OVO Women’s Tour 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Chesterfield -> Chesterfield

Today’s Recap

Gillow and Uttrup Ludwig did the blog some justice by getting in a mid-stage break but it was eventually clawed back by Sunweb who got a little bit of assistance from Boels.

We had a crash marred final 20km with several riders going down in various incidents, but the race ended in a relatively large bunch sprint.

Hosking took a great win, ahead of Barnes (Alice) and Van Dijk. The latter justified her teams hard-work all day, picking up some bonus seconds and moving into 2nd on GC.

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

The Route

The toughest stage of the race going off of elevation gain, the riders are set to face a lot of uncategorised climbs throughout the day.

OVO Women's Tour Stage 4

Here’s a link to the interactive version of the profile.

Most of the climbs come early but that doesn’t mean they won’t be attacked and we could see a significantly reduced group by the time the riders pass the second categorised climb of the day in Crich.

From there the route does get easier in the second half of the stage, allowing for some regrouping if the pace up ahead doesn’t stay constant. With some sore bodies after today’s stage, it will be hard to keep everything together.

There is a relatively long uncategorised drag of 3.1km at 3% that crests with just 6km to go and this looks like a perfect launchpad for some riders to put in one last dig!

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The finish into Chesterfield is quite technical with a few kinks in the road in the closing few hundred metres.

Will we see another sprint?

How will the stage pan out?

With this being the last stage where the GC order can really change, I expect a fast and attacking day throughout. The other teams will not want to admit it, but they’ll relish the fact that Vos has now unfortunately had to leave the race due to a broken collarbone that she suffered in a crash today. It means that Niewiadoma will be very exposed because as I said in my stage 2 preview; I’m not sure how long Kitchen and Koster will be able to hold onto the peloton for.

I think we’ll see strong teams such as Sunweb and Boels set a fierce pace early in the stage, looking to isolate the GC leader before the half-way point.

From there, I expect attacks to come thick and fast off the front of the peloton from several teams: forcing Niewiadoma to do a lot of the chasing.

Eventually, something will stick and as long as several of the main teams are represented, it won’t come back.

Will Niewiadoma make the split? Well, it all depends on where it goes. She’s clearly in stellar form at the moment and if they try to attack her on a climb she should be able to follow it. Whereas, if it goes on the flat then it reduces her chances. She may well adopt the adage of attack = best form of defense.

Depending on who makes the move will decide how important the final uncategorised climb will be. If there are a few strong climbers then they may want to try to distance others, not trusting their sprints.

The gap that they have will also be a factor. We might see them work together extremely well right until the end of the day to ensure they overhaul Niewiadoma’s GC lead.

Contenders

Hannah Barnes.

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Riding exceptionally well at the moment, my pre-race GC pick finds herself sitting 4th on GC but on the same time as her sister who is in third. Climbing well, she’s been prominent in all of the stages so far, with 14th being her worst result. A strong all-rounder with a fast sprint she will hope any group comes together to the line as that seems to be her best chance of winning. Nonetheless, the local rider isn’t afraid to attack either!

Ashleigh Moolman.

The South African is having a quiet but strong Women’s Tour so far, currently occupying 6th place on GC. She was one of the best on the climbs of stage 2, but it was a case of “too many cooks” that day. One of the only riders who I think can drop everyone on the rises tomorrow, she’ll co-operate with any group but hope to attack them on the final rise. I think she has a good chance of taking the win.

Amy Pieters.

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After her win on stage 2, Boels were intending to ride for the Dutchwoman today but unfortunately she was involved in a crash before the finish. Nothing too serious but a bit shaken up, she didn’t want to contend the sprint. If she has recovered from that then she has a good chance tomorrow. With 4 riders in the top 30, Boels will no doubt race the stage aggressively. Any of their riders could win, but Pieters seems to be climbing well and obviously sprinting well too so she covers both options!

Ellen van Dijk.

Second on GC and looking the most likely to usurp Niewiadoma, the Sunweb rider should like the look of tomorrow’s route. The climbs aren’t too tough and should suit her powerful riding style. Futhermore, if she makes it into a small group, she has the strength required to escape and TT her way to the line. I’m sure everyone will be very wary of her!

Of course, we could see plenty of other riders contend tomorrow’s stage. It could well be as we say in Scotland a “belter”! Just a shame it won’t be live…

Prediction

I’ll go for one of the form riders in the peloton at the moment, Ashleigh Moolman to take the win.

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No fancy hats as prizes here though! 😔

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will Niewiadoma hold onto her lead? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

 

 

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2017 Stage 4 Preview; La Tour-du-Pin -> Bourgion-Jalieu

Today’s Recap

The peloton here are about as reliable as that from the 2015 Giro!

They left the chase for the break too late and the early morning move stayed away to take the win for the second stage out of three.

It was young Koen Bouwman who sprinted to the win, with Siskevicius and Backaert rounding out the podium. Not a bad race to take your first professional victory in!

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Behind Démare “won” the bunch sprint for 7th but I’m sure he’ll be bitterly disappointed knowing he could have and probably should have, taken another win.

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

The Route

We’ll see the first proper GC shake up with a relatively long ITT.

The official profile isn’t overly helpful, so instead I’ve made my own. As is TT tradition! However, I’ve used Cronoescalada this time instead of Strava.

Dauphine Stage 4 (ITT)

You can view the interactive profile I made here.

As you can see, it’s not the toughest TT course ever but does include a few tricky climbs over its 23.5km.

