Eneco Tour Stage 2 Preview: Breda -> Breda

Today’s Recap

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more chaotic sprint on what was a relatively simple, straight run in! Teams hit the front in ones and twos and there was no real cohesion in the final few kilometres. Out of the mess, it was Groenewegen who followed the correct wheel and timed his effort excellently to take the stage win. He’s had a spectacular season!

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It was Bouhanni who had the fastest closing speed after getting squeezed out ever so slightly, and he managed to get up for 2nd place, with Sagan bagging 3rd. As for Nizzolo he opened up the sprint too early, managing to hold on for 6th. Whereas Greipel was disappointing and never really got involved. He lost the wheel here (at around 800m to go) and that was his sprint over.

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As he’s gotten older he seems to lack the desire to get involved in messy situations and that was clearly highlighted today.

Anyway, moving on to tomorrow’s stage!

The Route

A pan-flat, out and back route around Breda. Another stage with not much to say, I think this section will be short and sweet!

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It’s the exact same TT course that was used back in 2014, and on that day Tom Dumoulin was victorious with a time of 10’55, averaging 52.7km/h. That gives you an idea what the course is like!

It’s one for the specialists, with there only being a few corners where the riders have to properly slow down. Although saying that, the course is just longer than what would be classed as prologue distance and with it being an 11 minute effort, a few unusual names may sneak into the top 10.

Thankfully for the riders, the conditions look to be similar all day so there’s no need for a #WeatherWatch.

The Big 3

For a stage like this there are 3 big favourites.

Tom Dumoulin, winner in 2014, would normally start as the favourite for this stage. In fact, he more than likely will! However, he doesn’t seem to perform at his best in short TTs, he’s a lot better at the longer stuff where gauging your effort counts for a lot more than pure power. Saying that, he could quite easily go on to win here. Either way, it will be close!

Tony Martin was win-less this year (not including Nat Champs) up until the recent Tour of Britain TT where he beat Dumoulin and Dennis over a short, 15km course. Brimming with confidence, he won’t expect anything less than a win on a profile that suits him down to the ground. The only question mark with him is that he’s not been consistent this year.

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The final member of the trio, Rohan Dennis, will equally fancy his chances here. The Aussie had a pretty poor opening half of the year. In fact, he hasn’t been that good all year but he did look incredibly strong in Britain. One of his problems in long TTs is that he goes out too fast at times, that won’t be an issue tomorrow. Building form the Worlds, don’t be surprised if he makes a statement here!

Can Anyone Else Compete?

The best candidate to make it onto the podium would be Ion Izagirre. His time trialling has greatly improved this year and he’ll be looking for a big result. The only concern is that he doesn’t seem to go well on purely flat courses.

His team-mate Nelson Oliveira is another who could well cause a surprise. He performed a good TT at the recent Euro Champs, finishing 4th. It’s hard to tell how good he will be tomorrow, as he often isn’t allowed to go full gas on a short TT but the form is certainly there. Alex Dowsett will find the course design to his liking, but it’s probably too short for him!

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Talking about team-mates who could go well, Dennis has two of those in the shape of Phinney and Küng. The American was on track for a good time at the ToB TT but crashed because of the rain. The short course should suit his powerful nature. Likewise, it will suit Küng too who is a former world champion on the track in the individual pursuit.

Jos Van Emden will hope to repeat his TT win from last year. But his form is an unknown as he’s not done anything of note in the final third of this year and pulled out of the Vuelta.

Thomas will probably be in or around the top 10, as will Kelderman and Boom.

Now for those surprises I mentioned earlier…

Edvald Boasson Hagen.

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He absolutely decimated the field in Qatar earlier this year in a flat TT and back in his HTC days he was a very good short TTer. If he’s building form for the end of the season like he did in 2015, he should be firing on all cylinders here, with a free-role looking likely in Qatar. A scary thought, he is an incredible rider. His long sprint today gave a glimpse at how he’s going, and I think the answer to that is well!

When mentioning incredible riders, you can’t leave out Peter Sagan!

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Wins the European Championship one day, sprints to third the following day. Why not compete in a short TT too? Gearing up to defend his World Champions Jersey, he’s at the Eneco Tour chasing World Tour points so he can win that competition as well. He’s not known for his time trialling, but this is the best I think I’ve ever seen him perform and he could well pull a result out the bag. Sorry Edvald, but that’s a scary thought! Remember back to his TT at the Tour of California last year, I expect something very similar from him tomorrow. Watch this space!

*Or don’t, as he crumbles and finishes in 27th*

Prediction

More than likely it will be between the big three, but there is always room for a surprise or two.

Martin has the form (recent win), Dumoulin has course form and home advantage. So yep, as you may have guessed, I’m going for neither of them. Dennis to win! I really liked the way he was riding at ToB and this short course is to his benefit. The beacons are lit, and Rohan will answer!

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Betting

Almost tempted by an EW on Sagan (100s) and Izagirre (50s) but it’s an official no stage bet.

I do like this H2H 4-fold though.

1pt on at 12.93/1.

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Thanks again for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and can anyone upset the big 3? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Vuelta Stage 19 Preview: Xàbia -> Calp

Today’s Recap

A long, relatively boring day.

A weak break managed to escape, made up of only 5 riders and no sprint teams, so we were destined for a sprint at the end of the day. It was Giant and Arndt who looked to have things all under control, but the Giant lead-out man tired slightly early than he would have liked. Behind him, Arndt hesitated and Cort took advantage of that with a magnificently timed sprint launch and was never to be passed. A great win!

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Onto tomorrow.

The Route

Time Trial time and the single most pivotal stage of the Vuelta. Well, at least it was billed as that before the racing actually started. It’s where Froome is supposed to gain 2 minutes on Quintana and potentially the Vuelta too, but all hope looks gone by now.

Let’s have a look at the course.

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Now that’s the official profile but as is traditional on a time trial day, I’ve made a strava profile of the whole route that you can view here.

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Like we saw on the first TTT, the scale on the Strava profile distorts some of the climbs as it’s only a 0-200m scale, whereas the road book profile has 0-600m scale. Consequently some lumps have to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Nonetheless, “rolling” is how I’d describe the stage! The biggest challenge the riders will face is the climb that actually starts just after 5km. Although the road only rises ever so slightly, taking it from here makes it 7km at 2.1%. However, the “big” kick up at the end is 1.7km long at 6.5%. The strong climbers will hope to gain some time here.

An interesting thing to note is that the official profile only has 330m of elevation, whereas Strava suggests there’s 675m of elevation gain. Hmmmm.

There are a few more drags in the second half of the stage. 1.5km at 3.4% for example, that peaks at around the 25km mark. However, the riders will be able to put it in the big ring and power over these tests, although they certainly will sap the legs of energy.

Weather

A major factor in the outcome of TTs over the past few years has been the changing weather conditions throughout the day. The riders start times will be spread out over roughly 3 hours. Thankfully for the riders, they will all get dry conditions. However, the wind may play a part.

So back to a favourite website of mine, Windfinder.com

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Wind speeds in km/h, and max gusts @ Teulada

As you can see in the image above, the average wind speed actually picks up for those who start later on in the day. Although the differences are small, the direction looks as if it will switch from a cross-headwind to more of a headwind.

Ultimately though, I don’t think the weather will have that much of an impact on the favourites. It may favour a rouleur more than a climber, but the differences will be minimal.

Stage Contenders

A TT in Spain, so where best to start than with Movistar and Castroviejo? The Spaniard has to start as the favourite for this stage in my opinion. 4th in the Olympics, he’s been doing a lot of work for Quintana and was pivotal for the Colombian on the race splitting move during stage 15, but he’ll have had one eye on this stage.

Froome may start as the favourite though.

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He beat Castroviejo by 4 seconds at the Olympics and will hope to do the same here. He needs to pull a big performance out the bag here if he wants to put any pressure on Quintana going into the penultimate stage, but also to protect his second place. He’s seemed to re-find his TT ability this year and I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins. I just think he looks a bit too tired!

Luis Leon Sanchez will hope to go well here. He’s looked great all race and has been very active either in the breaks or the front of the bunch. In years gone by, he’d be threatening for the win but he doesn’t seem to be as good on the TT bike anymore. However, he can’t be discounted!

Nairo Quintana.

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Bit of a curveball, I know, but he was TTing exceptionally well at the start of the season. In fact, he was going so well that I had talked him up for taking the TT at the Tour. Unfortunately, he wasn’t firing on all cylinders then, but he seems to be on it here! Often during a TT at the end of a Grand Tour there is a mix of GC guys and specialists and it sometimes just comes down to who has the legs. Quintana certainly has the legs just now. I’d watch out for him.

Tobias Ludvigsson.

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If you’ve been somewhat paying attention to this blog then you’ll know that I’m a massive fan of Big T. He’s had a very underrated but quietly exceptional Vuelta so far, climbing better than ever. This TT will be a big goal for him and he’s stayed out of the breaks on the past few stages, saving energy for this. He has the quality and now the confidence to play a big part in this stage!

Aside from the five who I’ve mentioned, keep an eye out for Lampaert, Campenaerts, Moser, Felline and Valverde (it’s Spain!) to throw up a few surprises.

Prediction

I just can’t see past Castroviejo;

  • He’s an excellent TTer
  • The course suits him very well
  • He’s a Movistar rider
  • It’s Spain

Simple. Castroviejo wins!

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Unless of course Big T and Quintana surprise 😉

Betting

1.5pt WIN Castroviejo @ 7/4 (Bet365)

0.25pt EW Ludvigsson @ 20/1 (Bet365)

0.5pt EW Quintana @ 125/1 (Bet365)

Like normal, hunt around later when there are more prices out.

Thanks for reading as per! Who do you think will win the TT? Are we in for a shock? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Enjoy the race wherever you’re watching it from. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.