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.

 

Tour Down Under 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Port Adelaide -> Lyndoch

Tour Down Under 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Port Adelaide -> Lyndoch

The action kicks off today/tonight, depending on where you are watching it from, with the seemingly now common sprint finish into the town of Lyndoch.

Last season saw Caleb Ewan take the win ahead of Van Poppel and Bennett, with the little Aussie also winning the stage in 2016. Can he make it three in a row this time?

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

The Route

A fairly simple day with an early KOM to reward a break rider with a jersey come the end of the stage.

Santos Tour Down Under 2018 - Stage 1
@LaFlammeRouge16

There are a few rises later in the day, but nothing too severe and we should see an almost complete peloton coming into Lyndoch for the second time to compete in a bunch sprint.

The run-in to the line is fairly easy too, with the riders approaching from the south on an almost arrow-straight road. Normally I would post images of roundabouts etc here so you could get a good feel as to what might happen, but there would be no point so I guess I’ll move on!

Oh, the race does finish alongside the Jack Bobridge Track though so who will be raising their arms in ecstasy at the end of the day…

Contenders

Caleb Ewan.

His confidence might be slightly knocked after the People’s Choice Classic but I’m sure it will be more of a driving force for him, rather than something that will be of detriment. Mitchelton got their lead-out slightly wrong on Sunday and will hope to get their timing much better this time round; Impey and Edmondson have a big job to do. Ewan should be ahead of everyone else in terms of form at this time of year and he has to start as the favourite for the stage. Can anyone stop him?

Peter Sagan.

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The winner on Sunday, his rivals might be worried for the season ahead already. He is obviously in good shape just now, but it was his race craft that really made the difference in that race; he always seems to follow the right wheel and know when to jump. With Bennett apparently still recovering from illness, Sagan will be Bora’s man for the opener. He’ll have Selig to guide him into position and from there it will be up to him. Time to double up?

Andre Greipel.

It was good to see the Gorilla back in action and looking competitive in the criterium. One of the things that stood out for me on Sunday was that he put his wheels in places where he wouldn’t have when he was low on confidence, nudging Bauhaus out of a gap, he certainly has his fight back. With a solid Lotto Soudal train, he should expect to start his sprint in a good position, leaving it up to him to finish it off. He normally seems to start the season well; winning his first road race the past two years.

Phil Bauhaus.

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With Greipel being the veteran German sprinter at the race, Bauhaus is certainly one of the spearheads of the next wave. A talented rider, he took his first big win last year at the Dauphiné, beating the likes of Demare and Bouhanni. Sunweb have a lot of faith in him and they’re looking for some good results in the sprints this week. Teunissen and Arndt is a small but very potent lead-out train and they’ll look to capitalise on the work of others late on, a la Lampre style circa 2015. Keep an eye out for him this week!

Elia Viviani.

Free from the shackles of Sky and their lack of any major help in the sprints, now at Quickstep the Italian should have more support with Morkov and Sabatini. He was there or thereabouts on Sunday, finishing just off of the podium so I imagine he has some good form; he is another who normally starts the season well. One negative for him is that he does have a habit of losing the wheels at time, but given the simple run in, he should be okay.

There might be some others who get involved but I can’t see them challenging for the win.

Prediction

Opening stage of the TDU so Ewan wins, simple!

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He and the team will want to make amends for Sunday and I’m sure they’ll do just that. They have the fire power to deliver him perfectly. Knowing the finish well should mean that he times his effort perfectly, taking yet another Ochre jersey.

Betting

I won’t be backing the Aussie though as he is too short in an open course race for my liking. Instead, I’ll be chasing some EW value and potentially more with the talented young German;

1pt EW Bauhaus @25/1 with Lads and Coral. Would take 16s lowest.

 

Apolgoies for the shorter than normal preview but there isn’t much to talk about route and tactics wise. Don’t fret though, a 1000+ word-er will no doubt be out tomorrow. 😉

Thanks as always for reading though, and as always any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win? Can anyone stop Caleb? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour Down Under 2018 – GC Preview

Tour Down Under 2018 – GC Preview

So with the women’s race now finished, it is time for the men to take centre stage over the coming week with the riders battling it out to take home Ochre. A race that has been dominated by the Australians in recent years, with the last 4 GC titles going to the home riders; expect to see some fast racing coupled with sweltering temperatures.

It might not have the best race route in the grand scheme of the cycling season but given its position as the season opener, I think most of us will take it!

Richie Porte - Willunga Hill 2017

After finally getting his hands on the GC win last year the King of Willunga (a.k.a Richie Porte) is back here to defend his crown along with a strong BMC team. In fact, the last 3 winners of the race are all riding for that outfit this year, which is very ominous for the rest of the field. However, they won’t have it all their own way and there are certainly some other riders out there who could challenge their dominance.

First, let’s have a quick look at what is in store for the riders over the six days of action.

The Route

I won’t bore you here though, as I’ll have plenty of time over the coming week to drain you with an in-depth route analysis of each stage. This will simply be more of an overview!

There are three stages that are most likely to have the biggest impact on GC, although that could change if the wind blows strongly on some of the more exposed days. We saw the women’s peloton battered by cross winds through the Barossa Valley.

Stage 2 is the first important day with the traditional finish in Stirling.

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@LaFlammeRouge16

A rolling circuit that will see the peloton whittled down, some of the stronger sprinters will be happy to see that the organisers have reduced the number of laps that they will complete. Back in 2016 when Jay McCarthy won this stage, the riders had to contest with 6 laps, but this time it will just be 4. In theory, this should make it easier and see the stage switch from a puncheurs finish to more of a strong sprinters day. However, this of course all depends on how aggressively the teams race. If the fast men of the peloton are eliminated from the group then it is a great chance for the likes of Haas and McCarthy to pick up some valuable bonus seconds in their fight for GC.

