Tirreno Adriatico 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Montalto di Castro ->Terminillo

Today’s Recap

A hectic finish that was tough but maybe not as tough as I imagined. I have to apologise as I thought it was a slightly different finish to that of last year but it was exactly the same, doing too many previews for my own good! Or that’s my excuse anyway. 😉

Anyway, it was Peter Sagan who took a dominate sprint win, ahead of Viviani and Debuscherre.

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It was a really, really weird top 10 as a crash behind took out or at least severely hindered some of the favourites for the day.

Nonetheless, let’s have a look ahead at what the riders can expect tomorrow.

The Route

A tough GC day and an ascent of the famous Terminillo.

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The opening part of the stage really acts as a prelude, this is all about the final climb.

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It’s a very similar climb to the one we’ll see in Paris Nice but is made harder in my opinion by the irregularity of it. Most of the climb is close to 8%, but there are a few kilometres that are roughly 4% and this lowers the average gradient quite a bit. The top of the climb does “flatten out” so if riders arrive together we might see some kind of sprint, but I can’t see that happening.

Weather Watch

Oh boy, looks a bit nippy out there!

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Weather forecast for Terminillo (Source: Accuweather)

That real feel of -5°C looks like a real killer. Especially when you consider the strong winds forecast and the finish tomorrow looks horrible. The wind will more than likely be a cross-head for most of the climb so it might nullify some of the attacking we could see, which would be a real shame. Conversely though, once you lose the wheel it will be hard to get back on!

How will the stage pan out?

There is a chance we could see the breakaway go all the way. This will only happen if the riders in the peloton are fearful of what might happen on the Terminillo and they don’t want to chase all day.

However, I do think we will see some type of GC battle on the Terminillo. There in theory should be enough firepower and motivation behind to close down the break and set up the overall contenders to battle it out for bonus seconds and more!

Contenders

Nairo Quintana has to start as the clear favourite. After being marked out of the competition in Abu Dhabi he’ll be here to exact revenge. Movistar brought a crack TTT squad with them to put him in the best possible GC position going into this stage and they’ll expect him to deliver. He won a truly epic stage in the snow at this race back in 2015 and a repeat of that feat is more than on the cards!

Who can challenge him?

Honestly, no one in my opinion. Everyone else will more than likely be fighting for second place unless there is some crazy tactical battle or Nairo pops.

Geraint Thomas looked very strong on his way to the win on stage 2. This climb is a completely different beast but given his immediate lack of a GC threat he is a rider who could squirrel away from the bunch. As I said in my overall preview for this race, I think he’s going very well at the moment and is a genuine threat for a podium in the Giro. A good result tomorrow would go a long way to solidifying that thought.

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Of course, his Team Sky team-mates Landa or Rosa may also profit from the awful TTT and be given some freedom. They both have the abilities to do well here and are naturally better climbers than Thomas. If one of them manages to get a 30 second gap on Terminillo they could be tough to bring back.

Thibaut Pinot, much like his wine namesake, prefers the temperature cooler. He often seems to struggle when things get toasty, so a day in the cold, wet break of Strade Bianche will have set him up nicely for this stage. He is clearly going well in this early part of the season. Anyone who beat Contador in Valenciana is going strongly!

Vincenzo Nibali normally copes well in awful conditions but his own personal condition is a bit unknown. He’s gone better at the start of this year than he has done in the past, but does that mean that he is capable of finishing on the podium here?

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BMC will be looking to hold onto the GC lead with Tejay Van Garderen but it will be tough. The American had a difficult Abu Dhabi, struggling with illness, but has arrived here as their GC leader. He seems to struggle in poor conditions at times and I fear that may be the same outcome for him tomorrow.

The rider who finished second to Quintana in 2015 on this stage is here again. Bauke Mollema will have been disappointed with his team’s TTT but a good performance here puts him back in contention for the overall podium. He’s a real slogger, so to say, and will certainly give it his all.

Tom Dumoulin appears to have started this season in great form and I’m sure he’ll be up there again tomorrow but it’s just the length of the climb that worries me with him.

Fabio Aru has been relatively attentive at the front of the bunch in the past two finishes, not wanting to lose any time in splits. He’s started his season solidly with a third and eighth GC placings in his first two stage races. His time trial on the final stage will most certainly let him down, so he needs to make the most of his good climbing legs tomorrow, if he has them!

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Adam Yates will want to try to replicate what his brother managed today in Paris Nice. Finishing 7th in 2015, two years stronger now and a 4th place finisher at the Tour, he certainly has a chance of getting a better result this time round. His win in Industria last Sunday certainly was very impressive!

Rui Costa is the form rider of the season so far, but I think a good result here will be a step too far. Yet again though, after a poor TTT like many others, he has a chance of being gifted a bit of freedom.

Rafal Majka is another who could be gifted some freedom. The Polish rider is one of the more under-appreciated climbers in the peloton and this long slog looks as if it will suit him!

Prediction

The GC field in this edition is a lot stronger than when Quintana last won here in 2015. However, barring some kind of miracle I feel we might get the same result. Do I believe in miracles? No, but I do believe in outsiders and crazy things happening! Team Sky to profit from having three strong guys but not considered GC threats, yet. I’ll give Rosa another chance!

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Or Quintana just wins by 30 seconds…

Betting

Rosa 1pt EW @ 25/1 with Bet365.

You might get better as more places price up later on but I don’t have the time to be waiting around!

Thanks for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win? Can anyone stop Nairo? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tirreno-Adriatico 2017 GC Preview

Tirreno-Adriatico 2017 GC Preview

The second stage race of the week and before the madness of the first few days in Paris Nice, it was the one I was looking forward to more!

Last year we saw the bad weather really hit this race hard and the mountain top finish on stage 5 was cancelled. This meant we had a really weird-looking top 10 for a week-long stage race and it was Greg van Avermaet who took the overall win, one second ahead of Peter Sagan.

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I can’t imagine we’ll get the same controversial outcome this year as the weather seems to be much better this time round.

Let’s see what’s in store for the riders over the coming week.

The Route

Like always, this will be a brief run through as I’ll be doing daily stage previews!

Stage 1.

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A pan flat 22.7km team time trial should open up some GC gaps and set the racing up nicely for the coming week.

Stage 2.

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A long day in the saddle for the riders with a tough finale. Looks to be one for the strong puncheurs!

Stage 3.

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A rolling day that should end in a sprint. The last 1.5km does average 3.5% though!

Stage 4.

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With the TTT setting the GC order, this stage will shake things up, that’s for sure with the very tough finish up Terminillo. On a bad day here and you can lose a lot of time.

Stage 5.

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Arguably a tougher day due to the relentless up and down nature of the second half of the stage. Will we see a team go crazy, à la Giro 2015 – Astana vintage?

Stage 6.

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Another rolling day with a little kicker near the finish. Will it be a bunch sprint, or will we see a morning break or late attack succeed?

