Tour Down Under 2019 Stage 2 Preview: Norwood -> Angaston

Today’s Recap

We got the expected sprint finish into Adelaide and without any cross wind action, it was a pretty benign, but hot, day in the saddle for most. The break of the day formed pretty early on with 4 riders getting up the road; Lea, Zakharov, Bevin and Storer. With the first two fighting for the only KOM of the day, it was the Aussie Lea who got to pull on the jersey come the end of the stage. Zakharov swiftly left the break after that and fell back to the peloton, while there seemed to be a gentleman’s agreement between the remaining three that Bevin and Storer would both take 5 bonus seconds, with Lea grabbing 2. A very tactical move from both Bevin and Storer who might not be hot favourites to take the title, but they have certainly propelled themselves into the reckoning a bit more with those bonuses now.

Everything was back together with 30km to go and given the slight headwind, the pace in the bunch was a bit lower than expected. Consequently, it resulted in a nervous and twitchy last 5km as everyone felt fresh and wanted to be at the front – thankfully no one went down.

The sprint itself was incredibly messy, with riders and lead-outs all over the road. However, one man reigned supreme and that was Viviani. The Italian looked to be out of position with around 500m to go but he snaked his way through a gap that looked impossible to fit through and won by what was a country mile in the end.

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The early hit out from Walscheid saw the Sunweb rider hold on for second, with Mareczko producing an equally threaded sprint to somehow finish in third.

You can watch the helicopter shot of the finish above and pick out something different of note every time!

With another sprint stage looking likely tomorrow, will we see Viviani double up? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Altered ever so slightly due to the searing, hot conditions expected, the day has been shortened to only 122km.

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Although the day is reasonably rolling, they avoid the tough Mengler’s Hill nearby so it should end in a full bunch sprint. The finish was last used in 2014 and that day a reduced group fought out for the win thanks to the passage of Mengler’s Hill. That being said, they approach the finish from a slightly different direction this year and the line is earlier than it was in 2014, I think, as that day it continued further into Angaston whereas this year it comes a little before that.

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As you can see, the run in itself is pretty straight forward with there only being one turn to note, albeit a tricky one, at around 4km to go. The main issue for the riders is that the road slowly drags uphill for those final 4km.

 

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The closing 650m averages a shade over 3%, with some 4.5% kick ups at points. Nothing crazy, but it certainly will entice some puncheurs into thinking they have a chance on a finish like this. Conversely, the majority of the sprinters will be confident enough of making it to the line.

Looking at the current weather forecast, it is set to be a slight cross-head wind for the finish, so once again, the timing of the sprint will be very important. Double that with the uphill rise and we could definitely see some guys get it completely wrong.

Sprinters

Elia Viviani.

It’s only fair to start with the Ochre jersey for tomorrow. After missing out on a chance to sprint at the People’s Choice Classic on Sunday, he more than made up for that on the opening day. Viviani should cope with the uphill finish perfectly well but his positioning might need improving as he might not be so lucky to be able to squeeze himself through some gaps this time if he’s boxed in. Nonetheless, he should start the day as favourite.

Caleb Ewan.

Oh dear, what happened to his Lotto sprint train? It was looking good for Ewan until the turn with around 1.2km to go when he just went backwards. You can see on the video above that he attempts to get up and sprint before sitting back down knowing that any good result is gone, ultimately finishing in a lowly 22nd. He won the tougher stage into Stirling last year so tomorrow does present an opportunity for him to bounce back with a good result.

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Peter Sagan.

The Bora rider never really got going on the opening day, after finding himself boxed in. Once he got a little bit of space it was too late, but his kick didn’t look overly convincing. The uphill drag should suit his capabilities well so he theoretically should be challenging for the win. I’m intrigued to see if Bora try to sprint with McCarthy though, as the bonus seconds could be crucial come the end of the race. Is it difficult enough for that though?

Max Walscheid.

The German risked it by starting his sprint early and it nearly paid off for him, had it not been for the flying Viviani he might just have won the stage. Walscheid is quite a tall and heavy rider for a pro cyclist, so I’ll be watching with interest to see how he copes on the drag to the line. It might just take too much out of him compared to his lighter competitors.

Jakub Mareczko.

A rider with 40 career wins to his name by the age of 24, yet only one of them has come in Europe, he is on the cusp of taking a step up this year with his new-found WT team. However, he is notoriously not great on any type of incline so he could possibly struggle tomorrow. Will CCC decide to go with Bevin?

Danny Van Poppel.

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Simply put, he just didn’t have the legs on the opening day, Van Poppel will hope for a better outcome on stage 2 with a finish that suits him well. Last year he absolutely blew everyone away on the tricky uphill kick in Binche and while tomorrow is nowhere near as difficult as that, the ramp does bring him closer to the pure sprinters.

Jasper Philipsen – Tried to follow Viviani through the gap but was impeded against the barriers. Although young, he seems to be quite a good “climbing sprinter” so I think he might surprise tomorrow.

Phil Bauhaus – Notoriously can’t climb a ladder. He did look quite powerful today but I think he’ll struggle to be up there at the finish.

Daryl Impey – A first chance to take some bonus seconds? Impey will relish this type of finish and like a few others, it brings him closer to the pure sprinters. He’ll be there or thereabouts.

Again, Halvorsen, McLay, Gibbons, Ballerini etc will all be fighting for the top 15 positions, and hoping to go better.

Two outsiders to watch

Patrick Bevin.

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The Kiwi showed he wasn’t here to just see what happens in the GC battle, going into the break for the day and taking some valuable bonus seconds. With Mareczko’s struggle on uphill finishes, it is possible that CCC turn their attention to Bevin who can mix it on this type of terrain. In the Tour of Britain last year he was incredibly consistent on both the tricky finishes but also the bunch kicks. The level of opposition here is a bit better but he seems to be in great shape just now so he will fancy his chances. Even snagging a podium could put him in a good spot for the rest of the week.

Heinrich Haussler.

Like Bevin, Haussler might get the nod to sprint if Bauhaus thinks he might struggle on the rise to the line. The Aussie is apparently flying just now so an uphill sprint he could get in the mix. However, he was involved in that tumble at the People’s Choice Classic and felt a little stiff after it so he might not be back to 100% yet. He is one to watch though if things get spicy.

Prediction

It’s got to be Viviani to double up, hasn’t it?

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I do think we might see a surprise rider get onto the podium though, it is just deciding who that is the issue!

Betting

Playing a couple of outsiders here and going for some EW value…

0.5pt EW Bevin @ 66/1 (With Betway – would take 40s lowest)

0.5pt EW Philipsen @ 50/1 with Bet365 and Betway.

Thanks as always for reading, who do you think will win? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 10 Preview: Salamanca -> Fermoselle. Bermillo de Sayago

Rest-day recap

Return of the King? Is that the title we’re going with?

On stage 9 an okay break, not super strong but not bad, escaped early on and they were kept on a fairly tight leash by Groupama. However, the elastic eventually snapped with around 70km to go and they were given enough room to fight it out for the stage.

It then became tactical in the break before the final climb, with a duo of King and Mas escaping. King dropped Mas and his gap grew north of 1’30 before the start of the summit finish. Mollema tried his best to bridge across, getting the gap down to only 18 seconds at one point but he had spent too much and King was just too strong.

King held on for a rather remarkable second stage win of this Vuelta, which is definitely a surprise to most. Can he go better than Marczynski last year and take a third?

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Mollema trailed home for second with other early morning breakee Teuns just managing to take third ahead of some rampaging GC riders.

With over a third of the race complete, the battle for the overall is still wide open and the top 10 is covered by just 48 seconds. Plenty in with chances over the coming two weeks, it’s just about managing your form and timing that peak perfectly.

Anyway enough about that, let’s see what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

A very odd-looking profile as the stage is pretty much as flat as you can get in Spain but because they descend before climbing again, it looks like there is a chunk out of the profile.

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Nothing much to talk about really aside from the Cat-3 that crests at 28km to go. However, the road continues to rise afterwards for 7.2km but it only averages a shade over 2%, so nothing too serious.

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I think we’ll see a sprint: so what is the run in like?

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Easy, really easy!

A slight meander at around 600m to go with is all they have to deal with pretty much: no roundabouts which is a bit surprising. That being said, there is a kink in the road with only 150m or so to go.

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Nothing serious but it is something to note. Coming around the short side will save you a fraction of the second and that could be all that matters. Also, the final few hundred metres rise at an average of 2% to the line, again, nothing crazy, but it means timing is more important.

If I’m honest, I’m not 100% sure that the above is the exact finish as in typical Vuelta fashion there are two different places in the road book. However, given that LaFlammeRouge and Erecce have the same finish point as above, I’ll go with that.

You can see a video of the run in above.

Sprinters

Do I really need to go through all of them again?

Viviani – Very strong when taking his win on stage 3 and he finished fast on the crosswind struck stage 6. However, both on that day and the uphill day where he *might* have had a chance, he was poorly positioned. Very unlike Quick Step that. They’ll need to sort that for tomorrow.

Sagan – Seems to be finding his form again but I think he is still not at 90%. If he was, then there was no way he was losing on Stage 8: he is getting there though. A master at positioning, expect to see him surf wheels given his short lead-out.

Bouhanni – Great to see him take the win earlier in the race. His team performed really well in that stage and that will give him more confidence in them. On his day Bouhanni can be really fast, it is just judging if it is his day or not!

Van Poppel – I was very impressed with his effort on stage 8, I didn’t expect him to finish third that day. What almost impressed me more though was just how well Lotto Jumbo bossed the closing few kilometres. If they can do that again tomorrow, then Van Poppel has a great chance.

Nizzolo – Another who got close on stage 8, he seems to be a nearly man so often. I would like to see him win a stage at a Grand Tour, it is what he deserves after being consistent over the years. I just can’t see it happening tomorrow though.

Consonni, Trentin, Sarreau and Garcia will be in or around the top 10. I wonder if Max “speed bump” Walscheid makes the finish?

Prediction

A simple finish can often be a chaotic and messy finish as everyone thinks they have a chance. We’ll see a big fight for position as riders surge forward and then back again as they run out of steam so luck will somewhat play a factor. A team will want to time their effort perfectly so that they can drop their sprinter off at just the right moment.

I’ll go with Lotto Jumbo to repeat their lead-out feat from stage 8 and put Van Poppel into an unbeatable position.

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Betting

Normally wouldn’t go EW on short sprint odds but given how close things have been so far between them all, I’ll take the “safety net” of a podium.

2pts EW Van Poppel @ 10/1 with William Hill who are actually paying 1/3 odds for 3 places. Would take the 9s or 8s available elsewhere though.

Thanks as always for reading, who do you think is going to win tomorrow? Apologies for this not being as in-depth as normal but there isn’t really much to talk about! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 8 Preview: Linares -> Almadén

Today’s Recap

An OK break made it up the road but Bora were more than happy to help Groupama FDJ keep tabs on it so they were never really given north of 3 minutes. Things spiced up on the penultimate climb with plenty of riders dropped, but it was the descent off of that climb that was the undoing of Kwiatkowski who went down along with two team-mates. With the pace on up ahead and the tough climb to come, he would never make it back on despite his and a few others best efforts.

In the peloton we saw numerous attacks from solo riders and groups, but it was Gallopin who went at the perfect moment. A small lull as the decision as to who would cahse was made ended up being enough for the Frenchman to get a big enough gap to take the stage win.

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It is a result that is nice to see given how much he has suffered from illness or injury this year.

Behind, Sagan sprinted to second place after keeping himself nicely hidden from the tv motorbikes in the final 10km. Seems he is building some form again as he definitely wouldn’t have made this finish a few weeks ago. Pre-stage favourite Valverde trailed home in third place.

Will tomorrow see a similarly aggressive and attacking finish to the day? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

I’m branding it as Stage 7 Lite.

The riders will face only 2100m of climbing compared to today’s 2500m.

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The ascents themselves are less intense too, with the only categorised rise of the day averaging a lowly 3.5% for almost 9km: that’s not the Vuelta I know! Even the finale is a bit of a rip-off of today’s finish.

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Admittedly, the ramps involved in those closing 6.5km are tougher than the steadier 2% drag to the line we had this afternoon but it still equates to pretty much the same finish: a 6km, just over 2% run to the line.

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The final kilometre averages 3%, but it does feature a few switchbacks on a narrow road so positioning will be vital. Expect a big fight for the penultimate turn off the main highway. Also, ignore the poor surface on the image above, that is taken from a 2008 Street View trip (if that’s the right word) but the road has since been done up with some swanky new asphalt.

How will the stage pan out?

With a big day ahead of them on Sunday, I think most will want to keep their powder dry. Despite the rolling hills at the start, it is fairly easy terrain therein for the peloton to control the breakaway. I think we’ll once again see Bora help with the chase and possibly a few of the other sprint teams so I don’t think the break has a very good chance at all tomorrow if I’m honest. It is the Vuelta though so you can never fully discount it.

The only way that it does have a chance is if we see a surprisingly large group of 8 or 9 go clear and everyone else decides not to work with Bora given that Sagan is looking strong again.

I think that is unlikely though, so an uphill sprint it is!

Can anyone stop Sagan?

I didn’t expect to be writing that a few days ago but given his performance today then I think it is a fair question. The run to the line tomorrow will be no issue for the World Champion if he continues to recover and he has to start as the out-and-out favourite for the day. His kick today was impressive and caught a few by surprise, let alone Valverde, who didn’t even realise he was in the main group.

Viviani – Can he make the finish? I think he will and he is the main threat to Sagan. It was only poor positioning that cost him a second stage win on Wednesday. He is punchy enough to deal with the drag and if he shows the same closing speed as he did the other day, then I think he has the beating of the World Champion.

Bouhanni – Now with a stage win, the Frenchman will be full of confidence. I mentioned in one of my earlier previews that Bouhanni is traditionally one of the better climbing sprints in the peloton, having won tough stages in Catalunya in the past. Tomorrow is different, easier in fact, but I can’t help but cast my mind back to the 2014 Vuelta and Stage 13 when Bouhanni finished 5th amongst GC contenders and puncheurs on a tough uphill finish.

Trentin – Just doesn’t seem to be at 100% at the moment. He’s another the finish looks great for but I don’t think he has the speed to beat Sagan if it is more selective and the same goes if it is less selective.

Nizzolo – Has managed okay on these dragging uphill finishes in the past but I’m not certain he has fully returned to his former level yet, therefore, I don’t think he’ll feature.

Outsiders to watch

Simone Consonni.

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I’ve been impressed by the Italian’s development this year in what is his second season in the pro peloton. He’s a solid sprinter but can also hang quite well on the short climbs. It will be tough for him to win but a top 10 on a tough-ish finish like this would be a good result.

Eduard Prades.

Not as much of an outsider as he would have been had he not come 4th today. The Euskadi Murias rider has had a string of very good results this year, particularly in races with tricky finishes. The rise to the finish certainly helps him but against the quality of opposition here then I think another top 10 would be good.

Mike Teunissen.

Given Max “speed bump” Walscheid won’t be competing come the finish, I would expect Sunweb to give Teunnisen the chance to go for a result as they will have plenty of others to help guide Kelderman. We’ve seen so far this year that Teunissen is competent on the short climbs so tomorrow’s drag to the finish should be okay for him. Is he capable of going better than his fifth place result on the opening day of Paris Nice?

Prediction

This is a tough one. I think it comes down to a sprint, the question is who? Sagan is the obvious choice but I do feel both Bouhanni and Viviani have the abilities to challenge him.

Hmmmmm.

Given his season so far, I’ll go with Viviani to win again.

 

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Betting

2pts WIN Viviani @ 8/1

0.5pt EW Teunissen @ 200/1

3pts H2H Double (Consonni > DVP and Bouhanni > Nizzolo) @ 3.2/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 3 Preview: Mijas -> Alhaurín de la Torre

Today’s Recap

Well I pretty much had today’s stage bang on in yesterday’s preview, if we just ignore the part where I decided to dream about a Benoot victory…The Lotto Soudal rider was with the front group but pulled off and swung left at roughly 2km to go, possibly struggling with the heat and rhythm of the bunch.

De Plus launched a very strong attack with just over 1km left and gained a reasonable gap while there was a bit of marking out behind. Valverde bit the bullet (see what I did?) and hit out to close him down, with only Kwiatkowski being able to stick to his wheel. The Pole came round Valverde at 250m to go, leading into the last corner. It worked out perfectly though for the Movistar man who was able to use Kwiatkowski’s slipstream and launch past him in the final metres to take the win.

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De Plus held on for third with a whole host of GC riders coming trailing in behind.

The result on the day means that Kwiatkowski moves into the leader’s jersey, 14 seconds ahead of Valverde and 25 ahead of Kelderman. With the parcours to come tomorrow, he should hold on to it, but who knows. Let’s have a look at what is in store for them…

The Route

A classic Vuelta “sprint day” where the riders have to traverse two categorised climbs, including the first Cat-1 of the race, and several other unclassified ascents, totalling over 3000m of altitude gain. Javier Guillén is the biggest patter merchant going!

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The Cat-1 climb of Puerto del Madroño averages 4.4% for 23.5km so it isn’t too tough gradient wise, but it is the length and heat combined that will cause some issues. If we don’t see the break form until here, then expect it to be strong again and it might be one that could go all the way.

The terrain continues to roll for pretty much the remainder of the day, taking in the Cat-3 Puerto del Viento (6.4km at 4.3%) and the uncategorised rise just after the feed zone which comes in at 4.1% for 6kms.

A long descent follows before yet more rolling terrain and some rises before the intermediate sprint point with only 25km left in the day.

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As you can see on the profile above, there are a few rises in the closing 7kms, with the most notable of them being a 1.2km drag (3.6%) average that ends with just 2.5km left in the day. From there, it is mainly flat, if not ever so slightly downhill all the way to the line.

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There are 4 roundabouts to traverse in those closing 2.5km, just a typical Vuelta finish really. The last of those comes with roughly 600m left but it is quite open so it shouldn’t be too bad.

Question Number 1: Break or no break?

The stage looks great for a breakaway to establish a good gap before the sprinters teams can start chasing properly once they are over the Cat-1 climb and normally it would be a good stage to get into the move. However, the issue lies with the fact that Kwiatkowski currently leads the overall and Sky might be keen to keep him in that position so they will keep things on a fairly tight rope, hoping to get some assistance later on. Consequently, I don’t think we’ll see the break win tomorrow despite the favourable profile, although I’ll still give it an 20% chance of it happening.

Question Number 2: Big bunch sprint or reduced bunch sprint?

We saw today that several of the sprinters bailed out early on what was an easier stage than tomorrow. It is hard to read into that though as many of them wouldn’t have rated their chances at all and just decided to save their energy.

However, we are in for a similarly hot day tomorrow and more climbing metres (roughly 400m more), then we could see several sprinters dropped early and not make it back. It will be interesting to see who pushes the pace on and given their current form, I think both Valverde and Kwiatkowski might fancy their chances in a reduced bunch gallop. Consequently, we could see Sky and Movistar form an entente cordiale at the start of the stage and drop most of the fast men on the opening climb. As looking at the stage profile, there isn’t really a lot of flat land where a team can make a concerted chance to get back if the pace is on at the head of the race. It’s not really until 40km to go that the major difficulties of the afternoon are out-of-the-way.

The slightly rolling run-in to the line as well could see some surprisingly lose contact after a tough day. If not, their zip might be gone.

It’s a tough one to call, but I think we’ll see a reduced bunch sprint of maybe 70-90 riders.

Contenders

Elia Viviani.

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Arguably the best sprinter this year, Viviani has had a truly incredible season. He recently won the Cyclassics Hamburg in rather dominant fashion but somewhat disappointed today. I would have expected him to stay with the bunch for longer but as mentioned above, he might just have decided to write the day off and focus on tomorrow. If he can manage the climbs and make it to the line, then he has to be the clear favourite.

Matteo Trentin. 

Another who disappointed me today, he finished ahead of the gruppetto but not by much, coming home almost 11 minutes down. Sensational in this race last year, will he get given the same free role now with Mitchelton? Theoretically he should be one of the fastest “climbing sprinters” here, but does he have the form…His win in Glasgow would suggest so but today’s performance doesn’t. Hmmmm.

Michal Kwiatkowski.

He just seems to be able to continue his great form, doesn’t he?! Today he got played by Valverde who let him lead into the final turn and the Pole will be desperately gutted to have missed out on the stage win, again. Being in the red leader’s jersey isn’t a bad consolation but he will want more. Sky have a strong team to put the sprinters into trouble early and if they form an alliance with other squads, we could see the current race leader sprinting for the win from a reduced bunch. He clearly has the form and speed at the moment to go well and the rises before the line will help to bring him closer to the fast men.

Alejandro Valverde.

Can El Bala make it two in a row? Much like Kwiatkowski, Valverde packs a good sprint on the flat too and he’ll no doubt want to chase some bonus seconds so he can move into the race lead. If the race is aggressive and attritional tomorrow then he has a great chance.

Tom Van Asbroeck.

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Slightly left-field pick but he impressed me a lot on the tougher finishes in the Vuelta last year and he seems to be arriving here in good shape. He was the best finishing “fast man” today, coming home only 2’15 down on Kwiatkowski. He should make it over the climbs with the main group tomorrow and if some of the properly fast guys have been dropped then he has a great chance of pulling off what is a shock result.

Nacer Bouhanni.

I still remember fondly the 2014 Vuelta and just how strong Nacer was then, it is a shame to see him a shadow of his former self, or is he? Today he came home alongside Nibali and Benoot: not exactly bad company for a sprinter on a tricky finish. To me that indicates that his climbing legs are starting to come back and I think he will be up for it tomorrow. On his day Bouhanni can climb very well and I keep harking back to his win in Catalunya last year. One to watch.

Ivan Garcia Cortina.

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The Bahrain rider really announced himself with a third place from the breakaway during last year’s Vuelta on what was a difficult day out. Like Bouhanni, he finished alongside his team-mate Nibali today so there is obviously a reasonable amount of form there at the moment. With Bahrain looking a little lacklustre GC wise already, only Ion is left, then they might turn their attention to Garcia tomorrow: he certainly could challenge for the podium in a reduced gallop.

Note I’ve left out Sagan (probably at my peril) because I still don’t think he’s 100% and isn’t fit enough to compete. Also left out Walscheid as he can barely get over a speed bump.

Prediction

Reduced sprint with some of the sprinters missing out.

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Kwiatkowski to get that win!

 

 

Betting

Backing two riders…

1pt EW Kwiatkowski @ 18/1

1pt EW Van Asbroeck @ 40/1

Should cover a few bases. Maybe not a Viviani win though!

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see a sprint, reduced bunch sprint or even a breakaway contesting for stage honours? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

European Road Race Championships Preview – Glasgow 2018

Now into its third year as an event for the elite peloton, this edition will see the riders head to Glasgow for what is a very similar route to the Commonwealth Games in 2014. In 2017 though, it was a race for the sprinters with Alexander Kristoff coming out on top, beating Viviani and Hofland. 

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All three are expected to ride this year but will we see a similar result? Let’s take a look at what is in store for the peloton over the course of the afternoon.

The Route

Facing them are 16 full laps of the 14.8km or so long course, totalling roughly 235km of racing.

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As with the women’s preview, you can view a profile that I made of the circuit here.

Glasgow RR Circuit

It’s quite a surprisingly rolling course with there also being a lot of turns given the nature and layout of Glasgow streets.

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There are several small hills and drags, more notably in the middle of the course. The first one goes past the University buildings, averaging 5% for 500m before a quick descent and a 300m kicker at 8% up Great George Street.

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That’s arguably the toughest climb on the course and will be one of the places where the puncheurs will hope to put some pressure on. There are another couple of few hundred metre drags at roughly 3% or 4% littered throughout the following kilometres but it will be tough to create anything there.

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The last climb of the day is on Montrose Street and averages 4.3% for 450m, albeit the first 170m of the climb is at 6%, but as you can see on the image above, it looks a little steeper than that. We saw in the women’s race it can be a real grind and it is the last place on the course for any puncheur looking to get a gap on the group.

Once over the top there is 1.5km of descent before a flat final 2km run to the line, which is fairly technical; with a quite turn at only 300m to go.

It is a great circuit with lots of places for action but it also leaves things finely in the balance. Reminds me a lot of the Canadian one-day races we get at the end of the season!

Weather Watch

It’s Scotland so yeah…

Who knows what we’re going to get and expect all four seasons in one day – just like it was for the Commonwealth Games. The forecast a few days ago had it nailed on as rain throughout the afternoon but now the chance of rain has slimmed, but we’ll probably still see a little at some point.

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If (when) it does rain, the descents and circuit itself will become a lot more treacherous as there are several tight turns where grip might not be great.

A Lack of Sprinters? 

For a race that could well end in a reduced bunch sprint, there aren’t many sprinters gracing the start list. Although to be fair, we don’t even have a start list to go off of just now so I’m using @CyclingFever‘s list as it should be the most accurate one out there.

Viviani, Sagan, Kristoff and Degenkolb are arguably the “purest” sprinters here, with the likes of Colbrelli, Trentin, Cort and Coquard probably hoping for a more reduced gallop to the line. That being said, it will be difficult to drop the first two on the list with the way they have been riding recently!

Plenty of nations arrive here with several attacking options so it will be interesting to see how they approach the race – as most will no doubt leave the chasing throughout the day to Slovakia, Norway and Italy.

Belgian Bullishness

One team who look set up to ride an aggressive race are the Belgians. In their squad they Stuyven, Van Avermaet, Van Aert and Meurisse to name a few.

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I’m intrigued to see how they approach the day as Stuyven could be kept in reserve in case of a potential sprint but given how well he has been going this season the short sharp climbs should be of no real danger to him. Will the team just constantly be on the attack in the closing 80kms? I really hope so! It looks though as if VA² will be their biggest threats for a late attack, with both in great form at the moment. Van Avermaet was sublime in the Tour but just couldn’t match the pace of the best climbers where he had to eventually settle for 4th. The shorter, punchier ascents should be to his liking. I would be very surprised to not see him on the attack on Sunday – unless of course he has been given the job of marking Sagan. Speaking of which…

How do you stop Sagan?

That is the question everyone in the peloton will be asking before the start of the day. I think only Viviani will be happy coming to the line with him for a bunch sprint whereas almost everyone else would rather he would be distanced somehow. Easier said than done considering just how stupidly strong he was in the Tour. His weakness is his team as he has no one who can support him that deep into the race so he will find himself on his own very quickly. That hasn’t held him back before though and I think we’ll actually see Sagan attacking throughout the afternoon, trying to make the race as selective as possible so he doesn’t have to follow as many moves.

Ultimately though, I think he might be done over by the number of teams not wanting to drag him to the line. A bold claim on a course that suits him perfectly but I don’t think we’ll see Sagan win on Sunday…

A Trio of Contenders

As always, I don’t like to have a massive list of riders who could have a chance of a result on Sunday because I could easily write about 20 or so guys based on different scenarios. So here are three to watch as they will no doubt do something exciting before fading at the end!

Wout van Aert.

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Fresh off of what was a fairly comfortable GC win in Denmark, the Belgian arrives in Glasgow having specifically targeted the event. Like quite a few riders at this race, he will no doubt relish the short punchy hills on the course but he will also like the technical nature given his CX background. There were question marks about him this season when he rode some of the Spring Classics: would the distance be too much? Nope, was the answer, as he finished 9th then 13th in Flanders and Roubaix respectively. He’ll probably be given a free role tomorrow and it would be unwise for team’s to give him much leeway in the closing 20kms.

Matej Mohoric. 

What a season the Slovenian is having! After his “breakthrough” year in 2017 where he won a stage in the Vuelta and a one-day race in Hong Kong, Mohoric has gone from strength to strength and has picked up 4 wins in 2018 already. Just shows what he can do now that he has finished his studies and can focus on cycling 100%. A former Junior and U-23 World Champion, he won’t be scared of the course tomorrow. One of the few guys who will relish the potentially tricky descents, will his risk taking and famous top-tube pedalling style see him to victory?

Magnus Cort.

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The Danes seem to be in a cycling revolution at the moment with several top-tier riders coming through the ranks. Cort has taken three wins so far this season and they have all been done in an impressive manner. His win in Oman was from a reduced sprint after a hilly circuit, before he out sprinted Van Avermaet up a short climb in Yorkshire. Both of those were topped by his performance in the Tour though when he managed to win from the breakaway on a day that featured a Cat-1 climb not too far from the finish. The streets of Glasgow should be no issue for him if he has continued that form! Almost like Sagan in a way, it will be interesting to see how he approaches the race: does he attack or sit in? We saw at the Worlds last year that he was in the peloton in the final 3km but rather than wait for the sprint he risked it all and attacked. A move that was ultimately doomed. He is certainly a danger here though.

Prediction

You know where this is going, don’t you?

Matej Mohoric to continue his sparkling year with an incredible win, timing his attack perfectly and leaving everyone in his wake.

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I think the reduced bunch sprint we saw in the women’s race has somewhat masked the difficulty of this course, after all, we could have had two riders arrive a minute ahead if there wasn’t confidence and communication issues between the Dutch! With team-mates at a minimum for many of the contenders, I can see the final few laps being very difficult to control.

Betting

I plan on being at the race myself so come say hi if you see someone standing around the Montrose Street area looking terribly hungover (I’m going out with friends on Saturday night).

Who do you think will win and in what manner? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 13 Preview: Ferrara -> Nervesa della Battaglia

Today’s Recap

Dull sprint stage they said, well they weren’t wrong but it was the Sky which was particularly dull in the closing 30kms. We saw torrential rain fall on the riders and with a little bit of a wind and on a sketchy descent, the peloton split in two before we even hit the final circuit.

Things were brought mostly back together but there was one big omission as pre-stage favourite Viviani was in the group behind.

Wellens attacked as things regrouped and held on until the final 10km but he was caught on the climb. Some attacks flew but nothing major stuck until Betancur and Mohoric slithered away out the front of the peloton on the descent. Thanks to the Slovenian’s skills, they managed to hold off the charging bunch going under the Flamme Rouge but as it flattened out the Movistar rider refused to take a pull. So taking a leaf out of Sagan’s book, Mohoric just sat up and let the bunch catch them. After the stage he was quoted saying “unlucky for Carlos I’ve already won a stage”. Love it. Although he maybe was a bit over amorous in his attempts to drop Betancur on the descent.

Bennett didn’t know that those two were going to sit up though and he launched an audacious sprint from 350m to go after them, catching all the other sprinters sleeping behind. He opened up a gap quickly and it was enough to see him hold on for a second stage win!

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Van Poppel was best of the rest with Bonifazio rounding out the podium. More of the same tomorrow?

The Route

Yes, parcours wise anyway.

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Except it is easier than it was today, with the only categorised climb of the day cresting at just under 20kms to go.

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An easy ascent, it would be a shock to see any sprinters dropped here but you never know. We don’t have Mareczko or Guardini at this race anymore so it is doubtful!

The finish itself is straight forward too with there being no major turns or obstacles in the closing 4km, just a few roundabouts and sweeping bends to negotiate.

Expect to see a big battle between the sprint trains. If it is anything like the “simple” run in on stage 7 then it will be very messy.

Sprinters

Sam Bennett 

Imperious today, his winning move was one that brimmed with confidence and I wonder would he have pulled it off if he hadn’t won stage 7 already? He’s clearly in stupendous form at the moment and there is a big chance of him going back-to-back tomorrow. There will be more pressure on his team’s shoulders to chase down the break which might leave him a little short in the sprint, so he’ll need to be shrewd with what wheel he chooses to follow. He’s not unbeatable but given his performance today, he will be tough to beat!

Elia Viviani.

He looks a shadow of the rider that dominated in Israel. These past few stages he has been dropped on climbs that he shouldn’t have been and today he was one of the guys caught behind when the peloton split. He should have been there are is regrouped but for some reason he missed out again, ultimately rolling home 9 minutes down in 145th place. What is odd is that he went for the intermediate sprint points behind the breakaway and “won” both of them during the stage. Is he ill and trying to score as many points at the intermediate sprints knowing he won’t compete at the finish, hoping his illness will pass? Something doesn’t seem right with him either way. Tomorrow is the acid test.

Danny Van Poppel.

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The Jumbo rider looked strong in today’s sprint but the group just left it too late. He’s been slowly riding his way into this race and on his day I think he can match Viviani and Bennett for speed. His lead-out is a bit inexperienced but they have a group of strong guys who can string things out in the finale. Will they get the timing right tomorrow?

Sacha Modolo.

His team did a lot of work for him today but he ran out of steam in the end and finished in 13th place. Not ideal. On the previous sprint days he has shown some potential though and with a good placing on the tough stage 11 finish I think he’s just had a bad day today. He’ll be back to prove something tomorrow.

Niccolo Bonifazio.

The most reckless sprinter I have seen in a long time, he just squeezes through gaps that really aren’t there. I somewhat admire him for it, but sometimes he pushes the limits to the extreme. His bike was swinging all over the road today but he still got up for third. Maybe if he went straight he could have a better chance! He was one of the fastest finishers today and I’m intrigued to see what he can do when put into a good position.

The rest will probably be fighting for minor honours again but if Viviani is ill, then we might see a surprise rider make it onto the podium.

Prediction

The man on form makes it three wins, Bennett goes back to back!

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Betting

Chasing some EW value here.

I’ve seen enough from Modolo on the other sprint stages to hope that he can get on the podium tomorrow. Especially if Viviani is unwell.

Modolo 1pt EW at 12/1 with Bet365

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 7 Preview: Pizzo -> Praia a Mare

Today’s Recap

Well that was a great stage!

Attacks kept flying from the gun and it took over an hour for the break to eventually form, which saw a 25+ rider group get up the road. Chaves and Henao, along with a few others close on GC snuck their way into the move which made for a very interesting afternoon. As a result the move was never given too much leeway but they started the climb with over a minute on the peloton. The gap varied on the first 10km of the climb before we saw Chaves explode out of the already reduced break. He quickly built up a lead over the rest of the group who were soon swallowed up by the GC contenders. Probing attacks were made and a group including Pozzovivo, Pinot, Yates and Bennett managed to get a gap on the rest of the field. However, their unwillingness to properly work together saw things regroup. Meanwhile Chaves soldiered on ahead, maintaining a 25 second advantage going into the final 2kms. Yates then took advantage of being on the other side from the road of everyone else and as they all were looking at each other, he took off in pursuit of his team-mate. He closed the gap to Chaves remarkably quick and the two of them completed the final few hundred metres together, with the Brit allowing his Colombian team-mate to take the stage win.

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Pinot won the sprint for third from the remainder of the GC group with none of the big GC favourites losing any more time than the 26 seconds they ceded to Yates and Chaves.

The result leaves Yates in the Maglia Rosa and looking at the Mitchelton squad, they certainly have a strong and well-rounded line-up to defend it for a while. Thankfully for them they should have a fairly easy day tomorrow as the sprinters most likely get their chance into Praia a Mare.

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

The Route

An almost pan-flat day but with an interesting little kicker near the finish to entice some attacks.

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Not much really here to talk about until we get to the 140km mark and even then, it is nothing too remarkable.

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The terrain rolls for over 12km with the major focal point being the 4km climb at 3.6%. It shouldn’t be too tough for the sprinters but it will certainly offer up a chance for some to make a bold attack. The continual up and down until the final 4km gives them an opportunity to make it stick, but given the wide open road then it will be tough for them to get away fully.

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The riders will descend through a tunnel which could be a bit sketchy and we do have an elongated chicane at around the 2km to go mark. However, aside from that the finish is simple and it will be a drag race between lead-out trains.

Nailed on sprint?

Most likely yeah, but given we’re almost into the second week of the race tiredness will start to kick in for some riders and they might not be as keen to chase all day for a sprint. Today’s stage was fast right from the gun and that will certainly have taken a lot out of the sprinters so I would say the break has more of a chance than normal on a stage like this but even then it is still unlikely.

One thing that might favour the break is that the rest of the sprint teams need to try something to get an advantage over Quick Step. Not contributing to the chase would be a good start and they could send a man up the road as the perfect excuse.

If we see maybe 3 of the sprinters team send a guy in the break it could work. No doubt though we’ll see a group of 4 squirrel off and it will be controlled nicely all day.

Can anyone beat Viviani then?

Yeah, but they will need a combination of luck and great legs. They’ll be hoping the Quick Step rider struggled a bit today.

However, it will be very tough and I can’t really see it happening but you never know.

Modolo – Closest to Viviani on Stage 3 the EF rider has quite a good lead-out that can get close to Quick Step. He was with the peloton on Stage 5 before completely blowing up on the final climb but his legs must be good to get there.

Bennett – Hesitated on stage 2 and then went early on stage 3 and faded, probably as he cycled a few more metres than anyone else. Selig withdrew the other day and that will be a big loss for him. Bennett has beaten Viviani before this year, he just needs to remain confident.

Mareczko – Wilier have a lot of faith in the young sprinter as they’ve had almost all of their squad back helping him get through the past few stages. Will they have taken too much out of him?

Bonifazio – 4th in the opening sprint but was caught out by the winds on stage 3. He was good in helping bring Pozzovivo back to the front in stage 5 so I think he has fairly good legs. Sometimes he has good days but often blows cold.

Van Poppel – Jumbo’s short lead out hasn’t worked so far but on a simpler finish like this is should help them. For raw power I think DVP can get close to Viviani, he just needs everything to click.

Prediction

I’d like to see a break stay away to spoil the party but I just can’t see it happening. Viviani to take yet another stage win.

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I do think Van Poppel can get onto the podium tomorrow though.

Betting

Hmmm, could be a no bet day but I’ll go with:

1pt EW on DVP at 14/1

I might have a dabble on some potential break riders on the exchange but nothing stands out for me atm.

I do also fancy a H2H;

Venturini to beat Debuscherre at 6/5. (5pts on)

Debuscherre seems to have lost his sprinting legs quite a while ago and I think the AG2R rider is faster than him. On a finish that should be about pure speed and power, I favour the Frenchman.

Thanks as always for reading, who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone stop Viviani? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Abu Dhabi Tour 2018 Stage 3 Preview; Nation Towers > Big Flag

Today’s Recap

We did get some crosswind action out on the road today albeit fairly brief. Things regrouped with only 30 riders or so missing the cut.

Teams jostled for position and it was a fairly chaotic sprint once again although it was certainly more “traditional” than what we had on the opening day. QuickStep put on a masterclass in bringing their man to the front and Viviani duly delivered with the win after romping home by what seemed a country mile.

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The Italian has continued his sparkling start to the season and seems to be at the top of his game at the moment.

Van Poppel managed to come home second, after rounding an impressive Ackermann in the closing metres.

Will we see similar QuickStep domination tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Pan flat, once again!

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The stage is pretty much a sightseeing tour around the main attractions that Abu Dhabi has to offer. At only 133km in length it is also the shortest of the open road stages we have this week.

The finish is fairly straightforward aside from a few sweeping turns.

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Once again having a good lead-out will help a lot but it is not the end of the world if a sprinter can follow the right wheels and get lucky.

Like today, there is a small chance of echelons when the riders make their way along the top part of the loop, along the exposed causeway. It is forecast for ~20km/h winds coming from the north so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens!

Prediction

I’m not even going to bore you with going through the sprinters again today as it is much the same as over the past few stages and if I’m honest, I can’t be arsed. Gives me more time to write Omloop instead!

Anyway, I think it was clear today who the fastest rider here is and with the best lead-out he should make it back to back wins, Viviani to finish first again.

Betting

No bet, again.

Thanks as always for reading and apologies for this truncated preview but I’d much rather focus on a more exciting race than this!  Tomorrow’s TT write-up should be longer although I think a one-word post of “Dennis” might suffice. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Abu Dhabi Tour 2018 Stage 2 Preview; Yas Mal › Yas Beach

Today’s Recap

My echelon dance last night didn’t work and we had a fairly benign day out for the riders, albeit with a fairly strong headwind on the way “home”. The sprint teams were amassed at the front of the peloton and we had a fairly chaotic run-in with sprinters disengaged from their trains as everyone jostled for position.

Some went too early, some went too late, but in the end it was the King of Headwind Sprints a.k.a Alexander Kristoff who took the win.

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A very fast finishing Guardini was somewhat of a surprise in second place, while Ewan managed to hold on for third after opening up his sprint early. The top 10 is a smorgasbord of random riders with a few weird names up there and some notable exclusions.

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

The Route

Much the same as today with a pan-flat parcours for the riders but I’m sure they’ll be happy to know that they’ll have 35km less to ride.

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We do travel along the coast but there will be no chance of echelons unfortunately, much to my disappointment. Not much to shout about then until we get the run in to the finish.

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A long, wide-open road will once again see the sprint teams battle for position as they approach the Flamme Rouge. No StreetView here either so a satellite image will have to suffice for the second day in a row.

The only major pinch point is when they turn off the big highway at 750m to go and the road narrows down to one lane.

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This should in theory stretch things out and it is conceivably long enough for a team to control the closing kilometre. However, with the short sprint trains that we have at this race it will be tough if someone takes it up from far out.

What Can We Take From Today?

A bit, but not a lot!

It was a very chaotic sprint so the lack of structure might have made some results better than others, while also having the opposite impact too. For example, our stage winner Kristoff actually lost the wheel of his lead-out man (Ferrari) in the closing kilometre but latched onto the back of Ewan and effectively used the Mitchelton rider as his last man. An experienced decision that helped him win the stage.

QuickStep looked the most organised for Viviani but they went to the opposite side of the road to everyone which ended up being the Italian’s downfall. The lead-out ran out of steam and when Viviani launched he had no one to draft. In fact, he moved all the way back to the side where the sprinters were but he’d used up too much energy by then and could only settle for fourth. He still looks fast though.

Ewan had a great lead-out but launched too early and just faded in the final 50m. Possibly a bit of inexperience on his behalf. He does seem to be going well though and will fancy his chances in a non-headwind sprint tomorrow.

Guardini finished fast but was it a flash in the pan performance? Who knows! He’ll neeed a similar level of luck/cunning to go well tomorrow but we’ll see.

I have no idea what is wrong with Kittel at the moment. His lead-out was better today, albeit not great, but he just went backwards when he started sprinting. He can’t even argue that he was blocked off or anything as 2016 Kittel would have barged his way through the large gap that was there. He’s possibly ill or it might be his mental attitude that is letting him down but he doesn’t seem at 100% to me.

Jumbo blitzed the front today at around 3km out but they ran out of steam and Van Poppel was way-down in the end. If they time their coming to the head of the peloton better, then they certainly seem to have the firepower to dominate proceedings, they just need to have the patience.

As for the rest of the sprinters, I have no idea as to what happened to them as things were too chaotic or they were just simply too far down.

Prediction

Given what we witnessed today it looks like a Ewan/Kristoff/Viviani showdown.

I think Mitchelton Scott will get the timing much better this time and the young Aussie will get the win.

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Although there is a good chance we get another chaotic sprint and a potential surprise winner.

Betting

No bet.

Thanks for reading as always! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see a similar result or will it be completely flipped around? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Abu Dhabi Tour 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Madinat Zayed -> ADNOC School

GC Overview

The last of the races in the middle-east and the only one that holds World Tour status, the Abu Dhabi Tour features five stages this year. We should have three sprints, one time trial and a mountain top finish with the latter two more than likely deciding the GC.

In 2017 it was Rui Costa who took the win which topped off his cracking start to the year.

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He’s here to defend his crown this year but with the added effort against the clock it will be difficult for him to do so.

Given the TT, anyone who hopes to go well in the GC can’t afford to lose anymore than 30 seconds here and even then, it might be a struggle to gain them back on Jebel Hafeet. So with that said we have a few stand-out candidates.

Tom Dumoulin races for the first time this season but that doesn’t really mean anything as he finished here in 2017 on his first outing. The TT/Mountain top finish combination suits him perfectly and he’ll hope to be close to winning both days. He might not actually get a stage win but it could be enough to secure the GC. Sunweb also have the benefit of having Kelderman here too and it will be interesting to see how the Dutch pair combine.

Rohan Dennis is hoping to develop into a GC rider with this season being a crucial point in that transformation. The best TT rider in the World over a course of this length he’ll hope to end the day with almost a minute of some of the climbers and maybe 15 seconds or so over Dumouln. Holding on to that lead of Jebel Hafeet will be tough but it will be a good acid test for him and his GC abilities.

Jonathan Castroviejo will get his first chance at leadership for Sky here. The British outfit have been flying in TTs as of late, winning both the Algarve and Andalucia efforts against the clock. Castroviejo is an exceptional TT rider but also a competent climber too. Jebel Hafeet will be on his limit but he’ll certainly be hoping to make the top 5 on GC and possibly go a bit better.

Alejandro Valverde isn’t great against the clock, but he’s not bad either. After a return to racing after his crash in the TDF last year, the Movistar man has once again looked imperious in the races he’s competed in so far. He’ll hope to limit his losses in the TT, to maybe 30 seconds at most then it is all up to a big effort on the final day. He’s certainly put a strong dig on Jebel Hafeet during training as he now holds the Strava record for te climb!

Others will be there or thereabouts but I’m not going to bore you with names, Tom Dumoulin to win the GC!

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Right, now let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders on the opening day.

The Route

A boring sprint stage with an almost out and back route through the desert; no need for a profile as it is pan flat.

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It’s pretty much the same stage that was used last year. Expect a lot of images of camels and rocks!

The finale is fairly straightforward with there being only two key pinch points/turns. Apparently Google Streetview isn’t a thing in this part of the Emirates yet so a satellite image of the final 3km will have to suffice.

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One right-hand turn at roughly 2.5km to go is followed by a roundabout at ~1.3km. I’m not sure what way they’ll take the roundabout, whether they go on the inside line (likely) or if it will be taken as a sweeping turn as above. Either way, the teams will have one kilometre dead ahead of them with a final jockey for position before they release their sprinters.

We’ve seen so far this season how simple run ins like this cause a lot of chaos because everyone is fairly evenly matched and they’re all vying for the same road space. We have a stacked sprint field here so I expect this to be equally manic!

Wind Watch

Given that the riders will be travelling into the wide open desert the possibility of echelons increases (much to my excitement). I’ve had my eye on the forecast for the past few days and it has changed a bit. Originally it was supposed to be a crosswind across the main stretch of straight road except that has changed to more of a headwind now.

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You can see on the screen capture above Madinat Zayed at the top of the map with the “turning point” of the stage down at the bottom. The wind is probably not coming from the East enough to cause any crosswinds but there is the point around halfway up the image that the road itself heads more West. Could this be enough to see some echelon action? I would love it, but I’m not holding out hope!

I’ll certainly be doing by crosswind dance before I go to bed tonight though.

If we do get echelons, then expect the majority of sprinters to be present at the front of the race anyway as a lot of them are masters at riding in bad conditions. In that situation it would depend on how many team-mates are there to hold it together for a sprint but it is still likely we’ll see some type of gallop to the line.

Sprinters

It seems as if the whole sprinting peloton is here; so much so, that I’m fairly certain that I could write another 1000 words. I’m not going to bore you with that so I’ll try write a few sentences at most for each rider!

Kittel.

Disappointed with his poor performances in Dubai, he’ll be here to remind everyone that he is the fastest rider in the peloton. A straight forward finish should be good for him but he’ll need to be positioned better.

Cavendish.

Already matching his tally of wins from last season, the Manxman will hope to continue that winning streak here. A tenacious rider, he always seems to rise to the occasion and knowing that the majority of the top sprinters are here he’ll desperately want to get one over them.

Greipel.

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Started the season with a bang in Australia, taking two stage wins. The German seems to be as powerful as ever but his lead-out train lacks a fast last man. Will need to latch onto another train which might cause issues. Headwind sprint helps him a lot though.

Kristoff.

The second rider that I proclaim is the best in the peloton (along with Greipel) in a headwind sprint, he is a master of tricky conditions. After firing a few blanks in his first races, he opened his account in Oman. Can he continue that here?

Ewan.

Was good in Australia but didn’t seem his scintillating best in the sprints. However, he was very strong in Almeria with a comfortable win over Van Poppel. Having a strong, strong lead-out here for him will help massively.

Viviani.

Arguably the in-form sprinter of the season so far, he has been truly exceptional. Arriving with a slightly different train, he has his reliable pilot fish Sabatini and that will be pivotal. Will the winning run continue?

Van Poppel.

Looked good in Valenciana but he’ll have been humbled a bit by Ewan in Almeria. Nonetheless, he’s a strong guy and will be hoping to bounce back. Jumbo nailed the lead-outs for Groenewegen so far this season, will DVP get the same quality?

Bauhaus.

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I’m a fan of the ‘Haus and it will be good to watch his progression again this year. He had a few strong placings in Australia but just missed out on the win. Tipped as the “new Kittel” he’ll be able to rely on the massive engines of Dumoulin and Arndt for a lead-out. He could surprise but would it really be a surprise though?

McLay.

Gets his chance to sprint for EF Education here. No lead-out for him so he’ll have to freestyle but that might work to his advantage. He is capable of pulling a very good result out of the bag but a top 10 will be solid for him nonetheless.

Minali.

Another “M” sprinter who will probably have to fly solo, he looked fast in a few of the finishes in Dubai but he seems very inconsistent. Will require some luck for him to go well.

Guardini. 

My #PFCL4 rider is in high company here and a top 10 result would be nice in a few of the stages. Back in 2015 he was notorious for strong showings in the desert sprints but he has since lost his way. Has he found Bernard’s Watch and rolled back the clock?

There are even more guys to consider such as Ackermann, Bonifazio, Barbier and Halvorsen to name a few but I think that the list is exhaustive enough!

Prediction

After a bit of a wind-battered day in the peloton, the riders will be more fatigued than expected. I have to go with one of two riders that I proclaim are the best in the world in a headwind sprint, no doubt picking the wrong one…

Alexander Kristoff to take the win!

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Having start off the season promisingly but without the result to show for it, it was good to see him get the proverbial monkey off his back in Oman. He looks in great shape, a 4th place on Hatta Dam is testament to that and I think a few people will underestimate him here.

Betting

1pt EW Kristoff at 12/1 with Bet365 (would take 10/1)

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win the opener tomorrow? Will we see some splits in the bunch, or will it be a long day in the saddle? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.