Tour de France 2018 Stage 18 Preview: Trie-sur-Baïse -> Pau

Today’s Recap

Shock horror, the grid start was terrible. Nothing exciting really happened from it and nothing great really happened until the final climb. A group of attackers had got away on the opening ascent and it was Tanel Kangert who was the last man standing out of them. However, he was swallowed up and past on the climb by a flying Nairo Quintana. The Colombian followed an initial attack by Dan Martin and dropped the Irishman not long after that move. However, Martin dug in deep and stayed almost consistently 20 seconds behind the Movistar man. With a lot of small attacks followed by looking around and Sky tempo in the Yellow Jersey group, the duo stayed ahead to finish 1-2 on the day.

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Thomas came home in third place after following Roglic’s late attack, before going on to drop the Slovenian and Dumoulin. One of the big shocks of the afternoon was Froome struggling with the reigning champion losing 45 seconds on his team-mate. Bardet also had a “jour sans” and dropped three places in the GC.

It should be a rest day for the overall candidates tomorrow though as a flat day in the saddle awaits.

The Route

Pretty dull day for the viewers with only two Cat-4 climbs on the route.

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I mean there’s not really much to talk about here at all. The final categorised climb that crests with just under 19km to go could be a springboard for an attack but that’s about it!

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There are a few roundabouts to contend with in the closing five kilometres, including one as they just pass under the Flamme Rouge.

As you can see on the video above though, that given the wide roads the roundabouts aren’t really a massive issue. That is assuming we even get a sprint though…

How will the stage pan out?

With Sagan taking a tumble today there is a chance that he will just want an easier day tomorrow, especially when you consider he already has three stage wins under his belt and the green jersey sewn up: if he makes it to Paris. Démare has really struggled these past few days and no doubt will be knackered so will FDJ pull all day for a sprint that he might not win? Ironically with the two better sprinters on paper not in tip-top shape it might actually encourage a few other teams to try to control the break in an effort to set up their man. Maybe Kristoff can nab that win he so desires?

However, I think the likelihood is that we will see a break make it all the way to the line tomorrow as no one will have the energy to chase them down. I’m not too sure if it will be one of those massive breaks that gets let go and the group might be surprisingly small, but you never know. I think it might be 10-12 riders who sneak away.

Time to play everyone’s favourite game again…

TheBreakawayLottery

Break Candidates

It will be interesting to see who gives it a nudge to go in the break tomorrow as the flat route could bring some new names to the fore as the puncheurs take a back seat and wait for Friday. So here goes nothing…

Maciej Bodnar.

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Strong the other day to help pull the break along for his team-mates, the easier terrain should suit him down to the ground. A powerful rider who is often seen at the front of the bunch pacing the peloton, will we see him ahead of the bunch tomorrow? I imagine Bora will be in an attacking mood if Sagan is feeling sore.

 

Thomas De Gendt.

Mr Breakaway, this morning De Gendt talked about having a quieter day  before having a tilt at tomorrows stage as he thinks the sprint teams will be too tired to control the race. He was on the fruitless attempt when Sagan won his last stage but any move that he makes is dangerous. With Stage 19 possibly too difficult for him, tomorrow is his last chance for a win and he’ll go all in.

Oliver Naesen.

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With Bardet struggling today, Naesen might be given a free role in a stage that suits him as one of the strongest barodeurs in the peloton. He’s barely had a chance to show what he is capable of so far in this race and as a result he might want to put on a good performance. If it comes down to a 5 rider sprint he will take his chances.

Julien Vermote.

Dimension Data have had a terrible race so far with no real result to speak of. They could possibly look to a sprint with Boasson Hagen tomorrow but going on the offensive is their best chance. Vermote is another one of the peloton’s strong men so getting into the flat break should suit him well. When he gets into situations like this he is quite tenacious so expect him to ride in an attacking manner.

Prediction

No firepower left to set up the sprint and the breakaway maestro takes another Tour stage win. Step up Thomas De Gendt!

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Betting

0.75pt WN De Gendt @ 100/1

0.75pt WIN Naesen @ 100/1

0.25pt WIN Bodnar @ 300/1

0.25pt WIN Vermote @ 500/1

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think has a chance tomorrow? Will the sprinters come to the fore or will the break succeed? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a Andalucia 2018 Stage 3 Preview; Mancha Real › Herrera

Today’s Recap

Well that was an exciting finish!

It wasn’t as decisive GC wise as I had expected but it was a very tactical and enthralling finale with attacks off the front being slowly brought back for a counter move to go instantly. In the end though, Wout Poels timed his last attack at the perfect moment and sprung away to take stage victory and with it the GC lead.

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Sanchez and Wellens trailed home just 2 seconds down with Landa and Fuglsang another two behind them. It leaves the race interestingly poised going into the next few stages.

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

The Route

The only stage of the race that should be a guaranteed sprint.

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With that being said though, the riders will have to contend with a lot of uncategorised climbing throughout the day so it will be interesting to see who takes up the chase.

