Tour de France 2018 Stage 21 Preview: Houilles -> Paris Champs-Élysées

Short preview as who can really be bothered to read/write about tomorrow’s processional affair!

Today’s Recap

Three of the strongest riders throughout the race fought out for the stage win while one faded. Dumoulin took home the day, beating Froome by a second.

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Both of them were down on Thomas through the intermediate time checks, ceding 12 seconds to the GC leader. However, he slowed down in the final third. Either to coast home and take it safe, or because he thought Froome was going to win the stage? There was a lot of money being traded on Betfair even when he was smashing it, maybe someone knew something? That might be a conspiracy theory to consider for a few days and tide us over until San Sebastian!

This is where I probably have to put in some type of disclaimer so yeah, please don’t sue me, I’m poor: it’s just a joke.

Fair play to Thomas on winning the overall, he has been at a consistently high level all season. It reminds me very much of Wiggins in 2012 and Froome in 2015, Vuelta next for him?

Anyway, let’s have a look at what awaits the riders tomorrow.

The Route

A little scenic commute through some Parisien suburbs before the race heads into the centre and to the famous Champs-Élysées finish.

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If you’re a cycling fan then you know the score for tomorrow, if not, well, here’s an image.

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Few turns in the closing couple of kilometres that includes a very sweeping S-bend that leads onto the final straight. Potentially dangerous if the cobbles are wet, thankfully for the riders it looks as if it will be a dry afternoon/evening, albeit cloudy.

Contenders

We could see a late attack stick for the first time in a while here. Although I am not discrediting it completely there will need to a barrage of constant attacks from strong riders to wear down the sprint teams. However, I think they will have enough motivation and there will be enough firepower to bring things back. Maybe. A big afternoon from Big T will be needed!

Démare – Will be confident after his win the other day. He was strong but certainly not unbeatable.

Kristoff – Disappointed not to have the legs but he has been close on numerous occasions. Needs to be in the perfect position to win but seeing as he has to go free-style, this is unlikely.

Sagan – Has he recovered from his crash? If so he will be up there fighting and probably winning. If not, he’ll just roll home and take the Green jersey.

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Laporte – Felt he got hampered by Demare’s slight drift on stage 18 but it looked like the Cofidis rider just didn’t have enough speed to beat him. Nonetheless, he did seem to be in good shape and he can’t be discounted.

Degenkolb – Has the luxury of the best lead-out rider in the race with Stuyven, he just needs to stick to his wheel. If Stuyven drives through that last S-bend and leaves his team-mate in the perfect position, he will be hard to beat.

Colbrelli – His chance to shine? He was too far back the other day but given the weakened field he would like to think he might sneak the win. It will be tough on a flat finish like this though.

Boasson Hagen  – A bit disappointing so far this race but he did finish 4th the other day. One of the more experienced sprinters here, has he saved some energy to go full gas tomorrow?

Cort – Will he be given the opportunity to sprint now that his GC duties are over? He was exceptionally strong when winning after a hilly break away on stage 15. Having won the final stage in Madrid before, can he repeat it in Paris?

Theuns / Arndt – A similar situation for the two Sunweb riders who no longer are on Dumoulin duty. No idea who would sprint but on a flatter effort like tomorrow I would suggest that Theuns is faster. He could be a dark horse for a podium on the day.

I’ve probably missed someone so apologies if I have, I’m tired.

Prediction

I’ll go with a bit of a surprise win but I think Magnus Cort might be one of the freshest sprinters left in the race and that will play a big part in tomorrow. The Dane to double up and repeat his Vuelta final stage win!

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Thank You

A big thanks to everyone has read the previews over the past three weeks, old and new readers, it has been some journey. Seeing everyone return every day really helps me to continue with the grind. I maybe (definitely) didn’t always choose the winner but I hope that my slightly flamboyant and different take on the day’s racing has been enjoyable to read.

FRODO

Here comes the shameless self promotion bit…

If you have enjoyed the previews and want to show some appreciation with more than words then you can “Buy Me A Beer” via this link. Considering the amount of words and content I have put out, I think it is quite a fair deal to be honest. 😉

Betting

1pt EW Cort @ 16/1

0.5pt EW Theuns @ 300/1

Don’t know who will be sprinting for Sunweb but I’ll take the risk on Eddie at that price.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Paris Roubaix 2018 Preview

The Hell in the North returns this weekend to round off the cobbled classics campaign for this year. Last season saw a pretty hectic race, as always is the case here, with the man of the Spring Greg Van Avermaet winning a small group sprint in the velodrome.

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A frustrated Stybar banged his handlebars as he crossed the line in second place with Langeveld taking a surprising third. Will we see a similar trio on the podium this year; it is unlikely but not impossible. Let’s have a look at what is in store.

