Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 9 Preview; Montenero di Bisaccia -> Blockhaus

Today’s Recap

The break just managed to hold on and Izagirre took his first World Tour win after a battle between his fellow escapees saw Conti crash in the closing kilometre. Visconti got close to finish second, with Luis Leon Sanchez coming home in third.

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Will the breakaway riders have their fun tomorrow, or will the GC riders come out to play properly? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

A slightly hilly but mainly flat start to the day. The stage is all about the final climb and the approach to it.

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The road starts rising at 25.9km to go and if you take it from that point, then it averages a shade under 6% for the duration; that’s tough!

However, the “official” start of the climb is with 13.6km left.

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Averaging close to 8.4% it is a killer of a climb. Even more so when you consider that for 8.5km it averages 9.4%! You would expect the middle section to be the more decisive part of the climb as it features the steepest ramps of the day at 14%. The closing kilometre does level out a bit so if we get a couple of riders come in together then there is a chance of an uphill sprint.

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Unlike on Etna, it looks as if we will get a West/South-West wind tomorrow which means that it will be a tail or cross tail for most of the climb. Hopefully this will make for some attacking riding!

How will the stage pan out?

It’s really hard to tell and if anyone confidently tells you how it will pan out, they’re lying.

With there being a rest day on Monday followed by the TT on Tuesday, you would expect that the GC guys will go crazy, knowing that their team won’t have to put in any extra work until Wednesday.

Yet, we’ve already witnessed a lack of willingness to chase from the bunch.

They should have been able to claw back Polanc on Etna but there was a lot of stop-starting and I fear we might see the same tomorrow. Not to the same extent, but they might let the break drift up the road before going crazy behind. Therefore we could well see a race on two fronts.

Breakaway Candidates

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To win the rider will obviously have to be a good climber, but with the rolling terrain at the start it might be hard for some of the really light guys to make it.

Nonetheless, I’ll throw a few names into the mix, nothing extensive.

Cristian Rodriguez – I’ll give the Wilier rider another chance on a stage that should suit him more. He was climbing with the best on Etna and as he is no threat for the overall he could be given the leeway in the break.

Matvey Mamykin – Katusha were obviously annoyed to have missed the break today and I’m sure they won’t make the same mistake again. The young Russian is surprisingly good at finding himself in the right move, but he’s failed to take advantage yet. Can he turn it around tomorrow? A big win is on the horizon for him.

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Kenny Elissonde – It would be very unlike Sky to send someone up the road on a stage like this at the Tour, but it is the Giro so they might have a change of plan? With someone up the road, they can play the “we’re not going to chase” card, conserving energy behind. Elissonde is sprightly enough to win from a break, but he’s way down on GC so he is no concern for the other teams.

Natnael Berhane – Dimension Data have been ever-present in breakaways throughout the Giro, only missing out on a few stages. Berhane has been relatively anonymous so far but he wasn’t too far off the GC guys on Etna. Maybe he’s been saving himself for this stage?

GC Riders

The GC battle is hard to figure out, there’s been a lot of poker playing going on so far.

I’m still unsure whether they’ll chase hard behind to set up the stage win. Nonetheless, if for stage glory or not, you would have to expect the weaker TT riders to have a go to try to gain some time before they inevitably lose it again.

Yates is one that springs to mind, he’s been looking good so far. Will Quintana turn on the afterburners and just blitz everyone? What about the Sky 1-2? Landa made a probing dig today, will we see a similar situation, with Thomas sitting in behind ready to counter. FDJ did a lot of pace making in the closing part of today’s stage so they must confident in Pinot’s current form.

Of course, anyone else from the list of favourites could go well, or they could crumble. It really is an open day of racing. I’m just hoping that makes it exciting and open, not a dull and defensive day in the saddle.

Prediction

As you can probably gather by now, I’m not really sure what to make of this stage! I’ll go for a race on two fronts, with the breakaway holding out for the win after getting an insurmountable lead.

Berhane to seize the day!

