Vuelta a Andalucia 2019 Stage 2 Preview: Sevilla -> Torredonjimeno

Today’s Recap

Despite Astana and Bahrain’s best efforts to try to split things up a little before the final climb, we had a pretty large peloton arrive at the foot of the ascent. Movistar took it up early and things quickly thinned out, however, no one really wanted to go full gas from the bottom like they did last year. Possibly knowing just how brutal the climb they decided it was better to save something. Astana then put in a little dig on the false flat descent but it was Tim Wellens who took the corner I highlighted in the preview yesterday, exactly the same way he did back in 2018. Carrying some momentum through it and onto the steep finish, he sat in the saddle and powered away from everyone as they struggled to hold his wheel. A dominant performance and a good one to beat Astana and the illness he faced a week or so ago!

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Astana will be happy with their current position though with Fuglsang and Izagirre taking 2nd and 3rd respectively.

Disappointed with blog pick Yates, who looked as if he was being brought up by his team-mates but then lost the wheel with around one kilometre to go until the start of the climb. From there he began the ascent in about 50th place and was never going to come back after that. He might not have won against Wellens, but we’ll never know!

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

The Route

A long day in the saddle which sees the road rise steadily up; will the sprinters be able to hang on?

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With nothing overly difficult in the opening 185 km of the stage, the main battle will take place over the final 25 – 30 km.

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The only classified climb of the day crests with about 24.5 km to go and given it’s 4.6% average for just over 4 km – it isn’t exactly the toughest ascent in the world either. However, it definitely could be used to put the peloton under a little pressure, especially if those eyeing up stage victory later on want to make things more difficult. After a short descent, the riders face the final 20 km which are all ever so slightly uphill, averaging 1.5%.

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The day will be decided (obviously) in the final 5.6 km.

With an “opening” climb of 2 km at 4%, followed by 1.6 km of flat, then a 2 km climb at 3%: there are opportunities for the finesseurs of the bunch to try to nab a win.

How will the stage pan out?

With some time gaps after today’s stage and no bonus seconds on the line, it could actually be a day for the breakaway. However, I don’t think that will happen as there should be enough interest behind from teams wanting a stage win to close things down.

Will it be controlled all the way to the line though?

With no pure sprinters here as such, the likes of Trentin and Van Poppel will be hopeful of sticking with the bunch and being the fastest riders left. Yet, it will be a tough ask for teams to keep things in check as I think plenty will fancy their chances of attacking in the finale and spoiling the party. The classics riders and puncheurs will be licking their lips at the prospect of the drags in the closing 5km.

Consequently, I think we might see a small group get away near the end of the day, who battle it out for a stage win. Or even a solo rider who times their attack perfectly as everyone else looks at each other.

Riders to look out for include Prades, Gavazzi, Luis Leon Sanchez, Canola and of course the aforementioned Trentin and Van Poppel.

However, I don’t think any of them will win, instead…

Prediction

A blog favourite will be raising his hand come the end of the day and that man will be Matej Mohoric.

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I was very impressed to see Mohoric grinding his way up the climb today, slowly picking off riders ahead of him and ending up in 11th place. He’s a rider that keeps improving year on year, especially now that he is fully focussed on his cycling after finishing his studies. We saw that come to fruition last year with what was a breakthrough year and I expect him to match that this season with some very strong performances in the classics. The slightly tricky finish looks perfect for him to launch a doozy of an attack in the closing kilometres and with a bit of confusion and lack of co-operation behind it will be very difficult to bring him back. Mohoric does also have the advantage of packing a pretty handy sprint in a stage like this so he might just wait but that isn’t his nature. All or nothing for Matej!

Betting

1pt EW Mohoric @ 25/1 with Bet365

Thanks as always for reading the preview and apologies it is slightly more stumped than normal; I’m a bit under the weather and trying to write two previews a day takes a little time. It’ll probably the same tomorrow as I’m heading home for the weekend so will be spending a bit of my time travelling. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 2 Preview: Marbella -> Caminito del Rey

Today’s Recap

Was it ever really in doubt? The Rohirrim were well and truly mustered. Dennis smashed it out the park, winning by a relatively massive 6 seconds in the grand scheme of things: taking almost one second per kilometre over his nearest rivals.

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Kwiatkowski produced a strong time to come home in second, just edging out Campenaerts. The three pre-stage favourites finishing in the predicted order. The trio were a cut above the rest with a 10 second gap between Campenaerts and 4th-place finisher Oliveira.

Will Dennis hold onto the jersey tomorrow? Let’s take a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

No messing about from the organisers here, the open road action kicks off with a real tease of a stage.

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Climbing from the gun, the Puerto de Ojén (8km at 5.6%) will offer the chance for a strong break to go clear. There are two more 3rd Cat climbs out on the route which rolls pretty much all afternoon before a climb to finish.

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They will get a look at the final climb just before the halfway point in the stage. As you can see, at an average of just under 4% for 4.7kms, it isn’t the toughest climb in the world. However, it goes up in steps and the final kilometre of it averages a slightly punchier 6.5%. As they round the final corner with only 200m to go, things flatten out somewhat and a slight drag to the line awaits.

How will the stage pan out?

Given the tough start we could see a strong break get away, something a lot of the peloton won’t want. There is a chance if that is the case though, and that the morning move fights it out at the finish. We’ve seen this before where there is a lack of organisation by the big GC teams as to who chases down the move, almost trying to call each others bluff but failing in the end.

However, I don’t think that will be the case this time around and there will be enough co-operation behind to keep things on a fairly tight leash.