Stage 7.

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Another pan flat time trial, this time of the individual variety. Will the GC be close enough for movement in the overall standings?

GC Contenders

Where else to start than with the best climber in the peloton, Nairo Quintana. The Colombian looked insanely strong in Valenciana but was marked out of the race brilliantly by Contador in Abu Dhabi. The Movistar squad looks geared towards giving him the best possible start in the TTT and with Moreno and Amador he should have some good support in the mountains. The Terminillo stage is perfect for him, but like others, I think his lack of one-day racing might let him down on Stage 5. He’ll really need his team to be strong then. It could well come down to the final day TT!

Thibaut Pinot will be hoping to build on his good showings in Andalucia and Strade with a real tilt at the GC here. His team produced one of the surprises of the season last year in the opening TTT, highlighting the change in attitude from the squad towards the time trialling discipline. They should perform well once again there and Pinot should be near the front in the mountain stages. Does he have enough to win?

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Tom Dumoulin will relish the pan-flat individual time trial and his Sunweb team looks OK for the TTT. The Dutchman has been in good shape at the start of this season, performing well on Saturday in Strade Bianche. He did well to finish 5th, considering the great form that those in front of him are in. The length and steepness of Terminillo could be a struggle for him, it’s right on his limits, but he will enjoy the climb being fairly regular in gradient. With a solid sprint on him too, we could see him challenging for bonus seconds on a couple of the punchy stages. If he’s within 30 seconds on the final day he’ll fancy his chances!

Last year Vincenzo Nibali was left bitterly disappointed after the cancellation of the Queen stage. He’s back again this year, looking for vindication possibly? Starting the year much better than he normally would, I’m intrigued to see how well he goes here in respect to his Giro preparation. A solid TTT will set him nicely for the week.

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Team Sky arrive with a ridiculously stacked team but I imagine Landa and Thomas will be co-leaders, on paper at least. The Spaniard looked strong in Andalucia, doing a lot of work for the team but still managing to finish off stages relatively high up in the standings. Whereas Thomas has not raced since the Tour Down Under, but has instead been away training with Froome in South Africa. It’s yet to be seen how that will have affected him, but wanting to be co-leader with real ambitions at the Giro, he will need a good performance soon. If not here, then possibly in Trentino. On a slight side note, I think he’ll go very well in the Giro! A third rider may well be up on GC for Sky too – Rosa. Like Landa, the Italian did a lot of the donkey work in Andalucia but still finished the race in a high GC position. Having three riders close on GC during stages 4 and 5 will give Sky a massive tactical advantage and he could well be the one benefiting from it. His TT is weak, but with the stage being short he shouldn’t lose more than 45 seconds.

Rui Costa has been the form rider in this early part of the season and he certainly can’t be discounted because of it. However, the finish to Terminillo isn’t his cup of tea at all, the climb is far too long for him in my opinion. He’s also bound to lose time in both of the TTs, so I can’t see him taking another victory here, or even a podium. I am prepared to eat my words though.

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Van Garderen was ill in Abu Dhabi so failed to produce anything noteworthy there. He’s bound to have a good performance in the TTT but can he hold onto that for the rest of the race. No. I don’t think so.

Aru has had a good start to the season by his standards. The Astana team are worried about the TTT so they’ve drafted in some strong riders to support him and I think they’ll put in a fairly good effort and not lose as much time as might be expected. He will enjoy the stage to Terminillo but the ITT will be a struggle. A podium result would be good.

A winner this weekend just gone, Yates will be hoping of putting in a solid performance here at this race. Orica bring a strong team of flat riders, mainly in support of Ewan so they should put in a decent TTT effort. The Brit will enjoy the stage to Fermo but the ITT could be where he ships a lot of time.

Mollema is a dangerous outsider for this race. He’s another who’s started the season very well and will hope to get some leeway as the favourites mark each other. Trek are going well in the TTs this year so he’ll hope to be put in a good position. He’s not one to be discounted.

Majka, Roglic and Uran could all surprise but it will take that, a surprise, for them to win this race in my opinion.

Prediction 

The GC here really comes down to how much time Quintana can take on Terminillo. There is a chance he might get marked out of the race, as he did in Abu Dhabi, but is anyone in good enough form to be able to follow him as easily as Contador did?

As I’m really struggling to nail this one down, I’m going to revert to type and go with a bit of an outsider, with some hopefully sound logic!

I really think having numbers up on GC  will be very important for a team, especially considering how manic the stage to Fermo could be. We don’t have the Astana of 2015 here, but we do have two of their riders in one squad; Team Sky. The Terminillo stage should see them have three riders within a minute of the lead and I expect them to go wild the following day. Diego Rosa looks like the ideal candidate to benefit from this, as Landa and Thomas mark those behind. The Italian loves one day racing and the type of terrain we get in this race seems to suit him perfectly. He’ll just need a good margin before the final stage!

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Betting

0.5pt EW Rosa @66/1 with Ladbrokes. (Would take down to 50/1)

 

Thanks for reading as per! This will be the first of three previews out tonight so keep an eye out for the others. I intend to have Tirreno Stage 1 out next but like always, that will depend on what gets priced up/and when by the bookmakers. They both might be out at the same time. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Abu Dhabi Tour 2017 – GC Preview

Abu Dhabi Tour 2017 – GC Preview

Started back in 2015, the Abu Dhabi Tour in its first two editions was an end of season filler. Typically consisting of 3 sprint stages and one mountain top finish that decided the GC, it was a race for those winding down at the end of the year; trying to get one final result.

However, that changes ever so slightly this year with its move to the start of the season in February as riders look to build form for their up and coming objectives. Its swanky new World Tour status means that teams will be hunting those elusive WT points so I expect the race to be a little more intense than it has been in the past.

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The defending champion, Tanel Kangert, is back here to defend his crown but it may be hard for him to do so considering some of the climbing talent that we have here for this edition.

First however, let’s have a look at what the riders will face over the coming week.

The Route

Stage 1 features an “out and back” course through the desert, starting and finishing in Madinat Zayed.

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A day that will end in a sprint and the fight for the first leader’s jersey. There is a roundabout at roughly 700m to go that will cause the bunch to be very spread out so positioning will be important. Can the wind have any impact on the stage?

Stage 2 and yep, another sprint.

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This time the riders travel around the outskirts and suburbs of Abu Dhabi itself, before finishing along the marina. A right-hand turn at 300m to go can shake things up.

Stage 3 sees the day that will decide the GC battle with the finish up Jebel Hafeet.

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10.8km long and averaging 6.6%, it is a a fairly challenging climb; especially when you consider that the middle 7km average 8%. This is the section where proper time gaps can be made! Who will be the rider to take the stage and GC glory?

Stage 4 and what is in my opinion, one of the worst stages in the calendar year. 26 laps of the Yas Marina motor racing circuit.

