Women’s Tour 2018 Stage 2 Preview: Rushden -> Daventry

Today’s Recap

It was one of those days in women’s cycling where we don’t see a break throughout the day, with the teams constantly closing down the moves. Andersen of Hitec did manage to get a 20 second gap at one point when in the final 20km but even then she was quickly reeled back in before the inevitable bunch sprint.

After winning the closing sprint in last year’s race, it was once again d’Hoore who took home the victory after a strong gallop to the line in what was quite a hectic finale.

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@thewomenstour / Sweetspot

Bastianelli finished a close second with Rivera rounding out the podium in third place.

Will we see something similar tomorrow? Let’s take a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

A much more rolling day out with the road constantly up or down, even if it is just ever so slightly.

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We could see some early attacks, but the likelihood is that the day will be decided by its main focal point – the last climb of Newnham hill.

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The climb itself averages 6.4% for 1.31km according to the Strava profile I’ve made, but with the steepest ramps coming near the top (a 200m section at 13%), then it is the perfect launchpad for riders to put in some stinging late attacks.

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Once over the top, the road descends pretty steeply on narrow roads for around 800m before levelling out. At this point the riders will only have 1.7km left to a chase will have to be organised quickly for things to be brought back together for a reduced bunch sprint.

We could see a lot of cat and mousing on the run in as riders constantly attack off the front.

In the closing 400m the road bends around gently while gradually climbing uphill at around 2-3% for around half of that distance.

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There is quite a tight right hand turn with just over 100m to go, at which point the road narrows down to one lane. Positioning through the turn will be vital.

How will the stage pan out?

This could be one of the more decisive GC days because of the proximity of the final climb to the finish. If we see some strong attacks from the puncheurs then they could create fairly significant gaps over the sprinters, and I think we’ll see exactly that.

The race will be held together and the constantly undulating and heavy roads will make it a day of attrition more than anything else before that final climb.

From there it will be a springboard for plentiful attacks but given that it is only 1.3km in length, some of the sprinters will fancy their chances of holding on. However, I think a select group of maybe 20-30 riders (at most) will get over it together, just because of how fast the pace will be.

It is then a case of who controls things for a reduced bunch sprint, or will a splinter group/lone attacker manage to get away on what is left of the day?

Contenders

There are some obvious names to look out for, including Vos, Rivera, Bastianelli and Van Dijk in a reduced bunch sprint to the line but I think a splinter group will form so I’m going to name some candidates who might be there.

Lisa Brennauer.

An unfortunately timed mechanical today saw her chances of a good stage and possibly GC result ruined as she finished 38 seconds behind the main group. This however, will give her some more freedom to attack and chase a stage win. We saw in Thüringen just how strong she is at the moment and the short, punchy climb suits her perfectly tomorrow. Packing a fast finish, I think she’ll bounce back strongly.

Pauline Ferrand Prevot.

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She’s not had the best of road seasons so far but juggling a season of cyclocross and mountain bike alongside the WWT peloton then this was always going to happen as it would be impossible to be in peak form all the time. However, a recent win in the Sea Otter mountain bike race will have given her confidence and after that race she said the sensations were excellent. Tomorrow’s climb and finish would be ideal for 2014 vintage PFP, but can she find that spark on the road again?

Chantal Blaak.

The World Champion mastered the Cauberg so tomorrow’s climb will be no issue for her. Boels have a strong squad with them so it will be interesting to see who they go with tomorrow as it is really hard to read their approach after today’s stage. They should have numbers in the front group and that will be to their advantage massively. Blaak has a great sprint on her so from even a group of 20 she will fancy her chances.

Prediction

None of them will win though, instead it will be local rider Hannah Barnes who takes victory.

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The Barnes sisters hail from nearby Towcester so will be incredibly motivated for a good result and will no doubt know tomorrow’s roads like the back of their hand. Hannah has really impressed me so far this year and has taken a step up, especially with her ability on the short climbs. Given the field here, she should stay in touch with the head of the race over the ascent and there won’t be many faster than her in a tough sprint.

