Tour Down Under 2019 Stage 6 Preview: McLaren Vale -> Willunga Hill

Today’s Recap

A nervous stage throughout saw Mitchelton Scott control the early break of the day so that Impey could sprint for some bonus seconds. The plan worked well with the South African picking up 5 bonus seconds but it also meant the current race leader Bevin picked up 5 too. Things died down a little after that but with the constant threat of wind and echelons, it wasn’t quiet for too long. There were a couple of splits but nothing serious and everything re-grouped, but a crash at around 9km to go saw Bevin go down hard. Mitchelton tried to slow down the group but that only lasted for a kilometre so as the pace was already high and the sprint teams were already in full swing. The Ochre jersey did manage to make it back to the peloton and finish on the same time as everyone else and with nothing broken, he’ll only know how sore he’ll be on the bike tomorrow.

In the sprint Ewan crossed the line first but he was ultimately relegated by the commissaires for using excessive force with his head to nudge Philipsen off of Sagan’s wheel. To my non-expert sprinting perspective, it did look a little bit harsh but we’ve seen people relegated for similar things in the past so I guess it is fair.

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Philipsen consequently won the stage after Ewan’s relegation, with Sagan and Van Poppel rounding out the podium.

With the sprinter’s having had their last day to play today, everyone will be turning their attention to the last stage and GC battle that will occur tomorrow.

The Route

Nothing overly exciting to see here, it is pretty much just a carbon copy of the recent Willunga Hill stages.

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Expect to see the peloton thinned out a little on the first ascent of Willunga but I would be very surprised to see a Hail Mary attack from anyone near the top of the GC. Once over the plateau and descent, the riders will need to be wary of potential cross winds on the flat section of road before they head into the town of Willunga again. We’ve seen in the past things split up a bit here but the wind doesn’t look strong enough for that, however, you never know.

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A fairly consistent climb, the steeper slopes of Willunga come in the opening third before the gradient drops ever so slightly in the final two-thirds. At close to an 8 minute effort, the gaps aren’t normally too big but given how close the GC normally is here, they can often be decisive.

Can anyone stop the King of Willunga?

One thing to note for this year is that the wind will be blowing directly in their face for the climb, which will certainly make it more difficult for those looking to go on the attack. Although conversely, once you are out of the slip stream from the rider in front then it will be harder to make an effort.

I do think this will hinder the better climbers though, i.e. the quartet that escaped on the Corkscrew, as there will be a definite advantage of sitting in the wheels. Porte, Bennett and Woods all looked pretty solid on the Corkscrew and Poels managed to hang with them despite pulling some faces. Therefore, it would make sense if they were the main quartet contesting for the stage win come the end of the day.

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Porte always manages to ride everyone off of his wheel on this climb, he has his attack point dialled down to a fine art: a little S-bend with 1km to go. However, I don’t think that will happen this year due to the head wind, I just can’t see him dropping Woods. The other two possibly, but not Woods. The EF Education rider has a better kick than Porte and I would fancy him to beat the Aussie to the line.

I am intrigued to see what Chris Hamilton can do, he was a bit too slow to react to the accelerations on the Corkscrew but he wasn’t too far behind. A top 5 is definitely a possibility.

Does the break have a chance?

A little, but not really. Mitchelton and CCC will be more than happy to see a move get up the road to take away the bonus seconds for the day, ensuring that Impey and Bevin have a great chance to take the overall win. However, I would expect there to be enough impetus from Trek, EF, Sky and Lotto Visma to ensure that they don’t stay away – after all, if their leader is going to win the race then they need the bonus seconds.

Speaking of which…

How will the GC play out?

Things look as follows heading into the final stage:

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@ProCyclingStats

All of the riders there are within touching distance but it will take a spectacular effort for the majority of them to win. If there was no headwind on the climb, then I would say that the race was between Bevin, Impey, Porte and Woods for the GC, with Bennett and Poels also possible contenders. However, given the headwind, it will be hard for those 26 seconds behind to gain the 16 on course seconds needed to overhaul Bevin, assuming they also get the stage win.

It might be slightly more likely, if one of them is on a flyer that they can take the 9 seconds out of Impey that they would need to win, assuming that Bevin cracks because of his fall yesterday. Which would be a real shame but it is a possibility and no one will know how he copes until later on in the stage.

If Bevin hadn’t fallen this was his race to win/lose, depending on how you looked at it. He’s in sensational form at the moment and he would have been able to maintain that gap to Impey, as I think the big bonus seconds will go to a few of the more traditional climbers.

So if Bevin is well and recovered with only some flesh wounds, then he wins GC. However, if he has struggled to sleep last night and cracks later on, then Impey will double up.

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Stage Prediction

Porte is the one to beat on this climb and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him just ride away from everyone, like he normally does. However, I think the wind will hinder him and that Woods will be able to stick with him and out sprint him to the line!

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The King is dead, long live the King!

Betting

In a good position after this week so happy to have a little flutter on Woods for the stage win.

2pts WIN Woods @ 11/4 with Betway (would take 5/2 elsewhere)

3pts Hamilton to beat Pozzovivo @ 8/11 with Bet365

Thanks as always for reading! I hope you’ve enjoyed the opening week of World Tour racing? I’ll be back again for the Cadel race next weekend. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour Down Under 2019 Stage 5 Preview: Glenelg -> Strathalbyn

Today’s Recap

Well that was a much more exciting finish than what we had on stage 3! The pace was high in the bunch on the Corkscrew but Porte, Poels, Woods and Bennett managed to gain a little advantage over the top of around 5 seconds. However, despite their best efforts, things were brought back on the descent and we had quite a large group of riders coming in for a sprint.

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Impey got his stage win, besting Bevin and Luis Leon Sanchez, with the three of them now occupying the top spots on GC. Bevin holds a 7 second lead over Impey, with LLS a further 4 behind and a group of 15 riders at 21 seconds back. All to play for on Willunga, although I think the GC battle might be between just a few, but first let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders on Saturday.

The Route

After two “GC days” the sprinters get their last chance to go for a stage win here.

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The road does roll but without any major climbs in the last 100km, it should really come down to a bunch gallop.

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Once past the 5km to go sign, the riders will head ever so slightly downhill all the way until 1.5km left – expect the speeds to be very high. Once at 1.5km to go, they’ll take quite a sharp left hand turn through a roundabout.

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Good positioning will be important but it is not essential through the turn, as the following 750m are arrow-straight so a team can fight for position and move up then. However, it will be of more importance to be leading through the following two right hand turns that come in quick succession.

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It’ll then be a 600m drag race to the finish line.

Can anything stop the inevitable bunch sprint?

One thing possibly, and is one thing that the team’s have been wary of since the start of the race when discussing this stage – the wind.

