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.

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

Today’s Recap

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

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

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

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

The Route

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

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You can view the interactive profile here.

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

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

Sierockie will be the climb to kick things off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will the stage pan out?

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

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

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

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

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

Could Haig manage to do the double? Possibly!

However, I’m taking a different approach…

Sublime Sunweb

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

What about his team-mate Oomen?

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

Prediction

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

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Betting

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

1.5pt WIN Kelderman @ 7/1

0.5pt WIN Oomen @ 33/1

 

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

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

Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Women’s Ronde van Drenthe 2017

Women’s Ronde van Drenthe 2017

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

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

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

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

The Route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wind forecast near Hoogeveen (Source: Windfinder)

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

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

Contenders

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

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Anna van der Breggen winning La Flèche

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

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Floortje Mackaij winning Gent Wevelgem

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

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

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

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

Prediction

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

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

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Coverage

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

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.