Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 4 Preview; Skydive Dubai › Hatta Dam

Apologies once again for no stage 3 preview but I didn’t have the time to write one.

Today’s Recap

We got some echelon action with around 70km left in the stage but the section of road was too short for any meaningful gaps to be made. Things regrouped and with the break caught, we had a long final 50km as everyone looked at each other.

Once again, we had a fairly chaotic sprint as things ebbed and flowed in the bunch in the closing three kilometres. In the end though, it was Cavendish who took the spoils after a masterful display of positioning saw him move up at just the right time, before he delivered a powerful sprint to win fairly comfortably in the end.

Bouhanni finished a rather surprising second, with stage favourite Kittel third.

A time penalty for Groenewegen sees Viviani as the new GC leader but it is all to play for tomorrow with the famous Hatta Dam finish. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Billed as the GC stage, will the sprinters be able to hold onto the puncheurs?

dubai-tour-2018-stage-4-profile-684e5b87ba

A stage that is once again back-ended with action, we could possibly see some fireworks earlier in the day though…

Screen Shot 2018-02-08 at 11.44.57

We saw one split in the peloton today due to the crosswinds as they headed North-East through the desert and we could well see the same tomorrow. The 30km section from before Al Madam to just after Al Malahia is mainly exposed desert road such as in the image below.

Screen Shot 2018-02-08 at 11.51.17

The forecast isn’t for crazily high wind speeds, but it is set to be similar to what we had today at roughly 20-25km/h. When the pace is on and with there no real protection at all (aside from some “mountains” on their left), it is easier than you would expect for some gaps to open. I’m not banking on echelons, but I have my hopes!

It will be interesting to see if any team does try to cause some issues, bring back the break and go for the bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint point with roughly 70km to go. Looking at you Quick Step.

The road gradually rises after that but it is nothing to worry the sprinters too much. If we haven’t had any splits in the wind, then this stage is all about the final 20kms.

DubaiS4Last20km

Ignore the little double kicker up the Dam wall, I’m not too sure what happened there!

It’s the same approach that we’ve had in the past couple of years and it is possible for some riders to be disengaged on the two climbs we have on the run in.

The average for the first climb is 3.5% for 5kms which is enough to see an upping of the pace and a draining of the sprinters legs. If this was mid-season, then I’d say that all of the sprinters here would get over it but with it being so early in the year, I’m not sure they all will; especially with the final 700m at 9%.

Next is a quick descent and another kicker that should be dealt with easily due to the speed they carry. It is then over to the climb of the Dam Wall itself to decide the day.

HattDam

Just over 30 seconds of pure hurt the Wall lends itself both to good climbers, puncheurs and we’ve even seen sprinters go well here, i.e. Degenkolb’s win in 2015 and Kittel finishing 4 seconds back in 2016.

Positioning going into the climb is key and you really want to be in the first 10 riders at the very least if you want to post a good time/result. So no doubt we’ll see a big battle for control in the closing kilometres before the right-hand turn.

Contenders

Pfffft.

The beauty of this stage is the wide variety of riders who could go well here. Just look at the top 10 the past two times the race finished here.

Screen Shot 2018-02-08 at 16.49.57
2015 (PCS)
Screen Shot 2018-02-08 at 16.50.33
2016 (PCS)

There seems to be no real formula as to who the winner might be. We don’t really have a Lobato style rider here who stands out as an ideal candidate.

Plus, when you throw the potential of crosswinds into the mix tomorrow, then it makes it even more difficult to predict. So I’m just going suggest a non-exhaustive list of riders who might have a chance.

Dylan Teuns.

If he’s in good shape at the moment (a big if as he’s not been tested so far) then the Dam finish is great for the BMC rider. Last season was a breakthrough year for him and he seems to finally be living up to the promise he showed back in 2015. Third place at Fleche highlights his ability to go well on the steep stuff but I’m unsure if he’s explosive enough for this type of effort, but who know. Arguably the stage favourite, he might struggle to get a big enough gap to win the GC.

John Degenkolb.

bettiniphoto_0197366_1_full_670

Winner in 2015, this is the stage he and Trek have been eyeing up all week. Starting his season off in flying form winning two races in Mallorca, he’s struggled a bit this week against stronger competition. Nonetheless, with the sprint stages being shared about, he still has a chance of a good overall position if he wins tomorrow. Is he back to his 2015 level? I don’t know, but we’ll get a good indication tomorrow. He could quite easily be first or twentieth!

Elia Viviani.

Yup, my man for GC gets a mention here. If Degenkolb can win, Nizzolo finish second and Kittel not too far back either, then I see no reason as to why Viviani can’t challenge here tomorrow. He’s arguably been one of the best riders in this early season and has good form at the moment. Given the climb is more of a 30-40 second power test then Viviani might be up there, especially if he repeats the numbers he did in the closing sprint in Cadel’s Race. Another thing that gives Viviani a good chance is his team. The result tomorrow is 30% positioning at the foot of the climb and Quick Step have been great at that so far. They just need to deliver the Italian at the bottom of the slope and let him go full gas.

Sonny Colbrelli.

Similar to Degenkolb in many ways, Colbrelli likes a sprint at the end of a tough day. The climbing during the stage tomorrow won’t be of any difficulty to him and he’ll fancy his chances on the rise to the finish. A winner of Brabantse Pijl and a contender in Amstel, it will be interesting to see how he goes on an 18% ramp, not an 8% one! He’s quite slight for a sprinter and that might be a big advantage tomorrow.

Nacer Bouhanni.

bettiniphoto_0276895_1_originali_670 (1)

The “Wongshot™” of these five he impressed me with his sprint on today’s stage. Now, like Colbrelli and Viviani, Bouhanni is one of the lighter sprinters that we have in the peloton which should help with tomorrow’s “w/Kg – 30 second sprint test” that the riders will face. He’s performed well on hill-top finishes in the Vuelta in the past so he’s not one to discount. My only concern is that his team isn’t the best at positioning and he’s pretty awful in the crosswinds himself. This was clear today when he was gapped in the small split we had and that it is not ideal expending unnecessary energy in the tougher stage we have tomorrow.

Prediction

No idea but I’m going to go with the man in form who’s already shown his strong 30 second sprint potential over the past month, and with a strong team that will position him well in any crosswinds and in the run to the bottom of the climb.

Vai vai Viviani!

1516255157924

 

Betting

Was tempted to leave it after my horror few days and considering Viviani is leading GC, but where is the fun in that?!

1pt EW Viviani @ 18/1 with Bet365. (would take down to 14/1)

 

Thanks for reading as always! I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s stage and I hope we see some crosswind action to make the earlier part of the stage exciting. Who do you think will win? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 2 Preview; Skydive Dubai › Ras al Khaimah

Today’s Recap

Well that was messy!

