Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2018 Stage 2 Preview; Bétera › Albuixech

Today’s Recap

We got the expected sprint finish into Peñiscola with the lead-out trains battling it out on the run-in.

It was Lotto Jumbo who came out on top, delivering Van Poppel excellently into the home straight. He did have to start his sprint ever so slightly earlier than he would have liked, but the Dutchman showed enough power to hold on for the victory.

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Mezgec looked as if he was going to come round him at some point but he just couldn’t manage it, nonetheless, he held on strongly for 2nd. Roelandts came home third, pipping a few other riders in an almost blanket finish for the minor places.

Will Van Poppel be able to hold onto his lead tomorrow?

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

The Route

A really interesting stage that could cause a GC shake-up.

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@LasterketaBurua

Five categorised climbs jammed into only 155km of racing makes this stage a stern test for the riders given how early into the season we are.

I can’t see the opening 4 climbs have any major impact on the outcome of the stage, but they will definitely wear down the riders legs for the second half of the day.

The focal point of the stage though is the climb of El Garbi.

Alto Garbi

This was the climb that Alberto Contador used to decimate the peloton on stage 6 of last year’s Vuelta, with only a select group of riders making it over the crest with him.

Unfortunately he’s not here so it will be interesting to see if we have the same aggressive racing.

The climb as a whole averages only 5.6% for 9.2km, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t too difficult. However, it is the almost 3km section at pretty much 10% where the real damage can be done.

Riders will be all over the road if someone attacks this one aggressively. The key word being if.

Once over the crest, the riders will descend for almost all of the remaining 30km into the finish town of Albuixech. It is not a descent where you can free-wheel on though, as the percentages only max out at around -5% or so. A strong and organised group could gain time on others here.

How will the stage pan out?

I’m really hoping for some fireworks on the Garbi. I have a feeling we might see Valverde try to light it up to reduce the group down significantly to 8 riders or so. However, the issue with that plan for him is he might be left with very few team mates and that then leaves the door open for Sky Harlem Globetrotters to attack him from all angles.

The stage is similar to the opener in Andalucia last year that Valverde won from a group of 7, although the final descent that day was 10km shorter.

Instead, we might see a slightly easier pace, where a group of 25 riders crest the climb together.

Same rules still apply though and attacks will go off the front and we could then see a splinter group make it to the line. As to who makes that group, your guess is as good as mine but one thing is for sure, they have to climb well!

As I’m short on time, I’m just going to throw a few names into the hat so the list isn’t going to be exhaustive.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Any Team Sky Rider.

Well, maybe not all of them. Seriously though, everyone on their team apart from Kiryienka and Stannard could win this stage given the right situation. I think they’ll try to make the pace hard to reduce the peloton as much as possible, isolating other riders. The old 1-2, will be turned into the old 1-2-3-4-5 as they constantly send riders up the road on the run-in. Take your pick for them, I’ll go with a lively Diego Rosa.

Alexis Vuillermoz.

The AG2R man had a great end to 2017 with a very respectable 4th place in Il Lombardia. He copes well on the steep gradients and if the pace is not pushed too hard, then he’ll hope to make it over with the main group. If the race splits up from there, he won’t be marked too much as Ag2R won’t be massive threats in the TTT so he could slip away. Furthermore, he packs a solid sprint from a reduced group so he could challenge that way.

Pello Bilbao.

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I’m a big fan of the Spanish rider and it was great to see him really take a step up in level towards the end of the Vuelta last year. This season he’ll no doubt be working for his leaders at some point, but this is the type of race where he might get leadership in. If he’s climbing like he did in the Vuelta, he should be able to follow the front group. Packing a punch, he could be a threat from a reduced sprint.

Jaime Roson.

I’m intrigued to see what the new Movistar man does this season and I think he’ll have a lot of expectation on his shoulders at this race to help Valverde. He’s a strong climber but is still a bit raw so to speak. Anyway, while everyone has their eyes firmly on El Bala, Roson manages to slip away in the closing few kilometres. He has a bit of kick to his sprint but I’m not entirely sure the flat run-in will be ideal for him, nonetheless he has a chance in a very tactical finish. Or he just works tirelessly to keep everything together.

Prediction

A climbing selection to be made on El Garbi and it all to kick off from there. I think we’ll see a counter move go and a small sprint to the line of about 5 riders, with a group of 20 or so coming in not so long after.

Vuillermoz to take the day!

