Tour de France 2018 Stage 13 Preview: Bourg d’Oisans ->Valence

Today’s Recap

I don’t think words can really do today’s action justice: it had a bit of everything!

We had a GC contender (Kruijswijk) go on a crazy long-range attack and start the final climb with over a 4 minute buffer to the peloton. Riders dropping out the back like flies as new kid on the block and future Grand Tour winner Bernal set a ferocious tempo that only a select handful of riders could live with, dropping his compatriot Quintana. Bardet was on a coiled spring as he constantly attacked. Nibali looked good but was involved in a fall which at the time of writing looked to be caused by a police motorbike that couldn’t see properly through the smoke. Dumoulin and Froome exchanged digs, before Bardet went again. The pace then slowed and that allowed Landa back to the group which he then almost immediately counter attacked.

That attack then lead out Thomas perfectly who managed to take back to back stage wins, making him the first rider in Yellow to win on Alpe d’Huez since Armstrong.

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Dumoulin came home next with Bardet nabbing a few bonus seconds in third. Froome trailed home in 4th with Landa not too far behind. Nibali and Roglic regained some ground to only come home 13 seconds back and it looks like Nibali will get the same time as the GC group after his crash, Roglic was already distanced a little by that point. Although this isn’t confirmed at the time of writing.

It was some great racing but the day was almost ruined by some over zealous fans. Don’t be an idiot.

Anyway, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

After three big days in the mountains I’m sure plenty of the riders will be happy to see tomorrow’s profile.

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Only two categorised climbs will be music to the ears of those who have struggled and with a descent after 5kms of racing, it will probably be a fast start to the day. The two climbs won’t play any part in the outcome of the stage aside from the first one might see the formation of the break but that all depends on the attitudes of the riders, but I’ll get to that later.

There are a couple of uncategorised climbs later in the day one of which is arguably tougher than the Cat-4, with it coming in at roughly 3.8% for 5kms. It peaks with 36km to go though and starts a series of kickers but again nothing too serious. The riders then descend until roughly 10km to go where the road flattens out a bit.

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Those final 10km are mainly easy but there is a bit of an elongated bowl to the finish.

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There are a few tight turns near the finish, namely a right hand turn with just under 2.5km to go. Arguably the most important thing to note though is an 800m drag at 2.6% which finishes at 550m to go. This could sap the finishing sprint of some and might tempt others to go for a late attack.

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With around 450m to go the riders will face a roundabout but given it is on a wide road it shouldn’t cause too many issues. No doubt though it will stretch things out a little.

That is of course if we see a sprint…

How will the stage pan out?

I already had tomorrow penciled in as a surprise breakaway stage due to the tough three days we have had and some of the riders fancying a “rest day”. However, with the sprinters falling like flies today (Greipel, Groenewegen and Gaviria all abandoned), then it makes it very much less of a surprise. We could of course see a stage where almost everyone wants a rest and only 4 guys get up the road and in turn the sprint teams then decide they actually want to control things.

Which fast men do we have left?

Sagan, Démare, Kristoff, Colbrelli, Degenkolb, Laporte, Boudat and Theuns. Although I am stretching it a bit with the last three as they are either not as good as the others or more than likely on team duties.

So avoiding any elaborate argument here then and straight into everyone’s favourite game, again.

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Break Candidates

Pffft, pull a name out of the hat and hope you get lucky. We might even see Sagan go on the attack for some fun.

All of the riders I’m going to highlight fit a similar mould; strong on the flat but solid on the short climbs and have the ability to arrive at the finish solo.

Tobias Ludvigsson.

My yearly Big T bet day is upon us. It is very unlikely that FDJ will work all day for Démare so the best plan of action is to try to send someone up the road. Ludvigsson has slowly started to find his legs again after missing the first few months of the season due to injury. He’s a good domestique who on his day gets a chance to shine in the break. Hopefully everyone has fond memories of him pulling a few whips while on the attack in the Vuelta last year, a day that I was on him at 400/1 but Cannondale decided to ruin the break’s fun because they missed the move. Let’s see if Ludvigsson has the same energy tomorrow!