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The route travels through a few exposed areas early on in the stage, but it is once they pass through the Feed Zone in Victor Harbor that things could get interesting…

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The forecast above is for Middleton Beach and it is a similar outlook for the rest of the stage from there on in. There are some houses which will provide shelter through Victor Harbor to Goolwa, but there are also plenty of areas where there are no houses for a kilometre or so and the wind will be coming straight from the rider’s right side.

The last 36km from Goolwa to Strathalbyn will be majority tailwind, but there are some areas which will see the riders travel east more directly, with a particularly nice and exposed 5.5km section from 22km -> 16.5km to go.

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Said 5.5km exposed section

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Even closer to the line is Strathalbyn (on the image just above) is in an area completely open to the elements. Although it might not be a pure cross wind at the point, the cross tail wind could be enough to see some more splits. Either way, it is going to be a very fast and nervous final 35kms, even if it hasn’t split up by that point. The GC riders will need to be on their toes!

Interestingly, the direction of the finish straight means that the finish straight should be into a headwind – so timing of the jump and sprint becomes even more important.

Who will try to force a split?

The sprint teams will be more than happy for things to stick together and for their fast men to just fight it out at the finish so I don’t think they will be the ones driving any splits. However, given that the majority of sprinters are strong in the wind, they will probably be involved if they sense the pace increasing.

Instead, it will be the GC teams who decide if it is the right moment to try to upset the apple cart. As much as I’d like to see someone try and go early on the first passage of Willunga on Sunday, that is very unlikely to happen so instead Stage 5 presents the only opportunity for a GC shake-up before the second time up Willunga.

As for the exact teams who will try something I’m not entirely sure, but I reckon we’ll see Mitchelton have a go. Impey is in an okay position to win this race overall again but given that I think he and Bevin are on similar climbing levels just now, he needs to pick up another time bonus before Sunday. If Mitchelton are able to split it in the wind and get rid of the pure some sprinters then there is a chance Impey might be able to sneak a podium spot on the day and reduce the gap to Bevin. Even better for them, would be if they could drop some of their GC rivals completely.

Sprinters: If we get a normal bunch sprint it should be a Ewan v Viviani battle as they’ve looked the most consistent but in a headwind effort the more powerful guys like Walscheid, Bauhaus, Sagan and Van Poppel can’t be discounted.

Prediction

Race to split in the cross winds thanks to Mitchelton and a hectic finish will see some GC riders lose time. However, the Aussie team’s plan will backfire with Bevin sprinting for the victory and taking more valuable bonus seconds, putting one arm into Ochre for the end of the race.

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First properly out there preview of the year and we’re only 5 in, hey ho!

Betting

5pts on Gibbons to beat Hoelgaard @1/2 with Bet365.

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

Those were MyTwoSpokesWorth.

Tour Down Under 2019 Stage 4 Preview: Unley -> Campbelltown

Today’s Recap

A proper damp squib of a stage in the end. I think it might have been a combination of the heat and the riders being concerned about just how difficult the stage could have been that things got a bit conservative. CCC did a great job for Bevin but he was isolated coming into the final two laps so it was surprising to see everyone ride quite conservatively after that – most were happy with a reduced bunch sprint.

So obviously after me thinking the stage would have been a lot more aggressive and completely discounting Sagan, it was the Slovak who took the stage win in an almost carbon copy of last year’s performance.

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A fast finishing Luis Leon Sanchez almost came close to pipping him but the line came too soon for the Astana man, while Impey picked up some handy bonus seconds in third.

Bevin still leads the race though going into tomorrow’s stage that features the famous Corkscrew climb. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders…

The Route

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There’s no point me beating about the bush here, the stage is all about the climb up Corkscrew Road and the subsequent descent off of it.

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Before the ascent starts properly, the road gradually rises for 1.2km at a lowly gradient of 1.6%, which will be enough to see some of the entry pace knocked off.

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A 2.5km climb that averages 8.9% is pretty tough at this point in the season but it is just border line enough for some of the puncheurs to hope to be able to hold on to the coat tails of the climbers. We saw that back in 2014 when Evans managed to gap the duo of Porte and Gerrans, who themselves put a bit of time into another group of riders.

The descent is incredibly fast, especially near the top, and riders can be expected to hit speeds of 80km/h. However, it does flatten out so you will need to keep pressure on the pedals to keep the momentum going as groups normally join up on the latter half. At 600m to go the riders take one final sharp turn and enter the finish straight, which is ever so slightly downhill to the line.

Another point of note is that the wind looks to be blowing from the west or south-west so the riders should have either a tail/cross-tail/cross wind, which means we should hopefully get some attacking racing. Bad news for those looking to just hold on to the bunch and wait for things to come to a sprint.

Our current race leader Paddy Bevin holds the KOM for Corkscrew Road on Strava, having completed the climb in 6’30 back in 2015. Interestingly, Mike Woods attack in 2016 that saw him and Henao reach the summit first was one second slower at 6’31.

Plenty of riders have been out to have a look at the climb in the weeks leading up to the race, with a couple of them having a go at it race pace…

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I think we might see the 6’30 mark broken this year, possibly someone going close to 6’20.

How will the race pan out?

The real question that has to be asked here is will a couple of guys, or someone, be able to drop the other riders on the Corkscrew and then hold them off to the finish? If so, then simple, the fight for the stage win will be between them and the race is over at the top of the climb.

If not, then we have the possibility of a small group sprint, or someone launching a counter attack in the closing kilometres if there is no control and cohesion at the head of the race.

I’m not too sure either way, although I’ll give a 60/40 split for those that make it over first not being seen again.

Contenders

Michael Woods.

The EF Education First rider put in quite a strong dig near the finale of stage 3 but the climb was not long enough for him to create any serious gaps and the punchy riders were able to bring him back. However, he did look lively and as a rider with previous on this climb he knows exactly what it’s about. Moreover, Woods had a great 2018 season and seems to only be getting better as a rider, especially on the steeper slopes.

Richie Porte.

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He wasn’t able to follow Woods’ attack back in 2016 and he also got dropped by a flying Evans in 2014. This isn’t Willunga and Porte doesn’t have the same amount of success here, which is weird, because it is a pretty similar climb in terms of time taken. It is slightly shorter and steeper but for someone of Porte’s short-climb prowess you would expect him to go well. He showed his face a little on stage 3 but we have no idea what his form is actually like just now. Will he try to put on a show before Willunga or is he confident of sealing the victory there?

Luis Leon Sanchez.

Clearly in some pretty good shape at the moment, Sanchez is Sagan’s tip for stage success tomorrow. The Astana man was flying at the beginning of last year and he should be able to cope with the speed on Corkscrew. He might not make it right at the head of the race, but he’ll be able to use his descending ability to catch up easily if there is no pressure on at the front. Sanchez is a master of timing a late attack but as we’ve seen on the past few stages, he isn’t too scared of getting involved in a sprint either.

Tadej Pogacar.

A little bit of a wild card here but the 2018 Tour de l’Avenir winner is the real deal – will he show that on stage 4? He was attentive and always near the front on today’s stage and he might just benefit from being a less well known rider. Furthermore, he holds a pretty competitive Strava time on the hill so it will be interesting to see if he can replicate that in the race. He’s my dark horse for the stage.

Wout Poels.

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Didn’t put his nose in the wind all of yesterday despite his team doing some of the work in the closing laps, with it instead being Elissonde who launched an attack. Poels is a climber who packs quite a fast sprint so he’d be happy to arrive in a small group. His form is a bit unknown though and he is an enigmatic rider so who knows which Wout will turn up. He could easily blow everyone away on the Corkscrew, or he could be dropped!

Then we have a group of riders in a similar mould; Bevin, Impey, Devenyns, McCarthy and Ulissi. In fact there are even a few more as well, who probably won’t drop everyone on the climb but they’ll hope to make it over close enough to get back on during the descent and fight for the win.

Prediction

An elite trio of Woods, Porte and Pogacar escape on the Corkscrew, with the Canadian winning the sprint.

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The others will trail in not too far behind but they’ll then need to come up with something inventive to win the race on Willunga.

Betting

Going a little wild here as tomorrow will more than likely be a no bet and I really like the Woods pick. Plus, a little value punt on Pogacar too.

3pts WIN Woods @ 6/1 with Betway (Would take 4/1 elsewhere)

1pt EW Pogacar @ 100/1 with Bet365 (Would take down to 40s)

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win and in what manner? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tour Down Under 2019 Stage 3 Preview: Lobethal -> Uraidla

Today’s Recap

It turned out to be yet another long and slow day in the saddle for the riders, but what can you expect in 40 degree heat. The original morning breakaway was brought back with 50km to go, and it took for a brave but ultimately fruitless move by Ladagnous to give the peloton at least a carrot to chase.

Like on the opening day the bunch kick was a messy affair, with a crash on the left hand side of the road taking out about 80% of the bunch. Only a few riders fell and none of them were seriously hurt, but everyone elses chance of competing at the finish was ruined. The majority of the sprinters made it through the split though, and it was Luis Leon Sanchez who launched an early move, hoping to catch some riders off guard. However, everyone was fairly astute to it and a powerful Bevin came from quite far back to take a convincing win.

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No one was beating him.

Ewan came close to getting on his wheel but he couldn’t match the CCC rider and resigned himself for second, with Sagan rounding out the podium.

The result now moves Bevin into the GC lead, 15 seconds ahead of the majority of his rivals. Not a bad opening two days for him but the hard work is only just beginning and he and his team will have a fight on their hands on Stage 3. Let’s take a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

A stage that I’ve been looking forward to since the route was announced, the peloton will be taking on a new finish circuit around Uraidla, with an apparent elevation gain of 3300m throughout the afternoon. Pretty tough for a hot race at the start of the year!

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Before they get to the circuit there are a rolling 60kms to contend with, including two very early intermediate sprint points. It will be interesting to see how it is played out but I suspect we’ll see some of the GC teams try to keep things together so that their main contenders can go for bonus seconds. Do you want to burn too many matches with what is to come though?

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The first thing that strikes me about the Uraidla circuit is it seems to be quite twisty and although a few of the turns will be able to be taken at a high-speed, there are some others that riders will have to slow down quite heavily for. This will make the climbs that follow feel just that tad bit harder but of course, the opposite effect happens when they can just roll down a hill and carry some speed onto the next rise.

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None of the climbs on the circuit are crazily hard; 1.1km at 5.2%, 400m at 5%, 1.3km at 6.5%, 500m at 8.2% and 650m at 7%. Instead, they’re more reminiscent of the hills you’ll find in Belgium and the Netherlands – short and punchy.

The two most difficult looking climbs to me are the 3rd and 4th on the circuit.

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The third is the longest climb, but it also starts with the trickiest and most dangerous entrance, as the riders will fly down a descent before having to reduce their speed rapidly to take the more than 90-degree right hand turn, shown on the image above. They’re then greeted by the steepest part of the climb right from the bottom, a 500m section at 10%. It does flatten off after that but those that are put into the red at the bottom will suffer coming over the top.

From there a descent follows which is interrupted by a short kicker before the 4th proper climb on the circuit.

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Only a short one at 500m, it once again comes off quite a tight turn but you can definitely carry some speed through the corner and propel yourself someway up the steeper opening part. Therefore, the battle for position will be crucial at this stage, especially as there is only 700m of flat/descent before the final rise and the 1.8km descent to the finish.

How will the stage pan out?

Pffft, beats me. It all depends on the mood and approach of the riders.

We could well see the day be controlled by a couple of teams and get a sprint like we normally see on the Stirling stage. However, I think that will be unlikely, I’ll eat my hat if any group sprint is over 40 riders big.

The two early intermediate sprints will set the tone of the day and we’ll probably see some fast racing from the gun – the riders have had two “easy” days before now after all. It’s what happens after the intermediate sprints and let’s say 50km to go that might shape the outcome of the day; who has someone up the road?; who is willing to chase behind?

There’s a lot of talk in the bunch about how decisive this stage could be in the GC – if they make it hard, don’t expect many to be in contact at the end of the day. Of course, if there is only a group of 30-40 riders starting the final lap together, it will be very difficult for anyone to control the race from there and we could see a splinter group or handful of riders slip away.

The weather is another factor to consider because it is still meant to be pretty hot, albeit about 5 or 6 degrees cooler than stage 2. If it is too hot, then it could make the stage a damp squib.

Hmmm, this is a tough one.

I think we’ll see a pretty aggressive race and a group slip away to fight out the finish. As to who is going to be in that group? Who knows, but having numbers in the peloton will certainly help teams. Time to throw a few darts I think!

Riders to Watch

Jay McCarthy

With all eyes on Sagan, who I think is not in peak form and might struggle here, McCarthy will be able to play a free role and go on the hunt for bonus seconds. If Sagan is going slightly better, then it gives Bora a great option to send McCarthy on the attack in the closing laps as the Aussie will beat most from a small group. This is the stage in my GC overview that I think he’ll have to take some time on the better climbers and I hope to see him active at the front.

Chris Hamilton.

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Targeting a good result here GC wise, this is a stage that Hamilton has been wary of for a little while. In an interview with @CyclingMole he suggested this could be the key stage of the race and certainly somewhere that you could take time on others, or conversely, possibly lose the Tour Down Under. Still a relatively unknown rider on the WT stage, Hamilton always performs pretty well in his home race. One year older and stronger now, I think he could surprise tomorrow. Expect an attacking race from the young Sunweb Aussie trident of Hamilton, Hindley and Storer.

Ruben Guerreiro.

The TDU last year was a breakthrough performance for the young Portuguese rider who managed to finish 10th overall while riding for Trek. In 2019 he’s switched over to Katusha and will be acting as second in command behind Nathan Haas at this race. A punchy rider, Guerreiro offers a good attacking option for the team and I would be surprised not to see him put in a dig at some point. He packs a pretty decent sprint too so he won’t be overly concerned at arriving at the line in a group of 6 or so.

Cameron Meyer.

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A lot of the peloton will be looking towards Mitchelton Scott as one of the main teams looking to keep things somewhat together for a sprint into Uraidla. They might end up doing that, but they have plenty of hitters in their team who can go on the offensive if they decide to ride an attacking race. Meyer was distraught at missing out at the Aussie Road Nats so a good result here will take his mind off that a little. He clearly has good legs though to finish on both the podium at the road race and time trial. Mitchelton say they’re all in for Impey, but will that change out on the road?

Prediction

I’m expecting a really unusual race this evening and we’ll probably see lots of different “acts” so to speak. The heat might see it become a bit of a damp squib but with what is at stake, I think we’ll see some exciting and aggressive racing in the closing 50kms – like an Ardennes classic.

Jay McCarthy to win.

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Betting

1pt EW McCarthy @ 14/1

0.25pt EW on the rest

Hamilton @ 200/1

Meyer @ 125/1

Guerreiro @ 200/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tour Down Under 2019 Stage 2 Preview: Norwood -> Angaston

Today’s Recap

We got the expected sprint finish into Adelaide and without any cross wind action, it was a pretty benign, but hot, day in the saddle for most. The break of the day formed pretty early on with 4 riders getting up the road; Lea, Zakharov, Bevin and Storer. With the first two fighting for the only KOM of the day, it was the Aussie Lea who got to pull on the jersey come the end of the stage. Zakharov swiftly left the break after that and fell back to the peloton, while there seemed to be a gentleman’s agreement between the remaining three that Bevin and Storer would both take 5 bonus seconds, with Lea grabbing 2. A very tactical move from both Bevin and Storer who might not be hot favourites to take the title, but they have certainly propelled themselves into the reckoning a bit more with those bonuses now.

Everything was back together with 30km to go and given the slight headwind, the pace in the bunch was a bit lower than expected. Consequently, it resulted in a nervous and twitchy last 5km as everyone felt fresh and wanted to be at the front – thankfully no one went down.

The sprint itself was incredibly messy, with riders and lead-outs all over the road. However, one man reigned supreme and that was Viviani. The Italian looked to be out of position with around 500m to go but he snaked his way through a gap that looked impossible to fit through and won by what was a country mile in the end.

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The early hit out from Walscheid saw the Sunweb rider hold on for second, with Mareczko producing an equally threaded sprint to somehow finish in third.

You can watch the helicopter shot of the finish above and pick out something different of note every time!

With another sprint stage looking likely tomorrow, will we see Viviani double up? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Altered ever so slightly due to the searing, hot conditions expected, the day has been shortened to only 122km.

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Although the day is reasonably rolling, they avoid the tough Mengler’s Hill nearby so it should end in a full bunch sprint. The finish was last used in 2014 and that day a reduced group fought out for the win thanks to the passage of Mengler’s Hill. That being said, they approach the finish from a slightly different direction this year and the line is earlier than it was in 2014, I think, as that day it continued further into Angaston whereas this year it comes a little before that.

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As you can see, the run in itself is pretty straight forward with there only being one turn to note, albeit a tricky one, at around 4km to go. The main issue for the riders is that the road slowly drags uphill for those final 4km.

 

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The closing 650m averages a shade over 3%, with some 4.5% kick ups at points. Nothing crazy, but it certainly will entice some puncheurs into thinking they have a chance on a finish like this. Conversely, the majority of the sprinters will be confident enough of making it to the line.

Looking at the current weather forecast, it is set to be a slight cross-head wind for the finish, so once again, the timing of the sprint will be very important. Double that with the uphill rise and we could definitely see some guys get it completely wrong.

Sprinters

Elia Viviani.

It’s only fair to start with the Ochre jersey for tomorrow. After missing out on a chance to sprint at the People’s Choice Classic on Sunday, he more than made up for that on the opening day. Viviani should cope with the uphill finish perfectly well but his positioning might need improving as he might not be so lucky to be able to squeeze himself through some gaps this time if he’s boxed in. Nonetheless, he should start the day as favourite.

Caleb Ewan.

Oh dear, what happened to his Lotto sprint train? It was looking good for Ewan until the turn with around 1.2km to go when he just went backwards. You can see on the video above that he attempts to get up and sprint before sitting back down knowing that any good result is gone, ultimately finishing in a lowly 22nd. He won the tougher stage into Stirling last year so tomorrow does present an opportunity for him to bounce back with a good result.

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Peter Sagan.

The Bora rider never really got going on the opening day, after finding himself boxed in. Once he got a little bit of space it was too late, but his kick didn’t look overly convincing. The uphill drag should suit his capabilities well so he theoretically should be challenging for the win. I’m intrigued to see if Bora try to sprint with McCarthy though, as the bonus seconds could be crucial come the end of the race. Is it difficult enough for that though?

Max Walscheid.

The German risked it by starting his sprint early and it nearly paid off for him, had it not been for the flying Viviani he might just have won the stage. Walscheid is quite a tall and heavy rider for a pro cyclist, so I’ll be watching with interest to see how he copes on the drag to the line. It might just take too much out of him compared to his lighter competitors.

Jakub Mareczko.

A rider with 40 career wins to his name by the age of 24, yet only one of them has come in Europe, he is on the cusp of taking a step up this year with his new-found WT team. However, he is notoriously not great on any type of incline so he could possibly struggle tomorrow. Will CCC decide to go with Bevin?

Danny Van Poppel.

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Simply put, he just didn’t have the legs on the opening day, Van Poppel will hope for a better outcome on stage 2 with a finish that suits him well. Last year he absolutely blew everyone away on the tricky uphill kick in Binche and while tomorrow is nowhere near as difficult as that, the ramp does bring him closer to the pure sprinters.

Jasper Philipsen – Tried to follow Viviani through the gap but was impeded against the barriers. Although young, he seems to be quite a good “climbing sprinter” so I think he might surprise tomorrow.

Phil Bauhaus – Notoriously can’t climb a ladder. He did look quite powerful today but I think he’ll struggle to be up there at the finish.

Daryl Impey – A first chance to take some bonus seconds? Impey will relish this type of finish and like a few others, it brings him closer to the pure sprinters. He’ll be there or thereabouts.

Again, Halvorsen, McLay, Gibbons, Ballerini etc will all be fighting for the top 15 positions, and hoping to go better.

Two outsiders to watch

Patrick Bevin.

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The Kiwi showed he wasn’t here to just see what happens in the GC battle, going into the break for the day and taking some valuable bonus seconds. With Mareczko’s struggle on uphill finishes, it is possible that CCC turn their attention to Bevin who can mix it on this type of terrain. In the Tour of Britain last year he was incredibly consistent on both the tricky finishes but also the bunch kicks. The level of opposition here is a bit better but he seems to be in great shape just now so he will fancy his chances. Even snagging a podium could put him in a good spot for the rest of the week.

Heinrich Haussler.

Like Bevin, Haussler might get the nod to sprint if Bauhaus thinks he might struggle on the rise to the line. The Aussie is apparently flying just now so an uphill sprint he could get in the mix. However, he was involved in that tumble at the People’s Choice Classic and felt a little stiff after it so he might not be back to 100% yet. He is one to watch though if things get spicy.

Prediction

It’s got to be Viviani to double up, hasn’t it?

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I do think we might see a surprise rider get onto the podium though, it is just deciding who that is the issue!

Betting

Playing a couple of outsiders here and going for some EW value…

0.5pt EW Bevin @ 66/1 (With Betway – would take 40s lowest)

0.5pt EW Philipsen @ 50/1 with Bet365 and Betway.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour Down Under 2018 – Stage 6 Preview; Adelaide -> Adelaide

I’m short on time so this will be a quick preview; faster than Porte up Willunga…

Stage 5 Recap

Well, the King lives on!

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Porte stormed away from his rivals up Willunga, but didn’t get enough of a gap to lead GC overall. The Ochre jersey will be worn by Impey (who finished second on Willunga) going into the final stage, as he is ahead of the BMC rider due to count back. Slagter took third behind the two and consequently finds himself on the GC podium as well.

I can’t see Porte and BMC trying anything on the streets of Adelaide to distance Impey, but you never know.

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

The Route

Same old, same old; the classic final circuit around Adelaide.

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Nothing really exciting to see here!

We’ll no doubt see a break form at some point but this should be controlled well enough to bring it all back for a sprint.

There is a little hill during the circuit that helps to line things out going into the final few laps.

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Coming through near the front in the final few corners is important as it can be quite hard to make up places from behind here. Saying that, it looks as if there might be a bit of a headwind this year so it could actually be an advantage to come from 6 riders or so back. We’ll have to wait and see!

Contenders

Ewan – Mitchelton will keep an eye on BMC/Porte early on, but they’ll fully turn their attention to the pocket rocket in the closing few laps. He’s been in a good position a few times but has messed it up. I’m wondering if that with his improved climbing that he seems to be showing; if he’s lost some of his power in the flat sprints?

Greipel – It is nice to see the German have his mojo back; he’s looked very powerful in the sprints so far. With the cooler temperatures set to return, I imagine he’ll no doubt give it another good go and it would be a surprise not to see him on or around the podium.

Viviani – Lightning fast on stage 3, the Italian does seem to have some early zip about him. With Sabatini as lead-out, he should be delivered well into the final few hundred metres. However, I think it is best for Viviani to come from behind, so it will be interesting to see how they approach it. He is a danger though!

Bennett – Given Sagan has his stage glory and McCarthy is no longer in the GC picture, I hope Bora give their Irish sprinter a chance. He’s shown on numerous occasions that he has some great top end speed. With Sagan and Selig putting down the power for him, he should get an armchair ride through those final turns. It is all a question whether he has fully recovered from his cold, but going by his intermediate sprints the other day, I think he has.

Bauhaus – I knew after not backing him on Stage 3 he would go and produce a strong result. Like Viviani, he flew from far back, using the slipstream of the other riders very effectively. A powerful rider in his own right, he reminds me of Kittel in some ways. Can he show the same top end speed here?

Consonni – I like the young Italian a lot and he’s much more versatile than just a sprinter; finishing second in the U23 category on the tough World’s course in Richmond a few years ago. After a season in the pro ranks, his top end speed seems to be coming along well. He’s produced consistent results this week; but he can make that final step?

Prediction

The veteran to be the smartest in the headwind; Greipel to power home for a second stage win.

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Consonni to finally break onto the podium as well!

Betting

3pts WIN Greipel @ 4/1 with Bet365

1pt EW Consonni @ 33/1 with Bet365

 

Thanks as always for reading and apologies for the shorter preview! Hope you’ve all enjoyed the opening week of the men’s racing season. I’ll be back with both men and women’s CEGORR previews next weekend. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour Down Under 2018 – Stage 5 Preview; McLaren Vale -> Willunga Hill

Stage 4 Recap

That didn’t disappoint, although I did think the race would be slightly more selective. We saw attacks from many riders throughout the closing 10kms, all of which looked at some point as if they might be “the one”. However, things were eventually brought back together for a super fast sprint into Uraidla, with Sagan showing his raw power by overcoming Impey in the closing 50m. Luis Leon Sanchez rounded out the podium.

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That result means the World Champion is in Ochre heading in to the classic Willunga stage. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders; this will be brief!

The Route

If you’ve watched the Tour Down Under at any point then you’ll know what is coming.

Santos Tour Down Under 2018 - Stage 5
@LaFlammeRouge

Nothing all day really until we get to the final 25km and the first ascent of Willunga.

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In the grand scheme of things it is not an overly difficult climb but the combination of the heat and the speed they ascend, makes it tougher than it seems.

Porte has flown up here the past few years, normally launching his attack from ~1.2km to go, and fully dropping everyone by the S-bends at ~800m to go. Will we see the same this year?

Weather Watch

After the ridiculously hot conditions of the past few days, it will ease in temperature a bit for Willunga. The following is the forecast for nearby Mount Terrible.

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Source: Windfinder

There is one thing that has caught my eye though…Look at that wind. I didn’t expect to get the opportunity to speak about the possibility of echelons this early into the season!

They are unlikely, but given we’ve seen some teams try before, I’m hoping that might be the case this year. It all depends on what way the wind ends up blowing.

The 4kms along McMurtie Road could offer a prime opportunity if the wind does come from the south.

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Likewise, the same can be said for the 3.5km of Main Road as the riders head directly south for town of Willunga, if the wind has swung round.

How will the stage pan out?

With so many riders still close on GC, there are 33 riders within 14 seconds, then I hope we see some aggressive racing early. Leaving it to the last ascent of Willunga really narrows down the list of riders who can win this race overall.

Ideally, I’d love to see a few teams set a very hard pace up Willunga the first time followed quickly by some counter-attacks over the top. This could create some really interesting, tactical racing.

Will we see that though?

I fear not and once again it will be a sprint up Willunga but the headwind will play a big part and we might not see as wide margins as we have in the past.

Can anyone stop Porte?

Probably not, he looked strong on stage 4 and seems as lean as ever going by the pictures floating around social media. However, there are reports that he was suffering from a bit of an illness on Friday, although that didn’t really show the other day! Yet, if that has matured into something worse, then it certainly could be highlighted on Willunga. Porte has attacking spot nailed down; putting in a strong dig at 1.2km and not slowing down until the finish. With the headwind though he might have to hold on until later, meaning his winning gap might not be as big in the end.

From what we’ve seen so far there are a few riders who might go close to the BMC rider.

McCarthy has been consistently strong throughout this race and he impressed me on the climb of Woods Hill in yesterday’s stage. He’s not a pure climber, but given his current form he certainly should be up at the pointy end on Willunga. The headwind is a massive advantage for him as it plays nicely into his good sprint. He’ll hope to finish no more than a few seconds behind Porte if possible, then pick up some bonuses on the final day.

Pozzovivo is lurking and has been climbing to the fore on the few tests we’ve had so far. Bahrain still have three riders close which could play wonderfully into their hands if they attack the race. The Izagirre brothers have been solid too and I really hope we see them go full gas on the first ascent. It will be hard to beat the King of Willunga, but if they can isolate him early then who knows.

Canty.

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A bit of an outsider, he was one of the standout riders for me yesterday. On the passage of Norton Summit he was very attentive, coming over the crest in third place behind Gerrans and Porte. Then once we got onto Woods Hill he made a move with Gorka Izagirre. That didn’t last too long but he was one of the first to follow when Porte went again later. To me that suggests he’s going well and feeling confident. Completing his first Grand Tour last year will have a positive effect on him this season; will we see that come to fruition on Willunga?

Prediction

The King will be dethroned!

Porte will try his best to get rid of everyone on Willunga but the headwind will scupper him and he’ll rue the missed opportunity to work with his successor on stage 4…

George Bennett to win!

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I was really impressed with the Kiwi on stage 4 and he arguably looked the strongest on Woods Hill Road; a great sign for Willunga. It was a shame that Porte soft-pedalled a few turns when the two of them had got a gap, but it will only make Bennett hungrier to beat the BMC rider on his own turf.

He is a classy rider who took a big step forward last year and I think that upwards trajectory will continue in 2018!

Betting

B365 have been boring and went 1/5 odds for 3 places not the usual 1/4, but anyway;

1pt EW Bennett @ 14/1 

0.5pt EW Canty @ 50/1

3pts on Canty to beat Hamilton @ 1/1

 

Thanks as always for reading. Apologies that this is a slightly truncated preview but given that it is the same route every year and I’m a bit knackered after the past few days; what can you do?! Who do you think will win on Willunga this year? Can Porte really be dethroned? Can Sagan somehow hold on enough to be in with a chance on Stage 6? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tour Down Under 2018 – Stage 4 Preview; Norwood -> Uraidla

Stage 3 Recap

After a couple of questionable days, it was nice to finally get off the mark and up and running for the season!

A long hot day in the saddle for the riders (even with the shorter distance), we saw the expected bunch sprint into Victor Harbor. For most of the closing kilometre it looked as if Ewan had it in the bag but he seemed to delay his final sprint. I’m not too sure as to why, but he possibly thought it was too far out to go. That opened the door for a charging Viviani who took home a very impressive win. Bauhaus came late as well nabbing second place with Ewan eventually finishing third.

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Ewan still holds onto Ochre but even by his own admission he’ll find it tough hanging on to it after Stage 4. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

With the temperatures set to soar again I feared that they would shorten this stage; which would be particularly annoying as this was the day I was looking forward to most! However, the organisers have decided to move the start forward by 1 hour to avoid the worst of the extreme conditions. That means the stage is predicted to finish at 2pm local time, or 3:30 UK, although I have a feeling it might be closer to 4.

So, what have we got to look forward to?

Santos Tour Down Under 2018 - Stage 4
@LaFlammeRouge

The riders will face a fairly benign start to the day, with a few lumps and bumps out on the course, but this stage is all about the closing 15kms once the peloton reach the town of Rostrevor.

It starts with the 5.5km ascent of Norton Summit Road that averages 5.1% for its duration.

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It is a steady rise with a few ramps of 7%, but it very rarely differs from 4.5% -> 6% so a team can set a good tempo up it if they want to. I will be intrigued to see who takes up the challenge!

Interestingly, De Gendt holds the Strava record from when they rode the climb almost from the gun back in 2016 on Stage 4. That day De Gendt went up it in 11’06, so we could expect a roughly 10 minute time up it on this stage. Maybe. I’m never great at guessing climbing times!

Norton Summit officially crests at the 120.5km mark, or the 6.5km to go mark. However, the climbing doesn’t stop there…

Norton to Uraidla

The riders will enjoy the road flattening out over the summit and have just over 1.5km to gather their breath if they can, before the road kicks up properly on the aptly named Woods Hill Road. It’s a shame a certain Canadian isn’t here!

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It’s a very tough kicker, especially the first 2/3rds as it starts to flatten out near the top. In fact, the opening 800m average 9.9% and in the searing heat that is expected, it will feel like a lot more for some.

Once over the top of Woods Hill, the riders will be offered a little respite with a slight descent but considering the road does roll continually, they won’t be offered much time to gather their thoughts; the final 4km averages -1.25%.

The final place to make a meaningful attack is the section that I’m going to call the “Big Double Dipper”.

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Going with a lot of momentum into the steep downhill will mean a rider will be able to carry their speed out the other side of the dip and catch those behind off guard. Once they get to the second peak the road turns left and from there it is a 1km downhill all the way to the line. A 5 second gap at the Flamme Rouge should see the rider hold off any chase behind.

How will the race pan out?

Pfffft, who knows!

I imagine we’ll see a very conservative day up until Norton Summit. However, that doesn’t mean the finish won’t be explosive though. I think the heat will make Norton harder than it actually is, making it ride more like a 6.5% climb than a 5.1% climb. In theory, that should mean the elimination of the likes of Sagan, but you never really know.

I can’t see anymore than 30 riders being in the first group over the summit of Norton. From there, it really will be hard to keep control.

Woods Hill is steep enough for the stronger climbers to make some gaps if they sprint up the opening 800m but equally, it is short enough that some of the puncheurs will hope to hang on if the pace isn’t mental.

This has the hallmarks to be an incredibly exciting stage, so let’s watch it end up a damp squib…

I’m really not sure what option I favour; late solo attack, late group attack, GC guys attack on Woods Hill and stay away, small sprint. Who knows!

With having Dennis already covered for GC, I’m just going to throw a few darts with the following riders and hope they’re there or thereabouts…

The Three Darter

Rui Costa.

Flying at the start of the season last year, this type of finish looks great for the Portuguese rider. He’s been solid this week so far, but not exceptional. However, I think he must be feeling fairly good as he’s been on the hunt for bonus seconds in the earlier stages so he obviously must have one eye on GC as well. Both he and Ulissi should make it with the main selection and it will then be up to Costa to make an attack to force others to chase while Ulissi sits in for the sprint. He might drag some riders with him, but I’m sure the UAE rider would be confident from a group of 5.

Robert Gesink.

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This is the Jumbo rider’s first race back after his crash at the Tour and he’s quietly going about his business well. Throughout the first few stages he’s been very attentive at the front of the bunch during the sprint finishes, and he sits “second” behind Consonni on GC in the group of riders that have no time bonuses. The TDU seems to be a good race for the Dutchman, with solid finishes here in the past. One of the best climbers in this race on paper, he packs a surprisingly good sprint from a small group. If the race becomes very selective and we see 5-8 of the best climbers come to the line, he definitely has a chance.

Gorka Izagirre.

Another rider who always seems to go well here; he finished 2nd on the tough finish to Paracombe last year before an unfortunate fall the next day. Reunited with his brother again on Bahrain, it will be interesting to see what they can manage along with Pozzovivo. I would expect the three of them to be close to the head of the race and having numbers in the front group certainly is an advantage. Gorka could manage a late solo attack with Ion and Pozzovivo marking behind, otherwise, he packs a solid sprint from a small group.

Prediction

A small group to get away on after Norton Summit and before the kick up Woods Hill Road. From there it fragments leaving Dennis, Costa and McCarthy.

In the end, the more experienced Costa rolls the pair of them as they are too focussed on each other, taking a great win to better his start than last year!

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Maybe.

I really have no idea what will happen, which is probably a good thing!

Betting

No odds for Gesink at the moment which is a shame. He might appear later on, but I’ll go with the two riders just now;

1pt EW Costa @ 20/1

1pt EW Izagirre @ 28/1

Both Bet365.

Actually, to get around the whole Gesink situation I’m going to back him for GC

0.5pt EW Gesink @ 125/1 (FOR GC)

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win the stage? Can someone like Sagan hold on, or will it be a lot more decisive GC wise than some people think? Am I completely wrong? Likely. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Tour Down Under 2018 – Stage 3 Preview; Glenelg -> Victor Harbor

Stage 2 Recap

Well, for the first time and not the last, I was way off with the prediction. I really thought Bora and Katusha would ride hard to try to set up their two GC candidates but instead it was Bahrain who made most of the pushing throughout the day. A combination of a controlled tempo up the final climb and a slight headwind deterring attacks, saw Caleb Ewan take a strong win ahead of team-mate Impey, with McCarthy third.

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The Aussie pocket rocket showing how to bounce back well after disappointment on the opening stage. It also means that he’ll be wearing the Ochre jersey going into stage 3, which is another likely to end in a sprint. Let’s have a look at what is in store for them though.

The Route

Shortened due to the extreme heat that is expected, the riders will only face one lap around Victor Harbor to finish.

Santos Tour Down Under 2018 - Stage 3
@LaFlammeRouge

Although there are a few sharp climbs out on route, they are too far out to have any effect on the outcome of the day; this stage is all about that closing 13km loop.

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Neither of the hills on the course are overly challenging for the peloton. The first one, known as McCracken Hill, is 940m long at 3.8%. While the second climb is ever so slightly longer at 1.07km and averages 4.3%. Again, not too diffuclt for these guys!

It will be interesting to see if anyone tries a late attack over the second hill considering the fast descent that follows. However, the almost 3km of flat at the end should ensure things are brought back together.

The run in itself does have a few technical aspects to it. One of the first points the riders will be racing too will be a roundabout that comes at roughly 1.2km to go. Normally they are funnelled around the left hand side of it which narrows down the road for the peloton and stretches it out.

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Team Sky did this very well last year and it left a lot of people out of position; making the expend extra energy to return to the front.

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Once through the roundabout they have 400m before a crucial right then left-hand turn combination before a sweeping run to the line.

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Last year, the top 5 finishers on the stage were all through the final left-hand turn in the top 15 places which shows how critical good positioning is to do well here.

Furthermore, it is important to note that the shortest run in to the line is on the right hand side of the road, hugging the barriers, and I’m sure we’ll see a big fight between the sprinters for that position.

GC riders will have to be wary as well because the technical but fast finish can lead to some splits in the bunch.

Sprinters – The Usual Suspects

I’ll keep this short and sweet as who wants to read basically my Stage 1 preview again?!

We have 4 riders who seem to be ever so slightly ahead of the rest, given they made up the top 4 in both the PCC and Stage 1.

Ewan – His confidence will be through the roof after his win and having taken victory here last year, he’ll certainly hope to repeat it. He’ll need a good lead-out from his team-mates as they were a bit off the pace on the opening day.

Greipel – Rolled home yesterday knowing the finish was too tough for him, but he did look miffed when the cameras lingered on him. Maybe he did actually think for a while he might make it, but eventually gave up the ghost. The power he has demonstrated in the PCC and Stage 1 can’t be underestimated and this stage should suit him. Missing a pilot fish might be of detriment to the gorilla.

Sagan – Finished fast on stage 1 and was up there again on stage 2 but he just didn’t seem to have the legs to hold off Ewan. He slowed down to let McCarthy take 3rd, so maybe that was the plan after all, but it is hard to tell!

Viviani – A quietly impressive 6th place for the Italian highlights that he certainly has some good form at the start of the season. It looked for a while as if he was going to win on the opener, but he seemed to launch his sprint too early and ran out of steam in the end. If Sabatini can deliver him later, or if he can come off the wheel of someone, he is a danger.

The Outsiders

Bauhaus – He finished very fast on the opening day but was just far too far behind the action when he needed to be near the front. I still think Sunweb are trying to figure out the lead-out but if they get it right he could be dangerous.

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Consonni – I was very impressed with the young Italian towards the end of last season as he picked up strong placings in some fairly high-profile races, while still being a neo-pro. Another who finished very fast on the opening day, he slogged his way to 16th on stage 2 which is a sign of his talent and is another who might sneak a podium.

Bennett – Bora’s second, or first option, depending on how you look at it. He was suffering from a cold before the race, but given his bitter disappointment at dropping his chain on the opening day, I’m going to take a stab in the dark and say he’s over it. As it is unrealistic that McCarthy will be getting any bonus seconds here, it will be up to the Bora management to decide who sprints. Sagan is known to be a good team-mate and I have a feeling he might let the Irishman have a go for it on stage 3. If so, given the way he finished last year then he is a serious threat for the win.

Prediction

There’s something that is drawing me to Viviani for this stage and I’m not entirely sure why. He is fast, that is for sure. QuickStep haven’t got their lead-out bang on during either the PCC or Stage 1. In the PCC they were too far back, while on Stage 1 they dropped Viviani off to early. Maybe they’ll get it just right this time?

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I think they will.

I also have a sneaking suspicion that Bennett will be up there fighting for Bora too.

Betting

2pts WIN Viviani @7/1 with Coral/Lads

1pt EW Bennett @ 25/1 with Coral/Lads

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win? Will we see a new stage winner or will it be a repeat victor? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tour Down Under 2018 – Stage 2 Preview; Unley -> Stirling

Stage 1 Recap

The race got off to a flyer with the usual sprint finish into Lyndoch. However, it wasn’t either of the two pre-stage favourites who took out the day but instead Andre Greipel delivered the win for Lotto.

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That result now means the German has won his opening UCI race of the year for the past three seasons on the trot. A pretty impressive record that!

Ewan managed to hold on for second, while a fast finishing Sagan took third. Will they all be up there competing at the end of stage 2? Let’s have a look at what is in store for them.

The Route

The riders will leave Unley from a different side than normal, facing the climb of Tea Tree Gully within the opening 15km.

Santos Tour Down Under 2018 - Stage 2
@LaFlammeRouge

From there, the road rises and falls throughout the Adelaide hills as the riders head towards Mylor which marks the second sprint point of the day but more importantly, the start of the final circuits around Stirling.

Stirling Circuit

As you can see, the course rolls a lot in the opening 11,5km, but it is just ever so slightly downhill on average in terms of gradient. Interestingly, the whole circuit apparently has 489m of elevation gain according to Strava/Veloviewer, but I’m definitely taking that with a pinch of salt; 400m seems more accurate than closer to 500m.

The key part of the day though is the 7.6km drag to the line that comes in the final third of the circuit.

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At an average of 2.4% for the duration, in theory it shouldn’t be too difficult for pro cyclists. However, this all depends on how aggressively certain teams approach the day. If it is a benign day then we could easily see some of the sprinters who were in the mix on Stage 1 up there again, if not, then it will be one for the puncheurs.

The final few hundred metres to the line are almost on a false flat, with a little kick up to the finish.

Tackling the rise 4 times could certainly sap the legs of the fast men and puncheurs, especially if we get difficult conditions. Speaking of which…

Weather Watch

It looks set to be an even hotter day for the riders than on the opening stage with it feeling like 34ºC come the end of the stage.

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Source: Accuweather

There will be a breeze in the air to hopefully help cool them down but I don’t think it will be of much help! They will be pleased to know that there will be a tailwind as they head through the Adelaide Hills towards Stirling. However, it does mean they will face the headwind on their run in to the line while on the circuit. Timing of your effort will be crucial!

Can the sprinters hang on? A quick history of sterling Stirling finishes

While the finish was not used in 2017, it has been used the majority of the editions prior to that but I’m only going to focus on 2011-2016 as a guide because that is when it became “World Tour”.

2011 – Matthews took the win in his neo-pro year, beating Greipel and Goss. Only a group of 24 finished on the same time as the winner but there were 59 in total within 13 seconds. Some splits in the final few hundred metres then. There was also a crash near the end of the stage that saw some riders caught behind. ~60 rider sprint.

2012 – Will Clarke wins solo, with Matthews beating Gerrans for second place; with the likes of Valverde, EBH, Freire and GVA all making up the top 10. 65 riders came home on the same time behind the solo winner.

2013 An aggressively raced day that saw Slagter take an exceptional win; opening up his sprint from 300m and blowing everyone off his wheel. Goss and Gilbert rounded out the podium with only 27 riders finishing in the front group.

2014 – The biggest group that Stirling has seen, with roughly 100 riders arriving together, it was Ulissi who took the win ahead of Gerrans and Evans.

2015 – Lobato put on a puncheurs masterclass to take the day, beating Impey and his own team-mate Gorka Izagirre to the line. I miss early 2015 Lobato. Anyway, only 48 were there to witness him win, less than half from the previous year.

2016 –  A wonderful win from McCarthy as he just pipped Ulissi to the win, with Dennis coming home third. It might have been a slightly different result as the likes of Gerrans and Haas crashed out, who knows though. I certainly didn’t care as I had rather aptly came in from a night out in Stirling (Scotland) to watch him win at 100/1. Good times!

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So what can we take from all of this?

It really depends on how aggressively the day is raced as to how big a bunch makes it. There is a chance if the bunch is on a go slow day that we could see ~100 guys arrive together.

However, I think we’ll see an aggressive day and a whittling down of the peloton that will mainly be driven by Katusha and Bora. Both of those teams have riders capable of winning this stage (Haas/Restrepo & McCarthy/Sagan), but also taking valuable bonus seconds in their quest to win Ochre come the end of the week. The intent was there on Stage 1 when going for the intermediates and I see it being no different for stage 2.

I think some of the sprinters might make it, but them being able to compete is another thing. Only Sagan out of the main guys has a good chance. In fact, this stage is Sagan’s for the taking, but it all depends on if he has to work for McCarthy or not.

Possible Contenders

There are the obvious guys such as Sagan, McCarthy, Haas etc. but given that I have already waffled on for a good bit and there will be plenty of others who will cover the key guys well, I’m just going to go straight to three outsiders who I think might stand a chance. Maybe…

Patrick Bevin.

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It will either be him or Gerrans that will be sprinting for BMC but I certainly would give the Kiwi a shot at it. He’s known much more as a time trial rider however he does pack a fast punch; he came from nowhere to finish second in the opening road stage of the Tour de Suisse last year. Furthermore, he finished 11th yesterday and in an interview with CyclingNews, Porte said that his team-mates will be racing to take bonus seconds away from his rivals. He’s one to keep an eye on!

Alexander Edmondson.

The newly crowned Aussie RR Champion is another who’s sprinting prowess caught my eye at the Tour de Suisse last year where he picked up two 4th places. It was his 4th place on stage 2 that was more impressive though as a breakaway duo won the stage honours ahead, he beat the likes of Swift, Felline and Ulissi in the uphill drag to the line; only being bested by Colbrelli. I have my doubts about Ewan making it in this stage, so Mitchelton might just turn to him. Or Impey.

Jasha Sütterlin.

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A name that I know one reader will like, the German is one of the two chosen “sprinters” here for Movistar with the other being Barbero. In stage 1 he was close to being in or around the top 10 but collided with the FDJ rider who eventually crashed and that cost him any chance of going for some kind of result. On Movistar’s website they said the pair will both try again on stage 2. Given the speed he showed in the PCC, I think he could be another to keep an eye on. Could the Spanish team manage another two riders on the podium in 2018?

Prediction

We’ll most likely see Sagan romp home to victory, but where is the fun in going with that? So being two previews deep into the season I’m already reverting back to type; Alexander Edmondson to win.

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Clearly in great shape now as he gears towards the Commonwealth Games, Mitchelton Scott will capitalise on the others marking each other, with Impey delivering the national champion into the perfect position for him to power home.

Betting

Happy to take some small 0.5pt EW punts on the riders I’ve listed above (all prices with Bet365)

Edmondson @ 300/1

Bevin @ 125/1

Sutterlin @ 250/1

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win today/tonight/tomorrow? Could we see an outsider take glory or will it be the usual suspects? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.