Vuelta Stage 21 Preview: Las Rozas -> Madrid

*Apologies again, this preview will be very short as I’m away out for a family dinner this evening*

Today’s Recap

An insane stage that had a bit of everything!

As I predicted it was the break that fought it out for the stage win. Throughout the final climb there were several riders who looked as if they had the stage victory in their grasps. Sanchez looked good on the early slopes, then Conti looked as if he was the winner elect. However, neither of them made the top 10! Instead, it was Latour and Atapuma who entered a dog-fight and it was the Frenchman who just had enough at the end of the stage. One of the best finales to a Grand Tour stage I’ve seen in a while, everyone in every group was on their limit!

csashg3wgaai6sw

Behind, Chaves repeated Orica’s tactics from Stage 14, attacking on the penultimate climb and bridging to team-mates. Doing so has saw him creep onto the GC podium, 13 seconds ahead of Contador. Another tactical masterclass from the Aussie outfit.

Froome tested Quintana but the Colombian always had the measure of him. The biggest loser on the day has to be Scarponi who dropped out of the top 10.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-17-11-18

Anyway, let’s look ahead at the processional stage into Madrid.

The Route

Nothing overly exciting.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-17-14-45

An expected flat bunch sprint and no real focal points to talk about.

Screen Shot 2016-09-10 at 17.15.02.png

A straightforward and fast circuit within Madrid to end the day and the Vuelta. There are a few sharp hairpin turns that will stretch the bunch out. Positioning into that final hairpin just before 1km to go will be key. If you’re too far back then you have no chance.

Sprinters

The few sprints we’ve had so far this Vuelta have been fairly messy which makes tomorrow even more unpredictable.

Saying that, I do expect a few teams to take control tomorrow.

Etixx will control it for Meersman, Orica now devoid of GC duties will possibly control it for Cort and Giant will work hard for Arndt.

I can’t really see anyone else competing with those three. Possibly Drucker, Felline, Sbaragli & Van Genechten could get in the mix but it’s very unlikely.

Looking at the teams three lead-outs, Etixx and Giant are a cut above Orica.

On a stage like this, Orica will probably adopt the Lampre tactic where Gerrans-Keukeleire-Cort try and ambush the front of the race within the last 1.5km. In a messy sprint, this could be very effective!

Both Etixx and Giant so far have shown a willingness to control the race from far out and command the final 5km. Therefore there is no chance that a break makes this, it’s not the Giro! 😉

I was very impressed with the lead-out from Giant on Stage 18, they are finally getting things together. They were just unlucky it didn’t go their way in the end.

On a flat sprint, I would say that Arndt is faster than Meersman. Cort has shown if he’s in the right position he can go well too.

Prediction

Arndt finally gets his stage win! I mean, they surely have to get it right, don’t they?!

gettyimages_535342282_670

Betting

2.6pts WIN Arndt @ 4/1 with Bet365

0.2pt EW De Koert @ 400/1 with Bet365.  Only doing this as Arndt came dead last today, might not be 100%. De Koert would be the go to sprint option.

Massive thanks to everyone who has read and shared the blog throughout the Vuelta! I know my predictions haven’t been the best, but thanks for sticking with me. I’m not sure what other races I’ll be doing this year but I’ll definitely be doing the Worlds, both men and women. 

Apologies again for this being shorter than normal! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Vuelta Stage 20 Preview: Benidorm -> Alto de Aitana

Today’s Recap

Wow.

Froome smoked everyone.

cr7u-yhweaa8dyk

He managed to beat the guy who smoked everyone else, Castroviejo, by 44 seconds. An utterly dominant display. I mean, he only beat him by 4 seconds at Rio on a much longer TT. Plus, all the local advantages that Castroviejo had, it’s just an insanely unbelievable, strong ride!

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-18-20-20

Anyway, enough about today, on to tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

Last chance saloon for the GC riders as we reach the penultimate stage of the race. In typical Vuelta, and Grand Tour fashion, the organisers have created a tough-ish day out on the bike. It’s not the Queen stage, but probably the Princess!

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-10-48-48

Four Cat-2 climbs followed by an Especial ascent.

With the GC battle now a lot closer after today, we could see all hell break loose on tomorrow’s stage. Sky might try to take it up early on the first climb of the day; Coll de Rates. 13km at 3% and it’s a Cat 2? Well a lot of the elevation gain (230m -> 505m) is made at the start; 5kms at 5.5%. Before a plateau (if you can call it that) then another kick up at the end.

I don’t think the following two climbs will have an impact on the outcome of the day so I’ll miss them out and get onto the penultimate climb. Although even then, the Puerto de Tudons isn’t overly difficult, coming in at 7.1km long, averaging 5.4%. Nothing the GC guys can’t handle.

So it looks as if it’s over to the final climb. The Alto de Aitana.

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-18-47-54

Long, but not very steep with only a 5.9% average gradient. There are a few steeper sections within the climb but if anything will create gaps between the GC guys it’s the length of the climb, at 21km. Combine this with the amount of ascending we’ve had at the Vuelta so far and there could be some splits.

How will the stage pan out?

Before today’s reshuffling I had this down as a breakaway day. Like most days have been at the Vuelta and something we see commonly on the last “proper” day of a Grand Tour.

However, Froome’s time gain does throw somewhat of a spanner in the works in regards to a breakaway victory. Some people will suggest that Sky will go all guns blazing tomorrow to try and isolate/weaken Quintana and we’ll have another epic stage on our hands.

Yes, it is feasible, I mean, nothing is impossible but it seems implausible to me. Not that I’m controversial or anything 😉 Let me explain.article-2043608-0E278F2700000578-613_306x423

The only problem with that plan, is that in the mountains Quintana hasn’t been in trouble at all this entire race. He only lost small amounts of time to Froome on Stage 3, but since then he’s been at least on an equal footing with the Brit and has beaten him several times. As I’ve said above, the climbs tomorrow aren’t overly difficult (which actually favours Froome) but Quintana should have no issue following. Unless he cracks majorly. Heck, he can afford to lose a minute, which is an enormous amount of time for these guys.

Isolating Quintana through the use of Froome’s team-mates doesn’t make much sense either. If it’s left as a 1 v 3 then all the Colombian has to do is follow Froome’s wheel. Numerical advantage won’t make a difference. Bet they regret not having Konig up there on GC now!

Finally and most important of all, I think Froome knows that Quintana’s better than him in the mountains just now. He’s tried a couple of times to crack him and has failed. It would be a big loss mentally for next season if he tries again and it doesn’t work. As bad as it is, I think he might be happy with his 2 stage wins and 2nd on GC.

So once again, I think we’re left with a…

break1

Candidates

There are a lot of guys who’ll be keen to get in the move to showcase themselves but especially because they will fancy their chances on the final climb.

Look to your obvious guys, such as Fraile and Elissonde who both have to make the move to continue the KOM battle. Gesink will probably be there too. However, I’m not suggesting any of them. Coincidentally, the guys I am naming took it “easy” today as well, all finishing outside the top 100, saving their legs… (?)

Joe Dombrowski.

Giro d'Italia - Stage 16

A regular pick of mine at the Giro earlier in the year, he’s a great climber with a solid engine. One of the most naturally gifted cyclists in the peloton, much like Ryder Hesjedal, he’s someone who seems to get better as a race progresses. Before the Vuelta, Talansky said that Dombrowski would win a stage here. He’s not done so yet, and tomorrow is his only chance. 3rd on the penultimate stage in the Giro, he’ll be hoping for better tomorrow!

Darwin Atapuma.

2nd on that same stage, Atapuma has been very quiet since taking the leader’s jersey earlier in the race. With Sanchez’s unfortunate crash today BMC have lost their top 10 rider and will want to go on the attack. Hermans may be that guy, but Atapuma has a lot more time leeway to play with. An exceptional climber on his day, the final ascent should be a walk in the park for him.

Hugh Carthy.

unspecified-37-790x445.jpeg

The Lancashire lad has had a Vuelta full of learning experiences. He was unfortunate enough to crash and need stitches to his hand earlier on in the race, but he did manage to make it into Froome’s group on that very chaotic Stage 15. This type of stage suits him perfectly (the climbs are consistent) and I hope he’s recovered and makes the break, just to remind everyone what he’s capable of!

Gianluca Brambilla.

The winner of that incredible stage 15, Brambilla has taken it relatively easy since. Rolling home a few minutes down each day, saving some energy. Coming into this race, I thought he was a decent outside shot of a top 10 on GC. However, that is obviously beyond him now, but it highlights the quality of rider that he is. He’ll be able to stick in on the final climb because it’s not so difficult and he could out-sprint anyone to the line.

Prediction

I say Brambilla takes his second stage win!

CrhZA6_WgAAMcpt

Behind, we might see some GC action, but Quintana still wins the Vuelta. All he has to do is stick on Froome’s back-wheel all day and I’m confident he’s capable of that. Even if he does end up losing 20 seconds at most. There might be some more movement within the top 10 itself. The battles for 5th and 7th look exciting!

Screen Shot 2016-09-09 at 19.49.11.png

Betting

0.45pt WIN Brambilla @ 22/1

0.25pt WIN Dombrowski @ 80/1

0.15pt WIN Atapuma @ 50/1

0.15pt WIN Carthy @ 125/1

All of these are with B365 as they’re the only bookie to price up by half 8. Hopefully others will be more favourable later!

Hope you all enjoyed the preview. How do you think the penultimate stage will go? Am I completely wrong, and will we see a massive GC fight throughout the stage? Does the break have any chance? Like always, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta Stage 19 Preview: Xàbia -> Calp

Today’s Recap

A long, relatively boring day.

A weak break managed to escape, made up of only 5 riders and no sprint teams, so we were destined for a sprint at the end of the day. It was Giant and Arndt who looked to have things all under control, but the Giant lead-out man tired slightly early than he would have liked. Behind him, Arndt hesitated and Cort took advantage of that with a magnificently timed sprint launch and was never to be passed. A great win!

1473327485_493691_1473351381_noticia_normal

Onto tomorrow.

The Route

Time Trial time and the single most pivotal stage of the Vuelta. Well, at least it was billed as that before the racing actually started. It’s where Froome is supposed to gain 2 minutes on Quintana and potentially the Vuelta too, but all hope looks gone by now.

Let’s have a look at the course.

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-17-15-58

Now that’s the official profile but as is traditional on a time trial day, I’ve made a strava profile of the whole route that you can view here.

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-17-18-51

Like we saw on the first TTT, the scale on the Strava profile distorts some of the climbs as it’s only a 0-200m scale, whereas the road book profile has 0-600m scale. Consequently some lumps have to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Nonetheless, “rolling” is how I’d describe the stage! The biggest challenge the riders will face is the climb that actually starts just after 5km. Although the road only rises ever so slightly, taking it from here makes it 7km at 2.1%. However, the “big” kick up at the end is 1.7km long at 6.5%. The strong climbers will hope to gain some time here.

An interesting thing to note is that the official profile only has 330m of elevation, whereas Strava suggests there’s 675m of elevation gain. Hmmmm.

There are a few more drags in the second half of the stage. 1.5km at 3.4% for example, that peaks at around the 25km mark. However, the riders will be able to put it in the big ring and power over these tests, although they certainly will sap the legs of energy.

Weather

A major factor in the outcome of TTs over the past few years has been the changing weather conditions throughout the day. The riders start times will be spread out over roughly 3 hours. Thankfully for the riders, they will all get dry conditions. However, the wind may play a part.

So back to a favourite website of mine, Windfinder.com

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-18-00-55
Wind speeds in km/h, and max gusts @ Teulada

As you can see in the image above, the average wind speed actually picks up for those who start later on in the day. Although the differences are small, the direction looks as if it will switch from a cross-headwind to more of a headwind.

Ultimately though, I don’t think the weather will have that much of an impact on the favourites. It may favour a rouleur more than a climber, but the differences will be minimal.

Stage Contenders

A TT in Spain, so where best to start than with Movistar and Castroviejo? The Spaniard has to start as the favourite for this stage in my opinion. 4th in the Olympics, he’s been doing a lot of work for Quintana and was pivotal for the Colombian on the race splitting move during stage 15, but he’ll have had one eye on this stage.

Froome may start as the favourite though.

WATSON_00004681-021-630x425

He beat Castroviejo by 4 seconds at the Olympics and will hope to do the same here. He needs to pull a big performance out the bag here if he wants to put any pressure on Quintana going into the penultimate stage, but also to protect his second place. He’s seemed to re-find his TT ability this year and I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins. I just think he looks a bit too tired!

Luis Leon Sanchez will hope to go well here. He’s looked great all race and has been very active either in the breaks or the front of the bunch. In years gone by, he’d be threatening for the win but he doesn’t seem to be as good on the TT bike anymore. However, he can’t be discounted!

Nairo Quintana.

nairo-quintana

Bit of a curveball, I know, but he was TTing exceptionally well at the start of the season. In fact, he was going so well that I had talked him up for taking the TT at the Tour. Unfortunately, he wasn’t firing on all cylinders then, but he seems to be on it here! Often during a TT at the end of a Grand Tour there is a mix of GC guys and specialists and it sometimes just comes down to who has the legs. Quintana certainly has the legs just now. I’d watch out for him.

Tobias Ludvigsson.

Ch8eIVcU4AA_mI7

If you’ve been somewhat paying attention to this blog then you’ll know that I’m a massive fan of Big T. He’s had a very underrated but quietly exceptional Vuelta so far, climbing better than ever. This TT will be a big goal for him and he’s stayed out of the breaks on the past few stages, saving energy for this. He has the quality and now the confidence to play a big part in this stage!

Aside from the five who I’ve mentioned, keep an eye out for Lampaert, Campenaerts, Moser, Felline and Valverde (it’s Spain!) to throw up a few surprises.

Prediction

I just can’t see past Castroviejo;

  • He’s an excellent TTer
  • The course suits him very well
  • He’s a Movistar rider
  • It’s Spain

Simple. Castroviejo wins!

Jonathan-Castroviejo.jpg

Unless of course Big T and Quintana surprise 😉

Betting

1.5pt WIN Castroviejo @ 7/4 (Bet365)

0.25pt EW Ludvigsson @ 20/1 (Bet365)

0.5pt EW Quintana @ 125/1 (Bet365)

Like normal, hunt around later when there are more prices out.

Thanks for reading as per! Who do you think will win the TT? Are we in for a shock? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Enjoy the race wherever you’re watching it from. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 18 Preview: Requena -> Gandía

Today’s Recap

A well-timed attack from Frank and a solid pace up the final climb saw him solo away to victory. Konig and Gesink followed 6 and 11 seconds behind respectively, leaving their move on the climb too late. Not to take anything away from Frank, he definitely deserved a win this Vuelta!

1139607_1

Behind, the top 4 on GC all rolled in together but there were some time gaps further down the order. Samuel Sanchez performed the worst (losing a minute to his rivals) and has dropped once place, swapping with Talansky. Further down, De La Cruz and Scarponi traded their 9th and 10th on GC. With Dani Moreno now lurking only 11 seconds behind the young Spaniard.

Let’s move on to tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

Another rolling day, that at the Vuelta is probably classified as a sprint stage.

screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-17-21-25

There isn’t really much to talk about the route. There’s not a lot of flat within the first half of the stage and only in the second half do the riders find favourable terrain, where they descend to the finish with only a few small rises.

The run in itself will be fast but does have a few technical aspects.

screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-17-29-24

The pace will be knocked off in the closing kilometre as they have to take the first, sharp exit at a roundabout. However, the final 600m is dead straight so no difficulties should occur here!

How will the stage pan out?

The real question for tomorrow’s stage is if we’ll see a sprint or not. At 200km long and with a lot of lumpy terrain, it will be tough for those who want a sprint to control the stage. A few teams have looked keen so far, namely Giant, Etixx and Trek, to chase the breaks down.

There is the possibility though that a small break gets away in the morning, with only a few teams represented and we do get a sprint, after the gap is easily controlled by a few of the teams.

However, with a few more tough days to come and knowing that they’re guaranteed a sprint in Madrid, there is a chance that they may not put all their eggs in the sprint basket. For these teams, they could decide to try to send a rider in the morning break so that they don’t have to work behind. Of course, that is easier said than done!

There are only 4 more stages left in the race. Only a handful of riders can win the TT, the penultimate stage is for a climber and the final stage in Madrid is sure to end in a bunch sprint. Consequently, tomorrow is the last day for the rouleurs to make their mark on the race, and I expect them to take it.

I go for a break that wins it!

(As long as at least 2/3 of Trek, Giant and Etixx are represented)

Breakaway Hopefuls

Like normal, we’re left sifting our way through the peloton trying to find that elusive break winner! I’ll be naming 5 this time as it’s even more of a lottery and the preview is on the thin side.

 

Kiel Reijnen.

The America rider is a late-comer to the European peloton, only joining Trek this year at the age of 29. He may be used as the teams ploy to infiltrate the break so they get away without having to chase behind. Felline himself would be a great candidate but everyone else would make him chase the moves in the finale, whereas Reijnen isn’t as marked. A solid all-rounder with a fast kick, he would have every chance!

Vegard Stake Laengen. 

Cycling: 99th Tour of Italy 2016 / Stage 11

 

He was in the successful break that made it all the way on stage 13 and managed 5th on that stage. The finale to this stage is better suited to his capabilities and with a strong TT, he could ride away from the rest of his opponents.

Loïc Chetout.

Another rider who was in a breakaway earlier this race (stage 10) he could go well on this course. The talented young Frenchman seemed to be in every break in his build-up races for the Vuelta. Unlike stage 10 where he struggled on the final climb, this flatter end to the stage will be much more appealing to him!

Yves Lampaert.

The talented Belgian had his early season ruined by a trivial incident…screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-19-14-45He seems to be getting back to better form now and was on the attack on stage 13. Similar to Reijnen, he could be used as a ploy by Etixx so that they don’t have to chase behind. If he gets into the move, I don’t expect him to mess it up like he did earlier in the race.

Adam Hansen.

hansen

It wouldn’t be the Vuelta without seeing him off the front at some point. This type of stage looks like it would be perfect for Hansen, as there is a reasonable amount of climbing but nothing serious. The only concern will be that he’s heavily covered in a breakaway situation so it will be tough. If anyone can time his move correctly though, it will be him!

Prediction

As I said above, I give the break the edge on this stage only if a few of the “danger” sprint teams have a man up the road. I’d say it’s a 70:30 chance.

If it does stick, I think Yves Lampaert will go better than he did on stage 13 and take the win here!

sptdw184_670

Betting

All straight up WIN:

0.4pt Lampaert @ 100/1 with Ladbrokes (I’d go as low as 66s)

0.2pt Hansen @ 125/1 with Bet365 (I’d go 80/1 lowest)

0.2pt Stake Laengen @ 200/1 with Betfair (I’d go 150)

0.1pt Chetout @ 300/1 with PaddyPower or Betfair (I’d go 200)

0.1pt Reijnen @ 66/1 with various bookmakers (wouldn’t go any lower)

 

Thanks again for reading! Do you think we’ll see a bunch sprint or will the break hold on? As usual, any feedback would be much appreciated!

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 17 Preview: Castellón -> Llucena

Rest Day Recap

It was Drucker who ended up winning an ultimately messy sprint on stage 16, after catching Bennati within the final 200m. I didn’t manage to watch the stage, but it sounded quite dull until the finish anyway!

3543.jpg

As for the GC, Quintana, barring any incident or massive implosion, looks to have the race sealed up. The battle for the podium looks to be exciting with Contador only 5 seconds behind Chaves. In fact, we’ll definitely see some movement in and around the top 10 in this final week.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.22.53

I’m hoping for some more exciting, no holds barred style racing in the coming stages. Maybe it won’t be as wild as it was on Stage 15 but I can’t see it being a defensive race (well, apart from Quintana), as everyone gives their all in the final week of the last Grand Tour of the year. Squeezing everything out the tank!

Anyway, let’s have a look what’s in store for us after this rest day.

The Route

Another classic Vuelta stage: a lot of climbing with a summit finish. At least the organisers have been kind and categorised most of the climbs for once!

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.28.34

The most important climbs of this stage are the two that bookend it. The Alto del Desierto de las Palmas is 7.1km long at an average of 5.4% with maximum ramps of 12%, according  to VeloViewer (see profile here). This climb is significant as this is most likely where the break of the day will be formed, or at least the riders will hope it is!

We then get two categorised climbs in the middle of the stage, but these shouldn’t change the outcome of the day. Unless of course some GC guys want to go wild early again!

This stage is therefore all about the final climb and the lead in to it. I did say things would be back to normal today, so in tradition I’ve created a Strava profile of the final 15km that you can view here.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.59.17

The preamble before the main event is actually a 6km climb at Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 11.05.374%. This will certainly warm the legs up before the final ascent of the Alto Mas de la Costa. It’s another climb that typifies the Vuelta: short but bloody steep!

3.8km at 12.5% will certainly find anyone out who’s not recovered well after the rest-day, or happens just to be misfiring. Thus, some reasonable gaps can be made on a climb like this. Look back at La Camperona (Stage 8) for example, a stage with a similar final climb. That day saw a minute separating the first 10 GC riders home.

The tougher part of the climb is in the second half as well. Therefore it’s crucial for riders in contention that they don’t go out too hard and then blow up just before the top!

Looking back at those who went well on Stage 3 and 8 could give a good idea at the riders who might be in the mix here.

How will the stage pan out?

Like normal, we’re left with the age-old question of break or no break?

The day after the previous rest-day (Stage 11) saw a GC battle and a Froome stage win. However, that stage had a lot less climbing involved and was a lot easier to control for the GC teams. Saying that, as we saw on stage 15, they could go full gas from quite far out, but I think that situation is quite unlikely.

Therefore, I think we’re once again left with a break winning the stage and a GC battle behind.

Break Candidates

There are a lot of “obvious” break choices for this stage such as the two K’s at Sky (Konig & Kennaugh), Fraile, Elissonde and Brambilla. But as a guy with a penchant of choosing outsiders, I’ll be sticking to type here and naming some longer shots for the stage. Four this time round though!

Fabio Felline.

fabio-felline-paris-nice-trek-segafredo_3450799

The Italian has been climbing very well this Vuelta so far, finishing 3rd on stage 15. It’s most certainly something he’s improved on this year and looks to be getting stronger as the race goes on. He performed solidly, not outstanding, on stages 3 & 8 but I think he’ll go better tomorrow. Utilising his punchy nature, he’ll hope to put the hurt on his opponents on the steep ramps!

Bart de Clerq.

He came into this Vuelta as the main GC hope for Lotto Soudal but unfortunately crashed heavily on stage 6. This was particularly disappointing for him after a good show of form early in the race with a 12th place on Stage 3. Since then he’s been recuperating and was a feature in the break on the stage to Aubisque. He didn’t have the legs that day, but seems upbeat and that his form is returning. If he is back to his best then he will certainly be a danger man.

Rudy Molard.

05-06-2016 Criterium Du Dauphine Libere; Tappa Prologo Les Gets; 2016, Cofidis Solutions Credits; Molard, Rudy; Les Gets;

Another rider who had a great stage 3 (finishing 11th), he went a bit off the boil mid-Vuelta and lost some time on GC. However, a 16th place on the stage to Aubisque shows that the form is still there. A very consistent rider who doesn’t seem to get on the top step of the podium that often. Can he add to his one pro win here?

Maxime Bouet.

Second on the reduced bunch gallop in Bilbao was certainly a surprise! A rider who’s done a lot of work for his team-mates this race so far, he normally finds himself in a breakaway at some point during a Grand Tour. He’s not been in one yet and as a very solid all-rounder, he should be able to make the move if he’s given the all clear. The final climb will be on his limit but he did finish 26th (taking away the 12 break places) on a tough finish on stage 8 so the form is there.

Prediction

I say it’s a 70% chance that the break makes it tomorrow. With the stage being tough to control and set up for a GC rider, I think teams will instead use their resources by getting riders into the break of the day.

I’ll go for a guy who had a promising build up to the race and seems to be re-finding his feet. Bart de Clerq to win!

594332544

Betting

Small stakes on each of the break hopes:

0.3pt WIN De Clerq @ 200/1 with Betfair SB (I would take the 125/1 available if you can’t bet with BF)

0.25pt WIN Felline @ 100/1 with Skybet & Coral (Would take 80s available with B365 or Ladbrokes)

0.25pt WIN Molard @ 80/1 pretty much every bookmaker

0.2pt WIN Bouet @ 200/1 with Betfair and Paddy Power (Would take 150/1)

 

Thanks for reading! How do you think tomorrow’s stage will go? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 16 Preview: Alcañiz -> Peñíscola

Today’s Recap

Yesterday’s incredible stage was going to be tough to match, but it was well and truly beaten today!

What. A. Stage.

I was correct in my prediction that it would be full gas from the start but I could never have imagined it would have been that crazy!

Contador and Quintana got away in a very strong breakaway after around 10kms. Some tactical ineptness from Sky saw Froome isolated with only Puccio and Lopez for help. Puccio was soon dispatched by attacks on the early hills by Movistar, leaving only Lopez with the Brit. Orica did some work in the early part but their numbers were soon depleted. Other teams came and helped, but that was it. The stage and the Vuelta were gone, barring any disasters for Quintana later in the race.

Brambilla managed to follow Quintana all the way up the final and out-sprint him to the line. Shows how much energy can be saved when you’re not in the GC dog-fight every day!

CrhZA6_WgAAMcpt

Moving on to tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

Like an-upside down, stretched out “V”.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 17.15.31

A long gradual climb, with a few peaks along the way. If you take everything in consideration, the road rises 720m over the 90km which averages a solid 0.8% gradient for that period.

The longest descent of the race follows and a flat run to the line.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 17.25.23.png

The finish itself is fairly technical within the last 5km. There are a lot of sharp turns and roundabouts to be negotiated. However, the closing 1km along the sea-front is dead straight, so there shouldn’t be an issue here. The problem will be the fight to get into position.

How will the stage pan out?

One of the few supposed nailed-on sprint stages before the Vuelta, there is still the chance we get a bunch gallop tomorrow. It should be a relatively easy day to control but after the past two incredibly tough stages there will be a lot of tired legs. Although saying that, a fair whack of riders rested up and rolled home today…

The break would have a fairly good chance on a stage like this normally if it wasn’t for the second peloton that rolled in nicely rested, almost an hour down. There is enough firepower in that group who’ll have fresh legs to chase down most moves.

It’s just a case of will they, won’t they?

The peloton is certainly divided after today’s issues with riders voicing varying opinions, depending on what side of the split they were. The Peloton Politics during tomorrow’s stage will certainly be interesting.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 19.04.46
Those who made it home within the time limit
Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 19.05.23
Those who didn’t

There are even divides within teams. At Cannondale, Moser has expressed his disappointment while Rolland has proclaimed that it is good there is still “solidarity” within the race.

In my opinion they should be thrown out, however, it’s not even the clear rule breaking that annoys me. It’s how nonchalant and arrogant the grupetto was, rolling home. If they had all been struggling up the final climb, out of the saddle, pain faces on, then I wouldn’t actually mind. Except it looks like none of them broke a sweat riding up it!

I’m sure those riders who struggled hard today, won’t want to see the sprinters take the stage glory tomorrow. @Padsbets put it perfectly earlier on Twitter, suggesting:

“When Felline finishes third tomorrow behind any of the sprinters who put zero effort in making the time cut today it’ll be a disgrace”.

Cycling is a sport famed for its Omertà and insider dealings, and it’s very unusual to see the whole apple cart upset like this. In a way, it has almost ridiculed tomorrow’s stage already. I wonder if some teams will try to make the race as fast as possible to try and prove a point, or the complete opposite could happen and we’ll have another go-slow.

If I’m being brutally honest, I’ve lost the motivation to write a full on blog for this stage. I had intended on writing about the battles between sprint trains and the break, with a few exciting (and familiar) names up my sleeve. Who will lead the chase? Fatigue in the peloton etc? Instead, I’m left discussing another shambles within the sport and yet again it’s a governance issue. 

Prediction

This whole situation has made tomorrow even more unpredictable. Based on my ethical views more than anything else;

Felline wins a sprint;

WATSON_00004161-002-630x420

Luis Leon Sanchez wins from the break.

Both of them made the time limit.

Betting

No bet for tomorrow. It was going to be a small stake break lottery day, followed by a sprinter in-play.

I am backing Ben Swift over at the ToB, which should be an exciting and attritional stage.

 

Apologies for this being shorter again, normal service will resume on Tuesday, once this has all blown over! On a brighter and more joyous note, have an immature laugh at the finish town name for tomorrow. Thanks for reading,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta Stage 15 Preview: Sabiñánigo -> Sallent de Gállego

*This will be short and sweet as I’m terribly hungover and tired, apologies. Normal service will resume tomorrow evening.*

Today’s Recap

My oh my, what an exciting stage! A massive break of 41 riders got away early in the stage. The eventual winner came from that group and it was Robert Gesink who rode the final climb fantastically well, beating Elissonde and Silin who rounded out the podium. Annoying having two of the stage picks finishing 2nd and 4th, oh well, it was a great win by Gesink though and he fully deserves it!

WATSON_00004735-002-630x420

Behind saw some very interesting GC moves, with Yates making an attack on the penultimate climb. He made it stick and ended up gaining a minute or so on Quintana. Chaves and Konig also gained some time, as the two favourites marked each other out of it. Valverde was the big loser on the day, conceding 9 minutes to his rivals. Dropping him way down on GC.

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

The Route

Short and sharp.

Screen Shot 2016-09-03 at 17.32.11

About half the amount of climbing metres that we had today, but packed nicely into 118km of racing. It will be another fast start to the day before the riders reach the first categorised climb of the day. Alto de Petralba is 6.3km long at 5%. The break may only escape here!

The 2nd official climb is the Alto de Cotefablo, coming in at 12.5km in length, averaging only 4.3%. However, there is a false flat section half way up the climb. This will offer the riders some respite before tackling the second part.

However, the stage is all about the final climb.

Screen Shot 2016-09-03 at 17.40.55

Not a tough climb, but after today’s efforts it will sting the legs. It’s very stop start but it really shouldn’t be a challenge for the main GC guys.

How will the stage pan out?

Short stages more often than not lead to exciting racing and with the precedent being set today, I expect the GC guys to be full gas all day.

The climbs really aren’t that tough, so it will be fatigue that will cause any gaps. Of course, the better climbers have more of a chance of creating gaps. But on a stage like this, I don’t think there’s that much difference between the current top 5 on GC, possibly even the top 10.

Therefore, I think it could be a lesser GC guy who goes well here.

Prediction

All hell will break loose tomorrow and the race will be on from the gun. The break has no chance!

Having two riders up on GC is key so that the riders can bounce attacks off of each other and mark the other teams/riders. I’ve been very impressed with the way Konig has raced this Vuelta so far and is playing a great second fiddle to Froome. With all the eyes on the Brit, Konig will use this to advantage and squirrel away for the stage win!

20154988_267503_670.jpg

Betting

0.75pt EW Konig @ 66/1 with Bet365. As usual, hunt around later when other bookies have priced up.

 

Hope you enjoyed the preview. Apologies again for its short nature, I’m just too tired to be writing a load of stuff. Thankfully, the stage looks relatively straightforward. How do you think it will play out? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Vuelta Stage 14 Preview: Urdatx-Dantxarinea -> Aubisque

Today’s Recap

As I said yesterday, I’m away out all day so there’s a good chance I haven’t been able to catch any of today’s stage. Hopefully it was an exciting one and at least one of the three break candidates made it in!

*Update – Just gone 12 here and none of them in the break, oh well!*

Anyway, what’s in store for the riders the day after the longest stage of the Vuelta? I’m sure the organisers wouldn’t be so cruel as to make it really tough…

The Route

Oh. Wait.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 22.42.27

Ouch!

My legs and lungs hurt just looking at this profile. Three Cat-1s followed by the Especial Aubisque. The organisers are definitely getting their moneys worth out of their jaunt into France.

It’s weird to say but in a stage like this, the first two climbs are almost irrelevant in the outcome of the stage so I’m only going to slightly go over them. The only way they could be decisive is if the break hasn’t formed by then and as we saw on stage 12, if it forms on a climb then it is a very strong group.

Nonetheless, the Col d’Inharpu is 11.5km long with an average gradient of 7.1% (13.75% max), and the Col du Soudet is 24km long, averaging 5.2% with a 15% maximum gradient. A nice first half of the stage and a good warm up for the riders!

The real action will commence with the Col de Marie-Blanque which starts with just under 50km to go.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 22.54.00

A real brute of a climb. It almost lulls the riders into a false sense of security as it starts off relatively easily. With the first 4km or so being only around 5% in gradient. Then it hits the riders, the hardest part is yet to come. The second half of the climb, particularly the final 3kms is incredibly tough. Averaging over 10%! The break will lose its weak riders here and depending on the pace of the GC guys, we may see a few attacks or those on a bad day dropped. Say goodbye to your Vuelta if that’s the case.

Once over the summit they have an 11km descent, before a 10km false flat drag before the final test of the day starts: the Col d’Aubisque.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 23.05.22

I don’t really need to say much, the figures speak for themselves! It doesn’t have incredibly steep ramps in it. Instead, it’s the length coupled with the relatively high average gradient that does the damage. Only the strongest will win here.

How will the stage pan out?

We’ll probably have another fast start to the day as riders look to try and get in the break. I hope for the sake of those struggling that it goes relatively quickly and before the first climb. Otherwise we could have a lot of DNF/OTLs!

The success of the break will depend on who’s in it and what teams are represented. Realistically on the final climb if it comes down to a GC battle, then it’s between Froome and Quintana. Movistar may sneak a rider in the move to defend the team competition and as we saw on stage 11, Sky are becoming more aggressive so might send someone up the road. I almost guess Tinkoff might try something, but Contador doesn’t seem to have the legs.

If neither of those teams are represented and their captains really fancy their chances of taking the win, the break could well be brought back on the Aubisque. On a climb like that, the break would need 4mins+ at the bottom of the final climb for them to feel confident of winning the stage.

There are now plenty of quality riders (climbers) far enough down on GC so that the break can be let go. I make it 60/40 that the break takes the win.

Breakaway Contenders

George Bennett.

tdu15-st4-WATSON_00004039-099-e444 (1)

A rider who has had a very solid, if not quiet Vuelta so far, plodding along in a respectable 18th on GC, almost 8 minutes down (remember this is being wrote a day early, so that may all change today, but I doubt it). His attack on stage 12 was the first real glimpse that we saw of him out the front of the peloton. I was impressed, his form seems to be on the up. One of those riders who Movistar will give a bit more time to, he won’t be too much of a hinderance to the break in that sense. He will be a hinderance if he’s going well though!

Tejay Van Garderen.

tour-de-france-Tejay-Van-Garderen

The American rider has had a very poor Vuelta so far, with Stage 12 being the first time he finished inside the top 50. On that stage he was part of two of the early moves, showing some good intent. His form slowly seems to be getting better and he’s smart enough to be saving himself for one good crack at a stage, no better stage than the Queen stage to give it a go! If he is back to his best, then he should be a class above the rest of the breakaway. That is the big IF.

Kenny Elissonde.

Elissonde-langliru-vuelta©Graham-Watson1

King Kenny returns to the blog. Another who was attacking on stage 12, he looked very strong on the first passage of the climb outside of Bilbao. However, once the break was caught, he sat up and rolled home. Now sitting over 20 minutes down on GC he poses no threat to the leaders and is most definitely targeting stage wins. Could he get a win on the famous Aubisque to go with the Angliru?!

GC Battle

As I’ve said above, this will more than likely come down to Froome v Quintana. This type of final climb suits the Brit better than some of the steep stuff that we’re used to at the Vuelta as he’s able to climb at a solid rhythm. He’ll hope to put Quintana under pressure with a hard pace. However, Quintana is the best climber here, going on form, and I can’t see Froome dropping him unless he cracks majorly. Instead, I can see the Colombian putting a big marker down and gaining another 30 seconds or so!

The battle behind is equally as interesting. Valverde is clinging on for dear life to that third place. Chaves is being attacking but getting nowhere, same with Contador. Yates seems to be getting stronger. Konig is a great wildcard for Froome and creeping towards the top 4 and possibly the podium. As is Scarponi who’s grinding away and eating up the climbs!

Prediction

If the break makes it, I’ll go with Bennett.

If we get the GC guys fighting out for the stage, Quintana takes it!

Betting

I probably won’t be updating this with odds but my staking structure is below. The preview will only be out when somewhere has priced up (most likely B365), so you’ll have to hunt around for prices.

0.5pt Bennett

0.3pt Elissonde

0.2pt TVG

 

Hope you all enjoyed the preview?! How do you think the stage will go? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Vuelta Stage 13 Preview: Bilbao -> Urdax-Dantxarinea

Today’s Recap

Phew, that was full gas from the start! The break only managed to get away on the first categorised climb of the day. However, with the likes of Kennaugh in it, Movistar were never going to be keen to let it go. Attacks flew on the second passage of the Vivero, with Devenyns getting a reasonable gap. That move was eventually brought back and we got a reduced bunch sprint. Much to everyone’s surprise (especially Kirby who called it as Rojas from Movistar) Jens Keukeleire from Orica came out on top, producing a great sprint!

WATSON_00004732-001-630x419

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

The Route

A classic Vuelta stage.

There are 4 Cat-3 climbs so it doesn’t sound too tough on paper, but don’t let that deceive you: there is over 3500m of climbing during the stage. Combine that with it being the longest stage of the whole Vuelta (at 213.4km), it’s a very difficult day!

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 15.13.12

The Cat-3 climbs shouldn’t be overly difficult for either the break, or the peloton. However, the final one (Puerto de Lizaieta)  will possibly be influential in the outcome of the stage. 7.2km long, at an average gradient of 4.8% won’t leave the riders quaking in their boots but after the past few days and with the climbing already covered in the stage it could cause a few splits in the break.

More than likely though (Ruben Plaza isn’t here), the stage will be won in the final 40km…

download (2)

As with previous stages where nothing is clear on the official stage profile, I’ve created a Strava profile of those final 40km. Or at least I think I have, the road book author seems to have been putting in a lot less effort for these stages, it’s harder to figure out where the stage actually goes…

Anyway, you can view that here.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 17.49.06
Profile of the final 40km

The final 40km is a microcosm of the entire stage, up and down all the time!

The climb that comes at around 22.5km mark is 2km long and averages 5.6%. With its position in the race, someone could try to launch a move from here. If not, then it will come down to the final climb/descent of the day (which the riders tackle twice), that I’m naming the Zugarramurdi climb.

Averaging only 3.75% for the 4km, it sounds pretty easy on paper. However, that includes a false flat section, before it kicks up again. The first km actually averages 10%, which is the perfect place for a stinging attack.

If someone crests the summit alone, they should be able to solo to victory as the descent will be fast and runs almost all the way to the finish line. There’s only around 600m of flat from the bottom to the line itself.

How will the stage pan out?

I can’t see anything past a breakaway tomorrow. I know I’ve said that the past few days, but it is too much work for any of the teams to hold it together, especially considering the monster stage that we have the following day.

So once again I’ll be naming a few candidates for the escape. Some proper longshots here!

Larry Warbasse (again).

Amstel Gold Race 2016

You know my thoughts on him by now. A solid all-rounder in search of a contract. He should be able to deal with the climbs and his been trying to get into the breaks daily. A solid rouleur, he could use his strength on the flat to get away.

Tobias Ludvigsson (again).

As you probably know by now, I’m a big fan of big T. Ludvigsson is climbing better than ever this Vuelta, finishing relatively high up on some of the tough summit finishes. As I’ve alluded to in previews earlier in the race, he is a rider in the same ilk as Tom Dumoulin and seems to be transforming in to more of an all-rounder. He seemed disappointed to have had a mechanical today. He could use his TT engine to his advantage and escape from the break and solo to the finish line. Easier said than done!

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 18.16.03
Extract from the Giant website

Mattia Cattaneo.

Cycling: 71st Tour of Spain 2016 / Stage 8

A very promising junior, Cattaneo has failed to take home a win in the pro-ranks. However, he was very active in the break earlier on in the race, finishing 4th on Stage 8. It looks like he’s slowly starting to find his form/feet again, and tomorrow’s stage looks to suit him more than a proper summit finish. The other riders in the break would be wrong to give him too much room in the finale!

Prediction

The break has to win, I mean, doesn’t it?!

I’ll go for the main man himself, Big Tobias Ludvigsson to take home the stage. As I said above, he seems to be in great form at the moment and is climbing better than ever. Tomorrow’s rolling (not proper Alpine mountains) day should suit him well.

Ch8eIVcU4AA_mI7

Apologies for this being more abrupt than normal, I’m away most of tomorrow so having to write both previews this evening. Keeping things short and sweet!

Betting

Small stakes on each of the three mentioned;

0.5pt Ludvigsson @ 100/1 (B365)

0.3pt Warbasse@ 250/1 (B365)

0.2pt Cattaneo @ 300/1 (B365)

Like normal, hunt around when other bookies price up (copy B365 😉 )

No H2Hs as of yet, but if I see anything I like then I’ll post them on my Twitter.

 

Thanks for reading, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

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

Today’s Recap

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

Chris-Froome-1

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

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

The Route

An up and down day with a flat finish.

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 16.59.41

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

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 17.12.18

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 18.41.14
Profile of the final 20km.

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

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

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

How will tomorrow’s stage pan out?

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

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

See, it’s not easy!

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

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

Breakaway Candidates

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

JJ Rojas.

59977_rojas

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

Pello Bilbao.

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

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 20.02.27

Nathan Haas.

20165270_294187_670

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

Prediction

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

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

Bilbao to win in Bilbao. Simple and poetic.

_bh16516_670

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

Betting

Small punts on the three breakaway guys

0.3pt Bilbao at 40/1 (Various)

0.1pt Haas at 100/1 (Various)

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

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

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.