Tour of the Alps 2017 Stage 5 Preview; Smarano -> Trento

Today’s Recap

A mad, mad stage but it was a great watch!

For a while it looked as if the break was going to be caught just after the final climb of the day, but then the gap went back out again and we were left with Pirazzi and Frankiny up the road. Dupont attacked from the reduced peloton and spent a good 20km chasing the front two, finally making the bridge at around 6km left. However, not much later did the impetus go from the move and the peloton reeled them in at just over 1km from home.

A bunch sprint ensued and it was Montaguti who took the win, edging out Pinot, with a charging Dennis coming home third.

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That result means Pinot is only 13 seconds behind Thomas going in to tomorrow’s stage. Let’s take a look at what’s in store for them.

The Route

A tough stage to end the Tour that’s been given a 4-star rating by the organisers.

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It will be a fast start as the peloton descends from the gun, dropping down to the valley roads below, before tackling the uncategorised climb of Andalo. At a shade under 9km in length and averaging 5.5%, it’s not exactly an easy opening ramp for the bunch, but it only sets the tone for what’s to come later on in the day.

We then have a long period of shallow descent before the next proper climb on the day and it’s our first classified one; the Passo Durone.

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As you can see, the toughest part of the climb comes in the middle few kilometres, where it averages close to 9.8% for 3kms. It’s definitely too far out from the finish to be the scene of any action, but it will certainly wear the bunch down for the remainder of the stage.

There’s nothing overly exciting in the parcours for the next 40km or so but we then start the main part of the day with just over 75km left.

First of all the Passo Sant Udalrico which is a 7.1km unclassified ascent that averages 6.2%! There’s then a quick descent across the valley before continuing to head upwards and on to the ridiculously long Monte Bondone.

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19km at an average of 6%, ouch!

With several kilometres above 8%, if a team puts the hammer down at the front of the peloton then there could be some serious time gaps.

If you consider the road rises all the way once the peloton travels through Dro then you could say that the climb as a whole is 34.1km at 4.46%…

Yeah, that’s not my idea of fun!

What could almost be decisive as the climb though is the descent that follows, it’s incredibly technical with a lot of hairpin turns. A quick count and I got 30 in total! Clichés of asphalt spaghetti spring to mind.

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If someone is on the limit after the climb and isn’t confident in their descending abilities then they might have an issue here. Luckily for the peloton, it looks to be dry and sunny tomorrow otherwise the descent would be very treacherous and potentially dangerous.

With only 20km left when reaching the bottom of the descent, the riders I’m sure would hope that all the challenges for the day would be over. Well, they’re 90% right, but there is a 2km climb that summits with 7km left. It averages 9% for those 2km so is the perfect springboard for a late attack from the bunch.

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A group won’t have long to organise a chase as they descend all the way until 2km to go, before the run to the line.

How will the stage pan out/Contenders?

I expect fireworks!

Team Sky have been excellent this race so far and have done well to control it considering they only have 6 riders in total. Handily though, they do have two of the strongest riders at this event, in the form of Thomas and Landa. We saw in today’s stage however, that those two were left relatively isolated half-way up the final climb after the rest of the squad had been dropped. Deignan and Elissonde managed to get back on during the descent, but other teams will be looking at that and see it as a positive going in to tomorrow’s stage.

I think we’ll see some riders who aren’t their teams’ main protected rider, but a good second GC option/threat, attempt to get into the morning break on the opening climb of Andalo, i.e. a Cataldo or Bookwalter.  The Astana rider has been very active so far this race.

Consequently, it will force Sky to chase relatively hard from the outset and it will be a long day for their relatively small squad.

Of course, if those type of riders attempt to get into the break then there might not be a break at all for a while and several riders will be dropped from the peloton early. However, I think we will see something go and that will put the onus on Sky.

Nothing much will happen over the next 70km of racing as things settle down but the break will be kept on a tight leash and once we hit the foot slopes of Sant Udalrico we could see only 4 Sky riders at the front of the race. I would imagine that it would be Deignan, Elissonde, Landa and Thomas, and with the latter two being GC options, it’s going to be a tough ask for them to hold things together for the rest of the day.

Maybe the old cliché of “the best form of defence is attack” will come into play?

The Bondone is going to be crazy, expect attacks early and hard!

Cannondale have numbers in the top 10 and they’ll be one of the main protagonists of the stage. Carthy, Formolo and Rolland should be there, alternating attacks and forcing Landa to chase for Thomas.

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The problem is what I mentioned before; that Landa and Thomas look two of the strongest riders in the race and it will be hard to drop them. However, a relentless barrage of moves off the front of the peloton could see them put into difficulty.

They will need to be dropped before the final few kilometres of the climb as that is where it flattens out and Thomas should really be able to put the power down.

