Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 7 Preview: Pizzo -> Praia a Mare

Today’s Recap

Well that was a great stage!

Attacks kept flying from the gun and it took over an hour for the break to eventually form, which saw a 25+ rider group get up the road. Chaves and Henao, along with a few others close on GC snuck their way into the move which made for a very interesting afternoon. As a result the move was never given too much leeway but they started the climb with over a minute on the peloton. The gap varied on the first 10km of the climb before we saw Chaves explode out of the already reduced break. He quickly built up a lead over the rest of the group who were soon swallowed up by the GC contenders. Probing attacks were made and a group including Pozzovivo, Pinot, Yates and Bennett managed to get a gap on the rest of the field. However, their unwillingness to properly work together saw things regroup. Meanwhile Chaves soldiered on ahead, maintaining a 25 second advantage going into the final 2kms. Yates then took advantage of being on the other side from the road of everyone else and as they all were looking at each other, he took off in pursuit of his team-mate. He closed the gap to Chaves remarkably quick and the two of them completed the final few hundred metres together, with the Brit allowing his Colombian team-mate to take the stage win.

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Pinot won the sprint for third from the remainder of the GC group with none of the big GC favourites losing any more time than the 26 seconds they ceded to Yates and Chaves.

The result leaves Yates in the Maglia Rosa and looking at the Mitchelton squad, they certainly have a strong and well-rounded line-up to defend it for a while. Thankfully for them they should have a fairly easy day tomorrow as the sprinters most likely get their chance into Praia a Mare.

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

The Route

An almost pan-flat day but with an interesting little kicker near the finish to entice some attacks.

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Not much really here to talk about until we get to the 140km mark and even then, it is nothing too remarkable.

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The terrain rolls for over 12km with the major focal point being the 4km climb at 3.6%. It shouldn’t be too tough for the sprinters but it will certainly offer up a chance for some to make a bold attack. The continual up and down until the final 4km gives them an opportunity to make it stick, but given the wide open road then it will be tough for them to get away fully.

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The riders will descend through a tunnel which could be a bit sketchy and we do have an elongated chicane at around the 2km to go mark. However, aside from that the finish is simple and it will be a drag race between lead-out trains.

Nailed on sprint?

Most likely yeah, but given we’re almost into the second week of the race tiredness will start to kick in for some riders and they might not be as keen to chase all day for a sprint. Today’s stage was fast right from the gun and that will certainly have taken a lot out of the sprinters so I would say the break has more of a chance than normal on a stage like this but even then it is still unlikely.

One thing that might favour the break is that the rest of the sprint teams need to try something to get an advantage over Quick Step. Not contributing to the chase would be a good start and they could send a man up the road as the perfect excuse.

If we see maybe 3 of the sprinters team send a guy in the break it could work. No doubt though we’ll see a group of 4 squirrel off and it will be controlled nicely all day.

Can anyone beat Viviani then?

Yeah, but they will need a combination of luck and great legs. They’ll be hoping the Quick Step rider struggled a bit today.

However, it will be very tough and I can’t really see it happening but you never know.

Modolo – Closest to Viviani on Stage 3 the EF rider has quite a good lead-out that can get close to Quick Step. He was with the peloton on Stage 5 before completely blowing up on the final climb but his legs must be good to get there.

Bennett – Hesitated on stage 2 and then went early on stage 3 and faded, probably as he cycled a few more metres than anyone else. Selig withdrew the other day and that will be a big loss for him. Bennett has beaten Viviani before this year, he just needs to remain confident.

Mareczko – Wilier have a lot of faith in the young sprinter as they’ve had almost all of their squad back helping him get through the past few stages. Will they have taken too much out of him?

Bonifazio – 4th in the opening sprint but was caught out by the winds on stage 3. He was good in helping bring Pozzovivo back to the front in stage 5 so I think he has fairly good legs. Sometimes he has good days but often blows cold.

Van Poppel – Jumbo’s short lead out hasn’t worked so far but on a simpler finish like this is should help them. For raw power I think DVP can get close to Viviani, he just needs everything to click.

Prediction

I’d like to see a break stay away to spoil the party but I just can’t see it happening. Viviani to take yet another stage win.

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I do think Van Poppel can get onto the podium tomorrow though.

Betting

Hmmm, could be a no bet day but I’ll go with:

1pt EW on DVP at 14/1

I might have a dabble on some potential break riders on the exchange but nothing stands out for me atm.

I do also fancy a H2H;

Venturini to beat Debuscherre at 6/5. (5pts on)

Debuscherre seems to have lost his sprinting legs quite a while ago and I think the AG2R rider is faster than him. On a finish that should be about pure speed and power, I favour the Frenchman.

Thanks as always for reading, who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone stop Viviani? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Vuelta a Andalucia 2018 Stage 3 Preview; Mancha Real › Herrera

Today’s Recap

Well that was an exciting finish!

It wasn’t as decisive GC wise as I had expected but it was a very tactical and enthralling finale with attacks off the front being slowly brought back for a counter move to go instantly. In the end though, Wout Poels timed his last attack at the perfect moment and sprung away to take stage victory and with it the GC lead.

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Sanchez and Wellens trailed home just 2 seconds down with Landa and Fuglsang another two behind them. It leaves the race interestingly poised going into the next few stages.

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

The Route

The only stage of the race that should be a guaranteed sprint.

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With that being said though, the riders will have to contend with a lot of uncategorised climbing throughout the day so it will be interesting to see who takes up the chase.

The two Cat-3s shouldn’t be of any major difficulty for the bunch unless some have really suffered during today’s ridiculously tough finish. We do get an intermediate sprint at Puente Genil with only 10kms left, but given there are no bonus seconds on offer then it’s interesting placement becomes somewhat less interesting.

The final 12km does roll a bit though which makes it a not so straightforward finish.

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The major rise in the closing section averages 3.6% for 2.4km that “crests” at just over 7km to go. It might just be enough for a team to stretch the bunch out if they hit it hard, but they’ll need to keep the pressure on over the last 7km if it is to be worthwhile.

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At just 500m to go, the peloton will be greeted with a very tight left-hand turn. Expect a massive fight to get here as you’ll need to be in the first ten riders through here if you want to contend for the stage.

Those last 500m actually kick up ever so slightly but it is more of a grind than anything else at an average of 1.9%. It will certainly give the sprinters something else to think about as you don’t want to open up too early and fade in the end.

How will the stage pan out?

As I said previously, this should be a sprint stage. But nothing is ever certain in cycling!

We saw on the opening day that some of the sprint teams didn’t really want to commit to the chase and the break almost and probably would have stayed away if it wasn’t for Astana. Now, that stage was a lot harder than this one but with a few more days racing in the legs, some of the riders might not be as keen to work at the front all day.

Sky will set their usual tempo but if no one up the road is a danger to them, then they’re not going to over-extended themselves by brining it back unnecessarily. That realistically just leaves the sprinters teams and none of them really strike me with confidence.

Modolo messed up the first stage and he is probably the class sprinter here but can we really trust EF Education First to organise a chase? This was the team that struggled to bring back a break in the Giro even when their whole squad was TTing on the front.

AG2R might chip in to chase but they’ve been in both of the breakaways so far which indicates that they might play that card again. So will Direct Energie or Wanty help then either?

I’m really starting to lean-to the possibility that the break might actually have a better chance tomorrow than originally thought.

In fact, I’m just going to talk about some break candidates because if we get a sprint then I don’t expect Modolo to make the same mistake again.

