Tour de France 2018 Stage 11 Preview: Albertville -> La Rosière Espace San Bernardo

Today’s Recap

Damp squib GC wise with no-one really testing the water, it was more a case of them all looking at it from the picnic blanket. Nonetheless, we did see some guys lose time already which is not great.

As for the stage win there was no-one stopping Alaphilippe today, he was truly sensational. He was one of the main riders driving the early attempts to get into the break and he didn’t stop all day. Eventually going solo on the foot slopes of the Colombière after bridging to and dropping Taaramaë, he continued to increase his lead over the rest of the breakaway and had plenty of time to celebrate by the time he reached the line.

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Ion Izagirre won the two-up sprint with Taaramaë for second place on the day. A special hat-tip must go to Van Avermaet who went on the attack today just like he did back in 2016 and he managed to extend his lead in the yellow jersey. Can he hold on to it after tomorrow’s stage? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Second day in the Alps and we have the shortest stage of the three and a carbon copy of Dauphiné stage 6.

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The organisers have managed to pack four categorised climbs into 108.5km of racing, including two HC-Cat efforts, totalling a tad over 4000m of elevation. That’s an awful lot, maybe too much. It is a bit of a weird day but in terms of average gradient the climbs are almost inverted with the toughest ascents coming at the start of the day.

Facing an uncategorised drag from the gun it isn’t long until the riders start climbing proper and they face the Montée de Bisanne.

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At an average of 8.2% for 12.4km it is pretty tough to say the least but the second half of the ascent is the toughest. Several kilometres where the gradient is above 9% might see plenty in the peloton struggle.

A long descent follows before they start climbing again.

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The Col du Pré and Cormet de Roseland can pretty much be rolled into one. The Pré is another long climb which averages 7.7% but it is again the latter two-thirds of it that are more difficult with an average of roughly 9%. A short descent and plateau follows before they hit the easier Roseland. Given what they have covered already, the 6.5% average will seem easy!

A long 20km or so descent then sees the riders hit the final climb of the day.

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The hardest part of the climb comes in the middle third but with an easy 4.5km at roughly 4.7% at the end of the stage, will we see any GC riders try to go early? If not, then it will be hard to drop anyone later on.

How will the stage pan out?

A short stage could mean some GC attacking from the gun but as we saw today, everyone was being very cagey and defensive on the climbs. Not that they could do much as Sky set a strong tempo to try to deter attacks. We’re really none the wiser as to the bigger GC picture from today aside that the guys dropped this afternoon came out of the rest day a little shaky.

Sky looked ominously strong this afternoon and took a stranglehold on the race. If they wanted to bring back the break then they could have but they played a good tactical hand by letting Van Avermaet increase his lead, hoping that he can stay in Yellow for at least another day. This doesn’t put as much pressure onto the British outfit to chase but they theoretically have Thomas in yellow who sits close to 50 seconds ahead of his nearest rival. They’re sitting very pretty at the moment.

A lot of people will have hope that the shorter stage tomorrow will entice crazy GC attacks but we saw today no-one was willing to risk anything, it is too early in the Tour for that. I think it will be a similar scenario tomorrow with the GC riders waiting until the final climb to give it a go.

Therefore it is up to Sky to chase the break down if they want the stage win. They are very good at utilising their resources well and we have seen a shift in their mindset over the past season and they don’t necessarily want to go for every stage. I think they let the break go tomorrow with all eyes on Alpe d’Huez on Thursday.

So time to play everyone’s favourite game…

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Damiano Caruso.

It was a solid effort from the BMC rider as he stuck with the GC favourites group up until the very end of the Colombière when he was dropped along with the likes of Majka and Mollema. With Porte no longer in the race then BMC are hunting stages and Caruso looks like one of their best options for tomorrow. He sits 11 minutes down on GC so is not an immediate threat and will be given some leeway. Furthermore, he has the advantage of racing this stage in the Dauphiné so should know what to expect out on the road. Can he seize the opportunity now that he has the chance or his own goals?

Gorka Izagirre.

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Having his best ever season, the newly crowned Spanish champion watched his brother up the road today and will possibly want in on some of the action tomorrow. Nibali clearly isn’t afraid of sending some of his stronger domestiques up the road and I think we will see something similar with Gorka. If he is on a similar level to those Spanish championships then the final climb is perfect for him as the Bahrain rider packs a very good sprint from a reduced group and he would fancy himself from the break.

Daniel Martinez.

With Uran losing time toady I expect EF Education to go on the attack tomorrow and they have two potential stage winning candidates. The first of those is the youngster Martinez who transferred from Willier in the winter. A strong climber and great talent he might use his slight anonymity to his advantage if up ahead. Although I don’t know how anyone is able to keep a low-profile in a bright pink jersey! He’s showed some strong GC results this year already but can he take that elusive win?

Pierre Rolland. 

The experienced Frenchman is bound to find himself in the breakaway over the coming few weeks so why not start with tomorrow?! He has arrived at this race in good form with a solid 8th place showing overall in the Dauphiné. Now with the opportunity for more freedom, he will hope to replicate that level of performance on stage 11. He broke his several season GT winning duck last year when he won a stage during the Giro and that will certainly have given him a lot of confidence. I’m sure the French public would love back to back winners.

Prediction

Another GC stale-mate, at least for the stage anyway, as everyone waits for Alpe d’Huez. Instead, we will see Damiano Caruso winning the day, after taking advantage of some new-found freedom in this race.

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It wouldn’t be a bad place to pick up your first WT level stage win!

Betting

I don’t fancy some of the guys I’ve listed at their current odds so at the moment I’m just going to go with…

0.5pt EW Gorka Izagirre @ 200/1.

Will post anything else up on Twitter later if I fancy some other riders not listed here etc.

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think wins tomorrow and why? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2018 Stage 9 Preview: Arras Citadelle -> Roubaix

Today’s Recap

Nothing much happened all day until a crash with roughly 17km to go saw several riders go down. Dan Martin was the biggest GC name to go down and he looked battered and bruised when he got back on his bike. Despite a furious chase from his team who got a helping hand from Cofidis, he would ultimately lose 1’16 to his GC rivals.

In the sprint it was Groenewegen who doubled up, making his effort to the line look very easy – he time it perfectly!

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Greipel produced a solid effort to come second with Gaviria rounding out the podium in third. The less said about Kittel the better, he was awful, no cohesion with his team-mates in the finale.

Onto tomorrow!

The Route

The day every spectator has been waiting for since the route was announced and seemingly the peloton have had the same idea given the lack of action over the past couple of stages.

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It’s cobbles time and the riders will face the largest amount of pavé that has been included in the Tour for a long time: at 21.7km of the stuff.

 

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The majority of the cobbles come in the second half of the stage and they will no doubt lead to nervous racing within the bunch. Some of the sections will be familiar if you’re a regular watcher of Paris-Roubaix (who isn’t?!), such as Mons-en-Pévèle. I could try to decipher which sectors are going to be the most important but given previous history of cobbles in this race, it could be any of them!

Expect some gaps to form at just under the half-way mark as the riders face 4.4km of cobbles in roughly 6kms. From there it will be action throughout the day with the last sector finishing only 6.5km from the line.

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Given the technical run-in from the last section, I definitely don’t think the organisers intend on a large group coming to the line together. Disappointingly the riders don’t finish inside the Velodrome but instead the finish on the road that is parallel to it. I guess something has to be kept special for Paris Roubaix.

