Vuelta Stage 17 Preview: Castellón -> Llucena

Rest Day Recap

It was Drucker who ended up winning an ultimately messy sprint on stage 16, after catching Bennati within the final 200m. I didn’t manage to watch the stage, but it sounded quite dull until the finish anyway!


As for the GC, Quintana, barring any incident or massive implosion, looks to have the race sealed up. The battle for the podium looks to be exciting with Contador only 5 seconds behind Chaves. In fact, we’ll definitely see some movement in and around the top 10 in this final week.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.22.53

I’m hoping for some more exciting, no holds barred style racing in the coming stages. Maybe it won’t be as wild as it was on Stage 15 but I can’t see it being a defensive race (well, apart from Quintana), as everyone gives their all in the final week of the last Grand Tour of the year. Squeezing everything out the tank!

Anyway, let’s have a look what’s in store for us after this rest day.

The Route

Another classic Vuelta stage: a lot of climbing with a summit finish. At least the organisers have been kind and categorised most of the climbs for once!

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The most important climbs of this stage are the two that bookend it. The Alto del Desierto de las Palmas is 7.1km long at an average of 5.4% with maximum ramps of 12%, according  to VeloViewer (see profile here). This climb is significant as this is most likely where the break of the day will be formed, or at least the riders will hope it is!

We then get two categorised climbs in the middle of the stage, but these shouldn’t change the outcome of the day. Unless of course some GC guys want to go wild early again!

This stage is therefore all about the final climb and the lead in to it. I did say things would be back to normal today, so in tradition I’ve created a Strava profile of the final 15km that you can view here.

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The preamble before the main event is actually a 6km climb at Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 11.05.374%. This will certainly warm the legs up before the final ascent of the Alto Mas de la Costa. It’s another climb that typifies the Vuelta: short but bloody steep!

3.8km at 12.5% will certainly find anyone out who’s not recovered well after the rest-day, or happens just to be misfiring. Thus, some reasonable gaps can be made on a climb like this. Look back at La Camperona (Stage 8) for example, a stage with a similar final climb. That day saw a minute separating the first 10 GC riders home.

The tougher part of the climb is in the second half as well. Therefore it’s crucial for riders in contention that they don’t go out too hard and then blow up just before the top!

Looking back at those who went well on Stage 3 and 8 could give a good idea at the riders who might be in the mix here.

How will the stage pan out?

Like normal, we’re left with the age-old question of break or no break?

The day after the previous rest-day (Stage 11) saw a GC battle and a Froome stage win. However, that stage had a lot less climbing involved and was a lot easier to control for the GC teams. Saying that, as we saw on stage 15, they could go full gas from quite far out, but I think that situation is quite unlikely.

Therefore, I think we’re once again left with a break winning the stage and a GC battle behind.

Break Candidates

There are a lot of “obvious” break choices for this stage such as the two K’s at Sky (Konig & Kennaugh), Fraile, Elissonde and Brambilla. But as a guy with a penchant of choosing outsiders, I’ll be sticking to type here and naming some longer shots for the stage. Four this time round though!

Fabio Felline.


The Italian has been climbing very well this Vuelta so far, finishing 3rd on stage 15. It’s most certainly something he’s improved on this year and looks to be getting stronger as the race goes on. He performed solidly, not outstanding, on stages 3 & 8 but I think he’ll go better tomorrow. Utilising his punchy nature, he’ll hope to put the hurt on his opponents on the steep ramps!

Bart de Clerq.

He came into this Vuelta as the main GC hope for Lotto Soudal but unfortunately crashed heavily on stage 6. This was particularly disappointing for him after a good show of form early in the race with a 12th place on Stage 3. Since then he’s been recuperating and was a feature in the break on the stage to Aubisque. He didn’t have the legs that day, but seems upbeat and that his form is returning. If he is back to his best then he will certainly be a danger man.

Rudy Molard.

05-06-2016 Criterium Du Dauphine Libere; Tappa Prologo Les Gets; 2016, Cofidis Solutions Credits; Molard, Rudy; Les Gets;

Another rider who had a great stage 3 (finishing 11th), he went a bit off the boil mid-Vuelta and lost some time on GC. However, a 16th place on the stage to Aubisque shows that the form is still there. A very consistent rider who doesn’t seem to get on the top step of the podium that often. Can he add to his one pro win here?

Maxime Bouet.