The Route

I’m not going to waste your time here, as you will no doubt have read plenty of previews this week that go into the route in-depth with every cobbled sector analysed etc.

PR Profile

257km of mainly flat roads with plenty of cobbles, simple!

Moving on…

The Quick Step Cobble Trotters

Just how do you beat the team that has absolutely dominated the classics campaign and this season so far? That is the question that every DS will be pondering in their sleep tonight.

Luck is arguably the biggest factor in all of if it. Roubaix is a race that you need good luck, or at least not to have any bad luck if you want to compete for the win. Just take the example of Sagan last year who was in the lead of the race twice, but had mechanicals that cost him his chance to fight for the win. Or in the previous year when he was caught up behind a crash early on and never made his way back to the front due to another tumble; the one where he famously avoided a falling Cancellara.

It will be hard for anyone to beat a QS rider but if one can be isolated on their own then they have a chance. Quick Step’s strength lies with the number of riders in their squad that could conceivably win the race. We see it time and time again that they attack quite early with someone to try to force a split and get rid of the other main contender’s domestiques. It normally leaves a group of 30 guys at most that includes 5 Quick-Step guys. From there, every attack that goes will have at least one of them in it and it won’t stay away unless they are there. Ideally for Quick Step, they would want at least two in a group. Flashes of Stannard rolling three of them in Het Nieuwsblad might spring to mind here but they seem like a different beast this year, they have developed much more of a killer instinct. Some would say, they are like a Wolfpack…

The number of options they have also leaves their opposition in a constant state of: “Is this the move I should be going in? Is this the winning attack?”. A mixture of patience, timing and luck (again) then play a part in if you happen to follow the right wheel or not.

If you do happen to find yourself in the right move, then that is the hardest part of the day done. Now you just need to outfox all of the other riders up there with you!

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The Sagan Effect

A lot of the talk pre-race has been a bit of to-ing and fro-ing between Boonen and Sagan in relation to the current World Champion blaming other riders not working with him to take on Quick Step. I would have to agree with Peter on this one; everyone is too concerned about how strong he is that it makes it a bit easier for QuickStep to continue doing what they have done for the past month. I guess that everyone else in the peloton is stuck in between the proverbial rock and a hard place with who they work with or don’t.

Interestingly enough, Sagan has a fairly poor record at this race compared to his usually incredibly high standards with 6th his best result back in 2014. That’s the only time he’s finished in the top 10 here in 6 starts. Nonetheless, he can’t be ruled out tomorrow and I would not be surprised to see him go and lift the title at the end of the day. Yet, I won’t be backing him.

In a break from tradition, I’m going with a slightly different approach rather than naming every contender or hopeful. Instead, I’ll be taking the Countdown method with one from the bottom, middle and top of the order to have a further look at…

The ‘Mat Hayman’ 

A rider for this category has to be someone who has flown fairly under the radar and has to be a massive, massive longshot for the title; need a very particular set of things to happen for them to go close. Someone you’re probably wasting your money on but heck, for the 5 minutes of exciting that they make an attack with 130km to go, worth it.

Mads Würtz Schmit.

Cycling: 20th Santos Tour Down Under 2018 / Stage 5

With one Dane (Mads Pedersen) having a “breakthrough year” on the cobbles, could we see his namesake go well here? Just like Pedersen, Würtz Schmidt is a former winner of Paris Roubaix Juniors, an event he took home back in 2012. An incredibly strong rider on the flat he did a lot of work for Kittel in the recent Scheldeprijs, taking massive turns on the front but it was ultimately to no avail. It’s only his second appearance at this race at pro level (he finished 46th last year) so his potential might still be hidden. He could well fly under the radar if he’s up the road in the morning break, or he could finish in 74th!

The ‘He’s what price?!’ 

Someone in this category might be have been seen as a potential winner a few years ago, or they’ve just been a bit off form lately and not featured in the past couple of races but they might still just have a chance come Sunday. Or at least you’ve convinced yourself of that; I certainly have with the following rider.

Matteo Trentin.

Yup, he somehow falls into this bracket which I find incredibly bemusing as he’s not really been off form that much in the past month. Looking at his result from Flanders suggests he might be on the decline, but his 45th place was due to a crash which consequently meant he lost two minutes on the guys ahead and that was his race done from there. He doesn’t have a great record at this race but in the past he has mainly be used as a very strong domestique for Boonen and co. However, this year he comes into the race as Mitchelton’s leader according to the race preview on their website. Disregarding Flanders, he looked very strong and comfortable in both E3 and Gent Wevelgem. Definitely and outsider to keep an eye on throughout the afternoon. If it comes down to a small sprint in the Velodrome he will fancy his chances.

