Tour de France 2017 Green Jersey Preview

While a lot of the cycling world bemoans the easier route for this year’s Tour, there is one group of riders who will be happy with the flatter parcours: the sprinters.

The organisers have been kind to the fast men, with there looking to be 7 sprint stages but that could be increased to 9 or even 10 depending on how the peloton attacks the race.

Having won the jersey for the last 5 years in a row, Sagan is the rider to beat.

Peter-Sagan-Stage-11a

Can he make it 6 this season?

First though, let’s have a look at how the points system works.

Scoring Points

The stages are categorised based on their difficulty, with the easier stages awarding more points to the winner at the end of the day.

The following table comes from @searchhhh on the Velorooms forums, that I have tea-leafed because I’m too lazy to make it myself!

Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 15.26.23

As for which stages fall into each category;

  • Stages 2, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 19, 21 are Cat 1, i.e. score maximum points
  • Stages 3, 5 , 8, 14, 15, 16 are Cat 2
  • Stages 1, 9, 12, 13, 17, 18, 20 are Cat 3

With 8 stages that reward 50 points at the line, it is possible for a dominant sprinter to build up a strong points tally. The sprinters will have to come out firing if they want to contest green because half of the “big” sprint stages come in the opening week of racing.

Sagan normally makes his mark by winning the Cat-2 stages and being close on the Cat-1 days. However, this year 3 and 14 look like the only days where we could have a reduced bunch sprint. Stage 5 will be a GC day and so could stage 8, with stage 15 looking like a breakaway day. Furthermore, Stage 16 actually looks like a stage where most of the sprinters could make it to the line as most of the climbing comes in the first half of the day.

Another way that Sagan cements his position in Green is by going on the hunt for the intermediate sprint points during the more rolling stages as his competitors normally can’t follow in the breakaway these days.

Yet, this year the organisers have seemed to “nerf” that aspect of his attack, with having most of the intermediate sprints on flatter parts of the route and before the big obstacles on the day. It’s really only on stages 9/15/17 that they’re in places inaccessible to most sprinters!

Even Stage 9 might be a little hard for Sagan to chase the points…

tour-de-france-2017-stage-9-1495792377

Therefore, there is certainly a lot more emphasis on placing highly at the end of stages this year and picking up some minor points at the intermediates to keep the tally ticking over.

Contenders

With all that being said though, Sagan is still the clear favourite for the jersey. He looked lightning fast at the recent Tour de Suisse and he always ups his game in the sprints at the Tour. Even if he doesn’t win any of the flat stages, he’ll no doubt podium in at least 3 of them while picking up top 5s in a lot of the others. That will give him a good base of points to go and pick up some more during Stage 3 etc and some mountain breakaways.

So a rough points total for him could be;

2 Cat-2 wins (60pts), 2 Cat-1 2nds (50pts), 2 Cat-1 3rds (40pts), Top 10s in Cat-1s (~50 – 70pts), Intermediate Sprints (~70 – 100 pts) = 270 -> 320pts as an estimate.

A tough score to beat, but not impossible.

Kittel looks like Sagan’s biggest challenger, on paper anyway. Arguably the fastest sprinter in the world, a lot of these flatter stages will suit the fantastically haired German. His Tour didn’t go to plan last year, only winning one stage in the end. Not great for a man of his abilities. He’ll be hoping to go a lot better this year and that Cavendish arrives undercooked. If so, he could feasibly win 4 of the 8 Cat-1 stages, and get close on some others.

Picking up a few podiums and top 5s on the other stages as well as some intermediate sprint points, he will be there or thereabouts with Sagan’s total. It looks promising for him to launch a proper tilt at the Green Jersey this year.

Marcel-Kittel

And what about Cavendish? He took me and almost everyone else by surprise last year with his dominant performance in the sprints after seemingly coming into the Tour not on great form and possibly past his prime. This year, he faces an even tougher battle after recovering from the Epstein Barr Virus and only returning to racing a couple of weeks ago at the Tour of Slovenia. He only managed a second place there and was OTL at the British Championships (not a great sign but only 12 riders came home in time) so it’s not looking too good for his chances this year. Yet…

Now, you can call me crazy, but I have a feeling he will turn up and will be going well. Dimension Data won’t have wasted a spot for him on their team if he was going to use the first week as training, hoping to pick up a win later on in the race. Furthermore, a telling sign is that they’ve brought a strong lead-out train with them. That train could well be for Boasson Hagen, but it seems a bit over the top if it’s just for him.