Stage 4 will see the peloton tackle a new finish here at the Tour Down Under, featuring a climb that is well-known by the local Aussies.

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Norton Summit is not a new climb for the Tour though, with it being used right at the start of Stage 4 in 2016. It took the riders roughly 11’30 to complete the climb that day but I imagine that time will be faster this year round given it’s position on the course. Once over the “summit” the riders will have 7.5km left but instead of a drop straight down, they’ll instead face a kilometre or so of false flat before an uncategorised ramp up Woods Hill Road. Could this be a launchpad for a late attack? With only 3.5km of shallow descending all the way to the line, it certainly could be.

Stage 5 will once again play host to the summit finish of Willunga Hill.

Santos Tour Down Under 2018 - Stage 5

If the GC is still close at this stage, then it will all come down to the final ascent of Willunga. Porte has owned this climb for the past four years and he’ll hope to make it five in a row this time. Will it be enough for the overall title though? From a tactics point of view, it is much easier to ride a defensive race on Willunga than attacking one, as it is a difficult climb to make massive gains on. Although lil’ Richie might have something to say about that…

GC Contenders

Given the recent form of the Australians at this race, they’ve won 6 out of the last 7 years, then it is really hard to back against them on their own turf.

Porte comes into the race as the bookmakers favourite and rightly so given his performances on Willunga the past few years. If everything is kept together on stages 2 & 4, with his opponents not gaining any bonus seconds, the race is his to lose. However, this is the least suited route to Porte for a while and I think he’ll desperately miss the Paracombe finish that we had last year. He might well win on Willunga again, but I don’t think it will be by as big a margin as he has done in previous years.

McCarthy will be waiting in the wings, hoping to capitalise on the new stage and sprint for some bonus seconds on days 2 and 4, feasibly giving himself a 20 second buffer going into Willunga. He’s a rider that I have grown fond over and one that I had backed when he took out the stage in Stirling in 2016. At the Aussie Nationals recently, he looked incredibly strong, sprinting away from the chase group in the closing few hundred metres. His trajectory in this race has been on the up as well, with a 4th in 2016 and a 3rd last year. Will he go one or two steps higher this time around?

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Haas is a rider similar to McCarthy and he too will be looking to nab some bonus seconds on stages 2 & 4. With a winter move to Katusha, the former Dimension Data rider comes here in some good form with a 5th place finish in both the road race and time trial at the Aussie Champs. An attacking rider, he will no doubt give it a go on Stage 4 in an attempt to get clear. However, I sometimes think that he is too attacking; using up a lot of his resources before it is necessary. Will that be his downfall again?

Can a non-Aussie win?

Probably not.

Some might suggest Sagan has a chance, especially after his strong showing in today’s criterium. However, he will be here for training more than anything, possibly getting involved in a few sprints but nothing more than that.

Ulissi is a very solid finisher and will no doubt again be in or around the top 5 but I can’t see him having enough form early in the year to take the win. Yet, he is the type of rider who could well prove me wrong! His team-mate Rui Costa might be another to watch, he was flying at the start of last year.

Bernal arrives here as Team Sky’s best chance on paper, the young rider is truly exceptional. His form will be unkown but as we’ve seen with Henao in the past, Colombians seem to go well here. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go with the best on Willunga, but his lack of a sprint might let him down for the overall.

Prediction

I’ll go for none of the above to win though.

Instead, I’ll suggest that Rohan Dennis will take home another Tour Down Under title.

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The current Aussie TT champion blitzed away his opposition recently, putting over a minute into a very lean Luke Durbridge and almost two minutes into team-mate Porte, regaining his title with ease. He DNF’d the road race, but I think he was using that race as training more than anything else.

Almost have way through his “4-year GC plan”, this should be the year where he takes another step forward in that quest. He certainly looks very fit going by some of the pictures I’ve seen floating around social media over the past week. There has also been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between himself and Porte as to who the leader of BMC will be for the week, both downplaying their own chances and talking up their team-mate. First race mind-games!

With the introduction of the interesting finish on stage 4 this year I think it is very beneficial for a team to have two possible winners in their squad and I’m sure BMC will use that to their advantage. Norton Summit looks ideal for the powerhouse and Dennis certainly has the TT engine to attack and hold a gap, especially with Porte and possibly Gerrans behind marking out any efforts to close him down.

Being in Ochre going into Willunga means BMC will be able to ride a defensive race, and who wouldn’t want the King of Willunga himself to act as a super-domsetique for you that day?! Porte should be able to keep things together and Dennis won’t lose enough time to be toppled, with Porte even nabbing the bonus seconds away from his competitors on the line.

Simple!

Betting

First race of the season so it would be rude not to have a flutter on the GC market. I tweeted it out a few days ago but…

1pt EW Dennis @ 20/1 with Coral/Ladbrokes.

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. I hope you enjoyed my first men’s preview of the season. I’ll be back with daily stage previews of the Tour Down Under starting from tomorrow. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Santos Women’s Tour Down Under 2018 Preview

Santos Women’s Tour Down Under 2018 Preview

It’s been a while but it is nice to be back! I hope you enjoyed your off-season and are as ready for the 2018 racing calendar to begin as I am. This year I’ve set myself the resolution to write more women’s previews so what better way to start than with the first race of the season; the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under?!

Now into its third year I am pleased to say that the race has stepped up to 2.1 level and will have the most challenging parcours to date in this edition. Which is good, as the past two years have seen a few criteriums thrown into the mix. This time we only have one!