The Winner

No fancy nomenclature here. If you have kept up with my thoughts on here and my Tweets over the past month then you already know who this is…

Philippe Gilbert.

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Even though he has only raced here once, a 52nd place back in 2007, and that goes against the norm as what it takes to win here; normally a rider needs to be experienced on the cobbles to do well but there are always exceptions. Gilbert is that exception. His win in Flanders was truly incredible and this has been his main target since the start of the season as he continues on his quest to win all 5 Monuments. Over the recent cobbled races he’s played the team-mates role perfectly, marking the opposition out of the race as the rest of his squad attacked. It will be interesting to see how he and Quick Step approach the race; will he go long again like he did in Flanders? If it does come down to a small group finishing together in the Velodrome then like a few others, the Belgian will be happy with the cards he has been dealt.

So that’s that, a slightly different approach to a normal preview but I thought I would try something different as I can’t imagine you will want to read a similar post in the same structure as the countless other previews available for this race. I hope you enjoyed it nonetheless!

Betting

I’ve been aboard the Gilbert train for a while now and tweeted out that I’d placed 2pts on when he was widely available at 15/1. He was even that price until Flanders again so as much as I don’t like doing it, that’s what being marked down in my figures!

Nonetheless, I’d still back him at the following;

2pts WIN Gilbert @ 8/1 with most bookmakers. You might get better odds on the exchange if you’re patient.

1pt EW Trentin @ 80/1 with Bet365. Would take 66/1 available elsewhere, some books paying 4 places.

0.125pt EW Mads Würtz Schmidt @ 500/1 with Betway. Would take down to 350/1.

Thanks as always for reading, I’m looking forward to what should be an exciting race tomorrow. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 21 Preview; Montgeron -> Paris

Today’s Recap

One second. Again! Think this must be the 6th time in two years that the rider I’ve backed for a timed event has lost out by one second.

Kwiatkowski rode a great TT but was just pipped by fellow countryman Bodnar, the latter getting revenge for being crushed by the Sky rider at nationals. After Sagan’s dismissal and Majka’s withdrawal it is good to see Bora still going well and challenging when they can!

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Froome came home third to convincingly take his 4th Tour title. Well, convincingly might not be the best word to use as he has looked anything but that this race, however the two TTs have won it for him! I wonder how the GC would have panned out if we had Valverde and Porte still here.

Oh well, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders on their final day of racing.

The Route

You know the score by now, a little jaunt from the outskirts of Paris that finishes with some laps of the Champs-Élysées.

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A processional stage that will get more exciting once we hit the laps themselves.

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Coming out from the underpass first with a few lead-out men in front of your sprinters is important. From there, being able to lead it through the sweeping bends with 500m to go will put your sprinter into a prime position into the closing straight.

That’s about that for the route, nothing more needs to be said really!

Weather wise the riders will start out in overcast conditions but that could all change later on in the stage depending on how processional they make the day.

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A wet finish could certainly make things a bit more lively.

Sprinters

This is the Tour, not the Giro, so we will see a sprint finish tomorrow. With Kittel no longer here, the door has been opened for the rest of the fast men to take a stage win and it could consequently become a bit hectic because of that.

Matthews.

The Green Jersey winner (as long as he finishes tomorrow) will be looking to go out with a bang. With arguably one of the best lead-out trains, he should be put into a good position. Brimming with confidence just now, does he have the speed to finish off a great Tour for Sunweb?

Boasson Hagen.

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After getting a richly deserved stage win the Dimension Data will be looking to double up tomorrow. The other rider with a strong lead-out, he should be placed into a good position in the final straight. No doubt we’ll see Van Rensburg do another monster turn to get him there! There are questions about his willingness to take risks though which could see him start his sprint from further back.

Greipel.

Has won a stage at every Grand Tour he’s started over the past few years. He left it late last year, taking the final stage that time round and he’ll need to do that again this year if he wants to continue that record. His experience of managing his body through a race could be vital.

Groenewegen.

The flying Dutchman hasn’t really set sail this Tour so far, picking up two podium places along the way. However, he did look like one of the fastest riders on the pure sprint into Pau and with Kittel gone he’ll be hoping to go better.

Bouhanni.

Poor. That’s how I’ll describe his Tour so far. He’s a sprinter that I think can do really well but he’s just been very disappointing during this race. He’s been positioned well only for him to decide to fight for wheels instead, or just completely lack the kick to get involved in the dash to the line. He could turn it around tomorrow and he’ll probably be doing a rain dance tonight, but it I think it’s unlikely we’ll see him on the top step.

Degenkolb.

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He’s been okay this race, especially when you consider that his original aim was to help Contador on the flat days and then look after himself. Now that he’s been freed from those shackles, he’ll hope to have the favour returned to him by the team. He would prefer a tougher finish but he should be in or around the top 5.

