Women’s Road Race World Championships Preview – Bergen 2017

After some strong performances in the individual time trial on Tuesday, the rider’s focus now switches to the road race on Saturday afternoon.

Last year in Doha we had a large bunch sprint that was won rather surprisingly by Denmark’s Amalie Dideriksen.

Cycling: 89th Road World Championships 2016 / Women Elite

Pre-race favourite Wild could only manage second, with Finland’s Lepistö getting up for third. Two of those three are here this year, with Wild as a reserve for the Dutch team, will they be up at the pointy end come the finish tomorrow?

First, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

The women will face 8 laps of the circuit around Bergen, totalling 152.8km; which makes it one of the longer races the peloton will face all year.

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As for the circuit itself, it can be described as rolling with very little flat all day. Taken in isolation it is not too difficult but it can be made hard by some aggressive racing.

BergenRR Circuit

You can view my interactive profile for the circuit here.

The most challenging part of the route is of course “Salmon Hill”; I guess the sponsors wanted to get something out of the week! However, the road does ramp upwards before then and the climb can be taken as a 3.7km test.

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It’s not steep like the climb we had in the time trial, but it is long enough to cause some splits in the bunch. Will a rider try to take advantage of some of the sharp ramps to get an advantage?

With 10km to go from the crest, it could be tough for someone to stay away though. A small group definitely has a better chance.

Conversely, those final 10km allow for a chase to get organised and reel it in. “Organised” is the key word there though! In both the road races today, the chase was not coherent enough and the escapees held on for victory. Will something similar happen tomorrow? I’ll guess we’ll have to wait and see…

How will the race pan out – Dominant Dutch?

As is often the case when we arrive at World Championship’s the Dutch bring a formidable team. We saw this last year when they had a superstar squad in support of Kirsten Wild, but one that would be allowed to chase an opportunity if it arose. Unfortunately it didn’t work out last year so they’ll be hoping to bring another World title home this time.

I could feasibly make an argument for all of their starting 8 riders to win the race, although some would be more farfetched than others. Nonetheless, it just highlights their immense strength in-depth. I’m not sure they go into the race with an out-and-out leader; possibly Vos might be kept back for a bunch sprint. But then again, Blaak or Pieters could fill that role if the 3x-former champion is allowed to do what she wants. Van Vleuten and van der Breggen were exceptional in the time trial and both clearly are in great form. I imagine they will be the prime attackers, hoping to split the race up on Salmon Hill. Can anyone follow?

I think if we see a group escape in the closing laps that has 2 Dutch riders within it then that will be game over and the winner will come from there.

The one reason I say this is because no other team has an Ellen van Dijk. She is incredible and can bring back strong breakaways herself by setting a strong tempo at the head of the peloton.

There are a few teams who might hope for a 40-50 rider sprint, such as Denmark, USA and maybe Australia, but I don’t think anyone has the firepower to bring back a strong move on their own. They’ll need a lack of cohesion up ahead, and a lot of co-operation behind for that to happen.

The next to consider is that if the smaller group will come to the line and sprint it out, or if it will fragment and split again. That of course all depends on numbers and team representatives, but I think it will split into a smaller group which will battle it out for the win.

Possible Contenders

Aside from the Dutch team, there are plenty of riders who will love the route tomorrow but the following list won’t be excessive, so apologies if I have missed someone you were looking/hoping for.

Coryn Rivera.

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The US pocket rocket has had a great first year racing for a European team. She’s proven that she is much more than a fast sprinter though as her climbing has developed a lot. In the Ardennes she was able to follow the best until the very final stages of the race. I don’t think the US team will be banking on it coming back for a big bunch sprint tomorrow so both Rivera and Guarnier will be given license to attack. If the Sunweb rider does come to the line in a small group, she has to be the favourite.

Hannah Barnes.

The British team have one of the favourites in the shape of Deignan but her form is unknown just now after having her appendix removed. I think they’ll ride an aggressive race and hope to get two riders into any strong move that goes off the front. With everyone marking Deignan, then Barnes could make the final selection. She performed above expectations in the TT so she is in good shape. Not as strong a climber as some of the others, she won’t be too far off the pace but will hope that the final selection will have gone before Salmon Hill. With a fast sprint after a tough day, she is an outsider to keep an eye on!

Pauline Ferrand Prevot.

Former World Champion and arguably the rider with one of the best season’s of all time back in 2014/2015 when she held 3 separate World titles, the Frenchwoman has a good chance of going well again here. A pretty uneventful season due injury and illness; she’s only managed 8 race days so far; picked up again at Plouay where she finished second to Deignan. Since then she has went on to podium at the mountain bike Worlds and could really have challenged Neff for gold if it had not been for an untimely puncture. She can climb and with a fast sprint from a small group, she won’t be afraid to bring it to the line.

Shara Gillow.

A rider who I have grown fond of over this season (it has absolutely nothing to do with her being in my season long fantasy team, I promise), the Aussie can climb with some of the best in the world on her day. I expect their squad to be attacking all day and Gillow is certainly someone who can follow attacks on the climbs. She lacks any kind of sprint really, but she makes up for that by being a strong time trial rider. Something I’m sure Carlton will remind you of tomorrow! If we get a group out front and she times her attack perfectly, it might just stick. Look out for her and her now standard snood off the front!

Leah Kirchmann.

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Another one of those riders who is a solid climber but also packs a good sprint. She recorded a top 15 back at Liege in the Spring which highlights her ability on the short climbs. However, she might find it difficult to follow some of the strong climbers if they go crazy on Salmon Hill. Nonetheless, if she can remain close to the front and there is some type of regrouping then she is a danger in the sprint.

As I mentioned above, of course there are several riders who could contest but I’ve only cherry-picked a handful for the preview. It should be an open race but I don’t think the winner will be a “surprise”.

Prediction

The Dutch to have ‘too many cooks’ and with everyone expecting them to chase down every move as the strongest team; Pauline Ferrand Prevot to take advantage and win her second road title, signalling that her career is back on track!

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Van der Breggen to pick up her second second of the week, with Barnes coming home just behind them in third.

Betting

Three selections from me to cover a few options; PFP as my favourite, Barnes as an outsider, then Gillow as a solo arrival. I’ve already backed Barnes at 300/1 but that price is long gone. I think the 66/1 available is still worth a punt though.

1.5pt EW PFP @ 20/1 with Ladbrokes/Coral (would take 16s)

0.75pt EW Barnes @ 66/1 with SkyBet/PP/BF (would take 50s)

0.5pt WIN Gillow @ 150/1 with Bet365 (would take 100s)

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone outsmart the Dutch team? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Ride London Classique 2017 Preview

The “richest race in women’s cycling” returns for its 5th edition, but second at World Tour level.

Last year saw Kirsten Wild take home the big prize, winning a bunch sprint ahead of ahead of Kessler and Kirchmann.

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The race has a lot of positives going for it; big prize pool and live TV coverage are the main things.

However, the organisers can never seem to get the magical triple* just right, can they?

*Prize Money / Tv Coverage / Good Route

Which brings me onto another women’s preview where I annoyingly start by moaning and having a go at something, but after the nonsense TT (chase) we had last weekend, I’m past the point of caring!

Can we stop glorifying what are pretty much criterium races as progress for women’s cycling please? I’m not trying to be some internet white knight but they deserve better than this. Last week the opening “stage” of La Course was fantastic with the finish on the Izoard but making that only 67km was a little bit insulting. Having a criterium that is the same length and branding it as “spectacular” just takes the piss.

Why can the women not do the nearly the same route (the UCI limit of 155km will stop them doing it all) as the men, heck, they could even do the last 120km of it. I don’t understand why that is such a big issue for the organisers!

I miss the start of the season when we had races such as Strade Bianche etc, proper races that gave the women a chance to shine on a taxing course. Obviously, there needs to be a balance between having races for climbers and sprinters but I don’t see why races for the latter group have to be tamed down so much. Even at the recent Giro Rosa and Women’s Tour we had sprint stages of 100+km so there is no real reason why that couldn’t be the same here.

Anyway, let’s have a look at what’s getting me worked up.

