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.

 

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.

Tour de France 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Düsseldorf -> Liège

Today’s Recap

Luck, bravery and a stonkingly strong effort from Thomas saw him take Yellow at the end of a very tricky and tough day.

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Don’t think many people would have predicted that!

Küng and Kiryienka rounded out the podium, with Froome being the best GC rider (not including Thomas of course), beating his closest rivals by around 25 seconds.

It was a course fraught with danger due to the wet and greasy surface which unfortunately meant several riders crash. The #HaugheyCurse already managed to rear its head on stage one with Roglic going down and ruling him out of stage contention. However, more disappointingly we’ve had two abandons in the form of Valverde and Izagirre, both of whom were top 10 contenders for the overall at the very least.

The organisers will be looking for a much more mundane day out tomorrow. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

A fairly flat day out where the sprinters should get their first chance to go for stage glory.

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We should see a fairly exciting start to the day as several riders will no doubt be gunning for the early KOM. After that though it should be a fairly benign day as they travel through Germany until the terrain starts to get more rolling once they enter Belgium and the province of Liège.

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We do have some uncategorised rises and a Cat-4 climb that crests with 20km to go but they should be of no difficulty to the fast men.

The run is a sprinters delight and I’m sure the GC riders will be happy with it too, no first road stage nervousness!

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Facing a few technical turns, the biggest difficulty is a right-handed turn at 3km to go. After that, it will be a drag race between the lead-out trains with the final kilometre being dead straight.

Weather Watch

One thing that could upset the apple cart though is the weather. We might have a few showers throughout the day and there are some consistent winds forecast throughout the day.

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Weather forecast for Aachen (Source: Windfinder)

Strong enough to create some echelons when the route is heading South/South-West (so most of the stage), I will be intrigued to see if any team tries to split it in the wind.

It’s quite hard to tell how exposed some of the course is due to the strange reason that Google Streetview hasn’t covered any of the area south of Mönchengladbach. Can anyone tell me why?!

Looking at the satellite images, it appears like flat German farmland that could be fairly exposed to the wind.

As for when the riders enter Belgium, we have typical small Belgian towns, some exposed roads but some fairly well sheltered.

I think it’s unlikely we’ll see any splits but you never know. Some teams/riders are already facing an uphill battle on GC so if they sense any opportunity they’ll go for it.

Sprint Contenders 

The first sprint of a Tour is always an interesting one as riders/teams aren’t sure of what to expect. Everyone will fancy their chances so it often leads to a rather chaotic finale. It will also be a cross-headwind finish so timing your effort will be important.

Marcel Kittel starts as the favourite for the day. The German has a team built to support him and it is arguably one of the longest proper sprint trains that we’ve seen in a Grand Tour since the HTC days. Quick Step will be able to put the power down in the closing few kilometres and with Sabatini (Kittel’s trusted lead-out man) dropping him off at 150m to go, will anyone be able to beat him?

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Arnaud Démare on current form looks like his main challenger, with the Frenchman dominant in his last few races. The reason I said “arguably” for Kittel’s lead-out is that Deémare will have everyone in his team apart from Pinot working for him. The signings of Cimolai and Guarnieri have really brought some high-end speed into the top end of the order. He might not beat Kittel when the German is up to full race speed but since he’s not raced in a while, Démare has every chance. I’m sure he’ll be doing his rain dance too!

Peter Sagan will be close to the top of the order, like always! He really seems to up his game in the sprints at the Tour and is one of the fastest riders here. Sagan doesn’t really have a lead-out train to the same extent as Kittel and Demare do but he still has some fire power. Selig will be his last man and he’s a rider who I’ve really rated this season, he’s done great work for Bennett etc, so he’ll be expected to continue that for Sagan here. Can the World Champion make an early claim for Green with a win?

Andre Greipel is a bit of a hit or miss character in the sprints recently and I think it is clear he’s sorely missing Henderson. Lotto Soudal shortened their lead-out train on the final day of the Tour last year and it seemed to work for them then so they’ve taken a similar approach this year. He’ll more than likely have to latch onto the back of someone elses lead-out and I think it will be tough for him to take the win, but he is certainly strong enough on his day to do so.

Mark Cavendish is the unknown quantity. He says he doesn’t know where his form is, although he most definitely will, and I’m intrigued to see how he copes. With a strong lead-out, he is almost capable of anything tomorrow. I would not be surprised with a win or if he was nowhere.

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Dylan Groenewegen has the speed and fearlessness to get himself a podium position. He recently beat Kittel and Greipel at Ster ZLM so will be full of confidence, although he did struggle at the Nationals recently. I think he would prefer the finish to be a bit more technical. He has a chance but it will be tough!

