Tour de France 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Düsseldorf -> Düsseldorf

A shorter preview to mimic a shorter opening day!

Last year saw the sprinters take glory with Mark Cavendish getting to wear Yellow after his opening day success. In 2017 though, it will once again be the turn of the TT specialists and powerhouses who will be looking to make their mark in the race of truth.

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

The Route

A pan-flat TT that closely follows the Rhine.

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The only elevation we get is when the riders cross the bridge over the river. I wonder if anyone will be chasing that Strava KOM?!

As for the technicality of the route goes, it is fairly simple too.

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A lot of the stage will be done at full gas and the riders will barely have to touch the breaks. There are a few 90-degree turns that they might have to slow down for but in some places the road is quite wide so they can take the corners at full pace and “sweeping”.

It is a fast course, similar to the one we saw in Utrecht back in 2015. Will we similarly fast times?

That could possibly depend on the start times of the riders as one of the main talking points throughout this week has been the potential rain we’ll get throughout the day tomorrow.

Weather Watch

According to different forecasts it’s meant to rain at various times throughout the day so I’m not sure anyone’s overly confident at how quickly the rain will pass. Some think it will be gone by 4 but others have it raining until the evening.

The general consensus seems to be the following though.

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Source: Wunderground

The riders who start early will more than likely get some rain, with the course getting progressively drier later on.

It is a bit of an unkown though and wet/drying/dry roads should add to the drama on the opening day!

You can view all the start times on the Tissot website here.

Contenders

Given the nature of the route, there are only a handful of riders in with a good chance of winning the stage.

Tony Martin, current German and World TT Champion has to start as favourite for the stage. The route looks custom-built to suit Martin’s characteristics with long straights where he can churn out a load of power in a massive gear. He’s not been great this season though, with his only TT win coming at the recent German Championships. His year is built around this effort though, to take Yellow in his home country so he will (here comes the clichés) want it a bit more than others and that will give him an extra 10%. Will that be enough though?

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Primoz Roglic has continued his meteoric rise through the pro peloton this season after a break-out performance at last year’s Giro in the TTs. Losing out to Dumoulin on the opening day of that Giro by less than a second, he’ll be fighting for another jersey this time. He would probably prefer a few more corners out on the course, as he is one of the best bike handlers in the peloton, and that would be where he makes up a lot of time. Nonetheless, he has the power to contend over this distance and his recent win at the Ster ZLM prologue give him plenty of confidence. There were rumours earlier in the week that he was ill but he gets the last spot out for his team which suggest they’re equally confident in his chances and that he may not be ill after all!

Jos van Emden is the second of the Jumbo riders who will be at the pointy end of proceedings come tomorrow evening. Another rider who has really stepped up over the past couple of seasons in the TT, this distance is his bread and butter. It will be interesting to see how he goes with the Giro already in his legs, as he seemed a bit cooked at the Dutch National championships. Although he did have one of the fastest early splits, maybe just preparing for this distance?

Stefan Küng arrives as BMC’s challenge to take Yellow on the opening day and has been given the honour of last man out for them. He won his first TT recently (the Swiss Championships), not long after a very impressive display on the last day of racing at the Tour de Suisse where he finished second in a TT that didn’t really suit him to his team-mate Dennis. He’ll go well and is almost a shoe-in for a top 10 at least, but he is very hit and miss at times with his efforts against the clock so I’m a bit wary if he’ll go well here. He’s a type of rider that whatever time he records, the result won’t surprise me!

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Those 4 are the top contenders but there are certainly others who could get be in the mix.

Steve Cummings is clearly flying at the moment and will be a danger man for the podium. The British Champion could even make it back to back opening day yellow jerseys for Dimension Data.

Jonathan Castroviejo would have preferred a rolling course. Nonetheless, at the World’s last year he proved he can mix it on the pure flat terrain against some of the bigger guys. He won a flat TT against Martin and Roglic in Algarve earlier in the year, can he repeat that tomorrow?

He’s not the only Movistar rider in with a chance as they have young German Jasha Sütterlin. He delivered a promising result in the Dauphiné and only finished 15 seconds behind Martin at Nationals. One to keep an eye on!

Prediction

I nailed my colours to the mast earlier this week and I’ll stick to my guns. Roglic to win!

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It should be a close battle though between him and Martin and I expect very little between them. I also fancy Cummings to round out the podium given his current form.

Betting

I took Roglic at 2/1 mid-week but he’s now drifted out to 3/1 so…

3pts WIN Roglic @ 3/1 with Betfred/SkyBet/Betway/BF Exchange

I’m also wary of Cummings so I’ll be backing him EW as well.

1pt EW Cummings @ 28/1 with Betway (would take the 25s widely available elsewhere).

Going in a little bit heavier than I would normally but Stage 2 is more than likely going to be a no bet (unless the wind starts to play up) so I’m just doubling up the stakes here.

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win? Will it be a German win or will someone upset the narrative? I’ll be back again tomorrow with my Stage 2 preview. Until then,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 10 Preview; Foligno -> Montefalco

Rest-Day Recap

Quintana won the stage on Blockhaus after a very impressive display, but almost equally impressive were Pinot and Dumoulin who only shipped 24 seconds to him on the day. I’m sure the Colombian won’t be as pleased with that outcome as he is in the picture below!

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As for the motorbike incident that has been a talking point for the last day here are, erm, My Two Spokes Worth.

The bike should obviously have never been pulled over in that place, heck, even if it was pulled over further ahead to give the riders time to adjust, considering it was pulled up roughly 100m after a bend. It seems to be far too regular occurrence in cycling nowadays but as Brian Smith said on Eurosport, organisers and governing bodies can’t keep saying, “something needs to be done”, they need to actually take action. I’m sure the motorbike driver will be well aware of the outcome and will no doubt feel pretty shit but this whole trial by social media isn’t going to help anything.

As for those saying Movistar should have waited: the race was on and they had been pulling for the past 30km. It wasn’t as if they suddenly came to the front when it happened to take advantage. If a majority of the field had come to grief then they might have stopped, but I see no issue with what they did. Should we see sprint trains stop as they approach the end of the race due to crashes caused by barriers that protrude onto the road?

Thankfully none of the riders were seriously injured, although Kelderman and Rosa were unfortunately DNFs because of it. Nonetheless, I’m sure it won’t be the last we’ll see of Thomas, Yates and company this race as they’ll possibly animate later stages.

Right, now that’s out the road, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

A rolling 39.8km TT, but certainly not the most difficult in terms of climbing.

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As is TT tradition, I’ve made the route on Strava that you can view here, for those of you that prefer a more interactive profile.

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Interestingly, the organisers have tweaked the route ever so slightly since it was originally announced; making the first climb easier and removing a tricky second climb.

The riders will start with over 12km of flat as they leave Foligno before tackling the first climb on the route. Averaging 3.2% for 5.2kms, it should be a seated effort for most of the riders. However, it does go up in sections and there are some ramps of 6-7% so the change of gradient might catch a few riders out.

From there, the riders will continue along a plateau before another small kick up (900m at 4%) before a quick descent. The road then undulates for the following 10km with a few shallow rises but nothing too severe, before the riders start the drag to the line.

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According to the official profile it is a 5.75km rise averaging 2.17%, whereas my Strava profile indicates that it’s 4.8km long at 3%. Not a massive discrepancy but nonetheless there is a slight difference. Either way, it is a climb for the strongmen of the peloton who are able to put a lot of power down in the shallower gradients, especially when you consider it will be into a headwind!

The weather in Foligno has been a talking point today with there being severe thunderstorms…

However, it is supposed to be dry tomorrow and we should get even conditions for most of the riders. Will the roads have cleared up by then?

Contenders

With this type of course being suited to a more powerful rider, I think a few of the GC contenders (pure climbers), could lose a lot of time. Will that be to anyone else who’s in contention for the title though?

Well, Tom Dumoulin starts as the bookmakers favourite and it is understandable why. He looked exceptionally strong on Blockhaus and is clearly flying on the climbs right now. Will that translate to a good TT though? I’m not so sure. He’s been struggling recently with his time trial, and hasn’t looked great in them since his silver medal at the Olympics last year. Having lost a lot of weight to stay closer to the best on the climbs I think he might struggle on the flatter parcours tomorrow, which is reassuring actually! I am looking forward to seeing him in action though, he does look effortless on a TT bike.

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Bob Jungels will hope to recover some of the time he lost on Blockhaus tomorrow with a good performance. At last year’s Giro, he was comfortably the best GC rider in the atrocious conditions in Chianti, putting over a minute into Dumoulin. This type of route suits him very well as one of the more “heavy-set” GC riders. Exceptionally strong on the flat, windy stage 3 into Cagliari, I think he’ll podium tomorrow.

Vasil Kiryienka loves a long TT although he hasn’t really been able to show his strength since winning the World Championships in 2015. With Team Sky’s GC hopes looking less likely, I think they’ll give Kiryienka the nod to go full gas. He’ll eat up the flat and the climbs. Plus, his experience will be very valuable so that he paces himself well and doesn’t blow up on the final drag to the line.

Thibaut Pinot is a solid TTer and he will hope to take time over his GC rivals on this course, especially Quintana. He was up there on a similar style of course in Andalucia at the start of the year, although that stage was a 3rd of the distance. That is where my issue lies with him, he’s unproven over longer TTs. He won’t lose much time I don’t think, but he certainly won’t gain any over the likes of Jungels etc.

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Geraint Thomas will be hoping to bounce back with a good time tomorrow. One of the reasons I had backed him pre-race for the podium is because of the amount of TT kilometres in the race. This type of strong-mans course should suit him well, but will he suffer the same issues with weight that Dumoulin might?

Other GC names to throw into the hat are Amador and Zakarin who can both pull off a good TT on their day.

Away from the GC guys watch out for Lotto Jumbo pairing of Campenaerts and Van Emden, who will no doubt be going full gas to give Kruijswijk the best possible reference times. The same can be said for blog favourite Ludvigsson!

Prediction

Bold as ever, but I genuinely don’t think Dumoulin wins. He’s struggled in TTs since losing weight and I think there are riders here better equipped for this type of course, Jungels to name one.

However, I’m not going for him, instead I think Kiryienka will be let off the leash to have a proper go tomorrow.

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It would be a great way for Sky to bounce back after what happened on Stage 9. The Belarusian is a brute of a rider and he’ll eat up any terrain that is in front of him. He is truly exceptional on the longer individual efforts!

Betting

Now the question is whether to play it “safe” and take him EW or just go for win only. Playing it safe means doubling the stake and doubling the potential loss if he just doesn’t bother trying at all. So from that perspective, I think I’ll just take him straight up with what I would put on as an EW bet but just put that stake on outright.

3pts WIN Kiryienka at 8/1 with Coral (would take down 7/1 available elsewhere)

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will there be large time gaps between the GC riders? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tirreno Adriatico 2017 Stage 7 Preview; San Benedetto del Tront -> San Benedetto del Tront (ITT)

Today’s Recap

We got a sprint in the end and it was Gaviria who took the win, edging out Sagan.

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A prelude for next weekend?

Cavendish was no where to be seen. He annoyingly only seems to do well when I’ve not picked him! Oh well, on to tomorrow’s final stage. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

 

The Route

A fairly simple, pan-flat, 10km individual time trial.

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Nothing challenging parcours wise for the riders, unless of course you’re a lightweight climber!

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The course isn’t technical either, just a simple out and back pretty much, with only a few 90-degree turns thrown in.

It’s certainly one for the specialists and strong men of the peloton.

Weather

It should be a fairly sunny day with little chance of rain.

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Forecast for San Benedetto del Tront (Source: WindfinderWindfinder)

As you can see in the image above, it looks as if it is going to be a reasonably windy day on the Adriatic coast, with the wind speed picking up mostly around midday.

This will unfortunately hamper the early starters, because on an out-and-back course, the increased tailwind speed does not negate the increased head-wind speed. It’s the opposite in fact!

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Source: Sheldonbrown.com

So if we do get the forecasted wind tomorrow, that should favour the late starters.

Contenders

We have two world-class time trial riders here at Tirreno.

Tom Dumoulin has started his season in imperious form and a good performance tomorrow could see him finish in the top 3 on GC of another stage race. A great TTer, I’m sure he would have preferred the course to be slightly longer and have a little climb in it somewhere. Nonetheless, as he proved at the Giro last year, he’s still no slouch over a short, flat route!

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His biggest rival will be Rohan Dennis. I’ve been very impressed with the Aussie so far this race and he’s already sitting in a podium position, but I’m sure he’ll be aiming further up than the third he currently occupies. One of the best short TT riders in the World and to be honest, I would strongly argue that he is the best! He was flying as part of BMC’s TTT effort and I expect much of the same from him tomorrow.

Aside from those two, there are a plethora of riders who could duke it out for stage honours or a podium placing on the day at least.

Primoz Roglic almost beat Dumoulin in that Giro TT, missing out by less than a second, in what was a breakthrough performance for him. He seemed to struggle a bit in the TT at the Volta ao Algarve recently, so a transformation in to more of a GC rider may have hindered him in that respect. Nonetheless, he could still pull something out the bag!

Geraint Thomas could put in a shift here. The Sky rider has been in sensational form this Tirreno so far and I’m sure he’ll be ruing the awful TTT, otherwise he could well be close enough to Quintana to take the title. A bit inconsistent in the discipline recently, the shorter distance will suit the former track rider.

Jonathan Castroviejo won the TT in Algarve recently over a similar parcours, apart from that stage being ever so slightly longer. The Spaniard is a very good on flat TTs considering his slight nature and he is certainly a danger here if he’s still going well!

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Ryan Mullen was going exceptionally well in Algarve and if it hadn’t been for an untimely mechanical, he may have been challenging for the win. He’s been rolling around here for the past few stages, poor form or one eye on tomorrow?

Matthias Brandle has been doing a fair bit of work on the front of the bunch for his team-mates this week, but like Mullen, he’s then rolled home on every stage. He was bitterly disappointed with his performance in Andalucia, but the course didn’t really suit him then. This flatter parcours does and he certainly has the abilities to sneak into the top 3.

Can everyone’s favourite Swede, Tobias Ludvigsson step up and deliver a good result? Like others, he’s been doing a lot of good work for his team leaders and looked solid in the TTT. In Strade he looked particularly annoyed (smashed his handlebars) after a mechanical and long wait for the car forced him to abandon, so I think he must be in reasonable form. Finishing 9th in Andalucia with a dropped chain isn’t a bad result, but he’ll need to avoid crashing/bad luck for once if he’s to go well here!

There are several other riders in with a top 5 shout depending on their performance on the day; Durbridge; Kiryienka, Dowsett, Van Emden and Kung to name a few!

Prediction

The best short TTer in the World wins this!

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Dennis is absolutely flying right now, his high GC placing is testament to that, and there is no one here who can match his speed over 10km. I always back him in time trials of this length and probably will continue to do so for a long time. Well, apart from when I picked him in the preview for Stage 2 of Eneco last year but didn’t put any money down.

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I’m not letting that happen again. The beacons are lit, and Rohan will answer!

Betting

Another big day and the price is tight, was hoping for 7/4 at least, but yeah…

Dennis 7pts WIN @5/4 with Bet365 (would take evens)

Mullen 0.5pts EW @150/1 with Bet365 (paying 3 places at 1/4 odds, would take 80s)

Plus the 4-fold @5.69/1. 2pts on.

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Thanks for reading as always! Can anyone stop Dennis or Dumoulin? And will we have a shake up at the top of the GC standings? There won’t be any previews on here for a few days but I’ll be back with MSR, the Women’s Trofeo Binda and Catalunya before the Belgian racing starts up again. 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.

Men’s ITT World Championship Preview – Doha 2016

Men’s ITT World Championship Preview – Doha 2016

The final time trial of the Championships is upon us and it’s time for the Elite men to go up against the clock.

In 2015 we had a relatively surprising winner in the form of Vasil Kiryienka. Surprising in the sense that it wasn’t one of the Big 3 (Dumoulin/Dennis/Martin) but considering Kiryienka came 4th at the final TT in the Vuelta and is known for his big engine, then not so much.

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The rest of the podium was against all predictions too, as Malori and Coppel finished 2nd and 3rd respectively, with Castroviejo coming 4th. The Big 3 only managed 5-7th places, all finishing over a minute down. They’ll be out for revenge here!

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

The Route

The men will cover the same route as the trade teams did for the TTT on Sunday.

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Starting at the Lusail Sports Complex, the riders will be faced with a fairly technical 14km section that they could struggle to find a rhythm in due to the relatively short sections and several obstacles (roundabouts/90-degree corners etc) in their way. However, as we saw in the TTT, a lot of these corners can be taken at speed with the correct line.

They then make their way south along a very exposed, straight highway. It will be possible for the riders to maintain a high speed if the wind is in their favour! Once into the outskirts of the city the road gets a bit more sweeping but nothing major of note. They then complete a truncated lap around the Pearl, missing out the east section that we saw today, before reaching the finish line.

Weather Watch

Once again, the riders will be faced with very hot conditions and a bit of a breeze.

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Forecast for Qatar University – 2nd intermediate time check. (Windfinder)

The wind isn’t overly strong and as we saw today, the speed and direction can change pretty quickly in this part of the world. If we do get a correct forecast, then the riders will have a cross-tailwind for the long section in the middle of the desert. Expect very fast times if that’s the case!

With the riders setting off at 1’30 intervals and there being no wave system, there’s only an hour and 40 minutes between the first and last rider to set off, then changeable conditions won’t be as much of an issue as they should all get similar weather out on course. Therefore there isn’t an obvious advantage for the early or late starts respectively. But as I’ve said above, the desert wind can change very quickly so who knows!

The start times for the riders can be found here.

Contenders

Where else to start than with the Big 3?

Rohan Dennis comes here as the bookies favourite and will be confident after his convincing win at the Eneco Tour. However, that TT was only over 10km, this is TT is four times that length. It is in the longer TTs that Dennis suffers but this one isn’t long by World Championship standards and the Aussie will be hopeful here. I’m just not convinced by his lack of consistency over this distance to be confident in him. Watch him prove me wrong now!

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Tom Dumoulin has continued on from where he left off in his breakthrough 2015 season, managing to wear the leader’s jersey at the Giro and win two stages at the Tour, along with winning a silver medal at the Olympics. Not bad! His form has been a bit patchy as of late but he was 4th on the Queen stage of Eneco which is a good indicator and he looked solid in the TTT too. He’s definitely not a right off like some people may suggest.

Tony Martin was instrumental in Etixx winning the TTT on Sunday and he looks back to his best after changing his position on the bike and reverting back to his old technique. Picking up his first win of the season at the Tour of Britain really helped him, it’s amazig what a bit of confidence can do! This type of flat, power-based parcours is ideal for the Panzerwagen and he’ll be gunning for victory. Second favourite with the bookmakers, he certainly has a very good chance!

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As for the rest?

You can’t rule out Kiryienka on a course like this, although he would prefer it longer. But after his poor 2016 season he’s made no indication of a turnaround in form for here so I can’t see him retaining his crown.

Castroviejo is probably the main challenger to the Big 3. On the back of winning the European Championships, he was left disappointed in the TTT after having to make a bike change early on. Having “Vuelta legs” could help him if he’s managed to sustain that form and he’s certainly one to keep an eye on.

There are a handful of other riders who could challenge for a medal if the others fall by the wayside; Bialoblocki, Phinney, Lampaert, Jungels and Oliveira.

I don’t really rate the chances of Bodnar, Durbridge and Van Emden. Contrary to the bookies who have them priced up as 7/8/9th favourites. Bodnar and Van Emden normally don’t go well over this distance and Durbridge was suffering in the TTT, plus has struggled in long TTs recently.

Prediction

Despite his slightly off the boil form recently, I think Tom Dumoulin will win this. He was going well towards the end of Eneco and looked good in the TTT. He is one of the most fluid riders on a TT bike that I’ve witnessed in my short 10 years of following cycling. He’s like poetry in motion! The distance is also very good for him too; a perfect balance for his speed/endurance abilities. He’s not been loud and brash about his form either, in fact playing it down at times, but he’s quietly confident of going well and I am too!

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I think Dennis will go out too hard and blow up later on in the race and we’ll have Castroviejo sneak onto the podium again, with Martin finishing 2nd.

Betting

I have to admit, the odds swayed this prediction slightly. Even with questionable form, no way should both Dennis and Martin be under 2/1, while Dumoulin is 3-4 times that price in most places.

1.5pt WIN Dumoulin @ 8/1 with Betfair Sportsbook (take the 6/1 with B365, or I’d even go down to the 11/2 available elsewhere)

I’ve also backed this H2H 4-fold with Bet365.

0.5pt on at 6.43/1

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Thanks again for reading! The blog recently hit over 20,000 views which is incredible 🙂 Who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone beat the top 3 and am I being optimistic with Dumoulin? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Eneco Tour Stage 2 Preview: Breda -> Breda

Today’s Recap

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

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

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

Anyway, moving on to tomorrow’s stage!

The Route

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

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

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

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

The Big 3

For a stage like this there are 3 big favourites.

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

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

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

Can Anyone Else Compete?

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

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

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

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

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

Now for those surprises I mentioned earlier…

Edvald Boasson Hagen.

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

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

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

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

Prediction

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

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

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Betting

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

I do like this H2H 4-fold though.

1pt on at 12.93/1.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.