On form, Cavendish is as fast as Kittel so he could well repeat last season’s performance and win 4 stages, putting him right in contention for the Green jersey. I’m certainly not ruling him out, that’s for sure.

Greipel will pick up his regular Grand Tour stage but at the Giro he went missing a lot in the sprints so he’ll need to be a lot more consistent to challenge for the jersey and I can’t see that happening.

Arnaud Démare is France’s best hope for a long time to win the Green jersey. He has been exceptional this year and his win at the recent French Nationals was truly dominant. As close to being a tier-1 sprinter without being one, he may well move up the rankings after this Tour. I expect good things from him this race and he is the most likely of all French riders to win a stage. With a team almost 100% focussed around him, the pressure will be on. Will he thrive under that pressure or crumble?

7087035_1-0-1561477825_1000x625

I can’t really see anyone else being consistent enough to challenge for the jersey.

Groenewegen is a great talent but he has the propensity to be 1st or nowhere at times. A stage win for him would be a great result and that’s certainly a possibility, but to challenge for the jersey will be too tough an ask.

Matthews (as much as I like and rate him), is a poor man’s Sagan for this competition. Not as fast as others on the flat, not a good enough climber to win mountainous breakaway days.

The same can be said for Colbrelli.

Kristoff has been poor this season and his team seems to be against him.

Bouhanni still seems to be suffering from his crash in Yorkshire, possibly a lack of confidence which is surprising for him.

Prediction

Don’t get me wrong, Sagan should win the jersey again. He is fast enough to compete on the flat stages and strong enough to be there at the end when no other sprinters are. However, I just have a feeling that Cavendish will be as electric as he was last year and dominate the flat sprints.

Mark-Cavendish-wins-stage-14-of-the-2016-Tour-de-France_Grahah-Watson-630x420

I expect this to all fall flat on its face when he doesn’t contest the sprint on Stage 2…

Betting

Now, it’s obviously a gamble but hey, that’s what betting is about!

If Cavendish is on fire, his current price is massive. If he is still under the weather, it is grossly under-priced. It would kill me to see him romp away with some stages this year knowing exactly what he did last year. Therefore, I’m willing to take the “gamble” on his form and back him EW for the Green Jersey and almost accept it could be a losing bet.

1pt EW Cavendish for Green Jersey @ 18/1 with Bet365 (and others)

Make sure you get 1/4 odds for 3 places, as some bookies are going 1/3 odds for 2.

Also, as I won’t be putting out any more Tour blogs until the stage 1 preview on Friday, I’ve backed Lotto Jumbo (0.5pt on) for the Team Classification @ 80/1 with Betfair. Would take 66s availalbe elsewhere.

Bit of an outside bet but they have an AG2R of 2013 feel about them where they should have 2 guys near the front of most stages and will be looking for breakaway success too.

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win the Green Jersey? Is Sagan a shoe-in? And have I really lost the plot before the Tour has even started?

I’ll have my “Big fuck off” Giro Rosa guide out tomorrow which I would greatly appreciate if you shared and have a read of! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Abu Dhabi Tour Stage 1 Preview; Madinat Zayed -> Madinat Zayed

The opening stage of the race and one that should be decided by the sprinters.

The Route

An “out and back” style course through the desert.

abu-dhabi-tour-2017-stage-1-1487410888

As you can see, it’s almost as flat as pancake with very little elevation change at all! The wind may be a factor out in the open desert.

abu-dhabi-tour-2017-stage-1-1487410899

However, looking at the forecasts for Madinat Zayed and Mezairaa it doesn’t look promising for echelon action. We may get consistent 14 hm/h winds which may have caused some issue if they were coming from the correct direction, but that’s not the case. Instead it will be a headwind when they leave Madinat Zayed, that turns into a tail wind for a bit out on the course, then back to a head wind as they return to the starting town.

Maybe we still might get something? I mean, that tail -> head wind doesn’t happen instantly! No? I think I’m clinging onto too much hope here. So instead, this stage will all be about the closing kilometres.