The riders will actually lose more altitude than they gain over the route; 288m gain compared to a 378m loss.

The climbing can’t be discounted but it only makes up just over a fifth of the stage, so to me it seems that this stage is much more suited to the specialist time trial riders. The real powerful riders of the peloton who will be able to churn a big gear on the downhill sections.

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Aside from when leaving the start town and entering the finish town the course is very straightforward, with very few turns where the riders will have to apply the breaks.

Weather Watch

As is often is the case in TTs, the weather can play a massive part in the outcome of the stage.

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Source: Wunderground

Thankfully the riders should all face the same, fairly benign conditions. Should mean an even contest throughout the day!

Contenders

Tony Martin – The current World Champion should be suited to this course perfectly. He’s strong enough to be able to flatten the few kilometres of hills we have but also able to churn out a massive amount of power on the flat/downhill sections. His form is a bit unknown, but he really should be the guy to beat.

Chris Froome – On paper this TT isn’t ideal for Froome, I’m sure he’d prefer the hills ever so slightly longer. Nonetheless, he can produce a very good flat TT when needed! It will be interesting to see where his form is less than a month out from the Tour. I mean, it’s very unlikely that he’ll be as low as his Romandie level but you never know!

Richie Porte – The former Aussie TT champ is also not averse to putting in a good “flat” time trial. Arguably one of the riders of the season so far, he’ll sprint up those climbs. Can he hold it together on the downhill? Is he willing to take many risks with the Tour not so far away?

2016 Tour de France, stage 13: Porte

Those three are the top of the pile but there are certainly a few others who can challenge.

Michal Kwiatkowski is no stranger to a good TT. He was strong in the discipline before moving to Sky but this season he seems to have re-found that good form. A very powerful rider and great bike handler, he has a great chance at the podium.

Edvald Boasson Hagen would probably prefer a shorter course but given his current for, he can’t be ruled out either.

Alejandro Valverde has gone well this season so far in TTs but they tend to involve more climbing than this one. Nonetheless, with the year he is having, you can’t write him off too early!

For a proper outsider…

Damien Howson.

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The former U23 TT World Champion turned super-domestique certainly has the background and pedigree for this type of event. He rolled home today, possibly saving himself for days to come. If he gets the nod to go full gas, he could surprise!

Prediction

I’m going to go for none of the big 3, instead, I’ll go for one of their team-mates: Kwiatkowski.

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The Sky rider has regained his mojo this season and is now riding with a lot of confidence again which will be a huge lift to his performance. Returning from training camp with Froome, he has been attentive at the front of every stage so far which makes me think he’s going well. It would be of benefit for Sky to have two riders high on GC and I’m sure Kwiatkowski would happily oblige!

Betting

1.3pt EW Kwiatkowski @ 18/1

0.2pt EW Howson @ 300/1 

(Both 365, 1/5 odds)

 

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? If you’ve not already, check out my preview for the first stage of the women’s tour! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Cefalù -> Etna

Recap

Stage 3 wasn’t as fraught with crosswind danger as I was hoping for, but we did get some action in the last 10km. Quick Step were the main protagonists behind the splits that we did get and their young Colombian sprint sensation, Gaviria, duly delivered the result taking first place and the Maglia Rosa too.

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Selig took second, with Nizzolo coming home in 3rd. It was a frustrating watch for me with 200/1 man Jungels looking the strongest in the group! There was one moment that a gap started to form and even with my incandescent shouting at my TV, telling him to “Go!”, Richeze decided it was a great idea to close him down.

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Richeze spoiling my fun

Still miffed about that, but oh well!

Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders after the early rest day.

The Route

Toughest stage of the race so far with two very long climbs, including a summit finish up Mount Etna.

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The first climb of the day, Portella Femmina Morta is an absolute monster in terms of length, coming in at a whopping 32.75km! Gradient wise it’s not so bad, averaging roughly 4.5% for the whole climb.

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It does pitch up to 8% in some areas but it’s certainly not a climb for attacking, just tempo riding all the way to the top.

We then have a reasonably long descent before the first intermediate sprint, which is actually on top of a hill. But I guess the organisers needed to fit it in somewhere! The road then descends again before the second intermediate sprint in Biancavilla.

From there, all focus will turn to Etna and the approach to it.

The riders will be able to stretch their legs on the prelude to the main event, an uncategorised climb from Santa Maria di Licodia to Ragalna. At 6.6km in length and average a shade over 5% it’s not tough, but if the pace is on already then we could see a few riders shed from the peloton here.

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At 17.95km it’s another long climb but it is steeper than the previous climb on the day, averaging 6.6%. However, the most important thing about the climb is its irregularity. There are several sections that go well above the average gradient and the kilometre at almost 12% half way up could be a launch-pad for the proper mountain goats to attack.

Will they go on to take the win though…

How will the stage pan out?

The first mountain top finish of a Tour is a tough one to predict (getting my excuses in early). You would expect Quickstep to honour the jersey, but how deep will they really be willing to go knowing that it might be tough for Jungels at the end of the stage to hold onto it? I’m not sure if they’ll burn all their matches and instead will look to other teams for help.

Who of the GC favourites will want to take the jersey early and spend energy over the following stages protecting it until Blockhaus?

Well, I’m sure Nibali would. The Shark as he is affectionately known is from Sicily itself, but more importantly he is from Messina where we finish stage 5. I’m sure he would love to wear the Maglia Rosa into his home town.