Lottery Contenders

I’ll keep this bit short and sweet as I’ll no doubt be massively wrong and we’ll end with the obvious bunch sprint.

Moreno Moser.

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Back again with my favourite Italian on Astana, he and the rest of his team-mates have done a lot of work over the opening two stages for the team’s leaders. In an interview on the Astana website, Moser says that he wants to work well for the team but also chase his own opportunity at some point in the race. We’re running out of stages so he might just go in the break tomorrow if there is a sense in the peloton of no-one wanting to commit to a chase.

Oliver Naesen.

As I’ve said above, Ag2r seem keen on sending people up the road during this race. Naesen fits the bill perfectly tomorrow of being far enough down the order not to be a threat but he’s strong enough to win from a group. With the classics season on the horizon, a nice hit-out here would be a good test of form.

Damien Gaudin.

He really “found himself” last year while riding for the Armee de Terre squad picking up three victories to his name. Starting his season this year in the Bongo at which he finished third overall, he’s been a solid domestique for his team-mates since then. He’s the type of rider who is dangerous in a breakaway as he seems to be strong in one-day races. With an explosive short turn of power (he’s not too bad at prologues) he could surprise in a sprint from the break.

Lluís Mas Bonet.

Cycling: 51th Tour of Turkey 2015/ Stage 8

Token Spaniard breakaway pick who also doubles as current KOM leader. Mas Bonet gets into the break to defend and secure the KOM title but with no chase behind he turns his attention to the stage. He packs a surprisingly decent kick and it could catch out a few. The slightly rolling finish would be good for him.

Prediction

Breakaway stays away as EF Education First fail to organise a piss up in a brewery and no one else wants to commit to the work. In fact, other sprinters teams send riders up the road and a 7 man group stays away until the end.

That man Oli Naesen warms up for the classics perfectly by taking a confidence boosting win here!

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Or we get a fairly dull day where the sprint teams decide to actually co-operate and then it is anyone’s guess. Modolo would be favourite but he’s not unbeatable.

Betting

2 of the guys not priced up but I’m just going to “waste” 1pt on some break picks.

0.25pt WIN on them all.

Naesen @ 50/1

Moser @ 300/1

Valgren @ 400/1

Van Hecke @ 400/1

All with Bet365.

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it end in a sprint or will we see the break surprise? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Oropesa El Mar › Peñiscola

Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Oropesa El Mar › Peñiscola

GC Overview

I was originally intending on writing a full GC preview for the race but that won’t be happening now so instead, here’s a short overview.

The GC battle will come down to 2, possibly 3 stages.

Stage 2 has the potential to cause some big splits in the peloton, given how tough the final 3kms of Garbi are. However, with 30km to go from the summit to the finish, will riders want to put in a big effort?

Stage 3 sees the return of the TTT, with a 23km route to Calpe. Fast and dangerous, teams will need to take some risks if they want to stay close to the favourite on the day. BMC and Sky look like the teams to beat.

All will be decided on stage 4 with the Queen stage of the race. The riders will face a total of 7 categorised climbs throughout the day but it is the finishing 4.6km of Canteras de Cocentina that averages 8.4% that will make the difference. Depending on how aggressively the day has been raced before that point, we could see some very big gaps here. Can a rider overcome the deficit from the TTT, or will a rider hold on to their advantage?

It looks set to be a battle between Sky and Valverde, as they will inevitably have to close down any gains BMC made in the TT. Having numbers should help Sky and I expect them to try something on Stage 2 once over the climb. It also will help them on stage 4 and they could possibly send some riders on long-range attacks.

But we’re in Spain, Valverde seems lively on his return to racing and he’s in my fantasy team, so I think we’ll see El Bala on the top step come the end of the race. Hopefully!

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Anyway, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders on the opening day.

The Route

Right, get the sniggers out of your system straight away, as the opening stage finishes in the town of Peñiscola.

Now that the immaturity is out-of-the-way, what can we expect on stage 1?

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@LasterketaBurua

A fairly straightforward stage with one climb in the middle to reward a breakaway rider with the KOM jersey.

There isn’t really much to this stage but it will be interesting to see if the wind plays a part as the riders head through Vinaroz and along the coast towards the finish. At the moment it looks as if it will be a cross-head wind, but at only 15km/h or so, it isn’t strong enough to create echelons. Teams will be wary though if the forecast changes and it does kick up tomorrow.

As for the final 5km, they are pan-flat but do involve a few turns and roundabouts.

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Incoming Preview by Pictures™…

The most important part of the run in will be the double-header of two 90-degree turns the riders will face in the final 2km.

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Turn #1 at roughly 1.9km to go.

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Turn #2 at roughly 1.6km to go.

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Turn #3 at roughly 1.1km to go.

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Turn #4 at roughly 1km to go.

What can we take from this then?

Well, the road after turn 1 is very narrow and the bunch will be strung out through that section. Turn 2 is slightly more forgiving and the road does open up after that for the following kilometre. This gives those behind a chance to move up if there is some hesitation at the front of the pack.

The second pair of turns are less sharp, but it is important to note that the road narrows a lot once through the final turn. It goes from 2 lanes wide, with plenty of space for parked cars on either side, to only two lanes wide and that’s it.

That continues for the following few hundred metres but the road does open up into the 2 lanes with space either side in the closing 500m.

Therefore positioning coming into the final 2km will be very important as I think it will be hard for teams to move up once through that point.

Sprinters

We don’t exactly have a plethora of sprinting talent here but that means that a couple of riders can get a confidence boosting win over this coming week.

Danny Van Poppel.

After his switch from Sky to Jumbo in the winter, the Dutch rider will be looking to impress for his new outfit. Arguably one of the fastest riders here, he’ll be able to rely on the engines of Van Emden and Van Hoecke to get him into a good position, but from there he will most likely have to follow the wheels of the better sprint trains. If he chooses correctly, then he has a good chance to take the win.

Luka Mezgec.

Mitchelton Scott could go with three options but I fancy them to go with the Slovenian over Albasini and Trentin; with that pair on lead-out duties. Kreuziger -> Bewley -> Albasini -> Trentin is arguably one of the best trains we have their and they pack a lot of power in the final two. That could be crucial in seeing Mezgec through the twisty and tight final few kilometres. Does he have the top end speed to deliver?

Sacha Modolo.

Whisper it quietly but EF Education might have the strongest sprint train here. Their whole squad will most likely get involved in the effort, apart from Rolland maybe, it will just be a case of if they go for Modolo or McLay. Both of them are fast enough in their own right, and it might just be decided on the day as to who is feeling best. I think it will be Modolo on the opening day though. The Italian had an up and down year in 2017, but he will hope his new move means he has more ups than downs this season. In theory, he should be in the best place going into the final few hundred metres, but does he have the top end speed to win?

Those are probably the fastest three guys here/have the best teams around them, but we certainly could see a surprise from some others.

Hugo Hofstetter – More of a lead-out rider, the Cofidis man will be given the go-ahead in the sprints here. Fairly fast, a second place behind Kristoff in Norway last year is testament to that, will he be able to up his game here though. We’ll see!

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Clément Venturini – Nippy little AG2R rider that reminds me a lot of Sammy Dumoulin. He’ll have the trusty services of Oli Naesen to lead him out. Could surprise.

Baptiste Planckaert – An incredible 2016 saw him make the jump from CT up to WT and he did struggle a bit last season. However, he started to find his feet towards the end of the year. Would prefer a harder route though.

