Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 16 Preview; Rovett -> Bormio

Recap

My hopes were raised when I woke up to see Molard in the break, but they were quickly diminished when I saw Orica chasing and the small gap that they had!

Things were eventually brought to heel just as the peloton entered the final 3km and we were treated to a small flurry of attacks from the GC favourites. However, it came down to a very fast sprint and Jungels came out victorious.

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I wonder if he had that massive chain-ring on again?!

Quintana of all people got up for second, with Pinot third.

Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders after the final rest day.

The Route

I imagine some riders wish they could have the rest of the week off looking at the profiles and the action all kicks off tomorrow.

Not exactly an easy day for the riders to ease themselves back into racing after the rest day, with 222km ahead of them and three massive mountains that all go above 1800m.

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The riders start with a nice bit of descending before the road gradually rises for the next 60km before they start the climb of the Mortirolo officially.

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12.6km at 7.6% average, the climb will certainly be a leg opener for the peloton. It *probably* comes too early in the stage to be of any real significance for the day, but you just never know! Expect those who are after KOM points to be battling it out here.

Once over the top, the riders will face a 14km descent before they start the approach towards the Stelvio. Again, the road rises for those 30km but the climb officially begins with just over 100km to go.

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21.7km at 7.1%, the passage also acts as the Cima Coppi for the race. A brutally tough and draining climb, the steep pitches in the final few kilometres look great for an attack from the bunch.

A long descent follows before the peloton re-climbs the Stelvio but this time from the Swiss side. The first time this has ever been done in the Giro!

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13.4km at 8.4%, the organisers have cruelly left the toughest climb of the day until the end. With very little respite, a rider on the limit can lose a massive amount of time here if they go too far into the red and pop.

The race then ends with a descent into Bormio.

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Almost as important as the climb, a rider can lose a lot of time here if they aren’t fully switched on because they’re tired from their previous efforts. With how technical the closing few kilometres are, let’s just hope a rider arrives solo or a group of three at most!

Weather Watch

Many of you will have memories of that stage back in 2014 when the Stelvio was covered in snow and Quintana didn’t see that the race was being neutralised…

Thankfully, the weather doesn’t look that bad this year.

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Source: Wunderground

The forecast for Bormio suggests that it will be a relatively pleasant day in the saddle with only a small chance of rain. However, as we know, this can change pretty quickly, especially in the mountains!

With the wind coming from the North, it will be a slight headwind for the traditional passage of the Stelvio, before being a tailwind for the Swiss ascent.

How will the stage pan out?

This is a tough one to predict on the best of days but it is made even more difficult after the rest day. Some riders might come out firing, whereas others might take a few climbs to get going!

It really depends on the composition of the morning break as to the size of an advantage the move can get. There are lots of riders way down on GC who will be given plenty of freedom. Even someone like Rui Costa who is 16 minutes behind in 17th place might get some leeway. However, if a rider such as Ben Hermans infiltrates the move, then a few other teams might start riding defensively to protect their top 10 position.

I imagine teams will be very keen to get riders up the road for later in the day so we could see a large breakaway of 20 guys or so. The issue is the amount of flat at the start of the stage which makes it more difficult for climbers to be there.

Ultimately though, it depends on Movistar’s attitude to the stage. They need to take a few minutes out of Dumoulin and I’m very intrigued to see how they approach that job. No doubt they’ll get someone ahead of the peloton to work for Quintana later, but when will the Colombian attack? Most likely near the top of the Stelvio I think.

Will the gap to the break be too big for the Colombian to win the stage after then, quite possibly and like always, I’m leaning towards that being the case.

What Sunweb need to do in my opinion is completely sit up when the break goes so that it gets a huge advantage of 10mins plus so that it becomes nigh on impossible for Quintana to attack and bridge to his team-mates, or any other GC rider for that matter. Play their contenders at their own game, and just trust Dumoulin to be able to follow his competitors’ wheels.

So once again, I think we’ll see a race on two fronts with the breakaway taking stage honours and a massive GC battle behind.

Breakaway Candidates

There will obviously be riders chasing the KOM jersey who try to get into the move, such as Fraile, Rolland and Landa, but I’m going to take a slightly different approach.

With the GC teams wanting to get riders up the road, we should see a few strong climbers from the big teams represented. If Sunweb are then ballsy enough to not properly chase, then a few of those riders might be given the chance to go for stage honours rather than be told to sit up and help their leader.

Winner Anacona.

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The Colombian seems to be in better form than Amador at the moment and I think would be more of an aid to Quintana than the Costa Rican. However, if the gap is too big for Quintana to bridge, then Anacona could be given the green light to go for the stage. He is in exceptional form at the moment and I think that there won’t be many riders capable of beating him.

Sebastien Reichenbach.

Another left-hand man for a GC contender, the Swiss rider has had a very solid race so far in aid of Pinot, often being one of the last domestiques standing amongst the GC guys. He seems to be slowly finding some form this race, building for a big last week. With the stage crossing into his home country, I’m sure he’d like to put on a show!

Carlos Verona.

The Spaniard has been mostly anonymous so far this Giro, but he showed on the front on the previous stage, doing a lot of work for Yates. He’s another rider who seems to building some form nicely. A very strong climber, he should like tomorrow’s terrain and could well take the day. With Yates not too close to the head of the GC order, I think Orica will be happy to let Verona or Plaza go for the stage with the Brit doing what he can behind.

Joe Dombrowski.

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Third week of a Grand Tour so time to start backing the American again! One of the strongest riders in the peloton going by numbers, he still has to master some racing craft. Nonetheless, if he gets into the break it will be tough for a lot of riders to follow him on the climbs.

GC Contenders

It is hard to see past Quintana for this. Although I am bitterly aware I said that on the finish to Oropa! Nonetheless, when considering the altitude the riders will be over, it really does benefit the Colombian over the likes of Dumoulin.

The Dutchman has been strong so far but this is his acid test. If he comes through the day relatively unscathed, losing roughly a minute, he will be very confident of taking the Giro overall.

As for the other contenders, who knows! Nibali always goes well in the final week and after his bad day on Oropa, you would expect Pinot to hopefully bounce back here on a stage with a lot more climbing that is suited to him. Zakarin is also looking strong and will hope to cement his podium charge.

Prediction

I think the break will build up a big enough gap to take the stage honours, it is a 222km long day after all so the GC teams won’t want to go too crazy early on.

I say hesitantly before we get a full gas stage from the start and half the peloton OTL.

Nonetheless, with a few strong climbers up the road and a couple of GC riders cracking behind, I think we’ll see a good climbing domestique take the win. Reichenbach to take the day after the stage goes through his home country!

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Betting

Small stakes on the breakaway punts as it’s too risky to be backing Quintana for the stage.

0.5pt WIN on them, all with Bet365 as well (although also available with PP/BF);

Reichenbach @ 125/1

Anacona @ 125/1

Dombrowski @ 150/1

Verona @ 250/1

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated as normal! Who do you think will win? Will we see a breakaway make it all the way to the line, or will a GC rider take the stage? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Strade Bianche 2017 Preview; Siena -> Siena

Strade Bianche 2017 Preview; Siena -> Siena

One of my favourite races of the year, hands down! It has the mix of everything really; awesome parcours; great start-list; amazing scenery; and some pretty aggressive racing.

Cancellara broke the heart of Brambilla last year, and managed to out-fox Stybar into the final corner, taking a quite excellent win.

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Cancellara is obviously not here this year, so that leaves the door open for a new victor or one of the three former winners that are here to regain their crown.

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

The Route

I’m going to make this section a lot, lot shorter than normal because there are already several previews out there with this information so I don’t want to bore you with it again!

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There you go…

Basically lots of short sharp punchy hills, although there are a couple of longer ones earlier on, interspersed with gravel sections. Rolling terrain for most of the day means there is little time to rest and the action is always on.

A tough closing 20km can see someone get away solo, but there is also the possibility that it all comes down to a sprint up to the Piazza del Campo!

One thing that may have a say in that is the…

Weather

After the brutal conditions in Samyn mid-week, I’m sure the peloton would have been hoping for something less miserable here. The fans certainly want the opposite and it looks as if the weather gods are going to appease the crowds.

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Weather in Siena (Source: Wunderground)

Nothing concrete but there is a very good chance we’ll get rain at some point during the race, which would make it even more of a spectacle. I’m sure a lot of you will remember the Giro in 2010…

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It probably won’t get as torrid as that, but even a smattering of rain could cause some issues for the riders!

Anyway, who’s got a chance of taking the crown this weekend?

Contenders

Where better to start than with the current world champion, Peter Sagan. The Slovak shredded the race to bits in Omloop last Saturday and once again was in the thick of the action on Sunday, managing to win Kuurne. He clearly is in very good form at the moment and he has gone well here in the past. My one issue with him is that he always seems to struggle on the final climb up to the Piazza so he’ll need to ride everyone off of his wheel before then. Not impossible, but I can’t see it happening. Am I being too bold discounting him?

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After me playing up his chances for Omloop, Zdenek Stybar, was left bitterly disappointed at the end of the race, visibly shaking his head as he crossed the line. That to me indicates that he knew he could and should have been a key protagonist in the outcome of the race. Held up in the crash that took out Boonen, he tried attacking later on in the race to bridge across to the lead group but couldn’t manage it. I’m sure he’ll want to bounce back this weekend in a race that suits him very well, he did win it in 2015 after all! With Brambilla and Vakoc, he has a strong support team which could very well be crucial.

Picking up the win in Omloop while still not at 100% form shows what a great cyclist Greg Van Avermaet is. The Belgian has done fairly well here in the past but hasn’t managed to win this race yet, with the closest being a second place finish to Stybar in 2015. Good on short, steep climbs and rough terrain, he has all of the characteristics to win this race. Yet, like Sagan, I just have a feeling he won’t and I’m not sure why. BMC do have a very strong team with them and an in-form Hermans could be a very useful second card to play in a tactical race.

Without Cancellara, Trek will turn to Fabio Felline as their main charge for this race. After an explosive start to his season, winning Il Laigueglia, he’s followed that up with a 5th place in the TT at Andalucia and a 4th at Omloop last weekend. This race should suit him perfectly and if he can follow the best over the gravel, he certainly has a very good chance up the punchy climb to the Piazza.

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Sky arrive here with a very solid squad; Kwiatkowski, Rosa and Puccio all have a chance of going well. The Pole seems to slowly be returning to the rider he once was before he joined Sky, finishing 2nd on GC in Algarve earlier in February. However, he still didn’t seem in tip-top shape so this race might be too early for him. On the other hand, Rosa looked very strong in Andalucia and had he not been working for others (again!), could have finished higher up himself. He seems to love one-day racing in Italy and may very well go on to win here, but he’ll need to come to the line alone! Puccio is a bit of a wild-card, but this is his home race and he always manages a fairly decent result here. Well, apart from last year when I had backed him and he had 3 mechanicals while in the front group. I won’t put the #HaugheyCurse on him this year, but I shall be watching with interest.

Benoot and Wellens will lead the charge for Lotto Soudal. Both riders are capable of winning here if they get a bit of luck, but both will need a different type of race to play out. Benoot will be the one happier waiting until the finish line whereas Wellens is much more likely to go on the attack from far out. He’s certainly a danger if given too much leeway!

I’m really intrigued by the selection that Astana bring to this race, because on paper it looks a very strong, well-rounded team. They have a former winner in the shape of Moser and a podium finisher with Gatto. Not to mention Amstel Gold runner-up Valgren, solid one-day racer and climber Sanchez, and Grand Tour winner Aru. The last of those makes his second appearance at this race after finishing 20th here way back in 2013. Often slated for his one-day racing, he’s not as bad at these types of races as he’s made out to be in my opinion, and I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised by Aru tomorrow. The race only being 175km certainly helps him.

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FDJ arrive with a solid squad and it seems to be the same riders that are following Pinot around all year. Thibaut himself has had a good start to the season, picking up a very impressive stage win in Andalucia. Anyone who managed to beat Contador there must be going well! Making his debut in this race, he might struggle with some of the surfaces but I think his form will overcome that and he is my dark horse for the win. His team-mate Reichenbach is another good outside candidate if we get a very tactical race where the “second string” riders get sent up the road and manage to end up staying away. Like Pinot, he was also impressive in Andalucia and can’t be discounted.

Roglic, Haas, Dumoulin and Vanmarcke could all go well with a bit of luck.

Prediction

Like my women’s preview (shameless plug, view it here) I’ve had this rider in mind all week for this race. Unlike that preview though, I have had my doubts about him but that’s been purely based off of his odds being shorter than I would have liked. Nonetheless, after much deliberation I still think he’ll take the victory, capitalising on some good early season form. If we get bad conditions, that makes it even better for him. Stybar to win!

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Betting

As mentioned above, I was almost backing out of this one purely because I would have hoped for something like 10/1 on Stybar. But the more I think about it, the 6-7/1 on offer in places is still good value IMO.

Stybar 2pts WIN @7/1 with PaddyPower (would take 6/1 available elsewhere)

I tweeted these two out yesterday after prices were released but they have subsequently been shortened;

Pinot 0.25pts EW @200/1 with Bet365 (would still take 125/1 with PP or the 100/1 with William Hill)

Reichenbach 0.25pts EW @ 300/1 with Bet365 (would still take the 200/1 with PP or the 150/1 widely available)

I don’t really like any of the H2H available at the moment. Might change my mind later.

 

Once again, thanks for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win this incredible race? I’ll be back again tomorrow with a Paris-Nice GC and Stage 1 preview so keep an eye out for them. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta Ciclista a Andalucia (Ruta del Sol) 2017 – GC Preview

Last year we saw an exciting race where it looked as if Tejay Van Garderen was going to win his first European Stage race and break that duck. However, Valverde absolutely blew everyone away on the final day of racing and won the GC title by almost 30 seconds! With Van Garderen and Mollema rounding out the podium.

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Valverde is back again this year: looking to make it 5 wins in 6 years, but can he do it? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Stage 1 and the organisers have decided to start off with a nice “rolling” day.

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Tough start to the race, with an interesting climb at the end of the day. Should be a great watch, with a lot of potential outcomes!

Stage 2 and another rolling day, but this time with a mountain top finish.

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A tough 5km climb with some steep sections in it and a kilometre or so of false-flat at the end. Solo winner or a sprint between the climbers?

Stage 3 and a short individual TT.

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An interesting profile once again, we are in Spain after all! A nice climb for the riders to open their legs before a long shallow descent, another slight rise, followed with a steeper descent and a kick up to the line. Will the specialists or GC riders prevail here?

Stage 4.

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Finally a stage for the sprinters or will the breakaway have their say? Word of warning, it is a very technical finish!

Stage 5.

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Another day for the fast men? No doubt we’ll get a strong breakaway with that tough start!

GC Contenders

The greatest GT rider of his generation is here, Alberto Contador, and this race marks his first outing for new team Trek Segafredo. He had a fairly solid season last year, winning Pais Vasco and Burgos GC but solid is all I can really say about it. In comparison to his lofty expectations and performances in the past, it was almost a disappointment! Will the change of team and a new (possibly better) working environment revitalise him? With only one mountain top finish he’ll have to be on good form to get a race winning gap as I imagine he’ll lose a bit of time on the TT.

Team Sky arrive with a very strong squad with Poels, Landa and Rosa all potentially being leaders of the team. The latter pair haven’t done any racing so far this year so their form is a bit unknown but Poels finished 4th on GC at Valenciana. He had an off day on stage 2, but was fairly strong on stage 4. He was flying at the start of last year and this could be his only GC chance this season. I expect a good performance from him!

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The man with the secret to eternal youth, Alejandro Valverde, is back to defend the title he won last year. A commanding win in Almeria on Saturday he clearly is in great shape already at the start of the season. He’ll hope to be close on the time trial and smoke everyone up the mountain top finish. Certainly not out of the question!

Former Movistar rider Ion Izaggire will be looking to beat his old suitors here. Over the past couple of seasons he has grown into a great one-week stage racer and will hope to be in or around the podium places here. His strong TT abilities will be key to that. Sixth place on his first race back, he seems to be going ok but there is a big difference between a 5-stage race and a one-day effort.

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FDJ are another team with a couple of options here. Pinot was way off the pace in Valenciana but that was due to him being ill. We saw last year just how good he can be in these types of week-long stage races, so he can’t be discounted if back in reasonable nick. With him, he has two lieutenants who both could achieve a top 10 on GC if luck goes their way, in the form of Reichenbach and Ludvigsson. I do have a soft spot for the Swede and it won’t be the last time I’ll be mentioning him this year!

Uran, Barguil and even Wellens are others to keep an eye out for.

Prediction

In the form that he’s in just now, El Bala wins the race comfortably and another race/number is added to his already incredibly tally!

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Betting

Only SkyBet have the race priced up so far and have Valverde just ahead of Contador. Bet365 will be offering odds for the race, but only tomorrow…

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I doubt they’ll be offering anything spectacularly different price wise though. So that being said

0.5pt EW on a Valverde/Costa/Roglic (giving away my Algarve preview here) treble at 54.45/1 with  Skybet. I wouldn’t normally go EW on this but I think they should all podium so it covers the stake in that case.

 

Thanks for reading, as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated. How do you think the race will pan out; can anyone beat Valverde and Contador? Anyway,

Thos were My Two Spokes Worth.

Il Lombardia 2016 Preview

Il Lombardia 2016 Preview

The race with the pretty name, the “Classica delle foglie morte”, is the final Monument of the year. Traditionally a race for the climbers and very strong Ardennes riders, the 2015 edition was won by a commanding Vincenzo Nibali, who attacked on the penultimate descent and managed to hold on to take the win.

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This year the organisers have taken the amount of climbing to a whole new level…

The Route

Ouch!

lombardiasp Just look at that profile, particularly the second half, it wouldn’t look out-of-place as a Grand Tour Queen stage. Saying that, they wouldn’t have a stage at 240km long!

The first real challenge the riders come to is the Valico di Valcava. I’m disregarding the iconic Madonna del Ghisalo purely because it comes too close to the start.valico-di-valcava

The Valcava as you can see is a real brute of a climb. If this was a GT, it would probably be defined as a Cat1/HC depending on what classification you use. The 3km section at 11.6% could rip the peloton to shreds if a team decides to take it up early.

Once the riders have reached the summit, I’m sure they’ll be glad to know that there is just under 100km and 5 climbs left!

Next is the Berbenno; 6.5km in length and at only 5.1% it doesn’t warrant a profile from the organisers. The riders will tackle a fast descent before they go climbing again up the Sant’Antonia Abbandonato.

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Another very steep climb, the average gradient of 8.9% is deceiving because the opening and closing kilometres are significantly easier than the  rest of the climb which averages over 10%. Another plunge into the valley follows before the Miragolo San Salvatore.

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A much steadier and not as harsh climb at only 7% for it’s 8.7km. With it topping out at 40km to go, I can’t see this climb being taken at a leisurely pace. The strong climbers will hope to distance any stragglers here!

A short 5km descent follows before they tackle the penultimate climb of the day.

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With the climb being relatively shallow, it will be tough for the riders to make any real inroads here. A strong group however, would be able to take back/ gain a good bit of time here if there was enough cohesion.

Once crested, the riders face a long 11km descent before roughly 10km of flat-ish road.

5km

The last place the climbers can hope to make a difference is the short 1.2km long drag that comes just over 4km to the finish line. With some steep ramps, if they distance those behind and have around 5 seconds at the top then they should hold on for the win.

It’s the exact same run in that was used in 2014, although the rest of that race was a lot easier!

Weather Watch

Initially, it looked as if the riders were going to miss the bad weather. However, inclement weather seems to be arriving in the area a day early!

As you know by now, meteorologists steal a living so you can’t trust everything completely. Therefore, I’ve tried to use a few sites to get a better idea.

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Good chance of rain in the afternoon at Lake Como (MetOffice).

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Weather.com has a similar outlook for Como.

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Possible thunderstorms a few hours after the race has finished in Bergamo (AccuWeather)

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The MetOffice also think there’s a good chance of rain in Bergamo, more likely in the evening.

Obviously these forecasts could change again by this evening but it’s definitely something to consider.

How will the race pan out?

With the final two climbs not being too difficult, the climbers without a sprint and those who are on an exceptional day will want the pace to be on early.

Looking at the teams, I would expect Astana to set a hard pace up the Valcava, shelling any deadwood and some opposition teammates. Movistar, Orica & AG2R may even lend a hand, and I would not be surprised if we only had around 60 riders left in the peloton after that climb.

A similar pattern will unfold on the Abbandonato. By this time, the bad weather and rain may have close in, which will make this race even more amazing!

A peloton of around 25-30 riders will then reach the Salvatore. With an average gradient of 7%, it is possible to make a difference here and the pace will be incredibly high. Cresting at 40km to go, there is a chance for those dropped to make it back in. The composition of the main group will then shape the rest of the race.

It is possible we get an escape of “lesser” riders forming at this point, while the main favourites mark each other behind. The group will have to include a rider from Astana/Movistar/AG2R/Orica/Sky if it hopes to survive to the end. Look to the likes of Kangert and Izagirre!

Favourites

My number one favourite for this race has to be Chaves. He was up here last year until cramps and a hunger knock took him out of contention. One of the best climbers in the race and not to mention he’s on good form, I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t make the top 3!

Uran arrives off the back of a very good series of races in September and has been unlucky not to take a win. That could well change here! He’s a danger-man.

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Aru is Astana’s main man for this. They’ll be hoping for a performance similar to Nibali from him. However, he’s not been anywhere near to that high standard this Autumn. I’m just not convinced by his ability to compete in a race like this.

Movistar’s main men will be Moreno and Valverde. Both performed very well here last year and Moreno looks in good form just now. Having Valverde in the final group changes the dynamic as no one will want to come to a sprint with him. His form/fatigue is also unknown as he’s done a lot of racing this year. I’d have Moreno as team leader!

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Alaphilippe is 3rd favourite with the bookies, but there is too much climbing for him in my opinion! He won’t be there at the end.

Bardet should be in the mix for AG2R and is a podium contender. On form, Ulissi and Costa will be in or around the top 10. The Italian was climbing exceptionally well in the Giro and will hope to do the same tomorrow.

There are some riders others will mention as potential favourites but their form hasn’t been good enough for me to fancy their chances; Martin, Mollema, Poels, Brambilla and Landa namely.

Outsiders?

There is always the opportunity for those further down the pecking order. I like the look of Majka for this. Completely contradictory to what I said above re-Martin and co, I just think this course suits the Pole very well. He normally goes well at the end of the year and can handle the distance.

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Majka’s reaction when he hears that the #HaugheyCurse has been set upon him

Others I like the look of are Reichenbach and Kelderman. The Swiss rider is going very well at the moment and has been attacking in his recent races. He’s a very good climber on his day, but probably isn’t the quality of the big favourites. This could work to his advantage as the others just watch each other. The same can be said for Kelderman, who seemed to be going nicely in the Eneco Tour and in Canada. Another danger man if given too much leeway! I do like the back-up Astana rider option and Kangert would be my man for that situation.

Prediction

Chaves should win, he’s arguably the best climber here, a good descender and in very good form!

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But we do get a surprise every so often, especially if the weather is bad. Keep an eye out for my 4 outsiders!

Betting

1pt WIN Chaves @ 6/1 with PaddyPower or Betfair

0.2pt EW Majka @ 80/1 with Bet365

0.15pt EW Reichenbach @100/1 with Bet365/PP/Betfair (or take 80/1 with Ladbrokes but 4 places)

0.1pt EW Kelderman @ 150/1 with Bet365/PP/Betfair

0.1pt EW Kangert @250/1 with Ladbrokes (4 places)

 

Hope you all enjoyed the preview and thanks for reading! How do you think the race will pan out? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TDF Stage 7 Preview: l’Isle-Jourdain -> Lac de Payolle

Today’s Recap

Not been a great start to the Tour prediction wise as Cav excellently sprints out of Kittel’s slipstream to take the win. His third of the race so far! He really has turned a leaf this Tour.

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Etixx never really got a train organised at all which was very disappointing. They made a hurried effort at around 2km to go, but it meant Kittel had to expend unnecessary energy to get to the front. Then he hit the front too early which was to the delight of all the other sprinters, especially Cavendish who came out from behind him in the final 100m. A nod must go to Dan McLay who sprinted superbly to 3rd place. If the finish was another 50m down the road he could have climbed further up the podium! Anyway, onto tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

Flat(ish) then a big ol’ hill.

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A flat opening 50km of the stage will undoubtedly result in a very fast pace within the peloton as riders try to get into the break of the day. The road then goes through several rises and falls in terrain before we reach the first categorised climb of the day, the Cat 4 Côte de Capvern. A long but fairly shallow climb at 7.7km in length but with inly a 3.1% average gradient. Well, that’s according to the official statistics. As you can see on the profile above the road actually rises before and after the classification. This actually makes the average gradient even shallower (2.3%) but the road rises up for around 16km. We could see those struggling with injury here. It’ll be a hard day for them thereafter!

We actually get the Intermediate Sprint before the road starts climbing up towards the final climb of the day. Sagan will be hoping to take as many points here as possible. He’ll want to keep Cavendish in close quarters.

Soon after we are onto the first Cat-1 climb of the race, the Col d’Aspin.

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A long climb that starts off fairly easy, its toughest section comes in the middle with a kilometre at 9.5%. Not the toughest of climbs but this will be the first shake up of the GC. Anyone on an off day could lose a fair chunk of time tomorrow.

The descent itself isn’t too technical, however there are some switch backs right at the end.

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The road then kicks up again to the finish line, under 3% average for the final couple of kms.

How will the stage pan out?

Normally I’d be all over the idea that a break makes it this stage and it seems that a few of you agree.

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Massive sample size. Reliable.

However, I think there are several circumstances that will ensure it doesn’t.

  1. It’s the first mountain stage and although it doesn’t finish atop the mountain, I expect Sky to keep to tradition and test out their GC rivals.
  2. Along with Sky testing out their rivals, Movistar will be keen to impose themselves too. Froome got a bit caught off guard at the end of stage Stage 5. They’ll see if they can do the same here.
  3. Time bonuses. Maybe not crucial at the end of the Tour but they certainly do help
  4. The most important reason for me. Contador. The Spaniard has looked shaky since his fall and the other GC teams have to go in for the kill here. If they don’t take advantage of him now, he’ll make their race a nightmare later on.
  5. The descent off the climb is short, it will be hard for any riders dropped to make up time (unlike stage 8) so any gaps made will probably stick.

Therefore, I think we get some kind of GC shake up. Maybe not substantial, but there will be some time gaps.

So the two main options for me are a GC bunch sprint, or a well-timed late attack. I’ll go through both of these possibilities.

This stage looks tailor-made for Valverde.

Vuelta Spagna 2015

He should be able to cope with the climb and will be the fastest of the GC men left at the end. Will he get given some freedom by Quintana? I think so.

Will Julian Alaphilippe make it over the climb? He was struggling over the smaller climbs on stage 5. I don’t think he’ll make it here. If he does, then he will definitely be a danger-man in the sprint. Likewise, so will his team-mate Dan Martin. I think the Irishman is more likely to make it to the finish. He has a finishing sprint that will worry Valverde and we’ve seen in other races that he’s not scared to attack.

Who else could contest a GC sprint? Well Rodriguez came from nowhere on stage 5. He’s someone who could definitely get involved. Bardet, Barguil, Kelderman & Yates all have a decent turn of speed.

For a late attacker the rider will need to be able to make it over the climb with the GC group and then attack on either the descent or on the uphill drag towards the finish. So they’ll need to be either a) a good descender b) or someone who’s not deemed an overall GC threat.

Someone along the likes of Rolland fits that briefing perfectly. An attacking rider, he won’t be afraid of failing. The main GC guys won’t be too concerned about him for the overall and he could well steal a march on them. Meintjes could also be the type of rider that gets away. He won’t be respected as much in regards to the overall jersey so a perfectly timed move could see him get away.

Team mates will be important in the finale to mark and close down the attacks. Team mates will also be useful to attack themselves. Quintana, Froome and Pinot were the only contenders to have riders left with them at the end of stage 5. I would love if Pinot’s team-mate, Sebastien Reichenbach, was given the freedom to get away and take a historic win.

The weather may also play its part on tomorrow’s stage with thunderstorms and rain forecast throughout the day. This could nullify the stage in the sense that the GC riders don’t want to risk it, or could easily do the opposite where they try to put pressure on the other riders. Who knows?!

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Weather forecast for Arreau (just before the start of Col d’Aspin)

Prediction

As stated above, I don’t think a break makes it tomorrow. They have more of a chance the following stage. So it’s really a decision on if we get a late attack stick, or some kind of GC sprint. Either way, it will be a strong climber who wins the stage. I like Rolland’s attacking style and he has the right set of attributes/credentials to get away from the main bunch. The stage is set for him to take his third Tour stage!

Cannondale

Betting

Rolland 0.6pt EW @66/1 with PaddyPower (if you can bet there) they’re paying 5 places. Would take down to 50/1.

Kelderman 0.3pt EW @66/1 with Coral or Skybet (both 4 places). Again, would take 50/1.

Reichenbach 0.1pt EW @250/1 with Bet365. Would take 200/1 available with Sky too.

 

Hope you enjoyed my thoughts on tomorrow’s stage. How do you think it will pan out? It’s a very interesting one to try to call! I’m just optimistic and want an exciting stage. Any feedback is more than welcome. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.