Critérium du Dauphiné 2018 Stage 3 Preview: Pont-de-Vaux › Louhans-Châteaurenaud

Today’s Recap

Despite the spirited attempts of morning breakee Stalnov, we ended up with a reduced bunch sprint this afternoon of around 80 riders. After coming home third on yesterday’s stage, Ackermann made amends and proved what a good talent he is, taking home a rather commanding victory.

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A rejuvenated Boasson Hagen sprinted for second place with Stage 1 winner Impey coming home in third. A result that puts the Mitchelton rider into Yellow for tomorrow.

Speaking of yellow jersey’s, the previous leader of the race Kwiatkowski crashed within the final 2km today and sustained some superficial injuries but nothing too serious it would seem. It might have a bit of an effect in the coming days though but who knows.

As for the blog pick Teunissen he finished in the second group, possibly suffering from some of the illness that is floating around the Sunweb camp. No idea why I didn’t pick Ackermann or Impey though as I said in yesterday’s preview it was hard to see past them, sometimes I just make weird decisions!

Anyway, let’s move on and have a look at what is in store for the riders and a day which will shake the GC up a bit.

The Route

An almost pan-flat, dead-straight team time trial course awaits the riders.

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They start in the town of Pont-de-Vaux and head in a north-east direction towards Louhans-Chateaurenaud.

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At just under 35km it mimics the distance they will face in the Tour in a months time, so it will be a good test in race conditions for the teams.

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There is a slightly tricky finish that awaits the riders but aside from that there is nothing else to talk about route wise. It is a pretty straight forward day out in the saddle: go as fast as you can for the whole course!

Weather Watch

Often a TT or TTT can be decided by varying weather conditions but it appears that the majority of the teams will get the same treatment tomorrow so there should be no surprises due to stronger winds at one point in the day etc.

There is potential for a tiny spot of rain but it will only be a very short shower, while the wind looks set to remain a constant ~13km/h gentle breeze from the south – meaning a slight cross tailwind for the run. It does turn around slightly for those later on which might mean a little bit more a tailwind, but it shouldn’t be much.

Contenders

Team Sky.

After their strong display in the prologue, it would appear that Sky have got over their Giro TT bleep and returned to their early season dominance of efforts against the clock. Saying that, they did only manage to come third in the TTT at Tirreno so they aren’t unbeatable. Looking at their squad though they have a team full of guys who can push a big gear on the flat, with Geoghegan Hart being the only passenger but even then he delivered a good individual performance in California. They start as the favourites but they’ll need to get through an afternoon where they all stay on their bikes, the lack of corners tomorrow will help them…

Mitchelton Scott.

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A surprise second place in Tirreno, the team of the current race leader have a solid squad but it does look weaker than their effort in Tirreno, I think. They’ve swapped out big TT engines such as Durbridge and Bauer and although they’ve been replaced by strong riders like Edmondson and Howson, I don’t think they are as good in a TT. However with that said, they did take home the Hammer Series TTT with a squad that included Impey, Howson and Hamilton, all of whom are here. On that day they beat a fairly strong BMC by almost a minute. Write them off at your peril! I certainly won’t and I have somewhat changed my mind throughout this section. Hmmmmm. Going off last will give them the advantage of knowing their splits compared to the other teams.

BMC.

The TTT Kings: there are few team efforts against the clock that these guys don’t win and it would be a shock to see them not fighting for the top step of the podium tomorrow. However, their squad here looks to be more of a “B-team” as they are missing several of their star TT riders. I think this is the first TTT in a while where I’ve not been convinced that they will win it. Nonetheless, as a team they are the best at the discipline and therefore can’t be discounted.

Quick Step.

An outfit made up of strong, powerful riders but with no stand-out TT guy then they will need to rider very cohesively as a unit. A lot of pressure will be on the shoulders of Jungels, Terpstra and Alaphilippe. Normally a danger for a podium spot, I think it will be hard for them to go any further than that tomorrow.

Lotto Jumbo.

Really hit or miss, who knows what Jumbo will turn up tomorrow. With the likes of Boom, Van Emden and Powless they should be able to deliver a good time but a podium would be a very good result, I’ll be shocked if they did any better.

I think the 5 teams listed above should be the top 5 on the day but there is room for the likes of Jumbo to replaced by their Lotto counterpart but that’s about it.

Prediction

A battle between Sky, BMC and Mitchelton for the win, they are the best teams here. I’ve almost made a complete U-turn with how I felt about Mitchelton before the start of this but I’m sticking to my guns, Sky will win.

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As was shown in the prologue, they have the best strength in-depth and equipment for this type of effort. Unless of course Thomas and Kwiatkowski are feeling a bit worse for wear after their crashes then one of the other two has a good chance of taking the win so step up Mitchelton in that case.

Betting

4pts Mitchelton Top 3 at 4/1

6pts Mitchelton to beat Lotto Soudal at 5/6

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2018 Stage 2 Preview; Bétera › Albuixech

Today’s Recap

We got the expected sprint finish into Peñiscola with the lead-out trains battling it out on the run-in.

It was Lotto Jumbo who came out on top, delivering Van Poppel excellently into the home straight. He did have to start his sprint ever so slightly earlier than he would have liked, but the Dutchman showed enough power to hold on for the victory.

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Mezgec looked as if he was going to come round him at some point but he just couldn’t manage it, nonetheless, he held on strongly for 2nd. Roelandts came home third, pipping a few other riders in an almost blanket finish for the minor places.

Will Van Poppel be able to hold onto his lead tomorrow?

Let’s have a look at what is in store for them.

The Route

A really interesting stage that could cause a GC shake-up.

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Five categorised climbs jammed into only 155km of racing makes this stage a stern test for the riders given how early into the season we are.