The cobbles and route aren’t crazy compared to the Hell of the North but given the large number of GC riders we have here, they don’t have to be. Some of the overall contenders will no longer be in contention after tomorrow, whether that be through crashes or unfortunately timed mechanicals.

Team Tactics

There are plenty of classics specialists in the peloton who could theoretically win the stage tomorrow but their main role throughout the day might be shepherding their GC man/men. We then have guys without GC men who will definitely be trying to go for the win, then riders who have GC riders but are given a free card. It is just about trying to figure who falls into each category. So below I’m going to try to split some of the contenders into the three categories…

Riders with no GC guy at all: Boasson Hagen, DémareGreipel, Politt.

Riders with a GC guy who might be given freedom: Sagan, GVA, Thomas*, Any QS rider, Kristoff, Stuyven, Degenkolb.**

*Included Thomas here even though he is a GC rider as given his history on the cobbles he should go well. Doubt he gets asked to work for Froome too.

**I think only one of Stuyven/Degenkolb will be given freedom with the other working for Mollema.

Riders with a GC guy who are apparently working for them: Vanmarcke, Phinney, Valgren, Naesen, Rowe, Theuns, Colbrelli, Dubridge, Hayman, +more that I’ve probably missed.

So I’m only going to consider riders from the first two categories for the win.

The Belgian Cobble-trotters

Quick Step arrive with a team that might not be as stacked as their spring campaign but it is not far off of it! They have Jungels for GC, who himself won the junior Paris Roubaix, so it will be interesting to see how many riders they dedicate to his cause. No doubt Declerq, Gaviria, Richeze and Alaphilippe will offer their help but he will probably need the guidance and support of one of the following…

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Niki Terpstra – Winner of this year’s Tour of Flanders, it is hard to deny that the Dutchman is a class act on cobbles. He’s a bit of a divisive character in the peloton but there aren’t many guys who you would rather on your team for this stage. With his success in the Spring, will he be asked to stay behind and work for his GC man? Or will it be the opposite and he’ll get given the go ahead?

Yves Lampaert – As you probably know, I’m a big fan of Yves and it was great to see him win the Belgian championships recently. It is good to see him stepping up and showing the quality that people saw when he was a junior – touted as a half Boonen/Museeuw combo. Often the workhorse, he might be rewarded with a free card to play tomorrow. The Belgian champion winning a cobbled stage at the Tour would be a sight to behold.

Philippe Gilbert – The rider with the most to gain, he could move into the Yellow jersey with a stage win. His quest to win five didn’t exactly go to plan in the Spring and he often ended up playing the good team-mate role, sandbagging the back of groups while his squad rode away up ahead. There’s no doubt in my mind that he will be allowed to do as best as he can tomorrow but will it be enough?

So Gilbert will definitely be given a free card and I think the fact Lampaert is now Belgian Champion helps him massively in the QS pecking order. Therefore, I think Terpstra will be the designated guardian for Jungels. Maybe. It could, and most likely will, just be decided out on the road.

The Two Cobbled Kings

Van Avermaet.

Currently in yellow, the Belgian has made it very clear that he is going for the stage tomorrow and will be allowed to do what he sees fit. Porte even confirmed that after today’s proceedings with the rest of the BMC squad to help him. Van Avermaet didn’t have a great spring campaign and often found himself marked out of races when he wasn’t able to drop everyone. He looks stronger here and I would be surprised not to see him at the head of affairs. Will he be able to beat his nemesis?

Peter Sagan.

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Already a winner in Roubaix this year, Sagan could have the Green Jersey all but sewn up if he takes the stage tomorrow. Not many will be able to match his brute power over the cobbles so it will need to be a tactical race for him to not be in a winning position. Unfortunately for him, I can see that happening.

The Outisde Picks

Yves Lampaert.

Following on from above, I think tomorrow will get very tactical near the end of the day and having numbers at the head of the race will be of a massive benefit for a team. No doubt Quick Step will be in that position. Lampaert will be the least marked of their trident and he might just be able to slip away and take the stage. We’ve seen in the past that if he gets a 20 second gap then it will be very difficult for anyone to bring him back.

Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Slowly building himself into the race, the Dimension Data did a monster turn on the front of the bunch for Cavendish this afternoon. Tomorrow should be all about him and the team will be behind him 100%. After struggling a bit at the start of the year his form has picked up, nabbing a few top 10s here and there. He still hasn’t shown similar form to what he had at this race last year but that could change tomorrow, the route looks perfect for his attributes. If he arrives in a small group of 3 or 4 then he would be a big favourite in the sprint.

Prediction

I’m going for a Jasper Stuyven win though!

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I’ve had this day circled down for him after surprisingly seeing him finish in the front group on stage 5, a day that wasn’t ideal for him so the form must be there. Other than that he has been keeping quiet and I think with one eye on tomorrow. During the spring campaign he was the most consistent rider, managing to finish in the top 10 of E3, Gent Wevelgem, Dwars, Flanders and Roubaix. Not bad! Stuyven is one of those special riders who can power away from people and hold his own in a solo tt, see his win in Kuurne as an example of that. However, he also possesses a fast sprint from a reduced group and he would fancy his chances of a result in a 4-5 rider gallop.

As for the GC riders, who knows how it will go. I wish them all the best of luck!

Betting

1pt EW Stuyven @ 28/1 

0.25pt EW EBH @ 33/1

0.5pt WIN Lampaert @ 18/1

All with Bet365

Using that saved Kittel 1pt on a more sensible bet.

Buy Me A Beer

Back with the shameless self promotion but if you have enjoyed the opening 9 days worth of previews then you can kindly donate the price of a beer/coffee to me through this link. Helps keep me topped up through stages like the past two days. Thanks in advance if you do decide to do so.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2018 Stage 5 Preview: Lorient -> Quimper

Today’s Recap

It finished in a bunch sprint, just, after the break of the day were caught just under 2kms to go. The frantic chase to catch them combined with the wide open road saw some riders go down as people tried to move up, with Zakarin being the main GC loser, shipping a shade under a minute.

The sprint was really messy but it was Gaviria who came out on top again thanks to some great work from Richeze, with Sagan and Greipel rounding out the podium.

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Will the fast Colombian be a feature tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

A day where a lot of things could potentially happen, it looks as if the route has taken inspiration from the Tour du Finistère but has made the parcours a lot more difficult. There are no massive climbs or anything overly challenging gradient wise, but the constant up and down on narrow roads might make things nervous.

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As you can see on the profile, the final 50km of the day are very undulating and include two Cat-3 climbs along with many small uncategorised rises. Potential places for a counter attack depending on the race situation? Interestingly, the time bonus sprint comes at the top of a hill, the Côte de la chappelle de la Lorette which itself averages a very punchy 9.1% for 700m.

I’ve made a Veloviewer profile of the final 15km that you can view here.

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The first rise on the road is the Bonus sprint point and it features ramps of almost 15% on narrow roads. I’m intrigued to see if any of the GC contenders will try to push on and take a few seconds. Will it be worth the effort or will they even get the freedom to do so?

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A small descent and another short ramp follow before several kilometres of flat and descent. After that we then reach the second and easier climb in the final 15km.

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At only 4.7% for close to 1.3km it shouldn’t cause too many issues but it will depend on how splintered the peloton is as to how easy it is to control. The wider road should help in that respect.

The fighting for position will be very intense once we are into the final 2kms as the riders will want to be near the front for when they turn off the two-lane main road onto a narrower one-track street.

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470m at 8.2% sees the riders into the last 400m where the road itself constantly rises and falls ever so slightly as they twist and turn towards the finish line.

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The last corner comes at roughly 200m to go and given its quite sharp nature and road furniture on exit, I don’t think the organisers expect a big group to be coming to the line together. Being in second or third wheel at that point gives you a great chance for the win.

The final kilometre is the exact same as in the Tour de Finistère so you can have a look on the video above to get an idea of what it is like.

How will the stage pan out?

One of those days where a lot of things can happen.

We could see the break go early and stay away to the line if there is no one of real danger for the overall in it, or if BMC are happy enough to let the jersey slip. Although with the team in difficulty for next year then I don’t think that will be the case.

Dependent on how tough the day is race we might actually have some small GC time gaps at the end of the day if people are caught behind splits on the run in, similar to what we had in the Giro stage that Wellens won, albeit that was a much tougher final climb. We might even see some GC attacks if someone is feeling lively: Yates and Valverde could be two protagonists as they are the type to go for it on this finish. The bonus seconds might turn out handy at the end of the race.

Which brings me nicely to the time bonus sprint at the top of the steep 700m hill. Will we see the aforementioned GC guys go for it there? If they do then the race will be incredibly stretched out and difficult to control with only 12km to go once they pass through the point. A small escape group might form there and make it to the line.

If not, it will come down to a gallop up the finish hill with some no doubt trying to string it out on the steeper opening part, hoping to put the faster riders into difficulty. In theory, the likes of Colbrelli, Matthews and Sagan should be able to fight for the victory with the latter starting as the big favourite for the day. However, if the pace has been high on the earlier climbs it might take the sting out of their sprints. Likewise, if we see a massive attack on the final ascent it could be difficult for them. I wouldn’t put it past Sagan being that guy to attack though!

I could name countless riders and the different situations in which they *might* win but I’m going to keep it simple and just go with two. So in the words of Ciara…

One-Two Step

Julian Alaphilippe and Philippe Gilbert.

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There’s no point even separating the two of them here because they are both a very similar type of rider for this finish. Both of them are incredibly explosive and pack a punchy effort in the sprint just after a climb. After their success in two of the four stages so far I think Quick Step will want to continue their dominance at the race tomorrow by trying to take the yellow jersey, again. There is a possibility that they might save their efforts for the Mur de Bretagne on Thursday but this is Quick Step we are talking about: they only know how to win! It will be interesting to see how they approach the finale and if one of them attacks early. I think we might see Gilbert used as an early attacker on the time bonus climb, with Alaphilippe waiting to go all out at the finish. Or the other way round, who knows!

Prediction

Gilbert to be rewarded for his season so far where he has been a super team-mate for others by taking the win and spending another day in the yellow jersey.

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Betting

Tweeted out my picks when the market went live and prices have shortened a little but would still take what they are at now.

1pt WIN Gilbert @ 20/1 (now 18/1)

1pt WIN Alaphilippe @ 20/1 (now 16/1)

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tour de France 2018 GC Preview

Tour de France 2018 GC Preview

In 2017 we saw a rather dominant Chris Froome win by ‘only’ 54 seconds ahead of Rigoberto Uran with Romain Bardet edging Landa by one second to round out the GC podium.

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I say ‘only’ above as it was actually Froome’s smallest winning margin in all 4 of his victories so far, but he never looked in that much trouble throughout the three weeks. Obviously it was a measured effort so that he could go on to win the Vuelta later in the year, then the Giro this year. Can he make it an incredible 5th Tour win and 4th GT win in a row?

No fancy business here because as I’ll be doing daily stage previews I’m just ducking any route analysis here and just jumping straight into the favourites. I would recommend this preview from Road.cc though as they cover each stage in concise paragraphs. Much better than my ramblings!

I’m also going to be blunt with some riders as I don’t really rate their overall chances. Also you’ll have read many previews by now and if I’m honest, I can’t really bothered to rehash what others have said.

Anyway, onto the contenders and pretenders…

The Favourite 

Chris Froome.

Despite what your opinion is (I’m sure you all know mine by now) on the whole salbutamol case, the bottom line is that Froome is cleared and is here to race. Nothing like a bit of pre-Tour drama though with ASO apparently going to ban him before UCI/WADA announcing the following day that his case was dropped. More drama than Love Island!

At the Giro Froome was seemingly way off the pace but two remarkable days on the bike, Zoncolan and Stage 19, saw him claw back an almost 3 minute deficit to Dumoulin with some more left in the bag. With an extra week between the Giro and Tour, he should have recovered reasonably well. His team is super strong, as you would expect, and he will have a lot of support on the flat and in the mountains. It will be interesting to see how he can handle the cobbled stage – it will certainly bring back bad memories from crashing out in 2014. No doubt he starts as the favourite and will gain time in the efforts against the clock but can we really expect a rider to win four Grand Tours in a row? I hope not, for the sake of the sport.

The Waiting for Froome to falter-ers

Richie Porte.

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Can Richie survive a Grand Tour without a bad day? That is the million dollar question. If he does, then he will play a massive role in the outcome of this race. Arguably the best rider on a 15 minute climb in the World, he will hope to display some of that trademark out of the saddle “sprint-climbing” in this race. At the Tour de Suisse he was strong and took home that race but I get the sense that he still wasn’t at 100%, there is still room for improvement from him. Compared to what he has been used to in the past couple of seasons this looks like his strongest BMC support team. They have all terrain covered to shepherd Porte around France and he should be able to rely on Van Garderen and Caruso deep into many of the mountain days. I started off this season thinking that Porte would win the race and although my mind has been slightly changed, he still starts as one to beat if he stays on his bike.

Romain Bardet. 

The AG2R man has finished on the podium the past two years and will be hoping for a similar result this year, if not better. A third in the recent Dauphiné was a good and highlights that his form is heading in the right direction but that he has not peaked too soon. In last year’s edition of the race I loved the way AG2R attacked Sky in the mountains and they bring an even stronger squad with them this time out. He shouldn’t lose a crazy amount of time in the TTT as a result but I do have a slight worry for him on the cobbled stage. Then again, who of the GC contenders will truly be comfortable then? A big day is needed from Naesen! In the mountains he (alongside Porte) is one of the few riders I am confident can actually challenge Froome. With a few stages ending in descents from climbs, he will be in his element and certainly put pressure on the other GC contenders.

Nairo Quintana.

Is the Colombian back to his climbing best? It looks like it after his strong showing in the Tour de Suisse and he was particularly impressive holding off the group of GC contenders on the shallow drag before the final steeper ramps of Arosa. He forms a very strong attacking trident with Valverde and Landa and I’m really looking forward to see how they approach the race. I just hope that at least two of them are in contention after the cobbled stage. We saw in 2015 just how strong Nairo can be in the final week of the race in the high mountains and the rest of his challengers will be concerned if he is within 2 minutes going into the closing stages. No doubt we’ll certainly see some enthusiastic Colombian fans at the side of the road!

The Podium Outsiders

Right, shorter musings from now on.

Vincenzo Nibali.

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Winner of the Tour when the race last visited the cobbles, the Bahrain rider has had a pretty average year so far. However, he knows how to peak for a race and he can never be discounted. With a strong team to support him, we will probably see him on the attack as he will no doubt have to claw some time back after the TTT.

Rigoberto Uran.

A surprising second place last year, I think it will be hard for the Colombian to repeat the feat this time around. He found some race sharpness in Slovenia recently but I just don’t think he has enough to do it. Then again, no one really mentioned him last year and look what happened.

Alejandro Valverde.

Mr Evergreen, Valverde has been incredibly strong this season so far, having won the GC of every stage race he has competed in. It was scary how easy things were for him in the recent La Route d’Occitanie, using the attacks of Elissonde and Navarro as training – deliberately letting gaps grow so he could close them down. He’s another that will probably be chasing time after the TTT but I look forward to his venture onto the cobbles – he didn’t do too badly in Dwars this year.

Adam Yates. 

Have Mitchelton learnt from his brother’s epic collapse at the Giro? In strong form after his second in the Dauphine (the gap to Porte would have only be a handful of seconds if it was not for the TTT), he will be able to rely on a well-rounded squad focussed solely on him. Can he handle the pressure?

Jakob Fuglsang.

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If there was ever a year when Fuglsang could seriously challenge for a podium spot then this would be it. He has a solid team built around him that should be able to support him on most terrain. Back in 2014 he was the one doing the majority of the work when Nibali gained a load of time on the cobbles so no doubt he’ll be licking his lips at that stage. We saw in the Tour de Suisse that he was stronger than Porte on the last day of climbing and he followed that up with a blistering TT. Has he managed to hold form?

Top 10 Fillers

Ilnur Zakarin.

The Katusha man is one of those riders that could really fall into a couple of categories in this preview. I fear he’ll lose some time in the TT and given his poor bike handling the cobbles will be an issue too. However, we saw in the Vuelta last year that he was one of the best climbers in the last week. It all depends on the opening 9 days though.

Geraint Thomas.

Team Sky Plan B but when has a Team Sky Plan B ever actually won a race? I certainly can’t recall a time. Needs Froome to drop out within the opening 9 days for him to get a dedicated team around him. Will he wait for his captain on the cobbles as theoretically he should be one of the strongest GC riders. It will be interesting to see how it plays out within the team.

Bob Jungels.

I rate him as a rider but I feel he’s just going to be a “he’s there” kind of rider this Tour. Top 10 would be a good result.

Daniel Martin.

Terrible team means he will lose a lot of time in the TTT and he will lose a lot of time on the cobbles too. Stage hunting later in the race would be a good idea if he just doesn’t want to ride for a top 10.

Steven Kruijswijk.

See Jungels.

Bauke Mollema.

See Kruijswijk.

The Pretenders

Riders that won’t top 10 despite a lot of people thinking they will. Ready to eat my hat here.

Primoz Roglic.

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He seems to be everyone’s favourite wildcard for the race but I just can’t see it. Having won both Itzulia and Romandie he then returned to racing recently and took the crown at his home tour. Unproven and untested, I think he will once again go for stage wins and focus on contending for the GC in a GT next year.

Tom Dumoulin.

The Sunweb rider has never done two GTs back to back while going for GC. After the brutally tough Giro I think he will fall short here and instead focus on going for some stage wins. The way that Sunweb approached this race to me seemed that Kelderman was going to be their GC candidate with Dumoulin acting as a decoy to deflect attention but unfortunately Kelderman crashed and can’t take the start.

Mikel Landa.

The boldest of the three riders listed here, I just can’t get behind the Landa train. I think something will go wrong for him on one of the days and with the two more established Movistar riders possibly getting a little extra support, Landa will lose his hopes on the cobbles. If he is in contact though I would love to see Rogue Landa again.

Egan Bernal.

Exceptional talent but he’ll fall into line, a.k.a behind Thomas and Poels. We might see something similar to Moscon at the Vuelta where he is exceptional for a while but due to his age he won’t be consistent.

Prediction

Probably Froome, innit.

But after resigning myself to that fate at the Giro I’m going to predict a more fairytale result here and go with Bardet to take home the first French win in a long time.

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Allez Romain!

Betting

Three pre-Tour bets for me, all that I’ve tweeted out over the past couple of weeks.

2pts EW Bardet @ 18/1 for GC (he’s actually out to 20/1 with Betfair Sportsbook but I would take the 16/1 widely available elswhere)

1.5pt Valverde Top 3 at 7/1 (available at Bet365 and Will Hill)

1pt EW Demare Points Classification at 20/1 (with Coral/Lads)

I had set aside 10pts for outright market bets but this is not the year to bet on KOM pre race but I might fancy something during the race.

Let’s just hope for a better Tour than Giro punting wise, I’ll be sticking to my favourite rule: 2pts a day keeps the debt collector away!

Thanks for reading as always and hope you enjoyed the preview. Who do you think will go on to win the race overall? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 20 Preview; Marseille -> Marseille

Today’s Recap

I was disappointed to wake up this afternoon to see a 20-rider breakaway up the road and none of the picks represented. Even more disappointed when scrolling through the Le Tour Race Centre feed to see that Bauer and McCarthy were involved in an earlier move, oh well!

The breakaway stayed together over the last climb and we were treated to a very tactical battle in the final 40km.

Countless attacks went and were brought back but we did see a split over a slight rise which cut the group in half. From there, we had even more attacks but it was a roundabout inside the final 3km that decided the race. The majority of the front group took the left side, whereas Arndt and Boasson Hagen took the right, much shorter side.

The Norwegian picked up the pace just as Arndt was reaching his limit and swung over. Using a friendly moto he got a 5-10m gap and that was the race over from there! After all his close calls so far this race it is good to see him take the win.

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Arndt held on to finish second, with Keukeleire winning the reduced bunch gallop for third.

With all the GC riders rolling home together, let’s have a look at what’s in store for them tomorrow.

The Route

A pan-flat TT apart from one very short and sharp climb.

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The route is a very interesting one as the climb only makes up just over 5% of the stage. However, being an average of 9.5% for that 1.2km it will probably take the riders closer to roughly 12% of their total time.

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The climb is steep and will certainly ruin the rhythm of the TT specialists. I wonder if we’ll see any bike changes before it? Personally I would say it is not worth it but you never know!

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Aside from the climb, the course is more technical than the opening TT we saw in Düsseldorf. The roads are narrow, particularly along the Corniche, with the riders having to contend with a few tight turns and roundabouts. However, there are plenty of long straight sections for the powerhouses in the peloton to put the Watts down.

It will be a close battle between the TT specialists and the all-round GC riders for the stage win.

Quite often in a TT the changing weather throughout the day will play a part in deciding the outcome. However, it appears tomorrow that all the riders should have dry conditions with the later starts possibly benefiting from a drop in wind speed. Although that depends on what source you look at!

Contenders

Roglic.

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After crashing in the opening TT, the Jumbo rider has since turned things around and took an excellent stage win a couple of days ago. An excellent rider against the clock he should be there or thereabouts but I think he might have actually preferred a harder course with a longer descent!

Froome.

The last TT in a Tour means Froome normally turns up. He crushed Dumoulin last year in the closing time trial and the same can be said for his effort in the Vuelta TT where he put 45 seconds into joint stage favourite Castroviejo. The route looks ideal for the Brit with power sections where he can, erm, put the power down, but the climb should be suited to him too. The only issue is that he hasn’t looked great this Tour so far, yet he finds himself in Yellow. He’s the type of rider who will want to win a stage on his way to winning the race overall and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the top step tomorrow.

Küng.

Second place in the opening TT, the Swiss rider did very well to set a fast time when everyone else around him seemed to be struggling in the wet weather. He’s been anonymous since then but has possibly been saving himself for this effort. Tomorrow’s route looks similar to recent closing TT in the Tour de Suisse where he was second behind a flying Dennis. Can he repeat that performance tomorrow?

Martin.

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After failing to make a dream start to his race back in Düsseldorf, Martin has dabbled in a few breakaways since then. The climb is really steep for a guy like him, we saw what happened to him on the steep slopes during his solo breakaway. However, at only 1.2km long he will fancy his chances of powering up it. He should finish in the top 5 but I’m not too confident in his form just now.

Kwiatkowski.

If Froome and Landa want the best info as to how the course rides at race pace then they’ll need a team-mate earlier in the day to go full gas. Given how well he is currently riding, Kwiatkowski could be that man. The course looks a perfect distance for “Kawasaki” and he will probably want to honour his national champions jersey by giving it a good go. The only concern is that he might decide to have an extra rest day considering all of the work he has done so far.

Castroviejo.

The Spaniard is another rider who has had a quiet time this Tour, possibly with an eye on tomorrow’s stage. A great time trial rider he will be challenging again for the win.

As for an outsider who could challenge, I’ll once again highlight Bauer. The New Zealand TT champion got into one of the early moves today so his form is still there. Having taken it easy on the opening day, I think he might give it a nudge tomorrow. It will be tough for him to win but he could possibly sneak onto the podium if he gets lucky.

Predcition

This one is tough.

I’ve chopped and changed my mind between some of the riders listed above several times so far. Making cases for and against all of them and not really coming to any concrete/confident conclusion.

Right…

If he gets to go full gas then I really think Kwiatkowski has a chance of taking a stage win and be truly rewarded for all his work over the past three weeks!

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Betting

Bit of a lottery, and the 9/4 on Froome looks tempting but he’s still too short given his not so dominant performances recently.

1.35pts EW Kwiatkowski @ 20/1 with Ladbrokes/Coral (1/4 odds for 3 places)

0.15pts EW Bauer @ 500/1 with various

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 19 Preview; Embrun -> Salon-de-Provence

Today’s Recap

A big break went early and for a while it looked as if they would contest the stage. However, AG2R drove an infernal pace before the Izoard reducing the gap to a bridgeable amount.

Barguil was the first rider to launch a major attack from the peloton and he quickly dropped Contador who initially followed.

With a bit of stalling behind, Landa shot up off the road but he didn’t look as strong as he did a week ago in the Pyrenees. Froome, Bardet and Uran eventually bridged but it was too late for the stage win.

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Barguil caught and past the only remaining breakaway rider (Atapuma) just before the last kilometre, beating the Colombian by 20 seconds in the end. This is the second Grand Tour in a row that Atapuma has finished second on the final mountain stage, coming home behind a Frenchman both times.

Bardet outsprinted Froome to gain 4 bonus seconds, while Uran lost a couple of seconds to the pair.

After all that though, the Brit is still in the driving seat to take his 4th Tour win with a TT still to come. However, there is still another road stage before then.

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

The Route

A rolling day that could/should/might end in a sprint.

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The longest stage of the whole race, the organisers must have been feeling a bit cruel when they came up with the route!

It’s not exactly a straightforward stage either, with a lot of rolling roads in the first part of the stage that it will make it difficult for the sprinters teams to control.

With the last categorised climb peaking out roughly 45km from the finish, will we see a charge from behind to catch the break?

The run-in itself is fairly technical and it will be fast as the road descends from about 5km to go until the Flamme Rouge, flattening out for the final kilometre.

stage-19-finish

A couple of tight turns could make it a messy run-in, but with the two close together the peloton should be strung out. Will anyone further behind through that section be able to close the gap in the closing 400m straight?

How will the stage pan out?

A big battle between the breakaway and sprinters.

Firstly, it depends on the attitude of the peloton. After a couple of tough mountain stages there will be a lot of tired bodies and I’m sure a lot of riders will be looking forward to a quieter day.

However, with only a TT and the processional final stage left, tomorrow is the only opportunity for anyone who is not a sprinter or TT specialist to have a good go for a result.

Matthews has the Green Jersey sewn up as long as he stays on his bike and with two stage wins to his name already, will he really make his team chase all day for a third? I think they deserve a rest!

It could actually be the other sprinters who might put their teams to work but with Kristoff and Degenkolb struggling today, I think it would only be Lotto Soudal and Dimension Data who would be willing to chase. Even then, it is a tough day for them to do that and they both have cards they could play in the break instead.

So with that all said, I think we could be in for a big breakaway day again with a group of 25-30 riders escaping up the road.

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Candidates

Two new names and two previous blog picks here;

Tony Martin.

He gave us a lot of excitement with his long-range attack on Stage 15 but was unfortunately undone by a tough climb. The rises in tomorrow’s stage are a lot easier and the powerful German should be able to handle them. If he can stay with the front group over the final Cat-3, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him try another solo attack when they reach the flatter lands and there’s a lull in the action. As everyone will expect it, he’ll have to time the move to perfection but it is certainly something he is capable of.

Jay McCarthy.

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Anyone that can average 775 Watts (12.2 w/Kg) for a minute deserves to make this list! That’s what the Aussie did when he charged through the pack towards the end of stage 14 only to fall just short and finish 5th. What could have been with better positioning! He’s been quiet since then but tomorrow looks like a good stage for him to get into the move. A good punchy climber, the ascents tomorrow shouldn’t be too hard for him and he’ll hope to make it over with the front of the breakaway. Packing a strong sprint from a reduced group, that will be his best chance of victory tomorrow. He best just hope Matthews doesn’t decide he wants to spend a day up-front!

Jack Bauer.

One of the riders of the race so far in my opinion, he has been selfless in his work for both Kittel and Martin. The work he’s done for the latter has been particularly impressive, hanging with the best on some of the toughest mountains and in a very reduced peloton. He’s clearly going very well just now! With Kittel out of the race and Martin “safe” tomorrow, I imagine Quick Step will be keen to get guys into the breakaway.

Stefan Küng.

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No stranger to a breakaway, the Swiss rider won a stage at the Tour of Romandie from the early morning move back in April. He finished second on the opening stage but has been quiet since then, apparently not being allowed to go in breakaways because he’s too tough to bring back. Although that rumour was shot down by the rider himself. Like Martin he might try to rest for the TT the following day, or alternatively he could go on the attack to test where his legs are at. He’s a strong candidate to get a result if he makes the break and I’m sure BMC will have several riders up there.

Prediction

With no sprint team really wanting to chase the breakaway fully, the morning move will stay away. Luck will be important but so will good legs! Having been so agonisingly close to a Tour stage win back in 2014, after being caught within the final 10m, Jack Bauer will get his “revenge” and take the day!

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Betting

Tweeted the selections out before…

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Wouldn’t take less than 50/1 for any of them!

 

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will tomorrow and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

Tour de France 2017 Stage 17 Preview; La Mure -> Serre-Chevalier

Today’s Recap

A day where I had 99% of the stage planned out to perfection, it’s just a shame about the final 1%!

The action was on from the start as riders tried to jump away and we had several strong moves that looked as if they could stick. However, with Matthews attacking, Quick Step were keen to chase it down, even having Dan Martin as the man following the Aussie’s moves. In hindsight though, it was a terrible idea. Kittel blew up on the climb and that was his day done and as several of his team-mates waited to pace him back, Martin was left exposed at the end of the stage.

Speaking of which, we had echelons in the closing 15km. Naesen did an incredible job to bring Bardet to the front group as they were initially distanced. The Frenchman was even quoted post-race saying that “Naesen saved my life”.

Dan Martin and Meintjes were less fortunate though and both ended up shipping 51 seconds, with Contador losing 1’33.

Matthews took the stage with a strong sprint win, beating a fast finishing Boasson Hagen and Degenkolb.

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A deserved victory for the Sunweb rider after his team did the majority of the work all day; I’m sure their DS will be pleased! The result now moves him closer to Kittel in the Green Jersey competition, only 29 points behind the German.

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

The Route

The day that in my GC preview I heralded as arguably the Queen stage.

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Starting off fairly tamely, the riders will face a shallow descent before 10km of uncategorised rising roads before the first official climb of the day begins. At only 5.1km and averaging 6.7% it’s not too difficult an opening test and I’d be very surprised if we saw some GC movement here. Well, there is one rider I think might give it a go but I’ll get to that later. What could be more interesting though is if Matthews makes the split, which I think he has a very good chance at doing.

Once over the top of the climb, the riders will descend into the valley where we have the intermediate sprint point of the day. If Matthews is capable of winning that, then he reduces the gap to Kittel in the Green Jersey competition to only 9 points.

That would certainly spice things up for the following stages!

Soon after the sprint point the riders will face the first of two HC climbs on the day; the Col de la Croix Fer. The paltry average of 5.2% is quite deceptive as the climb goes up in steps, with several kilometres above 9% but also false-flat or descending kilometres. However, it is too far out to be of any major issue and will more than likely be a place where some riders get shed out of the back, rather than anyone go off the front.

The riders will have just over 40km from the summit of the Croix Fer until they hit the foot slopes of the climbs that will shape the day; the double-header of Télégraphe and Colombier.

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I don’t really need to go into detail about those climbs too much, the graphic above tells you enough! One thing is for sure, I think the Télégraphe is harshly categorised as a Cat-1 as it certainly could be an HC climb.

The steep closing ramps combined with high altitude of the Galibier provide the perfect launchpad for an attack from the GC favourites.

Will they be able to make it stick on the run in? It depends on who they are/who is behind and if they are co-operating. The descent averages -4% for the final 28km but it is a lot steeper at the start and flattens off a bit in the final 6kms.

Could we see a reduced sprint contest the stage?

How will the stage pan out?

With the first half of the stage not being conducive to a big GC hit-out there is a chance that a big breakaway forms on the Cat-2 climb and builds up a massive advantage. It of course depends on who makes that move as to how big the gap will be, while also depending on the attitude of Sky. Will they want to chase the stage win?

Having conducted a Twitter poll, the most popular selection is a break win but the verdict is split, with there being no majority. Another hung vote!

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I’m really unsure as to how I think it will go as well. On one hand, I really fancy the break to get a big lead over the first two climbs and that be that. Yet, I have a nagging suspicion that we could see a GC battle as people attempt to put Froome under pressure.

Right…

We’ll see a strong break go with representatives from a lot of teams up there but Sky will outfox them all by letting the break get too far ahead so that having team-mates up the road will become redundant.

Therefore, we’ll see the break fight out for the stage.

(Maybe).

B is for Breakaway and…

Bakelants.

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A rider who as impressed me in the past few Grand Tours that he has been in, the Belgian has been active so far this race, making the breakaway on a few occasions. AG2R will want men up the road for both the team classification but also for the possibility to help Bardet later but if his advantage is too big then Bakelants might be given the nod to go for the win. He’s the right mix of strong climber but far enough back on GC not to be a real threat. Compared to some of the purest climbers he might struggle, but in the final week of a Grand Tour you always get some shock results.

Buchmann.

0161 Manny on the map? Well, the German has been a bit off the radar so far this race after his very impressive display at the Dauphiné. An attacking rider, I’m surprised not to have seen him in more breakaways. Instead, he seems to have tried to follow the GC guys as long as possible before fading away. On his day though, I think he could contend for a stage and no doubt Bora will be looking to infiltrate any move, with Buchmann being their best hope for a result.

Of course there are plenty of other riders who could feature tomorrow, depending on what type of stage we get.

Barguil will no doubt be attacking off the front chasing mountain points and securing that title, along with another stage win.

I also have a feeling that Contador might try something but he’ll struggle to win the day as the finish isn’t great for him. He would have to drop everyone on the final climb, which is certainly possible if he has re-found his climbing legs from somewhere.

There then is of course the chance that the GC teams do actually close things down and we get a showdown between the favourites on the Galibier.

Prediction

I’ll go for Buchmann to take the win from the break, sprinting from a small selection that regrouped on the descent.

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Betting

0.25pt EW on both of the selections;

Bakelants @ 250/1

Buchmann @ 125/1

Tomorrow is definitely a day for in-play though once the race situation has settled, hence why I’ve only spread 1pt across a couple of longshots.

 

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be the break, or will the GC riders come out to play? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 16 Preview; Le Puy-en-Velay -> Romans-sur-Isère

Rest-day Recap

An exciting breakaway day that was a great mix of tactics and strength! One of our picks Tony Martin did exactly what I thought he would, but unfortunately there were enough team-mates and motivated riders behind to keep him on some kind of leash before the final climb. Starting it with only 1’30 was never going to be enough for the German, and he was caught ~3km from the top. The group that was ahead then reformed on the descent, and a perfectly timed attack saw Mollema slip clear, quickly building up a big advantage. The stage was over from that point, despite the efforts of Ulissi and Gallopin who finished on the podium, but also Roglic and Barguil too.

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The Dutchman held off to take his first ever Tour win. A great result that I’m sure a lot of people would be happy with, he seems like a top bloke!

As for the GC battle, we nearly had a very exciting stage with Froome dropped on a descent due to a mechanical. However, some good pacing from his team and work from the Brit himself, he made it back to the favourites group. Some people lamented the lack of attacking from Bardet etc once Froome was isolated, but the finish wasn’t too great for that as it was more of a power descent rather than a technical one, on which the Frenchman would shine. Furthermore, Landa would have been able to follow and mark them out of it anyway. Unless of course they wanted to drag him to the line!

Anyway, with another rest day in the legs the riders will be prepared for the final week of racing. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for them tomorrow.

The Route

A day for the sprinters?

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The day starts with a long drag and the Cat-3 climb of the Côte de Boussoulet. Officially 4.5km at 6.3%, it’s not too tough a climb but the riders will be climbing from the gun. Taking that into consideration, you could argue that the climb is 20.5km at 2.87%. A real leg sapper!

Once over the top the riders will face something that resembles a plateau for the next 50km but isn’t really at all considering the uncategorised climbs and descents. As they reach the 70km mark though they’ll descent almost for the following 40km, aside from a few kick ups and false flats that have been thrown into the mix.

Reaching “flat-ground” at 55km to go, it will be interesting to see how big of an advantage the break has and who is chasing behind. Will they catch them before the finish?

Speaking of the finish, it’s not exactly a simple run-in either, with the final kilometre being very technical!

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Three roundabouts in the last kilometre could make for an “interesting” end to the day. Now a tradition on tough run-ins, here is my Preview by Pictures™ of the finish.

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Roundabout #1 sees the riders head pretty much straight on, taking a soft right-hand turn. However, the road does narrow through the kink of the roundabout and on exit so positioning near the front will be important.

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The road widens again about 10m after the exit of the roundabout but those at the head of the peloton will want to drift from right to left before Roundabout #2. As you can see, once again some road furniture will force the riders looking for the quickest line into one side of the road, before they take the left at the roundabout. A small traffic island will keep the riders in the left hand lane as they exit, which is where you want to be for the next part of the course.

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As the road bends round to the left, taking and holding the inside line will be the fastest route. Doing so will also force any opposition riders to come around the outside, wasting energy.

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Just before the final roundabout (at roughly 450m to go) the riders will have to be wary as the road narrows once again.

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Being first into the final roundabout will be key. According to the graphic above they will take the right-hand lane, before funneling through another narrow passage on the exit.

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From there it is roughly 300m to the finish line!

How will the stage pan out?

Looking at the weather forecast there is a chance of crosswinds tomorrow which might entice some GC teams into action, but a lot of the route looks protected by trees etc so I can’t see it having a big impact. The only area that might be dangerous is the 9km section between Châteauneuf-sur-Isère and Alixan as the road looks like this.

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With a tailwind run-in then it is possible for any gaps that are created to be held.

However, I think it will be another case of the stage hunters/breakaway experts against the sprinters.

With the start of the stage being on a long drag, we could see Sunweb try to take control of the peloton, setting a fierce tempo in an effort to drop Kittel. The issue with that tactic is that once the opening 20km are over with, they then have to continue that for the rest of the stage and I’m not sure they have the firepower capable of doing so. Furthermore, if Kittel gets dropped then I think we’ll see the majority of the Quick-Step team (bar Brambilla and Martin) fall back to help pace the German back to the peloton.

The opening 2/3rds of the day are quite hard to keep the race under control as well, considering it is up or down a lot of the time. It looks ideal territory for a break to form! Matthews may fancy his chances of sneaking into the move but if that happens he’ll be marked out of it by Quick-Step’s powerhouses and I can’t see it getting away.

So will the pace be so high that it stops the breakaway from forming for a long time, almost guaranteeing a sprint finish? Or will the Sunweb/QS battle end up cancelling itself out and we’ll see a large group go up the road and stay away?

In my opinion, if we get a sprint, Kittel will be there. Does Kittel win? Probably. But on a run-in like this, there is the possibility he could be beaten by a good lead-out from another team. With QS and Sunweb working all day it will leave their squads depleted for the finale, and opens the door for another team to take control.

This leads me onto my two picks* for the stage, both can win from different situations, but they’re both from the same team…

*Only going to mention two riders as I’ve rambled on enough anyway!

A Different Dimension?

Steve Cummings.

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The British champion found himself in the breakaway on Stage 12 but was swallowed up by the GC favourites as they battled out for stage victory. A rider that picks a few stages per race to target, tomorrow’s rolling stage looks suited to him. Normally an expert at timing his attack, he will no doubt attempt to slip off the front of the break going into the final 20km. Will he be strong enough to hold the rest of them off? Given how easily he rode away from De Gendt on Stage 12, I think he has the power to do it! It’s two years since he won his first Tour stage and having taken a stage last year as well, he’ll be hoping to make it three Tour’s in a row.

Reinardt Janse van Rensburg.

I have been very impressed with the South African champion so far this race, and he seems to have really taken a step up in the lead-outs. Some of the turns he has done for EBH have been incredible. A rider that could go in the break, he has a chance of winning the sprint from that situation. However, I can also envisage him doing a “Pöstlberger” if we get a sprint finish. With the depleted resources of Sunweb and QS after their stressful day, Dimension Data are the team that I think will take control of the sprint. Due to the technical run in, the riders will more than likely be in single file heading into the final roundabout. Now, it is a bit sly, but if RJVR is leading out EBH (so many acronyms!) then the Norwegian could let the wheel go and give the South African a gap, essentially blocking the road behind. In the panic that ensues, van Rensburg will ride away from everyone, winning the day á la Pöstlberger. Alternatively, EBH may even re-pay van Rensburg’s hard work over the past few stages and lead him out. He’s no slouch either, having just lost to Degenkolb in a similar, uphill drag sprint back at the start of the year.

Oh, did I mention it was Mandela Day as well?

Prediction

I’ll go for the poetic win for the South African champion on Mandela Day.

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Betting

Already tweeted out the selections before;

1pt WIN Cummings @ 33/1 with most bookmakers

0.5pt EW van Rensburg @ 250/1 with Coral/Ladbrokes (would take 150s)

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 15 Preview; Laissac-Sévérac l’Église -> Le Puy-en-Velay

Today’s Recap

First of all, apologies for no preview yesterday. I felt absolutely shattered and had to have another few hours sleep before work so there was no time to write anything. Feeling a bit better today but still awfully tired, I need this rest day as much as the riders just now!

Today’s stage saw a fairly strong break escape but with BMC and Sunweb not represented and working from the get go, we were always going to get one outcome. Matthews sprinted to a superb victory with van Avermaet following home in second.

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Boasson Hagen rounded out the podium with a fine third place. Rather annoyingly, one of my picks for the day McCarthy flew up the hill, only to finish in 5th. He was out of shot for most of the climb so he’s clearly going well. A case of what could have been, if he was positioned better!

While we’re talking about poor positioning, Aru managed to find himself isolated and towards the back of the peloton at the bottom of the climb and managed to ship 24 seconds to Froome. It’s good in some ways for him as Astana don’t have the team to defend the jersey, but to lose that much time isn’t ideal.

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

The Route

A stage that looks destined to be fought out between the breakaway.

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With a fairly flat start, I wouldn’t expect the break to form until we hit the first categorised climb of the day. It’s not exactly an easy climb either, as the Montée de Naves d’Aubrac averages 6.4% for 8.9km. Only climbers and very strong all-rounders should be able to make the move here! With that being said, the gradient isn’t too tough, so there is a chance we might see some odd riders up there who are on a good day.

Once over the top, we have a short descent before an inconsequential 3rd Cat climb. From there, the riders will face a long period of flat road before the intermediate sprint and an uncategorised 11km drag at ~3%.

The action part of the stage will most likely be the penultimate climb of the day: the Col de Peyra Taillade.

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The steep ramps will no doubt see a selection made in the breakaway, with the better climbers and those feeling strong pushing on. However, with there still being almost 32km to the line over the summit, it will be interesting to see if those dropped behind get back on, or of those ahead can work together to maintain an advantage.

Either way, it will be a very tactical final 45 minutes of racing as riders will be attacking the group hoping to get a gap. Maybe the Cat-4 could act as a launchpad? Luck and good legs will both play an equal part in it for the day’s winner though!

Breakaway Candidates

I am fairly confident tomorrow will be a breakaway day. In fact, it is probably the most obvious one of the race we’ve had so far. Just waiting for a reduced bunch sprint day to happen now…

There are several usual suspects that you can expect to try to make the move but as that’s no fun (and they’re all terrible odds) I’ll be naming those more eccentric picks who are further down the order.

Tony Martin.

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He had a little hit off the front towards the end of today’s stage, stretching out the bunch so that Lammertink could launch a counter attack. During his “attack” the German looked in complete control and it seemed to be more of a tempo ride than anything else. He always seems to find himself in the breakaway on one mountain stage of a Grand Tour and he has won more testing days than tomorrow; Stage 9 in 2014 is an example of that. Now, I do think he will probably be dropped on the steeper slopes of the penultimate climb, that is unless of course he has attacked solo before. Nonetheless, he can certainly make it back in the remaining time and attack over the top. If he gets a gap, not many will be able to catch him.

Daryl Impey.

One of the riders who I backed for today’s stage (thinking a break might stay away) the South African has been very quiet so far this Tour. Considering how strong he was last year, it is a bit of a surprise to be honest! With Yates not really needing too much support tomorrow, Howson will be able to stay with him anyway, I think Impey might be given a free role. On his day, he can surprise!

Rudy Molard.

With Pinot supposedly suffering from stomach problems, Molard looks like FDJ’s best candidate for a stage like this. Strong on steep climbs, he was close to a win in the Giro but the breakaway he was in were caught 4kms from the line. I backed him then and I’m willing to do so again! He has been quiet since Démare left the race, possibly eyeing up a stage to go on the attack. With a fairly strong kick from a reduced group, he could even win the sprint!

Prediction

Impey to find his 2016 form and take a great win for Orica Scott!

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Betting

I can see Impey and Molard coming to the line for a sprint so they could place, but Martin will have to attack from afar so with that being said;

0.4pt WIN Martin @ 125/1 with Bet365 (would take 100s)

0.4pt EW Impey @ 250/1 with PP/BF who are offering 4 places (would take 150s)

0.4pt EW Molard @ 150/1 with Bet365 (would take 100s)

 

I’m refusing to take any less than 100/1 for a day such as tomorrow!

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Tour de France 2017 Stage 13 Preview; Saint-Girons -> Foix

Today’s Recap

A break formed relatively quickly, only after 20km of so or racing but they were never given more than 6:30 of an advantage from a Sky led peloton.

With the move caught on the Peyresourde, it looked as if we were going to see some GC fireworks before the top but the group whittled down to around 10 and that was it. No one else was dropped and the riders found themselves approaching the final 500m together.

Bennett launched an attack but was brought back easily by Landa, before Bardet and Aru sprung up the inside. Froome wasn’t able to follow and the Frenchman held on for a great victory.

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Uran did well to get up for second while the Italian National Champion took third and moves into yellow for tomorrow’s stage.

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

The Route

Arguably the most talked about stage of this year’s whole Tour. Taking a page out of what we’ve seen at the Giro and Vuelta recently, tomorrow’s route is short and sharp.

 

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We have three Cat-1 climbs packed into 100km of racing which should surely lead to a fast pace from the gun! With that being said, there are 25.5km of false-flat before we hit the Col de Latrape for the hopeful escapees to try to get up the road.

Latrape isn’t a long climb (at only 5.6km) but averaging 7.3% it is fairly steep and will act as a nice warm-up for what’s to come. I wonder if we’ll see any early attacks on the climb? A short descent follows which isn’t too technical, before the toughest climb of the day.

The Col d’Agnes comes in at 10km long, averaging 8.2%.

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It’s actually hardest right at the bottom, with the opening 3kms averaging 9.2%. Nice and explosive! From there it gets “easier” but if a team takes it up or a GC rider attacks early, there is a good chance the race gets blown to bits. Given the short nature of the stage, that looks like a strong possibility!

Once over the top we have a long descent (almost 20km) before the next climb. The descent itself starts off very technical and we could see AG2R attack here like on Stage 9. It does ease off later on but the damage could already be done.

The Mur de Pérguère averages 7.9% for 9.3km but that doesn’t really tell the whole story…

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I did wonder why it was given the honour of being called “Mur” but it made sense once I saw the profile. The opening 6kms of the climb are fairly straightforward compared to what the riders have faced earlier in the day, only averaging 5.55%. However, it is the final 3.3km that will really test the riders legs – averaging a very painful ~12.5%!

The riders will then descend pretty much all the way to the finish, although it does get flatter in the last 10km and is more of a shallow descent. Will we see a solo rider come to the line or it will be a reduced sprint to the line?

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With a technical run-in, I certainly hope it’s the former!

How will the stage pan out?

It should be a GC stage but you can never be 100% sure. I thought the GC teams would let the break get away today, with one eye on tomorrow’s stage but Sky almost double-bluffed everyone and closed it down.

We’ve seen at the Giro and Vuelta that these type of stages are very explosive and entice aggressive racing from the GC contenders. No doubt some of the teams will try to get lieutenants up the road to hopefully help later on, but considering everyone will be trying to do that, then it could be hard! It might be another day where a 40-rider “break” goes but never gets more than 2 minutes or so.

The issue is that with no climb right at the start, and no summit finish, some of the GC riders might not fancy their chances. I guess they’ll hope that the battle to get into the break is so fierce that they’ll be within touching distance on the first climb.

It is Bastille Day so no doubt we’ll see numerous French riders try their hand throughout the day. Whether that be those looking to get in the break and hopefully win the stage that way, or someone like Bardet who will hope for a big GC fight.

We’ve not had a French winner on Bastille Day though since David Moncoutié back in 2005 though!

Like Natalie Imbruglia, I’m Torn.

Do the other GC teams sense enough of a weakness in the Sky came to try to isolate Froome, taking advantage of his “bad legs” that he had today. It will be a tough stage for Astana to control so no doubt they’ll be happy to see the break go. However, I think AG2R/QS/Orica will all want the race controlled.

Bardet is obviously on stellar form at the moment and will be wanting to go as well as he can while he’s flying. I imagine they’ll place a few riders in the break but he will attack on the middle climb of the day, hoping to bridge to them. The same can be said for Yates and Orica who always seem to get their tactics right on days like these.

Candidates

As I’ve waffled on already and may need to rush this a bit before work, I’ll just list two riders and how they might win tomorrow.

Louis Meintjes.

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After suffering on stages 5 and 9, the South African coped a lot better today (finishing 5th on the stage) and like a few others seems to be getting better just now. At almost 5 minutes down on the overall, he’s not an immediate threat for the big guns and could be given some leeway to attack from a reduced group that might be heading to the finish together. There is also a chance that he could sneak himself into an early breakaway and take the stage from there. Finishing 3rd on the very attacking final stage at the Dauphiné there is a chance he repeats that feat here, if not going better.

Mikel Landa.

He looked ominously strong today. Like, just ridiculously strong, it barely looked like he was breathing going up the final climb. I was more out of breath watching the stage than he was riding it! He could have closed Bennett down much quicker but almost had to rein himself in not to put Froome in the red. After pulling at the front and moving over to the side to let his leader attack, he still had enough in the tank to get back up to speed and finish 4th. Not bad considering the head-start he gave everyone else! Although it is unlikely as Sky tend to take the approach of “all for their leader”, I would be getting Landa to attack tomorrow if I was DS. If Froome isn’t great just now, it is much better to have two riders close to the top of the GC going into latter part of the race so they can play the numbers game. He is the one rider I can see attacking everyone on the final climb and holding on to the finish. Will Sky be willing to let him do that? Probably not, but you never know. Will Landa listen to them either way? That’s also debatable.

Prediction

In an act of defiance that turns out to be a great race strategy for Sky, the mercurial Spaniard takes the win.

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Froome recovers from today’s efforts and manages to mark everyone else out of chasing, allowing Landa a good time gap to put him back into overall contention.

Betting

1pt WIN Landa @ 33/1 (various bookmakers)

0.5pt EW Meintjes @ 125/1 Coral/Ladbrokes (who are paying 4 places)

 

Thanks as always for reading and apologies the “contenders” section is shorter than normal! Who do you think will win? Will we finally see a French rider win on Bastille day? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.