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-15-44-57

It’s the exact same finish that was used last year and I expect a similar dash to the final left hand turn at roughly 1km to go.

The peloton will be fairly strung out through it but the pace will ramp up even more as they approach a roundabout with 700m to go. Once through the roundabout, the riders will possibly be in single file and it will take a lot of extra energy to come from 20 places back and win the stage.

Last year it was a messy sprint as riders lost their lead-out men and it was in fact Mark Renshaw who did the perfect lead-out for Giacommo Nizzolo (not Cavendish), with the Italian going on to take the win.

Therefore it’s safe to say timing in the sprint is very important. You either want to have 2 riders left in front of the sprinter when leading out of the roundabout and power home from there. Or use the slight lull in action as sprint trains look for their sprinter, to then bring your rider forward in the final 300m.

Who’ll be competing for stage honours then?

Sprint Contenders

The perfectly-haired German, Marcel Kittel, has to start as the clear favourite for this stage. He started the season off in scintilating form, picking up 3 stage wins and the GC in Dubai. Not arriving with his normal lead-out may hinder him a bit. However, he does arrive with his favourite lead-out man Sabatini. Possibly not as dominant as in other races, he will still be the rider to beat!

Cavendish comes here after a very weird start to the year. Mechanicals and bad luck hampered him in Dubai, before he seemed to be on lead out duty for Boasson Hagen in the Algarve. As an ambassador for this race, he’ll be hoping for a much better showing than those previous starts. I’m not entirely sure that will happen on stage 1 as he has had a hectic schedule over the past few days. Nonetheless, with Renshaw by his side, he is a rider who can turn it on at anytime so can’t be discounted!

Off the back of a very good stage win in Algarve, Greipel will be in a buyouant mood ahead of this week. Another rider who is arriving here without his normal lead-out, he will probably be relying on De Bie to drop him off in a good position in the closing kilometres. It will then be over to Andre to follow the correct wheel, can he?

image

Caleb Ewan arrives with a short, but rather strong lead-out; relying on Mezgec and Kluge to get him in position. They are the type of guys who could perfectly execute the old “move up in the final kilometre” tactic that I mentioned earlier. Ewan was unbeatable in Australia a month ago, has he managed to sustain that form?

Hot or cold sprinter Viviani will be hoping to profit in a messy run in here. One of the best riders in the world at positioning himself without a lead-out, this race he can at least rely on Doull and Dibben to pilot fish him a bit further up the bunch before he has to ride solo. I don’t know why, but I think he’ll go well here!

Aside from the riders listed above, Pelucchi, Bonifazio, Guardini and Ruffoni will be hoping to get in the mix.

One other rider I am intrigued to see perform this week is young Astana sprinter Riccardo Minali. He made very steady, but impressive improvements throughout the week in Dubai, ultimately finishing 3rd on the final stage. Can he repeat that peformance here, or go even better? I’ll be watching with interest, that’s for sure!

Prediction

Kittel probably wins this, doesn’t he? But I can’t be releasing two previews in a day that both have the favourite as the winner, so to mix things up a bit and I’ll go with Viviani.

watson_00004383-013-630x421

He’s the one sprinter out of them all who benefits most from a finish like this, and if he manages to come out of the right slipstream then he will be hard to beat. After all, he is no slouch!

Betting

0.75pt EW Viviani at 18/1 with Betfair (Paddy Power). Would take down to 14/1.

5pts on Minali to beat Bauhaus at 1/2 with Bet365

Thanks for reading. Can you see anyone beating Kittel? I’ll be back again tomorrow with a stage 2 preview. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Volta ao Algarve Stage 4 Preview; Almodôvar -> Tavira

Today’s Recap

I did say Tony Martin wouldn’t win, but it wasn’t Roglic who came home in first. Instead, it was Castroviejo who produced an excellent display in his fancy new European Champions jersey.

c44f5vgxuaarjv8

(I don’t have a picture of that yet so this will do!)

GC wise, Roglic now takes the yellow jersey and is 22 seconds ahead of Kwiatkowski and 36 ahead of Castroviejo going into the final 2 stages. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Longest stage of the race and a bit of an undulating course but with a relatively flat finish.