The two Cat-3s shouldn’t be of any major difficulty for the bunch unless some have really suffered during today’s ridiculously tough finish. We do get an intermediate sprint at Puente Genil with only 10kms left, but given there are no bonus seconds on offer then it’s interesting placement becomes somewhat less interesting.

The final 12km does roll a bit though which makes it a not so straightforward finish.

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The major rise in the closing section averages 3.6% for 2.4km that “crests” at just over 7km to go. It might just be enough for a team to stretch the bunch out if they hit it hard, but they’ll need to keep the pressure on over the last 7km if it is to be worthwhile.

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At just 500m to go, the peloton will be greeted with a very tight left-hand turn. Expect a massive fight to get here as you’ll need to be in the first ten riders through here if you want to contend for the stage.

Those last 500m actually kick up ever so slightly but it is more of a grind than anything else at an average of 1.9%. It will certainly give the sprinters something else to think about as you don’t want to open up too early and fade in the end.

How will the stage pan out?

As I said previously, this should be a sprint stage. But nothing is ever certain in cycling!

We saw on the opening day that some of the sprint teams didn’t really want to commit to the chase and the break almost and probably would have stayed away if it wasn’t for Astana. Now, that stage was a lot harder than this one but with a few more days racing in the legs, some of the riders might not be as keen to work at the front all day.

Sky will set their usual tempo but if no one up the road is a danger to them, then they’re not going to over-extended themselves by brining it back unnecessarily. That realistically just leaves the sprinters teams and none of them really strike me with confidence.

Modolo messed up the first stage and he is probably the class sprinter here but can we really trust EF Education First to organise a chase? This was the team that struggled to bring back a break in the Giro even when their whole squad was TTing on the front.

AG2R might chip in to chase but they’ve been in both of the breakaways so far which indicates that they might play that card again. So will Direct Energie or Wanty help then either?

I’m really starting to lean-to the possibility that the break might actually have a better chance tomorrow than originally thought.

In fact, I’m just going to talk about some break candidates because if we get a sprint then I don’t expect Modolo to make the same mistake again.

Lottery Contenders

I’ll keep this bit short and sweet as I’ll no doubt be massively wrong and we’ll end with the obvious bunch sprint.

Moreno Moser.

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Back again with my favourite Italian on Astana, he and the rest of his team-mates have done a lot of work over the opening two stages for the team’s leaders. In an interview on the Astana website, Moser says that he wants to work well for the team but also chase his own opportunity at some point in the race. We’re running out of stages so he might just go in the break tomorrow if there is a sense in the peloton of no-one wanting to commit to a chase.

Oliver Naesen.

As I’ve said above, Ag2r seem keen on sending people up the road during this race. Naesen fits the bill perfectly tomorrow of being far enough down the order not to be a threat but he’s strong enough to win from a group. With the classics season on the horizon, a nice hit-out here would be a good test of form.

Damien Gaudin.

He really “found himself” last year while riding for the Armee de Terre squad picking up three victories to his name. Starting his season this year in the Bongo at which he finished third overall, he’s been a solid domestique for his team-mates since then. He’s the type of rider who is dangerous in a breakaway as he seems to be strong in one-day races. With an explosive short turn of power (he’s not too bad at prologues) he could surprise in a sprint from the break.

Lluís Mas Bonet.

Cycling: 51th Tour of Turkey 2015/ Stage 8

Token Spaniard breakaway pick who also doubles as current KOM leader. Mas Bonet gets into the break to defend and secure the KOM title but with no chase behind he turns his attention to the stage. He packs a surprisingly decent kick and it could catch out a few. The slightly rolling finish would be good for him.

Prediction

Breakaway stays away as EF Education First fail to organise a piss up in a brewery and no one else wants to commit to the work. In fact, other sprinters teams send riders up the road and a 7 man group stays away until the end.

That man Oli Naesen warms up for the classics perfectly by taking a confidence boosting win here!

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Or we get a fairly dull day where the sprint teams decide to actually co-operate and then it is anyone’s guess. Modolo would be favourite but he’s not unbeatable.

Betting

2 of the guys not priced up but I’m just going to “waste” 1pt on some break picks.

0.25pt WIN on them all.

Naesen @ 50/1

Moser @ 300/1

Valgren @ 400/1

Van Hecke @ 400/1

All with Bet365.

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it end in a sprint or will we see the break surprise? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Ride London-Surrey Classic 2017 Preview

After spending a few years at .HC level, the race makes the step up to WT status for 2017. A decision that I’m not so sure about as with two WT races already going on at the weekend; team’s resources will be stretched to the limit and we could see some weaker teams sent here because of it. Furthermore, it takes away the opportunity for the UK Continental teams to shine. Oh well, it is what it is!

Last year saw the race come back for a relatively large bunch sprint which Tom Boonen won.

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The Aussie duo of Renshaw and Matthews followed the Belgian home to round out the podium.

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

The Route

The organisers have slightly shortened the route for this edition, removing one of the climbs that we normally have during the middle of the race.

