Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 5 Preview; Skydive Dubai › City Walk

Today’s Recap

That was exciting!

For a while it looked as if the peloton had misjudged the catch of the breakaway but the dreams of McNulty taking the race lead turned to heartbreak as he was swallowed up on the Hatta Dam climb itself.

Colbrelli shot out of the pack; beating a fast finishing Cort Nielsen into second who himself just edged out a surprisingly good Roosen who came home in third.

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However, the time gaps were not as big as expected and the first 13 riders across the line were granted the same time. Consequently, that means Viviani still holds the lead going into the final day with Cort Nielsen 2 seconds back and Colbrelli 4 in arrears. Bouhanni is realistically the only other rider who can challenge as he is 8 seconds back but there are a few others within striker distance if something crazy happens.

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

The Route

The organisers have left the most technical of finishes this week until the final stage. Although saying that, we’re in Dubai so it isn’t that bad!

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It will be interesting to see if the break survives for both of the intermediate sprints as the bonus seconds could be vital in the end for GC.

The main challenge the teams will face is two right-hand turn in the closing kilometres.

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It is the exact same finish that we had last year so the riders should know what to expect. The first turn at 1.2km to go sees the road narrow down through the corner itself, before opening back up into several lanes again. However, the pace should be on at this point and I’d be surprised to see the peloton more than three riders wide.

From there, it is a sprint to the final right hand turn with roughly 400m to go.

Having a lead-out man in front of the sprinter is crucial so that they can push on and not leave the sprinter at the head of the peloton too early. That is kind of what happened last year and there was a bit of a stall as the guys at the front didn’t want to open up their effort too far out.

A strong train can certainly dominate this finale but they have to be careful of teams dive-bombing the closing 750m.

Sprinters

I think we’ve seen almost every sprinter here have some kind of reasonable run at the finish on the few stages they’ve had so far. The sprints themselves have been chaotic and different riders have looked strong/weak depending on the day and their luck with getting a clean sprint.

Tomorrow’s stage looks like the one that can be controlled well with the peloton naturally being strung out throw the turns. Yet, with the amount of sprinters interested then it could well become chaotic again.

So without wanting to repeat and rehash what I have written on the first 3 days, I’m just going to skip the rest of the broad sprinter overview out.

Prediction

I’ll give Kristoff another chance tomorrow.

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He’s looked good throughout the race but he’s one of the riders who I think hasn’t managed to sprint at 100% yet; there has always been something hindering him. His performance on the Dam today was very impressive considering that he is one of the heavier sprinters here so the early season form is definitely there. Ganna and Consonni will have to arrive late with him and drop him on the wheel of the best lead-out (probably QS) but he certainly has every chance. One thing that might work in his favour is that he won’t be concerned with going for any intermediate sprint points as it is very unlikely he would win GC.

Betting

A stinker of a week so far but Viviani currently leads the GC which might salvage it and make it just a poor week. Unless of course big Alex steps up…

1pt EW Kristoff @ 28/1 (would take 20)

Also, Bet365 are offering a cash out on Viviani for 12pts off of the 3pts stake which I am tempted to take but that’s not my style. All or nothing!

Can’t wait for it to all go up in smoke tomorrow!

Thanks as always for reading! Apologies this is shorter than normal but I don’t think I’d enjoy writing a repeat run-down of the same sprinters and I’m sure you wouldn’t enjoy reading it. I might have an Il Laigueglia preview out tomorrow but don’t hold me to that. If not, I’ll be back with either Algarve or Andalucia, or maybe both. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 4 Preview; Skydive Dubai › Hatta Dam

Apologies once again for no stage 3 preview but I didn’t have the time to write one.

Today’s Recap

We got some echelon action with around 70km left in the stage but the section of road was too short for any meaningful gaps to be made. Things regrouped and with the break caught, we had a long final 50km as everyone looked at each other.

Once again, we had a fairly chaotic sprint as things ebbed and flowed in the bunch in the closing three kilometres. In the end though, it was Cavendish who took the spoils after a masterful display of positioning saw him move up at just the right time, before he delivered a powerful sprint to win fairly comfortably in the end.

Bouhanni finished a rather surprising second, with stage favourite Kittel third.

A time penalty for Groenewegen sees Viviani as the new GC leader but it is all to play for tomorrow with the famous Hatta Dam finish. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Billed as the GC stage, will the sprinters be able to hold onto the puncheurs?

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A stage that is once again back-ended with action, we could possibly see some fireworks earlier in the day though…

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We saw one split in the peloton today due to the crosswinds as they headed North-East through the desert and we could well see the same tomorrow. The 30km section from before Al Madam to just after Al Malahia is mainly exposed desert road such as in the image below.

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The forecast isn’t for crazily high wind speeds, but it is set to be similar to what we had today at roughly 20-25km/h. When the pace is on and with there no real protection at all (aside from some “mountains” on their left), it is easier than you would expect for some gaps to open. I’m not banking on echelons, but I have my hopes!

It will be interesting to see if any team does try to cause some issues, bring back the break and go for the bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint point with roughly 70km to go. Looking at you Quick Step.

The road gradually rises after that but it is nothing to worry the sprinters too much. If we haven’t had any splits in the wind, then this stage is all about the final 20kms.

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Ignore the little double kicker up the Dam wall, I’m not too sure what happened there!

It’s the same approach that we’ve had in the past couple of years and it is possible for some riders to be disengaged on the two climbs we have on the run in.

The average for the first climb is 3.5% for 5kms which is enough to see an upping of the pace and a draining of the sprinters legs. If this was mid-season, then I’d say that all of the sprinters here would get over it but with it being so early in the year, I’m not sure they all will; especially with the final 700m at 9%.

Next is a quick descent and another kicker that should be dealt with easily due to the speed they carry. It is then over to the climb of the Dam Wall itself to decide the day.

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Just over 30 seconds of pure hurt the Wall lends itself both to good climbers, puncheurs and we’ve even seen sprinters go well here, i.e. Degenkolb’s win in 2015 and Kittel finishing 4 seconds back in 2016.

Positioning going into the climb is key and you really want to be in the first 10 riders at the very least if you want to post a good time/result. So no doubt we’ll see a big battle for control in the closing kilometres before the right-hand turn.

Contenders

Pfffft.

The beauty of this stage is the wide variety of riders who could go well here. Just look at the top 10 the past two times the race finished here.

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2015 (PCS)
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2016 (PCS)

There seems to be no real formula as to who the winner might be. We don’t really have a Lobato style rider here who stands out as an ideal candidate.

Plus, when you throw the potential of crosswinds into the mix tomorrow, then it makes it even more difficult to predict. So I’m just going suggest a non-exhaustive list of riders who might have a chance.

Dylan Teuns.

If he’s in good shape at the moment (a big if as he’s not been tested so far) then the Dam finish is great for the BMC rider. Last season was a breakthrough year for him and he seems to finally be living up to the promise he showed back in 2015. Third place at Fleche highlights his ability to go well on the steep stuff but I’m unsure if he’s explosive enough for this type of effort, but who know. Arguably the stage favourite, he might struggle to get a big enough gap to win the GC.

John Degenkolb.

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Winner in 2015, this is the stage he and Trek have been eyeing up all week. Starting his season off in flying form winning two races in Mallorca, he’s struggled a bit this week against stronger competition. Nonetheless, with the sprint stages being shared about, he still has a chance of a good overall position if he wins tomorrow. Is he back to his 2015 level? I don’t know, but we’ll get a good indication tomorrow. He could quite easily be first or twentieth!

Elia Viviani.

Yup, my man for GC gets a mention here. If Degenkolb can win, Nizzolo finish second and Kittel not too far back either, then I see no reason as to why Viviani can’t challenge here tomorrow. He’s arguably been one of the best riders in this early season and has good form at the moment. Given the climb is more of a 30-40 second power test then Viviani might be up there, especially if he repeats the numbers he did in the closing sprint in Cadel’s Race. Another thing that gives Viviani a good chance is his team. The result tomorrow is 30% positioning at the foot of the climb and Quick Step have been great at that so far. They just need to deliver the Italian at the bottom of the slope and let him go full gas.

Sonny Colbrelli.

Similar to Degenkolb in many ways, Colbrelli likes a sprint at the end of a tough day. The climbing during the stage tomorrow won’t be of any difficulty to him and he’ll fancy his chances on the rise to the finish. A winner of Brabantse Pijl and a contender in Amstel, it will be interesting to see how he goes on an 18% ramp, not an 8% one! He’s quite slight for a sprinter and that might be a big advantage tomorrow.

Nacer Bouhanni.

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The “Wongshot™” of these five he impressed me with his sprint on today’s stage. Now, like Colbrelli and Viviani, Bouhanni is one of the lighter sprinters that we have in the peloton which should help with tomorrow’s “w/Kg – 30 second sprint test” that the riders will face. He’s performed well on hill-top finishes in the Vuelta in the past so he’s not one to discount. My only concern is that his team isn’t the best at positioning and he’s pretty awful in the crosswinds himself. This was clear today when he was gapped in the small split we had and that it is not ideal expending unnecessary energy in the tougher stage we have tomorrow.

Prediction

No idea but I’m going to go with the man in form who’s already shown his strong 30 second sprint potential over the past month, and with a strong team that will position him well in any crosswinds and in the run to the bottom of the climb.

Vai vai Viviani!

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Betting

Was tempted to leave it after my horror few days and considering Viviani is leading GC, but where is the fun in that?!

1pt EW Viviani @ 18/1 with Bet365. (would take down to 14/1)

 

Thanks for reading as always! I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s stage and I hope we see some crosswind action to make the earlier part of the stage exciting. Who do you think will win? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 2 Preview; Skydive Dubai › Ras al Khaimah

Today’s Recap

Well that was messy!

It looked as if QuickStep had everything under control but they got swamped at roughly 2km to go. They then reasserted their dominance going under the Flamme Rouge and looked to have Viviani in prime position. However, Jumbo delivered Groenewegen at just the right time and caught Viviani napping. The Dutchman held his line well, tactically using the barriers to block the QS rider off. He didn’t have it all his own way though, as Cort Nielsen pushed him all the way to the line and the finish was much closer than I originally thought given the camera’s focus on the Groenewegen/Viviani battle.

In the end, Groenewegen won it with a bike lunge, beating Cort Nielsen into second, with Viviani trailing home in third.

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Everyone else was a mile behind all things considered but it will be interesting to se if we have the same top 3 tomorrow.

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

The Route

Flat, again, but what do you expect?

Another day that will all be about the battle in the final 10kms.

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The exact same finish as last year, the first big battle will be to the left hand turn at 1.5km to go. It sweeps around enough that the peloton should be stretched out once they exit and head towards the flamme rouge.

There is enough time here for teams further back to come up, but they need to do it fairly fast as at roughly 800m to go there is a roundabout which stretches things out again.

Being in the first 15 riders here is important for a good stage result.

After that, the road bends around to the right, with the shortest line obviously being the inside hogging the barriers. Or you could just do what Kittel did last year and power down the middle!

What Can We Take From Stage 1?

The Good.

  • Groenewegen’s short but sharp train that delivered him to the front at exactly the right moment. Roosen did a great job to weave through the QS bunch, which Groenewegen then followed up with a great bit of tactical sprinting, giving Viviani just enough room on the barriers for it to be safe, but not too much so that he had a chance of coming round.
  • QuickStep as a whole looked great and seemed to be in control of the closing kilometres. They only lost that control at two points; ~2km out and 750m to go. Unfortunately, that gave Jumbo the opportunity to come through and put Viviani in difficulty. If they do the same as today in stage 2, then Viviani has every chance of going better.
  • Cort Nielsen’s solo escapades. After more than half his team was taken down by a crash, the Dane had to fly solo in the closing kilometres and it seemed to serve him well. He took advantage of Jumbo’s jump to the front, but was impeeded when Roosen pulled over. MCN swerved to the side (a bit dramatically I hasten to add) and it might have been that swerve that cost him the stage.

The Bad.

  • Kittel’s chain. It looked as if the German was in a good position but in swerving to avoid MCN, he seemed to jump his chain and that completely ruined his chances. Katusha were a bit over the place in the lead in, but I was impressed with Haller who found Kittel again to deliver him back near the head of the race.
  • Cavendish losing his team-mates wheel. An amateur mistake from the experienced rider who couldn’t hold the back wheel of Renshaw in the run closing kilometre after being outmuscled by what looked like Adam Blythe. Possibly a confidence issue for the Manxman after his Tour crash?

The Ugly.

  • The spill at over 3km to go which made an already nervous peloton even more twitchy.
  • All of the argy-bargy in the bunch in the closing kilometres, but I guess that is what you would expect when the roads are so wide and we have so many world class sprinters here trying to move around.

Prediction

Hmmm.

The first two riders on the podium today were strong, but I get the feeling we only saw Viviani sprinting at 90% as he was hindered by Groenewegen. He appeared as if he was itching to get past the Dutchman but he just couldn’t find the road to do it.

Furthermore, Kittel can’t be discounted as he was in a prime position to strike today but was just unlucky with his mechanical.

Therefore, I actually think it will be a Viviani v Kittel showdown, despite what we saw today.

QS have the better train and after messing up today, Viviani will want to put things right tomorrow, especially when you consider it is his birthday. He’s shown in the Tour Down Under and Cadel’s Race the raw speed that he has; it’s just about him being able to put it into practice.

Yet, of the brief glimpse we saw of Kittel today I just have a hunch he’s going very well at the moment. He was powerful enough to effectively give himself a mechanical after all! That won’t happen happen tomorrow though, and he’ll storm horm for the win, just pipping his old team to the line, with Groenewegen coming home in third.

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Betting

A complete blowout today which is not ideal. Viviani at least took some bonus seconds for the GC hunt and he has looked strong.

Going back in with a H2H double though;

3pts on Kittel ov Cav & Viviani ov Groenewegen @ 1.64/1 with Bet365

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be a similar front three to the opening stage or will some other names appear at the top of the order. As for my stage 3 preview, I’m unsure what it will comprise of. I’m away visiting my sister at Uni, so I won’t have too much time to do anything but I’ll try to get something out. If not, I’ll give some thoughts on Twitter and be back for the Hatta Dam stage! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Skydive Dubai › Palm Jumeirah

Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Skydive Dubai › Palm Jumeirah

GC Overview

The annual battle in the desert between the sprinters returns this week with 5th edition of the Dubai Tour, and boy, do we have a strong field here!

Kittel, Cavendish, Viviani, Groenewegen, Degenkolb/Nizzolo, Kristoff, Bouhanni, Mareczko, Cort Nielsen and Colbrelli all will start the race, and they’ll all hope to get one over their rivals early on in the year.

Since the change in format after the 2014 edition (that had a TT to open), the GC battle has often came down to the sprinters being able to pick up bonus seconds coupled with their ability to follow home the puncheurs on the Hatta Dam. 2015 and 2016 saw Cavendish and Kittle take enough stage wins/secure enough bonus seconds to hold on for the overall title. While last year saw the Hatta Dam stage cancelled due to high winds, which made it more of a walk in the park for Kittel than what might have been.

This year, the riders will have one more stage to contend with which theoretically makes it even more likely that a sprinter will win the GC. However, given that this is the strongest field that we’ve seen here since the races inception, there is a chance that the stage wins will be spread around enough that a puncheur could sneak the overall win.

Nonetheless, I still think we’ll see a sprinter take the crown.

That man will be Viviani.

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With some racing already in his legs, he should come to this race sharper than a lot of his rivals and that could play a big part throughout the week. Furthermore, with a win to his name already and a string of solid performances down in Australia, he will be buoyed by confidence. I think being freed from the shackles of Sky really helped him and we saw a big change in his performances towards the end of last season when he knew the move to QuickStep was confirmed. Having a team that believes in you makes a massive difference for a sprinter and it clearly has helped the Italian. Some of the Watts he was putting out in Australia were incredibly impressive and I think he’s transforming back to the Viviani that showed so much promise in his early years at Liquigas. Consequently, that means he can actually climb reasonably well and get to some finishes that you might not expect, i.e. his second in Cadel’s Race, or Hatta Dam. QuickStep’s record in this race is remarkable, having won it for the past three years, and I fancy them to make it four in a row this time around.

Vai Vai Viviani!

Will he secure the win on the opening day though? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders on Stage 1.

The Route

Pretty much a carbon copy of last year’s opening day.

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There’s almost no point of me posting any of the stage profiles this week as they’re all flat! The more interesting thing about the stage is the final run.

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The riders come out of a tunnel at roughly 6km to go, before making their way towards the end of the Palm. This marks a fairly tight roundabout and once they are through that point, it is a 3km drag race for the sprint teams. The roundabout can be sketchy and last year’s race saw Colbrelli fall here and ruin any chance of victory.

Considering the distance from the roundabout to the finish line, it is possible for teams to move their riders up in that time. However, you certainly want to be in the first third of the peloton.

It is hard for a team to assert complete control at the front of the peloton and we’ll more than likely see surges from different trains in the closing couple of kilometres.

Normally the riders would be concerned with the wind on this stage, but the forecast is fairly benign with a 10km/h left to right cross-wind predicted for the closing sprint. Nothing too drastic, but coming from the downwind side might just present an opportunity for a rider to surprise. Conversely though, a strong lead-out could hug the right hand side of the road, forcing any competitor into the wind.

Contenders

As I’ve mentioned above, we’re treated to a long list of sprinters here so I’ll try to keep this bit short-ish, otherwise we could be here a while!

Marcel Kittel.

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Winner of this stage last year, it will be interesting to see how he gels into his new team and lead-out train. Katusha are certainly weaker than QS and with Kittel preferring a late dash to the line, pouncing in the closing kilometre a lot last season, I’m not sure the likes of Haller and Zabel have the speed to do that. We’ll see, but I’ll be watching with interest.

Elia Viviani.