Print

There are no real major obstacles out on course so if the bunch wants to keep this one together for a sprint they should be able to.

There is some pesky road furniture in the final 3km though!

screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-23-07-53

First of all they have to contend with a roundabout just inside 3km from home. Fortunately, it appears to be relatively wide and they travel straight on so it shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-23-05-25

Next, they’ll take a left at a roundabout with approximately 1.3km to go.

screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-23-09-30

Again, this shouldn’t be too bad but it is fairly tight. The race will definitely be strung out coming out of it.

From there it is under the Flamme Rouge and on to the next obstacle; another roundabout. This time though it seems much trickier, with the roundabout being more of a stretched out oval shape, making the turn a lot sharper and sudden.

screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-23-14-39

They aren’t out of the woods just yet though as they still have to tackle one final corner at 400m to go.

screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-23-18-14

Quite sharp, isn’t it?!

Hopefully they’ve improved the road surface around the inside of the corner, otherwise there might be some carnage.

Once round the corner, it will be a straight dash to the line!

Sprint Contenders

We’ll have similar riders that were involved on stage 1.

Can anyone beat the man who I forgot to mention for that stage; Fernando Gaviria? The Colombian was very impressive like he almost always seems to be. In Richeze he has a great lead-out man and the pair seem to have great chemistry out on the road. A worthy favourite.

Greipel was disappointed after his second on stage 1. He just didn’t seem to have the speed to match Gaviria on that day. With a very strong lead-out here, there is a good chance that he will be positioned better this time round and then we might get an interesting sprint. However, as I mentioned in my stage 1 preview, he can go missing if things get messy but he is a fighter so I’m sure he’ll be there or thereabouts.

Another rider who is a fighter is Bouhanni. He did well to get up for third place on the first stage, considering he had a fairly poor Valenciana in which he crashed. Fully fit now, he won’t want to go much longer without a win this season.

Groenewegen has promised a lot this season so far, but has failed to stand on the top step of the podium. The team still seems to be getting his lead-out sorted, they were awful on stage 1 and it was remarkable that the Dutchman was placed anywhere near the front. I’m not so sure if they’ll get that lucky again.

dylan-groenewegen-tour-of-britain-stage-four_3781374

After selecting him for stage 1, Demare managed to get a bit lost and his lead-out split in two, on that day. I expect them to not make the same mistake again. The team was very well-drilled in Besseges and the Frenchman himself is in great form; he finished 6th in the TT today! Not making the podium will be a disappointment.

Cavendish seemed to be leading out Boasson Hagen on stage 1, sitting up with around 150m to go. I’m not sure what the plan was there; maybe Cavendish wasn’t well or they were trying to get EBH into the best possible GC position? With EBH nowhere near now, I think Cav might give it a nudge tomorrow.

Arguably Degenkolhas the best train here on paper. He didn’t take advantage of it on stage 1, as they seemed unsure of their best order. Have they managed to correct that for here?

Prediction

They messed up on stage 1 and his result in today’s TT clearly show that he’s going very, very well at the moment…

Demare to win!

861460-demare

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think takes this sprint fest? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Dubai Tour Stage 1 Preview; Dubai -> Palm Jumeirah

The Route

Pan flat jaunt around the city and its outskirts, with a little trip out to the camel track.

Dubai2015_T02_plan

I doubt there will be much action at all until we get into the final 10km when the sprint teams start to properly get themselves organised. Once onto the Palm, they’ll enter the tunnel that was the scene of a crash last year, with around 7km to go.

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-08-16-29

From there they take a left, continue on for a couple of kilometres, make a U-turn and head towards the finish. The riders do have to negotiate a few pinch-points and traverse a couple of roundabouts; there is even one at around 400m to go. Surely this will cause panic?! Well, I use the term “roundabout” loosely…

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-08-18-50

All that money and they make a shoddy little roundabout. Tut, tut.

No problems for the sprinters here, straight on it is, finishing beside the big hotel further up the road!

Contenders

Billed as a showdown between Kittel and Cavendish and to be honest that’s a good summary.