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Rolling out from London, the riders will face fairly flat roads with only a few minor lumps before reaching the first KOM of the day; Staple Lane.

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Uncategorised in last years race, it’s not an overly tough climb mainly due to the amount of false flat that it has. However, there are a few steep ramps and some longer sections at +5%. I wouldn’t expect it to do any damage to the peloton though.

Staple Hill does kick off the “serious” section of the race where the riders will be facing climbs every 15km or so.

Next on the agenda is Leith Hill.

LeithHill KOM

A more challenging climb than Staple Hill, we could see some of the stronger climbing teams push the pace on here to try to put the sprinters into difficulty early on.

Once over the top they’ll face a long shallow descent before the first passage of Ranmore Common.

Ranmore KOM

Another short climb, the peloton will no doubt fly up it. The gradient does get steepest near the top, peaking at 16%, which does offer a great opportunity to attack. Even more so because there are a few kilometres of false-flat to continue to apply the pressure on once you’re over the summit. The riders will then complete a loop back through Dorking and complete the Ranmore climb for a second time.

With roughly 50km remaining, the riders will face the last KOM of the day; Box Hill.

BoxHill KOM

For the professional peloton it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, but it depends how aggressive the race has been up to that point. If we’ve had some very fast racing over the previous 60km then the 3.9% average gradient might seem a little harder than it is on paper!

When off the descent, the riders will have just over 40km until the finish in London. A lot of the route is flat in general, but the road does roll quite a lot. One thing British roads are known for is being “heavy” and energy sapping. This could really be of the detriment to any group up the road if they’ve already expended a lot of energy and the peloton is chasing keenly behind. Conversely though, narrow roads make it hard for a team to organise a chase.

The finish in London itself is the same we’ve had the past few years with the sprint along the Mall.

Weather Watch

As with most races in the UK, you never know what type of weather you’ll get on the day of the event.

Looking just now, the forecast for Kingston-upon-Thames has some possible localised thunderstorms mid-afternoon.

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Source: Met Office

That could certainly make the run in for home interesting; especially with a strong tailwind helping those staying away.

However, in Dorking (where most of the climbs are near) there is no rain forecast with fairly clear skies promised for the majority of the day!

All of this can change in an instant though and I wouldn’t be surprised if the forecast is different later on this evening compared to what it is when I’m looking at it now (10:30 am).

How will the race pan out?

The past 4 editions of the race have seen a small group stay away two times, with a reduced bunch sprint deciding the winner on the other occasions.

With the race now stepped up to WT level, we could see a race where teams are more happy to control the day hoping for a sprint and to gain some crucial WT points.

The step up also means that teams are able to bring an extra rider; 7 compared to 6 the past few years. Consequently, the bigger teams have another “disposable” rider to try to control the breakaway up ahead.

Conversely though, quite a few teams bring squads where they have riders who can cover both options.

I think I’m hoping more than anything else that we’ll get an exciting, attacking race, but I fear that it could end up being a relatively dull and controlled day.

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The majority of you seem to think the same way!

Sprinters

Matthews.

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Off the back of a great Tour de France, the Aussie will arrive here looking to keep the momentum going. As one of the best climbing sprinters in the world, he might actually get his team to apply some pressure on the KOMs during the middle of the race. He’s not the fastest on a pure flat sprint like the one we have tomorrow so he needs to take advantage elsewhere. He has a solid lead-out but it’s made up of mostly sprinters so they might be a bit disorganised. His team doesn’t really have anyone that will ride tempo on the front of the peloton all day so I’m intrigued to see if they try to get someone into the break.

Greipel.

Bitterly disappointed with his performance at the Tour, he’ll be here hoping to make amends tomorrow. In this type of field he should be making it over the climbs if they’re not rode aggressively and he should be there at the finish. Is he getting past his prime and starting to decline in prowess? Unfortunately, I think so. He just doesn’t seem as fast as he used to be and that’s shown at the Giro and Tour. I wouldn’t be placing my house on him to win tomorrow!

Bennett.

After picking up a handful of podiums at the Giro but just missing out on that elusive Grand Tour win, he bounced back with two wins in Slovenia. However, he’s not raced since the Irish Road Champs over a month ago so it will be interesting to see where his form is at. A rider I rate highly, he should be able to get over the climbs in fairly good shape and will be one of the fastest guys at the finish. If he’s on form…

Viviani.

According to an interview with Doull, Team Sky are backing Viviani 100% and that the Italian is in good form. Are they that confident in him or is that a bluff? Because to be honest, I wouldn’t be confident in Viviani winning! Sky have a few cards to play if the race does become attacking, such as Kennaugh or Stannard, so maybe they’re trying to play mind games with everyone. To be fair to Viviani, he did win a couple of stages in Austria recently but the field was hardly stacked with sprinting talent; Vanmarcke came home behind him in 2nd and 3rd on those two days.

Kristoff.

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Another rider who was poor at the Tour, he did seem to grow into the race as it progressed. However, he was then involved in a crash and that put a halt to things for him. If this was Kristoff of 2014 or 2015 vintage, there would be no point in having anyone else turn up as he would have this race in the bag. Can he roll back the years tomorrow? I’m sure he’ll be doing a rain dance tonight anyway!

Aside from those guys, there are plenty of riders who could get involved in a sprint including;

Drucker – Former winner, would need some of the faster guys to be distanced. In good form at the moment, picking up a win in Wallonie.

Theuns – I’m a big fan of his and without Degenkolb here he’ll now be designated sprinter. With De Kort and Stuyven he has a strong short lead-out. Does he have the legs to compete?

Cort Nielsen – After promising so much towards the end of last year he’s been a bit “meh” so far this season. A good climbing sprinter, he’ll probably want a tough race. If he’s not there, Orica might turn to Impey.

There are others, but I don’t want to list 20% of the start list!

Breakers/Late Attackers?

There are a few names I want to throw into the proverbial hat for this section.

Naesen.

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The Belgian Champion was one of the MVPs of the Tour, working selflessly for Bardet every day. Due to how well his team-mate was going, Naesen never got a chance to shine himself but tomorrow could be that day. AG2R arrive with an attacking team, as let’s be honest, Barbier isn’t going to win the sprint. A super strong rider on the short climbs and on the flat, he should be good enough to get into the moves.

Bauer.

A rider who earned a lot of my respect during the Tour, he often found himself last man standing as support for Dan Martin. Climbing better than ever before, he tried to get into the winning break on the penultimate road stage but just missed out. Quick Step don’t bring a proper sprinter as such, although that is doing Trentin a little bit of a disservice, so they’ll be trying to animate the race as much as possible. Bauer could be the man who makes it two in a row for them!

Van Baarle.

Another rider just out of the Tour, he was also climbing well on a few of the mountain stages, helping his team-leader Uran. Much more of a classics rider, tomorrow’s route suits him quite well and he is certainly a guy who can attack in the middle part of the race. Cannondale have an aggressive team and I expect to see Van Baarle on the move at some time. Will Tour legs benefit him?

Prediction

I really hope we see an attacking and exciting race but I think there will be enough motivation behind to bring things back for a sprint.

In that situation, I’ll go for a Bennett win.

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I’ll be waiting (possibly with bated breath) for a Bauer / Naesen / Van Baarle attack though…

Betting

No real value at the top of the order and if you’re to back a sprinter it is definitely an in-play day but I might avoid that completely.

Happy to have a gamble on two of my outsiders though;

0.5pt WIN on them both at B365;

Bauer @ 200/1

Van Baarle @ 100/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

 

 

Paris Roubaix 2017 Preview

Paris Roubaix 2017 Preview

The “Hell in the North” and self-titled “Queen of the Classics” (I’d like to argue about that – it’s no Flanders!) returns this weekend for its 115th edition this weekend. I mean it’s still a cobbled monument, so I’m not going to complain!

Last year’s race saw Mat Hayman take a rather incredible, fairytale victory which I’m sure you’ve already read a lot about this week.

Paris-Roubaix

Can he upset all odds and repeat the feat, or will we get another fairytale with a Boonen win?

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

The Route

You know the score by now; 257km including 29 sectors (55km) of pave. Again, I’m not going to bore you with a massive route analysis (like normal), there are plenty of those floating around this week anyway!

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The first 150km will sap the legs and I wouldn’t expect too much attacking early on, but you never know after the past few cobbles races we’ve had.

It will be interesting to see who makes the “early” break. I say early, as last year it took over 70km for something to finally go!

The Arenberg will more than likely kick off the action in the peloton and from there anything and everything could happen throughout the afternoon.

A race of attrition and team tactics follows with the notable Carrefour de l’Arbre coming only 15km from the finish line. Will things all still be together then? Will a rider have gone solo? Or will we see a small group?

After that, they have 3 more sections but nothing too tricky on the run in to the famous Roubaix velodrome.

How will the race pan out?

Your guess is as good as mine!

The riders will be happy that the weather is good and there seems to be no wind, but that normally leads to a very fast race from the gun. That coincides with the approach we’ve seen teams take in the cobbled races this year; attacking from further out and trying to split the race up early.

Having a number of strong riders in a squad is important so that someone is always up front, following the moves, meaning that team-mates behind can rest-up.

I think we’ll once again see an attacking race here and it might not be the favourites for the race who come away with the victory.

Contenders

All the pre-race coverage is about Boonen, with this being the last professional race of his career. He hopes to bow out with a win and become the most successful rider at Paris Roubaix of all time!

