Tirreno Adriatico 2017 Stage 3 Preview; Monterotondo Marittimo -> Montalto di Castro

Today’s Recap

Right idea, wrong Sky rider!

C6fMH4wWYAA3yWT

It was Geraint Thomas who managed to solo to the line, after we had a flurry of attacks at the front of the bunch in the closing 10km. The Welshman did look very strong and it could be a case of what might have been for him this week.

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

The Route

Another 200km plus day in the saddle for the riders, good training for MSR at least!

T02_Cascina_alt

One of the few chances the sprinters will get in this race, so I imagine that’s what we’ll see. There are some tricky hills out there but I expect it to come back together for a bunch kick.

Therefore, it’s all about the closing kilometres tomorrow and the overall profile is a slightly deceptive one! If you just had a quick glance at the image above, you would be forgiven if you didn’t notice the little kick at the end.

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 16.25.36

With the final 750m averaging 3.5%, it’s certainly not a straightforward sprint.

Throw in a few sweeping turns and things get a bit hectic.

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 16.29.18

So positioning will have to be important but also the timing of the effort will be key as well.

Contenders

For a finish like this, Peter Sagan has to start as the favourite. The Wold Champion should cope easily with the sweeping nature of the last 1km, but the rise at the end of the stage shouldn’t be an issue to him either. After sprinting to third place today, he seems to have recovered from his sickness that saw him DNF Strade. Can anyone beat him in an uphill drag?

I’m sure Greg Van Avermaet would be offended if I said no! This type of finish looks great for the Belgian rider who is in exceptional form at the moment, which will be a concern for other riders as he will only get better going into April. He’ll be able to rely on a strong lead-out and he certainly has a great chance of winning the stage.

ZEN_2329-1024x683

Dimension Data have a couple of options here but this finish will be right on the limit of Mark Cavendish so instead I imagine it will be Edvald Boasson Hagen that they will be working for. The Norwegian is in fairly good form at the moment, building himself up towards the classics. This type of power sprint really suits him and he’ll be hoping for a good result looking ahead to the rest of the Classics.

With no proper sprinter to speak of here, Trek will most likely turn to Fabio Felline as their main charge for this stage. After a disappointing performance today, I’m sure he’ll want to bounce back and bag a good result tomorrow. Not a slouch in a tough sprint, I image that he’ll want the racing to be hard to tire the legs of his contenders.

A team that do have a proper sprinter with them are Quick-Step and they bring young Colombian sensation Fernando Gaviria to the party. Touted as the “New Sagan” by some, there currently seems to be no ends to his talents whether that be sprinter or classics man. He was up there for a long time on today’s stage, doing a bit of work for Jungels, so he seems to be climbing well. I think he will surprise some tomorrow!

Francesco Gavazzi certainly surprised me today with his 5th place finish, I thought the finale would be too hard for him, preferring tomorrow’s stage. Therefore, if he went well today, he has a chance of equalling or bettering that result tomorrow! A rider much like everyone else listed, he packs a fast kick on a testy finish. Without a win yet this season, he’s finished in the top 10 of all of his one-day races so far, which isn’t a bad record. Another top 10 should be a certainty here, but can he go better?!

16gavazziportugal2-990x528

Jens Debuscherre might fancy his chances of maintaining contact with the head of the peloton on this finish. Much more than a fast finisher, he is a rider in the mould of EBH and Sagan. After a disappointing crash in Omloop, he’s picked himself up with a top 10 in West Vlaanderen midweek. It might be tough, but he’s not one to discount.

Old fox Daniele Bennati might just have a run at it tomorrow. He’s the fastest on his squad and the tougher finish will bring him closer to the likes of Sagan and co. It will still be a tall order for the win but a top 10 is possible.

Likewise, Oscar Gatto might like the look of the finish. The Astana rider had a very solid Omloop and is clearly in reasonable shape at the moment. One to keep an eye out for but again, a top 10 would be a good result.

With Caleb Ewan abandoning the race, Orica will probably turn to Luka Mezgec or Daryl Impey. Both present a good option for a top 10 finish.

I think the climb will be too tough for the likes of Viviani etc.

Prediction

The new Sagan beats Sagan. Fernando Gaviria to take a brilliant win!

WATSON_00004426-002-e1453245258472-630x420

With Gavazzi springing a surprise in the chaos and sneaking a podium and GVA in there as well.

Betting

 

Would back Gaviria but not at that price so GVA actually becomes the value bet.

1pt EW GVA @50/1 with Bet365 (would take down to 25/1)

0.25pt EW Gavazzi @ 80/1 with Bet365

Thanks again for reading, I shall be back again tomorrow with another preview double-header. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Paris Nice 2017 Stage 5 Preview; Quincié-en-Beaujolais -> Bourg-de-Péage

*This will be short and sweet!*

Today’s Recap

Ahahaha, I should stop with the bold statements. It was the rider who I completely gave no chance to that ended up going on to win the stage. Julian Alaphilippe took a remarkable victory, he was flying!

C6ainB1WQAAUfKe

That result now puts QuickStep in a very good position for the overall and should ensure some attacking racing for the rest of the week.

As for Tony Martin, he seemed to be struggling on the bike and it was not a good sign when he didn’t set the fastest time at the intermediate check point. Oh well, onto the next stage!

The Route

A pretty uninspiring day compared to what we have in Tirreno.

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 19.03.32

A lumpy start to the day will certainly inspire the breakaway and give them a good opporunity to build up a lead, but the latter half certainly lends itself to a bunch sprint.

The finish is technical. Well, from 3km to 1.5km to go is very technical!

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 19.08.56

The three roundabouts will certainly string out the bunch, but thankfully for the riders they go round the same side of them all. We then get a sweeping road in the final kilometre, which will keep things strung out. Positioning and a good lead out will be key!

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 19.08.48

It will be fast too as the riders descend ever so slightly before the road kicks up in the last 300m.

Could very well be another chaotic day!

Contenders

As much as I would like to try and argue that a break makes it, this is a sprint stage 100% and the last one we’ll see this race.

Kittel could potentially get involved but with his team now fully focussed on GC he more than likely will have to surf wheels and he’s not the best at that. So…

t6Eofsn

Greipel has been poor in the sprints so far but he is capable of turning it around at any time. He just seems a bit tired at the moment, maybe an easy day today will have helped him?

Kristoff looked strong on stage 3 but just went too early and faded away at the end. If he can get the timing of his sprint right then he has a great chance on a finish that suits him.

Bennett was the one who benefitted from Kristoff’s early sprint on stage 3. The Irishman looked strong then but his lack of a lead-out may hinder him here.

Groenewegen was left reeling after crashing on stage 3. He looked in a great position and said his legs felt good. He’ll want to make ammends tomorrow.

McLay saw his Fortuneo team do a great deal of work on the front of the bunch but just got blocked on the wrong side. With a podium finish at a Tour stage, the Brit is not one to be underestimated here!

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 19.24.26

Démare will want to taste stage glory again after losing his yellow jersey lead. He looks good, his team looks good; can they get it right again tomorrow?

Colbrelli will also be gunning for a second stage victory. The Italian should appreciate the ever so slight up-hill drag but his positioning sometimes lets him down and that again could be his downfall tomorrow.

Matthews was going strongly in the TT today until a crash on the uphill. He’s been up there on the sprints so far but not really involved. (If that makes any sense).

Degenkolb will have a good lead-out at his disposal and this finish suits him down to the ground. A second and a third so far, can he get onto that top step?

Cort, Sbaragli, Coquard and Minali could all be up there equally too on a crazy day.

Prediction

He was left bitterly disappointed today in the time trial as he was on for a good placing. Clearly on form and getting better as the race goes on, Michael Matthews has a real chance here. He has a very solid lead-out train and should be one of the best positioned going into the final kilometre. If he’s near the front for the final 300m he should have the power to take the win!

5695876-3x2-700x467

Betting

Matthews 1pt EW @28/1 with Bet365 (Would take down to 18s)

 

Thanks for reading and aplogies for this being slightly shorter than normal! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Volta ao Algarve Stage 1 Preview; Albufeira -> Lagos

The Route

Fairly straight forward day that should end in a bunch gallop.

Print

With a lot of the big sprinters here, there should be no problem in maintaining the breakaway all day, so this stage will all come down to the closing kilometres.

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-17-50-18

Positioning within the final 2kms as the riders have a couple of roundabouts to traverse.

The first they come to at roughly 1.4km to go isn’t too bad, it’s more of a sweeping left hand turn.

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-17-57-16

However, there is some potentially dangerous road furniture just through the bend.

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-17-59-48

Hopefully they have the road dividers down (if they can) or at the very least well marked and marshalled. Either way, the riders will went to switch from the left hand side of the road to the right for the next roundabout.

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-18-01-57

As you can see above, going left takes a lot longer and will severely ruin any chances that team has.

They then pass under the flamme rouge when going over the bridge, before taking one final left at a roundabout. screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-18-07-52

Again, it’s a fairly tight turn so positioning into it will be key!

From there, it’s a straight final 800m but with a little kick up to the line to make things interesting.

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-18-14-30

That final 200m averages 3% which doesn’t properly change the dynamic of the sprint as the riders will still be approaching it at very high speeds. However, once again, positioning and timing is made more key because of it. You don’t want to be left on the front at 200 to go as that’s probably just too far in a sprint like that. Coming out of the wheels at 150-100m left would be ideal!

Sprint Contenders

We’re treated with a start studded sprinting line-up here in Algarve this year so instead of rambling on like normal, I’m going to try and keep this brief(ish).

Degenkolb arrives confident after picking up a stage win in Dubai and sprinting solidly on the properly flat stages. He has a very strong lead-out, but I’m more intrigued than anything to see what order they ride in. The slight up-hill kick to the line suits him perfectly.

Cavendish arrives here disappointed after a poor Dubai Tour. A disappointed and angry Cav normally means a fast one! This finish isn’t ideal for him though.

Groenewegen will have been disappointed not to have taken a win in Dubai after performing very well. A real all-round sprinter, he’ll like the look of this finish!

Démare comes here in a  buoyant mood after a good showing in Bessèges. I really like the look of his sprint train, which is odd for an FDJ line-up. He’s definitely a danger man

Greipel took his seemingly annual start of the season win in Spain and will want to test his legs against better opposition here. He’ll want his team to boss the closing couple of kilometres as I can see him going missing otherwise in what is potentially a chaotic finale.

Bouhanni on the other hand will relish the chaos. His lead-out train looks a bit lacklustre so he’ll have to fight for wheels. But hey, when has that ever stopped him before!

Barbero, Wippert and Planckaert may all get in or around the top 10 but aren’t good enough to challenge for the win.

Prediction

I think this rider is going to have a very good year and taking some big scalps here will be a good way to start that. Allez Arnaud!

861460-demare

Thanks again for reading! Apologies that this is slightly shorter than normal, my time management was a bit off for this one and there isn’t much to discuss really either. If you’ve not already seen it, then my Andalucia preview is up on the site too. I’ll be back again tomorrow with another double preview, although it will probably be Algarve out first. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Women’s Road Race World Championships – Doha 2016

Women’s Road Race World Championships – Doha 2016

On a very different course last year, we saw Lizzie Deignan (née Armitstead) win a a sprint from a group of strong climbers/one-day racers, after the race was blown to bits on the final lap. It was a great show of strength from the Brit!

lizzie-armitstead-world-champion

The 2016 edition however doesn’t seem to be one that will suit Deignan and it will see a different type of rider come to the fore.

Let’s have a look at the course.

The Route

A glorified criterium is the best way to describe it if I’m being honest. The riders will have roughly 28km to travel through the suburbs of Doha before reaching the Pearl Circuit that has been the focal point for these Championships.

road-race-women-elite

There’s not much to talk about here if you’ve managed to watch any of the races so far. The Pearl Circuit itself is fairly technical with a lot of roundabouts and sharp corners, and this technical nature will be more evident in the road race compared to the time trial as riders won’t have the time to pick their own lines around the corners.

Therefore, it is important to be relatively close to the front of the bunch. Herein lies the problem, as everyone will be fighting to be in that top 40 riders. Which could cause some crashes/splits like we saw in the U23 men’s race today!

Conversely to the technical nature of the course, the closing kilometre or so of the circuit is very open and this means riders are able to move up, and the peloton spreads across the road. This creates a very messy sprint, but being able to follow the right wheel or your own sprint train is key, but luck and bravery will also play a big part.

Around the 200m to go mark the road dips down before rising again to the finish.

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-15-26-33
Screenshot of the U23 race, showing the final 100m.

As you can see above it’s not a severe hill and considering the speed at which the riders should be going at then it won’t cause too much difficulty. But it is certainly something to note and you don’t want to be opening up your sprint too early, that’s for sure!

It should end in a bunch sprint but there will be a a few teams who will want to roll the dice in a breakaway/late attack.

Weather Watch

The women seem to be striking lucky with the weather and they should be in for a relatively relaxing day.

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-15-14-26

The wind isn’t that strong at all and it probably won’t affect the race. Although, there seems to have been barely any noticeable wind at all in Qatar so far. That was particularly evident when there were high winds predicted for today. Maybe high winds = low, and vice versa?!

Temperature wise, it’s what the riders would expect but it is forecast to be a few degrees lower than we’ve had in the past few days. I’m sure the peloton will be glad to hear that!

Contenders

For this, I’ll go through the major nations highlighting those with a chance followed by those from the smaller teams.

Where best to start than with defending champion Deignan and the Great Britain team. As I said in the introduction, this course is probably too easy for Deignan so she may not be the best option for them. Instead, I think they should turn to Hannah Barnes for the sprint. She put in a very solid TT (not her favourite discipline) on Tuesday so there is clearly some form there. With a fast finish she could challenge here but will probably need a bit of luck as I don’t think she is as fast compared to some of her competitors. Team GB may try and stir things up with a late attack, watch out for Dani King if that’s the case.

20160626-hannah-barnes-road-race-2556-1466939613

The Queen of Qatar, Kirsten Wild, arrives her with an incredible Dutch team. Four time winner of the GC in the Tour of Qatar, she knows how to handle the wind and conditions here. Supporting her lead-out, she will have Chantal Blaak, Amy Pieters and Marianne Vos, not bad eh?! The one thing that concerns me is that everyone on the Dutch team could potentially win this race in varying situations. Put it this way, out of the top 15 favourites (by the bookmakers), 7 of them are Dutch! I’d be feeling left out if I was Roxane Knetemann. Will they put all their eggs in one basket and will they want to? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see on Saturday.

Another nation with a similar problem is the Italians. They’ve brought a team stacked with sprinting talent. Again, I’m not entirely sure who their lead rider will be, either; Bronzini, Bastianelli or Guarischi. All of them have their pros and cons, but I would narrow it down to Bronzini or Guarischi. Bronzini is the experienced and reliable rider but Guarischi is more of a “pure-sprinter” and she has beaten the other two most recently. In my opinion, I would have Guarischi as Plan A and Plan Bronzini. If Guarischi can be positioned well then she has a good chance of a podium!

f2cbf1dc_8112_4104_adb0_3b6bf97ddeeb_670

A team that has arrived with a plan is Australia. They’re all in for their sprinter Chloe Hosking. With a strong set of rouleurs and lead-out riders in the team, including TT Bronze medalist Garfoot, they should have the pulling power to position Hosking perfectly at the end of the day. It will then be over to the 26-year old to finish it off. Winning on her last start (GP Beghelli) she’ll be brimming with confidence and I think she might just do it.

Belgium will turn to their star sprinter Jolien d‘Hoore to take home the rainbow jersey. She doesn’t have the strongest of teams with her and the lead-out looks a bit scarce but that shouldn’t impede her too much. She’ll be disappointed with anything less than a podium.

20160911165032_670

With the field being so stacked and the fact I’ve already rambled on a bit, the rest of this will be slightly shorter than intended!

Coryn Rivera will have the full backing of her US teammates. As a rider who’s came from crit-racing she’ll love this course and could certainly spring a surprise.

The French will turn to Roxane Fournier most likely, who took a big win at La Route de France earlier in the year. I’m not convinced she has the legs to win, but a top 5 would be a great result.

Canada have two sprint options in the form of Leah Kirchmann and Joëlle Numainville. Kirchmann is probably the faster of the two but again it will probably come down to who’s feeling best on the day.

Lisa Brennauer will most likely be the sprinter for Germany, but she probably would have preferred a slightly harder circuit.

Lepistö (Finland), Moberg (Norway), Majerus (Luxembourg), Bujak (Poland) and Dideriksen (Demark) will all be fighting for a top 10 placing which would a good result, with Lepistö the most likely to get any higher than that.

Prediction

I’ve had this rider in mind for a while and I may be slightly biased as she’s in my fantasy team, but I think this is Chloe Hosking‘s big chance to win the Rainbow Jersey. She might not be as fast as Wild and d’Hoore, but she is very close to them in that sense. Finishing 1st and 2nd at the Tour and Vuelta races respectively, highlights just how fast she is and will be confident from those results. Her main asset however, will be a dedicated lead-out. The rest of the team should be able to look after her throughout the day, making sure she makes as little effort as possible until that final sprint. Furthermore, they’ll be able to position her perfectly at the front with 150m to go, and Hosking will duly deliver!

img_0163

Betting

I’ve been wanting to back this for a while (and it’s a shame the male rider in question had a very strong Eneco Tour and his odds have shortened)…

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-17-05-58

Sticking to my guns;

Hosking and Sagan double @34.75/1 with William Hill, 0.8pt EW. Also available at B365 @31.5/1. 

Other bookmakers will hopefully price up the women’s race soon and you might be able ot find better odds somewhere. Both of them should hopefully podium at least for some kind of return!

One rider that I do think is overpriced for the women’s race is:

Guarischi @ 80/1 with Bet365, 0.2pt EW on her.

 

Thanks again for reading! How do you think the race will play out? Will the sprinters have their day, and if so, who do you think will win? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Eneco Tour Stage 7: Bornem -> Geraardsbergen

Today’s Recap

That didn’t go to script, did it?

Somehow the early break managed to hold on for the win. That was an option I had completely ruled out! Pibernik was the rider who came out best in the sprint to the line, taking his first professional victory. Not too shabby that it came in the World Tour.

pibernik-660x330

Not taking it away from Pibernik, but that stage was the dampest of squibs. Incredibly dull with nothing exciting happening at all. The less said about it the better! GC remains as it was moving ahead to the final stage tomorrow.

The Route

We’re treated to the queen stage on the final day of the race.

csqgohlwyaeya8l

Now that’s a profile I like the look of! Credit once again goes to @LasterketaBurua for the image.

The first half of the stage is pretty benign but then it all kicks off in the second half.

We have a circuit that’s completed 3 times. In it, there is the Denderoordberg. Seven hundred metres of uphill cobbles at 8%. Followed by the famous Muur, another cobbled climb at 1.1km long, averaging 8.7%.

muur-van-geraardsbergen
Muur profile

The last cobbled climb is the Bosberg. It’s an easier affair at only 6% on average for the kilometre. The circuit is concluded with a climb (not cobbled, the riders will be glad to hear) up the Onkerzelestraat. This is a much easier climb, at 1.5km long it averages only 3%.

It’s important to point out that the Golden Kilometre starts half-way up the Bosberg’s final passage, at 20.8km left in the race.

The riders once again climb the Denderoordberg at only 6km to go.

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-14-24-01
Strava profile of the final 6km, including Denderoordberg. Viewable here.

You can see on the image above that the run-in to the finish is technical once it gets into the town of Geraardsbergen itself. The most dangerous segment will be the downhill U-turn and the sweeping bends that follow it. Thankfully the dangerous turns within the last 500m are all uphill so speeds will be slow.

That 500m dash to the line averages 6.8% with some ramps of above 9%. It’s also lightly cobbled too!

Screen Shot 2016-09-24 at 14.39.00.png

A tasty end to the day.

Weather Watch

To spice things up a bit more, it appears we might get our first day of bad weather tomorrow.

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-19-38-34
Weather forecast for Geraardsbergen

The riders might just avoid the rain as it looks to be worse later in the evening but that could quickly change.

How will the stage pan out?

I’m willing to make a fool of myself again and say that the break has no chance. There should be enough incentive behind to bring it back and gain the bonus seconds, but you never know. I’ll give it a  5% chance just to err on the side of caution!

BMC will obviously control the break if there is anyone dangerous in it, but I expect Tinkoff to take the reins early on to keep the move in check.

The peloton will be softened up on the first lap of the circuit but I would imagine some moves are made on the second passage if they haven’t already started. We’ll get a group of 30 riders at most finishing that second lap together. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be some riders up the road by then. It’s (hopefully) going to be chaos!

Numbers are obviously important, so once again I’ll point to BMC and Etixx with their 4 men each within 40 seconds of the lead. Jumbo have 3, but they aren’t known for their cobbles prowess, likewise are Movistar’s 4. A team with a couple of riders who could go well are IAM; Naesen, Elmiger and Devenyns will fancy their chances.

However, numbers are irrelevant if you’re number one – Sagan.

The peloton will fear what he can do on a stage like this. The way he’s riding, a repeat performance like Flanders is on the cards.

“It’s very hard to work with other guys, because nobody wants to work with me. It’s always better to drop everybody, I think,” (Sagan after Flanders win)

100ste Ronde van Vlaanderen 2016

So to counteract Sagan, riders and teams will have to go early. To do this though, you can’t be too close on GC. For example, we may see Devenyns, Boom, Thomas and Benoot try to distance those ahead of them on GC before the final lap.

 

I hope to see Etixx attempt and light the race up. Stybar and Trentin will be their early cards to play and they have to isolate the four BMC riders that are high up on GC. Oss will be a key rider for the Swiss outfit tomorrow.

Of course what BMC could do is send riders on the attack themselves. If I was the DS I would definitely be adopting that approach. If they don’t, and just play it defensively then there will be no one left to control the race in the final 20km. As I suggested yesterday, GVA and his shiny bike is their trump card and should be let off to attack while Phinney and Quinziato stay with Dennis. Van Avermaet is in sensational form and is one of the few riders here who can go toe-to-toe with Sagan.

van-avermaet-gold-bmc-bike1-630x420

Saying all of that, the stage will greatly be shaped by two factors; who’s made the move on the first lap or two of the circuit; and when Sagan decides to attack.

If we get a compliant group of riders who BMC and Etixx are happy with, i.e. if they have one rider each in it, then that could make it all the way to the finish because there probably won’t be enough firepower behind to pull it back. Remember I’m assuming we have a peloton of 40 riders at tops going into that second lap.

If Sagan attacks late, I think we could see a group stay away to the finish ahead of him, but if he goes early then they have no chance. Unless they have a concerted chase behind to bring him to heel, or if some riders can sit in his wheel and attack on the final climb.

Like yesterday’s preview, no-one will want to tow him to the line, but the parcours today was tough for an individual to make gaps on. That’s most definitely not the case tomorrow and a strong rider can really put the hurt on others. That applies to anyone on a good day, not just Sagan!

Prediction

Sagan should be the clear favourite for this stage and because of that, I’m not backing him. I do love an outsider!

Instead, I think there is an opportunity for a small group attack from far out (30-40km to go) sticking to the end. As everyone behind looks/marks each other. Obviously the right teams need to be represented! A BMC and Etixx rider have to be in that move, having a Movistar and IAM rider in there will help too.

However, I go for no-one from those teams and suggest that  Geraint Thomas will win the stage!

THOMAS-Geraint092pp.jpg

He did a lot of work for team-mates in Canada but showed solid form, and he was attentive at the front of the bunch today. That highlights to me that he’s feeling better and keen to go on the attack.  At over a minute down, he won’t be an immediate concern for those at the pointy end of the GC but he’ll probably need to be in a move with others to build a gap. He can then use his great all-round abilities to attack and solo to the finish line! If it does rain that’s even better for him, he loves the tough conditions.

Betting

Another day of eggs in several baskets. (All prices B365 – only bookmaker priced up by 21:15)

Thomas 0.5pt @ 40/1

Devenyns 0.2pt @ 100/1

Van Baarle 0.2pt @ 150/1

Rowe 0.1pt @400/1 (if we do get an early break succeeding. Been poor recently but has bags of quality in this type of terrain)

 

Thanks again for reading! How do you think tomorrow will play out? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Eneco Tour Stage 6 Preview: Riemst -> Lanaken

Today’s Recap

BMC won, but a “not-completely ruled out” Etixx pushed them very close!

bmc

It was a strong win from the Swiss outfit but not as convincing as I had expected and it leaves the GC battle well poised going into the final two stages, with several strong riders less than a minute behind. Here’s what the top 20 looks like.

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-16-43-02

It’s great from a viewing perspective as a lot of riders will still fancy their chances, but it makes it harder from a previewing slant because it becomes more unpredictable and open.

Speaking of which, let’s have a look at tomorrow’s stage!

The Route

A mini-Amstel?

This stage is certainly not as tough as in previous years, but the organisers yet again haven’t been kind and provided proper information for the stage. So like on the previous road stages, I’ve had to consult several sources to try to get my head around this stage!

Although that’s not entirely helpful as several sites somehow take the one GPX file and produce varying figures of elevation gain; 1431m (ridewithgps), 1969m (Strava), 1116m (google maps on Maplorer), 4121m (raw data from GPX on Maplorer), 1272m (cronoescalada) and 2027m (utrack.crempa).

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-14-30-49

csqfgnnw8aa7ppz

The first profile you see above is from the Maplorer website, with the second being from @LasterketaBurua (Go check them out on Twitter!).

I’ve decided to put both profiles in as it provides a good comparison of how the scale can change how severe a climb looks. It’s also interesting to see that the profiles are pretty much identical in shape, yet the elevation gain is very different!

As you can see on the 2nd profile, we have a few short, sharp ascents around 50km from the finish. Potentially too far out from the finish to do any damage but you never know.

The Golden Kilometre (GK) starts 200m before the foot of the Hallembaye climb, which itself is 800m at 8.6%, with the end of the GK being at the summit. There is a 200m section of above 12%, which will sting the legs!

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-17-16-22

We then have a shallow descent/flat until the final climb of the day, the Muizenberg at 18km left. The climb itself isn’t very tough, only 650m at 6.6%, but if the racing has been on early on then it is a potential launchpad for a group of riders to escape.

The final 3km is fairly technical, with a few sharp turns and roundabouts to navigate.

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-17-23-59
Strava profile viewable here

 

The final 500m section of the stage rises at roughly 2.2%, with a max gradient of around 4.5%. Not exactly Amstel-esque!

How will the race pan out?

That very much depends on the attitude of the teams.

The stage isn’t overly tough and a few of the sprinters would hope to make it to the end of the day in the peloton. However, the 140-155km section is key. If some of the teams go crazy here, (looking at you Etixx!), then this could put an end to the sprinters hopes and make the final 40km incredibly exciting.

The only problem with this is that there are still 40km left.

There are the two hills that I’ve highlighted above, but the majority of it is flat-ish road. The Golden Kilometre will tempt the Ardennes riders into action. That may be on the toughest section mentioned above, or on the actual climb itself. But there is still plenty of road left for teams to re-organise and bring them back. Unless of course we get the right mix of riders and a highly motivated escape group!

I think the bonus seconds on offer later on in the stage will result in the day’s early breakaway not making it all the way.

So we’re left with two probable outcomes; a GC selection at around 50km to go that makes it to the line, or some kind of reduced bunch sprint. Both outcomes come with an attached “late-attack” option.

Either way, this man will be there.

gf-eneco-tour-stage3-5

Outcome 1 -> GC shake-up

In this situation we get a strong group of around 20-30 riders getting clear with about 40km to go. Due to the amount of teams and strong riders represented they manage to stay away as the chase behind is unorganised and lacking in firepower.

Once the gap has been established it will be incredibly tactical! A battle between BMC and Etixx as they both have 4 riders within 40 seconds of the race lead. Etixx actually have 5, but I’m discounting Kittel because I don’t think he would be able to follow over the quick succession of climbs.

Anytime an Etixx rider attacks, BMC will follow and vice versa. The danger for BMC is that looking forward to Sunday’s stage, they might not be overly confident with how Dennis will cope on the cobbles of the Muur, so they can’t rest on his 16 second advantage. Therefore, Van Avermaet is their trump card. He’s the rider that they would be most confident in following anyone (Sagan) up the Muur so they will need to keep him close in GC tomorrow.

Dennis may use his TTing abilities himself and go on the offensive himself!

cszfw0sxeaardyj

This tactical battle between BMC/Etixx/Sagan could see other teams benefiting from it. A rider could launch a late attack in the final 10km and with no real organisation behind it could stick until the finish. Look to the likes of Izagirre, Dumoulin, Naesen, Navardauskas or Wellens.

Of course, we could see this group come to the line together, or even a fragment of it (10 riders or so) and get an uphill sprint.

No-one will want to tow Sagan to the line though!

Outcome 2 – Reduced Bunch Sprint

The damp squib option.

With the parcours not being overly difficult a few of the better climbing sprinters could make the split if the pace isn’t too high over that now famous 140-155km section.

In this situation, we would probably have a peloton of around 80 or 90 riders come to the line together.

There would more than likely be a split in that group when they pass the golden kilometre, but in this situation it would regroup afterwards, much like we saw in Stage 4.

Like Outcome 1, there is the possibility of a late attack sticking if they are the correct rider(s), strong enough, and there is no co-operation behind.

If we do get some kind of sprint I would expect Matthews, Kristoff, Degenkolb, Nizzolo, Boasson Hagen, Trentin and possibly Greipel to make it.

watson_00004604-005-630x419

Of course, GVA and Sagan will be there too.

But no-one will want to tow Sagan to the line though!

Prediction

Hmmmm. It’s a tough one.

Sagan is a favourite in every situation, so much so that he won’t win in my opinion. Unless he just decides to ride away from everyone!

I think Outcome 1 is more likely, but I favour some kind of late attack. Whether that be solo or a small group of 5-10 riders getting away. For it to succeed there will need to be at least 1 Etixx/BMC rider in it.

I’ve already mentioned a few riders I like for this situation above, but another few I’d like to throw into the ring are Stybar & Degenkolb.

Stybar because he looked incredibly strong in the Vuelta, has won this race before, not afraid of an uphill sprint and he is reasonably far down on GC at 40 seconds.

Degenkolb is more of a long-shot but if this was last year then he’d be up there with Sagan on the “don’t tow to the line” wagon. He seems to be re-finding his feet after the horrific accident earlier in the year, and I would love to see him go well here. He should be able to cope with the climbs, possibly with that GC selection Option and the uphill sprint is right up his street! Far enough down on GC to find himself in that late attack if he doesn’t fancy it against Sagan in the sprint.

But I’ll go for neither of them and say that Nelson Oliveira winsMovistar are a team without a sprinter and will be going on the offensive. Oliveira isn’t a real danger on GC as he should struggle on Sunday, so could well be given some leeway!

nelson-olveira-movistar-696x464

I did have this down as a Naesen win but the odds are too short and I can’t suggest someone to win and not have backed them!

 

Betting

A day for small stakes and putting eggs in several baskets!

0.1pt EW on the following;

Ion Izagirre @ 250/1

Nelson Oliveira @ 300/1

Navardauskas @ 150/1

Devenyns @ 200/1

Kelderman @ 200/1

 

Thanks again for reading, hope you enjoyed this slightly longer preview. How do you think tomorrow’s stage will play out? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 5 Preview: Viveiro -> Lugo

Today’s Recap

Another stage, another break! The three guys I highlighted (we’ll pass over Devenyns 😉 ) made the move but unfortunately none of them could take the win. Instead, it was young Frenchman Lilian Calmejane who took home a great stage. He’s another talented junior rider, hopefully he kicks on from this!

Cqjw_ArWAAA6dys

Atapuma moves into the GC lead, much to the delight of Carlton Kirby, with Valverde and Froome roughly 30 seconds behind.

Anyway, moving onto tomorrow’s minefield of a stage!

The Route

It’s another stage that is back loaded with climbing. There’s a real mix of everything tomorrow and a lot of riders will fancy their chances.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 15.19.45

 

The flat start to the day could mean we’re in for another ferocious pace as the riders try to make the break. However, it is almost as likely that a break could be formed quickly and the sprinters teams take control of the bunch.

The second half of the stage is much tougher and is constantly up and down.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 18.01.17
Profile of the final 50km. Find it here

As you can see, it’s a real sawtooth profile. However, the actual changes in altitude/elevation are not that high, only varying by roughly 50m. Depending on the pace of the peloton though, this will sap the legs and tire the sprinters before the finish.

The finish itself is very interesting.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 18.10.47
Final 7km profile. Find it here

Over the course of the 7km, the road rises at an average of 1.4%. Not exactly challenging.

The toughest section is 3-4.8km (in the profile above) which averages 4%. However, there are some steep ramps of around 8%. It looks like a nice launchpad for a solo attack, or for a team to attack it aggressively, putting a few of the sprinters in trouble.

The final 700m of the stage is all up-hill as well, averaging 3%. It will be a long drag for some!

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 18.47.21

The run-in itself is technical and will be difficult to control, or organise the lead-out.

How will the race pan out?

Pfffft, who knows?!

Before the start of the Vuelta I would have been very confident calling this one as a reduced bunch sprint. However, with there already being 2 break wins out of 3 road stages then we could well see the same again tomorrow!

Will BMC want to expend resources to hold onto the GC lead? Possibly. It will be good for the team to retain the jersey just now as they won’t be at the pointy end of the race by the finish! Therefore any break will have to be made up of riders far down on GC. There’s a good chance of that as anyone outside the top 50 is over 6 minutes behind Atapuma already.

So they’ll most likely take on the duty of setting the pace of the peloton and usher the sprint teams through to assist. Will they? The majority of the “sprinters” here will fancy their chances so the majority of teams will have an interest in bringing the break back. However, that all depends on the make-up of the breakaway. If they have a rider up the road, they don’t have to work.

It’s a very tactical day and a nightmare to preview!

A break/late attack/sprint are all possible and equally as likely outcomes.

Stage Contenders

For the sprinters, look to those involved on stage 2. With the “lower-quality” field here at the Vuelta, none of the so-called sprinters are actually pure sprinters, and most should relish the uphill run to the line. I would almost be tempted to go with Cort Nielsen again. He looked fast on Sunday and this finish reminds me of the stage he won in Denmark.

gettyimages_584170108_670

The break could be made up of anyone really, and for late-attackers look to regulars such as LL Sanchez, Hansen & Terpstra.

I’ve decided to approach this stage by picking three guys who could do everything and cross my fingers! There’s also a Snoop Dogg inspired pattern too…

Gilbert has been climbing very well so far this Vuelta and he seems to have a spring in his step now that he has a contract for next year. Sitting in the magical 55th place on GC (8’23 down) he will be given freedom. Furthermore, BMC can play the “we have a man up the road card and don’t care about Atapuma’s red jersey” tactic. A play-book classic that one! 😉 Otherwise, he can put in a big acceleration on the toughest section of the run in. He looked lively on stage 2! Or he’s saved for the up-hill sprint at the end that looks right up his street.

CYCLING-ITA-TOUR

Gerrans sits in 72nd position on GC and is a very good breakaway candidate for Orica. I say this because he’s not needed to protect Chaves, and he wasn’t involved in the lead-out for Cort on stage 2. Practically the only guy left in the team once those jobs are taken away! Like Gilbert, he’ll be used as the rider up the road so Orica don’t have to chase. Also, he could attack away on the final rise. Or if Orica aren’t confident in Cort’s sprint, they may turn to him for the dash to the line.

http-%2F%2Fcoresites-cdn.factorymedia.com%2Frcuk%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2016%2F01%2FSimon-Gerrans-sprint-ochre-jersey-salute-Tour-Down-Under-2016-Ben-Swift-Team-Sky-Orica-GreenEDGE-stage-four-pic-Sirotti-1020x678

Prediction

However, I’m not backing either of those riders to win. His surname does begin with G though…

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 19.21.05

Like today’s stage, I’ll be backing a Caja Rural rider to win and that man is Jose Goncalves. The Portuguese rider can handle all three potential outcomes very well. He rolled in today within the grupetto and after saying he felt very good  yesterday, I can only assume he’s saving energy for tomorrow (maybe wishful?!). As we saw today, Caja are a very attacking team so will have riders up the road in the break. Goncalves showed on stage 3 that he can handle the steep ramps well, and has the potential to attack late. However, his main asset will be his up-hill sprint. These types of finishes are his bread and butter and he was going very well in at his preparation race; Volta a Portugal, earlier this month.

fc01eb35b559ba210c5eb0d30dd90b94

I expect him to be firing on all cylinders tomorrow!

#GoOnCalves

Betting

Goncalves 0.5pt EW @ 100/1 with Bet365 (I’d take as low as 50)

Gilbert 0.25pt Win @ 22/1 with Bet365 (I’d take 20s)

Gerrans 0.25pt Win @ 50/1 with Bet365 (Would take 33/1)

 

Hope you enjoyed the preview! How do you think this difficult to call stage will go? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

TDF Stage 3 Preview: Granville -> Angers

Today’s Recap

After being surprised by the Cavendish win on Stage 1, there was no real surprise with today’s winner: Peter Sagan. He looked so strong and effortless, and you would fancy him to hold onto yellow until at least Stage 7.  With the Green Jersey pretty much sewn up already!

Cmc08kFWgAEZjmg

Disappointed with Coquard, who put pressure on himself by saying that he was going for the stage etc. It was just too tough for him in the end, which I wasn’t expecting to be honest. Although in hindsight, he is the worst climber of the AGR contenders such as Matthews and Alaphilippe. Anyway, onto tomorrow!

The Route

A long day in the saddle and a relatively boring affair for the viewers. Glad it’s on the Monday, definitely one to tune in to in the last 20km.

Stage-1464948849

Although the road rises and falls a lot, this is definitely a day for the sprinters and is all about the run in.

The first thing to note is that it’s not a flat final km.

Stage-1464952383

It appears to rise 2.5% on average for that kilometre, although going off of the profile above the second part looks steeper with the first 500m being more shallow.

This will change the type of sprint that it is. You really can’t go too early otherwise you’ll burn up. Patience/a tactical brain and a strong lead-out will be very useful here. Speaking of which…

Stage-1464953342

The run-in is also fairly technical too, with a roundabout and a few sharp turns, not to mention a 90-degree right within the final 400m. I wonder if as many of the riders will complain about this like they did in Switzerland recently!  Being well positioned through that final corner will be key, as coming from far back on an incline finish will really sap the legs and take a monumental effort.

Stage Contenders

The two Germans get their regular mention. Kittel will be hoping to go better than his 2nd on the opening stage. He could well do so, but off the top of my head I can’t remember him being overly convincing on a finish like this. Yes, he went well on Hatta Dam but they’re too different types of effort. However, with his characteristics he should be up there challenging but I just think there are other riders who are better at these finishes. For example, his compatriot Greipel.

WATSON_00004602-002-630x420

He won a very similar finish at the Giro earlier in the year and with his better climbing ability (compared to Kittel) if I was a bookmaker I’d probably have him as favourite over Kittel. But I’m not a bookmaker, so that’s why he’s not my favourite 😉

Cavendish should be considered for this stage, but with all of his track work that he’s done, I think that will be a detriment to him on this type of finish. He won’t be top 5.

Someone who will definitely come top 5 is Sagan. Today’s winner has a very good chance of going back to back tomorrow. As I said in today’s preview, I don’t even think his sprint is at his best yet. A podium should be the least that he’s expecting.

Theuns went very well on stage 1 to come 5th and this type of sprint should suit him even more. With the crash on that stage hampering others lead-outs, I’m intrigued to see how he goes in a full sprint. He’ll be hoping to go top 5.

Our man from today, Coquard, will be hoping to bounce back in tomorrow’s sprint.

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 18.49.54

If you’ve read this blog for a little while, you’ll know how much of a fan I am of the “local rider” idea! He should be able to skip up this finale, and with Petit positioning him well, he’ll be hoping for a podium at least.

Others who could go well are Groenewegen, Kristoff and possibly Degenkolb.

I would like to highlight two more riders.

Firstly, Michael Matthews.

1811123-38219751-2560-1440

I was hesitant to back the Aussie for today’s stage because of his crash yesterday, however he got through unscathed. It would have been an unfruitful back because he finished in 5th but it shows that he’s going well. This finish really brings him closer to the proper fast men, his stage win earlier in the year against Bouhanni proves that. I think he can go very well here tomorrow.

More of an outsider, I think pocket rocket Samuel Dumoulin could cause a bit of an upset and a stir here.

%5Cuser%5Ctextes%5CDernieres-Actus%5Cz_tn_arrivee-roue-tourangelle-2016

He had an exceptional end to May, but was a bit below par at the Dauphiné. However, he seems to be on the right track after coming 4th at the French National Champs on a very tough circuit. The incline at the end of the race will be no problem for him.

Prediction

I’m finding it hard to narrow down this stage, but the name that keeps appearing in my head who could win out of several situations is the same: Peter Sagan. The World Champion finally got his Yellow Jersey and I’m sure he’ll be determined to get a stage win in it. Tomorrow represents a very good chance for that.

bettiniphoto_0241344_1_originali_670

In a massive surprise, Coquard and Matthews to round out the podium with Sam Dum sneaking a top 5.

Betting

Doing something I haven’t done for a while and backing 4 riders for a sprint stage.

2pts outright on Sagan @ 13/2 with Betway

0.5pt EW on Coquard @ 22/1 with Paddy Power

0.4pt EW on Matthews @ 80/1 with Paddy Power

0.1pt EW on S.Dumoulin @ 250/1 with Bet365.

 

I wouldn’t be overly annoyed if you didn’t catch the majority of this stage, just make sure you see the final 20km!

Hope you enjoyed the preview, feedback as usual is great! How do you think it will pan out? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

TDF Stage 2 Preview: Saint-Lô -> Cherbourg

Today’s Recap

Well, I can honestly say I would never have picked Cavendish out as the winner today! We didn’t get the crosswind action that I was hoping for, but there were still a few casualties caused by the panic. Contador seems to be the one who came off worse with bad road rash on his shoulder and right-hand side. He’s away to the hospital for scans to see if it’s worse than it appears. We also got a bad crash during the sprint as well, with several riders going down. However, it was the Manx Missile who stole the show and in turn picking up his first ever Yellow Jersey. Onto tomorrow’s stage!

5568

The Route

A testier route than stage 1, it’s up and down for a lot of the race. Grippy roads I’d say!

tour-de-france-2016-stage-2-1465248154

The stage starts in-land but then follows the coast again so there is a chance for some echelons, but as we saw today, that all depends on the attitude of the teams.

Stage-1464949445

The main feature of this stage however comes in the final 10 kilometres. With a short ascent of the  Côte d’Octeville, on which some of the lighter riders will hope to sap the legs of the fast men.

Stage-1464952377

After that, the Côte de La Glacerie will provide the final test for the riders. Officially 1.9km at 6.5% it really opens up the stage to a lot of riders. However, the Strava segment makes it look slightly easier, as it incorporates the second section. With it being 2.9km at 5%. There are some steep sections over the first 1.5km, but the actual finale looks relatively straight forward. A proper power sprint! But who will be left?

Stage Contenders

Peter Sagan.

WATSON_00004260-001-630x420

The World Champion has had a fantastic season, no Rainbow curse for him! The worrying thing is that I don’t think he’s even hit his best form yet this season, a scary thought. This type of finish looks perfectly suited to his characteristics, a climb to soften the legs followed by a strong-mans sprint.

Michael Matthews.

1811123-38219751-2560-1440

A man who seems he can sprint as fast on an incline as he can on the flat. This Ardennes-ish style finish resembles Amstel Gold quite a lot. Matthews is tailor-made for that and this stage seems to suit him to a tee. Pre-Tour he targeted this stage and the possibility of taking Yellow but after being involved in the crash (supposedly he’s not injured according to Orica) he’s lost ground to Sagan. He might win the stage, but unlikely to take Yellow!

Julian Alaphilippe. The young Frenchman has the skill-set, a punchy climb and a fast sprint. I think the organisers were thinking of him when they designed the stage. A Frenchman in Yellow?

GVA, EBH, Valverde, D Martin and Gallopin all have claims to go well, but I don’t think it’s hard enough for Valverde/D Martin.

One rider who I talked a lot about in the Sprint Jersey preview can go well here; Bryan Coquard. As I’ve mentioned above, this stage reminds me a lot of the Amstel Gold Race. You only have to look at the result of this years race for riders who could be up there tomorrow.

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 21.18.01

Coquard has impressed me with his turn of speed this year, but it’s been his uphill sprints that have been the most dominant. I think he has a very good chance tomorrow!

There is a chance that we don’t get a sprint and that a lone, late attacker wins. Recently crowned French Champion Arthur Vichot could give it a go or someone like Jarlinson Pantano.

There are many more who could win if certain scenarios play out.

Prediction

As I’ve said several times this preview, this stage is AGR Mk2, a toughish climb followed by a “flat” sprint. Of the riders who were at that race and are here, Le Coq was the fastest finisher. I think he can challenge clear-favourite Sagan and take the win. Maybe even yellow too if he’s lucky. That would be a great coup for the French team!

Le-coureur-equipe-Team-Direct-Energie-Bryan-Coquard-vainqueur-2e-etape-Etoile-Besseges-4-fevrier-2016_0_730_485

Betting

Just backing Coquard tomorrow, not wanting to get overly involved with the few potential outcomes.

0.75pt EW @ 25/1 with Boylesports. (Paying 4 places)

 

Apologies if this is snappier than normal, I had my Grad Ball last night and haven’t been feeling too clever today. Normal service shall resume tomorrow! Hopefully we get an exciting stage, it has the potential to be a good ‘un! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.