99th Tour of Italy 2016

Will his Bahrain team get any help from anyone else? I’m not so sure, but Sky certainly have the squad here to control the race if they want to. It’s the first time I’ve looked at a Sky team for the Giro and thought that it could match what we have seen at the Tour over the past few years. With a two-pronged threat in Landa and Thomas they have the ability to let one attack while the other sits in.

There is going to be a slight headwind on the climb and that might discourage riders from attacking but given that it’s the first summit finish of a Grand Tour I highly doubt everyone will sit in the wheels!

With it being the first summit finish though and as it comes so early in the race there is a chance we could see an “outsider” win. A rider who is a good top 10 candidate but isn’t seen as an immediate threat for the overall GC.

In that situation there are two riders I have in mind.

Domenico Pozzovivo – The Italian looked very sprightly at the Tour of the Alps and he was a feature at the pointy end of the race in the mountain top finishes. He always seems to wane in the last week of a GT so I imagine he’ll want to take advantage of his current form here. Due to his terrible/atrocious/awful (delete as appropriate) time trial, he probably isn’t viewed as a massive threat for the GC, so he might just be given some leeway.

Tejay van Garderen – He probably would have been the last rider on my list from the GC contenders had you asked 2 weeks ago who I thought would be competing here. However, he was very strong in Romandie and that has changed my mind! Like Pozzovivo, Tejay often is let down by having one bad day at some point during a three-week race so he will want to make the most of his form. He might surprise one or two tomorrow!

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Breakaway Hopes?

There is always a chance that the break stays away on a stage like this. Last year’s race saw Wellens win the first mountain top finish of the Giro. Although that finishing climb was a lot easier, we could still see a similar situation play out tomorrow. I think QS would be quite happy to relinquish jersey duties and as I mentioned above, I’m not so sure many others will want to take over this early.

Therefore, I think it’s a 50-50 split and it’s a tough one to call! Like normal though, I’ll buy a few lottery tickets and name a couple of break contenders.

Rohan Dennis – Bitterly disappointed after his crash on Stage 3, the Aussie says that his GC attempt is all but over. However, he says that he will continue and see how far he can push himself in the race, trying to take some opportunities over the next few weeks. Why not start tomorrow?! He is in very good form at the moment and looked strong in the Tour of the Alps, although he did have one bad day there. Nonetheless, I think if he makes the break it is unlikely that there will be many better riders than him that are up the road as well.

Giovanni Visconti –  Riding for Nibali’s Bahrain team, Visconti may be sent up the road earlier in the day as a ploy to have a man up the road for a Nibali attack. However, if the gap is too big to the breakaway then Visconti himself could challenge for the win. Always lively at this time of year, he’ll be hoping to repeat something similar to his very impressive performance on the Green Mountan in Oman from back in February.

Prediction

I’m looking forward to a good race but I think there is a chance we might see a race on two fronts, with the break taking the stage but there still being some fireworks behind. I’ll go for a feisty Australian to turn things around from the break, Dennis to be a menace and win!

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If not, I think we might see Pozzovivo take a surprise win ahead of the other GC contenders.

Betting

Not a day I can advise backing GC guys before the off, although the EW odds on my two highlighted riders look tempting, it’s just not worth it. The odds won’t change too drastically after the start of the stage so I might go in-play on them if it looks like it will be a GC day, but pre-stage I’m just backing my two breakers;

0.5pt WIN Dennis @ 150/1 with Ladbrokes/Coral (Would take 125/1)

0.5pt WIN Visconti @ 150/1 with Bet365 (Would take 125/1)

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow and how will the stage be won; break or GC? I hope we get an exciting stage either way! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de Romandie 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Domdidier -> Leysin

I apologise in advance…

Today’s Recap

We ended up with a sprint in the end despite Dowsett’s valiant efforts.

Viviani won after a Froome lead-out, beating Colbrelli and Schwarzmann.

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

The Route

The Queen stage of the race, with three cat-1 climbs in the second half of the day.

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However, they aren’t the most difficult of climbs and the toughest is actually the first one, Jaunpass, that crests with 70km to go.

From there, it is a case of descents followed by climbs all the way to the finish, with very little flat road.

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The penultimate climb of the day is fairly easy, but it does have a three kilometre stretch that averages close to 7%. I would expect some teams to attempt and put the hurt on here.

A long descent follows before the short climb to the finish.

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Officially only 4km long, the road does rise before we get the “start” of the climb.

Attacks should come from the bottom because it’s not long enough to delay until 2km to go etc, or so I hope!

Thankfully the weather seems to be clearing up for the weekend and we should go over all of the climbs that are listed, with the route hopefully remaining unchanged. But you never seem to know in this part of the world!

How will the stage pan out?

As alluded to above, I expect the racing to be on early tomorrow. Most of the climbs aren’t difficult so the day will have to be attacked if the likes of Porte and Froome want to put the others in trouble.

Sky don’t have a great team with them, so the Brit will have to rely heavily on the likes of Kiryienka and Kennaugh. Nonetheless, they have enough firepower to cause some issues.

It is BMC though who have a strong team and in Schar, Wyss and Roche they have three very solid climbing domestiques. Not to mention that Porte and Van Garderen are both high up on the overall and can pull the ol’ 1-2!

So splits early in the day after some teams try to attack the climbs, leaving an elite group of 25 or so riders at the bottom of the final climb.

A flurry of attacks at the bottom of that climb will see the strongest riders get away; Porte, Froome, Izagirre, Roglic and Kelderman.

