Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 7 Preview; Castrovillari -> Alberobello

Today’s Recap

The break did make it all the way today with Dillier taking a fantastic uphill sprint win ahead of Stuyven, with the latter looking like he was closing but just run out of steam in the end.

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Former Maglia Rosa wearer Pöstlberger came home third after being distanced right before the finish.

I was surprised to see such a small break and with so few teams represented when I tuned into the coverage. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see how it formed properly, we only got glimpses at the end of the day. It looked like a larger group had some kind of gap but wasn’t co-operating, so they were brought back. The highlights at the end then jumped to the 5 we had so I’m not really sure what can be deduced from that!

Either way, Cannondale couldn’t fight their way out of a paper bag so to speak on flat terrain. A few more rouleurs were needed on that team today as I’m sure Woods will be lamenting the fact they could barely make a dent in the gap. However, it is harsh to put all the blame on them because with that finish, a few of the GC guys could have been up there and nabbed some bonus seconds. Maybe Orica could have helped out the chase to get Yates up there for example?

It seems to be a recurring theme this Giro so far where we have a “too many chefs” type situation with all the GC leaders. Several team-mates are being asked to protect them and not enough are being given any leeway to go for stage wins. Yet, the GC guys themselves don’t seem bothered about stage wins, being more concerned with saving energy for later in the race. Unfortunately, a situation like this might keep occurring this week until after the finish in Blockhaus when there should be some more gaps between the big contenders. Unless of course we get a headwind on that climb as well!

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

The Route

Another 200+km stage for the riders and the second longest of the race at 224km in total. Looking at the parcours though, it is definitely a classical “transition stage”.

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Starting on a descent, the riders then have over 100km of flat roads to contend with before we get our only “major” climb of the day; a 15.4km long drag at 2.6% (if you take it as a whole).

After that, there’s not too much to write home about until the end which gets a bit iffy.

T07_Alberobello_ukmThe road is “rolling” for the last few kilometres and it will be interesting to see how the teams approach it.

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We have roughly 800m at 4% followed by false flat and another short kick up. Once over that second little kick up the riders will have to tackle quite a sharp right-hand turn before descending down towards the 2km to go banner.

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Said sharp turn which is actually a tight roundabout

It is important to note that when they get to 2km left, the road narrows and rises at 2.8% for 500m.

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As you can see, the road narrows from 2 lanes into what I would call 1 and a bit! Positioning will be important here as the race will get even more strung out than it already is.

Once we reach around 1.7km to go there is an unmarked (well on the stage profiles anyway) chicane/kink in the road.

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The riders at the front of the bunch should be able to take it without slowing down, but those behind might get caught out if they try to come up the inside.

From there we have a sweeping right hand turn at roughly 1.5km left before the peloton descends ever so slightly through the Flamme Rouge and towards the last right-hand turn through a roundabout with about 600m to go.

The final 500m rises ever so gradually at roughly 1-2% so the riders will need to time their effort a little more meticulously as they won’t want to open up their sprint early and run out of steam.

Will we get a sprint though…

How will the stage pan out?

It really should be a day for the sprinters.

With no real obstacles to speak of out on course the sprint teams in theory should be able to control the break on the flat roads, bringing it back before it all kicks off in the last 10km.

However, a few of the sprinters might look at this finish and not fancy their chances. It’s technical, dangerous and pretty tough! The road is up and down, with some narrow roads and tight bends.

Quick Step and more importantly, Gaviria, seem to be better than anyone else at the moment and this finish suits the Colombian perfectly. Will other teams be willing to work to help the chase if it gives Gaviria another chance at the win.

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A fully fit Modolo or Nizzolo would love this type of finish as well but they’ve been off the boil so far this race. Although the former did hold on reasonably well today.

I’m not sold on Ewan and Greipel for this run-in either, with both of them disappointing on a simpler finish on Stage 5.

Therefore, it will be very interesting to see what teams want to get in the break at the start of the day. If one or two of the sprinters teams send a rider up the road, then I think it will be hard for Quick Step to chase back with very little help. They’ll just turn their attention to protecting the leader’s jersey.

So contrary to what it originally looks like, I think the break might have a reasonable chance at survival but that is only if it there are 8 or so riders up the road and after the past few days, that is a big IF.

Furthermore, the twisting and turning nature of the finale could also lend its hand to a late attacker. Someone like Luis Leon Sanchez might attack off the front on the 800m rise and not be seen again on the narrow roads.

Break Candidates

This is even more like a shot in the dark than normal because almost any rider could make the move and the peloton might (probably will) think differently to how I currently am!

I’m sure Willier won’t be missing the move tomorrow so I expect one of their riders to be up there. Maybe Busato will give it a go or Zhupa will get up the road to continue his challenge in the Fuga Pinarello prize?