Kristoff.

Another rider who falls into the poor category. He was close in some of the opening few stages but has fallen by the wayside recently. Crashing the other day hasn’t helped and he’s looked a bit sketchy since then. Maybe he’ll be hoping for poor weather to help turn his race around?

Petit, Colbrelli, Cimolai, Bennati and Selig will all be fighting for the Top 10.

Prediction

My angle of thought for today’s stage nearly worked: pick a rider who is clearly still in form at the end of the race.

So with that being said, I think Matthews will win the stage tomorrow.

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He may not be known as the fastest rider on a pure flat sprint, but after the past week he is the only one to have shown that he is in great form. His ability to climb over some of the mountains we’ve had should see him fresher for tomorrow’s finish. Brimming with confidence, he’ll take a memorable stage win in Paris wearing Green.

Betting

1.5pt EW Matthews @ 12/1 with PP/BF (Would take 10/1 elsewhere)

 

Thanks as always for reading but a big thanks if you’ve stuck with me through the past 3 weeks. It’s your continued support that makes me keep going when I’ve gone on awful stage prediction runs etc! During the Tour the blog surpassed 50,000 views for the year which is incredible so thanks once again. I hope that a few of you new readers will stick around for the rest of the season as we still have plenty more racing to go.

Next on the schedule for me will be San Sebastian and both the Ride London races.

Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Paris Nice 2017 Stage 8 Preview; Nice -> Nice

*Apologies, the late run time of today’s stage and the fact I need to have a snooze before work this evening means that both previews will be a lot shorter than normal.*

Today’s Recap

It’s all so obvious now, Porte takes the stage!

Contador managed to get up for second and a very determined Dan Martin just edged out Henao for third on the day. That leaves the Colombian 30 seconds ahead of Martin, with Contador one second further back.

That changes the dynamic of how tomorrow will play out most likely, but first let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The final stage of the year always seems to change between an open road stage around Nice, or a mountain TT with a finish up Col d’Eze. This year we have the former again.

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A very short, but intense stage; with 32.1km out of the 115.5km going uphill!

The three cat-2s are not overly difficult so I can’t see the GC guys try anything here. Instead, we might see some action on the Côte de Peille. It’s certainly steep enough to try and get rid of some domestiques.

However, it may all come down to the Col d’Èze and the descent back to the finish line. Officially the climb is 7.7km at 5.2%, but if you include the bit of false flat at the end, almost up to the intermediate sprint point, then it’s 9.7km at 5%.

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View the strava segment here.

The climb is quite deceptive if you just look at the average gradient. The first 3km rarely dips below 8% but this is then followed by a relatively easy 2km section, before it kicks up again, then finally flattening out at the top.

Most of the pros will have trained/raced up here several times so will know exactly what the climb is like, and their own strengths or weaknesses on it.

Once over the summit, we descend almost all the way to the finish line.

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I wouldn’t expect that kicker to be much of an issue as the riders will already be carrying a lot of pace into it. Although it will most definitely slow them down!

The run-in itself is technical and a rider can lose contact if they’re not the most confident of descenders.

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It will certainly be an interesting end to the stage if a group arrives together.

How will the stage pan out? 

Before the the excitement at the end of today’s stage, tomorrow looked great for a breakaway. However, with things close on GC, especially between Contador and Martin, there is a very good chance we get another explosive day in the saddle.

The climbs aren’t too difficult bet there is still a chance of riders losing time and a reshuffling of the GC order.

Prediction

Yeah, as I said above, I don’t have enough time to go through everyone like I normally would instead I’ll just list one name.

I think Ion Izagirre will win the stage. The Spaniard has been up there all week and barring misfortune on stage 1 he would very much be in the GC hunt right now. Aside from Porte and our current GC podium, he was the first one home today, on a stage that isn’t suited to his strengths. Whereas, tomorrow’s climbs look more up his street, but it’s the descent to the finish that looks perfect for him. This stage just reminds me of the breakaway win he took in the Tour last year. Being almost two minutes down, he’ll be given a bit of leeway by the other contenders and he could well pull off a Yates-style attack.

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Vamos Ion!

Betting

 1pt EW Izagirre @ 25/1 with Bet365 (would take 20s)

Thanks for reading as always, normal service should resume tomorrow! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Paris Nice 2017 Stage 7 Preview; Nice -> Col de la Couillole

Today’s Recap

A rather exciting stage and we saw a GC showdown up to the finish in Fayence. It was Simon Yates who took advantage of his lower overall position, attacking over the top of the penultimate climb of the day, managing to hold on to the finish.

