Innsbruck 2018 World Championships – Men’s ITT Preview

A dominant performance in Bergen saw Dumoulin crush the opposition to take his first World title, beating Roglic by 57 seconds and Froome by 1’21.

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With the latter two riders not here to compete this year, Dumoulin will have to look further down the order for his nearest challengers and there are plenty waiting for him to make a mistake. First though, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

It really is a course that can be split into two.

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The opening 30km is almost pure flat, although there are a few rocks and rolls along the way. It will be interesting to see how the riders approach this section as you will want to keep something back for the climb but then again, you don’t want to start the final 20kms with an almost insurmountable gap to claw back.

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The 7.6% average for 4.3km makes the climb seem a bit easier than it is because the opening 3.6km actually average 8.9%. This is a tough climb and riders can gain/lose serious time here depending on their abilities but also their pacing throughout the effort.

Once over the top of the climb and through the second time check, the riders will face a short plateau before a roughly 6km descent, before tackling the same rolling finish to the day that we have seen in the previous days action.

How much time will the climbers take on the, erm, climb?

Catchy sub-title that, isn’t it?

The ascent of the Gnadenwald climb (sounds like a Harry Potter character) is tough and cannot be underestimated. In fact, it is not much easier than the much talked about “Hell” climb in the road race. Some serious time can be gained here by those who go up hills well and likewise, a lot can be shifted by the heavier riders.

I have no idea what power outputs the guys will be doing tomorrow but I guess we might see something like 5.5w/kg on the climb – complete guess. Given what we have seen in Grand Tours and such though, we could expect Dumoulin to take possibly 25 seconds out of Dennis on the ascent, maybe more maybe less, all depends on the legs on the day. However it is important to remember that it is just one climb in one day of racing so there is no accumulated ascending or fatigue to think of.

Of course though, the margin to the even heavier riders such as Tony Martin for example will be even more, possibly edging towards 45 seconds, even more.

The Distance Factor

It is important to consider the length of the TT though as it is not often throughout the year that riders will have to compete over such a long course. Some national championships take place over a similar distance but they are few and far between.

2013, 2014 and 2015 were the most recent WC to feature a course of a similar length but given 2013 was pan flat and 5 years ago, I think it is only fair to look at 2014 and 2015 in a little more detail.

2014 saw a rolling 47km TT around Ponferrada with Wiggins taking home the crown. The Brit has obviously retired and isn’t in Innsbruck but the following 4 home are all competitors here though; Martin (+26s), Dumoulin (+40s), Kiryienka (+47s) and Dennis (+57s). Also in the top 10 that day were Oliveira and Castroviejo but they both finished more than a minute down.

In 2015 the riders faced another rolling but not as difficult 53.5km course around Richmond. Kiryienka won in that day and with the other podium finishers having retired from the sport, Castroviejo is the only current rider to have finished within a minute, coming home in 4th at 29 seconds down. Dumoulin (1’01), Dennis (1’07) and Martin (1’16) followed home in positions 5 through 7.

Dennis and Dumoulin are the favourites but as we have seen in previous years, the distance can sometimes through up some surprises. If you’re on a bad day, you have less room to hide!

The infamous Rule of Thumb

Despite the riders competing for their national teams, they will still be riding trade team bikes so the RoT has to come into play. You should know the drill by now; Sunweb, Sky, BMC and Jumbo riders often go best in the TTs, but after their performances in the Vuelta and the recent TTT, Quick Step have now joined the list.

It is hard not to see maybe 7 or 8 of the top 10 come from those teams but there are always exceptions to the rules, especially over the longer distances.

Dennis vs Dumoulin

 

The battle we’ve all been waiting for.

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Dumoulin arrives here as defending champion after blitzing the competition last year. This season he has more than proved his mettle in the Grand Tours by taking back to back podiums at the Giro then Tour, although I am sure he would have liked it to have been more. The tough climb should be a big advantage for him but it is then a case of him managing to not lose too much time on the flatter section to Dennis. Being the best all-round TT rider we have here, this is his to lose on paper. Interestingly, he didn’t compete at his nation championships this year. A sign that he was confident enough of taking the WC jersey again?

Dennis often seems to have bad luck at these championships, having had a crash and a mechanical issue last year, yet still managing to finish in the top 10. The Aussie has competed in 9 TTs this season (including one prologue), having won 6 of them. More importantly though, he was won the two longer TTs that he has competed in at a Grand Tour this season – a big mental breakthrough for him after his bad luck in longer events before. That Giro win was ahead of Dumoulin while both were competing for GC, which to me is important, as it shows that he is able to produce a big performance after depleting his body over a few weeks. Then he showed the world at the Vuelta just what he can do in a TT after resting up with one of the most incredible TT performances I have seen over the past few years.

Can anyone beat them? 

A dangerous question given what we’ve seen over the past few days of racing where sometimes the favourites disappoint, but I would be very surprised if anyone did.

Martin – Surprised everyone at the Giro by coming second in the longer TT before going on to win his national championships comfortably. He has the pedigree in this type of event but the climb isn’t ideal for him – he is not the Tony Martin of 2012.

Kiryienka – Another former World Champion who does seem to go better when the race gets longer, he has been very disappointing against the clock this year. Have his abilities finally started to wane?