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Luis Leon Sanchez himself could try to get in the break, or maybe youngster Albanese will be up there for Bardiani?

Prediction

Should be a sprint and if so, then Gaviria will win. He has the best lead-out and is the fastest rider on this type of finish. Simple!

But it’s the Giro and things don’t always go to plan so there is a chance we could see a late attack go or the break might even stick.

Betting

Absolutely no value in the sprinters, few break picks/late attackers for fun. Early prices aren’t great and I imagine you’ll be able to pick up several 1000/1 riders later on today on the exchanges, which I shall be doing, but for the sake of the blog;

0.25pts WIN on the following (all with Bet365)

LL Sanchez @ 300/1

Zhupa @ 300/1

Albanese @ 500/1

de Buyst @ 500/1

Update;

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

Those were My Two Spokes worth.

 

 

 

 

Volta Catalunya 2017 Stage 7 Preview; Barcelona -> Barcelona

*Apologies in advance, this preview has taken the brunt of me trying to do 3 in a day so it’s fairly short and sweet!*

Today’s Recap

Can I claim that it was kind of a breakaway day? Even I think I would be pushing my luck with that one!

We had a really exciting day of which the exciting part was not televised. The peloton splintered after around 40km of racing with a group of 50 riders ahead, but second placed Froome in the group behind. The gap hovered at around a minute for a long time but the elastic eventually snapped and the Froome group rolled in 26 minutes down!

It was Daryl Impey who won the stage in a reduced bunch sprint, ahead of Valverde and Vichot.

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Will this have an impact on tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

We finish the race with the traditional circuit around Barcelona.

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@LasterketaBurua

This stage is all about the circuit, the opening Cat 2 climb is inconsequential!

The Alt de Montjuic on its own isn’t too difficult, but when it’s repeated 8 times over 50km then it certainly takes its toll.

I’ve made a Strava profile of the final circuit that you can view here.

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Like always with Strava profiles, you can smooth out the sudden peaks, but you get a good idea from it anyway!

The riders will mainly be either climbing or descending for the majority of the circuit so it’s a route that really favours the puncheurs. The second little kick on the course averages roughly 5.9% for 700m. So a split can be made here before the down-hill run to the line.

Last year’s race was very attacking, but that was due to the time gaps between the favourites being minimal. This year we have larger gaps but that still doesn’t mean it won’t be an attacking race!

Saying that though, Valverde is the best one-day racer out of the GC riders and he’s in the lead so it will be very hard for any one to beat him.

Contenders

I think we’ll see something similar to last year where some strong one-day racers take the stage, while the GC riders mark each other behind. So I’ll through two names into the hat for that situation.

*Thankfully I didn’t start this section before today’s coverage as there were a few riders I wanted to include who were too close on GC, but now they’re not!*

Jarlinson Pantano.

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The Colombian has been a great domestique for Contador this race but was caught up behind the split today. He’s now way out of contention and with his team-leader more than likely settling for 2nd on GC (after today’s failed probing attack), Pantano may be given the nod to chase the stage. Currently in exceptional form, he has a good chance of going better than the third place last year!

Geraint Thomas.

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After their truly disastrous stage today, Sky will approach tomorrow in a typically bullish way. They’re a bit short in numbers but Thomas  is a great candidate for the stage. He is clearly in great form just now, although admitted he felt poor on the stage to Lo Port. If he has recovered from that blip, then the final circuit should be suited to his abilities. With a gap, he could be tough to bring back!

A few other outsiders I think could go well are Davide Villella and Ondrej Cink, but it will be tough to beat the other two!

Prediction

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you will know I love a tenuous reason to help my selections…

Pantano to win in front of his mum who’s following the race, and go better than he did last year!

Betting

(All B365)

0.6pt WIN Pantano @ 20/1

0.6pt WIN Thomas @ 15/1

0.15pt WIN Villella @ 66/1

0.15pt WIN Cink @ 150/1

 

Thanks for reading and apologies again for this being shorter than normal. As much as I enjoy writing about the sport; trying to combine writing 3 normal length previews on a Saturday and have some time to socialise is too much!

I might have something out for De Panne or Limburg, but if not it will be Flanders that I’ll be back for next weekend! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Tirreno Adriatico 2017 Stage 7 Preview; San Benedetto del Tront -> San Benedetto del Tront (ITT)

Today’s Recap

We got a sprint in the end and it was Gaviria who took the win, edging out Sagan.

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A prelude for next weekend?

Cavendish was no where to be seen. He annoyingly only seems to do well when I’ve not picked him! Oh well, on to tomorrow’s final stage. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

 

The Route

A fairly simple, pan-flat, 10km individual time trial.

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Nothing challenging parcours wise for the riders, unless of course you’re a lightweight climber!

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The course isn’t technical either, just a simple out and back pretty much, with only a few 90-degree turns thrown in.

It’s certainly one for the specialists and strong men of the peloton.

Weather

It should be a fairly sunny day with little chance of rain.

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Forecast for San Benedetto del Tront (Source: WindfinderWindfinder)

As you can see in the image above, it looks as if it is going to be a reasonably windy day on the Adriatic coast, with the wind speed picking up mostly around midday.

This will unfortunately hamper the early starters, because on an out-and-back course, the increased tailwind speed does not negate the increased head-wind speed. It’s the opposite in fact!

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Source: Sheldonbrown.com

So if we do get the forecasted wind tomorrow, that should favour the late starters.

Contenders

We have two world-class time trial riders here at Tirreno.

Tom Dumoulin has started his season in imperious form and a good performance tomorrow could see him finish in the top 3 on GC of another stage race. A great TTer, I’m sure he would have preferred the course to be slightly longer and have a little climb in it somewhere. Nonetheless, as he proved at the Giro last year, he’s still no slouch over a short, flat route!

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His biggest rival will be Rohan Dennis. I’ve been very impressed with the Aussie so far this race and he’s already sitting in a podium position, but I’m sure he’ll be aiming further up than the third he currently occupies. One of the best short TT riders in the World and to be honest, I would strongly argue that he is the best! He was flying as part of BMC’s TTT effort and I expect much of the same from him tomorrow.

Aside from those two, there are a plethora of riders who could duke it out for stage honours or a podium placing on the day at least.

Primoz Roglic almost beat Dumoulin in that Giro TT, missing out by less than a second, in what was a breakthrough performance for him. He seemed to struggle a bit in the TT at the Volta ao Algarve recently, so a transformation in to more of a GC rider may have hindered him in that respect. Nonetheless, he could still pull something out the bag!

Geraint Thomas could put in a shift here. The Sky rider has been in sensational form this Tirreno so far and I’m sure he’ll be ruing the awful TTT, otherwise he could well be close enough to Quintana to take the title. A bit inconsistent in the discipline recently, the shorter distance will suit the former track rider.

Jonathan Castroviejo won the TT in Algarve recently over a similar parcours, apart from that stage being ever so slightly longer. The Spaniard is a very good on flat TTs considering his slight nature and he is certainly a danger here if he’s still going well!

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Ryan Mullen was going exceptionally well in Algarve and if it hadn’t been for an untimely mechanical, he may have been challenging for the win. He’s been rolling around here for the past few stages, poor form or one eye on tomorrow?

Matthias Brandle has been doing a fair bit of work on the front of the bunch for his team-mates this week, but like Mullen, he’s then rolled home on every stage. He was bitterly disappointed with his performance in Andalucia, but the course didn’t really suit him then. This flatter parcours does and he certainly has the abilities to sneak into the top 3.

Can everyone’s favourite Swede, Tobias Ludvigsson step up and deliver a good result? Like others, he’s been doing a lot of good work for his team leaders and looked solid in the TTT. In Strade he looked particularly annoyed (smashed his handlebars) after a mechanical and long wait for the car forced him to abandon, so I think he must be in reasonable form. Finishing 9th in Andalucia with a dropped chain isn’t a bad result, but he’ll need to avoid crashing/bad luck for once if he’s to go well here!

There are several other riders in with a top 5 shout depending on their performance on the day; Durbridge; Kiryienka, Dowsett, Van Emden and Kung to name a few!

Prediction

The best short TTer in the World wins this!

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Dennis is absolutely flying right now, his high GC placing is testament to that, and there is no one here who can match his speed over 10km. I always back him in time trials of this length and probably will continue to do so for a long time. Well, apart from when I picked him in the preview for Stage 2 of Eneco last year but didn’t put any money down.

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I’m not letting that happen again. The beacons are lit, and Rohan will answer!

Betting

Another big day and the price is tight, was hoping for 7/4 at least, but yeah…

Dennis 7pts WIN @5/4 with Bet365 (would take evens)

Mullen 0.5pts EW @150/1 with Bet365 (paying 3 places at 1/4 odds, would take 80s)

Plus the 4-fold @5.69/1. 2pts on.

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Thanks for reading as always! Can anyone stop Dennis or Dumoulin? And will we have a shake up at the top of the GC standings? There won’t be any previews on here for a few days but I’ll be back with MSR, the Women’s Trofeo Binda and Catalunya before the Belgian racing starts up again. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Paris Nice 2017 Stage 7 Preview; Nice -> Col de la Couillole

Today’s Recap

A rather exciting stage and we saw a GC showdown up to the finish in Fayence. It was Simon Yates who took advantage of his lower overall position, attacking over the top of the penultimate climb of the day, managing to hold on to the finish.

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Behind, Henao attacked and cracked Alaphilippe, with Porte returning to some form to take third place behind the Colombian. It leaves the GC nicely poised and we should be in for an exciting stage tomorrow. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The penultimate day and the Queen stage of the race!

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Two big climbs in the final 50km will be the main focal point of the day as the first two ascents of the day come way too far from the finish to be a launchpad.

The Col Saint-Martin will start off the GC proceedings.

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Officially 7.5km at 7.2% in gradient, the climb is long enough to stretch things out. Well, that is when you consider that the road actually rises for a long time before we get to the official start of the climb.

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Instead, the full length of the climb is 20.4km long and averages a very solid 4.2% gradient. You can view the Strava segment here. If a couple of teams co-operate here, they really could put the hurt on Alaphilippe and try to isolate him.

Once over the summit we have a long descent followed by some valley roads before we start the final climb of the day; the Col de la Couillole.

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A long and steady climb, it barely goes below 6.5% or above 7.5% in gradient. If the pace has been injected on the previous climb, it is very possible for a GC rider to pop here and lose a lot of time.

How will the stage pan out?

I thought today may have been a breakaway stage, with the finish potentially suiting Alaphilippe I wasn’t confident of other teams bringing the escapees back. I’ve had tomorrow marked down as a GC day for the majority of the week and today’s showing makes me think we’ll see a GC rider win  the stage tomorrow too.

Watch it be a breakaway win now…

Contenders

Sergio Henao certainly looked one of the strongest today and Team Sky seem up for a fight for the GC title. My suspicions about the Colombian building some form at home over the past few weeks seem to be correct and he is now Alaphilippe’s main GC rival. The long climbs up to altitude will certainly suit him and with a very strong support team they are dangerous. I expect them to keep the break in check all day, then really ramp the pace up on the Col Saint-Martin. Henao’s point of attack will be interesting. Will he go early on the Saint-Martin, hoping to find some allies, or will he wait and leave it all for the final climb? The way he seemed to open up a gap today over Alaphilippe on a finish that suited the Frenchman more, I think Henao might just be confident enough to wait until that final climb.

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One man who is sure to take it up early is Alberto Contador. The Spaniard tried something today along with Henao but was quickly marked by Dan Martin. He struggled on the final slopes today but it was not a climb that really suited him whereas tomorrow’s long, steadier ascents do. He looked sprightly on the lower slopes of Mont Brouilly where we get similar gradients to that we’ll get tomorrow. You can’t forget how well he was climbing in Valenciana and following Quintana for fun in Abu Dhabi. Not being an immediate threat on the GC, he may just be given some leeway.

If Contador is not an immediate threat on GC, then Richie Porte is not an immediate threat on next year’s GC! The Aussie finds himself way down on the overall but seemed bullish and up for the fight today. Again, like Contador, Porte is not suited to the short punchy climbs and tomorrow’s 7% stuff looks great for him. If he’s climbing anywhere close to his form in the Tour Down Under he certainly has a chance of a stage win, which will certainly boost his morale!

After his stage win today, Simon Yates could well go on to bag another tomorrow. He’s in a similar GC position to Contador and those two may form a very exciting, attacking duo. Will he have enough left in the tank for another assault tomorrow?

I’m intrigued to see how Ilnur Zakarin does on this stage. The Russian has slowly plodded along this race after disappointingly losing time on the opening day. He did an OK time-trial but not as good as some were expecting. Yet, he seemed to be coping alright on the climbs today so maybe that was just a blip. He looked very impressive in Abu Dhabi, chasing down Rui Costa and will be looking for a similar performance on stage 7!

Izagirre and Barguil might try to utilise their lowly GC positions to their advantage but they haven’t looked great so far in this race.

Prediction

We’ll get a crazy final half to the stage with a few long-range probing attacks. Alaphilippe will only initially need to follow Henao and Gallopin and that will benefit those further down on GC. Henao may well bridge up to others, but I fancy Alberto Contador to take the stage. He will have been very disappointed after a poor first stage, considering this was his first main goal of the season. The way he climbed in Valenciana and the effortless nature he followed Quintana was incredibly impressive. El Pistolero will fire a warning shot that he’s not dead and buried yet!

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Although I do think it will be very close between him and Henao, with the Colombian moving into the GC lead after the stage.

Betting

Normally I wouldn’t back GC riders for a stage like this but…

2pts WIN on Contador @ 9/2 with BEt365.

Also,

4pts WIN on Henao for GC at 9/4 with PaddyPower

Thanks again for reading, who do you think will win tomorrow? Will someone further down on GC benefit or will Henao make his mark? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Eneco Tour Stage 7: Bornem -> Geraardsbergen

Today’s Recap

That didn’t go to script, did it?

Somehow the early break managed to hold on for the win. That was an option I had completely ruled out! Pibernik was the rider who came out best in the sprint to the line, taking his first professional victory. Not too shabby that it came in the World Tour.

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Not taking it away from Pibernik, but that stage was the dampest of squibs. Incredibly dull with nothing exciting happening at all. The less said about it the better! GC remains as it was moving ahead to the final stage tomorrow.

The Route

We’re treated to the queen stage on the final day of the race.

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Now that’s a profile I like the look of! Credit once again goes to @LasterketaBurua for the image.

The first half of the stage is pretty benign but then it all kicks off in the second half.

We have a circuit that’s completed 3 times. In it, there is the Denderoordberg. Seven hundred metres of uphill cobbles at 8%. Followed by the famous Muur, another cobbled climb at 1.1km long, averaging 8.7%.

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Muur profile

The last cobbled climb is the Bosberg. It’s an easier affair at only 6% on average for the kilometre. The circuit is concluded with a climb (not cobbled, the riders will be glad to hear) up the Onkerzelestraat. This is a much easier climb, at 1.5km long it averages only 3%.

It’s important to point out that the Golden Kilometre starts half-way up the Bosberg’s final passage, at 20.8km left in the race.

The riders once again climb the Denderoordberg at only 6km to go.

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Strava profile of the final 6km, including Denderoordberg. Viewable here.

You can see on the image above that the run-in to the finish is technical once it gets into the town of Geraardsbergen itself. The most dangerous segment will be the downhill U-turn and the sweeping bends that follow it. Thankfully the dangerous turns within the last 500m are all uphill so speeds will be slow.

That 500m dash to the line averages 6.8% with some ramps of above 9%. It’s also lightly cobbled too!

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A tasty end to the day.

Weather Watch

To spice things up a bit more, it appears we might get our first day of bad weather tomorrow.

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Weather forecast for Geraardsbergen

The riders might just avoid the rain as it looks to be worse later in the evening but that could quickly change.

How will the stage pan out?

I’m willing to make a fool of myself again and say that the break has no chance. There should be enough incentive behind to bring it back and gain the bonus seconds, but you never know. I’ll give it a  5% chance just to err on the side of caution!

BMC will obviously control the break if there is anyone dangerous in it, but I expect Tinkoff to take the reins early on to keep the move in check.

The peloton will be softened up on the first lap of the circuit but I would imagine some moves are made on the second passage if they haven’t already started. We’ll get a group of 30 riders at most finishing that second lap together. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be some riders up the road by then. It’s (hopefully) going to be chaos!

Numbers are obviously important, so once again I’ll point to BMC and Etixx with their 4 men each within 40 seconds of the lead. Jumbo have 3, but they aren’t known for their cobbles prowess, likewise are Movistar’s 4. A team with a couple of riders who could go well are IAM; Naesen, Elmiger and Devenyns will fancy their chances.

However, numbers are irrelevant if you’re number one – Sagan.

The peloton will fear what he can do on a stage like this. The way he’s riding, a repeat performance like Flanders is on the cards.

“It’s very hard to work with other guys, because nobody wants to work with me. It’s always better to drop everybody, I think,” (Sagan after Flanders win)

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So to counteract Sagan, riders and teams will have to go early. To do this though, you can’t be too close on GC. For example, we may see Devenyns, Boom, Thomas and Benoot try to distance those ahead of them on GC before the final lap.

 

I hope to see Etixx attempt and light the race up. Stybar and Trentin will be their early cards to play and they have to isolate the four BMC riders that are high up on GC. Oss will be a key rider for the Swiss outfit tomorrow.

Of course what BMC could do is send riders on the attack themselves. If I was the DS I would definitely be adopting that approach. If they don’t, and just play it defensively then there will be no one left to control the race in the final 20km. As I suggested yesterday, GVA and his shiny bike is their trump card and should be let off to attack while Phinney and Quinziato stay with Dennis. Van Avermaet is in sensational form and is one of the few riders here who can go toe-to-toe with Sagan.

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Saying all of that, the stage will greatly be shaped by two factors; who’s made the move on the first lap or two of the circuit; and when Sagan decides to attack.

If we get a compliant group of riders who BMC and Etixx are happy with, i.e. if they have one rider each in it, then that could make it all the way to the finish because there probably won’t be enough firepower behind to pull it back. Remember I’m assuming we have a peloton of 40 riders at tops going into that second lap.

If Sagan attacks late, I think we could see a group stay away to the finish ahead of him, but if he goes early then they have no chance. Unless they have a concerted chase behind to bring him to heel, or if some riders can sit in his wheel and attack on the final climb.

Like yesterday’s preview, no-one will want to tow him to the line, but the parcours today was tough for an individual to make gaps on. That’s most definitely not the case tomorrow and a strong rider can really put the hurt on others. That applies to anyone on a good day, not just Sagan!

Prediction

Sagan should be the clear favourite for this stage and because of that, I’m not backing him. I do love an outsider!

Instead, I think there is an opportunity for a small group attack from far out (30-40km to go) sticking to the end. As everyone behind looks/marks each other. Obviously the right teams need to be represented! A BMC and Etixx rider have to be in that move, having a Movistar and IAM rider in there will help too.

However, I go for no-one from those teams and suggest that  Geraint Thomas will win the stage!

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He did a lot of work for team-mates in Canada but showed solid form, and he was attentive at the front of the bunch today. That highlights to me that he’s feeling better and keen to go on the attack.  At over a minute down, he won’t be an immediate concern for those at the pointy end of the GC but he’ll probably need to be in a move with others to build a gap. He can then use his great all-round abilities to attack and solo to the finish line! If it does rain that’s even better for him, he loves the tough conditions.

Betting

Another day of eggs in several baskets. (All prices B365 – only bookmaker priced up by 21:15)

Thomas 0.5pt @ 40/1

Devenyns 0.2pt @ 100/1

Van Baarle 0.2pt @ 150/1

Rowe 0.1pt @400/1 (if we do get an early break succeeding. Been poor recently but has bags of quality in this type of terrain)

 

Thanks again for reading! How do you think tomorrow will play out? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

TDF Stage 7 Preview: l’Isle-Jourdain -> Lac de Payolle

Today’s Recap

Not been a great start to the Tour prediction wise as Cav excellently sprints out of Kittel’s slipstream to take the win. His third of the race so far! He really has turned a leaf this Tour.

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Etixx never really got a train organised at all which was very disappointing. They made a hurried effort at around 2km to go, but it meant Kittel had to expend unnecessary energy to get to the front. Then he hit the front too early which was to the delight of all the other sprinters, especially Cavendish who came out from behind him in the final 100m. A nod must go to Dan McLay who sprinted superbly to 3rd place. If the finish was another 50m down the road he could have climbed further up the podium! Anyway, onto tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

Flat(ish) then a big ol’ hill.

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A flat opening 50km of the stage will undoubtedly result in a very fast pace within the peloton as riders try to get into the break of the day. The road then goes through several rises and falls in terrain before we reach the first categorised climb of the day, the Cat 4 Côte de Capvern. A long but fairly shallow climb at 7.7km in length but with inly a 3.1% average gradient. Well, that’s according to the official statistics. As you can see on the profile above the road actually rises before and after the classification. This actually makes the average gradient even shallower (2.3%) but the road rises up for around 16km. We could see those struggling with injury here. It’ll be a hard day for them thereafter!

We actually get the Intermediate Sprint before the road starts climbing up towards the final climb of the day. Sagan will be hoping to take as many points here as possible. He’ll want to keep Cavendish in close quarters.

Soon after we are onto the first Cat-1 climb of the race, the Col d’Aspin.

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A long climb that starts off fairly easy, its toughest section comes in the middle with a kilometre at 9.5%. Not the toughest of climbs but this will be the first shake up of the GC. Anyone on an off day could lose a fair chunk of time tomorrow.

The descent itself isn’t too technical, however there are some switch backs right at the end.

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The road then kicks up again to the finish line, under 3% average for the final couple of kms.

How will the stage pan out?

Normally I’d be all over the idea that a break makes it this stage and it seems that a few of you agree.

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Massive sample size. Reliable.

However, I think there are several circumstances that will ensure it doesn’t.

  1. It’s the first mountain stage and although it doesn’t finish atop the mountain, I expect Sky to keep to tradition and test out their GC rivals.
  2. Along with Sky testing out their rivals, Movistar will be keen to impose themselves too. Froome got a bit caught off guard at the end of stage Stage 5. They’ll see if they can do the same here.
  3. Time bonuses. Maybe not crucial at the end of the Tour but they certainly do help
  4. The most important reason for me. Contador. The Spaniard has looked shaky since his fall and the other GC teams have to go in for the kill here. If they don’t take advantage of him now, he’ll make their race a nightmare later on.
  5. The descent off the climb is short, it will be hard for any riders dropped to make up time (unlike stage 8) so any gaps made will probably stick.

Therefore, I think we get some kind of GC shake up. Maybe not substantial, but there will be some time gaps.

So the two main options for me are a GC bunch sprint, or a well-timed late attack. I’ll go through both of these possibilities.

This stage looks tailor-made for Valverde.

Vuelta Spagna 2015

He should be able to cope with the climb and will be the fastest of the GC men left at the end. Will he get given some freedom by Quintana? I think so.

Will Julian Alaphilippe make it over the climb? He was struggling over the smaller climbs on stage 5. I don’t think he’ll make it here. If he does, then he will definitely be a danger-man in the sprint. Likewise, so will his team-mate Dan Martin. I think the Irishman is more likely to make it to the finish. He has a finishing sprint that will worry Valverde and we’ve seen in other races that he’s not scared to attack.

Who else could contest a GC sprint? Well Rodriguez came from nowhere on stage 5. He’s someone who could definitely get involved. Bardet, Barguil, Kelderman & Yates all have a decent turn of speed.

For a late attacker the rider will need to be able to make it over the climb with the GC group and then attack on either the descent or on the uphill drag towards the finish. So they’ll need to be either a) a good descender b) or someone who’s not deemed an overall GC threat.

Someone along the likes of Rolland fits that briefing perfectly. An attacking rider, he won’t be afraid of failing. The main GC guys won’t be too concerned about him for the overall and he could well steal a march on them. Meintjes could also be the type of rider that gets away. He won’t be respected as much in regards to the overall jersey so a perfectly timed move could see him get away.

Team mates will be important in the finale to mark and close down the attacks. Team mates will also be useful to attack themselves. Quintana, Froome and Pinot were the only contenders to have riders left with them at the end of stage 5. I would love if Pinot’s team-mate, Sebastien Reichenbach, was given the freedom to get away and take a historic win.

The weather may also play its part on tomorrow’s stage with thunderstorms and rain forecast throughout the day. This could nullify the stage in the sense that the GC riders don’t want to risk it, or could easily do the opposite where they try to put pressure on the other riders. Who knows?!

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Weather forecast for Arreau (just before the start of Col d’Aspin)

Prediction

As stated above, I don’t think a break makes it tomorrow. They have more of a chance the following stage. So it’s really a decision on if we get a late attack stick, or some kind of GC sprint. Either way, it will be a strong climber who wins the stage. I like Rolland’s attacking style and he has the right set of attributes/credentials to get away from the main bunch. The stage is set for him to take his third Tour stage!

Cannondale

Betting

Rolland 0.6pt EW @66/1 with PaddyPower (if you can bet there) they’re paying 5 places. Would take down to 50/1.

Kelderman 0.3pt EW @66/1 with Coral or Skybet (both 4 places). Again, would take 50/1.

Reichenbach 0.1pt EW @250/1 with Bet365. Would take 200/1 available with Sky too.

 

Hope you enjoyed my thoughts on tomorrow’s stage. How do you think it will pan out? It’s a very interesting one to try to call! I’m just optimistic and want an exciting stage. Any feedback is more than welcome. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Giro Stage 7: Sulmona – Foligno

Two in two for Lotto Soudal, with one of Tim Wellens’ long-range attacks finally paying off! Nice to see, he deserves it for his attacking intent. He’s certainly a fan-favourite.

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As for the GC riders, a danger-man I highlighted yesterday, Fuglsang, attacked and was quickly caught by our 300/1 man Siutsou. They rode away from the peloton but were slowly brought back by the work of Movistar who realised that Valverde might have a chance to sprint for bonus seconds. However, Nibali launched a big attack but that was covered by Roche. Just as the peloton bridged back to Nibali; Dumoulin, Zakarin and Pozzovivo attacked. Nobody followed. They caught up with Fuglsang and Siutsou just under the Flamme Rouge, with a strong Fuglsang out-sprinting Zakarin for second place. Siutsou came home in a good, but annoying 5th place. Not good enough for any payout! Brambilla ended up doing a lot of work on the front of the peloton to help Jungels, and Firsanov finished in an OK 12th. Anyway, onto tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

Another long day with 211km being covered in total. It’s also another tough rolling start to the day, with an early Cat 2 climb to wake the riders up. Rather them than me!

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After the summit it’s a mixture of climbing and descending for the next 130km or so, until we get to the bottom of the valley before the Cat 4 climb of Valico della Somma.

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Profile of the Valico della Somma. The Strava link can be found here.

There’s no official profile of the climb, but going off of the Strava segment above, and using this handy calculator, I make it out to be 14.5km long with an average gradient of 3.5%. Some of the sprinters will not appreciate that! However, it really kicks up in the final 4kms, where it averages 6.9%. If the sprinters didn’t like the start of the climb, then they’re going to despise that section.

The saving grace for the sprinters, is the 40km of descending and flat to the finish line after the summit. If they get distanced a little bit, with the support of some team-mates they should manage to get back to the front of the race. Nonetheless, if the pace is pushed on by those sprinters who can climb then I don’t think we’ll see the proper big guys until the end.

The finale itself is a very tricky one, with a few sharp turns in the last 2km. Things could and most likely will get dicey if we get a sprint.

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Weather Watch

Looks like it’s set to be a pretty miserable day in the peloton, with it set to be raining in Foligno for the arrival of the riders.

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It looks colder than the past few days, but it’s nothing too severe. One thing that could cause an interest in the peloton throughout the stage is the direction of the wind. It looks to mostly be coming from the South or South-SouthWest. This creates the possibility for some crosswind action.

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Fantastically edited route map, showing the wind direction…

As you can see on the route-map above, there is a chance for crosswinds early in the stage if a few teams want to take it up. Whereas, in the final 55km it looks set to be predominantly a tailwind, although slightly cross-tailwind. This will help to keep the pace high. It could increase the chances of a break staying away, but it will also make it harder for anyone dropped from the peloton to catch up, as the bunch will more likely be going at a faster pace.

Who are the stage favourites?

The most likely outcome of Stage 7 is that it will end up in a sprint of some sort, possibly the whole bunch, but I think we’ll see a few riders dropped before the finale.

I don’t think we’ll see either of the two sprint stage winners take part in this one. Kittel seems to have been suffering a bit recently and I’m not sure he’ll make it over that final climb. Or if he does make it over, I think it will have taken a lot out of him. Whereas, I’m sure Greipel will make the finale, but he goes missing when the sprints get messy/very technical and I’ll think he’ll do the same tomorrow. It isn’t worth the risk of injury for him, he already has his stage win.

Therefore, I think we’ll see a battle between Modolo, Demare and Nizzolo, with Hofland not too far behind. I would normally include Viviani in that group, but he’s been indifferent so far this Giro and I’m not sure he’ll be on his best form tomorrow.

Of those teams, it seems that Demare has the longest and best lead-out and he’s the most consistent performer so far, leading the Maglia Rossa competition if we discount Kittel.

Nizzolo has dissapointed so far, he hasn’t really gotten involved at all and his sprint train has been pretty poor. In contrast, I have been impressed by Hofland who seems to have gotten his speed back and has produced good results even though he doesn’t have a proper train. This will most likely be his downfall in this stage.

For this stage though, I really like the look of Modolo.

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My tweets from earlier today, read them bottom up!

As alluded to above, he has all the credentials to go well here. He’s an excellent bike handler and that dodgy looking final kilometre looks like it suits him down to the ground. In Ferrari he has an exceptional lead-out man. Ferrari is capable of bringing Modolo up to the front at just the right time, either doing a pull himself, or dropping him on second wheel. In tomorrow’s sprint I think we’ll see the former, with Ferrari leading Modolo out in the closing few hundred metres. I think he’ll bring him up just before that final turn. We saw something very similar at the Tour of Turkey a few weeks ago (watch the video here) and I expect much of the same on this stage.

So it’s a nailed-on sprint then?

Not entirely in my opinion. A sprint is the most likely outcome, but after a tough stage today and the rolling terrain tomorrow. I would not be overly surprised if we see the break of the day go on and make it. For this to happen a couple of things need to fall into place. Firstly, there has to be several Italians in it, and secondly there has to be representation from the majority of the big sprint teams.

We could possibly see the biggest break of the Giro so far tomorrow, with maybe 8 riders or so (maybe more?!) going up the road.

Candidates for the break have to be far down on GC, but be able to climb reasonably well to cope with the bumpy terrain. Look to those who rolled in far down on the stage today, riders like; De Marchi, Kuznetsov, Tjallingi, Bettiol etc.

I mentioned my picks for the breakaway lottery on Twitter earlier…

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Again, bottom up!

It will be interesting to see when the break forms and how strong it is. We’ll be able to tell from an early stage if it has a good chance of surviving or not!

Prediction

I’m going to have to take two predictions again, if we get a sprint (I’m 65% sure we do) then I can’t really look past Modolo for this. I always like to back him on this type of finish and he usually doesn’t disappoint!

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However, if we do get a break make it to the finish line then I think someone like Simon Clarke has the credentials to go on and win. He was going well at the start of the season but is here to work for Uran mainly, but could get a bit of freedom tomorrow. He packs a good sprint from a very small bunch as well.

Betting

Modolo @ 12/1, 1.1pt EW

Koshevoy @ 300/1, 0.1pt Ew

Clarke @ 300/1, 0.1pt Ew

Zoidl @ 300/1, 0.1pt EW

Txurukka @ 500/1, 0.1pt EW

I know most of the prices on the breakaway riders are gone, but seeing as I tweeted them out earlier, I’m still including them in the blog!

Modolo is definitely still value at the 12/1 you can get him at. I’m going to invest some more (that won’t be included in the blog).

Apologies for this being out a lot later than normal. I’m back home visiting from Uni so I spent some time with the family this evening and only started writing this at around 11pm.

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Everything should be back to normal tomorrow! Once again, hope you enjoyed this preview. I’m grateful for any feedback, both positive or negative and any shares on social media would be fantastic. Enjoy the race wherever you’re watching it! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.