 

Oddly enough, after all that is said and done I think the race might still be together at the summit. Well, kind of. We’ll have no more than 12 riders at the head of the race!

From there, attacks or natural gaps on the descent might occur and that will continue onto the final 20km, with Landa and Thomas having to shadow everything.

The elastic will snap eventually with everyone on the limit and one or two riders will manage to get away. Thomas will hope that they aren’t as much of a threat on GC but that will be tough considering the quality that will be at the head of the race.

There are two relative outsiders I want to keep onside for tomorrow though and they’re both from the same team and nation…

Egan Bernal.

The young Colombian has been good so far this week and there is a lot of news circulating about a potential move to a World Tour team next season. Now, this may have a negative effect on him but I imagine it will be the opposite. He was one of the riders who made the original selection today on the final climb and the long ascent tomorrow should suit his diminutive nature. As a former mountain biker, he won’t be afraid of the descent tomorrow, that’s for sure. Considering he’s not as an immediate GC threat as other riders, he might just sneak away and take a momentous win!

Rodolfo Torres. 

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Likewise, Torres also made the front selection today of around 12 riders over the last climb of the day; he was the rider who narrowly avoided Scarponi when the Italian crashed on the descent! Another lightweight climber, he’ll be hoping to use that to his advantage over his more gravitationally challenged competitors. Certainly not a rider to be discounted.

Prediction

It will be a tough race, but the strength of Thomas and Landa will shine through and they’ll be able to mark the likes of Pozzovivo, Pinot etc out of the race. Instead, it will create an opportunity for a “lesser” rider to win the day and I’ll go for the precociously talented Bernal to seal the day!

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Betting

Both with Bet365;

0.5pt EW Bernal @ 66/1 (would take 40s)

0.5pt EW Torres @ 80/1 (would take 50s)

 

Thanks as always for reading and I hope you enjoyed the much longer blog today! Who do you think will win? Next on the blog will be Liege previews for men and women with one of them possibly coming out tomorrow, if not they’ll both be on Saturday. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Tour of the Alps 2017 Stage 3 Preview; Villabassa -> Funes

Another brief preview as this is the third of the day and even though I love cycling, I’m slowly losing the will to live writing this one. Plus, with one route change already, who knows if there might be another tomorrow!

Today’s Recap

Heavy snow fall meant the race was shortened by 60km which may have had an impact on the outcome of the stage at the end of the day. Either way, I was hopelessly wrong again which isn’t good. I haven’t got to grips with this race yet and I don’t like it!

Dennis powered his way home ahead of Pinot and a very impressive ride from Ballerini who got up for third.

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A total of 67 riders finished on the same time as our Aussie winner, which is definitely a lot less selective than I thought it would be.

Swiftly moving on to tomorrow!

The Route

The original route has already been changed once due to snow and that might happen again tomorrow morning!

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They’ve taken out the big climb at the start of the day but we still have the long and steep Alpe Rodengo Zumis to tackle, which crests at just under 40km to go.

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A very tough climb and it will be freezing at the top of it! I wonder if any teams will risk taking up the pace this early?

Once over the summit, we have a long descent followed by around 25km of valley roads before reaching the foot slopes of the final climb of the day.

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Another tough climb, although easier than the previous Alp in the day, the gradients are severe enough for some big time gaps. Especially when you consider the conditions look set to be pretty grim, with a good chance of rain/snow throughout the afternoon.

Contenders

GC day so only the best can compete here;

Scarponi v Pinot v Thomas v Pozzovivo v Dennis v Formolo.

The last rider on that list, Formolo, seems to be the weakest going by form at the moment so I’ll discount him.

Dennis was good today but I’m still not convinced by him on long climbs and the 8.7km test to finish tomorrow is right on his limit. So…

its a no

That leaves us with 4.

I had discounted Pozzovivo at the start of the race, because if I’m honest, I think he’s past his big performances and has never really looked the same after his horror crash in the Giro. However, he looked good on stage 1 but there is a difference between a 3km climb and an almost 9km effort. So he’s out as well!

A fine trio remain.

Scarponi surprised everyone on Stage 1 taking a great sprint win. On that climb he looked composed and relatively comfortable on a stage that really shouldn’t have suited him. The longer efforts are more his forte and he should appreciate tomorrow’s slog to the line.

Pinot was a bit out of position at the start of the climb on stage 1 but slowly made his way back to the attackers, eventually finishing. He then went and improved on that today with a good second place and that trajectory could well continue tomorrow! On a finish like this and in this field, he is probably the rider with the best pedigree.

Thomas will be hoping to change that over the coming weeks though. He has been incredible so far this year and I’m convinced he can podium at the Giro. Strong on stage 1, he just didn’t have enough in the tank to drop everyone. A longer climb may help him fatigue the others before putting in a stinging attack.

Prediction

I’ll go for a Pinot win.

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Just like his namesake wine, the Frenchman is much better when chilled.

Betting

No bet. Odds too tight and the risk of another route change is too high.

Apologies again for this being short, but with the two other previews today, this one was always going to take a hit. Nonetheless, who do you think will win tomorrow’s stage? We might even see another route change in the morning. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour of the Alps 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Innsbruck -> Innervillgraten

This will be short and sweet as I need to get this done quickly so I can get ahead with my writing for tomorrow’s triple header of previews, so apologies!

Today’s Recap

Safe to say I got that one wrong! Bernal looked quite comfortable sitting second or third wheel until he went pop massively at roughly 1km to go. We were left with a reduced group of favourites sprinting to the line and it was wily old fox Scarponi who took the win, beating Thomas and Pinot, with a handful of other riders coming home on the same time.

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A much needed win for Scarponi and Astana as it is their first win of the year!

Will they double up tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

An easier day out for the riders but we once again end with an uphill finish.

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@LasterketaBurua

Like stage 1, tomorrow’s stage is about the closing 30kms or so. Averaging 8.4% for 4.5km, or 8.2% for 4.8km (depending on your source), the St Justina climb is tough either way! If a team wants to take up the pace here they could really do some damage to the peloton, and drastically reduced the numbers in the bunch before the final climb.

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However, with the steepest ramps coming near the start, I can’t see that happening too drastically.

We then have a fast descent and travel through some valley roads before climbing to the finish line.

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Again, gradients and lengths vary for the climb but it’s a long steady false flat drag, with a 5% ramp or so in the closing couple of hundred metres. Not an overly difficult end to the day!

Weather Watch

It looks set to be another miserable day for the peloton…

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Source; Tyrol.com

With potential of it snowing at the end of the day, I wonder if we’ll see any route changes?!

Hopefully not and the rest of this preview will be wrote assuming that the route will stay the same.

How will the stage pan out?

Who will be contesting the finish all depends on how the peloton races the penultimate climb. Considering the rise to the finish line is relatively easy, there is no point in a team making a devastating pace to reduce the peloton because the GC favourites shouldn’t be distanced in the finale. Therefore, I think we could see a relatively large group, of maybe around 20 riders or so coming into the last few kilometres.

It’s then a question of late attack, or a sprint to the line?

There are several riders who lost a reasonable amount of time today so won’t be as heavily marked if they make a move, but with the easy gradients, a quickly organised chase should be able to bring them to heel. The key word there being organised! It’s a finely balanced stage and one that could go either way.

Contenders

As I mentioned above, I’m short for time so this list won’t be exhaustive, that’s for sure! Instead, I’ll throw a few names into the hat.

Danilo Celano.

 

The Italian was close to the head of the race today and managed to follow some of the attacks but just didn’t have enough juice in the tank and ultimately finished 17 seconds down. Tomorrow’s less steep finish should suit the relatively unknown Italian as he seems to have a great turn of pace. He should benefit from his anonymity!

Davide Villella.

The Cannondale rider showed some good legs in today’s stage, finishing inside the top 20 on a climb that didn’t really suit his characteristics. Tomorrow’s finale is better for him and he should be able to power over the easier gradients. I expect Cannondale to have numbers near the front which is always useful in a reduced group and packing a solid sprint, he certainly has a chance.

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Matteo Busato.

I harked on about him for today’s stage, but the closing climb was too tough. Like many others though, tomorrow’s false-flat style drag to the line should be more attractive to him. Another rider with a solid sprint, he has a good opportunity in that scenario, but having lost 42 seconds today, he also has enough breathing space to launch an attack.

Brent Bookwalter.

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Probably not the first rider to spring to mind, the American is another rider like Villella who should benefit from being the “lesser” threat compared to his team-mates. An attack or sprint from a reduced group, Bookwalter can do both and he he’s a dark horse for the stage if tactics play into his hands.

Prediction

I was going to go for Busato and continue my season long fantasy bias, but I can’t ignore the shape Celano is in. He seems to be flying just now, his attack in Appennino the other week was unbelievable! I think he got a bit giddy today in terms of the illustrious company he was keeping but will have learnt from his mistakes and take advantage of his good form tomorrow by taking the biggest win of his career.

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Betting

Tempted to cover the 4 names above, but I think that would be too far, so I’ll just stick with Celano instead;

0.75pt EW Celano @  33/1 with Bet365 (would take 25/1 lowest)

 

Thanks as always for reading and apologies for how brief this was but I won’t have time tomorrow to write all three previews so need to get another finished this evening. Nonetheless, who do you think tomorrow? Will we see a shock victor like Celano, or will the more established names come to the fore? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tour of the Alps 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Kufstein -> Innsbruck

GC Overview

I don’t have enough time to do a proper GC preview but here are a quick few words! Tough course with several stages that end in tricky climbs. Some short and steep but we do have longer, ahem, Alps here too!

So the winner of the race needs to be a very good climber and with a lack of TT, the proper mountain goats will be licking their lips. Sky have the luxury of two contenders with last years winner Landa and Giro contender Thomas. The Spaniard is supposed to be co-leader at the Giro but he’s not offered much this season so will need a big performance here and I think we’ll see just that.

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Pinot has a good chance for FDJ, along with Scarponi who will be Astana’s main hope of picking up a result and I’m also intrigued to see Formolo go for GC in a race without a TT! As for outside top 10 hopefuls I think Busato might sneak into that category. He was 11th last year and although the climbs are a lot tougher in this edition, he seems to be going well at the moment. An 8th place in Appeninno after crashing relatively hard during the race is testament to that. Likewise, Firsanov also crashed hard in that race while in the leading group. After a slow start to the year, the Russian is getting back to the shape he was in here last season, when he managed to finish 4th on GC. The longer climbs will be tough for him, but you never know! I would expect to see Torres up there fighting for a top 5 as well.

I’ll go for a Landa win though.

Right, onto stage 1 now…

The Route

Not exactly an easy day to start the race off with!

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@LasterketaBurua

Rolling terrain mixed in with some steep climbs. The stage is all about the final 25km though.

We have a tough ascent of Schlögelsbach, 3km long and averaging 9.1%, and it’s not even categorised. Tricky enough to put some riders in trouble, it will be interesting to see if any teams decide to take up pace-making duties there.

A technical descent then follows before some more rolling terrain as the riders reach Innsbruck and the final climb up to Hungerburg.

At only 3.6km long there shouldn’t be too many time gaps, but with an average gradient of 7.3% we might see some probing attacks from GC riders. The finish reminds me of the final climb we had at the end of stage 2 last year, although this year it is not as steep!

Contenders

GC rider or a punchy climber? That’s the conundrum I’m dealing with just now. I guess with the start-list we have, there is a lot of crossover between the two!

Thomas and Landa probably start as favourites. Both exceptional climbers, they have the added advantage of being able to pull off a 1-2 punch. With Thomas returning from altitude, it will be interesting to see how he fares on his first day back in the peloton. However, with some tougher stages to come, will they keep their powder dry? Probably not, expect an attacking closing climb from them!

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The finish isn’t ideal for Pinot, yet again, he was 2nd on the stage into Fermo in Tirreno last month. With no Sagan here, he has a much better chance of the win this time round! However, he hasn’t raced since Tirreno so it is yet to be seen where his form is.

Dennis might give it a nudge and in this quality of field, he certainly has a chance of stealing the victory, but I’m not overly convinced. Instead, I think BMC should also let Caruso have the chance to lead the team. The Italian is a criminally underrated domestique who climbs well and has a fast finish. He could well win a sprint to the line from the climbers.

I can’t really see anyone from Astana winning the stage. Scarponi isn’t explosive enough and the climb is probably just too long for Moser. Maybe Luis Leon Sanchez might have a go?!

Formolo definitely offers Cannondale their best chance on this type of terrain. Like many here, the young Italian is building towards the Giro and will want to put in a good performance. He’s been a bit off the boil so far this season but has shown glimpses of what he can do in races like Catalunya. Maybe Villella can even hang on?

This type of finish though does open it up to some riders from the ProConti teams and there are a few I’d like to highlight.

Busato has still to take a professional victory but he was flying in Appennino until the crash. This type of finish looks good for him, although on his limit, and I think he could surprise a few people!

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Firsanov was the first to cross the line behind Landa on Stage 2 of this race last, which had a very similar finish compared to tomorrow’s climb. As I mentioned above, he’s been poor this year so far, but his form seems to be heading in the right direction. Not someone to be properly marked, he has a good shot at taking the stage win.

Finally, relatively unknown rider Danilo Celano is worth a mention. He was the eventual winner of Appennino, flying up the final climb. Riding here for the Italian national team, if he’s retained any of that form then he is a proper dark horse for the win. Keep an eye on him!

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Prediction

I’ll go for none of the above though and instead opt for young Colombian sensation Egan Bernal to take the victory.

After making his breakthrough performance at this race last year, winning the young riders classification, he’s continued his development with some great results this year. The explosive, steep gradients of the finish climb suit him well and he has a handy sprint after a tough climb, if a group of 3 or so arrive at the summit together.

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Betting

No GC bet, so just stage 1 picks all with Bet365;

4pts Bernal to beat Pozzovivo  @5/4 (he was 11/8 but I was waiting for stage odds, would take down to 10/11 lowest)

 

 

Thanks as always for reading as always! Who do you think will win the opening stage? Will we see a lesser known rider take the spoils? I hope to see an attacking/exciting finale. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.