Tour de France 2018 Stage 4 Preview: La Baule -> Sarzeau

Today’s Recap

The classiest TTT team came out on top at the end of the day with BMC taking home the victory and Van Avermaet moving into yellow.

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The margins were small between the stage favourites though with Sky (+4 seconds), Quick Step (+7 seconds), Mitchelton (+9 seconds) and Sunweb (+11 seconds) rounding out the top 5.

In fact, most of the GC contenders will be fairly happy with their team’s effort and we don’t have anyone massively out of touch yet thanks to the splits on the opening day. Quintana at 2’08 is probably the worst off but he is just over a minute behind Froome. All still most definitely to play for and we will no doubt see the GC picture shaken up even more on a couple of stages this week. First though, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Another day for the fast men of the peloton.

Tour Stage 4

195km of flat, albeit ever so slightly rolling terrain as the riders head in land before turning back towards the sea again for the second half of the day.

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By far the easiest run in of the race so far, the riders only have to contend with one roundabout at 4km to go and the rest is on one road with little deviation.

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The final 1.3km is on an arrow straight road with the gradient dragging at an ever so slight 1.4% average. Although the final 500m are flatter compared to the first 800m. The riders will have to be wary of a nagging cross headwind on the run in – you don’t want to launch your sprint too early.

Contenders and Pretenders

We’ve been through the sprinters before and it would be tiresome of me to name them all and list possible reasons for them winning again. So I’m not going to do that. This is a long Tour after all. Instead here are a few tidbits to take from stage 2, if we can take anything again considering the crash.

Sagan is a joy to watch on the bike and his skills are to marvel at. He always seems to find himself in the right position at the right time and he proved to have the speed to finish it off on Sunday. The easier finish tomorrow might not be as good for him but he’ll be up there.

Colbrelli was so close but he just didn’t have enough and he should feature in the top 5 again.

Greipel and Degenkolb were disappointing, as was Kristoff. Interestingly, Degenkolb stated after stage 2 that they were actually going to try to go for the sprint with Stuyven. He could certainly be an outside pick for tomorrow – he has an underrated sprint on a slight drag.

Demare looks good but he gambled and went early. Having his lead-out fully intact tomorrow will help him out, he just needs to be patient.

That’s all we can take from Stage 2 really as everyone else was held up or involved in the crash!

No beating about the bush here, straight into the prediction…

Prediction

I think tomorrow is the day for Groenewegen to step up.

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He and his Lotto Jumbo lead out train have failed on the opening two sprints, mainly because they have been too far back on the tricky run-ins. This is unfortunately a negative of their “leave it fast and late approach”. However, with tomorrow being an arrow-straight closing few kilometres with very little road furniture then their style should thrive. Groenewegen looked to be closing fast on the opening day but he just started miles behind. We’ve seen so far this year how strong he is in the sprints and tomorrow he will show that again, taking the biggest win of his career.

Even though the run in is “easy” we could see a couple of surprise results because of all the jostling around. This has happened a few times this year already when Guardini came second on the opening day of Abu Dhabi. Therefore, I would like to keep an eye on Stuyven too.

Betting

2pts WIN Groenewegen @ 6/1 with Betfred (would take 4/1 lowest but plenty of else in between elsewhere)

0.25pt EW Stuyven @ 250/1 with Bet365 (would take 150/1 lowest)

Going slightly above my 2pt a day rule but if I stick with that from now then it will be 50pt staked throughout the Tour include GC bets.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will come out on top tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 2 Preview; Skydive Dubai › Ras al Khaimah

Today’s Recap

Well that was messy!

It looked as if QuickStep had everything under control but they got swamped at roughly 2km to go. They then reasserted their dominance going under the Flamme Rouge and looked to have Viviani in prime position. However, Jumbo delivered Groenewegen at just the right time and caught Viviani napping. The Dutchman held his line well, tactically using the barriers to block the QS rider off. He didn’t have it all his own way though, as Cort Nielsen pushed him all the way to the line and the finish was much closer than I originally thought given the camera’s focus on the Groenewegen/Viviani battle.

In the end, Groenewegen won it with a bike lunge, beating Cort Nielsen into second, with Viviani trailing home in third.

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Everyone else was a mile behind all things considered but it will be interesting to se if we have the same top 3 tomorrow.

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

The Route

Flat, again, but what do you expect?

Another day that will all be about the battle in the final 10kms.

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The exact same finish as last year, the first big battle will be to the left hand turn at 1.5km to go. It sweeps around enough that the peloton should be stretched out once they exit and head towards the flamme rouge.

There is enough time here for teams further back to come up, but they need to do it fairly fast as at roughly 800m to go there is a roundabout which stretches things out again.

Being in the first 15 riders here is important for a good stage result.

After that, the road bends around to the right, with the shortest line obviously being the inside hogging the barriers. Or you could just do what Kittel did last year and power down the middle!

What Can We Take From Stage 1?

The Good.

  • Groenewegen’s short but sharp train that delivered him to the front at exactly the right moment. Roosen did a great job to weave through the QS bunch, which Groenewegen then followed up with a great bit of tactical sprinting, giving Viviani just enough room on the barriers for it to be safe, but not too much so that he had a chance of coming round.
  • QuickStep as a whole looked great and seemed to be in control of the closing kilometres. They only lost that control at two points; ~2km out and 750m to go. Unfortunately, that gave Jumbo the opportunity to come through and put Viviani in difficulty. If they do the same as today in stage 2, then Viviani has every chance of going better.
  • Cort Nielsen’s solo escapades. After more than half his team was taken down by a crash, the Dane had to fly solo in the closing kilometres and it seemed to serve him well. He took advantage of Jumbo’s jump to the front, but was impeeded when Roosen pulled over. MCN swerved to the side (a bit dramatically I hasten to add) and it might have been that swerve that cost him the stage.