The form rider here and my GC favourite. He was very strong in the Tour Down Under and was rewarded with a great stage win as a result. QuickStep bring a team with them here that is built around the Italian. With the power they have, we should see a dominant blue train in the closing kilometres. Can Viviani continue his good form?

Dylan Groenewegen.

Still only 24, the young Dutchman had another solid season last year where he picked up 8 wins, including the iconic sprint along the Champs-Élysées at the Tour. He started his season with a second place on GC here last year and will be looking to go one better this time. With a team dedicated to him, he should be positioned well going into the sprint, and it will be up to him to deliver.

Mark Cavendish.

You can never rule out Cavendish. I did at the 2016 and he absolutely blitzed that, before dropping out to focus on the Olympics. It is fair to say that 2017 was a bit of a disaster for him though, with only one win all year and a crash in the Tour that ruined his season. He arrives here with a tried and tested lead-out train and I’m sure he’ll want to come out of the blocks firing in 2018; reminding everyone that he is still one of the fastest guys in the peloton.

John Degenkolb.

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Having already started his season in Mallorca, Degenkolb has an advantage over some of his competitors in that sense. Furthermore, with two wins to his name, he already has more wins this year than in all of 2017. Trek also bring Nizzolo with them so it will be interesting to see the dynamic between them, but given that Degenkolb has won on Hatta before, I imagine they’ll go with him here. Can he make it 3 wins from 3 starts in 2018?

Alexander Kristoff.

Having moved from Katusha in the winter, where he spent six years of his career, it will be interesting to see how he gets on in his new UAE Emirates team. There will be pressure on the Norwegian to perform in what is a home race for the squad, but his team doesn’t look the best. A lot of pressure will be on the young shoulders of Ganna and Consonni to position him well, which could be his downfall. I’m sure he’ll be disappointed to see it won’t be a headwind sprint either! I think we might see something from him later in the race, but not on the opening day.

Nacer Bouhanni.

The enigmatic Frenchman arrives here with Cofidis receiving an invite to the race for the first time. When he wants to be he is lightning fast but more often than not he is too busy scrapping for someone’s wheel way down the order, before settling for a top 8 finish. If his attitude has improved and that is a big if, then he could have a really good season. The Cofidis management has had a change of approach and seems to be giving him some tough love an I’m intrigued to see how that works. I would not be surprised to see him first or fifteenth.

Sonny Colbrelli.

2017 was a good year for the Italian and his move up to World Tour level was a success, winning a stage of Paris Nice. I’m not sure his raw pace is up to the standard of some of the guys here and he would probably prefer a tougher day out in the saddle, but you never know.

Jakub Mareczko.

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Already with two wins under his belt at the famous Sharjah Tour towards the end of January, he’ll arrive here with confidence. What? You’ve never heard of it? Tut tut. To be fair, all he had to beat was Coquard and some sand so we can’t really take much from it. Nonetheless, I do rate the Wilier rider and he has the speed to compete on very flat days. He’s still a tier or so below the best riders, but given he’s been in the Emirates for a few weeks now, that might be of an advantage to him.

Magnus Cort Nielsen.

Another rider who moved in the winter, he’ll want to impress for new team Astana. On paper, he has the power and climbing ability to “do a Degenkolb” and challenge on the Dam, but a crash in training in December might have halted his build up to the season. Like Colbrelli, he would prefer a few more lumps and bumps, but he can’t be discounted entirely.

Prediction

Pffff, pick a name out of a hat!

Viviani has the form, but I think he might fall short on the first day. Instead, I’ve been drawn towards Cavendish for this opening stage.

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He’s spent a bit of time in the Emirates recently and was out there towards the end of January as an ambassador for Abu Dhabi Tour. Now, I’m unsure if he has just stayed there since, but he’s definitely been out since the 2nd of February and I think that shows some intent to go well on his part. Furthermore, he is playing down his chances and form in the press, which is normally when he ends up going well!

His big goal for the year is to get closer to Merckx’s Tour de France stage win record, but I imagine he will want to hit the ground running after a quite frankly awful 2017 by his accounts, mostly for confidence reasons. Although I don’t think he lacks that…

He’s a racer and with a tried and tested lead-out, he has a good chance of surprising on the opening day.

Betting

3pts WIN Viviani for GC at 9/2 with Bet365

1pt EW Cavendish for Stage 1 at 9/1 with SkyBet

4pts Viviani to beat Groenewegen for Stage 1 at 1/1 with Bet365

1pt Double on Viviani ov Groenewegen & Degenkolb ov Kristoff at 2.66/1 with Bet365.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? We have a plethora of sprinters to choose from so it should be an exciting week of racing. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.