Milano-Torino 2017 Preview

After an exciting finale in Varese on Tuesday, the riders will turn their attention to Milano-Torino tomorrow as they make their final preparations before Lombardia on Sunday.

In 2016 we saw a great battle between Woods and Lopez on the final climb after they broke free from a group that had attacked on the flat run in to said ascent. They traded blows but ultimately it was the Astana rider who came out on top after Woods went too early and mistimed his effort.

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Uran bolted from the peloton behind to finish third, leaving Lopez in a Cannondale sandwich on the podium.

With the defending champion not returning to defend his crown, will we see a new winner? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

It seems as if the organisers have adopted the “if it is not broke, why fix it?” adage, as we have the exact same route as the past few years.

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Flaaaaaaaaat then two tough ascents up to the Basilica de Superga to decide the day.

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On the first effort the riders will complete only 4.29km of the climb, making it ever so slightly steeper than when the climb is taken as a whole. Well, when I say that, the average gradient is 9.137% for that part of the climb. Compared to the 9.081% for the ascent as a whole then there isn’t much difference, I’m just being pedantic!

And that’s pretty much it really, there’s nothing else to know about the route.

How will the race pan out?

The race tends to be very formulaic until we get to the first ascent of the Superga. A breakaway makes it up the road and is then controlled by the teams of the favourites and of those without a rider in it. Fairly standard procedure!

However, we then have a few potential outcomes as to what could happen from there.

Given that the first passage crests with just under 20km to go, then it is very feasible that a counter attack launched here could make it all the way to the line. Of course, for it to succeed then many of the favourites’ teams would need to be represented. If not, there will probably be enough firepower behind to bring it back, but it will have a lasting impact as to how the race is controlled from there.

Last year we saw Kennaugh hold on from the original break until the flat 5km section that bridges the descent and the climb. Once he was caught, the impetus went from the peloton and a splinter group made it off of the front. As the majority of teams were represented, there was very little cohesion behind (although there was little up ahead too to be fair), the front group managed to gain a reasonable time gap. Our top two on the day ended up being from that selection and there is a possibility something like that happens again this year; where the “second in command” riders get up the road while the favourites stay behind and mark each other out.

Of course, the final option is that everything is held together until the final climb and that the best rider on the day wins. That’s what happened back in 2015 when Diego Rosa took off at 2.6km to go and was never seen again. To make that win even better, he managed to make the move in front of his own fan club!

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So, what will we see happen this year?

With no Nibali here, then quite a few teams might be happier to take it all the way to the final climb. However, we witnessed in Tre Valli that teams are keen to race aggressively and try not to lean heavily on their star-cards.

Therefore I think we could see a similar outcome to last season; where a smaller group escapes either over the top of the climb or on the flat section. They will then stay away as the majority of the strong teams will be represented.

Contenders

Due to my logic above, I’m not going to go through the “favourites” as I think they might be fighting for lower places as 3-4 riders from the group ahead will stay away until the end. Maybe!

Once again though, this list won’t be extensive, just a few outsiders to keep an eye on!

David Gaudu.

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A rider who produced an incredible result earlier in the year that has barely been talked about since; when he finished 9th at Fleche aged just 20 years old. He is a talent, that’s for sure! After that performance he’s continued to feature in races here and there, including his first pro win in the Tour de l’Ain. A natural climber by body-type, he is incredibly light, tomorrow’s summit finish looks good for him and given the right company he can contend. After Pinot’s very strong showing in Tre Valli, I think teams will be wary of bringing him to the final climb with the bunch together, so FDJ will have to go on the counter. Can the former Tour de l’Avenir winner cap off a good first season as a pro?

Diego Rosa.

The local hero will no doubt have his fan club cheering him on roadside, but will it once again be the catalyst to spur him on to victory? In his recent races he’s done a lot of work for his team-mates so it is hard to tell where his form truly is at the moment, but it is normally at this time of year where he comes good. Really good. With this being his local race, I think Sky might have him as a co-leader, in the hope that he will be more willing to help Poels/Landa/Kwiat in Lombardia on Sunday. He is one to watch.