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If you watch more than 10 minutes of this on Sunday instead of Kuurne, we can’t be friends! It does have some technical turns going for it in the final kilometre which may liven things up. But yeah, I despise this stage with a passion.

GC Battle

As I’ve mentioned above, the GC battle for this race all comes down to the climb up Jebel Hafeet. With there being no time-trial or rolling stage to contend with, it is possible for a pure climber to be involved in the shakedown too. The step up to World Tour level has increased the number of contenders here and we should have an exciting battle on our hands! I’ll just run through the start list in order.

Starting with the defending champion Kangert and his Astana team. Unfortunately for the Estonian I can’t see him repeating last year’s performance this season. Instead, the Kazakh outfit will turn to Fabio Aru as their main charge here. Off the back of a solid performance at Oman, Aru will be looking to continue his preparation for the Giro with another good outing here. He many not be at his best to win the race, but he should at least be aiming for a top 5 finish. (Or at least I’m hoping so for my fantasy team!)

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Bardet comes here after a disappointing race in Oman. He was positioned relatively well going into the Green Mountain stage but was one of those riders involved in the crash that day, which really hampered his end result. Making an attack on the final day shows to me that he was frustrated and that his form is good. Certainly don’t discount him after one performance.

Nibali makes his first World Tour outing with new team Bahrain Merida after finishing 8th in San Juan back in January. Always a hard one to judge form wise, I would not be surprised if the Shark wins here, or if he finishes down in 23rd!

After their success in Oman, BMC will be hoping that Tejay Van Garderen can continue the winning streak in the Middle East. Going off of recent history, the American does seem to start of the season very well; finishing 2nd on GC at his opening stage race of the year for 4 seasons in a row. Can he make it 5 here or even finish one place higher?

Rafał Majka will get his first taste of GC leadership with Bora at this race. Another who starts off the year fairly well, he’s only had two race days so far in Spain so it is tough to gauge where he is at. However, with it being only a mountain top finish and no time trial, he certainly has a chance of a podium.

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Quintana obviously starts as the big favourite here after blowing everyone away in Valenciana. The Colombian doesn’t just race to come 7th, he races to win and very rarely misses out on at least a podium at a stage race. If he’s continued that from from Spain, it should be no different here!

Quickstep will turn to Alaphilippe or Brambilla as their GC prospects here. Unfortunately though, they’ll either need to be in excellent form or get a massive dose of luck to challenge for the title here. A top 10 is manageable though!

Kudus will hope to go better than he did in Oman. A great talent, he really needs to develop the race management and tactical nous to his riding. Often he seems to attack too early which costs him in the closing kilometres. If he finally gets that right here then he could sneak onto the podium with a bit of luck!

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Kruijswijk and Gesink will lead a two-pronged attack for Jumbo. On a climb like this, I’d almost say Gesink is better than his counterpart. Can they compete with Quintana and co this early in the season? Meh, probably not. Or maybe they will. I don’t know!

Another rider making his season debut is Tom Dumoulin. The Dutchman had a disappointing end to last year and I’m intrigued to see if he’s recovered mentally from that. It’s once again guesswork as to where his form is. Do you have any idea?! I think he’ll go OK, but not great, maybe 6th or something similar.

Trek come here with two great GC candidates; Contador and Mollema. They’ve both shown good early season form with Contador coming second in Ruta del Sol, and Mollema winning the GC in San Juan. The former says that he is going to work for the latter here, focussing more on Paris Nice which starts in just under two weeks time. An elaborate ruse, or is he telling the truth? Contador does seem like a team player so it is certainly plausible, but I’m more intrigued to see the logistics behind it. Will he attack to force others to follow, with Mollema sitting on? Or will he be the guy chasing attacks down? Either way, I’ll be very surprised if one of them is not on the podium by the end of the week!

Finally, “local” team, UAE Fly Emirates have two riders who can challenge the top 10, in Costa and Ulissi. But I can’t see them doing any better than that.

There are some teams/riders that I’ve missed out, but I don’t want to keep you here all day!

Prediction

Quintana more than likely wins. Boring I know, but I’m hardly ever like this so I’m allowed to do it at least once or twice a season, right?

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Bardet and Mollema to round out the podium!

Betting

Think there is a bit of value away from the top of the order and with my 2 podium shouts. The debate I’m having with myself is if it’s worthwhile backing them for GC, or just waiting until Stage 3?!

Will Bardet start as a 10/1 shot on Stage 3, likewise, will Mollema start at 18/1 (current GC prices with Betfair)?

Hmmmm. I think I’ll just leave it until Saturday: unless of course odds elsewhere are much better! If Bardet is 14s anywhere I’ll take that, the same with Mollema at 22/1.

So a no bet, for now.

 

Thanks for reading and as per usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do oyu think will win? Can anyone beat Quintana? I will have a Stage 1 preview out later today, most likely evening some point when we get more odds available. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 20 Preview: Benidorm -> Alto de Aitana

Today’s Recap

Wow.

Froome smoked everyone.

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He managed to beat the guy who smoked everyone else, Castroviejo, by 44 seconds. An utterly dominant display. I mean, he only beat him by 4 seconds at Rio on a much longer TT. Plus, all the local advantages that Castroviejo had, it’s just an insanely unbelievable, strong ride!

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Anyway, enough about today, on to tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

Last chance saloon for the GC riders as we reach the penultimate stage of the race. In typical Vuelta, and Grand Tour fashion, the organisers have created a tough-ish day out on the bike. It’s not the Queen stage, but probably the Princess!

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Four Cat-2 climbs followed by an Especial ascent.

With the GC battle now a lot closer after today, we could see all hell break loose on tomorrow’s stage. Sky might try to take it up early on the first climb of the day; Coll de Rates. 13km at 3% and it’s a Cat 2? Well a lot of the elevation gain (230m -> 505m) is made at the start; 5kms at 5.5%. Before a plateau (if you can call it that) then another kick up at the end.

I don’t think the following two climbs will have an impact on the outcome of the day so I’ll miss them out and get onto the penultimate climb. Although even then, the Puerto de Tudons isn’t overly difficult, coming in at 7.1km long, averaging 5.4%. Nothing the GC guys can’t handle.

So it looks as if it’s over to the final climb. The Alto de Aitana.

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Long, but not very steep with only a 5.9% average gradient. There are a few steeper sections within the climb but if anything will create gaps between the GC guys it’s the length of the climb, at 21km. Combine this with the amount of ascending we’ve had at the Vuelta so far and there could be some splits.

How will the stage pan out?

Before today’s reshuffling I had this down as a breakaway day. Like most days have been at the Vuelta and something we see commonly on the last “proper” day of a Grand Tour.

However, Froome’s time gain does throw somewhat of a spanner in the works in regards to a breakaway victory. Some people will suggest that Sky will go all guns blazing tomorrow to try and isolate/weaken Quintana and we’ll have another epic stage on our hands.