Adrien Petit – Another lead-out man who gets his chance to shine. With some racing already under his belt in the Bongo, he should theoretically come here in better shape than some of his rivals. He’s not a slouch and he’ll be aiming for a top 5. Would probably prefer a harder course as well though.

Enrique Sanz – A 4th place in Palma shows there is a reasonable bit of form there for the Euskadi rider. I’m not sure about his top speed on a finish like this however.

Albert Torres – I’m a fan of the track star who occasionally rides road races for the Inteja team. His winter of track riding served him will in the Trofeo’s with two top 10 places. He has a very fast finish and he’s one I’m keeping my eye on.

Marko Kump – The Slovenian has taken a step down to PCT in a hope for more leadership opportunities. He is a weird rider in the sense that sometimes he seems incredibly fast, while other times, he’s a bit “meh”. Given this field, if he is on a strong day then at least a podium is a good possibility.

I think that’s everyone covered, although to be fair, I could almost start naming the likes of Valverde and Van Avermaet to be in the mix at this point.

One thing to consider about tomorrow’s stage though is that given the lack of a clear sprint favourite, then we might see a bit of bluffing and refusing to chase the break. There is a much better chance than normal for an opening stage that the break stays away due to no one wanting to work behind. The race really needs a GC team like Sky or Movistar to help with the pace making, otherwise we could well see the break stick.

So it is not a bad day for the pro conti and conti teams to make the move!

Prediction

We will end with a sprint and it will be Luka Mezgec who is victorious.

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Mitchelton have a very strong final 4 that should be able to take control in the closing two kilometres when it matters most. They could conceivably go for Albasini or Trentin as well, but I think Mezgec will be their chosen rider. He worked exceptionally hard for the team last year but showed he had the speed to take his own chances when given them. As an integral part of Ewan’s train, he once again might be allowed to chase personal glory before working hard for others later on in the year!

Betting

I can’t remember if we had odds last year or not so I’m just publishing this preview now anyway. There are odds available with Kirolbet in Spain, but nowhere else unfortunately. Hopefully this might change, but I’m not entirely sure if I’ll back anything anyway. Keep an eye out on my twitter if there are odds published as I’ll post any fancies there.

Thanks for reading as always though! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will there be enough urgency in the peloton to bring it all back for a sprint, or will we see a breakaway surprise everyone and hold out? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Tour Down Under 2018 – Stage 3 Preview; Glenelg -> Victor Harbor

Stage 2 Recap

Well, for the first time and not the last, I was way off with the prediction. I really thought Bora and Katusha would ride hard to try to set up their two GC candidates but instead it was Bahrain who made most of the pushing throughout the day. A combination of a controlled tempo up the final climb and a slight headwind deterring attacks, saw Caleb Ewan take a strong win ahead of team-mate Impey, with McCarthy third.

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The Aussie pocket rocket showing how to bounce back well after disappointment on the opening stage. It also means that he’ll be wearing the Ochre jersey going into stage 3, which is another likely to end in a sprint. Let’s have a look at what is in store for them though.

The Route

Shortened due to the extreme heat that is expected, the riders will only face one lap around Victor Harbor to finish.

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@LaFlammeRouge

Although there are a few sharp climbs out on route, they are too far out to have any effect on the outcome of the day; this stage is all about that closing 13km loop.

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Neither of the hills on the course are overly challenging for the peloton. The first one, known as McCracken Hill, is 940m long at 3.8%. While the second climb is ever so slightly longer at 1.07km and averages 4.3%. Again, not too diffuclt for these guys!

It will be interesting to see if anyone tries a late attack over the second hill considering the fast descent that follows. However, the almost 3km of flat at the end should ensure things are brought back together.

The run in itself does have a few technical aspects to it. One of the first points the riders will be racing too will be a roundabout that comes at roughly 1.2km to go. Normally they are funnelled around the left hand side of it which narrows down the road for the peloton and stretches it out.

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Team Sky did this very well last year and it left a lot of people out of position; making the expend extra energy to return to the front.

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Once through the roundabout they have 400m before a crucial right then left-hand turn combination before a sweeping run to the line.

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Last year, the top 5 finishers on the stage were all through the final left-hand turn in the top 15 places which shows how critical good positioning is to do well here.

Furthermore, it is important to note that the shortest run in to the line is on the right hand side of the road, hugging the barriers, and I’m sure we’ll see a big fight between the sprinters for that position.

GC riders will have to be wary as well because the technical but fast finish can lead to some splits in the bunch.

Sprinters – The Usual Suspects

I’ll keep this short and sweet as who wants to read basically my Stage 1 preview again?!

We have 4 riders who seem to be ever so slightly ahead of the rest, given they made up the top 4 in both the PCC and Stage 1.

Ewan – His confidence will be through the roof after his win and having taken victory here last year, he’ll certainly hope to repeat it. He’ll need a good lead-out from his team-mates as they were a bit off the pace on the opening day.

Greipel – Rolled home yesterday knowing the finish was too tough for him, but he did look miffed when the cameras lingered on him. Maybe he did actually think for a while he might make it, but eventually gave up the ghost. The power he has demonstrated in the PCC and Stage 1 can’t be underestimated and this stage should suit him. Missing a pilot fish might be of detriment to the gorilla.

Sagan – Finished fast on stage 1 and was up there again on stage 2 but he just didn’t seem to have the legs to hold off Ewan. He slowed down to let McCarthy take 3rd, so maybe that was the plan after all, but it is hard to tell!

Viviani – A quietly impressive 6th place for the Italian highlights that he certainly has some good form at the start of the season. It looked for a while as if he was going to win on the opener, but he seemed to launch his sprint too early and ran out of steam in the end. If Sabatini can deliver him later, or if he can come off the wheel of someone, he is a danger.

The Outsiders

Bauhaus – He finished very fast on the opening day but was just far too far behind the action when he needed to be near the front. I still think Sunweb are trying to figure out the lead-out but if they get it right he could be dangerous.

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Consonni – I was very impressed with the young Italian towards the end of last season as he picked up strong placings in some fairly high-profile races, while still being a neo-pro. Another who finished very fast on the opening day, he slogged his way to 16th on stage 2 which is a sign of his talent and is another who might sneak a podium.

Bennett – Bora’s second, or first option, depending on how you look at it. He was suffering from a cold before the race, but given his bitter disappointment at dropping his chain on the opening day, I’m going to take a stab in the dark and say he’s over it. As it is unrealistic that McCarthy will be getting any bonus seconds here, it will be up to the Bora management to decide who sprints. Sagan is known to be a good team-mate and I have a feeling he might let the Irishman have a go for it on stage 3. If so, given the way he finished last year then he is a serious threat for the win.

Prediction

There’s something that is drawing me to Viviani for this stage and I’m not entirely sure why. He is fast, that is for sure. QuickStep haven’t got their lead-out bang on during either the PCC or Stage 1. In the PCC they were too far back, while on Stage 1 they dropped Viviani off to early. Maybe they’ll get it just right this time?

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I think they will.

I also have a sneaking suspicion that Bennett will be up there fighting for Bora too.

Betting

2pts WIN Viviani @7/1 with Coral/Lads

1pt EW Bennett @ 25/1 with Coral/Lads

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win? Will we see a new stage winner or will it be a repeat victor? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 13 Preview; Coín -> Tomares

Today’s Recap

A boring breakaway day they said…

Ahead Marczynksi took his second stage win, with Fraile and Rojas rounding out the podium behind.

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However, the majority of the action and excitement came from the GC group. Contador attacked with Roche on the last climb of the day, but the Irishman couldn’t live with the sprightly Spaniard’s pace. He then linked up with Theuns who had been in the break earlier in the day, and the two forged on, working well together. Maybe they were getting some practise in for Duo Normand?

Sky seemed fairly content to set the pace on the front of the peloton, but Froome then had a mechanical and a fall. Although the first mechanical may have been caused by a fall, I’m not too sure! Poels and Nieve dropped back to help him, but it was a tough chase.

Astana, Katusha and Bahrain shared the pace at the front of the peloton, but they became a bit disorganised in the closing few kilometres and allowed the race leader to close somewhat.

With all that said and done at the end of the stage, Contador gained 22 seconds on the “peloton” which itself gained 20 on Froome.

Will we see anything crazy happen tomorrow?

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

The Route

By Vuelta standards we have a sprinters stage on the cards!

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We do have some drags and falls in the opening 90km of the day but with over half the stage remaining the riders will be over the worst of it.

It is all about the finish tomorrow.

Of course, this is the Vuelta so we have approximately 9234323 roundabouts in the closing 5kms.

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The road is particularly narrow in parts so being positioned near the front will be crucial.

The many roundabouts will help to string the bunch out but so will the elevation gain in the closing kilometres.

As per, I’ve made a profile of the end of the stage that you can view fully/interactively here.

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According to VeloViewer/Strava, that opening rise we see is 1.14km at an average of 6.1% with the steepest gradient apparently touching 13%. Although if I’m honest, I do think that is a tad generous.

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It does look fairly steep and on the narrow road it could cause some issues for the riders moving up, while also being a great launchpad for someone to go on the offensive.

That section of climbing then crests with 2.5km left of the day.

The final kilometre of the stage averages 2.6%, with the peloton tackling two roundabouts in that time!

Things could get messy but the uphill drag should make the speeds slower and safer. Hopefully.

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We’ll see the peloton tackle the above roundabout at ~450m to go, before the final dash to the line.

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That dash to the line averages 4% for 350m apparently so the “sprinters” that we have here might find it difficult and there could be a few surprises at the line.

How will the stage pan out?

Given the lack of sprinters here and the amount of moves that have made it to the line over the past week, there is a good chance we might not actually see a sprint at the end of the day.

Instead, the break might be left to fight out stage honours.

Although, with it not being a pure sprint. Then a few teams with punchier riders might fancy their chances at bringing the break back to let their guys off the leash in the closing kilometres.

I think it comes down to the attitude of two teams though; Quick Step and Lotto Jumbo.

The former have a couple of options for a finish like this with Trentin and Alaphilippe both good candidates. If they don’t get anyone in the morning move, then I would expect to see them pull in the hope to bring the break back.

Likewise, Jumbo have a great candidate for stage victory with JJ Lobato. The Spaniard is from a town 100km from the finish so he is fairly “local” in that sense. Tomorrow’s stage looks tailor-made for him and he certainly won’t want to pass up the opportunity.

If these teams don’t get riders in the move and begin to chase, then another couple of teams might chip in with the workload.

With tomorrow being the only chance for a “sprint” until Madrid, I think we’ll see the peloton come to the finish together. Teams will work for their faster guys in the hope that they repay the favour over the coming week.

There is of course the chance that a late attack sticks tomorrow, as things could get very hectic. Lampaert round 2?!

“Sprinters”

Lobato.

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Loves an uphill finish and he should be able to cope with tomorrow no problem. He picked up a win in the Tour de l’Ain before the Vuelta and he followed that up with a second place to Trentin on Stage 4. Arguably one of the best riders in the world on his day on a ramp like this, if he’s in form then he could be tough to beat.

Trentin.

Speaking of in form, the Italian seems to be in great shape at the moment. His stage win from the breakaway was truly remarkable and he should be up there fighting for the honours again tomorrow.

Theuns.

Chicken-smuggling extraordinaire, the finish tomorrow is right on the Belgian’s limit I think. He is climbing better than ever but after a tough day up ahead today, he might be missing something in the finale tomorrow.

Molano.

Struck down by the Haughey Curse on Stage 4, this steeper run to the line is much more up his street so to say. This is his best chance of a good stage result all race and I have a feeling that he has been saving himself for it. Could we see yet another Colombian make his mark at the Vuelta?

Cort.

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With Chaves the only remaining Orica rider anywhere close in contention for GC, will the team use up some resources to help their sprinter? A strong rider, like Theuns, the rise to the line could be on his limit. Nonetheless, if he is there, then he has a great chance given his speed!

Modolo.

Not the first name you would think of for a finish like this but the Italian can climb well when needed. Back in the Tour of Croatia he took a superb win on the closing stage on a tricky finish, somewhat similar to this. He has been a bit “meh” in form as of late but you can’t discount him.

Andersen.

A wildcard rider for a finish like this, the rise in gradient brings him into play. He was 8th on Stage 4 and he’ll be Sunweb’s go to rider here. Both of his pro wins have come on stages that are very similar to this one, with some steady climbing at the end of the day. Can he continue on Sunweb’s great season?

Lutsenko.

Even more of a wildcard, the Kazakh has an under-rated sprint and like Andersen, the rise to the line levels the playing field for him. Who knows what he’ll produce!

Moscon.

Do Sky give one of their strongest rider some freedom to chase stage glory? No one has been given any leeway so far but tomorrow looks like an opportunity where they can do something for little effort. Climbing with some of the best in the race, if Moscon lays down the Watts, not many will be able to follow!

Vuelta Picks

Another tough day where there is a chance we could see a break make it all the way.

Safe Pick – GC rider – Meintjes.

Should finish close to the front of the bunch to avoid any splits.

Wongshot Pick – Sprinter – Andersen

I really rate his chances for tomorrow! Take your pick though…

Lanterne Rouge Pick – De Vreese

Crashed today and rolled home near the back. Will probably come home safely tomorrow as well.

Prediction

The sprinters to be surprised by the difficulty of the finish and a punchier rider to prevail. Soren Kragh Andersen to take the win!

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Betting

Definitely some value out there by not going for the proper “sprinters” so I’m going to up the ante pts wise today…

Andersen 1pt EW @ 66/1

Molano 1pt EW @ 66/1

Moscon 0.5pt EW @ 250/1

Watch it be a break now…

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Escaldes-Engordany -> Tarragona

Today’s Recap

If you don’t like the Vuelta, we can’t be friends!

Quick Step decided they wanted to honour the jersey and try to keep it in the team so they controlled the break for the first 2/3rds of the day, never letting the gap grow much bigger than 5 minutes. Which in some ways was good, as neither of the lottery tickets made the move! So I decided to tweet out some thoughts and back Chaves in-play…

Once onto the penultimate climb Sky took over the pace making duties and just about caught the break at the summit. Although we did see some weird UAE tactics with Costa and Atapuma dangling 10 seconds ahead of the peloton for the last few kilometres of the climb. The break was absorbed on the descent with Atapuma now doing the chasing before all hell lot loose on the last climb.

Rosa sprinted into it before peeling off almost instantly. However, some of the GC guys were already distanced due to the difference in speed at the middle of the peloton compared to the front. Some clawed their way back to the Sky train but others didn’t.