Primoz Roglic.

He’s certainly not a one-day specialist, but given the way he flew up the climb at the TT in the World’s then I think he has recovered from his illness that thwarted his late season. On his day, he can climb with the best as we saw at the Tour de France when he took a great win. I’m intrigued to see how he goes tomorrow, but I think he can surprise.

Pello Bilbao.

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It is basically a rule of thumb that an Astana rider has to go well here, they’ve won it the past two years! Both the riders that have won on those occasions have been the rider who is not the clear leader of the team, so sorry Aru it is not going to be you. Bilbao finished well here last year, taking a fine 7th place for Caja Rural. He is a rider I like a lot and it is good to see him take a step up this year now that he’s riding at World Tour level. At the Vuelta he was climbing as well as I have ever seen from him so it will be interesting to see if he can repeat that here. If so, he is a big danger!

Sam Oomen.

A case of which Sunweb rider to go for, they have brought an embarrassment of riches to this race. I thought Oomen would be tired after his first Grand Tour but he certainly proved me wrong and was part of the very impressive TTT winning outfit. In Tre Valli he followed that up with a very commendable sixth place so he’s clearly doing something right! Like Gaudu, he is a small rider who packs a mean punch and he could dance his way up Superga tomorrow.

Prediction

The local hero to take another victory though, with Rosa to make it two wins at this race in three years!

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As I’ve said above, I think we’ll see a similar outcome to the previous edition where a smaller group will breakaway on the flat run in to fight out the race.

The real question for the day though is; where will the Diego Rosa fan club be positioned out on course?

Betting

As of yet, only the likes of Unibet are offering odds for the race. Tempted with something on Rosa for the win and top 3, and then also “Any other rider” as this covers Bilbao and Gaudu too. Nothing wild with the stakes though!

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Could we be in for an upset? I’ll be back on Friday with my Lombardia preview. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Tour de Pologne 2017 Stage 7 Preview; Bukowina Tatrzanska -> Bukowina Tatrzanska

Today’s Recap

A fairly selective day that saw Sagan lose his leader’s jersey.

Jack Haig attacked early, reminiscent of his dig on stage 2, but this time he was given some more leeway. In the end his winning margin was a comfortable 50 seconds, a very impressive performance from the young Aussie! He’s surely going to the Vuelta again this year.

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Behind a select group of GC contenders sprinted for bonus seconds with Poels besting Jungels.

It leaves 12 riders within 45 seconds of leader Teuns going into the final day of racing tomorrow. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

A short but fairly sharp stage to finish the race off.

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You can view the interactive profile here.

The route is focussed around 4/5 (depending on how you break it down) climbs that are situated near the finish village of Bukowina Tatrzanska. However, as I’m short of time, I’ll only really be looking at the ones we tackle on the run in to the line, i.e. the last 30km.

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Another reason that I’m doing this is because I think it is highly unlikely that we’ll see any serious attacks before this point. It would be suicidal to launch an attack at 60km to go given all of the flat land before the climbing starts again.

Sierockie will be the climb to kick things off.

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As you can see, the majority of the altitude gain comes in the first part of the climb before some false flat and a little rise to the summit. The 5.3% average for 5.7km is fairly tough, but it is that opening section which is brutal; 2.7km at 8.7%. That includes almost a kilometre at 13.4%! We could see some riders blow up here if they have to go too deep and if not, the rolling section afterwards could be the thing that breaks them.

Once over the summit, they’ll plunge down the valley and start climbing straight away.

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Almost the opposite of the previous climb, the riders will start off with some gradual gradients before things get really steep at the end. With the steepest gradients coming near the summit, it is the perfect place to launch an attack!

A very quick descent follows before they quickly start climbing again.

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Short and not too much of struggle for the riders here, they’ll be happy for the more consistent gradients! However, if they were on the limit last climb then even this little climb could be of issue as they will have had no time to recover.

Once over the top they’ll have roughly 9km to the finish, of which 5km is descent.

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It will be hard for anyone to create some gaps here if we do have a group come to the line together. However, Henao proved in 2015 that it is possible!

How will the stage pan out?