Kittel comes here with a solid lead-out. He’ll be able to rely on the likes of Trentin and Vermotte, but Sabatini will probably be his last man. That pairing didn’t work too well last year so I’m intrigued to see how it plays out this time round. It’s a good lead-out, but not amazing.

Cavendish arrives with a much better lead-out train in my opinion. Eisel will control the road in the final few kilometres, bossing everyone around. I like the addition of Thwaites to the team and I imagine he’ll fit into third man in the train here. The Manxman can then rely on his favourite pilot-fish, and the Barry to his Paul Chuckle, Mark Renshaw. One of the best in the business, Renshaw will be able to deliver Cav in the perfect position and from there it will be a drag race to the line.

Aside from those two, there are still some other fast-men here.

Groenewegen might be the sprinter they fear the most as he’s pretty much fearless himself; attempting to squeeze through any gap he can in the final kilometre. Last year he started the year with a stage win in Valenciana, can he do the same here?

Viviani already has some racing in his legs at San Juan, picking up three 2nd places behind QuickStep riders. He’s very hot or cold with his sprinting and I think he might be a bit cold here the first few stages but will be better later on. No real reason, just an inkling!

ModoloDegenkolb, and Mareczko could all well be in the mix too and they’ll hope for a podium place. Especially Degenkolb who will fancy his chances at the overall title.

Prediction

Like I said in my GC Preview, I think Cavendish will be amped-up and ready to go from the gun here. He’ll want to put an early season marker down, and take the mental advantage over Kittel. Although he’s talking down his chances, suggesting that he’s not in great shape etc, I think his winning instinct will take over.

03-mark-cavendish

Betting

Should be a no bet if you’re sensible. I’m not sensible.

2pts WIN on Cavendish at 9/4. Would take down to 7/4.

Thanks for reading! These Dubai Tour stage previews will probably be shorter than normal, aside from days that the wind could wreak havoc, purely because it’s almost a copy/paste job! As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Eneco Tour Stage 1 Preview: Bolsward -> Bolsward

Eneco Tour Stage 1 Preview: Bolsward -> Bolsward

No proper GC preview from me, but I’ll give a quick insight into how I think it will play out. The TTT will probably shape the race and with BMC the likely winners of that stage, they should have at least 4 riders in the top 10 going into the tougher stages at the end. Playing the numbers game, they should hold on for the win, with GVA or Dennis being their best candidates. I’d go with Van Avermaet to win it!

However, if some teams can stay relatively close in the TTT, such as Tinkoff, then they have a chance to upset the apple cart. The ITT won’t play a huge part in the race, as there won’t be massive time gaps because of it, so it will come down to the TTT and the final two road stages. After Sagan crushing the opposition today at the Euro Champs he’ll be brimming with confidence (like always!) and could claw back some time here. My dark-horse for the week is his team-mate Michael Valgren. A top 5 would be, and require a fantastic performance but a top 10 does look achievable!

13892283_1179624252090254_1113626158160242218_n.jpg

Anyway, let’s have a look at the opening stage.

The Route

The organisers aren’t entirely helpful and there are no official profiles. There are GPX files which you can download so I’ve attempted to make my own stage profile. However, Strava seems to get a bit confused at some point and the route it makes is 6km longer than the official 184km for the stage. Nonetheless, here it is…

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-16-36-41

Pan-flat pretty much all day, although with some tiny changes in elevation, but that’s me really scraping the barrel for something to talk about! It is a nailed on sprint stage.

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-16-45-40

The final 3km should be fairly straight-forward, although it is important to note that the roads aren’t large open highways. Instead, they’re normal two-lane roads, so there won’t be lots of space for every team at the front. This is particularly interesting with the number of sprinters and lead-out trains that we have here. Speaking of which…

Sprint Contenders

We have a whole host of sprint talent here, as they gear up towards the World’s in Qatar that start in just under a months time.

The fastest man in the world, Marcel Kittel, makes an appearance here. After a poor TDF, only picking up one stage win, he finally returned to racing at the end of last month. He re-found his race pace in Germany doing some work for team-mates, and managed to win GP Fourmies a fortnight ago. However, he was physically sick during the race in Belgium on Friday, forcing him to abandon. I’m not sure if he’ll have recovered fully by tomorrow and he won’t make the podium. Bold claim, I know!