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There is absolutely no season long fantasy league bias here at all. Ok. Maybe there is a bit…

Thanks as always for reading and apologies for the slightly truncated preview. I’m looking forward to what should be an interesting, tactical finale tomorrow. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 8 Preview; Dole -> Station des Rousses

Today’s Recap

Well, that was close, 6mm or 0.0003 seconds to be precise!

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Kittel just edged out Boasson Hagen to take his third win of the race. An incredibly tough photo finish, I couldn’t split them when looking at the images post race initially. The jury eventually came to that conclusion, much to my relief.

Matthews finished fast to get up for third, while Démare disappointed down in 11th and consequently hands the green jersey over to Kittel.

With two long, drab stages (apart from the finishes) out the way, let’s turn our attention to what the riders will face tomorrow.

The Route

A day with three categorised climbs that get progressively harder throughout the stage.

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The fight to get into the break will be on tomorrow and there’s a good chance a break won’t go until we get to the first uncategorised climb of the day at around 28km. Averaging just over 3% for 9km, we should see the strong men of the bunch escape here.

With the climb not being too tough, there could be a mixture of climbers and strong rouleurs who get up the road. I wonder if any sprinters will try to escape and go for the intermediate points?!

From there, the break will face roughly 60km of rolling roads before the opening categorised climb of the day: the Col de la Joux. Not a tough climb and it should be of no real outcome in the race.

Next on the agenda is the Côte de Viry at 7.6km long and averaging 5.2% it is slighty harder going than the Joux. Again though, it is more than likely too far out to be the scene of any action but some in the break might disagree! A few more short uncategorised climbs follow before a descent into the valley and the start of the climb with the longest name ever; Montée de la Combe de Laisia Les Molunes.

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Another climb that’s not too tough in terms of gradients, it is more of a slog than anything else. We only have two kilometres that average 8% or more, one of which comes right before the end. In fact, the final 4kms of the climb are the toughest on average. A perfect launchpad for a strong climber to make a move?

Once over the top, the terrain peaks and troughs all the way to Station des Rousses. A solo rider can certainly make it all the way to the line but they’ll hope for a lack of co-operation behind in the chasing group(s).

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The road does twist and turn in the final few kilometres which will make it very tactical if we have a small group come to the line.

How will the stage pan out?

We could see some GC action but I think that’s very unlikely, as the climbs aren’t tough enough for that and I’m sure that most of the overall contenders will have one eye on stage 9.

In fact, I think Sky might be happy to let the break go even if it contains someone high up on GC, just so they can have a rest the following day. Although to be fair, it’s not like they’ve done a lot of work over the past few days with the sprinters teams pulling for most of the stages.

Yet, not having to control the bunch on stage 9 will be a big bonus for them so with that being said, it is a definite breakaway day.

Time to play everyone’s favourite game…

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Contenders

There are several riders who could potentially compete on a stage like tomorrow’s so I’m not going to bother naming loads of people. Like normal, I’ll just name a few riders who have a chance. In fact, where I’d normally name 4, I’ll just go for two tomorrow!

Thibaut Pinot.

 

After a fairly successful Giro where he won a stage and finished 4th on GC, the FDJ rider comes here solely to hunt stages. I had a chuckle to myself while watching stage 5 and the ITV commentators were acting concerned, saying that was his race over etc, when he drifted out the back of the GC group. I’m fairly certain however, that it was just a ploy to lose some time so that he is given more leeway to go on the attack and actually be allowed to get away. Unlike some riders who are closer on GC than he currently is, Pinot could still be viewed as a threat if he was 4 minutes down on the overall at the moment. Thanks to some casual riding towards the end of today’s stage though, he now finds himself 10 minutes down. Plenty of leeway to get away!

As for the suitability of the stage itself, the climbs should be of no difficulty for someone of his talent. There will be few able to follow him if he’s on a good day. Furthermore, he has the advantage of being a solid TT rider so he can hold off a chasing group all the way to the line, but if not, he has a fast sprint from a reduced group of climbers.

If he makes the move he will be one of the favourites.

Alexis Vuillermoz.

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After missing the first few months of the season due to injury, the AG2R rider returned to racing at the end of March. He’s not been as prominent as he has been in previous seasons but a win in GP Plumelec highlights that there is some form and good legs there. More often than not finding himself working for Bardet these days, I think he might be given some freedom from the team tomorrow to do his own thing.

The reason I say that is because the route goes through his birthplace (Saint-Claude), passing his home. He’ll have massive home support and we often see riders getting up the road in their “home” stages. He’ll know the final climb like the back of his hand and the “easy” average gradient of it should suit him. Not the best on really long climbs, he’ll hope that he can follow the wheels of those better than him and beat them in a sprint. Something he is certainly capable of!