With both of the previous winners; Garfoot (2016) and Spratt (2017) here, will we see a familiar face atop the podium come the end of the race or will there be a new champion?

First though, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders over the coming 4 stages.

The Route

New year but not a new me, so I once again want to shout-out @LasterketaBurua who made the profiles that I’ll be using here. Go give them a follow on Twitter!

Stage 1.

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The riders will complete a rolling circuit that starts and finishes in the town of Gumeracha. It’s not an incredibly difficult route, but it does include the steep climb of Mount Torrens that averages 7.6% for 700m. Furthermore, it does include a few uncategorised ramps just before and after Lobethal so keeping with tradition I’ve made a Strava/Veloviewer profile of that segment.

WTDU S1

On paper it is not too difficult but given that it will be the first race-day in the past few months for a lot of the Northern Hemisphere riders then I think we could actually see some splits if it is ridden at a fast pace. We could see some of the drags used as a launchpad for a late attack from a group of riders before the descent all the way to the finish line.

If we get a sprint, this should be Hosking’s for the taking. For a late attacker, I’ll go with Spratt.

Stage 2.

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If Hosking did win stage 1, then it is very unlikely she’ll be holding onto the jersey after stage 2 unless something crazy happens.

With the Whispering Wall (1.1km at 5.9%) being climbed twice earlier in the day it will sap the riders legs a little before their attention turns to the main challenge of the stage with the ascent of Mengler’s Hill.

Menglers Hill

At roughly 7% for 2km this is what is classed as a “proper climb” in the area. Due to it only being 2km, the gaps won’t be massive but I expect it to be attacked at a crazy pace. This is the stage that will most likely decide the GC.

I have my eyes on Lucy Kennedy for this stage. She was climbing well in the national champs road race and the pure uphill finish could suit her well. Watch this space.

Stage 3.

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If the GC battle is still close after Stage 2 then the final few kilometres of the longest will decide it. The road undulates a lot in the second half of the day but it all comes down to the quick back-to-back climbs of Comet Mine and Hahndorf.

WTDU S3 Fin

The finish is a tougher version of what we saw on day 1, but this time there is also a climb to contend with at the end again.

I imagine we’ll see some big digs from the ladies close on GC between the 1-2.25km mark on the profile above as it averages 5.8% over that period with ramps over 10%. This is where they will hope to make their mark and put others into difficulty before the 1.75km of descent and the final 450m of uphill.

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Once over the top the riders will carry some speed down the descent and bike handling will be key as they make this awkward left-turn to start the final climb. Will the winner on the day win the race as a whole?!

If Van Vleuten is in good shape then this stage looks ideal for her.

Stage 4.

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The race concludes with the traditional criterium around Adelaide. Not much else to say here, but expect a fast race and a sprint at the end.

Hosking to once again show her strength but she won’t have it easy with Bronzini and Edmondson sure to offer some stiff opposition.

The GC Battle

One of the things that I like about this race is how dynamic it can be and we often see aggressive racing rewarded. With two, possibly three, stages to shape the GC this year there is a chance things could become more structured. However I don’t think that will be the case and well once again see an attacking start to the season.

There are two teams that are head and shoulders above the rest in terms of strength and depth in regards to their selection; Mitchelton-Scott and the UniSA team.

The Mitchelton-Scott team have three possible GC candidates in their midst with Spratt, Van Vleuten and Kennedy.

Spratt obviously won this race in 2017 and will be hoping to make it back-to-back victories this year round. She was impressive in the National Champs, doing a lot of the work on the front of the pack and eventually picking up 4th place. She’s an attacking rider who can certainly climb well. However, she is much more of a one-day racer than a pure climber, so I’m intrigued to see how she copes on Mengler’s.

Van Vleuten bounced back from an injury fraught 2016 to have her best-ever season last year. On paper, she is by far the strongest rider here and the course looks ideal for her. I’m not sure where her form will be at the moment, but considering that she has been in the Southern hemisphere since the middle of November, I’m going to take a stab in the dark and say she is acclimatised and will be going well.

That just leaves my dark-horse for the race; Kennedy. The 29-year-old Australian is technically a neo-pro with this being her first full season in the professional ranks. In 2017 she had a breakthrough year with some good results in the National Champs before securing a spot on the High5DreamTeam through a scholarship. This allowed her to have a taste of European racing and she didn’t disappoint, taking a maiden victory in the Tour de l’Ardeche while on her way to securing the GC title. Clearly a very talented latecomer to the sport, I’m intrigued to see what she can do this year. Climbing well in the nationals this year, she eventually faded to 9th but I think she’ll be there or thereabouts come the end of this race. Keep an eye out for her!

Kennedy

The Uni-SA team resembles something similar to that of World’s team selection, but their main two contenders for this race will most likely be Garfoot and Gillow.

Garfoot won the first version of this race back in 2016 and will hope to get one over her former team-mates at Mitchelton. Deciding to leave the team at the end of last season to focus more on her family but also the Commonwealth Games, she absolutely crushed the field in the TT last week. Clearly in excellent shape, she has a great chance of winning this race again.

Gillow performed below her expectations in the TT but was much better in the road race, helping team-mate Kitchen to a strong second place. Another good climber, she and Garfoot will have to alternate attacks, hoping to break the will of Michelton. Although saying that, Gillow isn’t the most explosive rider in the pack so she’ll need to churn a massive gear to put everyone else into difficulty.

Other contenders to look out for during the race are Cordon (WiggleHigh5), Stephens (Cylance), Stultiens (WaowDeals), Wiles (TrekDrops) and the retiring Taylor who is riding one of her last races as a professional for domestic team Holden.