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Schachmann – Not for me. He’s done ok in longer TTs before and is clearly in good form but I think this is too much for him. I think the Euro result was a bit of a one-off and thanks to some changing conditions. Maybe in a few years.

Jungels – Looked super strong in the TTT and in both this season’s Tour and last year’s Giro he has performed commendably in the individual efforts against the clock. He’ll be the closest Quick Step rider in my opinion.

Castroviejo – If you’ve followed the blog for a little while you will know by now just how much I love his position on a TT bike. The Spaniard was arguably the MVP domestique for Sky at the Tour and he followed that up by doing the Vuelta. Is he fatigued? If not, he is a real danger for a medal.

Kwiatkowski – Like his team-mate above, he has done both the Tour and Vuelta. He started off in GC contention for the latter before deciding to try to chase a stage win, unucssesfully. This will be his first time competing in the discipline at the Worlds since 2013 and I’m intrigued to see how he does.

Oliveira – A consistent nearly man, he was strong in the Vuelta and followed that up here by looking the best in the Movistar line up for the team event. He’s one to watch but probably only for another top 6.

Kung – Has struggled of late so it is a no for me.

Campenaerts – In theory could go well but he has talked down his chances and he seems to be tired too.

Two rank outsiders I am intrigued to see how they go are the BMC pair of Bevin and Van Garderen. Both have delivered good efforts against the clock this season but only on the sparing occasion. The former was strong in the Tour of Britain and I’m intrigued to see how he copes with distance. Meanwhile, TVG has had a pretty dull season but a win in California and third in Suisse over 34km courses show he can last the distance, at times.

Prediction

I’m probably bucking the trend here because it doesn’t really make much sense given how Dumoulin should cope with the climb much better, but I’m going to go with Dennis to take the title.

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That second Vuelta stage win was poetry in motion. To take almost a minute out of the rest of the field on what was a tough and rolling course just highlights how good his form is – it really was sensational. After the disappointment of the team even on Sunday, he said he was really looking forward to tomorrow and was confident of delivering a good result. I have called for your aid Rohan, will you answer?

Dumoulin to come home second with Jungels confirming his great form at the moment and take third.

Betting

Do I want to back him heavily though?

You can get almost 2/1 on the BF exchange which I’m going to have a little nibble at but I’m not going to recommend it. Instead, I’ll make Jungels my main play as a solid EW bet.

1pt EW Jungels @ 25/1

Then just for the fun of it, some tiny punts on Bevin and TVG

0.125pt EW on them both – Bevin @ 150/1, TVG @ 200/1

I do like the look of the Jungels over Schachmann H2H though.

5pts on at 5/4 with WillHill

 

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Can Dennis stop Dumoulin? Can anyone get close to those two? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 16 Preview: Santillana del Mar -> Torrelavega (ITT)

Rest Day Recap

Amazingly, we had the GC teams fight out for the stage win for the second day in a row. Something must be up…

On Lagos de Covadonga it followed a similar pattern for a few kilometres after Astana had done all the pace work and it was identical almost to Stage 14: Lopez attacks, Quintana chases; Quintana attacks, Lopez chases. This happened a good few times before a decrease in pace saw the GC group almost crawling their way up the mountain. Pinot took advantage of the looking around and with his not-immediate threat to GC, he was let go. Phony attacks kept happening but now Yates and Mas were getting involved too. The on-screen graphics/timing were way off as Pinot had a much more comfortable margin than it appeared and he ended up taking the stage win by almost 30 seconds.

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Lopez eventually managed to get a bit of a gap but with Yates’ sprint for third place behind, he only gained a few seconds on his rivals in the end.

A lot has been made of Quintana, his lack of an offensive mindset and wheel sucking escapades, but to me he did nothing wrong. He put in a couple of attacks himself and closed down Lopez a few times before being on the limit. It is hard to attack when you’re on the limit and everyone else is climbing at 6.2w/Kg.  Yates then berated him for not working but I just don’t think Nairo had the legs, if so, he still wouldn’t have been hanging around then. Furthermore, Valverde did enough pulling for Quintana to sit back and rest up once he was in the red. Just sticking up for my little Colombian, that’s all!

Anyway, yesterday’s result still leaves things very much up in the air going into the final week with the top 5 on GC only separated by less than 1’30. Will we see a big change after the important TT tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Billed by PezCycling before the race as “fast and flat”, I would like to know what they’ve been smoking! Have they not been paying attention to the Vuelta in the past few years and know that Javier Guillén is the biggest patter merchant around?

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As with all TTs, I’ve made the whole route (as you can see above, obv) and you can view it directly on VeloViewer here.

I’m somehow missing a kilometre from the route (no idea how that has happened as I’ve followed the map perfectly) but anyway, according to the Strava/VV profile there is 547m of elevation gain and LaFlammeRouge suggest 425. Call it evens and go for 480ish? Either way, the TT is certainly not “flat”!

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The riders will be aware of this almost as soon as they leave the start ramp because they face a one kilometre climb that averages 6% pretty much straight away. A nice one to get the legs opened up on…

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After the short descent, the terrain then constantly rolls for the following 10kms, including an 800m (6% average) climb on what looks to be a very narrow road.

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Once over that climb the riders rejoin the main road and slowly start to head South. Yet, it is only 2kms later until they start to head upwards again with the following test.