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Ladies Tour of Norway 2017 Preview

Another race to step up to Women’s World Tour level this year, the Ladies Tour of Norway celebrates only its 4th edition in 2017.

Last year as a 2.1 race, we saw a very dominant Rabo-Liv team take all three spots on the podium at the end of the Tour, with Lucinda Brand finishing ahead of De Jong and Koster.

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The current champion isn’t going to be here to defend her crown but with the step up to WT level, the startlist is stacked with talent waiting to take over.

First of all though, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders over the next 4 days.

The Route

Prologue.

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Full profile viewable here.

The race starts with a short and explosive prologue on Thursday evening. Pretty much pan-flat, this is an effort that will suit the strong riders of the peloton, but also those who can hold a high power over a short period of time, i.e. some of the sprinters!

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The circuit is quite technical with a few tight turns involved over the course, meaning being able to power out of them and get back up to full speed quickly is a massive advantage. We’ve not seen a prologue at this race since back in 2014 when Vos won a very similar circuit in Halden. Can she repeat that on the opening day? Given her current form, it is definitely a possibility!

There is a chance of rain later in the day which could make things a bit of a lottery.

With such a short effort, there are a lot of riders who could be involved in the shake up at the end of the day.

I’ll go with Wiggle rider Annette Edmondson to take the win though. She won the prologue at the BeNe Tour earlier in the year, although that admittedly was half the length, but she is a rider with the perfect mix of explosiveness and sustained power to compete here. I mean, she is a pursuit medalist on the track after all!

Stage 1.

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Full profile viewable here.

A stage that is similar to what we saw in the Women’s Tour earlier in the year, where the road is constantly up or down all day. Now, these undulations normally aren’t too much in terms of length and gradient, but it is their repeated nature that could wear down the bunch.

Another thing that could make the day more selective than it may initially look on paper is the weather. Friday looks to be a pretty grim day and in the finish town of Mysen there is a chance of rain throughout the afternoon. The same can be said for elsewhere on the course and it could turn it into a race of attrition.

Once the riders reach Mysen they will face a 6.2km circuit that they will tackle three times.

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The circuit isn’t overly tough so some of the sprinters teams might want to control it but there are a few points where the opportunists might want to launch their attacks. It looks very balanced in that regard!

The most obvious launchpad is the 500m section (2.5 -> 3km) that averages 4.5%. With only 3km of the circuit left, if a strong trio or quartet of riders escapes here then they could be hard to bring back.

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As for the run in itself, the road does rise ever so slightly during 300m preceding the final turn you see above, where the riders will take a left and face then final 250m finishing straight.

Will it be a bunch sprint or a small escape group who fight out stage honours?

Given that there are only 4 stages in the race (including the prologue) then there isn’t much time for anyone wanting to make a tilt at the GC crown to make their move. Therefore I do think we’ll see a relatively attacking race on the opening road stage, where the bunch is whittled down due to the combination of a fast pace and bad weather. Once we get near the closing circuit we might have around 60 riders left at the head of the race.

From there, a group of riders from the “stronger” teams will escape and fight out the stage.

I’ll go with Leah Kirchmann for the win. After a breakthrough 2016 the Canadian has had a much slower 2017 so far, but her results have been steadily picking up some progress and headed in the right direction. She was third at the recent Vargarda and packing a punchy sprint she might just go better here!

Stage 2.

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Full profile viewable here.

A straightforward day, but a relatively long one at 144km. There is a lot more elevation gain than what we have on Stage 1, but the majority of it all comes early on in the stage, with the final 40km not featuring too much in the way of climbing.

The closing circuit looks as follows, with a few short rises in it.

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It is of course a possibility we could see someone try an attack on the circuit and hope to break the group up. The section between 3.5km and 5km on the image above will be crucial in terms of escape formation.