Yes, it is feasible, I mean, nothing is impossible but it seems implausible to me. Not that I’m controversial or anything 😉 Let me explain.article-2043608-0E278F2700000578-613_306x423

The only problem with that plan, is that in the mountains Quintana hasn’t been in trouble at all this entire race. He only lost small amounts of time to Froome on Stage 3, but since then he’s been at least on an equal footing with the Brit and has beaten him several times. As I’ve said above, the climbs tomorrow aren’t overly difficult (which actually favours Froome) but Quintana should have no issue following. Unless he cracks majorly. Heck, he can afford to lose a minute, which is an enormous amount of time for these guys.

Isolating Quintana through the use of Froome’s team-mates doesn’t make much sense either. If it’s left as a 1 v 3 then all the Colombian has to do is follow Froome’s wheel. Numerical advantage won’t make a difference. Bet they regret not having Konig up there on GC now!

Finally and most important of all, I think Froome knows that Quintana’s better than him in the mountains just now. He’s tried a couple of times to crack him and has failed. It would be a big loss mentally for next season if he tries again and it doesn’t work. As bad as it is, I think he might be happy with his 2 stage wins and 2nd on GC.

So once again, I think we’re left with a…

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Candidates

There are a lot of guys who’ll be keen to get in the move to showcase themselves but especially because they will fancy their chances on the final climb.

Look to your obvious guys, such as Fraile and Elissonde who both have to make the move to continue the KOM battle. Gesink will probably be there too. However, I’m not suggesting any of them. Coincidentally, the guys I am naming took it “easy” today as well, all finishing outside the top 100, saving their legs… (?)

Joe Dombrowski.

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A regular pick of mine at the Giro earlier in the year, he’s a great climber with a solid engine. One of the most naturally gifted cyclists in the peloton, much like Ryder Hesjedal, he’s someone who seems to get better as a race progresses. Before the Vuelta, Talansky said that Dombrowski would win a stage here. He’s not done so yet, and tomorrow is his only chance. 3rd on the penultimate stage in the Giro, he’ll be hoping for better tomorrow!

Darwin Atapuma.

2nd on that same stage, Atapuma has been very quiet since taking the leader’s jersey earlier in the race. With Sanchez’s unfortunate crash today BMC have lost their top 10 rider and will want to go on the attack. Hermans may be that guy, but Atapuma has a lot more time leeway to play with. An exceptional climber on his day, the final ascent should be a walk in the park for him.

Hugh Carthy.

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The Lancashire lad has had a Vuelta full of learning experiences. He was unfortunate enough to crash and need stitches to his hand earlier on in the race, but he did manage to make it into Froome’s group on that very chaotic Stage 15. This type of stage suits him perfectly (the climbs are consistent) and I hope he’s recovered and makes the break, just to remind everyone what he’s capable of!

Gianluca Brambilla.

The winner of that incredible stage 15, Brambilla has taken it relatively easy since. Rolling home a few minutes down each day, saving some energy. Coming into this race, I thought he was a decent outside shot of a top 10 on GC. However, that is obviously beyond him now, but it highlights the quality of rider that he is. He’ll be able to stick in on the final climb because it’s not so difficult and he could out-sprint anyone to the line.

Prediction

I say Brambilla takes his second stage win!

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Behind, we might see some GC action, but Quintana still wins the Vuelta. All he has to do is stick on Froome’s back-wheel all day and I’m confident he’s capable of that. Even if he does end up losing 20 seconds at most. There might be some more movement within the top 10 itself. The battles for 5th and 7th look exciting!

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Betting

0.45pt WIN Brambilla @ 22/1

0.25pt WIN Dombrowski @ 80/1

0.15pt WIN Atapuma @ 50/1

0.15pt WIN Carthy @ 125/1

All of these are with B365 as they’re the only bookie to price up by half 8. Hopefully others will be more favourable later!

Hope you all enjoyed the preview. How do you think the penultimate stage will go? Am I completely wrong, and will we see a massive GC fight throughout the stage? Does the break have any chance? Like always, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta Stage 19 Preview: Xàbia -> Calp

Today’s Recap

A long, relatively boring day.

A weak break managed to escape, made up of only 5 riders and no sprint teams, so we were destined for a sprint at the end of the day. It was Giant and Arndt who looked to have things all under control, but the Giant lead-out man tired slightly early than he would have liked. Behind him, Arndt hesitated and Cort took advantage of that with a magnificently timed sprint launch and was never to be passed. A great win!

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Onto tomorrow.

The Route

Time Trial time and the single most pivotal stage of the Vuelta. Well, at least it was billed as that before the racing actually started. It’s where Froome is supposed to gain 2 minutes on Quintana and potentially the Vuelta too, but all hope looks gone by now.

Let’s have a look at the course.

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Now that’s the official profile but as is traditional on a time trial day, I’ve made a strava profile of the whole route that you can view here.

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Like we saw on the first TTT, the scale on the Strava profile distorts some of the climbs as it’s only a 0-200m scale, whereas the road book profile has 0-600m scale. Consequently some lumps have to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Nonetheless, “rolling” is how I’d describe the stage! The biggest challenge the riders will face is the climb that actually starts just after 5km. Although the road only rises ever so slightly, taking it from here makes it 7km at 2.1%. However, the “big” kick up at the end is 1.7km long at 6.5%. The strong climbers will hope to gain some time here.

An interesting thing to note is that the official profile only has 330m of elevation, whereas Strava suggests there’s 675m of elevation gain. Hmmmm.

There are a few more drags in the second half of the stage. 1.5km at 3.4% for example, that peaks at around the 25km mark. However, the riders will be able to put it in the big ring and power over these tests, although they certainly will sap the legs of energy.

Weather

A major factor in the outcome of TTs over the past few years has been the changing weather conditions throughout the day. The riders start times will be spread out over roughly 3 hours. Thankfully for the riders, they will all get dry conditions. However, the wind may play a part.

So back to a favourite website of mine, Windfinder.com

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Wind speeds in km/h, and max gusts @ Teulada

As you can see in the image above, the average wind speed actually picks up for those who start later on in the day. Although the differences are small, the direction looks as if it will switch from a cross-headwind to more of a headwind.

Ultimately though, I don’t think the weather will have that much of an impact on the favourites. It may favour a rouleur more than a climber, but the differences will be minimal.

Stage Contenders

A TT in Spain, so where best to start than with Movistar and Castroviejo? The Spaniard has to start as the favourite for this stage in my opinion. 4th in the Olympics, he’s been doing a lot of work for Quintana and was pivotal for the Colombian on the race splitting move during stage 15, but he’ll have had one eye on this stage.

Froome may start as the favourite though.