Prediction

Michelton-Scott to play the numbers game well and it will be one of last season’s best cyclists Annemiek van Vleuten who will take the win.

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Having been out training in New Zealand from the start of December I think she’ll be firing on all cylinders here. No-one will be able to match her on the climb of Mengler’s Hill and she’ll be able to follow on the other tricky stages. She has said on Twitter that she is here to work hard for the team but I’m not buying it!

Garfoot will come second with Kennedy rounding out the podium.

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is appreciated as usual, I might be a bit rusty after all! Who do you think will win the race? Will Michelton win it for a third year in a row or will we get a surprise? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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

Today’s Recap

Jack Bauer almost made it all the way but was caught within the final 5km and we did end up with a bunch gallop to the line after all. Like GroundHog Day, it was once again Ewan who took out a great sprint victory, beating Sagan and Van Poppel to the line.

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Is he unbeatable on current form? Pretty much yeah, but we’ll have to wait until Sunday to find out as tomorrow is the classic TDU GC finish up Willunga Hill.

The Route

Link to the Strava stage profile

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There’s not really much to talk about the route for this stage. The laps around McLaren Vale are very straightforward, so like every year, this day comes down to the double passage of Willunga Hill.

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A fairly steady climb, it averages 7.6% for the 2.9km with it’s steepest sections coming in the first half and it “flattening out” in the final kilometre.

On the first ascent we normally see some thinning out of the peloton and are maybe left with 30-40 riders or so coming into the final run up Willunga. The past few years has seen the leading GC teams control the climb until roughly 1km left where we normally see a full-out sprint from Porte all the way to the top.

He did the same thing in 2016 too…

Both attacks are made at 1.2km to go and amazingly he fully drops Dennis/Henao at the exact same S-bend. More of the same this year?!

How will the stage pan out?

With the commanding lead he has, Porte will be able to ride a more defensive race here than he’s used to. But will he want to? The King of Willunga could potentially make it three in a row here and with the way he soared up Paracombe on Stage 2 I wouldn’t put it past him. He’s not really giving any hints as to how he’ll race it, suggesting he can ride conservatively but if the option is there to go for the win he will. Hmmm.

You never know, he might be happy to let a break take the win and bonus seconds, but that’s very unlikely! Or at least the other teams will chase the break down to fight out for the win if BMC don’t play ball.

With the 20″ gap over his nearest rivals, Porte could just mark Chaves/Izagirre/McCarthy out of the race. Therefore, I think there is a good chance he might give a bit of leeway to those who are further behind, i.e. 30 seconds plus.

Henao was very unlucky on stage 2 with a double puncture and did remarkably well to still get up for 12th on the stage. So he clearly has very good form at the moment. Second here last year to Porte he definitely has a good chance to go one better this year!

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Woods was third here last year and like Henao currently sits 33″ behind Porte on GC. I can imagine there will be a lot of people who fancy his chances but he wasn’t overly impressive on Paracombe in my opinion. Especially in comparison to his explosive nature that he showed last year at this race. So it’s a no from me, but I am willing to be surprised and proven wrong (again)!

Ulissi sprinted to 4th on this finish in 2016 and came home in the main group on Stage 2 so clearly has some decent form. Probably not a rider who will win solo, he could win a 2 or 3 man sprint of lesser riders.

Haas seems to be riding better than ever here but this climb is on his limit so he’ll have to pull a remarkable performance out the bag to podium. As we have him for GC I’m quite happy to just leave him be for this stage.

There are a lot of other riders who could potentially pull off an early attack that goes unmarked and stays away to the end but I won’t name the entire top 20 on GC. Nobody’s got time for that! So a usual here are a couple of outsiders to keep an eye on during the coverage.

If Izagirre is struggling look to another Movistar rider, Jesus Herrada, as their man for the day. A very solid climber with a good sprint he will need to catch the others napping as he probably won’t be able to ride the likes of Chaves/Porte etc off of his wheel. Nonetheless he does have the class to finish a race off as was shown at the Dauphiné last year.

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One outside Aussie who I do like for this kind of surprise, un-marked attack is Nathan Earle. Finishing 11th on Paracombe was a great result and he certainly is flying right now. A rider who may not be as respected in terms of his climbing ability by the rest of the peloton, he is a danger if he gets an easy 15 seconds. I do expect the Uni-SA team to go a bit berserk this stage!

Prediction

I’ll go for a Sergio Henao win. He was terribly unlucky on stage 2 and will want to justify his good form with victory! Coming back from a double puncture to finish in the main bunch is no mean feat and being 33 seconds down on Porte will only be to his advantage. If he gets a 5 second gap he’ll win. Vamos!

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Or Porte decides to go for the win and creams everyone…

Betting

2.3pts WIN Sergio Henao @9/2 with Boylesports (would take 4/1)

0.1pt WIN Jesus Herrada @80/1 with Betfair (would take 66s)

0.1pt WIN Nathan Earle @150/1 with various bookmakers

Plus this “fun” H2H treble with Bet365. 0.5pt

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Thanks again for reading! Who do you think will win up Willunga? Will Richie still be the King? As usual any feedback is greatly appreciated! Anyway,

Those are My Two Spokes Worth

 

 

 

 

 

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

Today’s Recap

“I think something similar is likely to happen here and unless someone puts in a massive attack the favourites may well mark each other out of the race”

That’s what I wrote in my Stage 2 preview and boy did Porte put in a massive attack! He rode everyone off his wheel and took a very impressive victory. That’s the GC over now for 1st place barring any accident or misfortune but the rest of the podium is still up for grabs on Willunga.

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From a punting perspective we had no stage winner again, but the H2H double came in to cover the day. Hopefully that will be a recurring theme this year when more often than not my outside pick doesn’t win!

Anyway, moving on to Stage 3 and what the riders can expect to face.

The Route

A little bit lumpy but it’s no stage 2!

Link to Strava profile

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The tougher climbs come too early in the stage to be of any issue so it will be the circuit around Victor Harbor that decides the day.

Strava profile of Victor Harbor Circuit

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I did say in my GC preview when highlighting this stage that the first climb was 1.7km at 2.5%. However, that goes to the second peak, which flattens the gradient out a bit and it included some false flat. Using the profile above the main bulk of the climb is actually closer to 800m at 5.25%. This still shouldn’t be too bad for the pro sprinters but it depends on how the peloton attacks it.

Again, I suggested the second climb was 1.3km at 3.7% but it is closer to 1.1km at 4.36%, with the final 300m averaging closer to 7%. Not a massive difference but that 300m section does look like a great launchpad for an attack!

Apologies for the slightly incorrect information beforehand but I didn’t have the time to make a profile of the circuit on its own until now. Anyway, something needs to be kept for these previews, right?! 😉

The run-in to the line itself is fairly technical.

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A sharp right hander at 600m or so to go, followed by another 90-degree turn in quick succession. The riders then have to traverse a roundabout at 300m to go before a slight uphill kick in the final 100m* that averages 5%. They’ll be carrying a lot of speed into the kicker but it is something to think about and makes timing your effort even more important.

*At least that’s where I think the finish is as the organisers aren’t very helpful with their route descriptions. 500m after the last turn and “The Esplanade near Albert Place” has led me to deduce that the finish line is there. Channeling my inner Sherlock!

Weather Watch

With a lot of today’s stage going along the coast there is always a chance that we could get some crosswinds. We may be left disappointed though as the wind doesn’t appear to be strong enough. However, according to the Australian Government’s Bureau of Meteorology there will be some moderate winds in and around the area.

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There is also the possibility of rain late into the stage which would certainly spice things up! But as we know, meteorologists steal a living so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see closer to the time.

How will the stage pan out?

On paper this should really be a sprint, but with the big GC gaps created yesterday there is a chance that a break might be let go and if it does then it’s anybodies guess as to who wins! BMC have no sprinter so will just control the break and only chase hard if there is a threat to Porte’s lead.

Therefore it will be over to the sprinter teams to do most of the hard work and we will most likely see Orica and Bora (it is their namesake stage) share the duties with maybe one or two riders from Sky/Trek helping out.

I’m not going to bore you by going over the sprinters in-depth again so this will be a shorter summary!

I’m concerned with Ewan on this course as he’s not the best climber and does go awry in less than ideal conditions. The Bora pairing will be fired up for this due to the sponsor naming rights, but who sprints for them? I think Sagan will be given his chance this time. Van Poppel possesses a good uphill sprint and is a danger for the win, likewise is Bonifazio, although his lack of a lead-out will let him down. This finish reminds me of the stage Theuns won at the Baloise Belgium Tour last year. He’ll be up there again but I’m going to avoid him this stage. As for the rest, Planckaert may spring a surprise in a tougher sprint.

Some of the puncheurs might even fancy their chances but I think it will be too easy for them unless we get a very hard pace around the circuit. And of course there is always that slim possibility of a late attack sticking!

Prediction

This should end up in some kind of sprint, 90% chance I reckon, with the other 10% being split between morning break and late attack succeeding.

A Bora rider will win the Bora named stage. Sagan takes his first victory in 2017.

He should be able to cope with the circuit and any prevailing weather conditions that we get. The only concern is if they choose Bennett over him, but they seem to have a good working relationship and I reckon the Irishman will let him go for it today!

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Betting

2.3pts WIN Sagan @5/1 with SkyBet (I’d take 4/1 offered elsewhere)

Just in case of a break/late attack adding two small punts;

0.1pt WIN Valgren @200/1 with Betfair/PP.

0.1pt WIN Hansen @ 150/1 with Bet365 (Would take 125/1)

No real H2H that I like so far, but if I change my mind then I’ll add them/put them on my twitter!

 

As usual, thanks for reading! Hoping we get an exciting stage today as it will be the first one I get to watch properly. Any feedback etc is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

They were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tour Down Under Stage 2 Preview; Stirling -> Paracombe

Today’s Recap

I told you it was simple! The pocket rocket Caleb Ewan wins and takes the opening Ochre jersey of the race.

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Although it wasn’t all plain sailing for the Aussie as Van Poppel and Bennett ran him very close with Ewan winning by about half a bike length. Saying that, he never looked as if he was going to be overhauled.

Unfortunately from a punting side, Theuns went a bit early and never got near the podium. He was even overhauled on the line by Planckaert which ruined the H2H double, but oh well, moving on!

Ewan has no chance of retaining Ochre after today/tonight/whatever day this is stage, so let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders who want to win this race overall.

The Route

The Queen stage and the toughest in Tour Down Under history. The riders will be thankful that it appears if it will be a lot cooler than the searing heat of stage 1 and we might even get a small rain shower.

Here’s a link to the Strava profile

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At just over 3,300m of elevation gain over 150km,  this will be a sore one for the peloton. The laps around Stirling won’t see any major action aside from movement in the breakaway, it will just be a case of a slow increase in pace back in the peloton.

Unlike 2015, the riders approach the Paracombe ascent via a different route. Instead of the fast descent in that edition, this year they climb for the majority of it, with a few minor descents thrown in. This certainly changes how the riders will approach the finish.

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Link to the above Strava profile can be found here

The finish can be split into three sections; 4.6km at 1%; 4km at 4.1%; and 1.8km at 7.8%.

The pace will be high in Section 1 as the riders will still be carrying a lot of speed from their descent away from the Stirling circuit. I wouldn’t expect anything too crazy to happen here but this is where we will most likely see the sprinters unhitch as they look to conserve some energy. Unless of course they’ve already been dropped on the circuit!

Section 2 will see the GC teams come more to the head of the peloton. With some segments of the climb being around 8% it is certainly possible for a few riders to try to go for a long attack and get a gap. Satellite riders could be sent up the road here from teams that have two GC candidates (i.e. Gerrans/Chaves) and cause panic behind. Or those who won’t fancy their chances coming to the bottom of Paracombe with the GC group may also give it a dig.

Finally we reach the big test and with an opening 500m at 10.2% some time can be lost if you’re on a bad day. The climb does get easier afterwards and as we saw in 2015 there is a chance it can regroup. If that happens a well-timed late attack, à la Dennis, can succeed or we could get a small group sprint.

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This really is a tough stage to call which hopefully should make it a great one from a viewing perspective but it’s not so great for me just now trying to write this!

Contenders

The GC favourites for the race such as Porte, Henao, Chaves and co are all short odds with the bookmakers and you’d expect that with this being the Queen stage. However, from a racing stand point I find it quit hard to split them on this climb. We saw back in 2015 Porte give it a nudge but he was marked by Evans and Pozzovivo with no real inroads being made. I think something similar is likely to happen here and unless someone puts in a massive attack the favourites may well mark each other out of the race. Consequently, this will open it up for a “lesser” rider to take the stage. My favourite type of preview to write!

Annoyingly, it’s still not clear-cut as this could be done by an attack on Section 2 and staying away, or with a late surge on Section 3.

I guess we should start with the Aussies!

One of my outside punts for GC, Nathan Haas has already taken himself one bonus second out on the road on stage 1 so clearly he feels up to challenging for the overall title. I’m not too sure what the best approach would be for him, but with a fast sprint he could risk holding out for a re-grouping at the end of the stage. He’s looking very thin just now and can definitely surprise!

Vuelta a Burgos 2016  stage 4

Also, Haas’ team-mate Lachlan Morton could be used as a satellite rider that may well just hold on to the end. An even better climber than Haas, his performances in the Tour of Utah were very impressive last year and if he’s in similar shape I wouldn’t give him too much leeway.

Jay McCarthy is another who took bonus seconds out on the road today. A rider of similar ilk to Haas, McCarthy possesses a fast sprint (his surge on Stage 1 was very impressive) but I’d say he’s naturally a better climber than Haas. Someone who won’t be as heavily marked by the peloton, he has a big chance of taking this stage.

Chris Hamilton is here as Sunweb’s leader and is a great young Australian talent. The Hurricane as he’s affectionately known has been doing recon of this stage over this past week. Finishing 14th on GC here last year was a great result and he’ll want to step up this year. A good result on this stage will go a long way to do that!

An even younger Hamilton (Lucas) could well be another that springs a surprise. Winner of the KOM jersey at the Tour de l’Avenir and 3rd on GC at the Ras, the boy is strong! He’ll hope to use his anonymity to his advantage. I wouldn’t give him too much space, that’s for sure!

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Away from the Australians, some outsiders to look out for are Luis Leon Sanchez, Petr Vakoc and Jose Goncalves.

There are the other obvious Europeans such as Ulissi etc, but I don’t think they’ll win here. Unless of course Diego has brought his inhaler with him!

Prediction

We’ll get an Aussie victor that will continue to please the home crowds. It won’t be the obvious Gerrans or Porte but instead, it will be young Jay McCarthy. I liked what I saw from him on stage 1 in that intermediate sprint, it was a very powerful surge to overhaul Goncalves. Furthermore, he finished 12th on the stage which highlights to me that he’s being attentive and doesn’t want to lose time which in turn means that he’s going very well and really wants to challenge the GC this year. He rolled the dice at the Aussie Nats and I’m intrigued to see how he plays this one, but he certainly has the strength/speed to pull off either approach!

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I do also have fond memories of him winning at 100/1 on the Stirling stage last year which led to this post student night out tweet. Aptly in my uni-town of Stirling too…

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Betting

0.8pt EW McCarthy @ 25/1 with Betfair/PP (I’d take down to 20/1)

0.25pt EW Chris Hamilton @150/1 with Betfair/PP (I’d take down to 100/1)

0.1pt EW Morton @ 150/1 with Bet365/Ladbrokes (I’d take down to 100/1)

0.1pt EW Lucas Hamilton @250/1 with Bet365 (I’d take down to 200/1)

H2H Double; McCarthy v Gerrans and Hamilton v Meintjes @2.3/1 with Bet365. 1.5pt.

Keep an eye out later as more bookmakers price up, there might be better odds available!

 

Thanks again for reading, hopefully the stage lives up to the hype! As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TdU Stage 1 Preview: Unley -> Lyndoch

The People’s Choice Crit on Sunday whetted our appetite for the week ahead with Caleb Ewan taking a very convincing win.

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Bennett and Sagan followed him home and all three riders will be looking to take the opening stage victory and thus the first Ochre Jersey of the Tour.

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

The Route

A relatively flat affair with a few bumps along the way, definitely one for the fast men. Expect a few Aussies to get into the break and go for the opening KOM jersey.

Here’s the Strava profile I made for the stage.

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The three large laps around Lyndoch feature some steepish bumps but they’re only a couple of hundred metres at 7% or so. Nothing for the pros! The run-in itself will be fast as it’s a shallow descent for 5km towards the line with a few sweeping bends. At roughly 500m to go the riders will tackle a “left” turn (it’s pretty much straight on), so the pace shouldn’t be knocked back at all.

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That “left” turn at 500m to go

From there it will be a drag race to the line with the first WT win of the season up for grabs, it should be an exciting and frenetic affair!

Who’s going to be challenging then?

Contenders

The Aussie pocket rocket Caleb Ewan has to start this stage as favourite and I think I would be hard pressed to find anyone who disagrees with that statement. He’s in scintillating form at the moment picking up the national criterium title along with the aforementioned People’s Choice Crit (PCC). The Orica lead-out train seems to be working very well and Kluge has gelled with the rest of the team straight away. They’ll expect nothing less than victory here.

Bora team management will have to make a decision on who sprints; either Sagan or Bennett. Their effort at the PCC was a bit of a mess with both riders doing their own sprint after Bennett lost the wheel of the Slovak. If I was DS, I’d have the Irishman as their rider for this stage. His closing speed was very impressive and if he can follow Sagan then he has a very good springboard and chance to take the stage. Easier said than done though!

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The rider who just missed the podium at the crit was Niccolo Bonifazio. Fourth place was a good result for him, but he was just kind of there and I wasn’t overly impressed. He’s the type of rider who is very hot or cold and without much team support I think he’ll struggle in the more structured sprint of Stage 1 and will finish further down the pecking order. Then again, my track record with bold statements last season wasn’t great 😂

Mark Renshaw is sure to be fired up to impress on home soil as he gets one of his very few changes throughout the year to lead Dimension Data. Not as quick as he once used to be, that disadvantage is overcome by his nationality as he always seems to pull a good result out of the bag here.

Sky rider Danny Van Poppel will hope to go better than his 16th place in the crit which must have been a disappointment. A strong sprinter on his day, he’ll have some strong riders to bring him to the front in the closing kilometres and drop him on Ewan/Sagan’s wheel. Can he deliver from there?

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Vuelta “flop” Nikias Arndt will be under pressure to perform as Sunweb also have another young German sprinter by the name of Phil Bauhaus with them. I would expect the former to get the go ahead on stage 1, but does he have the legs to compete? I’m not so sure.

There are several other smaller sprinters here such as; Marko Kump, Carlos Barbero, Sean de Bie, Lorenzo Manzin and Baptiste Planckaert. Ultimately a top 10 would be a good result for them and a top 5 would be great!

*incoming fantasy team bias/clouded judgement warning*

One rider I think will go well on this opening stage is Edward Theuns.

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With the PCC being his first race back after his injury at the Tour de France, he performed well to get up for 5th in what was a chaotic and potentially dangerous race. However, he was disappointed to lose the wheel of his lead-out-man (Koen De Kort) in the final few hundred metres. With this simpler run in, he should be delivered into a better position and from there he will fancy his chances. On his day he can match the best in the World, but can he do it tomorrow?

Prediction

Going against tradition here…

Man on form + Best lead-out = an odds on favourite Ewan win. Simple!

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With Theuns and whoever the Bora sprinter is rounding out the podium.

Betting

Ewan is too short to back IMO, something along the lines of 13/10 may have tempted me. So I’m going for my outside winner shot and the guy with a good chance of the podium:

0.5pt EW Theuns @ 15/1 with Bet365 or WillHill. Would take 14/1 too. Although he was technically 20/1 when I tweeted I’d back him the other day, I’m not going to be that guy and take that price!

As for a H2H double, I like;

Van Poppel v Arndt & Theuns v Planckaert @ 1.27/1 with WilliamHill. 3pts.

 

Thanks for reading as always! I’m looking forward to the first road stage of the year. Who do you think will take the Ochre jersey? Any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Tour Down Under 2017 – GC Preview

Tour Down Under 2017 – GC Preview

The curtain raiser for this year’s cycling calendar will once again be the Tour Down Under, a race which I’ve grown fond over the past few years. I’m not sure if that’s because we’ve been starved of action over the winter break or if it is becoming one of the more exciting races of the season. Probably a mixture of both, if not slightly more the former!

Nonetheless, the organisers have made a few tweaks to the normal parcours and we have what is arguably the toughest TdU route in history. So let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders over the coming week.

The Route

Stage 1 sees the riders tackle 145km from Unley to Lyndoch.

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Three laps around a large finishing circuit with a few hills could create a surprise. However, with the gradients being so small on these climbs and only 1,600m of elevation gain, then this should be one for the sprinters. With a very simple-run in, this should be a fast finish to the opening road stage!

Stage 2 is the Queen stage of this years TDU in terms of climbing metres, seeing the riders return to the finish in Paracombe that Rohan Dennis won back in 2015.

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The laps around Stirling will certainly sap the legs before the tough finale. Unlike 2015, the riders approach the climb differently and the road actually heads upwards for around 10kms, with the main section before the climb to Paracombe itself coming in at 3.9km averaging  4%. Could this make all the difference? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, but expect some fireworks!

Stage 3 sees the peloton head south from Adelaide towards Victor Harbor.

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Potential cross-winds and a committed team could see a GC shake up. A tired peloton could be put under stress on the closing circuit’s climbs (1.7km at 2.5% and 1.3km at 3.7%) but it should end in some type of bunch sprint.

Stage 4 is an up and down day and actually has the second largest amount of elevation gain at the TdU.

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Nonetheless it should be a sprint at the end of the stage, but it could be the only breakaway day we get if no one wants to work behind. Interestingly, the finish kicks up at around 2.1% average for the final kilometre.

Stage 5 and the traditional stage finish up Willunga Hill.

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Nothing else to say really, this stage is all about that 6-7 minute effort at the end.

Stage 6 once again sees the race close with a 90km criterium around Adelaidescreen-shot-2017-01-14-at-15-46-43

I can’t wait for the couple of sheer walls that the riders face 😉. Also, this is just one lap as I have neither the time nor patience to repeat the route 20 times! We might see some GC riders go for time bonuses if the race is that close but this stage is all about the sprinters as you’d expect. Who’ll close the race with a win?

So overall it is a tougher race than previous years but it’s still very much in the balance between the proper climbers and the puncheurs. Willunga is tough, but ultimately it is only a 7 minute effort and the same goes for Paracombe. There are no 30 minute climbs here on which the really light guys can make a massive difference, this race will once again come down to seconds and I expect the top 10 to be separated by no more than a minute. Who’s going to be in contention for the title then?

GC Contenders

Richie Porte (a.k.a The King of Willunga) is the favourite and rightly so.

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He’s untouchable on that climb when in good form and he will find the extra climbing before Paracombe to his liking. The problem with Richie is that he doesn’t have the ability to pick up bonus seconds elsewhere and that the steeper gradients of Paracombe aren’t his cup of tea. Nonetheless, if he is in form then he should win on Willunga and possibly podium up to Paracombe which should be enough to win the race. However, we don’t know where his form is at due to him skipping Nationals. If he really wants to challenge at the Tour de France, is it not too early to be at 90% here? Hmmm, it could go either way with him! Supporting him will be Rohan Dennis who is capable of taking up the leadership role if Porte isn’t at the top-level.

Orica come in with two leaders; Esteban Chaves and Simon Gerrans. This will be the Colombian’s first time racing in Australia and he’ll be competing at the Herald Sun Tour later in the month. This route would be ideal for him if he was in top form but I get the feeling that this could be more of a PR stunt from him and the team. Instead, it will be Gerrans who will lead the main charge for Orica as he looks to pick up his 5th Overall victory here. This will be the last chance to do so as he finally appears to be dwindling as a rider going by his form last year. I’m not convinced he can manage it but he’s sure to leave everything on the road! Plus it is January and we are in Australia so you never know!

Sky also come into the race with a two-pronged attack of Geraint Thomas and Sergio Henao. The latter was 3rd overall here last year and I’d expect him to be their main rider again, although Thomas may stretch is legs at some point. Henao is the main challenger to Porte in my opinion.

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The other rider in the above photo is also a contender for this race, Michael Woods. After coming to the sport late, he took a breakthrough 3rd place on Willunga last year. If he’s improved from then he can certainly contend once again this year, plus he’s been putting in some impressive rides on Strava. Will that translate to results? I’m not so sure as he still seems to be lacking the tactical awareness needed for bike racing, but hey, if he can ride everyone off his wheel then he doesn’t need to!

I can’t see Sagan doing anything GC wise here, instead his teammate McCarthy looked very strong and more importantly lean at the Bay Crits and Road Nats and certainly could contend.

Aside from these guys, it is a fairly open field and I do think there is a chance that an outsider could sneak onto the podium so in MyTwoSpokesWorth tradition I’ll highlight 3 to watch out for.

(There is a slight bias as 2 of them are in my Fantasy Team for this season. This may be a recurring theme and I can only apologise 😜)

Nathan Haas.

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Another who was testing his legs at the Bay Crits and took 3rd place at the Road Nats. He seems really fired up for this and it’s his main goal early on in the year before taking a break and going to the Giro. A bit of a stop start season in 2016, his performances in Canada looked a return to form and he seems to have continued that over the Australian summer. Not the best natural climber in the field, he’ll need a bit of luck to go his way but I wouldn’t write him off! His fast kick could be crucial to pick up bonus seconds.

Petr Vakoc is the second of my fantasy riders and there’s good reason for that; he’s an incredible talent!

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After an OK TdU last year, his opening to the European season was amazing. Having been out in Australia since before New Year he seems fired up to lead Etixx at the first race of the season. A proper brute of a rider, his strength should see him be able to match some of the lighter climbers and with a Tour de France now in his legs he should be even better this year. I’m intrigued more than anything to see what he can do.

My final rider is one had a solid year and I was very impressed with on several occasions but his results didn’t quite show it; Jan Bakelants. Top 20 in the Vuelta followed some good showings in the Tour he just didn’t take any big wins. Like Vakoc, he was very strong at the start of the European cycling calendar and I’m hoping that will translate to something here!

Prediction

A toss-up between Porte and Henao for the win I think and it’s quite tough to call. Porte could well be peaking for the Tour but will want to make a statement here and Henao hasn’t raced since the Olympics so both of their form really is unknown. I’ll go for the King of Willunga himself to take the win, with Haas rounding out the podium!

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I just hope the racing is exciting and unpredictable as it could potentially be! Although saying that, easy stages make my job easier. 😏

Betting

I distanced myself from GC betting towards the end of last year and it’s something I’ll probably be doing this year too. Nonetheless, I think there is a bit of value in small stake punts on my 3 outsiders.

0.1pt EW Vakoc @80/1 with various bookmakers (would go to 66/1)

0.1pt EW Haas @ 66/1 with Bet365 (would go to 50/1)

0.1pt EW Bakelants @ 80/1 with Bet365 (would go to 66/1).

 

Thanks everyone for reading, it’s good to be back! Any shares/RTs would be much appreciated as usual and any feedback via Twitter is always more than welcome. Who do you think will win? Does an outsider have a chance of sneaking onto the podium? I shall be doing daily previews of the stages, aside from the People’s Choice Crit as I have no time for that! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.