Maciej Bodnar.

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Cruelly caught within the final 250m of stage 11 last year, he then got his revenge later on in the race by winning the individual time trial. Bodnar is one of Sagan’s loyal work horses and the World Champion might reward him with his own opportunities tomorrow. Bodnar was flying in the Polish national championships where he ultimately lost the sprint to Kwiatkowski. A brute of a rider, you don’t want to give him too much leeway near the end of the day.

Michael Valgren.

A faller earlier in the race, Valgren impressed from the break the other day but tomorrow the terrain is suited to him a lot more. It depends on how Astana decide to use their resources but the Dane looks their best option. We’ve seen already this year just how strong he can be with his two superb wins in Omloop and Amstel. Given his power, he might even fancy his chances from a small breakaway sprint.

Jack Bauer

With Yates out of the GC picture Mitchelton will need to change their game plan over the remaining stages, it’s a shame they didn’t have a sprinter with them to chase some stages…Anyway, Bauer is a good mix of solid climber but very strong rouleur who can go well on a course like tomorrow. Another rider who has had his heartbroken before at the Tour when he was caught within the final 100m by a charging peloton back on stage 15 of the 2014 race. That was a similar profile to what we have tomorrow, can he find that extra 100m of energy?

Prediction

Break to stay away and Valgren to win. He looks in great shape at the moment!

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Betting

0.5pt WIN on them all

Valgren @ 250/1

Ludvigsson @ 

Bodnar @ 300/1

Bauer @ 250/1

Big T not priced so will go with Dillier @ 400/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tre Valli Varesine 2017 Preview

After missing writing a preview for Emilia and Begheli due to some other things that cropped up, I thought it was only fair to get back into the swing of things with the next Italian one-day race; Tre Valli Varesine.

This is a time of the season that I enjoy. There is something about the Italian one-day races that are really special and this one is no different. A tricky circuit finish around Varese lends itself to some aggressive and tactical racing and we could see a whole host of outcomes tomorrow.

Last year it all came back together despite several attacks in the closing 10kms and Sonny Colbrelli won a very reduced sprint, beating Uran and Gavazzi.

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Will we see a similar outcome this year?

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

The Route

Pretty much the same as previous years with the riders leaving Saronno and completing almost 80km before they reach Varese and the traditional lap finish.

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Credit goes to @LasterketaBurua for the two main profiles I’ll be using today. Go check them out on Twitter and thank Ricky and Rafaelle!

The key part of the day is obviously the circuit in Varese that they will face 9 times. You can view an interactive profile of it here.

An undulating parcours, there are two important tests that the riders will face.

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First up is the short 1km (at 7.3%) climb. Due to its proximity near the start of the circuit it is hard for any winning moves to be made here, but it can be used to put the strain on the opposition. It is certainly tough enough though that some riders from several of the strong teams can breakaway here and not be seen again.

Once over the climb, the riders face a mixed-bag of descents and flat before they reach the final 4km.

These areas of flat often see an attack made, but only for the rider to gain 30m or so and be reeled in. Another will go, but the same will happen again! It is similar to the climb in the sense that a move could escape here but it would require either the right number of teams represented, or that the chasing “peloton” behind is actually only 8-10 riders big and no one wants to work together.

More often than not though, the race is decided by the final drag.

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With the steepest ramps coming right at the bottom, riders normally attack the final turn coming off of the descent so that they can be the first into the climb. This is what Nibali did rather brilliantly in 2015 on his way to victory.

I hope you didn’t get motion sickness after watching that!

Gaps can be made on the ascent but you need to be a very strong rider to maintain them if there is a concerted effort behind to chase. The one thing that does aid the solo rider is that things are very strung out from the bottom so it is hard for help to come from behind.

Anything that is brought back though then leaves the group open to counter-attacks again as the road then flattens out going into the final kilometre.

If things do stick together we’re most likely to see a group of no more than 20 riders contest a reduced bunch sprint.