Second on the reduced bunch gallop in Bilbao was certainly a surprise! A rider who’s done a lot of work for his team-mates this race so far, he normally finds himself in a breakaway at some point during a Grand Tour. He’s not been in one yet and as a very solid all-rounder, he should be able to make the move if he’s given the all clear. The final climb will be on his limit but he did finish 26th (taking away the 12 break places) on a tough finish on stage 8 so the form is there.


I say it’s a 70% chance that the break makes it tomorrow. With the stage being tough to control and set up for a GC rider, I think teams will instead use their resources by getting riders into the break of the day.

I’ll go for a guy who had a promising build up to the race and seems to be re-finding his feet. Bart de Clerq to win!



Small stakes on each of the break hopes:

0.3pt WIN De Clerq @ 200/1 with Betfair SB (I would take the 125/1 available if you can’t bet with BF)

0.25pt WIN Felline @ 100/1 with Skybet & Coral (Would take 80s available with B365 or Ladbrokes)

0.25pt WIN Molard @ 80/1 pretty much every bookmaker

0.2pt WIN Bouet @ 200/1 with Betfair and Paddy Power (Would take 150/1)


Thanks for reading! How do you think tomorrow’s stage will go? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.






TDF Stage 17: Berne -> Finhaut-Emosson

Rest-day Recap

Firstly, we got the exciting end to stage 16 that I was hoping for. The fast run in, coupled with the cobbles and the two sharp hills resulted in only the strongest riders being left at the front. We saw a mix of GC guys, classics specialists and only the strongest of sprinters battle out for the win and it was Sagan who pipped Kristoff on the line, taking stage glory. A special mention must go to youngster Holst Enger who got up to take third, he has a real future ahead of him!


As for Albasini, he finished in a lowly, but nice and round, 100th place. In an interview that was broadcast during the race Matt White said that Albasini was suffering and not in good condition so would be supporting Matthews instead. A shame, especially not knowing that information pre-stage, but oh well!

GC wise, the second week has increased the gaps between the riders. Froome has looked unbeatable, he’s made some unbelievable seated attacks and looks to have the race won bar any misfortune. Sky themselves look incredibly strong and riders such as Valverde, Rolland and TVG say that’s almost impossible to attack them because of the pace that they’re setting. TVG was even dropped on stage 15 when the rest of the contenders came in together. Going into the final week the top 20 looks like this.

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Let’s have a look at stage 17…

The Route

Flat, two little “bumps”, a descent into the valley followed by the main event: a Cat-1 climb and a HC climb back to back. Easy to very difficult!


I’ll skim over the two Category-3 climbs. As you can see in the profile above, they aren’t anything too severe both averaging under 5%. The sprinters and those who are suffering from injuries/illness will hope to make it over them with the peloton. In fact, they’ll hope to make it to the Cat 1 climb; the Col de la Forclaz.

They’ll be quickly out the back here though. 13km at 7.9%, I think it’s a bit harsh to only have it as a Cat-1! The climb is relentless, with the gradient staying very consistent all the way up. Good for those riders who like to ride tempo! Here’s a link to the Strava segment of the climb.


A short 7km descent follows for the riders to get some respite before they tackle the Finhaut-Emosson. The road actually climbs before they get to Finhaut itself and this is included in the stage profile categorisation above, meaning the ascent comes in at 10.4km at an 8.4% average. In comparison to the Strava segment that only starts from Finhaut. Either way, the climb is very difficult with the hardest and steepest section coming right at the end. Only the strongest riders on the day will win here, you have to be 100%, which sometimes isn’t the case after a rest day. Some of them might get a shock when they get here.

This succession of climbs was actually used at the end of Stage 7 at the 2014 Dauphiné, which saw a break claim the day, with Contador putting time into Froome behind.

How will this stage pan out then?

Much the same as the Dauphiné edition I reckon. A break day for sure.

We’ll see another massive fight to get into the move early on in the stage. It could be a case of another 30-man break. There’ll be a mix of rouleurs and climbers that make it into the move because of the terrain we start on. Some will have no hope at the finish though!

The reason I’m confident that it will be a break day is very much similar to the reasons I gave for stage 15, but are even added to further by the performance on that stage. Sky are incredibly strong and with there only being the two climbs of danger on the route, they don’t really need to chase. Why bother closing down a break? They already have a comfortable GC lead and a stage win. Plus, they’ve looked a little bit shaky with Henao getting dropped the other day. They won’t want to waste any excess energy. Marginal gains and all!

I doubt any of the other teams will commit to a chase, their resourses are already low in comparison to Sky and it’s too early for a Hail Mary team-attack and there aren’t enough mountains for that.