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Behind, Henao attacked and cracked Alaphilippe, with Porte returning to some form to take third place behind the Colombian. It leaves the GC nicely poised and we should be in for an exciting stage tomorrow. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The penultimate day and the Queen stage of the race!

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Two big climbs in the final 50km will be the main focal point of the day as the first two ascents of the day come way too far from the finish to be a launchpad.

The Col Saint-Martin will start off the GC proceedings.

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Officially 7.5km at 7.2% in gradient, the climb is long enough to stretch things out. Well, that is when you consider that the road actually rises for a long time before we get to the official start of the climb.

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Instead, the full length of the climb is 20.4km long and averages a very solid 4.2% gradient. You can view the Strava segment here. If a couple of teams co-operate here, they really could put the hurt on Alaphilippe and try to isolate him.

Once over the summit we have a long descent followed by some valley roads before we start the final climb of the day; the Col de la Couillole.

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A long and steady climb, it barely goes below 6.5% or above 7.5% in gradient. If the pace has been injected on the previous climb, it is very possible for a GC rider to pop here and lose a lot of time.

How will the stage pan out?

I thought today may have been a breakaway stage, with the finish potentially suiting Alaphilippe I wasn’t confident of other teams bringing the escapees back. I’ve had tomorrow marked down as a GC day for the majority of the week and today’s showing makes me think we’ll see a GC rider win  the stage tomorrow too.

Watch it be a breakaway win now…

Contenders

Sergio Henao certainly looked one of the strongest today and Team Sky seem up for a fight for the GC title. My suspicions about the Colombian building some form at home over the past few weeks seem to be correct and he is now Alaphilippe’s main GC rival. The long climbs up to altitude will certainly suit him and with a very strong support team they are dangerous. I expect them to keep the break in check all day, then really ramp the pace up on the Col Saint-Martin. Henao’s point of attack will be interesting. Will he go early on the Saint-Martin, hoping to find some allies, or will he wait and leave it all for the final climb? The way he seemed to open up a gap today over Alaphilippe on a finish that suited the Frenchman more, I think Henao might just be confident enough to wait until that final climb.

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One man who is sure to take it up early is Alberto Contador. The Spaniard tried something today along with Henao but was quickly marked by Dan Martin. He struggled on the final slopes today but it was not a climb that really suited him whereas tomorrow’s long, steadier ascents do. He looked sprightly on the lower slopes of Mont Brouilly where we get similar gradients to that we’ll get tomorrow. You can’t forget how well he was climbing in Valenciana and following Quintana for fun in Abu Dhabi. Not being an immediate threat on the GC, he may just be given some leeway.

If Contador is not an immediate threat on GC, then Richie Porte is not an immediate threat on next year’s GC! The Aussie finds himself way down on the overall but seemed bullish and up for the fight today. Again, like Contador, Porte is not suited to the short punchy climbs and tomorrow’s 7% stuff looks great for him. If he’s climbing anywhere close to his form in the Tour Down Under he certainly has a chance of a stage win, which will certainly boost his morale!

After his stage win today, Simon Yates could well go on to bag another tomorrow. He’s in a similar GC position to Contador and those two may form a very exciting, attacking duo. Will he have enough left in the tank for another assault tomorrow?

I’m intrigued to see how Ilnur Zakarin does on this stage. The Russian has slowly plodded along this race after disappointingly losing time on the opening day. He did an OK time-trial but not as good as some were expecting. Yet, he seemed to be coping alright on the climbs today so maybe that was just a blip. He looked very impressive in Abu Dhabi, chasing down Rui Costa and will be looking for a similar performance on stage 7!

Izagirre and Barguil might try to utilise their lowly GC positions to their advantage but they haven’t looked great so far in this race.

Prediction

We’ll get a crazy final half to the stage with a few long-range probing attacks. Alaphilippe will only initially need to follow Henao and Gallopin and that will benefit those further down on GC. Henao may well bridge up to others, but I fancy Alberto Contador to take the stage. He will have been very disappointed after a poor first stage, considering this was his first main goal of the season. The way he climbed in Valenciana and the effortless nature he followed Quintana was incredibly impressive. El Pistolero will fire a warning shot that he’s not dead and buried yet!

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Although I do think it will be very close between him and Henao, with the Colombian moving into the GC lead after the stage.

Betting

Normally I wouldn’t back GC riders for a stage like this but…

2pts WIN on Contador @ 9/2 with BEt365.

Also,

4pts WIN on Henao for GC at 9/4 with PaddyPower

Thanks again for reading, who do you think will win tomorrow? Will someone further down on GC benefit or will Henao make his mark? 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…

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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.

 

 

 

Paris Nice 2017 Stage 5 Preview; Quincié-en-Beaujolais -> Bourg-de-Péage

*This will be short and sweet!*

Today’s Recap

Ahahaha, I should stop with the bold statements. It was the rider who I completely gave no chance to that ended up going on to win the stage. Julian Alaphilippe took a remarkable victory, he was flying!

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That result now puts QuickStep in a very good position for the overall and should ensure some attacking racing for the rest of the week.

As for Tony Martin, he seemed to be struggling on the bike and it was not a good sign when he didn’t set the fastest time at the intermediate check point. Oh well, onto the next stage!

The Route

A pretty uninspiring day compared to what we have in Tirreno.

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A lumpy start to the day will certainly inspire the breakaway and give them a good opporunity to build up a lead, but the latter half certainly lends itself to a bunch sprint.

The finish is technical. Well, from 3km to 1.5km to go is very technical!

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The three roundabouts will certainly string out the bunch, but thankfully for the riders they go round the same side of them all. We then get a sweeping road in the final kilometre, which will keep things strung out. Positioning and a good lead out will be key!

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It will be fast too as the riders descend ever so slightly before the road kicks up in the last 300m.

Could very well be another chaotic day!

Contenders

As much as I would like to try and argue that a break makes it, this is a sprint stage 100% and the last one we’ll see this race.

Kittel could potentially get involved but with his team now fully focussed on GC he more than likely will have to surf wheels and he’s not the best at that. So…

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Greipel has been poor in the sprints so far but he is capable of turning it around at any time. He just seems a bit tired at the moment, maybe an easy day today will have helped him?

Kristoff looked strong on stage 3 but just went too early and faded away at the end. If he can get the timing of his sprint right then he has a great chance on a finish that suits him.

Bennett was the one who benefitted from Kristoff’s early sprint on stage 3. The Irishman looked strong then but his lack of a lead-out may hinder him here.

Groenewegen was left reeling after crashing on stage 3. He looked in a great position and said his legs felt good. He’ll want to make ammends tomorrow.

McLay saw his Fortuneo team do a great deal of work on the front of the bunch but just got blocked on the wrong side. With a podium finish at a Tour stage, the Brit is not one to be underestimated here!

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Démare will want to taste stage glory again after losing his yellow jersey lead. He looks good, his team looks good; can they get it right again tomorrow?

Colbrelli will also be gunning for a second stage victory. The Italian should appreciate the ever so slight up-hill drag but his positioning sometimes lets him down and that again could be his downfall tomorrow.

Matthews was going strongly in the TT today until a crash on the uphill. He’s been up there on the sprints so far but not really involved. (If that makes any sense).

Degenkolb will have a good lead-out at his disposal and this finish suits him down to the ground. A second and a third so far, can he get onto that top step?

Cort, Sbaragli, Coquard and Minali could all be up there equally too on a crazy day.

Prediction

He was left bitterly disappointed today in the time trial as he was on for a good placing. Clearly on form and getting better as the race goes on, Michael Matthews has a real chance here. He has a very solid lead-out train and should be one of the best positioned going into the final kilometre. If he’s near the front for the final 300m he should have the power to take the win!

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Betting

Matthews 1pt EW @28/1 with Bet365 (Would take down to 18s)

 

Thanks for reading and aplogies for this being slightly shorter than normal! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Paris Nice 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Beaujeu -> Mont Brouilly

Today’s Recap

An annoying day prediction wise. The peloton decided to take it easy, letting a small group get up the road, ensuring a sprint finish.

It was Sam Bennett who took an excellent win at the end of the stage, surging past his competitors to a comfortable victory!

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He finally has a big result to show for his good early season work. Certainly one to watch in Milan San Remo if Sagan isn’t feeling up to it.

Anyway, let’s move on to tomorrow’s stage and what was supposed to be the first GC shake-up of the race.

The Route

A 14.5km individual time trial finishing atop Mont Brouilly.

As is tradition with TTs I’ve made the route profile on Strava that you can view here.

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The first two-thirds of the stage will be  fast. The riders start on a shallow descent before a false flat rise before they descend again towards Saint-Lager. A little kicker just as they come into town (800m at 4.25%) will slow their progress a bit before they then start the irregular climb up Mont Brouilly.

We have two different official profiles for the climb with the one from this year’s road book suggesting that it’s 3km at 7.7%, with the profile from 2014 suggesting 3km at 8.4%. Strava has it as 2.9km at 7.6%.

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In my opinion, this year’s profile is correct in terms of average gradient, but the 2014 edition gives a much better idea of the inconsistencies in the steepness of the slopes. So yeah, you just need to combine the two really!

I’m really intrigued by this route. The start of it really favours those who are masters of the discipline and are able to power along on the flat, but obviously the finale is a fairly steep 3km climb where the climbers can make up ground. It’s a similar route to the traditional final TT that we see in Etoile de Besseges every year, but with a slightly harder final climb.

