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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Düsseldorf -> Liège

Today’s Recap

Luck, bravery and a stonkingly strong effort from Thomas saw him take Yellow at the end of a very tricky and tough day.

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Don’t think many people would have predicted that!

Küng and Kiryienka rounded out the podium, with Froome being the best GC rider (not including Thomas of course), beating his closest rivals by around 25 seconds.

It was a course fraught with danger due to the wet and greasy surface which unfortunately meant several riders crash. The #HaugheyCurse already managed to rear its head on stage one with Roglic going down and ruling him out of stage contention. However, more disappointingly we’ve had two abandons in the form of Valverde and Izagirre, both of whom were top 10 contenders for the overall at the very least.

The organisers will be looking for a much more mundane day out tomorrow. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

A fairly flat day out where the sprinters should get their first chance to go for stage glory.

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We should see a fairly exciting start to the day as several riders will no doubt be gunning for the early KOM. After that though it should be a fairly benign day as they travel through Germany until the terrain starts to get more rolling once they enter Belgium and the province of Liège.

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We do have some uncategorised rises and a Cat-4 climb that crests with 20km to go but they should be of no difficulty to the fast men.

The run is a sprinters delight and I’m sure the GC riders will be happy with it too, no first road stage nervousness!

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Facing a few technical turns, the biggest difficulty is a right-handed turn at 3km to go. After that, it will be a drag race between the lead-out trains with the final kilometre being dead straight.

Weather Watch

One thing that could upset the apple cart though is the weather. We might have a few showers throughout the day and there are some consistent winds forecast throughout the day.

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Weather forecast for Aachen (Source: Windfinder)

Strong enough to create some echelons when the route is heading South/South-West (so most of the stage), I will be intrigued to see if any team tries to split it in the wind.

It’s quite hard to tell how exposed some of the course is due to the strange reason that Google Streetview hasn’t covered any of the area south of Mönchengladbach. Can anyone tell me why?!

Looking at the satellite images, it appears like flat German farmland that could be fairly exposed to the wind.

As for when the riders enter Belgium, we have typical small Belgian towns, some exposed roads but some fairly well sheltered.

I think it’s unlikely we’ll see any splits but you never know. Some teams/riders are already facing an uphill battle on GC so if they sense any opportunity they’ll go for it.

Sprint Contenders 

The first sprint of a Tour is always an interesting one as riders/teams aren’t sure of what to expect. Everyone will fancy their chances so it often leads to a rather chaotic finale. It will also be a cross-headwind finish so timing your effort will be important.

Marcel Kittel starts as the favourite for the day. The German has a team built to support him and it is arguably one of the longest proper sprint trains that we’ve seen in a Grand Tour since the HTC days. Quick Step will be able to put the power down in the closing few kilometres and with Sabatini (Kittel’s trusted lead-out man) dropping him off at 150m to go, will anyone be able to beat him?

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Arnaud Démare on current form looks like his main challenger, with the Frenchman dominant in his last few races. The reason I said “arguably” for Kittel’s lead-out is that Deémare will have everyone in his team apart from Pinot working for him. The signings of Cimolai and Guarnieri have really brought some high-end speed into the top end of the order. He might not beat Kittel when the German is up to full race speed but since he’s not raced in a while, Démare has every chance. I’m sure he’ll be doing his rain dance too!

Peter Sagan will be close to the top of the order, like always! He really seems to up his game in the sprints at the Tour and is one of the fastest riders here. Sagan doesn’t really have a lead-out train to the same extent as Kittel and Demare do but he still has some fire power. Selig will be his last man and he’s a rider who I’ve really rated this season, he’s done great work for Bennett etc, so he’ll be expected to continue that for Sagan here. Can the World Champion make an early claim for Green with a win?

Andre Greipel is a bit of a hit or miss character in the sprints recently and I think it is clear he’s sorely missing Henderson. Lotto Soudal shortened their lead-out train on the final day of the Tour last year and it seemed to work for them then so they’ve taken a similar approach this year. He’ll more than likely have to latch onto the back of someone elses lead-out and I think it will be tough for him to take the win, but he is certainly strong enough on his day to do so.

Mark Cavendish is the unknown quantity. He says he doesn’t know where his form is, although he most definitely will, and I’m intrigued to see how he copes. With a strong lead-out, he is almost capable of anything tomorrow. I would not be surprised with a win or if he was nowhere.

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Dylan Groenewegen has the speed and fearlessness to get himself a podium position. He recently beat Kittel and Greipel at Ster ZLM so will be full of confidence, although he did struggle at the Nationals recently. I think he would prefer the finish to be a bit more technical. He has a chance but it will be tough!

As for the rest, they should be there or thereabouts but I think it will be hard for them to win.

Prediction

Arnaud Démare to take advantage of his fine form while he can and take the win, sending the French public/media into disarray!

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Betting

As I said yesterday, today was most likely to be a no bet and it will remain that way. Almost tempted with a couple of loose change punts on Naesen and Lutsenko at crazy prices and do my wind dance. I think I’ll save my money though to waste on future stages!

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone beat Kittel? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.