Volta ao Algarve Stage 1 Preview; Albufeira -> Lagos

The Route

Fairly straight forward day that should end in a bunch gallop.

Print

With a lot of the big sprinters here, there should be no problem in maintaining the breakaway all day, so this stage will all come down to the closing kilometres.

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-17-50-18

Positioning within the final 2kms as the riders have a couple of roundabouts to traverse.

The first they come to at roughly 1.4km to go isn’t too bad, it’s more of a sweeping left hand turn.

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-17-57-16

However, there is some potentially dangerous road furniture just through the bend.

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-17-59-48

Hopefully they have the road dividers down (if they can) or at the very least well marked and marshalled. Either way, the riders will went to switch from the left hand side of the road to the right for the next roundabout.

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-18-01-57

As you can see above, going left takes a lot longer and will severely ruin any chances that team has.

They then pass under the flamme rouge when going over the bridge, before taking one final left at a roundabout. screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-18-07-52

Again, it’s a fairly tight turn so positioning into it will be key!

From there, it’s a straight final 800m but with a little kick up to the line to make things interesting.

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-18-14-30

That final 200m averages 3% which doesn’t properly change the dynamic of the sprint as the riders will still be approaching it at very high speeds. However, once again, positioning and timing is made more key because of it. You don’t want to be left on the front at 200 to go as that’s probably just too far in a sprint like that. Coming out of the wheels at 150-100m left would be ideal!

Sprint Contenders

We’re treated with a start studded sprinting line-up here in Algarve this year so instead of rambling on like normal, I’m going to try and keep this brief(ish).

Degenkolb arrives confident after picking up a stage win in Dubai and sprinting solidly on the properly flat stages. He has a very strong lead-out, but I’m more intrigued than anything to see what order they ride in. The slight up-hill kick to the line suits him perfectly.

Cavendish arrives here disappointed after a poor Dubai Tour. A disappointed and angry Cav normally means a fast one! This finish isn’t ideal for him though.

Groenewegen will have been disappointed not to have taken a win in Dubai after performing very well. A real all-round sprinter, he’ll like the look of this finish!

Démare comes here in a  buoyant mood after a good showing in Bessèges. I really like the look of his sprint train, which is odd for an FDJ line-up. He’s definitely a danger man

Greipel took his seemingly annual start of the season win in Spain and will want to test his legs against better opposition here. He’ll want his team to boss the closing couple of kilometres as I can see him going missing otherwise in what is potentially a chaotic finale.

Bouhanni on the other hand will relish the chaos. His lead-out train looks a bit lacklustre so he’ll have to fight for wheels. But hey, when has that ever stopped him before!

Barbero, Wippert and Planckaert may all get in or around the top 10 but aren’t good enough to challenge for the win.

Prediction

I think this rider is going to have a very good year and taking some big scalps here will be a good way to start that. Allez Arnaud!

861460-demare

Thanks again for reading! Apologies that this is slightly shorter than normal, my time management was a bit off for this one and there isn’t much to discuss really either. If you’ve not already seen it, then my Andalucia preview is up on the site too. I’ll be back again tomorrow with another double preview, although it will probably be Algarve out first. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Dubai Tour Stage 3 Preview; Dubai -> Al Aqah

Today’s Recap

Another stage and another win for Kittel!

aa8d13a0e10b56a104ead7e7b79013ac

Although it wasn’t all plain sailing for the German as he seemed to lose the wheel of his lead-out at around 1.4km to go. However, he was brought back up expertly by one of his team-mates (not sure who!), heading into the closing 500m. He still had a lot do, but proved his power with a very strong late surge, winning relatively comfortably in the end by around a bike-length. Groenewegen held on for 2nd with a fast, and very low Mareczko pipping Degenkolb to the line in third place.

screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-12-43-41
Mareczko trying his best Ewan impression

Will Kittel make it a hat-trick tomorrow? Let’s have a look…

The Route

Another pan flat day, but we travel from coast to coast, west to east and to a new finishing town of Al Aqah.

dubai-tour-2017_s03_plan

I’ll touch on the desert and the coast in a moment, but the finish itself will be similar today with a sweeping final couple of kilometres. It appears that the race finishes just before a roundabout so it won’t be as messy as it could be, however, it will be fast as the last km is mainly a shallow descent before a slight rise up to the finish again.

screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-15-17-40
Last 2km profile

Now onto the slightly more exciting bit…

Wind Watch

The section across the desert is an open and exposed highway, the perfect playground for some teams to split the race up in the wind. Taking the average estimated speed from the race itinerary the riders will be in the area at roughly 13:00 local time.

The forecast for Al Malahia (near Jebel Fayah) at that time (source Windfinder) looks like the following.

screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-16-37-23

A strong tail-wind is all but guaranteed. However, there is a good chance it may turn into a cross-tailwind and that could be dangerous for the peloton. It will mean extremely fast and nervous racing which in turn could increase the likelihood of splits as riders jockey for position or there are an unfortunate touch of wheels. The section just after Al Malahia and before they turn off that road to go through the hills, looks one particular area where echelons can be formed.

Along the coast, we are also set to get strong winds. Now, it could be argued that the hills nearby will weaken the winds but I would imagine that the forecasts for these areas consider that already!

Khor Fakkan is roughly half-way between Fujairah, where the start going up the coast, to the finish. They’re expected to reach the town at roughly 15:00 local time, with the forecast set to look like the following.

screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-17-33-47

I will be very surprised if we don’t see some type of echelons along the coast tomorrow.

How will the race pan out?

As a viewing spectacle I most certainly hope we get some crosswind action and I am fairly confident it will happen. The riders have enjoyed a couple of relaxing days so far but are fully aware that things are about to get grippy…

screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-19-36-51

In what way will this affect the race? I’m not so sure. As I alluded to in my GC preview, the sprinters tend to be the riders who cope well in tough conditions. So it will be tough to drop them. Not impossible, but tough! Quickstep and Kittel have looked very strong so is the obvious pick if the bunch does stick together.

Nonetheless I think it will be a messy stage tomorrow so can’t confidently pick a sprinter. Back to my usual self, I will name a few outsiders who might be there if things get wild.

Gianni Moscon.

att00002_670.jpg

The Italian is Sky’s GC man for this race but for him to contend the overall then they need to gain time on Kittel somewhere other than on the Hatta stage. Tomorrow could be that opportunity. They lack their proper classics talent, but Knees and Golas are two very strong riders in tough conditions so will be able to look after Moscon well and attempt to force some echelons. Moscon himself is an incredible talent and a great all-rounder. If there are no sprinters left in the front group he could win from a sprint or put in a stinging attack.

Andy Fenn.

Former Sky rider, the Scot has spent the past few years in the shadows, happily putting in great work for his team-mates in the Classics. He’s a very strong rider, and his move to Aqua Blue sees him step out of those shadows and into more leadership roles. Blythe will be their number one go to guy here, but Fenn is a solid sprinter himself after a tough day. If he manages to infiltrate the front group then he has every chance in the dash to the line.

Loic Vliegen.

vliegen-soffre-la-derniere-etape-delfosse-le-general

BMC have been very active this race so far, sending riders in the break to get bonus seconds. I think they know that it will be tough to beat Kittel on GC if things stick to the status quo and they make the race easy for him. Therefore, I think they’ll be one of the first teams to try to animate things tomorrow in the wind. Vliegen is another great young talent but his speciality seems to lie in one-day racing. He was 4th in the ridiculously windy Le Samyn last year but can also climb relatively well too – 9th at Amstel highlights that. If the conditions are right, he could spring a surprise and become a real GC wildcard going into Hatta.

I really wanted to include Jungels in this, he’s been incredibly strong on the front the past few days. However, considering he rolled home 42 seconds down today, he’ll definitely be on team work duty tomorrow. The long-shot GC dream is over for him 😢

Prediction

Kittel will probably win again, but as I said picked yesterday I’ll go for one of my outsiders.

Oan yersel Andy!

Trofeo Mallorca - Stage Two

Betting

Good luck if you’re backing Marcel! I’ll be taking small punts on my 3 outsiders and a few H2H;

0.1pt EW Fenn @ 300/1 with Betfair or PP (would take 200/1 lowest)

0.1pt EW Moscon @ 250/1 with Bet365 (would take 150/1)

0.1pt EW Vliegen @ 300/1 with Betfair/PP (would take 200/1)

H2H bets;

Vliegen > Gerts @6/5 with Bet365. 1.2pts

Both have finished ahead of each other once so far, in and around the top 20. Would think Vliegen has more of a chance tomorrow.

Fenn > De Kort @ 8/11 with Bet365. 1.5pts

Both on lead-out duties, 1-1 so far. Like above, I think Fenn will suit the conditions better.

Vliegen and Fenn double at 9/5 with Bet365. 0.7pts

*UPDATE – Wanted another QuickStep rider before but the one I wanted was too short odds. However, it’s been pointed out that he’s available at 150/1 with Coral; 0.25pt EW Trentin.*

 

Thanks again for reading, bit longer today! How do you think tomorrow will play out? Any chance of crosswinds or will we get another sprint? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

 

 

Dubai Tour Stage 2 Preview; Dubai -> Ras al Khaimah

I’ll not keep you long today…

Today’s Recap

Well I got that wrong! I was slightly concerned when Dimension Data hit the front at 7km to go. It was a good plan from them keeping Cavendish safe out of the tunnel but it seemed too early and indeed turned out to be. They ran out of riders at around 1.5km to go and Renshaw/Cavendish were left to surf the wheels. Quick-Step cruised past them with an expertly timed lead-out and from there it was plain sailing for Kittel!

http-%2f%2fcoresites-cdn-factorymedia-com%2frcuk%2fwp-content%2fuploads%2f2017%2f01%2fmarcel-kittel-dubai-tour-sprint-pic-rcs-sport

Gronewegen did well to get up for second, he’s definitely becoming a threat for GC now if there’s no wind, and Cavendish held on for third, even with a flat tyre.

Onto tomorrow’s stage and another sprint on the cards…

The Route

Pan flat once again.

dubai-tour-2017_s02_plan

Nothing exciting about the route at all really! The wind isn’t strong enough to create echelons so it’ll be another day to just watch the last 10km of action.

We get a sweeping last 3km as we enter Ras Al Khaimah, with a left hand turn at 1.8km to go that we will probably see a race to itself. Although it doesn’t seem to sharp and the riders should be able to smooth out the turn.

screen-shot-2017-01-31-at-19-37-41

With it being a two lane road, teams can still move up in the last 1.5km. Timing is very important!

There is roundabout with roughly 600m (?) to go. Google street view isn’t a thing here, so satellite image it is…

screen-shot-2017-01-31-at-19-43-15

The local council here seems to spend more money on their roundabouts here and we get one where the riders will actually have to make an effort to go round. Whoever leads into the roundabout with 2 riders in front of their sprinter will win.

Contenders

Can’t really see past the top 5 from today.

Kittel seems to be going really well just now and has a lot of faith in his train but will be lent on here to do much of the work. Cavendish will want to play it more conservatively this time and hope to do what QuickStep did to them today, pouncing in the final 2km. Groenewegen did well to get up for second considering how far back he was positioned. That positioning will let him down again tomorrow unless he gets left on the right wheel with 2km to go, I’m not too keen on his lead-out. Degenkolb got a bit lost today but looked strong in the finale. If he gets positioned well a podium is in his sight. Viviani and Sky tried their best Modolo impression, making a late charge but he wasn’t up to much.

Prediction

Revenge for Cav? Nah, Kittel wins again.

Betting

No bet, although I am sorely tempted with an EW punt on Degenkolb at 20/1 as I think he can podium. But it’s an official no bet for the blog.

Thanks for reading! As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! I shall be back with something slightly more in-depth tomorrow if the wind keeps up. Might share some thoughts on Twitter about the other races this week later this evening. 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.

 

 

Tour Down Under Stage 6 Preview; Adelaide -> Adelaide

*This preview will be short as I’m back to work tonight and have woken up later than expected! Plus, there’s not much to say anyway*

Today’s Recap

👑  The King of Willunga is still the King! 👑

c2qvogyxcagmmem

Porte makes it 4 wins on the bounce with a truly impressive attack and sustained effort. Looking at the footage he seemed to actually go 100m earlier than he normally would, attacking at 1.3km rather than his usual 1.2km. No one could match him this time and the likes of Henao etc. were well and truly dropped before the “S-bend” at 700m to go. Are they not as good as previous years or is Richie just in much better condition? I think the latter!

Once Porte made that attack our stage picks had no chance but a special mention must go to Nathan Earle who got up for a credible 6th place. Also, Nathan Haas sprinted to 2nd which currently leaves him 3rd on GC with some bonus seconds up for grabs out on the road on stage 6; that battle for the podium between him and McCarthy certainly isn’t over yet!