Froome launched a vicious attack that only Chaves could follow and the two built up a 10-second or so advantage. Bardet eventually sent off in pursuit, with Aru quickly following. The Froome/Chaves duo crested the climb with roughly a 5 second gap over Bardet/Aru and a further 15 over a group of chasers.

Bardet and Aru caught up with the lead pair on the descent and the pace dropped ever so slightly; allowing the chasers to return at roughly 1km to go.

Roche put in a half-hearted dig but was closed by Chaves. However, Nibali then made a more serious effort with roughly 300m left and no one seemed bothered about chasing him initially and that was it. The Shark had his stage win!

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What a finish line photo as well!

De la Cruz sprinted to second, with Froome in third. The bonus seconds on the line see the Brit into the leader’s jersey with a trio of riders only 2 seconds behind him.

Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the peloton tomorrow.

The Route

A much easier day in the saddle, I’m sure they’ll be glad to know!

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There’s not really much of note apart from a Cat-3 climb to break up the very slow descent to the finish line.

Well, it doesn’t descend all the way to the finish line…

The road does rise in the closing kilometres and it is quite a tricky finale that could catch a few out.

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Having to traverse 6 roundabouts in just under 3.5km will certainly make things messy! The “climb” that you see above is more of a drag, but it averages 1.7%% for a 1.2kms, flattening out at the Flamme Rouge.

At 900m to go the riders will take the long way around this roundabout, exiting it on the left hand side.

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Almost as soon as they leave the roundabout they’ll have to make another time. This time it will be a 90-degree turn, that is made even sharper by the fact the riders are funnelled left once exiting the roundabout.

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The road then snakes for the following 200m before it takes “snaking” to the extreme at just under 500m to go.

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Possibly having to knock off their speed, if the bunch is not stretched out by now, it certainly will be after.

We then have a ridiculously narrow roundabout at 250m to go.

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Which is then duly followed up by an equally narrow exit.

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Let’s just hope the local council have done some road works or at least completed paving the finish since the google maps image was taken in 2015!

How will the stage pan out?

It should be a sprint, but given the lack of top-tier sprinters here a few of the teams might decide to have an early rest day and not pull.

I would not be surprised to see a “shock” break stay all the way to the line.

However, the one thing that is massively against the break is the constant 15km/h headwind that they’ll be cycling into all day. That definitely swings things in favour of the sprinters and because of that I’m sure we’ll see a few of the teams come to an agreement to keep the break in check.

We could be in for a long watch though!

Sprinters

Picking a sprinter for this Vuelta seems to be a minefield. We don’t really have much to go off of from stage 2, given how the race was split apart in all of 2kms. The slight uphill drag before the line also makes it more interesting but all of the sprinters here should manage it easily so it doesn’t affect things too much.

With all that said, I’ll be keeping this relatively short and sweet.

Theuns – Made a massive effort to close the gap on Stage 2 and still managed to get up for 4th. He’s clearly in great form and with Contador struggling today, he might get a few more resources at his disposal tomorrow. That is of course unless his team-mate sprints.

Degenkolb – Admitted he was struggling on the first few days but he might have rode into some form after three stages? I still think it is too early for him but this finish does look ideal for the Degenkolb of 2015.

Trentin – Another rider who is in great form at the moment and with the best lead-out he should be up there. QS seem a team full of confidence and that could just make the difference.

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Molano – The Colombian is a rider that I’ve been looking to forward to watching this Vuelta. He’s a very talented sprinter who excels on tough finishes, winning two stages in Portugal earlier this year. This is a big step up for him but the fact he was close to the front on Stage 2 is promising.

Modolo – Looks to be on good form as he was another rider who made the front split on S2. Arguably the fastest sprinter based on his wins in the past, he has a good chance tomorrow if he’s in the right position. He’ll certainly take the risks to get there.

Blythe – Not a bad start to Aqua Blue’s first ever Grand Tour with the Brit delivering a podium result on the opening stage. Can he go better? Possibly!

Cort – Might get dragged into helping his GT leaders again. So could be nowhere again.

Schwarzmann – Good lead out rider, but I don’t rate him too highly as an actual sprinter.

Van Asbroeck – Solid rider who top 10’d on stage 2 and he’ll be there or thereabouts again.

Lobato – Finish looks good for him but his positioning often lets him down. Could be great, could be awful!

Prediction

A chaotic finish that could lead to a surprise result and possibly a few nasty crashes. Consequently it might be a lottery in regards as to where everyone is positioned on the lead in to the final turn.

However, I’ve been looking forward to this stage for a while as the day that Molano really makes his mark on the pro peloton!

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Vuelta Picks

A tricky day…

Safe Pick – Trentin

Wongshot – LL Sanchez (late attack in the chaotic run in)

Lanterne Rouge – Belkov (he’s been consistently near the back every day!)

Betting

1pt EW on Molano @ 33/1 with B365

 

Thanks as always for reading, hope you enjoyed the detailed finale by pictures! Who do you think will win the chaotic sprint? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Nîmes -> Gruissan

Today’s Recap

I should never have doubted them, should I?!

BMC win yet another TTT, being the only team to best the 16 minute mark.

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Dennis was the first man across the line so he is the first rider in the leader’s jersey of the race.

With a sprint finish likely tomorrow, there is a good chance he will hold onto it for a few days.

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

The Route

A flat jaunt along the Mediterranean coastline, with a little change of direction inland before turning back towards the sea for the finish in Gruissan.

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In terms of altimetry, there is nothing much to talk about at all. The highest peak of the day is just over 40m above sea level…

It could be a fairly benign day, but the finish could cause a surprise or two.

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They will tackle a roundabout at 2.5km to go, taking the sharp left.

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Said sweeping roundabout. The riders will have to knock a little bit of speed through it and it will certainly stretch out the peloton.

Will a team then have enough firepower to keep the pace high over the next 2 kilometres? If not, there could be a lot of jostling for position with things getting scrappy.

Especially when the road narrows at ~1km to go as the riders head off the main road and towards the town.

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The slip-road only lasts for 150m or so but it will certainly be a point some of the teams will be racing for. It is much more realistic for a team to control it from there to the finish with a few riders.

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It wouldn’t be the Vuelta without some type of “challenge” in the final kilometre. Tomorrow’s is a roundabout with roughly 350m to go. It’s not too tight, but the riders won’t be able to smooth out the corner completely.

Having one man peeling off just out of the roundabout and leaving the “pilot fish” with the sprinter is the ideal tactic here. Can anyone pull it off?

Weather Watch

We spend a lot of the day travelling parallel to the coast line so of course I have to mention the prospect of crosswinds.

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Although oddly enough, the wind isn’t coming from the sea. Instead, it comes from in-land and pushing towards the coast.

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That makes it less likely for echelons early on in the day but not improbable. There are some exposed sections as we head in land though, such as this part of the D-37 as we head towards Sérignan.

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At around 80km to go, is it too early for a team to try to split it?

They will turn more into a cross-head-wind afterwards so a lot of the riders might not fancy it. But the wind direction is pretty organic, much like the teams attitudes towards crosswinds. If they sense a chance to push it, I’m sure some will try!

If we do see splits then those dropped will hope that the wind direction becomes more of a headwind to deter the teams pushing on. It will be a race to the 30km to go banner in that case as once the riders turn to home, they’ll have a stonkingly big tailwind for the remainder of the day. Anyone gapped will find it difficult to get back.

So do I think we’ll see echelons? I’m hopeful, but not overly confident.

Sprinters

We don’t exactly have a long list of guys here and a the majority of them don’t have much help. Things could be messy…

Degenkolb.

On paper he is the most experienced/best sprinter here but he hasn’t raced since the Tour. Rolling home today makes me think that he still might be finding his legs and tomorrow’s long stage could be a struggle for him this early on. Of course, he could have been conserving energy after giving his all in the first part of the TTT but the signs aren’t good.

Theuns.

If Degenkolb isn’t sprinting then Theuns will be Trek’s main man. Full of confidence after his first World Tour win at the BinckBank Tour, he looked lightning quick then. He is off to a new team so there could be some tension within his current squad but as professionals I wouldn’t expect that to play too big a part. With a lot of helpers for Contador, whoever sprints for Trek will most likely only be able to rely on De Koert and possibly Pantano. A late charge to the front à la Lampre of old?!

Cort Nielsen.

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A double stage winner last year, he certainly enjoyed his first Grand Tour. Fast after a tough, long day, tomorrow’s stage looks good for him and I’m sure he’ll be hoping for crosswinds to reduce the bunch. Although maybe he won’t, as he is supposedly on team help duty before getting his own opportunity if the Orica GC riders are safe within the last 10km. It will be interesting to see how it plays out for him with no lead-out.

Modolo – Won a sprint in Poland but DNF’d that race. He is a really hit or miss rider so who knows how he’ll go tomorrow!

Trentin – He’ll more than likely be QS rider of choice for tomorrow. If they dedicate a lead-out to him then they have a fairly strong team with several strong rouleurs to push things on for him. Looking strong lately, I think he has a good chance of a result.

Blythe – The Brit will be hoping for echelons tomorrow to reduce his opposition. A good classics rider, he should make the first split if he’s being attentive and will fancy his chances in a reduced bunch. He could struggle in a big bunch gallop though, but with it being messy he could seize the opportunity.

Lobato – Seems to be finding form again but this pure flat sprint isn’t great for him. Almost guaranteed to be dropped if the wind picks up.

Van Genechten – Just a bit of a “meh” sprinter and typifies this field we have here. Will struggle to repeat his win from last season.

Debuscherre – Will be praying for echelons as he seems to have lost his way as a big bunch sprinter this year. That lack of confidence won’t help in the slightly sketchy finish.

Schwarzmann – Arguably has one of the strongest sprint lead-outs here in terms of pure power. Often a lead-out man himself, will he grasp his opportunity to shine?

Vuelta Picks

Safe Pick – Cort.

It’s tough to choose a “safe” pick for this stage as anything could happen out on the road with possible echelons and a messy sprint. Not knowing which of the Trek riders will be sprinting, it is wise to avoid them, although I would lean towards Theuns. Cort should be sprinting and as one of the fastest here he should guarantee a top 5.

Wongshot Pick – Theuns.

On form he is arguably the fastest rider here, it just depends if he sprints or not. Hence why he is the wongshot.

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Zurlo.

Fell today so he might be tasked with doing some work early on for Modolo and roll home at the end of the day.

Prediction

Trek to take advantage of Theuns is great form just now, letting him sprint, with the Belgian duly delivering!

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Betting

1pt EW Theuns @ 22/1 with Bet365 (would take 14/1 lowest – others might actually price up higher later on)

Also for a bit of fun I’ve doubled that up Sam Bennett for the Cyclassics at 528/1…

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de Pologne 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Zawiercie -> Zabrze

Today’s Recap

We didn’t see as an attacking race as I thought and had hoped for, with things being relatively controlled throughout the day. Scenario 2 was the one that prevailed from yesterdays preview, with a group of 20 guys coming to the bottom of the final climb.

Taking things “slowly” to start off with, Conti decided to launch an attack off the front. His gap seemed to be growing quite large but Yates and Teuns made their move with roughly 350m to go. The former faltered, but the recent winner of the Tour de Wallonie pushed on, managing to hold on for the stage win.

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Arguably a more impressive rider though was Sagan who managed to power his way up the climb and take second place. Maybe he does stand a chance at the GC title after all? I still think stages 6 and 7 will be too tough, and if he picks up more bonus seconds tomorrow, they’ll be raced too aggressively for him. I think…But the way he’s riding I’m not going to write him off completely. Swallowing my already minimal amount of pride here.

Bora are in a great position though with Majka third on the day and up to the same position on GC.

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

The Route

A needlessly long sprint stage!

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My profile is missing some of the neutral kilometres that are included in the official one, and I think I may have skipped out a little bit of the route too. But considering the resources I had to work with, it will have to do!

Not much at all of interest during the stage really so let’s get straight to the finish.

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A simple 6.2km circuit, the riders will have an 800m straight run to the finish. Plenty of time for lead-outs to get organised and more than likely hit the front too early and burn out!

How will the stage pan out?

A long day like this could see a surprise breakaway stay away, but more than likely we’ll see another sprint in Zabrze.

If the peloton catches the break early then there is a chance for a late attack but it will hard to make it stick given the nature of the terrain. So once again, a bunch sprint is likely.

Contenders

Sagan.

Given the strength he showed today and the speed on stage 1, he still has to start as stage favourite. He went missing on stage 2 but that’s because he was a bit boxed in and the Bora lead-out was disorganised. Saying that, I think Sagan will surf wheels tomorrow as most of his team will be working all day to bring the break back. If he kick like he did on Stage 1, can anyone beat him?

Danny Van Poppel.

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Based off of the previous two sprints he seems like the most consistent challenge. He finished fast on Stage 1, he finished fast on stage 2. Both times he was out of position terribly! Maybe if he gets placed near the front he has a chance of winning the stage. Puccio will need to step up in that regards.

Ewan.

Jumped too late on stage 1, disappointing and blocked in on stage 2. The Aussie is fast, and he will be bitterly disappointed after that second day of racing.  If this was mid-season last year I would have a concern about his ability to last the distance, but his win at Cyclassics Hamburg in August of 2016 shows he still has a good turn of speed after 200km*. Furthermore, he did finish 10th at Milan San Remo this season, not bad for a first effort. With Mezgec, he has the fastest lead-out rider here but they will need to hit the front later than they have been. On stage 2 they seemed to get really giddy and Ewan was third wheel with 4km still to go. If they bide their time and come up in the last 1km then he has a great chance.

*Although that was after a Bouhanni DQ. Classic.

Modolo.

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Won stage 2 so there is obviously some form there and the confidence boost will do him a world of good. He’ll need to be lucky and hope the others are caught napping, but he certainly has the ability to be close again.

Minali.

Like a few others he was caught out on stage 2 by being swamped in the closing kilometre. Astana seemed very pro-active at the front of the race, bringing him in to a good position, but like Orica, they did it too early. The Italian had an impressive turn of speed to finish in the top 10 and I still think he can finish on the podium at some point this week but he’s running out of chances.

Walscheid, Bonifazio and Van Poppel will all be up there fighting for the top 5 again.

Prediction

Long stage (I’d watch Burgos instead if you can) that will end in a sprint, unsurprisingly.

Sagan will surf wheels but Orica will finally bide their time and get the lead-out right, with Mezgec delivering the Aussie Pocket rocket into a perfect position, seeing Ewan winning the day.

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Van Poppel will come flying but from too far back, again, and we’ll see Minali edge his way onto the podium.

Betting

2pts WIN Ewan 11/4

0.5pt EW Minali @ 22/1

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Ride London-Surrey Classic 2017 Preview

After spending a few years at .HC level, the race makes the step up to WT status for 2017. A decision that I’m not so sure about as with two WT races already going on at the weekend; team’s resources will be stretched to the limit and we could see some weaker teams sent here because of it. Furthermore, it takes away the opportunity for the UK Continental teams to shine. Oh well, it is what it is!

Last year saw the race come back for a relatively large bunch sprint which Tom Boonen won.

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The Aussie duo of Renshaw and Matthews followed the Belgian home to round out the podium.

Will we see a similar outcome this year? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The organisers have slightly shortened the route for this edition, removing one of the climbs that we normally have during the middle of the race.

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Rolling out from London, the riders will face fairly flat roads with only a few minor lumps before reaching the first KOM of the day; Staple Lane.

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Uncategorised in last years race, it’s not an overly tough climb mainly due to the amount of false flat that it has. However, there are a few steep ramps and some longer sections at +5%. I wouldn’t expect it to do any damage to the peloton though.

Staple Hill does kick off the “serious” section of the race where the riders will be facing climbs every 15km or so.

Next on the agenda is Leith Hill.

LeithHill KOM

A more challenging climb than Staple Hill, we could see some of the stronger climbing teams push the pace on here to try to put the sprinters into difficulty early on.

Once over the top they’ll face a long shallow descent before the first passage of Ranmore Common.

Ranmore KOM

Another short climb, the peloton will no doubt fly up it. The gradient does get steepest near the top, peaking at 16%, which does offer a great opportunity to attack. Even more so because there are a few kilometres of false-flat to continue to apply the pressure on once you’re over the summit. The riders will then complete a loop back through Dorking and complete the Ranmore climb for a second time.

With roughly 50km remaining, the riders will face the last KOM of the day; Box Hill.

BoxHill KOM

For the professional peloton it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, but it depends how aggressive the race has been up to that point. If we’ve had some very fast racing over the previous 60km then the 3.9% average gradient might seem a little harder than it is on paper!

When off the descent, the riders will have just over 40km until the finish in London. A lot of the route is flat in general, but the road does roll quite a lot. One thing British roads are known for is being “heavy” and energy sapping. This could really be of the detriment to any group up the road if they’ve already expended a lot of energy and the peloton is chasing keenly behind. Conversely though, narrow roads make it hard for a team to organise a chase.

The finish in London itself is the same we’ve had the past few years with the sprint along the Mall.

Weather Watch

As with most races in the UK, you never know what type of weather you’ll get on the day of the event.

Looking just now, the forecast for Kingston-upon-Thames has some possible localised thunderstorms mid-afternoon.

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Source: Met Office

That could certainly make the run in for home interesting; especially with a strong tailwind helping those staying away.

However, in Dorking (where most of the climbs are near) there is no rain forecast with fairly clear skies promised for the majority of the day!

All of this can change in an instant though and I wouldn’t be surprised if the forecast is different later on this evening compared to what it is when I’m looking at it now (10:30 am).

How will the race pan out?

The past 4 editions of the race have seen a small group stay away two times, with a reduced bunch sprint deciding the winner on the other occasions.

With the race now stepped up to WT level, we could see a race where teams are more happy to control the day hoping for a sprint and to gain some crucial WT points.

The step up also means that teams are able to bring an extra rider; 7 compared to 6 the past few years. Consequently, the bigger teams have another “disposable” rider to try to control the breakaway up ahead.

Conversely though, quite a few teams bring squads where they have riders who can cover both options.

I think I’m hoping more than anything else that we’ll get an exciting, attacking race, but I fear that it could end up being a relatively dull and controlled day.

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The majority of you seem to think the same way!

Sprinters

Matthews.

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Off the back of a great Tour de France, the Aussie will arrive here looking to keep the momentum going. As one of the best climbing sprinters in the world, he might actually get his team to apply some pressure on the KOMs during the middle of the race. He’s not the fastest on a pure flat sprint like the one we have tomorrow so he needs to take advantage elsewhere. He has a solid lead-out but it’s made up of mostly sprinters so they might be a bit disorganised. His team doesn’t really have anyone that will ride tempo on the front of the peloton all day so I’m intrigued to see if they try to get someone into the break.

Greipel.

Bitterly disappointed with his performance at the Tour, he’ll be here hoping to make amends tomorrow. In this type of field he should be making it over the climbs if they’re not rode aggressively and he should be there at the finish. Is he getting past his prime and starting to decline in prowess? Unfortunately, I think so. He just doesn’t seem as fast as he used to be and that’s shown at the Giro and Tour. I wouldn’t be placing my house on him to win tomorrow!

Bennett.

After picking up a handful of podiums at the Giro but just missing out on that elusive Grand Tour win, he bounced back with two wins in Slovenia. However, he’s not raced since the Irish Road Champs over a month ago so it will be interesting to see where his form is at. A rider I rate highly, he should be able to get over the climbs in fairly good shape and will be one of the fastest guys at the finish. If he’s on form…

Viviani.

According to an interview with Doull, Team Sky are backing Viviani 100% and that the Italian is in good form. Are they that confident in him or is that a bluff? Because to be honest, I wouldn’t be confident in Viviani winning! Sky have a few cards to play if the race does become attacking, such as Kennaugh or Stannard, so maybe they’re trying to play mind games with everyone. To be fair to Viviani, he did win a couple of stages in Austria recently but the field was hardly stacked with sprinting talent; Vanmarcke came home behind him in 2nd and 3rd on those two days.

Kristoff.

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Another rider who was poor at the Tour, he did seem to grow into the race as it progressed. However, he was then involved in a crash and that put a halt to things for him. If this was Kristoff of 2014 or 2015 vintage, there would be no point in having anyone else turn up as he would have this race in the bag. Can he roll back the years tomorrow? I’m sure he’ll be doing a rain dance tonight anyway!

Aside from those guys, there are plenty of riders who could get involved in a sprint including;

Drucker – Former winner, would need some of the faster guys to be distanced. In good form at the moment, picking up a win in Wallonie.

Theuns – I’m a big fan of his and without Degenkolb here he’ll now be designated sprinter. With De Kort and Stuyven he has a strong short lead-out. Does he have the legs to compete?

Cort Nielsen – After promising so much towards the end of last year he’s been a bit “meh” so far this season. A good climbing sprinter, he’ll probably want a tough race. If he’s not there, Orica might turn to Impey.

There are others, but I don’t want to list 20% of the start list!

Breakers/Late Attackers?

There are a few names I want to throw into the proverbial hat for this section.

Naesen.

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The Belgian Champion was one of the MVPs of the Tour, working selflessly for Bardet every day. Due to how well his team-mate was going, Naesen never got a chance to shine himself but tomorrow could be that day. AG2R arrive with an attacking team, as let’s be honest, Barbier isn’t going to win the sprint. A super strong rider on the short climbs and on the flat, he should be good enough to get into the moves.

Bauer.

A rider who earned a lot of my respect during the Tour, he often found himself last man standing as support for Dan Martin. Climbing better than ever before, he tried to get into the winning break on the penultimate road stage but just missed out. Quick Step don’t bring a proper sprinter as such, although that is doing Trentin a little bit of a disservice, so they’ll be trying to animate the race as much as possible. Bauer could be the man who makes it two in a row for them!

Van Baarle.

Another rider just out of the Tour, he was also climbing well on a few of the mountain stages, helping his team-leader Uran. Much more of a classics rider, tomorrow’s route suits him quite well and he is certainly a guy who can attack in the middle part of the race. Cannondale have an aggressive team and I expect to see Van Baarle on the move at some time. Will Tour legs benefit him?