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He beat Castroviejo by 4 seconds at the Olympics and will hope to do the same here. He needs to pull a big performance out the bag here if he wants to put any pressure on Quintana going into the penultimate stage, but also to protect his second place. He’s seemed to re-find his TT ability this year and I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins. I just think he looks a bit too tired!

Luis Leon Sanchez will hope to go well here. He’s looked great all race and has been very active either in the breaks or the front of the bunch. In years gone by, he’d be threatening for the win but he doesn’t seem to be as good on the TT bike anymore. However, he can’t be discounted!

Nairo Quintana.

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Bit of a curveball, I know, but he was TTing exceptionally well at the start of the season. In fact, he was going so well that I had talked him up for taking the TT at the Tour. Unfortunately, he wasn’t firing on all cylinders then, but he seems to be on it here! Often during a TT at the end of a Grand Tour there is a mix of GC guys and specialists and it sometimes just comes down to who has the legs. Quintana certainly has the legs just now. I’d watch out for him.

Tobias Ludvigsson.

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If you’ve been somewhat paying attention to this blog then you’ll know that I’m a massive fan of Big T. He’s had a very underrated but quietly exceptional Vuelta so far, climbing better than ever. This TT will be a big goal for him and he’s stayed out of the breaks on the past few stages, saving energy for this. He has the quality and now the confidence to play a big part in this stage!

Aside from the five who I’ve mentioned, keep an eye out for Lampaert, Campenaerts, Moser, Felline and Valverde (it’s Spain!) to throw up a few surprises.

Prediction

I just can’t see past Castroviejo;

  • He’s an excellent TTer
  • The course suits him very well
  • He’s a Movistar rider
  • It’s Spain

Simple. Castroviejo wins!

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Unless of course Big T and Quintana surprise 😉

Betting

1.5pt WIN Castroviejo @ 7/4 (Bet365)

0.25pt EW Ludvigsson @ 20/1 (Bet365)

0.5pt EW Quintana @ 125/1 (Bet365)

Like normal, hunt around later when there are more prices out.

Thanks for reading as per! Who do you think will win the TT? Are we in for a shock? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Enjoy the race wherever you’re watching it from. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 15 Preview: Sabiñánigo -> Sallent de Gállego

*This will be short and sweet as I’m terribly hungover and tired, apologies. Normal service will resume tomorrow evening.*

Today’s Recap

My oh my, what an exciting stage! A massive break of 41 riders got away early in the stage. The eventual winner came from that group and it was Robert Gesink who rode the final climb fantastically well, beating Elissonde and Silin who rounded out the podium. Annoying having two of the stage picks finishing 2nd and 4th, oh well, it was a great win by Gesink though and he fully deserves it!

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Behind saw some very interesting GC moves, with Yates making an attack on the penultimate climb. He made it stick and ended up gaining a minute or so on Quintana. Chaves and Konig also gained some time, as the two favourites marked each other out of it. Valverde was the big loser on the day, conceding 9 minutes to his rivals. Dropping him way down on GC.

Let’s have a look at tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

Short and sharp.

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About half the amount of climbing metres that we had today, but packed nicely into 118km of racing. It will be another fast start to the day before the riders reach the first categorised climb of the day. Alto de Petralba is 6.3km long at 5%. The break may only escape here!

The 2nd official climb is the Alto de Cotefablo, coming in at 12.5km in length, averaging only 4.3%. However, there is a false flat section half way up the climb. This will offer the riders some respite before tackling the second part.

However, the stage is all about the final climb.

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Not a tough climb, but after today’s efforts it will sting the legs. It’s very stop start but it really shouldn’t be a challenge for the main GC guys.

How will the stage pan out?

Short stages more often than not lead to exciting racing and with the precedent being set today, I expect the GC guys to be full gas all day.

The climbs really aren’t that tough, so it will be fatigue that will cause any gaps. Of course, the better climbers have more of a chance of creating gaps. But on a stage like this, I don’t think there’s that much difference between the current top 5 on GC, possibly even the top 10.

Therefore, I think it could be a lesser GC guy who goes well here.

Prediction

All hell will break loose tomorrow and the race will be on from the gun. The break has no chance!

Having two riders up on GC is key so that the riders can bounce attacks off of each other and mark the other teams/riders. I’ve been very impressed with the way Konig has raced this Vuelta so far and is playing a great second fiddle to Froome. With all the eyes on the Brit, Konig will use this to advantage and squirrel away for the stage win!

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Betting

0.75pt EW Konig @ 66/1 with Bet365. As usual, hunt around later when other bookies have priced up.

 

Hope you enjoyed the preview. Apologies again for its short nature, I’m just too tired to be writing a load of stuff. Thankfully, the stage looks relatively straightforward. How do you think it will play out? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Vuelta Stage 14 Preview: Urdatx-Dantxarinea -> Aubisque

Today’s Recap

As I said yesterday, I’m away out all day so there’s a good chance I haven’t been able to catch any of today’s stage. Hopefully it was an exciting one and at least one of the three break candidates made it in!

*Update – Just gone 12 here and none of them in the break, oh well!*

Anyway, what’s in store for the riders the day after the longest stage of the Vuelta? I’m sure the organisers wouldn’t be so cruel as to make it really tough…

The Route

Oh. Wait.

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Ouch!

My legs and lungs hurt just looking at this profile. Three Cat-1s followed by the Especial Aubisque. The organisers are definitely getting their moneys worth out of their jaunt into France.

It’s weird to say but in a stage like this, the first two climbs are almost irrelevant in the outcome of the stage so I’m only going to slightly go over them. The only way they could be decisive is if the break hasn’t formed by then and as we saw on stage 12, if it forms on a climb then it is a very strong group.

Nonetheless, the Col d’Inharpu is 11.5km long with an average gradient of 7.1% (13.75% max), and the Col du Soudet is 24km long, averaging 5.2% with a 15% maximum gradient. A nice first half of the stage and a good warm up for the riders!

The real action will commence with the Col de Marie-Blanque which starts with just under 50km to go.

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A real brute of a climb. It almost lulls the riders into a false sense of security as it starts off relatively easily. With the first 4km or so being only around 5% in gradient. Then it hits the riders, the hardest part is yet to come. The second half of the climb, particularly the final 3kms is incredibly tough. Averaging over 10%! The break will lose its weak riders here and depending on the pace of the GC guys, we may see a few attacks or those on a bad day dropped. Say goodbye to your Vuelta if that’s the case.

Once over the summit they have an 11km descent, before a 10km false flat drag before the final test of the day starts: the Col d’Aubisque.

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I don’t really need to say much, the figures speak for themselves! It doesn’t have incredibly steep ramps in it. Instead, it’s the length coupled with the relatively high average gradient that does the damage. Only the strongest will win here.

How will the stage pan out?

We’ll probably have another fast start to the day as riders look to try and get in the break. I hope for the sake of those struggling that it goes relatively quickly and before the first climb. Otherwise we could have a lot of DNF/OTLs!