Expect the likes of Movistar and Sky to control the tempo on the final climb, whittling down the group in the hope to set up their riders. It is punchy enough to see some attacks though and if the bunch becomes unorganised then someone might be able to sneak away.

Kwiatkowski v Valverde?

On paper these are the two favourites for the stage as I personally think the finish will be too tough for the likes of Viviani and co. Sagan would be up there if this was in July but it’s not and he’s not been in the best of shape recently so yeah…

Kwiatkowski was dominant in the Tour of Poland, winning two stages along with the GC title. Both of his wins came on uphill finishes, although they were different in nature compared to what we have tomorrow, which is somewhere in between the two. If anything, the finish is very similar to his win earlier in the year in the Algarve when he won up the climb of Foia.

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Valverde is of course Valverde and you would have to be living under a rock not to know his capabilities on a finish like this. We’ve seen him take numerous wins in sprints from reduced groups at the top of climbs over the past few years. His team should be strong enough to hold it all together but who knows. His form is a bit unknown though as he hasn’t raced since the Tour so he might get caught out a bit here but then again, it is Valverde and he is always on form. The Tour was his down time in form for the year…

Not Just a Two-horse Race.

There are of course plenty of others within the field who will fancy their chances via either a sprint or a late attack. Think of Dan Martin, Dylan Teuns, Bauke Mollema, the Yates’ and Pello Bilbao to name but a few.

However, I’ve had one rider in mind for this stage for a few days now and I think as an “outsider” he has a good chance of going very well…

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I’ve been very impressed by Benoot’s transition from one-day racer to potential future one-week stage race contender this year. Saying that, his biggest and only win did come in the very tough edition of Strade Bianche. On that day he was flying on the short and punchy climbs and it was one of the rides of the season. Set to ride his first Tour de France, he was unfortunately the victim of one of the opening week crashes; ultimately being forced to abandon before the start of the 5th stage. He returned to racing in the Cyclassics Hamburg recently and was one of the riders on the attack over the final climb, where he looked fairly comfortable. He’s talked up his form quite a bit in the run in to this race and I believe him! Just look at his “sprint” results in Tirreno and Dauphiné, he can pack a punch from a small group. Will he wait for the galop though, or go for a hail mary attack?

Prediction

I was going to be boring and just say Kwiatkowski here but I’ll stick my neck out and go with Benoot. It’s also a perfect excuse to share my favourite cycling related Instagram post…

View this post on Instagram

Forza Tiesj Benoot! 🎉 @tiesj #ohn

A post shared by Sporza (@sporza.be) on

Forza Tiesj!

Betting

1pt EW Benoot @ 33/1

Thanks as always for reading! Apologies for this being a little bit shorter than normal but I’ve had a few other things on this afternoon. Normal length should return tomorrow. Who do you think is going to win the stage? Will we see a surprise? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de Yorkshire 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Tadcaster -> Harrogate

Today’s Recap

That was hectic!

The peloton split over the final categorised climb of the day but things regrouped and we ended the day with a fairly large sprint. However, it wasn’t a simple sprint as the pace at the front of the peloton slowed, riders bunched up and things got messy. Unfortunately there was a fairly large crash that took out a lot of riders.

Nonetheless, it was Groenewegen who came from far back to take the win. Managing to weave his way around his opponents and still have enough to hold off a charging Ewan who finished no more than half a wheel behind.

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A very honourable mention to third place finisher Opie who managed to avoid all the carnage and finish comfortably ahead of the likes of Bouhanni etc.

Will we see a similar finish tomorrow but without the carnage? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

An easier day in the saddle and a stage that should come down to a bunch sprint.

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There are some rolling, uncategorised climbs in the second half of the day, but nothing that should be too difficult for the bunch…

Saying that, the final 12km on the profile looked “interesting” so once again I’ve made a Strava profile of said ending! You can view that here.

Turns out the finale isn’t as easy as I had originally thought.

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The climb once they leave Birstwith is 1km long and averages roughly 5.8%. Not severe, but its proximity to the finish means the riders will be going full pace and it will certainly sap the legs of the sprinters.

Likewise, the following climb of Greyston Plain Lane is 2.1km at 3.9%. Even easier gradients this time but double the length. They won’t have had much respite after the Birstwith climb because it’s straight off the steep descent and back up the road again.Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 11.22.02

Once over Greyston Plain Lane, there is a shallow descent all the way until just over 2km to go. It’s at the 2km to go banner that they’ll take a right hand turn at a roundabout, before the drag to the line.

This finish was used back in the opening stage of the 2014 Tour, except the riders came directly from the North side of the roundabout.

From that point though, the run in to the finish is identical.

As for the severity of the ramps themselves, I would actually believe the Strava profile more than the closing 5km from the road book. We have a 500m section at 6.8% followed by a swift 300-400m descent which allows the riders to gather up some speed before the final kick up to the line and false flat finish (500m at roughly 3%).

How will the stage pan out?

It should be a sprint stage, don’t get me wrong, but that closing 12km could certainly spring a surprise or two.

The equivalent run in to the 2014 Tour stage wasn’t as difficult so I’m intrigued to see what difference the slightly grippier terrain makes.

It is also important to consider that the riders in 2014 were in peak fitness for the Tour, at this race, there is a high chance quite a few of them won’t be and that drag to the line might be harder than they expect.

I think it will be tough for anyone to make a move on the climb out of Birstwith or on Greyston Plain Lane but I do think some more attacking riders will try something on the run in to the line.

Will the WT sprinters teams be able to hold it together? After today’s sprint it is clear Ewan and Groenewegen are the fastest, although I’m not sure Bouhanni would agree after being dumped at the front too early. Nonetheless, Jumbo and Orica will be the teams shouldered with doing most of the pace making and chasing throughout the stage which will tire their lead-outs and ability to close down attacks at the end.

We saw that Voeckler was sprightly on the run-in today and it would not surprise me to see him try something again tomorrow.

Sprinters?

Tomorrow’s sprint is more difficult than today’s but you would still expect the same riders to be involved.

Ewan likes an uphill drag to the line as was shown in his first ever GT win back in the 2015 Vuelta. Can he repeat that here?

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Groenewegen not so much and he was distanced on the last climb of the day today (along with Ewan), he might struggle a little bit.

Conversely. Bouhanni will be annoyed after dropping the two aforementioned guys on the Robin Hood’s Bay climb that he could not win the sprint. I think we’ll see him come out fighting tomorrow and he has a good chance of taking the win.

Sbaragli did well to avoid the crash and the drag up to the line tomorrow suits him more than a pure flat sprint. Podium chances.

Likewise my two picks for today’s stage Planckaert and Kragh Andersen both did well to avoid the crash but a tougher sprint is better news for them. I would expect them to finish higher than their 9th and 13th places today respectively.

Late attackers?

This was a stage I wanted to mark down for Ian Bibby. The JLT rider recently won the third round of the Spring Cup Series on a tough course and this explosive finish looks ideal for him. Unfortunately he was involved in today’s crash but seems to be okay…

Mauro Finetto.

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I mentioned the Italian as a possible animator of the race today but the stage wasn’t approached as aggressively as I had hoped for from the peloton. Delko were very attentive near the front of the bunch today and Finetto possesses a fast enough kick to surprise in a tricky sprint. Furthermore, he is explosive enough to get a gap from the group if he attacks. Can he maintain it all the way to the line though?

Prediction

It should be a sprint but there will be a few surprise names. After his disappointment today, Bouhanni won’t make that same mistake tomorrow. Bou-Bou to trounce home! He’s grossly under-rated as a climbing sprinter and he’ll prove some people wrong tomorrow.

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Betting

1.5pt WIN Bouhanni @ 4/1 (all 365)

0.25pt EW Bibby @

0.25pt EW Finetto @ 300/1

Bibby not priced so…

0.25pt EW Kragh Andersen @ 100/1

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Tour de Romandie 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Champéry -> Bulle

Today’s Recap

It looked for a while as if the weather was going to hold out, but it started tipping it down towards the end of the day. Which made for very grizzly conditions going up the last climb. I’m sure if that made the stage easier or not, as the peloton rode it slightly more defensively than I thought, or if the climb was too easy for any gaps to be made.

In the end, it was Albasini who took a great win (a day too late for me)! With Ulissi and Herrada rounding out the podium.

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A damp squib of a stage on the punting front but I’ll soldier on!

The Route

A “sprinters” day tomorrow in Romandie, which means that there is still a fair amount of climbing involved.

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@LasterketaBurua

You can view an interactive profile of the stage here.

There is a chance that they might move the start of tomorrow’s race off the mountain at Champéry and onto the flat valley below. Either way, it shouldn’t have a big impact on the stage.

We do have some relatively tough short climbs out on the course but they come too far from the finish to cause any stress for the sprinters so we should end with some type of bunch kick again.

As there is nothing useful in the road-book, I’ve resorted again to making a Strava profile, this time of the final 5km. You can view that link here.

I’ve went off what information I could take from the interactive profile made by the same guys behind LasterketaBurua as there is no useful information in the RB as to where turns etc are in the finale so apologies if this isn’t 100% correct. But again, I do trust them so I’m assuming it is correct!

Anyway…

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The closing 2.8km averages 2.29% all the way to the line. Not tough, but certainly a long drag! The amount of twists and turns in the closing kilometre should also add to the excitement.

However, it was the 900m lump that starts just before the 4km to go mark that caught my eye. As Strava sometimes doesn’t cope with the contouring on maps that well, especially when the road runs very close to a contour, I thought I’d check it out on Google Streetview to see if the climb was actually that steep.

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View one…
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View two…

It’s definitely a hill, that I’m sure of… 😜

As for how steep it is, I’m still undecided!

Facing up the road, it looks like quite a tough drag but then when looking parallel to the road it doesn’t seem as bad at all. We’ll just have to wait and see tomorrow I guess as to how steep it actually is. I’m holding out that it is the 900m climb at 7% that Strava promises! My instinct though is that it’s probably closer to a 4% average.

Weather

We’re set for another cold day in the saddle.

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Source: Wunderground

Thankfully the riders will be happy to see that there is only a “chance of rain” in the afternoon, but I’m sure they’re bound to get soaked at some point.

There are plenty of riders far enough down on GC to warrant a break win, but I think that’s unlikely and we’ll more than likely see some type of sprint into Bulle.

Contenders

We don’t have many proper sprinters here so a lot of them should be able to compete on this finale.

Viviani is arguably the biggest name here. He’s been climbing a lot better this year, in fact, the best I’ve seen in his whole career. Tomorrow’s finish might be right on his limit but with the Giro looming, you would expect him to be in good shape. Without a win this season, it’s a great chance for him to take victory, but I just can’t see it. Nonetheless, he does surprise occasionally with a great result.

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Albasini is a man in form and he can certainly roll over any of the hills tomorrow. The up-hill finish puts him on a similar level to the really fast guys and I would not be surprised to see him double up. At the very least, he is a safe shout for a podium

Colbrelli in theory should be the favourite for this race, but he seems to be tiring after his great start the year. If he still has some strength in his legs then he will be tough to beat.