I can’t see the opening 4 climbs have any major impact on the outcome of the stage, but they will definitely wear down the riders legs for the second half of the day.

The focal point of the stage though is the climb of El Garbi.

Alto Garbi

This was the climb that Alberto Contador used to decimate the peloton on stage 6 of last year’s Vuelta, with only a select group of riders making it over the crest with him.

Unfortunately he’s not here so it will be interesting to see if we have the same aggressive racing.

The climb as a whole averages only 5.6% for 9.2km, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t too difficult. However, it is the almost 3km section at pretty much 10% where the real damage can be done.

Riders will be all over the road if someone attacks this one aggressively. The key word being if.

Once over the crest, the riders will descend for almost all of the remaining 30km into the finish town of Albuixech. It is not a descent where you can free-wheel on though, as the percentages only max out at around -5% or so. A strong and organised group could gain time on others here.

How will the stage pan out?

I’m really hoping for some fireworks on the Garbi. I have a feeling we might see Valverde try to light it up to reduce the group down significantly to 8 riders or so. However, the issue with that plan for him is he might be left with very few team mates and that then leaves the door open for Sky Harlem Globetrotters to attack him from all angles.

The stage is similar to the opener in Andalucia last year that Valverde won from a group of 7, although the final descent that day was 10km shorter.

Instead, we might see a slightly easier pace, where a group of 25 riders crest the climb together.

Same rules still apply though and attacks will go off the front and we could then see a splinter group make it to the line. As to who makes that group, your guess is as good as mine but one thing is for sure, they have to climb well!

As I’m short on time, I’m just going to throw a few names into the hat so the list isn’t going to be exhaustive.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Any Team Sky Rider.

Well, maybe not all of them. Seriously though, everyone on their team apart from Kiryienka and Stannard could win this stage given the right situation. I think they’ll try to make the pace hard to reduce the peloton as much as possible, isolating other riders. The old 1-2, will be turned into the old 1-2-3-4-5 as they constantly send riders up the road on the run-in. Take your pick for them, I’ll go with a lively Diego Rosa.

Alexis Vuillermoz.

The AG2R man had a great end to 2017 with a very respectable 4th place in Il Lombardia. He copes well on the steep gradients and if the pace is not pushed too hard, then he’ll hope to make it over with the main group. If the race splits up from there, he won’t be marked too much as Ag2R won’t be massive threats in the TTT so he could slip away. Furthermore, he packs a solid sprint from a reduced group so he could challenge that way.

Pello Bilbao.

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I’m a big fan of the Spanish rider and it was great to see him really take a step up in level towards the end of the Vuelta last year. This season he’ll no doubt be working for his leaders at some point, but this is the type of race where he might get leadership in. If he’s climbing like he did in the Vuelta, he should be able to follow the front group. Packing a punch, he could be a threat from a reduced sprint.

Jaime Roson.

I’m intrigued to see what the new Movistar man does this season and I think he’ll have a lot of expectation on his shoulders at this race to help Valverde. He’s a strong climber but is still a bit raw so to speak. Anyway, while everyone has their eyes firmly on El Bala, Roson manages to slip away in the closing few kilometres. He has a bit of kick to his sprint but I’m not entirely sure the flat run-in will be ideal for him, nonetheless he has a chance in a very tactical finish. Or he just works tirelessly to keep everything together.

Prediction

A climbing selection to be made on El Garbi and it all to kick off from there. I think we’ll see a counter move go and a small sprint to the line of about 5 riders, with a group of 20 or so coming in not so long after.

Vuillermoz to take the day!

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There is absolutely no season long fantasy league bias here at all. Ok. Maybe there is a bit…

Thanks as always for reading and apologies for the slightly truncated preview. I’m looking forward to what should be an interesting, tactical finale tomorrow. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Team Time Trial World Championships – Bergen 2017 Preview

Team Time Trial World Championships – Bergen 2017 Preview

We’re at that sad time of the year again where the World Championships begin and the season starts to draw to a close. The opening event as per usual, is the “art form” of the team time trial.

In 2016 we saw QuickStep (then Ettix) power their way around the pan-flat course in Doha amid some searing heat to beat BMC and Orica. A slight surprise given BMC’s dominance in the event throughout the year leading up to the World Champs.

As for the women, Boels continued their incredibly impressive season by blitzing the opposition, beating Canyon by 48 seconds and Cervelo by a shade under 2 minutes. Not bad!

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Will we see similar looking podiums this year? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Both the men and women will compete over the same course which is fantastic for me, as I don’t have to do double the work for nothing, or just pointlessly repeat myself which would bore you!

https://veloviewer.com/routes/10581357/embedAs is tradition nowadays, I’ve made my own profile for the route that you can hopefully see embedded above…

If not, you can view the interactive version here.

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“Appears flat-ish but surprisingly hilly” is how I would describe the route. There are no real severe gradients in the course apart from a few small climbs, but according to the Strava/Veloviewer data there is over 1100m of elevation gain.

I’m going to throw that slightly out of the window though as the app does get a bit confused when tracking through tunnels and over bridges etc, but it won’t be too far off. My estimate would be ~900m of elevation gain; which is still quite a lot for a TTT.

The first test the riders will face is a 1.2km climb at 4.8% that comes just after 3.5km into the day. Not ideal for “easing yourself into it”! The route then rises and falls constantly for the following 7kms as we head towards the second longest suspension bridge in Norway. A poor man’s Forth Road Bridge if you ask me…

Anyway, the first slightly anomaly on the profile comes just after that. The riders do go up a steep ramp, but it is not as sudden as it initially seems. Instead, it is more of a gradual rise through the tunnel, before flattening out.

Yet more undulating terrain follows before the riders face the toughest task of the day.

Averaging 5.4% for 2.2km isn’t crazy, but that includes the more shallow build up in the overall total. The main bulk of the climbing is actually done over 1.1km…

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It’s a bit more difficult than the 1.4km at 7.2% that is suggested on the official profile.