How will the race pan out?

It beats me – this is arguably the most stacked start list this race has had in a long time, which certainly throws a few proverbial spanners in the works. There are several World Tour squads here who bring very strong teams and a selection of riders that can compete in differing scenarios.

Looking at the past three years you might think that a reduced bunch sprint is the most likely option.

Yet, given that it has happened 6 out of the last 9 editions, a solo rider winning is statistically the most likely outcome. However, with the much stronger teams here, then in theory it will be very hard for someone to stay away on their own.

The only way this can happen is if the race is ridden very aggressively from 3 or 4 laps out and the peloton is really stretched out going into the final circuit.

However, I think a group getting away early (i.e. before the last lap) to contest the finish or a reduced bunch sprint are the more likely options. Of course, with the former option we could see a solo victor!

Trying to cover my back as much as possible here 😉.

Names to look out for

Like always I’ll only suggest a few names to look out for as you and I could be here for a while otherwise!

Tom Dumoulin.

Superb in the time trial at the World’s he will come here full of confidence. With that race being his main target for the end of the season, there is a chance he could take his foot off the gas here. Unlikely! With Lombardia not too far away, he could well test his legs here. Given his incredible power at the moment, he is someone who could attack out of a small bunch  and stay away to the line. For that to happen he would need some luxury team-mates behind to mark everyone out and I guess he is in luck as he has just that!

Steve Cummings.

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His recent win in Toscana was a big middle finger to the British World Champs selectors, a course that he potentially could have animated in the finale. With Sbaragli most likely to be involved in any reduced sprint, then Cummings will be given the nod to mark out any attacks and make the race aggressive himself in the closing. I said above that the flat sections during the descent are ideal for a strong rider to attack an incohesive group; what I meant to say was that it looks ideal Cummings territory. He’s one of the few in the peloton who I think could get away and make it stick!

Davide Villella.

The Italian was very strong in these races towards the end of last season and I’m sure he’ll be looking to be at the same level this year. Giro dell’Emilia was his first race back after his KOM success at the Vuelta. Working for Uran, he put in a fairly solid performance and the favour might be returned here. Packing a fairly solid sprint from a small group, he could surprise.

Michael Valgren.

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Attacking in both of his recent races, the Danish rider seems to have carried some good form into the end of the season. Given his ability to cope with the short climbs, the course tomorrow looks ideal for him. Astana arrive without a sprinter so they will have to animate the race to make it successful and I think Valgren presents one of their better chances. A powerful rider, he should be able to churn up the final drag!

Marco Canola.

I have to include a PCT Italian rider in here somewhere! Canola has performed very consistently over the past few weeks, finishing no lower than 16th in all of the races he has competed in during September – not bad. He won the hilly Limburg Classic earlier this year, along with a tricky circuit stage in the Tour of Utah. He’ll probably have a tough task winning against the opposition here, but stranger things have happened.

Prediction

I think we’ll see the World Tour teams try to make this as an aggressive race and we’ll see the toughest Tre Valli Varesine in a while. Consequently, it will be unlikely that the bunch will be held together enough for a reasonable sized bunch sprint of 20 riders. There is a chance we could see 5 or so riders come to the line but I don’t think it will be any more than that.

Nibali looked exceptional in Emilia, but I think the drag up to the finish is suited much more to the new TT World Champion.

Dumoulin to attack and manage to hold off everyone behind thanks to Matthews marking anyone trying to follow as they won’t want to take the Aussie to a sprint.

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Betting

Not sure who else has prices, but in the UK SkyBet do.

1pt EW Dumoulin @ 33/1

0.75pt EW Valgren @ 66/1

 

Thanks as always for reading and as usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win and how? I think we’ll be in for a very exciting race! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Saint-Chamond -> Arlanc

Today’s Recap

Well, out of all the possibilities I think the morning break staying away was at the bottom of my list!

However, De Gendt did what he does best, powering away from breakaway companion Domont on the final climb, and managing to hold on to win the day by a comfortable margin.

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In the fight for third, Ulissi won a three up sprint against Latour and Buchmann, after the trio had escaped just before the summit of the final climb.

Colbrelli won the “bunch” sprint for 6th, with a whole host of GC riders finishing inside the top 20.

An annoying stage in some respects as my “reading” of it was fairly spot on, with a group of around 50 riders coming to the finish together. Slightly larger than I had thought, but that may have been different if the break had been caught before the final climb. Oh well, moving on!

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

The Route

Another up and down kind of day for the riders.

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Starting on a Cat-3 climb should stretch the legs of the riders. The road even continues to rise once they’re over the summit, which should in theory means that the morning breakaway is a strong one!

Over the next 50kms the action will lull before we hit a triple-threat of categorised climbs rolled almost into one.

First up is the Col de Verrières-en-Forez (9km at 4.8%), then the Col de Baracuchet (6.2km at 4.9%). Taking it as a whole (from Montbrison to Baracuchet) then the climb is 23km at 3.8%, however that figure should be taken lightly as it does include over a kilometre or so of flat before the road actually starts rising, it’s probably closer to just over a 4% average for the whole climb!

Once past the summit, the riders will face a plateau before tackling the Cat-4 Col des Supeyres (2.9km at 5.6%). It shouldn’t really cause any issues but it all depends on how aggressive the racing is.

We then have a long descent and some flat roads to contend with before the riders head through the finish line for the first time.

As you can see on the profile, there is an uncategorised rise just after that first passage which has no figures attached to it. So once again I’ve made a Strava profile of the closing loop to hopefully clear some things up/gain some more information about the course! You can view it here.

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Based off of the altimetry data from Strava, the climb appears to average 3% for 7.3km. It should definitely be a Cat-4 climb at least!

The road then “rolls” for the following 15kms as they negotiate a twisting/winding part of the stage, including some tight hairpin turns and kilometre long sections at +6%.

The descent itself is fairly technical but the peloton should be able to cope with it! Once we reach the bottom of the descent, there is roughly 4kms of flat/false flat before the 400m rise at 4% to the finish line.

How will the stage pan out?

It all depends on how aggressively the middle section of the stage is raced. A lot of the sprinters could be dropped here if a few of the teams with stronger riders fancy their chances.

For example Bahrain (Colbrelli) and Dimension Data (EBH) might push the pace on to drop some of the pure sprinters, many of whom unhitched early today and rolled home 16 minutes behind.

If something similar happens tomorrow, then it is hard to look past the two riders listed above.

However, it will take a lot of work and commitment early on from those teams to drop the sprinters and I can’t see that happening. Instead, we might see them turn the pace on over the uncategorised 7km climb near the finish.

The 400m rise to the line is interesting as well because it is borderline whether the sprinters will be able to make it up near the head of the race. The first 200m will be taken very quickly due to the run-in speed that they have, but things will slow down after that.

I think a few of the “big men” might go pop but there are certainly some that can compete.

Contenders

Colbrelli seems to be unaffected after his break from racing, sprinting home to 6th place today and winning the bunch kick. He clearly seems to have good legs already and he will relish tomorrow’s finish. He has to start as the favourite!

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Boasson Hagen was denied the opportunity to sprint today after an untimely mechanical in the final few kilometres. Never looking in trouble today, he’s is obviously carrying the good form that he showed in the Tour des Fjords and is a dangerman tomorrow.

Coquard in theory should also be another sprinter who will enjoy this type of finish. The Frenchman is still without a World Tour win on his palmares and tomorrow presents a great opportunity to change that. His form doesn’t seem to be great though after finishing so far back today and struggling in the Baloise Belgium Tour towards the end of May.

Dumoulin, a.k.a The Pocket Rocket, will be hoping to go well tomorrow. The veteran French rider has a great uphill kick and out of the sprinters (aside from EBH and Colbrelli) he was the one who finished highest today. He could spring a surprise!

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I’m not too sure about the likes of Demare, Bouhanni, Kristoff etc after their poor showings today. They all could well feature if the pace is easier on the climbs but I wouldn’t trust them!

An outsider that I am interested in is Valgren.

The Danish rider performed well today, sprinting to 10th place. Astana don’t have a proper sprinter as such and on a finish that suit the Ardennes specialist, he might be given the nod to go for it. If we get a selective day, he is one to watch out for!

Prediction

He will have been left disappointed today after his team did a lot of work, but Boasson Hagen will repay them tomorrow by taking a great win!

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Betting

1.5pt WIN Boasson Hagen @ 9/1

0.5pt EW Dumoulin @ 50/1

0.25pt EW Valgren @ 125/1 

(all with Bet365)

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see an early selection in the race, or will it all come down to a mass bunch gallop? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Pais Vasco 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Iruñea -> Eltziego

Today’s Recap

I have to admit, I overslept after last nights shift and only caught the last 5km! In that time we had Alaphilippe attack over the summit of the final drag, only to have a mechanical. A counter group then went with the likes of Valverde and Roche, only for it all to be brought back together for a sprint. The blog pick of Albasini was indeed on lead-out duty for Gerrans, but it was another Aussie and stage favourite Matthews who took the win. McCarthy finished in second place to give the podium a Tour Down Under feel to it!

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

The Route

Another typical rolling Basque stage.

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@LasterketaBurua

A tough climb at the start of the stage should see a strong break get up the road. However, aside from the Cat-3 climb at 60km to go there is no real other big obstacle out on course. The official profile makes the closing 30km look very testing but most of it is false flat at 1-2% or so at most. However, there is a little ramp (1.1km at 6%) that crests at roughly 6.5km to the finish.

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The run in to the line is downhill all the way from 6.5km out. It’s not too severe a descent, averaging only -3%, so it’s one for the bigger chain ring! The riders will be thankful there are no tight turns only a few sweeping bends for them to contend with.

How will the stage pan out?

We saw today that a small rise of 1.4km at 3.5% was enough to cause some urgency in the bunch so a 1.1km ramp at 6% will probably do the same tomorrow! With the run in being downhill, although not too steep, it does give any would be escapees a better chance of making it to the line.

Yet, a reduced bunch sprint is also a very likely option. It all depends on what riders attempt to get off the front of the peloton. If the attack group contains a GC threat then there will be more impetus behind to chase or a lack of co-operation in the group ahead, like we saw with Valverde’s attack today. However, if we get a few GC favourites away and enough teams then it might just stick.

It’s a tough one to call!

Late Attackers

There are your obvious choices of attackers such as Wellens and Cummings but like always, I’ll name a couple of other more unorthodox picks who might have a go.

Toms Skuijnš.

24-03-2017 Settimana Internazionale Coppi E Bartali; Tappa 02 Riccione - Sogliano Al Rubicone; 2017, Cannondale - Drapac; Skujins, Toms; Sogliano Al Rubicone;

The Latvian is in great form at the moment, taking a storming win in Coppi e Bartali towards the end of March. He followed that up with a solid 10th place in GP Indurain on Saturday. Not a GC threat and packing a fast sprint after a tough stage, he has a good chance of winning from a group of 5 or so.

Michael Valgren.

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Building some nice form for the Ardennes, the Dane has continued his racing after completing Flanders in a very credible 11th place on Sunday. That ride might be taking its toll on him but he is a bull of a rider and I think he’ll have recovered well enough by now. Like Skuijns, he packs a fairly good sprint from a reduced group. Heck, he even beat Colbrelli to 6th place in E3 recently!

Sprint?

If we do get a sprint, Matthews has shown that he is a step ahead of everyone else and he should be the clear favourite for it. The last climb will be of no challenge to him, he’ll just hope that he has team-mates to chase or if another team wants to set it up for a bunch gallop.

Who could that team be? Orica are the most likely allies as they look to set up either Gerrans or Albasini. The former obviously sprinted today so will he get the chance again tomorrow? It will be tough for them to beat Matthews though!

McCarthy, Restrepo and Swift will hope to feature too. I think the Brit will go much better than he did today and is one to keep an eye on if we do get a sprint.

Prediction

An interesting one to predict and it really is in the balance between a late attack sticking and a reduced bunch gallop. Hmmmmm.

I think it will come back together and Matthews will win again!

Betting

No value in Matthews at his price due to the risky and unpredictable nature of the finale. Of course there is value if you think it is a nailed on sprint but that bit of doubt puts me off of him. There are a few angles I still want to play though;

0.75pt EW Swift @ 20/1 with Betfair/PP (would take down to 16s)

0.25pt WIN Skuijns @ 100/1 with Bet365 (would take down to 66s)

0.25pt WIN Valgren @ 250/1 with Bet365 (would take down to 66s)

 

Thanks for reading and any feedback is appreciated as always. Who do you think will win and by what means? I’ll be back again tomorrow with a slightly longer preview! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Strade Bianche 2017 Preview; Siena -> Siena

Strade Bianche 2017 Preview; Siena -> Siena

One of my favourite races of the year, hands down! It has the mix of everything really; awesome parcours; great start-list; amazing scenery; and some pretty aggressive racing.

Cancellara broke the heart of Brambilla last year, and managed to out-fox Stybar into the final corner, taking a quite excellent win.

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Cancellara is obviously not here this year, so that leaves the door open for a new victor or one of the three former winners that are here to regain their crown.

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

The Route

I’m going to make this section a lot, lot shorter than normal because there are already several previews out there with this information so I don’t want to bore you with it again!

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There you go…

Basically lots of short sharp punchy hills, although there are a couple of longer ones earlier on, interspersed with gravel sections. Rolling terrain for most of the day means there is little time to rest and the action is always on.

A tough closing 20km can see someone get away solo, but there is also the possibility that it all comes down to a sprint up to the Piazza del Campo!

One thing that may have a say in that is the…

Weather

After the brutal conditions in Samyn mid-week, I’m sure the peloton would have been hoping for something less miserable here. The fans certainly want the opposite and it looks as if the weather gods are going to appease the crowds.

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Weather in Siena (Source: Wunderground)

Nothing concrete but there is a very good chance we’ll get rain at some point during the race, which would make it even more of a spectacle. I’m sure a lot of you will remember the Giro in 2010…

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It probably won’t get as torrid as that, but even a smattering of rain could cause some issues for the riders!

Anyway, who’s got a chance of taking the crown this weekend?

Contenders

Where better to start than with the current world champion, Peter Sagan. The Slovak shredded the race to bits in Omloop last Saturday and once again was in the thick of the action on Sunday, managing to win Kuurne. He clearly is in very good form at the moment and he has gone well here in the past. My one issue with him is that he always seems to struggle on the final climb up to the Piazza so he’ll need to ride everyone off of his wheel before then. Not impossible, but I can’t see it happening. Am I being too bold discounting him?

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After me playing up his chances for Omloop, Zdenek Stybar, was left bitterly disappointed at the end of the race, visibly shaking his head as he crossed the line. That to me indicates that he knew he could and should have been a key protagonist in the outcome of the race. Held up in the crash that took out Boonen, he tried attacking later on in the race to bridge across to the lead group but couldn’t manage it. I’m sure he’ll want to bounce back this weekend in a race that suits him very well, he did win it in 2015 after all! With Brambilla and Vakoc, he has a strong support team which could very well be crucial.

Picking up the win in Omloop while still not at 100% form shows what a great cyclist Greg Van Avermaet is. The Belgian has done fairly well here in the past but hasn’t managed to win this race yet, with the closest being a second place finish to Stybar in 2015. Good on short, steep climbs and rough terrain, he has all of the characteristics to win this race. Yet, like Sagan, I just have a feeling he won’t and I’m not sure why. BMC do have a very strong team with them and an in-form Hermans could be a very useful second card to play in a tactical race.

Without Cancellara, Trek will turn to Fabio Felline as their main charge for this race. After an explosive start to his season, winning Il Laigueglia, he’s followed that up with a 5th place in the TT at Andalucia and a 4th at Omloop last weekend. This race should suit him perfectly and if he can follow the best over the gravel, he certainly has a very good chance up the punchy climb to the Piazza.

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Sky arrive here with a very solid squad; Kwiatkowski, Rosa and Puccio all have a chance of going well. The Pole seems to slowly be returning to the rider he once was before he joined Sky, finishing 2nd on GC in Algarve earlier in February. However, he still didn’t seem in tip-top shape so this race might be too early for him. On the other hand, Rosa looked very strong in Andalucia and had he not been working for others (again!), could have finished higher up himself. He seems to love one-day racing in Italy and may very well go on to win here, but he’ll need to come to the line alone! Puccio is a bit of a wild-card, but this is his home race and he always manages a fairly decent result here. Well, apart from last year when I had backed him and he had 3 mechanicals while in the front group. I won’t put the #HaugheyCurse on him this year, but I shall be watching with interest.

Benoot and Wellens will lead the charge for Lotto Soudal. Both riders are capable of winning here if they get a bit of luck, but both will need a different type of race to play out. Benoot will be the one happier waiting until the finish line whereas Wellens is much more likely to go on the attack from far out. He’s certainly a danger if given too much leeway!

I’m really intrigued by the selection that Astana bring to this race, because on paper it looks a very strong, well-rounded team. They have a former winner in the shape of Moser and a podium finisher with Gatto. Not to mention Amstel Gold runner-up Valgren, solid one-day racer and climber Sanchez, and Grand Tour winner Aru. The last of those makes his second appearance at this race after finishing 20th here way back in 2013. Often slated for his one-day racing, he’s not as bad at these types of races as he’s made out to be in my opinion, and I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised by Aru tomorrow. The race only being 175km certainly helps him.

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FDJ arrive with a solid squad and it seems to be the same riders that are following Pinot around all year. Thibaut himself has had a good start to the season, picking up a very impressive stage win in Andalucia. Anyone who managed to beat Contador there must be going well! Making his debut in this race, he might struggle with some of the surfaces but I think his form will overcome that and he is my dark horse for the win. His team-mate Reichenbach is another good outside candidate if we get a very tactical race where the “second string” riders get sent up the road and manage to end up staying away. Like Pinot, he was also impressive in Andalucia and can’t be discounted.

Roglic, Haas, Dumoulin and Vanmarcke could all go well with a bit of luck.

Prediction

Like my women’s preview (shameless plug, view it here) I’ve had this rider in mind all week for this race. Unlike that preview though, I have had my doubts about him but that’s been purely based off of his odds being shorter than I would have liked. Nonetheless, after much deliberation I still think he’ll take the victory, capitalising on some good early season form. If we get bad conditions, that makes it even better for him. Stybar to win!

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Betting

As mentioned above, I was almost backing out of this one purely because I would have hoped for something like 10/1 on Stybar. But the more I think about it, the 6-7/1 on offer in places is still good value IMO.

Stybar 2pts WIN @7/1 with PaddyPower (would take 6/1 available elsewhere)

I tweeted these two out yesterday after prices were released but they have subsequently been shortened;

Pinot 0.25pts EW @200/1 with Bet365 (would still take 125/1 with PP or the 100/1 with William Hill)

Reichenbach 0.25pts EW @ 300/1 with Bet365 (would still take the 200/1 with PP or the 150/1 widely available)

I don’t really like any of the H2H available at the moment. Might change my mind later.

 

Once again, thanks for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win this incredible race? I’ll be back again tomorrow with a Paris-Nice GC and Stage 1 preview so keep an eye out for them. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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

Today’s Recap

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

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

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

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

The Route

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

Link to Strava profile

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

Strava profile of Victor Harbor Circuit

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weather Watch

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

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

How will the stage pan out?

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction

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

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

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

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Betting

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

They were My Two Spokes Worth.