Volta Catalunya 2017 Stage 7 Preview; Barcelona -> Barcelona

*Apologies in advance, this preview has taken the brunt of me trying to do 3 in a day so it’s fairly short and sweet!*

Today’s Recap

Can I claim that it was kind of a breakaway day? Even I think I would be pushing my luck with that one!

We had a really exciting day of which the exciting part was not televised. The peloton splintered after around 40km of racing with a group of 50 riders ahead, but second placed Froome in the group behind. The gap hovered at around a minute for a long time but the elastic eventually snapped and the Froome group rolled in 26 minutes down!

It was Daryl Impey who won the stage in a reduced bunch sprint, ahead of Valverde and Vichot.

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Will this have an impact on tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

We finish the race with the traditional circuit around Barcelona.

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@LasterketaBurua

This stage is all about the circuit, the opening Cat 2 climb is inconsequential!

The Alt de Montjuic on its own isn’t too difficult, but when it’s repeated 8 times over 50km then it certainly takes its toll.

I’ve made a Strava profile of the final circuit that you can view here.

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Like always with Strava profiles, you can smooth out the sudden peaks, but you get a good idea from it anyway!

The riders will mainly be either climbing or descending for the majority of the circuit so it’s a route that really favours the puncheurs. The second little kick on the course averages roughly 5.9% for 700m. So a split can be made here before the down-hill run to the line.

Last year’s race was very attacking, but that was due to the time gaps between the favourites being minimal. This year we have larger gaps but that still doesn’t mean it won’t be an attacking race!

Saying that though, Valverde is the best one-day racer out of the GC riders and he’s in the lead so it will be very hard for any one to beat him.

Contenders

I think we’ll see something similar to last year where some strong one-day racers take the stage, while the GC riders mark each other behind. So I’ll through two names into the hat for that situation.

*Thankfully I didn’t start this section before today’s coverage as there were a few riders I wanted to include who were too close on GC, but now they’re not!*

Jarlinson Pantano.

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The Colombian has been a great domestique for Contador this race but was caught up behind the split today. He’s now way out of contention and with his team-leader more than likely settling for 2nd on GC (after today’s failed probing attack), Pantano may be given the nod to chase the stage. Currently in exceptional form, he has a good chance of going better than the third place last year!

Geraint Thomas.

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After their truly disastrous stage today, Sky will approach tomorrow in a typically bullish way. They’re a bit short in numbers but Thomas  is a great candidate for the stage. He is clearly in great form just now, although admitted he felt poor on the stage to Lo Port. If he has recovered from that blip, then the final circuit should be suited to his abilities. With a gap, he could be tough to bring back!

A few other outsiders I think could go well are Davide Villella and Ondrej Cink, but it will be tough to beat the other two!

Prediction

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you will know I love a tenuous reason to help my selections…

Pantano to win in front of his mum who’s following the race, and go better than he did last year!

Betting

(All B365)

0.6pt WIN Pantano @ 20/1

0.6pt WIN Thomas @ 15/1

0.15pt WIN Villella @ 66/1

0.15pt WIN Cink @ 150/1

 

Thanks for reading and apologies again for this being shorter than normal. As much as I enjoy writing about the sport; trying to combine writing 3 normal length previews on a Saturday and have some time to socialise is too much!

I might have something out for De Panne or Limburg, but if not it will be Flanders that I’ll be back for next weekend! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Volta Catalunya Stage 6 Preview; Tortosa -> Reus

Today’s Recap

I should never have doubted him for a minute!

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Valverde won the stage easily, ahead of Froome and Contador. With the stage win and his 21 second gap back to the Brit, the GC battle is well and truly over for the week. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Another rolling day in the saddle. What else can do the riders expect in this region though?!

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@LasterketaBurua

After a few kilometres of flat right from the gun, the riders will then face the long and gradual Cat3 ascent of the Alt de Bot. This certainly looks a good place for a breakaway to be let go, but considering that everyone knows that it typically won’t be! Instead, it might be the rolling terrain afterwards and around the 4okm at Gandesa where the correct group of riders are finally let go.

More, you guessed it, rolling terrain follows. Before we have three categorised climbs in quick succession. None is tough enough to cause splits in the peloton, but they could do some damage to the break. Especially if there are some riders up the road who don’t want to have a sprint at the end of the day.

We have a descent almost all the way to the line once they have traversed the plateau after of the final climb, although admittedly, some of the descending is more false flat than downhill.

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The road does rise up in the final few kilometres but it averages over just 1% for the last 2km so nothing too serious. We do have a roundabout at 500m to go which could be used as a ploy for a late attack from the break.

How will the stage pan out?

I think you’ve guessed it by now…

Nestle Breakaway Milk Chocolate Biscuit 8 Pack 152G

Contenders

Names in a hat? As long as they are no threat on GC Movistar will be happy to let them go. That pretty much means anyone outside the top 20 so we have a lot of riders to choose from! Once again, I’ll suggest a few names that might give it a go.

Xandro Meurisse. 

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The Wanty rider seems to be plodding along quite nicely in this race and is climbing as well as I have seen for a while. Traditionally more of a puncheur, he only finished 15 seconds behind Van Garderen on today’s summit finish. If he gets in the break and can cope with any attacks on the final climb, he has a good chance of winning a sprint!

Peter Kennaugh.

I highlighted him on stage 1 and he did the preview justice on a day I was completely wrong, by giving it a little nudge off the front. He lost 5 minutes today, but considering he was one of the last Sky riders in the front group on Stage 3 I doubt that those losses will be due to bad form. Saving himself for tomorrow?

Gianluca Brambilla.

The Italian was suffering from illness not that long ago, but he’s still racing here which makes me think that he’s now over his bug. He made the break on stage 3 but dropped back to the peloton, but I think that was because teams were still unsure if he was a threat on GC. Or, maybe he is still ill! Nonetheless, he is way out of contention now and the final climb and finish suit him perfectly if he’s back to full fitness. That’s a big if, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take!

Lachlan Morton.

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Morton has had a quiet time of it so far this race, but he has been industrious at the front of the peloton when needed. Namely, doing work for Sbaragli on stages 1 and 4. The Aussie is a very solid climber, finishing 7th on the Green Mountain earlier this year in Oman. With no GC hopes, Dimension Data will be chasing stages and Morton may well be that man!

Prediction

He looked good on Stage 3 and should survive the climb if he’s in the break. If he’s not and we for some reason get a reduced peloton fighting out the stage win, he could well attack once again in the closing kilometres.

Peter “what’s the women’s Giro” Kennaugh to win!

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Betting

Another day I don’t want to get overly involved with but I am most confident in Kennaugh so he gets the majority of the backing!

All B365.

0.7pt WIN Kennaugh @ 25/1

0.3pt WIN Brambilla @ 18/1 

0.25pt WIN Morton @ 250/1

0.25pt WIN Meurisse @ 80/1

 

Thanks for reading as always! Who do you think will win? Tomorrow will be a big day of previews with my final stage preview for this race, but also previews for the men’s and women’s Gent-Wevelgem. I hope you’ll be able to read them all! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Volta Catalunya 2017 Stage 5 Preview; Valls -> Lo Port (Tortosa)

Today’s Recap

The opening 50km was chalked off due to bad weather so we had a shortened stage. There were some probing attacks on the final climb but it did end up coming down to a sprint. Nacer Bouhanni managed to haul himself over the rise and duly won the stage with ease!

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Stage one winner Cimolai finished second this time, with Impey rounding out the podium. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Flat -> hill -> smaller hill -> BIG hill.

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Source: @LasterketaBurua

A relatively easy day out in the saddle apart from the final 20km. Even the Cat-2 climb is simple in comparison to some of the other climbs we get in this region. The only reason it’s probably categorised so highly is due to its length, with an average gradient of 2.8% it is certainly not steep!

Tomorrow is all about the final climb.

If you take into account the build up to the official start of the ascent it is actually 13.3km long at 7%. However, the official profile would lead you to believe that the climb is only 8.4km at 8.8% average.

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A very tough end to the day and we could and more than likely will see some large gaps between some of the GC riders. Although we could see a case of riders marking each other out of it, but I fully expect some of the teams to attack it hard from the bottom (Sky, Movistar & Trek) leaving a select group of favourites near the front. From there, not only who’s the strongest on the day, but team tactics will also be important.

Will they be fighting for the win though?

How will the stage pan out?

Normally this would be a GC day 100% of the time but last year we saw a break make it all the way to the line. Could that happen again?

Probably not.

There will be enough interest behind to chase for bonus seconds that any break will be nullified. Or at least you would imagine so!

I’m intrigued to see if having team-mates will be of any benefit to the riders here. The finishing climb is a lot like Terminillo (that we saw in Tirreno recently) so it could be a case of strongest on the day wins. However, if a team has a few good climbers they can always send one up the road and sit back to mark attacks from behind, a la Contador and Mollema in Abu Dhabi. Equally, we could easily just see a big battle between the favourites, which is what I think is most likely to happen.

Contenders

If we do get a massive GC blowout, there are only 4 riders who can win this stage in my opinion.

Alberto Contador.

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El Pistolero was incredibly unlucky in Paris Nice, giving it his all but falling short once again. On the final stage he looked very strong but that was on climbs where the average gradient was around 6%, not the 8% we’ll see here. Contador does sometimes struggle on the steeper stuff, but if he’s still going as he did in PN, it will be hard to beat him!

Alejandro Valverde.

Returning from his illness that caused him to miss PN, he returned with a bang to win stage 3 on Wednesday. That day suited him ideally but tomorrow might be a little long for him. Yet, I keep thinking of his ridiculous long rang attack up Penas Blanacas in Ruta del Sol last year, and that something similar might be on the cards here. He’ll be hoping to emulate what Quintana did on Terminillo and take the GC lead, if not, get very close to it before the next few stages.

Speaking of the Terminillo…

Geraint Thomas.

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The Welshman was able to match Quintana almost blow for blow up the final climb, but the Colombian was just too good for him in the end. That result will have given Thomas the confidence that he can climb with the best in the world. As I said in my Tirreno GC preview, I think he’ll podium or get very close to in the Giro, so another big result here will set him in good stead. Froome may feature but he still doesn’t seem up to speed.

Adam Yates.

He was a very credible third on the Terminillo stage behind Quintana and Thomas. Even more credible when you think he DNF’d the next day after withdrawing due to illness. On the climb to La Molina he looked comfortable and should go well tomorrow on the steep stuff he seems to love. I wouldn’t discount him!

Prediction

I think we’ll see the four I’ve listed get a gap but there will be the usual unwillingness to work, particularly between Contador and Valverde. This will leave it open for the two Brits to attack and due to Thomas being the closest rider on GC, he’ll be left to do the majority of the work. Yates will then attack him in the final 500m, using his more explosive nature to take the stage victory!

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Will it go to plan?

Betting

1pt EW Yates @ 12/1 with B365 (would take 10s)

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Volta Catalunya Stage 4 Preview; Llívia -> Igualada

Today’s Recap

If I’m being honest, I didn’t catch much of today’s stage. Only the last 600m in fact, I was too busy watching Dwars! From what I saw, it seemed a fairly benign day and we got a sprint to the finish line between the two pre-stage favourites. It was Valverde who came out on top over Martin, exacting some revenge for Movistar who felt hard done by with the reversal of the commissaire’s decision this morning!

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Yates came home in third to pick up some bonus seconds, with the blog pick of Bardet coming 4th. Van Garderen holds a 41 second lead on the GC over team-mate Sanchez, but there are a whole host of riders queuing up behind the BMC duo if they were to falter.

Will we see any GC changes tomorrow? Let’s have a look at the route.

The Route

A weird route that starts with almost 100km of very shallow descending!

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Source: @LasterketaBurua

There is a sprint point on top of a small hill after only 6.2km so I expect the GC teams to keep the bunch together for that. It looks ideal for the likes of Valverde to nab a few bonus seconds.

We then have the long, gradual descent before the next main obstacle of the day; the cat 3 Alt del Pubill. Only 2.9km long and averaging 6%, it’s not overly difficult and I imagine the peloton will roll over it.

The course then rolls for the next 70km before we reach the main challenge of the day; the Cat 2 Turó del Puig. At 5.3km and only averaging 5.4% the GC riders won’t be troubled here, but due to its proximity to the finish line it should be tackled at a fair pace. This should see the end of the sprinters chances for the day.

Apologies for the poor quality image below, the road book doesn’t offer much to play with!

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They’ll then descend all the way until 2km to go where we have a fairly technical finale. Two 90-degree turns and a roundabout feature in the last kilometre. It’s a typical Spanish end to the day and will no doubt be suitably manic!

That is of course if we end up with some type of sprint.

How will the stage pan out?

With the peloton very much spread out on GC already there is a good chance we could get a breakaway stay away tomorrow.

The position of the last climb will make it too hard for Bouhanni and Greipel to make it over with the peloton but it’s not hard enough to cause some GC gaps. We could quite well see the type of sprint I thought we might get on Stage 1, where there’s a peloton of around 50 guys who come to the finish together.

Valverde might fancy his chances of winning the sprint and taking some more bonus seconds along with it. However, that will mean another day of work for Movistar when they don’t have to and I’m sure they’d rather save their efforts for the brutal finish on Stage 5.

So I’ll go for a break, and give it a 70/30 chance that it makes it.

Breakaway Contenders

There are many, many riders who will be given plenty of freedom tomorrow so it’s just a case of me once again trying to give some (hopefully) well-reasoned logic behind my picks and of course a bit of luck for them to make it.

It’s not helped when there’s a bout of illness going around the peloton just now and we’re none the wiser as to who is actually fighting fit. Oh well, here goes nothing!

Nathan Haas.

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The Aussie is here building form for his next goals in the season (Amstel) and what better way to do that then out in the break?! He admitted that he was suffering on the first day but sounded hopefully that it blew the cobwebs away. Tomorrow’s stage looks ideally suited to his characteristics, with the climbs not being too difficult. Packing a fast sprint, you wouldn’t want to bring him to the line.

Petr Vakoc.

Like Haas, the Czech rider is here building form for his classics campaign. An 8th place finish on stage 1 where the run in to the line didn’t really suit him highlights to me that he’s going fairly well at the moment. A proper brute of a rider, the Cat-2 at the end of tomorrow’s stage will be on his limit but if the right riders are up the road, he certainly has a chance.

Jordi Simon.

One of only 4 Funvic riders left in the race, the Catalan native will have pressure from his team to perform here. Not only that, but I’m sure he will want to perform too as tomorrow’s stage passes his hometown. An explosive climber, he isn’t the most well-known rider in the peloton and doesn’t have too many results to his name. A third place at nationals last year was his best finish, but hey, stranger things have happened!

Damien Howson.

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The Orica man took a much deserved GC win in the Herald Sun Tour earlier in the season. A great reward for being a super domestique for Chaves last year! On his return to European racing he finished a respectable 19th in Industrio, helping Yates to victory. Far enough down not to be a GC threat, he would be one of the favourites if he made the break due to his climbing and TT prowess.

Prediction

Break wins and I’ll go for Quick Step to continue that feel good factor within their team and Petr Vakoc to take the win!

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He’ll use his explosive kick to attack away from his breakaway companions on the steady gradients of the final climb and not be seen again until they cross the finish line!

Betting

Crapshoot of a stage and not one I want to get massively involved with; 0.25pt WIN on all the selections.

Vakoc @ 28/1 with B365

Haas @ 33/1 with B365

Simon @ 200/1 with B365

Howson @  Not quoted, so I’ll go with…

Clement @ 300/1 with Bet365 (similar build to Howson, decent climber but strong TTer).

 

Thanks again for reading! How do you think tomorrow will play out? Will we see a break make it, or will it come down to a reduced bunch kick, or even a late attack? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Volta Catalunya 2017 Stage 3 Preview; Mataró -> La Molina

*Apologies – this preview will be short and sweet as I myself am short of time having to do two write-ups this evening. Normal service shall resume tomorrow!*

Today’s Recap

A charging Movistar won the stage by 2 seconds ahead of BMC, with Team Sky finishing in third.

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However, the BMC riders were not happy with some of the Movistar riders pushing their team-mates and started a trial by social media. For some strange reason, only a few of the Movistar riders were punished by the commissaries, not the whole team. Either way, it’s a farcical end of the day to a fairly dull and uninspiring stage. Moving swiftly on to tomorrow!

The Route

A day back loaded with climbing. Credit for the route profile once again goes to @LasterketaBurua.

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It’s the exact same finish to the third stage from last year.

The two cat-1 ascents before the finishing climb will certainly tire the legs but I can’t see them being overly demanded for the peloton. Unless of course a team were to come to the front and set a really tough tempo.

As you can see in the above video from last year, time gaps will be minimal at the end of the stage if we don’t get a team take it up from far out.

The finish isn’t that difficult and suits the punchy climbers such as Dan Martin and Valverde.

How will the day pan out?

We could well see a break make it all the way. There are already sufficient gaps on GC to some good enough climbers far down on the standings for them to get away and not be a threat.

Movistar are traditionally hapless at chasing down breakaways when you think they would be nailed on to, so I wouldn’t trust them 100% to close it down for stage favourite Valverde. They’ll be hoping the likes of Sky, Trek and BMC help, but after today’s farce, I’m fairly certain the American team won’t be lending a hand!

Possible breakees include Weening, De Gendt (who won the Queen Stage from a break here last year), Navarro and Geniez.

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In the Peloton

If we do get the more likely option of a GC battle on the mountain then look towards those further down in the order to be given a bit of leeway when they attack.

There are plenty of high quality riders that are 2 mins down that won’t be given a second look if they make a move.

Last year’s winner Dan Martin is one of those. The Irishman seems to be in very good form just now, picking up a 3rd on GC in Paris Nice. This finish climb is tailor-made for him and I would be surprised to not see him on the podium at the end of the day.

Cycling: 96th Volta Catalunya 2016 / Stage 3

Romain Bardet will be looking to make amends after his disqualification in Paris Nice. The Frenchman is quite a punchy climber with a decent uphill sprint so could challenge here. He certainly has no fear when attacking! Pierre Latour gives AG2R another option, he looked good in the Queen Stage at PN.

Ilnur Zakarin will want to repeat his dogged sprint that saw him beat Thomas in PN last year. The finish on that day reminds me of this one. The Russian is certainly a sight to behold when gunning for the line.

Rafal Majka could give it a nudge but he had a fairly poor Tirreno so his form might not be there yet.

I’m intrigued to see how Jakob Fuglsang goes. The Dane has had a quiet season so far but has been there or thereabouts, can he go better here?

Any of the Cannondale climbers could be there but they’ve had an awful start to the year and I would even avoid them with a ten-foot barge pole.

Prediction

I wouldn’t trust Movistar to chase the break, but I do think Sky and Trek will eventually lend a hand and we should see a GC winner. I’ll go for someone further down the order to slip away, Romain Bardet to win.

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Betting

Could and maybe should be a no bet day, but that’d be boring. Although after my past few weeks, back with caution. 😉😂

Bardet 1pt WIN @22/1 with Betfair/PP

plus a handful of breakers (0.125pt WIN each all Betfair)

Weening @ 250/1

De Gendt @ 500/1

Geniez @ 80/1

Navarro @ 150/1

Thanks for reading and apologies for the shorter preview. How do you think tomorrow will play out? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Volta Catalunya 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Banyoles -> Banyoles

Today’s Recap

Well that was bitterly disappointing. No fireworks, no real attacks on the climbs and a proper bunch sprint in the end. Nonetheless, that shouldn’t take away from Cimolai’s great win, as he pipped Bouhanni to the line.

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It was Sbaragli who rounded out the podium for Dimension Data.

I know I’m often wrong with my preview’s but it has been a while since I’ve been that far off. Let’s move swiftly on to tomorrow and it’s stupidly long TTT!

The Route

Long, rolling Team Time Trial that will have a massive impact on the rest of the race.

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Profile once again provided by @LasterketaBurua. Although in TT and TTT tradition, I feel that I need to make my own one on Strava! So here it is, you can view it here too, for those that like something more interactive.

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Although I somehow seemed to have gained an extra kilometre out on course compared to the official distance. I think I may have made the start/finish line ever so slightly further up the road, oh well!

The course is populated with lots of short climbs and fast descents, with rolling terrain in between. The climbs aren’t overly tough, with most of them being 1-2km and averaging 2-3%, but on a TT bike that will take its toll.

The hardest ascents they’ll face are; the Carretera Del Veïnat De Deri Climb which averages 6% for 1.4kms; the Repetxo Orfes (1.4km at 3.7%); and the Esponellà-Martís (1.9km at 4.1%).

I’m very intrigued to see how the riders deal with the Carretera, considering it has ramps of over 15% and comes within the first 10kms of the stage. You don’t want the climbers blowing the rouleurs’ gasket already!

The finish line does kick up at the end but at only around 2% for a couple of hundred metres.

Contenders

Pffft, it’s hard to tell.

We hardly ever get TTTs of this length throughout the season, I mean, the World Championships in the past two years have been shorter!

BMC will be hoping to pick up from where they left off in Tirreno.

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They were exceptional in that race but they don’t have their strongest team here, substituting out a few of the big guys for some climbers. On this terrain that may help but I think it will hinder them more than it will benefit them. Nonetheless, they still can’t be discounted. Watching them doing a TTT is like poetry in motion!

Sky will be lamenting me putting the curse on them for the Tirreno TTT and their wheels literally falling off that effort. They have an incredibly strong squad with them for the mountains and some very strong TT engines. The hilly parcour certainly helps the likes of Landa and Nieve who aren’t the best time trial riders. They should podium, if not win, and put their crack squad of climbers in a great position before the mountain stages.

Movistar always perform well in TTTs in Spain. They were beaten by less than a second by Sky in the Vuelta TTT last year. With Castroviejo in their team they have massive talent but the rest of the squad looks a bit thin in comparison to the one that they took to Tirreno. Will home advantage overcome that? They also have the benefit of being the last GC team down the start ramp.

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The words “Team Time Trial” would normally bring smiles to the bosses at Quickstep, but they have a very weak team compared to their top riders. I fear Dan Martin might lose a fair bit of time.

The same can be said for Trek, who on paper have some good time trialists but they aren’t notoriously a good TTT outfit. Contador and Mollema will be playing catch-up the rest of this week, which should make for exciting racing at least!

One team aside from the Big 3 favourites that I do like for this TTT are Orica Scott. The Aussie team used to be the par excellence for this discipline but they lost their way. However, they recently seemed to have managed to their fortunes around and have a very strong all-round squad with them here. I’m expecting to be pleasantly surprised by them!

Prediction

It will be tough to beat one of the Big 3 and I would actually favour Team Sky out of the trio. I do think that Orica can manage a podium spot if not better!

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Betting

No value in the top of the order. Orica do offer a good option.

1pt EW Orica @25/1 with Bet365 (They’re offering 5th odds for 3 places – would take down to 20s)

Plus this H2H treble 3pts on @ 2.83/1 (would take down to 2.2/1)

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Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win this stupidly long TTT stage? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.