6be499ed73cfe5841498aefd95a9fd3e.jpg

In fact, if he isn’t feeling 100% Etixx may turn to Boonen as their sprint option. I just think he lacks the top end speed now to match the best on a pure sprint like this. No Etixx rider in the top 5 tomorrow!

Looking to seize his opportunity will be Andre Greipel. The Gorilla has had a very solid season, he always seems to deliver! Winning the opening stage at the Tour of Britain comfortably he then turned his focus to team duties, riding for Debuscherre for the rest of the race. He’ll be back to team leader in the sprints here. With the simple run-in he’ll want to take advantage and remind everyone, particularly the German World’s selectors, that he is the man to beat. With a solid lead-out, the stage is certainly there for the taking!

One rider who will have something to say about that is Nacer Bouhanni. The mercurial Frenchman has his full lead-out train with him here. Having felt hard done by in the past few months with being relegated in a sprint and supposedly the whole world against him, he’s going to come out fighting! A very fast rider on his day, people seem to forget he has a great kick. With Kittel not 100% and Greipel not a fan if things get messy, Bouhanni is a serious threat!

watson_00004522-006-630x420

Kristoff comes here after dominating his local race, the Tour des Fjords. Admittedly, the level of sprinters there wasn’t that high but confidence is key for sprinters, so Kristoff will come here with high levels of expectations. Can he deliver? Quite possibly. He’ll be hoping for a headwind sprint!

Orica come here with two options, Matthews or Ewan. I think they’ll go for the latter in tomorrow’s sprint. With it being pan-flat, it suits Ewan’s characteristics a lot more. However, as fast as he is, I don’t think he’s at the level to win against this competition consistently, not just yet. Maybe next year and certainly in years to come!

One rider I am interested in seeing how they go here is Giacomo Nizzolo. The Italian has had a bit of a so-so season, but as his country’s main hope for a medal at the World’s he’ll be coming here in good form. He crashed in Britain, but seemed to be over that, winning Coppa Bernocchi midweek. The Trek team here is surprisingly strong, with Stuyven, Van Poppel and Bonifazio to lead him out. A rider who’s promised a lot in the past, I think he’ll get a win this week. Is tomorrow his day?

WATSON_00004575-004.jpg

How can I leave out the new European Champion too! Sagan was incredibly strong today, but can he pull off back to back wins? It will be tough but he his capable of doing it. He’s looking in great shape for the Worlds, but will he risk that chance to mix it up in the sprints here?

Aside from those mentioned above, there are still several guys who could get in the mix; Groenewegen, Degenkolb, Danny Van Poppel, Wippert, Démare, Modolo, Kreder, Capiot, Van Lerberghe, Jans, Dehaes, Van Genechten, Renshaw, EBH & GVA. Quite the list! Eat your heart out CyclingQuotes 😉

The first three in that list are most likely to challenge.

Prediction

Flat sprint, straight roads and a team that normally starts with a bang. Greipel to take the win and make a big statement!

watson_00004604-005-630x419

Betting

With a stage that could cause a few surprises, a sensible decision would be a no bet. But we all know I’m not very sensible and don’t like sitting on the fence!

Greipel 1pt WIN @ 5/1 with Bet365

Nizzolo 0.25pt EW @28/1 with Various bookmakers.

 

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed the preview?! How do you think the first sprint stage will go down? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Vuelta Stage 21 Preview: Las Rozas -> Madrid

*Apologies again, this preview will be very short as I’m away out for a family dinner this evening*

Today’s Recap

An insane stage that had a bit of everything!

As I predicted it was the break that fought it out for the stage win. Throughout the final climb there were several riders who looked as if they had the stage victory in their grasps. Sanchez looked good on the early slopes, then Conti looked as if he was the winner elect. However, neither of them made the top 10! Instead, it was Latour and Atapuma who entered a dog-fight and it was the Frenchman who just had enough at the end of the stage. One of the best finales to a Grand Tour stage I’ve seen in a while, everyone in every group was on their limit!

csashg3wgaai6sw

Behind, Chaves repeated Orica’s tactics from Stage 14, attacking on the penultimate climb and bridging to team-mates. Doing so has saw him creep onto the GC podium, 13 seconds ahead of Contador. Another tactical masterclass from the Aussie outfit.