The success of the break will depend on who’s in it and what teams are represented. Realistically on the final climb if it comes down to a GC battle, then it’s between Froome and Quintana. Movistar may sneak a rider in the move to defend the team competition and as we saw on stage 11, Sky are becoming more aggressive so might send someone up the road. I almost guess Tinkoff might try something, but Contador doesn’t seem to have the legs.

If neither of those teams are represented and their captains really fancy their chances of taking the win, the break could well be brought back on the Aubisque. On a climb like that, the break would need 4mins+ at the bottom of the final climb for them to feel confident of winning the stage.

There are now plenty of quality riders (climbers) far enough down on GC so that the break can be let go. I make it 60/40 that the break takes the win.

Breakaway Contenders

George Bennett.

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A rider who has had a very solid, if not quiet Vuelta so far, plodding along in a respectable 18th on GC, almost 8 minutes down (remember this is being wrote a day early, so that may all change today, but I doubt it). His attack on stage 12 was the first real glimpse that we saw of him out the front of the peloton. I was impressed, his form seems to be on the up. One of those riders who Movistar will give a bit more time to, he won’t be too much of a hinderance to the break in that sense. He will be a hinderance if he’s going well though!

Tejay Van Garderen.

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The American rider has had a very poor Vuelta so far, with Stage 12 being the first time he finished inside the top 50. On that stage he was part of two of the early moves, showing some good intent. His form slowly seems to be getting better and he’s smart enough to be saving himself for one good crack at a stage, no better stage than the Queen stage to give it a go! If he is back to his best, then he should be a class above the rest of the breakaway. That is the big IF.

Kenny Elissonde.

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King Kenny returns to the blog. Another who was attacking on stage 12, he looked very strong on the first passage of the climb outside of Bilbao. However, once the break was caught, he sat up and rolled home. Now sitting over 20 minutes down on GC he poses no threat to the leaders and is most definitely targeting stage wins. Could he get a win on the famous Aubisque to go with the Angliru?!

GC Battle

As I’ve said above, this will more than likely come down to Froome v Quintana. This type of final climb suits the Brit better than some of the steep stuff that we’re used to at the Vuelta as he’s able to climb at a solid rhythm. He’ll hope to put Quintana under pressure with a hard pace. However, Quintana is the best climber here, going on form, and I can’t see Froome dropping him unless he cracks majorly. Instead, I can see the Colombian putting a big marker down and gaining another 30 seconds or so!

The battle behind is equally as interesting. Valverde is clinging on for dear life to that third place. Chaves is being attacking but getting nowhere, same with Contador. Yates seems to be getting stronger. Konig is a great wildcard for Froome and creeping towards the top 4 and possibly the podium. As is Scarponi who’s grinding away and eating up the climbs!

Prediction

If the break makes it, I’ll go with Bennett.

If we get the GC guys fighting out for the stage, Quintana takes it!

Betting

I probably won’t be updating this with odds but my staking structure is below. The preview will only be out when somewhere has priced up (most likely B365), so you’ll have to hunt around for prices.

0.5pt Bennett

0.3pt Elissonde

0.2pt TVG

 

Hope you all enjoyed the preview?! How do you think the stage will go? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Vuelta Stage 11 Preview: Colunga -> Peña Cabarga

Rest-Day Recap

Stage 10 finally saw a GC win, and it was Quintana who took the spoils on the day. He rode the final climb excellently. It was a very dominant performance and he looks back to his best! nairo-quintana-vuelta-a-espana-stage-10_3775273

Froome did exactly what he did in ’14 and rode his own pace, slowly picking off the guys who tried to follow Quintana. It was damage limitation for the Brit who ended up losing 25 seconds to the Colombian. Consequently, it leaves the top 10 looking like this going into today’s rest-day.

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Other impressive displays were from Gesink and Fraile, who managed to stick with the GC guys, finishing 2nd and 4th respectively. It will give them confidence for breakaway days to come!

Moving on to tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

Another typical stage of this Vuelta with not that much to talk about. A fairly flat start, followed by a mountain top finish.

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Like a few of the stages gone by, this is all about the final climb, and it’s another tough one!

The road book is good enough again, but there is a Strava segment you can view here if you wish.

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As you can see in the image above, it’s awfully steep with a 9.8% average gradient. However, this again doesn’t highlight the severity of the climbing sections as there is a 500m period of flat/shallow descent just over half way up the mountain. Taking away this section, the average gradient would be 10.8%. It’ll be a real grind, even for the best climbers in the peloton!

That’s all there is to mention about the stage, so that leaves us with the question…

How will the stage pan out?

Nobody is ever confident of how they will react after a rest-day. Some riders come out of the gates flying whereas others seem to struggle. With no climbs of note before tomorrow’s final challenge, the riders don’t really have a chance to test their legs during the stage. Some might not go as well as they hoped!

Anyway, we’re left with the classic question of: break or no break?

With Movistar commanding a dominant 1-2 on GC and with a stage win already, there is an incredibly high chance that they won’t chase very hard tomorrow. Instead, they’ll focus on saving their riders legs for the final climb and stages to come. The only other rider who looks set to challenge Quintana is Froome. He’s looked good, but not great. I’m not so sure how confident Sky will be of him beating Quintana and they very unlikely to waste resources to chase the break all day.

So once again, it looks as if we’ll get a breakaway win again. It will be another frantic start to the day as everyone tries to make the move. I wouldn’t be surprised if the break doesn’t go until 40km again!

Break Contenders

In a slight change to normal, I’m going to name 4 riders this time round!

Jean-Christophe Peraud.

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The veteran Frenchman has had a pretty abysmal final year on the road after crashing out of the Giro. However, he slowly seems to be finding his feet here at the Vuelta, finishing 12th on yesterday’s very tough stage. Far enough behind on GC at just over 6 minutes he should be given freedom by Movistar. A danger-man if he gets into the move.

Kenny Elissonde.

The diminutive FDJ rider had been riding well during this race, but didn’t seem to have the legs on stage 12. In an interview (view here) he says that he was caught behind crashes at the start of the stage and that cost him energy, so didn’t feel as strong at the end of the stage. Although disappointed, his focus now switches to stage hunting. He’s a pure climber, and tomorrow’s finale looks great for him. If he’s recovered from his off day then he could well take the stage.

Matvey Mamykin.

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Stage winner and 3rd on GC at last year’s Tour de l’Avenir, Mamykin has had a solid start to his first ever Grand Tour but hasn’t featured at the business end of any stages yet. He’s made a few interesting although fruitless attacks off the front of the peloton. A rider that a lot of the peloton won’t be familiar with, it would be unwise to give him a lot of time on the climb!

Pierre Latour.

