Tour de France 2018 Stage 21 Preview: Houilles -> Paris Champs-Élysées

Short preview as who can really be bothered to read/write about tomorrow’s processional affair!

Today’s Recap

Three of the strongest riders throughout the race fought out for the stage win while one faded. Dumoulin took home the day, beating Froome by a second.

DjNBa4PX0AAL6LG

Both of them were down on Thomas through the intermediate time checks, ceding 12 seconds to the GC leader. However, he slowed down in the final third. Either to coast home and take it safe, or because he thought Froome was going to win the stage? There was a lot of money being traded on Betfair even when he was smashing it, maybe someone knew something? That might be a conspiracy theory to consider for a few days and tide us over until San Sebastian!

This is where I probably have to put in some type of disclaimer so yeah, please don’t sue me, I’m poor: it’s just a joke.

Fair play to Thomas on winning the overall, he has been at a consistently high level all season. It reminds me very much of Wiggins in 2012 and Froome in 2015, Vuelta next for him?

Anyway, let’s have a look at what awaits the riders tomorrow.

The Route

A little scenic commute through some Parisien suburbs before the race heads into the centre and to the famous Champs-Élysées finish.

tour-de-france-2018-stage-21-profile-872e5cb3ff

If you’re a cycling fan then you know the score for tomorrow, if not, well, here’s an image.

stage-21-circuit (2)

Few turns in the closing couple of kilometres that includes a very sweeping S-bend that leads onto the final straight. Potentially dangerous if the cobbles are wet, thankfully for the riders it looks as if it will be a dry afternoon/evening, albeit cloudy.

Contenders

We could see a late attack stick for the first time in a while here. Although I am not discrediting it completely there will need to a barrage of constant attacks from strong riders to wear down the sprint teams. However, I think they will have enough motivation and there will be enough firepower to bring things back. Maybe. A big afternoon from Big T will be needed!

Démare – Will be confident after his win the other day. He was strong but certainly not unbeatable.

Kristoff – Disappointed not to have the legs but he has been close on numerous occasions. Needs to be in the perfect position to win but seeing as he has to go free-style, this is unlikely.

Sagan – Has he recovered from his crash? If so he will be up there fighting and probably winning. If not, he’ll just roll home and take the Green jersey.

Dij9pPrXcAUE6a3

Laporte – Felt he got hampered by Demare’s slight drift on stage 18 but it looked like the Cofidis rider just didn’t have enough speed to beat him. Nonetheless, he did seem to be in good shape and he can’t be discounted.

Degenkolb – Has the luxury of the best lead-out rider in the race with Stuyven, he just needs to stick to his wheel. If Stuyven drives through that last S-bend and leaves his team-mate in the perfect position, he will be hard to beat.

Colbrelli – His chance to shine? He was too far back the other day but given the weakened field he would like to think he might sneak the win. It will be tough on a flat finish like this though.

Boasson Hagen  – A bit disappointing so far this race but he did finish 4th the other day. One of the more experienced sprinters here, has he saved some energy to go full gas tomorrow?

Cort – Will he be given the opportunity to sprint now that his GC duties are over? He was exceptionally strong when winning after a hilly break away on stage 15. Having won the final stage in Madrid before, can he repeat it in Paris?

Theuns / Arndt – A similar situation for the two Sunweb riders who no longer are on Dumoulin duty. No idea who would sprint but on a flatter effort like tomorrow I would suggest that Theuns is faster. He could be a dark horse for a podium on the day.

I’ve probably missed someone so apologies if I have, I’m tired.

Prediction

I’ll go with a bit of a surprise win but I think Magnus Cort might be one of the freshest sprinters left in the race and that will play a big part in tomorrow. The Dane to double up and repeat his Vuelta final stage win!

DiuNTKrXUAA9CvE

Thank You

A big thanks to everyone has read the previews over the past three weeks, old and new readers, it has been some journey. Seeing everyone return every day really helps me to continue with the grind. I maybe (definitely) didn’t always choose the winner but I hope that my slightly flamboyant and different take on the day’s racing has been enjoyable to read.

FRODO

Here comes the shameless self promotion bit…

If you have enjoyed the previews and want to show some appreciation with more than words then you can “Buy Me A Beer” via this link. Considering the amount of words and content I have put out, I think it is quite a fair deal to be honest. 😉

Betting

1pt EW Cort @ 16/1

0.5pt EW Theuns @ 300/1

Don’t know who will be sprinting for Sunweb but I’ll take the risk on Eddie at that price.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2018 Stage 12 Preview: Bourg-Saint-Maurice Les Arcs -> Alpe d’Huez

Today’s Recap

Well that was something else, wasn’t it?

For a while it looked as if the break was going to have its day but Valverde’s attack on the second climb saw a shift in the balance. Nibali oddly ordered Pelizotti to the front of the peloton near the top of the third climb of the day but it was actually Dumoulin who attacked on the descent. He then bridged to Valverde on La Rosière before swiftly dropping the Movistar man.