If the sprinters miss out the previous day, they won’t on this stage. The opposite situation is of course a possibility whereas the sprinters take the spoils on Stage 1 with an escape forming on Stage 2.

I still think that this stage is most likely to come down to a sprint though.

With that said, I’ll go with Lotta Leipistö to take stage honours. She is on incredible form at the moment and will be able to handle the few small lumps we have in the finale. Her finish (or should I say Finnish…I’ll get my coat) sprint in Vargarda was incredibly powerful. If she pulls off something like that again then there won’t be many who can beat her.

Stage 3.

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Full profile viewable here.

Arguably the Queen stage due to its length and elevation gain, the road seems to be constantly up or down all day. Just before the riders reach the final circuit, they will complete an 8km drag that averages 1.5%. Now, I don’t expect this to cause any gaps, although the final 300m do average 7%, instead, it should be a wearing down process if some of the stronger teams really push the pace on. With 120kms in their legs already, I think a few riders might be caught out by it.

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The closing circuit is very technical, with few really long straights. The old cliché of “out of sight, out of mind” rings true here! As for the altimetry, it can be split into; gradual rise, small hill, gradual descent, flat finish.

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Will anyone try to attack on the steep 10% ramps of the climb and use the twisting streets to stay away?!

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We even have some cobbles (well, paving stones) on part of the descent. This could become treacherous if the predicted bad weather arrives.

As for who might take stage honours? I’ll go with a Van Dijk late attack!

GC Battle

This is a tough race to call because the terrain itself isn’t overly difficult and all of the road stages in theory could end in a sprint if enough teams want it to.

Therefore the race could be decided by bonus seconds and how well a rider does in the opening prologue.

Yet, I think we’ll see some fast and very attacking racing this week, because the parcours isn’t too difficult. It is perfectly balanced in a position where a team can make some of the short climbs seem really hard due to the continuous rolling nature of the terrain. Furthermore, when the predicted rain and bad weather is thrown into the mix, we could see a tough race of attrition.

So for a rider to compete here they need to be good enough to be close to the head of the race after the prologue, fast enough to pick up some bonus seconds, and strong enough to follow any moves after an attritional day of racing.

Some riders to conjure with then are Pieters, Lepistö, Van Dijk, Kopecky and Bronzini to name but a few!

I’ll go with a Marianne Vos GC win though.

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The new European Champion is in sparkling form at the moment and she should be there on every stage. Her fast sprint means she should pick up bonus seconds and she’s not exactly a slouch in a prologue either. After all, she did win the opening prologue here back in 2014. A lot of riders will have her number marked, but with the way she is riding at the moment, it might be hard to stop her. She could feasibly win all 4 stages!

Coverage

Excellent news, we’ll be able to watch all of the road stages live with the final two hours of each stage being shown on Norweigian TV2. For those not in Norway, there should also be a stream on the UCI website and Youtube channel!

At the moment there is no information if we’ll see any of the prologue but the live images for the stages are as follows (local Norwegian time);

Stage 1: 16’30 – 18’30

Stage 2: 16’30 – 18’30

Stage 3: 14’30 – 16’30

The official hashtag looks to be #LTON17 so you’ll be able to follow race goings-on before the live images with that.

Anyway, thanks for reading as always and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win the race overall? Will we see an attacking race, or one where the sprinters teams control things? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

OVO Women’s Tour 2017 Stage 5 Preview; London -> London

Today’s Recap

A very attacking stage by the sounds of it, with a few riders up the road throughout the day.

For a while it looked as if the break was going to win comfortably as Niewiadoma was shouldered with a lot of the work. However, some sprinters/GC teams came to the fore and helped to bring the gap down.

Nonetheless, a trio of riders managed to stay ahead until the end. With Majerus and Kirchmann doing a lot of the work pushing on for GC, it was Roy who took advantage in the end: taking a very strong sprint win!

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Majerus and Kirchmann move up to 2nd and 3rd on GC, mimicking their places on the stage. Niewiadoma has the GC sealed up though, with only one stage left in London tomorrow.