The Bad.

  • Kittel’s chain. It looked as if the German was in a good position but in swerving to avoid MCN, he seemed to jump his chain and that completely ruined his chances. Katusha were a bit over the place in the lead in, but I was impressed with Haller who found Kittel again to deliver him back near the head of the race.
  • Cavendish losing his team-mates wheel. An amateur mistake from the experienced rider who couldn’t hold the back wheel of Renshaw in the run closing kilometre after being outmuscled by what looked like Adam Blythe. Possibly a confidence issue for the Manxman after his Tour crash?

The Ugly.

  • The spill at over 3km to go which made an already nervous peloton even more twitchy.
  • All of the argy-bargy in the bunch in the closing kilometres, but I guess that is what you would expect when the roads are so wide and we have so many world class sprinters here trying to move around.

Prediction

Hmmm.

The first two riders on the podium today were strong, but I get the feeling we only saw Viviani sprinting at 90% as he was hindered by Groenewegen. He appeared as if he was itching to get past the Dutchman but he just couldn’t find the road to do it.

Furthermore, Kittel can’t be discounted as he was in a prime position to strike today but was just unlucky with his mechanical.

Therefore, I actually think it will be a Viviani v Kittel showdown, despite what we saw today.

QS have the better train and after messing up today, Viviani will want to put things right tomorrow, especially when you consider it is his birthday. He’s shown in the Tour Down Under and Cadel’s Race the raw speed that he has; it’s just about him being able to put it into practice.

Yet, of the brief glimpse we saw of Kittel today I just have a hunch he’s going very well at the moment. He was powerful enough to effectively give himself a mechanical after all! That won’t happen happen tomorrow though, and he’ll storm horm for the win, just pipping his old team to the line, with Groenewegen coming home in third.

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Betting

A complete blowout today which is not ideal. Viviani at least took some bonus seconds for the GC hunt and he has looked strong.

Going back in with a H2H double though;

3pts on Kittel ov Cav & Viviani ov Groenewegen @ 1.64/1 with Bet365

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be a similar front three to the opening stage or will some other names appear at the top of the order. As for my stage 3 preview, I’m unsure what it will comprise of. I’m away visiting my sister at Uni, so I won’t have too much time to do anything but I’ll try to get something out. If not, I’ll give some thoughts on Twitter and be back for the Hatta Dam stage! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 20 Preview; Marseille -> Marseille

Today’s Recap

I was disappointed to wake up this afternoon to see a 20-rider breakaway up the road and none of the picks represented. Even more disappointed when scrolling through the Le Tour Race Centre feed to see that Bauer and McCarthy were involved in an earlier move, oh well!

The breakaway stayed together over the last climb and we were treated to a very tactical battle in the final 40km.

Countless attacks went and were brought back but we did see a split over a slight rise which cut the group in half. From there, we had even more attacks but it was a roundabout inside the final 3km that decided the race. The majority of the front group took the left side, whereas Arndt and Boasson Hagen took the right, much shorter side.

The Norwegian picked up the pace just as Arndt was reaching his limit and swung over. Using a friendly moto he got a 5-10m gap and that was the race over from there! After all his close calls so far this race it is good to see him take the win.

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Arndt held on to finish second, with Keukeleire winning the reduced bunch gallop for third.

With all the GC riders rolling home together, let’s have a look at what’s in store for them tomorrow.

The Route

A pan-flat TT apart from one very short and sharp climb.

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The route is a very interesting one as the climb only makes up just over 5% of the stage. However, being an average of 9.5% for that 1.2km it will probably take the riders closer to roughly 12% of their total time.

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The climb is steep and will certainly ruin the rhythm of the TT specialists. I wonder if we’ll see any bike changes before it? Personally I would say it is not worth it but you never know!

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Aside from the climb, the course is more technical than the opening TT we saw in Düsseldorf. The roads are narrow, particularly along the Corniche, with the riders having to contend with a few tight turns and roundabouts. However, there are plenty of long straight sections for the powerhouses in the peloton to put the Watts down.

It will be a close battle between the TT specialists and the all-round GC riders for the stage win.

Quite often in a TT the changing weather throughout the day will play a part in deciding the outcome. However, it appears tomorrow that all the riders should have dry conditions with the later starts possibly benefiting from a drop in wind speed. Although that depends on what source you look at!

Contenders

Roglic.

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After crashing in the opening TT, the Jumbo rider has since turned things around and took an excellent stage win a couple of days ago. An excellent rider against the clock he should be there or thereabouts but I think he might have actually preferred a harder course with a longer descent!

Froome.

The last TT in a Tour means Froome normally turns up. He crushed Dumoulin last year in the closing time trial and the same can be said for his effort in the Vuelta TT where he put 45 seconds into joint stage favourite Castroviejo. The route looks ideal for the Brit with power sections where he can, erm, put the power down, but the climb should be suited to him too. The only issue is that he hasn’t looked great this Tour so far, yet he finds himself in Yellow. He’s the type of rider who will want to win a stage on his way to winning the race overall and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the top step tomorrow.

Küng.

Second place in the opening TT, the Swiss rider did very well to set a fast time when everyone else around him seemed to be struggling in the wet weather. He’s been anonymous since then but has possibly been saving himself for this effort. Tomorrow’s route looks similar to recent closing TT in the Tour de Suisse where he was second behind a flying Dennis. Can he repeat that performance tomorrow?

Martin.

