Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 21 Preview; Monza -> Milano

Today’s Recap

We saw some GC sparklers, not fireworks today, purely because everyone seemed equally on their limit!

Katusha pushed the pace early on which ultimately lead to a Zakarin attack on the final climb and he was joined by Pozzovivo. Unfortunately for them; Pinot, Nibali and Quintana bridged just after the KOM point.

We had a bit of cat and mouse-ing between that group and it looked for a while as if those dropped on the climb were going to get back on. However, thanks to some close motorbikes and some dodgy time gaps anyway, they were able to duke it out in the sprint to the line, holding onto a 15 second advantage from Dumoulin and co.

Pinot asserted his dominance as the fastest sprinter in the group, taking his first Giro win.

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Zakarin came home second with Nibali picking up some bonus seconds in third.

It leaves everything finely balanced going into the final TT.

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

The Route

A pan-flat course suited to the powerful riders in the peloton.

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The course descends at a very shallow rate from around 9km to go all the way to the finish. It won’t be too noticeable but it should certainly ensure that the speed will be kept high!

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Furthermore, it’s not an overly technical route either, with several long straights for the riders to put the power down. It is only once we get close to the centre of Milan that things get a bit more dicey.

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As you can see, there are a lot of 90-degree (some sharper) turns within the closing 5km so a rider willing to take some risks and carry speed through the corners can gain an advantage.

Thankfully for the riders, the weather looks to be holding up for most of the day and they should all face similar conditions.

Contenders

Dumoulin obviously will start the stage as favourite and rightly so. He absolutely decimated the opposition in the first time trial and compared to his GC rivals, this course suits him even better. However, has the past week taken too much out of him? He really struggled yesterday but coped relatively well today, commenting post stage that he had good legs. Riding a good TT after a tough Grand Tour is a completely different beast compared to resting for a few days and pulling out a result. It would be stupid of me to dismiss him, but I don’t think he’ll have it all his own way.

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From the GC contenders Zakarin, Pinot and Jungels look the most likely to contend with the Dutchman. The first two riders can pull off a good TT on their day and will be hoping for a much better performance than their first efforts against the clock. Although I’m sure both would prefer a slightly more undulating route. Jungels will definitely like the power course and he is a serious challenger to Dumoulin for the stage. Yet again though, it depends on how much the race has taken out of him but he has looked strong the past few stages after seemingly cracking on stage 18.

Who out of the non-GC riders will be contending?

Kiryienka  – Depends if he tries or not. If he does, he really should be up there but he only properly gets going after 20km so I’m sure he would have loved an extra 10km on top.

Luis Leon Sanchez – The first of the non-GC riders home in the first time trial, the Spaniard has been active this race in the mountains. He looked tired on yesterday’s stage but had a relatively quiet day in the saddle today, saving himself for tomorrow?

Jos Van Emden – After managing to finish in the top 10 on the first TT, the Dutchman should enjoy this flatter course even more. He rolled home today in the gruppetto and I would not be surprised to see him go well tomorrow.

As for some outsiders…

Stef Clement.

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He of Wongshot fame gets another mention. The Jumbo rider is a solid TT rider on his day but has been a bit anonymous in the discipline over the past few years. However, if he manages to find his legs then he can definitely compete as he is one of those riders who excels at this distance.

Tobias Ludvigsson.

I couldn’t go the whole Giro without naming one of my favourite riders, could I?! Working in support of Pinot, Ludvigsson has performed well as a domestique this Giro. He survived a fall a few stages ago and even ended up in the break the day after. With Pinot needing a good bench-mark time to aim at from his team-mates, Ludvigsson is the ideal candidate for that situation.

Prediction

It more than likely has to be Dumoulin, but that’s no fun, so I’ll go for everyone’s favourite Swede to upset the apple cart and beat his former team-mate.

08-05-2016 Giro D'italia; Tappa 03 Nijmegen - Arnhem; 2016, Giant-alpecin; Ludvigsson, Tobias; Arnhem;

Betting

Tweeted out my selections before;

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So avoid those two at all costs!

 

Thanks again for reading, especially if you’ve stuck with my awful predictions for this Giro! Your continued support means a lot.

I’m not sure what’s next on the blog as I haven’t even spared any thought to the upcoming races yet. Most likely the Dauphine and the Women’s Tour. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Pais Vasco 2017 Stage 6 Preview; Eibar -> Eibar (ITT)

Today’s Recap

The break was kept on a tight leash all day and was brought back before the 50km to go mark. Orica were the team taking on the brunt of the pace making duties, but when we got to the final climb Yates looked a bit flat. Instead, for a while it looked as if Meintjes and Woods were going to surprise the favourites, but they were brought back just before the summit.