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I’m going to be very controversial here and say that I don’t care for a Boonen win that much, indifferent is what I would call it. I’m not sure if that’s because I only started following the sport in 2008 and properly started paying attention to all the races in 2010 or so. I can understand the hype around him; he’s going well just now and looked strong in Flanders and Schelderprijs. But I think people are getting too emotional with how much they are hyping him up. He’s been talked up so much that he is now pretty much joint favourite and if I’m honest, I’ve not seen enough from him this year for that to be justified. Benefiting from being on the strongest team, he may well go on to win, which would certainly make for a great story. However, in the words of Simon Cowell…

its a no

Quick Step do have several other riders who can win this race, such as Terpstra, Stybar and Lampaert. The former I have banged on for pretty much all of this month and if it wasn’t for QS supposedly working for Boonen 100%, I’d be all over Terpstra like a rash again. If there is one rider who won’t follow team-orders though, it is the Dutchman. He clawed back the gap on the Paterberg to a fallen GVA convincingly in Flanders, taking around 30 seconds out of Gilbert on that climb. He is clearly going exceptionally well. A former winner of the race, I would not be surprised to see him attacking at some point, and he might solo to victory again!

Sagan was left bitterly disappointed after Flanders, but that’s the risk you take for riding close to the barriers. He looked bashed up at the time but seemed to be going OK in his Scheldeprijs training ride. Often underperforming in this race (his best result is 6th in 2014), I think he finds the easier parcours harder to create gaps on. Furthermore, there is a good chance he will once again be marked out of the race and unlike Flanders, he doesn’t have the tough cobbled climbs to just ride away from everyone. It’s hard to write off the World Champion, but I’m putting my neck on the line and doing just that!

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Greg Van Avermaet starts as my favourite for this race. He’s the form rider of the year so far and if not for the crash in Flanders, he had a great chance of winning that too. Even with that unfortunate moment, he managed to get himself up quickly and still sprint for second place. A rider who can win a small sprint but also isn’t afraid to attack, he has a great chance of winning. I wonder if teams will now show him the same type of respect/fear as they do Sagan? They should, if not, it could be game over for them!

Oliver Naesen has carried on his incredible trajectory to the top of cobbled classic racing. Following on from a strong season last year, he has been even better this year! He seemed to be able to cope with Sagan and GVA in Flanders but unfortunately was taken down in that crash. Sustaining an injury to his knee, he worked hard in Scheldeprijs to test it out and things seem to be OK. Like his training partner Van Avermaet, the Belgian isn’t afraid to attack and I think he will benefit from still be underrated within the peloton.

Aside from those guys, some other names to conjure with are Kristoff, Stannard and Demare, who have all shown good form at points throughout the year. They won’t be the favourites, but can’t be discounted.

There are two proper outsiders (triple figures with the bookmakers) that I’d like to mention.

First up is Edward Theuns. I imagine he’ll be one of the riders given the role of following early attacks, allowing his team-leader Degenkolb to rest behind. Yet, as I said in my Flanders preview, I still think the German is missing that 5% and doesn’t look as good as he did when he won here in 2015. Theuns is capable enough to step-up and with a bit of luck he has a chance, packing a fast sprint after a tough day. I really do hope he is given free rein tomorrow and the Trek DS doesn’t put all their eggs in a Degenkolb shaped basket!

Dwars door Vlaanderen

The other is Dylan Groenewegen. Possibly not the first name to spring to the forefront of your thoughts, this will be the youngster’s first Paris Roubaix. He is someone who I think can go really well in this type of race in the future! Much more than a fast sprinter, he can cope with a hard day in the saddle and with the route being flat, it should suit his characteristics. Like Theuns, with a bit of luck and being in the right move, he could be up there at the end of the day.

Prediction

As I’ve said above, Greg Van Avermaet is my favourite on paper, but this race isn’t won on paper and I think teams will finally approach him the same way that they do with Sagan. That will leave it open to a “lesser” rider, although it’s offensive to call him that after the season he’s had. Oliver Naesen will complete his classics transformation and take an incredible victory!

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Betting

1pt EW Naesen @25/1 with PP/Betfair (paying 4 places – would take down to 20s)

1pt WIN Terpstra @16/1 with various (wouldn’t take less)

The two bets I mentioned yesterday;

0.25pt EW Theuns @200/1 (would take 150/1)

0.25pt EW Groenewegen @250/1 (would take 150/1)

One H2H;

5pts Arndt to beat Laporte at 1/1 with Bet365. (Would take 4/6 lowest)

The German is a very solid one-day racer and finished reasonably well in Flanders. Not so sure about the Frenchman’s credentials on this terrain.

 

Thanks for reading as always and any feedback is greatly appreciated (especially some RTs on Twitter 😉). Who do you think will win the race and how will they do it?! I’m looking forward to what should be a good day’s racing. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

E3 Harelbeke 2017 Preview

E3 Harelbeke 2017 Preview

E3 Harelbeke has the illustrious history of being named after a road. Don’t let its dull naming history put you off though, as this race is often heralded as a “mini Flanders” and the action normally lives up to that billing!

Last year saw Kwitakowski and Sagan attack with 30km to go and they were not to be seen again! The Pole caught Sagan napping in the sprint, taking it up early and ended up winning with relative ease.

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The recent MSR winner is not here to defend his title, but we still have a whole host of talented riders looking to take centre stage.

First though, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the them.

The Route

A day packed with hills and cobbles. My kind of race!

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Profile once again courtesy of @LasterketaBurua.

Like Dwars, the day slowly builds to a crescendo, although we do have some difficulties earlier in the stage. The first challenge of the day is the Oude Kruisberg and from there we have an obstacle every 10 kilometres or so on average.

However, the decisive point of the race will probably be between the 45km-35km to go with the triple threat of; the Kapelberg; Paterberg; and Oude Kwaremont.

If there is no made on the first two climbs, there will certainly be an explosion on the Kwaremont.

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View the Strava segment here.

The 4% average gradient on Strava doesn’t do it justice because as you can see in the image above, it’s mainly flat or false-flat for the first 600m. It then pitches up from 0.8km to 1.5km, averaging 7.9%. Remember, this is all on cobbles as well! If you’re not on a good day here then you’ll be out the back in no time.

Once over the Kwaremont the bunch will have little time for rest as they’ll soon be on the Karnemelkbeekstraat at just over 30km to go. This is where last year’s duo made their move!

From there, we only have one more hill and cobbled section so it will be a frantic chase home and run to the line in Harelbeke.

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It’s not an overly difficult run in but the twisting nature of it does give the group up ahead the advantage of often being out of sight.

Contenders

Without the defending champion here, I guess we better start with that average cyclist who finished 2nd last year…

Peter Sagan obviously comes into this race as favourite, like he does for almost every one day race he starts! His team looks fairly poor, but Postlberger looked good in Dwars so maybe he can protect Sagan for a while. However, the World Champion is used to riding races unaided. The one problem with Sagan being Sagan, is that very few riders will want to ride with him in a group that might be chasing the leaders. Therefore he will be leant on to do a lot of the work. Yet, if he’s in a similar mood to his San Remo outing then he may well just attack himself and his opposition will have to be in exceptional form to follow!

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Quick Step will be hoping to use strength in numbers to beat the Slovak and everyone else. They bring their crack squad of classics riders with them, although Lampaert will sit this one out. In Boonen, Gilbert, Stybar, Terpstra and even Trentin they have potential winner candidates. With this type of parcours though, I would have to favour Stybar and Terpstra as their best options. They both looked very strong in Dwars to attack from the 3rd to the 2nd group on the road, halting that groups progress and helping their team-mates ahead build up a lead. Stybar looked good, but I think the Dutch rider looked even better, bridging across to his team-mate relatively comfortable even though Stybar was going full gas.

Greg Van Avermaet will be hoping to repeat his Omloop victory earlier in the season tomorrow. After looking very strong in Strade, he was a bit disappointing in Tirreno and MSR. His BMC team looks strong, but I’m still not convinced by how many of them can be there at the end and offer much support. Nonetheless, as one of the best classics riders in the peloton, he certainly can’t be discounted!

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Sky bring a solid squad but it will no doubt be up to the diamond duo of Rowe and Stannard for them. Both riders are exceptional on their day but I’m sure they would have hoped for some worse weather! They each won a stage in the Herald Sun Tour but the Welshman performed much better in the opening semi-classics. Sky have not finished off the podium in the past three editions, can they make it 4-in-a-row tomorrow?

After a disappointing Dwars, Trek bring Degenkolb and Stuyven into the team. It’s good to see the German back to near his best and he certainly can contend here. My one concern is that he struggled to follow Sagan in MSR on the Poggio, maybe Paris Roubaix is more suited to him than a Flanders style course. Stuyven has looked very impressive this season so far and is certainly living up to the hype surrounding him. Having numbers near the pointy end of the race will be important for any team, but Trek should have at least two. Felline might even turn himself into a third option.

Lotto Soudal are another team that had a disappointing Dwars. They only had Wallays up the road but he wasn’t able to follow the big move when it counted. Benoot and Gallopin were left frustrated behind, with the young Belgian sprinting to 7th place. I think he’ll go a lot better tomorrow! Could he win his first professional race?

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In the three Belgian races he’s competed in so far this season, Naesen has finished in the top 10 of them all. He was terribly unlucky in Dwars with a mechanical but showed just how strong he is right now, managing to get back to the second group and sprint for 6th. With Vandenbergh by his side, they can certainly roll over a few hills and cobbles!

There are obviously lots of other riders who could have a chance, such as Vanmarcke, Durbridge and Lutsenko but I think I’ll stop the list there as I could go on for a while.

Prediction

A very tough race where numbers will once again be important. Sagan will more than likely be forced to do a lot of the work chasing others and to be honest, I don’t think he cares for winning this race. So he might just call some riders’ bluff and sit on. Conversely, he could easily just romp away from everyone!

Nonetheless, I don’t think he wins.

Instead, it will be Niki Terpstra who this time will solo away from the opposition.

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I was impressed with the way he was riding in Tirreno, and have had him shortlisted for this race (and Flanders next weekend) since then. His tandem attack with Stybar has convinced me that his form is in the right place, and I think he can make it two from two for Quick Step, and everyone will forget about their poor opening weekend in February!

Betting

Other than Terpstra there are two riders I want on my side and after Wednesday, I’m being a bit gung-ho with the stakes. The odds are shorter than Lampaert after all!

2pts WIN Terpstra @ 16/1 with Bet365 (would take 12s)

1pt WIN Naesen @ 28/1 with B365 (would take 22s)

1pt WIN Benoot @ 25/1 with B365 (would take 20s)

Prices might be better else where but I can’t be bothered looking!

Also,

1pt WIN Terpstra for Flanders @ 25/1 with various bookmakers

Thanks as always for reading and as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win E3 and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Paris Nice 2017 Stage 3 Preview; Chablis -> Chalon-sur-Saône

Today’s Recap

Another miserable day but we did get a modestly sized bunch gallop in Amilly as was expected. What was not expected however was the winner, Sonny Colbrelli. The Italian delivered an incredibly impressive sprint to hold off the likes of Degenkolb and Démare.

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I could have written yesterday’s preview 10 times and I don’t think Colbrelli’s name would ever be involved. Normally a great sprinter after a tough climbing day, maybe that should just be changed to a tough day in general?!

As for the blog bets, another annoying day as all 3 selections finished in the main peloton but either didn’t have the legs or weren’t positioned well in the closing kilometre. Oh well, on to tomorrow! Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The tougher of the sprint stages in terms of terrain, we have two categorised climbs in the final 70km of the stage.

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The Côte de Grandmont is 2.4km at 4.9%, with the Côte de Charrecey being 2.1km long and an average gradient of 6.7%.

Not the toughest climbs in the world, but the Charrecey could certainly see the bunch split, especially after the tough two days we’ve already had. There are some tired bodies out there!

The run in is flat, but rather technical in the last 5km.

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As you can see, they have to traverse 3 roundabouts and a few sharp turns. Thankfully the final 2kms are straightforward but I imagine the peloton will be strung out by then so the fight for position will be crucial at just after 5km to go.

That is if we get a whole peloton coming into the finish together…

Weather Watch

It looks set to be another windy day for the bunch, well, at least the start of the day. The riders will also be thankful that it looks like they’ll miss the rain!

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The above forecast is for Noyers which is roughly 20km into the stage. As you can see, the wind isn’t as strong as it has been the past couple of days but at a constant speed of 20km/h it still has the potential to cause some damage. Particularly when you consider the direction of it and the fact that there will be a lot of tired bodies in the peloton.

How will the stage pan out?

I’m in two minds about this one.

We could well see a relatively straightforward sprint stage, with the strong sprint teams controlling the race all day. This is the easy option.

However, I am one to over think things tactically at times and the Cat-2 climb at 30km throws a spanner into the works. I’m not sure the likes of Kittel will make it over in the bunch because the smaller sprinters, such as Colbrelli, will want a high pace to get rid of the proper fast men. Therefore, will the likes of QuickStep and Lotto work all day?  Also you have to consider how brutal it has been the past couple of days so will the sprint teams have the energy to control everything all day? We saw today how tired Greipel, Kittel and Kristoff seemed at the end of the stage. With an important GC day coming up on Wednesday, I think a few of the riders will want to save their legs for that.

I think I’ve just convinced myself. Tomorrow is a day for the breakaway or late-attackers. The only issue is if FDJ get overly defensive with their yellow jersey.

There are plenty of riders who are no threat at all on GC in this race, even some of those within a minute of the leader, so choosing who might make the move is a lottery. They’ll need to be a decent climber but also strong on the flat and once again I find myself returning to a few names I threw into the hat on stage 1.

Break Contenders

Alexey Lutsenko.

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The Kazakh rider made a half-hearted attack today that was quickly nullified. You could argue that it was a poor attack and that he didn’t look strong, but I’m blinded by my PFCL3 loyalty (a season long fantasy game on Twitter for those unaware) and I think it was a dig more in anger than anything else. The end of this stage looks a carbon copy of the one he won here last year, just the start of it is nowhere near as hard. He’s a danger if he makes the break!

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Excerpt from the Astana website

Oliver Naesen.

With Bardet out of the race, the AG2R riders will be given freedom to attack. Naesen sprinted to 7th place today after missing the split on Sunday, getting a slightly “easier” rider then. A very tough rider who’s clearly on good form he’ll relish the possibility of the break making it tomorrow. Not afraid of an attack, he is certainly one to keep an eye on!

Mauro Finetto.

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My third re-selection from Sunday’s stage. Like Naesen, Finetto missed the split on the first stage but finished with the bunch today. He’s in very solid form this early season, picking up one win and several top 10 finishes. A very under-rated rider in my opinion, he should cope with the climbs easily and has a good sprint from a reduced bunch at the end of the day.

(I may also be blinded by PFCL3 loyalty with him too!)

Adding to the three from Sunday, there is one more rider I’d like to add.

Tony Martin.

Finished relatively well on stage 1 and in the second group today managing to have an “easier” day. He looked very strong on the first stage, doing a lot of the work in the chase for Zakarin, clawing back a lot of the gap himself. His form seems to be on the up for the Classics and we’ve seen in the past him attacking the day before a TT to stretch his legs. Give him a gap and he’ll be hard to bring back!

Prediction

Peloton takes it relatively easily and a rider in good form capitalises. Oliver Naesen to take the win!

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Betting

0.3pt WIN on them all.

Naesen @ 66/1 with Betfair

Finetto @ 125/1 with Bet365

Lutsenko @ 80/1 with PaddyPower

Martin @ 80/1 with Betfair

Not wrote anything above about him but also adding Claeys at 300/1 with Bet365. As the price he’s at appeals, brute of a rider and Cofidis will now be attacking without Bouhanni.

So it’s 1.5pt in total staked across them.

Obviously prices might be better elsewhere later so keep an eye out!

Thanks as always for reading and as usual any feedback/discussion is greatly appreciated. Do you think we’ll see a break make it or will it be another sprint? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Paris-Nice 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Bois-d’Arcy -> Bois-d’Arcy

*Apologies, this will be short and sweet as I’m busy with work/got pre-occupied watching Strade*

Stage one and a day that should on paper end in a sprint but might entice the risk-takers of the peloton.

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A fairly simple day terrain wise, this stage is all about the closing few kilometres, it’s very technical.

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This means that the peloton will be very stretched out , with several roundabouts and turns to negotiate. Not to mention there is a 1km-long climb to be traversed at 2km left in the stage.

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It looks to average roughly 5% for that kilometre so appears to a great launchpad for a late attack from someone in my opinion. The road then descends until 500m to go where we have a 90-degree turn, before it rises ever so slightly to the line again. This finish is going to be chaotic and certainly not for the faint hearted!

Another thing that will make this a challenging day is the…

Weather

Looking at the forecast for the region, it is set to be wet and windy for the majority of the day.

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Bois-d’Arcy forecast (Source: Wunderground)

Those strong winds could cause carnage out on the course and there is a very good chance that we might see some crosswinds, depending on how aggressively the teams approach the day. With there only being a couple of clear GC days, I do think a few squads will be looking to cause some havoc tomorrow and the race will get split up out on course.

Sprinters

We do have some of the best sprinters in the world here with the two main Germans heading the field.

I don’t think Kittel will fancy a finish like this and in poor weather, he backed out of one in Abu Dhabi like this. To give Greipel his credit, he proved me wrong in that same sprint in the Middle East so he could have a chance here. The climb will be on his limits but I think he could be there!

Behind them, there are a whole host of guys who will fancy their chances, such as Bouhanni (who will LOVE this finish), Kristoff and Démare to name a few.

Yet, as I said above, I’m not entirely sure we’ll see a sprint and since we’ll more than likely see a bunch gallop on Stage 2 I’m going to leave it at that for today with them.

Instead…

Late Attackers

I really think this finale is conducive to a late attack sticking, especially if the conditions whittle down the peloton before we reach the finish town. I have three riders in mind to keep an eye out for who all kind of fit the same mould, but are ever so slightly different;

Oliver Naesen.

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The AG2R man has had a very solid start to the season, picking up a 7th and 8th in Omloop and Kuurne respectively last weekend. An attacking rider, this short climb looks perfect f0r him to try to spring a surprise, hoping to put his good cobbles form to use. He’s not a slouch in a reduced sprint too so if a group of 5 or so get clear then he has a chance in that situation too.

AlexeyLutsenko.

The best Kazakh rider since Vinokourov, Lutsenko picked up a truly impressive stage win at this race last year holding off a charging peloton on Stage 5. He’s started this year well too without picking up a proper result, not finishing outside of the top 30 on any stage in Oman. Most recently he was part of the Kazakh team that won the Asian Cycling Championships TTT, but I’m not really sure what to take from that. Either way, he’s the type of guy not afraid to give it a go!

Mauro Finetto.

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Unlike the other two he already has a win to his name this season, taking home the Classic Sud Ardeche from a small bunch sprint. A proper journeyman of a rider, he might finally have found a place to showcase his talents with Delko. He’s without a World Tour win in his career but that might all change tomorrow!

Prediction

A late attack prevails after the race has been battered by wind and rain. A man who has no issues in those conditions will be victorious, Lutsenko to win! The guy oozes class on a bike and is an U23 World Champion let’s not forget. I think he’s in for a big year and this may well be the start of it.

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Betting

I did tweet the selection out previously and their price did stay like that for a while so that’s what they’re being noted down as! 0.25pt WIN on them all;

Lutsenko @ 100/1 with Bet365

Naesen @ 100/1 with Bet365

Finetto @ 100/1 with Betfair

I would take 66/1 lowest price with them all. Others may price up favourably later on so keep an eye out!

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Apologies again for this being shorter than normal. Who do you think will win tomorrow?  My GC preview is up on the site too if you missed that earlier. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.