Innsbruck 2018 World Championships – Men’s TTT Preview

In 2017 we were treated to somewhat of a surprise performance with third favourites on the day, Team Sunweb, beating BMC by 8 seconds.

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Team Sky rounded out the podium but were definitely the disappointment of the day as they brought their best ever line-up to this event. Will Sunweb be able to double up on what is the last running of the event? Or will someone else take the title from them? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

The longest edition since the event returned in 2012, the riders will face an almost 63km route through the valley.

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There is a slight rise at the start but the only real difficulty the riders will face, aside from some roundabouts, is the climb which tops out at around 18.5km to go.

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The opening 1.75km of the climb averages roughly 8% before it “flattens” for the remainder. It isn’t an overly challenging ascent when taken in isolation but with it combined with an almost flat-out effort beforehand, we could see some surprise cracks. Conversely, those with a good pacing strategy might see all of their riders in the group over the top.

After the climb there is a plateau before the riders descend and are left with 10km of flat to the finish.

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There is a sharp turn with around 1.6km to go but aside from that, it should be plain sailing and full gas.

Team Tactics

I for one am very intrigued to see how the teams split themselves up for this race. Do they have a designated rider who’s main job is to empty the tank before and onto the foot slopes of the climb? Will the squad ride a solid tempo to keep all six together before drilling it in those final 10km?

Annoyingly for most of the teams but something that adds to the tactical intrigue, is the hardest part of the climb comes at the bottom. This means it will be harder for the heavier riders to keep up with the pace of the lighter guys, potentially meaning they go into the red and fall of the back of the pace line.

The length of the climb also adds an element to the tactics. At 4kms, it is probably just too long to slow the pace down to let all six riders stick together but some teams might think otherwise and the 20-30 seconds they lose on the ascent they can gain back later on.

Personally, and I am no TT expert, I would try to have five riders over the top together. That means sacrificing one guy to drill it into the bottom and the rest to just ride tempo so that they stick together. Losing one rider but still having an extra over the 4 rider minimum at the finish means that the periods of rest will be slightly longer when making rotations on the run in. That could make all the difference and help keep the speed that 1km/h quicker.

A two-horse race?

Much like the women’s event, there are two clear favourites here.

Sunweb are obviously the defending champions and they arrive with a squad that looks as strong, if not stronger than last year. Comparing all of the teams here, they are arguably the only squad that I can see keeping everyone together over the climb. Although I do think they might sacrifice Haga early on and keep the remaining five together. A powerful unit, they arrive here as rightful favourites. However, they will hope to improve on their disappointing 5th place at the Tour TTT.

sunwebm_2000_gettyBMC will have been bitterly disappointed to come away with second last year, which made it two years in a row that they were the bridesmaids at the main event. A stat that is somewhat surprising given their dominance in the event in previous years and throughout the seasons at different races. They were disappointing in the recent TTT effort in the Tour of Britain, juxtaposed to that though is Dennis smashing it at the Vuelta in the individual event. In 2018 they have tasted victory in all three of the WT level TTTs so far and that will certainly bring them confidence. With Pinotti leading them from the car, their pacing strategy will no doubt be perfect. It will just be a case of them having legs on the day.

So that’s it then? Well, there are a few teams that might upset the apple cart.

Team Sky – Perennially the “oooh, they could go well” squad before more often than not disappointing. They bring with them a strong squad but in recent times their pacing strategy has been off and I see them dropping Stannard and Doull on the climb which will cost them, despite just how strong their final four is.

Quick Step Floors – Once the strongest team in the world in the discipline, they have waned a little bit in terms of their results. However, they always come into races now as the underdogs and almost over achieve. On paper their squad might not stand out to some but it does to me. They have six exceptionally strong riders with them though and I would not be surprised to see them on the podium come the end of the day.

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Team Katusha – Another solid outfit with six good riders but the climb might just be their undoing. However, a team with Dowsett and Martin can never be underestimated.

Mitchelton Scott – Might have a chance, might not. As I’m writing this it is just over 24 hours to go until the start of the race yet there is no final team for them. Like Katusha, they can’t be underestimated but the hill might be their undoing.

Prediction

A BMC v Sunweb fight and I think the former will get it right this time around.

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Sunweb to come home second with Quick Step rounding out the podium.

Betting

Close race that is hard to predict so just a H2H double for me, nothing wild.

3pts on BMC > Sunweb and QS > Sky @ 2.45/1.

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Women’s TTT World Championship 2018 Preview

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

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

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

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

The Route

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

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

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

A two-horse race?

On paper the best teams here are Sunweb and Boels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction

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

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

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

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

Coverage

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

Betting

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

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

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

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

Tour de France 2018 Stage 3 Preview: Cholet -> Cholet (TTT)

Today’s Recap

Another chaotic sprint and that corner with just under 2km to go that I warned about in my preview yesterday proved to be at the centre of it. There was no room for some riders to come up the inside like they wanted and were forced outwards as the corner was more than 90-degrees and we unfortunately had a crash that took out a few of the stage contenders. Thankfully it was at a slightly slower speed so no one seems too injured from it.

That left a group of only 14 riders at the head of the race going under the Flamme Rouge to contest the stage win.

Démare tried to catch everyone off guard by going slightly early but Sagan was alive to it, brushing off Degenkolb as he latched onto the FDJ rider’s wheel. The World Champion then accelerated out of the slipstream and managed to hold on for the win, edging out the charging blog pick Colbrelli who finished a wheel length behind, with Demare coming home in third.

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That result means Sagan is in yellow going into tomorrow’s stage. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

A rolling 35.5km team time trial and the first “GC day”.

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Although there are a few roundabouts and turns to contend with in and around Cholet, the majority of the route is on a wide-open main road. Expect this to be a fast one!

Saying that, there are plenty of smaller roundabouts out on the route but most of them are relatively straightforward and they shouldn’t cause too many issues. The only thing teams will need to be wary of is their change-over as the timing will become more important near the roundabouts.

As is tradition with any sort of time trial I have made my own profile on Strava/Veloviewer that you can view here.

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The course features many short drags, but the first of which comes after only 1km and averages 2.7% for 2.1km. Nothing too tough bit it will make the teams ponder their pacing strategy a bit more. The next comes at 16km and is 1.8km at 3.3%, with the final major incline starting at just over 25km, with an average of 3.8% for 1.6km but it does include a steeper section at the bottom with 700m at 6.9%.

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The final 10km are mainly downhill so it will be a fast and frenetic run in.

Weather wise it appears that all the teams should face similar conditions, with a consistent 20km/h wind coming from the north north-east.

Contenders

It’s going to be a bit of a weird watch tomorrow with three of the favourite teams for the stage heading off within the first five outfits down the ramp. Of course, the squads will head out at 5 minute intervals with them going in reverse Team GC order, although Bora will be out last as Sagan has Yellow.

Mitchelton Scott.

First team down the ramp the Aussie outfit sacrificed bringing Ewan with them to the Tour so that they could focus on this stage a little bit more, choosing to have a group of strong rouleurs to help Yates as much as possible. That has somewhat backfired a bit after the opening two stages which have seen the Brit on the deck twice, with Impey and Durbridge both falling today as well. Will that have an impact tomorrow? Unfortunately we and probably them too, won’t know until they are out on the road. Matt White sounded confident in a post stage interview today stating that they will be up there fighting for the win but I’m just not sure after this afternoon. They were podium challengers but I think they will be happy with a top 5.

Team Sky.

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Second down the start ramp, Sky will be looking to take as much time as possible after Froome and Bernal’s bumps in the opener, we could even see Thomas in Yellow for the second year in a row. Sky absolutely smashed the 35km TTT in the Dauphine where the averaged a crazy 57.456km/h, putting 38 seconds into second placed BMC. Their outfit at this race is arguably even stronger and they won’t have many passengers. I would expect Rowe to fall away at some point but aside from that they will most likely come home together. Will that extra fire power help them? Given the nature of the course and the quality of their team they start as the stage favourites.