This type of finish would have been bread and butter for JJ Lobato circa end of 2014. After switching to Jumbo, the Spaniard has failed to deliver a win for his team so far but that could be put down to the injury that plagued him at the start of the year. An 11th place in Amstel shows that some form is there, but can you put any faith in the enigmatic fast man?

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Race leader Felline will like the look of the drag towards the finish line tomorrow. Clearly in scintillating form, the Italian is taking advantage of it and looks strong in the lead. If he takes the win and 10 bonus seconds tomorrow, he might fancy his chances at winning this race overall…

What about Samuel Dumoulin? The Frenchman has had a fairly solid year but has only picked up one win so far. One of the most consistent riders on an uphill finish, he certainly has a chance if the form is there.

Van der Sande climbed well to finish 17th today but was disappointed to have missed out on getting close to the win. He is clearly going well at the moment and should be Lotto Soudal’s main charge tomorrow as Hofland seems to have fallen by the wayside. A good outsider.

Bilbao will hope to be up there again for Astana. He was close today in 6th place but with the finish being on the climb this time, I’m sure that will suit his abilities more.

Likewise, it will suit former team-mate Goncalves. A favourite of mine, the Portuguese rider has performed OK in the opening part of the season with his new team Katusha, an 11th place at Strade being his best result. Tomorrow’s finish is one that he would eat for breakfast so to say when he was with Caja Rural and I expect to see him up there fighting for the win tomorrow.

Smith, Swift and Richeze might all get involved as well.

Prediction

A tough stage to predict the winner of as firstly I’m still not 100% sure of that penultimate ramp, but it’s also difficult to tell how the peloton will approach the drag to the line.

I do think we’ll see a reduced bunch sprint in the end and I’ll go for a guy who was disappointed today to take the win tomorrow; Tosh van der Sande to step up to the plate and start fulfilling his potential!

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Betting

0.5pt EW Van der Sande @ 22/1 (would take 16s)

0.5pt EW Goncalves @ 400/1 (would take 150s)

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win stage 2? Tomorrow might be a triple preview day with another Romandie stage and potentially Yorkshire Stage 1 and GC, although I might miss the latter if I’m short of time. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruta del Sol Stage 2 Preview; Torredonjimeno -> Alto Peña del Águila

Today’s Recap

I told you that was going to be the stage of the week, it’s all downhill from here!

We had attacks from almost all of the GC favourites; some classic Spanish stop start racing; groups reforming and breaking up more often than Take That; Reichenbach impersonating a HGV in the final few kilometres; and after all of that, Valverde still won. Easily!

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Nonetheless, the stop start racing has meant the GC is still nicely poised going into the next couple of days, with 10 riders only 5 seconds down at most. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

An even tougher day of climbing.

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The road does undulate a lot in the final 50km, but I would expect this stage to come down to the final climb, the earlier ones will just sap the legs.

The climb itself is typical of what we get in this region, fairly short but steep! 5.2km long, averaging 9.8%, there is certainly chance for big time-gaps here.

I’ve managed to locate the strava profile of the climb, which can be viewed here.

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The hardest section is 2km->4km, averaging a stiff 11.25%! This is where the proper climbers will hope to make some gaps as it gets easier in the final kilometre with the gradient dropping to around 3% by the time they reach the finish line.

How will the stage pan out?

With there already being significant time gaps and no bonus seconds on offer, there is a chance that we might get a breakaway. However, with this being the first mountain top finish and early season bragging rights to play for, I’m fairly confident this will be another GC affair.

Contenders

This will be brief, as you only really need to look at the top performers from today and there are clearly two riders who are a level above the rest in my opinion.

Valverde was in admirable control of the stage today. He followed Contador relatively easily after he was surprised by his countryman’s early attack and from there he never looked in trouble. He gave it a nudge on the descent to see if he could get away but played it cool once he realised that wasn’t going to happen. Really, if it wasn’t for him being such a wiley old fox and refusing to properly work with Contador they could have distanced the rest by the top of the climb. He’ll enjoy the steep stuff tomorrow and the climb looks like the perfect length for him, plus his finishing sprint should see off any challenge if there’s a little gallop to the line.

Contador looked great for his first race back and will be pleased with where his form is at just now. He had everyone else in trouble on the climb apart from Valverde which is bound to please him, well, maybe not! He won’t like the look of the end of tomorrow’s stage and the thoughts of a TT so I can imagine he’ll hit out early again like he did today. With the stage finish at the top of the mountain this time round, can everyone hold his wheel as he dances on the pedals?

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As for the rest, Rosa was the guy that looked the strongest on the climb but I can’t see him beating the two Spaniards.

The only way that Contador/Valverde will lose if they start messing about like they did today and that leaves an opportunity for someone to attack. But I can’t really see that happening here. There is a completely different dynamic when the stage finishes on top of a climb rather than at the bottom and they’ll be full gas all the way to the top. Plus, with the TT to come, I think they’ll be sensible and work reasonably well to extend their time gap over the likes of Izagirre, before possibly attacking each other in the final 1km or so.

Prediction

After writing him in italics, and delaying the inevitable yesterday, he’s going to be in bold today.

Valverde wins.

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Betting

Absolutely no value in the stage markets so I’m going to go for this H2H treble at 6.1/1 with Bet365. 2pts on.

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Thanks as per for reading! Apologies for this being so short but after today I don’t see the point on rambling on about any outsiders for this stage. Normal service shall resume for the TT tomorrow! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Volta ao Algarve Stage 2 Preview; Lagao -> Alto a Fóia

Today’s Recap

What a sprint from Gaviria, the boy is fast! (Not that we didn’t know that already!)