It looked as if QuickStep had everything under control but they got swamped at roughly 2km to go. They then reasserted their dominance going under the Flamme Rouge and looked to have Viviani in prime position. However, Jumbo delivered Groenewegen at just the right time and caught Viviani napping. The Dutchman held his line well, tactically using the barriers to block the QS rider off. He didn’t have it all his own way though, as Cort Nielsen pushed him all the way to the line and the finish was much closer than I originally thought given the camera’s focus on the Groenewegen/Viviani battle.

In the end, Groenewegen won it with a bike lunge, beating Cort Nielsen into second, with Viviani trailing home in third.

DVWYfgxXcAAdisY

Everyone else was a mile behind all things considered but it will be interesting to se if we have the same top 3 tomorrow.

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

The Route

Flat, again, but what do you expect?

Another day that will all be about the battle in the final 10kms.

Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 12.28.47

The exact same finish as last year, the first big battle will be to the left hand turn at 1.5km to go. It sweeps around enough that the peloton should be stretched out once they exit and head towards the flamme rouge.

There is enough time here for teams further back to come up, but they need to do it fairly fast as at roughly 800m to go there is a roundabout which stretches things out again.

Being in the first 15 riders here is important for a good stage result.

After that, the road bends around to the right, with the shortest line obviously being the inside hogging the barriers. Or you could just do what Kittel did last year and power down the middle!

What Can We Take From Stage 1?

The Good.

  • Groenewegen’s short but sharp train that delivered him to the front at exactly the right moment. Roosen did a great job to weave through the QS bunch, which Groenewegen then followed up with a great bit of tactical sprinting, giving Viviani just enough room on the barriers for it to be safe, but not too much so that he had a chance of coming round.
  • QuickStep as a whole looked great and seemed to be in control of the closing kilometres. They only lost that control at two points; ~2km out and 750m to go. Unfortunately, that gave Jumbo the opportunity to come through and put Viviani in difficulty. If they do the same as today in stage 2, then Viviani has every chance of going better.
  • Cort Nielsen’s solo escapades. After more than half his team was taken down by a crash, the Dane had to fly solo in the closing kilometres and it seemed to serve him well. He took advantage of Jumbo’s jump to the front, but was impeeded when Roosen pulled over. MCN swerved to the side (a bit dramatically I hasten to add) and it might have been that swerve that cost him the stage.

The Bad.

  • Kittel’s chain. It looked as if the German was in a good position but in swerving to avoid MCN, he seemed to jump his chain and that completely ruined his chances. Katusha were a bit over the place in the lead in, but I was impressed with Haller who found Kittel again to deliver him back near the head of the race.
  • Cavendish losing his team-mates wheel. An amateur mistake from the experienced rider who couldn’t hold the back wheel of Renshaw in the run closing kilometre after being outmuscled by what looked like Adam Blythe. Possibly a confidence issue for the Manxman after his Tour crash?

The Ugly.

  • The spill at over 3km to go which made an already nervous peloton even more twitchy.
  • All of the argy-bargy in the bunch in the closing kilometres, but I guess that is what you would expect when the roads are so wide and we have so many world class sprinters here trying to move around.

Prediction

Hmmm.

The first two riders on the podium today were strong, but I get the feeling we only saw Viviani sprinting at 90% as he was hindered by Groenewegen. He appeared as if he was itching to get past the Dutchman but he just couldn’t find the road to do it.

Furthermore, Kittel can’t be discounted as he was in a prime position to strike today but was just unlucky with his mechanical.

Therefore, I actually think it will be a Viviani v Kittel showdown, despite what we saw today.

QS have the better train and after messing up today, Viviani will want to put things right tomorrow, especially when you consider it is his birthday. He’s shown in the Tour Down Under and Cadel’s Race the raw speed that he has; it’s just about him being able to put it into practice.

Yet, of the brief glimpse we saw of Kittel today I just have a hunch he’s going very well at the moment. He was powerful enough to effectively give himself a mechanical after all! That won’t happen happen tomorrow though, and he’ll storm horm for the win, just pipping his old team to the line, with Groenewegen coming home in third.

DHWZwNeXYAAwPe3

Betting

A complete blowout today which is not ideal. Viviani at least took some bonus seconds for the GC hunt and he has looked strong.

Going back in with a H2H double though;

3pts on Kittel ov Cav & Viviani ov Groenewegen @ 1.64/1 with Bet365

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be a similar front three to the opening stage or will some other names appear at the top of the order. As for my stage 3 preview, I’m unsure what it will comprise of. I’m away visiting my sister at Uni, so I won’t have too much time to do anything but I’ll try to get something out. If not, I’ll give some thoughts on Twitter and be back for the Hatta Dam stage! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Skydive Dubai › Palm Jumeirah

Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Skydive Dubai › Palm Jumeirah

GC Overview

The annual battle in the desert between the sprinters returns this week with 5th edition of the Dubai Tour, and boy, do we have a strong field here!

Kittel, Cavendish, Viviani, Groenewegen, Degenkolb/Nizzolo, Kristoff, Bouhanni, Mareczko, Cort Nielsen and Colbrelli all will start the race, and they’ll all hope to get one over their rivals early on in the year.

Since the change in format after the 2014 edition (that had a TT to open), the GC battle has often came down to the sprinters being able to pick up bonus seconds coupled with their ability to follow home the puncheurs on the Hatta Dam. 2015 and 2016 saw Cavendish and Kittle take enough stage wins/secure enough bonus seconds to hold on for the overall title. While last year saw the Hatta Dam stage cancelled due to high winds, which made it more of a walk in the park for Kittel than what might have been.

This year, the riders will have one more stage to contend with which theoretically makes it even more likely that a sprinter will win the GC. However, given that this is the strongest field that we’ve seen here since the races inception, there is a chance that the stage wins will be spread around enough that a puncheur could sneak the overall win.

Nonetheless, I still think we’ll see a sprinter take the crown.

That man will be Viviani.

1516255157924

With some racing already in his legs, he should come to this race sharper than a lot of his rivals and that could play a big part throughout the week. Furthermore, with a win to his name already and a string of solid performances down in Australia, he will be buoyed by confidence. I think being freed from the shackles of Sky really helped him and we saw a big change in his performances towards the end of last season when he knew the move to QuickStep was confirmed. Having a team that believes in you makes a massive difference for a sprinter and it clearly has helped the Italian. Some of the Watts he was putting out in Australia were incredibly impressive and I think he’s transforming back to the Viviani that showed so much promise in his early years at Liquigas. Consequently, that means he can actually climb reasonably well and get to some finishes that you might not expect, i.e. his second in Cadel’s Race, or Hatta Dam. QuickStep’s record in this race is remarkable, having won it for the past three years, and I fancy them to make it four in a row this time around.

Vai Vai Viviani!

Will he secure the win on the opening day though? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders on Stage 1.

The Route

Pretty much a carbon copy of last year’s opening day.

dubai-tour-2018-stage-1-profile-c9009df891

There’s almost no point of me posting any of the stage profiles this week as they’re all flat! The more interesting thing about the stage is the final run.

DU18_T01_plan-1

The riders come out of a tunnel at roughly 6km to go, before making their way towards the end of the Palm. This marks a fairly tight roundabout and once they are through that point, it is a 3km drag race for the sprint teams. The roundabout can be sketchy and last year’s race saw Colbrelli fall here and ruin any chance of victory.

Considering the distance from the roundabout to the finish line, it is possible for teams to move their riders up in that time. However, you certainly want to be in the first third of the peloton.

It is hard for a team to assert complete control at the front of the peloton and we’ll more than likely see surges from different trains in the closing couple of kilometres.

Normally the riders would be concerned with the wind on this stage, but the forecast is fairly benign with a 10km/h left to right cross-wind predicted for the closing sprint. Nothing too drastic, but coming from the downwind side might just present an opportunity for a rider to surprise. Conversely though, a strong lead-out could hug the right hand side of the road, forcing any competitor into the wind.

Contenders

As I’ve mentioned above, we’re treated to a long list of sprinters here so I’ll try to keep this bit short-ish, otherwise we could be here a while!

Marcel Kittel.

sptdw8001_670

Winner of this stage last year, it will be interesting to see how he gels into his new team and lead-out train. Katusha are certainly weaker than QS and with Kittel preferring a late dash to the line, pouncing in the closing kilometre a lot last season, I’m not sure the likes of Haller and Zabel have the speed to do that. We’ll see, but I’ll be watching with interest.

Elia Viviani.

The form rider here and my GC favourite. He was very strong in the Tour Down Under and was rewarded with a great stage win as a result. QuickStep bring a team with them here that is built around the Italian. With the power they have, we should see a dominant blue train in the closing kilometres. Can Viviani continue his good form?

Dylan Groenewegen.

Still only 24, the young Dutchman had another solid season last year where he picked up 8 wins, including the iconic sprint along the Champs-Élysées at the Tour. He started his season with a second place on GC here last year and will be looking to go one better this time. With a team dedicated to him, he should be positioned well going into the sprint, and it will be up to him to deliver.

Mark Cavendish.

You can never rule out Cavendish. I did at the 2016 and he absolutely blitzed that, before dropping out to focus on the Olympics. It is fair to say that 2017 was a bit of a disaster for him though, with only one win all year and a crash in the Tour that ruined his season. He arrives here with a tried and tested lead-out train and I’m sure he’ll want to come out of the blocks firing in 2018; reminding everyone that he is still one of the fastest guys in the peloton.

John Degenkolb.

DUo-E2nU8AEXiWw

Having already started his season in Mallorca, Degenkolb has an advantage over some of his competitors in that sense. Furthermore, with two wins to his name, he already has more wins this year than in all of 2017. Trek also bring Nizzolo with them so it will be interesting to see the dynamic between them, but given that Degenkolb has won on Hatta before, I imagine they’ll go with him here. Can he make it 3 wins from 3 starts in 2018?

Alexander Kristoff.

Having moved from Katusha in the winter, where he spent six years of his career, it will be interesting to see how he gets on in his new UAE Emirates team. There will be pressure on the Norwegian to perform in what is a home race for the squad, but his team doesn’t look the best. A lot of pressure will be on the young shoulders of Ganna and Consonni to position him well, which could be his downfall. I’m sure he’ll be disappointed to see it won’t be a headwind sprint either! I think we might see something from him later in the race, but not on the opening day.

Nacer Bouhanni.

The enigmatic Frenchman arrives here with Cofidis receiving an invite to the race for the first time. When he wants to be he is lightning fast but more often than not he is too busy scrapping for someone’s wheel way down the order, before settling for a top 8 finish. If his attitude has improved and that is a big if, then he could have a really good season. The Cofidis management has had a change of approach and seems to be giving him some tough love an I’m intrigued to see how that works. I would not be surprised to see him first or fifteenth.

Sonny Colbrelli.

2017 was a good year for the Italian and his move up to World Tour level was a success, winning a stage of Paris Nice. I’m not sure his raw pace is up to the standard of some of the guys here and he would probably prefer a tougher day out in the saddle, but you never know.

Jakub Mareczko.

DUjfl3EXUAApEgM

Already with two wins under his belt at the famous Sharjah Tour towards the end of January, he’ll arrive here with confidence. What? You’ve never heard of it? Tut tut. To be fair, all he had to beat was Coquard and some sand so we can’t really take much from it. Nonetheless, I do rate the Wilier rider and he has the speed to compete on very flat days. He’s still a tier or so below the best riders, but given he’s been in the Emirates for a few weeks now, that might be of an advantage to him.

Magnus Cort Nielsen.

Another rider who moved in the winter, he’ll want to impress for new team Astana. On paper, he has the power and climbing ability to “do a Degenkolb” and challenge on the Dam, but a crash in training in December might have halted his build up to the season. Like Colbrelli, he would prefer a few more lumps and bumps, but he can’t be discounted entirely.

Prediction

Pffff, pick a name out of a hat!

Viviani has the form, but I think he might fall short on the first day. Instead, I’ve been drawn towards Cavendish for this opening stage.

jpeg

He’s spent a bit of time in the Emirates recently and was out there towards the end of January as an ambassador for Abu Dhabi Tour. Now, I’m unsure if he has just stayed there since, but he’s definitely been out since the 2nd of February and I think that shows some intent to go well on his part. Furthermore, he is playing down his chances and form in the press, which is normally when he ends up going well!

His big goal for the year is to get closer to Merckx’s Tour de France stage win record, but I imagine he will want to hit the ground running after a quite frankly awful 2017 by his accounts, mostly for confidence reasons. Although I don’t think he lacks that…

He’s a racer and with a tried and tested lead-out, he has a good chance of surprising on the opening day.

Betting

3pts WIN Viviani for GC at 9/2 with Bet365

1pt EW Cavendish for Stage 1 at 9/1 with SkyBet

4pts Viviani to beat Groenewegen for Stage 1 at 1/1 with Bet365

1pt Double on Viviani ov Groenewegen & Degenkolb ov Kristoff at 2.66/1 with Bet365.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? We have a plethora of sprinters to choose from so it should be an exciting week of racing. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Tour Down Under 2018 – Stage 6 Preview; Adelaide -> Adelaide

I’m short on time so this will be a quick preview; faster than Porte up Willunga…

Stage 5 Recap

Well, the King lives on!

DT9xQHpWAAATBKx

Porte stormed away from his rivals up Willunga, but didn’t get enough of a gap to lead GC overall. The Ochre jersey will be worn by Impey (who finished second on Willunga) going into the final stage, as he is ahead of the BMC rider due to count back. Slagter took third behind the two and consequently finds himself on the GC podium as well.

I can’t see Porte and BMC trying anything on the streets of Adelaide to distance Impey, but you never know.

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

The Route

Same old, same old; the classic final circuit around Adelaide.

DUAHRjjXkAALkYx

Nothing really exciting to see here!

We’ll no doubt see a break form at some point but this should be controlled well enough to bring it all back for a sprint.

There is a little hill during the circuit that helps to line things out going into the final few laps.

tdu-18-6-a

Coming through near the front in the final few corners is important as it can be quite hard to make up places from behind here. Saying that, it looks as if there might be a bit of a headwind this year so it could actually be an advantage to come from 6 riders or so back. We’ll have to wait and see!

Contenders

Ewan – Mitchelton will keep an eye on BMC/Porte early on, but they’ll fully turn their attention to the pocket rocket in the closing few laps. He’s been in a good position a few times but has messed it up. I’m wondering if that with his improved climbing that he seems to be showing; if he’s lost some of his power in the flat sprints?

Greipel – It is nice to see the German have his mojo back; he’s looked very powerful in the sprints so far. With the cooler temperatures set to return, I imagine he’ll no doubt give it another good go and it would be a surprise not to see him on or around the podium.

Viviani – Lightning fast on stage 3, the Italian does seem to have some early zip about him. With Sabatini as lead-out, he should be delivered well into the final few hundred metres. However, I think it is best for Viviani to come from behind, so it will be interesting to see how they approach it. He is a danger though!

Bennett – Given Sagan has his stage glory and McCarthy is no longer in the GC picture, I hope Bora give their Irish sprinter a chance. He’s shown on numerous occasions that he has some great top end speed. With Sagan and Selig putting down the power for him, he should get an armchair ride through those final turns. It is all a question whether he has fully recovered from his cold, but going by his intermediate sprints the other day, I think he has.

Bauhaus – I knew after not backing him on Stage 3 he would go and produce a strong result. Like Viviani, he flew from far back, using the slipstream of the other riders very effectively. A powerful rider in his own right, he reminds me of Kittel in some ways. Can he show the same top end speed here?

Consonni – I like the young Italian a lot and he’s much more versatile than just a sprinter; finishing second in the U23 category on the tough World’s course in Richmond a few years ago. After a season in the pro ranks, his top end speed seems to be coming along well. He’s produced consistent results this week; but he can make that final step?

Prediction

The veteran to be the smartest in the headwind; Greipel to power home for a second stage win.

DTp6VE9W0AEXVMR

Consonni to finally break onto the podium as well!

Betting

3pts WIN Greipel @ 4/1 with Bet365

1pt EW Consonni @ 33/1 with Bet365

 

Thanks as always for reading and apologies for the shorter preview! Hope you’ve all enjoyed the opening week of the men’s racing season. I’ll be back with both men and women’s CEGORR previews next weekend. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour Down Under 2018 – Stage 3 Preview; Glenelg -> Victor Harbor

Stage 2 Recap

Well, for the first time and not the last, I was way off with the prediction. I really thought Bora and Katusha would ride hard to try to set up their two GC candidates but instead it was Bahrain who made most of the pushing throughout the day. A combination of a controlled tempo up the final climb and a slight headwind deterring attacks, saw Caleb Ewan take a strong win ahead of team-mate Impey, with McCarthy third.

DTujy6aUQAA3Exf

The Aussie pocket rocket showing how to bounce back well after disappointment on the opening stage. It also means that he’ll be wearing the Ochre jersey going into stage 3, which is another likely to end in a sprint. Let’s have a look at what is in store for them though.

The Route

Shortened due to the extreme heat that is expected, the riders will only face one lap around Victor Harbor to finish.

Santos Tour Down Under 2018 - Stage 3
@LaFlammeRouge

Although there are a few sharp climbs out on route, they are too far out to have any effect on the outcome of the day; this stage is all about that closing 13km loop.

VictorHarbor

Neither of the hills on the course are overly challenging for the peloton. The first one, known as McCracken Hill, is 940m long at 3.8%. While the second climb is ever so slightly longer at 1.07km and averages 4.3%. Again, not too diffuclt for these guys!

It will be interesting to see if anyone tries a late attack over the second hill considering the fast descent that follows. However, the almost 3km of flat at the end should ensure things are brought back together.

The run in itself does have a few technical aspects to it. One of the first points the riders will be racing too will be a roundabout that comes at roughly 1.2km to go. Normally they are funnelled around the left hand side of it which narrows down the road for the peloton and stretches it out.

Screen Shot 2018-01-17 at 14.27.20

Team Sky did this very well last year and it left a lot of people out of position; making the expend extra energy to return to the front.

Screen Shot 2018-01-17 at 14.29.28

Once through the roundabout they have 400m before a crucial right then left-hand turn combination before a sweeping run to the line.

Screen Shot 2018-01-17 at 14.34.27

Last year, the top 5 finishers on the stage were all through the final left-hand turn in the top 15 places which shows how critical good positioning is to do well here.

Furthermore, it is important to note that the shortest run in to the line is on the right hand side of the road, hugging the barriers, and I’m sure we’ll see a big fight between the sprinters for that position.

GC riders will have to be wary as well because the technical but fast finish can lead to some splits in the bunch.

Sprinters – The Usual Suspects

I’ll keep this short and sweet as who wants to read basically my Stage 1 preview again?!

We have 4 riders who seem to be ever so slightly ahead of the rest, given they made up the top 4 in both the PCC and Stage 1.

Ewan – His confidence will be through the roof after his win and having taken victory here last year, he’ll certainly hope to repeat it. He’ll need a good lead-out from his team-mates as they were a bit off the pace on the opening day.

Greipel – Rolled home yesterday knowing the finish was too tough for him, but he did look miffed when the cameras lingered on him. Maybe he did actually think for a while he might make it, but eventually gave up the ghost. The power he has demonstrated in the PCC and Stage 1 can’t be underestimated and this stage should suit him. Missing a pilot fish might be of detriment to the gorilla.

Sagan – Finished fast on stage 1 and was up there again on stage 2 but he just didn’t seem to have the legs to hold off Ewan. He slowed down to let McCarthy take 3rd, so maybe that was the plan after all, but it is hard to tell!

Viviani – A quietly impressive 6th place for the Italian highlights that he certainly has some good form at the start of the season. It looked for a while as if he was going to win on the opener, but he seemed to launch his sprint too early and ran out of steam in the end. If Sabatini can deliver him later, or if he can come off the wheel of someone, he is a danger.

The Outsiders

Bauhaus – He finished very fast on the opening day but was just far too far behind the action when he needed to be near the front. I still think Sunweb are trying to figure out the lead-out but if they get it right he could be dangerous.

Phil-Bauhaus-min

Consonni – I was very impressed with the young Italian towards the end of last season as he picked up strong placings in some fairly high-profile races, while still being a neo-pro. Another who finished very fast on the opening day, he slogged his way to 16th on stage 2 which is a sign of his talent and is another who might sneak a podium.

Bennett – Bora’s second, or first option, depending on how you look at it. He was suffering from a cold before the race, but given his bitter disappointment at dropping his chain on the opening day, I’m going to take a stab in the dark and say he’s over it. As it is unrealistic that McCarthy will be getting any bonus seconds here, it will be up to the Bora management to decide who sprints. Sagan is known to be a good team-mate and I have a feeling he might let the Irishman have a go for it on stage 3. If so, given the way he finished last year then he is a serious threat for the win.

Prediction

There’s something that is drawing me to Viviani for this stage and I’m not entirely sure why. He is fast, that is for sure. QuickStep haven’t got their lead-out bang on during either the PCC or Stage 1. In the PCC they were too far back, while on Stage 1 they dropped Viviani off to early. Maybe they’ll get it just right this time?

Elia-Viviani-Quick-Step-Floors-1

I think they will.

I also have a sneaking suspicion that Bennett will be up there fighting for Bora too.

Betting

2pts WIN Viviani @7/1 with Coral/Lads

1pt EW Bennett @ 25/1 with Coral/Lads

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win? Will we see a new stage winner or will it be a repeat victor? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tour Down Under 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Port Adelaide -> Lyndoch

Tour Down Under 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Port Adelaide -> Lyndoch

The action kicks off today/tonight, depending on where you are watching it from, with the seemingly now common sprint finish into the town of Lyndoch.

Last season saw Caleb Ewan take the win ahead of Van Poppel and Bennett, with the little Aussie also winning the stage in 2016. Can he make it three in a row this time?

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

The Route

A fairly simple day with an early KOM to reward a break rider with a jersey come the end of the stage.

Santos Tour Down Under 2018 - Stage 1
@LaFlammeRouge16

There are a few rises later in the day, but nothing too severe and we should see an almost complete peloton coming into Lyndoch for the second time to compete in a bunch sprint.

The run-in to the line is fairly easy too, with the riders approaching from the south on an almost arrow-straight road. Normally I would post images of roundabouts etc here so you could get a good feel as to what might happen, but there would be no point so I guess I’ll move on!

Oh, the race does finish alongside the Jack Bobridge Track though so who will be raising their arms in ecstasy at the end of the day…

Contenders

Caleb Ewan.

His confidence might be slightly knocked after the People’s Choice Classic but I’m sure it will be more of a driving force for him, rather than something that will be of detriment. Mitchelton got their lead-out slightly wrong on Sunday and will hope to get their timing much better this time round; Impey and Edmondson have a big job to do. Ewan should be ahead of everyone else in terms of form at this time of year and he has to start as the favourite for the stage. Can anyone stop him?

Peter Sagan.

DTftCSrX4AAxvdi

The winner on Sunday, his rivals might be worried for the season ahead already. He is obviously in good shape just now, but it was his race craft that really made the difference in that race; he always seems to follow the right wheel and know when to jump. With Bennett apparently still recovering from illness, Sagan will be Bora’s man for the opener. He’ll have Selig to guide him into position and from there it will be up to him. Time to double up?

Andre Greipel.

It was good to see the Gorilla back in action and looking competitive in the criterium. One of the things that stood out for me on Sunday was that he put his wheels in places where he wouldn’t have when he was low on confidence, nudging Bauhaus out of a gap, he certainly has his fight back. With a solid Lotto Soudal train, he should expect to start his sprint in a good position, leaving it up to him to finish it off. He normally seems to start the season well; winning his first road race the past two years.

Phil Bauhaus.

Phil-Bauhaus-min

With Greipel being the veteran German sprinter at the race, Bauhaus is certainly one of the spearheads of the next wave. A talented rider, he took his first big win last year at the Dauphiné, beating the likes of Demare and Bouhanni. Sunweb have a lot of faith in him and they’re looking for some good results in the sprints this week. Teunissen and Arndt is a small but very potent lead-out train and they’ll look to capitalise on the work of others late on, a la Lampre style circa 2015. Keep an eye out for him this week!

Elia Viviani.

Free from the shackles of Sky and their lack of any major help in the sprints, now at Quickstep the Italian should have more support with Morkov and Sabatini. He was there or thereabouts on Sunday, finishing just off of the podium so I imagine he has some good form; he is another who normally starts the season well. One negative for him is that he does have a habit of losing the wheels at time, but given the simple run in, he should be okay.

There might be some others who get involved but I can’t see them challenging for the win.

Prediction

Opening stage of the TDU so Ewan wins, simple!

e5985bf3912b7192fbcf4bc15c8efe38

He and the team will want to make amends for Sunday and I’m sure they’ll do just that. They have the fire power to deliver him perfectly. Knowing the finish well should mean that he times his effort perfectly, taking yet another Ochre jersey.

Betting

I won’t be backing the Aussie though as he is too short in an open course race for my liking. Instead, I’ll be chasing some EW value and potentially more with the talented young German;

1pt EW Bauhaus @25/1 with Lads and Coral. Would take 16s lowest.

 

Apolgoies for the shorter than normal preview but there isn’t much to talk about route and tactics wise. Don’t fret though, a 1000+ word-er will no doubt be out tomorrow. 😉

Thanks as always for reading though, and as always any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win? Can anyone stop Caleb? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Ride London-Surrey Classic 2017 Preview

After spending a few years at .HC level, the race makes the step up to WT status for 2017. A decision that I’m not so sure about as with two WT races already going on at the weekend; team’s resources will be stretched to the limit and we could see some weaker teams sent here because of it. Furthermore, it takes away the opportunity for the UK Continental teams to shine. Oh well, it is what it is!

Last year saw the race come back for a relatively large bunch sprint which Tom Boonen won.

1902635-40048501-2560-1440

The Aussie duo of Renshaw and Matthews followed the Belgian home to round out the podium.

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

The Route

The organisers have slightly shortened the route for this edition, removing one of the climbs that we normally have during the middle of the race.

prudential-ridelondon-surrey-classic-2017-1500883145

Rolling out from London, the riders will face fairly flat roads with only a few minor lumps before reaching the first KOM of the day; Staple Lane.

StapleLaneKOm

Uncategorised in last years race, it’s not an overly tough climb mainly due to the amount of false flat that it has. However, there are a few steep ramps and some longer sections at +5%. I wouldn’t expect it to do any damage to the peloton though.

Staple Hill does kick off the “serious” section of the race where the riders will be facing climbs every 15km or so.

Next on the agenda is Leith Hill.

LeithHill KOM

A more challenging climb than Staple Hill, we could see some of the stronger climbing teams push the pace on here to try to put the sprinters into difficulty early on.

Once over the top they’ll face a long shallow descent before the first passage of Ranmore Common.

Ranmore KOM

Another short climb, the peloton will no doubt fly up it. The gradient does get steepest near the top, peaking at 16%, which does offer a great opportunity to attack. Even more so because there are a few kilometres of false-flat to continue to apply the pressure on once you’re over the summit. The riders will then complete a loop back through Dorking and complete the Ranmore climb for a second time.

With roughly 50km remaining, the riders will face the last KOM of the day; Box Hill.

BoxHill KOM

For the professional peloton it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, but it depends how aggressive the race has been up to that point. If we’ve had some very fast racing over the previous 60km then the 3.9% average gradient might seem a little harder than it is on paper!

When off the descent, the riders will have just over 40km until the finish in London. A lot of the route is flat in general, but the road does roll quite a lot. One thing British roads are known for is being “heavy” and energy sapping. This could really be of the detriment to any group up the road if they’ve already expended a lot of energy and the peloton is chasing keenly behind. Conversely though, narrow roads make it hard for a team to organise a chase.

The finish in London itself is the same we’ve had the past few years with the sprint along the Mall.

Weather Watch

As with most races in the UK, you never know what type of weather you’ll get on the day of the event.

Looking just now, the forecast for Kingston-upon-Thames has some possible localised thunderstorms mid-afternoon.

Screen Shot 2017-07-29 at 10.29.28
Source: Met Office

That could certainly make the run in for home interesting; especially with a strong tailwind helping those staying away.

However, in Dorking (where most of the climbs are near) there is no rain forecast with fairly clear skies promised for the majority of the day!

All of this can change in an instant though and I wouldn’t be surprised if the forecast is different later on this evening compared to what it is when I’m looking at it now (10:30 am).

How will the race pan out?

The past 4 editions of the race have seen a small group stay away two times, with a reduced bunch sprint deciding the winner on the other occasions.

With the race now stepped up to WT level, we could see a race where teams are more happy to control the day hoping for a sprint and to gain some crucial WT points.

The step up also means that teams are able to bring an extra rider; 7 compared to 6 the past few years. Consequently, the bigger teams have another “disposable” rider to try to control the breakaway up ahead.

Conversely though, quite a few teams bring squads where they have riders who can cover both options.

I think I’m hoping more than anything else that we’ll get an exciting, attacking race, but I fear that it could end up being a relatively dull and controlled day.

Screen Shot 2017-07-29 at 15.18.51

The majority of you seem to think the same way!

Sprinters

Matthews.

DFBwJB9XsAE0mDU

Off the back of a great Tour de France, the Aussie will arrive here looking to keep the momentum going. As one of the best climbing sprinters in the world, he might actually get his team to apply some pressure on the KOMs during the middle of the race. He’s not the fastest on a pure flat sprint like the one we have tomorrow so he needs to take advantage elsewhere. He has a solid lead-out but it’s made up of mostly sprinters so they might be a bit disorganised. His team doesn’t really have anyone that will ride tempo on the front of the peloton all day so I’m intrigued to see if they try to get someone into the break.

Greipel.

Bitterly disappointed with his performance at the Tour, he’ll be here hoping to make amends tomorrow. In this type of field he should be making it over the climbs if they’re not rode aggressively and he should be there at the finish. Is he getting past his prime and starting to decline in prowess? Unfortunately, I think so. He just doesn’t seem as fast as he used to be and that’s shown at the Giro and Tour. I wouldn’t be placing my house on him to win tomorrow!

Bennett.

After picking up a handful of podiums at the Giro but just missing out on that elusive Grand Tour win, he bounced back with two wins in Slovenia. However, he’s not raced since the Irish Road Champs over a month ago so it will be interesting to see where his form is at. A rider I rate highly, he should be able to get over the climbs in fairly good shape and will be one of the fastest guys at the finish. If he’s on form…

Viviani.

According to an interview with Doull, Team Sky are backing Viviani 100% and that the Italian is in good form. Are they that confident in him or is that a bluff? Because to be honest, I wouldn’t be confident in Viviani winning! Sky have a few cards to play if the race does become attacking, such as Kennaugh or Stannard, so maybe they’re trying to play mind games with everyone. To be fair to Viviani, he did win a couple of stages in Austria recently but the field was hardly stacked with sprinting talent; Vanmarcke came home behind him in 2nd and 3rd on those two days.

Kristoff.

gettyimages_635238074_670

Another rider who was poor at the Tour, he did seem to grow into the race as it progressed. However, he was then involved in a crash and that put a halt to things for him. If this was Kristoff of 2014 or 2015 vintage, there would be no point in having anyone else turn up as he would have this race in the bag. Can he roll back the years tomorrow? I’m sure he’ll be doing a rain dance tonight anyway!

Aside from those guys, there are plenty of riders who could get involved in a sprint including;

Drucker – Former winner, would need some of the faster guys to be distanced. In good form at the moment, picking up a win in Wallonie.

Theuns – I’m a big fan of his and without Degenkolb here he’ll now be designated sprinter. With De Kort and Stuyven he has a strong short lead-out. Does he have the legs to compete?

Cort Nielsen – After promising so much towards the end of last year he’s been a bit “meh” so far this season. A good climbing sprinter, he’ll probably want a tough race. If he’s not there, Orica might turn to Impey.

There are others, but I don’t want to list 20% of the start list!

Breakers/Late Attackers?

There are a few names I want to throw into the proverbial hat for this section.

Naesen.

gettyimages_821725176_670

The Belgian Champion was one of the MVPs of the Tour, working selflessly for Bardet every day. Due to how well his team-mate was going, Naesen never got a chance to shine himself but tomorrow could be that day. AG2R arrive with an attacking team, as let’s be honest, Barbier isn’t going to win the sprint. A super strong rider on the short climbs and on the flat, he should be good enough to get into the moves.

Bauer.

A rider who earned a lot of my respect during the Tour, he often found himself last man standing as support for Dan Martin. Climbing better than ever before, he tried to get into the winning break on the penultimate road stage but just missed out. Quick Step don’t bring a proper sprinter as such, although that is doing Trentin a little bit of a disservice, so they’ll be trying to animate the race as much as possible. Bauer could be the man who makes it two in a row for them!

Van Baarle.

Another rider just out of the Tour, he was also climbing well on a few of the mountain stages, helping his team-leader Uran. Much more of a classics rider, tomorrow’s route suits him quite well and he is certainly a guy who can attack in the middle part of the race. Cannondale have an aggressive team and I expect to see Van Baarle on the move at some time. Will Tour legs benefit him?

Prediction

I really hope we see an attacking and exciting race but I think there will be enough motivation behind to bring things back for a sprint.

In that situation, I’ll go for a Bennett win.

vid_0807_edit_2_670

I’ll be waiting (possibly with bated breath) for a Bauer / Naesen / Van Baarle attack though…

Betting

No real value at the top of the order and if you’re to back a sprinter it is definitely an in-play day but I might avoid that completely.

Happy to have a gamble on two of my outsiders though;

0.5pt WIN on them both at B365;

Bauer @ 200/1

Van Baarle @ 100/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

 

 

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

Today’s Recap

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

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

C-WtKBfXkAA3yxE

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

The Route

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

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 17.03.21
@LasterketaBurua

You can view an interactive profile of the stage here.

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

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

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

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

Anyway…

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 17.25.51

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

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

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 17.35.00
View one…
Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 17.36.24
View two…

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

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

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

Weather

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

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 18.41.54
Source: Wunderground

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

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

Contenders

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

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

WATSON_00004198-002-630x419

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

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

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

WATSON_00004084-002-630x420

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction

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

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

Tosh-textielprijsvichte-berichtfoto

Betting

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

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

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scheldeprijs 2017 Preview

The “festival of sprinting” returns again this year and once again we have a whole host of fast men on the start line.

Last year the race saw Marcel Kittel just edge out Mark Cavendish, with Andre Greipel coming home third.

gettyimages_519385346_670

We had horrible conditions last year, with rain pounding the peloton almost all afternoon. Nonetheless, the sprinters weren’t deterred and we ended with the traditional bunch sprint, although only 28 riders finished within 10 seconds of Kittel.

More of the same this year?

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

The Route

The organisers have decided to honour Tom Boonen in his last Belgian race of his career, changing the traditional route, and starting the day in his hometown of Mol. They’ll do a local lap there before heading west towards Antwerp (Schoten).

scheldeprijs-2017-1490956118

Parcours wise the race is pretty much pan-flat, but what else would you expect in a race that’s often dubbed as the unofficial sprinter’s world championship.

scheldeprijs-2017-1490956107

Once we reach Schoten, the riders will complete laps of the same closing circuit that we’ve had for the past few years. This does feature 1.7km of cobbles but compared to what we’ll witness on Sunday in Roubaix, they should be of no real influence in the race unless they cause an untimely puncture.

plan_omloop_Scheldeprijs_2017

Positioning at the end of the race will be important due to the two 90-degree turns at 1.1km and 700m to go. We saw last year Quick Step lead through this part of the course with two riders in front of Kittel and he was dropped off perfectly at around 200-150m to go.

It’s also important to be at the head of the peloton so that you can take the shorter inside line through the sweeping bend at the finish line, rather than have to go around the rider in front.

Weather

The wind didn’t have much of an impact on the race last year but it was the rain which turned the day into one of attrition.

I’m sure the riders will be happy to know that it looks to be a dry edition this year. However, I’m intrigued to see if the wind has a bigger part to play with the changed route. I say this as the riders will be travelling in mainly the same direction (west) for the majority of the day before they reach Schoten.

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 13.11.49
Forecast for Retie (78km done) Source: Windfinder

The constant 20km/h NW wind looks ideal to split the race up on some of the more exposed sections, as it will be a cross or cross-head wind for the peloton. Unfortunately for us the viewers, the riders won’t be traversing anything like De Moeren, and the road isn’t as exposed as I was hoping for! Nonetheless, there are some sections where there is no tree cover and open fields so fingers crossed for some splits. It all comes down to how aggressively the teams ride the course though, they can make it tough enough for echelons or ride at a more conservative pace and keep everything together.

Sprinters

Ultimately though, the race should come down to a sprint, barring something crazy happening, it’s just a case of how big the peloton will be. Most of the sprinters tend to be good in windy conditions so they should make the splits if we do get any echelon action!

Marcel Kittel will start as the big favourite. Last year’s winner and most successful rider in the history of the race, the German looked very good at the back-end of De Panne. His win in the sprint (stage 3A) after coming from far back was truly exceptional, and the performance in the TT wasn’t bad either. He’s the rider to beat! (Unless of course they decide to work for Boonen but that is very, very unlikely.)

Aside from the fantastically haired German, there are a lot of sprinters here looking to take his crown if he falters. Although notable in his absence is Mark Cavendish.

Andre Greipel, on paper at least, looks best of the rest. The Gorilla as he is affectionately known, was just putting in the training miles in Flanders on Sunday…He made his usual daredevil attack but was eventually brought back to heel. Nonetheless he managed to bag a top 20 and arrives here in good form. More importantly for him, he arrives with an almost full strength lead-out train that can challenge the likes of Quick Step.

C6fXavFXEAUYp5b

Smarting after his crash in Flanders, Peter Sagan may well want to have a hit out here before going on to Roubaix this Sunday. If he does, then he is fast enough to challenge after a tough day. Yet, he sometimes goes missing in this type of race, so Bora may turn to Matteo Pelucchi instead. Although, if Sagan sometimes goes missing, Pelucchi never turns up to start off with! A team to avoid backing with any sort of confidence.

One rider who is always confident in his abilities is Nacer Bouhanni. The Frenchman had a disappointing Paris Nice and had to drop out due to illness, but since then he’s looked good. People seem to forget how fast he is at times and is certainly a rider not to give an inch to because he will certainly take a mile!

Edward Theuns has performed consistently well here on his first two appearances, placing 2nd and 4th. He arrives with the full backing of his team and they have a strong lead-out train to support him. On stage 2 of De Panne he looked fast, but appeared to struggle in stage 3A when he looked to be very well positioned. Maybe it was a case of hesitancy? Or he just didn’t have the legs and is tired after his classics campaign? We’ll have to wait and see but I’ll certainly be watching with interest. A top 3 result would not surprise me!

Dwars door Vlaanderen

Dylan Groenwegen arrives after a fairly poor race in Limburg and he’ll be hoping to go much better tomorrow. He started the year off very strongly but is without a win yet this season which might dent his confidence a bit. Nonetheless, he is very talented in a tough race and if the wind blows you would expect him to make the split. In a tired peloton, he is a danger for the win. Like Bouhanni, he is fearless and will go for any gap if you give him half a chance!

Demare has a chance but he’s went off the boil since his barnstorming start to the year.

Bonifazio goes well when you least expect it, and I expect him to go poorly tomorrow. Top 5 result incoming!

Viviani is similar, he has been poor this year but might pop up with a top 5 if he follows the right wheel.

Planckaert, Jans and McLay will be in or around the top 10.

Prediction

I expect there to be a small-ish peloton fighting it out for the win again come tomorrow afternoon. Whether that be through the race breaking up due to the wind out on course, or just becoming disengaged and disinterested in the final lap of the race.

Kittel is the favourite and should win, but keep an eye out for a flying Frenchman too!

Marcel-Kittep-De-Panne-Victory-_c_Tim-De-Waele-1021x580

Betting

No value in Kittel and almost tempted with the odds on Sagan, but…;

Bouhanni 1pt EW @8/1 with Bet365. (Wouldn’t take much lower, but you might get a better price from elsewhere later on, I’m just in a rush to get this published.)

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win? Will the wind play any part in the race? My Pais Vasco stage 3 preview will be out soon as well so keep an eye out for that. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Tirreno Adriatico Stage 6 Preview

Today’s Recap

An incredibly exciting stage, and I only managed to catch the final 40km. We had attacks from GC guys and one-day specialists but the peloton arrived at the finish climb together, well, what remained of it.

Much like Gary Lineker’s quote about football being “a simple game where 22 men-chase a ball for 90 minutes and in the end, the Germans win.”

Cycling is a simple sport where 180 riders cycle for 5 hours and in the end, Sagan wins!

C6uqu7dWgAAjZKU

The World Champion clawed his way back to a group of GC favourites as they sat up and played games. Not exactly the best move by them! It was then academic as we got to the slight uphill sprint finish. Pinot and Roglic rounded out the podium.

What’s in store for the riders tomorrow? Let’s have a look.

The Route

A shorter day in the saddle, which I’m sure will please some tired riders.

T06_Civitanova Marche_alt

We have a lot of undulating roads in the first three quarters of the stage but there is nothing too serious for the bunch to be concerned with.

A long period of flat with around 30km to go could see the end of the breakaway, and we then have one little test before the finish.

Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 17.04.40

1.7km at 4.7% average could be challenging for the sprinters if they’re on a bad day, but you would expect them to hold on. However, the little descent then 500m section at 7.4% could be a great launchpad for an attack before we have a tricky and technical descent.

Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 17.17.48

The pan-flat and almost dead straight finish may spell the end of any would be attackers though if the pack is organised behind.

How will the stage pan out?

Just like Natalie Imbruglia, I’m torn.

So this will be a split preview of sorts.

On paper, this should be a sprint with it being only the second opportunity all race for a bunch gallop to the line. With the sprinters close to peak condition for Milan San Remo, they should manage the final climb as it’s very similar to the Poggio. It does come a lot closer to the finish so the battle back to the front will be a lot more difficult if you slip to the back of the pack.

Yet, after a very tough two days the peloton might want to have an easier day in the saddle. Although saying that, with it being the last road stage of the race I’m sure we’ll see an attacking day. We only have four proper sprinters here that could contend at the finish in my opinion (Sagan, Cavendish, Gaviria, Viviani) so other teams may look to the breakaway as their best option for the day. Will the teams of the sprinters be willing to work on the front all day? That’s the million pound question. In his preview with @Cyclingmole (starts around 18:10 mark) Jay Thomson sounded fairly confident in a sprint, but will that have changed after the past two days?

I think if we get representation from at least two of the sprinters teams; Bora, Dimension Data, QuickStep and Sky, then the break will stay away.

Sprinters

As mentioned earlier, the 4 riders listed are a class above in a field like this and you would expect them to populate the top of the standings.

In a flat sprint you would have to favour Cavendish or Gaviria. The Dimension Data rider has a very strong team with him here, capable of delivering a very strong lead-out. His favourite pilot fish Mark Renshaw is here and they form a formidable duo. If the Manxman has recovered from his illness, he has a very good chance of winning this.

We don’t really know how well Gaviria may have gone on the opening sprint after he was held up in the crash. Like DD, Quickstep have a very good lead-out train here and no doubt they’ll be the two teams fighting for space at the head of the peloton. Having Boonen as a lead-out man isn’t that bad either! Gaviria has beaten Cavendish before and I’m sure he’d love to make a big statement before Milan San Remo.

You can never discount Sagan and the little hill close to the finish puts him more on terms with the other two. He clearly is motoring right now and a third stage win is not as unlikely as it seemed at the start of the race.

I’m still not convinced by Viviani this year. He did well to get up for second on stage 3 but he’s still without a win this year and I can’t see that changing here.

Breakaway Contenders

I’m going to pick two guys that were in the move today, plus another. All three are similar in style but ever so slightly different.

Steve Cummings.

Steve-Cummings-Tirreno-Adriatico_Grahm-Watson

He’s been relatively quiet this season so far, but the Brit presents the best opportunity for Dimension Data in the break. He’s exceptionally strong on the flat and short climbs and he is capable of time trialling his way to the line if he gets a gap. Of course, he’s also a good ploy later on in the race to attack if Cavendish isn’t feeling up for it. Cummings won a similar stage here last year, although the final climb was slightly tougher then.

Niki Terpstra.

BELGIUM CYCLING DWARS DOOR HET HAGELAND 2016

I was pleasantly surprised to see Terpstra finish so far up the standings on stage 2. He is clearly building some nice form ahead of the cobbled classics. A rider in a similar mould to Cummings, although the Dutchman is probably better on the flat, he could find himself attacking the breakaway group near the end of the stage. Managing to hold on for the win.

Tim Wellens.

GettyImages-642900932-630x420

You can’t ignore a rider like Wellens for this stage. He is in scintillating form in this early part of the season, already picking up 3 wins. His third place in Strade highlights how versatile of a rider he is. After being involved in the crash on stage 3, he’s since lost a lot of time on GC but has been resting up at the back of the peloton, apart from a probing attack on today’s stage.  With eyes on this stage maybe?

Prediction

If we get a sprint, I’ll go for Cavendish.

c5wzwxeucaab-wc-1

He has the best train here and will be hungry to prove that he is a danger for MSR!

If we get a break, I’ll go for Wellens.

Betting

Cavendish 1.3pts WIN @ 11/2 with Bet365

Terpstra 0.25pts WIN @

Cummings 0.35pts WIN @ 40/1 with Bet365

Wellens 0.35pts WIN @ 66/1 with Bet365

 

Thanks as always for reading! How do you think the stage will pan out? Could be a finely balanced day, but the teams never seem to be thinking along the same lines as I am. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.