Things kept getting cranked up in the peloton behind and after a massive Kwiatkowski pull there was no Sky domestique left. Thomas chose those moment to attack and set out in pursuit after Dumoulin who had bridged to breakee Caruso. A lot of looking around by the rest of the GC favourites saw Bardet attack several times but he was brought back by different riders before a flying attack from Dan Martin (who had been dropped a few hundred metres earlier) caught everyone off guard and only Froome could follow. That duo then set off in pursuit of the Thomas group while in the mean time it looked as if Nieve would hold on for the stage win ahead, surviving from the early break.

Yeah nah, Thomas had other ideas as he accelerated to 40km/h on a 4% gradient and crushed the dreams his former team-mate had of being a stage winner in all three Grand Tours, closing down a 16 second gap in only a few hundred metres, passing Nieve at 400m to go.

DiZjRMOW4AEYP_l

It was enough to secure him the stage win and move into Yellow. It’s going to be tough for anyone to dislodge him in his current form, that’s for sure!

Behind, Froome had already dropped Martin and tried to do the same to Dumoulin but he was pipped to second place by the Dutchman. With breakaway rider Caruso pipping fellow breakee Nieve for 4th.

Today’s result leaves Sky 1-2 in the standings with Froome 1’25 behind Thomas and Dumoulin a further 19 seconds back. Will we see any of the contenders try something tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for them.

The Route

Another day in the mountains and the final day in the Alps and the organisers have saved the iconic Alpe d’Huez.

tour-de-france-2018-stage-12-profile-8433baa194

Three big climbs (and one small one) await the riders, totalling over 5200m of ascent. This is a monster day in the saddle!

A shallow descent leads into the first climb of the day, the Col de la Madeleine. A tough climb that averages 6.2% for 25.3kms but too far out for anything to happen. The same can even be said for the next climb of Col de la Croix de Fer with its 5.2% average for 29kms.

I was going to post the profiles for both of the climbs but what is the point? We’ll just see Sky tempo up them after today and with some of the GC implosions we had no-one is going to want to attack from that far out, especially with the 14km of flat before we reach Huez.

stage-12-alpe-d-huez

On of the most famous climbs in world cycling, the 21 hairpin bends might allow some riders to be out of sight and out mind. The final couple of kilometres of the climb are easier so anyone hoping to damage to their rivals has to go a little bit earlier than what they would possibly like. Teams somehow need to get Sky down to their barebones by 6kms to go and attack but I can’t see how they manage that without burning their own matches first.

How will the stage pan out?

Beats me.

After today’s dominant Sky-train display despite Movistar’s best efforts then I think many will be happy to sit in the wheels and let the race leader’s control proceedings all the way until Alpe d’Huez. We might even see Rowe make it but that just depends on if Froome or Thomas want to win the sage.

Given the strength of their squad then it is possible that they are able to control the breakaway and then set a blistering tempo on the climb and set their two leaders up to one-two attack before one of them eventually gets away.

Sky do like to try to win on the iconic climbs of cycling and they might be confident after today’s performance of almost burying the Tour tomorrow. But it is a tough day for them to control for the stage win and I don’t think any other GC team will help them, therefore I think the breakaway has a good chance of surviving.

That time again…

TheBreakawayLottery

Antwan Tolhoek – Promising young climber that was the last rider to stay with his two team-leaders. 13th on GC in California was followed up with a solid 11th in the Dauphiné. He seems to be in good form at the moment and with his dimunitive figure he should be able to light up the final climb. Could well be used as a foil for an attack behind but if the break is too far ahead he might be given the light to chase his own success.

Jesper Hansen. – With Fuglsang struggling a bit today, I think we’ll see Astana try to get into the breaks. They were active today and I expect that to continue tomorrow. Hansen is one of their better climbing domestiques and he saved his legs today. Possibly could be the one to go for it tomorrow. It will be a tough ask but it all depends on his breakaway companions.

20176066_369472_670

David Gaudu – The next French climbing sensation, the former Tour de l’Avenir is here to chase some stage wins from the break this year and tomorrow looks perfect for him. A proper talent, will the opening 11 days of racing taken something out of him?

Ian Boswell – After Zakarin struggling again today, then Boswell might be given the freedom to go for the stage win. He’s performed consistently well so far in this Tour but it would take a little bit of luck for him to win. You just never know though.

Prediction

Sky to let the break stay out and Gaudu to take the win!

david-gaudu-tour-ain-2017-thibaut-pinot

Betting

1pt WIN Gaudu @ 40/1

0.5pt WIN Tolhoek @ 80/1

0.3pt WIN Hansen @ 200/1

0.2pt WIN Boswell @ 500/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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

Today’s Recap

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

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

DiUc8zLXUAAV1PJ

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

The Route

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

tour-de-france-2018-stage-11-profile-a761dc52c1

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

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

stage-11-montee-de-bisanne

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

A long descent follows before they start climbing again.

stage-11-col-du-pre-roselend

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

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

stage-11-la-rosiere

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

How will the stage pan out?

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

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

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

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

So time to play everyone’s favourite game…

TheBreakawayLottery

Damiano Caruso.

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

Gorka Izagirre.

gorka

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

Daniel Martinez.

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

Pierre Rolland. 

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

Prediction

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

f6194

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

Betting

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

0.5pt EW Gorka Izagirre @ 200/1.

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

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2018 Stage 7: Fougères -> Chartres

Today’s Recap

Close, so close to a 125/1 winner but it was not enough.

