Tour Down Under 2018 – GC Preview

Tour Down Under 2018 – GC Preview

So with the women’s race now finished, it is time for the men to take centre stage over the coming week with the riders battling it out to take home Ochre. A race that has been dominated by the Australians in recent years, with the last 4 GC titles going to the home riders; expect to see some fast racing coupled with sweltering temperatures.

It might not have the best race route in the grand scheme of the cycling season but given its position as the season opener, I think most of us will take it!

Richie Porte - Willunga Hill 2017

After finally getting his hands on the GC win last year the King of Willunga (a.k.a Richie Porte) is back here to defend his crown along with a strong BMC team. In fact, the last 3 winners of the race are all riding for that outfit this year, which is very ominous for the rest of the field. However, they won’t have it all their own way and there are certainly some other riders out there who could challenge their dominance.

First, let’s have a quick look at what is in store for the riders over the six days of action.

The Route

I won’t bore you here though, as I’ll have plenty of time over the coming week to drain you with an in-depth route analysis of each stage. This will simply be more of an overview!

There are three stages that are most likely to have the biggest impact on GC, although that could change if the wind blows strongly on some of the more exposed days. We saw the women’s peloton battered by cross winds through the Barossa Valley.

Stage 2 is the first important day with the traditional finish in Stirling.

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A rolling circuit that will see the peloton whittled down, some of the stronger sprinters will be happy to see that the organisers have reduced the number of laps that they will complete. Back in 2016 when Jay McCarthy won this stage, the riders had to contest with 6 laps, but this time it will just be 4. In theory, this should make it easier and see the stage switch from a puncheurs finish to more of a strong sprinters day. However, this of course all depends on how aggressively the teams race. If the fast men of the peloton are eliminated from the group then it is a great chance for the likes of Haas and McCarthy to pick up some valuable bonus seconds in their fight for GC.

Stage 4 will see the peloton tackle a new finish here at the Tour Down Under, featuring a climb that is well-known by the local Aussies.

Santos Tour Down Under 2018 - Stage 4

Norton Summit is not a new climb for the Tour though, with it being used right at the start of Stage 4 in 2016. It took the riders roughly 11’30 to complete the climb that day but I imagine that time will be faster this year round given it’s position on the course. Once over the “summit” the riders will have 7.5km left but instead of a drop straight down, they’ll instead face a kilometre or so of false flat before an uncategorised ramp up Woods Hill Road. Could this be a launchpad for a late attack? With only 3.5km of shallow descending all the way to the line, it certainly could be.

Stage 5 will once again play host to the summit finish of Willunga Hill.

Santos Tour Down Under 2018 - Stage 5

If the GC is still close at this stage, then it will all come down to the final ascent of Willunga. Porte has owned this climb for the past four years and he’ll hope to make it five in a row this time. Will it be enough for the overall title though? From a tactics point of view, it is much easier to ride a defensive race on Willunga than attacking one, as it is a difficult climb to make massive gains on. Although lil’ Richie might have something to say about that…

GC Contenders

Given the recent form of the Australians at this race, they’ve won 6 out of the last 7 years, then it is really hard to back against them on their own turf.

Porte comes into the race as the bookmakers favourite and rightly so given his performances on Willunga the past few years. If everything is kept together on stages 2 & 4, with his opponents not gaining any bonus seconds, the race is his to lose. However, this is the least suited route to Porte for a while and I think he’ll desperately miss the Paracombe finish that we had last year. He might well win on Willunga again, but I don’t think it will be by as big a margin as he has done in previous years.

McCarthy will be waiting in the wings, hoping to capitalise on the new stage and sprint for some bonus seconds on days 2 and 4, feasibly giving himself a 20 second buffer going into Willunga. He’s a rider that I have grown fond over and one that I had backed when he took out the stage in Stirling in 2016. At the Aussie Nationals recently, he looked incredibly strong, sprinting away from the chase group in the closing few hundred metres. His trajectory in this race has been on the up as well, with a 4th in 2016 and a 3rd last year. Will he go one or two steps higher this time around?

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Haas is a rider similar to McCarthy and he too will be looking to nab some bonus seconds on stages 2 & 4. With a winter move to Katusha, the former Dimension Data rider comes here in some good form with a 5th place finish in both the road race and time trial at the Aussie Champs. An attacking rider, he will no doubt give it a go on Stage 4 in an attempt to get clear. However, I sometimes think that he is too attacking; using up a lot of his resources before it is necessary. Will that be his downfall again?

Can a non-Aussie win?

Probably not.

Some might suggest Sagan has a chance, especially after his strong showing in today’s criterium. However, he will be here for training more than anything, possibly getting involved in a few sprints but nothing more than that.

Ulissi is a very solid finisher and will no doubt again be in or around the top 5 but I can’t see him having enough form early in the year to take the win. Yet, he is the type of rider who could well prove me wrong! His team-mate Rui Costa might be another to watch, he was flying at the start of last year.

Bernal arrives here as Team Sky’s best chance on paper, the young rider is truly exceptional. His form will be unkown but as we’ve seen with Henao in the past, Colombians seem to go well here. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go with the best on Willunga, but his lack of a sprint might let him down for the overall.

Prediction

I’ll go for none of the above to win though.

Instead, I’ll suggest that Rohan Dennis will take home another Tour Down Under title.

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The current Aussie TT champion blitzed away his opposition recently, putting over a minute into a very lean Luke Durbridge and almost two minutes into team-mate Porte, regaining his title with ease. He DNF’d the road race, but I think he was using that race as training more than anything else.

Almost have way through his “4-year GC plan”, this should be the year where he takes another step forward in that quest. He certainly looks very fit going by some of the pictures I’ve seen floating around social media over the past week. There has also been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between himself and Porte as to who the leader of BMC will be for the week, both downplaying their own chances and talking up their team-mate. First race mind-games!

With the introduction of the interesting finish on stage 4 this year I think it is very beneficial for a team to have two possible winners in their squad and I’m sure BMC will use that to their advantage. Norton Summit looks ideal for the powerhouse and Dennis certainly has the TT engine to attack and hold a gap, especially with Porte and possibly Gerrans behind marking out any efforts to close him down.

Being in Ochre going into Willunga means BMC will be able to ride a defensive race, and who wouldn’t want the King of Willunga himself to act as a super-domsetique for you that day?! Porte should be able to keep things together and Dennis won’t lose enough time to be toppled, with Porte even nabbing the bonus seconds away from his competitors on the line.

Simple!

Betting

First race of the season so it would be rude not to have a flutter on the GC market. I tweeted it out a few days ago but…

1pt EW Dennis @ 20/1 with Coral/Ladbrokes.

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. I hope you enjoyed my first men’s preview of the season. I’ll be back with daily stage previews of the Tour Down Under starting from tomorrow. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Men’s Individual Time Trial World Championships Preview – Bergen 2017

Last year saw Tony Martin smash the opposition on a pan-flat course in Doha but it is very unlikely he’ll manage to defend his title this time round. In fact, the second (Kiryienka) and third (Castroviejo) finishers from 2016 have a better chance than the German.

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Will any of them be able to match the big favourite for the event Tom Dumoulin? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders over the afternoon.

The Route

The riders will complete almost two full laps of what has been known as the “short” circuit for the TTs that we’ve had over the previous days.

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The laps are rolling but not overly difficult and the riders should be able to maintain a fairly high-speed of roughly 50km/h or so.

The biggest test they will face out on the route is a staggered climb that starts at roughly 5km into the day.

Bergen Short Lap Climb

At an average of only 3.5% for 1.5km in length, the more traditional TT riders shouldn’t lose too much time here. With that being said though, some of the steeper ramps involved in the climb do allow those who are less gravitationally challenged to gain a bit of an advantage. Nonetheless, it is one for the power riders to attack and it shouldn’t make a massive difference either way unless someone is on a bad day.

Tomorrow though is all about the final 3.5km which have been well documented about in the run up to these Championships with the ascent up Mount Floyen.

Mount Floyen

Tough!

So tough in fact that we will inevitably see bike changes in the special bike exchange zone just before the climb itself.

At an average of 9.3% for just over 3km this test will put to bed the hopes of Martin etc who are far too heavy to go close on this type of route. It is similar to the Mont Brouilly TT that we had in Paris Nice earlier in the year, but the closing climb is even harder here in Bergen.

Weather Watch

With the riders starts being so spread out due to the lap nature of the course, Lutsenko is first off at 13:05 while Martin starts at 17:03, then changing weather could no doubt have a massive impact in the outcome of the race.

You can view all of the start times here.

Once again, varying reports suggest different things, but we are sure to get rain at some point throughout the day.

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Source: Yr.no

After a fairly accurate forecast for today Yr.no suggests that the riders will be in for consistent rainfall throughout the day, but it will pick up more for the riders who are starting their efforts towards the end of the 3rd wave and those off at the start of the 4th wave.

The “big hitters” going off at close to 17:00 might not have the same levels of rain fall but they will have to contend with a wet route.

That is of course assuming that the forecast is close to being correct!

Ultimately though, I don’t think the weather will play too big of a part in the outcome of the race, with the rider’s legs doing the talking so to say.

Bike Change Kerfuffle

One of the hotly debated topics in the run of to tomorrow’s race is if rides will change from a TT bike to their road machines to tackle Mount Floyen.

Such a fuss was kicked up that the UCI have designated a specific “bike exchange zone” that is 20m long and is located just before the start of the climb. If you have watched any of the action over the past few days, you’ll recognise the section as the slight cobbled drag the riders have had to contest with.

The whole thing doesn’t sit right with me if I’m being honest. Yes, they should be allowed to change a bike if they want to, but there shouldn’t be a specific zone. Furthermore, by the sound of it riders will have a mechanic waiting road-side to make their change more seemless. In my opinion if a rider is wanting to change bike then it should still have to be taken from the roof of their following car. But hey, what do I know!

There is also a lot of confusion as to the rules that are to be followed in the exchange zone. I’m sure if you have been on social media today then you will have stumbled across videos of riders practicing their change-overs. In most videos you will see the riders get a 10-15m push from their mechanics to get them up to speed again.

Except, this is not allowed according to the UCI. I have a feeling that it might be a bit of a kerfuffle tomorrow!

If there is no pushing allowed, is that running and pushing, or just a static push? The latter isn’t so bad but it will need a UCI commissaire there to make sure everyone is doing it properly. Will they have the guts to DSQ a favourite if they make an improper change? I guess we’ll just have to wait and find out…

Contenders

Tom Dumoulin.

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On paper this is the Dutchman’s race to lose. He arrives here as arguably one of the freshest riders in the bunch, with this TT being his main focus in the second part of the season. He’ll be one of the fastest over the rolling section and the short climb where he can push out a lot of Watts is ideal too. We witnessed what he can do on an uphill at the Giro and more specifically with his win on Oropa. Can he handle the pressure of being the favourite?

Chris Foome.

The likely contender who is having his best ever season. Following on from winning the Tour, the Brit went on to clinch the Vuelta with a rather dominant performance, completing an unprecedented Tour-Vuelta double. The craziest thing is that when finishing the Vuelta he didn’t even look that tired, which is really ominous for his competitors here. Furthermore, a 31km effort isn’t going to add much to his current fatigue levels so he has as good a chance as any.

Rohan Dennis.

The Aussie looked very strong in the TTT and was putting his team-mates into the red which could have potentially cost them the title. The shorter length of the TT is great for Dennis who is the best short TTer in the world, a title awarded by me! However, although he is a good climber, I think he might struggle on Floyen. Furthermore, he is known to go out too fast and if he does that tomorrow, then he will go backwards on the final climb.

Vasil Kiryienka.

World Championships - Mens TT

Champion back in 2015, he is a rider who always turns up and performs on the big stage at the Worlds. A diesel engine, TTs of over 30km are good for him as he only seems to properly get going after 20km! One of Sky’s super domestiques, he will no doubt crush the opening two laps of the route but I’m intrigued to see how he goes on Floyen. He shouldn’t lose too much time, but compared to some of the better climbers he might struggle. Will he have enough experience to see him through?

Primoz Roglic.

One of the breakthrough riders of 2016, the Jumbo man has taken a step up in his performances this year. A very strong all-rounder he could be great tomorrow. However, his form has been a bit hit or miss lately and he did struggle at the Worlds last season. A year on though will he cope with the pressure better? I’m not so sure and I think he will fall flat. I’m ready to be pleasantly surprised though.

Jonathan Castroviejo.

