Volta ao Algarve Stage 3 Preview; Sagres -> Sagres

Today’s Recap

Dan Martin fulfilled his favourite status with a very impressive win on the slopes of Fóia.

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Primoz Roglic did well to follow the Irishman and nearly pipped him on the line. It was also nice to see Kwiatkowski back to some kind of form with a third place.

Tomorrow’s stage will also go a long way to shape the GC. Let’s take a look…

The Route

TT time!

Print

The start of the course is more technical than the rest, as the riders will have to negotiate several roundabouts in and around the centre of Sagres itself.

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The final 2/3rds of the course are on a more traditional “out and back” route, running along the coast line. With the road being mainly straight and few sharp turns, this section is where the powerful riders can make up a lot of time.

Will the wind play any part?

From the early weather forecast it doesn’t look like it, but that can easily change over night.

Contenders

Tony Martin will start as the clear favourite and that’s only fair considering he is the current World Champion. The Panzerwagen has started this season off much better than his 2016 campaign; it took him 67 race days (not including TTTs or nationals) to take his first win then, it only took one this year! Clearly he is on some decent form but he does seem to go missing at times in comparison to his old self and has his improved climbing hindered his TT? Nonetheless, he is the guy everyone will be gunning for!

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He won’t have it all his on way though and there are several riders who might challenge here.

The current European Champion, Castroviejo, had a very consistent and solid 2016, picking up a 4th at the Olympics and 3rd at the Worlds. He wasn’t overly spectacular here last year, only managing 6th place. His form this year looks better though, and he finished in the top 20 on the tough climbing stage to Llucena in Valenciana and was in the top 10 today. Certainly not someone to discount.

Luis Leon Sanchez was going well until he crashed in this very TT last year. Not as good as he used to be in this discipline, on his day he can still certainly put in a shift. He’ll be hoping to top 5 and take some time on his GC rivals but he wasn’t as good today as I was expecting. Will be tough for him to win.

Roglic will fancy his chances tomorrow after today’s performance. The completely flat TT might not suit him perfectly, but that didn’t exactly stop him at the Giro last year. Brimming with confidence at the moment he has a big chance of getting one step higher on the podium than he did today.

I, like I imagine most people, was very pleased to see Kwiatkowski back up there and fighting today. Tomorrow’s TT is somewhere that if back to his best he could perform very well and is capable of winning. I don’t think he’s firing on all cylinders just yet, but he certainly is a dark horse for a podium placing.

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Some time-trial specialists who aren’t GC contenders also have a very good chance to take the stage win.

Alex Dowsett was on the attack, testing his legs in Dubai earlier in the month. He looked quietly good there out in the break and will love this type of stage. Seventh here last year, I think he looks better just now than then. Going out early, he might be in the hot-seat for a while!

His team-mate, Nelson Oliveira, finished just ahead of him on that day last year. The Portuguese rider will relish riding in front of a home crowd and this flat power course well suit him. He’s a proper brute of a rider when in the right mood. Will he turn up?

Cannondale duo Phinney and Mullen might also stretch their legs. The latter was particularly impressive at the Worlds last year and this type of out and back course is ideal for him.

I’m intrigued to see how Moser goes. He finished 3rd at the Euro TT Championships last year, beating the likes of Oliveira and Roglic. With only 3 race days in the legs so far, it might be too early for him but a top 10 would be a good result from him.

Prediction

Roglic looked sensational today, he crushes the TT on his current form.

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Two Movistar riders to round out the podium; Oliveira and Castroviejo. Tony Martin to disappoint!

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely we’ll get any odds. Spanish bookmaker Kirol seem to be the only firm consistently pricing up the race.

Thanks again for reading and as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win the stage? Am I being too bold by discounting Martin? Andalucia preview will be out later this evening. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

 

 

 

Men’s ITT World Championship Preview – Doha 2016

Men’s ITT World Championship Preview – Doha 2016

The final time trial of the Championships is upon us and it’s time for the Elite men to go up against the clock.

In 2015 we had a relatively surprising winner in the form of Vasil Kiryienka. Surprising in the sense that it wasn’t one of the Big 3 (Dumoulin/Dennis/Martin) but considering Kiryienka came 4th at the final TT in the Vuelta and is known for his big engine, then not so much.

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The rest of the podium was against all predictions too, as Malori and Coppel finished 2nd and 3rd respectively, with Castroviejo coming 4th. The Big 3 only managed 5-7th places, all finishing over a minute down. They’ll be out for revenge here!

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

The Route

The men will cover the same route as the trade teams did for the TTT on Sunday.

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Starting at the Lusail Sports Complex, the riders will be faced with a fairly technical 14km section that they could struggle to find a rhythm in due to the relatively short sections and several obstacles (roundabouts/90-degree corners etc) in their way. However, as we saw in the TTT, a lot of these corners can be taken at speed with the correct line.

They then make their way south along a very exposed, straight highway. It will be possible for the riders to maintain a high speed if the wind is in their favour! Once into the outskirts of the city the road gets a bit more sweeping but nothing major of note. They then complete a truncated lap around the Pearl, missing out the east section that we saw today, before reaching the finish line.

Weather Watch

Once again, the riders will be faced with very hot conditions and a bit of a breeze.

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Forecast for Qatar University – 2nd intermediate time check. (Windfinder)

The wind isn’t overly strong and as we saw today, the speed and direction can change pretty quickly in this part of the world. If we do get a correct forecast, then the riders will have a cross-tailwind for the long section in the middle of the desert. Expect very fast times if that’s the case!

With the riders setting off at 1’30 intervals and there being no wave system, there’s only an hour and 40 minutes between the first and last rider to set off, then changeable conditions won’t be as much of an issue as they should all get similar weather out on course. Therefore there isn’t an obvious advantage for the early or late starts respectively. But as I’ve said above, the desert wind can change very quickly so who knows!

The start times for the riders can be found here.

Contenders

Where else to start than with the Big 3?

Rohan Dennis comes here as the bookies favourite and will be confident after his convincing win at the Eneco Tour. However, that TT was only over 10km, this is TT is four times that length. It is in the longer TTs that Dennis suffers but this one isn’t long by World Championship standards and the Aussie will be hopeful here. I’m just not convinced by his lack of consistency over this distance to be confident in him. Watch him prove me wrong now!

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Tom Dumoulin has continued on from where he left off in his breakthrough 2015 season, managing to wear the leader’s jersey at the Giro and win two stages at the Tour, along with winning a silver medal at the Olympics. Not bad! His form has been a bit patchy as of late but he was 4th on the Queen stage of Eneco which is a good indicator and he looked solid in the TTT too. He’s definitely not a right off like some people may suggest.

Tony Martin was instrumental in Etixx winning the TTT on Sunday and he looks back to his best after changing his position on the bike and reverting back to his old technique. Picking up his first win of the season at the Tour of Britain really helped him, it’s amazig what a bit of confidence can do! This type of flat, power-based parcours is ideal for the Panzerwagen and he’ll be gunning for victory. Second favourite with the bookmakers, he certainly has a very good chance!

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As for the rest?

You can’t rule out Kiryienka on a course like this, although he would prefer it longer. But after his poor 2016 season he’s made no indication of a turnaround in form for here so I can’t see him retaining his crown.

Castroviejo is probably the main challenger to the Big 3. On the back of winning the European Championships, he was left disappointed in the TTT after having to make a bike change early on. Having “Vuelta legs” could help him if he’s managed to sustain that form and he’s certainly one to keep an eye on.

There are a handful of other riders who could challenge for a medal if the others fall by the wayside; Bialoblocki, Phinney, Lampaert, Jungels and Oliveira.

I don’t really rate the chances of Bodnar, Durbridge and Van Emden. Contrary to the bookies who have them priced up as 7/8/9th favourites. Bodnar and Van Emden normally don’t go well over this distance and Durbridge was suffering in the TTT, plus has struggled in long TTs recently.

Prediction

Despite his slightly off the boil form recently, I think Tom Dumoulin will win this. He was going well towards the end of Eneco and looked good in the TTT. He is one of the most fluid riders on a TT bike that I’ve witnessed in my short 10 years of following cycling. He’s like poetry in motion! The distance is also very good for him too; a perfect balance for his speed/endurance abilities. He’s not been loud and brash about his form either, in fact playing it down at times, but he’s quietly confident of going well and I am too!

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I think Dennis will go out too hard and blow up later on in the race and we’ll have Castroviejo sneak onto the podium again, with Martin finishing 2nd.

Betting

I have to admit, the odds swayed this prediction slightly. Even with questionable form, no way should both Dennis and Martin be under 2/1, while Dumoulin is 3-4 times that price in most places.

1.5pt WIN Dumoulin @ 8/1 with Betfair Sportsbook (take the 6/1 with B365, or I’d even go down to the 11/2 available elsewhere)

I’ve also backed this H2H 4-fold with Bet365.

0.5pt on at 6.43/1

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Thanks again for reading! The blog recently hit over 20,000 views which is incredible 🙂 Who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone beat the top 3 and am I being optimistic with Dumoulin? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Eneco Tour Stage 2 Preview: Breda -> Breda

Today’s Recap

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more chaotic sprint on what was a relatively simple, straight run in! Teams hit the front in ones and twos and there was no real cohesion in the final few kilometres. Out of the mess, it was Groenewegen who followed the correct wheel and timed his effort excellently to take the stage win. He’s had a spectacular season!

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It was Bouhanni who had the fastest closing speed after getting squeezed out ever so slightly, and he managed to get up for 2nd place, with Sagan bagging 3rd. As for Nizzolo he opened up the sprint too early, managing to hold on for 6th. Whereas Greipel was disappointing and never really got involved. He lost the wheel here (at around 800m to go) and that was his sprint over.

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As he’s gotten older he seems to lack the desire to get involved in messy situations and that was clearly highlighted today.

Anyway, moving on to tomorrow’s stage!

The Route

A pan-flat, out and back route around Breda. Another stage with not much to say, I think this section will be short and sweet!

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It’s the exact same TT course that was used back in 2014, and on that day Tom Dumoulin was victorious with a time of 10’55, averaging 52.7km/h. That gives you an idea what the course is like!

It’s one for the specialists, with there only being a few corners where the riders have to properly slow down. Although saying that, the course is just longer than what would be classed as prologue distance and with it being an 11 minute effort, a few unusual names may sneak into the top 10.

Thankfully for the riders, the conditions look to be similar all day so there’s no need for a #WeatherWatch.

The Big 3

For a stage like this there are 3 big favourites.

Tom Dumoulin, winner in 2014, would normally start as the favourite for this stage. In fact, he more than likely will! However, he doesn’t seem to perform at his best in short TTs, he’s a lot better at the longer stuff where gauging your effort counts for a lot more than pure power. Saying that, he could quite easily go on to win here. Either way, it will be close!

Tony Martin was win-less this year (not including Nat Champs) up until the recent Tour of Britain TT where he beat Dumoulin and Dennis over a short, 15km course. Brimming with confidence, he won’t expect anything less than a win on a profile that suits him down to the ground. The only question mark with him is that he’s not been consistent this year.

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The final member of the trio, Rohan Dennis, will equally fancy his chances here. The Aussie had a pretty poor opening half of the year. In fact, he hasn’t been that good all year but he did look incredibly strong in Britain. One of his problems in long TTs is that he goes out too fast at times, that won’t be an issue tomorrow. Building form the Worlds, don’t be surprised if he makes a statement here!

Can Anyone Else Compete?

The best candidate to make it onto the podium would be Ion Izagirre. His time trialling has greatly improved this year and he’ll be looking for a big result. The only concern is that he doesn’t seem to go well on purely flat courses.

His team-mate Nelson Oliveira is another who could well cause a surprise. He performed a good TT at the recent Euro Champs, finishing 4th. It’s hard to tell how good he will be tomorrow, as he often isn’t allowed to go full gas on a short TT but the form is certainly there. Alex Dowsett will find the course design to his liking, but it’s probably too short for him!

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Talking about team-mates who could go well, Dennis has two of those in the shape of Phinney and Küng. The American was on track for a good time at the ToB TT but crashed because of the rain. The short course should suit his powerful nature. Likewise, it will suit Küng too who is a former world champion on the track in the individual pursuit.

Jos Van Emden will hope to repeat his TT win from last year. But his form is an unknown as he’s not done anything of note in the final third of this year and pulled out of the Vuelta.

Thomas will probably be in or around the top 10, as will Kelderman and Boom.

Now for those surprises I mentioned earlier…

Edvald Boasson Hagen.

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He absolutely decimated the field in Qatar earlier this year in a flat TT and back in his HTC days he was a very good short TTer. If he’s building form for the end of the season like he did in 2015, he should be firing on all cylinders here, with a free-role looking likely in Qatar. A scary thought, he is an incredible rider. His long sprint today gave a glimpse at how he’s going, and I think the answer to that is well!

When mentioning incredible riders, you can’t leave out Peter Sagan!

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Wins the European Championship one day, sprints to third the following day. Why not compete in a short TT too? Gearing up to defend his World Champions Jersey, he’s at the Eneco Tour chasing World Tour points so he can win that competition as well. He’s not known for his time trialling, but this is the best I think I’ve ever seen him perform and he could well pull a result out the bag. Sorry Edvald, but that’s a scary thought! Remember back to his TT at the Tour of California last year, I expect something very similar from him tomorrow. Watch this space!

*Or don’t, as he crumbles and finishes in 27th*

Prediction

More than likely it will be between the big three, but there is always room for a surprise or two.

Martin has the form (recent win), Dumoulin has course form and home advantage. So yep, as you may have guessed, I’m going for neither of them. Dennis to win! I really liked the way he was riding at ToB and this short course is to his benefit. The beacons are lit, and Rohan will answer!

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Betting

Almost tempted by an EW on Sagan (100s) and Izagirre (50s) but it’s an official no stage bet.

I do like this H2H 4-fold though.

1pt on at 12.93/1.

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Thanks again for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and can anyone upset the big 3? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Rio Olympics 2016 – Men and Women’s ITT Preview

Rio Olympics 2016 – Men and Women’s ITT Preview

Mixing things up with a joint preview!

After the dramatic events over the weekend, the riders have a couple of days rest before the Individual Time Trial on Wednesday.

The Route

The TT takes place over the Grumari circuit that was used during the Road Race.

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As you can see, the route is a mixed bag of short climbs and long periods of rolling roads. This really opens up the type of rider who can win, as some climbers will fancy it but so will some of the TT specialists. I guess nowadays though, a lot of good climbers are solid TTers as well and vice versa!

The few uncategorised lumps at the start of the route will sap the legs before the first “official” climb on the route; the Grumari Climb. Don’t let the short length deceive you (1.3km long), the average gradient is steep at 9.4%. However, this isn’t the whole story, as the second half of the climb is much tougher, with peaks of 24%. The second climb (Grota Funda) is a much steadier affair, clocking in at 2.1km long and only averaging 6.8%.

Neither of these climbs are alpine, but they will certainly pose a test, especially on a TT bike. As will the descents.

However, it’s not only the climbs that will worry the riders. They will be concerned about the section of cobbles that runs along the coast. This stretch of road caused issues in both the men’s and women’s races with riders dropping chains etc. The stronger riders will certainly be hoping to take advantage of it as the lighter riders struggle to get power down.

After the final descent, the riders will have around 8km of flat road left. They’ll need to save some energy for this as it is possible to lose a lot of time here.

The men follow the exact same route as the women, but complete the circuit twice!

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Female Contenders

Fresh off her RR win, Anna van der Breggen comes into this race as the bookies favourite. She’s had a great season so far, and has performed well in TTs, recently finishing 2nd at the Giro Rosa time trial. Furthermore, finishing 2nd at last years World’s shows that she can last the distance. I would not be surprised if she doubles up!

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Current World Champ Linda Villumsen was on the attack yesterday on the Grumari circuit, obviously wanting to test her legs and have a look at the course at race speed. With her racing in America, it’s hard to gauge her form, but I don’t think she’s quite there.

Lisa Brennauer was also on the attack and this lumpier course will suit her more than a flat effort. However, she’s not been great in TTs this year and that’s enough to put me off her.

USA will turn to Evelyn Stevens as their main hope. She won the tough TT at the Giro Rosa not so long ago and looked good doing work for her team-mates in the road race. A real danger!

I think the course will be too tough and hilly for the likes of Armstrong and Garfoot. Although the latter may surprise me.

One rider I do like for this is Ellen van Dijk. I didn’t manage to catch all of the RR, but from what I saw she looked very, very strong. Constantly attacking, she played a great role for the team. She’ll love the cobbles and the flatter sections, but as was proven yesterday, she seems to be climbing very well too!

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Some outsiders (odds-wise) to look out for are Ashleigh Moolman, Elisa Longo-Borgini and Karol-Ann Canuel. They’ll be hoping to challenge the podium and will want to top 5 at least.

Male Contenders

The length of the TT really makes this one for the specialists, those who can manage their efforts well. On paper, this is a two-horse race.

Froome rightly starts as favourite after his impeccable showing at the Tour. He seems to be back to his best in Time Trials. He should be able to gain time on his rivals on the climbs, and will hope to maintain that on the flat. He will be hard to beat, but has he maintained his form?

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Tom Dumoulin would have been favourite for this if he had not crashed at the Tour. Supposedly he’s recovered well, but is still on painkillers for the race. You never know in cycling if someone is bluffing pre-race, until they get out on the road, but everything combined together is enough to put me off him.

Aside from those two, the podium is wide open. My favourite for making the podium is Vasil Kiryienka. The Sky rider hasn’t been great this year, in fact he’s been terrible, but long TTs are his bread and butter. With no domestique duties to be concerned about, he’ll be going full gas here. Finally. The cycling community rejoices! When in full flight he is something special to watch.

I’d normally be very much raving about Rohan Dennis‘ chances on a course like this, but he seems to be out of sorts as of late. The same goes for Tony Martin, who hasn’t won a race this year (aside from the German TT national championships). They could turn it around here but I’ve seen nothing to suggest that they will.

The two Spaniards; Izagirre & Castroviejo, both seem to be riding well and can challenge here. They will hope to podium but it will be a tough ask. A top 5 is certainly achievable!

Roglic, Cancellara, Oliveira, Phinney and Bodnar will be fighting for top 10 spots, anything better would be great.

*Of course, writing ahead of time means that I’m unsure of how accurate the forecast is. It looks set to be even conditions all day, but this could change quite quickly. Then, we might see riders getting an advantage depending on their start times.*

Predictions

For the women’s race, I think it will be a Dutch rider that will win. It won’t be the favourite though! Instead, we’ll see Ellen van Dijk romp away to victory. She’s won both of the ITTs she’s entered this season and I fancy that to continue. Van der Breggen and Stevens will round out the podium.

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In the men’s race it would be easy to pick Froome but I’m not going to do that. I think the distance will be the key and that will massively benefit a certain rider from Belarus. Kiryienka pulled out early from the road race to focus 100% on this and I say he’ll 100% deliver. The World Champion’s class will shine through! Froome will podium, probably finishing 2nd, with Izagirre claiming the bronze for Spain.

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Betting

Backing both of my riders individually (1.125pt EW) and as a double (0.25pt).

Kiryienka best priced at 16/1 with various bookmakers. 3 places at 1/4 odds.

Van Dijk 9/1 with Boylesports. 3 places, 1/4 odds. If you can’t bet there then Sky/Ladbrokes/Betway are all offering 2 places (1/3 odds). If not there, then straight up is good.

The double is 186/1 at Betvictor straight up. I can’t bet there so have placed it at Betfair instead (at 135/1). Boyles offer the double at 130/1 and that can be placed EW.

 

Hope you enjoyed the double preview?! I thought I’d save everyone’s time as the route is the same, and there isn’t enough to write to stretch it over two separate previews! Who do you think will win both races? I just hope we get equal conditions for all. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.