Prediction

I really hope we see an attacking and exciting race but I think there will be enough motivation behind to bring things back for a sprint.

In that situation, I’ll go for a Bennett win.

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I’ll be waiting (possibly with bated breath) for a Bauer / Naesen / Van Baarle attack though…

Betting

No real value at the top of the order and if you’re to back a sprinter it is definitely an in-play day but I might avoid that completely.

Happy to have a gamble on two of my outsiders though;

0.5pt WIN on them both at B365;

Bauer @ 200/1

Van Baarle @ 100/1

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 16 Preview; Le Puy-en-Velay -> Romans-sur-Isère

Rest-day Recap

An exciting breakaway day that was a great mix of tactics and strength! One of our picks Tony Martin did exactly what I thought he would, but unfortunately there were enough team-mates and motivated riders behind to keep him on some kind of leash before the final climb. Starting it with only 1’30 was never going to be enough for the German, and he was caught ~3km from the top. The group that was ahead then reformed on the descent, and a perfectly timed attack saw Mollema slip clear, quickly building up a big advantage. The stage was over from that point, despite the efforts of Ulissi and Gallopin who finished on the podium, but also Roglic and Barguil too.

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The Dutchman held off to take his first ever Tour win. A great result that I’m sure a lot of people would be happy with, he seems like a top bloke!

As for the GC battle, we nearly had a very exciting stage with Froome dropped on a descent due to a mechanical. However, some good pacing from his team and work from the Brit himself, he made it back to the favourites group. Some people lamented the lack of attacking from Bardet etc once Froome was isolated, but the finish wasn’t too great for that as it was more of a power descent rather than a technical one, on which the Frenchman would shine. Furthermore, Landa would have been able to follow and mark them out of it anyway. Unless of course they wanted to drag him to the line!

Anyway, with another rest day in the legs the riders will be prepared for the final week of racing. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for them tomorrow.

The Route

A day for the sprinters?

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The day starts with a long drag and the Cat-3 climb of the Côte de Boussoulet. Officially 4.5km at 6.3%, it’s not too tough a climb but the riders will be climbing from the gun. Taking that into consideration, you could argue that the climb is 20.5km at 2.87%. A real leg sapper!

Once over the top the riders will face something that resembles a plateau for the next 50km but isn’t really at all considering the uncategorised climbs and descents. As they reach the 70km mark though they’ll descent almost for the following 40km, aside from a few kick ups and false flats that have been thrown into the mix.

Reaching “flat-ground” at 55km to go, it will be interesting to see how big of an advantage the break has and who is chasing behind. Will they catch them before the finish?

Speaking of the finish, it’s not exactly a simple run-in either, with the final kilometre being very technical!

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Three roundabouts in the last kilometre could make for an “interesting” end to the day. Now a tradition on tough run-ins, here is my Preview by Pictures™ of the finish.

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Roundabout #1 sees the riders head pretty much straight on, taking a soft right-hand turn. However, the road does narrow through the kink of the roundabout and on exit so positioning near the front will be important.

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The road widens again about 10m after the exit of the roundabout but those at the head of the peloton will want to drift from right to left before Roundabout #2. As you can see, once again some road furniture will force the riders looking for the quickest line into one side of the road, before they take the left at the roundabout. A small traffic island will keep the riders in the left hand lane as they exit, which is where you want to be for the next part of the course.

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As the road bends round to the left, taking and holding the inside line will be the fastest route. Doing so will also force any opposition riders to come around the outside, wasting energy.

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Just before the final roundabout (at roughly 450m to go) the riders will have to be wary as the road narrows once again.

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Being first into the final roundabout will be key. According to the graphic above they will take the right-hand lane, before funneling through another narrow passage on the exit.

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From there it is roughly 300m to the finish line!

How will the stage pan out?

Looking at the weather forecast there is a chance of crosswinds tomorrow which might entice some GC teams into action, but a lot of the route looks protected by trees etc so I can’t see it having a big impact. The only area that might be dangerous is the 9km section between Châteauneuf-sur-Isère and Alixan as the road looks like this.

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With a tailwind run-in then it is possible for any gaps that are created to be held.

However, I think it will be another case of the stage hunters/breakaway experts against the sprinters.

With the start of the stage being on a long drag, we could see Sunweb try to take control of the peloton, setting a fierce tempo in an effort to drop Kittel. The issue with that tactic is that once the opening 20km are over with, they then have to continue that for the rest of the stage and I’m not sure they have the firepower capable of doing so. Furthermore, if Kittel gets dropped then I think we’ll see the majority of the Quick-Step team (bar Brambilla and Martin) fall back to help pace the German back to the peloton.

The opening 2/3rds of the day are quite hard to keep the race under control as well, considering it is up or down a lot of the time. It looks ideal territory for a break to form! Matthews may fancy his chances of sneaking into the move but if that happens he’ll be marked out of it by Quick-Step’s powerhouses and I can’t see it getting away.

So will the pace be so high that it stops the breakaway from forming for a long time, almost guaranteeing a sprint finish? Or will the Sunweb/QS battle end up cancelling itself out and we’ll see a large group go up the road and stay away?

In my opinion, if we get a sprint, Kittel will be there. Does Kittel win? Probably. But on a run-in like this, there is the possibility he could be beaten by a good lead-out from another team. With QS and Sunweb working all day it will leave their squads depleted for the finale, and opens the door for another team to take control.

This leads me onto my two picks* for the stage, both can win from different situations, but they’re both from the same team…

*Only going to mention two riders as I’ve rambled on enough anyway!

A Different Dimension?

Steve Cummings.

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The British champion found himself in the breakaway on Stage 12 but was swallowed up by the GC favourites as they battled out for stage victory. A rider that picks a few stages per race to target, tomorrow’s rolling stage looks suited to him. Normally an expert at timing his attack, he will no doubt attempt to slip off the front of the break going into the final 20km. Will he be strong enough to hold the rest of them off? Given how easily he rode away from De Gendt on Stage 12, I think he has the power to do it! It’s two years since he won his first Tour stage and having taken a stage last year as well, he’ll be hoping to make it three Tour’s in a row.

Reinardt Janse van Rensburg.

I have been very impressed with the South African champion so far this race, and he seems to have really taken a step up in the lead-outs. Some of the turns he has done for EBH have been incredible. A rider that could go in the break, he has a chance of winning the sprint from that situation. However, I can also envisage him doing a “Pöstlberger” if we get a sprint finish. With the depleted resources of Sunweb and QS after their stressful day, Dimension Data are the team that I think will take control of the sprint. Due to the technical run in, the riders will more than likely be in single file heading into the final roundabout. Now, it is a bit sly, but if RJVR is leading out EBH (so many acronyms!) then the Norwegian could let the wheel go and give the South African a gap, essentially blocking the road behind. In the panic that ensues, van Rensburg will ride away from everyone, winning the day á la Pöstlberger. Alternatively, EBH may even re-pay van Rensburg’s hard work over the past few stages and lead him out. He’s no slouch either, having just lost to Degenkolb in a similar, uphill drag sprint back at the start of the year.

Oh, did I mention it was Mandela Day as well?

Prediction

I’ll go for the poetic win for the South African champion on Mandela Day.

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Betting

Already tweeted out the selections before;

1pt WIN Cummings @ 33/1 with most bookmakers

0.5pt EW van Rensburg @ 250/1 with Coral/Ladbrokes (would take 150s)

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.