Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 4 Preview: Catania -> Caltagirone

Rest day recap

The wind was strong for the final stage in Israel but much to my disappoint, it was pretty much a tailwind for the majority of the way home. We did get a couple of splits on a short section but the bulk of the peloton arrived together. As predicted, it was rinse and repeat, with Viviani showing that he is the strongest sprinter here, coming round a swerving Bennett to take the win. The Irishman was beaten by Modolo for second place but he held on for third.

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Let’s take a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow on their return to Italy.

The Route

A leg sapping stage made worse by tough Sicilian roads.

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This is just a typical day out at the Giro: 3000m+ of climbing but only two Cat-4 KOM ascents, classic. There is no real prolonged periods of flat land with the road constantly going up or down, especially in the final 2/3rds of the stage.

We could see some early attacks from stage hopefuls but they’re unlikely to stick, unless the morning break makes it all the way but with BMC wanting as much exposure as possible at the moment then it has less chance than normal.

The decisive part of the day is the final 16kms and what it holds for the riders.

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Like always I’ve made profile that you can view here.

The final 16kms kicks off with the uncategorised climb of San Bartolomeo, which averages a fairly steady 3.7% gradient for almost 8kms.

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It’s an interesting one as the gradient isn’t too severe but given the length of it, if a team decides to take up the pace and go full gas then we could see the peloton split. Bear in mind the amount of climbing they will have done before this point, but again, it all just depends on how fast and aggressively it is raced.

Once over the top they will have just over 7kms to go on rolling terrain which might present a chance for an opportunist to attack before the finale. The peloton will also have to contend with some narrow roads (like the following image), taken at roughly 3km to go.

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I wonder if we’ll see a rider attack and their team try to block the road/chase? If we don’t get any action on the run-in then it will all come down to the final kick up to the line.

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At an average of 8% for 900m it will entice both climbers and puncheurs, with lots of riders possibly fancying their chances at stage glory.

It must not be a popular Strava segment though as there only 77 people who’ve had an attempt at it, but interestingly, a few of them are here. Pinot, Preidler and Roy all “reccied” the stage on the 4th of April, just a couple of days after Geniez and Montaguti had a look at it. Pinot actually holds the KOM with a time of 2’40, whereas everyone else listed there took it a bit more leisurely. Will we see the Frenchman give it a go tomorrow?

Contenders

Given the various different ways this stage could pan out then there are a whole host of riders who *might* have a chance but I’m not going to name 20+ people here, nobody’s got time for that! So instead, I’ll focus on just three guys who could go well.

I’ll give an honourable mention to #GoOnCalves first though who could conceivably take the leader’s jersey with a stage win and a gap to Dennis. Anyway,

Alexandre Geniez.

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I had to choose one of the guy’s who have had a look at the climb before and Geniez is the perfect mix of not being a real GC threat but is solid and strong enough to go well. Although I think his team-mate (Montaguti) might try an early attack. Geniez started the season in flying form winning the GP Marseillaise before taking the overall title in La Provence. Since then he has been a bit quiet results wise but his form has slowly been building in the Tour of the Alps. He surprised me, and a lot of other people, with his win in Tre Valli Varesine towards the backend of last year where he won a very reduced sprint against Pinot. That day Geniez sprung out of the chasing pack to bridge across to the two leaders (Pinot and Nibali) on the last ramps of the final climb. Combining that with his sprint win in Marseillaise but also his breakaway wins in the Vuelta and you get a well-rounded rider. I still think it will be hard for him to beat everyone if he arrives with the peloton at the foot of the climb so he might have to anticipate the action and attack beforehand, but you never know!

Pello Bilbao.

If you’ve read this blog over the past couple of years then you will know I’m a big fan of the Spaniard since his sprightly days at Caja Rural. His debut season at Astana last year didn’t get off to the best of starts but a 4th place on a breakaway stage at the Giro was a sign of things to come. In the Vuelta towards the end of the year he was phenomenal and instrumental in helping Lopez secure a couple of stage wins but also pacing Aru when he was in difficulty. This season we’ve seen a much more consistent rider who’s taken solid GC placings in Valenciana and Itzulia before he recently won the opening stage in the Alps. His opening TT here was a bit of a surprise but given the punchy route we had then maybe it wasn’t too much of a shock, it did indicate that he is in good form though. Tomorrow’s 1km finish looks great for him and with Astana no doubt having plenty of numbers in the front group on the run in, will we see them constantly attacking or trying to set it up for the sprint on the climb? Bilbao has a good shot either way and like Goncalves, he too has a chance of taking the leader’s jersey with a win and a gap to the others.

Carlos Betancur.

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I haven’t seen the Colombian this motivated for a race in a while, he seems to have his head in the right place again. In 2017 he was domestique deluxe for Quintana at the Tour before being given the opportunity to chase stages in the Vuelta. That unfortunately didn’t go to plan as he crashed on the 7th stage while with the main group of favourites. He’s came back this season though and has had solid results in GP Indurain and Amorebieta but it was his opening prologue that really caught my eye. Like Bilbao he’s not exactly a great TT rider, in fact he’s a pretty terrible one, but his form must have been good on the punchy course to get himself round in 10th place. This type of finish we have tomorrow would be bread and butter for the Betancur that finished 5th on GC at this race back in 2013 or dominated Paris Nice in 2014. Is he at that level again? I’m not sure, but tomorrow will certainly be an acid test for him. I think I can speak for the majority of the cycling public in saying that we would all love to see Bananito back at his best!

Prediction

I kind of spoiled this on my Twitter but yeah, Pello Bilbao to win the stage!

