Women’s Road Race World Championships Preview – Bergen 2017

After some strong performances in the individual time trial on Tuesday, the rider’s focus now switches to the road race on Saturday afternoon.

Last year in Doha we had a large bunch sprint that was won rather surprisingly by Denmark’s Amalie Dideriksen.

Cycling: 89th Road World Championships 2016 / Women Elite

Pre-race favourite Wild could only manage second, with Finland’s Lepistö getting up for third. Two of those three are here this year, with Wild as a reserve for the Dutch team, will they be up at the pointy end come the finish tomorrow?

First, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

The women will face 8 laps of the circuit around Bergen, totalling 152.8km; which makes it one of the longer races the peloton will face all year.

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As for the circuit itself, it can be described as rolling with very little flat all day. Taken in isolation it is not too difficult but it can be made hard by some aggressive racing.

BergenRR Circuit

You can view my interactive profile for the circuit here.

The most challenging part of the route is of course “Salmon Hill”; I guess the sponsors wanted to get something out of the week! However, the road does ramp upwards before then and the climb can be taken as a 3.7km test.

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It’s not steep like the climb we had in the time trial, but it is long enough to cause some splits in the bunch. Will a rider try to take advantage of some of the sharp ramps to get an advantage?

With 10km to go from the crest, it could be tough for someone to stay away though. A small group definitely has a better chance.

Conversely, those final 10km allow for a chase to get organised and reel it in. “Organised” is the key word there though! In both the road races today, the chase was not coherent enough and the escapees held on for victory. Will something similar happen tomorrow? I’ll guess we’ll have to wait and see…

How will the race pan out – Dominant Dutch?

As is often the case when we arrive at World Championship’s the Dutch bring a formidable team. We saw this last year when they had a superstar squad in support of Kirsten Wild, but one that would be allowed to chase an opportunity if it arose. Unfortunately it didn’t work out last year so they’ll be hoping to bring another World title home this time.

I could feasibly make an argument for all of their starting 8 riders to win the race, although some would be more farfetched than others. Nonetheless, it just highlights their immense strength in-depth. I’m not sure they go into the race with an out-and-out leader; possibly Vos might be kept back for a bunch sprint. But then again, Blaak or Pieters could fill that role if the 3x-former champion is allowed to do what she wants. Van Vleuten and van der Breggen were exceptional in the time trial and both clearly are in great form. I imagine they will be the prime attackers, hoping to split the race up on Salmon Hill. Can anyone follow?

I think if we see a group escape in the closing laps that has 2 Dutch riders within it then that will be game over and the winner will come from there.

The one reason I say this is because no other team has an Ellen van Dijk. She is incredible and can bring back strong breakaways herself by setting a strong tempo at the head of the peloton.

There are a few teams who might hope for a 40-50 rider sprint, such as Denmark, USA and maybe Australia, but I don’t think anyone has the firepower to bring back a strong move on their own. They’ll need a lack of cohesion up ahead, and a lot of co-operation behind for that to happen.

The next to consider is that if the smaller group will come to the line and sprint it out, or if it will fragment and split again. That of course all depends on numbers and team representatives, but I think it will split into a smaller group which will battle it out for the win.

Possible Contenders

Aside from the Dutch team, there are plenty of riders who will love the route tomorrow but the following list won’t be excessive, so apologies if I have missed someone you were looking/hoping for.

Coryn Rivera.

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The US pocket rocket has had a great first year racing for a European team. She’s proven that she is much more than a fast sprinter though as her climbing has developed a lot. In the Ardennes she was able to follow the best until the very final stages of the race. I don’t think the US team will be banking on it coming back for a big bunch sprint tomorrow so both Rivera and Guarnier will be given license to attack. If the Sunweb rider does come to the line in a small group, she has to be the favourite.

Hannah Barnes.

The British team have one of the favourites in the shape of Deignan but her form is unknown just now after having her appendix removed. I think they’ll ride an aggressive race and hope to get two riders into any strong move that goes off the front. With everyone marking Deignan, then Barnes could make the final selection. She performed above expectations in the TT so she is in good shape. Not as strong a climber as some of the others, she won’t be too far off the pace but will hope that the final selection will have gone before Salmon Hill. With a fast sprint after a tough day, she is an outsider to keep an eye on!

