TDF Stage 9 Preview: Vielha val d’Aran -> Andorre Alcalis

Today’s Recap

Well, where do I start?

The stage started off frantically again and we only got a proper break on the Tourmalet itself. Only Pinot, Majka and TMartin managed to get any kind of gap. However, they were reeled in on the penultimate climb and Team Sky did their thing. On the Peyresourde we got some attacks near the top, with Henao and Quintana probably looking the strongest. Yet, it was Froome who made the winning move just over the summit of the climb. He made a daring descent (although was helped by those stalling behind, Quintana will be kicking himself as he should have covered the move) and held on for the win.

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I remember hearing a while ago that Sky had a “secret training camp” during the Winter. I think we can all agree that it was descending (among other things) that their main focus was on. They’ve made a real improvement in that area this year.

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As for the stage itself, the length of time that the break took to form was its own downfall. If it was established after only 30kms then the pace wouldn’t have been as high for the rest of the day. As it took until the Tourmalet to form, only the best riders could get away. It also meant that the time they could build up was limited. The blog picks never really had any chance because of this. Plaza and Clement were with the peloton over the Tourmalet but weren’t there for long.

Onto tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

The final stage in the Pyrenees will see the riders cross the border into Andorra, and another tough climbing route awaits them.

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Starting off with a Cat-1 ascent straight out the blocks will not be music to the sprinters ears. Once again, there is no profile of this climb in the road book, but there is a Strava segment for it that you can see here. Going off the strava segment it’s 19.4km long at 6% with a fairly steady gradient. However, the stage profile seems to start further up the climb, and suggests it’s 13.7km at 6.1%. Either way, it’s a long and potentially (most likely) painful start to the day.

Once over the summit they have a long descent followed by another long period of flat/descending before the 2nd Cat-1 of the day: Port del Cantó. Again, there is no profile in the road book, so strava once again becomes useful. View the profile here. Both stage profile and strava seem to agree that it’s around 19km in length and a shade over 5% in average gradient. Not the most difficult but it will sap the legs. The sprinters will hope the peloton is on a go slow and that they can make it over the climb with the bunch. If not, they’ll have difficulties on the following sections.

After they reach the valley from the descent the road constantly rises up the intermediate sprint point. Three climbs are then tackled over the closing 50km.

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The first two of these climbs both have tough stretches (over 9%) within them and average out at over 8%. However, the battle tomorrow will more than likely be left until the final climb of the day. Officially 10.1km at 7.2% this a very tough end to the day. There are a couple of sections of “respite” on the way up where the gradient goes below 6%, however these will only offer a small bit of recovery. It is interesting to note that the final km is shallower than a lot of the rest of the climb but it’s still not flat (averaging 5.3%). Will we see gaps made before here?

How will the stage pan out?

After the electric pace the past few days, I hope the peloton takes it easier tomorrow. To put it into perspective, the average speed of today’s stage where there was over 4000m of climbing came in at 37.1km/h. The previous days speed was 42.7km/h. Stage 6 (a sprint stage) was 40.2km/h. We’ll have a very dull 2nd week at this rate.

But with the race starting on a Cat 1 climb I fear we could be in for another fast day. Hopefully the senior riders see sense and call some kind of truce. Although I’m probably being wishful.

The stage tomorrow is a good one on paper for a break to get away. The long descents and flats are great to build up a lead. On the contrary, if someone dangerous gets up the road Sky could in theory control it quite well too with Stannard and Rowe doing the work. It really is 50/50. We could see a situation like Stage 20 of this years Giro where it all guns blazing from the flag drop, but I think it’s too early in the race for that. Remember, the Tour is won in 3 weeks, not 1.

I’ll lean towards my favoured outcome of two races, meaning that a break gets away and manages to stick this time. Sky already have their stage win and are in Yellow so won’t be concerned by the stage getting away. The only team I think who will stop a break tomorrow is Movistar. Mainly because the way Froome and Quintana were climbing today, I don’t think any of the other GC guys will fancy their chances against them up the final climb.

This of course all changes if we do get a GC threat away then Sky will have to chase.

Who are the break contenders?

Pretty much the same type of rider as yesterday’s preview so I’ll keep this fairly short and sweet!