Dan Martin launched a brutally strong attack with roughly 1km to go and no one was able to catch him up, the Irishman learning from leaving it too late in 2015.

Dh6rqJmW4AE-X3q

Latour was a little blocked in when Martin attacked and he couldn’t chase straight away. He then leapt out of the peloton with around 650m to go and lived up to his “The Grinder” nickname given too him by Carlton Kirby, slowly closing in Martin. Unfortunately for him (and us) it was not enough, finishing a second behind him in the end. Valverde easily won the sprint for third place a further two seconds behind. The results on the day mean that Van Avermaet is still in Yellow for another stage.

Interestingly there were some minor GC gaps but the major losers on the day were Bardet (+31) and Dumoulin (+53), who both pretty much lost time due to mechanicals and the effort to chase back on, although the latter got a 20 second penalty for excessive drafting of his team car. With plenty of racing still left though it isn’t disastrous but it is less than ideal.

After not having a chance the past couple of days, tomorrow should be one for the purer sprinters in the peloton. Let’s have a look at what is in store for them.

The Route

A long day in the saddle with 231km awaiting the riders, a classic transitional stage if I do say so.

tour-de-france-2018-stage-7-profile-f94ffcc882

Nothing really to talk about here, just tune in for the last 10kms.

eqgwjugw

There are a few roundabouts to deal with in the closing 10 kilometres but the road is wide so we *shouldn’t* see any issues, hopefully. The big fight will be for the turn at just under 2km to go where the riders will have to tackle quite a sharp right as they navigate a windy bit of road.

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 17.46.00

Last1.8km

The last 1.8km is like a half-pipe, with what will be a very fast descent leading into a ramp on the other side (600m at 4%), before things flatten out for the final 150m.

How much speed will the carry onto the rise, and how much will it take out of the sprinters? Those are the key questions for tomorrow – neither of which I know the answer to.

I was looking out for some strong winds out on the route but that doesn’t look too likely. The wind is coming from the north later on in the day so teams will still have to be attentive for potential splits. As we all know, the weather forecast can change in an instant and a 25km/h wind could cause some echelons, not the 15km/h that is currently predicted. Here’s hoping!

Gaviria vs Sagan

The riders have both taken home two stage wins so far in this race and they will once again battle it out tomorrow.

Gaviria has the advantage of having the best lead-out train in the race and both of his stage wins have come from being left in the perfect position. It should be a similar story in that respect but the finish makes it more difficult for him. He can climb well for a sprinter and has shown an explosive kick on drags to the line before, but he isn’t the World Champion. Both of Sagan’s wins have came on uphill finishes and the 600m at 4% will be music to his ears. This is the Tour and he is super strong in these types of efforts.

Anyone else?

Groenewegen looked strong on the stage 4 finish but he was trapped in many boxes. The uphill finish might not be great for him tomorrow, however, a good result is needed soon.

Démare on form should be there competing for the win, he just needs a bit more luck. Greipel will be knocking on the door of the podium, as will Colbrelli who has really shown himself on these efforts in the race so far.

Prediction

Sagan. Easy.

Dh1fnkeWAAEh5Gj

The riders will take the first 200m of the rise at speed but the final 400m will tire everyone out. This is a perfect finish for the World Champion.

Betting

2pts WIN Sagan at 7/2 with Bet365. Possibly get better odds on the exchange or elsewhere later.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Tour de France 2018 Stage 6 Preview: Brest -> Mûr de Bretagne Guerlédan

Today’s Recap

The stage reaffirmed what we already know: Sagan is the man.

Despite the best efforts of the morning break things were controlled well by BMC and a few other teams and with no one wanting to take a risk with an early attack, things were left until the final climb and sprint to the line. Gilbert opened the taps up at the bottom and had a little bit of a gap was closed down first by Simon and then GVA. Maybe if the Cofidis rider hadn’t pulled then the former World Champion might just have stayed away. GVA came to the front to control things and started the sprint from too far out but he had no other choice really. Consequently, it was perfectly set up for Sagan who came around the yellow jersey with ease and managed to hold off a late charge from Colbrelli (again) fairly comfortably.

Dh1fnkeWAAEh5Gj

Gilbert refound his legs again in the closing metres and managed to sneak a third place. A case of what might have been for him if he had waited until the sprint? With the way Sagan rode the last kilometre then it would have been very hard for anyone to beat him today though. A special shout out must go to Sky as they effectively set things up perfectly for him by controlling the final 10kms.

Will we see a similar result tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

A day with less vertical gain than this afternoon but it features a tougher climb at the end: the famous Mûr de Bretagne.

tour-de-france-2018-stage-6-profile-350dc03cab

This stage is all about the final 20kms or so. As per usual, I’ve made a profile that you can view here.

rgwrg

The road drags for around 3.2km (3% average) before the riders tackle the Mur for the first time. The crest of that first ascent comes with 15.5km to go – too far out for an attack? Once over the top the road heads downwards before kicking up again where the bonus second sprint just happens to be conveniently placed. That point comes atop a 1.3km climb which averages 6.3%.

dsfbsht

Nothing too crazy but it could stretch things out if it is raced at a pace and if some riders want to go for those seconds.