The first two struggle to gap the other trio as the gradients ease, allowing for an attack…

Prediction

Izagirre and Roglic are considered too big a threat due to the TT, but Kelderman takes advantage of this and takes the win. This is one of the only races this year the Dutchman has leadership at and I’m sure he’d love to take a win before going to the Giro in support of Dumoulin. He packs a fairly decent sprint for a GC rider so also has a chance if a small group comes to the line!

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Betting

 

NO BET.

Apologies again for how ridiculously short this is but I have hit the proverbial preview writing wall and I’ve started to lose interest in Romandie if I’m honest. I’ll try and have something more substantial out for the TT tomorrow as it looks like an interesting day. In the meantime, check out @InsidePeloton96‘s preview   as a way to get another insight of tomorrow’s stage in comparison to what I’ve wrote. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour of the Alps 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Bolzano -> Cles

*Insert usual disclaimer about this being short, blah blah blah. Woke up late, missed all the live cycling today and I’m in a rush to complete this. Sincerest apologies, I promise a full length preview tomorrow evening!*

Today’s Recap

Not the large GC gaps I was expecting but stage winner and new GC leader Thomas now holds a modest 16 second gap over, third home rider of the day, Pozzovivo. It was Landa who followed the Welshman home to complete a Sky 1-2. They look ominously strong for the Giro.

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

The Route

An easier day in the saddle? Well yes, in terms of the finish, but there is still a lot of climbing throughout the day!

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I imagine the break won’t go until the 14km long Passo Mendola and when it does, it will be a strong one.

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We then have a lot of rolling terrain and uncategorised climbs throughout the middle of the stage before approaching the final categorised climb of the day.

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Brutally steep, it comes too far from the finish to be of any danger for the GC riders but it should see a selection in the break.

We then have a long descent before some more undulating roads, all the way to the finish line which is ever so slightly downhill.

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Will it be the scene of a reduced bunch sprint…

How will the stage pan out?

There is the possibility that some of the GC teams try and take control of the race and make it tough, but I can’t really see that happening.

It could stay together for a sprint, but that would require Bora to take control for Pelucchi and hope that the Italian makes it over the climbs. Given his track record, that’s also unlikely! Androni might try something for Gavazzi but they will most likely use their resources elsewhere, so…

Nestle Breakaway Milk Chocolate Biscuit 8 Pack 152G

Candidates

Like normal, I’ll through a few names into the hat on this lottery of a day. For the break not to be chased hard, then the rider will need to be at least three minutes down so that get’s rid of 27 guys. Only the 108 left to choose from then…

Mattia Cattaneo. 

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The former Baby Giro winner seems to have found his feet this season with Androni after failing to live up to his potential in the past few years at Lampre. He’s had a string of good top 10s this year and took the final stage in La Provence. At almost 4 minutes down he isn’t too much of a threat for the overall and I expect him to be attacking over the next few days and that could well be tomorrow!

Stefano Pirazzi.

The Bardiani rider infuriated his breakaway companions yesterday after refusing to work and then attacking just as the peloton was about to catch them. He seems in a sprightly mood and always manages to go well in this race. Way down on GC, he is an ideal candidate for a breakaway win.

Manuel Senni.

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After taking the leader’s jersey in Valenciana, the BMC rider has had a fairly promising season, with his third place in Appennino being his best individual result. He looked good that day and with BMC’s best placed rider (Caruso) sitting 8th on GC, the American outfit will have the freedom to attack and chase stage wins. Senni is a good mix of being a good enough climber to get away, but also not being Dennis, because the Aussie is too big a name to let up the road.

Think I’ll just leave it with those three as I could go on forever giving arguments for other riders.

Prediction

Breakaway stays away and I’ll go for a lively Pirazzi to take the win!

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Betting

All with B365;

Pirazzi 0.5pt WIN @ 12/1

Cattaneo 0.4pt WIN @ 14/1

Senni 0.4pt WIN @ 80/1

Adding Ludvigsson 0.2pt WIN @ 150/1 

 

Thanks as always for reading and apologies again for another brief preview. How do you think tomorrow’s stage will pan out? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Pais Vasco 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Donostia -> Bilbao

Short preview as I’m short of time!

Today’s Recap

A much more exciting stage but a disappointing one from the stage picks perspective. It was selective, but just not as much as I thought it would be. David De La Cruz won the stage after a great attack on the climb followed by a ballsy descent, saw him hold off a charging peloton!

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Kwiatkowski and McCarthy sprinted home to round out the podium.

As for Yates, he punctured at the most inopportune time just before the penultimate climb and that scuppered his chances for the day. Eventually coming home in the third group on the road. Bennett put in a few digs on the climb but couldn’t get the gap that was needed, and it wasn’t attacking enough for Contador.

Oh well, on to tomorrow! Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

Another rolling day, but not as severe as today’s stage.

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@LasterketaBurua

There’s not much to talk about, with the main climbs being separated by enough road to make them inconsequential. The uncategorised first passage of El Vivero will certainly tire the legs before they tackle the full climb later on which crests with only 14.5km left.

So it looks to be a day all about the final climb. It is certainly long and steep enough to cause some issues if some of the GC guys go full gas up it. However, with 14.5km of shallow descending left will they want to put others to the sword, especially with a tough day ahead on stage 5?

We saw on stage 2 that the riders are quite happy to roll around on a club ride for most of the first half of the stage, which almost nullifies the end climbs.

