Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 20 Preview: Andorra. Escaldes-Engordany › Coll de la Gallina. Santuario de Canolich

Today’s Recap

The stage was going almost identical to yesterday’s preview, with Movistar controlling things all day and a break never allowed clear. Once onto the final climb Quintana launched early and was followed by Kruijswijk. Blog pick Pinot then rode across the gap and made the duo up front a trio. However, that’s when things went a bit off-piste!

Yates attacked from the rest of the GC group and no one was able to follow. Carapaz did some work but he soon went pop and Quintana dropped back from what was now a front four to help pace Valverde. The Colombian then punctured not long later and things went really pear-shaped in that group. No one wanted to commit fully and some more attacks came from Kelderman and Gallopin. Eventually, Bilbao pulled for Lopez but the gap had went out over a minute by then.

The stage and possibly the GC were gone up the road and with Yates continuing to push full gas, Kruijswijk eventually popped in the closing kilometre. Pinot, who had done several turns to be fair, launched his sprint and took what was a “comfortable” stage win in the end, with Yates trailing home 5 seconds behind.

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Wasn’t exactly how I imagined it playing it out but it will do!

Kruijswijk finished in third place, only a further 8 seconds behind Yates, a result that moves him up onto the current GC podium.

Will things change again tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

The one everyone has apparently been waiting for, but it appears Yates didn’t get the memo today!

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Over 3400m of climbing in only 98km, is it a bit overkill? Pretty much from the gun they will face the Cat-2 climb of Coll de la Comella (4.4km at 7.7%) and no doubt this will be rode at a very aggressive pace as those hoping to make the break look to escape. It wouldn’t surprise me if the break doesn’t go, unless it is a massive move, until the Coll de Beixalis (6.8km at 8.3%) which officially starts at around the 13km into the day mark.

A descent leads into some valley roads and the intermediate sprint point before yet another Cat-1 climb  of the Coll de Ordino (9.4km at 7.2%). It reaches an altitude of 1977m and it might be a place to test those who suffer at that kind of height. Then again, there are still 55kms to go and a lot of racing. Where is Froome when you need him?

Once again a long descent follows before the road rises straight away up yet another Cat-1, but this time they are repeating the Coll de Beixalis.

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Again, the climb is tough but with its distance to the finish will we see anyone go for it? A fairly long descent is followed by the most amount of valley roads the stage has to offer, albeit, they are rudely interrupted by a paltry Cat-3.

It’s then over to the big finish and the last mountain the riders will have to face this Vuelta.

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Touted as Andorra’s toughest climb, it is known for having some double-digit switchbacks near the summit. The 8.1% average gradient will be a killer after what the riders will have had to face throughout the day, but on closer inspection the final 4km are even tougher than that as they average 9.5%. After a tough day, we could see some big gaps.

The Battle for the Top 10

With Yates asserting his dominance today, he now sits with a good buffer over his nearest rivals. Furthermore, both Haig and Adam Yates looked fairly comfortable for the majority of the final climb so he should have strong domestiques with him throughout the day.

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There is scope for movement though but I’m not too sure we’ll see a hail mary attack from the gun by any of the top 5. I would love for it to happen but it is pretty foolish. Even attacking from the second ascent of Beixalis is unwise, unless you have team-mates up the road of course, because a lot of energy can be expended on the valley roads before the summit finish. We might see someone from Uran down try to get into the morning move and it will be interesting to see how it plays out from there. If that happens, then we could see some teams come to the front and ride to protect their GC rider’s placing.

Barring any major catastrophe Yates has this race wrapped up as he was the strongest on the climb today and he has a very solid bit of mountain support too. However, I did say that coming into the final few days of the Giro so who knows…

The battle for the podium is very much on though and any of the guys from 2nd to 5th could finish on it and in any order. That should be the exciting race to watch and it will probably provide some very tactical battles!

How will the stage pan out?

No doubt we will see a big fight to get into the break and those hunting the KOM prize will most definitely feature. Given the amount of points on offer there are still several in with a chance so it will all be about race and pacing management throughout the afternoon, choosing the right move to go with etc.

Once again I think Mitchelton will be happy to let a break go up the road and take the stage win and after their collapse today, I’m not too sure Movistar will be keen to set the pace early on and instead will no doubt turn to an ambush style strategy.

So for the break to be caught it either needs Astana to go crazy, which is possible, or for there to be one of those really awkward riders in the top 15 who will sneak into the top 10 to make the move, and another team closes them down.

One thing that also lends itself to the break is that the once over the second passage of the Beixalis, the riders still have 26km to the foot slopes of the final climb. That’s probably too far out for anyone to fully commit. Furthermore, I think the race tomorrow might just be too tough and it will scare a lot of the GC riders out of trying anything early. Instead, they will wait until the final climb and by then the race might be done ahead of them.

Therefore, for one last time this race, let’s play everyone’s favourite game…

TheBreakawayLottery

Candidates

It is hard to read into today’s stage a bit. For example, there are some who finished quite strongly where it is a matter of “do they have good legs?” or “will they be cooked tomorrow?. Likewise, the opposite can be said for those who just rolled home in the grupetto: bad legs or saving themselves?

I’m going to take two from each set and see what happens. I’ll be keeping the next bit brief!

Vincenzo Nibali.

Milano-Sanremo 2018 - edizione 109 - da Milano a Sanremo (294 km)

The Shark of Messina did a lot of work on the front of the peloton during stage 15 in an effort to set up Izagirre before going in the break on stage 17. He failed to live up to expectations on that day but the super steep slopes are not really suited to him anyway. After that stage though he said he was on the up and I think he will want to give it a dig tomorrow to test where his form is at before some Italian Cup races and then the worlds.

Rudy Molard.

Back to back Groupama wins? I was impressed with how long Molard hung on with the main group today so I think his legs are there. An attacking rider, I think he will be let of the leash by Pinot to chase his own success. This season has been a bit of a breakout year for him and after wearing the red jersey already here, can he take a stage win too?

Pello Bilbao.

I was very impressed with Bilbao who hung tight and looked as strong as some of the GC candidates today. His team leader Lopez disappointed me a little because he didn’t have the legs to go earlier on the climb, otherwise he would have asked the Basque rider to do some work sooner. Possibly Astana will allow Bilbao a free role tomorrow? I pointed out before his home stage that he seems to be “doing a Poels” and timing his third week perfectly. It will be tough to beat him if he makes the break.

Michal Kwiatkowski.

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Desperate to make the break today, the Sky rider just rode home with the grupetto to save his legs for tomorrow. He seems really keen to get in a break and win a stage here. The amount of climbing throughout the afternoon could be a test for him but I think he will be fine, especially with the shorter day. He’s been saving himself the past few days for one big blow out, will it end in a win?

Prediction

Bilbao to be given freedom and fly.

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Betting

Dabble on each of the breakers.

1pt WIN on them all;

Kwiatkowski and Nibali @ 50

Bilbao @ 66

Molard @ 100

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 19 Preview: Lleida -> Andorra. Naturlandia

Today’s Recap

Nailed on sprint day huh? The peloton severely underestimated the strength of the trio of riders up the road and what a tailwind on the run to the line can do. After becoming a duo in the final 5km, Wallays and Bystrom pushed on and co-operated well all the way until the Flamme Rouge. Things got a little bit cagey but they just had enough of an advantage for the Lotto Soudal rider to bide his time and go for the sprint, taking a famous victory.

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A super strong rider and hard-working domestique, it was nice to see him take another pro win. Bystrom got a second place out of the day while Sagan followed just on his wheels, “winning” the bunch sprint for third. I did say in yesterday’s preview that I thought Sagan might have it today so him coming home first of the group reaffirmed to me that his form is nearly there now.

So the sprinters were denied their fun today but it was mostly their own doing to be fair, will we see the GC men slip up tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for them.

The Route

A pretty easy day out, although the terrain is deceptively rolling at times, but with one big sting in the tail.

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No beating around the bush, tomorrow is all about the final climb.

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It is a long climb and is in fact one of the peaks with the most amount of ascending in this race. As you can see, the toughest ramps come in the opening 7km before it “flattens out” for the final 10km. The easier gradients to the line could see some kind of sprint between riders but that is of course assuming it is not split up earlier on.

One important aspect to note is that the finish is above 2000m and this might have an effect on the breathing of the riders. Some perform better than others at high altitude. Thankfully for those who suffer, they aren’t above 2000m for long so it shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

How will the stage pan out?

Looks as if it will be much the same pattern as previous days; where Mitchelton will be happy to let the break get up the road and take the stage win. However, unlike previous days, there will be an incentive for both Movistar and Quick Step to chase, as Valverde and Mas were on superb form the other day. Throw in Astana and Lopez to the mix and we might just see an alliance to keep a tight leash on things.

Furthermore, it is an easy stage to control tomorrow and the squads can use their rouleurs without fear of them cracking on the climbs because there aren’t really any before the summit finish.

We could see them all take the approach of just let Mitchelton do the work and tire them out but the prospect of a controllable day and bonus seconds on the line should be too much.

We’ll see a GC winner tomorrow.

Tactics

Does someone go early on the climb in a bid to regain some valuable time, hoping that there is looking around by others? We could see some inside the latter half of the top 10 go on the offensive and as they are not an immediate threat, the might be given some leeway, just like Pinot’s win earlier in the race.

Quintana and Kruijsiwjk are in the position of where they could probably attack and get away without being latched onto straight away by Yates and his team. However, if the gap starts to grow to them then some panic might set in.

Movistar are at a clear tactical advantage with having both Quintana and Valverde in the top 6 of GC but the Colombian has lacked the legs the past few week. If he has managed to turn it around then I would expect a hail mary attack from home, while Valverde can just sit in and let the race leader do the work.

Contenders

Yates.

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Up until Wednesday’s summit finish most would have said Yates has been the strongest climber in this race and I was one of them. The question we now have to ask, and so does the rest of the peloton, is: was that 8 second loss just a blip or a crack starting to appear? Tomorrow might not give a lot more away either but it could quite easily be another Prato Nevoso situation. The Brit currently lives in Andorra so no doubt he knows the roads better than most and that could be a big advantage, as is having his brother up to support him who seems to have “done a Poels” and timed his third-week peak to perfection.

Valverde.

If Valverde can get over the steeper sections earlier on in the climb then he will love the look of the profile near the finish, rating his chances of nabbing some bonus seconds highly. The Movistar man is one of those riders I mentioned above who will be thankful the climb just tips the 2000m mark as he has never been one to go too well at altitude. He looks as strong as ever though and I would be surprised to see him crack tomorrow.

Mas.

Will the young pretender prove his worth as a fully fledged contender? I think the answer to that is already “yes”, despite whatever may happen over the coming days. Touted as Contador 2.0, he has some lofty heights to live up to but Quick Step seem to be managing him very well. Like Yates, he currently resides in Andorra and says he knows the perfect place to attack. The issue for him is that he is now a marked man, unlike earlier in the race.

Lopez.

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The rider whom the higher altitude should suit the best, he will hope to go better than his slightly disappointing performance on Stage 17 after his team did a lot of the work. Nonetheless, he only lost 2 seconds to Yates and 10 to Valverde/Mas so it wasn’t too bad a result. The Colombian now sits on the tipping point of not being immediately marked so he could slip away in the closing kilometre or so. However, he is still close enough to have a watchful eye kept on. I’m sure Yates won’t want to give him 30 seconds and let him right back into it.

Kruijswijk.

The Dutchman has had a really up and down race so far but still finds himself somewhat in contention for the overall title. He’s said in the press that it will be all or nothing from him so I expect either a crazy early attack from him tomorrow or he will save all of that for Saturday. It is hard to read what type of day he will be on but if he is on a good day, then he could be tough to beat.

Pinot.

The one rider who no longer has a real chance of winning the race overall but that I fancy to go well tomorrow, the Frenchman had his jour-sans on Stage 17, now finding himself 5’31 down on GC. Yet, we saw with his exceptional performance on Lagos de Covadonga that he is more than capable of hanging with the big boys. As one of the GC riders with a fast kick, I think he has a very good chance.

Prediction

A Movistar, Astana and Quick Step alliance keeps the break in check before the climb. Quintana goes early but unfortunately for him he just doesn’t have the legs anymore this race and he is reeled back in by Adam Yates. A little bit of stalling in the main group sees Pinot attack and in a déjà vu scenario, he manages to steal a march and take the stage in an idental manner to Covadonga.

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Behind, Yates cracks a little again and Valverde gains the second place bonuses, but the Mitchelton man remains in the lead – only by a margin of 16 seconds going into the final mountain day.

Betting

No bet for now

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will the break be allowed any freedom? Or will the GC teams control it? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 17 Preview: Getxo -> Balcón de Bizkaia

Today’s Recap

Was it ever really in doubt? Dennis crushed the opposition to take his second stage win of the race and promptly announced he was heading home!

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His team-mate and US Champion, Rosskopf, produced his best ever performance at this level to finish with Spanish TT champion Castroviejo rounding out the podium.

As for the GC contenders, Kruijswijk (4th) and Mas (6th) produced stunning times to tame some ground back on the overall leader Yates, who himself gained on most of his rivals. Still, it leaves 6 riders within 1’34 of the Mitchelton man going into the final 4 days of racing, if we’re not counting the procession in Madrid. Yates has looked the strongest on the climbs so far but will he manage to avoid the last week crack like he suffered in the Giro? Tomorrow’s finish might certainly expose any weaknesses.

The Route

We’re in the Basque country so that means twisting, rolling roads and incredibly passionate fans!

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3500m of elevation gain throughout the day but with only one Cat-1 climb, you can get an idea of how up and down the terrain must be.

The opening Cat-3 climb of Alto de Arboleta (6.7km at 5.5%) will probably see a big fight to make the morning break but it will also start things off in the battle for the KOM jersey. Things are still very much up for grabs in that competition so it will be one to watch for over the coming days!

The route does flatten out a bit from then but a series of uncategorised hills follows the intermediate sprint point and we reach the second Cat-3 just after the feed zone. More flat follows before the final 45km of the day are constantly up and down.

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The first of the climbs in those closing 45kms the riders have to face is the Alto del Balcon de Bizkia which is 9km at 3.9%. Probably the easiest Cat-2 climb the riders will see all Vuelta but there are some steeper sections in it with a few kilometres at 7% etc, however, the closing 2.5km are at a shade over 2% in gradient.

A long descent, some of which the riders will have to make an effort on, follows and that leads pretty much into the next climb. The Alto de Santa Eufemia is a short and sharp affair that averages 6.8% for almost 3.9kms. It is a very consistent climb so should be good for those who like to ride tempo. A fast descent then brings the riders to the penultimate climb of the day: the Alto de Gontzegaraine. Officially 3.3km at 5.8%, the road actually rises gradually before then making it 7kms at 3.7%, either way, it is steepest near the end but nothing too bad for the riders to worry about. Well, not compared to what awaits them…

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The final climb can be split into two parts and they are pretty obvious what they are! The opening 3kms of it comes along the main road (that they actually descended down before) which averages roughly 6.3%.

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They then turn off the main road, onto a very narrow track and that is when the fun begins…

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My legs hurt just looking at that profile. Any words I have won’t really do it any justice and the severity of the gradients will only be made worse by the poor concrete surface the riders will have to traverse. We could see some big GC gaps here if someone isn’t feeling good.

How will the stage pan out?

Mitchelton will be happy to let a break go so it is up to the others to bring it back. The parcours is rolling and hilly but it isn’t mountainous enough to try to send your GC candidate on the attack. All of those moves should be left until Saturday in my opinion. Therefore, it is going to have to be a traditional chase of the break and set it up for the GC riders to battle for the stage. Again though, if teams want to weaken Yates’ team, why would they want to do that? Furthermore, with how strong Yates has looked on the climbs, will we really see Movistar or Astana pull all day and diminish their resources only for their leaders to lose even more time? I don’t think so. I think they will all save themselves for Saturday and try to tire Mitchelton out by letting them do the work until then.

Here we are again then…

TheBreakawayLottery

The Cursed “Cinco”

Pello Bilbao.

Basque rider number one, the Astana man seems to be slowly riding himself into form at this race and he was with the GC group for quite a while on the last summit finish. We saw at the Giro how strong he can be and the local will certainly be getting an extra boost from his home fans. With Lopez slipping down the order a little, I think we will see a change of approach from Astana and they will allow their Basque men free…

Omar Fraile.

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Astana’s second Basque rider, Fraile is now a winner at both the Giro and the Tour. Can he add the Vuelta to his palmares? I would be surprised if we don’t see either him or Bilbao up the road tomorrow and they both have the potential to finish it off. On his day, Fraile can deliver some stunning performances on the steep slopes.

Dylan Teuns.

After finding himself in the break for three days in a row last week, where he finished inside the top 5 on every occasion, the Belgian had a couple of days off after that. He did come home in 11th place today in the TT which suggests that he has recovered well. Desperately wanting a stage win, the steep slopes of the finish climb tomorrow look suited to his characteristics. No doubt we’ll see a few BMC riders up the road, they have nothing else to do!

Richard Carapaz.

#FreeRickie. Once again on the finish of Covadonga it was Carapaz who was the last standing domestique for the GC riders. Like Bilbao, he seems to be riding himself into the race after a tough Giro. He’s proven to be one of the better climbers in the peloton and I hope Movistar give him a chance to shine tomorrow before he returns to domestique duties in the coming days after that.

Michal Kwiatkowski.

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His 5th place in the TT today would suggest that he has recovered from his crash the other day. Desperately wanting a stage win, the Pole now finds himself far enough down the order to not be a threat so he should actually be able to get into a breakaway that will be given some leeway. Can he deliver?

I think I might be being bold here by not including an Euskadi Murias rider as they will probably try to get their whole team up the road. Oh well!

Prediction

Break to stay away and a Basque rider to claim victory…

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On a side note, I’m really looking forward to the KOM battle over the coming days. Tomorrow will be crucial and could give some a few extra points they want and need. On paper Saturday is the most important day but if we are expecting a big GC showdown from the gun, the main crux of points could be gained tomorrow. Come on Tommy lad!

Betting

1pt on each of the break picks.

Kwiatkwoski at 66/1

Fraile and Teuns at 80/1

Carapaz and Bilbao at 100/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 15 Preview: Ribera de Arriba -> Lagos de Covadonga

Today’s Recap

We finally got a GC fight for the stage win!

A break of 6 went away quite early on in the day without much hassle. With Kwiatkowski there, it was kept on a fairly tight leash and they never gained more than 4 minutes of an advantage. The Pole held on until the foot slopes of the final climb but there was nothing he could do about the GC riders behind.

Kruijswijk hit out early but he acted more as a proverbial dangling carrot than anything else, albeit it meant he was always up there when those from behind caught up. Quintana and Lopez looked like they were going to go wheel-to-wheel for the stage win, but with the Astana man not wanting to come to the front, Quintana eased off the pace. This happened on at least three occasions on the climb and each time it allowed those behind to come back.

It was then Yates who attacked with just over 700m to go and he never looked back. The Brit had been cannily riding the whole climb and chose to go at the perfect moment when the road had narrowed and his rivals were on their limit.

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It was enough to take the stage win despite a late charge from Lopez, who arguably looked the strongest today but was too concerned with Movistar, and the evergreen Valverde who came home in third.

Yates moves back into the red jersey after loaning it to Herrada for a couple of days. With another summit finish on the cards tomorrow will he be on the defensive or will he look to gain more time before the rest day?

The Route

Another rolling stage with only three categorised climbs before the summit finish of Lagos de Covadonga but there are plenty of uncategorised tests along the way too, so much so, that the total elevation for the stage is over 4500m.

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It’s still too early for anyone near the top of the GC to try an audacious attack from 40km out so I think the Cat-1 climb (that they do twice) of Mirador del Fito will be inconsequential despite its steep gradients.

For the GC contenders, the battle will come down to the final climb of the day: the famous Lagos de Covadonga.

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Long and pretty steep, the final 4kms are actually the easiest of the whole climb aside from the gentle opening ramp. That makes it tactically a very interesting one because if you can hold on over the very steep 7kms then you shouldn’t lose too much time. However, if things kick off early then we could see some very big time gaps.

How will the stage pan out?

It was nice to see the GC teams take control of things today but I do wonder if they were partly spurred on by Kwiatkowski ahead. Would it have been different if there was no overall “threat” up the road?

Although Mitchelton now have the race lead again, I think they will be happy to just sit back a bit and not chase too much throughout the afternoon unless it is absolutely necessary. Yates is clearly on good form but he and the team have shown a lot more maturity and tactical nous compared to the Giro earlier in the year so I think they’ll be happy to let the break go and let it come back naturally, or if other teams chase.

Who will those teams be?

Movistar and Astana are the only two I can see contributing. The former have been the major pace setters of the GC teams but given that Quintana looked a bit shaky today they might take more of a back seat. Lopez will have been kicking himself after the finish this afternoon as he certainly looked like the stage win was a possibility. Astana are the type of team who can set their minds to it and chase down the breaks, but do they want to?

Bahrain were the ones to put a lot of pace into the back-end of the stage but Izagirre fell short so I think they will look elsewhere tomorrow. You have to applaud them for trying this afternoon though!

With it being another fairly big day for the KOM competition, expect those near the top of the standings to try to make the move. De Gendt was on the attack today but I expect him to be there tomorrow, likewise Rolland, Mollema and King. As harsh it is, they need to strike now that Maté is apparently suffering from bronchitis.

I think it will be another big fight to get into the break and if the right riders are represented then it won’t come back: there just has to be no-one in it that is closer 7 or so minutes as that might concern some near the top of the order.

Time to play that game again…

TheBreakawayLottery

Break Candidates

Once again, I’ll try to keep this short and sweet as no one wants to hear the same thing for about the 7th time this Vuelta. Unfortunately for you, that is exactly what is happening!

Vincenzo Nibali – A nice training ride for him this afternoon as he drilled the front of the bunch in aid of Ion Izagirre. That didn’t work out for the team and I expect Nibali to be allowed a free role from now on. He looked super strong today and if he makes the break he has got to be a danger.

Richard Carapaz – Movistar love a team classification win and today they closed the gap to Bahrain thanks to it being a GC day. However, if things are to go to those up the road tomorrow then they might try to sneak someone into the attack. Carapaz has been growing steadily into this race and we all saw at the Giro just how strong he can be in the mountains.

Sepp Kuss – With Jumbo only having Kruijswijk in GC contention now, they might decide to let some of their riders up the road. Kuss has performed brilliantly on select days, keeping the pace very high on the front of the bunch before peeling off. It is his first Grand Tour so energy management will be important but if he has recovered for tomorrow, then he could be an outsider for the day.

Tiesj Benoot – I expected big things of Benoot coming into this race, namely with a possible stage win somewhere. However, he has been unfortunate with a crash and an injury to the knee but that seems to have healed a bit more over the past few days. His form was on the up before the crash so it is yet to be seen how he can go on a finish like this at the head of the race. I’m willing to be pleasantly surprised.

Prediction

Rinse and repeat prediction from yesterday: Nibali.

Milano-Sanremo 2018 - edizione 109 - da Milano a Sanremo (294 km)

Buy Me A Beer (Coffee)

Forgot to plug this going into last Sunday so here we are this time around. If you’ve enjoyed the previews over the past two weeks of racing and you’re feeling really generous then you can aid the blog writing process by buying me a coffee through the following link: https://www.paypal.me/jamiehaughey/3.50

Thank you in advance if you do!

Betting

1.75pt WIN Nibali @ 40/1

0.75pt WIN on the rest…

Carapaz @ 66/1

Benoot @ 80/1

Kuss @ 66/1

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think wins tomorrow and in what manner? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 13 Preview: Candás. Carreño -> Valle de Sabero. La Camperona

Today’s Recap

A big break went as I expected and with both Bora and Quick Step represented, it showed that Sagan and Viviani weren’t overly keen with another hard day on a finish they might not have made. I did question the possible success of the break early on though as Jesus Herrada made the split and he was only 5’45 down on GC before the start of the day. However, it seems Mitchelton have learnt from their Giro mistakes and they were more than happy to let the Cofidis rider take the jersey at the end of the day: an opportunity he gladly took. He wasn’t competing for the stage win though, as the large break splintered into two groups in the final 20km.

Instead it was a group of 8 out ahead who fought for the win. Attacks flew but no one was able to escape and after some riders were dropped it came down to a 5 rider sprint to the line. Geniez took a bit of a risk and went early at 300m out but given the narrow road and slight downhill, it turned out to be a perfect point to launch the sprint. Van Baarle came close but he ran out of road both in front of him and at the side as the barriers closed off any chance he had of getting round the Ag2R rider. Youngster Padun trailed home in third, not a bad result for his first Grand Tour.

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Kind of an annoying day for the blog as Campenaerts was in that group but finished fifth. However, I am very pleased of how accurate my “How will the race pan out?” predictions have been this whole race, even if the right riders aren’t represented. Watch me get it massively wrong for tomorrow now…

The Route

Only a shade more climbing than today but the profile looks completely different as we have a tough mountain top finish.

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The stage is pretty easy in some sense due to the lack of actual hills, the road drags than anything else for the opening 90km, albeit, there is a 3rd-Cat climb early on in the day. Just through the feed zone the peloton will tackle the Cat-1 climb of Puerto de Tama (11.7km at 6.1%). Given it’s position in the day and what comes after it, I expect it to be taken at a very casual pace indeed.

Following on from the summit, almost 60km of flat-ish roads await the riders and the cheekily placed intermediate sprint before the road starts climbing for the mountain finish of La Camperona.

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A 7.7km climb at 7.6% sounds fairly tough on its own but La Camperona is all about its ridiculously steep gradients within the closing 2kms. It isn’t also nicknamed the Wall of Camperona for nothing!

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A final 2.6km at 14.4% is just brutal. You don’t want to be giddy and go too early as if you fade late on then you can crack massively and lose a lot of time. Back in 2016 Quintana attacked at only 1km to go but still managed to gain 25 seconds on Contador and 33 seconds on Froome respectively. Will we see something similar from him tomorrow?

How will the stage pan out?

A day that is easy to control for the GC teams given the large amount of flat roads that break up the two main climbs. However, will anyone want to control it? Mitchelton showed today they were content enough to let the jersey go so I can’t imagine they will chip in now. None of the other GC teams have really turned a pedal in anger at the head of the bunch to chase anything down; they’ve only put the pressure on at the end of stages, i.e. EF Education First yesterday.

So the buck will lie with our race leader and his Cofidis team, and Movistar. The former don’t really have the horsepower to control things fully in my opinion but they would be a more than helpful ally to Movistar. The men in blue have taken control of most days even though they are not in the race lead – clearly confident of Quintana for the race. Yet, with two even harder stages this weekend, I think they might be happy to let Cofidis to the brunt of the work so that they can rest up.

Therefore, another day and another chance to play our favourite game…

TheBreakawayLottery

Breakaway Candidates

It’s a really weird stage to choose possible breakaway riders as the flatter opening 90kms are not ideal for the mountain goats to make the split. We could see a scenario very similar to what we had back in 2014, a day when the only climb was La Camperona, on which a break made up mainly of rouleurs fought out for the win. Of course, if one or two climbers to make the split then don’t expect everyone just to ride to the bottom of the climb with them.

Hmmmm. These guys will be outsiders but why not!

Jan Hirt.

I was very impressed with the Astana man on Stage 9 during the La Covatilla summit finish as he pushed the pace on for his leader Lopez. Despite having the Colombian fighting for the GC lead, Astana have been active in the break so far this race but they missed out today. Tomorrow they possibly might send someone up the road to work for Lopez later on but if the gap is too big then they could go for the stage themself. Hirt is a rider who likes the steep gradients so he will be a big fan of tomorrow’s finish climb. Can he rekindle that Giro 2017 form?

Franco Pellizotti.

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Now leading the Team Classification, Bahrain will be keen to get someone in the breakaway tomorrow. Nibali and Padun will be tired after their efforts today so that really leaves Gorka, Pernsteiner and the aforementioned Pellizotti. I was impressed with the veteran’s finish to the stage De Marchi won and if he had made the right move before he could have had a chance. He often turns up for one or two good stages in a Grand Tour where he is climbing with the best – is that tomorrow?

Merhawi Kudus.

It was the turn of the younger Eritrean climber in the Dimension Data team, albeit by only a few months, so I think we might see Kudus on the attack tomorrow. The steep ramps should suit his dimunitive figure. Does anyone else remember how strong he was back in 2017 on the steep slopes of Llucena in Valenciana? He will be a real threat if he makes the break but making the break will be his biggest challenge.

Tao Geoghegan Hart.

Sky have shown a different side to their armada over the past few days where they have actually had a rider up the road in the breakaway. Shocking, I know. Geoghegan Hart made one of the earlier splits that was unsuccessful the other day so he has clearly been given some freedom to chase a result now and again. One of the best performers at the Dauphiné earlier in the year, if he has the same legs tomorrow then he is one to watch.

Prediction

Dimension Data to continue their incredible Vuelta with Kudus winning the stage from a rather weird breakaway!

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Betting

0.5pt WIN on each of the breakers;

Hirt @ 300/1

Pellizotti @ 150/1

Kudus @ 100/1

TGH @ 150/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 12 Preview: Mondoñedo -> Faro de Estaca de Bares. Mañón

Today’s Recap

A manic day in the saddle where the race was 3km/h ahead of the fastest expected schedule. It took for over 80km for the break to form and when it did Pinot found himself up there along with 18 others. They were never given a lot of time with the gap hovering around the 3:30 mark for most of the day but they did have enough to fight out for the stage win.

It became a very tactical finish but a duo of De Marchi and Restrepo escaped with around 20km to go, and it was the BMC man who dropped his companion on the final unclassified climb, managing to ride solo to the line.

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Restrepo held on for second place while Pellizotti rounded out the podium.

Behind, the GC riders dropped pretty much everyone else on that final rise thanks to a strong pace from EF Education. However, they all arrived at the line together so no time loss. Well, apart from De La Cruz (7 seconds), Buchmann (8 seconds) and Aru (41 seconds) who all shipped a bit of time.

With today’s stupidly fast pace, I’m sure there will be several in the bunch hoping for an easier day tomorrow, so let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Another day out with 3000m of climbing: that might not be music to the ears of plenty in the peloton after all.

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It doesn’t appear as difficult a stage because there aren’t as many big climbs, but the road is constantly up and down and will be very draining.

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Once the riders pass through the 50km to go banner there are no more categorised climbs, but that doesn’t mean the ascending stops. According to the Strava profile I’ve made, there is a total of 948m of elevation gain but that does seem a little on the heavy-handed side in my opinion. Something like 750m might be a bit more realistic.

The first of the small drags to contend with in that closing 50km is 2kms at 5.5% and starts with 40km to go. Some flat land then leads onto a 2.9km (6%) climb which has a just over a kilometre at 10%. A fast descent and more flat sees the riders into the last 20km of the day which can certainly be described as rolling.

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It is pretty much up or down all the way to the finish.

The three main rises can be classed as 2.4km at 4.5%, 2.7km at 5.5% and 4.1km at 2.3%. Throughout the first two of those climbs, there are several sections with steeper gradients and the hurt can be put on within the peloton. Once over the last drag, there are only 2.5km left in the day, all of which are pretty much downhill.

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A fast finish to the day and given the potential showers throughout the afternoon, it might be a sketchy run in. It is meant to be very windy throughout the stage too but it shouldn’t be an issue at the end of the day because of how sheltered the roads are. However, it might cause another frantic start to the stage with the riders travelling along the coast.

How will the stage pan out?

One of those days where we could feasibly see several outcomes, making it a tricky one to predict.

The finish looks good for Sagan and if the rumours are true, he might be heading home after tomorrow’s stage so going out on a win would be great. However, the stage could also be good for someone like Valverde if the climbs are rode aggressively in the last 20km in an attempt to detach the faster sprinters.

Tomorrow will either end up with the break winning, a reduced bunch sprint, or a late solo attack.

The climb at the start of the stage is a good opportunity for a strong group to go but the “easy” roads up to the half-way point of the afternoon could see them controlled. Yet, the second part of the stage is much more difficult for teams to keep a lid on things so they might just be happy to let some riders go. Another factor that lends itself to the break staying away is just how fast and crazy today was. There are plenty riders in the peloton who will have suffered and the GC teams will want to keep their domestiques fresh for the coming mountain days so they won’t chase. Instead, it will probably be up to the likes of Bora to try to hold things together if they want a Sagan stage win.

A reduced bunch sprint has a good chance of happening if we get one of this piss-poor breaks where three guys just roll off the front in the opening 2kms and everyone sits up. The peloton will easily be able to control them and bring them back slowly over the second half of the stage. However, it will then depend how aggressively things are raced as to just how reduced a bunch we get at the finish. I think a lot of the sprinters will struggle.

The late attack option can only happen if the break has been brought back, obviously. If we see a fast pace that gets rid of the sprinters, then it helps those wanting to attack as there will be fewer teams wanting to hold things together.

We might even see some crazy early echelon action if some teams want to push the pace on.

Hmmmmmm. I don’t really know, this is tough.

Break. I’ll go with the break so I guess it is that time again…

TheBreakawayLottery

I’ll keep this brief as I’m pretty much pulling names out of a hat.

Victor Campenaerts – Same reason as yesterday’s preview. He seems strong this race but hasn’t had the chance to shine for himself. Will want a hit out at some point over the coming stages before the TT.

Rohan Dennis – Think he is the only BMC not to be in the breakaway so far this Vuelta: will that change tomorrow? Like Campenaerts, I think he will want to open the taps up fully a few days before the TT. The rolling stage looks good for him tomorrow and he can certainly hold off a strong chase behind.

Steve Cummings – Meh, why not?*

*Please don’t actually tell me the numerous reasons why.

Laurens De Plus – One of the teams who might try to hold things together are Quick Step as they possibly might fancy Viviani’s chances of making the line. To counter the expected work they will have to do though then they could send someone up the road. De Plus was very active at the start of the day but paid for it at the end of the stage by losing time. Can he recover and go again? He has looked in great shape so far this race.

Lukas Pöstlberger – Like Quick Step, a lot of the workload will be left with Bora tomorrow. Sagan was dropped a few times today so maybe he was feeling the effects. If so, then attacking could be their best option for the stage. Pöstlberger made a few of the earlier moves but missed the ones later on but he could be the type of rider to attack tomorrow.

Prediction

Peloton will want another rest day so they will go easy, allowing the break to win. Dennis to take the stage!

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Betting

Small stakes on the break picks as I’m really unsure of how tomorrow pans out.

0.5pt WIN on

Postlberger @ 56/1

Campenaerts @ 50/1

Cummings @ 100/1

0.25pt WIN On

Dennis @ 300/1

De Plus @ 300/1

1.25pt EW On Valverde @ 25/1

Backing the latter in case of the reduced bunch sprint and Valverde going for the stage to take the red jersey.

 

Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 11 Preview: Mombuey -> Ribeira Sacra. Luintra

Today’s Recap

Viviani won.

Moving on…

Just kidding, it was a pretty dull day so it all came down to the expected big bunch sprint. Quick Step delivered one of the best lead-outs I’ve seen all season, dropping the Italian champion off in the perfect position at just over 150m to go. No one was coming round him after that.

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Sagan came home second and Nizzolo rounded out the podium in third. I think the rest of the sprinters and their teams got scared to take it up too early in case they ended up in a poor position. However, with everyone riding a phony tempo on the front of the bunch it just worked into Quick Step’s hands as they could save themselves and hit it fully from 2.5km out. If there was some disorganisation then some of the other sprinters might have had a chance. That’s a big might though…

Anyway, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

The longest stage of the race at a tad under 208km, it is no easy day in the saddle for the riders though with 3700m of climbing throughout the afternoon.

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As you can see on the profile there are no real mountains as such, just several long hills with shallow 4-5% average gradients. To add to that, there are also numerous uncategorised kickers and drags throughout the afternoon: the road is barely ever flat!

We might see a Ruben Plaza 2015-style solo 114km attack from the break but considering I think that is unlikely, tomorrow will be decided by a tactical final 50km.

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The road rises through the intermediate sprint point before the road descends into an uncategorised 2.9km at 5.8%. We will then see the peloton tackle the last categorised climb of the day.

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As you can see, it isn’t an overly difficult climb and stays very consistent. It definitely suits the all-rounders better than the pure climbers so to speak. The road then descends for almost 12km, although it is very shallow in some parts with that 12km only averaging -2%.

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At around 5.6km to go, the riders will face the above uncategorised climb. It is steep and long enough for the puncheurs to try to make a difference but those hoping to grind their way up it will think the opposite. It really is a perfect climb for its position in the day. Given the almost 2kms at 7.8% though, I think it tips it in favour of the puncheurs.

With it cresting with just over 3km to go, will a rider be able to solo to the line, or will we see a slight regroupment?

Breakaway Day

No beating around the bush here, tomorrow is most definitely a day for a break in my opinion. With the constant rolling terrain throughout the afternoon, it will be nigh on impossible for a team to control a strong group ahead. Furthermore, it will take a lot of energy expenditure to even try that – not exactly what anyone wants to do with the more important GC days to come. Unless of course Mitchelton Scott haven’t learnt anything from the Giro and decide to close everything down just for the sake of it. I wouldn’t count that out actually now I think about it a little more…

Nonetheless, time to play everyone’s favourite game. Again.

TheBreakawayLottery

The Fruitless Four

Steve Cummings.

Yep, it’s finally that day. I’ve had this day marked down as possible Cummings territory from before this race and since he has done absolutely nothing so far in this race, then I’m equally both more and less confident in the pick at the same time. He has been pretty rubbish this season, even he has admitted that, but he would have had a stage win in Austria had it not been for a mechanical in the closing kilometres. The rolling terrain of tomorrow suits Cummings well and I would expect to see him attack the breakaway around the final categorised climb and try to hold on to the finish.

Victor Campenaerts.

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After the tricky finish on stage 7 I promised I’d back Campenaerts on a rolling breakaway and tomorrow is that. Obviously a strong rider on the flat, the Belgian can actually go well on the hills too due to his quite slight nature. Lotto Soudal have had a pretty poor Vuelta so far, marred by crashes, but a good result tomorrow would set them up nicely for the final week.

Tao Geoghegan Hart.

When was the last time Team Sky had a rider in the breakaway at a Grand Tour? It certainly seems a while ago, that’s for sure. However, with De La Cruz and Kwiatkowski not looking convincing in their GC tilt at the moment, Sky might change their approach. Geoghegan Hart has had an exceptional season so far, proving to be one of the stronger climbing domestiques in the peloton at races like Dauphine. If he’s at that same level again in the break, then there won’t be many there stronger than him.

Vincenzo Nibali.

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Nibali might just be that guy who is stronger than Geoghegan Hart. He tried to escape with Trentin earlier on in the race but was still deemed too close on GC to be given any leeway, that’s how much his competitors respect him. The Shark of Messina has been struggling with form since crashing out of the Tour but he looked a lot more sprightly after his rest day this afternoon and I think he’ll be eyeing up one of the stages over the coming days. Does he have the legs to deliver?

Prediction

Yup, I’m going there.

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Steve Cummings to win and save his season, continuing Dimension Data’s great Vuelta.

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see a break survive all the way to the end? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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

Rest-day recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Route

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

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

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

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Easy, really easy!

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

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

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

You can see a video of the run in above.

Sprinters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction

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

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

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Betting

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

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

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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

Today’s Recap

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

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

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

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

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

The Route

I’m branding it as Stage 7 Lite.

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

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

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

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

How will the stage pan out?

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

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

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

Can anyone stop Sagan?

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

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

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

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

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

Outsiders to watch

Simone Consonni.

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

Eduard Prades.

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

Mike Teunissen.

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

Prediction

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

Hmmmmm.

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

 

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Betting

2pts WIN Viviani @ 8/1

0.5pt EW Teunissen @ 200/1

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

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 7 Preview: Puerto Lumbreras -> Pozo Alcón

Today’s Recap

Told ya, well, kind of.

A stiff headwind for a lot of the day saw a slow pace throughout the afternoon but a combination of some poorly marshalled bollards and wind resulted in splits throughout the bunch late on. Annoyingly, those pesky sprinters made the front group along with team-mates so things were kept at a reasonable pace and the wind just wasn’t strong enough to create any more splits in the final 10km, despite the best intentions from a few teams.

I did say in yesterday’s preview that Viviani wouldn’t win and that is exactly what happened. The Italian finished ridiculously fast but he was poorly positioned coming around the final roundabout and could only manage third place.

Instead it was Bouhanni who sprinted to the victory, a result that will probably be divisive in the cycling community. I for one am happy to see him pick up the result, it is what he needed desperately. It also puts to bed the fake news/misinterpretation that was spread yesterday after the stage.

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Van Poppel got up well to finish second but just didn’t have the legs to come past the Cofidis man.

There weren’t many GC losers today but Pinot and Kelderman were the main ones, both shipping 1’44 to their rivals. Not ideal but it isn’t the end of the Vuelta for them, however, they will have to work hard to gain that time back. Will they get a chance soon? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Another rolling day out for the peloton, with 2500m of climbing throughout the stage.

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Only two of the rises are categorised but as you can see on the profile, there are plenty of drags and peaks elsewhere. The rolling terrain does make it a bit more awkward for the sprinters teams to control but nothing should worry them too much in the opening 160km. It is the final 15km of the day that will be crucial and we might not see many of the sprinters make the line in what is billed as another flat day and one for them. In fact, I’ll be surprised if any of them do.

AGEGA

Just ignore the fact I wrote Stage 8 above, bit of a brain fart…

To kick the closing 17.5km off, the riders will face the second categorised climb of the day: Alto de Ceal (4.3km at 5.8%). It is a very steady climb with the gradient keeping regular – good for those wanting to set a tempo. Once over the top, the road descends for 4kms, albeit that is interrupted by another short rise.

The day’s intermediate bonus sprint is handily placed on top of the following climb.

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The fight for position will be intense going into the climb and not because of the double-digit gradients that await in some points, but the ridiculously narrow streets through the village of Hinojares.

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Once through the sprint point a short descent follows before the road drags all the way up to the finish line, with an average gradient of 2% for the remaining 5.5km.

How will the stage play out?

It’s too difficult for any of the sprinters so it will be a puncheur that could sprint to the line from a reduced group. The final 20km actually look perfect for Valverde and Kwiatkowski but they also look very tempting for a late attack.

Will anyone want to work all day and hold the race together?

Movistar might, as today and tomorrow are both the closest stages to Valverde’s home in Murcia and given that the route suits him perfectly, they could give it a try. However, it will take a lot of energy to control things as I’m not sure many others will want to. Sky deliberately gave away the jersey to avoid controlling on days like tomorrow so I doubt they’ll decide to chase now.

Therefore, it once again looks like we’re about to play everyone’s favourite game…

TheBreakawayLottery

Dries Devenyns.

Solid rider with a good bit of form, Quick Step will want to be present in the break after missing out the other day. Devenyns is the type of guy who can finish it off. Can’t really be bothered to repeat myself from the other day so go and read that instead!

Dylan Teuns.

BMC were close to a win with De Marchi the other day and we saw the strange sight of Porte in a three-man break on a sprinter’s stage this afternoon. Teuns on paper looks their best shot at a win tomorrow as he can handle the punchy gradients very well.

Daniel Moreno.

No WT for EF Education up until Clarke’s victory on stage 5, can they get another one quickly? Moreno is in search of a contract for next year so I expect him to see him animate a few stages this race, it is just a question of which ones. Tomorrow looks like a good opportunity as Uran won’t need much help and there is time for him to recover before Sunday’s mountain top finish.

Nelson Oliveira.

Movistar are always competitive in the Team classification so if a big group goes up the road tomorrow then expect them to have someone there. Oliveira is a strong rider who can deal with varying terrain. The steep climb before the final 5km might be on his limit, but it all of course depends on his company in the move.

Prediction

Dani Moreno to roll back the years and make it two in three days for EF Education.

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Betting

“Punts on the break picks as per, then reassess in-play”, but given the price of Valverde, I’m also backing him…

2pts WIN Valverde @ 11s

1pt WIN Teuns @ 22s

1pt WIN Devenyns @ 50s

0.5pt WIN Moreno @ 250/1

0.5pt WIN Oliveira @ 125/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.