I wonder if we’ll see any bike changes?

Another thing to consider is the weather.

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Forecast for Saint-Lager (Source: Wunderground)

We should get roughly similar conditions all day, although those who start later may benefit from a slight drop in the wind speed. I’m also particularly interested in the wind direction, as it looks to be a head/cross-head wind for the majority of the “flat” section. This certainly won’t help the small climbers, favouring the strong TTers. Once we get onto the climb itself the wind direction will change a lot due to the several hairpins the riders go round, but it will mainly be a crosswind.

Contenders

As I mentioned above, this stage reminds me a lot of the final TT we get in Etoile de Besseges ever year, except with a slightly harder climb. Riders who’ve won there in the past few years include; Gallopin (2017), Coppel (2016), Jungels (2015), Ludvigsson (2014).

A variety of riders, although they all fit roughly the same mould. Guys that are good climbers (not mountain goats) but they are also very solid on the flat.

Now the debate I’ve been having with myself for the past half hour or so is if the slightly steeper climb negates the strong flat start that we have. Then you throw in the potential for a head-wind which hinders the climbers more and I’m back at square one! Right, I’ve made my mind up…I think…

Porte could go crazy on this day and smash the TT, or he could quite easily keep his powder dry for later in the week and go for a mountain stage instead. He’ll have lost a bit of confidence in himself after the first two stages but tomorrow presents a good opportunity to relight the spark. I think he’ll struggle in the first part but dance up the climb. Will that be enough to take the win?

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Contador will fare similarly to Porte but he’s in the position where he’s at least guaranteed to give it 100%. The flat section into the headwind will be tough but he’ll love the climb. However, I think there will be riders who will go better than him on the day.

Two of those are very similar; Zakarin and Izagirre. They both need to make up some time after losing a minute on the first day. The pair of them are solid TTers on the flat and are obviously good climbers too. They in theory should have a lead over Porte/Contador going onto Mont Brouilly. If they have 10 seconds at that point then they have a great chance of taking the stage!

Gallopin isn’t known for his TT ability but he did take his first professional victory in the discipline at Etoile earlier in the year. Obviously going well in this race, making all of the splits so far, he is a real danger-man for stage honours. With the climb only being 3km long he should be able to put out power close to that of the proper mountain goats. I’m very intrigued to see how he does.

You can’t have a TT preview without mentioning Tony Martin. The World Champion has had an up-and-down start to the season; winning a stage in Valenciana, coming second in a TT in Algarve but crashing heavily in Kuurne. He also crashed in yesterday’s stage but it supposedly wasn’t anything too serious, however, it’s yet to be seen if he’s back at 100%. I have been impressed with the bits of work he’s done at the front of the race, particularly on stage one. He looked really strong there, single-handedly closing the gap to the group up front by around 30 seconds. The climb at the end might be an issue, but he was going well uphill in Valenciana for his stage win!

I don’t think Alaphilippe will go well here. That’s all I have to say about him!

Lampaert might get involved in the top 10, but he could also be told to save himself for team duties later in the week. Kruijswijk is very hot or cold in TTs and could pull something out of the bag tomorrow. As a super joker, I’m going to keep an eye on how Michael Matthews does. In theory he should be strong on the flat and the climb won’t be too challenging for him, it all just depends on how he approaches the day. He was impressive on a tough course in Switzerland last year!

Prediction

I’m still not entirely convinced about what way this is going to go. Which hopefully should make it a great time trial to watch! But I think the head-wind at the start of the stage will have a larger impact on the small climbers, than the climb at the end will have on the bigger all-rounders at the end of the day. I’ll go for the World Champion (Tony Martin) to take his first victory of the season in his Rainbow Bands!

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Betting

Tough stage to call and not one to get heavily involved with.

1pt EW Martin @ 9/1 with Betfair/PP (Would take the 8/1 available elsewhere). My thinking behind going EW is that he hopefully should at least place and we get some kind of return.

 

Thanks for reading my third preview of the day, I’m sure it’s been a slog for you! How do you think the TT will play out tomorrow? Will it be a GC winner or do the specialists have a chance? You can read my Tirreno previews on the site if you haven’t seen them already! 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 2 Preview; Rochefort-en-Yvelines -> Amilly

Today’s Recap

Sprint stage they said?! Madness ensued.

Rain and wind tore the peloton apart and we had several groups all over the road. In the end, it was Arnaud Démare who won a two-up sprint against Alaphilippe, after the latter attacked on the final climb of the day, with only Démare able to follow.