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Taking place on a twisty road, the 2.1km at 5.3% will be tough on a TT bike and it will be tough for some to settle into a rhythm despite the fairly consistent gradients.

All of the above happens in just the opening 14kms. Again, I would like to remind you that some have said this is flat, ha! To be fair, the remaining 17kms of the day are much easier and will be a lot faster for the riders as it is mostly descents and flat they will have to contend with.

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That doesn’t mean there is no climb though because as soon as the riders turn onto a two-lane road and head East towards the finish they have to face a 2.2km drag that averages 3%.

With 10kms to go I can say that all the main climbs of the day are over with and they will have a descent and flat-ish run to the line because as of course given this is Spain, there are still a couple of small drags here and there.

Can anyone stop Dennis?

I asked the same question before the opening day against the clock and the answer was no. I think it is most likely the same for tomorrow. However, there are question marks over his ability to cope with the distance but a few of those poor performances have been down to bad luck; whether that be a crash or numerous mechanicals. Yet, those will still linger over him a bit.

He did reverse things a bit at the Giro when he won the 34km long TT there in the final week of the race but that was his first pro TT win in a distance that was over 20km. It was a convincing performance though and a sign that things might be changing and that his endurance has picked up.

Furthermore, it all depends on where his form is at just now. Obviously he is building towards having a good tilt at the Worlds but we haven’t seen him at the front all race. It really is an unknown.

Nonetheless, he does start as the clear favourite and it will be hard to beat him.

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But not impossible. I don’t call him the best short TT rider in the World for nothing, he has yet to show consistency over the longer distances.

Two Main Challengers?

After Kwiatkowski’s fall the other day, it looks as if the two who can challenge Dennis’ potential domination are Campenaerts and Castroviejo.

The former showed some good form when in the break last week and he is the type of TT rider who can deal with some hills so the course is good for him. Likewise the same can be said for Castroviejo who will certainly get an advantage of riding in front of his home crowd. However, he is much like Dennis in that we haven’t really seen him do anything all race so far. I think he’s been resting up and will be fine tomorrow.

Rule Of Thumb #1

For the opening TT I mentioned a rule that you have to back either a BMC, Sky, Jumbo or Sunweb rider for a time trial as they always seem to produce the best results. On that day 7 out of the top 10 were from those teams and I think we might see a similar-ish spread tomorrow. Although the longer course does give opportunities for stronger riders in other teams to shine.

Rule of Thumb #2

We’re in Spain.

Spanish riders always go well in Spain and so do Spanish teams. It is just the way it is. They just need to be a little less obvious about the moto drafting than the Italians and Aru/Ulissi at the Giro.

Rule of Thumb #3

We’re now into a third week of a Grand Tour so the GC riders often throw up some surprise results in the TT. Have a look back at the TT result last year in the Vuelta, the top 5 on that day were the top 5 riders on GC. Albeit before the start Dennis had to pull out in the morning so there wasn’t a proper TT test, aside from Froome himself being one.

Rule of Thumb #3.5

It’s after a rest day and some riders perform better after a rest day. As to why that is, well, we’ll leave that for now.

Any outsiders to go watch?

Oliveira has a good chance of delivering another solid result. He is always a consistent performer in these types of TTs.

Gallopin is riding as well as I have seen him all year and he is in my opinion one of the better GC TT riders. He has lost time over the past couple of mountain stages but he should have the power to go well in this TT and he might surprise.

Zakarin’s GC chances were ruined by a fall early into this race but he is the type of guy who can pull out a very good effort against the clock when needed.

How will the Top 5 GC riders fare?

Yates – His TT has got better and he *only* shipped 1’37 to Dennis in the Giro. Tomorrow’s slightly more rolling terrain does suit him better than that day and we have seen over the previous stages that he is the form rider here. He can have really bad days on the TT bike so you never really know with him. He will still hope to be in red after the stage.

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Valverde – The man who is most likely to overhaul Yates, Valverde has been strong throughout this race, only losing a handful of seconds on the summit finishes. Arguably a stronger rouleur than Yates, he is theoretically a better TT rider. Plus, when you account for Rules 2 through 3.5 above, then he has a good chance of getting into red. He’s finished in the Top 5 a total of 22 times in TTs throughout his career (not including nationals) and 18 of those were in Spain.

Quintana – Really needs a big turnaround as to me he just didn’t seem to have the legs the last two days, which is somewhat odd, as he looked very comfortable on La Camperona. He’s done well in TTs in Spain before but he has also struggled an awful lot in TTs. The times he has gone strongly have been when he has been climbing well. Unfortunately, I think he’ll lose a chunk of time.

Lopez – Everyone seems to think Lopez is a great GC TT rider but hot take: he’s not! Don’t worry though, I too have fallen for the 2016 Tour de Suisse performance before. I think he was helped massively that day by the rolling course and that the TT was at quite a high altitude. His performance in the Giro was dire, even though he looked like one of the stronger climbers. Will that be the same tomorrow? I think so.

Kruijswijk – Arguably the most consistent of the GC riders in an effort against the clock, the Jumbo rider should deliver a solid time that will more than likely vault him very close to Lopez and Quintana but I think it will be difficult for him to overtake them with his current deficit.

