Tour de France 2017 Stage 8 Preview; Dole -> Station des Rousses

Today’s Recap

Well, that was close, 6mm or 0.0003 seconds to be precise!

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Kittel just edged out Boasson Hagen to take his third win of the race. An incredibly tough photo finish, I couldn’t split them when looking at the images post race initially. The jury eventually came to that conclusion, much to my relief.

Matthews finished fast to get up for third, while Démare disappointed down in 11th and consequently hands the green jersey over to Kittel.

With two long, drab stages (apart from the finishes) out the way, let’s turn our attention to what the riders will face tomorrow.

The Route

A day with three categorised climbs that get progressively harder throughout the stage.

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The fight to get into the break will be on tomorrow and there’s a good chance a break won’t go until we get to the first uncategorised climb of the day at around 28km. Averaging just over 3% for 9km, we should see the strong men of the bunch escape here.

With the climb not being too tough, there could be a mixture of climbers and strong rouleurs who get up the road. I wonder if any sprinters will try to escape and go for the intermediate points?!

From there, the break will face roughly 60km of rolling roads before the opening categorised climb of the day: the Col de la Joux. Not a tough climb and it should be of no real outcome in the race.

Next on the agenda is the Côte de Viry at 7.6km long and averaging 5.2% it is slighty harder going than the Joux. Again though, it is more than likely too far out to be the scene of any action but some in the break might disagree! A few more short uncategorised climbs follow before a descent into the valley and the start of the climb with the longest name ever; Montée de la Combe de Laisia Les Molunes.

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Another climb that’s not too tough in terms of gradients, it is more of a slog than anything else. We only have two kilometres that average 8% or more, one of which comes right before the end. In fact, the final 4kms of the climb are the toughest on average. A perfect launchpad for a strong climber to make a move?

Once over the top, the terrain peaks and troughs all the way to Station des Rousses. A solo rider can certainly make it all the way to the line but they’ll hope for a lack of co-operation behind in the chasing group(s).

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The road does twist and turn in the final few kilometres which will make it very tactical if we have a small group come to the line.

How will the stage pan out?

We could see some GC action but I think that’s very unlikely, as the climbs aren’t tough enough for that and I’m sure that most of the overall contenders will have one eye on stage 9.

In fact, I think Sky might be happy to let the break go even if it contains someone high up on GC, just so they can have a rest the following day. Although to be fair, it’s not like they’ve done a lot of work over the past few days with the sprinters teams pulling for most of the stages.

Yet, not having to control the bunch on stage 9 will be a big bonus for them so with that being said, it is a definite breakaway day.

Time to play everyone’s favourite game…

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Contenders

There are several riders who could potentially compete on a stage like tomorrow’s so I’m not going to bother naming loads of people. Like normal, I’ll just name a few riders who have a chance. In fact, where I’d normally name 4, I’ll just go for two tomorrow!

Thibaut Pinot.

 

After a fairly successful Giro where he won a stage and finished 4th on GC, the FDJ rider comes here solely to hunt stages. I had a chuckle to myself while watching stage 5 and the ITV commentators were acting concerned, saying that was his race over etc, when he drifted out the back of the GC group. I’m fairly certain however, that it was just a ploy to lose some time so that he is given more leeway to go on the attack and actually be allowed to get away. Unlike some riders who are closer on GC than he currently is, Pinot could still be viewed as a threat if he was 4 minutes down on the overall at the moment. Thanks to some casual riding towards the end of today’s stage though, he now finds himself 10 minutes down. Plenty of leeway to get away!

As for the suitability of the stage itself, the climbs should be of no difficulty for someone of his talent. There will be few able to follow him if he’s on a good day. Furthermore, he has the advantage of being a solid TT rider so he can hold off a chasing group all the way to the line, but if not, he has a fast sprint from a reduced group of climbers.

If he makes the move he will be one of the favourites.

Alexis Vuillermoz.

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After missing the first few months of the season due to injury, the AG2R rider returned to racing at the end of March. He’s not been as prominent as he has been in previous seasons but a win in GP Plumelec highlights that there is some form and good legs there. More often than not finding himself working for Bardet these days, I think he might be given some freedom from the team tomorrow to do his own thing.

The reason I say that is because the route goes through his birthplace (Saint-Claude), passing his home. He’ll have massive home support and we often see riders getting up the road in their “home” stages. He’ll know the final climb like the back of his hand and the “easy” average gradient of it should suit him. Not the best on really long climbs, he’ll hope that he can follow the wheels of those better than him and beat them in a sprint. Something he is certainly capable of!

Prediction

Hmm, as much as I would love for Vuillermoz to win I’ll go for Pinot to take the stage!

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Betting

After today’s success, we have a few points to throw around on breakaway stages over the next week. Which is good as they are most often the most frustrating days to have a punt on. I nailed my colours to the mast before on Twitter…

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You can still get them at 100 and 28 respectively which I would take.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Paris Nice 2017 Stage 8 Preview; Nice -> Nice

*Apologies, the late run time of today’s stage and the fact I need to have a snooze before work this evening means that both previews will be a lot shorter than normal.*

Today’s Recap

It’s all so obvious now, Porte takes the stage!

Contador managed to get up for second and a very determined Dan Martin just edged out Henao for third on the day. That leaves the Colombian 30 seconds ahead of Martin, with Contador one second further back.

That changes the dynamic of how tomorrow will play out most likely, but first let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The final stage of the year always seems to change between an open road stage around Nice, or a mountain TT with a finish up Col d’Eze. This year we have the former again.

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A very short, but intense stage; with 32.1km out of the 115.5km going uphill!

The three cat-2s are not overly difficult so I can’t see the GC guys try anything here. Instead, we might see some action on the Côte de Peille. It’s certainly steep enough to try and get rid of some domestiques.

However, it may all come down to the Col d’Èze and the descent back to the finish line. Officially the climb is 7.7km at 5.2%, but if you include the bit of false flat at the end, almost up to the intermediate sprint point, then it’s 9.7km at 5%.

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View the strava segment here.

The climb is quite deceptive if you just look at the average gradient. The first 3km rarely dips below 8% but this is then followed by a relatively easy 2km section, before it kicks up again, then finally flattening out at the top.

Most of the pros will have trained/raced up here several times so will know exactly what the climb is like, and their own strengths or weaknesses on it.

Once over the summit, we descend almost all the way to the finish line.

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I wouldn’t expect that kicker to be much of an issue as the riders will already be carrying a lot of pace into it. Although it will most definitely slow them down!

The run-in itself is technical and a rider can lose contact if they’re not the most confident of descenders.

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It will certainly be an interesting end to the stage if a group arrives together.

How will the stage pan out? 

Before the the excitement at the end of today’s stage, tomorrow looked great for a breakaway. However, with things close on GC, especially between Contador and Martin, there is a very good chance we get another explosive day in the saddle.

The climbs aren’t too difficult bet there is still a chance of riders losing time and a reshuffling of the GC order.

Prediction

Yeah, as I said above, I don’t have enough time to go through everyone like I normally would instead I’ll just list one name.

I think Ion Izagirre will win the stage. The Spaniard has been up there all week and barring misfortune on stage 1 he would very much be in the GC hunt right now. Aside from Porte and our current GC podium, he was the first one home today, on a stage that isn’t suited to his strengths. Whereas, tomorrow’s climbs look more up his street, but it’s the descent to the finish that looks perfect for him. This stage just reminds me of the breakaway win he took in the Tour last year. Being almost two minutes down, he’ll be given a bit of leeway by the other contenders and he could well pull off a Yates-style attack.

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Vamos Ion!

Betting

 1pt EW Izagirre @ 25/1 with Bet365 (would take 20s)

Thanks for reading as always, normal service should resume tomorrow! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Giro Stage 8: Foligno – Arezzo

Today’s recap

Three from three for Lotto and a second stage win for the Gorilla, who produced another great power sprint.

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I thought our pick of Modolo had it as he peeled off the front around the final corner. However, he had went too early and Greipel moved past him with relative ease. It was a shame that the forecast was off and there was no rain, I really think Modolo would have won in those conditions. But with the likelihood of crashes, for the riders safety, it was probably the best thing!

The break was never really given a chance but I managed to get Koshovoy in it. Good signs for the coming weeks with the lottery picks.

The Route

Tomorrow’s stage is one that fans have been looking forward to since the route was announced as we cover the famous Strade Bianchi (White Roads) of Tuscany.

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Route Profile

The stage isn’t as tough in terms of the amount of climbing metres than the past few days, with large segments of flat.

“The stage course rolls along wavy roads, with a few narrower sectors while crossing urban areas, all the way up to Indicatore (intermediate sprint) and Arezzo. Next on the route, after a first pass over the finish line, is the Alpe di Poti climb, featuring 6.4 km on dirt roads, and doubledigit gradients. After clearing the KOM summit, the road drops quickly into Foce dello Scopetone and straight into the finish.” (Road book extract) 

The first categorised climb comes after 115km, with the ascent up the Passo di Scheggia. There is no official profile (again) in the RoadBook, but it doesn’t look to be that difficult a climb. I’ve managed to find a profile here.

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Passo di Scheggia. 5.8km long, Average gradient of 3.8%

As you can see, it’s a fairly easy climb for the big GC guys and the majority of the bunch will be able to make it over together. Once over Scheggia there is a quick descent and a long flat section, crossing the finish line in Arezzo, leaving the town to head for the Alpe di Poti.

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Profile of the Alpe di Poti

As you can see, the most gruelling part of the climb in terms of gradient comes right at the start, with a 3km section averaging 9.1%. The whole climb itself is 8.6km in length averaging 6.6% with a section of 14.4%. If you want a more interactive profile, then click here for a Strava link.

The most exciting part for us the viewers however, is the white roads that feature for the majority of the climb. We normally only get to see these roads once a year at the rather simply named, Strade Bianchi race. The last time the Giro used similar roads was back in 2010 when Cadel Evans put his mountain bike background to good use, winning stage 6. However, it must be noted that more of the Strade were used that year than this edition’s stage sets to use.

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Horrendous conditions at the 2010 Giro.

Once over the top the riders face a fast descent but on wide roads, so it doesn’t appear to be too technical.

“After the flamme rouge, the route takes two right-hand bends on wide roundabouts, and passes under a mediaeval gateway. A short and steep climb (first on asphalt road, and then on stone-slab paving) leads to the home straight (200 m), still slightly uphill (approx. 5%), on 6-m wide stone-slab paving” (RB Extract)

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Profile of the final 3km

Weather Watch

Most cycling fans will have been praying for rain for this stage, whereas the majority of the riders will have been hoping for sunny-skies. It looks like the cycling gods have sided with the Tifosi for tomorrow!

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Forecast for the climb: Alpe di Poti
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Forecast for the finish line in Arezzo tomorrow

Not much rain forecast, but it should at least make the white gravel roads turn into a white mud!

Some of the riders will absolutely love the look of this, others will be less enthusiastic, to say the least.

According to worldweatheronline it looks set to be raining even heavier in Arezzo. With the finish line not being so far away from the climb, I’d say average out the two weather forecasts. Either way, it looks like we’re going to get some rainfall and damp roads.

This will make the climb up the white roads even more difficult. It will be a case of most riders having to sit in the saddle so as to maintain traction. Although if it gets really muddy then putting too much weight over the back could result in them spinning their tyres and wasting energy.

All is set for an exciting stage!

 

How will the stage pan out?

This is a really tough stage to call.

With the lack of a KOM point early on in the stage, we should actually see a break get away nice and early tomorrow. As long as Nippo Vini Fantini get someone in it, surely they can’t mess up again?!

However, as a lot of teams will think the break will contest the stage win, it could be some time until it goes clear.

The composition of the breakaway again will be key for its success. It will need a mixture of strong rouleurs and good climbers to build up an advantage. Again, look to those far down on GC for potential candidates.

I think the break has a very good chance of making it tomorrow. With the type of finale that we have, the only way that it won’t stay away to the finish is if a GC team really fancies their rider’s chances.

The problem is, I think quite a few of the riders might. The final kick up into Arezzo suits someone like Valverde down to the ground. Therefore, Moivstar might chase. The same can be said for Ulissi. The difficulty for Ulissi will be getting over the climb. He has gone well at SB before, finishing 7th this year, so he knows the white roads well.

Nibali felt a bit mugged the other day and there’s a good chance that Astana could chase the break.

The one saving grace for the break is that I don’t think we’ll see Giant doing any proper work. Dumoulin was complaining earlier about the fast pace Nippo set at the start of the day and it sounds like his team is tired. Therefore, on balance I favour the break to make it all the way tomorrow!

I split it 75% break makes it, 25% GC battle.

Who are the Breakaway candidates?

Who’s been eating all of their KitKats then?!

As mentioned above, look to those far enough down on GC not to worry any of the overall contenders. Anyone who’s over 10 minutes down should be fine. That just leaves the 146 riders to pick from then… XD

They have to climb well so that at least removes a few. Although the issue is then getting in the break, because it will no doubt be a frenetic start to the day again.

Some example riders are De Marchi, Vanendert, Herrada, Pozzato etc.

 

My breakaway lottery picks of choice are going to be Zoidl, Serry and Mohoric. I have no real reasoning apart from that they’re solid climbers and good on the flat.

Prediction

I say a breakaway makes it.

Then it’s just a case of being lucky with who makes it.

Zoidl was climbing very well in the Tour of Croatia, winning the Queen stage. He hasn’t been great so far at the Giro, but I’m going to presume (and hope) that he has been saving his legs for stage hunting.

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Betting

Zoidl 125/1 0.2pt EW (PP)

Serry 100/1 0.2pt EW (Coral)

Mohoric 125/1 0.2pt EW (365)

Again, keep an eye out for other bookies, you might get a better price.

Small stakes only tomorrow and I’ll maybe go in-play depending how the stage is going.

I’ll more than likely tweet out another couple of breakaway picks later, so keep an eye out for that!

Hopefully the stage lives up to the high expectations and is remembered as a classic. I won’t be watching unfortunately so I’ll tune in later on and watch a re-run, I might tweet out something in-play if it looks like it’s going to be a GC battle. Nonetheless, enjoy it wherever you’re watching it from! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.