The third Frenchman and second AG2R rider on the list, he came into the Vuelta with a lot of hope and an outside chance of a top 10. However, he’s now slipped down to 24th on GC and over 7 minutes behind Quintana. Coming into this race off of the back of a 3rd place at the Tour de l’Ain, he was clearly in good form. I doubt that he’ll be targeting a good GC placing anymore and will switch focus to stage hunting, like the others listed above. Tomorrow could well be that day.

GC Battle Behind

This stage is tough enough to create some GC gaps. Quintana doesn’t seem confident of holding off Froome later on in the race because of the long time trial. Instead, he suggests that he’ll need 3 minutes to be safe. Now, I think that required margin is a bit on the large side, but Quintana certainly won’t be riding defensively tomorrow. Froome normally goes well on the following stage after a rest-day, so the Colombian won’t have it all his way. I expect those two to be able to distance the rest of the field, I’m just not sure if they’ll distance each other!

Prediction

The break wins as no-one will chase hard behind and again we’ll get a race on two fronts.

I’ll go with Elissonde for the stage win. He won atop the famously steep Angliru back in 2013 and this climb suits his characteristics very well!

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Betting

0.4pt WIN Elissonde @50/1 Betfair or WH (I’d take 40s)

0.2pt WIN Peraud @ 150/1 widely available (I’d take 100s)

0.2pt WIN Mamykin @ 150/1 with PP (I’d take the 66s with others if you have to)

0.2pt WIN Latour @125/1 with PP (I’d take 100s)

Changing my approach slightly and moving shift more to H2H.

De La Cruz to beat Atapuma at 6/4 with PP. Betfair offering it at 5/4, B365 & WH go 6/5. I’d say it’s value down to evens.

DLC has beaten Atapuma 3:0 on the stages where they’ve both approached the final climb in the peloton. Atapuma is further down on GC (5mins back) and could possibly go in the break (which would be typical), but at 6/4 I’m willing to take the risk considering the price should be the other way round on a normal day.

4pts.

*Annoyingly, it was 7/4 but I placed my own bet and Betfair cut their price to 5/4. Spoilsports 😦 *

Hope you all enjoyed the preview and thanks for reading! Do you think it will be another break day and if so, who’s your favourite? It will be another day of waiting for the break to form, seeing if your rider is in it, then waiting for the action to unfold on the final climb! As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 10 Preview: Lugones -> Lagos de Cavadonga

Today’s Recap

In stark comparison to yesterday’s break, the move today was incredibly strong. Movistar were typical Movistar and didn’t bother to chase, even though escapee and eventual stage winner De La Cruz was only 2’36 down.

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Some will berate them, but it’s a great tactical move in my opinion. It means that their team gets another day of “rest”, yet they’re still very much in control of this Vuelta. Letting other teams have the jersey and making friends is in the interest of Movistar for later on in the race.

Anyway, let’s have a look at tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

After the past couple of stages, you’d think that it couldn’t get much harder…

But alas, we have the most amount of climbing metres so far on stage 10!

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A whole host of small un-categorised lumps punctuate the first 140km of the stage. However, this is all a pre-amble for before the closing 50km, where we have a first cat climb that whets the appetite before our first Especial Climb.

No Strava profile today, as the road book is good enough!

 

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As you can see, the Cat-1 is relatively short (6.2km) but it is tough! The average gradient (7.8%) is deceptive. Taking away the slight lump at the start, a more realistic representation of the climb is 4.7km at 10.1%. Now that’s a test! The climb itself is too far out for any GC damage, unless Contador wants to try one of his traditional long-range attacks. Instead, it will probably see the break split up, with only the strong riders cresting together. They’ll have to go over the top together, there is a long 15km or so flat section before the start of the final climb.

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What a climb! You have to feel sorry for the riders at times; 12.2km with a 7.2% average gradient and 17.5% max kicker. Again, that average gradient is slightly lowered because there are a couple of false flats and shallow descents, so when they’re climbing it’s closer to an 8.5% gradient. The defining feature of the climb (aside from it being tough), is that it’s gradients are incredibly inconsistent. This makes finding a rhythm difficult and definitely suits some riders more than others. The last time this finish was used was back in 2014, when Niemiec just held on from the days breakaway to take the win.

How will the stage pan out?

Like normal we’re left with the age-old question of: break or no-break?

With the rest day on Tuesday, some of the GC teams may fancy their chances at controlling the break and going for a stage win. I think it’s clear from today’s performance that Movistar aren’t overly concerned with chasing for a stage win, not yet anyway, so that’s them out!

Therefore, it’s over to Tinkoff (Contador) and Sky (Froome). The former doesn’t have a very strong team in the mountains, but they do have strong rouleurs who could ride tempo on the opening part of tomorrow’s stage. Froome looked a bit tired at the end of stage 8 but looked OK today. Then again, there wasn’t much of a pace from the GC teams up the final climb, so he might not be confident of performing when the race is on.

So it’s over to Etixx to control the day and the break. They’re the type of team who will honour the jersey and chase if there is someone dangerous up the road. However, if they don’t get help from other teams then it will be a very long day for them! They’ll be hoping no-one in the top 20 goes on the attack.

Once again, I think we could see the break win. I make it a 70:30 split.

Breakaway Contenders

You know the drill by now, I’ll name 3 riders.

Larry Warbasse. (Again)

Amstel Gold Race 2016

Willing to give the American another chance. Same reasons as yesterday’s preview; fighting for contract and has been climbing well in the GC group the past few stages. He’s also far enough down to be let go.

Rudy Molard. (Again)

Molard likewise gets another chance. He’s close-ish on GC, but at 5’06 down he should be given the all clear by Etixx. He’s been climbing very well with the GC guys as of late and should not be discredited.

Tiago Machado.

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Without a GC rider, Katusha have to be attacking. They missed the break today so I expect them to be in it tomorrow. Machado himself was on the move earlier in the race, but that turned out to be a futile move. A strong climber on his day, he’s been rolling home the past few days. Possibly saving energy for tomorrow?

Apologies this section is slightly shorter than normal, it’s just disheartening having to write about a potential break everyday!

GC Battle Behind

I expect there to be a few fireworks behind in the GC group. Movistar/Sky/Tinkoff will all probably try to come to the front and ride tempo for their respective leaders. With it being a long and demanding climb, only the best will be left again and numbers will be key. Quintana will hope that Valverde can stay with them for as long as possible, the same goes for Froome with Konig. Contador unfortunately will have to fly solo, but he’s been used to that in this race.

I expect Valverde to attack at some point, hoping to draw the others out, meaning that Quintana can get an easier ride. Orica could possibly try something similar with Yates & Chaves.

If all three of the main GC guys are on form, it could be a great stage and this well could be the image we see throughout the Vuelta.

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However, going off what we saw on Saturday and partly because I’m a big Quintana fan, I think the Colombian can put in a stinging attack tomorrow and dishearten his opponents. He looked so comfortable on the final climb on that day,with his jersey zipped all the way to the top, as the other contenders had theirs agape. He could possibly gain another 20-30 seconds on a very good day, and that would give him a very nice buffer going into the rest day!

Prediction

The break stays away and Molard wins.

05-06-2016 Criterium Du Dauphine Libere; Tappa Prologo Les Gets; 2016, Cofidis Solutions Credits; Molard, Rudy; Les Gets;

Behind we get some GC fireworks.

Betting

Even if you think it’s a GC day there’s no point backing them pre-stage, so another selection of raffle tickets for me:

Molard 0.25pt @ 100/1 (B365)

Warbasse 0.125pt @ 100/1 (B365)

Machado 0.125pt @ 100/1 (PP)

KONIG v Moreno; TALANSKY v Scarponi; YATES v Atapuma (H2H treble) 3.5pts at 3.03/1 (b365)

As normal, hunt around for better prices later.

 

Thanks again for reading, how do you think the stage will pan out tomorrow? I hope it’s an exciting stage after today’s relatively damp squib. As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Vuelta Stage 8 Preview: Villalpando -> La Camperona

Today’s Recap

Another day, another messy finale.

For a while, the stage looked like it would be a snoozefest as the sprint teams had the break well under control and were comfortable riding tempo on the front of the peloton. Astana, however, got bored and changed the speed completely with around 50km to go. The break was caught, and on the lower slopes of the final climb Luis Leon Sanchez attacked. He was joined by 5 others, but it was the Spaniard and Simon Clarke who pushed on during the descent and onto the “flat” run-in. Unfortunately for them, they were caught within the final kilometre and Jonas van Genechten took a wonderful sprint victory.

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Behind, we saw a relatively large crash with its main casualty being Alberto Contador who seemed to go down quite badly. In post race interviews he sounded as if he was already in a lot of pain. Not a great Vuelta for him. As for Arndt, he came across the line in 26th smashing his handlebars, clearly not happy with the way the stage ended. Maybe he was held up by the crash, but being honest, if he was that far back he wouldn’t have won the stage anyway. Lack of inexperience from him there!

Anyway, what do we have in store for us on stage 8?

The Route

Not much to talk about tomorrow. The majority of the stage is flat followed by our toughest ascent yet! The climb was actually used back in the 2014 edition of the race, with Hesjedal taking a spectacular win from that days break. It brings back bad memories as I had second placed Zaugg at 80/1!

 

Swiftly moving on…

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The 170km of flat means this is more than likely a stage to tune in late on to. In theory, it should be relatively easy for the teams to control the break. This is all about the final climb.Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 11.30.15 As you can see it isn’t exactly an easy summit finish. The average of 7.4% for 8.5km is tough but is also deceptive. As you can see on the graphic above, the second half of the climb is a lotmore grippy.

Back to normal today and I’ve created a strava profile of the final 2.5km that you can view here. It’s just insane, averaging 15.3% for that final segment with several ramps above 20%.

Team-mates are of no real aerodynamic use when the gradients get that steep, it’s all about the individual rider. Of course, they’re an advantage in the sense of one attacking to try to get the others to chase.

How will the stage play out?

Pre-Vuelta this was a nailed on GC day. A long flat amble along to the one major obstacle of the day means that the break can easily be controlled. However, we’ve seen this Vuelta so far that a lot of teams don’t want to put the effort in to chase. Aside from BMC who will honour the jersey, only Movistar, Sky and Orica are likely to put any manpower on the front of the peloton.

Movistar have two contenders for the stage, with both Valverde and Quintana looking strong. They will fancy their chances tomorrow, although Valverde may have bad memories of going too early and blowing up here in 2014, losing almost 30 seconds to Froome that day. Their squad does have good rouleurs such as Castroviejo and Erviti who can control the break on the flat. But I think Valverde will fancy this, it’s just a case if his team wants to do all the work.

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Orica will turn to Chaves tomorrow. The Smiling Assassin has quietly gone about his business so far, with his only real day in the spotlight being on the incredibly tough finish on stage 3 where he finished 5th. His diminutive frame suits this type of finish well. We’ve already seen Orica come to the front and drive the peloton on stage 6, so there is a good chance they’ll work tomorrow. Furthermore, Yates seems to be getting better and they’ll hope he’ll last with Chaves for a while.

Finally, that leaves us with Sky and Froome. The highest placed GC finisher in 2014, the Brit will be hoping of a repeat performance here. That time round, he used a very similar tactic to what we saw on stage 3, where he paced himself up the climb slowly picking off riders as he rode past them. He could very well deploy a similar tactic here tomorrow. We were promised a different Sky this Vuelta, one where they wouldn’t work as much on the front and their mountain train isn’t as prominent. Tomorrow is the true acid test of that!

Aside from those 4, I can’t see any other GC rider winning the stage. There will be large time-gaps tomorrow!

Breakaway Contenders

With this being another coin-toss between break and GC riders, I’ll suggest a few riders like usual who could surprise.

Sergio Pardilla.

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Winner of the GC at Vuelta a Burgos before this race, Pardilla has had a relatively quiet race so far. A very solid climber, he’ll be a threat in any break that makes it all the way. He’ll look to use his experience and grind away up the final climb, not going too deep too early.

Romain Hardy.

Yesterday I was nominating him for a sprint podium today a mountain top finish. He climbed well at the Tour de l’Ain earlier in August and has clearly carried some of that form on. Finishing 25th on the steep ramps of stage 3 shows that he can cope fairly well with the steep stuff. He could well be one of the surprises of the Vuelta!

Omar Fraile. (Again)

He took it easy today looking after Anton. He may well save himself tomorrow for days later on in the race, with more KOM points available. But as we saw the other day, he is a very attacking rider, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him up the road!

Prediction

Torn between two again. As I said before, I had this is as a GC day before the Vuelta. However, the attitude of the peloton has kind of put me off this idea. No-one seems overly keen to work, and there is a lot of tough riding ahead. Then again, the parcours lend itself to a team taking control.

Hmmm.

I’m not sitting on the fence this time…

In a shock twist the break stays away and Romain Hardy pulls off an equally shocking win!

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(Or maybe the GC guys win 😉 )

Betting

Small punts on the three breakaway guys. Tomorrow is most definitely an in-play day! Even if you do think the GC guys win, there’s no point backing them pre-stage because their price won’t change that much during the race and you have much more information on how things will unfold.

0.25pt WIN Hardy @ 125/1 with Bet365

0.125pt WIN Fraile @ 100/1 with Bet365

0.125pt WIN Pardilla @ 100/1 with Bet365

As usual, hunt around when more bookmakers price up. B365 were the only ones priced up by half 8.

Hope you enjoyed the preview! Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll enjoy tomorrow’s race until around 20km to go. Do you think we’ll see a break stay away, or will the GC guys finally get their act together? Any feedback is great as usual! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.