Tour de France 2017 Stage 15 Preview; Laissac-Sévérac l’Église -> Le Puy-en-Velay

Today’s Recap

First of all, apologies for no preview yesterday. I felt absolutely shattered and had to have another few hours sleep before work so there was no time to write anything. Feeling a bit better today but still awfully tired, I need this rest day as much as the riders just now!

Today’s stage saw a fairly strong break escape but with BMC and Sunweb not represented and working from the get go, we were always going to get one outcome. Matthews sprinted to a superb victory with van Avermaet following home in second.

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Boasson Hagen rounded out the podium with a fine third place. Rather annoyingly, one of my picks for the day McCarthy flew up the hill, only to finish in 5th. He was out of shot for most of the climb so he’s clearly going well. A case of what could have been, if he was positioned better!

While we’re talking about poor positioning, Aru managed to find himself isolated and towards the back of the peloton at the bottom of the climb and managed to ship 24 seconds to Froome. It’s good in some ways for him as Astana don’t have the team to defend the jersey, but to lose that much time isn’t ideal.

Anyway, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

A stage that looks destined to be fought out between the breakaway.

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With a fairly flat start, I wouldn’t expect the break to form until we hit the first categorised climb of the day. It’s not exactly an easy climb either, as the Montée de Naves d’Aubrac averages 6.4% for 8.9km. Only climbers and very strong all-rounders should be able to make the move here! With that being said, the gradient isn’t too tough, so there is a chance we might see some odd riders up there who are on a good day.

Once over the top, we have a short descent before an inconsequential 3rd Cat climb. From there, the riders will face a long period of flat road before the intermediate sprint and an uncategorised 11km drag at ~3%.

The action part of the stage will most likely be the penultimate climb of the day: the Col de Peyra Taillade.

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The steep ramps will no doubt see a selection made in the breakaway, with the better climbers and those feeling strong pushing on. However, with there still being almost 32km to the line over the summit, it will be interesting to see if those dropped behind get back on, or of those ahead can work together to maintain an advantage.

Either way, it will be a very tactical final 45 minutes of racing as riders will be attacking the group hoping to get a gap. Maybe the Cat-4 could act as a launchpad? Luck and good legs will both play an equal part in it for the day’s winner though!

Breakaway Candidates

I am fairly confident tomorrow will be a breakaway day. In fact, it is probably the most obvious one of the race we’ve had so far. Just waiting for a reduced bunch sprint day to happen now…

There are several usual suspects that you can expect to try to make the move but as that’s no fun (and they’re all terrible odds) I’ll be naming those more eccentric picks who are further down the order.

Tony Martin.

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He had a little hit off the front towards the end of today’s stage, stretching out the bunch so that Lammertink could launch a counter attack. During his “attack” the German looked in complete control and it seemed to be more of a tempo ride than anything else. He always seems to find himself in the breakaway on one mountain stage of a Grand Tour and he has won more testing days than tomorrow; Stage 9 in 2014 is an example of that. Now, I do think he will probably be dropped on the steeper slopes of the penultimate climb, that is unless of course he has attacked solo before. Nonetheless, he can certainly make it back in the remaining time and attack over the top. If he gets a gap, not many will be able to catch him.

Daryl Impey.

One of the riders who I backed for today’s stage (thinking a break might stay away) the South African has been very quiet so far this Tour. Considering how strong he was last year, it is a bit of a surprise to be honest! With Yates not really needing too much support tomorrow, Howson will be able to stay with him anyway, I think Impey might be given a free role. On his day, he can surprise!

Rudy Molard.

With Pinot supposedly suffering from stomach problems, Molard looks like FDJ’s best candidate for a stage like this. Strong on steep climbs, he was close to a win in the Giro but the breakaway he was in were caught 4kms from the line. I backed him then and I’m willing to do so again! He has been quiet since Démare left the race, possibly eyeing up a stage to go on the attack. With a fairly strong kick from a reduced group, he could even win the sprint!

Prediction

Impey to find his 2016 form and take a great win for Orica Scott!

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Betting

I can see Impey and Molard coming to the line for a sprint so they could place, but Martin will have to attack from afar so with that being said;

0.4pt WIN Martin @ 125/1 with Bet365 (would take 100s)

0.4pt EW Impey @ 250/1 with PP/BF who are offering 4 places (would take 150s)

0.4pt EW Molard @ 150/1 with Bet365 (would take 100s)

 

I’m refusing to take any less than 100/1 for a day such as tomorrow!

