Tour de France 2018 Stage 14 Preview: Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux -> Mende

Today’s Recap

FDJ and Bora decided they weren’t playing ball today as neither tried to get a man in the break. Once the 4 men went up ahead they controlled it, not letting the gap grow out much further than 2 minutes. Despite Gilbert’s late attack we had a sprint day with the best sprinter here, Sagan, taking the win.

Dij9pPrXcAUE6a3

He edged out Kristoff who in turn edged out Démare to round out the podium. Pretty dull day, let’s hope for some more exciting racing tomorrow. Speaking of which…

The Route

A rolling day that sees a lot of climbing in the latter part.

tour-de-france-2018-stage-14-profile-eb39394529

A flat start to the afternoon sees an uncategorised drag (roughly 2.9% for 8kms), come after 10kms into the day. The road then goes over several small bumps and some more flat roads for the following 60km before the Cat-4 climb. Will the break have gone by then?

After that, the road goes up from pretty much 95 -> 129km, meaning the average gradient is 2.5% for those 34kms. That of course includes the “proper” climb of Col de la Croix de Berthel which officially clocks in at 5.3% for 9.1kms. The riders will then face a descent before a climb, which will then be rinsed and repeated again.

With a descent and some valley roads, everyone will turn their attention to the closing climb of the day.

stage-14-cote-de-la-croix-neuve

It’s the same finish climb that was used in 2015 when Pinot and Bardet dropped everyone else from the break but they were caught up by a storming Cummings while they were playing games. The climb is tough and it is possible we see some splits in the GC group if it is rode at a crazy pace. Nothing major but a few seconds here and there.

I can’t see anyone wanting to keep this one together so…

TheBreakawayLottery

Break Contenders

Every man and his dog will be trying to get into the break if they can and the fight will be tough. It will take some luck to make the right move but also having good legs is important. Will any GC rider allow a domestique the chance to go for a stage win?

I’m also breaking a few of my rules today as I’ll be naming five guys below, shocking, I know. Here goes nothing…

Gorka Izagirre.

gorka

He looked strong in the breakaway during stage 11 before an untimely mechanical or bout of cramp (still don’t which it is) ruined any chance of going for stage glory. With Nibali no longer at the race Bahrain will be very active over the remaining stages and Gorka looks their best bet for tomorrow. As I mentioned in the preview for stage 11, this season is the best I have ever seen him ride; his climbing is exceptional. He was just unlucky not to be able to showcase it that day. With his good kick he could win a gallop to the line.

Julian Alaphilippe.

The current King of the Mountains has been very smart with his energy use over the past few stages, going hard for the first HC or Cat-1 climbs of the day and then swiftly exiting the break. He’s clearly planned this one out in advance. With only a few points available on Stage 15, I think he might chance his arm and go for the stage win tomorrow. If there was one rider in the peloton (not a GC contender) that you had to pick for this final climb then it would be Alaphilippe. If he makes the break then not many will want to drag him to the bottom of it so he might be susceptible to longer range attacks. Nonetheless, he starts the stage as favourite.

Gregor Mühlberger.

On the attack during the Alpe d’Huez stage, Mühlberger is fast becoming one of my under rated (favourite) domestiques in the peloton – he’s a classy bike rider. He has a bit of everything as he can go well on the flat but can also cope well with hilly terrain. During the Tour de Suisse he was close to a stage win, well kind of, but was brought back by some flying GC riders. Nonetheless, he still managed to hold on for 4th place that day. One who could possibly attack before the final climb and use his good descending skills to advantage. He has a great chance if he starts the ascent with a 30 second advantage.

Jelle Vanendert.

3d746cfe-431f-11e8-a881-e99d194968e4_web_translate_-15.43761_-3.958456__scale_0.0693023_0.0693023__

Lotto Soudal only have half of their roster left in the race but they have been active despite that. One of their riders that has been quiet though is Vanendert. Maybe he has been targeting this stage for a while? His Spring campaign was successful with a string of strong results in the Ardennes classics. Will saving those legs reap the benefits against a tired peloton?

Simon Geschke.

Bit of a wild card here because it requires Dumoulin to allow the German on the attack. His performance on the Alpe d’Huez stage was nothing short of phenomenal though and he was one of only a few domestiques left at the foot of the climb. It is the best I’ve seen him go up some hills since his win at this race in 2015. Has he found his mojo again? A danger man that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Prediction

Alaphilippe, all day.

DiU03ChVMAAWmMq

Betting

Even as much as I think Alaphilippe has a great chance I just can’t back him at that price for a stage with many variables.

1pt WIN G Izagirre @ 33/1

0.5pt WIN Mühlberger @ 150/1

1pt WIN Vanendert @ 40/1

0.75pt WIN Geschke @ 66/1

Again, you could possibly wait for the Exchanges to open, most likely get better prices there.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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

Today’s Recap

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

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

DiUc8zLXUAAV1PJ

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

The Route

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

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

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

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

stage-11-montee-de-bisanne

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

A long descent follows before they start climbing again.

stage-11-col-du-pre-roselend

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

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

stage-11-la-rosiere

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

How will the stage pan out?

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

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

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

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

So time to play everyone’s favourite game…

TheBreakawayLottery

Damiano Caruso.

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

Gorka Izagirre.

gorka

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

Daniel Martinez.

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

Pierre Rolland. 

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

Prediction

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

f6194

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

Betting

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

0.5pt EW Gorka Izagirre @ 200/1.