That left a couple of kilometres of false flat/descent which saw Sanchez spectacularly fall off while no-one was around him. According to reports apparently he hit a stone! He looked pretty bashed up when crossing the line.

Reducing the front group by two (the crash distanced Contador by a few seconds), Valverde used his knowledge of the finale (he won on this finish in the 2012 Vuelta), beating Uran and Bardet to the line.

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Too easy in the end for him!

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

The Route

Climb -> Descent -> Flat. A real mixed bag of a TT!

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@LasterketaBurua

No Strava profile from me today as I’m short of time.

As you can see above, the opening climb isn’t exactly easy; 5.2Km long at 7.3%. The riders will be fairly happy that the gradients are relatively consistent. Saying that, the first 3.5km of the climb averages closer to 9%, with the remainder of it tapering out.

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The Strava profile of the climb can be viewed here.

There are a few twists and turns on the descent but there is nothing too crazy.

The second half of the stage is mainly flat, but there are a few short kick-ups, with 700m at 9.7% looking to be the toughest. We finish with a couple of kilometres of false-flat to the finish line.

Thankfully for the riders, the conditions appear to be similar all day so there’s no need to worry about that!

I’m intrigued to see how many riders start on a road bike and switch to a TT bike later on, the latter part of the stage is certainly long enough for the aerodynamics of the TT bike to have an effect. Or if we’ll just see them ride a road bike with bars? Who knows!

Contenders

After his stage win the other day, Roglic has to start as one of the main contenders for tomorrow’s TT. After all, it is the discipline he shot to prominence in at the Giro last year, taking a great stage win! He has the climbing ability and flat power to contend on a course like this. Yet, I’m concerned with how far he finished today. The last climb isn’t properly suited to his abilities but to lose over a minute isn’t great. He can’t be ruled out though!

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Ion Izagirre is arguably the favourite though. Losing only 15 seconds today, he is within distance of stealing the overall title. A great all round, one-week stage racer, he should be close to the times of the better climbers on the mountain and hope that his good descending and rouleur skills will be enough to take victory.

Valverde will be high on confidence after his win today, looking exceptionally strong on the climb. The inclusion of a long climb suits him tomorrow, likewise does the descent. The question is, can he hold onto any lead on the flat? He looks powerful at the moment and seemingly in the form of his life, so I would be surprised if he didn’t.

After several bits of bad luck in this race, Contador can count his blessings to be only 3 seconds behind the leaders at this moment in time. Like the rest of that front group today, he looked good on the climb, trading blows with Valverde as if it was the Vuelta. He’s re-found his TT form again this season and is certainly in with a chance of the win tomorrow. Let’s just hope he doesn’t get impeded by a dog this time!

Sky have a few options tomorrow but I fear Henao might struggle on the flat and Kwiatkowski seemed to be struggling today. Will they let Kiryienka have a go? I would image so because Sky will want one of their earlier guys to give feedback to the later starters. The length of the course is more to his liking than recent TTs and he’ll hope to be within touching distance after the climb and eat up the flat final 2/3rds of the route!

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Apart from those guys I can’t really see anyone competing!

Uran has looked great this race so far but hasn’t put in a decent TT time in donkey’s years!

Bardet will love the climb but struggle on the flat.

One outsider who might break the mould tomorrow is Spilak. After a truly awful 2016, he seems to be returning to form. He was the eternal second place in tough TTs in 2015 and he may surprise again tomorrow.

Predicition

You can never trust Kiryienka being let off the leash so it looks set to be a toss-up between Izagirre v Contador v Valverde.

I think the former will lose too much time on the climb and struggle to regain it back on the flat. Which means we are left with the age-old Contador/Valverde battle.

Without much to seperate them on the flat, I think the longer climb will play a part and it will be Contador who will take the win!

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Watch out for a certain Solvenian though, and not the one you are thinking about!

Betting

Sitting on 3pts profit for the race so far, so just going to play up that here.

2pts WIN Contador @ 5/2

0.5pt EW Spilak @ 25/1

 

It’s early but I’m adding a couple of Roubaix long shots before tomorrow’s preview;

0.25pt EW Groenewegen @ 250/1 with Bet365 (would take 150/1)

0.25pt EW Theuns @200/1 with Bet365/Coral (would take 150/1)

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win the stage, and with it possibly the GC too? I’ll be back again tomorrow with my Paris Roubaix preview for stay tuned for that. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Volta Catalunya 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Banyoles -> Banyoles

Today’s Recap

Well that was bitterly disappointing. No fireworks, no real attacks on the climbs and a proper bunch sprint in the end. Nonetheless, that shouldn’t take away from Cimolai’s great win, as he pipped Bouhanni to the line.