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He is my dark horse for the podium and possibly better. Although saying he is a dark horse is unfair but that is what he is according to the bookmaker’s odds! His performances at the World’s in the past three years have been 10th/4th/3rd; a nice bit of progression and similar to Garfoot in the women’s race. Furthermore, he has shown form in longer TTs such as his Euro Champs win last year and 4th place at the Olympics. It was his 3rd last year on a completely flat course that really impressed me. Given his smaller build, he should in theory struggle on the flat and go better on the hills. Tomorrow’s route looks a lot better for him than last year! His build up to the race hasn’t been great with a bit of a lacklustre performance in Britain but he is a classy rider who has to be given some respect.

Jungels, Kelderman, Bodnar, Campenaerts and Küng will all be fighting for the top 10.

Prediction

I nailed my colours to the mast almost a week ago; Froome to win.

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As I’ve said above, he looked unbelievably fresh at the end of the Vuelta and if he has carried that form, which I think he will have, then he should win here.

Dumoulin to follow him home with Castroviejo to equal last year’s result in third!

Betting

I tweeted this out a few days ago;

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I would say that he is still back-able at the 4/1 or even 7/2 you an get in some places. So I’ll play up some of the profits from today’s women’s race..

Froome 4pts WIN @ 4/1 (with William Hill)

Castroviejo 1pt EW 125/1 with Bet365 (would take 80/1 or even 66/1)

He is just so massively overpriced – falls into the value bet like Garfoot today.

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see the expected dual between Froome and Dumoulin? Or will another rider cause an upset?

Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Cefalù -> Etna

Recap

Stage 3 wasn’t as fraught with crosswind danger as I was hoping for, but we did get some action in the last 10km. Quick Step were the main protagonists behind the splits that we did get and their young Colombian sprint sensation, Gaviria, duly delivered the result taking first place and the Maglia Rosa too.

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Selig took second, with Nizzolo coming home in 3rd. It was a frustrating watch for me with 200/1 man Jungels looking the strongest in the group! There was one moment that a gap started to form and even with my incandescent shouting at my TV, telling him to “Go!”, Richeze decided it was a great idea to close him down.

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Richeze spoiling my fun

Still miffed about that, but oh well!

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

The Route

Toughest stage of the race so far with two very long climbs, including a summit finish up Mount Etna.

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The first climb of the day, Portella Femmina Morta is an absolute monster in terms of length, coming in at a whopping 32.75km! Gradient wise it’s not so bad, averaging roughly 4.5% for the whole climb.

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It does pitch up to 8% in some areas but it’s certainly not a climb for attacking, just tempo riding all the way to the top.

We then have a reasonably long descent before the first intermediate sprint, which is actually on top of a hill. But I guess the organisers needed to fit it in somewhere! The road then descends again before the second intermediate sprint in Biancavilla.

From there, all focus will turn to Etna and the approach to it.

The riders will be able to stretch their legs on the prelude to the main event, an uncategorised climb from Santa Maria di Licodia to Ragalna. At 6.6km in length and average a shade over 5% it’s not tough, but if the pace is on already then we could see a few riders shed from the peloton here.

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At 17.95km it’s another long climb but it is steeper than the previous climb on the day, averaging 6.6%. However, the most important thing about the climb is its irregularity. There are several sections that go well above the average gradient and the kilometre at almost 12% half way up could be a launch-pad for the proper mountain goats to attack.

Will they go on to take the win though…

How will the stage pan out?

The first mountain top finish of a Tour is a tough one to predict (getting my excuses in early). You would expect Quickstep to honour the jersey, but how deep will they really be willing to go knowing that it might be tough for Jungels at the end of the stage to hold onto it? I’m not sure if they’ll burn all their matches and instead will look to other teams for help.

Who of the GC favourites will want to take the jersey early and spend energy over the following stages protecting it until Blockhaus?

Well, I’m sure Nibali would. The Shark as he is affectionately known is from Sicily itself, but more importantly he is from Messina where we finish stage 5. I’m sure he would love to wear the Maglia Rosa into his home town.

99th Tour of Italy 2016

Will his Bahrain team get any help from anyone else? I’m not so sure, but Sky certainly have the squad here to control the race if they want to. It’s the first time I’ve looked at a Sky team for the Giro and thought that it could match what we have seen at the Tour over the past few years. With a two-pronged threat in Landa and Thomas they have the ability to let one attack while the other sits in.

There is going to be a slight headwind on the climb and that might discourage riders from attacking but given that it’s the first summit finish of a Grand Tour I highly doubt everyone will sit in the wheels!

With it being the first summit finish though and as it comes so early in the race there is a chance we could see an “outsider” win. A rider who is a good top 10 candidate but isn’t seen as an immediate threat for the overall GC.

In that situation there are two riders I have in mind.

Domenico Pozzovivo – The Italian looked very sprightly at the Tour of the Alps and he was a feature at the pointy end of the race in the mountain top finishes. He always seems to wane in the last week of a GT so I imagine he’ll want to take advantage of his current form here. Due to his terrible/atrocious/awful (delete as appropriate) time trial, he probably isn’t viewed as a massive threat for the GC, so he might just be given some leeway.

Tejay van Garderen – He probably would have been the last rider on my list from the GC contenders had you asked 2 weeks ago who I thought would be competing here. However, he was very strong in Romandie and that has changed my mind! Like Pozzovivo, Tejay often is let down by having one bad day at some point during a three-week race so he will want to make the most of his form. He might surprise one or two tomorrow!

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Breakaway Hopes?

There is always a chance that the break stays away on a stage like this. Last year’s race saw Wellens win the first mountain top finish of the Giro. Although that finishing climb was a lot easier, we could still see a similar situation play out tomorrow. I think QS would be quite happy to relinquish jersey duties and as I mentioned above, I’m not so sure many others will want to take over this early.

Therefore, I think it’s a 50-50 split and it’s a tough one to call! Like normal though, I’ll buy a few lottery tickets and name a couple of break contenders.

Rohan Dennis – Bitterly disappointed after his crash on Stage 3, the Aussie says that his GC attempt is all but over. However, he says that he will continue and see how far he can push himself in the race, trying to take some opportunities over the next few weeks. Why not start tomorrow?! He is in very good form at the moment and looked strong in the Tour of the Alps, although he did have one bad day there. Nonetheless, I think if he makes the break it is unlikely that there will be many better riders than him that are up the road as well.

Giovanni Visconti –  Riding for Nibali’s Bahrain team, Visconti may be sent up the road earlier in the day as a ploy to have a man up the road for a Nibali attack. However, if the gap is too big to the breakaway then Visconti himself could challenge for the win. Always lively at this time of year, he’ll be hoping to repeat something similar to his very impressive performance on the Green Mountan in Oman from back in February.

Prediction

I’m looking forward to a good race but I think there is a chance we might see a race on two fronts, with the break taking the stage but there still being some fireworks behind. I’ll go for a feisty Australian to turn things around from the break, Dennis to be a menace and win!

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If not, I think we might see Pozzovivo take a surprise win ahead of the other GC contenders.

Betting

Not a day I can advise backing GC guys before the off, although the EW odds on my two highlighted riders look tempting, it’s just not worth it. The odds won’t change too drastically after the start of the stage so I might go in-play on them if it looks like it will be a GC day, but pre-stage I’m just backing my two breakers;

0.5pt WIN Dennis @ 150/1 with Ladbrokes/Coral (Would take 125/1)

0.5pt WIN Visconti @ 150/1 with Bet365 (Would take 125/1)

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow and how will the stage be won; break or GC? I hope we get an exciting stage either way! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour of the Alps 2017 Stage 3 Preview; Villabassa -> Funes

Another brief preview as this is the third of the day and even though I love cycling, I’m slowly losing the will to live writing this one. Plus, with one route change already, who knows if there might be another tomorrow!

Today’s Recap

Heavy snow fall meant the race was shortened by 60km which may have had an impact on the outcome of the stage at the end of the day. Either way, I was hopelessly wrong again which isn’t good. I haven’t got to grips with this race yet and I don’t like it!

Dennis powered his way home ahead of Pinot and a very impressive ride from Ballerini who got up for third.

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A total of 67 riders finished on the same time as our Aussie winner, which is definitely a lot less selective than I thought it would be.

Swiftly moving on to tomorrow!

The Route

The original route has already been changed once due to snow and that might happen again tomorrow morning!

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They’ve taken out the big climb at the start of the day but we still have the long and steep Alpe Rodengo Zumis to tackle, which crests at just under 40km to go.

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A very tough climb and it will be freezing at the top of it! I wonder if any teams will risk taking up the pace this early?

Once over the summit, we have a long descent followed by around 25km of valley roads before reaching the foot slopes of the final climb of the day.

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Another tough climb, although easier than the previous Alp in the day, the gradients are severe enough for some big time gaps. Especially when you consider the conditions look set to be pretty grim, with a good chance of rain/snow throughout the afternoon.

Contenders

GC day so only the best can compete here;

Scarponi v Pinot v Thomas v Pozzovivo v Dennis v Formolo.

The last rider on that list, Formolo, seems to be the weakest going by form at the moment so I’ll discount him.

Dennis was good today but I’m still not convinced by him on long climbs and the 8.7km test to finish tomorrow is right on his limit. So…

its a no

That leaves us with 4.

I had discounted Pozzovivo at the start of the race, because if I’m honest, I think he’s past his big performances and has never really looked the same after his horror crash in the Giro. However, he looked good on stage 1 but there is a difference between a 3km climb and an almost 9km effort. So he’s out as well!

A fine trio remain.

Scarponi surprised everyone on Stage 1 taking a great sprint win. On that climb he looked composed and relatively comfortable on a stage that really shouldn’t have suited him. The longer efforts are more his forte and he should appreciate tomorrow’s slog to the line.

Pinot was a bit out of position at the start of the climb on stage 1 but slowly made his way back to the attackers, eventually finishing. He then went and improved on that today with a good second place and that trajectory could well continue tomorrow! On a finish like this and in this field, he is probably the rider with the best pedigree.

Thomas will be hoping to change that over the coming weeks though. He has been incredible so far this year and I’m convinced he can podium at the Giro. Strong on stage 1, he just didn’t have enough in the tank to drop everyone. A longer climb may help him fatigue the others before putting in a stinging attack.

Prediction

I’ll go for a Pinot win.

f316c

Just like his namesake wine, the Frenchman is much better when chilled.

Betting

No bet. Odds too tight and the risk of another route change is too high.

Apologies again for this being short, but with the two other previews today, this one was always going to take a hit. Nonetheless, who do you think will win tomorrow’s stage? We might even see another route change in the morning. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour of the Alps 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Kufstein -> Innsbruck

GC Overview

I don’t have enough time to do a proper GC preview but here are a quick few words! Tough course with several stages that end in tricky climbs. Some short and steep but we do have longer, ahem, Alps here too!

So the winner of the race needs to be a very good climber and with a lack of TT, the proper mountain goats will be licking their lips. Sky have the luxury of two contenders with last years winner Landa and Giro contender Thomas. The Spaniard is supposed to be co-leader at the Giro but he’s not offered much this season so will need a big performance here and I think we’ll see just that.

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Pinot has a good chance for FDJ, along with Scarponi who will be Astana’s main hope of picking up a result and I’m also intrigued to see Formolo go for GC in a race without a TT! As for outside top 10 hopefuls I think Busato might sneak into that category. He was 11th last year and although the climbs are a lot tougher in this edition, he seems to be going well at the moment. An 8th place in Appeninno after crashing relatively hard during the race is testament to that. Likewise, Firsanov also crashed hard in that race while in the leading group. After a slow start to the year, the Russian is getting back to the shape he was in here last season, when he managed to finish 4th on GC. The longer climbs will be tough for him, but you never know! I would expect to see Torres up there fighting for a top 5 as well.

I’ll go for a Landa win though.

Right, onto stage 1 now…

The Route

Not exactly an easy day to start the race off with!

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@LasterketaBurua

Rolling terrain mixed in with some steep climbs. The stage is all about the final 25km though.

We have a tough ascent of Schlögelsbach, 3km long and averaging 9.1%, and it’s not even categorised. Tricky enough to put some riders in trouble, it will be interesting to see if any teams decide to take up pace-making duties there.

A technical descent then follows before some more rolling terrain as the riders reach Innsbruck and the final climb up to Hungerburg.

At only 3.6km long there shouldn’t be too many time gaps, but with an average gradient of 7.3% we might see some probing attacks from GC riders. The finish reminds me of the final climb we had at the end of stage 2 last year, although this year it is not as steep!

Contenders

GC rider or a punchy climber? That’s the conundrum I’m dealing with just now. I guess with the start-list we have, there is a lot of crossover between the two!

Thomas and Landa probably start as favourites. Both exceptional climbers, they have the added advantage of being able to pull off a 1-2 punch. With Thomas returning from altitude, it will be interesting to see how he fares on his first day back in the peloton. However, with some tougher stages to come, will they keep their powder dry? Probably not, expect an attacking closing climb from them!

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The finish isn’t ideal for Pinot, yet again, he was 2nd on the stage into Fermo in Tirreno last month. With no Sagan here, he has a much better chance of the win this time round! However, he hasn’t raced since Tirreno so it is yet to be seen where his form is.

Dennis might give it a nudge and in this quality of field, he certainly has a chance of stealing the victory, but I’m not overly convinced. Instead, I think BMC should also let Caruso have the chance to lead the team. The Italian is a criminally underrated domestique who climbs well and has a fast finish. He could well win a sprint to the line from the climbers.

I can’t really see anyone from Astana winning the stage. Scarponi isn’t explosive enough and the climb is probably just too long for Moser. Maybe Luis Leon Sanchez might have a go?!

Formolo definitely offers Cannondale their best chance on this type of terrain. Like many here, the young Italian is building towards the Giro and will want to put in a good performance. He’s been a bit off the boil so far this season but has shown glimpses of what he can do in races like Catalunya. Maybe Villella can even hang on?

This type of finish though does open it up to some riders from the ProConti teams and there are a few I’d like to highlight.

Busato has still to take a professional victory but he was flying in Appennino until the crash. This type of finish looks good for him, although on his limit, and I think he could surprise a few people!

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Firsanov was the first to cross the line behind Landa on Stage 2 of this race last, which had a very similar finish compared to tomorrow’s climb. As I mentioned above, he’s been poor this year so far, but his form seems to be heading in the right direction. Not someone to be properly marked, he has a good shot at taking the stage win.

Finally, relatively unknown rider Danilo Celano is worth a mention. He was the eventual winner of Appennino, flying up the final climb. Riding here for the Italian national team, if he’s retained any of that form then he is a proper dark horse for the win. Keep an eye on him!

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Prediction

I’ll go for none of the above though and instead opt for young Colombian sensation Egan Bernal to take the victory.

After making his breakthrough performance at this race last year, winning the young riders classification, he’s continued his development with some great results this year. The explosive, steep gradients of the finish climb suit him well and he has a handy sprint after a tough climb, if a group of 3 or so arrive at the summit together.

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Betting

No GC bet, so just stage 1 picks all with Bet365;

4pts Bernal to beat Pozzovivo  @5/4 (he was 11/8 but I was waiting for stage odds, would take down to 10/11 lowest)

 

 

Thanks as always for reading as always! Who do you think will win the opening stage? Will we see a lesser known rider take the spoils? I hope to see an attacking/exciting finale. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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

Today’s Recap

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

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A prelude for next weekend?

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

 

The Route

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

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

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

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

Weather

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

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Forecast for San Benedetto del Tront (Source: WindfinderWindfinder)

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

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

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Source: Sheldonbrown.com

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

Contenders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction

The best short TTer in the World wins this!

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

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

Betting

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

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

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

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

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Tirreno Adriatico 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Camaiore -> Pomarance

Today’s Recap

Easy win for BMC in the end!

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I did say Team Sky were my outsiders if something crazy happened, but I did not expect a wheel explosion! It was an awful TT for them, with Landa and Rosa also suffering punctures, resulting in them losing 1 minute 42 seconds on the day. They’ll have to have an attacking race to salvage something now.

Could tomorrow offer an opportunity? Let’s take a look.

The Route

A long, long day in the saddle for the riders at 228km. Good practice for Milan – San Remo I guess though?!

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Nothing really happens in the first 120km of the stage but once they’re into the final 100km the road is up and down all day.

The longest climb of the day is up to Volterra.

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9.85km in length, it averages 4.45% in gradient so not overly difficult. It will be interesting to see if any team comes to the front and increases the pace.

After that, we have a descent followed by some valley roads before we reach our penultimate climb of the day. There’s no official information in the road book about it, but I’ve managed to locate the Strava segment (I think!). View it here.

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It’s 4.4km long, averaging 5.2% in gradient. However, as you can see, the climb itself is very irregular with some ramps above 15%. Cresting at just over 20km to go, will it be a launchpad for an attack?

Another fast descent follows as we head to our uphill finish in Pomarance.

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A punchy finish is what I’d certainly call it; a few steep ramps separated by a lot of false flat. It’s the same finishing town that we had last year, with Stybar winning, but it’s a slightly different finale this time round.

How will the race pan out?

This stage in theory could suit a multitude of riders, with the likes of Sagan and EBH potentially fancying their chances at the line. However, I think after the events that we saw today, tomorrow will be a much more explosive and attacking day than initially thought.

Late attack? Reduced sprint? Group of 5 or so get away? They’re all possibilities!

Sky will be really bitter and embarrassed after today and with almost being out of the race already they will have to change their approach to a more aggressive one. Not something they’re used to! I reckon they’ll get Kiryienka to set a fairly tough pace on the penultimate two climbs to try and get rid of the fast finishers such as Sagan and co. Or at least some of their squad mates.

So in my scenario we might have a peloton of 75 riders or so approaching the run in to Pomarance and then we get some fireworks.

I’m going to do my usual in this situation where the stage outcome is tough to call and name a few riders and how they can win it…

Mattia Cattaneo.

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The Italian has started the season very well with his new team, picking up the win in the final stage of La Provence. He was on the attack again in Industria mid-week, but could only manage 4th there. Nonetheless, he still seems to be on good shape! As part of the Androni squad, no doubt Giani Savio will be demanding that his riders are attacking throughout the stage. They’ll put someone in the break but save Cattaneo and Gavazzi for the end of the day. It would be bad for the peloton to underestimate him when he makes his move in the final 5km!

Rohan Dennis.

The rider who finished second on the stage Cattaneo won in La Provence, Dennis managed to hold on for the overall title. He seemed in scintillating form today in the TTT so he should manage this climb easily. Apparently he wants to be a legitimate second GC option here for them, so a win and some bonus seconds would help his cause! With his TT prowess, if he gets a 10 second gap then he will be tough to reel back in. Also, if the race is made too tough for GVA (will need to be ridiculously fast paced), then he will be the teams sprint option.

Diego Rosa.

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As I mentioned above, Sky will not be very happy after today and will want an immediate response. With 4 potential options on a stage like this, I imagine Rosa will actually be the one least marked. He is a brute of a rider and is capable of riding away from everyone behind on the tougher lower slopes of the climb. With a lack of co-ordination behind he could manage to hold on!

Prediction

I’ll go for an outsider from a favourites team, Rohan Dennis to win!

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Betting

After today’s big stakes, I don’t want to get overly involved in tomorrow’s stage. Swithered about going EW but have decided against it!

Dennis 0.6pt WIN @ 100/1 with Betfair/PP (Would take 80s)

Rosa 0.6pt WIN @ 50/1 with Bet365 (Would take 33s)

Cattaneo 0.3pt WIN @ 66/1 with Betfair/PP

 

Thanks for reading like always! How do you think tomorrow is going to play out? I’m hoping for an exciting last 100km. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Tour Down Under 2017 – GC Preview

Tour Down Under 2017 – GC Preview

The curtain raiser for this year’s cycling calendar will once again be the Tour Down Under, a race which I’ve grown fond over the past few years. I’m not sure if that’s because we’ve been starved of action over the winter break or if it is becoming one of the more exciting races of the season. Probably a mixture of both, if not slightly more the former!

Nonetheless, the organisers have made a few tweaks to the normal parcours and we have what is arguably the toughest TdU route in history. So let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders over the coming week.

The Route

Stage 1 sees the riders tackle 145km from Unley to Lyndoch.

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Three laps around a large finishing circuit with a few hills could create a surprise. However, with the gradients being so small on these climbs and only 1,600m of elevation gain, then this should be one for the sprinters. With a very simple-run in, this should be a fast finish to the opening road stage!

Stage 2 is the Queen stage of this years TDU in terms of climbing metres, seeing the riders return to the finish in Paracombe that Rohan Dennis won back in 2015.

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The laps around Stirling will certainly sap the legs before the tough finale. Unlike 2015, the riders approach the climb differently and the road actually heads upwards for around 10kms, with the main section before the climb to Paracombe itself coming in at 3.9km averaging  4%. Could this make all the difference? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, but expect some fireworks!

Stage 3 sees the peloton head south from Adelaide towards Victor Harbor.

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Potential cross-winds and a committed team could see a GC shake up. A tired peloton could be put under stress on the closing circuit’s climbs (1.7km at 2.5% and 1.3km at 3.7%) but it should end in some type of bunch sprint.

Stage 4 is an up and down day and actually has the second largest amount of elevation gain at the TdU.

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Nonetheless it should be a sprint at the end of the stage, but it could be the only breakaway day we get if no one wants to work behind. Interestingly, the finish kicks up at around 2.1% average for the final kilometre.

Stage 5 and the traditional stage finish up Willunga Hill.

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Nothing else to say really, this stage is all about that 6-7 minute effort at the end.

Stage 6 once again sees the race close with a 90km criterium around Adelaidescreen-shot-2017-01-14-at-15-46-43

I can’t wait for the couple of sheer walls that the riders face 😉. Also, this is just one lap as I have neither the time nor patience to repeat the route 20 times! We might see some GC riders go for time bonuses if the race is that close but this stage is all about the sprinters as you’d expect. Who’ll close the race with a win?

So overall it is a tougher race than previous years but it’s still very much in the balance between the proper climbers and the puncheurs. Willunga is tough, but ultimately it is only a 7 minute effort and the same goes for Paracombe. There are no 30 minute climbs here on which the really light guys can make a massive difference, this race will once again come down to seconds and I expect the top 10 to be separated by no more than a minute. Who’s going to be in contention for the title then?

GC Contenders

Richie Porte (a.k.a The King of Willunga) is the favourite and rightly so.

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He’s untouchable on that climb when in good form and he will find the extra climbing before Paracombe to his liking. The problem with Richie is that he doesn’t have the ability to pick up bonus seconds elsewhere and that the steeper gradients of Paracombe aren’t his cup of tea. Nonetheless, if he is in form then he should win on Willunga and possibly podium up to Paracombe which should be enough to win the race. However, we don’t know where his form is at due to him skipping Nationals. If he really wants to challenge at the Tour de France, is it not too early to be at 90% here? Hmmm, it could go either way with him! Supporting him will be Rohan Dennis who is capable of taking up the leadership role if Porte isn’t at the top-level.

Orica come in with two leaders; Esteban Chaves and Simon Gerrans. This will be the Colombian’s first time racing in Australia and he’ll be competing at the Herald Sun Tour later in the month. This route would be ideal for him if he was in top form but I get the feeling that this could be more of a PR stunt from him and the team. Instead, it will be Gerrans who will lead the main charge for Orica as he looks to pick up his 5th Overall victory here. This will be the last chance to do so as he finally appears to be dwindling as a rider going by his form last year. I’m not convinced he can manage it but he’s sure to leave everything on the road! Plus it is January and we are in Australia so you never know!

Sky also come into the race with a two-pronged attack of Geraint Thomas and Sergio Henao. The latter was 3rd overall here last year and I’d expect him to be their main rider again, although Thomas may stretch is legs at some point. Henao is the main challenger to Porte in my opinion.

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The other rider in the above photo is also a contender for this race, Michael Woods. After coming to the sport late, he took a breakthrough 3rd place on Willunga last year. If he’s improved from then he can certainly contend once again this year, plus he’s been putting in some impressive rides on Strava. Will that translate to results? I’m not so sure as he still seems to be lacking the tactical awareness needed for bike racing, but hey, if he can ride everyone off his wheel then he doesn’t need to!

I can’t see Sagan doing anything GC wise here, instead his teammate McCarthy looked very strong and more importantly lean at the Bay Crits and Road Nats and certainly could contend.

Aside from these guys, it is a fairly open field and I do think there is a chance that an outsider could sneak onto the podium so in MyTwoSpokesWorth tradition I’ll highlight 3 to watch out for.

(There is a slight bias as 2 of them are in my Fantasy Team for this season. This may be a recurring theme and I can only apologise 😜)

Nathan Haas.

Vuelta a Burgos 2016  stage 4

Another who was testing his legs at the Bay Crits and took 3rd place at the Road Nats. He seems really fired up for this and it’s his main goal early on in the year before taking a break and going to the Giro. A bit of a stop start season in 2016, his performances in Canada looked a return to form and he seems to have continued that over the Australian summer. Not the best natural climber in the field, he’ll need a bit of luck to go his way but I wouldn’t write him off! His fast kick could be crucial to pick up bonus seconds.

Petr Vakoc is the second of my fantasy riders and there’s good reason for that; he’s an incredible talent!

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After an OK TdU last year, his opening to the European season was amazing. Having been out in Australia since before New Year he seems fired up to lead Etixx at the first race of the season. A proper brute of a rider, his strength should see him be able to match some of the lighter climbers and with a Tour de France now in his legs he should be even better this year. I’m intrigued more than anything to see what he can do.

My final rider is one had a solid year and I was very impressed with on several occasions but his results didn’t quite show it; Jan Bakelants. Top 20 in the Vuelta followed some good showings in the Tour he just didn’t take any big wins. Like Vakoc, he was very strong at the start of the European cycling calendar and I’m hoping that will translate to something here!

Prediction

A toss-up between Porte and Henao for the win I think and it’s quite tough to call. Porte could well be peaking for the Tour but will want to make a statement here and Henao hasn’t raced since the Olympics so both of their form really is unknown. I’ll go for the King of Willunga himself to take the win, with Haas rounding out the podium!

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I just hope the racing is exciting and unpredictable as it could potentially be! Although saying that, easy stages make my job easier. 😏

Betting

I distanced myself from GC betting towards the end of last year and it’s something I’ll probably be doing this year too. Nonetheless, I think there is a bit of value in small stake punts on my 3 outsiders.

0.1pt EW Vakoc @80/1 with various bookmakers (would go to 66/1)

0.1pt EW Haas @ 66/1 with Bet365 (would go to 50/1)

0.1pt EW Bakelants @ 80/1 with Bet365 (would go to 66/1).

 

Thanks everyone for reading, it’s good to be back! Any shares/RTs would be much appreciated as usual and any feedback via Twitter is always more than welcome. Who do you think will win? Does an outsider have a chance of sneaking onto the podium? I shall be doing daily previews of the stages, aside from the People’s Choice Crit as I have no time for that! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Men’s ITT World Championship Preview – Doha 2016

Men’s ITT World Championship Preview – Doha 2016

The final time trial of the Championships is upon us and it’s time for the Elite men to go up against the clock.

In 2015 we had a relatively surprising winner in the form of Vasil Kiryienka. Surprising in the sense that it wasn’t one of the Big 3 (Dumoulin/Dennis/Martin) but considering Kiryienka came 4th at the final TT in the Vuelta and is known for his big engine, then not so much.

World Championships - Mens TT

The rest of the podium was against all predictions too, as Malori and Coppel finished 2nd and 3rd respectively, with Castroviejo coming 4th. The Big 3 only managed 5-7th places, all finishing over a minute down. They’ll be out for revenge here!

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

The Route

The men will cover the same route as the trade teams did for the TTT on Sunday.

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Starting at the Lusail Sports Complex, the riders will be faced with a fairly technical 14km section that they could struggle to find a rhythm in due to the relatively short sections and several obstacles (roundabouts/90-degree corners etc) in their way. However, as we saw in the TTT, a lot of these corners can be taken at speed with the correct line.

They then make their way south along a very exposed, straight highway. It will be possible for the riders to maintain a high speed if the wind is in their favour! Once into the outskirts of the city the road gets a bit more sweeping but nothing major of note. They then complete a truncated lap around the Pearl, missing out the east section that we saw today, before reaching the finish line.

Weather Watch

Once again, the riders will be faced with very hot conditions and a bit of a breeze.

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Forecast for Qatar University – 2nd intermediate time check. (Windfinder)

The wind isn’t overly strong and as we saw today, the speed and direction can change pretty quickly in this part of the world. If we do get a correct forecast, then the riders will have a cross-tailwind for the long section in the middle of the desert. Expect very fast times if that’s the case!

With the riders setting off at 1’30 intervals and there being no wave system, there’s only an hour and 40 minutes between the first and last rider to set off, then changeable conditions won’t be as much of an issue as they should all get similar weather out on course. Therefore there isn’t an obvious advantage for the early or late starts respectively. But as I’ve said above, the desert wind can change very quickly so who knows!

The start times for the riders can be found here.

Contenders

Where else to start than with the Big 3?

Rohan Dennis comes here as the bookies favourite and will be confident after his convincing win at the Eneco Tour. However, that TT was only over 10km, this is TT is four times that length. It is in the longer TTs that Dennis suffers but this one isn’t long by World Championship standards and the Aussie will be hopeful here. I’m just not convinced by his lack of consistency over this distance to be confident in him. Watch him prove me wrong now!

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Tom Dumoulin has continued on from where he left off in his breakthrough 2015 season, managing to wear the leader’s jersey at the Giro and win two stages at the Tour, along with winning a silver medal at the Olympics. Not bad! His form has been a bit patchy as of late but he was 4th on the Queen stage of Eneco which is a good indicator and he looked solid in the TTT too. He’s definitely not a right off like some people may suggest.

Tony Martin was instrumental in Etixx winning the TTT on Sunday and he looks back to his best after changing his position on the bike and reverting back to his old technique. Picking up his first win of the season at the Tour of Britain really helped him, it’s amazig what a bit of confidence can do! This type of flat, power-based parcours is ideal for the Panzerwagen and he’ll be gunning for victory. Second favourite with the bookmakers, he certainly has a very good chance!

2016 EQS Camp - Calpe, Spain

As for the rest?

You can’t rule out Kiryienka on a course like this, although he would prefer it longer. But after his poor 2016 season he’s made no indication of a turnaround in form for here so I can’t see him retaining his crown.

Castroviejo is probably the main challenger to the Big 3. On the back of winning the European Championships, he was left disappointed in the TTT after having to make a bike change early on. Having “Vuelta legs” could help him if he’s managed to sustain that form and he’s certainly one to keep an eye on.

There are a handful of other riders who could challenge for a medal if the others fall by the wayside; Bialoblocki, Phinney, Lampaert, Jungels and Oliveira.

I don’t really rate the chances of Bodnar, Durbridge and Van Emden. Contrary to the bookies who have them priced up as 7/8/9th favourites. Bodnar and Van Emden normally don’t go well over this distance and Durbridge was suffering in the TTT, plus has struggled in long TTs recently.

Prediction

Despite his slightly off the boil form recently, I think Tom Dumoulin will win this. He was going well towards the end of Eneco and looked good in the TTT. He is one of the most fluid riders on a TT bike that I’ve witnessed in my short 10 years of following cycling. He’s like poetry in motion! The distance is also very good for him too; a perfect balance for his speed/endurance abilities. He’s not been loud and brash about his form either, in fact playing it down at times, but he’s quietly confident of going well and I am too!

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I think Dennis will go out too hard and blow up later on in the race and we’ll have Castroviejo sneak onto the podium again, with Martin finishing 2nd.

Betting

I have to admit, the odds swayed this prediction slightly. Even with questionable form, no way should both Dennis and Martin be under 2/1, while Dumoulin is 3-4 times that price in most places.

1.5pt WIN Dumoulin @ 8/1 with Betfair Sportsbook (take the 6/1 with B365, or I’d even go down to the 11/2 available elsewhere)

I’ve also backed this H2H 4-fold with Bet365.

0.5pt on at 6.43/1

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Thanks again for reading! The blog recently hit over 20,000 views which is incredible 🙂 Who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone beat the top 3 and am I being optimistic with Dumoulin? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Eneco Tour Stage 2 Preview: Breda -> Breda

Today’s Recap

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more chaotic sprint on what was a relatively simple, straight run in! Teams hit the front in ones and twos and there was no real cohesion in the final few kilometres. Out of the mess, it was Groenewegen who followed the correct wheel and timed his effort excellently to take the stage win. He’s had a spectacular season!

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It was Bouhanni who had the fastest closing speed after getting squeezed out ever so slightly, and he managed to get up for 2nd place, with Sagan bagging 3rd. As for Nizzolo he opened up the sprint too early, managing to hold on for 6th. Whereas Greipel was disappointing and never really got involved. He lost the wheel here (at around 800m to go) and that was his sprint over.

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As he’s gotten older he seems to lack the desire to get involved in messy situations and that was clearly highlighted today.

Anyway, moving on to tomorrow’s stage!

The Route

A pan-flat, out and back route around Breda. Another stage with not much to say, I think this section will be short and sweet!

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It’s the exact same TT course that was used back in 2014, and on that day Tom Dumoulin was victorious with a time of 10’55, averaging 52.7km/h. That gives you an idea what the course is like!

It’s one for the specialists, with there only being a few corners where the riders have to properly slow down. Although saying that, the course is just longer than what would be classed as prologue distance and with it being an 11 minute effort, a few unusual names may sneak into the top 10.

Thankfully for the riders, the conditions look to be similar all day so there’s no need for a #WeatherWatch.

The Big 3

For a stage like this there are 3 big favourites.

Tom Dumoulin, winner in 2014, would normally start as the favourite for this stage. In fact, he more than likely will! However, he doesn’t seem to perform at his best in short TTs, he’s a lot better at the longer stuff where gauging your effort counts for a lot more than pure power. Saying that, he could quite easily go on to win here. Either way, it will be close!

Tony Martin was win-less this year (not including Nat Champs) up until the recent Tour of Britain TT where he beat Dumoulin and Dennis over a short, 15km course. Brimming with confidence, he won’t expect anything less than a win on a profile that suits him down to the ground. The only question mark with him is that he’s not been consistent this year.

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The final member of the trio, Rohan Dennis, will equally fancy his chances here. The Aussie had a pretty poor opening half of the year. In fact, he hasn’t been that good all year but he did look incredibly strong in Britain. One of his problems in long TTs is that he goes out too fast at times, that won’t be an issue tomorrow. Building form the Worlds, don’t be surprised if he makes a statement here!

Can Anyone Else Compete?

The best candidate to make it onto the podium would be Ion Izagirre. His time trialling has greatly improved this year and he’ll be looking for a big result. The only concern is that he doesn’t seem to go well on purely flat courses.

His team-mate Nelson Oliveira is another who could well cause a surprise. He performed a good TT at the recent Euro Champs, finishing 4th. It’s hard to tell how good he will be tomorrow, as he often isn’t allowed to go full gas on a short TT but the form is certainly there. Alex Dowsett will find the course design to his liking, but it’s probably too short for him!

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Talking about team-mates who could go well, Dennis has two of those in the shape of Phinney and Küng. The American was on track for a good time at the ToB TT but crashed because of the rain. The short course should suit his powerful nature. Likewise, it will suit Küng too who is a former world champion on the track in the individual pursuit.

Jos Van Emden will hope to repeat his TT win from last year. But his form is an unknown as he’s not done anything of note in the final third of this year and pulled out of the Vuelta.

Thomas will probably be in or around the top 10, as will Kelderman and Boom.

Now for those surprises I mentioned earlier…

Edvald Boasson Hagen.

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He absolutely decimated the field in Qatar earlier this year in a flat TT and back in his HTC days he was a very good short TTer. If he’s building form for the end of the season like he did in 2015, he should be firing on all cylinders here, with a free-role looking likely in Qatar. A scary thought, he is an incredible rider. His long sprint today gave a glimpse at how he’s going, and I think the answer to that is well!

When mentioning incredible riders, you can’t leave out Peter Sagan!

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Wins the European Championship one day, sprints to third the following day. Why not compete in a short TT too? Gearing up to defend his World Champions Jersey, he’s at the Eneco Tour chasing World Tour points so he can win that competition as well. He’s not known for his time trialling, but this is the best I think I’ve ever seen him perform and he could well pull a result out the bag. Sorry Edvald, but that’s a scary thought! Remember back to his TT at the Tour of California last year, I expect something very similar from him tomorrow. Watch this space!

*Or don’t, as he crumbles and finishes in 27th*

Prediction

More than likely it will be between the big three, but there is always room for a surprise or two.

Martin has the form (recent win), Dumoulin has course form and home advantage. So yep, as you may have guessed, I’m going for neither of them. Dennis to win! I really liked the way he was riding at ToB and this short course is to his benefit. The beacons are lit, and Rohan will answer!

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Betting

Almost tempted by an EW on Sagan (100s) and Izagirre (50s) but it’s an official no stage bet.

I do like this H2H 4-fold though.

1pt on at 12.93/1.

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Thanks again for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and can anyone upset the big 3? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.