A strong break in theory should form due to the climbs right at the start of the stage and they could build up a large gap.

However, with the GC battle so close I imagine that they won’t be given much leeway at all and that they’ll be brought to heel with 30km left.

As to how it will play out from there? Who knows.

It looked as if Poels / Majka / Zakarin / Kelderman and Yates were the most explosive on the climbs today in the GC group. Although Jungels did well grinding his way back to them and the same can be said to anyone else dropped just over the top of the final summit.

We could again see a situation where numbers prevail in the front group but compared to yesterday, there are only two teams who have two riders in contention; Sunweb and Orica.

Could Haig manage to do the double? Possibly!

However, I’m taking a different approach…

Sublime Sunweb

The team have been on scintillating form this year and that seems to have continued here. Kelderman looked very good today on the final climb, following the moves with what looked like relative ease. He tried something on the flat roads just before the rise to the line but that was quickly brought to heel by Jungels. It would be extremely surprising to see him dropped tomorrow and with a fast sprint, he has a chance to win a small bunch kick.

What about his team-mate Oomen?

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Arguably one of the most talented young climbers in the peloton, the young Dutchman did a lot of work for his team-mate today. Normally an attacking rider, I would love to see him let off the leash to go for it tomorrow. Similar to Haig, he might be allowed to slip off the front in the closing kilometres as he won’t be instantly recognised as a real threat for the overall. At only 24 seconds back they’d be wrong!

Prediction

Oomen attacks early, softening up the group behind. Kelderman then attacks at the perfect moment to take the stage win and continue Sunweb’s great season!

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Betting

Aplogies for yesterday/today’s atrocious picks, I was really surprised to see Izagirre dropped! Hopefully the Sunweb boys turn it around for us tomorrow.

1.5pt WIN Kelderman @ 7/1

0.5pt WIN Oomen @ 33/1

 

Thanks as always for reading and sorry this is shorter than usual but I am short of time myself! Who do you think will win and how?

Next on the blog will be daily stage previews of the BinckBank Tour!

Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de Pologne 2017 Stage 6 Preview; Wieliczka -> Zakopane

Today’s Recap

A shorter stage that delivered a few surprises.

We had a strong break of 5 get up the road early on in the day but they were never given more than 3 minutes, with a few teams helping Bora control the gap. There were some splits on the early climbs, but nothing too major.

However, the pace was really increased on the last climb of the day and the peloton was reduced to around 50 guys, with breakee Van Garderen still up the road. The American was ultimately brought to heel with about 3km to go. A crash just before the Flamme Rouge saw only 12 or so riders contest the sprint with Van Poppel finally getting his reward for strong performances all week.

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Mezgec ran him very close in second, while Sagan gained some more bonus seconds in third place.

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

The Route

Arguably the Queen Stage of the race with just over 4000m of elevation gain according to Strava/Veloviewer.

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I think this is the first stage that the Veloviewer profile undersells the day, whereas the official profile is actually pretty bang on.

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You can view the full profile here.

The first 100km of the day start off relatively innocuously, with only a few small rises and nother too serious. The action kicks off though with an uncategorised rise of 3% for 3km; a nice way for the riders to warm up and stretch their legs for the remainder of the stage.

Bystryk is the opening categorised climb.

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At 5.6% for 5.9km it certainly is not Alpine, but this is where we could see the sprinters un-hitch and pack in the race altogether.

The riders won’t get much respite as after a few kilometres of false flat and descending, they’ll face the second categorised climb of the day; Butorowy Wierch.

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Any speed the riders carry into the climb will be knocked off by the very steep ramps that come right at the bottom. From there, it will be a drag to the top with some light relief on some flatter sections.

The categorised climbs are put on the back-burner for the intermediate sprint point, although that cruelly is located on top of a 3.3km (3.9%) drag itself.

Next on the climbing menu is Głodówka which tops out with 48km left.

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One of the easier climbs of the day, it shouldn’t be of any major difficulties for the riders and I can’t imagine anyone who’s not dropped already, will be dropped here.