BMC.

It’s a TTT which means that the American team will inevitably be up there fighting for the win. They will miss the likes of Dennis and Scotson but they do have a very strong and well-rounded squad with them. One of the best drilled outfits in the peloton they will be fully up for this. Having the slight advantage of time checks on the two teams mentioned above, albeit they don’t start that much later than them, should help them pace their efforts a little better. Could we see Porte claw back some crucial time on his rivals?

Team Sunweb.

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The current World Champions will start 9th from the finish tomorrow so they should know time finish times of Mitchelton, Sky and possibly BMC by the time they set off. This will be a massive advantage to them as they will get an idea of the other teams pacing and where time could be gained/lost. Their squad is made up of a lot of strong riders, including three of the six who won that world title. In Suisse they placed an impressive 4 riders inside the top 12 in the final TT so they are clearly in good shape. Can the World Champs be classed as an outsider? They will be there or thereabouts.

Quick Step.

The only other team who I can see contending for the win/podium are the Belgian outfit. Back in the day they were experts in this discipline but they seem to have lost their way a little over the past couple of years. However, we’ve seen the might of their lead-out train so far in this race – they just need to keep that up for another 30km! They don’t have many great individual TT riders but as a unit they are very strong with a bunch of solid rouleurs. A win might be out of reach but they would be delighted with a podium.

Prediction

This is a tough one to predict but I’ll go with the classy TTT team here, BMC to take the stage and Van Avermaet to go into Yellow. It will be very close between them and Sky though!

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Betting

2pts WIN BMC @ 11/5 with Bet365 (Would take 2/1).

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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)

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 19.07.15

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!

Tirreno-Adriatico - Stage 1

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

Betting

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Team Time Trial World Championships – Doha 2016 Preview

Team Time Trial World Championships – Doha 2016 Preview

The last and main TTT of the year will once again see a trade team crowned as the World Champions. The winners really should get some kind of jersey/marking on the trade team jersey to signify their victory in my opinion! It’s also a shame that the discipline isn’t utilised more by race organisers in the World Tour or even at ProConti level. Anyway, I digress…

Team time trials are a great watch for the cycling purist, with a fine balance between power, speed and finesse. Last year saw BMC win the men’s race with Velocio-Sram taking home the women’s race.

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That victory was an incredible 4th in a row for Velocio (formerly Lululemon and now Canyon SRAM)! Can they make it 5 here? Let’s take a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Both the men and women will compete over the exact same 40km course. Leaving from the Lusail sports complex and finishing on the Pearl of Qatar.

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As you can see, the course is bookended by two technical sections with a big ol’ power section in between. On closer inspection the jaunt around the Lusail Sports Centre is actually 14km long. This includes several roundabouts, sharp 90-degree corners and a few hairpin turns for good measure! These obstacles are separated by 500m to 1km long straights where the power can be put down.

The pure power section follows, with approximately 10km of almost dead-straight road before we start getting into a more populous area again. The final 8.5km of the race features no less than 18 roundabouts to traverse! Some of them can be taken full speed as the racing line is straight, however there are others that will knock the speed off. It could be a case of who’s willing to take the most risks. Aside from the roundabouts, the best way to describe the Pearl section is “sweeping”.

This video shows what the riders will be faced with come Sunday; how wide the roads are etc. Pretty wide is the answer, as you would expect in Qatar! Therefore a lot of these roundabouts can be taken closer to full speed than they first may seem. Again, it could come down to who takes the biggest risks.

Men’s Race

The favourites for the men’s event has to be BMC. Reigning champions, they are a very powerful unit and have mastered the art of this discipline perfectly. We saw at Eneco that they looked comfortable, although their winning margin doesn’t suggest that, on a course that didn’t really suit them perfectly. This course is 75% about pure power and BMC are the best TTT unit for that. The opening 10km will be a challenge for them but if they can get through that unscathed then they will be tough to beat. The only lingering doubt is can they handle the pressure of being favourites?

Their main challengers will probably be Etixx. They were the team that ran them closest at Eneco and are traditionally a very good TTT unit, having won this race back in 2012 and 2013. With a team full of strong rouleurs this course suits them very well and they’ll be quietly confident about winning it. I would expect nothing less than a podium from them!

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

Movistar arrive with a very good team on paper but they often flatter to deceive in team time trials, especially of this length. They took a breakthrough third place last year but their form in the discipline this year has been a bit so-so. I’m not confident that they’ll be able to turn it around here.

A team that I am more confident can turn their poor form around is Orica. The Aussie outfit was famed for their TTT ability in the early years after their formation but they’ve stagnated recently. For Doha, they’ve brought a quietly unassuming team but one that is very well-rounded. With the majority of the riders being from the southern hemisphere (poor old Svein Tuft) they should in theory cope with the heat better than most. I expect them to podium, if not better!

As for the other teams? LottoNL Jumbo could potentially pull off a surprise but if they were ever going to get a TTT result it was going to be at Eneco. They didn’t manage then so I don’t see them going well here. Astana and Giant will hope to sneak in to the top five which would be a great result for them. Sky? Great TTT in the Vuelta but the team has been in disarray since this whole TUE malarkey and I can’t see them being fully focussed to go well.

Women’s Race

Disappointingly there are only 8 teams here, with the favourites being Boels Dolmans. If you think BMC are clear favourites for the men’s race, they aren’t a patch on Boels if you look at results. The squad has been utterly dominant in TTTs this year winning every race, except for the Tour of California TTT. A group of very talented riders, the only way they will lose this is by making mistakes out on the course or if one of the other teams has an incredible day. Both of which are possible!

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Canyon SRAM will be looking for their 5th title in a row, but they have performed below expectation this year. They finished 1:41 down on Boels at the Vargarda TTT (also 40km) back in August but came home second in the slightly more recent Ladies Tour event. Will they continue this upward trajectory and pull something out of the bag? Probably not.

Both Cervelo Bigla & Rabo-Liv have come close to beating Boels this year and will both be confident of making the podium. The real challenge for them will be if they can make it all the way on to the top step. On a good day they most certainly could and I’m hoping they perform well to run Boels close, potentially cleaning up if the Dutch outfit make a mistake.

Twenty-16 were the team that beat Boels in the Tour of California. However, there is a big difference between a 20km TTT in your home country, compared to a 40km effort elsewhere. They do have some very talented track pursuit riders in their team but I think it will be too much for them. I can’t really see any surprises from the other 3 teams but you never know. Zabelinskaya may pull Bepink round herself!

Prediction

BMC should win, but I have a very good feeling about Orica for some strange reason. (Not that that has ever helped before 😉 ) So instead of going for the favourites I’ll suggest the Aussie outfit win it by less than 5 seconds!

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Similar situation in the women’s race. Boels are clear favourites but it’s boring going for odds on favourites. Instead, I’ll pluck for Rabo-Liv to take home the race!

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Watch BMC and Boels go on and win comfortably now.

Betting

The favourites are priced accordingly, if not a bit conservatively by the bookies but I’ve found a couple of angles I like.

0.5pt EW Orica @ 18/1 with Ladbrokes. 

They’re paying out 1/3 odds for 2 places and I think there’s a good chance Orica could make the top 2 or at least should be thereabouts. Looks a good value bet in comparison to poor odds for Movistar and Etixx. Other bookmakers might offer more places later on, or a top 3 market, but I wouldn’t hold your breath on that!

0.125pt WIN Cervelo Bigla @ 25/1 with Ladbrokes.

0.125pt WIN Rabo Liv @ 16/1 with Bet365.

Unfortunately there’s no EW betting for the women’s race, as both of these teams are priced on the generous side if you could get a top 2/3 place. Nonetheless, I think they offer a bit of value just in case if Boels mess up or these teams are on an incredible day.

 

Congrats if you made it all the way down to here and thanks again for reading! How do you think the races will pan out? Will both of the obvious favourites win comfortably? Or is there a chance of an upset? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! 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.