The Route

A pretty much pan-flat 5.5km circuit around London taking in some famous sites. Maybe that’s what makes it “spectacular”?

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I was going to create a route profile on Strava but there is not much detail to know more than there are a few false flat sections!

I’m not entirely sure how many times they’ll be doing the circuit as there is no official information on the website as to the number of laps, but last year it was 12 x 5.5km laps so I imagine it will be the same this year.

The one positive from this route is that fans get to see their favourite female cyclists 12 times…

We should see a sprint at the end of the day, it has ended in that manner in each previous edition, but there is always that 5% chance that a strong group gets away and there is no co-operation behind. That is very unlikely though!

Sprint Contenders

Kirsten Wild.

The defending is champion is back here looking to take another victory. A little bit underwhelming so far this season, only taking two wins to her name. However, this type of racing suits her down to the ground and she can’t be ruled out. On form I would say it is hard for her to win, but given her nature I’d say it is very possible that she goes back to back!

Jolien d’Hoore.

The Belgian Bullet is arguably her biggest contender. The newly crowned Belgian champion got the better of Wild on two occasions in Chongming earlier this season. What’s even more impressive about that is that she was riding with an injury for the majority of the race! Having taken some more wins to her name since then, she has to start as the favourite in my opinion.

Chloe Hosking.

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After her breakthrough season last year, Hosking has continued her success in 2017; notching up a few wins, including a strong sprint victory at the Women’s Tour. All of this has resulted in her contract being extended with Alé Cipollini, the Italian team have a lot of faith in her. In last years race she was boxed in and never really got going so she’ll be hoping to go better this time. With a 1st and 2nd at La Course and Madrid Challenge respectively last season, it is clear Hosking goes well on these type of kermesse style races. Having a rider like Bastianelli to lead her out means she should begin her sprint from a good position. Will she be challenging for the win tomorrow?

Lotta Lepistö.

After a storming start to her season in the Spring, Lepistö returned to racing recently winning the National Championships double. More impressively though, she followed it up with a win and two second places at the tough Giro Rosa. A sign she is back up to race speed nicely! Her team support here isn’t great so she will have to go solo and jump onto another team’s lead-out but that is something she is capable of. She is a strong outside candidate for a good result.

Coryn Rivera.

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A stand out performer in the Spring, the Sunweb rider picked up a couple of podium places at the Giro. Used to criterium style races thanks to her US up-bringing she will be strong on a course like this. With riders such as Brand, Kirchmann and Van Dijk on her team, I would argue that she has the strongest lead-out in the race. Can she finish it off?

Marianne Vos.

A preview isn’t complete without the best female rider of her generation. After crashing out of the Women’s Tour, Vos returned to racing at the BeNe Ladies Tour. It didn’t start off ideally for her when she crashed in the opening prologue, but from there it went exceptionally well! She picked up two second places and two wins to take the overall GC title. Is another win on the cards here?

Alice Barnes.

The young Brit will be full of confidence after recently taking her first win at the aforementioned BeNe Ladies Tour. She escaped with Vos on the opening stage and managed to beat her in a two-up sprint, not bad! I have been very impressed with her this season so far and I think she’s capable of another good result here.

Every team has a rider or two who could be involved at the pointy end of the day so some riders to keep a look out for are;

Pieters/Blaak (Boels)

Cucinotta/Confalonieri (Lensworld)

Barnes/Guarischi (Canyon)

Fournier (FDJ)

Elvin (Orica)

Kessler/Moberg (Hitec)

Prediction

There are too many teams interested in a sprint for us not to get a bunch gallop. With Bronzini leading her out, d’Hoore should be placed into a great position for the run to the line. These types of races are her bread and butter! She’s not let me down before, so I’ll go for her again, the Belgian Bullet to take the win!

The Ovo Energy Women's Tour of Britain Stage 5 - The London Stage

I think Alice Barnes might sneak onto the podium too.

Coverage

The last 40 minutes of the race are being shown live on BBC2 (from 6pm GMT), with the whole event being shown via the Red Button (from 5pm GMT).

As for international coverage I’m not too sure, but there are plenty of sites out there where you can stream BBC2! Maybe the BBC site itself will work via VPN?

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giro Rosa 2017 Preview – The BFOG

Giro Rosa 2017 Preview – The BFOG

The only “Grand Tour” in the women’s peloton the Giro Rosa starts again this Friday for its 28th edition with a stacked peloton looking to make their mark on the race.

Last year’s GC was won by Boels’ Megan Guarnier, with team-mate Stevens coming home second and van der Breggen in third.

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Will we see a similar sort of dominance from the Dutch-team, who now of course have van der Breggen on board as well, or will some other riders be fighting for the overall victory?

First though, let’s have a look at what the riders will faced with over the coming 10 days.

The Route

All of the profiles used here are courtesy of @LasterketaBurua, so go and give them a follow on Twitter!

The questionable, poor quality route maps will be from the organisers website that I’ve screen shot. To be fair, the race is run on a shoe-string budget. Anyway…

Stage 1.

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A pan-flat late afternoon team time trial over 11km will set the early GC order. A discipline that is rarely practiced in the women’s peloton we could see some surprising time gaps.

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With there being little in the way of technical difficulties, this TTT will all be about pure power. Although it is important to note that they pass over a causeway and the wind might play a part in the outcome depending on their start times. Looking at early forecasts it’s supposed to be a 16kmph cross headwind when the first team starts at 16:45, but it is meant to increase to around 18kmph by the time the final team leaves the start house. Furthermore, there is a higher chance of rain for the later starters. It could be a dicey opening day.

As far as stage contenders go though, Boels will no doubt start as the favourites. The current TTT World Champions are bringing a very strong team to the race and they’ve won the only TTT of the year so far at the Healthy Ageing Tour. However, they won’t have it all their own way with Canyon, Cervélo and possibly even Orica challenging for the win.

I particularly like the look of the Cérvelo team. They have a lot of strong time trial riders and will wan to put Moolman at an early advantage on GC over their opposition. I expect them to be Boels’ closest rivals.

Stage 2.

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A tease of a stage, it’s a relatively straight forward day until we get to the one categorised climb of the day. The road rises very gradually from around 30kms in all the way until the foot slopes of the Forcella di pala Barzana at 93km. At 5.3km long and averaging 7.6% it is a tough climb and I’ll be interested to see how the peloton approaches it. There are still 24km to go from the summit, of which 12km are descent.

I think we’ll see a selection on the climb. How select? That I’m unsure of. It looks tough enough for the best climbers to properly drop everyone, but will they feel confident going solo to the line with ~10km to the line left once they reach the bottom?

Therefore, I think we’ll get a group of 10 riders or so crest the climb together. From there, it will be a case of numbers/luck/timing as to if we see a small bunch sprint or a successful late attack stick. Van Vleuten and van der Breggen are two ideal candidates to win from this situation, both are great climbers and they both have fast sprints.

A lesser known rider to watch out for though is Arlenis Sierra. I have to admit, before this season I didn’t know much about he Cuban rider, but she has impressed me a lot so far this year. Second at Trofeo Binda and third on GC in California, she packs a great sprint and might just pick up her first World Tour win this week!

Stages 3 & 4.

Both are days for the sprinters so I thought I’d club them together.

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Stage 3 is the more rolling of the two, with some short and steep climbs out on course. However, there is enough time for the sprint teams to bring everything back together after the Poggio.

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Stage 4 is about as pan-flat as you can get – a definite sprint!

So who will contend on these days?

The Belgian Bullet (Jolien d’Hoore) will arrive here confident after her victory on the final day of the Women’s Tour. I think she’s one of the fastest pure sprinters in the peloton and with Bronzini as lead-out rider, they will form a formidable pairing. The latter might even sprint on a few of the days.

Kirsten Wild might have something to say about the above statement though. The Dutch powerhouse is ever-present at the pointy end of sprint stages finishing on the podium 7 times so far this season, winning 3 times.

Canyon have the choice between Barnes and Guarischi. The former obviously had an, ahem, barnstorming Women’s Tour and she’ll probably be their go to on the tougher days like stage 3. Whereas, Guarischi, a former winner at the Giro Rosa prefers things a lot flatter so she might be given the nod for stage 4. Either way, the team will be disappointed not to make the podium.

Chloe Hosking will be hoping to take a couple of wins for her Italian trade team Alé Cipollini who she has just signed a new contract for. After a great 2016, she’s really continued her upwards trajectory and is now much more than a good flat stage sprinter. She can manage the climbs well too, as was highlighted by her win in the Women’s Tour when she came home first in a peloton of only 45 riders.

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Coryn Rivera was the sensation of the Spring, winning Binda and Flanders. Although that’s probably unfair as since the start of March she hasn’t finished outside the top 10 in any race/stage she’s competed in. A truly remarkable record! She hasn’t raced much such California but recently came second at the US National Championships. I expect her to get a few top 3s this week and possibly win a stage. Even the difficult stage 2 could be on her radar.

Lotta Lepistö made her return to racing at the Finnish national championships recently, managing to secure both the road and TT title. Having won Gent-Wevelgem in a sprint against the likes of d’Hoore and Rivera earlier in the year, she is no slouch either! Like a few others, I think she might be targeting a few of the harder days in the saddle.

Boels have a number of sprint options; newly crowned Dutch Champion Chantal Blaak, newly crowned UK Champion Lizzie Deignan, or current World Champion Amelie Dideriksen. Not a bad list that! I’m not sure based on pure speed if any of them are the best sprinter here but they will certainly benefit from the strongest lead-out.

As for others who could be in the top 10 on sprint stages, look out for Moberg (Hitec), Confalonieri (Lesnworld), Fidanza (Astana), Huang (Servetto) and Scandolara (WM3).

Stage 5.

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After a few days unlikely to cause a GC shake-up, stage 5 certainly will.

Out of interest and in TT tradition, I’ve actually made a Strava profile of the TT that you can view here.

A tough ITT of 13km, with the routes main focal points being two climbs. It is one of those typical Giro stages that doesn’t look too bad on the profile until you delve a little deeper.

The first climb of Santa Lucia is 1.2km long and averages 10%. Ouch! The road then continues to rise at 4% for the next kilometre or so before we get a flattening out and a descent.

Once the riders pass the 10km to go mark the road rises almost all the way to the finish with a notable 300m section at 20%! The preceding 1.8kms averages around 5.5% which will make the seep ramp even tougher.

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The image the riders will be faced with. Notice the 20% ramp sign at the side of the road.

It does turn into false flat for the final few hundred metres so the riders will need to keep something in reserve for one final push, and not blow up too early.

I’m intrigued to see if riders will use their TT bikes at all or just stick to road bikes with bars on. I would certainly be looking to take the latter option!

As for who could win this stage, newly crowned Italian TT Champ Longo Borghini has a great chance. She was 4 seconds off the win in last year’s TT and this route seems to suit her even more. A strong showing here will cement her GC challenge.

She won’t have it all her own way as usual suspects van Vleuten, Moolman and van der Breggen.

Stage 6.

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A lap circuit without any real difficulties. There is one 1.4km climb (averaging 3.7%) that the riders will tackle once on each of their four laps. Normally this would be a day for the sprinters but with the summit of the last climb coming 4km from the top, it will certainly entice late attacks from the bunch. The sprinters really shouldn’t be dropped from the peloton, it is more a case of people escaping off the front. A technical descent could see a small group maintain their lead and fight it out for the win.

If that’s the case, look for opportunists such as Cecchini, Spratt and Brand.

However, if we do get a sprint win I’ll go for Hosking. She should be able to cope with the climb easily and her team is capable of monitoring attacks etc.

Stage 7.

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A classic breakaway day, with the race starting on a climb it will ensure only strong riders get into the move. Will anyone close on GC try to sneak away? I doubt it, but there is a chance they might throw a spanner into the works.

There is a possibility that sprint teams might try to bring it back but it is another one of the stages where there is a lot of uncategorised climbs out on the course. Therefore, I think they’ll be happy to keep their powder dry.

It’s hard to tell who’ll be far enough back to be given some freedom but I’ll go for young Italian talent Sofia Beggin to take the win. A rider to look out for the future, she’s already produced some good performances this season with a 12th place in Strade and a 5th at the recent Italian Road Nats so there is clearly some form there. Furthermore, she’s the Madcon mash-up inspired pun (Beggin, Beggin you) team-name for my Velogames squad, so I have to include her in this at some point!

Another name that could be there though is Sheyla Gutiérrez. In her second season with Cylance the newly crowned Spanish champion will want to show her stripes off in an aggressive manner this Giro. Having won Le Samyn from a break earlier in the year, she is also a good candidate for a stage like this.

Stage 8.

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The Queen Stage of the race? Yes, in terms of climbing. However, the gradients of the climbs aren’t too hard, with them barely touching over 5%. Therefore it will be difficult for the pure climbers to make their mark on the stage.

However, with that being said, I still think we’ll see a selection on the day with the overall contenders going clear. I say this because of how long the climbs are, if a tough pace is set at the bottom then riders will be slowly churned out of the back of the peloton. We might see a group of 10-20 riders crest the Cuccaro Vetere together. From there it will be a mix of being strong and lucky to make the winning counter-move that is bound to follow. Can Niewiadoma repeat her win in the Women’s Tour?

Stage 9.

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A fairly tough opening half to the stage, the riders will do a lot of climbing which could allow the break to get a large gap. However, as this is the last chance for the sprinters I expect co-operation from all the teams to bring back the escape and we’ll have a bunch sprint in Polla.

With a straightforward closing circuit, I’ll go for a d’Hoore win here.

Stage 10.

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The final stage of the Giro sees the riders take on a circuit around Torre del Greco with a little trip (around a third) up Mount Vesuvius. The lap circuit isn’t too difficult, there are a few short climbs but nothing too serious. However, one of the major difficulties they’ll face is this ridiculously narrow street…

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Hopefully they’re well strung out as they enter it, if not, I fear we could see some crashes.

The stage will be decided on Vesuvius and it could well go to a breakaway or one of the GC contenders. The climb itself averages roughly 6% for 5.2km but the closing 1.2km average 9.5%. It is certainly steep enough for the best climbers to create gaps.

The riders will then face a fast and technical descent (passing through that narrow street at ~3km to go) all the way to the finish line.

Will the rider who wins the stage win the overall title too?

GC Contenders

I guess I better start with the defending champion Megan Guarnier. She’s been a shadow of the rider she was last season and given recent form, it is hard to say she will be competing here. However, this may have been her main target all season and she is potentially quietly peaking to go well here. Yet, I can’t see it happening for her unfortunately.

Waiting in the wings though will be team-mate van der Breggen. After a slow start to the year, she went on to win a famous Ardennes triple with some truly incredible performances. Following on from that she was instrumental in helping Deignan win the Tour of Yorkshire, before going on to win the GC in California. This route suits the Olympic Champion down to the ground and given her achievements she has to start as the favourite. However, her results haven’t been that great recently so maybe she is on a mid-season lull before peaking again for the end of the year?

Cycling: 4th Amstel Gold Race 2017 / Women

Moolman will no doubt be challenging for the overall win this year. After struggling with an injury that hampered her early Spring season, she shook that off by the time the Ardennes classics came around. Finishing in the top 10 in each race was a sign she was returning to her spectacular best. Since then she’s been in great form, notching up three victories. Has she managed to keep that form up?

Longo Borghini comes to this race in a confident mood having won both national championship events. Suffering from illness earlier in the year, she missed some events and form for some of the key races in the calendar. However, he lighter schedule in theory should see her come here fresher than her opposition. Still only relatively young at 25 years old, she’s improving each and every year and I think she has a great chance of overall victory here.

Speaking of young riders, recent Women’s Tour winner Niewiadoma will be here looking to continue her incredible 2017. The WWT leader has been anything but exceptional this year, finishing in the top 10 in almost every race she’s entered! She only seems to race the big events and no doubt she’ll be looking to make it back-to-back GC wins at WT level. The TTT and ITT could hinder her chances but she can more than make up for it on her own on the climbs. I’ll be watching with interest!

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Van Vleuten is another rider in stellar form. The Orica star has a strong team here to support her, with Garfoot and Spratt expected to last the distance on a lot of the climbs. Maybe not as strong as some of the other women on the long climbs, she’ll be looking to attack at the end of stages where there are short ramps that act as launchpads. The Dutch TT champ will be looking to put in a good time in the individual effort and sees where that leaves her for the rest of the week.

I can’t really see anyone else challenging for the win but there are some outsiders who will be fighting for a top 5/10 and with a bit of luck, even better!

Sierra is an unkown quantity for this type of race. She really stepped up at the Tour of California finishing third on GC there. I’m not sure how she’ll cope with a longer stage race but a good performance here isn’t unlikely. If she manages another top 10, a move to a “bigger” WT team for next year could be on the cards.

Gillow comes here with a good chance of a top 10. A very consistent rider, the Aussie will be at the pointy end in most stages. If you watched any of the Women’s Tour, you’ll know she was off the front attacking in the final two stages, honing some form for this race.

Prediction

I think not being on form for some of the Spring will be a blessing in disguise for Longo Borghini and she’ll take the crown here. She will lose some time in the opening TTT, but I think she has enough quality both on the climbs and the ITT to over-turn that.

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Niewiadoma and Moolman to round out the podium, with the Boels riders shockingly falling by the wayside!

Coverage

Unfortunately there is no live tv coverage of the race, but there will be daily highlights on RAI.

You should be able to access them via VPN I think but give Pam (@motorcycleMTNS) a follow on Twitter as she will no doubt have all the links or will record them and upload them to her Youtube channel.

Futhermore, we should expect highlights on the UCI Youtube Channel and the Giro Rosa has a YT Channel itself so we might see stuff there too.

During the stages themselves it will be a case of following on Twitter via the #GiroRosa hashtag. I would recommend following @richiesteege though (the Boels mechanic) who is one of the best sources for information during the race.

Velogames

As the betting industry is in the dark ages and never offers odds on the races, I guess they’re just copying the coverage we get (I’ll stop before I get myself in trouble)…

I’ve set up a Velogames league for you all to join so that you can have an interest following the race.

Use the code “27002603” to join. I look forward to you all beating me 😳.

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated like normal! I don’t usually beg for RTs etc on Twitter but if you can do to raise awareness of this exciting race that’s run on a shoe-string, then that would be fantastic. Also, from a selfish point of view too, I’d like this to reach as many people as possible. I’ve not wrote 3200 words for nothing! It is after all the most comprehensive Giro Rosa guide on the internet 😉.

I shall be back tomorrow for the Tour with my stage 1 preview. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Amgen Women’s Tour of California 2017 Preview – GC and Stages

The race with the longest sponsor name ever, the “Amgen Breakaway from Heart Disease Women’s Race empowered by SRAM” returns on Thursday for its third year and second at World Tour status.

Last year’s edition saw a GC that was shaped by the opening two stages, with the TTT on stage 2 playing a large part in the outcome. The organisers have decided to remove that this year, leaving 4 open road stages.

Defending champion Megan Guarnier is here with a strong Boels team and she will no doubt be looking to repeat that success again this year.

2016 Amgen Women's Tour of California: Guarnier podium

Will she be able to? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders over the next few days.

The Route

Stage 1.

We see the same opening stage that we had last year, with the riders travelling in a clockwise direction around Lake Tahoe.

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It is a mostly flat stage but there are two Cat-3 climbs out on course.

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All profiles thanks to @RickyFilips95 / @LasterketaBurua

 

They’re not overly difficult but we did see a split in the peloton over the first climb in last years race so it will be interesting to see if any team wants to try to put the pressure on again. As for the finish it is tricky and time can be lost but I would expect 20 or so riders to come him within 25-30 seconds of the winner. The wind may play a part on the lap around the Lake as well because it looks set to be a 35km/h SouthWesterly which will mean a cross-head for the end of the race. Could we see some splits because of that? I’ll go for a Guarnier win again although it will be hard to drop Rivera, but watch out for Astana’s Arlenis Sierra who I think could pull off a strong result here.

Stage 2.

After removing the TTT the organisers have decided to add in an even more decisive stage on the second day of racing.

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A short but sharp stage at only 108km, the riders have three classified climbs to contend with. I would expect a thinning out of the bunch on the opening Cat-2 but all the focus of the day will be on the Cat-1 climb to Dagget Summit. We don’t see climbs like these often in women’s racing and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how it plays out, 12.6km at 6.1% is Alpine and only the best climbers will be able to compete here. With the summit coming 10km from the finish line, it is very probable that a solo rider takes the climb and rides all the way to the line. The riders will use the same finish climb from the previous day, but expect the gaps to be much bigger this time! Without a full start list just now it’s hard to tell who will be in contention but it is hard to look past Boels but more specifically van der Breggen and Guarnier. They could well ride a 1-2 on the stage, it all depends on how van der Breggen is after her big peak for the Ardennes. One team to look out for his United Health Care who were dominant in the Tour of the Gila recently, and I think Katie Hall could run the duo close.

Stage 3. 

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A pan flat stage finishing in Sacramento, this should be one for the sprinters. They’ll be thankful to get their chance after surviving the previous day! Rivera, Guarischi and Pieters all have a chance but it will be tough to beat Wild.

Stage 4. 

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We finish with the traditional pan-flat lap circuit around Sacramento. At 70km in length it is longer than a criterium but shorter than a traditional kermesse. Either way, it should be a fast race and the same sprinters from the previous stage should feature here again. Wild won here last year, can she double up this edition?

GC Battle

The GC will be decided on Stage 2. There are likely to be gaps after stage 1, but these will pale into insignificance after the second day.

It is hard to tell where riders will be at in regards to form and when you factor in that some teams only arrived yesterday, jet lag could still be an issue. Being a home race will mean the American riders and teams will want to animate it as much as possible, trying to put the likes of Boels under pressure.

Can they shake off Guarnier and van der Breggen if they are in good form? Nope.

However, if those two aren’t in top shape then it could present an opportunity for a surprise victor. I mentioned her above, but Katie Hall will go well here I think. She was strong on the tough stages in Gila and without a TT (she lost time in that discipline) then I think she can be up there on stage 2 and possibly surprise a few.

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Prediction

Nonetheless, I think that it will be hard to see past a Boels win here. After having a poor individual spring campaign (results wise) and with some questioning her performance, I think Guarnier will come out here firing, having been targeting this race all along.

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Taking her second title in a row with a dominant display.

Coverage

It looks as if we’ll be able to watch the race live on Youtube again this year.

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I’m not sure of the exact links just now as clicking on them just takes you to a static page on the site, nonetheless I’m sure they’ll be updated closer to the start of the broadcasts. You can view the list here.

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Apologies that this is a little more stunted than normal but I don’t have the time to wait until the full official start list is released later today. Furthermore, with the GC more than likely being decided on one stage there isn’t really that much to talk about. I hope we just get to see some exciting women’s racing unfold. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Liège-Bastonge-Liège Femmes 2017 Preview

 

To end the Ardennes classic week, we are treated to the first ever women’s edition of the oldest Monument; La Doyenne.

A very welcome addition to the women’s calendar and the decision to run the race was greeted with great fanfare from both the spectators but also the peloton itself!

After two exciting, although fairly predictably dominant Boels’ displays at Amstel and Fleche, will we see a new winner at Liege?

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Or will van der Breggen secure the win and consequently take a famous Ardennes triple?!

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

The Route

At 135km in length, it’s not the longest route the riders will tackle this year but it is roughly 15km longer than both Amstel and Fleche.

Having only four categorised climbs does not paint a full picture of how attritional the race is going to be, because the route is constantly up and down, twisting and turning on narrow roads.

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The first 75km of the day will serve as a warm-up for the second half of the race, and we should see a break established up the road.

The action will start in earnest though, beginning with the longest climb of the day! The Côte de la Vecquée is longer than anything we see in the men’s race and could see a shake up if a couple of teams put the pressure on.

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Not overly steep, it does contain a kilometre at 7% though and I would not be surprised to see some probing attacks in the peloton here.

The race then follows a similar pattern of climb -> false flat -> descent -> climb from hereon in.

Next up on the schedule is the explosive La Redoute.

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We then have a relatively long period of 14km where the riders aren’t climbing but the descending is fairly shallow. This will be an equally as important part of the race because the best riders often attack on the flatter sections when those around them are tired from the previous climbs. Van der Breggen’s two wins this week are testament to that!

Within 20km to the line the riders will face the Roche-aux-Faucons before the Sant-Nicolas, cresting at only 5.5km to go.

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Short, but explosive, it could well be a launchpad for an attack if we have a group of riders left together at this moment.

From there it’s the traditional run in to the finish line.

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The rise through the Flamme Rouge and all the way to the line averages 5.3% for the 1.5km, offering one final place to attack before the false-flat sprint.

Contenders

It’s really hard to look past another Boels win this week. They’ve timed their early season peak to perfection and in van der Breggen and Deignan they have two of the best riders in the peloton on current form. I set my stall out a week ago with this tweet and it’s not looking too bad just now…

She has the power to attack from distance but also the speed to win from a small sprint. Who can beat her? Well, Deignan certainly can! The Brit has played a superb team role over the past two races and could well be rewarded with team-leadership here. Her sprint win for second place in Amstel was incredible, considering she took it up into the headwind that famously curtailed Kwiatkowski in the men’s race. Will Boels try their hardest for the triple for van der Breggen, or will the Ardenne’s triple for the team be enough? I guess we’ll have to wait and see tomorrow afternoon as to how they attack the race.

Who can stop them?

On form, it looks as if Kasia Niewiadoma is the strongest challenger.

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She was instrumental in splitting the race up on the penultimate climb at Fleche, with only the two Boels riders able to follow. However, that ended up being to her detriment as they ended up playing the 1-2 and she couldn’t follow every attack. Contrary to what you would normally expect, her best (and every one else who’s not on Boels) best chance of winning is that the race is easier than normal. Therefore there will be more riders in the peloton and the opportunity to form cross-team alliances to isolate one Boels rider. Although I have a feeling that scenario is very unlikely to be carried out! Nonetheless, Niewiadoma still has a very good chance of winning the race, it will just be tough trying to out-ride the two strongest women who happen to be on the same team!

The other rider who on form has a chance of beating the Boels pairing is Annemiek van Vleuten.

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The Dutch rider has 3rd and 4th in the first two races this week and certainly has the abilities to repeat, if not better those results. She’s been incredibly consistent in the WWT this year so far, notching up 6 top 10s out of the 7 races we’ve had. With the final rise to the line not being too difficult and suiting her well, I think she might fancy her chances in a reduced sprint against some of the other favourites.

Aside from those four, no one really looks on a level to challenge for the title. Yet, this is cycling and sometimes the strongest rider doesn’t always win!

Elisa Longo Borghini would definitely be included in the list above if she didn’t skip Fleche due to illness and breathing difficulties. She did manage to finish 5th in Amstel so the form was there beforehand. But you would expect it to be too soon for her to be competing for the title.

This season’s revelation, Coryn Rivera, will hope to hang on the coattails of the better climbers and challenge for a sprint. She’s proven so far this year that she is one of the fastest riders in the world after a tough day.

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I gave her an honourable mention for Fleche and she managed to sneak into the top 5 and I think Shara Gillow could do something similar tomorrow. A criminally under-rated climber, she prefers the steep ramps so the closing climbs should suit her. Another top 5 is on the cards!

Prediction

It would make for a great race if someone could stop Boels, but I just can’t see it happening. It’s only a question of wether I choose Deignan or van der Breggen?! This route actually suits the Brit ever so slightly more in my opinion but as I’m a big fan of fairytale stories, I would love to see the Dutchwoman complete a famous Ardennes triple!

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I’ll be rooting for a Shara Gillow podium spot as she’s part of my season long fantasy team!

Unfortunately I don’t think we’ll be getting any live coverage of the race so the best place to follow it is on Twitter via the #LBLWomen hashtag.

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated like normal. Who do you think will win and how? Can anyone stop Boels’ domination? Next on the blog from will be Tour of Romandie previews, but I’ll be back with the Women’s World Tour for Chongming Island. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

La Flèche Wallonne Feminine 2017 Preview

The much more exciting race tomorrow, the women’s edition of La Fleche is often an attacking day in the saddle with the peloton blown to bits over the closing climbs.

Last year saw the peloton split from far out and we only had around 30 riders left in contention with 40km left. There were a flurry of attacks throughout the afternoon but a group of favourites managed to break clear on the penultimate climb of the day (Côte de Cherave). Before Van der Breggen made the most of the Rabobank numbers at the head of the race, escaping at just over 2.5km left only being followed by Stevens. Those two held on and it was the Dutch rider who took the win for the second year in a row.

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Behind, Guarnier rounded out the podium.

Will we see another attacking race this year? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

Similar to 2016 apart from the organisers have decreased the length by 17km which makes it one of the shortest events on the calendar at only 120km in total.

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We could see the race split up from far out again if the pace is increased over the Côte de Villers-le-Bouillet. Not a long climb, it was enough to do the damage last year when Deignan pulled at the front all the way up.

From there, we have one passage of the Mur de Huy, before the same closing circuit we see in the men’s race.

The Côte d’Ereffe comes at an awkward time in terms of race placement but it does have the potential to be a springboard for a move. However, I think the day will once again be decided on the Cherave and the run in to Huy. Boels will use their strength in numbers and hope to isolate some of the other favourites, leaving the door open for a similar attack to last year.

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The small group of escapees will then tackle the Mur and the strongest woman on the day will win! Well, the strongest from that group so they’ll also have to be tactically astute too.

Contenders

It seems Boels plan of taking it easier in the first month of racing so that they can peak for this week is going to plan. After landing a 1-2 in Amstel, they arrive at this race as hot favourites to take another win. They’ll be thankful to have Anna van der Breggen on their team this time as she looks like the rider to beat. I did say in my Amstel preview that she looked good at the Healthy Ageing Tour and she did not let me down, taking a superb victory on Sunday! This type of finish suits her perfectly and she has a good chance of taking a third win in a row.

If not, team-mate Deignan certainly has the abilities to be a great second option for Boels. She was strong in Amstel and rode a perfect, tactical race to help set VDB up for the win. The short punchy climb is on the limit for the Brit but in her current form, I wouldn’t bet against her!

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WM3’s Kasia Niewiadoma looks to be the biggest threat to Boels here. The Polish rider was impressive in Amstel, like she’s been all season but struggled due to the lack of team support as she can’t be expected to cover every move. Unfortunately, the same could well happen here but she has a very good chance if she comes to the bottom of the Mur with someone. A rider from Rabobank has won this race the past 4 years and as WM3 is the next incarnation of that team, can they make it 5 in a row?

Orica have a few riders who could go well here and they will hope to have numbers in the front group towards the end of the race. Van Vleuten was up there in Amstel on Sunday and will look to challenge here again. She seems to be in great form at the moment and the punchy climb will suit her. Team-mate Garfoot would probably prefer a longer, more gradual climb, but the Aussie champ can’t be discounted.

Ferrand-Prevot hinted at a return to form with her 8th in Amstel and as a former winner of the race, she knows what it takes to be successful here. The 2014 World Champion has struggled to replicate that year but she has every chance in the right group. However, I think that there will always be someone just better than her. I’m happy to be proved wrong though!

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Van Dijk could win for Sunweb but I think she might have to attack solo before they get to the Mur as the climb is on the limit for her. Nonetheless, she has been exceptional this season and the form is certainly there for her to spring a relative surprise. As for her team-mate Rivera, she’s improved massively on the climbs this season but this will be too hard for her. We saw her get dropped on the Cauberg in Amstel so you wouldn’t expect her to cope any better here!

Aside from those riders, I can’t really see anyone else take the victory but honourable mentions go to Lichtenberg (Wiggle), Gillow (FDJ), Beggin (Astana), Moolman (Cervelo) and Ensing (Alé).

Prediction

Van der Breggen and Boels to win again this week, with the Dutchwomen taking her third title at this race and setting up the potential Ardennes triple nicely for Liege this Sunday!

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I’ll go with Van Vleuten and Niewiadoma to come home second and third.

Thanks as always for reading and as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win? Will Boels continue their Ardennes superiority, or will another rider knock them off top spot? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Women’s Amstel Gold Race 2017 Preview

Only having been ran as a race three times in 2001-2003, the Amstel Gold race for women returns this year after a long hiatus. Defending champion Nicole Cooke is obviously no longer here (like the other previous winners), so we’ll have a new champion come Sunday afternoon!

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

The Route

At only 121km its shorter than several of the World Tour events we’ve had so far this year. However, don’t let its short nature fool you, the organisers have still managed to incorporate 17 ascents throughout the day.

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@LasterketaBurua

Three climbs form the focus of the event; the Geulhemmerberg, the Bemelerberg and the Cauberg.

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The Geulhemmerberg comes furtherst away from the finish on the last lap, at roughly 16km to go. Not an overly tough climb, it does have some steeper ramps of 8%, but it should be a big ring climb for most of the bunch. The false flat drag over the top can certainly cause some gaps, especially if those behind are on the limit and the pace is on at the front of the peloton.

We then have a fast descent and some flat before reaching the penultimate climb of the day, the Bemelerberg.

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Like the Geulhemmerberg it does have some steepish ramps, but it is not a tough climb. What will make it tough is it’s position in the race and how aggressively the day has been ridden beforehand. It does present a springboard for an attack because there are only 5km from the peak to the bottom of the Cauberg. Speaking of which…

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A climb that does have some properly steep gradients, the natural climbers of the peloton will hope to use them to their advantage to break the will of the all-rounders. There is a chance for a regrouping over the top, with 1.5km of false flat before the line.

Is a sprint on the cards…

How will the race pan out?

It’s difficult to say really. Covering my back here!

The route is obviously similar to that which we’ve seen in the men’s edition over the past few years, with the Cauberg coming so close to the finish line. Will that mean a conservative race where the peloton is kept together until then?

If this was last year I’d say no, due to how attacking the races were, with a lot of favourites making race-winning moves from relatively far out. However, things this year have changed. Teams and riders seem to be on a more level playing field. We’ve had 4 different riders (teams) win the 5 World Tour events so far, with only Coryn Rivera being the repeat winner. Compare that to last year where Boels had won all 5 races, with Deginan and Blaak sharing the spoils.

So there is a chance that the teams cancel each other out and we do get a sprint up the Cauberg for the final time.

Yet, I think we’ll see the women’s peloton return to the incredibly hectic racing from last season, with attacks all day. On a wearing course like Amstel, domestiques will get tired from having to chase which I think will lead to an open race on the final 20km lap, and a strong group will get away before the final time up the Cauberg.

Contenders

Even with their remarkably less dominant start to the season, you can’t start anywhere other than with Boels Dolmans for this race. The team wanted a slower start to the year, with more of a focus on this coming week than the opening few spring races, which they’ve certainly managed. They have a few riders who could win in certain scenarios, but Deignan and Van der Breggen look to be their best options.

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The former World Champion has had a lighter race schedule this year, after suffering from illness which saw her withdraw from a few events. However, she’s looked strong when racing so far and a 3rd place in Strade highlights that she can cope on the climbs with the best. I’m sure the Brit will fancy her chances in a sprint! As for her team-mate, I was very impressed with Van der Breggen in the Healthy Ageing Tour and she seems to be peaking very well for this week. A better climber than Deignan, the Olympic champion has all the credentials to take victory tomorrow afternoon. Numbers will be key for the Dutch team and if Guarnier is back to full fitness they even have a third great option to play.

Boels main threat could be Strade winner Elisa Longo Borghini. The Italian started the season in scintillating form and has top 10’d in four out of the 5 World Tour events so far. An aggressive rider, she’ll hope to force a selection earlier in the race to eliminate as many riders from other teams as possible, relying on climbing super-domestique Claudia Lichtenberg to stay with her for most of the day. Like a few others, she packs a handy sprint after a tough day.

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Sunweb will be hoping to continue their great start to the year with another win here. I’m not sure who their main card will be on the day but you would think Van Dijk has the best chance. She’s been very consistent this year so far, taking her first win in the recent Healthy Ageing Tour. Her lack of a really good sprint will mean that she’ll more than likely have to solo to the line. I think Kirchmann will also go better here than she has done throughout this season so far. The Canadian really burst onto the scene last year with a great debut on the European circuit. She trains in the Limburg area so will know the roads off by heart and is my dark horse for the race. I’m also intrigued to see how current WWT leader Rivera does. Transforming into much more than a sprinter, I would think the climbs here would be too tough for her, but you never know, especially when she has the leader’s jersey on her back!

You would expect Niewiadoma to be WM3’s leader as Vos has been out of action for a little while and still recovering. The Pole has continued on from where she left off in 2016 with a string of great performances in 2017 so far. She is still missing that elusive victory this year, but that may well change tomorrow with a bit of luck on he side. As much as I don’t think Vos will be up there at the end of the race, you can never discount her because she is Marianne Vos after all. Furthermore, the finish of the Cauberg was the scene of her World Championship win in 2012 and as a Dutch rider she’ll be fired up for this race!

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Orica once again arrive with their crack squad of riders who will no doubt animate the race. Garfoot or Van Vleuten have the best chance of winning the race but they do have strenght in numbers and will hope to use that to their advantage. However, I have said this in the past few previews, that I think they have “too many cooks” and will once again miss out on victory.

Canyon will hope to be up there at the pointy end of the race with FerrandPrevot or Cecchini. Likewise, so will Cervelo duo Moolman and young Danish sensation Uttrup Ludwig.

One rider I am keen to see go well is FDJ’s Shara Gillow (there may be some bias here as she is in my season long fantasy team). She crashed in Gent Wevelgem but bounced back with a 25th place in Flanders, coming home in the second group. An under-rated climber, she was very attacking Strade, eventually finishing 6th. Without a great sprint, she’ll more than likely need to come to the line alone, but given her TT credentials that is certainly a possibility!

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Prediction

The race will be broken up going into the final lap of the race and Boels will play the numbers game excellently. I’ll go for their rider who has shown to be in form just now; Anna van der Breggen to take the win and possibly the start of an Ardennes triple!

Emma Johansson, Anna Van De Breggen

Thanks for reading and as always, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win and how will they do it?! I’ll have Tour of the Alps (Trentino) daily stage previews over the next few days (no time for GC) along with men and women’s Fleche on Tuesday. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Women’s Ronde van Vlaanderen 2017 Preview

Women’s Ronde van Vlaanderen 2017 Preview

On the same day as the men’s event, the women’s Ronde may be 100km shorter but that doesn’t make it any less exciting!

Last year saw the race split up on the Kwaremont and Paterberg, and like most races in the spring of 2016, was dominated by Boels Dolmans. They had 4 riders in the front group of 10, and in the end it was Deignan (then Armitstead) and Johansson who gapped the rest on the run in. They duked it out for the sprint and it was Deignan who just pipped the Swede on the line, taking a great win!

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Blaak won the sprint behind (ahead of team-mate Guarnier), to give Boels a 1-3-4-6 on the day!

Will the Dutch super team have it all their way this year? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

An “easy” opening 50km that only contains three cobble sections, before we get an action packed section of several hills and cobbled climbs.

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That section is rounded off by the Muur at 60km to go. Although there isn’t any major obstacle for the following 20km almost, the famous climb might play more of a decisive role than it will in the men’s race!

The race finishes off with the same Kwaremont and Paterberg double and it surely will see some action as the stronger climbers and classics riders try to make their mark before the 13km to the finish line.

Will we see a reduced sprint or a solo rider make into Oudenaarde alone?

Contenders

This is quite a tough race to predict as the balance between climbers and strong one-day racers is very fine. Also, this year of women’s racing has been the most open in recent years, with no repeat winners or even riders from the same teams in the World Tour!

Elisa Longo Borghini has been in exceptional form so far this year, winning Strade and finishing in the top 10 on two other occasions in the World Tour and currently leads the standings. She’s won this race in the past and is clearly suited to the terrain, coming 4th/4th/1st/5th in the recent 4 editions of the race. Not bad eh! You would expect her to be there or thereabouts again come the end of the race tomorrow.

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She won’t be the only card Wiggle High 5 have though, as they can also rely on Belgian one-day expert, Jolien d’Hoore. More of a sprinter than climber, that doesn’t take anything away from her ability to crush the short, cobbled climbs in this race. If the race is taken at a bit more of a mundane pace or there is a regrouping late on then she has a chance. However, with the chaotic day I can see playing out, unfortunately she might have to settle with sprinter for a top 10 from the third group.

Boels once again arrive with a very strong team to support last year’s winner Deignan. Or will they? Forced to miss Gent Wevelgem due to illness, i don’t think she’ll be back to 100% yet for this race and if she’s not at full fitness, she won’t win. They do have numerous other cards to play but Van der Breggen and Blaak look the best options. The European champion has had a slow start to the season but with her trying to peak more for the Ardennes, you would expect her to be going well just now. Blaak on the other hand has had a very good, consistent start to her season. Third here last year, she has a good chance of repeating that this time round.

In form Lotta Lepsito arrives with her Cervelo Bigla team. She is clearly climbing and riding better than ever, but this will be a completely different test for her. Like d’Hoore, it will be too fast up the climbs for her to cope, but if we do get a slowing of the pace and a bigger regrouping, she certainly would have a chance in the sprint.

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Instead, I would be looking towards team-mates Moolman and Uttrup Ludwig for a course like this.

Team Sunweb arrive here with options to animate this race like they have down in others over the past month or so. Van Dijk is bound to try a solo attack from far out and she is probably one of the only women in the peloton who could pull it off! In Rivera they have a fast finisher who is climbing the best I’ve ever seen from her and she certainly can’t be discounted. I would have her as more of a favourite than d’Hoore and Lepisto for example. Then in Brand, Kirchmann and Mackaij they have great options to pepper the front of the race with attacks or cover the moves of dangerous opponents. If this was at the start of March then I’d have Brand as one of the favourites for the race, but after doing a season of cyclocross during the winter, her form seems to have waned a bit.

Niewiadoma will lead the charge for WM3 who are missing Marianne Vos. It will be hard for the Polish rider to win with a lack of team support in the closing kilometres of the race but she will certainly feature in the top 10. Her best chance is to infiltrate a small group of 4 or 5 that escapes on the Kwaremont/Paterberg or even on the flat run in to the finish.

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Orica arrive with a good team, but they’re not as strong as they’ve been in the past few weeks. I imagine that Spratt and Van Vleuten will be co-leaders and they certainly have a chance if both of them make the front group. If not, the sole rider will be in a similar situation to Niewiadoma, where you have to be on a good day, but also get lucky.

Other riders to keep an eye out for include;

Cecchini (Canyon SRAM),

Ratto (Cylance),

Ensing (Ale)

Kopecky (Lotto)

Gillow (FDJ).

The latter on that list has a very good chance if she’s climbing as well as she was in Strade!

Prediction

The race will be determined by the tactics and numbers of Boels and Sunweb.

After a relatively poor season so far, by their standards, I fancy Boels to get it right this race. They’re likely to have more numbers in the front group than any other team and they’ll use it to their advantage. I’ll hedge my bets a bit and go for a Chantal Blaak win!

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She has the abilities to attack from far out and hold the gap to the line, or as we saw last year, she has a great sprint from a reduced group.

Coverage

We’ll get similar coverage to last year, where you can watch an unrestricted live stream of the race here. Or on the Flanders Classics facebook page.

Let’s just hope the quality is better than the 144p stream we had in 2016!

Competition

As I mentioned in the men’s preview, as a thanks for your continued support and to celebrate one year of blogging, I’ll be giving away one of the Handmade Cyclist’s pieces of artwork. More specifically, the Ronde one, duh!

All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning is comment on this post with who you think the winner of the Women’s RVV will be and make sure to leave your Twitter handle as this is how I’ll be contacting the winners.

If no one predicts the winner then it will go to second place and so on. Likewise, if we get more than one person who gets it correct, I’ll put the Twitter handles into a list on random.org and randomise three times to get our winner.

Good luck!

If you’re struggling to find the place to leave a comment, it should be at the end of this post and look like below

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*Also, depending on how the men’s race goes, I might be in a buoyant enough mood to upgrade it to a framed version!*

 

Thanks once again for reading and as always, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Next for the blog will be daily Pais Vasco previews (starting tomorrow), although I’m not sure if I’ll have enough time to do a full GC one. That might just be an after thought at the end of the stage 1 preview. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Women’s Gent – Wevelgem 2017 Preview

Women’s Gent – Wevelgem 2017 Preview

Last year saw this race take the step up to World Tour status along with a lot of other races in the cycling calendar due to the WWT. That meant that the field was even more stacked than normal and we had an incredibly tough, attritional race.

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It was Chantal Blaak who attacked from far out, winning by a comfortable margin in the end as her Boels team-mates marked any moves behind. Lisa Brennauer and Lucinda Brand rounded out the podium over a minute down.

More of the same exciting racing this year? Let’s take a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The organisers have taken advantage of the increased race distance that was permitted by the UCI so this year the riders will have tackle 146km, compared to the 115km in last year’s edition!

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The peloton will cover a lot of flat lands at the start of the race, but the most decisive section will be from 70-110km, when we tackle some climbs. Both cobbled and not! On the run in to home we also have some small rises that create an opportunity to attack. Even the flat run in can be a launchpad if we get a tactical finale.

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The run in to the finish line is pretty much pan-flat and dead-straight for the final 3km.

Weather

One of the major factors that can often play a part in the outcome of this race is the weather and in particular, the wind!

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Source: Windfinder.

It looks as if we’ll get a fairly constant wind throughout the day, with some potential for stronger gusts. The wind direction means that a lot of the middle of the race will be crosswinds, but as the road constantly changes, so will the affect that the wind has on the bunch; cross, tail, head wind etc.

It looks as if the run-in will be a cross-head wind, which would not favour a solo rider. But after a tough day on the bike, there might not be much left to chase behind!

Contenders

The defending champion, Chantal Blaak, arrives with a strong team on paper to support her. Yet, I am wary as to how well the Boels team will go because they had to pull out of Dwars mid-week due to widespread illness in the team. For example, Deignan has had to pull out of the race as she is still unwell. Blaak herself has yet to win this season, but she is very consistent over this type of terrain and I wouldn’t rule her out. Likewise, Amy Pieters has performed well but is without a win too. She pulled out Trofeo Binda due to not feeling well so she’ll be hoping to have recovered for this! World Champion Amalie Dideriksen picked up Boels’ first WT win of the season in Ronde van Drenthe and she may well be the teams best chance of another victory here. She is flying at the moment, and her sprint in the final of Van Drenthe was very similar to that of her male WC counterpart.

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Team Sunweb have been my team of the early season so far. They’ve animated every race that they have been entered in and I expect more of the same from them tomorrow! In Brand and Van Dijk they have great options to attack early and try to force splits in the peloton, which I can almost guarantee they will do. Whereas, I imagine Rivera will shadow moves from other teams and be an option for the squad if we get a reduced bunch sprint. She is exceptionally fast and took a dominant win in Trofeo Binda, more of the same here?

Elisa Longo Borghini will be hoping to maintain her WWT lead after this race. The Italian has been exceptional this year so far, finishing inside the top 10 of all three WT events. However, she seemed to struggle here last year, finishing over 2 minutes down. Will her great form compensate for that? I think so. Wiggle also have the luxury of Belgian sprinter come cobbles expert Jolien d’Hoore who I expect to be there at the pointy end of the race.

Orica have been very active in recent races but are without a win to show for it. They once again bring an attacking team, with Van Vleuten, Spratt and Elvin they’ll be hoping to go better here. I would suggest that Van Vleuten is their best option!

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After a 5th place in Dwars, Thalita De Jong has staked her claim for this race. The former Cyclocross World Champion loves tough terrain and I fancy her to go well here. Now riding for the Lares-Waowdeals she will be the de-facto leader and have the full support from her team. Can she cope with the pressure?

Another rider I’m keeping an eye on this season is Lotto’s Lotte Kopecky. The 21 year-old is a great talent and has featured near the front in all of the races she’s entered so far this year. Terribly unfortunate in Van Drenthe, crashing out of the lead group, I imagine she’ll be wanting to make amends here. With a good kick after a tough day, she’s not one to rule out!

There are several riders from other teams who I expect to feature in the top 20, but I don’t have enough time to go over them in-depth;

Uttrup Ludwig and Lepisto (Cervelo),

Hosking and Ensing (Ale Cipollini),

Barnes and Cecchini (Canyon).

Prediction

It will be another attritional race but the cross-head wind on the run in may be detrimental to lone attackers. Unless of course you are Ellen Van Dijk! Therefore, I think we might get a small sprint from around 5 riders and I’ll for a bit of an outsider; Kopecky to win. The extremely talented Belgian should have the speed required to beat her competitors at the end of a tough day!

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Thanks for reading the preview as always, and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Unfortunately, there will be no live coverage but there should be highlights at some point. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Women’s Road Race World Championships – Doha 2016

Women’s Road Race World Championships – Doha 2016

On a very different course last year, we saw Lizzie Deignan (née Armitstead) win a a sprint from a group of strong climbers/one-day racers, after the race was blown to bits on the final lap. It was a great show of strength from the Brit!

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The 2016 edition however doesn’t seem to be one that will suit Deignan and it will see a different type of rider come to the fore.

Let’s have a look at the course.

The Route

A glorified criterium is the best way to describe it if I’m being honest. The riders will have roughly 28km to travel through the suburbs of Doha before reaching the Pearl Circuit that has been the focal point for these Championships.

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There’s not much to talk about here if you’ve managed to watch any of the races so far. The Pearl Circuit itself is fairly technical with a lot of roundabouts and sharp corners, and this technical nature will be more evident in the road race compared to the time trial as riders won’t have the time to pick their own lines around the corners.

Therefore, it is important to be relatively close to the front of the bunch. Herein lies the problem, as everyone will be fighting to be in that top 40 riders. Which could cause some crashes/splits like we saw in the U23 men’s race today!

Conversely to the technical nature of the course, the closing kilometre or so of the circuit is very open and this means riders are able to move up, and the peloton spreads across the road. This creates a very messy sprint, but being able to follow the right wheel or your own sprint train is key, but luck and bravery will also play a big part.

Around the 200m to go mark the road dips down before rising again to the finish.

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Screenshot of the U23 race, showing the final 100m.

As you can see above it’s not a severe hill and considering the speed at which the riders should be going at then it won’t cause too much difficulty. But it is certainly something to note and you don’t want to be opening up your sprint too early, that’s for sure!

It should end in a bunch sprint but there will be a a few teams who will want to roll the dice in a breakaway/late attack.

Weather Watch

The women seem to be striking lucky with the weather and they should be in for a relatively relaxing day.

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The wind isn’t that strong at all and it probably won’t affect the race. Although, there seems to have been barely any noticeable wind at all in Qatar so far. That was particularly evident when there were high winds predicted for today. Maybe high winds = low, and vice versa?!

Temperature wise, it’s what the riders would expect but it is forecast to be a few degrees lower than we’ve had in the past few days. I’m sure the peloton will be glad to hear that!

Contenders

For this, I’ll go through the major nations highlighting those with a chance followed by those from the smaller teams.

Where best to start than with defending champion Deignan and the Great Britain team. As I said in the introduction, this course is probably too easy for Deignan so she may not be the best option for them. Instead, I think they should turn to Hannah Barnes for the sprint. She put in a very solid TT (not her favourite discipline) on Tuesday so there is clearly some form there. With a fast finish she could challenge here but will probably need a bit of luck as I don’t think she is as fast compared to some of her competitors. Team GB may try and stir things up with a late attack, watch out for Dani King if that’s the case.

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The Queen of Qatar, Kirsten Wild, arrives her with an incredible Dutch team. Four time winner of the GC in the Tour of Qatar, she knows how to handle the wind and conditions here. Supporting her lead-out, she will have Chantal Blaak, Amy Pieters and Marianne Vos, not bad eh?! The one thing that concerns me is that everyone on the Dutch team could potentially win this race in varying situations. Put it this way, out of the top 15 favourites (by the bookmakers), 7 of them are Dutch! I’d be feeling left out if I was Roxane Knetemann. Will they put all their eggs in one basket and will they want to? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see on Saturday.

Another nation with a similar problem is the Italians. They’ve brought a team stacked with sprinting talent. Again, I’m not entirely sure who their lead rider will be, either; Bronzini, Bastianelli or Guarischi. All of them have their pros and cons, but I would narrow it down to Bronzini or Guarischi. Bronzini is the experienced and reliable rider but Guarischi is more of a “pure-sprinter” and she has beaten the other two most recently. In my opinion, I would have Guarischi as Plan A and Plan Bronzini. If Guarischi can be positioned well then she has a good chance of a podium!

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A team that has arrived with a plan is Australia. They’re all in for their sprinter Chloe Hosking. With a strong set of rouleurs and lead-out riders in the team, including TT Bronze medalist Garfoot, they should have the pulling power to position Hosking perfectly at the end of the day. It will then be over to the 26-year old to finish it off. Winning on her last start (GP Beghelli) she’ll be brimming with confidence and I think she might just do it.

Belgium will turn to their star sprinter Jolien d‘Hoore to take home the rainbow jersey. She doesn’t have the strongest of teams with her and the lead-out looks a bit scarce but that shouldn’t impede her too much. She’ll be disappointed with anything less than a podium.

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With the field being so stacked and the fact I’ve already rambled on a bit, the rest of this will be slightly shorter than intended!

Coryn Rivera will have the full backing of her US teammates. As a rider who’s came from crit-racing she’ll love this course and could certainly spring a surprise.

The French will turn to Roxane Fournier most likely, who took a big win at La Route de France earlier in the year. I’m not convinced she has the legs to win, but a top 5 would be a great result.

Canada have two sprint options in the form of Leah Kirchmann and Joëlle Numainville. Kirchmann is probably the faster of the two but again it will probably come down to who’s feeling best on the day.

Lisa Brennauer will most likely be the sprinter for Germany, but she probably would have preferred a slightly harder circuit.

Lepistö (Finland), Moberg (Norway), Majerus (Luxembourg), Bujak (Poland) and Dideriksen (Demark) will all be fighting for a top 10 placing which would a good result, with Lepistö the most likely to get any higher than that.

Prediction

I’ve had this rider in mind for a while and I may be slightly biased as she’s in my fantasy team, but I think this is Chloe Hosking‘s big chance to win the Rainbow Jersey. She might not be as fast as Wild and d’Hoore, but she is very close to them in that sense. Finishing 1st and 2nd at the Tour and Vuelta races respectively, highlights just how fast she is and will be confident from those results. Her main asset however, will be a dedicated lead-out. The rest of the team should be able to look after her throughout the day, making sure she makes as little effort as possible until that final sprint. Furthermore, they’ll be able to position her perfectly at the front with 150m to go, and Hosking will duly deliver!

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Betting

I’ve been wanting to back this for a while (and it’s a shame the male rider in question had a very strong Eneco Tour and his odds have shortened)…

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Sticking to my guns;

Hosking and Sagan double @34.75/1 with William Hill, 0.8pt EW. Also available at B365 @31.5/1. 

Other bookmakers will hopefully price up the women’s race soon and you might be able ot find better odds somewhere. Both of them should hopefully podium at least for some kind of return!

One rider that I do think is overpriced for the women’s race is:

Guarischi @ 80/1 with Bet365, 0.2pt EW on her.

 

Thanks again for reading! How do you think the race will play out? Will the sprinters have their day, and if so, who do you think will win? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.