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

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2018 Stage 3 Preview: Cholet -> Cholet (TTT)

Today’s Recap

Another chaotic sprint and that corner with just under 2km to go that I warned about in my preview yesterday proved to be at the centre of it. There was no room for some riders to come up the inside like they wanted and were forced outwards as the corner was more than 90-degrees and we unfortunately had a crash that took out a few of the stage contenders. Thankfully it was at a slightly slower speed so no one seems too injured from it.

That left a group of only 14 riders at the head of the race going under the Flamme Rouge to contest the stage win.

Démare tried to catch everyone off guard by going slightly early but Sagan was alive to it, brushing off Degenkolb as he latched onto the FDJ rider’s wheel. The World Champion then accelerated out of the slipstream and managed to hold on for the win, edging out the charging blog pick Colbrelli who finished a wheel length behind, with Demare coming home in third.

DhmCtg7WAAAkozM

That result means Sagan is in yellow going into tomorrow’s stage. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

A rolling 35.5km team time trial and the first “GC day”.

tour-de-france-2018-stage-3-profile-8672fb3def

TDF18_ET03_cartePOT_PDFvecto

Although there are a few roundabouts and turns to contend with in and around Cholet, the majority of the route is on a wide-open main road. Expect this to be a fast one!

Saying that, there are plenty of smaller roundabouts out on the route but most of them are relatively straightforward and they shouldn’t cause too many issues. The only thing teams will need to be wary of is their change-over as the timing will become more important near the roundabouts.

As is tradition with any sort of time trial I have made my own profile on Strava/Veloviewer that you can view here.

Cholet TTT 3D

The course features many short drags, but the first of which comes after only 1km and averages 2.7% for 2.1km. Nothing too tough bit it will make the teams ponder their pacing strategy a bit more. The next comes at 16km and is 1.8km at 3.3%, with the final major incline starting at just over 25km, with an average of 3.8% for 1.6km but it does include a steeper section at the bottom with 700m at 6.9%.

Screen Shot 2018-07-08 at 16.42.06

The final 10km are mainly downhill so it will be a fast and frenetic run in.

Weather wise it appears that all the teams should face similar conditions, with a consistent 20km/h wind coming from the north north-east.

Contenders

It’s going to be a bit of a weird watch tomorrow with three of the favourite teams for the stage heading off within the first five outfits down the ramp. Of course, the squads will head out at 5 minute intervals with them going in reverse Team GC order, although Bora will be out last as Sagan has Yellow.

Mitchelton Scott.

First team down the ramp the Aussie outfit sacrificed bringing Ewan with them to the Tour so that they could focus on this stage a little bit more, choosing to have a group of strong rouleurs to help Yates as much as possible. That has somewhat backfired a bit after the opening two stages which have seen the Brit on the deck twice, with Impey and Durbridge both falling today as well. Will that have an impact tomorrow? Unfortunately we and probably them too, won’t know until they are out on the road. Matt White sounded confident in a post stage interview today stating that they will be up there fighting for the win but I’m just not sure after this afternoon. They were podium challengers but I think they will be happy with a top 5.

Team Sky.

DfA-AMVX0AAecU5

Second down the start ramp, Sky will be looking to take as much time as possible after Froome and Bernal’s bumps in the opener, we could even see Thomas in Yellow for the second year in a row. Sky absolutely smashed the 35km TTT in the Dauphine where the averaged a crazy 57.456km/h, putting 38 seconds into second placed BMC. Their outfit at this race is arguably even stronger and they won’t have many passengers. I would expect Rowe to fall away at some point but aside from that they will most likely come home together. Will that extra fire power help them? Given the nature of the course and the quality of their team they start as the stage favourites.

BMC.

It’s a TTT which means that the American team will inevitably be up there fighting for the win. They will miss the likes of Dennis and Scotson but they do have a very strong and well-rounded squad with them. One of the best drilled outfits in the peloton they will be fully up for this. Having the slight advantage of time checks on the two teams mentioned above, albeit they don’t start that much later than them, should help them pace their efforts a little better. Could we see Porte claw back some crucial time on his rivals?

Team Sunweb.

sunweb_roadworlds_ttt_1

The current World Champions will start 9th from the finish tomorrow so they should know time finish times of Mitchelton, Sky and possibly BMC by the time they set off. This will be a massive advantage to them as they will get an idea of the other teams pacing and where time could be gained/lost. Their squad is made up of a lot of strong riders, including three of the six who won that world title. In Suisse they placed an impressive 4 riders inside the top 12 in the final TT so they are clearly in good shape. Can the World Champs be classed as an outsider? They will be there or thereabouts.

Quick Step.

The only other team who I can see contending for the win/podium are the Belgian outfit. Back in the day they were experts in this discipline but they seem to have lost their way a little over the past couple of years. However, we’ve seen the might of their lead-out train so far in this race – they just need to keep that up for another 30km! They don’t have many great individual TT riders but as a unit they are very strong with a bunch of solid rouleurs. A win might be out of reach but they would be delighted with a podium.

Prediction

This is a tough one to predict but I’ll go with the classy TTT team here, BMC to take the stage and Van Avermaet to go into Yellow. It will be very close between them and Sky though!

5ab9499b27b6e

Betting

2pts WIN BMC @ 11/5 with Bet365 (Would take 2/1).

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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

Today’s Recap

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

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

DFWZuuQXcAAgIzq

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

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

The Route

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

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

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

stage-21-circuit

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2017-07-22 at 17.16.01

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

Sprinters

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

Matthews.

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

Boasson Hagen.

DFRltnDUMAAHgeq

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

Greipel.

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

Groenewegen.

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

Bouhanni.

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

Degenkolb.

DFBwJB9XsAE0mDU

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

Kristoff.

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

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

Prediction

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

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

DEyb0fIW0AAEjbk

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

Betting

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

 

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

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

Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Tour de France 2017 Stage 19 Preview; Embrun -> Salon-de-Provence

Today’s Recap

A big break went early and for a while it looked as if they would contest the stage. However, AG2R drove an infernal pace before the Izoard reducing the gap to a bridgeable amount.

Barguil was the first rider to launch a major attack from the peloton and he quickly dropped Contador who initially followed.

With a bit of stalling behind, Landa shot up off the road but he didn’t look as strong as he did a week ago in the Pyrenees. Froome, Bardet and Uran eventually bridged but it was too late for the stage win.

DFMIFr8XYAUIUaC

Barguil caught and past the only remaining breakaway rider (Atapuma) just before the last kilometre, beating the Colombian by 20 seconds in the end. This is the second Grand Tour in a row that Atapuma has finished second on the final mountain stage, coming home behind a Frenchman both times.

Bardet outsprinted Froome to gain 4 bonus seconds, while Uran lost a couple of seconds to the pair.

After all that though, the Brit is still in the driving seat to take his 4th Tour win with a TT still to come. However, there is still another road stage before then.

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

The Route

A rolling day that could/should/might end in a sprint.

tour-de-france-2017-stage-19-1495792579

The longest stage of the whole race, the organisers must have been feeling a bit cruel when they came up with the route!

It’s not exactly a straightforward stage either, with a lot of rolling roads in the first part of the stage that it will make it difficult for the sprinters teams to control.

With the last categorised climb peaking out roughly 45km from the finish, will we see a charge from behind to catch the break?

The run-in itself is fairly technical and it will be fast as the road descends from about 5km to go until the Flamme Rouge, flattening out for the final kilometre.

stage-19-finish

A couple of tight turns could make it a messy run-in, but with the two close together the peloton should be strung out. Will anyone further behind through that section be able to close the gap in the closing 400m straight?

How will the stage pan out?

A big battle between the breakaway and sprinters.

Firstly, it depends on the attitude of the peloton. After a couple of tough mountain stages there will be a lot of tired bodies and I’m sure a lot of riders will be looking forward to a quieter day.

However, with only a TT and the processional final stage left, tomorrow is the only opportunity for anyone who is not a sprinter or TT specialist to have a good go for a result.

Matthews has the Green Jersey sewn up as long as he stays on his bike and with two stage wins to his name already, will he really make his team chase all day for a third? I think they deserve a rest!

It could actually be the other sprinters who might put their teams to work but with Kristoff and Degenkolb struggling today, I think it would only be Lotto Soudal and Dimension Data who would be willing to chase. Even then, it is a tough day for them to do that and they both have cards they could play in the break instead.

So with that all said, I think we could be in for a big breakaway day again with a group of 25-30 riders escaping up the road.

imageedit_14_4543960943

Candidates

Two new names and two previous blog picks here;

Tony Martin.

He gave us a lot of excitement with his long-range attack on Stage 15 but was unfortunately undone by a tough climb. The rises in tomorrow’s stage are a lot easier and the powerful German should be able to handle them. If he can stay with the front group over the final Cat-3, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him try another solo attack when they reach the flatter lands and there’s a lull in the action. As everyone will expect it, he’ll have to time the move to perfection but it is certainly something he is capable of.

Jay McCarthy.

C2wKzmeXAAAsRej

Anyone that can average 775 Watts (12.2 w/Kg) for a minute deserves to make this list! That’s what the Aussie did when he charged through the pack towards the end of stage 14 only to fall just short and finish 5th. What could have been with better positioning! He’s been quiet since then but tomorrow looks like a good stage for him to get into the move. A good punchy climber, the ascents tomorrow shouldn’t be too hard for him and he’ll hope to make it over with the front of the breakaway. Packing a strong sprint from a reduced group, that will be his best chance of victory tomorrow. He best just hope Matthews doesn’t decide he wants to spend a day up-front!

Jack Bauer.

One of the riders of the race so far in my opinion, he has been selfless in his work for both Kittel and Martin. The work he’s done for the latter has been particularly impressive, hanging with the best on some of the toughest mountains and in a very reduced peloton. He’s clearly going very well just now! With Kittel out of the race and Martin “safe” tomorrow, I imagine Quick Step will be keen to get guys into the breakaway.

Stefan Küng.

471820918_670

No stranger to a breakaway, the Swiss rider won a stage at the Tour of Romandie from the early morning move back in April. He finished second on the opening stage but has been quiet since then, apparently not being allowed to go in breakaways because he’s too tough to bring back. Although that rumour was shot down by the rider himself. Like Martin he might try to rest for the TT the following day, or alternatively he could go on the attack to test where his legs are at. He’s a strong candidate to get a result if he makes the break and I’m sure BMC will have several riders up there.

Prediction

With no sprint team really wanting to chase the breakaway fully, the morning move will stay away. Luck will be important but so will good legs! Having been so agonisingly close to a Tour stage win back in 2014, after being caught within the final 10m, Jack Bauer will get his “revenge” and take the day!

1485218691002

Betting

Tweeted the selections out before…

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 19.56.10

Wouldn’t take less than 50/1 for any of them!

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

La Course 2017 Preview

This edition of La Course is a special one for me as  it marks a year of writing women’s previews! Last year saw a sprint finish in Paris, with Hosking taking the win, somehow managing to avoid the now famous #HaugheyCurse. Maybe it was beginners luck?!

chloe_hosking

After 3 years with a glorified criterium on the Champs-Élysées, the ASO have decided to mix things up this year with a move away from Paris, instead heading into the mountains with a change of format.

I’m pleased to see things get mixed up and for the race to provide an opportunity for different riders to shine on “the biggest stage in World cycling”. Yet, I can’t help but feel somewhat let down.

Obviously, I don’t know the intricacies of the financial aspect surrounding organising the race but given the infrastructure will be there for the men, how difficult is it for the women to have at least a 5-day stage race that coincides with the Tour? Heck, if organisers are worried about difference in speeds and the potential issues that might cause then let the women do 75% of the stage for example, and start them earlier. With the limit on the length of stages by the UCI (155km I think) we would still be treated to some very exciting racing throughout the final week and it would be a much better showcase for the sport than what we’re getting.

I also feel that the new format is a bit “gimmicky” and trivialises the women’s side of the sport a bit. If it is for only one year then that’s OK, but if it becomes a regular occurrence then I think it is more of a step sideways rather than a step forwards.

Let’s have a look at what’s getting me all worked up anyway!

The Format

La Course this year will be split into two “stages” with the first being a mountain top finish on the mythical Col d’Izoard. I say “stages” as it is not a stage race in the traditional sense, and it’s important to point that out but I’ll get into that in more detail later on.

Stage 1.

CARTE

The riders will head south from the start in Briançon, following the same opening 30km of the men’s race, before they cut across the valley and head towards Izoard.

PROFIL (1)

From the halfway point in the race (it is a paltry 67.5km long stage after all which is pretty insulting), the road rises ever so slightly almost all the way home. For example, the section between La Chapelue and Ariveux is 7.5km at just over 4%.

The categorised climb of the Col d’Izoard itself starts a couple of kilometres before Ariveux.

PROFILCOLSCOTES_1

At 14.1km with an average gradient of 7.3% it is a brute, but is also fair to say that the first half of the climb starts off relatively “easy”. Well, when you look at the rest of it the climb that is!

The opening 7km average only 5.6%, whereas the second half is a much more painful sounding 9%. You better hold something back for the end of the day, that’s for sure.

Whoever wins on the day will certainly have deserved it!

Now, this is where things get weird / ever so slightly confusing / gimmicky.

The opening stage is the only one that counts towards UCI standings, with the winner being awarded 120 points, the same amount as they would in any other UCI World Tour race. So for the riders, the opening day is the only one that really matters to them in that sense.

Except, the racing doesn’t end after the first day though…

Stage 2.

The first oddity is that there is essentially a rest day between the finish on Izoard and the following race day in Marseille.

PROFIL (2)

The top 20 finishers on the previous stage (although this can apparently change depending on time gaps) will roll out on the same TT course that the men will be going around later that day.

However, instead of it being like a normal TT where the riders go out in reverse order GC wise, it will be whoever finishes at the head of the race on Izoard that leaves the start ramp first. The following 19 riders will then set off, chasing the leader, at the same time gap that they finished behind them on the mountain stage during the previous day of racing.

The “gimmicky” idea continues as the riders will all be on normal road-bikes (no TT machines allowed) and they will be allowed to draft and work with opposition riders or any team-mates that they may have.

This presents a conundrum for the riders going out early. Do they go full gas and replicate a TT effort, knowing they have a big enough gap to hold off any chasers. Or if their lead is minimal, do they sit up and wait?

We could end up seeing a bunch sprint in the velodrome if things get really tactical!

How will the “race” pan out?

Getting my poor prediction disclaimer in early but we hardly ever see the women compete on mountains such as the Izoard so I don’t think anyone has a real idea as to how well the riders will go.

At the recent Giro Rosa the defining GC climb of the race was 5.3km long at 7.6%. I guess the closest we’ve had to the Izoard is the climb of Daggett Summit in the Tour of California which was 12.6km at 6.1%.

With the day only being 67km long, I think the break will find it hard to get away but I’m sure there will be a lot of teams who will try. If they get riders up the road then they’ll be a great help to their team-mates later on.

However, I think we’ll see a race of attrition where riders go out of the back, rather than off the front.

The on the “TT” I have no idea! Will all depend on the gaps after Izoard but I think we could see the winner of that day hold on for the title too.

Contenders

Van Vleuten.

10088338_sptdw2013

After her stellar performance at the Giro Rosa, a race which she could really have won, the Orica Scott rider will be coming here full of confidence. Arguably the in-form rider in the peloton she will certainly be hard to drop. Not the purest of climbers, more of a great all-rounder, I’m intrigued to see how she copes on a really long ascent. At the Giro she was the rider pushing the pace during the GC-day I mentioned above so it will be interesting to see how she approaches tomorrow. With a strong Spratt in her team, she will be able to rely on having someone for a long way up the climb which could be crucial.

Guarnier.

Having had a quiet season by her standards, especially when considering her barnstroming 2016, the American showed signs of promise at the recent Giro. Working well for her team-leader she managed to finish 4th on GC, winning the final stage along the way. Possibly now riding into form, she is Boels best candidate for a race like this and having the help of Canuel and Deignan could be crucial.

Longo Borghini.

IMG_8277

The Italian champion finished second on GC at the Giro behind van der Breggen but never really looked like beating the Dutchwoman all race. However, with VDB not here, the race is certainly open for other riders to step up. Not a pure climber, she could struggle on the long climb but as one of the best riders in the women’s peloton then she will certainly be close to the head of the bunch. Lichtenberg will also be at the head of the race for Wiggle, with the German pure-climber really liking this type of ascent. Can they form a strong attacking duo?

Moolman.

Withdrawing from the Giro due illness wasn’t ideal for the Cervélo rider, especially considering she was flying before the race and could have been a proper GC player. A very strong climber, her mind will be fully focussed on this race and proving what could have been at the Giro. With Uttrup Ludwig on her team, she is another rider who could take advantage of a strong team-mate. I think she has a big chance!

Niewiadoma.

z21928165Q,Katarzyna-Niewiadoma

One of the riders of the season, she has top-10’d in pretty much every race that she’s entered so far. At only 22 years old, it is scary to think what she’ll be able to do in the future. I’m not sure how she’ll cope on a long climb like this as the punchier 3-4km climbs seem to be her speciality but you never know!

Some outsiders to keep an eye on to possibly break into the top 10 are;

Gillow (FDJ), Nosková (Bepink), Ensing (Alé) and Nilsson (BTC).

I think the Izoard stage will become a Moolman v Van Vleuten show-down. With the Giro in her legs, VV will tire and leave the “fresher” Moolman to take victory!

DA1P4D0W0AIam9m

As for who wins the TT/chase malarkey, then that depends on time gaps from the Izoard. Van Vleuten was flying in the TT at the Giro so I reckon she could catch Moolman and then win in a 2-up sprint!

So Moolman and Van Vleuten both win something, but who wins “La Course”? That depends on your interpretation whether you’re the UCI or the ASO!

Coverage

All of the racing should be shown live by broadcasters throughout so check with your local provider. I’m pretty sure it is being shown pan-Europe on the Eurosport Player.

Hopefully the racing lives up to the billing tomorrow. I’m not too fussed about what we’ll see on Saturday though, but that’s just my opinion.

Who do you think will win? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 17 Preview; La Mure -> Serre-Chevalier

Today’s Recap

A day where I had 99% of the stage planned out to perfection, it’s just a shame about the final 1%!

The action was on from the start as riders tried to jump away and we had several strong moves that looked as if they could stick. However, with Matthews attacking, Quick Step were keen to chase it down, even having Dan Martin as the man following the Aussie’s moves. In hindsight though, it was a terrible idea. Kittel blew up on the climb and that was his day done and as several of his team-mates waited to pace him back, Martin was left exposed at the end of the stage.

Speaking of which, we had echelons in the closing 15km. Naesen did an incredible job to bring Bardet to the front group as they were initially distanced. The Frenchman was even quoted post-race saying that “Naesen saved my life”.

Dan Martin and Meintjes were less fortunate though and both ended up shipping 51 seconds, with Contador losing 1’33.

Matthews took the stage with a strong sprint win, beating a fast finishing Boasson Hagen and Degenkolb.

DFBwJB9XsAE0mDU

A deserved victory for the Sunweb rider after his team did the majority of the work all day; I’m sure their DS will be pleased! The result now moves him closer to Kittel in the Green Jersey competition, only 29 points behind the German.

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

The Route

The day that in my GC preview I heralded as arguably the Queen stage.

tour-de-france-2017-stage-17-1495792492

Starting off fairly tamely, the riders will face a shallow descent before 10km of uncategorised rising roads before the first official climb of the day begins. At only 5.1km and averaging 6.7% it’s not too difficult an opening test and I’d be very surprised if we saw some GC movement here. Well, there is one rider I think might give it a go but I’ll get to that later. What could be more interesting though is if Matthews makes the split, which I think he has a very good chance at doing.

Once over the top of the climb, the riders will descend into the valley where we have the intermediate sprint point of the day. If Matthews is capable of winning that, then he reduces the gap to Kittel in the Green Jersey competition to only 9 points.

That would certainly spice things up for the following stages!

Soon after the sprint point the riders will face the first of two HC climbs on the day; the Col de la Croix Fer. The paltry average of 5.2% is quite deceptive as the climb goes up in steps, with several kilometres above 9% but also false-flat or descending kilometres. However, it is too far out to be of any major issue and will more than likely be a place where some riders get shed out of the back, rather than anyone go off the front.

The riders will have just over 40km from the summit of the Croix Fer until they hit the foot slopes of the climbs that will shape the day; the double-header of Télégraphe and Colombier.

PROFILCOLSCOTES_2

I don’t really need to go into detail about those climbs too much, the graphic above tells you enough! One thing is for sure, I think the Télégraphe is harshly categorised as a Cat-1 as it certainly could be an HC climb.

The steep closing ramps combined with high altitude of the Galibier provide the perfect launchpad for an attack from the GC favourites.

Will they be able to make it stick on the run in? It depends on who they are/who is behind and if they are co-operating. The descent averages -4% for the final 28km but it is a lot steeper at the start and flattens off a bit in the final 6kms.

Could we see a reduced sprint contest the stage?

How will the stage pan out?

With the first half of the stage not being conducive to a big GC hit-out there is a chance that a big breakaway forms on the Cat-2 climb and builds up a massive advantage. It of course depends on who makes that move as to how big the gap will be, while also depending on the attitude of Sky. Will they want to chase the stage win?

Having conducted a Twitter poll, the most popular selection is a break win but the verdict is split, with there being no majority. Another hung vote!

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 18.46.30

I’m really unsure as to how I think it will go as well. On one hand, I really fancy the break to get a big lead over the first two climbs and that be that. Yet, I have a nagging suspicion that we could see a GC battle as people attempt to put Froome under pressure.

Right…

We’ll see a strong break go with representatives from a lot of teams up there but Sky will outfox them all by letting the break get too far ahead so that having team-mates up the road will become redundant.

Therefore, we’ll see the break fight out for the stage.

(Maybe).

B is for Breakaway and…

Bakelants.

WATSON_00004374-002-630x420

A rider who as impressed me in the past few Grand Tours that he has been in, the Belgian has been active so far this race, making the breakaway on a few occasions. AG2R will want men up the road for both the team classification but also for the possibility to help Bardet later but if his advantage is too big then Bakelants might be given the nod to go for the win. He’s the right mix of strong climber but far enough back on GC not to be a real threat. Compared to some of the purest climbers he might struggle, but in the final week of a Grand Tour you always get some shock results.

Buchmann.

0161 Manny on the map? Well, the German has been a bit off the radar so far this race after his very impressive display at the Dauphiné. An attacking rider, I’m surprised not to have seen him in more breakaways. Instead, he seems to have tried to follow the GC guys as long as possible before fading away. On his day though, I think he could contend for a stage and no doubt Bora will be looking to infiltrate any move, with Buchmann being their best hope for a result.

Of course there are plenty of other riders who could feature tomorrow, depending on what type of stage we get.

Barguil will no doubt be attacking off the front chasing mountain points and securing that title, along with another stage win.

I also have a feeling that Contador might try something but he’ll struggle to win the day as the finish isn’t great for him. He would have to drop everyone on the final climb, which is certainly possible if he has re-found his climbing legs from somewhere.

There then is of course the chance that the GC teams do actually close things down and we get a showdown between the favourites on the Galibier.

Prediction

I’ll go for Buchmann to take the win from the break, sprinting from a small selection that regrouped on the descent.

31711554474_09488f0efc_o

Betting

0.25pt EW on both of the selections;

Bakelants @ 250/1

Buchmann @ 125/1

Tomorrow is definitely a day for in-play though once the race situation has settled, hence why I’ve only spread 1pt across a couple of longshots.

 

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be the break, or will the GC riders come out to play? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 12 Preview; Pau -> Peyragudes

Today’s Recap

Zzzzzzzzzz.

I’m all for having sprints in the Tour as every rider needs some type of terrain to showcase their talents, but I’m definitely glad we don’t have another one tomorrow.

With regards to what the other sprint teams were doing today, I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed. No guts or courage to try something different. Instead Katusha and Lotto Soudal were happy to help pull all day and they were duly rewarded with 12th and 7th place finishes respectively.

Of course Kittel won again, he’s just too good at this moment!

4136

Groenewegen finished fast to come home second, with Boasson Hagen rewarding his strong lead-out with a third place. A good day in one sense as I tweeted out to back EBH in-play as I thought the technical run in might suit his team and it did, but I would loved to have seen something more gutsy from the sprint teams.

A big “fair-play” though must go to Bodnar who held off the bunch for oh so long, only to be caught within sight of the finish line.

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

The Route

After three rest-days, we finally have a stage that might entice some action.

tour-de-france-2017-stage-12-1495792411

A long day out in the saddle, the riders will have to contend with some rolling roads for the first 55km of the day before they hit the first categorised climb. However, it won’t really be until after 120km that things get serious. The Col de Menté averages a very steep 8.1% for 6.9km. This is where we could see some of the GC teams come to the fore, maybe hoping to apply some early pressure but I think that’s unlikely. Instead, it is more likely to be where the break splits up, especially if we have a larger group.

Once over the summit the riders will tackle 10km of descent, along with 10km of valley roads before the road starts rising again up the Port de Balès. Officially 11.7km at 7.7%, the riders will actually be climbing for ~20km at 5.7%.

tour-de-france-2017-stage-12-1495792871

Considering the riders descend almost all the way from the summit, there are only a few flat sections, to the foot slopes of the Col de Peyreseurde, it will be interesting to see if any riders attack early.

The Peyreseurde itself is shorter than Balès and is a lot more consistent, making it more suited for riders who are able to get themselves into a steady pace. Will we see some attacks? I sure hope so and I think we will, it’s just a case of when?!

The descent from the Peyreseurde is very straight forward, I’m sure the riders will be glad to know that, and they’ll hope to carry as much speed as possible into the tough final 3kms. A final kilometre at 13% is a brutal way to end the stage and with all the climbing that comes before riders can blow up massively here and lose a lot of time.

How will the stage pan out?

A classic 50/50 stage where the breakaway could stay away, but there is also a chance that the GC teams control it for the final few climbs and hope to get some bonus seconds.

There are faults with both plans though.

Firstly for the break, it will no doubt be a massive fight to get into the move and I wouldn’t be surprised if we only see the elastic snap after an hour of racing. The issue that lies here is that it will more than likely be strong rouleurs who make the move, with the flatter start being difficult for climbers to get in. No doubt there will be a few who sneak their way into it but it will certainly be tough. The steep gradients of the climbs make it hard for a rouleur to win so in a cruel twist of fate, while the break might be easier for them to make it into, it will be harder for them to win!

There are obviously riders in the peloton who can do both and they’ll be eyeing up this stage.

As for the GC riders going for stage victory; it depends on Sky’s attitude. If they are in their usual controlling mood then there is a good chance we’ll see a GC winner. Froome looks strong just now and is growing into the race but will he feel ready enough to attack the stage? I’m not sure. It is an easy day for Sky to control if they want to, with the tough climbs coming in the second half of the stage.

The crashes of Bardet and Fuglsang today might have a negative impact on the GC riders willingness to go for the win.

Furthermore, with a crazy stage coming the following day, I think we’ll see the break take it tomorrow. So time to play everyone’s favourite game again…

imageedit_14_4543960943

Candidates

Names in hat time, so I’ll highlight a few possible contenders like always.

Andrew Talansky.

Amgen Tour of California 2017 - 5

One of those riders who might not be allowed away if he is to protect team-leader Uran, but on the other hand he could be sent up the road to help later on. If the break gets a big lead then Talansky is a strong enough climber to take the win.

Diego Ulissi.

The UAE rider has been very quiet so far this race, maybe saving his energy to attack on a stage? The steep gradients tomorrow should suit the punchy Italian and he is in relatively good form, finishing 2nd at the recent Italian National Championships. Although the length of the climbs might be tough, but he has went well in hard stages at the Giro in the past. Meintjes has struggled a bit on GC so far, and I think UAE will allow Ulissi to go on the offensive tomorrow, will he take his chance?

Fabio Felline.

Another rider who hasn’t been able to take his own chances so far due to having to help team-leader Contador. Yet, the Spaniard hasn’t been great this Tour (as was almost expected) and I think we’ll see Trek adopt an aggressive approach to the rest of the race. Felline isn’t known for his mountain climbing, but like Ulissi he is good on the punchy stuff. He’s a strong rider who’s having a great season and a good result tomorrow would take that even further.

Philippe Gilbert.

Philippe-Gilbert-Belgian-champion-Tour-of-Flanders-bike-QuickStep-Floors-pic-BrakeThrough-Media-QuickStep

Talking about riders who’ve had great seasons…Gilbert has had an incredible 2017 so far and he is surely targeting a Tour stage win at some point. He was active in the break on Planche des Belles Filles and was actually the last man standing, putting in a very impressive display of climbing. Tomorrow is a whole different ballgame but he is certainly not a rider to be discounted. Like many others, it all depends if he’s given the freedom and doesn’t have to work for his team leader. He did a lot of work today pulling at the front of the bunch, stretching his legs for a good hit-out tomorrow! Or that’s what I’m making of it anyway. 😜 A wild card given the climbing talent here but you never know.

Prediction

Break stays away by around a minute and Diego Ulissi takes a memorable victory.

sptdw4002_670 (1)

 

Betting

0.4pt EW Ulissi @ 100/1 (Boyles – 4 places)

0.25pt EW Talansky @ 150/1 (Ladbrokes/Coral/PP/Betfair)

0.25pt EW Felline @ 150/1 (Boyles – 4 places)

0.1pt EW Gilbert @ 300/1 (PP/BF)

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will the break survive all the way or will we see a GC battle for the stage win? I’m just hoping for a good day’s racing! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 8 Preview; Dole -> Station des Rousses

Today’s Recap

Well, that was close, 6mm or 0.0003 seconds to be precise!

DEJLCRNUIAQT_Uh

 

Kittel just edged out Boasson Hagen to take his third win of the race. An incredibly tough photo finish, I couldn’t split them when looking at the images post race initially. The jury eventually came to that conclusion, much to my relief.

Matthews finished fast to get up for third, while Démare disappointed down in 11th and consequently hands the green jersey over to Kittel.

With two long, drab stages (apart from the finishes) out the way, let’s turn our attention to what the riders will face tomorrow.

The Route

A day with three categorised climbs that get progressively harder throughout the stage.

tour-de-france-2017-stage-8-1495792368

The fight to get into the break will be on tomorrow and there’s a good chance a break won’t go until we get to the first uncategorised climb of the day at around 28km. Averaging just over 3% for 9km, we should see the strong men of the bunch escape here.

With the climb not being too tough, there could be a mixture of climbers and strong rouleurs who get up the road. I wonder if any sprinters will try to escape and go for the intermediate points?!

From there, the break will face roughly 60km of rolling roads before the opening categorised climb of the day: the Col de la Joux. Not a tough climb and it should be of no real outcome in the race.

Next on the agenda is the Côte de Viry at 7.6km long and averaging 5.2% it is slighty harder going than the Joux. Again though, it is more than likely too far out to be the scene of any action but some in the break might disagree! A few more short uncategorised climbs follow before a descent into the valley and the start of the climb with the longest name ever; Montée de la Combe de Laisia Les Molunes.

stage-8-Station-des-Rousses

Another climb that’s not too tough in terms of gradients, it is more of a slog than anything else. We only have two kilometres that average 8% or more, one of which comes right before the end. In fact, the final 4kms of the climb are the toughest on average. A perfect launchpad for a strong climber to make a move?

Once over the top, the terrain peaks and troughs all the way to Station des Rousses. A solo rider can certainly make it all the way to the line but they’ll hope for a lack of co-operation behind in the chasing group(s).

stage-8-5km

The road does twist and turn in the final few kilometres which will make it very tactical if we have a small group come to the line.

How will the stage pan out?

We could see some GC action but I think that’s very unlikely, as the climbs aren’t tough enough for that and I’m sure that most of the overall contenders will have one eye on stage 9.

In fact, I think Sky might be happy to let the break go even if it contains someone high up on GC, just so they can have a rest the following day. Although to be fair, it’s not like they’ve done a lot of work over the past few days with the sprinters teams pulling for most of the stages.

Yet, not having to control the bunch on stage 9 will be a big bonus for them so with that being said, it is a definite breakaway day.

Time to play everyone’s favourite game…

imageedit_14_4543960943

Contenders

There are several riders who could potentially compete on a stage like tomorrow’s so I’m not going to bother naming loads of people. Like normal, I’ll just name a few riders who have a chance. In fact, where I’d normally name 4, I’ll just go for two tomorrow!

Thibaut Pinot.

 

After a fairly successful Giro where he won a stage and finished 4th on GC, the FDJ rider comes here solely to hunt stages. I had a chuckle to myself while watching stage 5 and the ITV commentators were acting concerned, saying that was his race over etc, when he drifted out the back of the GC group. I’m fairly certain however, that it was just a ploy to lose some time so that he is given more leeway to go on the attack and actually be allowed to get away. Unlike some riders who are closer on GC than he currently is, Pinot could still be viewed as a threat if he was 4 minutes down on the overall at the moment. Thanks to some casual riding towards the end of today’s stage though, he now finds himself 10 minutes down. Plenty of leeway to get away!

As for the suitability of the stage itself, the climbs should be of no difficulty for someone of his talent. There will be few able to follow him if he’s on a good day. Furthermore, he has the advantage of being a solid TT rider so he can hold off a chasing group all the way to the line, but if not, he has a fast sprint from a reduced group of climbers.

If he makes the move he will be one of the favourites.

Alexis Vuillermoz.

alexis-vuillermoz-remporte-gp-plumelec-cadoudal-2017

After missing the first few months of the season due to injury, the AG2R rider returned to racing at the end of March. He’s not been as prominent as he has been in previous seasons but a win in GP Plumelec highlights that there is some form and good legs there. More often than not finding himself working for Bardet these days, I think he might be given some freedom from the team tomorrow to do his own thing.

The reason I say that is because the route goes through his birthplace (Saint-Claude), passing his home. He’ll have massive home support and we often see riders getting up the road in their “home” stages. He’ll know the final climb like the back of his hand and the “easy” average gradient of it should suit him. Not the best on really long climbs, he’ll hope that he can follow the wheels of those better than him and beat them in a sprint. Something he is certainly capable of!

Prediction

Hmm, as much as I would love for Vuillermoz to win I’ll go for Pinot to take the stage!

sptdw10061_670

Betting

After today’s success, we have a few points to throw around on breakaway stages over the next week. Which is good as they are most often the most frustrating days to have a punt on. I nailed my colours to the mast before on Twitter…

Screen Shot 2017-07-07 at 19.47.42

You can still get them at 100 and 28 respectively which I would take.

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win the breakaway lottery tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 7 Preview; Troyes -> Nuits-Saint-Georges

I’ll juxtapose the long and dull stage with a very short preview!

Today’s Recap

Long day in the saddle that ended with a sprint that was won by Kittel. Where have we heard that before?!

DEENQM9XcAIZayx

He didn’t make it easy for himself once again though, and at 250m to go he looked too far back to win. Nonetheless, he powered down the centre of the road and won comfortably in the end.

Démare came home second, retaining the green jersey, with Greipel in third.

After the highs of yesterday, it was a poor day for the blog punting wise with Bouhanni coming 5th. He looked good, but just never really got going. He’ll get that podium one time, most likely when I’ve not backed him!

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

The Route

Another zzzzz kind of day, good thing I’m sleeping in the afternoon due to work!

tour-de-france-2017-stage-7-1495792356

No major obstacles to worry the fast-men of the peloton and we should see a sprint. There is a slight chance the break makes it but it is very unlikely as FDJ/QS and possibly Lotto Soudal will chase most of the day. It’s only once we get into the second half of the race and Kittel has 5 wins to his name (spoiler alert) that a break might survive on a sprint day.

As for the run-in itself, it is incredibly simple!

stage-7-5km

No roundabouts or sharp turns in the final 5kms, just a couple of central reservations to split up the lead-out trains.

This will be a fast, and in theory, an organised sprint. That went out the window on Stage 2 though when we had a similar approach as everyone was fighting for the road and no-one had real control.

I expect that to be rectified tomorrow!

Contenders.

Kittel.

Prediction

Kittel.

DDvjZjIXoAE4nSq

No one can get close to the German.

I thought today’s stage wasn’t great for him and that he might get caught out but tomorrow looks ideal. He won convincingly today with a relatively poor lead-out and coming from far back again, however, I expect him to be better positioned tomorrow. Heck, after today’s performance, he doesn’t have to be!

Démare is his closest rival in terms of both sprint trains and speed, but he’ll come up short again. The battle for the final podium spot will be interesting, can Greipel maintain status quo?!

There’s nothing left to say, so with that…

Betting

After being reluctant in the past to back favourites who are odds on or very short and regret seeing them romp away (every stage at the TDU), I think I’ll finally take the plunge with Kittel tomorrow. In my mind, I’m viewing it as a H2H against the field. Makes it easier to back for some reason!

Still don’t want to go crazy with the stakes just incase he fails. Will make it a tougher pit to crawl my way out of and I don’t want a repeat of the Giro.

Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 19.01.17

That’s how things are standing so far betting wise. All on Kittel? I think I’ll leave myself some room to throw (waste) some money on breakaway riders over the coming weeks so I’ll go with…

6pts Kittel WIN @10/11 with Betway. Would take 5/6 available elsewhere.

Thanks as always for reading and apologies this is shorter than normal. There’s only so much I can drag it out without it becoming too repetitive! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone stop Kittel? Anyway,

Those were MyTwoSpokesWorth.