Pauline Ferrand Prevot.

Former World Champion and arguably the rider with one of the best season’s of all time back in 2014/2015 when she held 3 separate World titles, the Frenchwoman has a good chance of going well again here. A pretty uneventful season due injury and illness; she’s only managed 8 race days so far; picked up again at Plouay where she finished second to Deignan. Since then she has went on to podium at the mountain bike Worlds and could really have challenged Neff for gold if it had not been for an untimely puncture. She can climb and with a fast sprint from a small group, she won’t be afraid to bring it to the line.

Shara Gillow.

A rider who I have grown fond of over this season (it has absolutely nothing to do with her being in my season long fantasy team, I promise), the Aussie can climb with some of the best in the world on her day. I expect their squad to be attacking all day and Gillow is certainly someone who can follow attacks on the climbs. She lacks any kind of sprint really, but she makes up for that by being a strong time trial rider. Something I’m sure Carlton will remind you of tomorrow! If we get a group out front and she times her attack perfectly, it might just stick. Look out for her and her now standard snood off the front!

Leah Kirchmann.

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Another one of those riders who is a solid climber but also packs a good sprint. She recorded a top 15 back at Liege in the Spring which highlights her ability on the short climbs. However, she might find it difficult to follow some of the strong climbers if they go crazy on Salmon Hill. Nonetheless, if she can remain close to the front and there is some type of regrouping then she is a danger in the sprint.

As I mentioned above, of course there are several riders who could contest but I’ve only cherry-picked a handful for the preview. It should be an open race but I don’t think the winner will be a “surprise”.

Prediction

The Dutch to have ‘too many cooks’ and with everyone expecting them to chase down every move as the strongest team; Pauline Ferrand Prevot to take advantage and win her second road title, signalling that her career is back on track!

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Van der Breggen to pick up her second second of the week, with Barnes coming home just behind them in third.

Betting

Three selections from me to cover a few options; PFP as my favourite, Barnes as an outsider, then Gillow as a solo arrival. I’ve already backed Barnes at 300/1 but that price is long gone. I think the 66/1 available is still worth a punt though.

1.5pt EW PFP @ 20/1 with Ladbrokes/Coral (would take 16s)

0.75pt EW Barnes @ 66/1 with SkyBet/PP/BF (would take 50s)

0.5pt WIN Gillow @ 150/1 with Bet365 (would take 100s)

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone outsmart the Dutch team? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Team Time Trial World Championships – Bergen 2017 Preview

Team Time Trial World Championships – Bergen 2017 Preview

We’re at that sad time of the year again where the World Championships begin and the season starts to draw to a close. The opening event as per usual, is the “art form” of the team time trial.

In 2016 we saw QuickStep (then Ettix) power their way around the pan-flat course in Doha amid some searing heat to beat BMC and Orica. A slight surprise given BMC’s dominance in the event throughout the year leading up to the World Champs.

As for the women, Boels continued their incredibly impressive season by blitzing the opposition, beating Canyon by 48 seconds and Cervelo by a shade under 2 minutes. Not bad!

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Will we see similar looking podiums this year? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Both the men and women will compete over the same course which is fantastic for me, as I don’t have to do double the work for nothing, or just pointlessly repeat myself which would bore you!

https://veloviewer.com/routes/10581357/embedAs is tradition nowadays, I’ve made my own profile for the route that you can hopefully see embedded above…

If not, you can view the interactive version here.

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“Appears flat-ish but surprisingly hilly” is how I would describe the route. There are no real severe gradients in the course apart from a few small climbs, but according to the Strava/Veloviewer data there is over 1100m of elevation gain.

I’m going to throw that slightly out of the window though as the app does get a bit confused when tracking through tunnels and over bridges etc, but it won’t be too far off. My estimate would be ~900m of elevation gain; which is still quite a lot for a TTT.

