Tour de Romandie 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Champéry -> Bulle

Today’s Recap

It looked for a while as if the weather was going to hold out, but it started tipping it down towards the end of the day. Which made for very grizzly conditions going up the last climb. I’m sure if that made the stage easier or not, as the peloton rode it slightly more defensively than I thought, or if the climb was too easy for any gaps to be made.

In the end, it was Albasini who took a great win (a day too late for me)! With Ulissi and Herrada rounding out the podium.

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A damp squib of a stage on the punting front but I’ll soldier on!

The Route

A “sprinters” day tomorrow in Romandie, which means that there is still a fair amount of climbing involved.

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@LasterketaBurua

You can view an interactive profile of the stage here.

There is a chance that they might move the start of tomorrow’s race off the mountain at Champéry and onto the flat valley below. Either way, it shouldn’t have a big impact on the stage.

We do have some relatively tough short climbs out on the course but they come too far from the finish to cause any stress for the sprinters so we should end with some type of bunch kick again.

As there is nothing useful in the road-book, I’ve resorted again to making a Strava profile, this time of the final 5km. You can view that link here.

I’ve went off what information I could take from the interactive profile made by the same guys behind LasterketaBurua as there is no useful information in the RB as to where turns etc are in the finale so apologies if this isn’t 100% correct. But again, I do trust them so I’m assuming it is correct!

Anyway…

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The closing 2.8km averages 2.29% all the way to the line. Not tough, but certainly a long drag! The amount of twists and turns in the closing kilometre should also add to the excitement.

However, it was the 900m lump that starts just before the 4km to go mark that caught my eye. As Strava sometimes doesn’t cope with the contouring on maps that well, especially when the road runs very close to a contour, I thought I’d check it out on Google Streetview to see if the climb was actually that steep.

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View one…
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View two…

It’s definitely a hill, that I’m sure of… 😜

As for how steep it is, I’m still undecided!

Facing up the road, it looks like quite a tough drag but then when looking parallel to the road it doesn’t seem as bad at all. We’ll just have to wait and see tomorrow I guess as to how steep it actually is. I’m holding out that it is the 900m climb at 7% that Strava promises! My instinct though is that it’s probably closer to a 4% average.

Weather

We’re set for another cold day in the saddle.

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Source: Wunderground

Thankfully the riders will be happy to see that there is only a “chance of rain” in the afternoon, but I’m sure they’re bound to get soaked at some point.

There are plenty of riders far enough down on GC to warrant a break win, but I think that’s unlikely and we’ll more than likely see some type of sprint into Bulle.

Contenders

We don’t have many proper sprinters here so a lot of them should be able to compete on this finale.

Viviani is arguably the biggest name here. He’s been climbing a lot better this year, in fact, the best I’ve seen in his whole career. Tomorrow’s finish might be right on his limit but with the Giro looming, you would expect him to be in good shape. Without a win this season, it’s a great chance for him to take victory, but I just can’t see it. Nonetheless, he does surprise occasionally with a great result.

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Albasini is a man in form and he can certainly roll over any of the hills tomorrow. The up-hill finish puts him on a similar level to the really fast guys and I would not be surprised to see him double up. At the very least, he is a safe shout for a podium

Colbrelli in theory should be the favourite for this race, but he seems to be tiring after his great start the year. If he still has some strength in his legs then he will be tough to beat.

This type of finish would have been bread and butter for JJ Lobato circa end of 2014. After switching to Jumbo, the Spaniard has failed to deliver a win for his team so far but that could be put down to the injury that plagued him at the start of the year. An 11th place in Amstel shows that some form is there, but can you put any faith in the enigmatic fast man?

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Race leader Felline will like the look of the drag towards the finish line tomorrow. Clearly in scintillating form, the Italian is taking advantage of it and looks strong in the lead. If he takes the win and 10 bonus seconds tomorrow, he might fancy his chances at winning this race overall…

What about Samuel Dumoulin? The Frenchman has had a fairly solid year but has only picked up one win so far. One of the most consistent riders on an uphill finish, he certainly has a chance if the form is there.

Van der Sande climbed well to finish 17th today but was disappointed to have missed out on getting close to the win. He is clearly going well at the moment and should be Lotto Soudal’s main charge tomorrow as Hofland seems to have fallen by the wayside. A good outsider.

Bilbao will hope to be up there again for Astana. He was close today in 6th place but with the finish being on the climb this time, I’m sure that will suit his abilities more.

Likewise, it will suit former team-mate Goncalves. A favourite of mine, the Portuguese rider has performed OK in the opening part of the season with his new team Katusha, an 11th place at Strade being his best result. Tomorrow’s finish is one that he would eat for breakfast so to say when he was with Caja Rural and I expect to see him up there fighting for the win tomorrow.

Smith, Swift and Richeze might all get involved as well.

Prediction

A tough stage to predict the winner of as firstly I’m still not 100% sure of that penultimate ramp, but it’s also difficult to tell how the peloton will approach the drag to the line.

I do think we’ll see a reduced bunch sprint in the end and I’ll go for a guy who was disappointed today to take the win tomorrow; Tosh van der Sande to step up to the plate and start fulfilling his potential!

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Betting

0.5pt EW Van der Sande @ 22/1 (would take 16s)

0.5pt EW Goncalves @ 400/1 (would take 150s)

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win stage 2? Tomorrow might be a triple preview day with another Romandie stage and potentially Yorkshire Stage 1 and GC, although I might miss the latter if I’m short of time. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vuelta al Pais Vasco 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Iruñea -> Eguesibar-Sarriguren

GC Overview

No time for a full length preview so here are a few thoughts.

The race in general seems easier than previous editions, but the riders can always make it tougher through aggressive racing. The most decisive stages are the last two, stages 5 & 6. With the steep gradients of Arrate, the more lightweight, explosive climbers will look to maker their mark. Whereas the more all-round GC contenders will hope to gain time back on the TT the following today. It should be a close race!

Contador won the race last year and is clearly going well just now. He’ll fancy his chances to make it back to back wins overall!

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His main rival looks to be the flying Valverde. He was exceptional in Catalunya and has to start the race as favourite in my opinion.

Behind those two there are several riders who will be hoping to make the podium. Alaphilippe, Henao, Roglic, Yates and Spilak are just a few names to conjure with. Out of that selection, I would fancy Alaphilippe. There are no big mountain days and long 16km climbs which he hates, instead, he’ll find the short 6-7km climbs to his liking. As we saw in Paris-Nice, he packs a fairly good TT as well! Spilak is a dark horse, especially if he is on the level that he was climbing in Tirreno and if it rains, of course!

No bonus seconds for the stage winner etc tilts the importance of attacking racing to drop opponents, but also the TT is even more key.

Right, now that’s out the way, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders on Stage 1.

The Route

A fairly dull stage to start the race off.

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Profile once again courtesy of @LasterketaBurua

We do have a few Cat-2 climbs but they come too far from the finish to be of any consequence. The little rise of 1.4km at 3.4% which crests at just over 4km to go is interesting, but I can’t see it having a huge effect on the race. It may be the launchpad for a probing attack, though even I think it will be hard for one of them to stick! Yet, with no real sprinters in the race, it might just do…

The run in to the line is quite technical, and we have two sharp turns in the closing 2km.

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The 90-degree turn with 300m to go will ensure for a manic end to the day. You need to be in the first 5 riders out of it to have any chance of winning.

“Sprinters”

We have barely any of the top-level sprinters here this week so expect a few surprise results and things not going to plan!

Matthews probably starts as the favourite. The Aussie looked good in Paris Nice, and rode very well on the unfamiliar cobbles of Gent Wevelgem recently. Like most of the “sprinters”, he doesn’t have a great lead-out with him and will be relying on Geschke to deliver him into position.

Bennett arrives as the other sprinter who’s a cut above the rest. The Irishman took a great stage win in Paris Nice, beating some of the fastest riders in the world. He pulled out of De Panne so it will be interesting to see if he’s recovered from whatever it was that caused that. If he has, then he is certainly a big favourite for the win!

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It says a lot when you have Swift and Lobato as the next best sprinters in the peloton. Both have looked a bit “meh” as of late but if there was ever a chance for them to take a win and get some confidence back, this is it. I just wouldn’t have any confidence in them at the moment!