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It was Sbaragli who rounded out the podium for Dimension Data.

I know I’m often wrong with my preview’s but it has been a while since I’ve been that far off. Let’s move swiftly on to tomorrow and it’s stupidly long TTT!

The Route

Long, rolling Team Time Trial that will have a massive impact on the rest of the race.

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Profile once again provided by @LasterketaBurua. Although in TT and TTT tradition, I feel that I need to make my own one on Strava! So here it is, you can view it here too, for those that like something more interactive.

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Although I somehow seemed to have gained an extra kilometre out on course compared to the official distance. I think I may have made the start/finish line ever so slightly further up the road, oh well!

The course is populated with lots of short climbs and fast descents, with rolling terrain in between. The climbs aren’t overly tough, with most of them being 1-2km and averaging 2-3%, but on a TT bike that will take its toll.

The hardest ascents they’ll face are; the Carretera Del Veïnat De Deri Climb which averages 6% for 1.4kms; the Repetxo Orfes (1.4km at 3.7%); and the Esponellà-Martís (1.9km at 4.1%).

I’m very intrigued to see how the riders deal with the Carretera, considering it has ramps of over 15% and comes within the first 10kms of the stage. You don’t want the climbers blowing the rouleurs’ gasket already!

The finish line does kick up at the end but at only around 2% for a couple of hundred metres.

Contenders

Pffft, it’s hard to tell.

We hardly ever get TTTs of this length throughout the season, I mean, the World Championships in the past two years have been shorter!

BMC will be hoping to pick up from where they left off in Tirreno.

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They were exceptional in that race but they don’t have their strongest team here, substituting out a few of the big guys for some climbers. On this terrain that may help but I think it will hinder them more than it will benefit them. Nonetheless, they still can’t be discounted. Watching them doing a TTT is like poetry in motion!

Sky will be lamenting me putting the curse on them for the Tirreno TTT and their wheels literally falling off that effort. They have an incredibly strong squad with them for the mountains and some very strong TT engines. The hilly parcour certainly helps the likes of Landa and Nieve who aren’t the best time trial riders. They should podium, if not win, and put their crack squad of climbers in a great position before the mountain stages.

Movistar always perform well in TTTs in Spain. They were beaten by less than a second by Sky in the Vuelta TTT last year. With Castroviejo in their team they have massive talent but the rest of the squad looks a bit thin in comparison to the one that they took to Tirreno. Will home advantage overcome that? They also have the benefit of being the last GC team down the start ramp.

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The words “Team Time Trial” would normally bring smiles to the bosses at Quickstep, but they have a very weak team compared to their top riders. I fear Dan Martin might lose a fair bit of time.

The same can be said for Trek, who on paper have some good time trialists but they aren’t notoriously a good TTT outfit. Contador and Mollema will be playing catch-up the rest of this week, which should make for exciting racing at least!

One team aside from the Big 3 favourites that I do like for this TTT are Orica Scott. The Aussie team used to be the par excellence for this discipline but they lost their way. However, they recently seemed to have managed to their fortunes around and have a very strong all-round squad with them here. I’m expecting to be pleasantly surprised by them!

Prediction

It will be tough to beat one of the Big 3 and I would actually favour Team Sky out of the trio. I do think that Orica can manage a podium spot if not better!

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Betting

No value in the top of the order. Orica do offer a good option.

1pt EW Orica @25/1 with Bet365 (They’re offering 5th odds for 3 places – would take down to 20s)

Plus this H2H treble 3pts on @ 2.83/1 (would take down to 2.2/1)

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Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win this stupidly long TTT stage? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Tirreno Adriatico 2017 Stage 7 Preview; San Benedetto del Tront -> San Benedetto del Tront (ITT)

Today’s Recap

We got a sprint in the end and it was Gaviria who took the win, edging out Sagan.

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A prelude for next weekend?

Cavendish was no where to be seen. He annoyingly only seems to do well when I’ve not picked him! Oh well, on to tomorrow’s final stage. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

 

The Route

A fairly simple, pan-flat, 10km individual time trial.

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Nothing challenging parcours wise for the riders, unless of course you’re a lightweight climber!

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The course isn’t technical either, just a simple out and back pretty much, with only a few 90-degree turns thrown in.

It’s certainly one for the specialists and strong men of the peloton.

Weather

It should be a fairly sunny day with little chance of rain.