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The steepness of the slopes could certainly ruin the cohesion in a team and potentially ruin their chances at they head into the final section of the race.

Once over the climb, the riders will have some more rolling roads to contend with but they are mainly in their favour now, with the parcours descending ever so slightly all the way into Bergen.

Men’s Race

The usual teams arrive here with strong aspirations in this event so let’s start with the reigning champions.

Quick Step.

They bring a very solid all round squad with them here and they’ll once again be challenging for the title. It will be interesting to see what order they rotate in and who they intend to drop as the race progresses. I imagine Vermote probably won’t be there at the finish line! With all that said, I just can’t see them winning it this year.

BMC. 

The dominant force in TTTs for so long, they’re undefeated this season. Yet, this route is arguably the least favourable that they will have faced all year. With them in Bergen they do have a lot of strong guys who are more than competent climbers such as van Garderen and Dennis, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did win. Yet, looking at their squad, you just don’t get the same “fear factor” that was there in previous years. They are beatable.

Sunweb.

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Somewhat of a surprise package that took third place at the Vuelta this year; they’ve made some steady progress throughout the season. In fact, I’d go as far to argue that they have been one of, if not, the best performing teams in 2017. I really like the look of their squad that they bring here and it is very well-balanced. Dumoulin will obviously be heavily relied on but their not exactly short of talent to back him up. Watch out for them!

Team Sky.

I wonder if Moscon can just drag the other 5 around with him? With the way he was riding in the last week of the Vuelta, it wouldn’t surprise me! Not exceptional in the discipline recently, Sky are more likely to be remembered for their exploding wheels at Tirreno this season compared to any of their on the bike TTT performances. However, their squad is stacked with strong riders who can handle this terrain. If there is ever a TTT WC Sky could win, this is it.

I can’t really see past any of those 4 squads winning. Orica should be fighting it out for a top 5 with Jumbo, with Movistar not too far behind.

Women’s Race.

Boels.

There you go, there’s your preview…

Joking aside, the Dutch outfit should have this one in the bag to make it back-to-back titles. They lost some of their TT prowess at the end of last year with Van Dijk moving to Sunweb and Stevens retiring. To replace them they did recruit van der Breggen and Pieters; not a bad swap! The rolling course could cause some difficulties but given everyone in their line-up is a solid climber, then it shouldn’t be too stressful for them. It will take some bad luck for them not to retain their crown, or a crazily strong ride from some opposition teams!

Cervelo.

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The up-and-coming TTT team in the women’s peloton, they are Boels’ nearest challengers in my opinion. At the recent Vargarda TTT they finished only 13 seconds behind the Dutch outfit over a similar distance. The route tomorrow is hillier, which probably doesn’t favour their squad as a whole. Nonetheless, with the likes of Ludwig, Moolman and Lepistö, they certainly have some firepower in their ranks!

Canyon.

The “old guard” of women’s TTT racing. In previous incarnations they were almost unstoppable in this event, but they have since lost their ways. The squad that they bring with them here gives me a similar feeling to QuickStep. They are strong, don’t get me wrong, but I just don’t see them having enough to challenge Boels and in fact, I think they’ll cede their silver place to Cervelo this year.

Sunweb and Veloconcept will be battling it out for 4th, hoping that another team has a bad day so that they can win a medal!

Fantasy Games

There are a couple of fantasy games for the World Champs that I’m going to plug.

First of all is the return of Cycling Picks/Rainbow Picks, which will be free to play this time around. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any prizes though, as the lovely people @handmadecyclist are offering one of their WC mugs for the winner!

Follow Jason (Cycling_Picks) to get involved, or simply enter your name on the spreadsheet that can be found here. All rules etc are viewable on the sheet etc, or if you’re still unsure how it works, get in contact with Jason!

Secondly, @InsidePeloton96 is going to be running a World Champs “Fantasy Fives” that I’m sure he’ll be releasing over the coming days which you should also get involved with. I say that, as I had to curate the price list for the women’s side of the game. You might find a few bargains hidden in there…

Prediction

Boels and Sky win. Simple!

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I wonder if we can parody Mr Blue Sky, a.k.a Mr Boels Sky?

Sunweb and BMC to make up the podium, with Cervelo and Canyon doing the same in the women’s race.

Betting

Nothing really excites me for the outright markets, so I’ve went for a H2H 5-fold for some entertainment over the afternoon.

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The odds have now shortened quite a bit since yesterday evening, but I’d still back it at the 9.45/1 available. 1.5pt WIN.

 

Thanks as always for reading the preview! Who do you think is going to win the TTTs? Will we see a shock result? The next preview I’ll be releasing is the Women’s ITT so please return for that. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Nîmes -> Nîmes

And so our watch begins…

The Vuelta kicks off tomorrow evening with a tasty team time trial. Last year we saw Sky beat Movistar by less than a second over a 28km course, with Pete Kennaugh taking the leader’s jersey.

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Will we see an even smaller winning margin this year given the shorter route?

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

The Route

A course that starts off technical, but it does seem to ease off later on in the stage.

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There are several 90-degree turns where the TT-trains will be strung out even more than they normally are. Consequently, a team with good technique could gain time through these turns as their riders don’t have to scramble back onto the wheel in front of them.

Furthermore, teams that practice peel offs and TTTs in general will be at a massive advantage due to the timing that is involved when changing lead rider. You don’t want to be pulling over through a corner, that’s for sure. A level-headed and experienced DS is of almost equal importance in that situation!

Things do get easier later on in the route, with several long straight roads where the strongest of teams can put the power down.

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We do have a Cat-3 climb at just over the half-way point but is no more than a pitiful excuse to hand out the KOM jersey at the end of the day. I mean compared to the other Cat-3s which we have at this race, 2.4km at 1.6% is laughable. It will be the easiest KOM points anyway gets all race!

Thanfully it looks as if all the teams will get similar conditions so there will be no weather affected surprises/disappointments.

As for the start times; the first team off the ramp is Manzan Postobon at 17:30 CET, with Trek last to set off at 18:54. All of the other squads will be sent out at 4 minute intervals.

You can view all of the start times here.

Contenders

BMC.

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It is nigh on impossible to have a TTT where BMC are not favourites. They lost their TTT crown last year but they have been the team to dominate this discipline over the past couple of seasons. In 2017 they’ve taken notable TTT victories in Catalunya and Tirreno. They do arrive slightly light in terms of their usual crack squad; with only Dennis and Oss representing them at the World’s last year. The likes of Roche and Van Garderen are solid replacements but they don’t seem as invincible as they have in the past. They are rightly favourites, however I think they won’t have it 100% their way.

Quick Step.

 

The TTT world champions arrive here with three of that contingent (Jungels/Lampaert/Terpstra) and add to them with a lot of other strong, well-rounded riders such as Trentin and Alaphilippe. They’ve underperformed in recent TTTs but in this type of race I think they can turn it around. The course looks ideal for them, with a good mix of sharp corners that require some explosiveness, but also longer power sections where their diesel engines can open up the taps.

Team Sky.

Winners of a much lumpier TTT last year, they have been very hit or miss as of late. On for a good time at Tirreno until their wheels decided to implode, they’ll hope to not be the laughing-stock this time around. Although their team looks a bit weak on paper, Sky always seem to turn up at Grand Tours. I’d be surprised if they finished outside of the top 3!

Honestly, I can’t see any team aside from those three compete for the win, so I don’t want to bore your time by pointlessly going through them all.

Prediction

I’ve changed my mind between those three teams several times which went something like this…

*Looking at teams*

“Ah QS bring a lot of strong rouleurs, really fancy them for this”

“But BMC are incredible at TTTs and are unbeaten this year. Surely they have this”

“Hold on a second, what about Sky? A quietly strong team who always go well in the big competitions and with the arguable GC favourite They’ll surely set a great time.”

I’m going to go with my gut instinct and initial thoughts when thinking of this yesterday/earlier today though.

Quick-Step to win!

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I really like their squad for this, it is so incredibly balanced. The shorter length of effort brings them a lot closer to BMC and looking at rider v rider, I actually think Quick Step have the better time trialists/rouleurs. Furthermore, with the whole Sanchez saga, the mood in the BMC camp might be a bit off just now, and I think they are there for the taking.

Vuelta Picks

As stated in my overall preview, I’ll be adding a new daily section to the blog where I discuss possible choices for the game; highlighting a “safe”, a “wongshot” and a “lanterne rouge” pick.

Safe – BMC.

Although I have a feeling they won’t win, given the form and history in TTTs over the past three seasons they are the team to back in this discipline. It would be very surprising to see them outside of the top 3, heck, even the top 2. Picking them could see you off to a good start. I won’t be choosing them though, which is probably good for you!

Wongshot – Sky.

I can’t see anyone other than those three wining tomorrow and unlike potential breakaway days where I may as well just randomly choose a rider, that’s a little bit farfetched for this. Sky are the longest odds of the trio, therefore the Wongshot pick!

Lanterne Rouge – Caja Rural.

You would think I’d go with Manzana for this, but I actually think the Colombian team will put in more of an effort than the Spaniards. Caja will be in almost every break in the first few week so if they want to be given freedom to chase jerseys/stage wins then they need to lose a lot of time. Don’t get me wrong, Manzana might do the same thing, but given it is their first GT then I think the exuberance of wanting to perform well on every day will get the better of them.

Also, some of you may still not have any idea what I’m talking about! Vuelta Picks is a simple fantasy style where you pick a rider for every stage of the race, with their finishing position counting as your score. The lower the score the better. However, you are only allowed to use a rider once during the whole race, so there is some tactics involved with it. Although don’t listen to me on that front as I am a notorious Lanterne Rouge contender!

If you’re interested at all, it costs £10 to play – just put your name into the spreadsheet I’ll link below and Jason (the guy who is organising it all) will be in touch regarding payment and any other questions you have!

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/14U89El-B7h05tRgB5Lw8ml9pkF5v0ROvxH96-dk3w7o/edit#gid=0

If you do join, then you’ll have until tomorrow to make your first stage pick.

Betting

Very much tempted with a no bet, but I’m going to dip my toe in the water ever so slightly.

2pts WIN Quick Step @ 7/4 with various. (would take 13/8 lowest)

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win the TTT? Is it a clear-cut three-horse race? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tour de Pologne 2017 Stage 3 Preview; Jaworzno -> Szczyrk

Today’s Recap

Another day that ended up in a bunch sprint but it was the odd one that was expected. Again, for some weird reason the peloton caught the break very early, creating an opportunity for some attacks.

Oss, Haas, Jungels all tried their hand but were reeled back in. Then as I thought might happen, Vakoc launched an attack at roughly 2kms to go. He quickly had a bit of a gap which seemed to grow as the sprint trains behind stalled. However, Paterski came to the front and sprinted all the way up the drag, catching Vakoc just as they completed the turn at the roundabout.

It was a frenetic run to the line with the riders amassed all over the road. In the end, Modolo just had enough left in the tank to hold on for the win.

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A fast finishing (again) Van Poppel charged at the line but it was only enough for second, with Walscheid taking third. His second place was enough to se Van Poppel move into the GC lead ahead of Sagan, based on their stage placings so far.

Will he be able to hold onto that lead tomorrow?

No way!

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

The Route

A stage that actually resembles its official profile!

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Nonetheless, I’ll still be using my own one as the go to.

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You can view the profile itself on VeloViewer here.

It’s taken me a few days but I’ve finally figured out how to rotate the profiles so that we get them at a side on angle…anyway…

The stage starts off fairly innocuous with a lot of flat roads in the opening 60km or so. However, once through the second intermediate sprint of the day the road rises all the way until the summit of the first climb; some 28km at 2.2% on average.

If I’m honest, I’m not entirely sure where the climb officially starts (I can’t be bothered to look it up again in the road book), but to me it seems to be 5km from the summit.

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As you can see, the closing 5km averages 6% with a max gradient of 13.2%. Not too difficult but not easy either, it depends on the pace of the peloton whether we’ll see any riders dropped here.

Once over the top the riders descend all the way to the foot of the following climb; Zameczek.

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Split into two parts, the climb as a whole averages 5.2% for 5.3km. Once again, not too difficult but it can be made hard. The second half of the climb is a lot more challenging than the first, averaging 8.1% for the final 2.2km.

On the first passage of the climb I can’t see there being much action here but the riders will summit for a second time with 33km left, so we might see a few probing attacks launched on the steeper slopes.

The riders will then face the penultimate climb; which is the descent off the first categorised climb they tackled. Like that first climb, I could dispute how long it actually is. You could argue the road rises from the 135km gone mark, which would make the climb 12km long at 4%. However, the opening sections most likely won’t be raced too aggressively. The same can’t be said for the latter parts though.

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This is a proper climb and with the closing 4km averaging 7%, we could see some of the early GC players come to the fore.

With 9km of descent to follow, will we see any rider(s) who has escaped on the climb stay away before the rise to the finish? Well, the start of the descent is steep and technical but that only lasts for a couple of kilometres before it then runs along the side of the valley on a much straighter road.

They will descend all the way until 1.5km to go where they will make the following left hand turn and start the climb for home.

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The climb itself averages 10.3% for 1.25km, however that doesn’t tell the whole story.

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As you can see in the profile above, the opening 479m are a rather “leisurely” 3.6%. All hell will break loose soon after though, as the final 700m averages a leg-breaking 15% and that includes a crazy 26% maximum gradient!

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I’m not even sure the streetview does it justice. Whoever wins here tomorrow will have deserved it!

How will the race pan out?

It could be a really disorganised and messy stage.

The climbs are tough enough to make it a selective day in the saddle but they aren’t difficult enough so that we only see a group of 5-6 guys come to the finish climb together.

Furthermore, there are quite a few teams here with a few GC candidates, such as Sky/BMC/Bora who might decide to play the numbers game rather than control the bunch all day.

Feasibly, we could see a winning move go away on the second ascent of Zameczek if it contains the right teams and riders.

As the descent over the top of the penultimate climb isn’t too hard and doesn’t really favour a lone rider, I would be surprised if a team really pushes it on that penultimate climb to reduce the peloton drastically.

So i present two situations;

  1. An attack goes on the last ascent of the Zameczek that includes some strong riders from the main teams. It will most likely need a Bora, Sky, BMC, Katusha and Orica rider involved if it is to succeed. Obviously, other teams might be there too or not involved, but those squads listed look the strongest to bring any break back. That group stays away and fights out the finish.
  2. A race of attrition where things get whittled down and we have a peloton of 20 riders or so approach the foot of the final climb to the line and its every man for himself on with a finish very reminiscent of Flèche Wallonne.

Hmmm.

I think Situation 1 edges it.

As I’ve already rambled a bit, I’ll not be extensive with my riders in the following section!

Contenders

For a bit of fun, this is who I think could possibly be in that near end of stage move (watch none of them be in it now);

Hermans, Haig, Anacona, Rosa, Konrad*, Oomen, Spilak, Visconti, Costa and Hirt.

*I had grand ambitions for Konrad on this stage given his climbing ability and good result at Fleche, but alas he finished 1’55 down today so that’s out the window.

I’ll highlight a couple of others I like for this stage though.

Rui Costa.

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The UAE rider has had a good season so far; picking up a GC win in Abu Dhabi and a few podium placed finishes at the Giro. He was solid at the recent Tour de Suisse, finishing 5th on GC there. Like a lot of the peloton, he hasn’t raced in over a month but he’ll surely fancy his chances here as these week-long stage races are his bread and butter. He’s faired well at FW in the past which is a good indication for this finish. If he arrives in a small group his punchy nature could see him take a great stage win.

Diego Rosa.

Not normally given the chance to lead a Sky team for GC, this race looks like the perfect opportunity for both he and his team to test out that possibility. With Poels also in the squad, they have the ability to send someone on the attack early and play the waiting game behind. Rosa has only had one race day since the Giro, his National Championships but I still think he can go well here. He’s a strong hilly classics rider, as was shown towards the end of last season, and tomorrow’s terrain has that type of feel to it. Can he succeed?

I think yes…

Prediction

Diego Rosa to win!

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Betting

1pt EW on them both (with B365)

Rosa @ 33/1

Costa @ 22/1

 

Thanks as always for reading and I hope you enjoyed the in-depth route analysis. I certainly enjoyed writing it! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Volta Catalunya 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Banyoles -> Banyoles

Today’s Recap

Well that was bitterly disappointing. No fireworks, no real attacks on the climbs and a proper bunch sprint in the end. Nonetheless, that shouldn’t take away from Cimolai’s great win, as he pipped Bouhanni to the line.

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It was Sbaragli who rounded out the podium for Dimension Data.

I know I’m often wrong with my preview’s but it has been a while since I’ve been that far off. Let’s move swiftly on to tomorrow and it’s stupidly long TTT!

The Route

Long, rolling Team Time Trial that will have a massive impact on the rest of the race.

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Profile once again provided by @LasterketaBurua. Although in TT and TTT tradition, I feel that I need to make my own one on Strava! So here it is, you can view it here too, for those that like something more interactive.

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Although I somehow seemed to have gained an extra kilometre out on course compared to the official distance. I think I may have made the start/finish line ever so slightly further up the road, oh well!

The course is populated with lots of short climbs and fast descents, with rolling terrain in between. The climbs aren’t overly tough, with most of them being 1-2km and averaging 2-3%, but on a TT bike that will take its toll.

The hardest ascents they’ll face are; the Carretera Del Veïnat De Deri Climb which averages 6% for 1.4kms; the Repetxo Orfes (1.4km at 3.7%); and the Esponellà-Martís (1.9km at 4.1%).

I’m very intrigued to see how the riders deal with the Carretera, considering it has ramps of over 15% and comes within the first 10kms of the stage. You don’t want the climbers blowing the rouleurs’ gasket already!

The finish line does kick up at the end but at only around 2% for a couple of hundred metres.

Contenders

Pffft, it’s hard to tell.

We hardly ever get TTTs of this length throughout the season, I mean, the World Championships in the past two years have been shorter!

BMC will be hoping to pick up from where they left off in Tirreno.

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They were exceptional in that race but they don’t have their strongest team here, substituting out a few of the big guys for some climbers. On this terrain that may help but I think it will hinder them more than it will benefit them. Nonetheless, they still can’t be discounted. Watching them doing a TTT is like poetry in motion!

Sky will be lamenting me putting the curse on them for the Tirreno TTT and their wheels literally falling off that effort. They have an incredibly strong squad with them for the mountains and some very strong TT engines. The hilly parcour certainly helps the likes of Landa and Nieve who aren’t the best time trial riders. They should podium, if not win, and put their crack squad of climbers in a great position before the mountain stages.

Movistar always perform well in TTTs in Spain. They were beaten by less than a second by Sky in the Vuelta TTT last year. With Castroviejo in their team they have massive talent but the rest of the squad looks a bit thin in comparison to the one that they took to Tirreno. Will home advantage overcome that? They also have the benefit of being the last GC team down the start ramp.

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The words “Team Time Trial” would normally bring smiles to the bosses at Quickstep, but they have a very weak team compared to their top riders. I fear Dan Martin might lose a fair bit of time.

The same can be said for Trek, who on paper have some good time trialists but they aren’t notoriously a good TTT outfit. Contador and Mollema will be playing catch-up the rest of this week, which should make for exciting racing at least!

One team aside from the Big 3 favourites that I do like for this TTT are Orica Scott. The Aussie team used to be the par excellence for this discipline but they lost their way. However, they recently seemed to have managed to their fortunes around and have a very strong all-round squad with them here. I’m expecting to be pleasantly surprised by them!

Prediction

It will be tough to beat one of the Big 3 and I would actually favour Team Sky out of the trio. I do think that Orica can manage a podium spot if not better!

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Betting

No value in the top of the order. Orica do offer a good option.

1pt EW Orica @25/1 with Bet365 (They’re offering 5th odds for 3 places – would take down to 20s)

Plus this H2H treble 3pts on @ 2.83/1 (would take down to 2.2/1)

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Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win this stupidly long TTT stage? 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!

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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.

 

 

 

Eneco Tour Stage 5 Preview: Sittard-Geleen -> Sittard-Geleen

Today’s Recap

King Sagan comes out on top again! Although it wasn’t as comfortable as he would have liked, with Greipel closing very fast right at the last, but Sagan managed to win with a track lunge.

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I only managed to catch the closing 30km but it was a very exciting end to the stage. We saw attacks from Martin and Dumoulin reeled back in, before Stuyven made a move on the final climb. He joined up with a strong Astana pair (Gruzdev & Grivko) who’d been out the front for the past 25km or so. They managed to hold on until the final 3km, where once again we had another relatively chaotic finish. There were crashes, sprint trains were all over the road and Laporte even ended up leading out Kristoff! As for Nizzolo, he was once again held up a couple of times and had to check his speed. Either bad luck or poor positioning, depends what way you look at it.

Anyway, moving on to a stage that will have a big impact on the GC.

The Route

A nice 20.9km Team Time Trial. The last chance for teams to get a race-day practice in before the Worlds!

The good thing about a TT is that I can accurately make the stage profile myself, so the Strava profile makes its return today. Huzzah!

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You can view the full profile here.

As per usual, the profile is exaggerated by the scale, with the route being mainly flat apart from the two climbs. However they are not as severe as the image above would suggest! There is only 145m of total elevation gain.

If you take the first climb’s start to be just after the 4km mark on the profile, it comes in at 3km long at 1.9%. However, there is a 600m stretch that averages 5.1%, or a 300m segment averaging 6%. Not exactly a leg-breaker of a climb but it will upset the rhythm of the teams. Niki Terpstra holds the Strava KOM for the whole thing, completing it in just over 4 minutes which highlights the type of rider who can power up here.

The second climb is much shorter. At 0.9km it averages an eye-watering (no sarcasm at all…) 4.2%!

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Then it’s a short descent followed by a flat run to the line. This is very much a rouleurs course, one for the strongmen and in this case teams.

A One-Horse Race?

BMC come into this stage as everyone’s favourite and rightly so! The back to back TTT World Champions have 5 out of 6 riders from their 2015 winning squad with them here and they’re by no means weakened with the addition of Rosskopf, Bohli and GVA. A truly formidable line-up! If you want, you can probably stop reading the preview now as they should be the winners barring any misfortune. But there are a few surprises further on, which is very unlike me, so keep on reading if you want! 😉

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Best of the rest

There are a few other teams who will be close in their battle for the podium spots or there to take the win if BMC mess up.

Movistar have a strong squad with them, managing to get 3 riders in the top 11 during the individual time trial. They’re always a very solid unit in this discipline, but rarely perform outside of Spain. Can they change that here?

Sky would normally be a team that I’d fancy to go well, especially considering their recent rejuvenation in the discipline. Although they do have a strong team of rouleurs here, their performances in the ITT and low finishing positions today does concern me. Furthermore, with Kiryienka pulling out today, I can’t see them turning it around tomorrow.

Etixx have a great core of strong TTers here with the likes of Martin, Terpstra and Jungels. However, it was actually Kittel who performed best in the individual event. If they click tomorrow then a podium spot is well within their capabilities, but they seem out of sorts recently and they’ll sorely miss Boonen. I’m not ruling them out fully like Sky, but I’m not as keen on them as I was pre-race.

Cycling: 10th Tour de San Luis 2016 / Stage 1

One of the teams that was well represented during the ITT was LottoNL-Jumbo. They ended up with three riders inside the top 6. Now, they’ve not been great in the team version recently but they do have a squad of strong rouleurs. A top 5 would be a good result, but with a great ride they could sneak onto the podium.

The same can be said for Giant Alpecin. With Dumoulin, Kragh-Andersen and Haga, they were well represented in the individual time trial. A strong unit, they could go on to surprise a few.

Orica send a fairly weak TTT squad by their standards, and with Hayman not finishing today they’ve lost a big engine. I don’t think they’ll make the podium.

Tinkoff, Astana, Trek, Cannondale and IAM are all capable of pulling out a shock performance here but realistically they’ll be aiming for a top 10 and not losing too much time on GC.

Prediction

I already told you above, BMC win!

As for the podium, I expect Movistar to finish upon it but there is space for a “surprise” team to make it on. Either Giant or Jumbo and I’ll go for the bumblebees with that home advantage!

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Betting

No bet so far. Will post any H2H on my Twitter if there’s something I like. Or when other odds come up.

Thanks again for reading and well done if you didn’t leave early! Can you see anyone beating BMC and will there be any surprise performances? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

La Vuelta Stage 1 Preview

La Vuelta Stage 1 Preview

The first stage of the final Grand Tour of the year is upon is, and going with recent Vuelta tradition, we start with a Team Time Trial. Great, I do love a TTT! This year’s effort isn’t going to be as farcical as the route we had last year along the beach to Marbella where GC times were neutralised. Let’s take a look at the stage.

The Route

A nice flat TTT for the specialist’s seems to be the memo.

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Going off the official profile it would be safe to assume that it’s a straightforward day, where the proper TT engines of the peloton come to the fore along fairly flat roads. Well you’d be wrong my friend, this is the Vuelta after all, where stage profiles should be taken with a pinch of salt!

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My strava profile of the stage

In TT tradition, I’ve created a profile on Strava for the stage that you can view here. At first glance, this profile looks nothing like the official profile. This is due to the different vertical axis that have been used. In the Strava profile it goes from 80m-180m whereas the official profile is 0-600m. Quite the difference!

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that my Strava profile grossly exaggerates some of the rises and lumps, particularly in the middle part of the stage. However, it does give a better idea of the rolling nature of the course. For example, the first kilometre is pretty much all up-hill, averaging roughly 4-5% but there is no suggestion of that in the official profile. GCN highlight this in their video preview of the stage.

The most demanding climb on the course is from 21.8km to 24.2km to go, which averages a lowly 3.6% for those 2.4km. However, the final 500m of that section averages close to 8%. Again, this is just a small little bump on the official profile.

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The start of that 500m section

There are some fast and technical sections along the route too, particularly the descent off of the climb mentioned above.

So in summary, the route is more difficult than originally thought and brings a few more teams into the equation. There are some testing ramps that result in constant changes of tempo at times and this definitely benefits a few teams more than others. In contrast, the proper TTT powerhouses will still fancy their chances. It should make for some good racing!

However, there are still only 7 teams at most that can win this in my opinion.

Stage Contenders

Where best to start than with the current World Champions, BMC. They only have two of that world’s winning squad here with them (TVG & Dillier), but they are still a very strong and powerful unit. All of the riders should be able to cope with the undulating nature of the course and they will definitely be the team to beat.

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Second at the World’s last year was Etixx – Quick Step and they’ll be hoping to go one better here. Like BMC, they also have two of that squad here with them (Terpstra & Lampaert) with the rest of the squad filled out with powerful riders. They’ll go well here.

Orica traditionally go well in TTTs and have two of their last World’s squad with them as well (Tuft & Bewley). Again, a strong team that’s not outstanding, they will hope for a strong result but I can’t see them winning this.

Astana are normally very hit and miss with their TTTs, the squad that arrives here suggests that they’ll do the former. They have a good mix of strong rouleurs and solid climbers. I expect a surprise from them, a podium would be good!

After winning the Tour, Team Sky come here with a lot less pressure on them. They have a solid squad, a real mix bag of riders. They were great at TTT’s a few years ago, but lost their way recently. This almost mirrors Froome’s individual TT performance, will we see a similar return to form? It is very much on the cards I think!

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Next up are a team that always go well in Spain: Movistar. The only Spanish World Tour team save their best for home soil and yet again they bring a strong squad here. With the route being more undulating than originally thought will help them as they have a solid group of climbers on the team.

Tinkoff usually go fairly well and with Contador’s GC hopes, they’ll have to do the same here. Bodnar & Bennati are very strong in this type of discipline. I can’t see them challenge the top spot, but if they get a bit of luck a podium isn’t out of reach. Instead, I think a top 5 would be a good result for them!

Those teams will all be fighting for the top 5. The rest of the squads with GC contenders will just be hoping not to lose much time. We could see some reasonable time gaps!

Prediction

I think we all know where this is going…

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Guess the Spanish team will have to do then; Movistar to win the TTT! The knowledge of home/local roads and a mixture of good climbing abilities combined with power on the flats will see them through. It’s just a question of who they will put in the leader’s jersey, most likely one of the team’s “old-heads”, Erviti or Rojas.

Rojas in Rojo has a nice ring to it!

For what it’s worth, Sky and BMC will make up the podium.

Betting

Backing Movistar to win. 2pts WIN @3/1 with Bet365 (hunt around later when more bookies price up, I just want to get the preview out!)

I also like a H2H double with them too;

MOVISTAR to beat Lotto Jumbo, and ETIXX to beat Tinkoff.

3pts on  at 1.87/1

 

Thanks again for reading! Can you see any team beating the Spaniards? As usual, any feedback/discussion is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Ride London Classic

Ride London Classic

*Apologies in advance, this will be a more truncated preview than normal, I’m away on a family holiday tomorrow so don’t have much time to write this.  I’ll be focussing more on contenders than route etc*

The Route

 

There are plenty previews out there that focus on the route more. Check out CyclingQuotes or CyclingHub.

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Basically, it’s a mix of shortish climbs in the mid portion of the race, followed by a mainly flat finish into London with a couple of bumps along the way.

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How will the race pan out?

The profile suggests bunch sprint, previous editions suggest otherwise.

Ride London is normally dominated by fast and aggressive racing, as the teams without top sprinters attempt to split the race up over the climbs. Having smaller teams (6 riders per squad) is also conducive to more aggressive racing as there are less team-mates to control the breakaways and attacks.

This is one of the toughest races to predict the outcome of.

We could well see a sprint of 70-80 riders, a sprint of around 40, a small group of 10 or less make it to the line, or even a solo winner.

All of the above are all very plausible outcomes.

Contenders

The team with the strongest candidate here has to be Orica BikeExchange who have Michael Matthews. The Aussie rider will be able to deal with all of the climbs easily and he isn’t afraid to go onto the attack. He has a very fast sprint after a tough day, as was shown on Stage 10 at the Tour. He has to start as favourite. The only concern is that Orica don’t like to chase all day, so he might have to force/follow the attacks himself and could be outnumbered late in the race. Howson will be the key for him.

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Etixx have a strong squad here, if not the strongest, with two great candidates in the shape of Boonen and Trentin. I would say the Italian has the greater all round abilities to win this race compared to his veteran team-mate. It will be interesting to see how they play it. In Terpstra, Vandenbergh and Martinelli they have strong riders to chase moves or to force the opposition to work. Although Marintelli won’t win himself, because Gaviria isn’t here to be led out.

Last year’s winner Drucker returns for BMC. Their team is not as strong as in previous editions, and they don’t have a proper sprinter. They will have to force the race and split it up which is possible, with the likes of Oss and Gerts.

Sky come here with the Tour winner, but I can’t see him doing anything here. Their hopes will be Swift or DVP in some kind of sprint, but their main card could well be Stannard. The powerhouse of a rider did a great deal of work at the Tour and this type of race will suit him down to a tee. He should be able to manage the climbs and his big diesel engine will get better as the race goes. I can imagine he’ll be given the go ahead to mark attacks/go himself, while the others wait for a sprint.

Lotto come here without a big-name sprinter so will most likely turn to Roelandts as their main hope. A great classics rider, he’ll deal with Box Hill etc easily and he packs a fast kick too from a reduced group! Jelle Wallays might also have an impact on the days outcome.

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The other big name Brits: Cummings, Blythe and Dowsett could all pull something off here. With Blythe winning here before, he is very capable of winning a sprint. The other two will have to come home alone.

Away from the bigger teams and well-known riders there are a few guys from Pro-Conti and Continental teams that I’d like to highlight. It will be tough for these riders to win, but I hope we get a good showing from them!

First up is Karol Domagalski from One Pro Cycling. The Polish rider is a fairly solid climber and isn’t afraid of attacking. Earlier in June he won a stage in Korea with a great attack in the final 5km. Furthermore, he’s shown recent form, after winning the “bunch” sprint at the Ordiziako Klasika, so has a good turn of speed from a small group.

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Xandro Meurisse has recently just switched team from Crelan to Wanty as a stagiaire and gets his first race here. He finished 7th on GC at the Tour de Wallonie earlier this week so clearly has good legs. Another fast finisher from a small group he out-sprinted Coquard in Dunkerque after a tough end to the stage that involved some short, steep climbs. If he makes a small selection here, I’d keep an eye on him!

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I can’t go through these three riders without selecting a Brit, so Thomas Stewart gets the nod. The Madison Genesis rider has had a very consistent, picking up a win in Wales not so long ago, but also managing an 11th place on GC at the Tour de Yorkshire. He’ll hope to make it over the climbs with the favourites, and he should not be underestimated!

Tom-Stewart

Prediction

I think we’ll see another selective race tomorrow. I’d love to see one of the 3 “lesser” riders I’ve named steal a win, even a podium would be great! However, I fancy Ian Stannard to put in a killer attack somewhere near the finish and with the others marking each other out/not co-operating, he’ll storm away to victory. After all, he has Tour legs!

Ian Stannard

Betting

No odds up as of writing. 

I’ll be backing Stannard for the win, most likely EW, odds dependant. If he’s 20/1 or under I’ll just go straight up. 

If there are somehow odds for my 3 outside riders, then I might have a small fun play on them. If not, it’ll just be Yogi.

Stannard 33/1 at B365 1pt EW

0.125pt EW on Meurrise (80/1) & Domagalski (200/1)

Thanks again for reading, any feedback is always appreciated. Do you think we’ll see a selective race? Unfortunately, I doubt I’ll be able to watch it as I’ll be travelling most of the day 😦 I’m taking my laptop with me so the next preview should be for the Olympics RR, but I’m not promising anything. Enjoy the race wherever you’re watching it from! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.