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

The Route

We have the same route that’s featured the past couple of years. I’ll just use the official profile of this stage as my Strava one is a bit messed up. Although saying that, completely ignore the scale on the official profile as it’s wrong! There’s only around 100m elevation gain per lap at most, not 300.

santos-tour-down-under-2017-stage-6-1480339255

screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-17-22-07

I can imagine Thomas De Gendt will feature in the break, attempting to wrestle that KOM jersey from Porte. We’ll also possibly see some action from Haas/McCarthy in the intermediate sprints as they look to battle for the podium. Haas could even potentially move up to second too so that should add some excitement to what will be a relatively boring day up until the final 10km.

The final few hundred metres of the circuit does drag ever so slightly up hill but only at around 1% so it shouldn’t be a big deal for any of these guys.

The guys looking to win the stage will want to be near the front at 2.5km to go as they enter the more technical section around the park. From there, the pace will be on and it will be hard to move up the bunch without expending a lot of energy. Saying that, the road does widen in the last km so a team can make a last-ditch run to the line.

Stage Contenders

Short and sweet section here.

On current form Ewan looks pretty much unbeatable. He’s exceptional at these time of kermesse races and with Dubrdige/Gerrans/Impey/Kluge to lead him out he has the best support team too. Justifiably, he is the odds on favourite. Can he take 4 wins out of 6 stages?

Bora will once again have the luxury choice of either Sagan or Bennett. This type of sprint would suit the Irishman better and after having done a lot of work for his team on the past few stages he will be returned the favour here I think. He looked fast on Stage 1 and is possibly the only guy who can seriously challenge Ewan.

Van Poppel will once again be up there for Sky and should expect another top 5 placing, with the same being said for Bonifazio.

I hope Theuns actually gets a clear run at the finish this time without being blocked off. A podium placing is certainly within his sights.

As for the rest, expect to see the usual names of Renshaw, Arndt and Planckaert populating the top 10.

Prediction

Should I be boring but most likely correct and say Ewan? Or slightly more interesting and say Bennett? I’ll be boring for once, Caleb wins his 4th stage of the race!

http-%2f%2fcoresites-cdn-factorymedia-com%2frcuk%2fwp-content%2fuploads%2f2017%2f01%2fcaleb-ewan-tour-down-under-2017-sprint-salute-red-jersey-pic-sirotti

I’ll go for Bennett and some PFCL bias here, Theuns, to round of the podium!

Betting

No value in Ewan at those odds, especially when anything can happen in bike racing. One badly timed puncture/crash and he’s out of it. However, I do think there is a bit of value in;

Bennett 1pt EW @ 14/1 with Betfair/PaddyPower (I’d take down to 10/1)

No H2H up yet, but I’ll update my Twitter later if I see something I like/get the chance.

 

Thanks to everyone who’s read and shared the blog over the past week. Not been the best of starts in terms of betting/prediction wise but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless! I shall be doing previews of all the WT races this year plus anything we can watch on TV/stream online so expect more content from me this time round. Also, I fully intend on doing previews of all the Women’s World Tour races too. Maybe not daily stage previews but certainly a GC/over-arching race preview!

I’ll be back next weekend for the Cadel Evan’s Great Ocean Road Race. Anyway, thanks again,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

TdU Stage 1 Preview: Unley -> Lyndoch

The People’s Choice Crit on Sunday whetted our appetite for the week ahead with Caleb Ewan taking a very convincing win.

smalltdu_crit_a18w5614

Bennett and Sagan followed him home and all three riders will be looking to take the opening stage victory and thus the first Ochre Jersey of the Tour.

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

The Route

A relatively flat affair with a few bumps along the way, definitely one for the fast men. Expect a few Aussies to get into the break and go for the opening KOM jersey.

Here’s the Strava profile I made for the stage.

screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-13-52-41

The three large laps around Lyndoch feature some steepish bumps but they’re only a couple of hundred metres at 7% or so. Nothing for the pros! The run-in itself will be fast as it’s a shallow descent for 5km towards the line with a few sweeping bends. At roughly 500m to go the riders will tackle a “left” turn (it’s pretty much straight on), so the pace shouldn’t be knocked back at all.

screen-shot-2017-01-15-at-17-41-35
That “left” turn at 500m to go

From there it will be a drag race to the line with the first WT win of the season up for grabs, it should be an exciting and frenetic affair!

Who’s going to be challenging then?

Contenders

The Aussie pocket rocket Caleb Ewan has to start this stage as favourite and I think I would be hard pressed to find anyone who disagrees with that statement. He’s in scintillating form at the moment picking up the national criterium title along with the aforementioned People’s Choice Crit (PCC). The Orica lead-out train seems to be working very well and Kluge has gelled with the rest of the team straight away. They’ll expect nothing less than victory here.

Bora team management will have to make a decision on who sprints; either Sagan or Bennett. Their effort at the PCC was a bit of a mess with both riders doing their own sprint after Bennett lost the wheel of the Slovak. If I was DS, I’d have the Irishman as their rider for this stage. His closing speed was very impressive and if he can follow Sagan then he has a very good springboard and chance to take the stage. Easier said than done though!

1_gettyimages_517593698criteriumintl_670

The rider who just missed the podium at the crit was Niccolo Bonifazio. Fourth place was a good result for him, but he was just kind of there and I wasn’t overly impressed. He’s the type of rider who is very hot or cold and without much team support I think he’ll struggle in the more structured sprint of Stage 1 and will finish further down the pecking order. Then again, my track record with bold statements last season wasn’t great 😂

Mark Renshaw is sure to be fired up to impress on home soil as he gets one of his very few changes throughout the year to lead Dimension Data. Not as quick as he once used to be, that disadvantage is overcome by his nationality as he always seems to pull a good result out of the bag here.

Sky rider Danny Van Poppel will hope to go better than his 16th place in the crit which must have been a disappointment. A strong sprinter on his day, he’ll have some strong riders to bring him to the front in the closing kilometres and drop him on Ewan/Sagan’s wheel. Can he deliver from there?

watson_00004691-001-630x420

Vuelta “flop” Nikias Arndt will be under pressure to perform as Sunweb also have another young German sprinter by the name of Phil Bauhaus with them. I would expect the former to get the go ahead on stage 1, but does he have the legs to compete? I’m not so sure.

There are several other smaller sprinters here such as; Marko Kump, Carlos Barbero, Sean de Bie, Lorenzo Manzin and Baptiste Planckaert. Ultimately a top 10 would be a good result for them and a top 5 would be great!

*incoming fantasy team bias/clouded judgement warning*

One rider I think will go well on this opening stage is Edward Theuns.

theuns2_-_stage_2

With the PCC being his first race back after his injury at the Tour de France, he performed well to get up for 5th in what was a chaotic and potentially dangerous race. However, he was disappointed to lose the wheel of his lead-out-man (Koen De Kort) in the final few hundred metres. With this simpler run in, he should be delivered into a better position and from there he will fancy his chances. On his day he can match the best in the World, but can he do it tomorrow?

Prediction

Going against tradition here…

Man on form + Best lead-out = an odds on favourite Ewan win. Simple!

watson_00004424-008-e1453186627403-630x420

With Theuns and whoever the Bora sprinter is rounding out the podium.

Betting

Ewan is too short to back IMO, something along the lines of 13/10 may have tempted me. So I’m going for my outside winner shot and the guy with a good chance of the podium:

0.5pt EW Theuns @ 15/1 with Bet365 or WillHill. Would take 14/1 too. Although he was technically 20/1 when I tweeted I’d back him the other day, I’m not going to be that guy and take that price!

As for a H2H double, I like;

Van Poppel v Arndt & Theuns v Planckaert @ 1.27/1 with WilliamHill. 3pts.

 

Thanks for reading as always! I’m looking forward to the first road stage of the year. Who do you think will take the Ochre jersey? Any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Women’s Road Race World Championships – Doha 2016

Women’s Road Race World Championships – Doha 2016

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

lizzie-armitstead-world-champion

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

Let’s have a look at the course.

The Route

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

road-race-women-elite

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

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

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

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

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-15-26-33
Screenshot of the U23 race, showing the final 100m.

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

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

Weather Watch

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

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-15-14-26

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

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

Contenders

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

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

20160626-hannah-barnes-road-race-2556-1466939613

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

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

f2cbf1dc_8112_4104_adb0_3b6bf97ddeeb_670

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

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

20160911165032_670

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction

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

img_0163

Betting

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

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-17-05-58

Sticking to my guns;

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

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

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

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

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Eneco Tour Stage 3 Preview: Blankenberge -> Ardooie

Today’s Recap

Sigh…

I had a lot of faith in Dennis writing this preview yesterday, but didn’t put any money down on him due to the combination of everyone else seemingly backing Dumoulin and the odds not being that great. The Aussie went on to prove everyone else wrong (I told you Rohan would answer) and took a superb win, knocking 7 seconds off of Dumoulin’s time in 2014! So I guess that’s some kind of blog win, right?

cszfw0sxeaardyj

Also, when I suggested we might get a surprise or two today, I didn’t expect that to be Dumoulin and Martin being 20 seconds back and not finishing in the top 10! Few interesting names in that top 10, showing how varied a short, powerful TT can be at times.

Anyway, moving on to tomorrow’s stage and a finish we’ve had several times before.

The Route

Another fairly flat day (around 600m of climbing) that’s sure to end as a bunch sprint. This is all about the finale!

3km_rit3-page-001

The finish itself is a technical one, that causes lead-outs to be disrupted. As we saw on stage 1, a simple run in can cause issues, so you can imagine what might happen here!

That left hand-turn around 1.2km to go is crucial for the riders. If their train can take that first, then they have a very good chance. As long as they have at least two riders in front of them, three would be ideal.

In the video above, you can see the closing kms. Ignore the ticker in the top left of the screen, it’s wrong (classic)! You can see the effect that the sharp left followed by the chicane has on the peloton. It gets very strung out. If a team has a few riders left here, they can keep the hurt on. The video above shows what happens if there is a slowing of the pace once the lead-out men disappear in the final 500m!

The Sprint Contenders

As highlighted on stage 1, there are a load of sprinters here so I won’t be going over them individually and in-depth. Instead, I’ll be focussing on the type of sprint we have and who might do well because of it.

Due to the finish being technical, you need to be fearless and have a good lead-out who can dictate the final 2kms. Obviously, this was in issue for every team on stage 1, but I think it will be different tomorrow and some trains will properly form.

Considering the above two conditions, the first name that sprints to mind is Nacer Bouhanni. The Frenchman was the fastest finisher on Monday but was blocked and squeezed out a bit. His train didn’t leave the station so to say and never really got going on St1. I can’t imagine Nacer will have taken that too well, and they’re sure to deliver a better performance tomorrow.

Groenewegen also has to be considered in a finish like this. He proved on stage 1 that he can pick the right wheel and can deliver the result at the end of it. A very fast rider, full of confidence, he’ll fancy his chances of doubling up.

image-6414766

Boonen won this stage last year, but Etixx will be hoping that Kittel can get the required space to flex his muscles tomorrow. His 9th place today on the TT highlights that he has indeed recovered from his sickness bug. Technical finishes aren’t his speciality but he’s by no means bad at them and he’ll accept nothing less than a win.

Sagan will look to get involved too and his incredibly bike handling skills and great tactical nous should see him on the right wheel coming out of the chicane. The way he’s riding, I would not be surprised to see him make the podium again and even take the win.

A rider I like for this stage is Nizzolo. He’s finished on the podium twice so knows the closing kilometres well, plus his lead-out train looks very good. If they can get 3 riders in front of him going into the first left-hander, he should be delivered to a perfect position. Can he hold on for the win?

Modolo and Ewan will find the technical finish much more suited to their abilities, while Kristoff, Greipel and Demare might struggle. Although the Frenchman is probably the best out of that 3.

Prediction

Going with my gut while the rider might go with his nut! Bouhanni wins.

sptdw9040_670

He’s in the top 3 sprinters here based on pure speed, his train is in the top 3, but most importantly he is fearless and incredibly motivated. I expect the Cofidis boys to sharpen up their act tomorrow, asserting their dominance at the head of the peloton in the final 2km. Managing to drop Bouhanni off in the perfect position and he cruises home for the win.

I say Nizzolo and Sagan round out the podium.

Betting

1.5pt Bouhanni  WIN @ 9/2 (B365)

0.25pt Nizzolo EW @ 33/1 (B365)

 

Thanks again for reading! Apologies for this being slightly shorter than normal, there’s just not that much to talk about. Who do you think will win the stage? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.