Once Sky get to the climbs they’ll work through their mountain lead-out, setting a relentless tempo that almost makes it pointless to attack. The other teams know this, referring back to what Valverde etc have said, so their best chance of stage glory is sending team-mates in the break. If it does all kick off behind then they have riders up the road who can work.

The break will probably need over 6’30-7 minutes going up the Forclaz because the final two climbs are very tough and the gap can be closed down pretty quickly. With the relatively flat opening 2/3rds of the profile and the likelihood of a large group, this is very much achievable.

As per usual, I’m going to name 3 potential breakaway candidates.

Vasil Kiryienka.


With Stannard and Rowe more than likely able to control and pace the peloton by themselves, Sky could send the Belarusian up the road to hunt the stage win. He’s been his usual workmanlike, unassuming self so far this Tour but has done a great job for the team. He could potentially be tired by now, but so will a lot of the peloton! A very strong guy on the flat, if he’s given the nod then he should be able to join the move. If he gets into it and with the way Sky are riding, he could be tough to beat. I also hope he gets some freedom after he was told to do a go-slow on the TT. Quite disrespectful to the World Champ in my opinion!

Wilco Kelderman.


The Dutchman seemed to be riding well at the start of the Tour, maintaining a high position on GC until his crash on a descent during Stage 8. Since then he’s not done much and had been complaining of some injuries due to said crash. However, he seems to have found some kind of form again, coming home in the front group on Monday’s stage. He was one of the riders at the Dauphiné in 2014, managing to finish 12th on the day, losing 40 seconds to Froome. Pre-race he was supposedly given a Carte Blanche to hunt stages and due to unfortunate circumstances hasn’t been able to do that so far. I think this might change tomorrow!

Winner Anacona.



The leaders of the Team Classification will want riders up the road to help maintain, if not increase their lead in the competition. Anacona has shown in the past that he can go well in the final week. He is also a rider who has recon-ed these final climbs (as can be seen on the Strava link above) so will know the roads reasonably well. With Pantano going well, Anacona will want to regain the Colombian limelight.

There are other obvious names that can be thrown about such as Costa, Majka, Zakarin et al.


A break makes it all the way tomorrow (I’m 95% sure). The only way it doesn’t is if someone relatively close on GC makes the move. However, I don’t think any of the teams are risky/will want to burn all their chances when there are still a few stages to go. Especially considering the tough Mountain Time Trial the following day.

With this recent renaissance in Dutch cycling, I say Kelderman takes a famous and memorable victory!

Behind, we’ll once again see Sky set an incredible tempo, only this time Froome will attack and put the race well and truly to bed here. Unless of course Quintana has recovered and puts everyone to the sword. I think that’s just wishful thinking from me though!


Kelderman 0.4pt EW @250/1 with PP/BV. I’d take 200/1 and possibly 150.

Kiryienka 0.15pt EW @300/1 with PP. I’d take 200/1 with others

Anacona 0.2pt EW @150/1 with Various.


Hope you liked my take on this stage, do you think the break can make it? If so, who wins? As usual we any feedback is great! Hope we’re in for a good stage. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.



Giro Stage 17: Molveno – Cassano d’Adda

Today’s Route

Well, the idea of a breakaway succeeding was quickly thrown out the window and we got some more GC fireworks on today’s stage. It looked for a while that Chaves was going to be the major loser, with the race splitting massively on the first climb and the young Colombian being left in the second group on the road. However, it ended up being Nibali who was the main loser as those in the front group rode away from him, and Chaves who came up from behind, dropped him too. Up ahead, Valverde took a good win, meaning he now has stage victories in all of the Grand Tours. Kruijswijk was second and Zakarin 3rd.


Annoyingly all three of the riders I mentioned in the preview were up the road at some point. Boswell was apparently in a big move at the start of the day that was brought back by Nippo. (Here’s a link to an interview with him post stage.)

Kudus escaped briefly along with Pirazzi and one other rider I can’t remember just at the bottom of the first climb of the day. They were quickly brought to heel as well.

And of course Dombrowski had made it into the elite group of 10 who had escaped up the road. Then he lost contact with the group on the flat. Some people are speculating that it was team orders, but it looked to me as if he’d taken a big turn at the front swung over and nobody came through. At this point there was a slight gap between the first five in the group and the second five. After Dombrowski had swung off to the side of the road I think he was caught napping and the remaining four powered away to catch up with those in-front. However, that’s all speculation/my opinion, so I guess we’ll have to wait for a press release from Cannondale to see exactly what happened.

Anyway, onto tomorrow’s stage!

The Route

Bit lumpy then very flat!


Nothing much to discuss here, with only one cat-4 climb on the route and that shouldn’t cause the peloton any difficulty. Cunego will be looking forward to a day where he can have a rest and not try to get in the breakaway.

The actual finish isn’t that difficult either. The organisers have been kind to the peloton/sprinters here.


So a nailed-on sprint then?

Well you’d assume so. Both Modolo and Nizzolo haven’t won a stage yet and will be keen to get one in the bag before the final stage in Turin. Their main rivals have all went away, leaving them as easily the fastest sprinters here. There are some other teams with second-rate sprint options but they don’t compare to the two Italians.

A two-horse race then.


Team Tactics

If there were more top-tier sprinters here then it’s a sprint day guaranteed. However, with there only being the two, other teams aren’t going to work to help bring the break back. In fact, the best move for them is to get a rider in the break, so that they can save themselves for the finale.

Lampre only have 8 riders, but they won’t use up Ulissi or Ferrari for the chase. Minus Modolo, they only have 5 left and they’re not exactly the strongest rouleurs in the World, they’re much more suited to hilly routes. Plus, we’ve seen Lampre cock-up a situation like this before (Final stage at the Giro last year).

Giro d'Italia 2015

Trek only have 6 riders, but again they won’t use up Alafaci (who I assume will be doing lead-out duties with BVP gone). Leaving them 4 riders to commit to a chase. They have stronger riders on the flat but will be shouldered with more of the work due to Lampre’s incompetences and the fact Nizzolo is the faster of the two.

Other teams are supposedly targeting the sprints, Dimension Data and Giant Alpecin namely. But as I said above, I don’t see them contributing to a chase when they’re really fighting for third place. Unless of course they miss the break of the day and get made to work on the front.

The real interesting team tactic for me though is how Lampre are approaching the Maglia Rossa competition.

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Current top 10 of the Maglia Rossa

After today’s stage, Ulissi has moved within striking distance of Nizzolo. Modolo really seems out of the picture and would need to win tomorrow and in Turin, hoping that Nizzolo does terribly in both sprints. I get the impression that all of Lampre’s eggs are in Ulissi’s basket. Ulissi I can envisage going on to win the stage into Pinerolo which would gain him some more points but with the points being weighted towards the sprint stages, he would need Nizzolo not to score any tomorrow. (Or very few).

Now, Ulissi could go in the break and try to take the 40 points on offer at the intermediate sprints, but that would be foolish. Doing so would mean Trek definitely would chase the break down, resulting in a sprint of some sort at the end and more points for Nizzolo. What Lampre really need to do is get someone in the BOTD and not chase, hoping that the likes of DD and Giant get someone in there too. Leaving all the onus on Trek to do the work. It’s a risky tactic, but after a tough, all guns blazing day like today, then it might just come off. The only thing with this approach is that Modolo has to be on side 100% and I think he will be. Sacrificing his own personal ambitions for the good of the team. Sprinters aren’t all that selfish, are they?

What does this all mean?

On a day where most will say sprint, I’m going to be my usual bold self and say a break makes it. (Because hey, it’s definitely worked so far this Giro…! 😂 😂 😂).

As said above, there will be too many teams that don’t want Modolo and Nizzolo dragged to the line as their rider will be sprinting for third. They’ll have a much better chance of the win from the break. Plus, with Lampre (and Ulissi’s) eyes fixed firmly on the Maglia Rossa they won’t want to gift Nizzolo 50 or 40 points.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 19.24.54


If it’s hard enough predicting who’ll get in a break on a mountain stage, it’s nigh on impossible picking someone on a flat day with any confidence. The wild-card teams will feature, along with those who don’t have a stage yet. The IAM boys will be keen to get in the break to show their worth to new employers. Any Italian will fancy their chances. The list is endless. Well, once you go through all the riders I suppose it ends, but I digress…

I’m going to choose my rider, purely for the poetic nature of it all.

On National Escargot Day, Van Zyl never managed to get in the break. Like all snails, he’s a bit slow to the party and will make the break a day late, taking a most unlikely, but memorable victory.


Let’s just hope he’s not feeling sluggish after today…



I can’t really advise bets for a stage like this. It should really be a no bet day, unless you want to back some breakaway candidates. I’ll probably have a look at the exchanges and see if I can get some riders at 500 or 600/1 + for fun.

But for a bit of blog fun, we’ll go with the man who’s (100%, no doubt about it, positively) going to win the stage.

0.1pt on Van Zyl @200/1 PP.


Hope you enjoyed the racing today, because we could be in for a bit of a snooze fest tomorrow. As always, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.