A long but shallow 8km descent follows the rider as they take a turn off the main road and onto a slightly narrower stretch of asphalt. With only 4kms to go a small bump (1.3km at 4.3%) awaits the riders as they skirt round the outside of town before a small descent and the rise up to the finish.

ergwh

As you can see, the steepest ramps come in the first half where there is a section of 700m at 11%. It then gradually starts to flatten out as they approach the finish. When the race was here in 2015 we saw some probing attacks on the steeper slopes from Vuillermoz, Yates and Geschke but they were never given much leeway as Froome dragged them back to heel and set tempo. Vuillermoz then sensed his moment as the gradient just started to ease with 700m to go and flew the coop as everyone looked around. We could well see something similar happen this year.

However the main difference is this year they face the ascent twice and there is more climbing in the closing stages, 540m over the 23km according to Strava.

How will the stage pan out?

Will we see the GC teams ride the first ascent hard in an effort to try to rid Sagan from the group? Will we see a slow pace with everything being saved for the finale?

I don’t really know what will happen, this is a difficult one to read.

Looking back at the past two finishes here in 2011 and 2015, the first group home on those days has been 9 riders and 27 riders respectively, although in 2011 there were almost 40 riders who were within 10 seconds of the winner but there were significant enough splits in the group to warrant time gaps.

Given the harder approach this year, I think we might see a group of 20 come to the line together, if not fewer and we might see some splits. All of the GC riders will need to be attentive.

Also, on current form there is a very good chance that Sagan will make it up the climb and go for the sprint. He was 4th here in 2015. Will the two ascents take it out of him? Not many will fancy dragging him to the line anyway.

Yellow Jersey Battle.

Realistically the top 8 on GC at the start of tomorrow’s stage could take yellow at the end of it. This means that they are more likely to attack but it also means that they will be marked more by their opposition. We saw that today when Gilbert was barely given any room by Van Avermaet as he didn’t want to relinquish the jersey. I think we’ll see the Quick Step duo attack again but they won’t be given the freedom to go for the win, maybe.

I think we once again could see a bit of an outsider take home the win, just like Vuillermoz did in 2015, so I’m going to suggest a couple of names. Remember, this list is not extensive, there are of course stage favourites like Sagan, Valverde, Martin, Alaphilippe and Gilbert but I don’t need to tell you anything about them!

Breton Boys

Warren Barguil.

wgw

One of the stand out riders of last year’s Tour, he has had a bit of a dud season so far in 2018 with no real results to shout home about. Local to the area though, he will desperately want to impress and tomorrow offers him a better opportunity than today. The steeper climb should suit his abilities well and if he gets the jump on the peloton then many won’t chase him because he is no danger for the overall. He’s got quite a handy sprint on him too so if a group sneaks away somewhere other than the final ascent of the Mûr then he will take his chances in a 4-up sprint etc. Either that or he just rolls home in 23rd.

David Gaudu. 

Not here to go for any form of GC placement, the former Tour de l’Avenir winner has been given a free role to chase stages. Having already shipped a handy 6’49 on the opening few days, I would be very surprised to see any GC contenders chase him down if he gives it a dig. We’ve seen in Fleche Wallonne that Gaudu can go very well on the steep ramps so the opening kilometre of the Mûr will be music to his ears. He will probably have to arrive alone but you never know, he is an exceptional talent.

Prediction

Neither of them to win though and I’ll go with an Ag2R to rider to make it “back-to-back” victories. That man is Pierre Latour.

1515615857

We’ll see a few attacks that will be brought back before Latour launches the final killer blow. He’s been in sparkling form this year so far and his win in the French TT championships was nothing short of spectacular – that early season form is clearly back. Finishing attentively in 13th place today would suggest he is over the opening day crash that saw him lose 2 minutes. Ironically, that will help him win tomorrow as he is not an immediate threat on GC and with Bardet and Vuillermoz hindering any chase he will arrive solo to the line.

Betting

1pt WIN Latour @ 125/1

0.5pt WIN Barguil @ 80/1

0.5pt WIN Gaudu @ 100/1

All with Bet365

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Tour de France 2018 Stage 4 Preview: La Baule -> Sarzeau

Today’s Recap

The classiest TTT team came out on top at the end of the day with BMC taking home the victory and Van Avermaet moving into yellow.

DhrOS9CX4AA_zuz

The margins were small between the stage favourites though with Sky (+4 seconds), Quick Step (+7 seconds), Mitchelton (+9 seconds) and Sunweb (+11 seconds) rounding out the top 5.

In fact, most of the GC contenders will be fairly happy with their team’s effort and we don’t have anyone massively out of touch yet thanks to the splits on the opening day. Quintana at 2’08 is probably the worst off but he is just over a minute behind Froome. All still most definitely to play for and we will no doubt see the GC picture shaken up even more on a couple of stages this week. First though, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Another day for the fast men of the peloton.

Tour Stage 4

195km of flat, albeit ever so slightly rolling terrain as the riders head in land before turning back towards the sea again for the second half of the day.

TDF18_ET04_cartePOT_AI_v2

By far the easiest run in of the race so far, the riders only have to contend with one roundabout at 4km to go and the rest is on one road with little deviation.

stage-4-finish

The final 1.3km is on an arrow straight road with the gradient dragging at an ever so slight 1.4% average. Although the final 500m are flatter compared to the first 800m. The riders will have to be wary of a nagging cross headwind on the run in – you don’t want to launch your sprint too early.

Contenders and Pretenders

We’ve been through the sprinters before and it would be tiresome of me to name them all and list possible reasons for them winning again. So I’m not going to do that. This is a long Tour after all. Instead here are a few tidbits to take from stage 2, if we can take anything again considering the crash.

Sagan is a joy to watch on the bike and his skills are to marvel at. He always seems to find himself in the right position at the right time and he proved to have the speed to finish it off on Sunday. The easier finish tomorrow might not be as good for him but he’ll be up there.

Colbrelli was so close but he just didn’t have enough and he should feature in the top 5 again.

Greipel and Degenkolb were disappointing, as was Kristoff. Interestingly, Degenkolb stated after stage 2 that they were actually going to try to go for the sprint with Stuyven. He could certainly be an outside pick for tomorrow – he has an underrated sprint on a slight drag.

Demare looks good but he gambled and went early. Having his lead-out fully intact tomorrow will help him out, he just needs to be patient.

That’s all we can take from Stage 2 really as everyone else was held up or involved in the crash!

No beating about the bush here, straight into the prediction…

Prediction

I think tomorrow is the day for Groenewegen to step up.

CORVOS_00029215-052

He and his Lotto Jumbo lead out train have failed on the opening two sprints, mainly because they have been too far back on the tricky run-ins. This is unfortunately a negative of their “leave it fast and late approach”. However, with tomorrow being an arrow-straight closing few kilometres with very little road furniture then their style should thrive. Groenewegen looked to be closing fast on the opening day but he just started miles behind. We’ve seen so far this year how strong he is in the sprints and tomorrow he will show that again, taking the biggest win of his career.

Even though the run in is “easy” we could see a couple of surprise results because of all the jostling around. This has happened a few times this year already when Guardini came second on the opening day of Abu Dhabi. Therefore, I would like to keep an eye on Stuyven too.

Betting

2pts WIN Groenewegen @ 6/1 with Betfred (would take 4/1 lowest but plenty of else in between elsewhere)

0.25pt EW Stuyven @ 250/1 with Bet365 (would take 150/1 lowest)

Going slightly above my 2pt a day rule but if I stick with that from now then it will be 50pt staked throughout the Tour include GC bets.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will come out on top tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

Tour de France 2018 Stage 2 Preview: Mouilleron-Saint-Germain -> La Roche-sur-Yon

Today’s Recap

The Tour is the Tour.

I thought it would be hectic and we might see few spills but that was even crazier than I imagined. Démare was one of the first involved in a crash which also saw Yates and Porte held up but that was the end of the French sprinters chance to take yellow and he rolled home in almost last place. Another rider cruelly struck down by the now infamous #HaugheyCurse. Bernal went sideways when the road narrowed, then Froome took a tumble into a field and joined the chasing group of Porte/Yates. Meanwhile, Quintana suffered a double mechanical just outside the 3km to go mark, awful timing, and he was swiftly passed on by that group as he waited for assistance.

All while that was going on behind Quick Step were tearing things up at the front of the peloton and their young sprint sensation Fernando Gaviria took home the win on his very first Tour stage, not a bad record that.

Dhgfd7AX4AI8OEj

It really was a special lead out and gallop to the line. Sagan was second with a fast finishing Kittel showing a glimpse of his old self with third.

Behind the majority of the GC contenders made it home together aside from Porte/Yates/Froome who lost 51 seconds, Quintana/Bernal who lost 1’15 and Latour who lost 2’11.

Will we see any more spills tomorrow or will all of the sprinters get a fair run at it? Let’s look at what lies ahead.

The Route

A slightly more rolling day but another nailed on sprint finish.

tour-de-france-2018-stage-2-profile-4b23fc565d

Nothing overly exciting until we get to the final 5km again.

stage-2-finish-detail

The road twists and turns through the streets of La Roche-sur-Yon with several sharp turns and roundabouts to negotiate. Once again there is a good smattering of road furniture so the riders will have to be wary at all times. Things could once again get messy.

You can see a Streetview fly through of the final 5km on the video above and I would recommend watching it at 0.5x speed to get a better idea of the nature of the run in.

The trickiest turn in my opinion is the one at just after 2km to go when the riders take a sharp right and almost tun back on themselves a bit.

Screen Shot 2018-07-07 at 17.55.02
Said tricky, blind right turn.

From that point they will be going downhill until the final 800m when the road rises all the way to the line. It is only at an average of 1.8% but it will certainly have an impact on how the sprint is played out. Timing will be very important.

What Can We Learn From Today?

#1 – QuickStep have a very strong lead out, although that was almost expected, and they have utmost confidence in Gaviria who himself is incredibly strong.

#2 – Sagan is Mr Consistent and even without a train he still manages to get into the right position. He matched Gaviria in the sprint but didn’t have enough to come around him.

#3 – Kittel looked somewhat back to his old self as that finish sprint was very impressive to get up for third from how far back he was. Maybe if he’d shown that earlier in the year then he would have more riders to help him?

#4 – Jumbo’s late lead-out was decimated and Groenewegen did a Kittel. He finished strongly too, but he was not mentioned about as much.

#5 – Cavendish and Greipel got lost through some roundabouts.

#6 – Colbrelli and Cort were on leader protection duties.

#7 – The #HaugheyCurse still lives on with Demare, all riders beware.

The Outside Picks for Tomorow.

As I talked at great lengths in yesterday’s preview about the sprinters, today I’m just going to focus on two outside candidates who the finish should suit.

Sonny Colbrelli.

The Italian has had a very consistent season so far with several top 10s in the bigger bunch sprints. His two wins though have come on trickier finishes where there is some climbing at the end of the stage. One was on the Hatta Dam which shows how explosive he can be on the incline while his more recent win against the likes of Sagan in Gaviria in Suisse highlights how he can grind it out on these slight drags. Colbrelli always seems to be a feature in a sprint when there is a steady gradient for a few hundred metres and after helping the team today, he says he wants to go better and show what he can do tomorrow. I’ll be watching with interest.

Michael Matthews.

Cycling: 104th Tour de France 2017 / Stage 14

Surprisingly with only one win to his name this year, he has been lightly raced, Matthews will be looking to double that tally tomorrow. The slight uphill drag to the line suits his characteristics well and brings him level with the “purer” sprinters. After today’s stage he said that his legs felt surprisingly good and that he was looking forward to the coming days. Sunweb are apparently all in for Dumoulin’s GC hopes, but Matthews has been given the chance to go for the sprints. It will be interesting to see how much support he gets tomorrow and if he has Arndt and Theuns leading him out, that’s a very short but explosive train. Will we see the super confident 2017 version of Matthews? If so, he might just blow everyone away.

Prediction

Slightly left field but I really rate Colbrelli’s chances for tomorrow, I just have that feeling.

FIN-600x400

In before his inevitable 12th.

Betting

0.5pt EW Matthews @ 80/1 (Various)

0.5pt EW Colbrelli @ 80/1 (Various)

Thanks as always for reading, who do you think will win tomorrow? Could we see an upset? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2018 Stage 1 Preview: Noirmoutier-en-l’Île -> Fontenay-le-Comte

Tour de France 2018 Stage 1 Preview: Noirmoutier-en-l’Île -> Fontenay-le-Comte

After much hype and build up, the Tour finally starts tomorrow. So no messing about here, let’s get straight into what the riders have to look forward to on the opening day.

The Route

TDF18_ET01_cartePOT_PDFvecto

An almost pan-flat jaunt along the cause before the road heads inland and towards the finish town.

tour-de-france-2018-stage-1-profile-3a687cf444

With the race travelling along the coast I was really hoping that the wind would play ball and offer some potential opening day echelons. Unfortunately it doesn’t look strong enough and it turns into a headwind as they head towards the finish. Which will demotivate anyone wanting to split it.

The Cat-4 climb will offer someone in the early break a chance of stepping onto the podium at the end of the day and claim the KOM jersey. Although with it coming 28km from the finish line, will they still be away by then?

At 13.5km to go, the riders will have the opportunity to chase some bonus seconds in the GC battle at the brand new sprint points that have been added to the race. They offer no points in the Green Jersey classification but they do offer time bonuses. I think the thinking behind it is to entice some of the GC riders to go for them but I’m not entirely sure how they will play out.

stage-1-finish-detail

As you can see on the image above, the major issues on the run in come at 3km to 1km to go with three roundabouts and a “sharp turn” to be covered. This will string the bunch out and we’ll no doubt see a lot of fighting to get into the first roundabout so that a team can take the head of the bunch and control the pace.

Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 16.37.21

Once through the “sharp turn” which is actually another roundabout, the riders will have just over a kilometre left to go. It will be a fast final kilometre as the road dips down ever so slightly, meaning we will no doubt see some crazy top speeds but it does make it a bit more dangerous.

Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 16.44.14

The final 100m or so do rise up to the line but given the speed that the riders will be carrying then it shouldn’t be an issue. You can see a mock finish line banner in the distance!

Who will be competing for the win though?

The Old Guard vs the New Wave

Are we seeing a shift in power between the sprinters with some of the older riders passing the baton onto the newer generation coming through? Let’s start off by looking at some of the old guard.

Mark Cavendish.

What Cav will turn up this year? In 2016 everyone wrote him off (including myself) but he arrived at the race absolutely flying and racked up 4 stage wins to his name. Last year he seemed pretty lively but we never got to see where he was at after he was involved in a crash, partly or mainly caused by himself – that depends on who you ask. Since then he has had pretty terrible luck with illness and crashes hampering the end of 2017 and the majority of this year. Seemingly lacking confidence at the moment, he only has one win to his name in 2018 but with a team almost fully dedicated to him, there will be pressure on him to deliver. On form he doesn’t really have a chance but you can never rule out a guy with 148 wins in his career that includes 30 stage wins at the Tour, can you?

Andre Greipel.

DTp6VE9W0AEXVMR

The Gorilla started off this year with a bang by taking two strong stage wins Down Under but back in Europe he has struggled to find his feet in the WT bunch sprints with two podium places the only results to shout home about. He fell (twice) in Milan SanRemo, that #HaugheyCurse striking again, which was a shame as he was climbing as well as I have seen from him in a long time. After his lay off he returned he bullied his way to two stage wins in both Dunkerque and the Belgium Tour. His recent run in Suisse wasn’t great but I think he was using that more for training rather than anything else. With a quite powerful lead-out train, NewLottoSoudal will hope to be one of the teams controlling the run in. The slight kick up to the line is good news for the powerful Greipel and with a potential headwind sprint, he has a chance. Remember the rule?

Alexander Kristoff.

The second part of that rule, Kristoff unfortunately seems a little past his heyday in the big bunch sprints, he needs a slightly reduced group to shine against the very best. He has no real lead-out to speak of and I just can’t see him winning or finishing on the podium tomorrow. I am ready to eat my hat.

Marcel Kittel.

DXxtGDCWAAEW_Bg

Devoid of confidence, he looks a shell of the man he was at Quick Step last year. With only two wins to his name this year, both at Tirreno Adriatico, his team seem to have lost faith in him too as they only bring a reduced lead-out train with him. Not ideal. There is no doubt he has the talent but he seems to be missing a few watts due to his lack of confidence. For his sake, I hope he bags a result at some point this race and it is not great from a fan’s perspective to see one of the best sprinters struggle.

John Degenkolb.

He’s just never been the same since that crash and he doesn’t have the speed to compete on this type of finish.

Now onto the new guard…

Fernando Gaviria.

The Colombian sprint sensation arrives here with seven wins to his name so far this season, including a dominant display in California. In his recent outing in Switzerland he was the bridesmaid on three occasions but that won’t have knocked his confidence, it will only make him hungrier. The lack of Keisse is a big loss but Quick Step still bring a strong and powerful lead out and no doubt we’ll see them come to the front in the closing stages. With his trusted pilot fish Richeze, Gaviria should be positioned well in the final kilometre – he just needs to get his timing right.

Dylan Groenewegen.

CORVOS_00029215-052

The most successful sprinter so far this season with 8 wins, the Lotto NL Jumbo man comes into the race full of confidence. Some of his victories this season have seen him almost bully his sprint opposition and he will no doubt be expecting similar results this time. His team have stuck with the short and late lead-out approach this season which has worked in the majority of races but if they get the timing wrong, then it is very difficult for him to make up ground. On a run in like tomorrow expect them to sit a little back until they hit near they come around the final turn and go full gas from there. Sitting further back though does run the risk of being detached from the lead out or getting caught up in a crash. He does start as the favourite given the season he is having though.

Arnaud Demare.

 

Technically Demare is the form sprinter as he has won the most recent bunch sprint and if you read my GC preview yesterday, you will know that I have backed him for the green jersey. I was really impressed with his train in that Suisse stage and they could very easily pull off something similar here and boss the final couple of kilometres Last year at the Tour he was in the Green Jersey for a few stages and well in the running before unfortunately falling ill and having to withdraw. No longer wearing the French champions jersey, I’m sure he won’t mind if he pulls on Yellow tomorrow.

The I couldn’t fit them into a category-ers…

Peter Sagan.

What can the World Champ not do? Win a full bunch sprint at the Tour, that’s what. Well, maybe until this year. Despite having won 8 stages at this event, they have all came in reduced sprint days where some of the fast men have been left behind. Does he have the speed to compete? Most certainly but he will have to ride solo, not that that has stopped him before. He’s very consistently on or around the podium in WT sprints and he might benefit tomorrow from others having some first stage nerves as he will no doubt manage to keep his cool.

Sonny Colbrelli & Michael Matthews.

Very similar riders who will find it difficult on a finish like this, they would prefer a slightly tougher day. Both have little help from their teams so a podium on the stage would be a wonderful result. I would think that Colbrelli would have more of a chance.

I’ve probably missed someone but time is marching on so apologies!

Prediction

A tough one to call in what will no doubt be a frantic and messy sprint but I think Demare’s lead out will prevail and the Frenchman will kick off the big race with a win.

976220348_670

Groenewegen to come fast and late but just miss out and come second with wily old Greipel coming home in third.

Betting

1pt WIN Demare at 8/1 (with Skybet although you can get better odds on BF Exchange)

0.5pt EW Greipel at 18/1 (with Bet365 and others)

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Tour de France 2018 GC Preview

Tour de France 2018 GC Preview

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

2017-tdf-21-uran-froome-bardet-podium

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

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

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

Anyway, onto the contenders and pretenders…

The Favourite 

Chris Froome.

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

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

The Waiting for Froome to falter-ers

Richie Porte.

csm_090717_tour_de_france_a9c515d6aa

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

Romain Bardet. 

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

Nairo Quintana.

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

The Podium Outsiders

Right, shorter musings from now on.

Vincenzo Nibali.

A551C5E3-F757-43AA-871A-FCC6B0E341E3_w1023_r1_s

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

Rigoberto Uran.

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

Alejandro Valverde.

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

Adam Yates. 

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

Jakob Fuglsang.

news_idnews1647_photo_1524933073

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

Top 10 Fillers

Ilnur Zakarin.

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

Geraint Thomas.

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

Bob Jungels.

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

Daniel Martin.

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

Steven Kruijswijk.

See Jungels.

Bauke Mollema.

See Kruijswijk.

The Pretenders

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

Primoz Roglic.

2018-tirreno-03-roglic-primoz-finish-02

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

Tom Dumoulin.

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

Mikel Landa.

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

Egan Bernal.

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

Prediction

Probably Froome, innit.

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

bardet-665x381

Allez Romain!

Betting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 21 Preview; Montgeron -> Paris

Today’s Recap

One second. Again! Think this must be the 6th time in two years that the rider I’ve backed for a timed event has lost out by one second.

Kwiatkowski rode a great TT but was just pipped by fellow countryman Bodnar, the latter getting revenge for being crushed by the Sky rider at nationals. After Sagan’s dismissal and Majka’s withdrawal it is good to see Bora still going well and challenging when they can!

DFWZuuQXcAAgIzq

Froome came home third to convincingly take his 4th Tour title. Well, convincingly might not be the best word to use as he has looked anything but that this race, however the two TTs have won it for him! I wonder how the GC would have panned out if we had Valverde and Porte still here.

Oh well, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders on their final day of racing.

The Route

You know the score by now, a little jaunt from the outskirts of Paris that finishes with some laps of the Champs-Élysées.

tour-de-france-2017-stage-21-1495792596

A processional stage that will get more exciting once we hit the laps themselves.

stage-21-circuit

Coming out from the underpass first with a few lead-out men in front of your sprinters is important. From there, being able to lead it through the sweeping bends with 500m to go will put your sprinter into a prime position into the closing straight.

That’s about that for the route, nothing more needs to be said really!

Weather wise the riders will start out in overcast conditions but that could all change later on in the stage depending on how processional they make the day.

Screen Shot 2017-07-22 at 17.16.01

A wet finish could certainly make things a bit more lively.

Sprinters

This is the Tour, not the Giro, so we will see a sprint finish tomorrow. With Kittel no longer here, the door has been opened for the rest of the fast men to take a stage win and it could consequently become a bit hectic because of that.

Matthews.

The Green Jersey winner (as long as he finishes tomorrow) will be looking to go out with a bang. With arguably one of the best lead-out trains, he should be put into a good position. Brimming with confidence just now, does he have the speed to finish off a great Tour for Sunweb?

Boasson Hagen.

DFRltnDUMAAHgeq

After getting a richly deserved stage win the Dimension Data will be looking to double up tomorrow. The other rider with a strong lead-out, he should be placed into a good position in the final straight. No doubt we’ll see Van Rensburg do another monster turn to get him there! There are questions about his willingness to take risks though which could see him start his sprint from further back.

Greipel.

Has won a stage at every Grand Tour he’s started over the past few years. He left it late last year, taking the final stage that time round and he’ll need to do that again this year if he wants to continue that record. His experience of managing his body through a race could be vital.

Groenewegen.

The flying Dutchman hasn’t really set sail this Tour so far, picking up two podium places along the way. However, he did look like one of the fastest riders on the pure sprint into Pau and with Kittel gone he’ll be hoping to go better.

Bouhanni.

Poor. That’s how I’ll describe his Tour so far. He’s a sprinter that I think can do really well but he’s just been very disappointing during this race. He’s been positioned well only for him to decide to fight for wheels instead, or just completely lack the kick to get involved in the dash to the line. He could turn it around tomorrow and he’ll probably be doing a rain dance tonight, but it I think it’s unlikely we’ll see him on the top step.

Degenkolb.

DFBwJB9XsAE0mDU

He’s been okay this race, especially when you consider that his original aim was to help Contador on the flat days and then look after himself. Now that he’s been freed from those shackles, he’ll hope to have the favour returned to him by the team. He would prefer a tougher finish but he should be in or around the top 5.

Kristoff.

Another rider who falls into the poor category. He was close in some of the opening few stages but has fallen by the wayside recently. Crashing the other day hasn’t helped and he’s looked a bit sketchy since then. Maybe he’ll be hoping for poor weather to help turn his race around?

Petit, Colbrelli, Cimolai, Bennati and Selig will all be fighting for the Top 10.

Prediction

My angle of thought for today’s stage nearly worked: pick a rider who is clearly still in form at the end of the race.

So with that being said, I think Matthews will win the stage tomorrow.

DEyb0fIW0AAEjbk

He may not be known as the fastest rider on a pure flat sprint, but after the past week he is the only one to have shown that he is in great form. His ability to climb over some of the mountains we’ve had should see him fresher for tomorrow’s finish. Brimming with confidence, he’ll take a memorable stage win in Paris wearing Green.

Betting

1.5pt EW Matthews @ 12/1 with PP/BF (Would take 10/1 elsewhere)

 

Thanks as always for reading but a big thanks if you’ve stuck with me through the past 3 weeks. It’s your continued support that makes me keep going when I’ve gone on awful stage prediction runs etc! During the Tour the blog surpassed 50,000 views for the year which is incredible so thanks once again. I hope that a few of you new readers will stick around for the rest of the season as we still have plenty more racing to go.

Next on the schedule for me will be San Sebastian and both the Ride London races.

Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.