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Vuelta Stage 15 Preview: Sabiñánigo -> Sallent de Gállego

*This will be short and sweet as I’m terribly hungover and tired, apologies. Normal service will resume tomorrow evening.*

Today’s Recap

My oh my, what an exciting stage! A massive break of 41 riders got away early in the stage. The eventual winner came from that group and it was Robert Gesink who rode the final climb fantastically well, beating Elissonde and Silin who rounded out the podium. Annoying having two of the stage picks finishing 2nd and 4th, oh well, it was a great win by Gesink though and he fully deserves it!

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Behind saw some very interesting GC moves, with Yates making an attack on the penultimate climb. He made it stick and ended up gaining a minute or so on Quintana. Chaves and Konig also gained some time, as the two favourites marked each other out of it. Valverde was the big loser on the day, conceding 9 minutes to his rivals. Dropping him way down on GC.

Let’s have a look at tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

Short and sharp.

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About half the amount of climbing metres that we had today, but packed nicely into 118km of racing. It will be another fast start to the day before the riders reach the first categorised climb of the day. Alto de Petralba is 6.3km long at 5%. The break may only escape here!

The 2nd official climb is the Alto de Cotefablo, coming in at 12.5km in length, averaging only 4.3%. However, there is a false flat section half way up the climb. This will offer the riders some respite before tackling the second part.

However, the stage is all about the final climb.

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Not a tough climb, but after today’s efforts it will sting the legs. It’s very stop start but it really shouldn’t be a challenge for the main GC guys.

How will the stage pan out?

Short stages more often than not lead to exciting racing and with the precedent being set today, I expect the GC guys to be full gas all day.

The climbs really aren’t that tough, so it will be fatigue that will cause any gaps. Of course, the better climbers have more of a chance of creating gaps. But on a stage like this, I don’t think there’s that much difference between the current top 5 on GC, possibly even the top 10.

Therefore, I think it could be a lesser GC guy who goes well here.

Prediction

All hell will break loose tomorrow and the race will be on from the gun. The break has no chance!

Having two riders up on GC is key so that the riders can bounce attacks off of each other and mark the other teams/riders. I’ve been very impressed with the way Konig has raced this Vuelta so far and is playing a great second fiddle to Froome. With all the eyes on the Brit, Konig will use this to advantage and squirrel away for the stage win!

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Betting

0.75pt EW Konig @ 66/1 with Bet365. As usual, hunt around later when other bookies have priced up.

 

Hope you enjoyed the preview. Apologies again for its short nature, I’m just too tired to be writing a load of stuff. Thankfully, the stage looks relatively straightforward. How do you think it will play out? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Giro stage 15: Castelrotto – Alpe di Siusi

Today’s Recap

Well, that turned out to be an incredibly exciting stage in the end! For long periods of time I thought it was going to be another defensive race from the favourites and it looked like it was going to be a bore-fest. That was until we hit the brutal Passo Giau. Astana took over from Movistar and set a blistering tempo, shelling riders out the back. Amador lost contact but regained it on the descent.

On the next (and final) climb once Scarponi had finished his job, Nibali attacked. The GC favourites followed, apart from Amador and Valverde who were both dropped. A couple of counter-attacks later saw Kruijswijk, Nibali and Chaves clear. They worked well for a bit, but Kruijswijk soon attacked again and only Chaves could follow. Those two powered away on the climb (although Nibali did well to stay close-ish), and caught up with 2nd and 3rd on the road at the summit. A frantic descent and flat chase saw them catch lone escapee Atapuma in the final 3km. Preidler took up the sprint from far out, but Chaves (and Kruijswijk) came round him in the final 150m to take the win. The smiling assassin strikes again.

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Nibali put in a great descent and effort on the flat to only lose 37 seconds on the stage, the rest of the GC guys were at least 2mins 30secs down. So it leaves the GC looking like this going into a crucial stage tomorrow:

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The Route

Three words every cycling fan loves to here and I’m sure three words that the majority of cyclists despise: Mountain Time Trial.

A mountain TT returns to the Giro after a years absence, last featuring in the race back in 2014, when Quintana won the climb, and probably the Strava to boot, up to Cima Grappa.

The organisers have been kinder this year, as it’s not as tough as Cima Grappa, but it is still a grippy test for the riders.

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Whole route profile
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The climb proper – after the intermediate time check

“The stage is an uphill individual time trial. After a first false-flat drag (1,800 m), the route climbs steadily over the next 9 km, with an average 8.3% gradient. The road is wide and well paved. Straight stretches alternate with hairpins having a high bend radius. Split time is taken at km 4.4.” (Road book extract)

As you can see, the climb starts off relatively mundanely until we reach the intermediate check point. Hereafter, it averages 8.6% for 6.4km. Not the most difficult climb, but it will be a challenge after today’s GC fireworks!

Weather Watch

A sunny glorious day, everyone should get the same conditions.

The only concern might be the wind, but it appears that it’s coming from the same direction and the speed doesn’t change much throughout the afternoon.

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Who are the stage contenders?

One thing to consider is if anyone will actually use a TT bike. It was worth it back in 2014 because there was a longer flat section before the climb started, so the riders changed bikes after the first time checkpoint (before the start of the climb). Considering there is only 1.8km of false flat here, I doubt we’ll see anyone use one. Therefore, this eliminates the advantage that some riders would have had by riding better TT machines.

I wouldScreen Shot 2016-05-21 at 18.38.10 not be surprised to see the top 3 on GC be the top 3 on the stage tomorrow. It looks like the bookies think the same, with Paddy Power pricing them up as follows (image on the left). I can’t fault their logic either. I’m struggling really to think who will challenge the top 3.

Majka maybe? He was the one closest to following them on the final climb and he can put in a solid TT.

Zakarin? Was flying in the rolling TT, but has looked out of sorts since his crash during it. He was with Majka today.

Uran was following with Zakarin but then went pop too. Nothing convinces me he’ll challenge here.

Valverde and Amador? I wouldn’t dare go near them after their implosion today.

Jungels? This TT is a different kettle of fish to the one he went to so well in, earlier in this race. If this was a one-week race he could maybe compete. But he finished 6mins+ down today, so I think he’s burnt out a bit.

Henao did an okay performance back in 2014, finishing 8th on that stage. A top 5 would be a good result.

Of the non-GC guys who could go best? Nieve and Roglic on paper probably look the best. Nieve has looked very solid on the climbs. He finished 3’52 down today, offering his support to Sebastian Henao and his efforts for the Youth Jersey.

Roglic: 2nd in the first TT, 1st in the 2nd TT, can he do a repeat performance here? He was going well on the steep climbs earlier in the year and has obviously proved during this race that he can TT. Only concern is that he went down the other day and hasn’t seemed as strong since.

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The other big concern with backing non-GC guys on a day like this is that they might not give it 100%, and just take it as another “rest-day”. Well, as much of a rest as an uphill 10km effort is!

Therefore I say we get the 1-2-3 on GC as 1-2-3 on the podium tomorrow. I’m just struggling to decide what order.

Chaves is the weakest normal TTer, but as I’ve said earlier, this is no normal TT. In fact, up until today he looked the best on the climbs. I’m sure he’ll cope just fine tomorrow!

Kruijswijk has now joined him at the top of the pile. He looked very strong when dropping Nibali, but Chaves came across to him relatively easily. Kruijswijk is the better guy on the flat, so he might gain a few seconds there over Chaves. It will be close.

And then there’s the Shark. He went pop on the final climb, but limited the time-gap fairly well and used his descending skills to close the gap. He brought it back even more on the flat, but I think that’s because the two ahead of him stopped working that well with each other. That work on the flat shows that he’s still relatively strong. But on reflection, his attacks from yesterday might have been those of panic, because he’s not as good as he should be.

Prediction

As I missed out on him today and he seems to be the best climber in the race, I say the Smiling Assassin makes it 2 from 2 tomorrow, with Kruijswijk 2nd and Nibali 3rd. Simples.

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Betting

With there being some room for error, if you can find Chaves at 4/1 or higher, then back him EW. As you should be able to get your stake back when he at least podiums.

I’ve backed him 5pts EW at 9/2 but that price has gone now. So my official blog bet is 5pts at 4/1 EW (as I’m sure someone will make him that price). If he’s not that price, then a 2.5pt straight up bet will suffice, because there is no value backing him EW under 4/1.

*I’ll update this (and my Twitter later) if I find somewhere that he is over 4/1)*

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*UPDATE – 9/2 IS OFFICIAL BLOG BET ^^ *

Hope you all enjoyed today’s stage and this preview! As usual, any feedback or discussion would be great. Get a few beers in for tomorrow, sit-back, and relax, watching the riders giving it their all in the Race of Truth. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.