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He managed to hold off Bouhanni and Greipel with the German being his main challenger. Greipel got close to him but never looked as if he had the speed and power to get round the Colombian, who now moves into the leader’s jersey. Unfortunately for him, there’s no chance he’ll be able to hold onto it tomorrow as we head uphill. Let’s take a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

A stage that is all about the closing 20km.

Print

At 3.7km in length and averaging a tad over 8%, the Alto da Pomba will weaken the legs and probably see the sprinters unhitch from the peloton. From there, we have some valley roads before the summit finish.

Fóia isn’t an overly challenging climb. Going off what I can see on Strava (not on the profile above), it is 7.7km long averaging 5.9%. There are some ramps above 10% but conversely we get a couple of false flats and shallow descents. In fact, the toughest section is probably the final 200m where it averages close to 9%.

Last year saw the top 21 coming home in under 25 seconds behind the winner on that day: Luis Leon Sanchez. With the likes of Stybar and Tony Martin being in that front selection you get the idea of who can make it to the top at the head of the race.

With there being bonus seconds on offer, there will be no chance for the break tomorrow and it will be over to the climbers and strongmen to fight it out.

Contenders

Guess we better start with last year’s winner; Luis Leon Sanchez. The Spaniard already has some racing in his legs this season already, finishing a solid 16th on GC at the Tour Down Under. Before his great win last year however, he did have even more racing than he has this time, taking part in Valenciana. He could well go on to repeat the victory tomorrow but I don’t fancy his chances as much this time round! Astana have a handful of options (Scarponi, Moser and Bilbao) and I imagine it will be down to form as to who gets leadership.

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I do think that the rider who came third that day has a good chance though. Primoz Roglic was very impressive in Valenciana after a poor first day, managing a 3rd and 5th place on the two tougher stages. He can climb well and in seemingly better form than he was last year, he has to start as one of the favourites for the win tomorrow.

Dan Martin has to do something on this stage if he wants to have any chance of overall glory. He certainly won’t get dropped on the climb and his punchy finish should be of an advantage to him. However, his favourite status may see him have to follow a lot of attacks which could tire him out. Nonetheless he probably is the favourite on paper!

Lotto have their two-pronged attack in the shape of Benoot and Gallopin. They both finished around 15 seconds back on Sanchez last year but seem to be climbing better this year in comparison. If we get a sprint from 5 riders or so then they’ll be tough to get rid of!

The rest of the GC guys I mentioned will be there or thereabouts too, i.e. the likes of Tony Martin, Kwiatkowski, Guerreiro and Spilak.

There are a couple of riders who won’t have a chance on GC that may fancy their chances here too though…

As I’ve mentioned in the route analysis above, the final climb isn’t overly difficult and there is a chance a strong rider will hold on.

Edvald Boasson Hagen had a cracking start to the season last year; winning a stage in Qatar (should have been the overall too if it were not for a mechanical) and two stages in Oman, plus a 10th place on the Green Mountain. The climb is possibly on his limits but the less severe gradient will be great news for him. With Cav seemingly working for him today on the sprint stage, I think the team must have a lot of confidence in where is form is just now. Certainly a dark horse!

Carlos Barbero may not be a household name yet but the 25-year old Movistar certainly has some talent. With a lot of racing in his legs already this season he should be coping well with the pace in the peloton. He’s a bit of an unusual rider to place as he can climb quite well, winning the tough Philly Classic for example, but he also has a decent turn of speed – Very much a poor man’s Valverde. If he turns out to be half as good as El Bala, then he should have a good career at Movistar. This climb tomorrow, like Boasson Hagen, will be on his limits but from a small 5-10 man sprint he has a chance!

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Regular readers of the blog during the Vuelta will know of a certain Portuguese rider who I have a slight soft spot; Jose Goncalves. He may be here as a support rider for Tony Martin but this type of finish looks perfect for him and I would love to see him get given the opportunity to play his own cards in the finale.

Prediction

I can’t see the top 20 being split by more than 30 seconds and it could come down to a small sprint to the line from some of the better climbers. I’ll go with a man who’s in form and will enjoy the shallower gradients…

Tony Gallopin to take the stage win!

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Betting

Skybet priced up today’s stage this morning, so it might be the same case with them tomorrow morning. Keep an eye out though!

 

Thanks for reading as usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win? Fancy an outsider? I should have my Andalucia preview out by 9pm GMT at the latest. See you all then! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour Down Under Stage 2 Preview; Stirling -> Paracombe

Today’s Recap

I told you it was simple! The pocket rocket Caleb Ewan wins and takes the opening Ochre jersey of the race.

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Although it wasn’t all plain sailing for the Aussie as Van Poppel and Bennett ran him very close with Ewan winning by about half a bike length. Saying that, he never looked as if he was going to be overhauled.

Unfortunately from a punting side, Theuns went a bit early and never got near the podium. He was even overhauled on the line by Planckaert which ruined the H2H double, but oh well, moving on!

Ewan has no chance of retaining Ochre after today/tonight/whatever day this is stage, so let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders who want to win this race overall.

The Route

The Queen stage and the toughest in Tour Down Under history. The riders will be thankful that it appears if it will be a lot cooler than the searing heat of stage 1 and we might even get a small rain shower.

Here’s a link to the Strava profile

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At just over 3,300m of elevation gain over 150km,  this will be a sore one for the peloton. The laps around Stirling won’t see any major action aside from movement in the breakaway, it will just be a case of a slow increase in pace back in the peloton.

Unlike 2015, the riders approach the Paracombe ascent via a different route. Instead of the fast descent in that edition, this year they climb for the majority of it, with a few minor descents thrown in. This certainly changes how the riders will approach the finish.

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Link to the above Strava profile can be found here

The finish can be split into three sections; 4.6km at 1%; 4km at 4.1%; and 1.8km at 7.8%.

The pace will be high in Section 1 as the riders will still be carrying a lot of speed from their descent away from the Stirling circuit. I wouldn’t expect anything too crazy to happen here but this is where we will most likely see the sprinters unhitch as they look to conserve some energy. Unless of course they’ve already been dropped on the circuit!

Section 2 will see the GC teams come more to the head of the peloton. With some segments of the climb being around 8% it is certainly possible for a few riders to try to go for a long attack and get a gap. Satellite riders could be sent up the road here from teams that have two GC candidates (i.e. Gerrans/Chaves) and cause panic behind. Or those who won’t fancy their chances coming to the bottom of Paracombe with the GC group may also give it a dig.

Finally we reach the big test and with an opening 500m at 10.2% some time can be lost if you’re on a bad day. The climb does get easier afterwards and as we saw in 2015 there is a chance it can regroup. If that happens a well-timed late attack, à la Dennis, can succeed or we could get a small group sprint.

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This really is a tough stage to call which hopefully should make it a great one from a viewing perspective but it’s not so great for me just now trying to write this!

Contenders

The GC favourites for the race such as Porte, Henao, Chaves and co are all short odds with the bookmakers and you’d expect that with this being the Queen stage. However, from a racing stand point I find it quit hard to split them on this climb. We saw back in 2015 Porte give it a nudge but he was marked by Evans and Pozzovivo with no real inroads being made. I think something similar is likely to happen here and unless someone puts in a massive attack the favourites may well mark each other out of the race. Consequently, this will open it up for a “lesser” rider to take the stage. My favourite type of preview to write!

Annoyingly, it’s still not clear-cut as this could be done by an attack on Section 2 and staying away, or with a late surge on Section 3.

I guess we should start with the Aussies!

One of my outside punts for GC, Nathan Haas has already taken himself one bonus second out on the road on stage 1 so clearly he feels up to challenging for the overall title. I’m not too sure what the best approach would be for him, but with a fast sprint he could risk holding out for a re-grouping at the end of the stage. He’s looking very thin just now and can definitely surprise!

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Also, Haas’ team-mate Lachlan Morton could be used as a satellite rider that may well just hold on to the end. An even better climber than Haas, his performances in the Tour of Utah were very impressive last year and if he’s in similar shape I wouldn’t give him too much leeway.

Jay McCarthy is another who took bonus seconds out on the road today. A rider of similar ilk to Haas, McCarthy possesses a fast sprint (his surge on Stage 1 was very impressive) but I’d say he’s naturally a better climber than Haas. Someone who won’t be as heavily marked by the peloton, he has a big chance of taking this stage.

Chris Hamilton is here as Sunweb’s leader and is a great young Australian talent. The Hurricane as he’s affectionately known has been doing recon of this stage over this past week. Finishing 14th on GC here last year was a great result and he’ll want to step up this year. A good result on this stage will go a long way to do that!

An even younger Hamilton (Lucas) could well be another that springs a surprise. Winner of the KOM jersey at the Tour de l’Avenir and 3rd on GC at the Ras, the boy is strong! He’ll hope to use his anonymity to his advantage. I wouldn’t give him too much space, that’s for sure!

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Away from the Australians, some outsiders to look out for are Luis Leon Sanchez, Petr Vakoc and Jose Goncalves.

There are the other obvious Europeans such as Ulissi etc, but I don’t think they’ll win here. Unless of course Diego has brought his inhaler with him!

Prediction

We’ll get an Aussie victor that will continue to please the home crowds. It won’t be the obvious Gerrans or Porte but instead, it will be young Jay McCarthy. I liked what I saw from him on stage 1 in that intermediate sprint, it was a very powerful surge to overhaul Goncalves. Furthermore, he finished 12th on the stage which highlights to me that he’s being attentive and doesn’t want to lose time which in turn means that he’s going very well and really wants to challenge the GC this year. He rolled the dice at the Aussie Nats and I’m intrigued to see how he plays this one, but he certainly has the strength/speed to pull off either approach!

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I do also have fond memories of him winning at 100/1 on the Stirling stage last year which led to this post student night out tweet. Aptly in my uni-town of Stirling too…

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Betting

0.8pt EW McCarthy @ 25/1 with Betfair/PP (I’d take down to 20/1)

0.25pt EW Chris Hamilton @150/1 with Betfair/PP (I’d take down to 100/1)

0.1pt EW Morton @ 150/1 with Bet365/Ladbrokes (I’d take down to 100/1)

0.1pt EW Lucas Hamilton @250/1 with Bet365 (I’d take down to 200/1)

H2H Double; McCarthy v Gerrans and Hamilton v Meintjes @2.3/1 with Bet365. 1.5pt.

Keep an eye out later as more bookmakers price up, there might be better odds available!

 

Thanks again for reading, hopefully the stage lives up to the hype! As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 2 Preview: Ourense -> Baiona

Today’s Recap

Well, the crossbar was well and truly hit today as Sky pipped Movistar by less than a second! I did think that the British team would be in contention, but that was very close. Both teams rode great negative splits, leaving almost a full complement of riders for the testing final climb. They obviously had read the preview 😉

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The biggest loser on the day has to be Contador who shipped 52 seconds to Froome and Quintana; 46 to Yates and Chaves; and 45 to TVG/Sanchez/Atapuma. Not catastrophic, but not exactly ideal for the pre-race favourite!

Anyway, moving onto tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

A typical sprinters stage in the Vuelta, where they have to negotiate a tricky Cat 3 climb mid stage. They don’t do pan-flat here!