The road then plunges down the valley before some more uncategorised climbing that is actually pretty tricky. According to Veloviewer the climb is 4.4km long and averages 5.1%; making it tougher than our previous Cat 1! I guess they had to give the highest point on the stage a mountain category. From there the riders will face a really short descent before the second bump which is 1.4km at 7%. A sting in the tail if you’re not prepared for it!

A 5km descent follows before the riders start the final 22kms of the day, and arguably the most crucial as they face two-categorised climbs in quick succession with very little downhill in between.

The riders actually climb to Bystryk again for the penultimate KOM, but from a slightly different route.

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It’s a steady climb, well, aside from the two sections of very steep gradients!

The climb of Butorowy Wierch is then the same as it is on the image above. With it cresting 8.5km from the finish, will we see a rider solo at this time, or will a small group crest together?

Those final 8.5km look as follows…

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A quick descent and a 2km rise up to the line averaging 2.5%. That small incline could see a riders legs seize up if they put too much in earlier on, although that is unlikely!

How will the stage pan out?

There is a chance the break makes it if none of the GC teams decide to play ball and chase the move. However, I think we’ll see some kind of GC showdown on the roads and a strong winner at the end of the day.

I expect an aggressive race, or at least I hope for one. Sagan has looked imperious so far and if I was a DS of an opposing team, I wouldn’t want to risk taking all the time back from him on the final stage.

Unfortunately for them, Bora also have Majka positioned rather nicely in third place. So if Sagan is dropped, the Pole is more than likely going to be there as a replacement!

Nonethless, I would still be sending/attempting to send my strong riders up the road with around 50km to go, on the 3rd categorised climb of the day. This is where having two riders on the team that are genuine GC threats comes in very handy as the person behind doesn’t have to work while other teams who have missed the move burn matches to try to close it down.

Looking at teams that have two serious candidates we have;

Bora – Sagan (1st) and Majka (’20 seconds down)

Sunweb – Kelderman (24 seconds) and Oomen (1’50)*

Sky – Poels (33s) and Rosa (1’14)

Orica – Yates (33s) and Haig (1’58)*

Movistar – Izagirre (39s) and Oliveira (1’02)

UAE – Costa (42s) and Conti (47s)

Lotto Soudal – De Clerq (44s) and Marczynski (1’05)

*These two are borderline non-threats but could be brought into the mix still.

Will a DS be brave enough to send someone up the road to risk losing their current GC standing? I hope so, this isn’t a Grand Tour so I can’t see teams riding to defend 7th etc. As for who that might be? I’m not too sure!

I’ll give it a go though and name a couple of riders who I fancy to go well and who might be given freedom to do so.

MyTwoPicksWorth™

Valerio Conti.

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After taking a Grand Tour stage win at the Vuelta last year, the UAE rider has really taken a step up this season. Constantly attacking throughout the Giro, he was in contention for stage victory from the breakaway on Stage 8 until he crashed going round one of the final hairpins. He looked strong that day on the uphill kick and I’m sure he would have managed to get on the podium at least. On stage 3 he was the first rider to start proceedings on the final climb but unfortunately for him, he was clawed back in. An attacking rider who might not be deemed an instant threat, he will be the UAE guy who I imagine is sent up the road. If he senses stage victory is there, he might just take it…

Gorka Izagirre.

The rider who beat Conti on that stage in the Giro, the “lesser” Izagirre brother has really broken through this season now that Ion has moved on! A loyal domestique, when given the chance to shine he often does. Earlier in the year he produced his best ever GC result when finishing 4th in the overall at Paris-Nice. He’s certainly no mug! Strong on this type of uphill drag to the line, if he arrives with a small group that doesn’t include Sagan, he’ll no doubt fancy his chances in the sprint.

Prediction

We’ll see an attacking, but relatively cagey day rolled into one.

A group of “lesser” GC guys will escape with Majka, while Sagan sticks with those behind. In the sprint to the line, Gorka will continue his impressive year and take the win. The Spaniard was pushing the pace on during the final climb today so he must be feeling sprightly!

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Betting

I don’t know why, but I have a good feeling about Izagirre for tomorrow. Good enough to disregard Conti completely from the equation? It would kill me if he did go on to win so no!

