Vuelta Stage 8 Preview: Villalpando -> La Camperona

Today’s Recap

Another day, another messy finale.

For a while, the stage looked like it would be a snoozefest as the sprint teams had the break well under control and were comfortable riding tempo on the front of the peloton. Astana, however, got bored and changed the speed completely with around 50km to go. The break was caught, and on the lower slopes of the final climb Luis Leon Sanchez attacked. He was joined by 5 others, but it was the Spaniard and Simon Clarke who pushed on during the descent and onto the “flat” run-in. Unfortunately for them, they were caught within the final kilometre and Jonas van Genechten took a wonderful sprint victory.

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Behind, we saw a relatively large crash with its main casualty being Alberto Contador who seemed to go down quite badly. In post race interviews he sounded as if he was already in a lot of pain. Not a great Vuelta for him. As for Arndt, he came across the line in 26th smashing his handlebars, clearly not happy with the way the stage ended. Maybe he was held up by the crash, but being honest, if he was that far back he wouldn’t have won the stage anyway. Lack of inexperience from him there!

Anyway, what do we have in store for us on stage 8?

The Route

Not much to talk about tomorrow. The majority of the stage is flat followed by our toughest ascent yet! The climb was actually used back in the 2014 edition of the race, with Hesjedal taking a spectacular win from that days break. It brings back bad memories as I had second placed Zaugg at 80/1!

 

Swiftly moving on…

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The 170km of flat means this is more than likely a stage to tune in late on to. In theory, it should be relatively easy for the teams to control the break. This is all about the final climb.Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 11.30.15 As you can see it isn’t exactly an easy summit finish. The average of 7.4% for 8.5km is tough but is also deceptive. As you can see on the graphic above, the second half of the climb is a lotmore grippy.

Back to normal today and I’ve created a strava profile of the final 2.5km that you can view here. It’s just insane, averaging 15.3% for that final segment with several ramps above 20%.

Team-mates are of no real aerodynamic use when the gradients get that steep, it’s all about the individual rider. Of course, they’re an advantage in the sense of one attacking to try to get the others to chase.

How will the stage play out?

Pre-Vuelta this was a nailed on GC day. A long flat amble along to the one major obstacle of the day means that the break can easily be controlled. However, we’ve seen this Vuelta so far that a lot of teams don’t want to put the effort in to chase. Aside from BMC who will honour the jersey, only Movistar, Sky and Orica are likely to put any manpower on the front of the peloton.

Movistar have two contenders for the stage, with both Valverde and Quintana looking strong. They will fancy their chances tomorrow, although Valverde may have bad memories of going too early and blowing up here in 2014, losing almost 30 seconds to Froome that day. Their squad does have good rouleurs such as Castroviejo and Erviti who can control the break on the flat. But I think Valverde will fancy this, it’s just a case if his team wants to do all the work.

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Orica will turn to Chaves tomorrow. The Smiling Assassin has quietly gone about his business so far, with his only real day in the spotlight being on the incredibly tough finish on stage 3 where he finished 5th. His diminutive frame suits this type of finish well. We’ve already seen Orica come to the front and drive the peloton on stage 6, so there is a good chance they’ll work tomorrow. Furthermore, Yates seems to be getting better and they’ll hope he’ll last with Chaves for a while.

Finally, that leaves us with Sky and Froome. The highest placed GC finisher in 2014, the Brit will be hoping of a repeat performance here. That time round, he used a very similar tactic to what we saw on stage 3, where he paced himself up the climb slowly picking off riders as he rode past them. He could very well deploy a similar tactic here tomorrow. We were promised a different Sky this Vuelta, one where they wouldn’t work as much on the front and their mountain train isn’t as prominent. Tomorrow is the true acid test of that!

Aside from those 4, I can’t see any other GC rider winning the stage. There will be large time-gaps tomorrow!

Breakaway Contenders

With this being another coin-toss between break and GC riders, I’ll suggest a few riders like usual who could surprise.

Sergio Pardilla.

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Winner of the GC at Vuelta a Burgos before this race, Pardilla has had a relatively quiet race so far. A very solid climber, he’ll be a threat in any break that makes it all the way. He’ll look to use his experience and grind away up the final climb, not going too deep too early.

Romain Hardy.

Yesterday I was nominating him for a sprint podium today a mountain top finish. He climbed well at the Tour de l’Ain earlier in August and has clearly carried some of that form on. Finishing 25th on the steep ramps of stage 3 shows that he can cope fairly well with the steep stuff. He could well be one of the surprises of the Vuelta!

Omar Fraile. (Again)

He took it easy today looking after Anton. He may well save himself tomorrow for days later on in the race, with more KOM points available. But as we saw the other day, he is a very attacking rider, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him up the road!

Prediction

Torn between two again. As I said before, I had this is as a GC day before the Vuelta. However, the attitude of the peloton has kind of put me off this idea. No-one seems overly keen to work, and there is a lot of tough riding ahead. Then again, the parcours lend itself to a team taking control.

Hmmm.

I’m not sitting on the fence this time…

In a shock twist the break stays away and Romain Hardy pulls off an equally shocking win!

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(Or maybe the GC guys win 😉 )

Betting

Small punts on the three breakaway guys. Tomorrow is most definitely an in-play day! Even if you do think the GC guys win, there’s no point backing them pre-stage because their price won’t change that much during the race and you have much more information on how things will unfold.

0.25pt WIN Hardy @ 125/1 with Bet365

0.125pt WIN Fraile @ 100/1 with Bet365

0.125pt WIN Pardilla @ 100/1 with Bet365

As usual, hunt around when more bookmakers price up. B365 were the only ones priced up by half 8.

Hope you enjoyed the preview! Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll enjoy tomorrow’s race until around 20km to go. Do you think we’ll see a break stay away, or will the GC guys finally get their act together? Any feedback is great as usual! 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.

 

Dauphiné Prologue Preview: Les Gets – Les Gets

Les Gets straight into it.

(Sorry. I had to get that joke out of the road at some point, may as well be the start!)

Route

Mountain TT, so uphill pretty much.

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We get a flat first few hundred metres leading into a 6.1% section to start off with and after that it’s steep, very steep! The final section supposedly only averages 6.7% but this is due to a false flat finish. After the second kilometre the climb really averages 10.5%+, not very nice!

If you want a more interactive route map, here’s a Strava profile.

There’s nothing else to say really. It should be a joy to watch for us, but I’m sure a lot of the riders won’t be thinking the same.

Weather Watch

As I’m writing this it is currently raining in Les Gets and there is a chance that this weather will continue tomorrow.

Different websites are suggesting different times when the rain and thunderstorms will arrive.

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Accuweather’s forecast. Taken at 4pm on Saturday.
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Worldweatheronline’s forecast. Taken at the same time.

It’s safe to assume we’ll probably get rain at some point tomorrow, with some suggesting more rain earlier, others suggesting the opposite. Who knows?!

There is a chance that start time might come in to play but I don’t think it will have that much of an effect. Everyone will have roughly similar conditions. If anything, it looks like the later starters will get a benefit.

Contenders

To win this stage you obviously have to climb well. However, it’s not a long Alpine climb, it’s much more like the short steep climbs that we see in Spain. This changes the dynamic of the winner ever so slightly. For example, I don’t think we’ll see Pinot win this. He’s much better on the longer, slightly more gentle climbs.

Contador and Froome head the betting and they’re two riders who could manage this type of effort. The former has done well on the short steep climbs of Spain and Froome has proved that he can manage the steep ramps when the Tour finished atop the Huy.

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Away from the top 2 we have a whole host of riders who could give it a good go tomorrow. Porte is good at short sharp climbs and can sprint up them. Except this isn’t January and this isn’t Old Willunga Hill.

Yates being a Brit will enjoy this hill climb a lot and it should suit his punchy nature. The real question is if he’s in form. He didn’t look great last time we saw him race at the Tour de Yorkshire.

After Foliforov’s outstanding win at the Giro, one of his junior rivals could go well here, Louis Vervaeke. A top 5 would be a great result for the young man!

Anyone else listed on the image beside could have a chance of winning this. However, I’m going to highlight two who I think have the credentials to go very well here and challenge for the win.

First up is the youngster Julian Alaphilippe. Off the back of a great GC win over at the Tour of California he’ll be oozing with confidence and will want to show that he can compete with the World’s best.

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He loves the steep gradients as is evident with his two 2nd places at Fleche. Furthermore, he flew up the Gibraltar Road climb over at the ToC. Admittedly, it wasn’t the strongest field but he looked so relaxed at the end. Suggesting he could have gone a lot deeper. He definitely could surprise the big guys here.

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The other rider is his team-mate Dan Martin. Another man who is at home on the steep ramps. He’s not raced since LBL but that doesn’t concern me too much, he was excellent at the start of the season winning the first hill-top finish at Valenciana. Furthermore, he smoked the opposition up La Molina in Catalunya which is a similar climb to this. He probably won’t win the GC but he has a good chance to go into yellow here.

As you can see in the video above, the two Etixx riders off the front look sprightly. I’d suggest that they’re Martin and Alaphilippe.

Prediction

I think it’ll be hard to top the two main GC guys, with Contador probably being the most likely winner. However, as you may know by now if you’ve read a few of my previews, going for the favourite all the time isn’t my thing. So I say we get a Contador, Martin and Alaphilippe podium. It’s just over to the order and I think it’ll be the Irishman on the top step. This 10-15 minute effort looks like the ideal length for him and combined with its gradients, he definitely could surprise. Remember, this isn’t a normal TT!

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Betting

I’m backing the two Etixx riders I’ve mentioned.

0.5pts EW on each.

Alaphilippe @ 18/1 with various sites

Martin @ 66/1 with Betfair or B365

 

Hope you all enjoyed the preview, any feedback would be great as usual.

We should be in for a great spectacle tomorrow, everything will be left out on that climb!

Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro stage 15: Castelrotto – Alpe di Siusi

Today’s Recap

Well, that turned out to be an incredibly exciting stage in the end! For long periods of time I thought it was going to be another defensive race from the favourites and it looked like it was going to be a bore-fest. That was until we hit the brutal Passo Giau. Astana took over from Movistar and set a blistering tempo, shelling riders out the back. Amador lost contact but regained it on the descent.

On the next (and final) climb once Scarponi had finished his job, Nibali attacked. The GC favourites followed, apart from Amador and Valverde who were both dropped. A couple of counter-attacks later saw Kruijswijk, Nibali and Chaves clear. They worked well for a bit, but Kruijswijk soon attacked again and only Chaves could follow. Those two powered away on the climb (although Nibali did well to stay close-ish), and caught up with 2nd and 3rd on the road at the summit. A frantic descent and flat chase saw them catch lone escapee Atapuma in the final 3km. Preidler took up the sprint from far out, but Chaves (and Kruijswijk) came round him in the final 150m to take the win. The smiling assassin strikes again.

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Nibali put in a great descent and effort on the flat to only lose 37 seconds on the stage, the rest of the GC guys were at least 2mins 30secs down. So it leaves the GC looking like this going into a crucial stage tomorrow:

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The Route

Three words every cycling fan loves to here and I’m sure three words that the majority of cyclists despise: Mountain Time Trial.

A mountain TT returns to the Giro after a years absence, last featuring in the race back in 2014, when Quintana won the climb, and probably the Strava to boot, up to Cima Grappa.

The organisers have been kinder this year, as it’s not as tough as Cima Grappa, but it is still a grippy test for the riders.

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Whole route profile
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The climb proper – after the intermediate time check

“The stage is an uphill individual time trial. After a first false-flat drag (1,800 m), the route climbs steadily over the next 9 km, with an average 8.3% gradient. The road is wide and well paved. Straight stretches alternate with hairpins having a high bend radius. Split time is taken at km 4.4.” (Road book extract)

As you can see, the climb starts off relatively mundanely until we reach the intermediate check point. Hereafter, it averages 8.6% for 6.4km. Not the most difficult climb, but it will be a challenge after today’s GC fireworks!

Weather Watch

A sunny glorious day, everyone should get the same conditions.

The only concern might be the wind, but it appears that it’s coming from the same direction and the speed doesn’t change much throughout the afternoon.

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Who are the stage contenders?

One thing to consider is if anyone will actually use a TT bike. It was worth it back in 2014 because there was a longer flat section before the climb started, so the riders changed bikes after the first time checkpoint (before the start of the climb). Considering there is only 1.8km of false flat here, I doubt we’ll see anyone use one. Therefore, this eliminates the advantage that some riders would have had by riding better TT machines.

I wouldScreen Shot 2016-05-21 at 18.38.10 not be surprised to see the top 3 on GC be the top 3 on the stage tomorrow. It looks like the bookies think the same, with Paddy Power pricing them up as follows (image on the left). I can’t fault their logic either. I’m struggling really to think who will challenge the top 3.

Majka maybe? He was the one closest to following them on the final climb and he can put in a solid TT.

Zakarin? Was flying in the rolling TT, but has looked out of sorts since his crash during it. He was with Majka today.

Uran was following with Zakarin but then went pop too. Nothing convinces me he’ll challenge here.

Valverde and Amador? I wouldn’t dare go near them after their implosion today.

Jungels? This TT is a different kettle of fish to the one he went to so well in, earlier in this race. If this was a one-week race he could maybe compete. But he finished 6mins+ down today, so I think he’s burnt out a bit.

Henao did an okay performance back in 2014, finishing 8th on that stage. A top 5 would be a good result.

Of the non-GC guys who could go best? Nieve and Roglic on paper probably look the best. Nieve has looked very solid on the climbs. He finished 3’52 down today, offering his support to Sebastian Henao and his efforts for the Youth Jersey.

Roglic: 2nd in the first TT, 1st in the 2nd TT, can he do a repeat performance here? He was going well on the steep climbs earlier in the year and has obviously proved during this race that he can TT. Only concern is that he went down the other day and hasn’t seemed as strong since.

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The other big concern with backing non-GC guys on a day like this is that they might not give it 100%, and just take it as another “rest-day”. Well, as much of a rest as an uphill 10km effort is!

Therefore I say we get the 1-2-3 on GC as 1-2-3 on the podium tomorrow. I’m just struggling to decide what order.

Chaves is the weakest normal TTer, but as I’ve said earlier, this is no normal TT. In fact, up until today he looked the best on the climbs. I’m sure he’ll cope just fine tomorrow!

Kruijswijk has now joined him at the top of the pile. He looked very strong when dropping Nibali, but Chaves came across to him relatively easily. Kruijswijk is the better guy on the flat, so he might gain a few seconds there over Chaves. It will be close.

And then there’s the Shark. He went pop on the final climb, but limited the time-gap fairly well and used his descending skills to close the gap. He brought it back even more on the flat, but I think that’s because the two ahead of him stopped working that well with each other. That work on the flat shows that he’s still relatively strong. But on reflection, his attacks from yesterday might have been those of panic, because he’s not as good as he should be.

Prediction

As I missed out on him today and he seems to be the best climber in the race, I say the Smiling Assassin makes it 2 from 2 tomorrow, with Kruijswijk 2nd and Nibali 3rd. Simples.

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Betting

With there being some room for error, if you can find Chaves at 4/1 or higher, then back him EW. As you should be able to get your stake back when he at least podiums.

I’ve backed him 5pts EW at 9/2 but that price has gone now. So my official blog bet is 5pts at 4/1 EW (as I’m sure someone will make him that price). If he’s not that price, then a 2.5pt straight up bet will suffice, because there is no value backing him EW under 4/1.

*I’ll update this (and my Twitter later) if I find somewhere that he is over 4/1)*

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*UPDATE – 9/2 IS OFFICIAL BLOG BET ^^ *

Hope you all enjoyed today’s stage and this preview! As usual, any feedback or discussion would be great. Get a few beers in for tomorrow, sit-back, and relax, watching the riders giving it their all in the Race of Truth. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.