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The profiles of the race make writing the blog more interesting, that’s for sure. I was initially intrigued at that little “bump” that crests around 10km from the finish, hoping that we would have another typical Vuelta, non-categorised climb at 5% etc. However, according to the little segment I made on Strava, it’s more a case of 6km at 2% average. Even going off of the Vuelta road book, it’s 4.2km at just over 3% average. This shouldn’t be a problem for the sprinters, especially the one’s we have here!

The riders will also be happy to see that it’s a flat run in, with no real turns at all within the final kilometre.

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It looks to be set up perfectly for a pure and “proper” sprint where lead-outs, timing and raw speed will be important. Let’s have a look at the potential stage winners!

The “Sprinters”

Due to the incredibly tough parcours this year, we don’t have any of the big name sprinters here. Instead, we have a lot of younger riders who will get a chance to show what they have on the big stage. All of the guys that are here can climb fairly well so the little bump aforementioned shouldn’t be a serious challenge for them.

The team with the best lead-out here is Giant-Alpecin, and they’ll be supporting young German sprinter, Nikias Arndt. They did a pretty poor TTT but oddly enough, one of the riders seemed to be smiling (looked like big T Ludvigsson) as they crossed the finish line. Maybe keeping something in the tank for tomorrow? De Koert & Waeytens will look to pilot Arndt in the final 500m, with the rest of the team doing work beforehand. He’ll probably start as favourite.

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Arguably the fastest rider here, Niccolo Bonifazio has had a fairly poor season since his move to Trek, picking up only one win. However, he does have the raw talent and speed to go well if he’s on form. I just don’t think he’s there yet, he was a bit “meh” in Norway and I’m not convinced he’ll go well this early in the race. He’ll need to build in to it. In fact, Trek may turn to his team-mate Felline who as I pointed out in my San Sebastian preview will be one to watch this race. The flat finish doesn’t really suit him though!

A veteran in this field, Gianni Meersman will be Etixx’s chosen man. A rider with so much promise, he’s flattered to deceive as of late and I can’t see that changing here. Although in saying that, he will have a great powerhouse of a lead-out. Maybe he can hold on for a podium.

Magnus Cort Nielsen will get a rare chance to sprint for Orica in a Grand Tour. The young Dane was excellent towards the end of last month, but has had a few weeks off getting ready for this race. He’ll be able to count on a solid lead-out, including Tuft, Gerrans & Keukeleire. Orica are great at positioning their sprinters. I expect him to go well, but again, he maybe would have preferred a tougher finish.

Kristian Sbaragli will be Dimension Data’s option for the sprints. His one and only pro win so far came at this race last year. He’ll have an OK lead-out, not great, and might have to surf the wheels. My worry is that he’s too much of a “top 10” sprinter, and not a winner!

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BMC will have to face the decision if it’s Gilbert or Drucker that they’ll work for, potentially even Dillier. Too many chefs? It will more likely be the latter on the flat sprints. However, like a few others, I think he flatters to deceive and goes well in the smaller races, going missing on the big stage. I could well be proved wrong here, but I doubt it 😉

Who else is left? Van der Sande, Van Genechten and Bennati will all be in or around the top 10. I look forward to seeing Goncalves (#GoOnCalves) have a go in the sprint, he should also be in the mix but isn’t fast enough on the proper flat stages. A top 10 would be a good result for him!

Prediction

The opening sprint stage of a Grand Tour is often a chaotic affair, so I’m turning to a team who are great at timing the run to the line perfectly and are capable of positioning their rider well inside the final 200m. Therefore, I think Magnus Cort of Orica BikeExchange will win tomorrow’s stage. He looked incredibly strong in Denmark, and if he’s maintained his form he will be a real threat. I wouldn’t expect the OBE train to hit the front until the final 2/1.5km, guided by the experienced Sven Tuft. Then Gerrans and Keukeleire will take over, dropping Cort off perfectly with 150m to go and he won’t be caught! By doing so he’ll take the race lead as well.

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Confidence is key, but all of the sprinters will fancy their chances so it could end up being a messy one. Just making an early excuse for myself…

Betting

Cort 0.5pt EW widely available at 12/1.

 

Hope you enjoyed the preview! Who do you think will win the sprint? As usual, any feedback and discussion is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

TDF Stage 2 Preview: Saint-Lô -> Cherbourg

Today’s Recap

Well, I can honestly say I would never have picked Cavendish out as the winner today! We didn’t get the crosswind action that I was hoping for, but there were still a few casualties caused by the panic. Contador seems to be the one who came off worse with bad road rash on his shoulder and right-hand side. He’s away to the hospital for scans to see if it’s worse than it appears. We also got a bad crash during the sprint as well, with several riders going down. However, it was the Manx Missile who stole the show and in turn picking up his first ever Yellow Jersey. Onto tomorrow’s stage!

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The Route

A testier route than stage 1, it’s up and down for a lot of the race. Grippy roads I’d say!

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The stage starts in-land but then follows the coast again so there is a chance for some echelons, but as we saw today, that all depends on the attitude of the teams.

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The main feature of this stage however comes in the final 10 kilometres. With a short ascent of the  Côte d’Octeville, on which some of the lighter riders will hope to sap the legs of the fast men.

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After that, the Côte de La Glacerie will provide the final test for the riders. Officially 1.9km at 6.5% it really opens up the stage to a lot of riders. However, the Strava segment makes it look slightly easier, as it incorporates the second section. With it being 2.9km at 5%. There are some steep sections over the first 1.5km, but the actual finale looks relatively straight forward. A proper power sprint! But who will be left?

Stage Contenders

Peter Sagan.