As for the rest, they should be there or thereabouts but I think it will be hard for them to win.

Prediction

Arnaud Démare to take advantage of his fine form while he can and take the win, sending the French public/media into disarray!

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Betting

As I said yesterday, today was most likely to be a no bet and it will remain that way. Almost tempted with a couple of loose change punts on Naesen and Lutsenko at crazy prices and do my wind dance. I think I’ll save my money though to waste on future stages!

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone beat Kittel? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Green Jersey Preview

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

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

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

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Can he make it 6 this season?

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

Scoring Points

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

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

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As for which stages fall into each category;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contenders

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

So a rough points total for him could be;

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

A tough score to beat, but not impossible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The same can be said for Colbrelli.

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

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

Prediction

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

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

Betting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 13 Preview; Reggio Emilia -> Tortona

Today’s Recap

Gaviria won his third stage and made it look remarkably easy!

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However, he owes Richeze several beers. The Argentinian lead-out man was simply sublime and dropped Gaviria off with 75m to go, even managing to finish 5th himself!

Mareczko followed Gaviria’s slipstream to finish second, with Bennett coming home third.

Will we see a similar top three tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

Another pan-flat stage that you can tune into for the last 20km.

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I was hoping to look at the forecast for some wind to liven up the day but alas, there is nothing of note! There is a good chance of rain/thunderstorms though which could make the run in interesting…

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As for the finish itself it is fairly technical with a few roundabouts in the closing 5kms or so. There is a relatively sharp turn at 450m to go which is actually around another roundabout. Similarly to what we have witnessed on some previous stages, the road narrows from two-wide lanes into one just before the roundabout.

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Due to how narrow it is, the sprint trains will be desperate to lead into the turn. If you come out of it with two lead-out guys in front of your sprinter, with the lead rider pealing off just after the turn, it will be very hard for anyone to come around your sprinter!

This consequently could make the end of the stage dangerous if there is a big race to that final turn, we might see a few crashes as the road narrows. Especially with it being the last sprint stage, I’m sure there will be some riders willing to take more risks. Hopefully that’s not the case though!

Contenders

A definite sprint stage but can anyone beat today’s winner?

Gaviria – He’s been exceptional so far this Giro and with Richeze as his last man, tomorrow looks like another day that they can jump in the last 500m and win. If they repeat today’s performance he is the man to beat!

How can the others beat him though?

I think it is possible to out-gun the Quick Step on the run in to the finish tomorrow, but the teams will need to get their timing perfectly. We say today that Bora took up the pace just a bit too early, with Selig tiring at just the wrong time for Bennett. If a team takes it up fully after the roundabout before the 2km sign, then it will be hard for others to come round them.

Who can do this?

Well Bennett‘s Bora team look the best equipped to do that. They were fantastic today but as I’ve mentioned, just ran out of steam too early. From what I’ve witnessed the past few sprint stages, they have the best traditional lead-out. But as a relatively new outfit and with some young guys, then they’re still learning and lacking experience. Their DS will be crucial in telling them when to go full gas tomorrow. Bennett has the speed to challenge if in the right place and he could nab his first Grand Tour win tomorrow.

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Orica are the other team with the fire power to control the front of the race. Ewan was lightning at the start of the Giro but didn’t get a stage win, however, he got that monkey off his back on Stage 7. He went missing today but according to their press release, he hit another rider and his brake pad bent, meaning it was impossible to sprint. The Aussie loves a technical finish and he won’t be afraid to take any risks in the closing kilometres. He just needs to get the rub of the green again!

I was disappointed with Greipel today and his Lotto train seemed poor as well, maybe he’ll allow Hofland to sprint tomorrow?

Modolo at least showed in the top 10 again after recovering from allergies in the first week. UAE have a solid lead-out but they’ve failed to deliver anyone properly this Giro, can they get it right this time around?

As for Mareczko, he’ll need to follow the fastest rider again and hope that’s good enough for another podium.

Prediction

Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?

Orica have the best lead-out for this type of finish and after being massively disappointed today Ewan will bounce back and take the win tomorrow. He is incredibly fast and if gets the chance to showcase his form that he had at the start of the race, then he will no doubt be up there.

You better run, you better take cover.

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Betting

2pts WIN Ewan @ 9/2 with Bet365

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will tomorrow? Will Gaviria make it 4, or will someone else triumph? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 12 Preview; Forlì -> Reggio Emilia

Today’s Recap

An exciting stage that saw a very fast start to the day!

However, things did eventually calm down and a large breakaway group established itself. We did have two attackers ahead of them though, in the form of Landa and Fraile, but they were eventually brought to heel on the lower slopes of the last climb.

A lot of to-ing and fro-ing then occurred towards the top of the summit, on the descent and the run to the line but we were treated to a reduced sprint from the breakaway riders.

After being in front for most of the day taking KOM points, Fraile still had enough left in the tank for a very impressive sprint, beating Costa and Rolland into the lower podium placings.

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Behind, there were a few probing GC attacks but nothing too serious. Although Thomas and Kruijswijk did lose almost 50 seconds to the rest of the contenders.

It was slightly disappointing not to see more GC action, especially after the crazy start to the stage, nonetheless, it was a good day’s worth of racing. Will we see a good day of racing tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Longest stage of the race and another “transitional” day.

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A fairly innocuous stage with two categorised climbs that come too far out from the finish to be of any danger GC wise. 110km of shallow descending/flat from the final peak do offer a chance for the sprint teams to get organised and chase down the breakaway.

The run in is pan-flat and not overly technical.

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There are a few sweeping turns in the closing 2kms but nothing too serious as the road is quite wide. Unless of course the organisers decide to put some barriers in place!

How will the stage pan out?

You would expect it to be a sprint. There are still a reasonable amount of teams left with fast-men and with most probably leaving the race after Stage 13, they’ll want to make the most of the opportunities they have left.

The good news for sprinters is the distance from the last climb to the line, there is plenty of opportunity for their team-mates to close the gap. It all depends on how many riders and what teams, make the breakaway.

This is the Giro after all and when you consider how tough today was, a few riders might want an extra rest day tomorrow. It would be useful to know how the sprinters and their teams have recovered but I guess we’ll not find out until we start the stage!

So on a day where it should be a sprint, there is an ever so slight chance that we get a breakaway but even then it’s only a 10% (at most) chance I would say.

Sprinters

Looks to be a 4-horse race.

Gaviria – Already has two stage wins to his name and was electric when nearly beating Ewan to the line on Stage 7. The flatter finish isn’t ideal for him but he will be full of confidence. In Richeze he has a great lead-out rider who will deliver him perfectly. Will it be enough to take a third win?

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Ewan – Finally got his stage win but the young Aussie was one of the last riders to finish today, struggling on the tough climbs. He is the rider I fear today may have taken the most out of and with a long stage tomorrow, his sprint might just be lacking at the end of it.

Greipel – Almost a definite for leaving in a few days time the German will be hoping to go home with more than the one win he has so far. His lead-out hasn’t clicked yet on the technical finishes, but with tomorrow’s stage being more straight-forward they can possibly get it right?!

Bennett – The nearly man so far, with two podium places to his name. After being placed under the Haughey curse (and being ill) he has seemed to re-find his sprinting legs and is now on the mend. Grand Tours aren’t exactly the best way to recover but I’m sure all of his competitors will be too. With a strong lead-out, he has another good shot at a podium.

Aside from those 4 it will be tough for others to win but I’m sure Stuyven, Modolo (if he sprints) and Sbaragli will all be up there vying for a possible podium or better.

Maybe even Mareczko can repay his team-mates after being dragged over the final climbs!

Prediction

A dull day that is all about the last 5km and I’ll go for the most experienced sprinter to take the win after conserving energy today. Greipel to seal victory!

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Unless of course the sprinters and their teams can’t be arsed and we get a breakaway stay away.

Betting

No bet.

Tempted to throw a few pennies on some 1000/1 escapees on the exchanges later but that’s that.

Thanks again for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Sorry that this preview is shorter than normal, there’s just nothing extra to say, a pretty dull stage. The same can be said for the following day as well! Maybe we can get a large breakaway that gets a lot of time to make it an exciting watch?! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 3 Preview; Tortolì -> Cagliari

Today’s Recap

A long dull stage that ended in a bunch sprint with Greipel taking his standard Giro stage win!

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Ferrari of all people finished second, with Stuyven coming home third.

Annoyingly, Bennett fell ill last night and was struggling all day. A shame, but it’s one of those things about this sport that you never find out until you see them dangling off the back!

Oh well, moving on swiftly and onto tomorrow’s much shorter stage. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The last day on the island of Sardinia and the easiest stage so far with barely any altitude gain at all!

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The profile makes it look the day look more rolling than it actually is, instead it is pretty much pan flat all day. At 148km long, it could be a short and explosive stage as the riders travel down the coast towards Cagliari.

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Like today, the run in tomorrow is fairly simple with only a few roundabouts and turns to contend with.

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There is a bit of pavé at the 350m to go mark all the way to the finish, but it really shouldn’t have an effect on the sprint at all.

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Definitely a case of “paved stone” rather than cobbles!

Weather

The big talking point regarding tomorrow’s stage is the strong winds that are forecast. Travelling almost directly south for almost 100km, there is a chance that if we get a constant East or Westerly wind we may get, ahem, crosswinds…

 

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Source: Wunderground

The above image is the forecast for Tertenia which is near the start of the stage but as you can see, it looks windy! As I highlighted in the preview for stage 2 though, a lot of the island is covered with trees etc so the riders have been protected from the wind thus far. God damn Sardinia for its beautiful scenery!

Tomorrow though, there are some areas exposed areas at the start of the stage.

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Location: North of Tertenia

Will it be full gas from the start like we have seen in the past at the Vuelta? After the two very slow days I think it could be…

How will the stage pan out?

I think we will see some of the GC teams try and split the race in the crosswinds. After the relatively quiet opening stages they’ll have a lot left in the tank and with a rest day to follow, it could be manic.

There are still sheltered areas where things won’t be affected by the wind as much, and although the route is pan-flat some of the surrounding area is hilly which will surely have an impact on the prevailing conditions.

Nonetheless, I expect there to be some echelon action.

Most of the route southbound looks like the following…

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They go closer to the hills at times but then skirt away from them again into more open areas like the one above.

Sky and Bahrain certainly look like the most eager GC teams to try something and I think that could be the case tomorrow. Although the British team have started to gain a reputation recently of being caught out on day’s like this. As I said above, with a rest day coming up I’m sure they’ll be more willing to try something riskier as they can recover the following day.

It’s a bit of a lottery trying to figure out who would be on the wrong side of a split GC-wise, because everyone will know that there is the potential for echelons so will be trying to position their overall candidates high up the bunch. This in itself could cause some issues and splits.

As for the stage, if it really does get manic then it will be a bit of a lottery, however, sprinters tend to go well in tough conditions so a good few of them should be there. Then again, some will probably miss out too just by being poorly positioned or through some bad luck (i.e. a badly timed mechanical).

We could end up seeing a similar top 10 to what we had on Stage 2 of the Tour in 2015 with a mix of GC riders and sprinters.

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Although with all that said, there is a chance I’m just wishfully thinking after the relatively dull opening stages we’ve had and it may all end in a big bunch sprint.

Prediction

It’s clear that Ewan and Greipel are the fastest riders here going off of the first two stages. Gaviria isn’t too far behind but he doesn’t seem to be 100% yet. Will having two days of racing in his legs change that?

The German is the best out of the sprinters in bad conditions so factoring that in, I think he wins tomorrow, doubling up after only three days!

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As to how many guys end up there for the sprint, who knows, it all depends on how aggressively the GC teams ride due to the wind and more importantly, if the wind is strong enough to do some damage! Anyone know what teams are sharing hotels?! 😏

I think we could see a small group come to the line and in that case it might be hard to control, therefore look out for strong all-round GC guys who should be there no matter what. Someone along the lines of Thomas or Jungels who are both powerful enough to get close in a very, very reduced sprint or attack and solo to the line. The former has been really attentive so far this race and I think he might order his Sky team to try and instigate something, especially with a rest day coming up.

Betting

No value in Greipel as his price is too short with the unpredictability of tomorrow and it’s too early in the race for me to go gung-ho with him and place a sizeable bet of 5pts etc. The sensible decision would be a no bet. But I’m not sensible!

So instead, I’m going to throw (waste) some money on the two GC guys I’ve listed in the chance that we get a crazy day. I would normally go WIN only, but if we get a small group of guys like that 2015 Tour stage, I’ll be gutted if one of them podiums so EW it is.

0.25pt EW Thomas @ 250/1 with SkyBet

0.25pt EW Jungels @ 200/1 with various

 

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be a Greipel, Thomas, Jungels podium?! Will we have a race that’s faster than a club run? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Alghero -> Olbia

The first day of racing is upon as and a stage that should end in a sprint but could throw up a surprise or two! Who will get to wear the famous Maglia Rosa at the end of the day? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

A long day to start of the Giro, the riders travel 206km from Alghero to Olbia along the Sardinian coast-line.

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The route is fairly flat, by Giro standards at least, with a few rolling hills and some Cat-4 climbs so that the organisers can award the KOM jersey at the end of the stage.

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The stage is all about the final 25km and the climb of San Pantaleo that crests with just under 21km to go.

At 3.2km long and averaging 5.6%, it is certainly tough enough to put some of the poor climbing sprinters in difficulty.

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The gradients of the climb itself are fairly irregular and it does have a 500m metre section at 9.6%, with a maximum pitch of 12%.

It is a possible attack point for some of the bolder riders in the peloton but I don’t think they’ll get that far. Unless of course the chase is left solely to UAE (formerly Lampre), who couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery at times!

Nonetheless, I do think we’ll get a bunch sprint into Olbia with only maybe a couple of riders dropped (I’m looking at you Pelucchi).

The run in itself altimetry wise is easy after the climb but the actual route layout is a lot more difficult and technical.

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With several sweeping bends and 90-degree turns in the final 4km the finish will certainly reward those with a strong lead-out but also those who are willing to take some risks.

On paper the final kilometre doesn’t look too bad, but the riders do have to traverse a roundabout. Thankfully they should be funnelled into the middle lane so there will be no last-minute choice as to how to take the roundabout which could cause some issues/crashes.

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However, the road obviously does narrow quite drastically from the three-lane wide road to just the one which in itself may cause some problems. Positioning will be important!

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The roundabout itself might cause some difficulties as again the approach road narrows even further.

Once they exit along the sea-front then there are roughly 400m left until the finish line.

Weather Watch

It looks set to be a sunny and dry day out in the saddle for the riders, if not a bit overcast at times.

However, like a lot of the time it seems, it is the wind that I am more concerned with!

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Source: Windfinder

The above image is the forecast for near Isola Rossa which is roughly half-way into the stage.

It looks as if for the majority of the day as the cyclists head North-East, they will be riding into a block head-wind. However, the road does twist and turn a bit which could present the opportunity for echelons if they are in an exposed crosswind section for long enough.

When they turn at the head of the island and travel southwards, the wind on the East coast seems to come from an ever so slightly different direction.

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Source: Windfinder

The second image is from Palau (roughly 45km to go) and as you can see, it becomes more of a crosswind at that point.

I’m sure the riders will be thankful to know that most of the route is protected by trees that weaken and block the wind, while they’re a few hundred metres from the coast itself. However, there are some parts of the stage where they are right next to the coast line…

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Just North of Cannigione (~30km to go)

Will any team try to take advantage of these stretches and dare I say it, create…

Echelons?!

I live in hope more than anything!

Sprint Contenders

Analysing sprint trains isn’t my forte so I’ll try to keep this as concise and succinct as possible!

Gaviria – He should get over the climb at the end easily but he’s not completed a race since the end of March so it will be interesting to see where his form is. He has a solid lead-out train and in Richeze he has a great pilot fish. Those two seem to form a great pairing and they’ve proven in the past that they work well together. Gaviria probably starts as the justifiable favourite.

Greipel – A proven Giro stage winner, the Gorilla has taken a victory in every edition of the race he has competed at so far. Lotto Soudal have quite an inexperienced lead-out with them and it will be interesting to see how Hofland works as a last man. Nonetheless, Greipel is experienced enough to be able to surf wheels, although that isn’t exactly his strong point. He’ll need a bit of luck in that respect to win, but I certainly wouldn’t put it past him!

Andre Greipel Giro d'Italia

Ewan – The young Aussie was unfortunate not to take a stage win in Yorkshire last week after being boxed in on both occasions. He’s missing Kluge but in Mezgec he has an experienced replacement who should deliver him well, not to mention Edmondson who is flying just now and he will probably be third man. Orica are normally very good at timing their efforts on these technical finishes which will certainly give Ewan a great chance of winning.

Those three riders head the betting markets but there are another trio of riders waiting in the wings.

Bennett – As I think Pelucchi may get dropped, Bennett will be Bora’s man for stage 1. He’s not had an outstanding season, often finding himself working for Sagan or withdrawing from races. However, his win in Paris Nice was incredible and if he is 100% fit for this race then he will be confident of pulling off something similar.

Modolo – If you follow me on Twitter then you’ll know over the past few days I’ve been bombarding my timeline with various Modolo based punts. For what it’s worth, I think he wins the points classification this year as the three “big” sprinters will drop out. His win on the last stage in Croatia was amazing and I expect him to have carried on that form here. With the technical finish, he has a good chance of a podium spot tomorrow.

Nizzolo – Returning from an injury that plagued the start of his season, the Italian Champion arrives at the Giro lightly raced, having only taken part in Croatia. He might struggle with the pace on the opening few days but he is a rider that I rate highly so I’m not discounting him. Can he take that elusive Giro stage win tomorrow? Probably not.

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Can anyone else contend?

Bauhaus, Sbaragli and Mareczko will all be fighting for the top 10 but it will take something special to go any better.

Prediction

I’ll go for a rider who tore it up at the start of the season to do the same again tomorrow, Ewan wins!

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I like the look of his lead-out, short but very explosive, just like the Aussie himself. He was solid in Yorkshire and compared to some of the other guys he has shown good recent form. The same can be said for Modolo who I think will be on the podium and run Ewan close!

Betting

I already have;

1pt EW Modolo @ 20/1 with PaddyPower that I tweeted out the other day. I would still take the 12/1 that is available as I think that’s still value.

I’m just deliberating whether to take Ewan for the stage, or in a slightly “safer” H2H against Greipel…Hmmm…

3pts Ewan to beat Greipel at 4/5 with WilliamHill (Would take 4/6).

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will there be echelons? Will many sprinters if any, get dropped on the climb? I’m just hoping for an exciting opening stage. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth!

Milano-Sanremo 2017 Preview

Milano-Sanremo 2017 Preview

The first monument of the year and the longest race in the calendar returns this weekend; Milan -> Sanremo!

Like most MSR’s, last year’s edition built slowly to a climax, with the closing kilometre being exceptionally exciting.

We had Gaviria crashing, almost taking out Sagan and Cancellara if it was not for some incredible bike handling, but what else would you expect from that pair! That left the door open for some other riders and Roelandts opened up the sprint early which caught everyone off guard. Swift followed (finishing 2nd in the end), Bouhanni looked strong but had a mechanical and came home 4th. Instead, it was a rather dubious win for Arnaud Démare in the end after there were accusations he got a tow from the team car back to the peloton after a crash. Nonetheless, it was an impressive sprint from the Frenchman and with the way he is riding this season so far, he could well make it back to back wins!

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

The Route

A carbon copy of what we’ve had the past few years pretty much.

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A real race of attrition, the peloton doesn’t get close to this distance in any other race. The extra 50km compared to some other monuments and almost 100km on normal stage-race stages really adds another element. The climbs of the Cipressa and the Poggio if taken alone aren’t difficult at all.

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Yet, with them being the only place for the climbers and puncheurs to make a move they are always attacked at a ferocious pace. Plus, with 260km already in the legs, riders will be nervous as to how their body reacts.

We might see some long-range attacks on the Cipressa before the puncheurs try to break the hearts of the sprinters on the Poggio. It’s often a battle between attacking classics riders and the sprinter’s team-mates for control of the race. Once over the crest of the Poggio, it’s time for a daredevil descent into Sanremo itself.

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Once off the descent we have roughly 2km of flat to the finish. There will no doubt be more attacks here as the riders regroup. Will the sprinters have enough team-mates left to chase and control the race? Or will we even see non-sprinters chase down other non-sprinters? Inadvertently helping the sprinters who are with them!

The famous finish along the via Roma awaits.

How will the race pan out?

Going off of recent trends, the race certainly seems to live up to its nickname of “The Sprinter’s Monument”.

In the last 5 years, the number of riders in the leading group at the finish has swelled; 2012 (3); 2013 (7); 2014 (25); 2015 (26); 2016 (31). Why is that?

Well, the removal of the “Le Manie” climb in 2014 swung the race back towards bunch gallops. Although it came around 100km from the finish, it sapped away at the sprinters legs a lot earlier and ensured that they tackled the climbs at the end of the race with a bit more fatigue. You could also argue that sprinters in general seem to have got better at climbing over the past few years, but I’m not sure the likes of Kittel will agree!

Oddly enough though, I do still think we’ll see one of the more attacking MSRs for a while. I’m not saying it won’t come down to a sprint in the end, but with so many puncheurs in great form coming into the race, I’m sure they won’t want to wait until the sprint to end up 6th-10th place. There will be a slight headwind when the riders turn onto the Poggio, but the majority of the climb will be a tailwind. Will this inspire the attackers?

If a select group can make it over the top of the Poggio and work well together then they can make it to the finish. However, the issue is that they have to co-operate, if not, then they have no chance.

I actually think someone like Sagan might attack on the Poggio.

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The World Champion is clearly in scintillating form but I’m sure even he will be concerned with the quality of sprinters that can make it over the final climb if the pace isn’t too high. He is the one of the fastest men in the World after a tough day and I’m sure he’ll do everything in his powers to ensure that he has the best chance at winning the race. Being beaten by Gaviria in Tirreno this week gone by won’t have done his confidence much use, but I guess Sagan being Sagan, he doesn’t need any more confidence!

Another reason I think Sagan might not wait around for a sprint is that Bora also have the handy second card to play of Sam Bennett. The Irishman took a breakthrough and much deserved win in Paris-Nice, beating some of the fastest pure sprinters in the World. That impressed me, but what impressed me more was his intermediate sprint win the next day. “Eh?!” I can imagine you say, thinking I’ve clearly lost the plot. Well, that intermediate sprint came after the stage started with a Cat-1 climb and the peloton was only 60-riders strong over the top, with the likes of Demare being dropped. Not Bennett though, he was up there beating Matthews and Gilbert. He certainly seems to have found his climbing legs and the Poggio shouldn’t be a challenge for him! Which leads me on to the other sprinters here…

Sprinters

We have plenty of them here, with only Kittel, Greipel and Groenewegen being the notable absentees.

I’m not going to bore you with a little bit on each sprint option (plenty of others will cover them more succinctly and concisely), as I’m already close to the 1000 word mark and I have a few other scenarios/riders I want to cover. So like I’ve been doing quite a bit recently, I’m going to focus on one rider and he’s a selection that might surprise you!

Mark Cavendish.

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The 2009 winner has had a relatively uninspiring but solid start to his 2017 season, picking up only one victory so far in Abu Dhabi. He wasn’t competitive at this race last year due to his Olympics build up, but will be hoping for better this year. Nonetheless, he looks like a tough rider to argue for, yet I’ll give it my best shot.

It’s his slow burning season that’s actually making me believe in his chances here. Before the Tour last year I had written him off as he didn’t seem to be having a great year and seemed past it. He went on to win 4 stages. Before the World Champs I ruled him out as he said he was ill in the week leading up to the event and had gone a bit off the boil post TDF, with only a 6th at Paris-Tours being a notable result. He went on to finish second. Really though, he should have won! He just chose the wrong wheel and got a bit boxed in. There is a recurring theme here; just when he seems to be out of it, he bags a result. The Manxman certainly knows how to peak for key targets. His recent performance in Tirreno fits the above agenda quite nicely and reminds me of a certain Irishman.

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The above screenshot is from an interview in Rouleur magazine with Sean Kelly (view it here). Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Write off Cavendish at your peril this weekend!

Outsiders

There are plenty of puncheurs and classics riders I could highlight but I’m returning to Dimension Data for my second rider.

Edvald Boasson Hagen has long been a favourite of mine. The guy oozed class and talent on a bike and it’s a shame for him he’s around in the same era as the likes of Sagan and GVA as I feel he gets overlooked at times.

The Norwegian was on the attack here in the final kilometres last year and only a few managed to follow him. I expect something similar this year, even if Cavendish makes it over the top of the Poggio in the main group. He’s without a win this season but he has looked strong in Strade, bridging across to the front group on his own. Likewise, his two top 10 TT results indicate to me that he’s peaking a lot more slowly this year compared to his blistering start last season. He can win solo by attacking, or could take out a sprint win from a small group and I don’t think there would be many cycling fans out there who would begrudge a Boasson Hagen win!

My final rider is a proper outsider and one that I have mentioned a lot over the past week in Paris Nice; Alexey Lutsenko.

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The Astana man has had a strong but fruitless start to the season. He was never outside the top 30 in Oman and finished a very respectable 11th in the tough TT during Paris Nice. The Kazakh outfit are without a top quality sprinter in their squad, but Lutsenko can certainly fill the void. Like EBH, he is capable of attacking late on in the race or challenging for the win in a very reduced sprint. He did win the U23 World’s in a very similar fashion! A talented rider who I think is going to have a very good season, a win here would certainly shock a few but not me. He will still need some luck to go his way, but who doesn’t here!

Prediction

A sprint is the most likely option but I think we’ll see a more attacking race this year and a move within the final 2km could well stick. He tried it last year and was unlucky to be marked out of it, but I think this year he might just make it with everyone else marking Sagan. Boasson Hagen to take a memorable victory!

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Betting

Cavendish 1pt EW @18/1 with Bet365 (Would take down to 14s available elsewhere)

Boasson Hagen 0.75pts EW @80/1 with Bet365 (Would take down to 50s)

Lutsenko 0.25pts EW @300/1 with PP/Bet365 (Would take down to 200s).

 

Thanks very much for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated as always. Who do you think is going to win La Classicissima? Will we see a sprint or a late attack stick? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Tirreno Adriatico Stage 6 Preview

Today’s Recap

An incredibly exciting stage, and I only managed to catch the final 40km. We had attacks from GC guys and one-day specialists but the peloton arrived at the finish climb together, well, what remained of it.

Much like Gary Lineker’s quote about football being “a simple game where 22 men-chase a ball for 90 minutes and in the end, the Germans win.”

Cycling is a simple sport where 180 riders cycle for 5 hours and in the end, Sagan wins!

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The World Champion clawed his way back to a group of GC favourites as they sat up and played games. Not exactly the best move by them! It was then academic as we got to the slight uphill sprint finish. Pinot and Roglic rounded out the podium.

What’s in store for the riders tomorrow? Let’s have a look.

The Route

A shorter day in the saddle, which I’m sure will please some tired riders.

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We have a lot of undulating roads in the first three quarters of the stage but there is nothing too serious for the bunch to be concerned with.

A long period of flat with around 30km to go could see the end of the breakaway, and we then have one little test before the finish.

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1.7km at 4.7% average could be challenging for the sprinters if they’re on a bad day, but you would expect them to hold on. However, the little descent then 500m section at 7.4% could be a great launchpad for an attack before we have a tricky and technical descent.

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The pan-flat and almost dead straight finish may spell the end of any would be attackers though if the pack is organised behind.

How will the stage pan out?

Just like Natalie Imbruglia, I’m torn.

So this will be a split preview of sorts.

On paper, this should be a sprint with it being only the second opportunity all race for a bunch gallop to the line. With the sprinters close to peak condition for Milan San Remo, they should manage the final climb as it’s very similar to the Poggio. It does come a lot closer to the finish so the battle back to the front will be a lot more difficult if you slip to the back of the pack.

Yet, after a very tough two days the peloton might want to have an easier day in the saddle. Although saying that, with it being the last road stage of the race I’m sure we’ll see an attacking day. We only have four proper sprinters here that could contend at the finish in my opinion (Sagan, Cavendish, Gaviria, Viviani) so other teams may look to the breakaway as their best option for the day. Will the teams of the sprinters be willing to work on the front all day? That’s the million pound question. In his preview with @Cyclingmole (starts around 18:10 mark) Jay Thomson sounded fairly confident in a sprint, but will that have changed after the past two days?

I think if we get representation from at least two of the sprinters teams; Bora, Dimension Data, QuickStep and Sky, then the break will stay away.

Sprinters

As mentioned earlier, the 4 riders listed are a class above in a field like this and you would expect them to populate the top of the standings.

In a flat sprint you would have to favour Cavendish or Gaviria. The Dimension Data rider has a very strong team with him here, capable of delivering a very strong lead-out. His favourite pilot fish Mark Renshaw is here and they form a formidable duo. If the Manxman has recovered from his illness, he has a very good chance of winning this.

We don’t really know how well Gaviria may have gone on the opening sprint after he was held up in the crash. Like DD, Quickstep have a very good lead-out train here and no doubt they’ll be the two teams fighting for space at the head of the peloton. Having Boonen as a lead-out man isn’t that bad either! Gaviria has beaten Cavendish before and I’m sure he’d love to make a big statement before Milan San Remo.

You can never discount Sagan and the little hill close to the finish puts him more on terms with the other two. He clearly is motoring right now and a third stage win is not as unlikely as it seemed at the start of the race.

I’m still not convinced by Viviani this year. He did well to get up for second on stage 3 but he’s still without a win this year and I can’t see that changing here.

Breakaway Contenders

I’m going to pick two guys that were in the move today, plus another. All three are similar in style but ever so slightly different.

Steve Cummings.

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He’s been relatively quiet this season so far, but the Brit presents the best opportunity for Dimension Data in the break. He’s exceptionally strong on the flat and short climbs and he is capable of time trialling his way to the line if he gets a gap. Of course, he’s also a good ploy later on in the race to attack if Cavendish isn’t feeling up for it. Cummings won a similar stage here last year, although the final climb was slightly tougher then.

Niki Terpstra.

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I was pleasantly surprised to see Terpstra finish so far up the standings on stage 2. He is clearly building some nice form ahead of the cobbled classics. A rider in a similar mould to Cummings, although the Dutchman is probably better on the flat, he could find himself attacking the breakaway group near the end of the stage. Managing to hold on for the win.

Tim Wellens.

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You can’t ignore a rider like Wellens for this stage. He is in scintillating form in this early part of the season, already picking up 3 wins. His third place in Strade highlights how versatile of a rider he is. After being involved in the crash on stage 3, he’s since lost a lot of time on GC but has been resting up at the back of the peloton, apart from a probing attack on today’s stage.  With eyes on this stage maybe?

Prediction

If we get a sprint, I’ll go for Cavendish.

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He has the best train here and will be hungry to prove that he is a danger for MSR!

If we get a break, I’ll go for Wellens.

Betting

Cavendish 1.3pts WIN @ 11/2 with Bet365

Terpstra 0.25pts WIN @

Cummings 0.35pts WIN @ 40/1 with Bet365

Wellens 0.35pts WIN @ 66/1 with Bet365

 

Thanks as always for reading! How do you think the stage will pan out? Could be a finely balanced day, but the teams never seem to be thinking along the same lines as I am. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.