Women’s TTT World Championship 2018 Preview

In Bergen last year we were treated to somewhat of a shock with Sunweb taking home the title but looking at results throughout the year, it was a result that was certainly on the cards.

Cycling: 90th Road World Championships 2017 / TTT Women Elite

They had the advantage of arriving with a string of podium places in TTT events but with Boels Dolmans still the massive favourites after their successes in previous years. The Dutch outfit could only manage second though, coming home 12 seconds behind Sunweb, with Cervélo Bigla rounding out the podium.

Will Sunweb be able to double up in what is the last event for trade teams in the foreseeable future? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

The longest edition yet (at 54km) since the event’s reconception back in 2012, the organiser’s have somehow managed to make as much of a pan flat course as you can in this area.

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With only roughly 150m of elevation gain throughout the course, this one is all about pure power.

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There are a few roundabouts out on course which might disrupt the rhythm, nothing too crazy though. As you can see on the image above, there is a tight turn with around 1.6km to go but that is about it as tough as it gets all morning.

A two-horse race?

On paper the best teams here are Sunweb and Boels.

The former are obviously reigning champions and this is a discipline that they have focussed on a lot over the past year. In 2018 they’ve won three TTTs: at the Giro, Tour of Norway and the recent Madrid Challenge. They did however lose the longest TTT effort of the year though and the traditional World Champs warm-up, Crescent Vargarda, shipping 16 seconds to Boels. Yet, they can argue that they were missing their big TT powerhouse that day in Van Dijk. Is the inclusion of the Dutchwoman here enough for them to claw back that gap?

Boels were the traditional go-to TTT squad in recent times but lost they lost their crown last year. This season they have fallen a little flat again with the Healthy Ageing Tour and then the recent Vargarda their only wins in the discipline. The latter result there is the most important though as it is the course most like the Worlds and it was a race that they sent a carbon copy of their squad that they have at Innsbruck to. Can they regain the title and take the crown for one last time?

One interesting point to note for the two main teams is that they are both going to include their strong Dutch TT rider in their race squads. Given that the women’s individual event is only two days after on Tuesday, it might mess with their preparation for that event. Conversely though, it could be a good way to blow the cobwebs off and open up the legs.

The reason I mention it though is that ITT favourite van Vleuten is not riding the event for Mitchelton Scott, a big blow for the Aussie outfit but one that is kind of understandable. Back in the Giro Rosa I tipped them for a very good TTT effort and they just missed out to Sunweb by one second on that day. Consequently, they could have been the dark horses for tomorrow but with some more recent injuries plaguing the team, I think they will fall short.

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Canyon SRAM could be there or thereabouts in the fight for the podium and they bring a solid squad with them here, included in their midst is 4x TTT champion Worrack. The original TTT GOATs, can they rekindle that form? I’m not too sure, they are a pretty hit or miss team at times so who knows.

Wiggle High 5 will be riding their last event as a team and they bring arguably their strongest squad ever to Innsbruck. With a good mix of strong individual TT riders and rouleurs, they will have their sights set on a podium. They have struggled a lot this year in the discipline but a second place to Subweb’s “A-team” in Madrid is a sign that things might finally have clicked.

Prediction

A day with two different battles; one for the win and one for the final podium spot.

Given the results we have had so far this year it should be very close between Boels and Sunweb. The former obviously have the advantage of winning Vargarda by a 16 second margin but the latter have Van Dijk to add into the mix now. Will that equal enough of a turnaround? I don’t think so.

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Boels to win by a very small margin, maybe 5 seconds or so, with Sunweb trailing them home in second place.

The battle for third will be hotly contested by Mitchelton, Canyon and Wiggle but I actually fancy the team that is folding to pull one last result out of the bag, so Wiggle to come in third.

Coverage

The women’s event starts early on Sunday morning, with coverage on from 9:10 to 11:30 (UK Time). You should be able to watch it on your regular cycling provider or via the UCI Youtube channel.

Betting

For only the third time this season I get to curse my picks with actual money this time!

As it is so tight for the win I can’t be backing Boels at their current price although a double with the men’s TT winner might be a good idea. However, I do like the value you can get for a Wiggle podium so I’m going with that.

2pts Wiggle Top 3 at 9/2. (Bet365)

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win the two-horse race on Sunday? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

Tour de Pologne 2017 Stage 7 Preview; Bukowina Tatrzanska -> Bukowina Tatrzanska

Today’s Recap

A fairly selective day that saw Sagan lose his leader’s jersey.

Jack Haig attacked early, reminiscent of his dig on stage 2, but this time he was given some more leeway. In the end his winning margin was a comfortable 50 seconds, a very impressive performance from the young Aussie! He’s surely going to the Vuelta again this year.

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Behind a select group of GC contenders sprinted for bonus seconds with Poels besting Jungels.

It leaves 12 riders within 45 seconds of leader Teuns going into the final day of racing tomorrow. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

A short but fairly sharp stage to finish the race off.

TDPS7Prof

You can view the interactive profile here.

The route is focussed around 4/5 (depending on how you break it down) climbs that are situated near the finish village of Bukowina Tatrzanska. However, as I’m short of time, I’ll only really be looking at the ones we tackle on the run in to the line, i.e. the last 30km.

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Another reason that I’m doing this is because I think it is highly unlikely that we’ll see any serious attacks before this point. It would be suicidal to launch an attack at 60km to go given all of the flat land before the climbing starts again.

Sierockie will be the climb to kick things off.

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As you can see, the majority of the altitude gain comes in the first part of the climb before some false flat and a little rise to the summit. The 5.3% average for 5.7km is fairly tough, but it is that opening section which is brutal; 2.7km at 8.7%. That includes almost a kilometre at 13.4%! We could see some riders blow up here if they have to go too deep and if not, the rolling section afterwards could be the thing that breaks them.

Once over the summit, they’ll plunge down the valley and start climbing straight away.

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Almost the opposite of the previous climb, the riders will start off with some gradual gradients before things get really steep at the end. With the steepest gradients coming near the summit, it is the perfect place to launch an attack!

A very quick descent follows before they quickly start climbing again.

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Short and not too much of struggle for the riders here, they’ll be happy for the more consistent gradients! However, if they were on the limit last climb then even this little climb could be of issue as they will have had no time to recover.

Once over the top they’ll have roughly 9km to the finish, of which 5km is descent.

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It will be hard for anyone to create some gaps here if we do have a group come to the line together. However, Henao proved in 2015 that it is possible!

How will the stage pan out?

A strong break in theory should form due to the climbs right at the start of the stage and they could build up a large gap.

However, with the GC battle so close I imagine that they won’t be given much leeway at all and that they’ll be brought to heel with 30km left.

As to how it will play out from there? Who knows.

It looked as if Poels / Majka / Zakarin / Kelderman and Yates were the most explosive on the climbs today in the GC group. Although Jungels did well grinding his way back to them and the same can be said to anyone else dropped just over the top of the final summit.

We could again see a situation where numbers prevail in the front group but compared to yesterday, there are only two teams who have two riders in contention; Sunweb and Orica.

Could Haig manage to do the double? Possibly!

However, I’m taking a different approach…

Sublime Sunweb

The team have been on scintillating form this year and that seems to have continued here. Kelderman looked very good today on the final climb, following the moves with what looked like relative ease. He tried something on the flat roads just before the rise to the line but that was quickly brought to heel by Jungels. It would be extremely surprising to see him dropped tomorrow and with a fast sprint, he has a chance to win a small bunch kick.

What about his team-mate Oomen?

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Arguably one of the most talented young climbers in the peloton, the young Dutchman did a lot of work for his team-mate today. Normally an attacking rider, I would love to see him let off the leash to go for it tomorrow. Similar to Haig, he might be allowed to slip off the front in the closing kilometres as he won’t be instantly recognised as a real threat for the overall. At only 24 seconds back they’d be wrong!

Prediction

Oomen attacks early, softening up the group behind. Kelderman then attacks at the perfect moment to take the stage win and continue Sunweb’s great season!

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Betting

Aplogies for yesterday/today’s atrocious picks, I was really surprised to see Izagirre dropped! Hopefully the Sunweb boys turn it around for us tomorrow.

1.5pt WIN Kelderman @ 7/1

0.5pt WIN Oomen @ 33/1

 

Thanks as always for reading and sorry this is shorter than usual but I am short of time myself! Who do you think will win and how?

Next on the blog will be daily stage previews of the BinckBank Tour!

Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Women’s Ronde van Drenthe 2017

Women’s Ronde van Drenthe 2017

After the rip-roaring success of last weekend’s race and preview, I’m back this weekend to look at a one-day race and its rubbish climb…

No, seriously! The riders have to traverse the VAM-berg which is genuinely just a grass and road covered rubbish dump. How scenic!

Last year the race was won by Chantal Blaak after a group of 4 made it clear on the final cobbled section. Managing to work well for the remaining 60km of the race, before duking it out in a sprint.

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

The Route

More of the same this year in terms of parcours and route, with the race being extended by 14km to 152km in total.

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We are treated to an official profile from the organisers that appears as if it was made on Microsoft Paint.

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One ascent of the VAM-berg is followed by 7 sectors of pavé, totalling 13.2km of cobbled action! As we saw last year, this is one of the places where a race-winning move can be made. However, it is more often than not the double passage of the VAM-berg which is a launchpad for an attack.

The climb itself is short and sharp, but it’s the location at the start of the season which means it causes a lot of damage to the peloton.

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It’s only a few hundred metres long but does kick up to 20% in some places!

The finishing circuit around Hoogeveen is pretty simple and it’s all about either working well to maintain a lead, or the peloton co-operating to bring the race back together for a sprint.

There is one other factor that normally has an impact on the race and that is the wind.

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Wind forecast near Hoogeveen (Source: Windfinder)

The wind direction is favourable for cross-winds but the speed isn’t. Although you never know, a determined (and tired) peloton can still be ripped apart.

I’m fairly confident that the racing will be aggressive and we won’t see a full bunch sprint. There might be a situation where we have a group of 20 riders coming to the line together but that will be the most!

Contenders

Where better to start than with the defending champion and her team?! Boels are still without a win this season, a far cry from last year’s dominating start. However, they once again arrive with the strongest team on paper and 4 potential winners. Chantal Blaak will obviously be wanting to retain her crown and she seems to have started the season in good form, finishing 2nd at Omloop. She’ll probably want a tough selective race like last year, hoping to win a sprint from a small group. Or of course like all the Boels riders, they may play the numbers game up front and she might solo to the win. A rider very much similar to Blaak is Amy Pieters. The Dutchwoman has been exceptional form at the start of the year and without bad luck hampering her, she could have picked up a few better results by now. I imagine she’ll be reeling with herself after only managing second in Le Samyn and this would be a good race to turn it around! World Champion Amelie Diedriksen will be kept as the sprinter for the team, so I think it will be tough for her to win. Likewise, Anna van der Breggen may struggle in her first race of the season after skipping Strade due to illness. However, you can never write off the European and Olympic champion and she will certainly find the VAM-berg to her liking, she has won La Flèche the past two years in a row!

Flèche Wallonne Femmes 2016
Anna van der Breggen winning La Flèche

Team Sunweb send a very balanced squad with them and one that could certainly challenge Boels. Rider of the season so far (an award I have made up just now) Lucinda Brand will arrive as their main charge. She was strong in her opening race, winning Omloop, and was very unlucky in Strade to finish off of the podium. Clearly in great form, you would have to expect her to be near the front whatever happens tomorrow! Ellen van Dijk has had a very consistent start to the season, finishing in the top 10 of all three races she’s started. An incredibly tough all-round rider, she has the time trial abilities to get and maintain a gap on the bunch. Young classic prodigy Floortje Mackaij is a good option for a sprint after a tough day, but as we saw in Strade, she’s not afraid to go on the attack either. Likewise, Leah Kirchmann can mix it up over the climbs and in the sprint, I imagine she’ll play a similar role to van der Breggen.

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Floortje Mackaij winning Gent Wevelgem

Marianne Vos will be hoping for a winning return to a race that she’s not attended since clinching the title in 2013. With the climb not being too long, she should be able to follow any attacks and if she makes the front group then she’s an obvious danger. In Lauren Kitchen and Anouska Koster she has two strong team-mates who can help keep her protected for a lot of the race.

Orica Scott arrive with another strong team but it seemed to be a case of “too many chefs” at Strade. Unlike Boels, they haven’t managed to get the great rider to keen worker balance right. However, with the likes of Garfoot, Van Vleuten and Elvin they will certainly still be in contention for a good result.

Canyon SRAM also arrive with a few options for the race but I think Hannah Barnes will be the protected rider. The Brit has started the season well, grabbing a top 10 in Le Samyn after attacking late in the race with Van Dijk. She has a fast sprint on her, but has been turning herself into a very good classics rider as of late and is certainly one to keep an eye on.

We do have the likes of Hosking, D’Hoore and Wild here, but as I’ve said above, I think it will be very unlikely if we get a bunch sprint here.

Prediction

This race really hinges on the attitude of Sunweb and Boels, they both have incredibly strong teams. Brand and Blaak are the obvious favourites for the race, but I think they could mark each other out of it and instead that will open the door for their team-mates. I think we’ll see a similar race to last year where a selection is made on the cobbles, rather than the VAM-berg. If the group contains a rider from Boles, Sunweb, Orica, Canyon, WM3 and one of the sprinters teams then that will be it gone for the day. Obviously there might be more than one rider from each of those teams and then we get a really tactical battle!

After being horribly unlucky in her first two races, and picking up a second place just over a week ago, I fancy Amy Pieters to pick up Boels’ first win of the season here. She’s clearly in good form and loves the cobbles. Not only packing a strong sprint after a tough day, she’s a very attacking rider so won’t be afraid to take it up from far out.

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Coverage

You should be able to follow the race live on Saturday at 1pm GMT, either here or here.

 

Thanks for reading as always and any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win? Will we see a dominant display from Sunweb and Boels? Or will an outsider sneak away? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tirreno Adriatico 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Lido di Camaiore -> Lido di Camaiore (TTT)

Tirreno Adriatico 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Lido di Camaiore -> Lido di Camaiore (TTT)

The race starts with a carbon copy of the opening team time trial we had last year, which BMC won by 2 seconds ahead of Etixx QuickStep and a very impressive FDJ in third place.

The Route

Pan-flat and very, very fast! The winning average speed last year was 56.948km/h.

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It’s not a technical route either, pretty much an out and back course with a few turns just past the halfway point.

That’s it really, nothing else to sum up!

The Teams

BMC arrive with a very similar team to the one that won this stage last year. Phinney and De Marchi are replaced by Dennis and Küng. They’ve not taken riders from the bottom of the pile anyway when replacing them, that’s for sure! One of the best TTT teams in the world, they’ll still be disappointed after their loss in Qatar and will want to remind everyone what they can do at this race. They are the team to beat!

Reigning World Champions QuickStep arrive with a fairly solid team. They are missing a few engines such as Lampaert but they still should be capable of putting in a good time. On one hand you could argue that without a GC rider they won’t be as committed but it’s QuickStep at the end of the day and they love to try to win everything.

FDJ will hope for a repeat of last year’s performance. They’ve improved their TT roster by recruiting my favourite Swede, Tobias Ludvigsson. However, I think they’ll struggle to achieve the same success this time round, maybe losing around 20 seconds to our eventual winners.

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After being a very good TTT squad a few years ago, Team Sky seemed to lose their way for a while. However, last year they seemed to regain their mojo in the discipline picking up a win in the opening stage at the Vuelta. They have a really good mix of riders here and are my dark horse to do well.

Movistar are always a solid TTT outfit but they struggle to perform outside of Spain at times. They do have a good team here to limit Quintana’s losses as much as possible but I can’t see them challenging for the win.

Lotto Jumbo are the new kids on the block in terms of TTT prowess. They’ve fast developed to be one of the best in the discipline and will be hoping for a podium spot to give Gesink and Roglic a good footing for the coming week.

Away from those teams, Orica, Sunweb and Bahrain will all hope to limit losses for their GC leaders and potentially nab a top 5 placing if they’re lucky.

Prediction

BMC are the team to beat and the most likely winners. They come here with an even better squad than that which won here last year!

Tirreno-Adriatico - Stage 1

I’ll go with Sky to get in the top 3 though and possibly upset the applecart with a win if something crazy happens!

Betting

Some were lucky to get a massive 5/2 on BMC earlier today with Paddy Power. Unfortunately now as other bookmakers priced up they’ve been instated as the clear and rightful, odds on favourites in some places.

I still think they’ll win and I’m not letting the odds deter me this time! A big day ahead!

6pts WIN BMC @ 5/6 with Betfair. (would take 4/6)

1.5pt EW on Sky @ 11/1 with Betfair – they’re paying 3 places and 1/4 odds (would take 10/1)

1pt on this H2H treble with Bet365 that pays @ 6.98/1

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Thanks again for reading and as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win? Are BMC unbeatable? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Women’s Strade Bianche 2017 Preview; Siena -> Siena

Women’s Strade Bianche 2017 Preview; Siena -> Siena

The second season of the Women’s World Tour kicks off and what a race to start it with! Strade Bianche itself has been ran as a women’s race alongside the men’s event for the past two years, with this year being the third edition. It’s a hard race to predict (getting my excuses in nice and early) with it being the first race for many riders and form being a bit unknown. Nonetheless, Strade is always action packed with crashes, attacks and some testing conditions at times. Whoever wins is more than deserving of their crown!

Boels Dolmans are undefeated in this race, with Guarnier winning in 2015 and Deignan (then Armitstead) winning last year’s event.

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Can they make it three in a row this year?

Let’s take a look at what’s in store for the riders…

The Route

*Word of warning, these profiles are a train wreck and none of them match up. But I’ll persevere!*

A tough day from the off as the riders face some rolling terrain as they head out on their loop from Siena.

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In fact, they face their first section of dirt roads after only 11.4km!

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I’m not sure if there is an issue with the profile or the route map, but the two don’t match up together, we have two extra dirt-road sections at the start of the race. Going off of Google Maps, the 4.7km and 4.4km sections are paved, normal road. So just ignore the 2nd and 3rd bits of Strade on the profile!

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That doesn’t look like Strade Bianche to me! (The first major climb of the race after 17km – just before Fontazzi)

Typical of Italian road books and profiles, the climb just looks like a little blip. Yet, it’s 5.7km long and averages 5.3% in gradient (Strava segment can be viewed here). It’s not the toughest ascent the women’s peloton will face this year but considering it’s position so early on in the race and how aggressively the bunch rides in these types of races: I would not be surprised if some riders get spat out the back.

Once over the top we have a descent -> plateau (no gravel here either) -> descent (there is gravel here).

The most challenging section of white roads comes at 58.5km into the race and is 9.5km long. This part features several sharp, short ascents mixed in with fast descents and some false flats. Taking it as a whole, it’s 9.5km at 1.8% but that certainly doesn’t tell the whole story!

We then have a lot of undulating normal road (how boring eh?!), before reaching the final 20km. Again, the following profile does not match what’s on the map, or even the other profile above. In fact, the profile below has the race ending at 121km, whereas the other profile has it as 127km long. Eugh.strade-bianche-we-2017-1480508255

There are two short sections of strade before we get to this final 20km profile that we see above.

This part of the course is constantly up and down, and it will really sap the riders legs. A big attack can be made on the final section of gravel, with the steep gradients on offer. From there, any riders left together at the front will possibly leave it to a showdown up the final climb to the square in Siena like we saw last year.

With some ramps of 16%, it’s a real grind at the end of a tough day!

How will the race play out?

As I mentioned above, women’s racing is often very attacking from the gun and I expect that to be no different on Saturday. It’s very unlikely we’ll see a breakaway get a substantial lead, if at all! With the first climb (5.7km at 5.3%) coming after only 17km, I think we’ll see the first selection made here, with the pace of the peloton being slowly ramped up.

From there on, it will be a race of attrition and teams attentively following any moves at the head of the race, making sure to try to get someone up the road whenever there is an attack. Therefore having a strong team is very important so that you can rotate attacks and share the work.

However, the race will more than likely be won by the strongest rider on the day, who’s also had their fair share of luck! Speaking of which…

Contenders

Boels Dolmans have won this race on both occasions and will be looking to make it three in a row this year. They have an incredibly talented squad with three very plausible winners in their line-up. Defending champion Lizzie Deignan will be hoping for a repeat of last year’s great performance. She was exceptionally strong that day, riding Johansson and Niewiadoma off her wheel on the final climb. However, she didn’t seem the same rider in the latter half of last year and without any racing so far this season, I’m just not sure if she’ll manage a repeat win. Oddly enough, I do think Anna van der Breggen can go well, even with no racing in her legs!

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The Dutchwoman continued on from here breakthrough 2015, with an equally brilliant 2016; managing to win La Flèche, the European Road Championships and the Olympics! Win wise, it was actually a worse year, so I’m sure she’ll be motivated to get back onto the top step of the podium more this year. This race presents a great opportunity to start off on the right foot. One of the best climbers in the peloton, she’s not a rider you can give much leeway!

Finally, to finish off the trio of Boels’ riders is inaugural World Tour Winner, Megan Guarnier. Like her team-mate AVB, Guarnier is one of the best natural climbers in the peloton but she also packs a good sprint after a tough day. Already with some racing in her legs she won’t want to go much longer without a win.

Away from Boels, the most successful current rider in the peloton, Marianne Vos, returns to road racing with her new team WM3. She’s an exceptionally strong rider, yet she’s not the best climber so this race doesn’t suit her perfectly. I’m sure she’ll love the gravel sections, considering her cyclo-cross background but instead I think it will be her younger team-mate who takes the limelight. Kasia Niewiadoma is arguable the biggest climbing and one day talent in the peloton at the moment. At just 21 years old, last season she managed to finish 2nd at this race, 4th at Flèche and picked up a few GC wins to boot. Finishing in the second group at Omloop (a race that doesn’t really suit her), highlights to me that she is starting this season well and can’t be discounted!

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Elisa Longo Borghini will arrive as Wiggle High5’s protected rider. The Italian has started the season in splendid form, picking up a solid 5th place at Omloop and like Niewiadoma that race doesn’t suit her characterisitcs. What I found more impressive though was her display the next day in Hageland. She seemed to be in every move that went off the front on the climbs and she still had enough energy left to attack in the final 10km, nearly holding off the bunch. Having finished 3rd and 4th here in the past and with Claudia Lichtenberg to support her, I think she’s a shoe-in for the podium again.

Those riders are the favourites but there are certainly others who can upset the apple-cart. Like with my men’s Samyn preview, I’ve written a lot more than expected already, so I’ll just briefly highlight some names to watch out for!

Canyon SRAM: Amialiusik, Cecchini (Think it’s too early for Ferrand-Prevot).

Cervélo-Bigla: Moolman.

Orica-Scott: Van Vleuten, Garfoot.

Sunweb: Kirchmann.

Prediction

I’ve had this rider in mind for this race for the past week and I’ve seen/heard nothing to convince me otherwise. Boels’ dry spell will continue and instead it will be Italian, Elisa Longo Borghini who takes the win! As I’ve said above, she looked exceptionally strong on the climbs in Hageland so she must already be in scintillating form. Having not finished outside the top 4 in this race, she knows what’s in store and now a year older and more experienced she ticks all the boxes for me.

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Coverage

According to the UCI website, an hour of the race is supposed to be televised…

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but I haven’t seen anything on the Eurosport schedule to suggest it will be. It might be on the Player rather than the actual channel? I hope we do get something as it’s going to be a very exciting race! Furthermore, it would be a disappointment for the first WWT race not to have coverage, considering that is one of the main improvements touted for this year. If we do get something I’ll most certainly tweet it out!

Nonetheless, thanks for reading and as usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win? I don’t normally beg for RTs and Shares but if you could be ever so kind and help to raise the profile of the race and some discussion on social media then that would be great 👍 . Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.