The first test the riders will face is a 1.2km climb at 4.8% that comes just after 3.5km into the day. Not ideal for “easing yourself into it”! The route then rises and falls constantly for the following 7kms as we head towards the second longest suspension bridge in Norway. A poor man’s Forth Road Bridge if you ask me…

Anyway, the first slightly anomaly on the profile comes just after that. The riders do go up a steep ramp, but it is not as sudden as it initially seems. Instead, it is more of a gradual rise through the tunnel, before flattening out.

Yet more undulating terrain follows before the riders face the toughest task of the day.

Averaging 5.4% for 2.2km isn’t crazy, but that includes the more shallow build up in the overall total. The main bulk of the climbing is actually done over 1.1km…

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It’s a bit more difficult than the 1.4km at 7.2% that is suggested on the official profile.

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The steepness of the slopes could certainly ruin the cohesion in a team and potentially ruin their chances at they head into the final section of the race.

Once over the climb, the riders will have some more rolling roads to contend with but they are mainly in their favour now, with the parcours descending ever so slightly all the way into Bergen.

Men’s Race

The usual teams arrive here with strong aspirations in this event so let’s start with the reigning champions.

Quick Step.

They bring a very solid all round squad with them here and they’ll once again be challenging for the title. It will be interesting to see what order they rotate in and who they intend to drop as the race progresses. I imagine Vermote probably won’t be there at the finish line! With all that said, I just can’t see them winning it this year.

BMC. 

The dominant force in TTTs for so long, they’re undefeated this season. Yet, this route is arguably the least favourable that they will have faced all year. With them in Bergen they do have a lot of strong guys who are more than competent climbers such as van Garderen and Dennis, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did win. Yet, looking at their squad, you just don’t get the same “fear factor” that was there in previous years. They are beatable.

Sunweb.

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Somewhat of a surprise package that took third place at the Vuelta this year; they’ve made some steady progress throughout the season. In fact, I’d go as far to argue that they have been one of, if not, the best performing teams in 2017. I really like the look of their squad that they bring here and it is very well-balanced. Dumoulin will obviously be heavily relied on but their not exactly short of talent to back him up. Watch out for them!

Team Sky.

I wonder if Moscon can just drag the other 5 around with him? With the way he was riding in the last week of the Vuelta, it wouldn’t surprise me! Not exceptional in the discipline recently, Sky are more likely to be remembered for their exploding wheels at Tirreno this season compared to any of their on the bike TTT performances. However, their squad is stacked with strong riders who can handle this terrain. If there is ever a TTT WC Sky could win, this is it.

I can’t really see past any of those 4 squads winning. Orica should be fighting it out for a top 5 with Jumbo, with Movistar not too far behind.

Women’s Race.

Boels.

There you go, there’s your preview…

Joking aside, the Dutch outfit should have this one in the bag to make it back-to-back titles. They lost some of their TT prowess at the end of last year with Van Dijk moving to Sunweb and Stevens retiring. To replace them they did recruit van der Breggen and Pieters; not a bad swap! The rolling course could cause some difficulties but given everyone in their line-up is a solid climber, then it shouldn’t be too stressful for them. It will take some bad luck for them not to retain their crown, or a crazily strong ride from some opposition teams!

Cervelo.

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The up-and-coming TTT team in the women’s peloton, they are Boels’ nearest challengers in my opinion. At the recent Vargarda TTT they finished only 13 seconds behind the Dutch outfit over a similar distance. The route tomorrow is hillier, which probably doesn’t favour their squad as a whole. Nonetheless, with the likes of Ludwig, Moolman and Lepistö, they certainly have some firepower in their ranks!

Canyon.

The “old guard” of women’s TTT racing. In previous incarnations they were almost unstoppable in this event, but they have since lost their ways. The squad that they bring with them here gives me a similar feeling to QuickStep. They are strong, don’t get me wrong, but I just don’t see them having enough to challenge Boels and in fact, I think they’ll cede their silver place to Cervelo this year.

Sunweb and Veloconcept will be battling it out for 4th, hoping that another team has a bad day so that they can win a medal!

Fantasy Games

There are a couple of fantasy games for the World Champs that I’m going to plug.

First of all is the return of Cycling Picks/Rainbow Picks, which will be free to play this time around. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any prizes though, as the lovely people @handmadecyclist are offering one of their WC mugs for the winner!

Follow Jason (Cycling_Picks) to get involved, or simply enter your name on the spreadsheet that can be found here. All rules etc are viewable on the sheet etc, or if you’re still unsure how it works, get in contact with Jason!

Secondly, @InsidePeloton96 is going to be running a World Champs “Fantasy Fives” that I’m sure he’ll be releasing over the coming days which you should also get involved with. I say that, as I had to curate the price list for the women’s side of the game. You might find a few bargains hidden in there…

Prediction

Boels and Sky win. Simple!

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I wonder if we can parody Mr Blue Sky, a.k.a Mr Boels Sky?

Sunweb and BMC to make up the podium, with Cervelo and Canyon doing the same in the women’s race.

Betting

Nothing really excites me for the outright markets, so I’ve went for a H2H 5-fold for some entertainment over the afternoon.

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The odds have now shortened quite a bit since yesterday evening, but I’d still back it at the 9.45/1 available. 1.5pt WIN.

 

Thanks as always for reading the preview! Who do you think is going to win the TTTs? Will we see a shock result? The next preview I’ll be releasing is the Women’s ITT so please return for that. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Ladies Tour of Norway 2017 Preview

Another race to step up to Women’s World Tour level this year, the Ladies Tour of Norway celebrates only its 4th edition in 2017.

Last year as a 2.1 race, we saw a very dominant Rabo-Liv team take all three spots on the podium at the end of the Tour, with Lucinda Brand finishing ahead of De Jong and Koster.

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The current champion isn’t going to be here to defend her crown but with the step up to WT level, the startlist is stacked with talent waiting to take over.

First of all though, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders over the next 4 days.

The Route

Prologue.

LTONP

Full profile viewable here.

The race starts with a short and explosive prologue on Thursday evening. Pretty much pan-flat, this is an effort that will suit the strong riders of the peloton, but also those who can hold a high power over a short period of time, i.e. some of the sprinters!

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The circuit is quite technical with a few tight turns involved over the course, meaning being able to power out of them and get back up to full speed quickly is a massive advantage. We’ve not seen a prologue at this race since back in 2014 when Vos won a very similar circuit in Halden. Can she repeat that on the opening day? Given her current form, it is definitely a possibility!

There is a chance of rain later in the day which could make things a bit of a lottery.

With such a short effort, there are a lot of riders who could be involved in the shake up at the end of the day.

I’ll go with Wiggle rider Annette Edmondson to take the win though. She won the prologue at the BeNe Tour earlier in the year, although that admittedly was half the length, but she is a rider with the perfect mix of explosiveness and sustained power to compete here. I mean, she is a pursuit medalist on the track after all!

Stage 1.

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Full profile viewable here.

A stage that is similar to what we saw in the Women’s Tour earlier in the year, where the road is constantly up or down all day. Now, these undulations normally aren’t too much in terms of length and gradient, but it is their repeated nature that could wear down the bunch.

Another thing that could make the day more selective than it may initially look on paper is the weather. Friday looks to be a pretty grim day and in the finish town of Mysen there is a chance of rain throughout the afternoon. The same can be said for elsewhere on the course and it could turn it into a race of attrition.

Once the riders reach Mysen they will face a 6.2km circuit that they will tackle three times.

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The circuit isn’t overly tough so some of the sprinters teams might want to control it but there are a few points where the opportunists might want to launch their attacks. It looks very balanced in that regard!

The most obvious launchpad is the 500m section (2.5 -> 3km) that averages 4.5%. With only 3km of the circuit left, if a strong trio or quartet of riders escapes here then they could be hard to bring back.

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As for the run in itself, the road does rise ever so slightly during 300m preceding the final turn you see above, where the riders will take a left and face then final 250m finishing straight.

Will it be a bunch sprint or a small escape group who fight out stage honours?

Given that there are only 4 stages in the race (including the prologue) then there isn’t much time for anyone wanting to make a tilt at the GC crown to make their move. Therefore I do think we’ll see a relatively attacking race on the opening road stage, where the bunch is whittled down due to the combination of a fast pace and bad weather. Once we get near the closing circuit we might have around 60 riders left at the head of the race.

From there, a group of riders from the “stronger” teams will escape and fight out the stage.

I’ll go with Leah Kirchmann for the win. After a breakthrough 2016 the Canadian has had a much slower 2017 so far, but her results have been steadily picking up some progress and headed in the right direction. She was third at the recent Vargarda and packing a punchy sprint she might just go better here!

Stage 2.

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Full profile viewable here.

A straightforward day, but a relatively long one at 144km. There is a lot more elevation gain than what we have on Stage 1, but the majority of it all comes early on in the stage, with the final 40km not featuring too much in the way of climbing.

The closing circuit looks as follows, with a few short rises in it.

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It is of course a possibility we could see someone try an attack on the circuit and hope to break the group up. The section between 3.5km and 5km on the image above will be crucial in terms of escape formation.

If the sprinters miss out the previous day, they won’t on this stage. The opposite situation is of course a possibility whereas the sprinters take the spoils on Stage 1 with an escape forming on Stage 2.

I still think that this stage is most likely to come down to a sprint though.

With that said, I’ll go with Lotta Leipistö to take stage honours. She is on incredible form at the moment and will be able to handle the few small lumps we have in the finale. Her finish (or should I say Finnish…I’ll get my coat) sprint in Vargarda was incredibly powerful. If she pulls off something like that again then there won’t be many who can beat her.

Stage 3.

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Full profile viewable here.

Arguably the Queen stage due to its length and elevation gain, the road seems to be constantly up or down all day. Just before the riders reach the final circuit, they will complete an 8km drag that averages 1.5%. Now, I don’t expect this to cause any gaps, although the final 300m do average 7%, instead, it should be a wearing down process if some of the stronger teams really push the pace on. With 120kms in their legs already, I think a few riders might be caught out by it.

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The closing circuit is very technical, with few really long straights. The old cliché of “out of sight, out of mind” rings true here! As for the altimetry, it can be split into; gradual rise, small hill, gradual descent, flat finish.

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Will anyone try to attack on the steep 10% ramps of the climb and use the twisting streets to stay away?!

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We even have some cobbles (well, paving stones) on part of the descent. This could become treacherous if the predicted bad weather arrives.

As for who might take stage honours? I’ll go with a Van Dijk late attack!

GC Battle

This is a tough race to call because the terrain itself isn’t overly difficult and all of the road stages in theory could end in a sprint if enough teams want it to.

Therefore the race could be decided by bonus seconds and how well a rider does in the opening prologue.

Yet, I think we’ll see some fast and very attacking racing this week, because the parcours isn’t too difficult. It is perfectly balanced in a position where a team can make some of the short climbs seem really hard due to the continuous rolling nature of the terrain. Furthermore, when the predicted rain and bad weather is thrown into the mix, we could see a tough race of attrition.

So for a rider to compete here they need to be good enough to be close to the head of the race after the prologue, fast enough to pick up some bonus seconds, and strong enough to follow any moves after an attritional day of racing.

Some riders to conjure with then are Pieters, Lepistö, Van Dijk, Kopecky and Bronzini to name but a few!

I’ll go with a Marianne Vos GC win though.

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The new European Champion is in sparkling form at the moment and she should be there on every stage. Her fast sprint means she should pick up bonus seconds and she’s not exactly a slouch in a prologue either. After all, she did win the opening prologue here back in 2014. A lot of riders will have her number marked, but with the way she is riding at the moment, it might be hard to stop her. She could feasibly win all 4 stages!

Coverage

Excellent news, we’ll be able to watch all of the road stages live with the final two hours of each stage being shown on Norweigian TV2. For those not in Norway, there should also be a stream on the UCI website and Youtube channel!

At the moment there is no information if we’ll see any of the prologue but the live images for the stages are as follows (local Norwegian time);

Stage 1: 16’30 – 18’30

Stage 2: 16’30 – 18’30

Stage 3: 14’30 – 16’30

The official hashtag looks to be #LTON17 so you’ll be able to follow race goings-on before the live images with that.

Anyway, thanks for reading as always and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win the race overall? Will we see an attacking race, or one where the sprinters teams control things? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.