Saying that, 4.6km at 7.8% is steep, so it is up to the riders to make it even more painful by being aggressive.

With the final 1km rising ever so slightly, a reduced bunch sprint here would be interesting to watch.

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The riders do tackle a roundabout with 1km to go, but compared to some of the other finishes we’ve had the past few days, tomorrow looks relatively straight forward!

How will the stage pan out?

That all depends on the aggressiveness of Sky and Movistar I think. We have witnessed on today’s stage in particular that they are keen to take on the work at the head of the bunch and make things hard.

Tomorrow is another good day for the likes of Valverde and Kwiatkowski in a reduced bunch sprint, and the severity of the climb certainly opens it up for some GC attacks.

I would keep an eye out on a smarting Simon Yates after today.

Does the break have a chance?

Yeah!

There are sizeable enough gaps on the GC now for plenty of riders to get up the road and not be a threat in the grand scheme of things. Anyone that’s over 5 minutes down will probably be given some freedom.

Break Candidates

Wellens lost a nice amount of time to be given some leeway. The Belgian seems to be an expert at making the right move and will be a real danger if he does. He started the season off in exceptional form but has went a bit off the boil since. Peaking for the Ardennes, you would expect him to be on an upward trajectory now so he’ll surely be targeting a stage here. Tomorrow could be that day.

Likewise, Pello Bilbao lost some time today. Thankfully I avoided backing him yesterday, but he’s also done some recon for tomorrow, so maybe this stage is truly his goal in the race. We saw Astana were attacking with Fuglsang so they will more than likely try to make the move again tomorrow. Bilbao winning in Bilbao?!

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After gifting his bike to Valverde today, Gorka Izagirre lost over 14 minutes. He could be sent up the road if Movistar decide they don’t want to commit helping a chase all day. With a 4th place on GC in Paris Nice and an 8th in GP Indurain, he is certainly going well enough to compete if he makes the move!

Prediction

Tough stage to call as anything out on the road could happen and it really depends on the attitude of Sky and Movistar. Without any bonus seconds, there is no real impetus to chase a break unless they really want a stage win. If they do that, then they have to ensure the pace on the final climb is tough enough to drop the likes of Matthews etc. If the pace is that high, then I think Simon Yates will make amends for today and squirrel off the front to take the win.

However, I think the break actually stands a good chance tomorrow and I’ll go for the main man, Tim Wellens!

Cycling : 10th Eneco Tour 2014 / Stage 6

Betting

Not a day I want to get heavily involved with.

(All B365)

Wellens 0.6pt WIN @ 16/1

Yates 0.3pt WIN @ 22/1

Gorka Izagirre 0.3pt WIN @ 300/1

Bilbao 0.3pt WIN @ 100/1

 

Thanks as always for reading! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Volta Catalunya Stage 4 Preview; Llívia -> Igualada

Today’s Recap

If I’m being honest, I didn’t catch much of today’s stage. Only the last 600m in fact, I was too busy watching Dwars! From what I saw, it seemed a fairly benign day and we got a sprint to the finish line between the two pre-stage favourites. It was Valverde who came out on top over Martin, exacting some revenge for Movistar who felt hard done by with the reversal of the commissaire’s decision this morning!

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Yates came home in third to pick up some bonus seconds, with the blog pick of Bardet coming 4th. Van Garderen holds a 41 second lead on the GC over team-mate Sanchez, but there are a whole host of riders queuing up behind the BMC duo if they were to falter.

Will we see any GC changes tomorrow? Let’s have a look at the route.

The Route

A weird route that starts with almost 100km of very shallow descending!

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Source: @LasterketaBurua

There is a sprint point on top of a small hill after only 6.2km so I expect the GC teams to keep the bunch together for that. It looks ideal for the likes of Valverde to nab a few bonus seconds.

We then have the long, gradual descent before the next main obstacle of the day; the cat 3 Alt del Pubill. Only 2.9km long and averaging 6%, it’s not overly difficult and I imagine the peloton will roll over it.

The course then rolls for the next 70km before we reach the main challenge of the day; the Cat 2 Turó del Puig. At 5.3km and only averaging 5.4% the GC riders won’t be troubled here, but due to its proximity to the finish line it should be tackled at a fair pace. This should see the end of the sprinters chances for the day.

Apologies for the poor quality image below, the road book doesn’t offer much to play with!

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They’ll then descend all the way until 2km to go where we have a fairly technical finale. Two 90-degree turns and a roundabout feature in the last kilometre. It’s a typical Spanish end to the day and will no doubt be suitably manic!

That is of course if we end up with some type of sprint.

How will the stage pan out?

With the peloton very much spread out on GC already there is a good chance we could get a breakaway stay away tomorrow.

The position of the last climb will make it too hard for Bouhanni and Greipel to make it over with the peloton but it’s not hard enough to cause some GC gaps. We could quite well see the type of sprint I thought we might get on Stage 1, where there’s a peloton of around 50 guys who come to the finish together.

Valverde might fancy his chances of winning the sprint and taking some more bonus seconds along with it. However, that will mean another day of work for Movistar when they don’t have to and I’m sure they’d rather save their efforts for the brutal finish on Stage 5.

So I’ll go for a break, and give it a 70/30 chance that it makes it.

Breakaway Contenders

There are many, many riders who will be given plenty of freedom tomorrow so it’s just a case of me once again trying to give some (hopefully) well-reasoned logic behind my picks and of course a bit of luck for them to make it.