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He looks in great form at the moment and with the Astana team as strong as they are they should be able to control proceedings in the finale. Just up to them whether Bilbao attacks early and they block the road on the narrow sections, or to keep it together and watch him fly up the final climb.

Betting

I did tweet out I was backing Bilbao when odds came out yesterday but the price has long since gone but I still would take him at what he is now.

1pt EW Bilbao @ 28/1 with Bet365 (would take 25/1 lowest)

1pt EW Betancur @ 40/1 with various bookmakers, Betfred are paying 4 places. (would take 33/1 lowest)

0.5pt EW Geniez @ 100/1 with Bet365 (Would take 80/1, maybe 66/1 at a push)

**Update – Added 1pt EW Goncalves @ 25/1.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2018 Stage 2 Preview; Bétera › Albuixech

Today’s Recap

We got the expected sprint finish into Peñiscola with the lead-out trains battling it out on the run-in.

It was Lotto Jumbo who came out on top, delivering Van Poppel excellently into the home straight. He did have to start his sprint ever so slightly earlier than he would have liked, but the Dutchman showed enough power to hold on for the victory.

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Mezgec looked as if he was going to come round him at some point but he just couldn’t manage it, nonetheless, he held on strongly for 2nd. Roelandts came home third, pipping a few other riders in an almost blanket finish for the minor places.

Will Van Poppel be able to hold onto his lead tomorrow?

Let’s have a look at what is in store for them.

The Route

A really interesting stage that could cause a GC shake-up.

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@LasterketaBurua

Five categorised climbs jammed into only 155km of racing makes this stage a stern test for the riders given how early into the season we are.

I can’t see the opening 4 climbs have any major impact on the outcome of the stage, but they will definitely wear down the riders legs for the second half of the day.

The focal point of the stage though is the climb of El Garbi.

Alto Garbi

This was the climb that Alberto Contador used to decimate the peloton on stage 6 of last year’s Vuelta, with only a select group of riders making it over the crest with him.

Unfortunately he’s not here so it will be interesting to see if we have the same aggressive racing.

The climb as a whole averages only 5.6% for 9.2km, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t too difficult. However, it is the almost 3km section at pretty much 10% where the real damage can be done.

Riders will be all over the road if someone attacks this one aggressively. The key word being if.

Once over the crest, the riders will descend for almost all of the remaining 30km into the finish town of Albuixech. It is not a descent where you can free-wheel on though, as the percentages only max out at around -5% or so. A strong and organised group could gain time on others here.

How will the stage pan out?

I’m really hoping for some fireworks on the Garbi. I have a feeling we might see Valverde try to light it up to reduce the group down significantly to 8 riders or so. However, the issue with that plan for him is he might be left with very few team mates and that then leaves the door open for Sky Harlem Globetrotters to attack him from all angles.

The stage is similar to the opener in Andalucia last year that Valverde won from a group of 7, although the final descent that day was 10km shorter.

Instead, we might see a slightly easier pace, where a group of 25 riders crest the climb together.

Same rules still apply though and attacks will go off the front and we could then see a splinter group make it to the line. As to who makes that group, your guess is as good as mine but one thing is for sure, they have to climb well!

As I’m short on time, I’m just going to throw a few names into the hat so the list isn’t going to be exhaustive.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Any Team Sky Rider.

Well, maybe not all of them. Seriously though, everyone on their team apart from Kiryienka and Stannard could win this stage given the right situation. I think they’ll try to make the pace hard to reduce the peloton as much as possible, isolating other riders. The old 1-2, will be turned into the old 1-2-3-4-5 as they constantly send riders up the road on the run-in. Take your pick for them, I’ll go with a lively Diego Rosa.

Alexis Vuillermoz.

The AG2R man had a great end to 2017 with a very respectable 4th place in Il Lombardia. He copes well on the steep gradients and if the pace is not pushed too hard, then he’ll hope to make it over with the main group. If the race splits up from there, he won’t be marked too much as Ag2R won’t be massive threats in the TTT so he could slip away. Furthermore, he packs a solid sprint from a reduced group so he could challenge that way.

Pello Bilbao.

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I’m a big fan of the Spanish rider and it was great to see him really take a step up in level towards the end of the Vuelta last year. This season he’ll no doubt be working for his leaders at some point, but this is the type of race where he might get leadership in. If he’s climbing like he did in the Vuelta, he should be able to follow the front group. Packing a punch, he could be a threat from a reduced sprint.

Jaime Roson.

I’m intrigued to see what the new Movistar man does this season and I think he’ll have a lot of expectation on his shoulders at this race to help Valverde. He’s a strong climber but is still a bit raw so to speak. Anyway, while everyone has their eyes firmly on El Bala, Roson manages to slip away in the closing few kilometres. He has a bit of kick to his sprint but I’m not entirely sure the flat run-in will be ideal for him, nonetheless he has a chance in a very tactical finish. Or he just works tirelessly to keep everything together.

Prediction

A climbing selection to be made on El Garbi and it all to kick off from there. I think we’ll see a counter move go and a small sprint to the line of about 5 riders, with a group of 20 or so coming in not so long after.

Vuillermoz to take the day!

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There is absolutely no season long fantasy league bias here at all. Ok. Maybe there is a bit…

Thanks as always for reading and apologies for the slightly truncated preview. I’m looking forward to what should be an interesting, tactical finale tomorrow. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Il Lombardia 2017 Preview

The “Classica delle foglie morte” or “The race of the falling leaves” for those of us who speak little Italian, is arguably one of the most beautiful races of the year, and is the last Monument in the calendar. I don’t know if that is due to its position at the end of the season which makes everyone see it as one last huzzah as things wind down, or the very attacking racing we get. Probably both!

Last year saw Esteban Chaves take the win in a three up sprint against Rosa and Uran.

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More impressively though he managed to avoid the Haughey Curse, after I had backed him to the hilt in the preview. It was a good end to the year!

With 2016’s route taking the riders from Como to Bergamo, things will switch around this year as is tradition, with the finish being in Como.

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

The Route

Almost a carbon copy of the 2015 edition. Are the organisers trying to be kind to a certain native?!

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There are a few tough ascents early on in the day but the race really starts to kick into action once we get to 70km to go and the famous Madonna del Ghisallo. We’ll see a thinning out process here and possibly some early probing attacks by second and third tier riders from the top teams.

Any rider who is in difficulty this early on won’t have much time to rest though as they will soon face the toughest climb of the day; the Colma di Sormano.

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At 7kms in length it averages a leg breaking 8.9% in gradient. That is hard either way you look at it, but it is the final 1.9km of the climb that averages close to 16% which is the real killer.

If a team pushes on in the bunch, not many will be left in with a chance once they are over the top. Back in 2015 we had around 20 riders who made it over together, with a few more getting back on in the descent and flat roads as we head towards Civilgio.

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Anyone that went out the back door on the Sormano but managed to get back to the peloton, will unfortunately meet their maker for the second time in the race here. Steep and persistent is the best way to describe it, the climb will wear the riders down and only the strongest will be left at the head of the race. As a tough penultimate climb, it acts as the perfect launchpad. Will anyone manage to break free?

If not, then the race could be decided on the last climb of the day, the short San Fermo. At only 7.2% for 2.7km it is one of the easier ascents. However, given its position in the race and the fact the riders will have already covered 235km+ then we could see some go pop all of a sudden.

Cresting with just over 5km to go, it will then be a charge down to the line if we have a solo rider with a frantic chase behind as there is very little time to get organised. There is a chance things could still be toghether, and we see an incredibly tactical finale, or even a small gallop to the line!

How will the race pan out?

I expect action and chaos from as far out as the Ghisallo, with Bahrain being the main driving force behind it all.

During this week of Italian racing they have been exceptional, putting other teams to the sword on numerous occasions. They’ve only came away with one win but it is their attitude on the road that has impressed me most.

I think we’ll see Gasparotto and Brajkovic set a tough pace on the Ghisallo but it will be the Sormano where they will go crazy; hoping to shed as many riders from the peloton as possible. They’ll hope to have Visconti and Pellizotti left with Nibali, and hopefully no more than 20 other guys there either.

Things will inevitably regroup on the descent and flat, but those who rejoined will once again go backwards on Civiglio.

One of the key parts that will decide this race is how some of the stronger teams approach the flatter roads. Do Bahrain, Sky, Astana etc send someone up the road so that they don’t have to chase the move behind? I think it would be wise to do so, but will they?!

We could see a front group made up of Visconti, Fugslang, Latour, Haig, Formolo and Henao for example, that might well stay away. I am really intrigued to see how the teams approach this part of the race.

If things are all together, and when I say all together I mean a group of 5 or 6 riders, then it will be very tough for anyone to drop the rest of the bunch on the final climb. Like in 2015, it will come down to a tactical attack and everyone looking at each other, or a small bunch gallop.

Three Clear Favourites?

Nibali, Uran and Pinot have all shown their credentials over the past week and are the most obvious riders who should be in contention come the end of the day.

The Shark has been excellent all week, particularly in Emilia where he looked effortless. He chose to skip Torino and will come here as fresh as possible. He’s clearly in great form, but is he strong enough to drop everyone on the climbs? I’m not so sure. That then leads to the issue of; “surely no one will be foolish enough to let one of the best descenders get a gap on a descent” again? He either wins solo by putting down some astronomical watts on the climb, or not at all.

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Uran seemed forever the nearly man, but he is having arguably his best season as a pro yet. Since the Tour he has built slowly towards this race, looking fairly good in Emilia but taking that up a step and putting in a strong performance in Torino. Will that have taken a lot out of him? Possibly. He cruised up the climb last year to a third place finish, but he then seemed to not have the same kick as Rosa and Chaves in the final of Lombardia. The Astana man had an easier time of it in Torino, while last year’s winner didn’t race MT at all. It probably won’t make much of a difference but it is something to consider. One advantage that Uran has is his speed; he would be confident of winning a 3 or 4 rider gallop to the line. We’ll just forget about last year’s sprint though…

Pinot is almost the unknown here. A great climber who seems to put in solid performances at this race, his second half of the season has been geared towards this race. He was the only rider who could follow Nibali’s vicious attack in Emilia, and the Frenchman never really looked in trouble. I wouldn’t read too much into his result in Torino, as he will have gained enough confidence from Emilia, that Torino would have been more a training ride than anything else. Before the start of the season I would say he would be in the middle of the trio in terms of sprinting, but I think he has the speed to challenge Uran.

Will the three of them get the chance though?

Azure Attacks?

Although Astana have Aru in their ranks, they might not 100% back the Italian Champion and instead play an aggressive tactic, getting riders up the road. There are two riders who given the right situation, I think could surprise and win this race.

Jakob Fuglsang.

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On fire at the Dauphiné, his season really went downhill from there. Crashing out of the Tour and then injuring his collarbone in a criterium. Not ideal! He has returned to racing as of late but his form is not overly promising; DNF’ing both of the Canadian races and a 61st in Torino. He did win the “hilly” stage in the Tour of Almaty, but given that is basically a criterium and the best Astana rider wins on the day, then I won’t read much into it. However, I have a feeling that he might go well. I don’t really know why, but he is a classy, classy bike rider and can’t be underestimated. In the hilly one day classics he is often a feature near the front and animating the race, so he has experience in that sense. Remember his Silver in Rio? I can’t wait to watch him pull out of the race tomorrow with 100km left!

Pello Bilbao.

A pick based on a favourite rider?

*Pretends to be shocked*

If you’ve read the blog for a while, then you’ll know I’m a big fan of the Spaniard and I’m really pleased to see him take a step up this season. As I pointed out in my Milan Torino preview, he was arguably one of the best domestiques in the final week of the Vuelta, he just was outshone by Moscon. The distance might be an issue for him, but in a very tactical race he might just be Astana’s trump card.

Prediction

None of the above riders will win though…

Instead, I’ll go for somewhat of an outsider, although he really isn’t.

Wout Poels.

Liege - Bastogne - Liege 2016 WTThe winner of Sky’s first Monument back at Liege last year, he has the ability to go well tomorrow. His 6th place in Torino on Thursday was slightly underwhelming, but promising. I would call it considered.

His racing schedule has been a bit sparse but he is someone who seems to really time his peak at the end of the season. Especially when he isn’t racing heavily in the early season. In theory, compared to his rivals he should be “fresh” due to his time off the bike and I think this will help him massively tomorrow.

While Nibali and co mark each other out of it, Poels will manage to sneak away and take the win. If not, as we saw in Liege, he packs a fairly decent sprint. I wonder if it will be as easy for him as Angliru was?!

Betting

End of the season so pushing the stakes out there a bit more.

0.5pt EW on Fuglsang @ 150/1 with Skybet who are paying 4 places (would take 125 and no less)

0.5pt EW Bilbao @ 250/1 with various (would take 200)

2pt EW Poels @ 33/1 with Ladbrokes/Bet365 etc.

 

This could well be my last preview for the year. I won’t be doing anything for Paris Tours and it is very unlikely I’ll do something Turkey. The new stage race in China might be a possibilty but it does look pretty dull…

I’m not entirely sure what will feature in this blog over the off-season. There are a couple of things I have in mind that I could do but any suggestions would be appreciated! Rider interviews could be a possbility but I’ll have to get my finger out for that.

Thanks though for your continued readership throughout the year. I’m pleased/proud/whatever you want to call it of the blog this season and the way it has grown. Il Lombardia marks my 209th preview of the season, more than double from last year, but I wouldn’t be as motivated to continue if you didn’t keep reading and interacting/offering feedback etc.

There have been some ups and downs this season, from the glory days of Lampaert’s win in Dwars and the famous Le Samyn preview, to the duldrums of the Giro and some other unnamed races. And what about the Wongshots?!

So that’s it for the previews in 2017. I might make an appearnce with a few features, and I might well be featured elsewhere…but if not, I’ll see you all for the Tour Down Under.

Thanks again for reading.

Thos were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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.

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 14 Preview; Écija -> Sierra de La Pandera

Today’s Recap

A solid break went up the road, but it was a break more suited to rolling terrain than what we had today. Villella gave up after securing some KOM points, leaving just 4 up ahead and their task was made even tougher.

Quick Step took on the brunt of the work behind, getting some assistance from Cannondale and Lotto Jumbo.

In the end, the last survivor from the break (De Marchi) was caught in the closing 10km and we had our sprint.

Well, it was a very reduced sprint to the line.

After all the work that his team had done throughout the day, Trentin delivered, taking his third stage win of the race.

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Moscon showed that he’s much more than a one-trick pony sprinting to second, with Kragh Andersen finishing in third.

Finally a good day for the pre-stage blog punts!

With the sprinters having their last chance for a while today, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

We’ve had a stage that almost descended from the gun to the finish (aside from a categorised climb) but tomorrow we have one that pretty much rises from the get go.

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Well, it is a very gradual rise from the start! Over the opening 70kms the peloton will only gain roughly 200m of elevation.

They will face some harder tests with the first categorised climb Puerto el Mojón starting at 77km into the day. However, it isn’t anything crazy…

Puerto de Mojon (1)

An average of 4.4% over 8.4km should see everyone make it over the top together. Once the descent has finished, the riders will tackle a lot of uncategorised rises, including a 4km effort not long before the Sprint Point.

At 33km to go, the riders will be able to warm up for the summit finish with the Cat-2 climb of Alto Valdepeñas de Jaén. Again though, it is nothing too troublesome for the bunch; averaging a fairly lowly 4.8% for 8.5km.

Therefore, it seems that tomorrow is all about the Especial finish climb – Sierra de la Pandera.

La Pandera

As I was unsure of the official profile I just decided to make my own as per usual!

12.8km at 7.2%, it is a tough test to end the day for the riders. That gradient does include some false flat sections and even a couple of downhills. Therefore when the road is going up, the gradient is probably closer to an 8% average.

The key point on the climb though is most likely at the ~5km to go point. From there until the little descent, its is 4.3km at 9.8%. That is certainly steep enough for some gaps to be created; we saw what happened on Stage 11.

At 1km to go the riders will drop down for 500m before the road rises back up again to the finish line.

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That hairpin with 200m to go could be interesting if we don’t have riders arriving solo…

How will the stage pan out?

Once again we’re treated to the question of “break or no break?”

In theory, the stage is easy for some GC teams to control. Not an overly hard opening to the day, followed by a lumpier second half is ideal for them to keep the break on a tight leash. However, after Orica tried something on Stage 11 (that backfired) I’m not so sure if we’ll see anyone offer assistance to Sky early on.

Trek of course could try something but the Cat-3 and Cat-2 are nowhere near hard enough for Contador to drop his rivals. Plus, with one eye on Sunday’s crazy stage, I think most teams will be happy to see Sky tire themselves out by having to do a lot of the work.

Consequently, I think we’ll once again see the breakaway make it all the way to the line.

It won’t be simple to make the move though as the opening 50km are fairly straight forward, albeit rising, so we’ll no doubt have a fast pace from the gun again. This means that strong riders should find it easier to make the move compared to the lightweight climbers.

Conversely though, the end of the stage is much more suited to the mountain goats. It could be a case of one or two strong climbers make the move and in that case, they’ve lucked out. If that does happen, then a long-range attack might stick as no-one will want to tow the better guys to the foot of the climb.

Anyway, time to play…

TheBreakawayLottery

Breakaway candidates

Enric Mas.

Quick Step have been in sensational form this race so far and they’ll no doubt be in the hunt again tomorrow. They have DLC in a good GC position but the team is aggressive enough to send someone in the breakaway and potentially fight for stage glory. Mas was one of the strongest on the climbs of stage 6. He’ll certainly be a danger tomorrow if he makes the move. Rolling home today near the back of the bunch after doing some work early on, does he have one eye on tomorrow?

Pello Bilbao.

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He’s taken some time to find his form in this race but he has been great the past few stages for his leaders. On Stage 11 he was instrumental in helping Aru lose as little time as possible on GC, eventually finishing 14th on the stage. It depends on how keen Astana are to defend their Team Classification lead, but they could well try to get someone up the road tomorrow. In his current form, Bilbao will be there or thereabouts come the end of the stage.

Rui Costa.

It has been an oddly quite Vuelta so far Costa. Something I didn’t expect before the race; I thought we’d see him in numerous breakaways. The only thing of note he’s done so far is that bold and ultimately pointless attack on stage 3. Nonetheless, he is a classy, classy rider and can’t be discounted.

Tobias Ludvigsson.

Token Big T mention.

I was staring at the start list and results for a few minutes trying to think of who else to include aside from obvious riders such as Majka (who might not even make the break on the flat anyway). So I just decided to stick with ma boy!

Vuelta Picks

Same shit, different day…

“Safe Pick” – Zakarin

Should be close to the head of the GC group at the finish, and you don’t want to risk going for a breakaway pick.

“Wongshot Pick” – Bilbao

It requires Astana to be bold and attacking to defend the team classification, but then also requires for the Basque rider to make the move. Yolo, as the young kids would say…You’re already sitting down in the bottom half of the table. Why not go for glory?!

“Lanterne Rouge Pick” – Tuft

Pretty self explanatory, Tuft ain’t not climber!

Prediction

Breakaway to win, but we will see some GC fireworks behind and a top 10 rider to lose quite a bit of time. As to who that may be, ask me tomorrow!

Rui Costa to take the stage win after being quiet all race.

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Betting

Spreading some pennies on the breakers but it looks a good day for some in-play action.

(all B365)

0.6pt WIN Mas @ 40/1

0.6pt WIN Costa @ 80/1

0.5pt WIN Bilbao @ 66/1

0.3pt WIN Ludvigsson @ 300/1

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will the break once again make it all the way to the line? Or will the GC teams chase it down and go for the stage?

 

 

 

 

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 7 Preview; Llíria -> Cuenca

Today’s Recap

A weird stage where the break never got more than three minutes but that was all that was needed.

With Luis Leon Sanchez up the road, Sky kept the break in check for a lot of the stage. However, it was Trek and Contador who tore things up on the final climb of the day, shattering the peloton.

We had a slight regrouping on the descent and flat run-in, with the gap coming down to 6 seconds at one point! Yet, three riders from the morning move kept their heads down, eventually increasing the gap and ultimately fighting out the stage win.

Enric Mas lead out the sprint, but it was Marczynski who was the strongest, beating his countryman Poljanski into second place.

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It was a bit of a weird ending to the stage as at one point the Froome/Contador group had 40 seconds on a group containing De La Cruz and Yates. Yet, none of the teams fully committed and in the end DLC only lost 17 seconds.

Will we see something similar tomorrow?

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

The Route

Another 200+km day for the peloton over some undulating roads.

 

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Although we don’t have the same number of categorised climbs that we had on today’s stage, the peloton will actually have to face more elevation gain at 2700m compared to the 2600m today.

There is a lot of uncategorised rolling terrain that once again suits powerful riders.

For example, the opening categorised climb of the day (Puerto La Montalbana) is 8km long at an average of 4.3%. Nothing too strenuous but they do climb for roughly 10km before then!

This is where the break is most likely to form.

Once over the top, there is a short descent followed by another few uncategorised drags. The riders will then tackle a longer descent before the second Cat-3 of the day.

The Alto de Santa Cruz de Moya is another power climb; averaging 4% for 8.7km.

From there, the riders will traverse a plateau of sorts for the following 100km. Kind of flat, but kind of hilly at the same time!

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The last climb of the day is enticingly positioned, cresting just 12km from the finish. I would take some of the gradients and bumps in the profile with a pinch of salt as Strava does sometimes seem to struggle when the route follows contour lines very closely. However, the average percentage for the climb is correct and it does have ramps of 15% or so in it, just maybe not the 25% or so.

Two important things to note about the climb are that it is cobbled, well paved, and it is very narrow in points.

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One car width wide in parts, positioning will be crucial for anyone who wants to contest the stage.

There is a slight plateau after the crest of the climb, but the closing 5kms are all downhill ever so slightly.

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Will it be a solo that comes to the line or will we see a reduced sprint?

How will the race pan out?

Another really tough day to predict. We could easily see a number of situations play out during the stage!

The early break obviously has a good chance at survival given what we’ve seen over the past few days and with terrain that is tough to control. For sprint teams that is.

Contador seems very sprightly just now and he may get his Trek team to help Sky keep check on the break so that he can launch an attack on the final climb. Considering the much shorter distance to the line that today’s stage, he could feasibly hold on with Froome and a few others. But is the climb tough enough for that? I don’t think so.

We could see a couple of teams control the day and hope for a reduced bunch sprint. Trentin was impressive today in making it over the final climb relatively close to the head of the peloton, eventually arriving home just behind the De La Cruz group. Lobato is another rider who might fancy his chances on making it over the short, not too steep climb.

Like today though, it would be wise for QS and Jumbo to send riders in the break so they don’t have to work behind.

Witha fast stage today, some riders will be hoping for a quieter and less stressful day tomorrow. Stage 8 should produce a GC showdown so the overall contenders might want to keep their powder dry for another day.

Consequently, if the right mix of teams and riders goes, then it should be another day for the break to stick!

Time to play everyone’s favourite game at the Vuelta…

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Break Contenders

Time to throw some darts again.

Tobias Ludvigsson.

Big T didn’t make the move today but I’m willing to give him another chance tomorrow. He came home in the Bardet/Moreno/Pozzovivo group today, i.e. the next main one on the road after the groups that included the top 20 on GC and the break. Clearly he has some kind of form and this is a race he seems to perform fairly well at. He climbed well here at the Vuelta last year and I was really hoping to see him push on this season. That’s not happened yet, but could tomorrow be that day?

Richard Carapaz.

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Arguably one of the biggest talents to come out of Ecuador in a long, long time; he is a solid climber and good all-rounder. He impressed early season, picking up a second place behind Adam Yates in Industria, along with a few top 10s on GC in Spanish 2.1 races. However it was his second place overall in the Route du Sud that really highlighted his talents. After Betancur’s fall today Movistar only have one rider in the top 25 in GC so they are guaranteed to be attacking. Can Carapaz turn their bad luck around?

Jetse Bol.

Another rider to make his return to the blog, he spent the day in the break on stage 5. He missed the key move that day but still finished strongly to take an 8th place at the finish. Tomorrow’s stage looks great for the Manzana rider and like many other teams, they’ll be hoping that the break makes it all the way. Bol is a rider who can climb well but he also packs a good sprint, will that see him through?

Pello Bilbao.

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This type of terrain is perfect for the Astana rider, who excels on rolling days. I’m still not 100% sure about his abilities on the long Alpine climbs, but nothing tomorrow should be of difficulty for him if he is fit! Punchy enough to make an attack on the closing climb, he could get a gap that way. However, he also packs a fairly solid sprint so he may hope for a reduced gallop to the line.

Vuelta Picks

Picking a GC rider today was definitely damage limitation for anyone near the top of the table. The same approach tomorrow is definitely advised too.

“Safe Pick” – Simon Yates.

A guy that should be there at the finish and relatively near the front of the bunch. It will save some of the “bigger hitters” for later in the race.

Wongshot Pick – Jetse Bol.

An almost smart Wongshot pick as it covers a possibly reduced sprint and breakaway.

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Lasse Hansen.

One of the many riders suffering from illness.

Prediction

Jetse Bol 2.0 to take a great stage win for Manzana. Vamos!

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Betting

Bol 0.5pt WIN @ 50/1

Ludvigsson 0.25pt EW @ 300/1

Carapaz 0.25pt EW @ 200/1

Bilbao 0.5pt WIN @ 80/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Pais Vasco 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Donostia -> Bilbao

Short preview as I’m short of time!

Today’s Recap

A much more exciting stage but a disappointing one from the stage picks perspective. It was selective, but just not as much as I thought it would be. David De La Cruz won the stage after a great attack on the climb followed by a ballsy descent, saw him hold off a charging peloton!

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Kwiatkowski and McCarthy sprinted home to round out the podium.

As for Yates, he punctured at the most inopportune time just before the penultimate climb and that scuppered his chances for the day. Eventually coming home in the third group on the road. Bennett put in a few digs on the climb but couldn’t get the gap that was needed, and it wasn’t attacking enough for Contador.

Oh well, on to tomorrow! Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

Another rolling day, but not as severe as today’s stage.

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@LasterketaBurua

There’s not much to talk about, with the main climbs being separated by enough road to make them inconsequential. The uncategorised first passage of El Vivero will certainly tire the legs before they tackle the full climb later on which crests with only 14.5km left.

So it looks to be a day all about the final climb. It is certainly long and steep enough to cause some issues if some of the GC guys go full gas up it. However, with 14.5km of shallow descending left will they want to put others to the sword, especially with a tough day ahead on stage 5?

We saw on stage 2 that the riders are quite happy to roll around on a club ride for most of the first half of the stage, which almost nullifies the end climbs.

Saying that, 4.6km at 7.8% is steep, so it is up to the riders to make it even more painful by being aggressive.

With the final 1km rising ever so slightly, a reduced bunch sprint here would be interesting to watch.

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The riders do tackle a roundabout with 1km to go, but compared to some of the other finishes we’ve had the past few days, tomorrow looks relatively straight forward!

How will the stage pan out?

That all depends on the aggressiveness of Sky and Movistar I think. We have witnessed on today’s stage in particular that they are keen to take on the work at the head of the bunch and make things hard.

Tomorrow is another good day for the likes of Valverde and Kwiatkowski in a reduced bunch sprint, and the severity of the climb certainly opens it up for some GC attacks.

I would keep an eye out on a smarting Simon Yates after today.

Does the break have a chance?

Yeah!

There are sizeable enough gaps on the GC now for plenty of riders to get up the road and not be a threat in the grand scheme of things. Anyone that’s over 5 minutes down will probably be given some freedom.

Break Candidates

Wellens lost a nice amount of time to be given some leeway. The Belgian seems to be an expert at making the right move and will be a real danger if he does. He started the season off in exceptional form but has went a bit off the boil since. Peaking for the Ardennes, you would expect him to be on an upward trajectory now so he’ll surely be targeting a stage here. Tomorrow could be that day.

Likewise, Pello Bilbao lost some time today. Thankfully I avoided backing him yesterday, but he’s also done some recon for tomorrow, so maybe this stage is truly his goal in the race. We saw Astana were attacking with Fuglsang so they will more than likely try to make the move again tomorrow. Bilbao winning in Bilbao?!

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After gifting his bike to Valverde today, Gorka Izagirre lost over 14 minutes. He could be sent up the road if Movistar decide they don’t want to commit helping a chase all day. With a 4th place on GC in Paris Nice and an 8th in GP Indurain, he is certainly going well enough to compete if he makes the move!

Prediction

Tough stage to call as anything out on the road could happen and it really depends on the attitude of Sky and Movistar. Without any bonus seconds, there is no real impetus to chase a break unless they really want a stage win. If they do that, then they have to ensure the pace on the final climb is tough enough to drop the likes of Matthews etc. If the pace is that high, then I think Simon Yates will make amends for today and squirrel off the front to take the win.

However, I think the break actually stands a good chance tomorrow and I’ll go for the main man, Tim Wellens!

Cycling : 10th Eneco Tour 2014 / Stage 6

Betting

Not a day I want to get heavily involved with.

(All B365)

Wellens 0.6pt WIN @ 16/1

Yates 0.3pt WIN @ 22/1

Gorka Izagirre 0.3pt WIN @ 300/1

Bilbao 0.3pt WIN @ 100/1

 

Thanks as always for reading! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta al Pais Vasco 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Iruñea -> Eguesibar-Sarriguren

GC Overview

No time for a full length preview so here are a few thoughts.

The race in general seems easier than previous editions, but the riders can always make it tougher through aggressive racing. The most decisive stages are the last two, stages 5 & 6. With the steep gradients of Arrate, the more lightweight, explosive climbers will look to maker their mark. Whereas the more all-round GC contenders will hope to gain time back on the TT the following today. It should be a close race!

Contador won the race last year and is clearly going well just now. He’ll fancy his chances to make it back to back wins overall!

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His main rival looks to be the flying Valverde. He was exceptional in Catalunya and has to start the race as favourite in my opinion.

Behind those two there are several riders who will be hoping to make the podium. Alaphilippe, Henao, Roglic, Yates and Spilak are just a few names to conjure with. Out of that selection, I would fancy Alaphilippe. There are no big mountain days and long 16km climbs which he hates, instead, he’ll find the short 6-7km climbs to his liking. As we saw in Paris-Nice, he packs a fairly good TT as well! Spilak is a dark horse, especially if he is on the level that he was climbing in Tirreno and if it rains, of course!

No bonus seconds for the stage winner etc tilts the importance of attacking racing to drop opponents, but also the TT is even more key.

Right, now that’s out the way, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders on Stage 1.

The Route

A fairly dull stage to start the race off.

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Profile once again courtesy of @LasterketaBurua

We do have a few Cat-2 climbs but they come too far from the finish to be of any consequence. The little rise of 1.4km at 3.4% which crests at just over 4km to go is interesting, but I can’t see it having a huge effect on the race. It may be the launchpad for a probing attack, though even I think it will be hard for one of them to stick! Yet, with no real sprinters in the race, it might just do…

The run in to the line is quite technical, and we have two sharp turns in the closing 2km.

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The 90-degree turn with 300m to go will ensure for a manic end to the day. You need to be in the first 5 riders out of it to have any chance of winning.

“Sprinters”

We have barely any of the top-level sprinters here this week so expect a few surprise results and things not going to plan!

Matthews probably starts as the favourite. The Aussie looked good in Paris Nice, and rode very well on the unfamiliar cobbles of Gent Wevelgem recently. Like most of the “sprinters”, he doesn’t have a great lead-out with him and will be relying on Geschke to deliver him into position.

Bennett arrives as the other sprinter who’s a cut above the rest. The Irishman took a great stage win in Paris Nice, beating some of the fastest riders in the world. He pulled out of De Panne so it will be interesting to see if he’s recovered from whatever it was that caused that. If he has, then he is certainly a big favourite for the win!

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It says a lot when you have Swift and Lobato as the next best sprinters in the peloton. Both have looked a bit “meh” as of late but if there was ever a chance for them to take a win and get some confidence back, this is it. I just wouldn’t have any confidence in them at the moment!

Then we have normal lead-out men who will be sprinters at this race, such as Van der Sande and Richeze. I would favour Richeze out of those two and he seems to have a fairly good sprint train (by this races standards) to support him. Delivering two wins in San Juan earlier in the year can he win in Spain a few months later?

Orica have a few options and they could go with either Albasini or Gerrans both of whom could contest, especially with the other rider leading out.

Heck, Valverde and Alaphilippe (if Richeze isn’t up for it) might fancy a sprint!

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Bole will fancy his chances but he’s been poor so far this year.

I’m intrigued to see what card Astana play. They obviously have blog favourite Lutsenko, who’s clearly going well just now and in a sprint like this he certainly has a chance. Although it remains to be seen how he has recovered from his crash in Gent Wevelgem and how finishing Flanders today will have affected his legs. Instead they might turn to Basque rider, and another favourite of mine, Bilbao. He’s had a quiet start to the year but he’ll want to go well in his home race. Packing a fast sprint, he might surprise!

Prediction

A real crapshoot of a stage where a late attack might stick as controlling the bunch will be tough, or we’ll get one of the craziest sprints of the season.