Then we have normal lead-out men who will be sprinters at this race, such as Van der Sande and Richeze. I would favour Richeze out of those two and he seems to have a fairly good sprint train (by this races standards) to support him. Delivering two wins in San Juan earlier in the year can he win in Spain a few months later?

Orica have a few options and they could go with either Albasini or Gerrans both of whom could contest, especially with the other rider leading out.

Heck, Valverde and Alaphilippe (if Richeze isn’t up for it) might fancy a sprint!

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Bole will fancy his chances but he’s been poor so far this year.

I’m intrigued to see what card Astana play. They obviously have blog favourite Lutsenko, who’s clearly going well just now and in a sprint like this he certainly has a chance. Although it remains to be seen how he has recovered from his crash in Gent Wevelgem and how finishing Flanders today will have affected his legs. Instead they might turn to Basque rider, and another favourite of mine, Bilbao. He’s had a quiet start to the year but he’ll want to go well in his home race. Packing a fast sprint, he might surprise!

Prediction

A real crapshoot of a stage where a late attack might stick as controlling the bunch will be tough, or we’ll get one of the craziest sprints of the season.

I think we will get a sprint, but having a good lead-out will be important and there aren’t many of them here! Orica have the best contingent of riders for that in my opinion. With Power and Plaza they have two riders who can take it up from a few kms out, letting Gerrans/Albasini sit in behind. Choosing between those two is tough, but after his second place today in La Rioja, Albasini is clearly going well. Gerrans won’t mind doing the work for him if he’s rewarded with his own chances later in the week. If the Aussie leads Albasini into the last turn, very few riders will have the strength to come past him!

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Betting

Nothing for me on GC, odds are too short on the favourites for my opinion. With stage 1 being so difficult to predict I’m having a relatively conservative, 2pt kinda day…

Albasini 1pt WIN @50/1 with Betfair/PaddyPower (would take the 33s with Bet365)

Bilbao 0.25pt EW @200/1 with Bet365 (would take 125s)

Lutsenko 0.25pt EW @125/1 with Bet365. (would take 80s)

 

Thanks for reading as always. Apologies that this is on the shorter side but there’s not that much to talk about for this stage! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

GP Le Samyn 2017 Preview; Quaregnon -> Dour

GP Le Samyn 2017 Preview; Quaregnon -> Dour

The racing in Belgium continues this Wednesday with GP Le Samyn. Unlike the Ardennes races we’ll see in this area later in the year, Samyn is much more like its Flandrien counterparts, with tough cobbles and testing conditions.

Last year’s edition was one of the most brutal yet (highly recommend you watching it if you missed it), with only 28 riders finishing! Strong winds and rain battered the peloton into submission from the off and only the toughest survived. It was bad weather expert Niki Terpstra who came away with the win, attacking the small group left at the front with around 14km to go.

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Scott Thwaites was the only rider who could follow Terpstra initially but he was dropped when the Dutchman attacked again. Nonetheless, he held on for a spirited second place and it was Florian Sénéchal who won a three-up sprint to complete the podium.

Will we see a similarly selective race this year? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

A race split into two parts with the first section featuring some hills before the cobbles start in the second part of the race.

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The closing circuit is a tough one, featuring no less than 16 cobbled sections; 4 per lap of the circuit.

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Credit again to @LasterketaBurua for the profile.

This is where the race normally starts to shell riders out the back as the pace increases; 12km of cobbles in 100km of racing isn’t ideal for some!

Depending on how the race is unfolding, the final section of cobbles “Rue de Belle Vue” at roughly 2km from the finish could be decisive for one last shake-up. The finish itself isn’t overly technical but does drag up to the line so not opening up the sprint too early is very important.

However, the race may not come down to a sprint at all and it all really depends on one factor…

The Weather

After last years mud-bath the riders will be hoping for something a bit calmer this year, well, maybe some Belgians won’t be! And it looks as if the Belgians will be happy, as the finish town of Dour seems to be living up to its name.

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Dour weather forecast (Source: Wunderground)

So it looks as if we’re going to get some wet cobbles and relatively horrible conditions. Not as bad as last year but still pretty grim.

Looking at the wind speed and direction (source – Windfinder) for just north of Dour in a town called Hornu it looks as if we’re going to get a constant 25km/h wind all day with some strong gusts.

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The direction differs slightly from the first forecast source, but the point remains the same, it looks good for echelons!

Combining the strong winds, rain and cold conditions, I for one am going to be happy watching the riders battle it out from the comfort of my living room.

Who’s going to be at the head of the race though?

Contenders

With the change of the calendar this year, we only have 3 World Tour teams competing compared to 7 last season. However, that should not diminish the excitement as the Pro Conti and Continental teams will more than make up for it with some attacking racing and we’ll get to watch some unfamiliar names duke it out. Nonetheless, I’ll start my run through with the WT guys.

Quick Step don’t bring the defending champion with them but they do have a relatively strong line-up but there’s no superstar name. Bauer, Keisse or Devenyns may be their best bet at achieving back to back wins. The New Zealander was incredibly strong at the start of the year and I’m intrigued to see if he can carry that on here. He did some great domestique work in Abu Dhabi and that may be a downfall for him here; the fact that he was there and has to travel back. Therefore, Keisse and Devenyns look their most likely options. On this type of relatively flat, rouleurs terrain, I would have to favour Keisse out of the two. He has a good sprint from a small bunch and certainly has the abilities to hold off a chase if he gets a gap out in front!

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Lotto Soudal arrive with former winner Boeckmans, but he still seems to be struggling to return to the rider he once was before his crash in the 2015 Vuelta. Instead, I imagine they’ll turn to De Buyst and Van Der Sande as their protected riders for the race. Both are fast sprinters after a tough day so if the race comes down to a reduced bunch sprint they have a chance. Van Der Sande is also an attacking rider so I imagine he’ll be present whatever race situation we get.

*Debuscherre has been added to their squad typically now that I’ve just finished writing this. On paper he should be there at the end, but he had crashed in Omloop and failed to start Kuurne. I don’t think he’ll be going full gas here.

Without their star-rider Boom, Lotto Jumbo come here with quite a weak team. I would guess that Van Emden and Wynants will be their leaders but I can’t really see them doing much. Well, saying that, Van Emden does have the TT prowess to be able to make his way to the finish solo but that will be tough for him to do considering he doesn’t seem in great form at the moment. Maybe new signing Van Hoecke can do something?!

Cofidis actually look like they are sending one of the strongest teams here. They have two very good options in Claeys and Sénéchal. The former had a breakthrough 2016, picking up a stage in Wallonie and finishing a very impressive 9th at Flanders. If he is in a similar vein of form then he is one to watch. Likewise, Sénéchal could well have won this race last year. He was exceptionally strong on the day, closing down almost every attack single handedly. It was those efforts that cost him in the end, as he didn’t have enough left in the tank to close down Terpstra when he made his move. With a bit more guile about him this time round, he has the class to beat this field. He is a Junior Roubaix winner after all!

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Florian Vachon will most likely be Fortuneo’s best hope here. Third at Tro Bro Leon last year highlights that he doesn’t mind the rough stuff, although he hasn’t really got going so far this year.

After a disappointing Omloop, he was held up in the big crash, Pim Ligthart will be hoping to go better at this race. The Roompot rider must fancy his chances in this quality of field and he certainly won’t mind the bad weather. A strong cobbles rider with a fast sprint from a reduced bunch, I’m hoping to see him turn his week around here. Roompot also have Asselman as another potential candidate if the race is tough, or Kreder if we get a big bunch sprint. Although I can’t see that happening!

Dupont and Kruopis are the bigger names on the Verandas team. However, they’ve been poor so far this season and I can’t see them competing here, instead, Duijn is their best bet to finish top 10.

Sport Vlaanderen have a good outside candidate in the form of Van Lerberghe. The Belgian rider is a great talent and like most of his compatriots he’s at home on this type of surface. A similar rider to Edward Theuns, Van Lerberghe is capable of sprinting fast but is also comfortable attacking in tough conditions. With team-mate Sprengers, they’ll form a tough duo!

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In-form Frederik Backaert arrives here as Wanty’s leader for this race. Fresh off the back of an 11th place finish at Omloop, he’ll be brimming with confidence! I think he would have preferred some climbs closer to the finish but he certainly can’t be discounted. I really like the look of Wanty’s team as a whole and they really should feature at the pointy end of race tomorrow. Van Keirsbulk is a rider I’ll be watching with interest. The former QuickStep man was for a while touted as the next big cobbles rider, but he failed to live up to the hype. There were stories floating about that he got too happy in his surroundings at QS so this transfer to Wanty looks like a move to reinvigorate his career. Finishing 21st in Omloop hints at a return to a career that might have been!

The final Pro-Conti team here, WB Veranclassic, have a former winner (2014) in their midst; Maximme Vantomme. However, I think they’ll look to Ista as their man here but I don’t expect too much from him. A top 10 would be a good result! They do have a favourite of mine, Roy Jans, but he normally struggles in tough conditions.

Considering I’ve already wrote a short novella for this preview, I’m just going to highlight some names to look out for from a few of the Continental teams, rather than doing anything in-depth.

Armée de Terre: Gaudin and Tronet.

Roubaix: Pouilly.

AGO: Arimont.

Pauwels: Van Dingenen.

Tarteletto: Ruijgh.

Prediction

I think we’ll see a tough and fairly selective race tomorrow. Maybe not as tough as last year’s edition but the race will still be blown to bits. Therefore I fancy a rider who can handle bad conditions very well but also has the abilities to solo to the line. I alluded to him in the section above, but I think Van Keirsbulk is on the road to redemption so to speak and a win here will kickstart that!

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Betting

No UK odds as of yet which is disappointing. I’m sure we got something last year! Belgian bookmaker Bingoal has some up.

I’d be tempted with Van Keirsbulk Win at 25, and top 3 at 7.

Also Keisse win at 80 and top 3 at 16.

*UPDATE – SkyBet have Prices; 0.25pt EW on both of them at 50/1*

Hopefully the UK bookies get their act together and there’s something out later or tomorrow morning.
Nonetheless thanks for reading and as always, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be a selective race? My next blog post will be the Women’s Strade Bianche which I’m very much looking forward to! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Vuelta Stage 12 Preview: Los Corrales de Buelna -> Bilbao

Today’s Recap

For once the break didn’t make it and we got back-to-back GC stage winners. This time round it was Froome who pipped Quintana in a sprint to the line. The Brit always goes well after a rest-day as I highlighted in yesterday’s preview!

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The gaps were not big to the rest of the GC contenders but if it wasn’t a two-horse race before today, it definitely is now, and boy do we have a race on our hands!

GC action should be put on pause tomorrow and we’re set for a really interesting stage.

The Route

An up and down day with a flat finish.

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An un-categorised climb to start the day will be a bit of rude awakening for some. If it’s anything like today’s stage then the break may not go until the Cat-1 climb.

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Not the toughest cat-1 climb, it probably is given that categorisation due to it’s length. The average gradient of 6% should be manageable for the riders, unless of course the pace is still on and the break hasn’t formed. If it does form here, it will be awfully strong.

The stage though is defined by the double ascension of the Cat-2; Alto El Vivero.

The road book is back to it’s best today, with no graphic for the final climb. The directions and diagrams are also a bit vague, but I’m sure I have the right approach…

After a few days off, the Strava profile makes a return. View it here.

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Profile of the final 20km.

The final climb itself is 4.2km long at 8.4% average gradient. Like a lot of the climbs in this area, it is very irregular. The toughest section comes almost right at the start, with a kilometre (0.3 -> 1.3km) averaging 11.8%. There are a couple of false flats along the way for the riders to recompose themselves and push hard again.

The same finale was used in the opening stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in 2015:

That day saw Michael Matthews take a reduced bunch sprint finish.

How will tomorrow’s stage pan out?

The stage itself is a nightmare to predict, with a few options that are very feasible.

We could well see the morning break stick and fight out for stage glory as there is a reasonable amount of climbing and the sprint teams won’t be confident of their riders making it over. Saying that, it’s not impossible for a team to control the race and go for a sprint (as we saw in 2015). Felline, Sbaragli, Van der Sande, Valverde & Gilbert will all probably fancy their chances in that situation. However, it is a lot more difficult to control the finale of a grand tour and if the break is brought back, we could well see a late attack stick.

See, it’s not easy!

The sprinters above that I’ve mentioned are the only ones I can really see make it over the final climb. Out of them, I’d probably say that Felline has the fastest flat sprint after a tough day, so he should be the guy to look out for in that situation.

As for late attackers, Luis Leon Sanchez would be the perfect candidate. He looks incredibly strong just now and has the TT engine to hold off the bunch. So could Tobias Ludvigsson who’s climbing better than ever and should make it over the climb if we’re getting set for a reduced sprint.

Breakaway Candidates

There’s a template of rider who I’m going with here. Someone who can climb, but also packs a decent sprint!

JJ Rojas.

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The Movistar road captain may be told to get in the breakaway to defend their lead in the Team classification. Sky (who looked strong today) and Cannondale (who will have at least two men in the move) are both less than 10 minutes behind. The Spanish team do love to win that competition, so will start defending it soon. It could start tomorrow. Rojas has turned himself in to a jack of all trades and should be able to cope with the final climb. He has a good turn of speed and would probably be the favourite if a small group of escapees came to the line together.

Pello Bilbao.

The Caja rider, like a lot of them, is local to the area. He’s been a bit lost in this race so far, having a few crashes etc. However, he does seem to be slowly re-finding himself and building some form. A guy who on his day can climb with the best, he really should have won the GC in Turkey this year but had to withdraw due to illness. This type of profile suits him very well.

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Nathan Haas.

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I’ve already highlighted him for a stage earlier in this Vuelta but he didn’t make the move that day. The climb will be on his limit but considering his performance on stage 4, then he has a chance of being in contact with the lead riders as they summit. Like Rojas, he has a very solid sprint after a tough days racing. You don’t want to be leading him out in the finale!

Prediction

I’m unsure how the stage will go, but I lean towards a breakaway. That of course all depends if there are a few of the “sprint” teams who co-operate and bring the break back. Nonetheless, I’ll stick my neck out on the line and say that the break will win.

I think you know where I’m going with this one. Especially considering my fondness with suggesting riders for whimsical reasons…

Bilbao to win in Bilbao. Simple and poetic.

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I can’t pass up a rider who has the same surname as the finish town and is from the region!

Betting

Small punts on the three breakaway guys

0.3pt Bilbao at 40/1 (Various)

0.1pt Haas at 100/1 (Various)

0.1pt Rojas at 200/1 (Bet365 & BF)

After today’s successful H2H I’m hoping to find one for tomorrow, but nothing has caught my eye/I’ve not done enough research. If I do find something, I’ll update it on my Twitter!

Hope you enjoyed the read, apologies for it being shorter than normal! How do you think the stage will play out? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 7 Preview; Maceda -> Puebla de Sanabria

Today’s Recap

What a stage, it was full gas from the start! Omar Fraile represented us very well out the front bringing that attacking gusto that I was looking forward to seeing. However, it was not to be for him, or any of the original break in fact. Instead, Simon Yates made a fantastically timed move to follow Dani Moreno on the final climb, going on to pass him before the summit and then finishing solo!

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Let’s have a look at tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

Surprise surprise, another stage with a fair bit of climbing. Especially considering this is supposedly a sprinter-friendly day!

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* No Strava profile today from me as I’m in more of a rush than usual. So climbs & %s made up from the road book*

The climbing tomorrow is spread out a lot more evenly throughout the stage, with the three Cat-3s almost equidistant from each other. Depending how the riders are approaching the stage, the break may not have gone until the first climb; Puerto de Allariz (6.3km at 4.7%). If it does go here, it will certainly be a strong one.

The second categorised climb is a longer affair, 11.2km at 4.4%. The road here-in rises and falls all the way to the start of the final official climb of the day. Alto de Padornelo averages 3.3% for it’s 7km. The sprinters will hope to make it over this.

A long descent comes next, followed by a flat run to the line.

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The run in itself is fairly technical, with a few sweeping bends mixed in with sharp turns within the final few kilometres. Positioning and lead-outs will be key.

How will the stage pan out?

This another stage marked down as a sprint, but after today’s very hot and tough day there might be a few teams feeling the effects. There is more of a chance than normal that a break makes it.

Felline was angry after crossing the line today and is clearly going well at the moment. He’s one of the riders who will get his team to work and will want this stage to end in a sprint. Likewise, so will Etixx who will be hoping that Meersman can complete a hat-trick of victories. Others may well join in, such as Orica and Giant. The latter took the day easy after missing the break, targeting tomorrow’s stage.

Conversely, the classic tactic of sending a man up the road so you don’t have to work behind could well be used tomorrow by a few teams. If 3 out of the 4 sprint teams I’ve mentioned above have a rider up the road, the break makes it.

It’s very much 50/50 if that happens. If today wasn’t so tough and teams weren’t slightly weakened/tired, then tomorrow would be a definite sprint.  Then again, tomorrow is the last chance the sprinters have for several stages so they will not want to miss another opportunity!

Contenders

In-form Meersman looks like the rider to beat, he’s been very impressive so far this race. It’s good to see, because for a while he was a bit off the boil.

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Felline going off of the last sprint seems to be the rider who will challenge him. He’s climbing very well and is very fired up! Cort Nielsen will hope to go better than his third on stage 2. I’m sure he’s capable of that! While Arndt and Giant will be looking to finally getting to compete in the sprint.

Other’s to look for include Prades, Reza, SbaragliVan der SandeRestrepo and Drucker.

A proper sprinting outsider would be Romain Hardy. The Frenchman made it over the climbs today with the GC group and if the bunch gets whittled down tomorrow he may sneak onto the podium.

Breakaway riders? If we’re taking part in the Spanish lottery again, then look to strong all-rounders. Guys like Hansen, Terpstra and Haas all have the capabilities of winning from the break. Their team as said above then has the added bonus of not chasing.

#RandomRider

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Patrick Bevin is the chosen man for tomorrow. Going into this Vuelta I would have assumed that he  would be Cannondale’s sprinter of choice, but he’s failed to break into the top 100 on a stage yet. Potentially ill at the start of the race, he may have been taking it easy until now? He has a good turn of speed from a reduced group and could well podium tomorrow if it comes down to a sprint. If not, he’ll have to try his luck in the break. In either situation, there is more than likely to be someone better than him, but the Vuelta is full of surprises!

Prediction

As you all know by now, I do love to suggest that a break makes it and I’m very much on the fence for tomorrow’s stage. So I’m going to cop-out and give two predictions. If the break makes it, Nathan Haas wins. The Aussie did well in the break on stage 5 on a finish that didn’t particularly suit him. Tomorrow’s stage is more his cup of tea and he would expect to go well in a sprint from a breakaway group.

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If we do get the (probably more likely) bunch sprint, then I think Giant and Nikias Arndt will turn it around. He didn’t seem to badly hurt in his crash the other day, and they’ve highlighted how they saved their legs today for a sprint tomorrow. They have the best lead-out train here and in tomorrow’s tricky finale that will be the crucial factor.

Betting

Going against my rule and backing both a sprinter and a breakaway.

Arndt 0.5pt EW 33/1  (Bet365)

Haas 0.2pt WIN  80/1 (PP)

Hansen 0.15pt WIN 80/1 (PP)

Terpstra 0.15pt WIN 150/1 (PP)

 

Thanks for reading! Do you think we get a sprint? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 2 Preview: Ourense -> Baiona

Today’s Recap

Well, the crossbar was well and truly hit today as Sky pipped Movistar by less than a second! I did think that the British team would be in contention, but that was very close. Both teams rode great negative splits, leaving almost a full complement of riders for the testing final climb. They obviously had read the preview 😉

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The biggest loser on the day has to be Contador who shipped 52 seconds to Froome and Quintana; 46 to Yates and Chaves; and 45 to TVG/Sanchez/Atapuma. Not catastrophic, but not exactly ideal for the pre-race favourite!

Anyway, moving onto tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

A typical sprinters stage in the Vuelta, where they have to negotiate a tricky Cat 3 climb mid stage. They don’t do pan-flat here!

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The profiles of the race make writing the blog more interesting, that’s for sure. I was initially intrigued at that little “bump” that crests around 10km from the finish, hoping that we would have another typical Vuelta, non-categorised climb at 5% etc. However, according to the little segment I made on Strava, it’s more a case of 6km at 2% average. Even going off of the Vuelta road book, it’s 4.2km at just over 3% average. This shouldn’t be a problem for the sprinters, especially the one’s we have here!

The riders will also be happy to see that it’s a flat run in, with no real turns at all within the final kilometre.

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It looks to be set up perfectly for a pure and “proper” sprint where lead-outs, timing and raw speed will be important. Let’s have a look at the potential stage winners!

The “Sprinters”

Due to the incredibly tough parcours this year, we don’t have any of the big name sprinters here. Instead, we have a lot of younger riders who will get a chance to show what they have on the big stage. All of the guys that are here can climb fairly well so the little bump aforementioned shouldn’t be a serious challenge for them.

The team with the best lead-out here is Giant-Alpecin, and they’ll be supporting young German sprinter, Nikias Arndt. They did a pretty poor TTT but oddly enough, one of the riders seemed to be smiling (looked like big T Ludvigsson) as they crossed the finish line. Maybe keeping something in the tank for tomorrow? De Koert & Waeytens will look to pilot Arndt in the final 500m, with the rest of the team doing work beforehand. He’ll probably start as favourite.

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Arguably the fastest rider here, Niccolo Bonifazio has had a fairly poor season since his move to Trek, picking up only one win. However, he does have the raw talent and speed to go well if he’s on form. I just don’t think he’s there yet, he was a bit “meh” in Norway and I’m not convinced he’ll go well this early in the race. He’ll need to build in to it. In fact, Trek may turn to his team-mate Felline who as I pointed out in my San Sebastian preview will be one to watch this race. The flat finish doesn’t really suit him though!

A veteran in this field, Gianni Meersman will be Etixx’s chosen man. A rider with so much promise, he’s flattered to deceive as of late and I can’t see that changing here. Although in saying that, he will have a great powerhouse of a lead-out. Maybe he can hold on for a podium.

Magnus Cort Nielsen will get a rare chance to sprint for Orica in a Grand Tour. The young Dane was excellent towards the end of last month, but has had a few weeks off getting ready for this race. He’ll be able to count on a solid lead-out, including Tuft, Gerrans & Keukeleire. Orica are great at positioning their sprinters. I expect him to go well, but again, he maybe would have preferred a tougher finish.

Kristian Sbaragli will be Dimension Data’s option for the sprints. His one and only pro win so far came at this race last year. He’ll have an OK lead-out, not great, and might have to surf the wheels. My worry is that he’s too much of a “top 10” sprinter, and not a winner!

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BMC will have to face the decision if it’s Gilbert or Drucker that they’ll work for, potentially even Dillier. Too many chefs? It will more likely be the latter on the flat sprints. However, like a few others, I think he flatters to deceive and goes well in the smaller races, going missing on the big stage. I could well be proved wrong here, but I doubt it 😉

Who else is left? Van der Sande, Van Genechten and Bennati will all be in or around the top 10. I look forward to seeing Goncalves (#GoOnCalves) have a go in the sprint, he should also be in the mix but isn’t fast enough on the proper flat stages. A top 10 would be a good result for him!

Prediction

The opening sprint stage of a Grand Tour is often a chaotic affair, so I’m turning to a team who are great at timing the run to the line perfectly and are capable of positioning their rider well inside the final 200m. Therefore, I think Magnus Cort of Orica BikeExchange will win tomorrow’s stage. He looked incredibly strong in Denmark, and if he’s maintained his form he will be a real threat. I wouldn’t expect the OBE train to hit the front until the final 2/1.5km, guided by the experienced Sven Tuft. Then Gerrans and Keukeleire will take over, dropping Cort off perfectly with 150m to go and he won’t be caught! By doing so he’ll take the race lead as well.

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Confidence is key, but all of the sprinters will fancy their chances so it could end up being a messy one. Just making an early excuse for myself…

Betting

Cort 0.5pt EW widely available at 12/1.

 

Hope you enjoyed the preview! Who do you think will win the sprint? As usual, any feedback and discussion is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.