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A slightly annoying day as I had the race pretty much perfectly planned out; with it being split up in the wind; GC gaps; and a late attack succeeding. Just a shame I didn’t have the correct riders! Although I guess 2 out of the top 3 were sprinters so it would have taken something special to have the winner.

GC wise, there are some fairly large gaps now but nothing too drastic and the race is still very much on. It should certainly ensure some attacking racing for the rest of the week.

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

The Route

The dullest stage of the week parcours wise and one that in theory should be a nailed on sprint.

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The run in to the line is fairly simple with no real obstacles to deal with in the final kilometres, just a few seeping bends.

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It’s practically pan-flat too, so once again the only thing that may stop a bunch sprint is some inclement weather.

Weather

Another miserable day in store for the peloton and it could be a long day in the saddle for them too. The reason I say that is because it looks as if we’ll get a cross-headwind for the first half of the day.

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Weather in Boiscommon (Source: Wundeground)

However, as the day progresses the wind swirls around and there is a good chance we’ll get some strong crosswinds at points. Will the bunch split in them? Quite possibly. As we saw today, a nervous bunch means crashes and splits.

The section from Châtillon-Coligny to the final circuit looks particularly exposed and the road travels in the correct direction for some echelon action.

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If a team really wants to split it here I think they can. Everyone will know that so the fight for position itself will be incredibly intense which in turn will cause nervousness and the possibility of crashes that I mentioned above. It only takes one person who’s on the limit to pop for a gap to be formed.

We will get a sprint of some sort in Amilly. Heck, even the peloton might regroup on the final circuit but there will certainly be some tired bodies out there!

Sprinters

You could argue that those who made the front selection today are the strongest sprinters here, and to be honest, you would pretty much be correct.

Today’s winner Démare looks in splendid form, something that I’ve said for a few weeks now but he typically goes on to win when I’ve not backed him. He’s an excellent rider in bad conditions and should make any split we have tomorrow. His lead-out train is good, not great, but good and in Guarnieri he has a very capable last man. Full of confidence, he’ll fancy his chances of doubling up.

Kittel went pop on the final climb today but that was expected. He did well to make it into the front group and will be hoping for more of the same tomorrow. Easily the fastest flat-sprinter in the world right now, he’ll relish the easier run in. Can he put on another dominant display?

DUBAI TOUR: ARRIVES FIRST STAGE

I was very impressed with the selfless work that Greipel did today at the front of the bunch. He put in a great shift and some massive turns for Gallopin and will hope that the favour will be returned tomorrow. Not with his normal lead-out, the Gorilla will have to surf some wheels but he certainly seems in good shape at the moment and I rate his chances.

Kristoff won the bunch gallop for 3rd today. Would he have beaten Démare? Who knows! Personally, I don’t think he would have as although he has 4 wins to his names so far this year; 3 of them have been against second-rate sprint opposition in Oman. He’s yet to test himself fully against the proper fast men of the peloton. I’m not fully discounting him as he is a classy bike rider, but I don’t think he’ll win tomorrow.

One rider who will be bitterly disappointed after today’s performance will be Nacer Bouhanni. The Frenchman was one of the first riders dropped in the crosswinds and that was his day well and truly over. He’ll need to turn that around drastically tomorrow if he wants to be in contention.

Groenewegen had such a non-existent day that I completely forgot about him until having a quick look at the odds for tomorrow. He’s another who could get involved tomorrow but not for me.

Away from the “bigger” names of the sprinting peloton there are two riders I would like to highlight.

Magnus Cort Nielsen is fast becoming one of the most promising tough sprinters in the peloton. The Orica rider was in the second group on the road today, doing a lot of work for the team’s GC leader. With Yates having lost a reasonable amount of time, I think the Dane will be given the opportunity to ride for himself tomorrow, even if Yates does get caught behind in a split. A very fast finisher after a tough day in the saddle, he is one to keep an eye on.

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The other is Sam Bennett. Like Cort, the Irishman was in the second group for the majority of the day but with a lack of team support his options were limited. Normally a very good rider in bad conditions, he’ll be hoping to make the first split tomorrow. Certainly not a rider to be discounted, he is criminally underrated from a reduced bunch sprint in my opinion.

Prediction

I was impressed by not only the work he did today, but also his closing speed in the final stage of Abu Dhabi. I think Greipel is on superb form but is masking it quite well just now. He should make any split and without there being any GC springboard at the end of the race he should be sprinting out for the win!

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Betting

2pts WIN Greipel @9/2  widely available (would take 4s)

0.5pt EW Bennett @ 40/1 with Betfair/PP (would take down to 33s)

0.5pt EW Cort @ 50/1  with Betfair/PP (would take down to 33s)

 

Thanks for reading as always! Do you think the race will be blown to bits again tomorrow? Or will we see a full peloton sprinting it out? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.