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After failing to make a dream start to his race back in Düsseldorf, Martin has dabbled in a few breakaways since then. The climb is really steep for a guy like him, we saw what happened to him on the steep slopes during his solo breakaway. However, at only 1.2km long he will fancy his chances of powering up it. He should finish in the top 5 but I’m not too confident in his form just now.

Kwiatkowski.

If Froome and Landa want the best info as to how the course rides at race pace then they’ll need a team-mate earlier in the day to go full gas. Given how well he is currently riding, Kwiatkowski could be that man. The course looks a perfect distance for “Kawasaki” and he will probably want to honour his national champions jersey by giving it a good go. The only concern is that he might decide to have an extra rest day considering all of the work he has done so far.

Castroviejo.

The Spaniard is another rider who has had a quiet time this Tour, possibly with an eye on tomorrow’s stage. A great time trial rider he will be challenging again for the win.

As for an outsider who could challenge, I’ll once again highlight Bauer. The New Zealand TT champion got into one of the early moves today so his form is still there. Having taken it easy on the opening day, I think he might give it a nudge tomorrow. It will be tough for him to win but he could possibly sneak onto the podium if he gets lucky.

Predcition

This one is tough.

I’ve chopped and changed my mind between some of the riders listed above several times so far. Making cases for and against all of them and not really coming to any concrete/confident conclusion.

Right…

If he gets to go full gas then I really think Kwiatkowski has a chance of taking a stage win and be truly rewarded for all his work over the past three weeks!

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Betting

Bit of a lottery, and the 9/4 on Froome looks tempting but he’s still too short given his not so dominant performances recently.

1.35pts EW Kwiatkowski @ 20/1 with Ladbrokes/Coral (1/4 odds for 3 places)

0.15pts EW Bauer @ 500/1 with various

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 5 Preview; Vittel -> La Planche des Belles Filles

Today’s Recap

I thought the Tour was supposed to be the more mundane and less drama packed of the three Grand Tours…

A quiet day quickly turned into a manic one in the final 10km as the fight for position was crazy. Riders were swerving all over the road and the peloton should have taken heed when the Astana rider (I think it was Grivko) came up to the front to berate Dimension Data for sweeping across the road and causing a concertina effect on the bunch. Somewhat of an irony in the way they sweeped across the road considering what happened later.

Once onto the technical run in we had a fairly large pile up at just over 1km to go. Oddly enough though, it was on a straight-ish bit of road. Then, we had the well documented crash between the remaining sprinters that saw Cavendish go down and take out Swift and Degenkolb.

The result of it all is that Sagan has now been DQ’d from the race for causing danger to his colleagues. While he did act dangerously and has previous (just ask Vantomme), I think it is a bit absurd that he is thrown out from the whole thing. Disqualified from the stage would possibly have been a “fair” punishment, but Cavendish knew the risk of trying to come up the inside. The whole thing is just a mess really!

#TourdeFarce

Démare ended up taking a strong victory but he himself swerved in front of Bouhanni a bit, so that could even be disputed as an infringement.

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Kristoff and Greipel rounded out the podium.

With that now over with, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

An easy-ish stage that gets tougher as the day progresses.

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The riders will face some small uncategorised rises in the first half of the stage but nothing too substantial. However, not long after the intermediate sprint the road begins to rise and we have the first categorised climb of the day. Officially 2.3km at 8%, the road actually continues to climb once the riders pass the “summit” of the Côte d’Esmoulières. With no figures to go by on the profile it’s hard to judge but it looks as if there is roughly another 10km at ~2%.*

* Disclaimer – I’m just guessing the figures going by the profile so they aren’t 100% accurate! Looks to me that the climb crests at ~780m.

From there we have a long descent and travel through some valley roads before the road kicks up again. Again, the uncategorised climb isn’t tough, averaging roughly 2% for 11kms.

Therefore, the stage will inevitably come down to who is the strongest on La Planche des Belles Filles.

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A tough climb with some steep gradients we could see some reasonable time gaps if a few riders struggle to find their mountain-goat legs.

The past two finishes here have seen roughly a minute separate the top 10 but both of those days had much harder stages preceding them and on the day itself they were tougher.

So with that being said, we should in theory see a more tightly bunched up finishing order, but who knows!

How will the stage pan out?

Well, there is a chance that the break might stay away like we saw with the first mountain top finish at the Giro this year. However, I think that’s unlikely here as Sky will be willing to chase but so other teams will more than likely offer assistance as well, hoping their team leader can take some bonus seconds at the end of the day.

Contenders

There are really only a few riders I can see winning this.

Chris Froome.

It’s the first mountain top finish of the race, one of only three, so a big performance here from the Brit will really demoralise his opposition. He normally goes incredibly well on the first GC stage of the race and that could well be the case tomorrow. Having won on this exact finish before, his first ever Tour win in fact, he’ll know every inch of the road and will be looking to set his stall out as clear favourite for this race. Climbing poorly by his standards in the Dauphiné it will be intriguing to see how he does. Maybe we should take heed of his new contract with Sky, and assume that they know he’ll be firing on all cylinders tomorrow.

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Richie Porte.

 

The obvious challenger to Froome and Sky, the Australian has been unbelievable on the climbs this year; his Watts have been insane! Tomorrow is the type of day where he could do a Dumoulin on Oropa and just ride away from everyone due to simply being the most powerful rider. I have said it many times this year, these 15-20 minute climbs are his bread and butter and I would not be surprised to see him ride everyone off of his wheel!

Fabio Aru on form looks like the only other rider who could possibly get close to the two mentioned above. Simply stunning in his win at the Italian Championships, he is capable of putting in a very explosive attack that few can follow. Seemingly back to his best, can he take advantage of Froome/Porte marking each other out of it and take his first Tour stage win?