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Forecast for San Benedetto del Tront (Source: WindfinderWindfinder)

As you can see in the image above, it looks as if it is going to be a reasonably windy day on the Adriatic coast, with the wind speed picking up mostly around midday.

This will unfortunately hamper the early starters, because on an out-and-back course, the increased tailwind speed does not negate the increased head-wind speed. It’s the opposite in fact!

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Source: Sheldonbrown.com

So if we do get the forecasted wind tomorrow, that should favour the late starters.

Contenders

We have two world-class time trial riders here at Tirreno.

Tom Dumoulin has started his season in imperious form and a good performance tomorrow could see him finish in the top 3 on GC of another stage race. A great TTer, I’m sure he would have preferred the course to be slightly longer and have a little climb in it somewhere. Nonetheless, as he proved at the Giro last year, he’s still no slouch over a short, flat route!

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His biggest rival will be Rohan Dennis. I’ve been very impressed with the Aussie so far this race and he’s already sitting in a podium position, but I’m sure he’ll be aiming further up than the third he currently occupies. One of the best short TT riders in the World and to be honest, I would strongly argue that he is the best! He was flying as part of BMC’s TTT effort and I expect much of the same from him tomorrow.

Aside from those two, there are a plethora of riders who could duke it out for stage honours or a podium placing on the day at least.

Primoz Roglic almost beat Dumoulin in that Giro TT, missing out by less than a second, in what was a breakthrough performance for him. He seemed to struggle a bit in the TT at the Volta ao Algarve recently, so a transformation in to more of a GC rider may have hindered him in that respect. Nonetheless, he could still pull something out the bag!

Geraint Thomas could put in a shift here. The Sky rider has been in sensational form this Tirreno so far and I’m sure he’ll be ruing the awful TTT, otherwise he could well be close enough to Quintana to take the title. A bit inconsistent in the discipline recently, the shorter distance will suit the former track rider.

Jonathan Castroviejo won the TT in Algarve recently over a similar parcours, apart from that stage being ever so slightly longer. The Spaniard is a very good on flat TTs considering his slight nature and he is certainly a danger here if he’s still going well!

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Ryan Mullen was going exceptionally well in Algarve and if it hadn’t been for an untimely mechanical, he may have been challenging for the win. He’s been rolling around here for the past few stages, poor form or one eye on tomorrow?

Matthias Brandle has been doing a fair bit of work on the front of the bunch for his team-mates this week, but like Mullen, he’s then rolled home on every stage. He was bitterly disappointed with his performance in Andalucia, but the course didn’t really suit him then. This flatter parcours does and he certainly has the abilities to sneak into the top 3.

Can everyone’s favourite Swede, Tobias Ludvigsson step up and deliver a good result? Like others, he’s been doing a lot of good work for his team leaders and looked solid in the TTT. In Strade he looked particularly annoyed (smashed his handlebars) after a mechanical and long wait for the car forced him to abandon, so I think he must be in reasonable form. Finishing 9th in Andalucia with a dropped chain isn’t a bad result, but he’ll need to avoid crashing/bad luck for once if he’s to go well here!

There are several other riders in with a top 5 shout depending on their performance on the day; Durbridge; Kiryienka, Dowsett, Van Emden and Kung to name a few!

Prediction

The best short TTer in the World wins this!

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Dennis is absolutely flying right now, his high GC placing is testament to that, and there is no one here who can match his speed over 10km. I always back him in time trials of this length and probably will continue to do so for a long time. Well, apart from when I picked him in the preview for Stage 2 of Eneco last year but didn’t put any money down.

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I’m not letting that happen again. The beacons are lit, and Rohan will answer!

Betting

Another big day and the price is tight, was hoping for 7/4 at least, but yeah…

Dennis 7pts WIN @5/4 with Bet365 (would take evens)

Mullen 0.5pts EW @150/1 with Bet365 (paying 3 places at 1/4 odds, would take 80s)

Plus the 4-fold @5.69/1. 2pts on.

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Thanks for reading as always! Can anyone stop Dennis or Dumoulin? And will we have a shake up at the top of the GC standings? There won’t be any previews on here for a few days but I’ll be back with MSR, the Women’s Trofeo Binda and Catalunya before the Belgian racing starts up again. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

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

Today’s Recap

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

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

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

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

The Route

A 14.5km individual time trial finishing atop Mont Brouilly.

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

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

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

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

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

I wonder if we’ll see any bike changes?

Another thing to consider is the weather.