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

The Route

A pan-flat jaunt around London.

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14 laps of a 6.2km long circuit, too long to be a crit, I’d say it’s more of a kermesse!

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Quite a technical course, positioning will be important coming into the last right hand turn before the slight drag to the finish line.

I’m not going to beat around the bush here, it should end in a sprint. There is of course a chance that we get some type of late attack, à la van der Breggen at La Course in 2015. But yeah, 99.99999% chance it ends in a sprint!

So, late attack? 😉

Contenders

Chloe Hosking.

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With a stage win under her belt already, the Aussie sprinter will be full of confidence going into tomorrow’s stage. She’s in great form this year but would probably prefer a slightly tougher course. The slight drag to the line will help her though!

Jolien d’Hoore.

Leader of the intermediate sprints competition, the Wiggle rider hasn’t had a chance to shine at the end of a stage yet. However, it is hard to deny that she is probably the fastest sprinter in the peloton at the moment, having won 2 stages in Chongming not too long ago. This type of circuit suits her down to the ground and with Bronzini as a pilot fish, she should be guided into the perfect position with 150m to go.

Hannah Barnes.

Leader of the Best Brit category (just ahead of her sister), I imagine the Canyon rider will be sprinting to keep ahold of that title. Cursed at the start of the week by me naming her as my GC favourite, she’s not down too badly to be in 5th place. On stage 2 where she finished second, I think she actually looked like the fastest rider but was just caught out of position. Obviously tomorrow’s stage is a lot easier but she should be up there again. Some bonus seconds on the line could see her move onto the podium!

Alice Barnes.

As much as they say there’s no sibling rivalry and that they get on well, the younger of the Barnes sisters will be gunning for victory tomorrow. Having taken a real step up this year performance wise and used to this style of racing due to her appearances in the Tour Series; I think she can feature prominently tomorrow.

Lizzie Deignan.

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With Majerus unlikely to move from second on GC, I think Boels will turn to the Tour de Yorkshire winner tomorrow. Well, unless they go for Blaak or Pieters, the latter could move into the top 10 if she gets some bonus seconds. Anyway, Deignan has been very quiet so far this race doing a lot of the work for the team, stating that she is here to build form for the national championships. I think she’ll want to test her legs in a sprint and what better to do so than at race pace tomorrow?! With the lead-out that Boels have, whoever they chose to be the sprinter has a great chance!

If we do get a late attack, look out for Ellen van Dijk. She’s looked very strong this week and is one of the few riders who can hold off a charging peloton.

Prediction

I’ll go for the Belgian Bullet Jolien d’Hoore to take the win!

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Thanks as always for reading and as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated! Hope you’ve enjoyed my take on this week’s racing. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

OVO Women’s Tour 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Chesterfield -> Chesterfield

Today’s Recap

Gillow and Uttrup Ludwig did the blog some justice by getting in a mid-stage break but it was eventually clawed back by Sunweb who got a little bit of assistance from Boels.

We had a crash marred final 20km with several riders going down in various incidents, but the race ended in a relatively large bunch sprint.

Hosking took a great win, ahead of Barnes (Alice) and Van Dijk. The latter justified her teams hard-work all day, picking up some bonus seconds and moving into 2nd on GC.

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

The Route

The toughest stage of the race going off of elevation gain, the riders are set to face a lot of uncategorised climbs throughout the day.

OVO Women's Tour Stage 4

Here’s a link to the interactive version of the profile.

Most of the climbs come early but that doesn’t mean they won’t be attacked and we could see a significantly reduced group by the time the riders pass the second categorised climb of the day in Crich.

From there the route does get easier in the second half of the stage, allowing for some regrouping if the pace up ahead doesn’t stay constant. With some sore bodies after today’s stage, it will be hard to keep everything together.

There is a relatively long uncategorised drag of 3.1km at 3% that crests with just 6km to go and this looks like a perfect launchpad for some riders to put in one last dig!

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The finish into Chesterfield is quite technical with a few kinks in the road in the closing few hundred metres.

Will we see another sprint?

How will the stage pan out?

With this being the last stage where the GC order can really change, I expect a fast and attacking day throughout. The other teams will not want to admit it, but they’ll relish the fact that Vos has now unfortunately had to leave the race due to a broken collarbone that she suffered in a crash today. It means that Niewiadoma will be very exposed because as I said in my stage 2 preview; I’m not sure how long Kitchen and Koster will be able to hold onto the peloton for.

I think we’ll see strong teams such as Sunweb and Boels set a fierce pace early in the stage, looking to isolate the GC leader before the half-way point.

From there, I expect attacks to come thick and fast off the front of the peloton from several teams: forcing Niewiadoma to do a lot of the chasing.

Eventually, something will stick and as long as several of the main teams are represented, it won’t come back.

Will Niewiadoma make the split? Well, it all depends on where it goes. She’s clearly in stellar form at the moment and if they try to attack her on a climb she should be able to follow it. Whereas, if it goes on the flat then it reduces her chances. She may well adopt the adage of attack = best form of defense.

Depending on who makes the move will decide how important the final uncategorised climb will be. If there are a few strong climbers then they may want to try to distance others, not trusting their sprints.

The gap that they have will also be a factor. We might see them work together extremely well right until the end of the day to ensure they overhaul Niewiadoma’s GC lead.

Contenders

Hannah Barnes.

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Riding exceptionally well at the moment, my pre-race GC pick finds herself sitting 4th on GC but on the same time as her sister who is in third. Climbing well, she’s been prominent in all of the stages so far, with 14th being her worst result. A strong all-rounder with a fast sprint she will hope any group comes together to the line as that seems to be her best chance of winning. Nonetheless, the local rider isn’t afraid to attack either!

Ashleigh Moolman.

The South African is having a quiet but strong Women’s Tour so far, currently occupying 6th place on GC. She was one of the best on the climbs of stage 2, but it was a case of “too many cooks” that day. One of the only riders who I think can drop everyone on the rises tomorrow, she’ll co-operate with any group but hope to attack them on the final rise. I think she has a good chance of taking the win.

Amy Pieters.

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After her win on stage 2, Boels were intending to ride for the Dutchwoman today but unfortunately she was involved in a crash before the finish. Nothing too serious but a bit shaken up, she didn’t want to contend the sprint. If she has recovered from that then she has a good chance tomorrow. With 4 riders in the top 30, Boels will no doubt race the stage aggressively. Any of their riders could win, but Pieters seems to be climbing well and obviously sprinting well too so she covers both options!

Ellen van Dijk.

Second on GC and looking the most likely to usurp Niewiadoma, the Sunweb rider should like the look of tomorrow’s route. The climbs aren’t too tough and should suit her powerful riding style. Futhermore, if she makes it into a small group, she has the strength required to escape and TT her way to the line. I’m sure everyone will be very wary of her!

Of course, we could see plenty of other riders contend tomorrow’s stage. It could well be as we say in Scotland a “belter”! Just a shame it won’t be live…

Prediction

I’ll go for one of the form riders in the peloton at the moment, Ashleigh Moolman to take the win.

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No fancy hats as prizes here though! 😔

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will Niewiadoma hold onto her lead? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

 

 

 

OVO Women’s Tour 2017 Stage 3 Preview; Atherstone -> Royal Leamington Spa

Today’s Recap

A day that was attacking from the gun, we had several breaks up the road throughout the day, with the peloton splintering behind. It looked for a while as if Lucinda Brand was going to hold on, but she was reeled in with 5km to go and we ended up with a reduced bunch sprint.

Boels’ Dolmans Amy Pieters came away victorious ahead of Hannah Barnes and Ellen van Dijk.

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Niewiadoma still holds onto her comfortable lead, but Barnes now moves into third place on GC.

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

The Route

A similar profile to the one we had today although a bit more rolling towards the end of the stage.

OVO Women's Tour Stage 3 (3)

Here’s a link to the interactive version of the profile.

 

 

 

Not much to speak of in the first 2/3rds of the stage, with a few uncategorised hills to contend with. That being said, the last rise before we get our categorised climbs is 3.3km long and averages 3.4%. I think it’s a bit harsh to be uncategorised!

The focal point of the stage will be the two Category-2 climbs that the riders will cover in quick succession.

Edge Hill is long enough and steep enough in some sections to cause splits in the peloton. The pace will then continue to be on once over the top and they hed towards Burton Dassett. Slightly shorter, but steeper in gradient, I think we could see what’s left of the peloton quickly disintegrate on this climb.

One of the reasons I say that is due to the length of the stage. Some women’s races are roughly 100km long, but the riders will have already covered almost 130km when they reach the bottom of the climb. Fatigue will play a big part in this stage, especially when you consider how attacking today was.

The one saving grace for those hoping for a bunch sprint of some sort is the 27km from the summit to the finish line to organise a chase.

We do have some small rises in the closing 10km of only roughly 1km and ~1.5% but they can’t be underestimated after a long and tough day in the saddle!

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As for the finish itself it is very straight forward apart from one tight rind hand turn at roughly 500m to go. Other than that, the rest of the run in is “sweeping” and the riders should be able to go full gas!

How will the stage pan out?

We should see another attacking day out and there is the possibility that a breakaway makes it all the way to the line.

There are several quality riders far enough down on GC who can finish off a stage like this if they are given some freedom. However, with WM3 looking quite weak today aside from their GC leader and Vos, I think other teams will be looking to expose them over the final 35km.

Much like yesterday, I think we’ll either see a very reduced bunch sprint or a late attack sticking.

Once again, I’ll go for the latter!

Contenders

Should I jumps ship from the three riders I named yesterday?!

I’ll name two of the same, but change one as Audrey Cordon seems more focussed on the QOM jersey rather than anything else.

Shara Gillow.

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The former Aussie TT champion was in the mix today but was actually caught out in a split in the bunch, losing a few seconds on GC. She is an attacking rider and could well use one of those small rises in the final 10km to her advantage, pealing off the front of the bunch and staying clear to the line. She’ll need to do that as she doesn’t have much of a sprint! My other season long fantasy rider (Pieters) won today, can Gillow repeat that feat tomorrow?

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig.

The young Dane has been attentive so far this race, finishing near the front of the bunch on both stage so far. With a lot of the other riders concerned with her team-mate Moolman, she may use that to her advantage and escape. Packing a solid sprint, she could also win in a two or three rider gallop to the line. Will her inexperience cost her?

Katie Archibald.

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It’s nice to be able to list a fellow Scot as a stage contender for once! The track star has been slowly turning her attention to the road and has picked up some fairly solid results so far this season. Her abilities as an all-rounder seem to be improving and I think she could definitely surprise.

Prediction

I’ll hedge my bets and go with Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, who could get involved in both a reduced sprint and a late breakaway!

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

OVO Women’s Tour 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Stoke -> Stoke.

*Same PSA as my Dauphiné preview; the rest of the previews this week will be “short” as I am short of time and trying to write a two a day is a bit of a squeeze. Apologies!*

Today’s Recap

Quite hard to write a recap on a stage you’ve not actually watched but here goes…

As is typical in women’s racing, the peloton was together for ages, with no one able to break away after 100km or so of action. However, that all changed at 47.5km to go when Katarzyna Niewiadoma launched an audacious attack. Her gap continued to go and she had over 3 minutes with 30km left.

“Watching” the race on Twitter, I was expecting the gap to come down at that point but no, 20km turned into 10km and the gap still remained at roughly 3 minutes.

I think we had a classic case of peloton politics where everyone expected Boels to chase but the Dutch outfit refused and called their bluff for a long time.

Eventually they did start to chase on the front but it was too late, with the Polish champion holding on to a comfortable margin of 1’42 by the end of the stage.

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Not a bad way to win your first World Tour race! I don’t want to put the #HaugheyCurse on her but…that in theory should be the GC over now. However, women’s racing is never over until and I’m sure we’ll see some attacking riding over the next few days.

Behind, her team-mate Vos sprinted to second to cap off a memorable day for the team, with Majerus somewhat rewarding Boels for their eventual efforts with third.

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

The Route

An ever so slightly shorter stage than the opening day but one with a few more interestingly positioned climbs.

OVO Women's Tour Stage 2

The majority of the first half of the stage is flat, bar a few uncategorised rises at 2% for a few kilometres. Most of the action kicks off in the second half of the stage, starting with the first intermediate sprint. I say this, because straight after the first sprint we have an uncategorised rise before the road gradually rises through the second sprint in Cheadle.

However, it is the Category one climb of Isptones that should see the race split apart. At 3.8km ling and averaging 4.6%, I expect some of the stronger teams to attack it at a really hard pace, making it seem tougher than it actually is.

We had a few riders dropped today on the climbs and I think we’ll see a lot more suffer a similar fate tomorrow.

The peloton could half in size, if not be reduced by even more before they head towards the Gun Hill climb. A shorter but slightly sharper ascent, according to the Strava segment the average gradient is closer to 6%.

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There are some steep gradients of 10% and this is where the true climbers will come to the fore.

I think we might see a relatively select group crest the climb together.

The finish isn’t too bad, but there are a few technical turns in the closing kilometres.

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Will we see a solo rider come to the line again or will a group contest the finish?

How will the stage pan out?

It all depends on how the stage pans out but I think we’ll see a relatively select bunch get away on the final climb. Will they work together to maintain their advantage? Or will those behind get back in? Will we even see a late attack from someone work as everyone looks at each other to chase.

A massive advantage that Niewiadoma has is that she has Vos in her team. More importantly, she has a Marianne Vos who seems to be back to her best. This means that the Dutchwoman should be able to follow the bunch on the short climbs and then be used to mark any attacks once over the top. Niewiadoma on paper should be one of the best on the climbs so it is very unlikely she’ll be dropped as well!

Therefore, anyone that gets away will more than likely have one of those two sitting on their wheel. Not ideal!

However, the rest of the WM3 team will have their work cut out especially when they’ll be shunted with most of the work all day. A lot of pressure will be on Kitchen and Koster, and I’m just not sure if they’ll be up for the task.

Therefore, I think we could get a solo winner who escapes from the bunch in the closing few kilometres after Vos and Niewiadoma are tired out from chasing and just sit up to conserve the Polish riders lead on GC rather than chase the stage.

Contenders

I’ll throw a few names into the hat for this situation;

Audrey Cordon.

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The French TT champion is in a rich vein of form at the moment, performing well in the Ardennes but more recently coming home with two top 6 places in French one-day races. She’s climbing very well, in fact, she’s holding onto the QOM jersey here just now! Using her TT ability and that she won’t be seen as an instant danger, she’ll hope to slip clear.

Shara Gillow.

A similar rider to Cordon, the former 4-times Aussie TT champion has really taken a step forward this season with new team FDJ. With a strong Ardennes classics campaign, she has cemented herself as one of the best one-day racers/climbers in the women’s peloton. However, unlike other riders such as Moolman and Deignan etc, I think she still could benefit from some anonymity and steal a march on the peloton.

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig.

The best young rider of the season, the Dane had a very good end to May, finishing in the top 5 of both th French races. Clearly in great form and buoyed by confidence, she won’t be afraid to take any risks to get away, knowing that Moolman will be behind following anything behind. With a solid sprint on her, she could win from a group of 3/4 riders that get away.

Prediction

I’ll be bias here and go for one of my season-long fantasy riders, Shara Gillow, to take a great win after attacking from 5km out and coming to the line solo!

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.