Plaza. It would be sods law that the time I don’t mention him he gets into the break.

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Diego Rosa. The Italian had a very easy day today rolling in with the gruppetto almost 40 minutes down on Froome. He’s a very classy bike rider on his day, and won a very impressive breakaway stage at Pais Vasco earlier in the year. Furthermore, he had a good showing at the Dauphiné too, finishing 8th on GC. He’s not done much here, I think that changes tomorrow.

Clement. Made one of the breaks today that was pulled back. I think he’ll give it another go tomorrow.

Tony Gallopin. A disappointing start to the Tour, he’ll now be targeting stage wins. Mountain top finishes aren’t his forte, but he definitely would be a tough one to beat out of the right break.

Tony-Gallopin

Prediction

I’ll not heed the advice and thoughts of others and say that the correct breakaway stays and wins the stage. With a GC battle behind them. The rider who I think can stay out on this type of course is Diego Rosa. Maybe we’ll even see a similar celebration this time round?

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Betting

Rosa 0.6pt EW @ 125/1 with Bet365

Plaza 0.3pt EW @150/1 with Betfair/PaddyPower

Gallopin 0.2pt EW 150/1 with PaddyPower/Betfair/Bet365

Clement 0.2pt EW 300/1 with Bet365/PP/Betfair

 

I’m hoping for some exciting racing tomorrow but on two fronts. Let’s just hope one of the guys above makes it into the break! Enjoy the race wherever, you’re watching it from. The whole stage is to be broadcast on TV so that’ll be good! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

TDF Stage 8 Preview: Pau -> Bagnères-de-Luchon

Today’s Recap

Well, I got that wrong. Very wrong.

In fairness though, for a lot of the race it looked like it was to be a GC show-down. However, just over the Cat 4 climb the break started attacking each other, which they needed to do, and a stronger group of 4 formed up ahead. Before Nibali and Co caught the four up the road, Cummings attacked and was not seen again until the finish line. Another perfectly timed attacked from him. A big middle finger to the Olympic selectors.

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Behind, we saw some of the GC riders struggle in the heat. The most notable of those was Pinot who lost over 2 and a half minutes on the rest of the GC contenders. Then there was Flamme Rouge Gate, these dangerous finishes eh…Amateur from the ASO it has to be said. Hopefully Yates’ injuries are only superficial.

Onto tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

A tough day in the saddle (184km) awaits the riders with 4 categorised climbs and a sawtooth profile.

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We could get another fast start to the day as riders try to get into the breakaway. The opposite is easily foreseeable and the peloton might want a slow start to the day after today’s fast and frenetic stage. The first break might well stick.

With the sprint point being before the climb we could well see some of the sprinters try to get away again. There is a chance for another mass break.

The opening ascent of the day is a tough one, with the first HC categorised climb of the Tour: the Col du Tourmalet.

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A long tough climb (19km at 7.4%) this could possibly split the break up. The sprinters and those struggling from injuries will be hoping there is no one of danger up the road and that the peloton takes this at a relatively leisurely pace.

Over the Tourmalet comes a descent before the road kicks up again for the Cat 2 Hourquette d’Ancizan. In this stage it’s apparently so insignificant that there isn’t even a profile of it in the road-book! Supposedly 8.2km at 4.9% going off the stage profile, this is the closest actual climb profile I could find that climbs from Lac de Payolle.

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Again once over the climb the riders get a bit of respite on the descent. This time round they actually have a bit of flat to contend with before the penultimate climb up the Col de Val Louron-Azet.

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Another tough climb follows. There is a pattern here! 10.7km at 6.8%, it starts off relatively easy but gets grippier during the middle. The break will hope to still have a good advantage here. Depending on the feeling within the GC teams, we might get a push on from them here.

The final ascent of the day is a Tour classic, the Col de Peyresourde.

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7.1km at 7.8%, this climb is relentless. Hopefully we get some GC attacks here, but with a long descent to the finish I’m not sure we’ll see many splits, but what do i know?!

The finish in Bagnères itself is relatively technical within the final kilometre. Perfect for a lone rider.Stage-1464953383

How will the stage pan out?

I’ve had this stage circled as a break day since before the Tour started. As far as I can remember (I have no stats to back this up, just going off the top of my head), the stage that involves Bagnerès-de-Luchon more often than not ends up in a break victory. With today’s stage victory coming from a break, it has cast a little doubt in my mind. However, I’m sticking to my guns and saying that a break makes it. Partly because I’m rather stubborn, but also because the following stage has a summit finish in which the GC guys can make more of a difference.

So that begs the question…

Who are the break candidates? 

At least for this stage it’s easier to narrow down because the rider will have to be a good climber to stand a chance. They also have to be strong on the flat to make the break. There are a lot of guys far down on GC so there isn’t much of a concern in that case. Like other previews that I’ve done, I’m going to list some riders who could make it. I’m being greedy and going for 4 this time.

First up is a man I’ve previously mentioned, Ruben Plaza. I admire this guys aggressive tactics in the mountains. He’s not afraid to attack from far out. After seeing Cummings go well today, he’ll want to remind everyone what he can do! The only concern is that he might be on protection duties for Yates. However, I think he could get given the nod and freedom tomorrow.

Second is Stef Clement.

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The IAM rider has been trying and failing to get into the break in the past few stages. He has the climbing ability to win out of a break and by the sounds of it is going very well at the moment.

Steve Morabito is another who could be given some freedom. With Pinot faltering today I think FDJ will try and put someone in the break tomorrow. On paper (aside from Reichenbach), Morabito is their strongest climber. He had a very good opening to the year, can he return to those ways here?

I feel like I have to mention a Dimension Data rider considering the way they’re going at the moment. That man is Daniel Teklehaimanot a.k.a The Tickler.

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Former Tour KOM wearer and this years Dauphiné KOM winner, the Tickler has been keeping himself towards the bottom of the GC. Saving energy for a breakaway possibly. Can he continue DD’s incredible start to this race?

For other break candidates look to the likes of De Gendt, Majka and Voeckler and those who want to feature in the King of the Mountains competition.

Prediction

So narrowing down those 4 breakaway contenders above, I’m coming to the same answer as an earlier preview. Orica will go one better tomorrow and Plaza will win the stage. He is a class act in a mountain break. Hopefully if he gets away, then he can manage to build up some KOM points as a bonus too.

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Betting

There aren’t many bookmakers who have odds up for tomorrow so hunt around later on.

0.6pt EW Plaza @66/1 with PP (He’s available at 100s with Coral)

0.25pt EW Clement @200/1 with Bet365

0.25pt EW Morabito @200/1 with Bet365

0.15pt EW Teklehaimanot @300/1 with Bet365

I’m hoping the prediction luck will turn soon. Either way, we should be in for a gruelling stage tomorrow. Enjoy it wherever you’re watching it from. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

TDF Stage 5 Preview: Limoges -> Le Lioran

Today’s Recap

Another day, another fest on my words for dinner. Kittel produced an incredibly strong sprint to win the day. Etixx definitely got his lead out right this time! My two favourites for the stage finished 2nd and 3rd. However, the blog “outsiders” were nowhere to be seen. I have to admit and hold my hands up when wrong, I just thought the stage/finish was going to be tougher. Fair play to those who backed Kittel! Onto tomorrow’s stage.

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The Route

The most difficult stage of the Tour so far, there are six categorised climbs out on the course.

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Looking at the left of the profile map, you can see that the riders actually reach a reasonalbe altitude. There is a lot of ups and downs on the stage, with the highest point being the 2nd Category Pas de Peyrol at 1589m.

With the climbs back-loaded towards the end of the stage, this promises to be tough day out in the saddle. The Ardennes riders will be licking their lips at the profile!

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However, the two cat 2 climbs are brutes. The Pas de Peyrol averages just over 11.5% for its final 3kms, with the Col du Perthus also having segments over 11%. The saving grace for the Ardennes riders and Peter Sagan is that the Col du Font de Cère isn’t an overly difficult climb. If they make it there, they will fancy themselves on the sprint up to the line, which has a very similar profile to today’s finishing ramp.

How will the stage be won?

Tomorrow is the first stage that I can feasibly see being won by a breakaway. There are plenty of riders far enough down on GC not to worry Sagan’s lead as long as they aren’t given too much headway. Furthermore, one of the Tinkoff DS reiterated the fact that they were still here to win the GC with Contador, so they don’t want to waste any extra energy in preserving Sagan’s lead.

Etixx could feasibly chase in the hope to set up Alaphilippe in a finish that looks to suit him well. However, if he’s there I’m sure that Sagan and Valverde will be there too and they can definitely challenge/beat him for the stage.

Consequently, I think if the right break gets away then it could make it. (50/50 chance)

Break Candidates

Realistically you need to look to riders who are 3mins+ down on the GC for the break to succeed because I’m not too sure on how keen Sagan will be on losing the jersey. Although saying that, he is a very laid back guy!

Furthermore, they have to be able to climb well to make it over the Cat 2s with the rest of the break.

Some riders who fit this category are Herrada, Albasini, Cummings, Navarro and De Gendt to name a few. Like normal, I’m going to highlight three riders who I think can go well.

First up is my main KOM hope and mountain break specialist Ruben Plaza. It may be too early in the race for him to go on the attack, but after losing over on 12mins on the GC then he could quite well have been targeting this early stage. A great climber from the break, he should be able to cope with the two Cat-2 climbs and then he’d hope to solo away to the finish.

Second is Alexey Lutsenko.

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A strong baroudeur, the Kazakh won a stage at Paris Nice earlier in the year by making a solo attack after the final climb on the day. He may not be the best climber ever, but he’s certainly strong enough to make the break on the flat. If he gets in it, I wouldn’t back against him! Furthermore, he has a decent turn of speed as well.

The final rider is one that has been in the break already this Tour, Jan Barta.

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Bora have been very active so far this Tour and I expect that to continue tomorrow. A strong TTer, Barta can make the break on the flat. Furthermore, he’s a fairly solid climber so could be capable of finishing it off, depending on his breakaway companions!

If it’s not a breakaway?

As I’ve mentioned above, this is a tough stage to call straight up and I think there’s a 50/50 chance of the break making it. If not, look towards those who featured on stage 2. The trio I said earlier: Sagan, Alaphilippe and Valverde all have very good chances of taking the result. However, there is one rider that I like outside those three favourites. That man is Tony Gallopin. He was very disappointed after Stage 2 to only finish 8th. His form is clearly very good after coming 3rd in the French National TT plus finishing 2nd in the road race. I think the TT result is more evident of that because he’s not known for going great in that particular discipline.

The likes of Matthews could make the finish as well and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that we see a late attack sticking if people sit up and look at each other.

Prediction

I’m going to have to cheat here and give two predictions: one for the break and the other for a favourites showdown.

I have fond memories of Plaza winning Stage 20 at the Vuelta last year. I had him at 80/1 that day, he’s the same price for tomorrow. The omens are good. He looked strong in the Giro and he’s the type of rider who can maintain a solid level of form for a while. If he makes it into the break, everyone else will be worried! He’s my breakaway man.

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But at the end of the day, the breakaway is a lottery so my guess is as good as yours! Speaking of which…

For the favourites I think it’s fairly obvious who I’m going to pick. Yes, Sagan/Alaphilippe/Valverde all rightly start as the trio to beat, but I have a feeling that big Tony will go well here. He’s my man if it comes back together for some kind of bunch finish!

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Betting

0.75pts EW Gallopin @20/1 with Various bookmakers

0.25pts EW Plaza @80/1 with PP (paying 5 places)

0.125pts EW Lutsenko @200/1 with SkyBet

0.125pts EW Barta @300/1 with PP (5 places again)

 

Hope you all enjoyed the preview, we should be in for the most exciting stage so far tomorrow in my opinion! Watch this become a borefest now haha. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Tour de France – KOM Preview

Tour de France – KOM Preview

Much like the sprinters and their Green jersey competition, the King of the Mountains classifications offers the climbers who aren’t going for GC a chance to win a jersey.*

*Although, Chris Froome did win it last year.

How does it work?

Like the stages being classified going on the difficulty of them, climbs are categorised in a similar fashion.

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Table showing the points break-down over each summit

The harder the climb, the more points available. Simple!

It’s also important to note that points on a summit finished are doubled. For example, the winner of stage 12 up Mont Ventoux will score 50 points.

What type of rider will win it?

Like I said above, it is traditionally a climber a who goes in breakaways and is no real threat on GC that wins the jersey. For example, Mikel Nieve started to mount a serious charge for the KOM jersey at the Giro after being in the break of the day on stage 13. This kind of highlights the weird nature of the KOM jersey as any real tilt at the title isn’t made until the second half of the race.

In the table below I’ve highlighted the maximum amount of points available out on the road.

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After Froome winning last year, the organisers seem to have reduced the number of summit finishes. Hoping to favour the non-GC guys.

Stages 8 and 9 offer a lot of points out on the road, but for any half-decent climber to make the break on these stages they’ll have had to lose time in the previous days. How will that happen? Well, there might be splits due to echelons in the first few stages, an unfortunate crash, or they might just lose time deliberately to hunt for stages/the KOM later in the race.

Similarly, some of the stages in the final week offer a lot of points out on the road. These will be crucial in shaping the KOM jersey. You probably need to make the break on stage 15 and 19 to be in with a chance.

One of the major deciding factors for where the jersey will end up are those 76 points that can be won in the final 20km of stages. It really depends on how the GC guys ride these stages. For example, stages 7, 8 and 15 all have a Cat-1 climb before a descent to the finish. Will the GC guys try to put their rivals in trouble here, or be happy to let the break go. The honest answer is I don’t know. It’s too far ahead to predict how the race will be poised at that stage. I would think at least two of those stages will go to the break, the same can be said for stage 20. Therefore, I do think this years KOM jersey will be won by a non-GC rider.

But who you say?

Let me just have a look…

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Firstly, I think we can discount any Team Sky rider. They’ll be all in for Froome.

Secondly, you have to be a good climber to win the jersey, but also be relatively attacking and opportunistic. This gets rid of a large chunk of the peloton.

However, from the outset we’re probably left with around 40 riders who could feasibly win the jersey if circumstances went their way. So like stage picks for breakaway days. I’ll narrow it down to three riders (of varying odds) who could give it a crack.

Ruben Plaza. 

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The veteran Spaniard (who now rides for Orica) has become a bit famous for his long-range solo attacks on mountain stages. He won a stage at both the Tour (picture above) and the Vuelta last year. Supporting Chaves at the Giro in May, he rode very strongly when called upon and impressed me. Here at the Tour, Orica don’t really come with any GC aspirations so their climbers will be given free roles. I would not be surprised to see Plaza lose time during the first week to be given freedom later in the race. I’m sure we’ll see him in a few breakaways! If he gets near the lead of the jersey then he’s the type of rider to keep fighting for it.

Arnold Jeannesson.

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He had a very good start to the year with 11th on GC at Paris Nice and 4th on GC at Critérium International, highlighting that he can climb with the best. Since then, he’s been a bit off the boil. Cofidis’ main GC rider will be Navarro so I expect Jeannesson to be given free rein in the mountains to hunt stages or the KOM jersey. It would be great for the Pro Conti team to end up with a jersey at the end of the Tour.

Tanel Kangert.

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A very solid and reliable rider, Kangert seems to have re-found his form this year, finishing 2nd at the Giro del Trentino. He put in a solid bit of team-work for Nibali at the Giro but hasn’t raced since. He’s one of those riders at Astana who could be given a bit of a Carte Blanche in this race. He’ll be tough to beat if he makes the right break.

Prediction

As I’ve said earlier in this preview, this jersey is incredibly tough to make a pre-race prediction for. However, it would be dull if I didn’t stick my neck on the line and make a prediction.

I do lean towards it being a non-GC rider and I’ll go with someone who I guarantee will make the beak on a few occasions this Tour. Ruben Plaza will be the King of the Mountains.

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Betting

One of the more fun markets to have a bet on. I’m going to back the three of my selections here to keep me interested over the three weeks.

Plaza 0.3pt EW @ 50/1 available with various bookmakers, Ladbrokes/PaddyPower etc

Jeannesson 0.1pt EW @ 200/1 with various bookmakers, Paddy Power/Betfair etc.

Kangert 0.1pt EW @ 300/1 with various bookmakers, Bet365/PaddyPower etc.

 

Hope you enjoyed my interpretation of how the KOM jersey will pan out this year. What are your thoughts? I should have a Young Rider (and other) preview out tomorrow. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.