It’s not helped when there’s a bout of illness going around the peloton just now and we’re none the wiser as to who is actually fighting fit. Oh well, here goes nothing!

Nathan Haas.

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The Aussie is here building form for his next goals in the season (Amstel) and what better way to do that then out in the break?! He admitted that he was suffering on the first day but sounded hopefully that it blew the cobwebs away. Tomorrow’s stage looks ideally suited to his characteristics, with the climbs not being too difficult. Packing a fast sprint, you wouldn’t want to bring him to the line.

Petr Vakoc.

Like Haas, the Czech rider is here building form for his classics campaign. An 8th place finish on stage 1 where the run in to the line didn’t really suit him highlights to me that he’s going fairly well at the moment. A proper brute of a rider, the Cat-2 at the end of tomorrow’s stage will be on his limit but if the right riders are up the road, he certainly has a chance.

Jordi Simon.

One of only 4 Funvic riders left in the race, the Catalan native will have pressure from his team to perform here. Not only that, but I’m sure he will want to perform too as tomorrow’s stage passes his hometown. An explosive climber, he isn’t the most well-known rider in the peloton and doesn’t have too many results to his name. A third place at nationals last year was his best finish, but hey, stranger things have happened!

Damien Howson.

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The Orica man took a much deserved GC win in the Herald Sun Tour earlier in the season. A great reward for being a super domestique for Chaves last year! On his return to European racing he finished a respectable 19th in Industrio, helping Yates to victory. Far enough down not to be a GC threat, he would be one of the favourites if he made the break due to his climbing and TT prowess.

Prediction

Break wins and I’ll go for Quick Step to continue that feel good factor within their team and Petr Vakoc to take the win!

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He’ll use his explosive kick to attack away from his breakaway companions on the steady gradients of the final climb and not be seen again until they cross the finish line!

Betting

Crapshoot of a stage and not one I want to get massively involved with; 0.25pt WIN on all the selections.

Vakoc @ 28/1 with B365

Haas @ 33/1 with B365

Simon @ 200/1 with B365

Howson @  Not quoted, so I’ll go with…

Clement @ 300/1 with Bet365 (similar build to Howson, decent climber but strong TTer).

 

Thanks again for reading! How do you think tomorrow will play out? Will we see a break make it, or will it come down to a reduced bunch kick, or even a late attack? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Tirreno Adriatico 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Montalto di Castro ->Terminillo

Today’s Recap

A hectic finish that was tough but maybe not as tough as I imagined. I have to apologise as I thought it was a slightly different finish to that of last year but it was exactly the same, doing too many previews for my own good! Or that’s my excuse anyway. 😉

Anyway, it was Peter Sagan who took a dominate sprint win, ahead of Viviani and Debuscherre.

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It was a really, really weird top 10 as a crash behind took out or at least severely hindered some of the favourites for the day.

Nonetheless, let’s have a look ahead at what the riders can expect tomorrow.

The Route

A tough GC day and an ascent of the famous Terminillo.

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The opening part of the stage really acts as a prelude, this is all about the final climb.

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It’s a very similar climb to the one we’ll see in Paris Nice but is made harder in my opinion by the irregularity of it. Most of the climb is close to 8%, but there are a few kilometres that are roughly 4% and this lowers the average gradient quite a bit. The top of the climb does “flatten out” so if riders arrive together we might see some kind of sprint, but I can’t see that happening.

Weather Watch

Oh boy, looks a bit nippy out there!

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Weather forecast for Terminillo (Source: Accuweather)

That real feel of -5°C looks like a real killer. Especially when you consider the strong winds forecast and the finish tomorrow looks horrible. The wind will more than likely be a cross-head for most of the climb so it might nullify some of the attacking we could see, which would be a real shame. Conversely though, once you lose the wheel it will be hard to get back on!

How will the stage pan out?

There is a chance we could see the breakaway go all the way. This will only happen if the riders in the peloton are fearful of what might happen on the Terminillo and they don’t want to chase all day.

However, I do think we will see some type of GC battle on the Terminillo. There in theory should be enough firepower and motivation behind to close down the break and set up the overall contenders to battle it out for bonus seconds and more!

Contenders

Nairo Quintana has to start as the clear favourite. After being marked out of the competition in Abu Dhabi he’ll be here to exact revenge. Movistar brought a crack TTT squad with them to put him in the best possible GC position going into this stage and they’ll expect him to deliver. He won a truly epic stage in the snow at this race back in 2015 and a repeat of that feat is more than on the cards!

Who can challenge him?

Honestly, no one in my opinion. Everyone else will more than likely be fighting for second place unless there is some crazy tactical battle or Nairo pops.

Geraint Thomas looked very strong on his way to the win on stage 2. This climb is a completely different beast but given his immediate lack of a GC threat he is a rider who could squirrel away from the bunch. As I said in my overall preview for this race, I think he’s going very well at the moment and is a genuine threat for a podium in the Giro. A good result tomorrow would go a long way to solidifying that thought.

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Of course, his Team Sky team-mates Landa or Rosa may also profit from the awful TTT and be given some freedom. They both have the abilities to do well here and are naturally better climbers than Thomas. If one of them manages to get a 30 second gap on Terminillo they could be tough to bring back.

Thibaut Pinot, much like his wine namesake, prefers the temperature cooler. He often seems to struggle when things get toasty, so a day in the cold, wet break of Strade Bianche will have set him up nicely for this stage. He is clearly going well in this early part of the season. Anyone who beat Contador in Valenciana is going strongly!