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Betting

Another day I don’t want to get overly involved with so small 0.25pts WIN punts on each of the break candidates;

(All with B365)

Elissonde @ 250/1

Rodriguez @ 200/1

Mamykin @ 300/1

Berhane @ 250/1

 

Apologies this is a bit shorter than usual, there’s not much to talk about Route-wise and I’m in a rush to get this finished. Normal service shall resume for the TT! Who do you think will win tomorrow, will it be the break or a GC rider? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 8 Preview; Molfetta -> Peschici

Today’s Recap

Dull day, great finish.

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We ended up with a three-up sprint almost, with Ewan finally getting his stage win, beating Gaviria and Bennett in the process.

Nothing much else to talk about as the day was a typically dull transition stage. Hopefully things are slightly more exciting tomorrow. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

A medium mountain stage with all of the climbing packed into the second half of the day.

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With almost 80km of flat roads, the fight for the breakaway could be pretty intense. Well, it normally would, but this Giro has been different in that regard so who knows. The route does hug the coast-line for all of that opening 80km but early forecasts show the wind to be a little benign so it is unlikely that we’ll see some echelons. How disappointing!

The Cat 2 climb of Monte Sant’Angelo is 9.5km long, averaging just over 6%. It’s not overly tough and comes too far from the finish to cause any hassle.  Likewise, the following Cat 4 ascent of Coppa Santa Tecla is still too far from the end of the stage to be an issue for both the bunch and the break.

It looks as if it will be a stage that will come down to the final 15km.

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We don’t get much information about the uncategorised climbs before the descent and rise to the finish, which you can see above, so you know the drill…

Strava profile, viewable here.

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If you take the rise as a whole, then it is roughly 5 km at 3.9%. Not bad, but it can be split into 1.9km at 6.3% and 2.4km at 4.7%, with a little bit of descent in between. The steepest ramps of the second section come at the start of the climb, so a lightweight rider might want to attack there before it flattens out down to 2-3% before the top.

We then have our fast descent and climb to the line.

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It is important to note how technical the climb is itself with a sharp hairpin at around 300m to go and it still even twists and turns from there.

Who will be raising their arms aloft as they cross the finish line first?

How will the stage pan out?

It should be a break. There might be a few teams who will fancy controlling it and setting up a certain rider but that will be very hard to do.

I’m sure most of the teams will want it to be a break, especially with the tough finish of Blockhaus coming the following day, they’ll want to conserve as much energy as possible.

So it’s that time again where we play…

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Candidates

It’s even more difficult to successfully pick someone for the break tomorrow because the opening half of the stage, where the break will be formed, is completely different to what they’ll face at the end of the day. When has that ever stopped me before though?!

There seems to be a recurring theme at this Giro so far where teams with GC contenders have been a bit wary about getting guys up the road, with the only exception being Trek and BMC on Stage 6. Will this pattern continue as the main contenders look towards stage 9? Quite possibly, so I’ll be considering riders from teams without a GC contender, or one that can at least mount a reasonable top 5 charge.

Cristián Rodríguez.

The young Wilier rider has impressed me a lot during this race so far. He was up with the GC contenders on Etna until a very untimely mechanical saw him drop out of that group. Nonetheless, he got himself going again, limiting the damage to one minute. He lost a lot of time on the echelons of stage 3, so he is no immediate threat on GC. Clearly in great form, he would have a great chance if he makes the move.

Davide Villella.

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After Cannondale made a mess of Stage 6, I’m sure they won’t make the same mistake tomorrow. Looking at their squad, Villella looks like an ideal candidate for this type of strong man’s finish. A former winner of the Baby Il Lombardia, he finished 5th there in the full edition last season. Packing a solid uphill kick, his fellow breakees will not want to bring him to the line.

Matej Mohoric.

The former U23 World Champion is slowly finding his feet at World Tour level and with UAE active in attacks so far, they’ll no doubt try to send someone up the road tomorrow. A coming of age performance is on the cards!

Now for something a bit different…

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll know that on the preview for today’s stage (6) that I received a very constructive comment from a Mr Wong.

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So I thought I’d take this feedback on board with a brand new segment for breakaway days or stages that are in the balance…

Wong’s Wildcard/ The Wongshot

Basically, I’ve copied the startlist and created a list on random.org and well, erm, randomised it for a rider. I’ll then create a possible scenario where and how said rider might win. Tomorrow’s guy is…

Stef Clement.