Froome tested Quintana but the Colombian always had the measure of him. The biggest loser on the day has to be Scarponi who dropped out of the top 10.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-17-11-18

Anyway, let’s look ahead at the processional stage into Madrid.

The Route

Nothing overly exciting.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-17-14-45

An expected flat bunch sprint and no real focal points to talk about.

Screen Shot 2016-09-10 at 17.15.02.png

A straightforward and fast circuit within Madrid to end the day and the Vuelta. There are a few sharp hairpin turns that will stretch the bunch out. Positioning into that final hairpin just before 1km to go will be key. If you’re too far back then you have no chance.

Sprinters

The few sprints we’ve had so far this Vuelta have been fairly messy which makes tomorrow even more unpredictable.

Saying that, I do expect a few teams to take control tomorrow.

Etixx will control it for Meersman, Orica now devoid of GC duties will possibly control it for Cort and Giant will work hard for Arndt.

I can’t really see anyone else competing with those three. Possibly Drucker, Felline, Sbaragli & Van Genechten could get in the mix but it’s very unlikely.

Looking at the teams three lead-outs, Etixx and Giant are a cut above Orica.

On a stage like this, Orica will probably adopt the Lampre tactic where Gerrans-Keukeleire-Cort try and ambush the front of the race within the last 1.5km. In a messy sprint, this could be very effective!

Both Etixx and Giant so far have shown a willingness to control the race from far out and command the final 5km. Therefore there is no chance that a break makes this, it’s not the Giro! 😉

I was very impressed with the lead-out from Giant on Stage 18, they are finally getting things together. They were just unlucky it didn’t go their way in the end.

On a flat sprint, I would say that Arndt is faster than Meersman. Cort has shown if he’s in the right position he can go well too.

Prediction

Arndt finally gets his stage win! I mean, they surely have to get it right, don’t they?!

gettyimages_535342282_670

Betting

2.6pts WIN Arndt @ 4/1 with Bet365

0.2pt EW De Koert @ 400/1 with Bet365.  Only doing this as Arndt came dead last today, might not be 100%. De Koert would be the go to sprint option.

Massive thanks to everyone who has read and shared the blog throughout the Vuelta! I know my predictions haven’t been the best, but thanks for sticking with me. I’m not sure what other races I’ll be doing this year but I’ll definitely be doing the Worlds, both men and women. 

Apologies again for this being shorter than normal! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tour de France – Green Jersey Preview

Tour de France – Green Jersey Preview

With the GC candidates getting to fight it out for the Maillot Jaune, the sprinters get to challenge for the Maillot Vert. Points are awarded to the winner of the stage, along with the top 15 on that day. The person with the most points at the end of the Tour is the winner. Simple!

How are points awarded?

The stages are classified into the following categories;

  • Class 1 (“No particular difficulty”)
  • Class 2 (“Hilly stage”)
  • Class 3 (“Very hilly stage”)
  • Class 4 (“Mountain stage”)
  • Class 5 (“Toughest mountain stages”)
  • Class 6 (ITT)
  • Class 7 (MTT)
Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 20.19.01
Stage classifications (Screenshot from the Race Regulations)

As you can see above there are a lot of Class 1 stages, 9 to be exact. These stages garner the most points for the Green jersey, with 50 points available to the winner of the stage.

Class 2&3 give out a mid-range amount of points, with the remaining classes giving out the lowest.

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 20.39.45
Table highlighting the amount of points available.

Intermediate sprint points also contribute to the Green jersey competition, using the same points system as the lowest stage classification. Therefore, theoretically the maximum amount of points a rider can get on one stage is 70.

Seems pretty straight forward, doesn’t it?

Well, not all of the Class 1 stages are what I’d call proper, flat sprints. That’s either because they have a tough climb close to the end (i.e. stage 2), or there is a drag up to the finish. This will reduce the winner candidates on those stages and in my opinion reduce the chances of one fantastically haired German for the Jersey.

Without giving too much away for my more detailed stage previews that will follow, I only make stages 1/6/11/14/21 traditional flat or flat-ish sprints. The others all have some kind of kink or difficulty. Anyway, enough about the points system and stages, onto the contenders!

Five in a row for the defending champion? 

In short, most likely!

Sagan has been dominant in this competition over the past few years and I expect more of the same this year. Barring any accident or illness he should retain his crown. However, there will be others keen to impress and I think this could be one of the closest green jersey competitions for a while. When I say close, someone might get within 50 points of him!

Let’s start with the two German powerhouses.

Marcel Kittel. 

marcel-kittel-giro-ditalia-stage-two_3462315

Arguably the fastest man in the world right now, he’ll be targeting several stage wins during the Tour. Especially book-ending it with wins on the opening and closing stages. It’s important to note that whatever sprinter wins stage 1 will wear the Maillot Jaune. An extra incentive if it was ever needed! Kittel will hope for a repeat of the Giro where he was unbeatable over the first few sprint stages. I think he’ll come away with 2 or 3 stage wins at most, but that won’t be enough for him to win the jersey. Furthermore, he was dealt a confidence blow at the German National Championships, losing to Greipel in a sprint.

Andre Greipel.

andre-greipel-giro-ditalia-stage-seven_3465940

The Gorilla had an incredible Tour last year, winning 4 stages. He might not be as dominant but he should definitely win at least 2. He’s the only guy who can really challenge Kittel for out and out power, but he can also cope well on drags up to the line. As was proven with his incredible win on Stage 5 at this years Giro. I think he is more likely to challenge for the Green jersey over Kittel and would have him second favourite. His lead-out here looks very solid!

Away from those two, Bouhanni, Cavendish and Kristoff will hope to get involved in the mix. The Frenchman is the most likely out the trio to go well, but he’s flattered to deceive this year, going well at some races but being incredibly inconsistent.

Youngsters Theuns, Bennett and Groenewegen will hope to podium during one of the stages, anything better would be a dream. The young Dutchman looks the most likely.

It would be nice to see John Degenkolb get involved, but unfortunately he still hasn’t recovered fully from the horrible accident earlier in the year.

Aside from “pure” sprinters, there are those who can handle a hilly parcours fairly well.

Michael Matthews is one of those. The Australian has been touted as one of the rider’s of his generation and it’s not hard to see why. He seems to be able to do almost anything. He’ll hope to get a stage win, possibly on stage 2 and take the yellow jersey. However, I don’t really think he’ll be as interested on the flat stages to go for the Green Jersey.

1811123-38219751-2560-1440

One rider who I think will get involved on the flat stages and really go for the green jersey is Bryan Coquard. The mercurial Frenchman has had his best season so far, winning 12 races (if you include a GC win)! Admittedly they have been in lower tiered races but as they say, you can only beat who’s in front of you.

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 23.14.42

Some will suggest that he doesn’t have the top end speed required to challenge the big boys. If you’re one of those people, I suggest re-watching the final sprint of last years Tour. At this years edition he’ll be accompanied by his trusted lead-out man: Adrien Petit. They’ve made a great pairing this year and Petit seems to know the exact moment when to deliver Coquard to the front. Furthermore, he’ll enjoy some of the aforementioned “sprint” stages where there is a drag up to the line. These efforts really are his forte.

Prediction

It will be incredibly difficult to topple Sagan from his pedestal and he is the most likely winner of the competition.

However, professional cycling can throw up a few surprises and I think his two most likely challengers will be Greipel and Coquard. The German has the best lead-out train at the race and should dominate the flat/power sprints. Coquard on the other hand will hope for top 5s on the really flat stages and pick up points on those Class 1 stages that head upwards in the final Km. For the fun of it, I’ll say the Coq will come first and win the jersey!

Le-coureur-equipe-Team-Direct-Energie-Bryan-Coquard-vainqueur-2e-etape-Etoile-Besseges-4-fevrier-2016_0_730_485

(Although I really think Sagan will retain his crown, I do expect those three riders to make up the podium).

Betting

I think there’s some value in backing my two outsiders EW for the title. You can get;

Greipel @ 9/1 with Betway. 1pt EW. (I’d take the 8/1 available with other bookmakers)

and

Coquard @ 20/1 with William Hill. 0.5pt EW.

 

Hope you enjoyed this Green jersey preview, I will be back tomorrow with a look at the KOM competition! As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated 🙂 Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.