Special mention goes to Kelderman who I would be ranting and raving about had he not massively gone pop yesterday. Likewise Ion Izagirre who has lost some time too.

Prediction

I think it will be tough for anyone to topple Dennis but I’m going to put my neck on the line and say that someone will, just for the fun of it…

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The stars will align for the current Spanish champion who I think has been saving himself for this day since the start of the race almost. He might also get the advantage of some friendly motos…

Fun fact, since 2015 he currently holds a 3:1 lead over Dennis in TTs that they’ve both competed in which have been over 20km. Food for thought!

Betting

A sensible decision would be a no bet but when playing for fun, then why not…

1pt WIN Castroviejo @ 12/1 (various bookmakers)

4pts Castroviejo to beat Campenaerts @ 5/4 (WillHill)

Then it wouldn’t be a GT TT without a stupid acca…

0.5pt on this 5-fold

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Thanks as always for reading, hope you enjoyed the preview! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone stop Dennis? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 1 Preview: Málaga -> Málaga

Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 1 Preview: Málaga -> Málaga

The Route

Pretty much on the borderline of the prologue/stage 1 debacle, the opening day of racing kicks off with an 8km effort against the clock around the streets of Málaga.

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Very insightful profile from the organisers…

So as is tradition for TTs, I’ve made my own that you can view here.

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It’s only the opening day and we already got our first chance to witness some classic Vuelta road-book/profile patter. The TT is actually 8.2km by my reckoning not the 8km that they say, and the hill in the middle is certainly a lot steeper than what it is made out to be.

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The road “flows” for the majority of the route but there are several roundabouts to negotiate in the opening kilometres but they shouldn’t knock off too much speed. It is possible to gain some time through the tighter corners though with good bike handling skills. Nonetheless, it will be a day for riders to get up to a high-speed and maintain it. Well, except for the small little obstacle just over halfway into the stage…

Now the profile I’ve made does make the climb seem a bit more extreme but that’s of the close contours on the map, blah blah blah. The actual “segment” below is a much more realistic representation.

Vuelta TT Climb

As you can see, it is almost a kilometre long and averages 5.5%. Although going off of the elevation gain on my profile it is roughly 1.2km at closer to 6%. It really is six or half a dozen though!

One of the more important things to note about the climbs is that the riders won’t be able to carry a lot of speed into it. Arguably the tightest corner of the route comes just before the road starts to head upwards – explosivity will be important.

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The riders will cross over to the other side of the road, taking the sharp left, turning back on themselves as they head towards the hill, exiting past where the other cars are sat at the junction.

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A short descent follows over the crest of the climb, before a shade over 2kms of flat sees the riders make their way to the finish line. With only a few turns to make, it will be the last chance for the big power riders to gain back any time that they lost on the short ascent.

Thankfully, it looks as if the riders will get pretty much the same conditions throughout the evening. Speaking of which, you can view the start order here.

A Clear Favourite?

To answer my question simply: yes.

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Rohan Dennis is the best in the World at short TTs in my opinion, although he would possibly prefer a couple of more kilometres on the distance to round it up to 10 – just like the Tirreno TT that he regularly smashes. I say this as he has only won one prologue in his career but given tomorrow is technically not a prologue and with no Dumoulin here, his competition isn’t as strong, he should take the win. The slightly punchier route does bring some closer to him and with a bug going around in the BMC camp (Porte’s illness), then he might have been affected himself and not be near 100%. However, I can’t see anyone beating him if he is on good form. Quite simply, the best TT rider here. Don’t @ me.

Rule of Thumb…

I have a rule for TTs that has developed over the past couple of seasons: always consider BMC, Sky and Jumbo as they seem to be the most consistent performers in the discipline. Lately, I’ve added Sunweb to that list too as they’ve really upped their game since mid 2017.

BMC – Obviously they have the aforementioned stage-favourite Dennis but they also have Bookwalter and Rosskopf who both should turn in good times. They should be in or around the top 15 but I can’t see them challenging for the win. It’s all or nothing for them with Dennis.

Team Sky – We’ve seen numerous Sky riders in the top 10 of several TTs throughout the year. In fact, I was left rather red-faced when they decided not to bother turning up in the opening Giro TT. Kwiatkowski is the threat in the team to Dennis, the Pole has been flying in and since the Tour really. The punchier course suits him very well and he would be disappointed not to be on the podium come tomorrow. However, it would be foolish to discount De La Cruz and Castroviejo, both of whom are very talented on the TT bike and again, they should enjoy the route. The latter lost the Euro TT by less than a second to Campenaerts recently so it seems he has continued his Tour form as well.

Lotto Jumbo – One of their worst squads in terms of TT depth that I’ve seen in a while. You could argue that Boom might produce a good result but he’s not been great all year since his operation. He needs to find a contract though so who knows.

Team Sunweb – Another squad who seem to be lacking in big hitters. Kelderman would be one to consider but given his lack of racing and only recent return from a crash, it is hard to know where his form is at. Geschke might be able to spring a surprise but again it is tough to see him break onto the podium.

The Rule Breakers

There are of course some riders who break the rule.

Victor Campenaerts.