1pt EW on them both with B365;

Conti @ 20/1

Izagirre @ 40/1

Also;

6pts on Izagirre to beat Visconti @ 4/6.

Thanks as always for reading and as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see some GC attacks from afar, or will it be a relatively dull day? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Paris Nice 2017 Stage 6 Preview; Aubagne -> Fayence

Today’s Recap

Close, but not close enough with Matthews, as he seemed to get boxed in with around 250m to go after being in a great position. Instead, it was Greipel who took an incredibly convincing win!

 

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He really is one of the best in the world at those power-type sprints. Anyway, let’s look ahead at tomorrow’s stage and what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The toughest day in the saddle yet for the riders. I wonder how many of the sprinters will see the next few stages through?

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Starting off with the Col de l’Espigoulier straight from the gun is a brutal beginning for the riders. It does offer a great platform for a break to get up the road and build up a good lead. Just getting into the break will be tough! In theory we could see some of the GC contenders go wild from the start and try to isolate Alaphilippe but with the 100km of relative flat afterwards, that’s not a great idea.

The race then really heats up in the final 80km with 5 classified climbs. An “easy” Cat-2 and Cat-3 before we enter the final circuit and the Col de Bourigaille is ascended from two different sides. In terms of gradient they’re not the toughest climbs in the World, but the position of the second ascent does make it a good place for an attack. With only 19km left and the majority of it being descent, it will be hard for a group to bring back a leader if they have a small gap and co-operation is not 100%.

Once they hit the valley floor, the road rises up all the way to the finish line.

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It’s a very steep end to the day and it requires an explosive finish. Last time we were here it was Carlos Betancur who took the victory! I miss 2014 Carlos 😞.

I wouldn’t expect the GC time difference to be that big here, but we maybe could see 10 seconds separate the top 10 if a few riders let go of the wheel in front of them.

It actually looks like a great finish for our current GC leader and would present him with an opportunity to pick up more bonus seconds. I don’t think the rest of the peloton will want that so…

Nestle Breakaway Milk Chocolate Biscuit 8 Pack 152G

Contenders

As per usual, I’ll only name a handful of riders who I think might be able to make the move. With it being such a demanding start to the day, only 1 rider will be making their regular appearance on this list – watch the other two go on and make the break now!

Mathias Frank.

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The AG2R man has had a very solid start to the season, finishing 7th on GC in the Tour of Oman. Having lost a lot of time in the first few days, he’s no threat for the overall so should be given some leeway. He won the ridiculously steep finish up to Llucena in the Vuelta last year, so this 9.8% average gradient should be a walk in the park for him!

Mauro Finetto.

Yep, for the third preview out of six, I’ll name Finetto again! A great, punchy climber with an explosive finish. Some of the longer climbs out on the route might be an issue for him, but if he comes to the finish in Fayence with a group then he has every chance of taking the win.

Nicolas Edet.

The Frenchman actually had one of the fastest climbing times up Mont Brouilly in the TT. Always a rider who seems to be there in the breaks but just doesn’t have enough for the win (he doesn’t have a professional victory), his climbing form certainly seems to suggest that now is a good a time as ever!

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Credit goes to @ammattipyoraily  on Twitter for the table.

I’m going to take another rider off that list for my final selection.

Sam Oomen.

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The young Dutchman had an exceptionally good neo-pro season with Giant last year; managing to pick up a stage and the GC at the Tour de l’Ain, not to mention a 3rd place on GC at the Critérium International.  He then animated several races in the back-end of the year. This season has got off to a slower start for him, but he seems to be riding into some nice form and tomorrow looks like a great day for him to get up the road.

Prediction

I can’t not name him, right?! #ForzaFinetto

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Betting

Not a great day odds wise so this is a bit hesitant.

0.25pt WIN on them all;

Finetto @ 100/1 (Various)

Oomen @ 33/1 (Various)

Edet @ 150/1 (Ladbrokes)

Frank @ 50/1 (Ladbrokes)

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Do you think tomorrow is a breakaway day, or will we see a GC showdown on the final climb? It should be an exciting stage either way! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.