Prediction

Hmm, as much as I would love for Vuillermoz to win I’ll go for Pinot to take the stage!

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Betting

After today’s success, we have a few points to throw around on breakaway stages over the next week. Which is good as they are most often the most frustrating days to have a punt on. I nailed my colours to the mast before on Twitter…

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You can still get them at 100 and 28 respectively which I would take.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Clásica de San Sebastián

Clásica de San Sebastián

A great semi-classic style race positioned the weekend after the Tour, San Sebastián often provides very exciting racing.

2015’s edition was won by Adam Yates, after a strong attack on the final climb. He crested it with a slender margin of around 3 seconds, and due to a combination of strength from the Brit and a disorganised chase behind, he increased his lead and managed to win by 15 seconds at the finish.

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Adam looking puzzled crossing the line.

Yates himself looked confused as he crossed the line. Which resulted in us the viewers being confused/humoured at his bemusement. This was partly due to a fault with the aeroplane that was meant to be transmitting the pictures, so the live feed only returned as Yates powered away near the top of the climb. What wasn’t captured on TV but last year’s race is now infamous for, is Greg Van Avermaet’s collision with a motorcycle.

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Yates didn’t know it at the time that GVA had been taken out, hence the reason for his disbelief at the end hearing that he’d won!

Let’s look at this years edition.

The Route

The profile of the race is very similar to that of previous editions. In fact, it’s almost identical to last year’s profile but with one slight difference.

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The route profile is correct, just the last climb has been misnamed

Instead of going up the Tontorra, the riders climb up Murgil Bidea instead. This change in final climb doesn’t really affect the race, it just increases its length ever so slightly because of the change in route.

The climbs of the Jaizkibel and Arkale will sap the legs within the peloton early on, but the race really is all about the final climb, as this is where most successful moves are made.

The final climb is still incredibly tough. As usual, I’ve made a profile on Strava for it that you can view directly here.

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Profile of Murgil Bidea.

Including part of the run-in and false flat after the official summit, smooths out the climb ever so slightly, making it 2.2km long with an average gradient of 8.9%. Taking out these sections makes the climb 1.5km at 10.4%, with ramps of around 20%. Steep and difficult either way!

Previous Winners – Is there a pattern?

Over the past 10 editions (2006-2015) only one of the winners has not raced at the Tour. That man was Xavier Florencio way back in 2006. All the rest have been on a merry jaunt around France.

Interestingly enough, all the winners from 2007 onwards have finished the TDF, all in the top 75 on GC too.

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Average GC position is 28.4 – Shame Wout Poels isn’t here!

Going off of recent history, it seems that to be a winner at San Sebastian, you must have performed well in France. Therefore, it is paramount to consider those who’ve just came from the Tour.

Non-Tour riders?

There is obviously always a chance that the pattern from the last nine years can be broken this time round. There are a few riders coming in from other races or blocks of training who have the abilities and credentials to challenge here. It all just depends if they are back to race condition yet or not.

Candidates

In a slight change from the normal lay-out, I’m going to go through the teams/riders who have a chance of going well here. Naming more riders than I would usually! Still, some teams won’t be mentioned, because let’s be honest, no-one from Cofidis is winning here…

(those who’ve been at the Tour are in bold and I’ll be going through in Startlist order, max 2 riders per team)

Orica – Adam Yates & Simon Yates. The defending champion was in great form at the Tour and has every chance of winning again. He floats up hills and the gradients here are to his liking. Meanwhile, his brother returned from his doping suspension with a win on Monday and will want to remind everyone what he can do on the big stage.

Cycling: 35th Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian 2015

Tinkoff – Kreuziger. Had a good Tour but it will be tough for him to win here. He’s not a good enough climber to escape alone on the final climb and doesn’t have the required sprint from a bunch. The only way he can win is if a group crests together, and he attacks on the descent and hopes that the chase behind is disorganised.

Movistar – Valverde. They’ll be all in for Alejandro. There’s a chance one of the Izagirre’s might be used as a ploy to get the other teams to chase but AV is their main option. Mr Consistent can win from about any situation. He’s rightly the favourite.

BMC- GVA & Gilbert. The could have been winner from last year will be here to right the wrongs. Van Avermaet was climbing exceptionally at the Tour and is in great shape just now, he’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t win. Phil Gil had a poor classics campaign due to injury. He’s not been his best this year but has shown glimpses of form. You can never rule out the former winner and World Champ.

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Sky – Landa & Nieve. I’m being rather controversial here, but I think the two Basque riders will be the team’s leaders over Kwiatkowski and Roche. Landa slowly re-found himself during the Tour and he seemed to be in good shape by the end of it. Earlier in the year he excelled on a steep finish at Trentino, very similar to the final climb we have here. Don’t forget he finished 6th here back in 2013. Nieve has finished 4th here on two occasions, can he make the step onto the podium? Quite possibly! He rode very well in support of Froome over the past month. After doing the Giro and Tour, does he have anything left in reserve? I think so.

Etixx – Martin. It’s all about Panda Power for Etixx. The Irishman achieved his best ever Tour GC result this year. An always attacking rider, you can be sure that he’ll try to make a move off the front at some point. Furthermore, as was shown in Lombardia (2014), he is great at timing a move from a small group and he packs a good sprint. With all that being said, I can’t see him finishing on the podium. Brambilla may be let off the hook but he’s not raced enough recently for me to like his chances.

Katusha – JRod. Another team with one clear leader, Rodriguez really got his season back on track at the Tour after having a poor start to the year. With the announcement that he’s retiring at the end of the year, he’ll give it his all here and potentially take a few more risks than normal.

Lampre – Ulissi. He was climbing exceptionally at the Giro but has been a bit off the boil since then. With the explosive kick required and fast sprint from a group he will be a serious danger-man. Can he be the non-Tour rider to break that 9 year duck?

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Trek – Mollema & Felline. The Dutchman has a great record, finishing in the Top 10 in all of the previous 4 editions. However, he looked spent by the end of the Tour. I’m not sure if he’ll have recovered fully but he can’t be ruled out. Felline finished the recent Tour de Pologne 2nd on GC, a great result. He is a rider for a while who has promised so much in these type of races. I think this is too early for him (look out for him at the Vuelta) and the final climb is on his limit. I’m ready to be surprised though!

Lotto Soudal – Gallopin & Wellens. Another former winner lining up here, Gallopin had a poor TDF by his standards. Especially after a good showing at the French national championships. I’m not sure why that was, but if he’s back to his best then he can definitely challenge here. Wellens on the other hand seems to be on great form just now, storming to the overall victory in Poland just over a week ago. We’re sure to see an attack (probably poorly timed) from him at some point.

AG2R – Vuillermoz. Was building form nicely at the Tour and is a rider I like a lot. He can handle the steep inclines but will probably need to come to the finish alone as he doesn’t have a great flat sprint.

IAM – Pantano. Arguably the revelation of this years TDF, Pantano has all the attributes to go well here. His weakness is probably actually his climbing and I’m not too sure how he goes on very steep gradients. However, he will still be better than most in that respect! He’ll be able to fly down the hill and he has a fast sprint on him too so he can challenge from a group.

Aside from these riders, I can’t see anyone else winning. In fact, I’d narrow it down to A Yates, Valverde, GVA, JRod, Landa, Nieve & Pantano as the most likely candidates. All riders who have been at the Tour!

Prediction

In tradition of the blog I’ll go for one of the outsiders.

I think Sky’s numerical advantage will play a massive part in the finale, whether that’s marking moves on the climb/descent or doing the “old 1-2” themselves. I favour Landa out of the two in that situation. We’ve seen him cope well with steep inclines (Trentino this year and Aia last year) and as a potential Grand Tour winner he has the pedigree and capabilities to win here. Unlike some of the others (Yates & Valverde) he didn’t have to go deep on every stage in France, so will have saved some energy because of that. The team will be on a high after the Tour and want to continue that good run. Therefore, I think we get the poetic Basque region winner that the fans and locals will adore!

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Betting

Just backing Landa for this, the majority of the favourites are too short to back convincingly and I think Landa offers some value. The bookies seem to have the race priced well.

0.5pt EW @ 50/1 with Betfair. (I’d take 40/1 if you can’t get 50/1)

If I see any H2Hs that I like I’ll add them on my Twitter.

 

Thanks for reading and making it this far on this longer than normal preview! Any feedback is very much appreciated as usual. I should have a preview out for Ride London too so keep an eye out for that. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

TDF Stage 20: Megève -> Morzine

Today’s Recap

Hopefully Nieve was let off the leash, got into the break, and won the stage.

Again, I’m writing this preview in advance as I’m away from home all day today so it might be a bit shorter/less succinct. Apologies!

*Edit, looks like it was a GC day instead*

 

The Route

Another short and sharp test for the riders! With Paris metaphorically very much in sight, this will be the last chance for many to try to take a stage win.

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After today’s gruelling start to the stage, the riders will be happy to see a bit of flat at the start of the map. However, this won’t make the racing any less frantic as a break tries to escape. It could even be after the sprint point that it manages to properly form! Before we get to the sprint point though, we have the Col des Aravis. A Cat-2 climb that drags on for 6.7km, averaging a 7% gradient. This won’t be fun for the guys at the bottom of the GC, after they suffered today.

The sprint point comes at the foot-slopes of the next categorised climb, the Col de la Colombière. This is a much longer climb than the previous one (11.7km), but it’s gradient is a lot less severe, averaging only 5.8%.

The second half of the stage is characterised by long valley roads, tough climbs and descents.

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Next up is the penultimate climb of the day, the Col de la Ramaz. 13.9km at 7.1%, it will probably see the break split up here, maybe with 5 or so cresting the climb together. Behind, it shouldn’t really cause any GC difficulties unless of course someone is on a terrible day.

Once again, there is a long descent and a valley road before we reach the final climb of the day; the Col de Joux Plane.

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The toughest climb of the day has been saved for last, it barely goes under 7% for the whole climb, with several 9%+ sections. This in theory should blow the race to pieces, whether that’s in the break or in the GC group. Riders will give it their all on the last major climb of the Tour. Once over the summit they have to cut across the mountain, descending slightly, before climbing another 70m again, up to the peak of the Col du Ranfolly. From there it will be a steep and exciting descent all the way into the finishing town of Morzine.

The riders descend all the way into the final km.

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How will the stage pan out?

Breakaway win, most likely.

If there have been GC fireworks today and the fight for the podium is incredibly close then there is a chance this goes to the main contenders. However, none of the teams have looked strong enough to control a stage like this all day, apart from potentially Astana. Movistar and BMC have been relatively poor this Tour.

Break candidates

Look to all your regulars, such as Majka, Pantano, Zakarin etc.

Again though, I’m going to name three riders who I think can go well here.

Vincenzo Nibali.

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The Shark had a sloppy start to the race, underperforming when in breakaways but seems to have turned a corner. He did a great deal of work, a truly monster turn for Aru on stage 17. This to me shows that his form is getting better. As I’m writing this one day early, I’m going to assume that today he’s worked for Aru and then rolled in to the finish, resting up his legs for tomorrow. He’s a favourite for the Olympic RR so will need a good test of his form, tomorrow looks exactly like that type of stage. If he makes the break, he wins.

Alexis Vuillermoz.

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Another rider going to the Olympics to do the RR, he may have ambitions of going well there. After all, he did win the test event last season! A rider who’s really flown under the radar so far this Tour, he’s done a great deal of work for Bardet. He always seems to be the last man left for his team-mate, I’ve been impressed! Vuillermoz took a solid 3rd on stage 15 but says his form is getting better. As a classics specialist, he loves the steeper gradients and should relish some of the tougher climbs.

Vuillermoz in break today, doubt he’ll go again tomorrow.

Damiano Caruso.

Cycling: BMC Racing Team 2016

A more left-field pick, he’s had a very solid Tour so far, working well for Porte and TVG. So might be given his freedom by the team here to go and have some fun. Having hung on well to the GC favourites group on several occasions, he seems to be climbing well. Furthermore, he packs a good sprint on him so could beat quite a lot of riders if it comes down to a sprint in Morzine with a break companion.

If none of my picks from yesterday’s blog made it into today’s move, they could well give it a go tomorrow. In particular a certain Brit might be targeting this one.

Tirreno Adriatico cycling race

 

Prediction

If we get a break, Nibali wins.

If it’s GC guys, Aru descends like a mad man and steals victory.

Either way, Astana win this penultimate stage!

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Betting

I’ll be backing the 3 riders above, with Nibali receiving most of my money (unless of course he went in the break today), then Vuillermoz, then Caruso. A similar staking structure to previous previews but maybe a bit more on Nibbles than normal. Obviously, I don’t know prices etc, so just have a hunt around yourself. This planning and writing ahead thing is tough!

*Late Friday edit. Nibali shortly priced, gets majority of backing. Caruso gets smaller weighing. 80/20 split.

 

Again, apologies for the slightly shorter preview. Hopefully we get an exciting end to the Tour’s time in the Alps! As usual, any feedback is great and thanks for reading! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth