Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2018 Stage 3 Preview; Benitatxell › Calpe

Today’s Recap

Did we honestly expect anything else?

As night follows day, Valverde wins a stage in an early Spanish race.

It was a well-timed move from the Movistar man who caught onto the coat tails of a strong Fuglsang at roughly 34km to go. The duo held off the Sky-led “peloton” over the summit of the climb, at which point Luis Leon Sanchez attacked and made the duo into a trio.

They worked well together and managed to extend the lead up to 30 seconds as Sky were leant on behind to do all the chasing. Other teams eventually chipped in but it was all in vain.

The trio held on to a 19 second advantage, battling it out in a sprint finish with El Bala taking the spoils, LLS second and Fuglsang third.

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The result means that Valverde now holds a 29 second lead over the majority of the main contenders (aside from LLS and Fuglsang, obviously) thanks to the time bonuses he received for winning.

Can Movistar put in a strong performance in the TTT tomorrow to keep him in contention?

The Route

A fast and dangerous blast along the coastline to the popular training camp location of Calpe.

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I would be very surprised if every team has not had at least one look at this course before their morning recon tomorrow.

It does feature some rolling hills which can upset the rhythm of the TTT, but there are also many downhill sections where speed can be maintained. That being said though, it is a very technical route for a TTT and a well-drilled squad can make all the difference.

TTT Route

As you can see, there are plenty of turns on the route so there might be some surprises at the end of the day. Will the traditional TTT outfits be able to put the power down?

Weather

Another factor tomorrow are the weather conditions; they are set forecast to be horrendous!

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Source: Windfinder

With a lot of rain predicted overnight and early morning, it is set to dry up in the afternoon. However, the roads will still be slick and not ideal for this type of effort. The rain combined with the twisting nature of the route make this quite a dangerous day in the saddle.

When you factor in the wind though, then we could see some carnage…

40km/h cross, cross-tail and tail winds will see the riders pushed all over the road and it will make the TTT incredibly difficult. After all, this is a discipline where the guys are so close together; requiring movements that are in sync with each other. It will make the timing of change-overs incredibly important because if you get that wrong, then your squad could be split due to the wind.

I’m personally looking forward to watching it but I’m sure the riders won’t be saying the same.

Contenders

BMC.

The best TTT team in the World (although Sunweb would argue with that given their 2017 title), the Swiss outfit come into this as favourites. They don’t have their crack squad with them but nonetheless, they have some very handy TTT riders in Valenciana. With plenty of power among their midst, I’d be very surprised not to see them on the podium come the end of the day. Stranger things have happened though.

Team Sky.

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Sky have a stupidly strong team here with them and they will expect nothing less than the win. They have engines throughout the roster and there theoretically should be no weak links. However, they are not the dominant force that they used to be in this discipline so I’m intrigued to see if they’ve got their act together over the winter. Let’s just hope the wheels don’t come off their title charge this time…

Sorry, that one was just too easy!

Movistar.

We’re in Spain and it’s a TTT, with Movistar always going well here. That could be through some good local knowledge, or it might be from some overly helpful camera motors, but who’s to judge! Valverde is back to his best already it seems and I’m sure he’ll be happy of the buffer he has. A loss of 30 seconds on the stage would be a solid result for him in the GC picture, but I imagine he’ll want to be a lot closer than that. One thing that concerns me is the bad weather and that might cause him to ease off a bit due to the nasty fall in the Tour last year. I hope it doesn’t ruin his overall chances.

Lotto Jumbo.

They have an under-rated squad for this discipline here with them in my opinion. Obviously they have a few stand-out TTers but the rest of the squad is very solid. I was impressed with how they rode on the opening day and if they perform anything like that tomorrow, they are dark horses for the stage. I just hope they’ve changed their tyre supplier from what they used in the rainy TT at the Tour last year.

Astana.

I wouldn’t normally include Astana in this, but given how aggressive they rode today, then why not! They have a mixed bag of riders here and will rely heavy on the likes of Sanchez, Fuglsang and Grivko, but they do have the power to compete. A top 5 and a 40 second loss at most would be a good return for them.

Prediction

It’s a TTT so the easy option would be to go with BMC but I just have a funny feeling Jumbo are going to surprise everyone. Don’t ask me why!

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I hope it’s more a Viviani “feeling” than an Alex Edmondson one.

Thanks as always for reading, who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see some big time gaps? Can Valverde hold onto the race lead? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Volta Catalunya 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Banyoles -> Banyoles

Today’s Recap

Well that was bitterly disappointing. No fireworks, no real attacks on the climbs and a proper bunch sprint in the end. Nonetheless, that shouldn’t take away from Cimolai’s great win, as he pipped Bouhanni to the line.

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It was Sbaragli who rounded out the podium for Dimension Data.

I know I’m often wrong with my preview’s but it has been a while since I’ve been that far off. Let’s move swiftly on to tomorrow and it’s stupidly long TTT!

The Route

Long, rolling Team Time Trial that will have a massive impact on the rest of the race.

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Profile once again provided by @LasterketaBurua. Although in TT and TTT tradition, I feel that I need to make my own one on Strava! So here it is, you can view it here too, for those that like something more interactive.

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Although I somehow seemed to have gained an extra kilometre out on course compared to the official distance. I think I may have made the start/finish line ever so slightly further up the road, oh well!

The course is populated with lots of short climbs and fast descents, with rolling terrain in between. The climbs aren’t overly tough, with most of them being 1-2km and averaging 2-3%, but on a TT bike that will take its toll.

The hardest ascents they’ll face are; the Carretera Del Veïnat De Deri Climb which averages 6% for 1.4kms; the Repetxo Orfes (1.4km at 3.7%); and the Esponellà-Martís (1.9km at 4.1%).

I’m very intrigued to see how the riders deal with the Carretera, considering it has ramps of over 15% and comes within the first 10kms of the stage. You don’t want the climbers blowing the rouleurs’ gasket already!

The finish line does kick up at the end but at only around 2% for a couple of hundred metres.

Contenders

Pffft, it’s hard to tell.

We hardly ever get TTTs of this length throughout the season, I mean, the World Championships in the past two years have been shorter!

BMC will be hoping to pick up from where they left off in Tirreno.

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They were exceptional in that race but they don’t have their strongest team here, substituting out a few of the big guys for some climbers. On this terrain that may help but I think it will hinder them more than it will benefit them. Nonetheless, they still can’t be discounted. Watching them doing a TTT is like poetry in motion!

Sky will be lamenting me putting the curse on them for the Tirreno TTT and their wheels literally falling off that effort. They have an incredibly strong squad with them for the mountains and some very strong TT engines. The hilly parcour certainly helps the likes of Landa and Nieve who aren’t the best time trial riders. They should podium, if not win, and put their crack squad of climbers in a great position before the mountain stages.

Movistar always perform well in TTTs in Spain. They were beaten by less than a second by Sky in the Vuelta TTT last year. With Castroviejo in their team they have massive talent but the rest of the squad looks a bit thin in comparison to the one that they took to Tirreno. Will home advantage overcome that? They also have the benefit of being the last GC team down the start ramp.

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The words “Team Time Trial” would normally bring smiles to the bosses at Quickstep, but they have a very weak team compared to their top riders. I fear Dan Martin might lose a fair bit of time.

The same can be said for Trek, who on paper have some good time trialists but they aren’t notoriously a good TTT outfit. Contador and Mollema will be playing catch-up the rest of this week, which should make for exciting racing at least!

One team aside from the Big 3 favourites that I do like for this TTT are Orica Scott. The Aussie team used to be the par excellence for this discipline but they lost their way. However, they recently seemed to have managed to their fortunes around and have a very strong all-round squad with them here. I’m expecting to be pleasantly surprised by them!

Prediction

It will be tough to beat one of the Big 3 and I would actually favour Team Sky out of the trio. I do think that Orica can manage a podium spot if not better!

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Betting

No value in the top of the order. Orica do offer a good option.

1pt EW Orica @25/1 with Bet365 (They’re offering 5th odds for 3 places – would take down to 20s)

Plus this H2H treble 3pts on @ 2.83/1 (would take down to 2.2/1)

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Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win this stupidly long TTT stage? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Tirreno Adriatico 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Lido di Camaiore -> Lido di Camaiore (TTT)

Tirreno Adriatico 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Lido di Camaiore -> Lido di Camaiore (TTT)

The race starts with a carbon copy of the opening team time trial we had last year, which BMC won by 2 seconds ahead of Etixx QuickStep and a very impressive FDJ in third place.

The Route

Pan-flat and very, very fast! The winning average speed last year was 56.948km/h.

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It’s not a technical route either, pretty much an out and back course with a few turns just past the halfway point.

That’s it really, nothing else to sum up!

The Teams

BMC arrive with a very similar team to the one that won this stage last year. Phinney and De Marchi are replaced by Dennis and Küng. They’ve not taken riders from the bottom of the pile anyway when replacing them, that’s for sure! One of the best TTT teams in the world, they’ll still be disappointed after their loss in Qatar and will want to remind everyone what they can do at this race. They are the team to beat!

Reigning World Champions QuickStep arrive with a fairly solid team. They are missing a few engines such as Lampaert but they still should be capable of putting in a good time. On one hand you could argue that without a GC rider they won’t be as committed but it’s QuickStep at the end of the day and they love to try to win everything.

FDJ will hope for a repeat of last year’s performance. They’ve improved their TT roster by recruiting my favourite Swede, Tobias Ludvigsson. However, I think they’ll struggle to achieve the same success this time round, maybe losing around 20 seconds to our eventual winners.

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After being a very good TTT squad a few years ago, Team Sky seemed to lose their way for a while. However, last year they seemed to regain their mojo in the discipline picking up a win in the opening stage at the Vuelta. They have a really good mix of riders here and are my dark horse to do well.

Movistar are always a solid TTT outfit but they struggle to perform outside of Spain at times. They do have a good team here to limit Quintana’s losses as much as possible but I can’t see them challenging for the win.

Lotto Jumbo are the new kids on the block in terms of TTT prowess. They’ve fast developed to be one of the best in the discipline and will be hoping for a podium spot to give Gesink and Roglic a good footing for the coming week.

Away from those teams, Orica, Sunweb and Bahrain will all hope to limit losses for their GC leaders and potentially nab a top 5 placing if they’re lucky.

Prediction

BMC are the team to beat and the most likely winners. They come here with an even better squad than that which won here last year!

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I’ll go with Sky to get in the top 3 though and possibly upset the applecart with a win if something crazy happens!

Betting

Some were lucky to get a massive 5/2 on BMC earlier today with Paddy Power. Unfortunately now as other bookmakers priced up they’ve been instated as the clear and rightful, odds on favourites in some places.

I still think they’ll win and I’m not letting the odds deter me this time! A big day ahead!

6pts WIN BMC @ 5/6 with Betfair. (would take 4/6)

1.5pt EW on Sky @ 11/1 with Betfair – they’re paying 3 places and 1/4 odds (would take 10/1)

1pt on this H2H treble with Bet365 that pays @ 6.98/1

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Thanks again for reading and as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win? Are BMC unbeatable? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Eneco Tour Stage 5 Preview: Sittard-Geleen -> Sittard-Geleen

Today’s Recap

King Sagan comes out on top again! Although it wasn’t as comfortable as he would have liked, with Greipel closing very fast right at the last, but Sagan managed to win with a track lunge.

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I only managed to catch the closing 30km but it was a very exciting end to the stage. We saw attacks from Martin and Dumoulin reeled back in, before Stuyven made a move on the final climb. He joined up with a strong Astana pair (Gruzdev & Grivko) who’d been out the front for the past 25km or so. They managed to hold on until the final 3km, where once again we had another relatively chaotic finish. There were crashes, sprint trains were all over the road and Laporte even ended up leading out Kristoff! As for Nizzolo, he was once again held up a couple of times and had to check his speed. Either bad luck or poor positioning, depends what way you look at it.

Anyway, moving on to a stage that will have a big impact on the GC.

The Route

A nice 20.9km Team Time Trial. The last chance for teams to get a race-day practice in before the Worlds!

The good thing about a TT is that I can accurately make the stage profile myself, so the Strava profile makes its return today. Huzzah!

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You can view the full profile here.

As per usual, the profile is exaggerated by the scale, with the route being mainly flat apart from the two climbs. However they are not as severe as the image above would suggest! There is only 145m of total elevation gain.

If you take the first climb’s start to be just after the 4km mark on the profile, it comes in at 3km long at 1.9%. However, there is a 600m stretch that averages 5.1%, or a 300m segment averaging 6%. Not exactly a leg-breaker of a climb but it will upset the rhythm of the teams. Niki Terpstra holds the Strava KOM for the whole thing, completing it in just over 4 minutes which highlights the type of rider who can power up here.

The second climb is much shorter. At 0.9km it averages an eye-watering (no sarcasm at all…) 4.2%!

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Then it’s a short descent followed by a flat run to the line. This is very much a rouleurs course, one for the strongmen and in this case teams.

A One-Horse Race?

BMC come into this stage as everyone’s favourite and rightly so! The back to back TTT World Champions have 5 out of 6 riders from their 2015 winning squad with them here and they’re by no means weakened with the addition of Rosskopf, Bohli and GVA. A truly formidable line-up! If you want, you can probably stop reading the preview now as they should be the winners barring any misfortune. But there are a few surprises further on, which is very unlike me, so keep on reading if you want! 😉

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Best of the rest

There are a few other teams who will be close in their battle for the podium spots or there to take the win if BMC mess up.

Movistar have a strong squad with them, managing to get 3 riders in the top 11 during the individual time trial. They’re always a very solid unit in this discipline, but rarely perform outside of Spain. Can they change that here?

Sky would normally be a team that I’d fancy to go well, especially considering their recent rejuvenation in the discipline. Although they do have a strong team of rouleurs here, their performances in the ITT and low finishing positions today does concern me. Furthermore, with Kiryienka pulling out today, I can’t see them turning it around tomorrow.

Etixx have a great core of strong TTers here with the likes of Martin, Terpstra and Jungels. However, it was actually Kittel who performed best in the individual event. If they click tomorrow then a podium spot is well within their capabilities, but they seem out of sorts recently and they’ll sorely miss Boonen. I’m not ruling them out fully like Sky, but I’m not as keen on them as I was pre-race.

Cycling: 10th Tour de San Luis 2016 / Stage 1

One of the teams that was well represented during the ITT was LottoNL-Jumbo. They ended up with three riders inside the top 6. Now, they’ve not been great in the team version recently but they do have a squad of strong rouleurs. A top 5 would be a good result, but with a great ride they could sneak onto the podium.

The same can be said for Giant Alpecin. With Dumoulin, Kragh-Andersen and Haga, they were well represented in the individual time trial. A strong unit, they could go on to surprise a few.

Orica send a fairly weak TTT squad by their standards, and with Hayman not finishing today they’ve lost a big engine. I don’t think they’ll make the podium.

Tinkoff, Astana, Trek, Cannondale and IAM are all capable of pulling out a shock performance here but realistically they’ll be aiming for a top 10 and not losing too much time on GC.

Prediction

I already told you above, BMC win!

As for the podium, I expect Movistar to finish upon it but there is space for a “surprise” team to make it on. Either Giant or Jumbo and I’ll go for the bumblebees with that home advantage!

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Betting

No bet so far. Will post any H2H on my Twitter if there’s something I like. Or when other odds come up.

Thanks again for reading and well done if you didn’t leave early! Can you see anyone beating BMC and will there be any surprise performances? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

La Vuelta Stage 1 Preview

La Vuelta Stage 1 Preview

The first stage of the final Grand Tour of the year is upon is, and going with recent Vuelta tradition, we start with a Team Time Trial. Great, I do love a TTT! This year’s effort isn’t going to be as farcical as the route we had last year along the beach to Marbella where GC times were neutralised. Let’s take a look at the stage.

The Route

A nice flat TTT for the specialist’s seems to be the memo.

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Going off the official profile it would be safe to assume that it’s a straightforward day, where the proper TT engines of the peloton come to the fore along fairly flat roads. Well you’d be wrong my friend, this is the Vuelta after all, where stage profiles should be taken with a pinch of salt!

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My strava profile of the stage

In TT tradition, I’ve created a profile on Strava for the stage that you can view here. At first glance, this profile looks nothing like the official profile. This is due to the different vertical axis that have been used. In the Strava profile it goes from 80m-180m whereas the official profile is 0-600m. Quite the difference!

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that my Strava profile grossly exaggerates some of the rises and lumps, particularly in the middle part of the stage. However, it does give a better idea of the rolling nature of the course. For example, the first kilometre is pretty much all up-hill, averaging roughly 4-5% but there is no suggestion of that in the official profile. GCN highlight this in their video preview of the stage.

The most demanding climb on the course is from 21.8km to 24.2km to go, which averages a lowly 3.6% for those 2.4km. However, the final 500m of that section averages close to 8%. Again, this is just a small little bump on the official profile.

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The start of that 500m section

There are some fast and technical sections along the route too, particularly the descent off of the climb mentioned above.

So in summary, the route is more difficult than originally thought and brings a few more teams into the equation. There are some testing ramps that result in constant changes of tempo at times and this definitely benefits a few teams more than others. In contrast, the proper TTT powerhouses will still fancy their chances. It should make for some good racing!

However, there are still only 7 teams at most that can win this in my opinion.

Stage Contenders

Where best to start than with the current World Champions, BMC. They only have two of that world’s winning squad here with them (TVG & Dillier), but they are still a very strong and powerful unit. All of the riders should be able to cope with the undulating nature of the course and they will definitely be the team to beat.

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Second at the World’s last year was Etixx – Quick Step and they’ll be hoping to go one better here. Like BMC, they also have two of that squad here with them (Terpstra & Lampaert) with the rest of the squad filled out with powerful riders. They’ll go well here.

Orica traditionally go well in TTTs and have two of their last World’s squad with them as well (Tuft & Bewley). Again, a strong team that’s not outstanding, they will hope for a strong result but I can’t see them winning this.

Astana are normally very hit and miss with their TTTs, the squad that arrives here suggests that they’ll do the former. They have a good mix of strong rouleurs and solid climbers. I expect a surprise from them, a podium would be good!

After winning the Tour, Team Sky come here with a lot less pressure on them. They have a solid squad, a real mix bag of riders. They were great at TTT’s a few years ago, but lost their way recently. This almost mirrors Froome’s individual TT performance, will we see a similar return to form? It is very much on the cards I think!

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Next up are a team that always go well in Spain: Movistar. The only Spanish World Tour team save their best for home soil and yet again they bring a strong squad here. With the route being more undulating than originally thought will help them as they have a solid group of climbers on the team.

Tinkoff usually go fairly well and with Contador’s GC hopes, they’ll have to do the same here. Bodnar & Bennati are very strong in this type of discipline. I can’t see them challenge the top spot, but if they get a bit of luck a podium isn’t out of reach. Instead, I think a top 5 would be a good result for them!

Those teams will all be fighting for the top 5. The rest of the squads with GC contenders will just be hoping not to lose much time. We could see some reasonable time gaps!

Prediction

I think we all know where this is going…

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Guess the Spanish team will have to do then; Movistar to win the TTT! The knowledge of home/local roads and a mixture of good climbing abilities combined with power on the flats will see them through. It’s just a question of who they will put in the leader’s jersey, most likely one of the team’s “old-heads”, Erviti or Rojas.

Rojas in Rojo has a nice ring to it!

For what it’s worth, Sky and BMC will make up the podium.

Betting

Backing Movistar to win. 2pts WIN @3/1 with Bet365 (hunt around later when more bookies price up, I just want to get the preview out!)

I also like a H2H double with them too;

MOVISTAR to beat Lotto Jumbo, and ETIXX to beat Tinkoff.

3pts on  at 1.87/1

 

Thanks again for reading! Can you see any team beating the Spaniards? As usual, any feedback/discussion is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.