Vincenzo Nibali normally copes well in awful conditions but his own personal condition is a bit unknown. He’s gone better at the start of this year than he has done in the past, but does that mean that he is capable of finishing on the podium here?

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BMC will be looking to hold onto the GC lead with Tejay Van Garderen but it will be tough. The American had a difficult Abu Dhabi, struggling with illness, but has arrived here as their GC leader. He seems to struggle in poor conditions at times and I fear that may be the same outcome for him tomorrow.

The rider who finished second to Quintana in 2015 on this stage is here again. Bauke Mollema will have been disappointed with his team’s TTT but a good performance here puts him back in contention for the overall podium. He’s a real slogger, so to say, and will certainly give it his all.

Tom Dumoulin appears to have started this season in great form and I’m sure he’ll be up there again tomorrow but it’s just the length of the climb that worries me with him.

Fabio Aru has been relatively attentive at the front of the bunch in the past two finishes, not wanting to lose any time in splits. He’s started his season solidly with a third and eighth GC placings in his first two stage races. His time trial on the final stage will most certainly let him down, so he needs to make the most of his good climbing legs tomorrow, if he has them!

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Adam Yates will want to try to replicate what his brother managed today in Paris Nice. Finishing 7th in 2015, two years stronger now and a 4th place finisher at the Tour, he certainly has a chance of getting a better result this time round. His win in Industria last Sunday certainly was very impressive!

Rui Costa is the form rider of the season so far, but I think a good result here will be a step too far. Yet again though, after a poor TTT like many others, he has a chance of being gifted a bit of freedom.

Rafal Majka is another who could be gifted some freedom. The Polish rider is one of the more under-appreciated climbers in the peloton and this long slog looks as if it will suit him!

Prediction

The GC field in this edition is a lot stronger than when Quintana last won here in 2015. However, barring some kind of miracle I feel we might get the same result. Do I believe in miracles? No, but I do believe in outsiders and crazy things happening! Team Sky to profit from having three strong guys but not considered GC threats, yet. I’ll give Rosa another chance!

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Or Quintana just wins by 30 seconds…

Betting

Rosa 1pt EW @ 25/1 with Bet365.

You might get better as more places price up later on but I don’t have the time to be waiting around!

Thanks for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win? Can anyone stop Nairo? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tour Down Under Stage 4; Norwood -> Campbelltown

Today’s Recap

Not as an exciting day that I was hoping for and we ended up with a fairly drab sprint stage. Ewan once again proved that he is the man to beat here, comfortably winning over Sagan and Bonifazio. 

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From a betting perspective it was also a poor day but to give Sagan his due; he was nearly taken out in the crash so to get up for 2nd was a good result. Just not good enough for us!

Will we get a sprint again today? Let’s have a look!

The Route

Strava profile of the stage

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An up and down kind of day again with the riders pretty much climbing from kilometre zero. The pace will be on from the start as I can imagine several riders will hope to get into the breakaway.

There are some short steep climbs out on the course but again these shouldn’t be too much of an issue for the pros. The majority of the final 30km is downhill aside from two kickers; 4.7km at 2.3% (including a short descent) and 2.3km at 2.2%. So once again, nothing for these guys!

Strava profile for the last 10km

 

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However, the end of the stage could throw up a few surprises particularly in the last 3kms. Around 3km to go we have a few sections of 7% gradients which will slow the approach down. The little kicker at 1km to go is 300m at 5.3%, followed by a false flat then a 600m drag of 2.5% to the line.

Timing of the sprint will be very important here as you don’t want to burn out before the end.

I really like the end of this stage as both the puncheurs and sprinters will be convinced that they can do something here.

How will the stage pan out?

This was the stage in my GC preview that I highlighted as a potential breakaway day and I’m sticking to my guns. The reason for this is that we already have fairly decent time gaps and with Willunga looming tomorrow the GC contenders won’t want to go too deep themselves, conserving some energy for that stage.

As for the sprinters, we’ve seen how dominant Ewan is at the moment so I don’t think many teams will fancy their chances chasing down the break if he’s going to be there at the end. On his current form, he should be able to manage the ramps at the end and the closing hill looks particularly like the Vuelta stage he won in 2015.

Therefore I think we’ll see an intense fight for the break in the morning and BMC will be happy to just control the gap to maintain Porte’s GC lead and the majority of the chase work will be left to Orica.

(Or at least that’s how I’d play it if I was a DS of the other sprint and GC teams).

Breakaway Contenders

I’ll be keeping this short and sweet because as you know by now it is a complete lottery!

Lachlan Morton.

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I highlighted him on stage 2 but instead of getting his own chance he did a lot of good work for Haas. The same can be said for yesterday as he was on bottle carrying duty and rolled home 2’13 down. In an interview their DS said they were taking it easy and conserving energy for the days to come. Has Morton been given the nod to go on the attack on this stage? He certainly has the form and climbing legs to do something if he makes the move!

Luke Durbridge.

If the break is to succeed it will need Orica representation and that leaves Durbridge and Howson as the two options. Howson has been doing a lot of the work on the front so may be let off the leash. However, I think he’ll be wanting dual leadership at the Herald Sun Tour so is earning brownie points here! Therefore, Durbridge will be their man. He was the strongest at the Road Nats and has been riding well here. A real danger-man if he makes it!

Adam Hansen.