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Forecast for Saint-Lager (Source: Wunderground)

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

Contenders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction

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

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Betting

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

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

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Tirreno Adriatico 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Lido di Camaiore -> Lido di Camaiore (TTT)

Tirreno Adriatico 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Lido di Camaiore -> Lido di Camaiore (TTT)

The race starts with a carbon copy of the opening team time trial we had last year, which BMC won by 2 seconds ahead of Etixx QuickStep and a very impressive FDJ in third place.

The Route

Pan-flat and very, very fast! The winning average speed last year was 56.948km/h.

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It’s not a technical route either, pretty much an out and back course with a few turns just past the halfway point.

That’s it really, nothing else to sum up!

The Teams

BMC arrive with a very similar team to the one that won this stage last year. Phinney and De Marchi are replaced by Dennis and Küng. They’ve not taken riders from the bottom of the pile anyway when replacing them, that’s for sure! One of the best TTT teams in the world, they’ll still be disappointed after their loss in Qatar and will want to remind everyone what they can do at this race. They are the team to beat!

Reigning World Champions QuickStep arrive with a fairly solid team. They are missing a few engines such as Lampaert but they still should be capable of putting in a good time. On one hand you could argue that without a GC rider they won’t be as committed but it’s QuickStep at the end of the day and they love to try to win everything.

FDJ will hope for a repeat of last year’s performance. They’ve improved their TT roster by recruiting my favourite Swede, Tobias Ludvigsson. However, I think they’ll struggle to achieve the same success this time round, maybe losing around 20 seconds to our eventual winners.

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After being a very good TTT squad a few years ago, Team Sky seemed to lose their way for a while. However, last year they seemed to regain their mojo in the discipline picking up a win in the opening stage at the Vuelta. They have a really good mix of riders here and are my dark horse to do well.

Movistar are always a solid TTT outfit but they struggle to perform outside of Spain at times. They do have a good team here to limit Quintana’s losses as much as possible but I can’t see them challenging for the win.

Lotto Jumbo are the new kids on the block in terms of TTT prowess. They’ve fast developed to be one of the best in the discipline and will be hoping for a podium spot to give Gesink and Roglic a good footing for the coming week.

Away from those teams, Orica, Sunweb and Bahrain will all hope to limit losses for their GC leaders and potentially nab a top 5 placing if they’re lucky.

Prediction

BMC are the team to beat and the most likely winners. They come here with an even better squad than that which won here last year!

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I’ll go with Sky to get in the top 3 though and possibly upset the applecart with a win if something crazy happens!

Betting

Some were lucky to get a massive 5/2 on BMC earlier today with Paddy Power. Unfortunately now as other bookmakers priced up they’ve been instated as the clear and rightful, odds on favourites in some places.

I still think they’ll win and I’m not letting the odds deter me this time! A big day ahead!

6pts WIN BMC @ 5/6 with Betfair. (would take 4/6)

1.5pt EW on Sky @ 11/1 with Betfair – they’re paying 3 places and 1/4 odds (would take 10/1)

1pt on this H2H treble with Bet365 that pays @ 6.98/1

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Thanks again for reading and as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win? Are BMC unbeatable? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Ruta del Sol Stage 3 Preview; Lucena -> Córdoba

Today’s Recap

My, oh, my! I did not expect that outcome at the end of the day.

Contador turned the heat on but just couldn’t see the result out. Thibaut Pinot made an excellent come-back in the final kilometre, out sprinting Contador; eventually winning by 2 seconds.

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It leaves the GC very interestingly poised going into tomorrow’s time trial. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for them!

The Route

A short 12km TT awaits.

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Not a very descriptive official profile, so as is the norm with TTs, I have made my own Strava profile. You can view that here.

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Once the riders “descend” from the start ramp they almost instantly going in the opposite direction, with only 200m of relatively flat roads. It’s then a 1.9km climb that averages 4.95% but does ramp up over 10% in some places.

A 4km long descent follows, which involves a few technical turns before a slight kick up and another kilometre of downhill. The road rises again for 1.6km, averaging 2.8%, before the riders plunge through the suburbs of Lucena.

The riders will have to keep something in reserve as they have a 500m long kicker to end the day.

What type of rider can win this TT?

I have to admit, I really like the parcours for this TT. With a third of the stage being uphill, the TT specialists won’t have it all their own way. Yet, the climbs aren’t overly challenging to completely discount them from the reckoning either.

Stage Contenders

Ion Izagirre probably starts as the favourite for this TT. He’s a rider who will be able to cope with the climbs but also is very strong on the flat. His TT has improved massively over the past few years and he’s put in some big performances over these short efforts. The one concern with him is that he can be a bit hit or miss at times in these events, so I’m not 100% confident in him to deliver.

Former World Champ Kiryienka is here but I think this TT is too short and twisting for him.

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Alberto Contador used to be a very solid TTer but lost his way in the past few years. He seems to do best when it’s the third week of a Grand Tour so I fear he will ship too much time and lose the leader’s jersey.

Thibaut Pinot on the other hand is a rider who’s made great improvements to his time trial in recent years. He took a great win at the Tour de Romandie last year and will certainly like the look of this course. He seems to be back in good form and will fancy his own chances of taking GC leadership.

Time for everyone’s favourite Swede, Tobias Ludvigsson, to step up to the plate. He’s showed great promise in the past in this discipline, but he hasn’t been performing as well on the road as I would have expected. Maybe he’s just saving himself for this? He certainly has a chance!

Alejandro Valverde did well to only concede 7 seconds today after what was a poor start to the climb from him. He dug in deep and is still in with a shot of the GC crown. Not often thought of a strong time trialist, Valverde is actually fairly solid in the discipline. Particularly in short events, but also particularly in Spain. I’m expecting to be pleasantly surprised by him tomorrow.

I’m also expecting to be surprised by Fabio Felline tomorrow. The Italian was exceptional on the lower slopes of today’s final climb, setting up his team leader. He’s capable of a top 10!

I don’t expect much from the likes of Campenaerts, Vorobyev, Le Bon, Poels and Landa.

Particularly Poels in fact. He won’t top 5.

Prediction

Underestimate Valverde at your peril…

I won’t be.

El Bala to win!

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Maybe I’m clinging on to that GC treble just a bit too much?

Betting

1pt WIN Pinot at 14/1 with Bet365 (would take 10/1 and the EW if you want to play it safe)

1pt WIN Valverde at 18/1 with Bet365 (would take 12/1 and the EW if you want to play it safe)

1pt on this 10.18/1 H2H Treble;

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Other bookmakers might price up more favourably later on, I just want to get this published!

Thanks again for reading, as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated. I hope we get an exciting TT that is close right up until the end. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Volta ao Algarve Stage 3 Preview; Sagres -> Sagres

Today’s Recap

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

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

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

The Route

TT time!

Print

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

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

Will the wind play any part?

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

Contenders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction

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

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

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

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

 

 

 

Women’s ITT World Championship – Doha 2016

Women’s ITT World Championship – Doha 2016

Last year saw an incredibly close race, with the top 4 riders separated by less than 10 seconds. It was New Zealand rider Linda Villumsen who came out on top edging Anna Van der Breggen to the title, with Lisa Brennauer rounding out the podium.

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With Villumsen not here this year, there is a chance for someone else to step up and win the Rainbow Jersey. It won’t be an easy task for the riders though as they’ll have to contend with tough conditions. Let’s take a look at what’s in store for them.

The Route

The Elite women tackle the exact same course that we saw the U23 Men complete today. Almost two full laps of the Pearl circuit, totalling 28.9km.

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There a few tight roundabouts and corners, but most of the circuit is fast and sweeping with very little elevation gain. Being able to carry speed through the corners will help massively so good bike handling skills are essential, but also a bit of bravery to take more risks out on course will help to set a good time. That’s about it really, nothing much else to say!

However, the main challenge for the riders will be the conditions.

Weather Watch

As we’ve witness in both the team time trial and the U23 TT today, the heat plays a huge part in the outcome of the race. Heat management and efficient use of energy are crucial in the 35 degree plus weather. The riders will be bitterly disappointed to see that they’re in for more of the same tomorrow, but what else can be expected when the World Champs are held in a desert!

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Windfinder data for Doha

With the temperature set to be even hotter than today there could be more riders struggling tomorrow. The late starters will benefit from a slight drop in temperature but the wind appears to pick up for them. The section of the course furthest from the start (most easterly) will be the area where those riders will face a stiff headwind. However, for the rest of the course it should even itself out and as we saw today, the wind direction and speed can change almost instantaneously.

The start order can be found here.

Contenders

My unsuccessful pick for the Olympic TT, Ellen Van Dijk, starts as the bookies favourite and deservedly so. Aside from running off the road in Rio, where she would have finished on the podium otherwise, and third at the Chrono Champenois, Van Dijk has looked incredibly strong this year. This type of power course will suit here well but her sometimes lackadaisical bike handling could be of detriment. If she stays upright and is confident in the corners then she will be tough to beat. Not impossible, but tough!
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Her Dutch team-mate Anna Van der Breggen will be hoping to do just that. Arguably one of the riders of the season, the Olympic and European road race champion is a very solid TTer too, having made the podium at both those events in the individual discipline. She would probably want a hillier course to have a better chance but she can’t be ruled out because of her form. I just think there are riders more suited to this terrain than her.

One of those is Olympic silver medalist Olga Zabelinskaya. The 36-year old Russian is in the twilight of her career but has pulled off some remarkable rides this season and if she has continued that form then she is a real contender. She recently finished 2nd at the Chrono Champenois, beating Van Dijk.

The rider who beat them both that day? Katrin Garfoot. The Aussie champion has had one of her best seasons on the bike to date. She’s a solid climber but her area of expertise is time trialling. Finishing just off the podium at last year’s event, she’ll be here for revenge and looks in good form. Keep an eye out for her!

The third prong in the Dutch arsenal is Annemiek van Vlueten. After her horror crash at the Olympics she bounced back to win the Lotto Belgium Tour which was great to see! Another rider who can do a bit of everything the current Dutch TT champ will be aiming for nothing less than the top spot! She goes out the earliest of her team-mates so could benefit from the weaker wind or conversely suffer more in the heat.

Cycling - Road - Olympics: Day 2

As for the other riders?

I’m not confident of Lisa Brennauer‘s chances. Third last year, her time trialling has been a bit hit and miss so far this year and she’s yet to win an event. Managing to pick up numerous podiums, maybe I am being a bit on harsh on her, but the signs aren’t great. Nonetheless, Canyon performed better than expected in the TTT, so maybe she can turn it around too?

Amber Neben and Carmen Small could be in or around the top 5 for the USA as well.

There is one outsider I like the look of and that’s Ashleigh Moolman. The South African is in great form at the moment and will relish the tough conditions. She rode well for her team on Sunday which will have given her confidence for this event. Another rider who would probably prefer a hill or two, she certainly will give it her all!

Prediction

Now for that time I cast the #HaugheyCurse upon some poor soul. There is a great chance we could see a Dutch 1-2-3, but it’s bad enough me ruining one riders chances, let alone a whole nation’s 😉

Van Dijk rightly is favourite, but I do really rate the chances of Katrin Garfoot for this course. Out of the top 5 favourites, she’s probably the rider who will benefit most from the flat course. Performing well in the Tour of Qatar earlier this year, she will be no stranger to the tough conditions and combining that with her good recent form, I think she’s on the cusp of a great victory!

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Sincerest apologies Katrin!

Betting

1pt WIN Garfoot at 5/1 with Unibet (I’d take the 9/2 with Bet365/Ladbrokes/Skybet)

0.25pt EW Moolman at 50/1 with Bet365/Ladbrokes

*Update* Added this H2H treble with B365 that I like.

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0.5pt on at 4.37/1

 

Thanks for reading! Can you see past the Dutch trio and will the #HaugheyCurse finally be over? Who do you think will win? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. I shall have the men’s TT preview out tomorrow evening. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Team Time Trial World Championships – Doha 2016 Preview

Team Time Trial World Championships – Doha 2016 Preview

The last and main TTT of the year will once again see a trade team crowned as the World Champions. The winners really should get some kind of jersey/marking on the trade team jersey to signify their victory in my opinion! It’s also a shame that the discipline isn’t utilised more by race organisers in the World Tour or even at ProConti level. Anyway, I digress…

Team time trials are a great watch for the cycling purist, with a fine balance between power, speed and finesse. Last year saw BMC win the men’s race with Velocio-Sram taking home the women’s race.

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That victory was an incredible 4th in a row for Velocio (formerly Lululemon and now Canyon SRAM)! Can they make it 5 here? Let’s take a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Both the men and women will compete over the exact same 40km course. Leaving from the Lusail sports complex and finishing on the Pearl of Qatar.

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As you can see, the course is bookended by two technical sections with a big ol’ power section in between. On closer inspection the jaunt around the Lusail Sports Centre is actually 14km long. This includes several roundabouts, sharp 90-degree corners and a few hairpin turns for good measure! These obstacles are separated by 500m to 1km long straights where the power can be put down.

The pure power section follows, with approximately 10km of almost dead-straight road before we start getting into a more populous area again. The final 8.5km of the race features no less than 18 roundabouts to traverse! Some of them can be taken full speed as the racing line is straight, however there are others that will knock the speed off. It could be a case of who’s willing to take the most risks. Aside from the roundabouts, the best way to describe the Pearl section is “sweeping”.

This video shows what the riders will be faced with come Sunday; how wide the roads are etc. Pretty wide is the answer, as you would expect in Qatar! Therefore a lot of these roundabouts can be taken closer to full speed than they first may seem. Again, it could come down to who takes the biggest risks.

Men’s Race

The favourites for the men’s event has to be BMC. Reigning champions, they are a very powerful unit and have mastered the art of this discipline perfectly. We saw at Eneco that they looked comfortable, although their winning margin doesn’t suggest that, on a course that didn’t really suit them perfectly. This course is 75% about pure power and BMC are the best TTT unit for that. The opening 10km will be a challenge for them but if they can get through that unscathed then they will be tough to beat. The only lingering doubt is can they handle the pressure of being favourites?

Their main challengers will probably be Etixx. They were the team that ran them closest at Eneco and are traditionally a very good TTT unit, having won this race back in 2012 and 2013. With a team full of strong rouleurs this course suits them very well and they’ll be quietly confident about winning it. I would expect nothing less than a podium from them!

Cycling: 10th Tour de San Luis 2016 / Stage 1

Movistar arrive with a very good team on paper but they often flatter to deceive in team time trials, especially of this length. They took a breakthrough third place last year but their form in the discipline this year has been a bit so-so. I’m not confident that they’ll be able to turn it around here.

A team that I am more confident can turn their poor form around is Orica. The Aussie outfit was famed for their TTT ability in the early years after their formation but they’ve stagnated recently. For Doha, they’ve brought a quietly unassuming team but one that is very well-rounded. With the majority of the riders being from the southern hemisphere (poor old Svein Tuft) they should in theory cope with the heat better than most. I expect them to podium, if not better!

As for the other teams? LottoNL Jumbo could potentially pull off a surprise but if they were ever going to get a TTT result it was going to be at Eneco. They didn’t manage then so I don’t see them going well here. Astana and Giant will hope to sneak in to the top five which would be a great result for them. Sky? Great TTT in the Vuelta but the team has been in disarray since this whole TUE malarkey and I can’t see them being fully focussed to go well.

Women’s Race

Disappointingly there are only 8 teams here, with the favourites being Boels Dolmans. If you think BMC are clear favourites for the men’s race, they aren’t a patch on Boels if you look at results. The squad has been utterly dominant in TTTs this year winning every race, except for the Tour of California TTT. A group of very talented riders, the only way they will lose this is by making mistakes out on the course or if one of the other teams has an incredible day. Both of which are possible!

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Canyon SRAM will be looking for their 5th title in a row, but they have performed below expectation this year. They finished 1:41 down on Boels at the Vargarda TTT (also 40km) back in August but came home second in the slightly more recent Ladies Tour event. Will they continue this upward trajectory and pull something out of the bag? Probably not.

Both Cervelo Bigla & Rabo-Liv have come close to beating Boels this year and will both be confident of making the podium. The real challenge for them will be if they can make it all the way on to the top step. On a good day they most certainly could and I’m hoping they perform well to run Boels close, potentially cleaning up if the Dutch outfit make a mistake.

Twenty-16 were the team that beat Boels in the Tour of California. However, there is a big difference between a 20km TTT in your home country, compared to a 40km effort elsewhere. They do have some very talented track pursuit riders in their team but I think it will be too much for them. I can’t really see any surprises from the other 3 teams but you never know. Zabelinskaya may pull Bepink round herself!

Prediction

BMC should win, but I have a very good feeling about Orica for some strange reason. (Not that that has ever helped before 😉 ) So instead of going for the favourites I’ll suggest the Aussie outfit win it by less than 5 seconds!

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Similar situation in the women’s race. Boels are clear favourites but it’s boring going for odds on favourites. Instead, I’ll pluck for Rabo-Liv to take home the race!

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Watch BMC and Boels go on and win comfortably now.

Betting

The favourites are priced accordingly, if not a bit conservatively by the bookies but I’ve found a couple of angles I like.

0.5pt EW Orica @ 18/1 with Ladbrokes. 

They’re paying out 1/3 odds for 2 places and I think there’s a good chance Orica could make the top 2 or at least should be thereabouts. Looks a good value bet in comparison to poor odds for Movistar and Etixx. Other bookmakers might offer more places later on, or a top 3 market, but I wouldn’t hold your breath on that!

0.125pt WIN Cervelo Bigla @ 25/1 with Ladbrokes.

0.125pt WIN Rabo Liv @ 16/1 with Bet365.

Unfortunately there’s no EW betting for the women’s race, as both of these teams are priced on the generous side if you could get a top 2/3 place. Nonetheless, I think they offer a bit of value just in case if Boels mess up or these teams are on an incredible day.

 

Congrats if you made it all the way down to here and thanks again for reading! How do you think the races will pan out? Will both of the obvious favourites win comfortably? Or is there a chance of an upset? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.