I think we will get a sprint, but having a good lead-out will be important and there aren’t many of them here! Orica have the best contingent of riders for that in my opinion. With Power and Plaza they have two riders who can take it up from a few kms out, letting Gerrans/Albasini sit in behind. Choosing between those two is tough, but after his second place today in La Rioja, Albasini is clearly going well. Gerrans won’t mind doing the work for him if he’s rewarded with his own chances later in the week. If the Aussie leads Albasini into the last turn, very few riders will have the strength to come past him!

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Betting

Nothing for me on GC, odds are too short on the favourites for my opinion. With stage 1 being so difficult to predict I’m having a relatively conservative, 2pt kinda day…

Albasini 1pt WIN @50/1 with Betfair/PaddyPower (would take the 33s with Bet365)

Bilbao 0.25pt EW @200/1 with Bet365 (would take 125s)

Lutsenko 0.25pt EW @125/1 with Bet365. (would take 80s)

 

Thanks for reading as always. Apologies that this is on the shorter side but there’s not that much to talk about for this stage! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta Stage 12 Preview: Los Corrales de Buelna -> Bilbao

Today’s Recap

For once the break didn’t make it and we got back-to-back GC stage winners. This time round it was Froome who pipped Quintana in a sprint to the line. The Brit always goes well after a rest-day as I highlighted in yesterday’s preview!

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The gaps were not big to the rest of the GC contenders but if it wasn’t a two-horse race before today, it definitely is now, and boy do we have a race on our hands!

GC action should be put on pause tomorrow and we’re set for a really interesting stage.

The Route

An up and down day with a flat finish.

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An un-categorised climb to start the day will be a bit of rude awakening for some. If it’s anything like today’s stage then the break may not go until the Cat-1 climb.

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Not the toughest cat-1 climb, it probably is given that categorisation due to it’s length. The average gradient of 6% should be manageable for the riders, unless of course the pace is still on and the break hasn’t formed. If it does form here, it will be awfully strong.

The stage though is defined by the double ascension of the Cat-2; Alto El Vivero.

The road book is back to it’s best today, with no graphic for the final climb. The directions and diagrams are also a bit vague, but I’m sure I have the right approach…

After a few days off, the Strava profile makes a return. View it here.

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Profile of the final 20km.

The final climb itself is 4.2km long at 8.4% average gradient. Like a lot of the climbs in this area, it is very irregular. The toughest section comes almost right at the start, with a kilometre (0.3 -> 1.3km) averaging 11.8%. There are a couple of false flats along the way for the riders to recompose themselves and push hard again.

The same finale was used in the opening stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in 2015:

That day saw Michael Matthews take a reduced bunch sprint finish.

How will tomorrow’s stage pan out?

The stage itself is a nightmare to predict, with a few options that are very feasible.

We could well see the morning break stick and fight out for stage glory as there is a reasonable amount of climbing and the sprint teams won’t be confident of their riders making it over. Saying that, it’s not impossible for a team to control the race and go for a sprint (as we saw in 2015). Felline, Sbaragli, Van der Sande, Valverde & Gilbert will all probably fancy their chances in that situation. However, it is a lot more difficult to control the finale of a grand tour and if the break is brought back, we could well see a late attack stick.

See, it’s not easy!

The sprinters above that I’ve mentioned are the only ones I can really see make it over the final climb. Out of them, I’d probably say that Felline has the fastest flat sprint after a tough day, so he should be the guy to look out for in that situation.

As for late attackers, Luis Leon Sanchez would be the perfect candidate. He looks incredibly strong just now and has the TT engine to hold off the bunch. So could Tobias Ludvigsson who’s climbing better than ever and should make it over the climb if we’re getting set for a reduced sprint.

Breakaway Candidates

There’s a template of rider who I’m going with here. Someone who can climb, but also packs a decent sprint!

JJ Rojas.

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The Movistar road captain may be told to get in the breakaway to defend their lead in the Team classification. Sky (who looked strong today) and Cannondale (who will have at least two men in the move) are both less than 10 minutes behind. The Spanish team do love to win that competition, so will start defending it soon. It could start tomorrow. Rojas has turned himself in to a jack of all trades and should be able to cope with the final climb. He has a good turn of speed and would probably be the favourite if a small group of escapees came to the line together.

Pello Bilbao.

The Caja rider, like a lot of them, is local to the area. He’s been a bit lost in this race so far, having a few crashes etc. However, he does seem to be slowly re-finding himself and building some form. A guy who on his day can climb with the best, he really should have won the GC in Turkey this year but had to withdraw due to illness. This type of profile suits him very well.

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Nathan Haas.

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I’ve already highlighted him for a stage earlier in this Vuelta but he didn’t make the move that day. The climb will be on his limit but considering his performance on stage 4, then he has a chance of being in contact with the lead riders as they summit. Like Rojas, he has a very solid sprint after a tough days racing. You don’t want to be leading him out in the finale!

Prediction

I’m unsure how the stage will go, but I lean towards a breakaway. That of course all depends if there are a few of the “sprint” teams who co-operate and bring the break back. Nonetheless, I’ll stick my neck out on the line and say that the break will win.

I think you know where I’m going with this one. Especially considering my fondness with suggesting riders for whimsical reasons…

Bilbao to win in Bilbao. Simple and poetic.

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I can’t pass up a rider who has the same surname as the finish town and is from the region!

Betting

Small punts on the three breakaway guys

0.3pt Bilbao at 40/1 (Various)

0.1pt Haas at 100/1 (Various)

0.1pt Rojas at 200/1 (Bet365 & BF)

After today’s successful H2H I’m hoping to find one for tomorrow, but nothing has caught my eye/I’ve not done enough research. If I do find something, I’ll update it on my Twitter!

Hope you enjoyed the read, apologies for it being shorter than normal! How do you think the stage will play out? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.