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Able to retain his European crown, Campenaerts then produced a good time in the BinckBank TT a few days later, only to be blown away by Küng that afternoon. A powerful rider, he should be able to cope with the short climb but it won’t be too his liking as much as others. However, we did see in the opening Giro TT that he can roll with the punches so will be there or thereabouts at the finish.

Jose Goncalves.

How could I not mention #GoOnCalves?! If you’ve followed the previews for a while then you’ll know I’m a big fan of the Katusha man. It was back in the 2015 Vuelta that he really sprung onto the scene when riding for Caja Rural. He’s a very punchy rider and has a lot of raw power. I say “raw” as he often doesn’t have the best tactical brain (partly why I like him) but that doesn’t matter in a TT. He’s improved a lot in the discipline this year with a 4th place in the opener at the Giro the highlight. Would it be a surprise if he was up in the top 5? I’d definitely say no!

Prediction

I’ve lead you on a long merry-go-round only to end up with saying Dennis as my pick. The best short TT rider in the World wins, simple!

I expect Castroviejo and Kwiatkowski to be close for Sky, with Campenerts and Goncalves also in the mix as well.

Betting

I’ve lumped on Dennis before and I would maybe consider doing it again but can’t bring myself to do it. The Castroviejo or Goncalves top 3 angles are interesting, in fact, I have a couple of quid on the latter at 100/1 but that price has gone now. Don’t think I’d take him at his current 20/1 and Castroviejo is too short for the top 3 at 9/4 IMO.

I have found an angle I like though and it is probably only available to some so it will be a no bet for most.

Unibet have a H2H market and I really like the Castroviejo v Boom one they have. The Spaniard is 1/2 to win it and that is a price I will happily take.

No 30pters here but 5pts will do…

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win on the opening day? 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.

2018 Tirreno-Adriatico - Stage 1 TTT

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.

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 16 Preview: Trento -> Rovereto (ITT)

Rest Day Recap

Does it still count as a GC raid if it is the GC leader that is doing it? Sunday’s racing saw yet another superb performance from Simon Yates who took another stage victory and extended his lead in the overall classification to a quite large 2’11 over nearest rival Dumoulin.

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Dumoulin himself finished in third on the day after valiantly fighting back to a group of other GC contenders that included Carapaz, Pinot, Pozzovivo and Lopez, the latter of whom took second on the stage.

After his heroics on Zoncolan Froome reverted to his first week ways and lost even more time. Just after he seemed to just squeeze back into the fray he once again looks fragile. Is he out of the hunt now? Probably, but who knows with him.

It really could have been a day for the break but it took a long, long time for it to form, especially when the likes of Poels, Bilbao and Aru were trying to infiltrate it. None of them succeeded and a large group of 26 riders eventually escaped, most thought it would be the first moved that stuck all race. But EF Education First probably need taught a lesson themselves after their DS told the squad to pull on the front so they could launch Woods across to the head of the race. The closest he got was 55 seconds away and he soon returned to the peloton with his tail between his legs. Not the most tactically astute bit of riding I’ve seen from the former Cannondale outfit but they do have previous for this type of thing!

Anyway, looking ahead tomorrow and the day which has been talked about for such a long time in this race, shaping the narrative throughout with the question: will Yates have enough time over Dumoulin?

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

The Route

A 34.2km “pan-flat” TT but considering we’re in Italy, it is never actually pan-flat.

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As per usual with a TT, I’ve made the route on Strava/Veloviewer that you can take a look at here.

Interestingly, the profile on Veloviewer does make the course seem more rolling than the official profile, it is just a case of trying to figure out what errors and discrepancies there are due to the route mostly being in the valley and therefore close to contours on the map which might not actually be hills in real life. Ya get me?

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The first little hump you see is definitely a hill but it is one you don’t actually see on the official profile, admittedly it isn’t anything too serious but averages close to 4% for 900m.

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One thing that could also be a concern for the riders through this section is just how narrow the roads are: they’re stereotypical small Italian town roads.

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Not ideal, especially if the roads are slick from rain.

The bigger kicker once they’re just out-of-town looks to be #FakeNews but it is hard to tell with the wide road and open valley. It might rise a little but not the amount the Veloviewer profile suggests.

Once into the final third of the TT it does get a bit more rolling but again, the gradients aren’t too severe. The toughest climb of the day starts at roughly 22km into the stage, averaging 3.7% for 1.5km, however the majority of the climbing is made in the final 700m which average 6.5%.

The final 3kms of the day drag up to the finish line at 1% or so, which is certainly not enough to put off the TT specialists.

One thing that I have taken note of looking through the route on Streetview and I’m sure the riders will have during their reconnaissance today, is that although there are plenty of wide open main roads, once into the towns the roads are very narrow and quite sketchy in some places. Taking a few risks through the turns could save quite a few seconds and energy.

Weather Watch

As is always the case with a TT that spans the course of a few hours, the weather gods might be more kind to some than others. But as per usual the few websites I’ve looked at have confilcting information, classic.

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Windfinder has the above forecast for Romagnano, whereas, Meteo.it has the following for the just more southerly Aldeno, the point of the first intermediate check point.

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So one suggests rain for the early starters, the other late, while both kind of suggest that the early starters should get a slightly more helpful tailwind.

Saying that, I looked at the forecast yesterday and it was going to be a slight headwind all day – who knows what is going to happen!

The TT Specialists

There are several riders here who will have had one eye on this event since their failed attempts in Jerusalem, more than likely soft pedalling their way around Italy as much as they can to go well here. However, the race has been really fast and tough, so it will be interesting to see how much energy they’ve actually managed to save!

Victor Campenaerts.

Bitterly disappointed to have missed out on the Pink Jersey at the start of the race, this has been the Lotto rider’s main aim since then. The European champion has only taken three wins in his career but all have been in TTs. He’s the powerful type of rider who can go well on a course like this but I do have my concerns about his team bike, the Ridley he is riding just isn’t as good as the Bianchi he left at the “other Lotto”. Speaking of which…

Jos Van Emden.

Winner of the final TT at this race last year, tomorrow’s effort looks right on the distance limit for him as he seems to struggle at the really long, 40km days in the saddle. His win last year came as a bit of a surprise to me as I thought the 30km would be too long: can he hack the extra 4km this year? I think he has a good chance, he’s looked strong on the open road days when pulling on the front for Van Poppel.

Alex Dowsett.

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The Brit has had a hectic few days after his hotel room was broken into while he was sleeping, which was then followed up with him being caught up in a crash on Sunday and having to chase on almost all day. A winner of a TT at the Giro in the past, he hasn’t pushed on to the lofty heights many people expected of him. He could win, he could come 13th – either way I wouldn’t be surprised.

Tony Martin.

Long gone are the days that the Panzerwagen would start as favourite for an event like this. He’s not really looked himself over the past few years and the winning of the Worlds in 2016 was more of a blip than anything else. Is his career on a downward spiral? One thing Martin does have going for him is that he has been more visible during this race than previous GTs and that can only be a good sign.

Ryan Mullen.

Due a big win, it will be interesting to see how well the Irish champion goes at this stage of the race given it is his first GT. Given that fact, I don’t he’ll be fighting for the win.

Vasil Kiryienka.

Sky were appalling on the opening day, completely going against their previous TT efforts this season. A course like this suits Kiryienka perfectly but will he be given the green light to go for it?

The TT Specialists come GC riders

Tom Dumoulin.

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This is his big day – he needs to take a good amount of time out of Yates but I just can’t see him taking enough to move into Pink. There is a very good chance that he takes the stage win but Dumoulin hasn’t looked as unflappable as he did last year, with some cracks starting to show. He is the class rider in the field for an event like this but with how tough the Giro has been, we could get a surprise result from him. I do love watching him on a TT bike though, his position is incredible – it is like poetry in motion. Will there be a poetic end to his day?

Rohan Dennis.

He’s had an incredibly quiet race aside from his taking of the Maglia Rosa on the second stage. The fact it has been an under the radar performance from him is good, it means that on his first proper attempt at going for GC in a three-week GT he hasn’t fully cracked yet, currently sitting on the cusp of the top 10. It will be interesting taking into account just how much these past two weeks have taken their toll on him and what that will do for a TT in this position in the race. This is perfect Dennis distance, but I think the racing will just have taken too much out of him.

Chris Froome.

No TT dominance from Sky on stage 1 and that day has really set up their whole Giro – they’ve been well below their normally impeccable standards. The finish to Zoncolan was the one day that they’ve performed to what you would expect from them. This is a TT in the second half of a GT which means that Froome can never be discounted. It all just depends what one turns up and I don’t think he’ll be good enough.

The GC riders who might surprise

As is often the case when we get to the final week of a GT there are some shock results. Tomorrow’s effort reminds me a lot of the TT that we had in the Vuelta last year which was a 40km TT that had roughly 500m of climbing (according to my Strava profile of it), very similar to the 420m in 34km on offer here. The top 5 on that day looked like the following…

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The GC guys as you can see came to the fore, although admittedly it was a fairly lacklustre TT field. That stage came after a rest day, before which the riders faced two very tough days of climbing – sound familiar?

Simon Yates.

Who knows where his abilities will end, he has looked sensational so far this race and makes me kick myself every day that I didn’t back him pre-race at 40/1. Apparently he has done a lot of work over the winter to find a position that might not be as aerodynamic as the one he had before, but he is able to sustain it a lot longer and put more power as a result. Mitchelton have been flying in TTs as of late too, the women did very well in the Bira at the weekend. I would be surprised to see him in the top three, but then again, I wouldn’t. He is the form rider after all.

Thibaut Pinot.

Can he rekindle his TT form that he had two years ago? I hope so, for the sake of the race it would be good to see! He’s looked strong so far but just not as strong as Yates and I think it will be the same tomorrow.

Pozzovivo and Lopez can TT well on occasion but I think it will be a bit of a stretch for them tomorrow, but you never know.

“It’s the Giro after all.”

Prediction

Bit of a shock result but Van Emden will double up after last year’s success.

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I also think we’ll see Yates get very close to the podium.

Betting

1pt EW Van Emden at 14/1 (would take the 12/1 widely available)

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Yates has shortened in to 250/1 which is just about back-able.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see a surprise? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Vuelta a Andalucia 2018 Stage 5 Preview; Barbate › Barbate

Today’s Recap

Well that was an excellent finish!

The race all came together again just at the bottom of the final climb into Alcalá de los Gazules and Landa swiftly made an explosive attack. Only Wellens was able to follow the Movistar man and the two went back and forth for the closing kilometre. However, it was Wellens who took charge in the closing few hundred metres, rounding Landa in the penultimate turn and holding on for a spectacular win.

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Fuglsang trailed home 12 seconds down in third place with former GC leader Poels a further second behind.

The result consequently leaves Wellens in the lead going into the final day of racing. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

TT day!

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@LasterketaBurua

A fairly straightforward TT aside from the 5.5km of gravel roads the riders will face. Those kilometres on the dirt road have an average gradient of 1.6% which adds a little extra spice to the day. Not a steep climb, it is certainly one for the rouleurs and typical TT riders in the peloton.

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Once over the halfway point it will be a fast second part to the effort with the route being mainly downhill back in to town. One thing the riders might have to consider is the weather conditions.

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We should have similar conditions throughout the day which is good, but being beside the sea the wind can swirl and change around without much notice. The riders will need to save something so they don’t struggle into the headwind on the way back home!

Contenders

We have a pretty weak TT field here if I’m honest and makes the day wide open.

Chris Froome (a.k.a He Who Must Not Be Named).

On paper he is the class rider here against the clock but given everything over his head at the moment, will he go full gas? He certainly gave it a nudge on the opening mountain stage of the race so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him do the same tomorrow. Then again, I equally wouldn’t be surprised if he did nothing of note given his GC chances are out of the window.

Tim Wellens.

Given his sensational form at the moment, the current GC leader has a good chance of a good result against the clock. He’s not known for his time trial capabilities but he isn’t exactly bad in the discipline either, with a good few top 10s to his name. Riding with confidence, he’s certainly one to watch.

Luis Leon Sanchez.

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In spectacular form so far this season, he will have been bitterly disappointed to lose so much time today. That result throws his GC title tilt into jeopardy but he has a glimmer of hope with a good performance tomorrow. On his day he can produce very good times against the clock but those have been few and far between as of late; although it is hard to judge as he often doesn’t have to go full gas.

Stef Clement.

The Dutch rider is a very solid TT rider and in a field like this he can be classed as a specialist. The flat course should suit him well and he’ll hope to find similar form to what he had during the national championships last season which he only just lost out to a flying Dumoulin. Jumbo have massively improved in this discipline so I’m intrigued to see if they’ve made any more advances during the winter.

Moreno Moser.

It would be rude not to mention the Italian for what seems like the 7000th preview in a row. As you can probably tell, I’m scraping the barrel for any TT talent that we have here and a new Moser could possibly go well. He was third in the European Championships in 2016 and he’s been good against the clock in the past. Astana will want an early rider to go well to give their two GC guys race-pace info about the course so we might see Moser in full flight. Maybe.

Prediction

Piss weak TT field should make for an exciting and open day. I’ll go for Stef Clement to take the win!

Stef Clement N Lotto-Jumbo rode a strong tt finishes 4th on the stage

Betting

1pt EW Clement @66/1 (would take 33/1)

Thanks as always for reading and apologies for a slightly shorter than normal preview but I am shattered and there’s not much more to say really! The next race I’ll be previewing will be the Abu Dhabi Tour so I’ll see you all then. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Men’s Individual Time Trial World Championships Preview – Bergen 2017

Last year saw Tony Martin smash the opposition on a pan-flat course in Doha but it is very unlikely he’ll manage to defend his title this time round. In fact, the second (Kiryienka) and third (Castroviejo) finishers from 2016 have a better chance than the German.

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Will any of them be able to match the big favourite for the event Tom Dumoulin? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders over the afternoon.

The Route

The riders will complete almost two full laps of what has been known as the “short” circuit for the TTs that we’ve had over the previous days.

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The laps are rolling but not overly difficult and the riders should be able to maintain a fairly high-speed of roughly 50km/h or so.

The biggest test they will face out on the route is a staggered climb that starts at roughly 5km into the day.

Bergen Short Lap Climb

At an average of only 3.5% for 1.5km in length, the more traditional TT riders shouldn’t lose too much time here. With that being said though, some of the steeper ramps involved in the climb do allow those who are less gravitationally challenged to gain a bit of an advantage. Nonetheless, it is one for the power riders to attack and it shouldn’t make a massive difference either way unless someone is on a bad day.

Tomorrow though is all about the final 3.5km which have been well documented about in the run up to these Championships with the ascent up Mount Floyen.

Mount Floyen

Tough!

So tough in fact that we will inevitably see bike changes in the special bike exchange zone just before the climb itself.

At an average of 9.3% for just over 3km this test will put to bed the hopes of Martin etc who are far too heavy to go close on this type of route. It is similar to the Mont Brouilly TT that we had in Paris Nice earlier in the year, but the closing climb is even harder here in Bergen.

Weather Watch

With the riders starts being so spread out due to the lap nature of the course, Lutsenko is first off at 13:05 while Martin starts at 17:03, then changing weather could no doubt have a massive impact in the outcome of the race.

You can view all of the start times here.

Once again, varying reports suggest different things, but we are sure to get rain at some point throughout the day.

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Source: Yr.no

After a fairly accurate forecast for today Yr.no suggests that the riders will be in for consistent rainfall throughout the day, but it will pick up more for the riders who are starting their efforts towards the end of the 3rd wave and those off at the start of the 4th wave.

The “big hitters” going off at close to 17:00 might not have the same levels of rain fall but they will have to contend with a wet route.

That is of course assuming that the forecast is close to being correct!

Ultimately though, I don’t think the weather will play too big of a part in the outcome of the race, with the rider’s legs doing the talking so to say.

Bike Change Kerfuffle

One of the hotly debated topics in the run of to tomorrow’s race is if rides will change from a TT bike to their road machines to tackle Mount Floyen.

Such a fuss was kicked up that the UCI have designated a specific “bike exchange zone” that is 20m long and is located just before the start of the climb. If you have watched any of the action over the past few days, you’ll recognise the section as the slight cobbled drag the riders have had to contest with.

The whole thing doesn’t sit right with me if I’m being honest. Yes, they should be allowed to change a bike if they want to, but there shouldn’t be a specific zone. Furthermore, by the sound of it riders will have a mechanic waiting road-side to make their change more seemless. In my opinion if a rider is wanting to change bike then it should still have to be taken from the roof of their following car. But hey, what do I know!

There is also a lot of confusion as to the rules that are to be followed in the exchange zone. I’m sure if you have been on social media today then you will have stumbled across videos of riders practicing their change-overs. In most videos you will see the riders get a 10-15m push from their mechanics to get them up to speed again.

Except, this is not allowed according to the UCI. I have a feeling that it might be a bit of a kerfuffle tomorrow!

If there is no pushing allowed, is that running and pushing, or just a static push? The latter isn’t so bad but it will need a UCI commissaire there to make sure everyone is doing it properly. Will they have the guts to DSQ a favourite if they make an improper change? I guess we’ll just have to wait and find out…

Contenders

Tom Dumoulin.

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On paper this is the Dutchman’s race to lose. He arrives here as arguably one of the freshest riders in the bunch, with this TT being his main focus in the second part of the season. He’ll be one of the fastest over the rolling section and the short climb where he can push out a lot of Watts is ideal too. We witnessed what he can do on an uphill at the Giro and more specifically with his win on Oropa. Can he handle the pressure of being the favourite?

Chris Foome.

The likely contender who is having his best ever season. Following on from winning the Tour, the Brit went on to clinch the Vuelta with a rather dominant performance, completing an unprecedented Tour-Vuelta double. The craziest thing is that when finishing the Vuelta he didn’t even look that tired, which is really ominous for his competitors here. Furthermore, a 31km effort isn’t going to add much to his current fatigue levels so he has as good a chance as any.

Rohan Dennis.

The Aussie looked very strong in the TTT and was putting his team-mates into the red which could have potentially cost them the title. The shorter length of the TT is great for Dennis who is the best short TTer in the world, a title awarded by me! However, although he is a good climber, I think he might struggle on Floyen. Furthermore, he is known to go out too fast and if he does that tomorrow, then he will go backwards on the final climb.

Vasil Kiryienka.

World Championships - Mens TT

Champion back in 2015, he is a rider who always turns up and performs on the big stage at the Worlds. A diesel engine, TTs of over 30km are good for him as he only seems to properly get going after 20km! One of Sky’s super domestiques, he will no doubt crush the opening two laps of the route but I’m intrigued to see how he goes on Floyen. He shouldn’t lose too much time, but compared to some of the better climbers he might struggle. Will he have enough experience to see him through?

Primoz Roglic.

One of the breakthrough riders of 2016, the Jumbo man has taken a step up in his performances this year. A very strong all-rounder he could be great tomorrow. However, his form has been a bit hit or miss lately and he did struggle at the Worlds last season. A year on though will he cope with the pressure better? I’m not so sure and I think he will fall flat. I’m ready to be pleasantly surprised though.

Jonathan Castroviejo.

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He is my dark horse for the podium and possibly better. Although saying he is a dark horse is unfair but that is what he is according to the bookmaker’s odds! His performances at the World’s in the past three years have been 10th/4th/3rd; a nice bit of progression and similar to Garfoot in the women’s race. Furthermore, he has shown form in longer TTs such as his Euro Champs win last year and 4th place at the Olympics. It was his 3rd last year on a completely flat course that really impressed me. Given his smaller build, he should in theory struggle on the flat and go better on the hills. Tomorrow’s route looks a lot better for him than last year! His build up to the race hasn’t been great with a bit of a lacklustre performance in Britain but he is a classy rider who has to be given some respect.

Jungels, Kelderman, Bodnar, Campenaerts and Küng will all be fighting for the top 10.

Prediction

I nailed my colours to the mast almost a week ago; Froome to win.

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As I’ve said above, he looked unbelievably fresh at the end of the Vuelta and if he has carried that form, which I think he will have, then he should win here.

Dumoulin to follow him home with Castroviejo to equal last year’s result in third!

Betting

I tweeted this out a few days ago;

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I would say that he is still back-able at the 4/1 or even 7/2 you an get in some places. So I’ll play up some of the profits from today’s women’s race..

Froome 4pts WIN @ 4/1 (with William Hill)

Castroviejo 1pt EW 125/1 with Bet365 (would take 80/1 or even 66/1)

He is just so massively overpriced – falls into the value bet like Garfoot today.

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see the expected dual between Froome and Dumoulin? Or will another rider cause an upset?

Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.