Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Nîmes -> Gruissan

Today’s Recap

I should never have doubted them, should I?!

BMC win yet another TTT, being the only team to best the 16 minute mark.

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Dennis was the first man across the line so he is the first rider in the leader’s jersey of the race.

With a sprint finish likely tomorrow, there is a good chance he will hold onto it for a few days.

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

The Route

A flat jaunt along the Mediterranean coastline, with a little change of direction inland before turning back towards the sea for the finish in Gruissan.

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In terms of altimetry, there is nothing much to talk about at all. The highest peak of the day is just over 40m above sea level…

It could be a fairly benign day, but the finish could cause a surprise or two.

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They will tackle a roundabout at 2.5km to go, taking the sharp left.

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Said sweeping roundabout. The riders will have to knock a little bit of speed through it and it will certainly stretch out the peloton.

Will a team then have enough firepower to keep the pace high over the next 2 kilometres? If not, there could be a lot of jostling for position with things getting scrappy.

Especially when the road narrows at ~1km to go as the riders head off the main road and towards the town.

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The slip-road only lasts for 150m or so but it will certainly be a point some of the teams will be racing for. It is much more realistic for a team to control it from there to the finish with a few riders.

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It wouldn’t be the Vuelta without some type of “challenge” in the final kilometre. Tomorrow’s is a roundabout with roughly 350m to go. It’s not too tight, but the riders won’t be able to smooth out the corner completely.

Having one man peeling off just out of the roundabout and leaving the “pilot fish” with the sprinter is the ideal tactic here. Can anyone pull it off?

Weather Watch

We spend a lot of the day travelling parallel to the coast line so of course I have to mention the prospect of crosswinds.

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Although oddly enough, the wind isn’t coming from the sea. Instead, it comes from in-land and pushing towards the coast.

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That makes it less likely for echelons early on in the day but not improbable. There are some exposed sections as we head in land though, such as this part of the D-37 as we head towards Sérignan.

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At around 80km to go, is it too early for a team to try to split it?

They will turn more into a cross-head-wind afterwards so a lot of the riders might not fancy it. But the wind direction is pretty organic, much like the teams attitudes towards crosswinds. If they sense a chance to push it, I’m sure some will try!

If we do see splits then those dropped will hope that the wind direction becomes more of a headwind to deter the teams pushing on. It will be a race to the 30km to go banner in that case as once the riders turn to home, they’ll have a stonkingly big tailwind for the remainder of the day. Anyone gapped will find it difficult to get back.

So do I think we’ll see echelons? I’m hopeful, but not overly confident.

Sprinters

We don’t exactly have a long list of guys here and a the majority of them don’t have much help. Things could be messy…

Degenkolb.

On paper he is the most experienced/best sprinter here but he hasn’t raced since the Tour. Rolling home today makes me think that he still might be finding his legs and tomorrow’s long stage could be a struggle for him this early on. Of course, he could have been conserving energy after giving his all in the first part of the TTT but the signs aren’t good.

Theuns.

If Degenkolb isn’t sprinting then Theuns will be Trek’s main man. Full of confidence after his first World Tour win at the BinckBank Tour, he looked lightning quick then. He is off to a new team so there could be some tension within his current squad but as professionals I wouldn’t expect that to play too big a part. With a lot of helpers for Contador, whoever sprints for Trek will most likely only be able to rely on De Koert and possibly Pantano. A late charge to the front à la Lampre of old?!

Cort Nielsen.

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A double stage winner last year, he certainly enjoyed his first Grand Tour. Fast after a tough, long day, tomorrow’s stage looks good for him and I’m sure he’ll be hoping for crosswinds to reduce the bunch. Although maybe he won’t, as he is supposedly on team help duty before getting his own opportunity if the Orica GC riders are safe within the last 10km. It will be interesting to see how it plays out for him with no lead-out.

Modolo – Won a sprint in Poland but DNF’d that race. He is a really hit or miss rider so who knows how he’ll go tomorrow!

Trentin – He’ll more than likely be QS rider of choice for tomorrow. If they dedicate a lead-out to him then they have a fairly strong team with several strong rouleurs to push things on for him. Looking strong lately, I think he has a good chance of a result.

Blythe – The Brit will be hoping for echelons tomorrow to reduce his opposition. A good classics rider, he should make the first split if he’s being attentive and will fancy his chances in a reduced bunch. He could struggle in a big bunch gallop though, but with it being messy he could seize the opportunity.

Lobato – Seems to be finding form again but this pure flat sprint isn’t great for him. Almost guaranteed to be dropped if the wind picks up.

Van Genechten – Just a bit of a “meh” sprinter and typifies this field we have here. Will struggle to repeat his win from last season.

Debuscherre – Will be praying for echelons as he seems to have lost his way as a big bunch sprinter this year. That lack of confidence won’t help in the slightly sketchy finish.

Schwarzmann – Arguably has one of the strongest sprint lead-outs here in terms of pure power. Often a lead-out man himself, will he grasp his opportunity to shine?

Vuelta Picks

Safe Pick – Cort.

It’s tough to choose a “safe” pick for this stage as anything could happen out on the road with possible echelons and a messy sprint. Not knowing which of the Trek riders will be sprinting, it is wise to avoid them, although I would lean towards Theuns. Cort should be sprinting and as one of the fastest here he should guarantee a top 5.

Wongshot Pick – Theuns.

On form he is arguably the fastest rider here, it just depends if he sprints or not. Hence why he is the wongshot.

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Zurlo.

Fell today so he might be tasked with doing some work early on for Modolo and roll home at the end of the day.

Prediction

Trek to take advantage of Theuns is great form just now, letting him sprint, with the Belgian duly delivering!

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Betting

1pt EW Theuns @ 22/1 with Bet365 (would take 14/1 lowest – others might actually price up higher later on)

Also for a bit of fun I’ve doubled that up Sam Bennett for the Cyclassics at 528/1…

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Nîmes -> Nîmes

And so our watch begins…

The Vuelta kicks off tomorrow evening with a tasty team time trial. Last year we saw Sky beat Movistar by less than a second over a 28km course, with Pete Kennaugh taking the leader’s jersey.

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Will we see an even smaller winning margin this year given the shorter route?

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

The Route

A course that starts off technical, but it does seem to ease off later on in the stage.

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There are several 90-degree turns where the TT-trains will be strung out even more than they normally are. Consequently, a team with good technique could gain time through these turns as their riders don’t have to scramble back onto the wheel in front of them.

Furthermore, teams that practice peel offs and TTTs in general will be at a massive advantage due to the timing that is involved when changing lead rider. You don’t want to be pulling over through a corner, that’s for sure. A level-headed and experienced DS is of almost equal importance in that situation!

Things do get easier later on in the route, with several long straight roads where the strongest of teams can put the power down.

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We do have a Cat-3 climb at just over the half-way point but is no more than a pitiful excuse to hand out the KOM jersey at the end of the day. I mean compared to the other Cat-3s which we have at this race, 2.4km at 1.6% is laughable. It will be the easiest KOM points anyway gets all race!

Thanfully it looks as if all the teams will get similar conditions so there will be no weather affected surprises/disappointments.

As for the start times; the first team off the ramp is Manzan Postobon at 17:30 CET, with Trek last to set off at 18:54. All of the other squads will be sent out at 4 minute intervals.

You can view all of the start times here.

Contenders

BMC.

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It is nigh on impossible to have a TTT where BMC are not favourites. They lost their TTT crown last year but they have been the team to dominate this discipline over the past couple of seasons. In 2017 they’ve taken notable TTT victories in Catalunya and Tirreno. They do arrive slightly light in terms of their usual crack squad; with only Dennis and Oss representing them at the World’s last year. The likes of Roche and Van Garderen are solid replacements but they don’t seem as invincible as they have in the past. They are rightly favourites, however I think they won’t have it 100% their way.

Quick Step.

 

The TTT world champions arrive here with three of that contingent (Jungels/Lampaert/Terpstra) and add to them with a lot of other strong, well-rounded riders such as Trentin and Alaphilippe. They’ve underperformed in recent TTTs but in this type of race I think they can turn it around. The course looks ideal for them, with a good mix of sharp corners that require some explosiveness, but also longer power sections where their diesel engines can open up the taps.

Team Sky.

Winners of a much lumpier TTT last year, they have been very hit or miss as of late. On for a good time at Tirreno until their wheels decided to implode, they’ll hope to not be the laughing-stock this time around. Although their team looks a bit weak on paper, Sky always seem to turn up at Grand Tours. I’d be surprised if they finished outside of the top 3!

Honestly, I can’t see any team aside from those three compete for the win, so I don’t want to bore your time by pointlessly going through them all.

Prediction

I’ve changed my mind between those three teams several times which went something like this…

*Looking at teams*

“Ah QS bring a lot of strong rouleurs, really fancy them for this”

“But BMC are incredible at TTTs and are unbeaten this year. Surely they have this”

“Hold on a second, what about Sky? A quietly strong team who always go well in the big competitions and with the arguable GC favourite They’ll surely set a great time.”

I’m going to go with my gut instinct and initial thoughts when thinking of this yesterday/earlier today though.

Quick-Step to win!

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I really like their squad for this, it is so incredibly balanced. The shorter length of effort brings them a lot closer to BMC and looking at rider v rider, I actually think Quick Step have the better time trialists/rouleurs. Furthermore, with the whole Sanchez saga, the mood in the BMC camp might be a bit off just now, and I think they are there for the taking.

Vuelta Picks

As stated in my overall preview, I’ll be adding a new daily section to the blog where I discuss possible choices for the game; highlighting a “safe”, a “wongshot” and a “lanterne rouge” pick.

Safe – BMC.

Although I have a feeling they won’t win, given the form and history in TTTs over the past three seasons they are the team to back in this discipline. It would be very surprising to see them outside of the top 3, heck, even the top 2. Picking them could see you off to a good start. I won’t be choosing them though, which is probably good for you!

Wongshot – Sky.

I can’t see anyone other than those three wining tomorrow and unlike potential breakaway days where I may as well just randomly choose a rider, that’s a little bit farfetched for this. Sky are the longest odds of the trio, therefore the Wongshot pick!

Lanterne Rouge – Caja Rural.

You would think I’d go with Manzana for this, but I actually think the Colombian team will put in more of an effort than the Spaniards. Caja will be in almost every break in the first few week so if they want to be given freedom to chase jerseys/stage wins then they need to lose a lot of time. Don’t get me wrong, Manzana might do the same thing, but given it is their first GT then I think the exuberance of wanting to perform well on every day will get the better of them.

Also, some of you may still not have any idea what I’m talking about! Vuelta Picks is a simple fantasy style where you pick a rider for every stage of the race, with their finishing position counting as your score. The lower the score the better. However, you are only allowed to use a rider once during the whole race, so there is some tactics involved with it. Although don’t listen to me on that front as I am a notorious Lanterne Rouge contender!

If you’re interested at all, it costs £10 to play – just put your name into the spreadsheet I’ll link below and Jason (the guy who is organising it all) will be in touch regarding payment and any other questions you have!

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/14U89El-B7h05tRgB5Lw8ml9pkF5v0ROvxH96-dk3w7o/edit#gid=0

If you do join, then you’ll have until tomorrow to make your first stage pick.

Betting

Very much tempted with a no bet, but I’m going to dip my toe in the water ever so slightly.

2pts WIN Quick Step @ 7/4 with various. (would take 13/8 lowest)

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win the TTT? Is it a clear-cut three-horse race? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.