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One of the Lotto Soudal breakaway experts was up the road yesterday and I think they’ll be up there again today. Hansen stretched his legs on stage one and this type of parcours looks good for him as a strong all round rider. On home roads, he has a chance.

Obviously there are lots of other candidates who are far enough down on GC but it’s fairly redundant me naming them all I think!

Prediction

Break wins and Durbridge takes the stage spoils.

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Or we get some kind of sprint and Ewan wins again…

Betting

Not a stage to get heavily involved with and in-play looks like a good option but I’m backing my 3 break candidates pre-race;

Durbridge 0.3pt WIN @ 80/1 with Betfair/PP (Would take 66/1)

Hansen 0.1pt WIN @ 150/1 with Betfair/PP (Would take 100/1)

Morton 0.1pt WIN @ 400/1 with PP (Would take 200/1 that’s available with Unibet) He was 400/1 with Betfair before I went for my dinner but he’s disappeared from there now!

Again, look out for better prices as more bookmakers release odds later on.

Thanks again for reading! Apologies for this being slightly shorter than normal but I’m a bit more pressed for time and there’s not as much to say. As usual any feedback is greatly appreciated. See you all on Twitter later tonight! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eneco Tour Stage 4 Preview: Aalter -> St-Pieters-Leeuw

Today’s Recap

Madness!

It looked for a while as if the break was easily going to be caught with around 10km left but then the peloton started messing around. The break managed to still have a gap of around 20 seconds at 2km to go, but then they started playing cat and mouse! Seems like no one wanted to actually win the stage. Well, one man did…

Sagan pulled off his best Dan McLay impression and weaved through the body of riders to take quite a remarkable win! If you haven’t seen the closing kilometres, I implore you to watch them!

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Bouhanni came home in 3rd, with Nizzolo finishing 6th again. A few hard luck stories for a lot of the sprinters, getting blocked etc., but it was their team’s fault for not pulling the break back early enough.

Moving on to tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

It will feature the most amount of elevation gain so far in this race, at around 1700m. Although several different GPX sites seem to disagree about that when I upload the file! 1700m is roughly in the middle, but it’s a very loose “around”.

Not exactly tough, but the majority of it does come in the second half of the stage.

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Profile made using ridewithgps.com

The climbs are short and snappy, but the profile makes the stage look a lot harder than it is. There are some gradients above 10% out on the stage, but they only feature for a couple hundred metres at a time. The longest climb is around 2km, so unless you’re on a bad day then you should not be dropped.

Of course, there are some cobbles out on the road but I don’t expect them to play too big a part in the outcome of the day. Think of tomorrow akin to Dwars door Vlaanderen.

How will the stage pan out?

A sprint looks the most likely of outcomes, but as we saw today, there is a lack of co-operation between the teams and a willingness to work. So there is a chance that the break makes it or that a late attack manages to stick. However, both of those are unlikely in my opinion and i say this is 90% a sprint stage, possibly the final one of the race, and that’s what I’ll be focussing on here!

The cobbles and climbing does make this harder than a normal sprint and suits some riders over others.

After winning today, Sagan, will be looking to double up tomorrow and take the lead of the competition before the TTT. The stage will be a walk in the park for him and the only thing that can stop him is if other teams get their sprint trains organised properly for once! If not, he’ll manage to get himself onto the correct wheel and come round everyone in the confusion.

Bouhanni won’t mind the climbing and the cobbles shouldn’t be too tough for him either. He has a very good sprint after a tough-ish day, but he may be slightly demoralised after the past two sprints. Although I can’t see that happening, he’ll be wanting to make amends!

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Kittel hasn’t managed a sprint in anger this race, being boxed in a couple of times. The relatively simple run in should suit him, but his team need to deliver a proper lead-out. They’ve not managed that yet!

As for his German compatriot, Greipel should love this stage. The cobbles and climbs will be no problem for him and the power, slightly uphill sprint (of around 1%) suits his characteristics perfectly. He might have been lacking in confidence in the past few stages, but if he actually follows his team-mates wheels here then he as a big chance.

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Stage one winner Groenewgen could also get involved here, he enjoys the racing around Belgium and is a deceptively strong climber. He proved that at the Tour of Britain and with his confidence being sky high then he could well go on and double up!

Once again, I’ll point towards Nizzolo. He was unlucky today in the sprint and had to check his speed a couple of times. This trickier stage is to his advantage as he’s transformed himself into one of the best climbing sprinters around. I said in the stage one preview that he will win a stage this week, he’s running out of opportunities!

On paper, this stage is made for Alexander Kristoff (2015 edition). Unfortunately, he’s not hit the heights of that great seasosn so far this year and is without a World Tour win. He’s been there or thereabouts in the sprints so far this race and Katusha are keen to do a lot of the work so they’re obviously confident in him. Can he pay them back tomorrow?

Demáre, Ewan, Degenkolb and Van Poppel will all be in the mix too. The young Sky rider looks to be in the best form out of them and could seriously challenge for the podium again.

Prediction

After backing a couple of favourites in the past two sprints which hasn’t turned out well. I’m reverting to type and backing an “outsider”.

Nizzolo to take the stage!*

Tour of Croatia - Highlights

*He’ll now probably finish 6th again.

Betting

0.5pt EW Nizzolo @ 25/1 with Bet365. I think he offers some EW value in what is a tight market. Keep an eye out, other bookies may be more favourable later on!

Thanks for reading as always! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will one of the favourites finally have their day?! Any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.