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Although the Dutch rider is on domestique duty for Kruijswijk, his team leader gives him the nod to chase stage honours. As a strong all-rounder, Clement makes the break with ease but also follows well on the hills as some of the other escapees put in probing attacks. Coming into the closing 15km, Clement knows that his form isn’t that great and he’s not explosive enough to beat the other guys on the final climb, so he decides to attack on a pan-flat section with 17km left. With some hesitation behind, the gap quickly grows to 30 seconds as everyone else looks around. They eventually get organised but it’s too late, and the Dutchman holds on to take a great win!

Prediction

Breakaway stays away and I’ll for an impressive young Spaniard to have the required kick on the final climb to steal stage honours. Rodríguez to win!

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In before Clement wins…

Betting

Small punts on breakaway guys(all Bet 365);

Rodriguez 0.3pt WIN @ 300/1

Mohoric 0.4pt WIN @ 80/1 

Villella is too short at 40/1 for a breakaway pick so instead I’m backing…

Grosschartner 0.3pt WIN @ 200/1

 

Also, I would like to point out now that the blog has gained a bit more traction during the Giro that I don’t see myself as a proper tipster or anything like that. It was never the intention when starting this whole thing up. It’s more a case that I enjoy writing the previews and trying to deconstruct how the race might plan out, often with an extravagant twist. I see them more as a guide to the following day’s racing more than anything else. My very original posts had no “pts” etc advised on them, just a general idea of who I was backing. However, people requested that I do so and I eventually just added them in at the end of each preview.

I don’t charge for the previews, you’re not forced to back anyone I do. I just put a few bets on to have someone to back for the day and make the sport even more enjoyable to watch! Don’t wager anything more than you can afford to lose.

Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Rio Olympics 2016 – Men’s Road Race

Rio Olympics 2016 – Men’s Road Race

*Apologies again, as I’m holiday this will be “shorter” than normal, with more focus on candidates and potential winning outcomes*

The Route

A long day in the office, featuring a tough climb that they go over 3 times. It’s not the hardest climb in the world but it’s place in the race makes it more difficult.

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Again, there will be others who go over the route in more depth. If you want an interactive profile check out this one here.

How will the race pan out?

This race could well end up being a tactical mess and in some ways is a very tough race to call.

Due to the way that the numbers of riders are allocated, teams come here with varying squad sizes. The “big” nations of Belgium, Colombia, Great Britain, Italy & Spain all come here with 5 riders. The numbers then decrease depending on the nations UCI coefficient.

Having only 5 riders makes the race very tough to control, especially considering some teams have 2 leaders. Getting a rider into the break will mean that the rest of the team doesn’t work, but is it worth burning riders out early on?

Conversely, saving riders until the final 100km could well see your chance go if none of the opposition teams want to work with you.

It really comes down to the big teams to control the early moves;

  • Belgium have De Plus and possibly Pauwels as domestique.
  • Colombia don’t really have any domestiques as such. Maybe they’ll send Lopez into the break.
  • GB have Stannard and possibly Cummings.
  • Italy have Caruso an De Marchi for early on. With Rosa probably working later on.
  • Spain have Erviti and Castroviejo for early in the day, with Izagirre being the go-to rider late on.

The Italians and Spaniards like usual have teams perfectly set up for these types of races that mimic the World Championships. Out of all the teams, they’ll probably be the key to controlling the break and setting up the “expected” GC-style blow-out on the final climbs.

The rest of the teams will probably hedge their chances by trying to send a rider into the early break, leaving their strongest climbers with the peloton, i.e. Portugal might choose to have Nelson Oliveira up the road with Costa left behind.

It’s also important to consider the length of the course, so look to long stages in the Grand Tours/Classics/World Champs for riders who can last the distance.

The Potential winners

Like the San Sebastian preview, I’m going to go through in team order.

Belgium have two potential winners in their squad. GVA has shown at the Tour that he is climbing very well, he should be able to cope with the climbs if the pace isn’t too high. The flat run in is great for him, as it could bring the race back together.

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Philippe Gilbert will be hopeful here, but I can’t see him recording a win here. I think GVA is better in every possible outcome where Gilbert could potentially win. Instead, Tim Wellens will add another dimension to the Belgian squad. He will be used as the long-range attacker and could well manage to steal the day. Furthermore, if he makes it over the final climb in the front group, he could attack then to draw out the other nations.

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TW interview with the Lotto Soudal team.

Reading between the lines, Wellens seems to think that the route is manageable for riders like him, possibly the Ardennes types. Again though, I can imagine this is dependant on the pace and attitude of the peloton!

Colombia’s whole squad could potentially win this in the right situation. They have to be very aggressive and force some kind of selection and I can see them being very attacking throughout the day. It will be an all or nothing approach for them. I would love to see Esteban Chaves go well here (I have a soft-spot for the Smiling Assassin). He’s been away in Colombia preparing for the Vuelta so is a bit of an unknown quantity, but like others, I think he’ll be going well.

Team GB come here with the Tour winner, Froome in their ranks. The Brit has never been great in one-day classics. In fact, he’s notoriously a DNF merchant. However, if there was ever a race and a year that he could complete and go well in, it would be this one. If he’s on the same form that he was at the Tour, he could ride away from everyone on the climb and TT his way to the finish.

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Thomas is probably the next best option for the squad, as Yates seems to be tired after his efforts at the Tour.

Italy will turn to Nibali and Aru. I’m not sure I can see Nibali winning this. He won’t rider away from everyone on the climb and his sprint isn’t the best from a group. I think Aru actually has more of a chance in theory, mainly because he won’t be considered as much of a threat compared to Nibali. The question is if he’s recovered from his implosion at the end of the Tour? Rosa will be the rider to mark attacks and potentially profit from it himself.

Spain come with their ever-present conundrum over the past few years; Valverde or Rodriguez? There is a lot of bad blood between those two and that could be the cause of their demise. Izagirre will be the key for them (Valverde). With 4 Movistar riders in the squad, I think it’s clear who they’ll be backing, with Rodriguez maybe having to fly solo. I can’t really back either of them with great confidence.

Away from the big teams there are several other GC riders who can compete; Poels & Mollema (NED), Bardet (FRA), Costa (POR), Martin (IRE). Any of these riders on their day could win here. I’d fancy Poels and Bardet over the rest of them, I really rate both of their chances and a podium is a very achievable target!

Some of the riders from smaller nations could play a big part in the outcome here. Looking at those who can last the distance (WCs from previous years), there are three riders who I like as big, big outsiders.

First up is Andrey Amador.

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The Costa Rican had a great Giro, wearing the Maglia Rosa. He should be able to cope with the climbs (especially if it’s not as tough as expected), but as the only representative from his nation, he’ll more than likely have to attack to win. At the Giro he put a show on with his great descending skills, they could be invaluable here!

TanelKangert could well pull off a wonderful victory here.

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The Estonian had a very solid Tour in support of Aru, after being a key domestique for Nibali at the Giro. This will more than likely be his last big race for a while before a period of rest, so he’ll be giving it his all. He has the speed to win from a small group, but won’t be afraid to attack and catch the favourites off guard. The distance won’t be a problem to him.

The final rider is one that I have already mentioned; Nelson Oliveira.

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He’ll be used as a ploy from Costa to draw others to chase, but the move might just stick. A rider who can cope with the distance, he can use his TTing ability to distance the field on the descent and final run in. If he has a gap of 20 seconds going into the flat section the race is over!

 

Prediction

A race with several potential outcomes, I hope it lives up to its potential! As for who can win it? We may well see a surprise winner, but I really like the chances of Romain Bardet. He’s just came off his best ever Tour finish and will be brimming with confidence. He can manage the distance well and will hope to attack on the final climb and grow the gap on the descent, and hope for a lack of cohesion behind. If not, he’ll try a late-attack (he’s a fearless rider) or will rely on a solid sprint.

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Betting

I have a few small ante-post bets from a while back (Chaves, Aru, Bardet and Poels).

However, I’m going to re-back Bardet more heavily. I really liked what I saw at the Tour. Along with my 3 long, long shots!

Bardet 0.7pt EW at 33/1 with Coral or Betfred (I’d take down to 25/1, 22 at the lowest).

Amador 0.1pt EW at 200/1 (widely available)

Kangert 0.1pt EW at 250/1 with Ladbrokes (paying 4 places), I’d take the 200/1 with Coral.

Oliveira 0.1pt EW 300/1 with Bet365 or SkyBet

 

Hope you all enjoyed this “shorter” but long preview! Who do you think will win? Any feedback is appreciated as normal! I should hopefully have a women’s RR preview out tomorrow, if I can find the time to do it. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Clásica de San Sebastián

Clásica de San Sebastián

A great semi-classic style race positioned the weekend after the Tour, San Sebastián often provides very exciting racing.

2015’s edition was won by Adam Yates, after a strong attack on the final climb. He crested it with a slender margin of around 3 seconds, and due to a combination of strength from the Brit and a disorganised chase behind, he increased his lead and managed to win by 15 seconds at the finish.

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Adam looking puzzled crossing the line.

Yates himself looked confused as he crossed the line. Which resulted in us the viewers being confused/humoured at his bemusement. This was partly due to a fault with the aeroplane that was meant to be transmitting the pictures, so the live feed only returned as Yates powered away near the top of the climb. What wasn’t captured on TV but last year’s race is now infamous for, is Greg Van Avermaet’s collision with a motorcycle.

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Yates didn’t know it at the time that GVA had been taken out, hence the reason for his disbelief at the end hearing that he’d won!

Let’s look at this years edition.

The Route

The profile of the race is very similar to that of previous editions. In fact, it’s almost identical to last year’s profile but with one slight difference.

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The route profile is correct, just the last climb has been misnamed

Instead of going up the Tontorra, the riders climb up Murgil Bidea instead. This change in final climb doesn’t really affect the race, it just increases its length ever so slightly because of the change in route.

The climbs of the Jaizkibel and Arkale will sap the legs within the peloton early on, but the race really is all about the final climb, as this is where most successful moves are made.

The final climb is still incredibly tough. As usual, I’ve made a profile on Strava for it that you can view directly here.

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Profile of Murgil Bidea.

Including part of the run-in and false flat after the official summit, smooths out the climb ever so slightly, making it 2.2km long with an average gradient of 8.9%. Taking out these sections makes the climb 1.5km at 10.4%, with ramps of around 20%. Steep and difficult either way!

Previous Winners – Is there a pattern?

Over the past 10 editions (2006-2015) only one of the winners has not raced at the Tour. That man was Xavier Florencio way back in 2006. All the rest have been on a merry jaunt around France.

Interestingly enough, all the winners from 2007 onwards have finished the TDF, all in the top 75 on GC too.

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Average GC position is 28.4 – Shame Wout Poels isn’t here!

Going off of recent history, it seems that to be a winner at San Sebastian, you must have performed well in France. Therefore, it is paramount to consider those who’ve just came from the Tour.

Non-Tour riders?

There is obviously always a chance that the pattern from the last nine years can be broken this time round. There are a few riders coming in from other races or blocks of training who have the abilities and credentials to challenge here. It all just depends if they are back to race condition yet or not.

Candidates

In a slight change from the normal lay-out, I’m going to go through the teams/riders who have a chance of going well here. Naming more riders than I would usually! Still, some teams won’t be mentioned, because let’s be honest, no-one from Cofidis is winning here…

(those who’ve been at the Tour are in bold and I’ll be going through in Startlist order, max 2 riders per team)

Orica – Adam Yates & Simon Yates. The defending champion was in great form at the Tour and has every chance of winning again. He floats up hills and the gradients here are to his liking. Meanwhile, his brother returned from his doping suspension with a win on Monday and will want to remind everyone what he can do on the big stage.

Cycling: 35th Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian 2015

Tinkoff – Kreuziger. Had a good Tour but it will be tough for him to win here. He’s not a good enough climber to escape alone on the final climb and doesn’t have the required sprint from a bunch. The only way he can win is if a group crests together, and he attacks on the descent and hopes that the chase behind is disorganised.

Movistar – Valverde. They’ll be all in for Alejandro. There’s a chance one of the Izagirre’s might be used as a ploy to get the other teams to chase but AV is their main option. Mr Consistent can win from about any situation. He’s rightly the favourite.

BMC- GVA & Gilbert. The could have been winner from last year will be here to right the wrongs. Van Avermaet was climbing exceptionally at the Tour and is in great shape just now, he’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t win. Phil Gil had a poor classics campaign due to injury. He’s not been his best this year but has shown glimpses of form. You can never rule out the former winner and World Champ.

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Sky – Landa & Nieve. I’m being rather controversial here, but I think the two Basque riders will be the team’s leaders over Kwiatkowski and Roche. Landa slowly re-found himself during the Tour and he seemed to be in good shape by the end of it. Earlier in the year he excelled on a steep finish at Trentino, very similar to the final climb we have here. Don’t forget he finished 6th here back in 2013. Nieve has finished 4th here on two occasions, can he make the step onto the podium? Quite possibly! He rode very well in support of Froome over the past month. After doing the Giro and Tour, does he have anything left in reserve? I think so.

Etixx – Martin. It’s all about Panda Power for Etixx. The Irishman achieved his best ever Tour GC result this year. An always attacking rider, you can be sure that he’ll try to make a move off the front at some point. Furthermore, as was shown in Lombardia (2014), he is great at timing a move from a small group and he packs a good sprint. With all that being said, I can’t see him finishing on the podium. Brambilla may be let off the hook but he’s not raced enough recently for me to like his chances.

Katusha – JRod. Another team with one clear leader, Rodriguez really got his season back on track at the Tour after having a poor start to the year. With the announcement that he’s retiring at the end of the year, he’ll give it his all here and potentially take a few more risks than normal.

Lampre – Ulissi. He was climbing exceptionally at the Giro but has been a bit off the boil since then. With the explosive kick required and fast sprint from a group he will be a serious danger-man. Can he be the non-Tour rider to break that 9 year duck?

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Trek – Mollema & Felline. The Dutchman has a great record, finishing in the Top 10 in all of the previous 4 editions. However, he looked spent by the end of the Tour. I’m not sure if he’ll have recovered fully but he can’t be ruled out. Felline finished the recent Tour de Pologne 2nd on GC, a great result. He is a rider for a while who has promised so much in these type of races. I think this is too early for him (look out for him at the Vuelta) and the final climb is on his limit. I’m ready to be surprised though!

Lotto Soudal – Gallopin & Wellens. Another former winner lining up here, Gallopin had a poor TDF by his standards. Especially after a good showing at the French national championships. I’m not sure why that was, but if he’s back to his best then he can definitely challenge here. Wellens on the other hand seems to be on great form just now, storming to the overall victory in Poland just over a week ago. We’re sure to see an attack (probably poorly timed) from him at some point.

AG2R – Vuillermoz. Was building form nicely at the Tour and is a rider I like a lot. He can handle the steep inclines but will probably need to come to the finish alone as he doesn’t have a great flat sprint.

IAM – Pantano. Arguably the revelation of this years TDF, Pantano has all the attributes to go well here. His weakness is probably actually his climbing and I’m not too sure how he goes on very steep gradients. However, he will still be better than most in that respect! He’ll be able to fly down the hill and he has a fast sprint on him too so he can challenge from a group.

Aside from these riders, I can’t see anyone else winning. In fact, I’d narrow it down to A Yates, Valverde, GVA, JRod, Landa, Nieve & Pantano as the most likely candidates. All riders who have been at the Tour!

Prediction

In tradition of the blog I’ll go for one of the outsiders.

I think Sky’s numerical advantage will play a massive part in the finale, whether that’s marking moves on the climb/descent or doing the “old 1-2” themselves. I favour Landa out of the two in that situation. We’ve seen him cope well with steep inclines (Trentino this year and Aia last year) and as a potential Grand Tour winner he has the pedigree and capabilities to win here. Unlike some of the others (Yates & Valverde) he didn’t have to go deep on every stage in France, so will have saved some energy because of that. The team will be on a high after the Tour and want to continue that good run. Therefore, I think we get the poetic Basque region winner that the fans and locals will adore!

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Betting

Just backing Landa for this, the majority of the favourites are too short to back convincingly and I think Landa offers some value. The bookies seem to have the race priced well.

0.5pt EW @ 50/1 with Betfair. (I’d take 40/1 if you can’t get 50/1)

If I see any H2Hs that I like I’ll add them on my Twitter.

 

Thanks for reading and making it this far on this longer than normal preview! Any feedback is very much appreciated as usual. I should have a preview out for Ride London too so keep an eye out for that. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.