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Dan Martin could be close to the podium as well. He was strong on stage 3 and the steep gradients certainly suit the Irishman. The shorter the climb, the better for him, so he’ll have his mind-set on trying to take some time in the opening week before we get to the really long climbs later in the race.

What about Quintana? No one knows what the Colombian can do just now. If in good form, he can ride away from everyone, even Porte. The question is if is on form. I’ll guess we’ll know come half 4 tomorrow.

I’m not too sure that anyone else is capable of the win tomorrow, maybe only Thomas. He does seem to be going very well at the moment.

Prediction

First mountain stage of the Tour and we’ll see the best climber from this year take the stage. Porte to win!

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Aru to sneak onto the podium, with Froome most likely taking the other spot.

Betting

Tempted with something on Porte outright for the stage but I’ve went for the longer odds rider/better EW value in;

1pt EW Aru @ 14/1 (would take 10s lowest)

Considering a few H2H but I’ll post them on my Twitter later if I do take them on.

Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see a break stay away, or will the GC guys fight it out? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2017 Stage 4 Preview; La Tour-du-Pin -> Bourgion-Jalieu

Today’s Recap

The peloton here are about as reliable as that from the 2015 Giro!

They left the chase for the break too late and the early morning move stayed away to take the win for the second stage out of three.

It was young Koen Bouwman who sprinted to the win, with Siskevicius and Backaert rounding out the podium. Not a bad race to take your first professional victory in!

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Behind Démare “won” the bunch sprint for 7th but I’m sure he’ll be bitterly disappointed knowing he could have and probably should have, taken another win.

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

The Route

We’ll see the first proper GC shake up with a relatively long ITT.

The official profile isn’t overly helpful, so instead I’ve made my own. As is TT tradition! However, I’ve used Cronoescalada this time instead of Strava.

Dauphine Stage 4 (ITT)

You can view the interactive profile I made here.

As you can see, it’s not the toughest TT course ever but does include a few tricky climbs over its 23.5km.

The riders will actually lose more altitude than they gain over the route; 288m gain compared to a 378m loss.

The climbing can’t be discounted but it only makes up just over a fifth of the stage, so to me it seems that this stage is much more suited to the specialist time trial riders. The real powerful riders of the peloton who will be able to churn a big gear on the downhill sections.

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Aside from when leaving the start town and entering the finish town the course is very straightforward, with very few turns where the riders will have to apply the breaks.

Weather Watch

As is often is the case in TTs, the weather can play a massive part in the outcome of the stage.

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Source: Wunderground

Thankfully the riders should all face the same, fairly benign conditions. Should mean an even contest throughout the day!

Contenders

Tony Martin – The current World Champion should be suited to this course perfectly. He’s strong enough to be able to flatten the few kilometres of hills we have but also able to churn out a massive amount of power on the flat/downhill sections. His form is a bit unknown, but he really should be the guy to beat.

Chris Froome – On paper this TT isn’t ideal for Froome, I’m sure he’d prefer the hills ever so slightly longer. Nonetheless, he can produce a very good flat TT when needed! It will be interesting to see where his form is less than a month out from the Tour. I mean, it’s very unlikely that he’ll be as low as his Romandie level but you never know!

Richie Porte – The former Aussie TT champ is also not averse to putting in a good “flat” time trial. Arguably one of the riders of the season so far, he’ll sprint up those climbs. Can he hold it together on the downhill? Is he willing to take many risks with the Tour not so far away?

2016 Tour de France, stage 13: Porte

Those three are the top of the pile but there are certainly a few others who can challenge.

Michal Kwiatkowski is no stranger to a good TT. He was strong in the discipline before moving to Sky but this season he seems to have re-found that good form. A very powerful rider and great bike handler, he has a great chance at the podium.

Edvald Boasson Hagen would probably prefer a shorter course but given his current for, he can’t be ruled out either.

Alejandro Valverde has gone well this season so far in TTs but they tend to involve more climbing than this one. Nonetheless, with the year he is having, you can’t write him off too early!

For a proper outsider…

Damien Howson.

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The former U23 TT World Champion turned super-domestique certainly has the background and pedigree for this type of event. He rolled home today, possibly saving himself for days to come. If he gets the nod to go full gas, he could surprise!

Prediction

I’m going to go for none of the big 3, instead, I’ll go for one of their team-mates: Kwiatkowski.

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The Sky rider has regained his mojo this season and is now riding with a lot of confidence again which will be a huge lift to his performance. Returning from training camp with Froome, he has been attentive at the front of every stage so far which makes me think he’s going well. It would be of benefit for Sky to have two riders high on GC and I’m sure Kwiatkowski would happily oblige!

Betting

1.3pt EW Kwiatkowski @ 18/1

0.2pt EW Howson @ 300/1 

(Both 365, 1/5 odds)

 

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? If you’ve not already, check out my preview for the first stage of the women’s tour! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Critérium du Dauphiné 2017 Stage 3 Preview; Le Chambon-sur-Lignon -> Tullins

*Short preview as I’m short of time – too busy making Women’s Tour profiles. Normal service shall resume tomorrow!*

Today’s Recap

We did end up with a big bunch sprint and it was Arnaud Démare who powered his way to stage victory, winning by a comfortable margin in the end!

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Kristoff and Bouhanni rounded out the podium. A good result for the Frenchman considering the crash he suffered in Yorkshire not so long ago.

As for the blog pick of Boasson Hagen, he was up fighting in the top 10 riders in the closing kilometres but unfortunately went backwards/lost position at the wrong time. He eventually recovered to finish 6th and I’m sure he’ll give it another go tomorrow!

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

The Route

Another rolling day but the easiest stage so far.

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We have several small climbs out on course but the last one (Côte de Roybon) comes too far from the finish line to be of any detriment to the sprinters.

The run in to the line is fairly simple as well, much to the delight of the sprint trains.

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There are a couple of roundabouts to traverse, and the one taken at just after 1km to go could cause some issues but aside from that there are no other difficulties. The road does rise ever so slightly in the last kilometre but it’s only at 0.8% so it should make no real difference!

Weather Watch

On a relatively easy day, the one thing that could derail the sprinters chances is the weather.

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Source: Wunderground

It looks as if we will get rain at some point during the stage but it should have disappeared from the finishing town (where the above forecast is from) by the time we reach there.

However, slick roads could lead to a more nervous peloton!

Nonetheless, it should end in a sprint.

Contenders

We’ll have all the usual suspects competing for victory.

Can Démare double up? He certainly looked very strong today and his two-man lead-out timed their move to the front perfectly. It is a move we’ve seen them do quite a bit recently: his win over Bouhanni in GP de Denain was very similar. Having his best season so far, I would not be surprised to see him on the top spot of the podium again.

Kristoff did well to get up for second but that was mainly thanks to his great lead-out. He never seemed to have the kick to match Demare when the Frenchman launched his sprint. In my opinion, he still doesn’t look back to top form and if he’s out of position I can’t see him coming around anyone. Nonetheless, he is a great sprinter so can’t be discounted!

Bouhanni looked fairly strong today but I think he benefited greatly from following Demare up the inside line, using his compatriots slipstream. I’m still not convinced his form is fully there yet but you can never discount Bou-Bou.

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Colbrelli and his Bahrain team looked strong in the final 5km but they seemed to run out of steam at roughly 1km to go. The Italian managed to finish strongly but I think he would need a tougher finish than the one we have tomorrow.

Bauhaus impressed me today, as did his Sunweb lead-out train. Like Bahrain, they seemed to come to the party early, but were one of the teams with the most numbers in the closing kilometres. If they can get the timing right tomorrow, I think the young German can spring a surprise, he was finishing fast today!

Ackermann, Swift, Boasson Hagen, Coquard and Richeze should all be in or around the top 10 again.

Prediction

It will be tough to beat Démare as he seems to be in great shape at the moment. Nonetheless, I still think he can be beaten and I’m looking towards a team buoyed by confidence at the moment to do just that.

Bauhaus appears to have the speed to match the best and if his Sunweb team can lead into and through the final roundabout with a few guys ahead of him, I think he is able to challenge for the win. Using those Giro legs to his advantage!

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Betting

1pt EW Bauhaus @ 12/1 (with Bet365)

Awful price for everyone, but at least it gives an interest

 

Thanks as always for reading and as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Apologies again for the shorter preview, but there’s not really much extra to say anyway! I’ll have two previews out tomorrow; Dauphine Stage 4 and my OVO Women’s Tour Stage 1/GC Preview.

Speaking of which, join my Velogames.com league for the Tour, use the code “05185053” to gain entry. No prizes on offer, just pride!

Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 20 Preview; Pordenone -> Asiago

Today’s Recap

So apparently I missed a lot while sleeping this morning after work!

I woke up to see the riders on the final climb and Dumoulin slowly losing contact, but a quick scroll down Twitter also suggested that something else happened earlier in the stage. Either Dumoulin lost time and was gapped on a descent or the others attacked him while he was stopping for a nature break. Reading what the Sunweb director said, I think it was the former.

Up the road, Landa finally took a deserved stage win while simultaneously securing his KOM jersey.

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With Costa and Rolland following him home.

We did get some GC gaps and Quintana moves into Rosa after Dumoulin suffered on the final climb. Pinot has handily moved himself up to within a minute of Quintana and his certainly not out of it either. We should be in for an interesting final two days.

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

The Route

A tough day out but certainly not the hardest that the riders have faced.

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We have almost 100km of flat before we get the start of the climb to Monte Grappa.

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At 24.1km it’s long but only averages 5.3%. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story as the first 8.5km of the climb averages 7.8%, which is certainly difficult enough to shed some riders out the back of the group.

The only issue with that is once we get to the summit of the climb, there is just under 70km to go to the line. With no Contador here, I think it’s unlikely we’ll see any kamikaze GC attacks on Grappa but you never know. I would love it if there was!

The riders will have to tackle a descent that is as long as the climb they’ve just been up, before traversing some valley roads to reach the foot slopes of Foza.

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A more regular climb than Grappa, Foza averages 6.7% for 14km. It is long/steep/close enough to the finish to put some riders into difficulty.

The only issue for some riders is that we have a 15km section of undulating road after the peak, with the last 5km being downhill.

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I’m sure a few riders will be happy to know that the downhill isn’t too technical aside from the last kilometre where it starts to flatten out anyway.

How will the stage pan out?

Another day where we have the conundrum of break or no break?

The first 100km of the stage in theory are easy to control for a team but who will take up the mantle? The onus will obviously be on Movistar to set tempo for the stage but Quintana has looked underwhelming so far this race, although he has managed to get into Pink!

Nibali today didn’t look great either, shipping a couple of seconds on the line. In fact, the two riders who looked the strongest were Pinot and Zakarin, both of whom are very much in podium contention now.

Are any of these teams dedicated/strong enough to set tempo all day to keep the break within touching distance?

I’m not so sure.

I think they’ll see how the race unfolds on the day and if the break is within touching distance over Monte Grappa, they might start pulling. If not, I think it will be another day to play…

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Contenders

The flat start makes it a difficult stage for the climbers to get into the break so we might get a mixed bag.

As I’m losing the will to live in terms of recycling names for this, I’ll come up with a couple of new names;

Diego Rosa.

The Italian was very strong in helping Landa on Stage 18, driving the break for the majority of the first three climbs. With the Spaniard now having a stage win and the KOM secured, Sky will now most likely turn to their other riders and give them a few opportunities. Rosa is strong enough on the flat to make the break, but he is an exceptional enough climber to win from a group as well.

Omar Fraile.

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With a stage win already in the bag, Fraile can go into this stage without any pressure. Brutishly strong on the stage he won, the Spaniard has the engine to join the break on the flat, but also the climbing ability to win. An attacking rider, he certainly won’t give up if he makes the move, taking the approach of finishing last is the same as 2nd.

GC Contenders

I think it will be hard to drop a lot of the GC favourites, but as I said above, Zakarin and Pinot look the strongest just now. In theory, the “flat” final 15km should suit those two and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them attacking over the top of Foza when the lighter climbers are isolated and weak.

If we do get a GC battle, I’ll go for a Zakarin win.

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Prediction

However, I think we’ll once again see a race on two fronts and the break will stay away. Sky will take back to back wins, with Diego Rosa coming out on top.

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Betting

The usual 2pts spread across the break duo as odds on Zakarin won’t change much when they go in-play.

1pt WIN Rosa @ 33/1

1pt WIN Fraile @ 40/1

Thanks for reading as always. Apologies that this is shorter than normal but I’m suffering from preview burnout! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 12 Preview; Forlì -> Reggio Emilia

Today’s Recap

An exciting stage that saw a very fast start to the day!

However, things did eventually calm down and a large breakaway group established itself. We did have two attackers ahead of them though, in the form of Landa and Fraile, but they were eventually brought to heel on the lower slopes of the last climb.

A lot of to-ing and fro-ing then occurred towards the top of the summit, on the descent and the run to the line but we were treated to a reduced sprint from the breakaway riders.

After being in front for most of the day taking KOM points, Fraile still had enough left in the tank for a very impressive sprint, beating Costa and Rolland into the lower podium placings.

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Behind, there were a few probing GC attacks but nothing too serious. Although Thomas and Kruijswijk did lose almost 50 seconds to the rest of the contenders.

It was slightly disappointing not to see more GC action, especially after the crazy start to the stage, nonetheless, it was a good day’s worth of racing. Will we see a good day of racing tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Longest stage of the race and another “transitional” day.

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A fairly innocuous stage with two categorised climbs that come too far out from the finish to be of any danger GC wise. 110km of shallow descending/flat from the final peak do offer a chance for the sprint teams to get organised and chase down the breakaway.

The run in is pan-flat and not overly technical.

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There are a few sweeping turns in the closing 2kms but nothing too serious as the road is quite wide. Unless of course the organisers decide to put some barriers in place!

How will the stage pan out?

You would expect it to be a sprint. There are still a reasonable amount of teams left with fast-men and with most probably leaving the race after Stage 13, they’ll want to make the most of the opportunities they have left.

The good news for sprinters is the distance from the last climb to the line, there is plenty of opportunity for their team-mates to close the gap. It all depends on how many riders and what teams, make the breakaway.

This is the Giro after all and when you consider how tough today was, a few riders might want an extra rest day tomorrow. It would be useful to know how the sprinters and their teams have recovered but I guess we’ll not find out until we start the stage!

So on a day where it should be a sprint, there is an ever so slight chance that we get a breakaway but even then it’s only a 10% (at most) chance I would say.

Sprinters

Looks to be a 4-horse race.

Gaviria – Already has two stage wins to his name and was electric when nearly beating Ewan to the line on Stage 7. The flatter finish isn’t ideal for him but he will be full of confidence. In Richeze he has a great lead-out rider who will deliver him perfectly. Will it be enough to take a third win?

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Ewan – Finally got his stage win but the young Aussie was one of the last riders to finish today, struggling on the tough climbs. He is the rider I fear today may have taken the most out of and with a long stage tomorrow, his sprint might just be lacking at the end of it.

Greipel – Almost a definite for leaving in a few days time the German will be hoping to go home with more than the one win he has so far. His lead-out hasn’t clicked yet on the technical finishes, but with tomorrow’s stage being more straight-forward they can possibly get it right?!

Bennett – The nearly man so far, with two podium places to his name. After being placed under the Haughey curse (and being ill) he has seemed to re-find his sprinting legs and is now on the mend. Grand Tours aren’t exactly the best way to recover but I’m sure all of his competitors will be too. With a strong lead-out, he has another good shot at a podium.

Aside from those 4 it will be tough for others to win but I’m sure Stuyven, Modolo (if he sprints) and Sbaragli will all be up there vying for a possible podium or better.

Maybe even Mareczko can repay his team-mates after being dragged over the final climbs!

Prediction

A dull day that is all about the last 5km and I’ll go for the most experienced sprinter to take the win after conserving energy today. Greipel to seal victory!

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Unless of course the sprinters and their teams can’t be arsed and we get a breakaway stay away.

Betting

No bet.

Tempted to throw a few pennies on some 1000/1 escapees on the exchanges later but that’s that.

Thanks again for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Sorry that this preview is shorter than normal, there’s just nothing extra to say, a pretty dull stage. The same can be said for the following day as well! Maybe we can get a large breakaway that gets a lot of time to make it an exciting watch?! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 7 Preview; Castrovillari -> Alberobello

Today’s Recap

The break did make it all the way today with Dillier taking a fantastic uphill sprint win ahead of Stuyven, with the latter looking like he was closing but just run out of steam in the end.

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Former Maglia Rosa wearer Pöstlberger came home third after being distanced right before the finish.

I was surprised to see such a small break and with so few teams represented when I tuned into the coverage. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see how it formed properly, we only got glimpses at the end of the day. It looked like a larger group had some kind of gap but wasn’t co-operating, so they were brought back. The highlights at the end then jumped to the 5 we had so I’m not really sure what can be deduced from that!

Either way, Cannondale couldn’t fight their way out of a paper bag so to speak on flat terrain. A few more rouleurs were needed on that team today as I’m sure Woods will be lamenting the fact they could barely make a dent in the gap. However, it is harsh to put all the blame on them because with that finish, a few of the GC guys could have been up there and nabbed some bonus seconds. Maybe Orica could have helped out the chase to get Yates up there for example?

It seems to be a recurring theme this Giro so far where we have a “too many chefs” type situation with all the GC leaders. Several team-mates are being asked to protect them and not enough are being given any leeway to go for stage wins. Yet, the GC guys themselves don’t seem bothered about stage wins, being more concerned with saving energy for later in the race. Unfortunately, a situation like this might keep occurring this week until after the finish in Blockhaus when there should be some more gaps between the big contenders. Unless of course we get a headwind on that climb as well!

Anyway, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders on tomorrow’s very uninspiring stage.

The Route

Another 200+km stage for the riders and the second longest of the race at 224km in total. Looking at the parcours though, it is definitely a classical “transition stage”.

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Starting on a descent, the riders then have over 100km of flat roads to contend with before we get our only “major” climb of the day; a 15.4km long drag at 2.6% (if you take it as a whole).

After that, there’s not too much to write home about until the end which gets a bit iffy.

T07_Alberobello_ukmThe road is “rolling” for the last few kilometres and it will be interesting to see how the teams approach it.

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We have roughly 800m at 4% followed by false flat and another short kick up. Once over that second little kick up the riders will have to tackle quite a sharp right-hand turn before descending down towards the 2km to go banner.

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Said sharp turn which is actually a tight roundabout

It is important to note that when they get to 2km left, the road narrows and rises at 2.8% for 500m.

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As you can see, the road narrows from 2 lanes into what I would call 1 and a bit! Positioning will be important here as the race will get even more strung out than it already is.

Once we reach around 1.7km to go there is an unmarked (well on the stage profiles anyway) chicane/kink in the road.

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The riders at the front of the bunch should be able to take it without slowing down, but those behind might get caught out if they try to come up the inside.

From there we have a sweeping right hand turn at roughly 1.5km left before the peloton descends ever so slightly through the Flamme Rouge and towards the last right-hand turn through a roundabout with about 600m to go.

The final 500m rises ever so gradually at roughly 1-2% so the riders will need to time their effort a little more meticulously as they won’t want to open up their sprint early and run out of steam.

Will we get a sprint though…

How will the stage pan out?

It really should be a day for the sprinters.

With no real obstacles to speak of out on course the sprint teams in theory should be able to control the break on the flat roads, bringing it back before it all kicks off in the last 10km.

However, a few of the sprinters might look at this finish and not fancy their chances. It’s technical, dangerous and pretty tough! The road is up and down, with some narrow roads and tight bends.

Quick Step and more importantly, Gaviria, seem to be better than anyone else at the moment and this finish suits the Colombian perfectly. Will other teams be willing to work to help the chase if it gives Gaviria another chance at the win.

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A fully fit Modolo or Nizzolo would love this type of finish as well but they’ve been off the boil so far this race. Although the former did hold on reasonably well today.

I’m not sold on Ewan and Greipel for this run-in either, with both of them disappointing on a simpler finish on Stage 5.

Therefore, it will be very interesting to see what teams want to get in the break at the start of the day. If one or two of the sprinters teams send a rider up the road, then I think it will be hard for Quick Step to chase back with very little help. They’ll just turn their attention to protecting the leader’s jersey.

So contrary to what it originally looks like, I think the break might have a reasonable chance at survival but that is only if it there are 8 or so riders up the road and after the past few days, that is a big IF.

Furthermore, the twisting and turning nature of the finale could also lend its hand to a late attacker. Someone like Luis Leon Sanchez might attack off the front on the 800m rise and not be seen again on the narrow roads.

Break Candidates

This is even more like a shot in the dark than normal because almost any rider could make the move and the peloton might (probably will) think differently to how I currently am!

I’m sure Willier won’t be missing the move tomorrow so I expect one of their riders to be up there. Maybe Busato will give it a go or Zhupa will get up the road to continue his challenge in the Fuga Pinarello prize?

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Luis Leon Sanchez himself could try to get in the break, or maybe youngster Albanese will be up there for Bardiani?

Prediction

Should be a sprint and if so, then Gaviria will win. He has the best lead-out and is the fastest rider on this type of finish. Simple!

But it’s the Giro and things don’t always go to plan so there is a chance we could see a late attack go or the break might even stick.

Betting

Absolutely no value in the sprinters, few break picks/late attackers for fun. Early prices aren’t great and I imagine you’ll be able to pick up several 1000/1 riders later on today on the exchanges, which I shall be doing, but for the sake of the blog;

0.25pts WIN on the following (all with Bet365)

LL Sanchez @ 300/1

Zhupa @ 300/1

Albanese @ 500/1

de Buyst @ 500/1

Update;

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Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Does the break have any chance? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes worth.

 

 

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 5 Preview; Pedara -> Messina

Today’s Recap

We did end up with a break winner and it was the only rider left standing from the original move, Jan Polanc, who took a wonderful win, holding off the GC favourites.

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Behind, Zakarin attacked and gained back some of the time he lost the other day coming home solo in second place, with Thomas winning the GC bunch sprint for 3rd.

That result leaves Jungels in pink with a whole host of other overall contenders not too far behind. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

The riders head south from Pedara before heading north and skirting past Etna, eventually heading along the coast towards Messina.

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The first half of the stage is what I would call “rolling”, with a lot of uncategorised climbs out on the route but nothing too severe. In fact, we only have one Cat-4 climb to reward the breakaway with KOM points.

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There is roughly 2500m of elevation gain throughout the stage and most of that comes in the first 100km; deceptively tough! However, the rest of the stage is almost pan-flat for the remaining 60km as the road hugs the Sicilian coast line so the sprint teams will hope to use that to pull back any break.

When we enter Messina itself, the riders will face a local circuit that they’ll complete 1 full lap of, but join the circuit with roughly 2/3rds left for a first “lap”.

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As you can see it is a fairly technical finish with a few 90-degree turns littered throughout the circuit. However, the only real challenge towards the end is the roundabout they have to do a 180º turn on at roughly 1.7km to go.

It *should* be a fairly straightforward sprint for the peloton…

How will the stage pan out?

With the rolling parcours in the first half of the race some of the sprinters teams might not be too keen to control the stage from the off and instead chance it until they get to the flat coastal section.

Jungels being in the Maglia Rosa has really thrown a spanner into the works regarding my thinking for this stage though. If let’s say for example Thomas was in Pink, Sky don’t have a designated sprinter so as long as there is no GC threat then they would be happy to let the break go. Quick Step obviously do have a sprinter in the form of Gaviria so they’ll be more likely to pull hard over the opening part of the stage to keep the break in check.

Once onto the flat section we might get representatives from the other sprint teams, namely Lotto and Orica, coming to help with the pace making and bring it all back.

I mean it should be a sprint after all of that, and if you were to only look at the profile then it would seem nailed on. Yet, at the Giro nothing ever seems to be nailed on 100%.

We often see expected sprint days turn into breakaway wins at the Giro as teams don’t co-operate 100% behind to bring the race back and tomorrow does have that sort of feel about it. With a lot of climbing today, some of the riders might be wanting an easier day in the saddle tomorrow.

One other thing that has to be taken into consideration is the…

Weather

It looks set to be another sunny day in Sardinia but that’s not what interests me! Sounding very much like a broken record here, it is the wind and its direction that I care for most.

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Source: Windfinder (Ali Terme)

The above image is for Ali Terme which is roughly 45km from the finish line. As you can see, there is a reasonably moderate wind coming from the South/South-SouthEast which looks to be fairly consistent throughout the afternoon. Consequently, the riders will have a cross-tail wind for the majority of the flat run in to the line. Admittedly, it’s not as strong as the wind we had towards the end of stage 3 but it can still cause some damage.

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Just North of Ali Terme

The road to Messina from Ali Terme looks like this for the majority of the way. Sea to the right, or cliffs to the left. There is no real room to hide from the wind at all, especially on the relatively narrow roads.

I think we could see some splits on the run in tomorrow and unfortunately they might be caused by crashes due to the nervous and fast racing.

With that in mind, the break should be brought back but then it is just a case of whether or not we do get the splits and if we do; who makes them.

Sprint Contenders

If it is a full bunch sprint, going off of form it looks to be a battle between Greipel / Ewan / Gaviria.

Greipel made the front echelon on Stage 3 before an unfortunate collision took him out of contention. He seems in great form and will want to make amends tomorrow.

Gaviria obviously won that stage and you would expect him to be challenging again, especially when you consider how strong Quick Step are in crosswinds. Nonetheless, he is still young and if he is not being shepherded at all times, I fear he may miss out if there is a split due to that inexperience. QS may then look to Richeze as a possible option.

Ewan will be bitterly disappointed coming away from Sicily empty-handed. He was dominant in the sprint for second on stage 1 and who knows how we would have fared on stage 2 had he not had the mechanical. He made the second group on stage 3 and will hope to make any splits this time. However, like Gaviria I think his inexperience might get the better of him.

Away from those three, Nizzolo looks the best sprinter on a flat day and he rode well for 3rd place on stage 3. He seems to be growing into this race.

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After talking him up pre-race, Modolo has disappointed so far but I would expect him to go better tomorrow. Or I at least hope so, he needs to do something!

 

Outsiders?

If it does get crazy then we could have a few groups on the road before we do get into Messina but the likelihood is we get some kind of sprint, unless it gets ridiculous which even I can’t see it being.

Look to second sprint options from teams, such as Hofland and Mezgec for example.

One rider I am interested in is Filippo Pozzato. The Italian veteran has been very quiet this race so far, saving energy with targeted stages in mind. Now, I’m not saying that tomorrow will be one of those targeted days, it is more a case that his young compatriot Mareczko has been pretty disappointing so far this race and I can’t see him turning that around tomorrow. If we do get some splits tomorrow, Pozzato may well be given the chance to go for the sprint. He’s not a spring chicken anymore, but he’s still no slouch and could be up there if he’s lucky!

Prediction

We’ll get a sprint of some description at the end of the day and Greipel will make amends for what happened on stage 3, making his experience count and taking his second stage of the race!

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Watch out for a wily Italian though if things get choppy out there!

Betting

2.5pts WIN Greipel @ 5/2 with various

0.25pt EW Pozzato @ 300/1 with PP/BF (would take 250/1 elsewhere)

 

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.