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The World Champion has had a fantastic season, no Rainbow curse for him! The worrying thing is that I don’t think he’s even hit his best form yet this season, a scary thought. This type of finish looks perfectly suited to his characteristics, a climb to soften the legs followed by a strong-mans sprint.

Michael Matthews.

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A man who seems he can sprint as fast on an incline as he can on the flat. This Ardennes-ish style finish resembles Amstel Gold quite a lot. Matthews is tailor-made for that and this stage seems to suit him to a tee. Pre-Tour he targeted this stage and the possibility of taking Yellow but after being involved in the crash (supposedly he’s not injured according to Orica) he’s lost ground to Sagan. He might win the stage, but unlikely to take Yellow!

Julian Alaphilippe. The young Frenchman has the skill-set, a punchy climb and a fast sprint. I think the organisers were thinking of him when they designed the stage. A Frenchman in Yellow?

GVA, EBH, Valverde, D Martin and Gallopin all have claims to go well, but I don’t think it’s hard enough for Valverde/D Martin.

One rider who I talked a lot about in the Sprint Jersey preview can go well here; Bryan Coquard. As I’ve mentioned above, this stage reminds me a lot of the Amstel Gold Race. You only have to look at the result of this years race for riders who could be up there tomorrow.

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Coquard has impressed me with his turn of speed this year, but it’s been his uphill sprints that have been the most dominant. I think he has a very good chance tomorrow!

There is a chance that we don’t get a sprint and that a lone, late attacker wins. Recently crowned French Champion Arthur Vichot could give it a go or someone like Jarlinson Pantano.

There are many more who could win if certain scenarios play out.

Prediction

As I’ve said several times this preview, this stage is AGR Mk2, a toughish climb followed by a “flat” sprint. Of the riders who were at that race and are here, Le Coq was the fastest finisher. I think he can challenge clear-favourite Sagan and take the win. Maybe even yellow too if he’s lucky. That would be a great coup for the French team!

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Betting

Just backing Coquard tomorrow, not wanting to get overly involved with the few potential outcomes.

0.75pt EW @ 25/1 with Boylesports. (Paying 4 places)

 

Apologies if this is snappier than normal, I had my Grad Ball last night and haven’t been feeling too clever today. Normal service shall resume tomorrow! Hopefully we get an exciting stage, it has the potential to be a good ‘un! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Dauphiné Stage 3: Böen-sur-Lignon -Tournon

Today’s Recap

Definitely not one for the sprinters and even EBH struggled up the final climb. A break of 3, who got clear at the crest of the cat 2 almost made it to the line. But it was the charging Jesús Herrada who came out the front of the peloton and stole victory. It was a very impressive display of speed and power!

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Our picks didn’t really do anything at all. Coppel made an attack off the front but was brought back by Tinkoff and was our best finisher in 39th. Dennis came home in a respectable 107th. Lets hope for better tomorrow!

The Route

Another lumpy day on the cards for the peloton, with quite a reasonable amount of climbing metres.

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The Cat-2 is weird. The actual KOM comes with 161km to go but as you can see, the road doesn’t stop climbing there.

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The Cat-2 itself

A short and relatively sharp climb, this will put the sprinters in difficulty. If they’re in trouble here then they’ll be dropped once we get past the “summit”. Bouhanni is going to see if he can survive the climb, it will be very close.

The final kilometre is downhill and it isn’t exactly the easiest run in. If we do get a sprint, it will be a messy one!

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The twists and turns really favour a late attacker, with the old cliché; “out of sight, of mind” inevitably being used by the commentary team tomorrow.

How will the stage pan out?

I think a break makes it tomorrow.

As we saw today, Tinkoff are quite happy to relinquish control of the race leadership and it was only because Etixx started chasing that the break was reeled back in.

The sprinters teams will be concerned that their rider can make it over the final climb and I can’t see them chasing. None of the Ardenne-style guys impressed today so they probably won’t chase. The best things for the teams to do is get guy in the morning break and see how it pans out.

If it all comes back together, I think we still see a solo winner with someone putting in a well-timed late attack…

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Breakaway Candidates

Anyone who isn’t a GC threat. Basically.

As I said above, Tinkoff will quite happily lose control of the race. That really broadens the potential winners of the stage so even those close on GC now have a chance.

Like in the Giro I’m going to pick three riders who I think could give it a go, and look at them more in-depth.

First up is Antoine Duchesne. The young Canadian hasn’t featured in the break yet which is surprising. Considering that he never seemed out of them at Paris Nice earlier in the year. I liked what I saw of him in that race and he seems to ride with a lot of heart. He’s definitely a guy who could handle a day like this. Without a pro win yet, could this be it?

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Next up is a more familiar name: Niki Terpstra. A massive engine who isn’t afraid of getting in a break. He could be sent up the road so that his Etixx team don’t have to do any work behind. Alaphilippe has a good chance on this stage if the proper fast-men get dropped, but I don’t think Etixx will put all their eggs in his basket. Terpstra would be one of the strongest in any break, will he be the best climber though?

Finally, Omar Fraile from Dimension Data is another possibility. An attacking rider who also isn’t shy of breakaways. Like Etixx, EBH might fancy tomorrow, but DD won’t want to commit 100%. Fraile has the climbing ability to make it over the final hill, will he be alone?

Prediction

Break makes it and I’ll go for the talented Spaniard. Fraile won’t be so frail!

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Betting

Tomorrow has in-play wrote all over it. Small stakes on the break picks. 0.15pt EW each

Fraile 200/1 @ Bet365

Terpstra 300/1 @ PP

Duchesne 250/1 @ PP.

 

Hope you enjoyed the preview. Sorry for it being shorter than normal, I’ve got a splitting headache! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth