain finish, plus a demanding TT today. Some of them will be hoping for a club-run tomorrow!

Therefore, we could very well see a break stay away tomorrow.

Sky won’t be overly concerned if a break makes it, neither will any of the other GC teams. It will be over to the sprint teams to control the day. With a very demanding day in the mountains on stage 15, some of them might not fancy it.

Orica and Katusha could well keep their powder dry to look after their GC hopes. I can’t see Etixx doing the same and telling Kittel that they won’t work for him.

LottoS and Dimension Data both have stage wins to their name, will they really want to control it all day?

I think we could see a similar situation to that on stage 10, where a break full of riders from the sprinters teams made it to the finish. The same that was said for that stage can be said for this one. If 75% of the sprint teams get one rider or more in the break, it stays away. Although this is probably weighted towards the “bigger” sprinters teams. At least 3 out of the 4 of LottoS/Ettix/DD/Katusha will need someone in there. The likes of Direct Energie and Bora don’t have the power to bring it back themselves, but they would aid a chase if a couple of the big teams wanted it back.

One thing that does go against the breakaway’s chances is the potential headwind that they will have all day.

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Wind forecast at Leyrieu (around 40km from the finish)

This will certainly make it easier for those behind to keep the riders up front within touching distance.

Breakaway Candidates

The normal teams will try to get in the escape, i.e. Cofidis, Bora etc. and if we do get the situation above then strong baroudeurs from the sprint teams might try to get involved. Like other previews when I’ve mentioned potential break picks I’ll name 3 here, I don’t want to keep you all night!

Adam Hansen.

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The Australian hasn’t been of the front so far this race which is unlike him. He’s been doing a good bit of work for the team and Greipel. If the sprint teams decide to play around he definitely has the ability to finish it from a break.

Oscar Gatto.

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The Cat is another rider who’s kind of cruised through this Tour, although doing a lot of work for Sagan. He’s made the front group on both the crosswind days which shows he’s going well. He has a fast sprint and would be a danger-man if a break goes all the way.

Chris Juul-Jensen.

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The Joker always seems to be in a good mood on Orica’s backstage pass videos. A strong rider, I fancy him to be the type of guy Orica send up the road to cover the breakaway. As we saw on stage 10, they’re experts at sniffing out break days when there should be sprints.

After all this though, the most likely outcome is still a sprint. 70/30 chance I make it. If there was no head-wind then that would increase the breaks chances.

Sprint Contenders

Basically all of the guys that are still here and I’ve gone through them all before so won’t go into too much detail.

Cav & Kittel once again have to be favourites. Cav based on form, and Kittel based on, well, he’s Marcel Kittel.

Lotto Soudal’s train should definitely be a help to Greipel here. They should be able to get organised and deliver him perfectly to the final 150m.

The same can be said for Groenewegen. I’ve been impressed by Jumbo and the way they’ve brought the youngster to the front. He’s just not managed to finish it off. That could quite possibly change here.

Kristoff a.k.a the headwind sprint specialist definitely has to be respected. He’ll be very disappointed after winning the peloton sprint for 4th on Stage 11.

Sagan, Matthews, Coquard, McLay, Degenkolb, Enger and Laporte could all get in the mix too.

Prediction

We’ll most likely see a sprint tomorrow but I’d like to see a break upset the odds and stay away. If it does stay, I say Gatto wins.

In the sprint it will be hard to beat the big two but I fancy Groenewegen to go well for some reason. It’s just a hunch. Not that any of my hunches have went well so far this race! Groenewegen definitely has the raw power to match the best if he’s on a very good day. Furthermore, he will be able to cope with the climbing early in the stage due to his one-day racing background. Tomorrow could be his day to take a memorable win.

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* * * I apologise in advance for tomorrow’s preview. I’m away visiting a friend all day and going out at night so I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to watch the stage/write anything. I plan on doing a route analysis and prediction tonight so there should still be something out * * *

Betting

0.6pt EW Groenewegen @33/1 with PP (Available at 28/1 with others that I’d take)

Fun bets incoming…

0.1pt Hansen @300/1 with Various bookmakers

0.1pt Gatto @400/1 with PP/Ladbrokes

0.1pt Chris Juul-Jensen @500/1 with PP/Bet365

 

Hopefully tomorrow won’t be another long day in the saddle but I fear it might. Almost glad that I won’t be watching it all! Do you think the break has any chance? Or am I just being optimistic as usual?! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TDF Stage 13 Preview: Bourg-Saint-Andéol -> Le Caverne de Pont

Today’s Recap

Oh to be a bike racing fan!

Thomas De Gendt won a fantastic breakaway, out-sprinting Pauwels and Navarro. He dedicated his win to team-mate Stig Broeckx. Rather poignant after the events that followed behind him on the road. It was a big win for Lotto Soudal who’ve been struggling so far this Tour.

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Behind, well, I’m pretty sure by now if you’re reading this you know what happened. There are fair arguments to both sides of the outcome, however, the more I think about it, the more I think the incorrect decision was made. As bad as it was, it was a racing incident at the end of the day. If it had happened to De Gendt and co would there have been the same jury decision? Froome and Porte getting the same time as Mollema is wrong too in my opinion. The riders behind, Yates etc., were all held up by the crash as well, who says they wouldn’t have made attacks to catch up with them. Or the opposite is equally possible, the way the trio were riding they could have easily gained more time. It’s not even just Froome/Porte that this benefits, Quintana and Valverde get the same time as Yates (because they were in his group at the time of the accident) even though they actually finished the stage 7 seconds down.

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The main thing that should come from this is that the UCI need to be a lot clearer with their rules, rather than just giving vague guidelines that are open to interpretation. While the ASO need to get their act together with everything, they’re turning into a laughing-stock this year. All we need now is a doping scandal to take everyone’s mind off of the farce!

But alas, the show must go on and the circus makes its way to Bourg-Saint-Andéol tomorrow.

The Route

A 37.5km ITT with a real mix bag of terrain.

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I’ve once again made a Strava profile of the stage that you can view here.

Out of the blocks the riders almost immediately start the Côte de Bourg-Saint-Andéol. The climb is 6.9km long with an average gradient of 4.9%. There are some steeper gradients, of roughly 7%, but those sections are very short and last no more than 100 metres. It is a big ring, power climb!

The riders will then travel along a plateau, although the road does rise and fall throughout, it is mainly flat for the next 13km.

They then hit a fast and pretty technical descent with around 16km left in the stage. It only lasts 5km at most, but the riders will welcome a little bit of respite.

Therein they have a flat run to the base of the climb up to the finishing point of La Caverne du Pont-D’Arc. 3.3km in length and at a 4.9% average, the riders won’t be overly concerned by the numbers, however, they will need to keep something in reserve for it in fear of blowing up! If they do, time lost could end up being quite substantial here.

Weather Watch

One of the main influences on ITTs this year has been the weather. There is no rain forecast for tomorrow but the wind, like the past few days, could be a big factor.

Thankfully for the riders, it looks set to be similar all day.

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Wind statistics from Vallon-Pont-D’Arc 

If anything, it looks to favour the GC guys. Although some reports suggest that the wind will turn slightly later and be more of a North wind, rather than the NNE. This would turn some of the sections into more of a headwind and actually hinder the later riders. One thing is for certain; is that no one is certain!

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There is quite a lot of tree-cover out on the course tomorrow so it might not play a big a part as predicted, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Who can contend in a TT like this?

Power riders and GC guys.

The normal TT candidates such as TMartin, Cancellara, Dumoulin and Dennis should all be up there. The first three have all looked very impressive this race so far, doing their various team jobs or going on the attack. Martin and Dumoulin have looked the best when in the break, whereas Cancellara has done a lot of work for Mollema. I’d normally expect Dennis to go well in an effort like this, he’ll view it as a great practice for the Olympics. However, he’s not been going great so far but was up there in the first split today. Maybe he’s been saving himself for this? Kiryenka is another great candidate but he’s potentially been doing too much work for Froome and could be told to take it easy here. Do you really tell the World Champ to do that though?

Of the GC guys Quintana and Froome are hard to split on this seasons ITT form. They’ve only pitted their wits against each other in one TT (at Romandie) and both finished on the same time. I wanted to back Quintana for this TT pre-Tour. I’ve been really impressed by his progression on the bike this year and he’s now one of the best all rounders in the world. Supposedly they have a new TT bike and Nairo practices on it everyday. However, he wasn’t on the best of form today. Maybe he just had an off day or he’s not in great shape at all, only those inside the Movistar camp will know. If he’s recovered for tomorrow he has a real shot of going well here. He seems fairly upbeat…

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Screenshot from the Movistar website

Froome himself has to be a favourite for this stage. He’s looked incredible on the descents, on the flat and on the climbs. His seated attack on today’s stage was unbelievable. His TT hasn’t been great recently but riding the way he is, you can’t discount him! There might be question marks over possible injuries that he sustained today, he seemed to be hobbling after the crash.

Porte could go well here but he seems the worst off after the crash. His team-mate TVG could also put in a decent time. As for the rest of the GC riders, I can’t see them breaking into the top 10.

An outsider who I like for the stage is Luke Durbridge. We saw on stage 10 the amount of work that he was doing for Matthews and Impey, he looks to be on good form going from that effort. He’s not done fantastically well in TTs recently but if he gets the rub of the green here then that could change.

Prediction

I really want to write that Quintana will be the winner here. As I said above, I’ve had him penned in for this stage pre-Tour, but his performance today though has cast doubts in my mind. Froome knows if he puts in a big effort here then that could end the GC battle so he’ll no doubt go well. I’m just not convinced by either of them, in fact, I’m not really convinced by any of the favourites. So sticking to tradition and naming outsiders, Luke Durbridge will put in an incredible ride and pull of an amazing win. After all, he is a former U23 World TT Champion and you don’t get the nickname Turbo Durbo for nothing!

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Betting

Another one where it should be a no bet day but I’m willing to back Durbridge at the price he is.

0.25pt EW 250/1 with Various bookmakers.

 

How do you think the TT will go tomorrow? I think it’s wide open! As usual, any feedback would be great. We should be in for a calmer day of racing tomorrow, enjoy it wherever you’re watching it from. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

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

Today’s Recap

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

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

The Route

Flat, little bump then a mountain. Simple.

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

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

How will the stage pan out?

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

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

What’s stopping it? The wind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction

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

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

Betting

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

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

0.25pt EW.

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

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

TDF Stage 11 Preview: Carcassonne -> Montpellier

Today’s Recap

The crossbar was hit today!

A very strong break got away that included representatives from the main sprint teams (only Jumbo, Katusha and Etixx not represented) and with a lack of co-ordination behind, it was never brought back.  I have to be honest, I have no idea what happened before the last 15km as I was away visiting my grandparents, so I can’t say why Nibali/Landa and Co weren’t there at the end.

Anyway, Orica played the numbers game brilliantly with Durbridge pulling into and up the final climb. Once Durbridge started to swing over, one of our picks and predicted break winner Impey attacked. However, Sagan was his usual imperious self and closed him down. This happened a few times. Much to my disgust!

It was probably sour grapes because Impey never got away, but I was irritated by Kirby’s calling of “The old 1-2 tactic”, because it was more of a 1-1-1, the 2 never came. I really thought Sagan would have won the sprint, but fair play to Matthews who powered home excellently. I guess that’s why I’m not a DS and Matt White is!

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Moving onto tomorrow’ stage.

The Route

After the mountain start today, the riders face a much easier start.

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We’ll probably see a 3 to 5 man break get away almost from the gun, with the sprinters teams managing the gap. There are two Cat 4 climbs out on the route to ensure we get some kind of excitement from the break as the riders go for the points (*cough* prize money *cough*).

The stage finale is relatively straight forward too.

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After the organisers throwing in a few turns/roundabouts in the last 1km in previous stages, we look set to get a drag race here.

The road itself kicks up ever so slightly, but nothing that will worry any of the sprinters.

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The main concern within the peloton tomorrow and the thing that could potentially cause havoc is the wind.

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The riders never stray too far from the coast, but the in-land roads they traverse are very exposed. It’s prime wine growing country, there is vine-cover not tree-cover out on the road.

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Wind direction/average speed/gusts (in km/h) at Albine (near the first half of the stage)
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Same statistics for Cournonterral (near the end of the stage)

As you can see above, the wind seems to be at a constant all day. Furthermore, the direction that it’s blowing in is ideal for cross-tailwinds. This is the least favoured type of wind within the peloton because it increases the speed so much and causes a lot of nervousness. This coupled with the long sections of exposed road could lead to some crazy racing.

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Section of road just after Montagnac (around 40km to go), highlighting the exposed roads.

So how will the stage pan out?

Well, that all depends on the attitudes of the sprint and GC teams.

Two big echelon creating powerhouses in the form of Lotto Soudal and Etixx don’t have as many wins as they’d like at this stage. With Lotto winless and Etixx only having Kittel’s win to their name. They will both see this as a big opportunity to try to get rid of some of the other sprinters. Unfortunately for them, a lot of the sprinters are very good at positioning themselves in the wind. Sagan, Cavendish, Kristoff and Groenewegen would all hope to be there. That is of course assuming that the peloton stays at a reasonable size. If the hammer is really put down we could end up with around 20 riders contesting the finish.

We saw on the first stage that Movistar were very keen and proactive at the front of the peloton in the crosswinds. They could try something similar here. The only issue with the GC guys putting the hammer down is that they have a very tough finish up Ventoux the following day and an ITT the next. But if they sense blood then they’ll go for it!

I’m hoping we do get some crosswind action to liven the day up, otherwise it will just be a case of tuning into the final 20km to watch the sprint.

Stage Contenders

If we get a pure bunch sprint then it has to be Cavendish v Kittel. I can’t split them and neither can the bookies, on form I’d go with the Manxman.

I’m not going to bother listing out all of the possible outsiders but there is one rider who’s progression I like during the race, Alexander Kristoff. He came into the Tour a bit undercooked and not in form but seems to be getting there. He finished an impressive 4th on Stage 6. Unfortunately, he has lost a key lead-out man in Morkov, but still has Haller and Guarnieri who can do a very good job. I’d expect him to get onto the podium soon, potentially go better. Tomorrow could be that day.

If we do get some echelon madness, then look to those who go well in Belgian classics/semi-classics where wind plays a big part.

Cancellara is the type of guy who could go well from a 20-man or so group at the end of the stage. He seems to be felling better after the rest-day, which is evident with this poorly worded tweet.

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Belgian Vanmarcke will no doubt be up there if we get some kind of split in the peloton. If his young compatriot Groenewegen hasn’t made the selection, he could well be given the go ahead. It would have to be pretty selective for him but you never know!

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The same can be said for Dylan Van Baarle. He had a solid spring campaign but hasn’t done much here. Cannondale don’t really have a proper sprinter, Navardauskas is the closest they have, so if things get dicey they could turn to Dylan.

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Prediction

It’s more out of hope than anything else, but I think we’ll see some kind of cross wind action tomorrow. Kristoff is very good in these conditions and with his upward trajectory, I think he can nab a stage win. Even if there are no echelons, he can definitely contend the sprint!

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Betting

One main, all types of situation bet plus 3 wind calamity long-shots.

Kristoff 1.1pt EW @18/1 with Skybet (I’d take the 16/1 widely available)

Cancellara 0.2pt EW @250/1 with Betfair (I’d take 200/1)

Vanmarcke 0.1pt EW @400/1 with Betfair (I’d take 300/1)

Van Baarle 0.1pt EW @500/1 with Betfair (I’d take 400/1)

 

Hope you liked the preview, do you think we’ll see echelons tomorrow? It would certainly make better viewing. Any feedback as normal is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

TDF Stage 10 Preview: Escaldes-Engordany -> Revel

Rest Day Recap

Stage 9 saw a break make it all the way to the line and we got the battle on two fronts with the GC contenders duking it out behind. It was Tom Dumoulin who took the win up ahead, attacking just before the final climb, not to be seen again. It was a bit of a weird move from his breakaway companions. All of the other moves were marked and closed down, yet the best TTer in the group was allowed to get away. His winning margin was made up on the few kilometres leading up to the climb. That’s not to take anything away from the Dutchman, it was still a great win, especially because he looked to be struggling on the previous climb!

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I’m still confused as to what happened to our pick of Diego Rosa. He looked very strong on that penultimate climb and I was feeling pretty confident going into the last ascent. I went for a drink, which maybe took a minute at most, came back through to where my tv was and he was gone. All of the other riders were there. It was very odd. Anyway, moving on!

Behind, we got a bit of a GC shake up, but nothing crazy. The two big guns came in together, along with Adam Yates. Who’s looked very impressive so far. Dan Martin and Porte trailed in just a couple of seconds behind them. With a group including Mollema and Meintjes not too far down either. The worst off were Aru and Barguil who lost a minute to Froome and Co. Leaving us with a top 20 that looks like this going into the second week.

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Onto tomorrow’s stage then!

The Route

Another tough opener for the riders, starting off with a Cat-1 climb. Anyone who’s not warmed up properly on the rollers could end up in some difficulty!

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It’s important to note that the climb isn’t overly difficult in terms of gradient, it’s just very long!

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Although saying that, the second part of the climb is much more difficult than the first. Also, with it being the Souvenir Henri Desgrange, I expect there to be quite the fight to get into the break, especially from the French riders. With there being next to no chance the GC riders will attempt to make any moves on this stage then it won’t be as crazy as Stage 9. Instead, the attention will turn to the sprinters teams to control the break.

Once over the climb it should be fairly easy for them to do so. A long gradual descent and over 100km of flat follow.

The main focal point of the stage is the Cat 3 Côte de Saint-Ferréol that’s located within the final 10km.

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A short but sharp test for the peloton to face, the climb itself is very irregular. Some steep ramps over 11% followed by false flats and even a short descent. This is a lot clearer on the Strava profile which can be viewed here. Credit goes to Arjan who sent me the link to that! You can follow the climb on Google Streetview here as well.

I’ve made a profile of the last 10km on Strava. I personally prefer using it compared to relying 100% on the Tour graphics as they sometimes are a little bit off. Check that out here! I also like being able to scroll over the map and see the altimetry at each certain point etc. Anyway, I digress.

Once over the crest, the riders face a period of “flat” before making a left turn to start the descent. The downhill itself should see a very fast pace in the bunch. There are a few technical turns but more or less it should be taken quickly. In the final 3km the route descends ever so slightly (25m going off of the Strava profile. 0.8% average.) Nothing substantial, but it should ensure that the pace is high.

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That could then be an issue with this roundabout/90° corner combo within the last kilometre. If we do get a sprint, then positioning and lead outs will be key here as the high pace will mean the race will be strung out, but also because the concertina effect could well be evident here. If you’re further down than 10-15th place then you have no chance.

So a sprint finish?

Well, before the Tour I had this marked down as a reduced bunch sprint and that is the most likely outcome on the day. It could be difficult for the pure sprinters such as Kittel and Greipel to make it over the final climb if some of the teams attack it at a fast pace. I would expect Sagan to be there along with Coquard and Matthews.

However, there are several situations that could unfold tomorrow!

Situation 1.

The first of these regards the make-up of the breakaway. I would not be surprised to see a few of the sprinters teams attempt to get a rider into that move, meaning they wouldn’t have to chase behind. I’m not sure how confident Kittel and co will be of making the finish line so I expect some of the following teams to be represented Ettix/Lotto S/Jumbo/DD. If they all make it into the break then it will be down to Orica/Tinkoff/Direct Energie to chase.

Now, Orica are usually very canny in these types of situation. We’ve seen it before at the Giro even when they’ve been in Pink they send someone up the road, so I could envisage them getting someone in the move. It’s all over to Tinkoff/Direct Energie then. Both of the teams would fancy their riders in a reduced bunch sprint but do they put someone in the break, just in case? If they do, then the break makes it all the way.

Situation 2.

Although some of these teams get riders in the breakaway, the likes of Etixx/LS/Movistar want to set an incredibly fast pace on the final climb to get rid of all the “sprinters” and set up the likes of Alaphilippe/Gallopin/Valverde for the stage win.

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Situation 3. 

The climb is taken at a controlled pace because the break has been caught and we see Kittel etc make it over. I think this is very unlikely.

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Situation 4.

The break has been caught, the climb is attacked, reducing down the peloton. However, there is a stall in pace at the top and someone makes an attack that sticks to the finish.

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I think we can discount situations 2 & 3 as they are the least likely to happen in my opinion. Situations 1 & 4, along with a reduced bunch sprint could all easily happen.

If we get a reduced sprint I’d have to say that Sagan is the favourite for the stage, Coquard to get a podium too. If some of the “heavier” sprinters get dropped, look out for Jens Debuscherre. He might get a chance to sprint if Greipel isn’t there.

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If Situation 1 comes true then it’s another case of the breakaway lottery. As I said above, look to riders from sprint teams such as; Teklehaimanot, Lindeman, Hansen. One rider I like for this situation is Orica’s Daryl Impey. He’s been climbing incredibly well this Tour and has been in the break already. He should have the explosiveness/speed to finish it off.

For a late attacker look towards the likes of Steve Cummings, Adam Hansen or LL Sanchez.

Prediction

Sprint – Sagan Wins

Break – Impey Wins

Late attack – Hansen Wins

Who’ll Revel in stage glory?

Betting

A day not to get heavily involved with. Screams out “in-play” once the Cat 1 climb is covered. Few small break picks for me and then I’ll probably back someone during the stage. If I do, I’ll say so on my Twitter!

0.1pt Outright on the following

Hansen @150/1 with Betfair (I’d take 100/1)

Debuscherre @350/1 with Bet365

Impey @125/1 with PaddyPower (I’d take 80/1)

Vanmarcke @125/1 with various bookmakers

Maté @300/1 with PP (I’d take 200/1)

 

Hope you enjoyed a more “in-depth” preview. I think we could get a few outcomes for tomorrow, what do you think? It will inevitably now be a straightforward sprint stage! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth