Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 5 Preview: Granada -> Roquetas de Mar

Today’s Recap

It was one of those days where a “weird” break went that lacked many of the expected big names. However, they proved strong enough to stay away all day thanks to good co-operation and a lack of willingness to chase them down from Sky behind.

A little split occurred in the group before the penultimate climb where King, Stalnov and Wallays gained 40 odd seconds over the rest of the break. As the road ramped up, the latter was detached and we saw an attack from Rolland behind. The remaining two continued to work well, keeping the stronger Frenchman at bay. They did start to mess around in the closing kilometre and Rolland got tantalisingly close to catching them but it wasn’t to be.

King ended up king on the day, producing a very explosive sprint to the line to win comfortably with Stalnov trailing home second and Rolland in third.

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Behind, we did get a bit of GC action with Yates and Buchmann the main two winners on the day. There were no real drastic changes though so let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Another classic Vuelta “sprint stage” that includes 3000m of climbing and a Cat-2 climb cresting only 27km from the finish.

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Rolling roads are pretty much how you would describe the whole day. The first categorised ascent comes after 50km but there will have already been three more gradual rises before then.

Alto de Orgiva is arguably the sharpest ascent of the day, averaging 7% for 4.4kms. Yet more rolling road follows with several more climbs as we pass through the feed zone and then the intermediate sprint.

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All of this happens before the main test of the day, the Alto el Marchal.

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The road actually gradually rises for around 3km before the climb officially starts, with much the same gradients of the ascent itself. The 4.1% average makes it sound easy and to be fair it kind of is, but there are several flat sections on the climb which lowers the average gradient. Still, with it never really going above 7%, it should see a group ride it together unless if someone tries something crazy/stupid.

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The descent off of the climb is long and sinuous, with several technical sections. It will be a fast one though as the inverted gradient is -6% for 16.5kms. Somewhere that the pressure can be put on? Possibly.

Nine kilometres of flat will see the riders arrive at the finish.

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A roundabout and a left hand turn in the closing kilometre could cause some issues if we see a big bunch arrive together.

How will the stage pan out?

Once again it is a day where we have to decide between four options for the win: break, big sprint, or reduced bunch sprint, really reduced bunch sprint/surprise GC day.

I don’t think many, if any, of the main sprinters will get over the final climb with the peloton so a big sprint is the least likely option. It would take a dud of a breakaway, maybe 3 riders or so, and a slow steady pace in the peloton for that to happen. 5%.

Surprise GC day would require Sky to keep things under control and as we saw today their team just isn’t that strong so they’re happy to let things go. In fact, it would be over to the other teams to create a surprise GC day but I think they will want to keep their powder dry and let Sky work in the heat. So again, this is very unlikely. 5%.

A reduced sprint could happen but it require teams to control the tempo all day but who would do it? Movistar could if they fancied Valverde to arrive in a group that he could beat. If Sagan was in form then he would make the finish but Bora have GC riders to look after now, unless of course they work for them? Same goes for Mitchelton and their Trentin/Yates combo? Make it tough enough for Yates or try to hold things together for Trentin? Likelier than the other two options above, but I just think the terrain is too difficult and sapping for someone to bother to waste resources to hold things together all afternoon. 25%.

So for the second day in a row, time to play everyone’s favourite game…

TheBreakawayLottery

I give the break a 65% chance of making it.

Break Candidates

As we saw today it might not be a break with some “big hitters” that makes it to the line and a move could go at any time. However, the more rolling course tomorrow would lend itself more to the stronger/more traditional break riders making the move. So here goes nothing…

As honorable mentions I’ll say De Marchi and De Gendt again but given it is so early into a GT, I like to mix the names up a bit before repeating the tried and tested riders later on.

Alexandre Geniez.

A two-time stage winner at the Vuelta before, we should see an attacking Ag2r outfit throughout this race as they have no-one with real GC aspirations – as much as Gallopin’s great start would suggest otherwise. Geniez is a good climber but also strong on the flat land too so he is the perfect mix to make the break on tomorrow’s terrain. He also packs a pretty fast sprint so could be a contender if the morning move makes it all the way to the line together.

Rohan Dennis.

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Flying on the opening day, since then he has been his Aussie team-mate’s minder pretty much, shepherding home Porte every day. Roche was up for them on GC before today’s stage where he lost two minutes to the main group. Like Ag2R, I expect BMC to put on an attacking display throughout this Vuelta and it was a surprise to see them not make the move today: they’ll duly rectify that tomorrow I think. Dennis is obviously strong on the flat but as we saw in the Giro he can handle himself well on the climbs too and the “easy” gradient of the final climb tomorrow suits him. His breakees can’t get him 20m on the run in to the line or he will be very tough to bring back.

Dries Devenyns.

The man with arguably the best Twitter handle in the peloton, Devenyns has been in lively form this year, albeit mainly at the start of the season. He picked up strong results Down Under and in Oman before returning to Europe. Since then he has been in a domestique role but once again seemed to be in good shape in Poland where he was on the attack. Clearly someone who can cope with the heat, see his results Down Under, the weather shouldn’t be an issue for him tomorrow. I am intrigued to see how QuickStep play it as they of course have Mas to look after for the overall, but Devenyns has been given freedom to chase stages at some point throughout the race. Is tomorrow one of those days?

Nick Schultz.

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Caja Rural have been surprisingly absent from the attacks over the past few days and I would expect that to change soon. Schultz has taken it easy on the first stages, maybe because his signing for Mitchelton is official now…I think he’s been saving himself and riding his way into his second GT, he’ll have learnt a lot from his Vuelta experience last year. Tomorrow doesn’t feature any massive climbs so the rolling terrain suits the young Aussie. We saw with his third place in GP Indurain that he can climb well but also descend too, both characteristics that will come in handy tomorrow.

Prediction

Break stays away and Geniez continues his Vuelta winning streak!

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Betting

1pt WIN Devenyns @ 33/1

1pt WIN Geniez @ 66/1

0.5pt WIN Schultz @ 200/1

0.5pt WIN Dennis @ 300/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 20 Preview; Corvera de Asturias -> Alto de L’Angliru

Today’s Recap

A big break formed relatively early on with a second group of chasers including Bardet, joining after the first climb of the day.

Sky were happy to let them go and so were the rest of the GC teams.

Numerous moments of attacks/counters/riders dropped/regrouping happened throughout the day but we ended with a small bunch sprint that was one by De Gendt.

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It was made all the sweeter with the Lotto rider being one of the blog picks for today. That win now puts him into an esteemed club of stage winners at all three Grand Tours. Not bad!

Behind, Contador put in an attack on the final climb but was ultimately reeled in by Sky and Sunweb so no GC change.

Is it all to play for tomorrow? Probably not, but who knows.

Let’s have a look at what is in store for them, even though you probably have a very good idea!

The Route

A stage everyone seems to be waiting for, with the mythical finish up the l’Angrilu.

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3500m of climbing in less than 120km of racing; it sounds less than ideal for those hoping just to make it to Madrid!

The riders will start the day off with an uncategorised climb from the gun; 12.7km at 3.46%. Fairly simple, but given what is to come in the rest of the stage, the pace could be very fast and some riders might find themselves in difficulty early on.

From there, the riders will descend before beginning a very slow and gradual rise all the way to the bottom of the opening Cat-1 climb; Alto de la Cobertoria.

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At an average of 8.5% for 7.8km it is a stiff test and sets the mood for what is to come in the remainder of the day. The kilometre at almost 15% just sounds brutal! A bold rider will attack here, going “early” in the day. I say “early” as once they crest there are only 38km left.

The descent is fast and twisting, which could become dangerous if the roads are wet.

An important factor is the fact that the riders almost climb straight away again, so there is very little time for them to recover from any efforts that they made on the previous ascent.

Alto del Cordal is up next and is another steep Cat-1 climb.

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The organisers do love to find some gems for us spectators. That closing 1.6km at 11.7% is crazy. We might see some of those in the top 10 crack big time and if they do, I’m afraid it is not going to get much better for them…

A fast descent before the final climb of the Vuelta, which definitely won’t be tackled in a quick fashion!

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I don’t really need to say much about the Angliru.

The name itself should be enough to resonate with any cycling fan around the world but with a 6km section that averages 13.7% we could be in for some big time gaps tomorrow if things are all guns blazing from far out.

Only the best will come to the fore on this climb!

Or Chris Horner.

Weather Watch

As I alluded to above, things aren’t looking great weather wise tomorrow. Or they could be, it really depends on your preference!

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That’s the forecast for Hotel el Angliru (Source : YR)

I’m not saying we’ll get rain throughout the day, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we did!

That will make things a lot more nervous in the bunch, especially on the tricky descents. I hope we don’t see any crashes, but with riders giving it their all to try to take any advantage they can, I have an uneasy feeling that it might be somewhat inevitable.

How will the stage pan out?

Looking at recent trends in the Vuelta, 4 out of the past 5 years the penultimate stage has seen a breakaway stay away and fight out for stage honours. That includes King Kenny’s (Elissonde) win on the Angliru back in 2013.

A lot of those stages have been longer days in the saddle though, with only the Angliru stage being sub 150km.

A similar trend can be seen at the Giro, where the majority of stages have went to the break. But there, even the ridiculosuly short and tough Bonette stage in 2016 saw the move stick.

What will be the difference tomorrow?

Well, maybe that question should be changed to “who?”.

I think you know the answer…

Contenders

Contador.

It’s the Spaniard’s last Vuelta and last mountain stage as a pro and he will desperately want a stage win. The steep ramps look great for him and he is bound to cause some chaos/panic out on the road tomorrow. However, although he has looked good on the shorter climbs, I am still concerned about his ability to hold a high wattage for the longer tests. I think if he and Froome come to the line together, then the current race leader will gift him the stage. Does Alberto have a bullet left to fire one more time?

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Froome.

Looked terrible a few days ago on Los Machucos but he seemed to recover from that blip on the shorter finish of stage 18. He does have the advantage of having the strongest team here and the current race leader will rely on them a lot tomorrow. If he’s in with a chance of the win at 5km out and he sees everyone suffering then he might give it a nudge. If not, then he has the luxury of “just” being able to follow wheels as his gap is comfortable. On an off day though, and things could get sketchy!

Zakarin.

Will we see a Zak-attack tomorrow? Yes. That’s almost a guarantee! Will it be enough to distance everyone? Probably not, the rangy Russian seems to struggle on the steeper slopes at time but he has actually looked like one of the riders who has grown into this race. He could well surprise!

Nibali.

The yin to Froome’s yang. The Shark was very strong on Los Macuchos, putting a lot of time into the race leader, only to go and lose quite a bit of it the following day. A bad weather expert he will no doubt test the *ahem* water on the descents. I hope he’s recovered from the other day so that we see a good battle between him and Froome. It is the last week of a Grand Tour, so he can’t be discounted.

Lopez.

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Double stage winner so far, Superman should enjoy the amount of climbing tomorrow as that is his speciality. Not an instant threat on GC, he could be given some leeway. If he gets given too much rope, then that could be him gone for the day. He seemed in difficulty on Stage 18 so the form might be fading in the final week of his first Grand Tour. Who knows!

Kelderman.

He’s been the quiet rider of the race so far who happens to find himself very much in the podium battle. Tomorrow doesn’t suit him at all, he seems to be a rider who prefers a more traditional Alpine pass, none of this crazy Spanish stuff! He’ll do well to hold onto the podium.

Vuelta Picks

Same old stuff again!

Safe Pick – Zakarin

Should be close to the top GC guys and might be given some freedom if Froome just focusses on Nibali.

Wongshot PickLopez.

Seems to be fading but he could well turn it around.

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Dunne

Good luck Conor!

Prediction

I’ll go for none of the riders I’ve listed above though…

Instead, I think Majka wins tomorrow.

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After his stage win almost a week ago he has been conserving himself, rolling home with the grupetto most of the time. He did give it a nudge on Los Machucos and finished 6th on the stage so his form is still clearly there.

He can either win from the break, or use his fresher legs to his advantage and attack out of the peloton and I’m pretty sure no one would follow him. If he is given a 30-40 second advantage going onto the Angliru then I’m hard pressed to think of anyone who could catch him.

Betting

I did say tomorrow was likely to be a no bet but after De Gendt’s success today I’m going to have a dabble. Still sticking to the 2pts a day keeps the debt collector away rule though…

2pts WIN Majka @ 11/2 with Bet365. You’ll probably get the same price elsewhere later once the other bookmakers have copied!

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 19 Preview; Caso. Parque Natural de Redes -> Gijón

Today’s Recap

What a Vuelta the Lotto old-boys are having!

It took a while for the break to go but once it was up the road, that was it gone for the day. Sky mobbed the front of the peloton and no-one seemed overly keen to chase.

In the end, it was a duel between Armée and Lutsenko on the final climb, with the Belgian taking his first pro win. Not bad for someone who is 31 years old. Maybe age just is a number after all?! Visconti sprinted up the final hill to round out the day’s podium.

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There were some GC gaps behind, but nothing too crazy. Lopez being the worst off out of the top 10, losing 37 seconds to Froome.

With only the Angliru left of any major danger, it does look like the Brit has the GC race sewn up.

Unless of course we see any bold attacks tomorrow. Speaking of which, let’s take a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

If today’s stage was close to 100% ideal territory for a breakaway, tomorrow’s parcours hits the full house!

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Too tough for any sprinters team to control, not really difficult enough for the GC contenders to make their mark.

The peloton will descend from the gun almost and it is most likely that we’ll see our break of the day formed on the Cat-1 Alto de la Colladona.

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A fairly hard start to the day, especially when the first kilometre of the climb is false-flat and makes the average gradient a bit shallower!

Expect only fresh riders and good climbers to make the break if it does go here. Although unlikely, I wonder if we’ll see any early GC attacks. I live in hope…

The riders will then face two Cat-3 climbs in the middle of the day; Alto de Santo Emiliana (6.8km at 4.5%) and the Alto de la Falla de los Lobos (4.3km at 8.2%).

The second of those climbs is obviously steep, but it comes awkwardly positioned in the stage and it really shouldn’t be of any major impact to the day’s events.

However, the same can’t be said for the final climb of Alto de San Martin de Huerces…

Huerces

Short and steep, this could be a flash point for both the breakaway and the GC riders. The steep gradients will be a real grind and with almost three weeks of racing in the legs, some might surprisingly struggle.

Cresting with just 15km to go, if a rider has 15-20 seconds over the top then they should make it all the way to the finish line.

The descent into Gijón does have a few tricky turns but it isn’t overly technical. The downhill turns to flat at roughly 4km to go as the riders make their way through the outskirts of the town before finishing along the beachfront.

How will the stage pan out?

It is a fairly short stage, so there is a chance that some of the GC teams might try to keep things together and cause some chaos but with Angliru looming and Froome looking solid, that is very unlikely.

So here we are, yet again, playing everyone’s favourite sweepstakes.

TheBreakawayLottery

Breakaway Candidates

I’m tempted to treat myself to 5 names today. How exciting…

To make the break, assuming it goes on the opening Cat-1, a rider will have to be fresh or a good climber. The two of those seem to go almost hand in hand at the back end of a Grand Tour but there are room for some surprises.

Thomas De Gendt.

The Belgian breakaway expert has been fairly quiet as of late in this race, not making as many moves as would be expected of him. Is fatigue setting in, or has he been saving himself for one last dig? He produced a good TT on Stage 16, finishing in the top 20 that day so there must be some form there. At the Tour he made the winning move on Stage 19, can he repeat that tomorrow? I think so.

Odd Christian Eiking.

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A new name for the list and possibly an unusual one. It took a lot for me not to use the expected pun there! Nonetheless, the young Norwegian is a talented rider who took his first pro win earlier this year. A strong climber, he finished fairly well on today’s stage after sticking with the GC group for a lot of the day, coming in just behind Lopez and ahead of Van Garderen and Chaves. Can he turn those good climbing legs into a result tomorrow? Let’s hope he makes the break and we’ll find out.

Soren Kragh Andersen.

He seems to have recovered from the illness that was hampering him a few days ago, as he was in the second group that returned to the GC favourites once the pace had slowed. It depends if the team give him the OK to go and hunt the break because there is a chance he might have to work for Kelderman. If he does make the move, he has the explosiveness to go well on the final climb of the day. I wouldn’t want to take him to a small sprint, that’s for sure.

Nicolas Roche.

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The Irishman said pre-stage today that he would try something. Unfortunately that didn’t come to fruition and he missed the break. I’m sure he’ll be gunning for it tomorrow as the finish looks ideal for him. On a 4km climb like that he should be able to follow most who are up ahead and if he descends like he did on stage 10, then he could easily get a gap on the downhill. Enough to take the win? Quite possibly!

Matvey Mamykin.

Everyone’s favourite young Russian climber. Wait, he isn’t? Just @padsbets and I it is then! Mamykin was strong today in aid of Zakarin and was one of the driving forces behind that impromptu Katusha team time trial. He might be rewarded tomorrow with the freedom of going on the attack. At this point in the race with riders form all over the place, it might be the perfect time for him to also take his first pro win. It seems to be the done thing nowadays!

Vuelta Picks

Much the same as the past few days;

Safe Pick – Kruijswijk.

Choose a random GC guy and hope they come home near the front of the bunch. I assume we’ll see some attacks on the final climb so it should be the case.

Wongshot Pick – Mamykin

He’ll be your favourite Russian climber too!

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Houle

What the Houle…

Prediction

Break to stay away and Søren Kragh Andersen to take the win!

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Betting

As it’s unlikely I’ll be backing anything on Angliru, this could be one of the last days of punting so I’m treating myself.

Roche 1.25pt WIN @ 20/1

De Gendt 1.25pt WIN @ 25/1

Eiking 1pt WIN @ 66/1

Andersen 0.75pt WIN 100/1

Mamykin 0.75pt WIN 150/1

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 18 Preview; Suances -> Santo Toribio de Liébana

Today’s Recap

The break stayed away to the end today, but it was only one man who survived out in front ahead of the GC battle behind.

Aqua Blue’s Denifl lit up the final climb of the day, taking the Irish outfit’s first Grand Tour stage win. Not a bad start to their first year as a team!

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The Austrian produced a great performance and didn’t lose too much of his starting gap. In fact, he actually gained time on some of the GC guys.

Behind, Contador attacked and forged on ahead, finishing second on the day. A group 4 then came in led by Lopez 36 seconds down on the Spaniard. Followed not so far behind from Woods and Kelderman. However, Froome was the worst off of the GC contenders today, shipping 1’18 to Contador and 42 seconds to Nibali and co.

It leaves the GC battle somewhat back on as the Shark closes to 1’16 on the current leader. However, the following few stages aren’t too difficult so it could all come down to a big battle on the Angliru.

Yet, with Contador in his current mood, who knows what might happen.

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

The Route

Normally at this point in the race, tomorrow’s route would be an ideal breakaway day.

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The stage starts off with some undulating terrain but nothing too serious for the riders although they will have to tackle a few 2-3km climbs at low percentages.

Tomorrow is all about the closing 65km.

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The riders will face 2 Cat-3s, 1 Cat-2 and a Cat-3 finish all in that closing 65km. It certainly could be tough enough to entice some GC men into audacious attacks.

The first of the climbs is Collada de Carmona.

Carmona

As you can see, at average of 7.1% for 4.7km it isn’t exactly easy and if attacked at a fast pace then the peloton could be reduced quite drastically here. It does peak at 10% at points, but the “steady” gradients should suit Sky and Froome.

The riders will then descend for just over 10km before they start heading back towards the heavens again.

Ozalba

 

Collada de Ozalba is of a similar gradient to the previous Carmona but is 1km longer and a lot more irregular. A classic Vuelta Cat-3 you might say that averages 7% for 5.7km. Would be a 2xHC climb at the Tour of Britain! The punchy gradients certainly suit a certain Spaniard who looked lively today. I wonder if this is where we’ll see an early attack?

A shorter descent this time of 6kms follows before the only Cat-2 of the day, which stats wise, is actually the easier of the three.

Hoz

Averaging 5.4% for 7.6km is easy for these guys, but that figure is distorted somewhat by the almost 2km of false flat right at the start and the 500m at the end. The 2kms at 9.7% are certainly steep enough for riders to attack and drop their rivals. Will anyone try?

The only issue with doing so is that once they are over the summit of the climb then they still have 29km left in the day.

You’ll certainly need some strong team-mates up ahead to drop back and drag you along the valley roads until the final kicker.

Subido

Another couple of kilometres at just over 9%, it will be interesting to see how the riders will cope if the last 60km have been raced aggressively. In theory the time gaps should not be massive, but you never know; this Vuelta has been fast and there is certainly some fatigue in the legs of the GC guys.

How will the stage pan out?

Hmmm.

On paper this has break written all over it, but after today’s escapades I’m not so sure.

Froome looked tired, but he did well to somewhat limit his losses. We’ve seen this from him before and he comes out fighting the next day. The one saving grace for him is that his Team was strong today. He had 5 riders supporting him going onto the final climb and if they are in the same position tomorrow, he should be ok.

Yet, Sky have done a lot of work throughout this race and that is bound to catch up with them at some point. If they show any weakness tomorrow, then Froome could be exposed.

The closing 66km look as if they’re almost straight out of a hilly one-day race. I heard Nibali is not too bad at those!

I expect to see Astana/Bahrain/Trek/Katusha all attempt to put the pressure onto Sky tomorrow by setting a fast pace on the run in to the first of the climbs, almost testing the water so to say. If they manage to put them into trouble then they’ll continue on. If not, they’ll wait until the final climb and hope their GC rider can gain some more seconds back then.

So will that all happen at the front of the race, or behind the break?!

I really don’t know to be honest.

Either way, teams will want to send riders up the road so that they can work for the team leader in the final valley. Therefore, we’ll see another big fight to get into the move.

Sky will probably once again call the bluff of the other teams and let the gap grow so at that point we’ll know who is interested in the stage if they start chasing.

I’m leaning towards to situations.

If we get GC chaos and attacks on the first climb, then the break has no chance. But, if it doesn’t happen until the penultimate climb of the day, Collado de Hoz, then the break should have enough of a gap left and favourable terrain to take the win.

As much as I hope for some aggressive racing in the bunch, I think Sky will be strong enough to neutralise any early moves so we’ll see the break hold on to fight for stage victory.

TheBreakawayLottery

Break Candidates

Names in a hat time again! After naming all of the riders of over the past few weeks, I am not going to explain my reason for choosing them this time round in massive depth.

Enric Mas.

Good climber, solid on the flat. Certainly capable of winning on the steep final climb.

Tobias Ludvigsson.

Great performance in the TT so form is clearly there. Might not find the last climb great, so an early attack could work for him.

Marc Soler.

Much the same as Mas, the Spaniard is good on the flat but much more proficient at going up hills. Movistar really need something out of this race.

Matej Mohoric.

Already won a stage this Vuelta but he has been a bit quiet since then. Had a tumble today but seems okay. He can certainly put out the power when required and could be an outsider if he makes the move.

Vuelta Picks

Another tricky day for those near the top of the table with the potential breakaway day. Like always though, on an uphill finish choosing a GC rider is the sensible idea.

Safe Pick – Zakarin

Looked strong today and should be up near the front again tomorrow.

Wongshot Pick – Mohoric

Double stage winner on the cards for the top-tube descender?

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Mertz

The Lotto youngster is bound to be fatigued by now!

Prediction

Even now, I’m still not 100% sure as to how the stage will go and I’ve changed my mind several times since writing the above sections.

It really depends on the attitude of the 4 main teams and how weak/strong Sky look on the opening climb. There is no point Astana/Bahrain etc burning matches on a day where they aren’t going to make any inroads on Froome if Sky are strong. Instead, letting the British team do some work and tire them out for future days.

But, I think we could see Sky falter and an unexpected GC day…

Contador to get that stage win his has been longing!

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Betting

1pt EW Contador @ 50/1

 

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see Contador and co go early or will the break survive? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 15 Preview; Alcala La Real -> Sierra Nevada

Today’s Recap

For so long it looked as if all of the break  was going to finish ahead of the main GC guys. However, Bahrain/Astana/Trek all had a different idea for how the day was going to pan out and they started to chase.

The gap tumbled but Majka forged on at the bottom of the climb and the talented Polish climber held on for the stage win.

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It is going to be interesting to watch him over the coming week, now that he is back to his best. Another stage win or two are certainly possible!

Behind after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, the GC gaps weren’t overly significant. Lopez once again confirmed that his form is on the way up, nabbing a few seconds ahead of a chase group which was led home by Nibali.

Saying that, some riders did lose over 20 seconds and we seem to have a strong 6 that are a bit better than everyone else at the moment.

Will there be more significant gaps tomorrow?

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

The Route

What a stage!

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Two Cat-1s and an Especial climb all rolled into 129km of racing. This is going to be hectic!

The race starts off somewhat benignly, with a couple of uncategorised 3% rises in the first 20km of racing before the race plummets down to the 30km mark and Pinos Puente. From there, the riders will face 27km of false flat (0.8%), hitting the official start of the opening climb with 71.7kms remaining.

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I would say that those remaining kilometres certainly fall into the “tough” section.

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The Cat-1 climb of Alto de Hazallanas averages a fairly low 5.8% for 15.1km. However, when taking out the 3km of descent and false flat, that gradient shoots up to 7.2%. That sounds a bit harder!

The second part of the climb is the hardest though, with the final 7.6km averaging a very sore 9%. It is the perfect launchpad for riders to take some risks with an early move.

Once over the top the riders get some respite on 18km of descent, before some valley roads and the double ascent to finish the day.

I’m not even going to bother to distinguish between the Cat-1 and the Especial climb, just lumping it all together!

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That looks like great fun…

27.7km at 5.9%, some riders are going to suffer tomorrow. Thankfully, or not, depending on who you ask, the opening 6km of the climb are the toughest (the Cat-1), averaging close to 10%.

From there things get “easier” and the closing 14km are great for riders who like to ride tempo, with the gradient only edging just over 5.5%. However, those ramps will feel a lot tougher considering the inevitable fast pace throughout the day and because of the duration of the climb itself.

We then also have the small factor of altitude to consider too.

Roughly the last 8km of the climb are at over 2000m. With the air being thinner, the riders who come from flatter lands could struggle and find themselves not as comfortable as they would hope.

How will the race pan out?

I’m hoping for chaos.

This is one of the stages I’ve been looking forward to all Vuelta and I hope that with all the hype it doesn’t become a damp squib.

We’ll see a big fight to get into the break as the GC contenders try to get some of their team-mates up the road. The battle to get into the move could easily take until the sprint point at 45km into the day.

Astana, Bahrain and Trek were lively today in their efforts to chase down the break today and I’ll be looking to them to bring the fireworks tomorrow.

We could well see a GC rider attack on the opening climb of the day; all eyes on Contador for that now typical banzai attack. From there, all hell will break loose if that is the case. Especially if someone like Nibali follows the Spaniard.

I would be interested to see what would happen if Lopez and Contador went. They aren’t immediate dangers to Froome’s lead, but they aren’t exactly the type of riders who you want to give a few minutes to either.

One thing that the opposition teams will take from today’s stage is that although Froome looked strong, his team was the weakest they have been so far. Nieve cracked a lot earlier than was expected and it was only Poels who was left at the business end. Froome needs a big day from the Dutchman tomorrow. If not, our race leader could be tired out by chasing a lot of attacks. Even though he is clearly in stellar form, he can’t mark everyone by himself. Unless of course he just rides away from everyone!

Contenders

Froome.

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He’s been tested so far this race but the Sky rider hasn’t looked as if he is going to falter anytime soon. However, he will be very worried about tomorrow, especially after his team looked tired today. Nonetheless, Froome is a great climber and he should be there fighting for victory at the end of the stage. He’s never won a stage that has finished with a +2000m summit, so it will be interesting to see how he copes.

Nibali.

Froome’s immediate rival and main concern tomorrow, the Shark has looked ominous recently. He was strong today and when Contador didn’t want to work with him, he seemed to knock things back a bit. However, he produced a fast finishing to take third on the day and pick up some vital bonus seconds. Unlike Froome, he has had previous for performing well on days where the altitude has really kicked up and he’ll be hoping to go well tomorrow.

Lopez.

My guy! It is great to see the Colombian grow into the race after being lumped with the Haughey Curse at the start of the race. Not an immediate threat to the podium he could once again be given a bit of leeway like we have witnessed the past two summit finishes. If Bilbao makes the break, they could form a deadly duo on the last climbs. Oh yeah, Lopez’s home town is situated at 2800m so tomorrow should be a walk in the park for him!

Contador.

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The rider that everyone will look to, to animate the stage. He wouldn’t disappoint now, would he?! After his mishap in the first mountain test, El Pistolero has followed almost every move and forged on himself at times. I reckon he’ll light the stage up, but he just won’t have enough to finish it off. Nonetheless, he’ll vault up the GC.

Kelderman and Zakarin.

I’m taking these two as a duo as they seem to be just below the level of the four above. It will need some attacking racing from them if they want to escape the clutches of the better climbers, but that could well happen if there is some looking around. Yet, I think they’ll fall a bit behind tomorrow.

Chaves.

I almost feel like I have to put him in here due to his Colombian background and Bogota residence. However, the Smiling Assassin has been just off the pace the past few stages and it will take a lot for that to be turned around tomorrow.

Vuelta Picks

Safe Pick – Lopez

Should top 5 at least barring any misfortune!

Wongshot Pick – Bilbao

Sky call everyone’s bluff and the break gets a big advantage. Bilbao gets the nod to go for the stage win.

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Haga

There’s an illness floating about the Sunweb camp.

Prediction

It should be a Froome v Lopez v Nibali battle.

Lopez has the advantage of being further back on GC and an altitude native. So yup, you guessed it, I’m going with Nibali.

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He really impressed me on the final climb and I get the feeling that he could have followed Lopez today if he had wanted to. His history in big altitude stages is great and that should help him out tomorrow as well.

Betting

In what should be a three-horse race, I’m going to play a bit of a safety net and go EW on Nibali as he should surely podium…

2.5pts EW Nibali @ 8/1

 

Thanks as always for reading, and any feedback is appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 14 Preview; Écija -> Sierra de La Pandera

Today’s Recap

A solid break went up the road, but it was a break more suited to rolling terrain than what we had today. Villella gave up after securing some KOM points, leaving just 4 up ahead and their task was made even tougher.

Quick Step took on the brunt of the work behind, getting some assistance from Cannondale and Lotto Jumbo.

In the end, the last survivor from the break (De Marchi) was caught in the closing 10km and we had our sprint.

Well, it was a very reduced sprint to the line.

After all the work that his team had done throughout the day, Trentin delivered, taking his third stage win of the race.

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Moscon showed that he’s much more than a one-trick pony sprinting to second, with Kragh Andersen finishing in third.

Finally a good day for the pre-stage blog punts!

With the sprinters having their last chance for a while today, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

We’ve had a stage that almost descended from the gun to the finish (aside from a categorised climb) but tomorrow we have one that pretty much rises from the get go.

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Well, it is a very gradual rise from the start! Over the opening 70kms the peloton will only gain roughly 200m of elevation.

They will face some harder tests with the first categorised climb Puerto el Mojón starting at 77km into the day. However, it isn’t anything crazy…

Puerto de Mojon (1)

An average of 4.4% over 8.4km should see everyone make it over the top together. Once the descent has finished, the riders will tackle a lot of uncategorised rises, including a 4km effort not long before the Sprint Point.

At 33km to go, the riders will be able to warm up for the summit finish with the Cat-2 climb of Alto Valdepeñas de Jaén. Again though, it is nothing too troublesome for the bunch; averaging a fairly lowly 4.8% for 8.5km.

Therefore, it seems that tomorrow is all about the Especial finish climb – Sierra de la Pandera.

La Pandera

As I was unsure of the official profile I just decided to make my own as per usual!

12.8km at 7.2%, it is a tough test to end the day for the riders. That gradient does include some false flat sections and even a couple of downhills. Therefore when the road is going up, the gradient is probably closer to an 8% average.

The key point on the climb though is most likely at the ~5km to go point. From there until the little descent, its is 4.3km at 9.8%. That is certainly steep enough for some gaps to be created; we saw what happened on Stage 11.

At 1km to go the riders will drop down for 500m before the road rises back up again to the finish line.

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That hairpin with 200m to go could be interesting if we don’t have riders arriving solo…

How will the stage pan out?

Once again we’re treated to the question of “break or no break?”

In theory, the stage is easy for some GC teams to control. Not an overly hard opening to the day, followed by a lumpier second half is ideal for them to keep the break on a tight leash. However, after Orica tried something on Stage 11 (that backfired) I’m not so sure if we’ll see anyone offer assistance to Sky early on.

Trek of course could try something but the Cat-3 and Cat-2 are nowhere near hard enough for Contador to drop his rivals. Plus, with one eye on Sunday’s crazy stage, I think most teams will be happy to see Sky tire themselves out by having to do a lot of the work.

Consequently, I think we’ll once again see the breakaway make it all the way to the line.

It won’t be simple to make the move though as the opening 50km are fairly straight forward, albeit rising, so we’ll no doubt have a fast pace from the gun again. This means that strong riders should find it easier to make the move compared to the lightweight climbers.

Conversely though, the end of the stage is much more suited to the mountain goats. It could be a case of one or two strong climbers make the move and in that case, they’ve lucked out. If that does happen, then a long-range attack might stick as no-one will want to tow the better guys to the foot of the climb.

Anyway, time to play…

TheBreakawayLottery

Breakaway candidates

Enric Mas.

Quick Step have been in sensational form this race so far and they’ll no doubt be in the hunt again tomorrow. They have DLC in a good GC position but the team is aggressive enough to send someone in the breakaway and potentially fight for stage glory. Mas was one of the strongest on the climbs of stage 6. He’ll certainly be a danger tomorrow if he makes the move. Rolling home today near the back of the bunch after doing some work early on, does he have one eye on tomorrow?

Pello Bilbao.

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He’s taken some time to find his form in this race but he has been great the past few stages for his leaders. On Stage 11 he was instrumental in helping Aru lose as little time as possible on GC, eventually finishing 14th on the stage. It depends on how keen Astana are to defend their Team Classification lead, but they could well try to get someone up the road tomorrow. In his current form, Bilbao will be there or thereabouts come the end of the stage.

Rui Costa.

It has been an oddly quite Vuelta so far Costa. Something I didn’t expect before the race; I thought we’d see him in numerous breakaways. The only thing of note he’s done so far is that bold and ultimately pointless attack on stage 3. Nonetheless, he is a classy, classy rider and can’t be discounted.

Tobias Ludvigsson.

Token Big T mention.

I was staring at the start list and results for a few minutes trying to think of who else to include aside from obvious riders such as Majka (who might not even make the break on the flat anyway). So I just decided to stick with ma boy!

Vuelta Picks

Same shit, different day…

“Safe Pick” – Zakarin

Should be close to the head of the GC group at the finish, and you don’t want to risk going for a breakaway pick.

“Wongshot Pick” – Bilbao

It requires Astana to be bold and attacking to defend the team classification, but then also requires for the Basque rider to make the move. Yolo, as the young kids would say…You’re already sitting down in the bottom half of the table. Why not go for glory?!

“Lanterne Rouge Pick” – Tuft

Pretty self explanatory, Tuft ain’t not climber!

Prediction

Breakaway to win, but we will see some GC fireworks behind and a top 10 rider to lose quite a bit of time. As to who that may be, ask me tomorrow!

Rui Costa to take the stage win after being quiet all race.

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Betting

Spreading some pennies on the breakers but it looks a good day for some in-play action.

(all B365)

0.6pt WIN Mas @ 40/1

0.6pt WIN Costa @ 80/1

0.5pt WIN Bilbao @ 66/1

0.3pt WIN Ludvigsson @ 300/1

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will the break once again make it all the way to the line? Or will the GC teams chase it down and go for the stage?

 

 

 

 

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 13 Preview; Coín -> Tomares

Today’s Recap

A boring breakaway day they said…

Ahead Marczynksi took his second stage win, with Fraile and Rojas rounding out the podium behind.

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However, the majority of the action and excitement came from the GC group. Contador attacked with Roche on the last climb of the day, but the Irishman couldn’t live with the sprightly Spaniard’s pace. He then linked up with Theuns who had been in the break earlier in the day, and the two forged on, working well together. Maybe they were getting some practise in for Duo Normand?

Sky seemed fairly content to set the pace on the front of the peloton, but Froome then had a mechanical and a fall. Although the first mechanical may have been caused by a fall, I’m not too sure! Poels and Nieve dropped back to help him, but it was a tough chase.

Astana, Katusha and Bahrain shared the pace at the front of the peloton, but they became a bit disorganised in the closing few kilometres and allowed the race leader to close somewhat.

With all that said and done at the end of the stage, Contador gained 22 seconds on the “peloton” which itself gained 20 on Froome.

Will we see anything crazy happen tomorrow?

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

The Route

By Vuelta standards we have a sprinters stage on the cards!

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We do have some drags and falls in the opening 90km of the day but with over half the stage remaining the riders will be over the worst of it.

It is all about the finish tomorrow.

Of course, this is the Vuelta so we have approximately 9234323 roundabouts in the closing 5kms.

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The road is particularly narrow in parts so being positioned near the front will be crucial.

The many roundabouts will help to string the bunch out but so will the elevation gain in the closing kilometres.

As per, I’ve made a profile of the end of the stage that you can view fully/interactively here.

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According to VeloViewer/Strava, that opening rise we see is 1.14km at an average of 6.1% with the steepest gradient apparently touching 13%. Although if I’m honest, I do think that is a tad generous.

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It does look fairly steep and on the narrow road it could cause some issues for the riders moving up, while also being a great launchpad for someone to go on the offensive.

That section of climbing then crests with 2.5km left of the day.

The final kilometre of the stage averages 2.6%, with the peloton tackling two roundabouts in that time!

Things could get messy but the uphill drag should make the speeds slower and safer. Hopefully.

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We’ll see the peloton tackle the above roundabout at ~450m to go, before the final dash to the line.

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That dash to the line averages 4% for 350m apparently so the “sprinters” that we have here might find it difficult and there could be a few surprises at the line.

How will the stage pan out?

Given the lack of sprinters here and the amount of moves that have made it to the line over the past week, there is a good chance we might not actually see a sprint at the end of the day.

Instead, the break might be left to fight out stage honours.

Although, with it not being a pure sprint. Then a few teams with punchier riders might fancy their chances at bringing the break back to let their guys off the leash in the closing kilometres.

I think it comes down to the attitude of two teams though; Quick Step and Lotto Jumbo.

The former have a couple of options for a finish like this with Trentin and Alaphilippe both good candidates. If they don’t get anyone in the morning move, then I would expect to see them pull in the hope to bring the break back.

Likewise, Jumbo have a great candidate for stage victory with JJ Lobato. The Spaniard is from a town 100km from the finish so he is fairly “local” in that sense. Tomorrow’s stage looks tailor-made for him and he certainly won’t want to pass up the opportunity.

If these teams don’t get riders in the move and begin to chase, then another couple of teams might chip in with the workload.

With tomorrow being the only chance for a “sprint” until Madrid, I think we’ll see the peloton come to the finish together. Teams will work for their faster guys in the hope that they repay the favour over the coming week.

There is of course the chance that a late attack sticks tomorrow, as things could get very hectic. Lampaert round 2?!

“Sprinters”

Lobato.

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Loves an uphill finish and he should be able to cope with tomorrow no problem. He picked up a win in the Tour de l’Ain before the Vuelta and he followed that up with a second place to Trentin on Stage 4. Arguably one of the best riders in the world on his day on a ramp like this, if he’s in form then he could be tough to beat.

Trentin.

Speaking of in form, the Italian seems to be in great shape at the moment. His stage win from the breakaway was truly remarkable and he should be up there fighting for the honours again tomorrow.

Theuns.

Chicken-smuggling extraordinaire, the finish tomorrow is right on the Belgian’s limit I think. He is climbing better than ever but after a tough day up ahead today, he might be missing something in the finale tomorrow.

Molano.

Struck down by the Haughey Curse on Stage 4, this steeper run to the line is much more up his street so to say. This is his best chance of a good stage result all race and I have a feeling that he has been saving himself for it. Could we see yet another Colombian make his mark at the Vuelta?

Cort.

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With Chaves the only remaining Orica rider anywhere close in contention for GC, will the team use up some resources to help their sprinter? A strong rider, like Theuns, the rise to the line could be on his limit. Nonetheless, if he is there, then he has a great chance given his speed!

Modolo.

Not the first name you would think of for a finish like this but the Italian can climb well when needed. Back in the Tour of Croatia he took a superb win on the closing stage on a tricky finish, somewhat similar to this. He has been a bit “meh” in form as of late but you can’t discount him.

Andersen.

A wildcard rider for a finish like this, the rise in gradient brings him into play. He was 8th on Stage 4 and he’ll be Sunweb’s go to rider here. Both of his pro wins have come on stages that are very similar to this one, with some steady climbing at the end of the day. Can he continue on Sunweb’s great season?

Lutsenko.

Even more of a wildcard, the Kazakh has an under-rated sprint and like Andersen, the rise to the line levels the playing field for him. Who knows what he’ll produce!

Moscon.

Do Sky give one of their strongest rider some freedom to chase stage glory? No one has been given any leeway so far but tomorrow looks like an opportunity where they can do something for little effort. Climbing with some of the best in the race, if Moscon lays down the Watts, not many will be able to follow!

Vuelta Picks

Another tough day where there is a chance we could see a break make it all the way.

Safe Pick – GC rider – Meintjes.

Should finish close to the front of the bunch to avoid any splits.

Wongshot Pick – Sprinter – Andersen

I really rate his chances for tomorrow! Take your pick though…

Lanterne Rouge Pick – De Vreese

Crashed today and rolled home near the back. Will probably come home safely tomorrow as well.

Prediction

The sprinters to be surprised by the difficulty of the finish and a punchier rider to prevail. Soren Kragh Andersen to take the win!

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Betting

Definitely some value out there by not going for the proper “sprinters” so I’m going to up the ante pts wise today…

Andersen 1pt EW @ 66/1

Molano 1pt EW @ 66/1

Moscon 0.5pt EW @ 250/1

Watch it be a break now…

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 11 Preview; Lorca -> Observatorio Astronómico de Calar Alto

Today’s Recap

Crazy start to the day and we didn’t see a breakaway go clear until 65km from the finish. From there though, the peloton was happy to sit up and let the move contest the stage.

We had a group of 4 push on over the top of the final summit that included Trentin, Rojas, Van Rensburg and Roson.

The latter two couldn’t keep up on the very technical descent, and with Rojas and Trentin working well they would never get back.

It meant we had a two man sprint coming in to town, but I have to say, Rojas’ tactics bemused me. Trentin is clearly the faster of the two and in exceptional form at the moment, but the Spaniard was happy to share the work. In fact, he drove it into the final kilometere which I thought was very bizzare. The result was inevatble at that point, with Rojas delivering the perfect lead-out for Trentin who took his second stage of the race.

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Behind, Roson took third place.

The GC riders all came home together. Well, apart from Roche who had forged ahead on the descent and ultimately gained 29 seconds on his rivals. That result moves him closer to Froome at only 36 seconds back, joint on time with Chaves.

Will we see some similar GC shake-ups tomorrow? Let’s have a look at the what is in store for the riders.

The Route

A stage that I would label as the first proper mountain test.

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After the neutralised section at the beginning of the stage, the riders will be climbing almost instantly. Thankfully, the climb isn’t too difficult but it will no doubt be raced aggressively.

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This will make the 3% gradient feel tougher than it probably is!

Once over the summit, the riders will then descend for 15km before a long period of flat. Could this be where the day’s break is established?

75km into the day marks an interesting point in the race, as the road essentially climbs almost all the way to the finish; with only some periods of shallow descent and flat land.

However, it is when we reach 60km to go that things get interesting…

Vuelta 2017 S11 Last 60

Before we even start the climb of Alto de Velefique the road rises at an average of 2.7% for 17km; a nice warm-up some might say!

Now, it depends what source you consult for Velefique itself as various places have the climb marked out differently…

The road book suggests it is 13.2km at 8.6%, Strava/Veloviwer plucks for 13km at 7.2% and ClimbByBike goes with 14km at 6.4%. Quite a wide variety there.

I’ll go with the middle ground!

Velefique

As you can see, the majority of the steepest sections of the ascent are located near the beginning. Will we see anyone try to go early? I doubt it. Instead, it will be more an attritional process, with riders going out the back rather than off the front.

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The many hairpins of Velefique – Thanks to @loictraquelet for the photo

Although, the early weather forecasts suggests there are potentially thunderstorms and a few heavy showers in the area during the afternoon. This could entice some onto the attack before a very technical descent…

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At least for the final climb the varying sources are more in agreement; with it being roughly 16km at 5.6%.

VueltaS11Fin

The climb can be split into two sections almost, with a very challenging opening 7kms that average 8.6%. From there though, it is a fairly “easy” 9km at 3.2%, although that does include a penultimate kilometre at 10%.

It will be interesting to see how teams and riders approach it. Do they go early in a hope to tire Sky’s domestiques out and isolate Froome, or wait until that penultimate kilometre and go crazy? Given how well the current race leader is riding, they have to risk it and go early in my opinion.

How will the stage pan out?

Once again, we have the now daily toss-up between break win or not? The current trend is very much break, with the last 5 out of 6 stages going their way.

Will tomorrow be any different?

Hmmmm.

The other teams have to start taking responsibility by bringing the race to Sky. Froome has looked great on the uphill, but he seemed a bit shaky on the downhill today and this could be something that some teams try to take advantage of in tomorrow’s stage.

Let’s say if Orica/Trek/Bahrain have riders up the road, we could see their leaders attack in the final few kilometres of the first climb, hoping to put Froome into difficulty on the descent and then bridge up to their team-mates at the footslopes of the final climb.

Again though, this will rely on the other teams helping to chase throughout the day. If they don’t, then Sky will be happy to let the break win and take the bonus seconds, negating the aggressive racing as much as possible.

That then nullifies the effect of having team-mates up the road if the break is ahead by 10 minutes or so.

It really is a tactical day!

I think it comes down to Contador and his attitude. As much as I love Chaves, I don’t think we’ll see Orica operate any crazily aggressive tactics, yet. That will come later on in the race. They still might get someone in the move, but they won’t control it enough so that they’re of any help.

The one thing that is of massive help to the breaks chances is the poor weather that is forecast.

So with that being said, it looks like we’re once again (I’m getting quite bored of this now) playing the…

TheBreakawayLottery

Candidates

The 8.2km rise at the start of the stage could help aid some good climbers get into the move, but if it doesn’t go until after, then it is names in a hat time!

Igor Anton.

The Dimension Data rider has ridden a solid race so far and finds himself sitting in 18th place on GC, at 5’54 behind Froome. A break like tomorrow is bound to have an interloper in it who is “close” to the Brit on GC and Anton could be that man. Not deemed an overall threat due to his poor TT ability and not being able to follow the best on other days, Sky could be happy to let him get back into things. If he does make the move, he will be one of the strongest climbers there and tough to beat!

Jack Haig.

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The fellow JH gets another mention for tomorrow. Orica surely will send someone up the road in the hope that they can then help Chaves if needed. The most logical two are Haig and Simon Yates, but the former seems to be going better at the moment. He’d still be up there on GC if it wasn’t for an untimely puncture! If the gap is too big for Chaves to bridge, then Haig will get the nod to go for the stage. Something he can certainly do.

Aldemar Reyes.

Manzana missed the move today which they seemed most disgruntled at, sending a man up the road on a doomed mission once they reached the climb. Reyes managed to stay with the main peloton, well, the Zakarin/DLC group anyway on the climb/descent so he’s clearly in good form. Could he be the guy to take a wonderful victory for the Colombian team?

Alexey Lutsenko.

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Still gutted I missed backing him for his stage win earlier in the race considering how much I’ve been harking on about him for the past year and a bit! His performance that day was truly incredible and he put out some massive watts for a “bigger guy” to climb that well. I have that in apostrophes because according to PCS he is only one kilo heavier than Froome…Anyway, if he makes the break tomorrow something similar could be on the cards. He’ll certainly find it more difficult, but he can’t be discounted! Can Alexbae make it two?!

Vuelta Picks

Safe Pick – GC Rider – Nibali

Rinse and repeat for these stages it seems! With the break having a good chance of winning, the safest option for those near the top of the leaderboard overall or in the KOM comp is to choose a GC guy. Nibali seemed happy to push the pace today and the longer climbs suit him better than the shorter ones we had in the first week.

Wongshot Pick – Breakaway – Lutsenko

Another stab in the dark…

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Scully

Cannondale seem to be tired after their efforts the other day…

Prediction

A big break to form with a sneaky Basque rider in there. Sky to shrug their shoulders and let the move get 8 minutes or so, knowing that the time gap will come down before the finish naturally. Anton then seizes his chance and takes stage glory, vaulting into the top 10 on GC!

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Betting

0.5pt WIN on them all;

Reyes @ 150/1 with Boyles (would take 100)

Lutsenko @ 150/1 with PP (would take 100 elsewhere)

Haig @ 66/1 with various (would take 50)

Anton @ 100/1 with various (would take 66)

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see a break survive all the way, or will the GC guys come out to play? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 9 Preview; Orihuela -> Cumbre del Sol

Today’s Recap

Once again the breakaway stayed away to contest the stage. I really thought that some of the other GC teams would chip in and help Sky chase but it was not to be! As much as I love a breakaway, it is going to make the remaining two weeks long in terms of preview writing. Although I guess we can view it as getting to watch a race on two fronts, if we’re trying to be positive about it all!

Majka and Alaphalippe were the strongest riders on Xorret de Catí in the break, but they played a very tactical game; constantly stalling and then attacking. This allowed Polanc to come back on the descent but in the end, the outcome was inevitable in a sprint finish to the line.

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The Frenchman won the stage with Polanc pipping Majka for second.

Behind, Froome made his way up the GC group on the climb and ended up dropping everyone except Contador, with the Trek rider regaining contact just as they crested. While their attacks were strong, they only gained 17 and 28 seconds on the majority of their competitors. It leaves the top 5 within a minute of the race lead, with all of the top 10 less than 2 minutes behind Froome.

Plenty still to play for as we head into our final stage before the first rest day.

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

The Route

Lots of flat ->short, steep climb -> flat -> longer version of short, steep climb.

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The riders won’t face many difficulties in terms of terrain tomorrow apart from the Alto de Puig Llorança. Although with this being the Vuelta, a fairly flat day still has almost 2000m of elevation gain.

On their first passage, they’ll almost complete the full climb but continue straight on instead of turning off.

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The final ascent averages 10.2% for 3.7km with maximum ramps of 23%. It’s another steep one!

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Used back in the 2015 Vuelta, tomorrow’s route is pretty much a carbon copy of that route.

Dumoulin won that day with Froome second, will the Brit go one better tomorrow?

How will the stage pan out?

With the stage travelling along the coast, I had high hopes for some crosswinds and echelon action.

However, that doesn’t appear to be on the cards. We will get some crosswinds at points on the route, but at only 12km/h or so, I can’t see them being of any effect.

There will be a headwind in parts too tomorrow which could be bad news for the break. Although that was apparently the conditions they were facing today and that didn’t hinder their motivation and ability to fight out for the stage.

As mentioned above, I was shocked that we didn’t get a team like Trek help Sky chase down the break so that Contador could go for the stage win. I guess in the long run it is a good tactic, as it will wear the current leader’s team-mates down; with the aim of hoping to benefit from it later in the race.

I also thought Sky would want Froome to get a stage win, but they seem fairly content at doing the bare minimum to retain the jersey to counter-act the tactics employed by the other teams (see above point). Maybe they’ll hope he’ll take the TT? We can’t have a Tour-Vuelta winner not take home a stage in either race!

Nonetheless, tomorrow will be probably be a rinse and repeat of today’s stage.

Big fight early on to get into the break -> assess who is there -> no one of real danger then Sky will let the gap grow -> no other team takes up the chase with them -> race on two fronts.

Time to play that game. Again.

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Break Candidates

The issue with tomorrow’s stage is that the first part of the race is conducive for a completely different rider to make the move compared to one who would excel on the final climb. Well, traditionally that’s how it is!

With the flat start we should see a lot of strong men in the peloton make the move, with a few more natural climbers littered in the mix too.

Tactics will then important as there are almost 40kms from the summit of the first passage until the foot slopes of the final assault. We could well see a situation where someone attacks from further out and holds on a la Lutsenko.

So once again I’ll throw a few darts into the mix…

Jaime Roson.

Strong in Burgos recently, the Caja rider was somewhat in GC contention a few stages earlier so would never have been allowed much freedom to go on the attack. However, he now sits at 5 minutes down and should be given a lot more leeway. A punchy climber who should be able to cope with this type of ascent. He packs a fast sprint at the top of a climb which could see him take the win!

Luis Leon Sanchez.

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The term “pissed off” was probably an understatement as to how the Astana rider was feeling after his complete miscalculation on Stage 6. The legs are clearly there but he’ll have to more astute this time around. A rider who fits the bill of “good rouleur but strong on the climbs” perfectly, I’d be surprised not to see him up the road tomorrow.

Jack Haig.

He was Orica’s 4th rider in the top 16 at the close of yesterday’s stage, but an untimely puncture at the bottom of the final climb today saw him drop way out of contention. Orica have been relatively conservative in terms of their tactics so far, not even making it in the break yet. But with their triple threat not firing on all cylinders, they might have to change things up.

Marc Soler.

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Arguably the strongest rider in the break on the final climb Stage 5, it is a shame he started so far behind Lutsenko. He’s stuck with the GC group the past few days and he even put in a couple of digs early on the climb today. His form seems to be on the up and if he comes to the climb in a group then he will be tough to beat on the ascent!

Vuelta Picks

Safe Pick – Aru (Any GC rider)

Same logic as for today’s stage, pick someone who will be finishing near the front of the GC riders and forgot about a possible break win. This also applies to those who are hoping to play it more conservatively for the KOM competition.

Wongshot – Soler (Any Break rider)

Once again, same as today. Be bold, chase those stage wins and let me win that KOM prize 😉

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Vanbilsen

Name in a hat.

Prediction

Orica to be attacking and Haig to take the win!

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With the way that Orica are riding just now, they are on course for a bit of a “close but no cigar” Vuelta. Chaves/Yates/Yates aren’t cuasing Froome too much concern at the moment. The Colombian is doing well sitting in second place, but he seems to almost be content with a podium and I can’t see him taking any leaps forward tomorrow. Hunting for a stage win and getting it will take the pressure off the team and the confidence could help their leaders. Haig himself was very impressive in Poland, taking his first ever pro win. He was an exceptionally talented junior and it seems to have now translated into his professional career. Will his first win soon be followed up by his first GT stage?!

Betting

Soler and LLS are too short for my liking with an unpredictable stage so I’m going to change them out for a couple of longer shots…It’s also the weekend so yolo…

0.8pt EW Haig @ 150/1

0.4pt EW Roson @ 150/1 

0.3pt EW Ludvigsson @ 400/1

0.5pt EW Bennett @ 125/1

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we once again see a break make it all the way? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 6 Preview; Vila-Real -> Sagunt

Today’s Recap

*Insert cliché here about having a 250/1 rider finish second…*

The break ended up making it today but for a while it was finely in the balance with Sky doing a lot of the pacing. However, over the penultimate climb of the day no one else in the peloton seemed keen to help with the chase and Sky eased off the pace.

Ahead, Lutsenko and Haller attacked on the descent, gaining quite a bit of time as everyone behind looked around. We saw a splinter move go and start to chase but they never closed the gap to less than 20 seconds.

On the bottom slopes of the climb, Lutsenko dropped his break companion, forging on ahead. Behind Kudus did the same to Gougeard.

However, the Eritrean didn’t have enough in the tank to catch back to Lutsenko, with the Kazakh taking a great win!

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Soler finished strongly from behind, closing the gap quite a lot, taking third on the day.

 

Similar to Lampaert’s win earlier in the week, I’m not too bothered with Lutsenko’s win. He’s a rider who I rate highly and have ranted and raved about for a couple of season’s now so it is good to see him take his first Grand Tour win. Although it is slightly more annoying when I couldn’t get on Kudus EW when placing my punt. Oh well. Onwards and upwards!

Maybe.

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

The Route

If there was ever a stage that was designed for a breakaway, this is it.

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Five categorised climbs litter the day, but with the last cresting at just under 40km to go, it is going to be a very tactical stage.

The opening climb is officially 11km long at 3.4% but the road does rise ever so slightly before then. However, it is not too tough and it is most definitely a “power” climb.

With the crest coming at 48 into the day, I would be unusual for the break not to have formed yet. Although equally, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them still slogging it out as they tackle the following Cat-3 almost instantly.

Puerto de Eslida is shorter but steeper than the previous climb, averaging 5.1% for its 5.3km.

If the break does go here, then there is a chance that the climbers will make the move. Not ideal given the finish, so they’ll have to be inventive later on.

The following two Cat-3 climbs won’t really play any major part in the outcome of the day and they’ll just be used to build the breakaway’s advantage, along with the long valley roads in between them.

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The final climb of the day the Puerto del Garbi averages roughly 5.5% for just over 9km but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

There are two very steep kilometres in the climb that both average over 11% and this is where the lighter climbers up ahead will hope to break the race up.

If a group of 4-5 riders gets ahead and works well at this point then they might not be seen for the rest of the stage. It will take someone brave if they want to go solo from here!

The remaining 40km or so are mostly downhill or on flat roads with a fairly simple run home.

Well, when I say simple, it is mainly straight but there are several roundabouts in the closing few kilometres.

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Thankfull the riders won’t have to make many 90-degree turns though with most of the roundabouts being travelled straight through. Having one at 250m to go will spice things up if a group arrives together.

How will the stage pan out?

A day tailor-made for the breakaway, I would be very surprised if we didn’t see the morning move make it all the way to the line.

There is of course a chance we see it come together for a sprint but who is really going to chase all day?

On Stage 4 we saw Aqua Blue and Quick-Step chase for the majority of the day, with some help from Lotto Soudal as well. Will we see a similar situation this time around? No.

It is a tough stage to control so it is more beneficial for a team to get a guy up the road early and re-assess the day after that. Doing so means they don’t have to chase behind which is ideal on this type of territory. If it is coming back, then they can change-up their plan to work for their sprinter.

The only danger for the breakaway in terms of succeeding, is if a current top 25 interloper is in their midst. In that case, Sky will more than likely keep the break on a tight leash and once we get into the final 40km, the sprinters teams could come to help reel it in.

Break Contenders

Two of the riders who I had pencilled in for this stage actually made the move today, with one of them going on to win the stage. I’m not sure Lutsenko will go for back to back breakaways, but the other rider might…

Alexis Gougeard.

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An incredibly attacking rider, he won a similar type of stage back in the 2015 Vuelta, where the penultimate climb crested with 20km to go that time. He has the fighting spirit to make the break on multiple days in a row, we saw that in the Tour of Wallonie not too long ago. Clearly in great form at the moment, I think he could go even better tomorrow.

Lasse Hansen.

If Aqua Blue aren’t willing to chase all day then sending someone like Hansen up the road is a great idea. The Dane has had a fairly solid season so far, winning a couple of KOM jerseys for his efforts. He came in way down today, which could be a sign that he is struggling, or he could also be saving some energy. Who knows!? I guess we’ll find out tomorrow afternoon. A powerful rider with a fast kick, he might fancy his chances in a small group.

Tobias Ludvigsson.

A rider that I am a massive fan of and you’re bound to be aware of that if you’ve read my blog for a little while now. With FDJ having a real mixed bag of a team here, they’ll be hoping to make the breakaways every day. Maison finished 10th for them today but I’m sure they’ll be hoping for more soon. Big T should be able to cope with the climbs and as a fairly good TTer then he could potentially attack and hold off his breakaway companions.

Bob Jungels.

Not really in the GC picture anymore he is far enough behind to be given some freedom. The perfect type of rider for this style of stage where power is needed for the climbs and for the flat. He struggled in the heat on the earlier stages but he seems to be getting more aclimatised to it now. A big danger if he gets in the breakaway.

Vuelta Picks

Another tough day with a breakaway win looking likely.

“Safe Pick” – GC Contender, i.e. Nibali.

You’re close to the top of the table, so you don’t want to take many risks. Backing a sprinter on a day like this is a very dangerous game as if the breakaway wins then the peloton might roll home together. Nonetheless, a GC rider is more likely to further ahead in the bunch in that situation.

“Wongshot Pick” – Break rider; Jungels.

Have a stab in the dark basically!

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Dunne

He seems to like to adopt the Cummings position on these types of stages.

Prediction

Breakaway to stay away and Jungels to take a solo victory!

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Betting

0.5pt WIN on them all;

Jungels @ 18

Hansen @ 300

Ludvigsson @ 250

Gougeard @ 125

Thanks as always for reading; who do you think will win tomorrow? Is it a nailed on break day? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.