Innsbruck 2018 World Championships – Women’s Road Race Preview

Innsbruck 2018 World Championships – Women’s Road Race Preview

On a tricky course in Bergen last year we saw a tactical and exciting race throughout the afternoon. Going into the last lap a trio of Blaak, Cordon Ragot and Barnes were up the road and ahead of the peloton. They had quite a comfortable lead but Blaak did not fancy her sprint against the Brit if they came to the line together, quite annoying as I actually had money on Hannah, so she started to skip turns. A strong quartet of van Vleuten, van der Breggen, Garfoot and Niewiadoma managed to break clear of the peloton on the final ascent of Salmon Hill, bridging to the trio ahead. With three now at the head of the race, the Dutch decided to take turns and attacking to try to break away once the steepest part of the descent was over. Well, I say “take turns” but after van Vleuten was reeled in, Blaak managed to escape almost straight away. With no co-operation behind the race was over, with the Dutch rider coming home solo for a great win!

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Behind there was so much looking around that the group was caught be the peloton as they rounded the final corner. Garfoot was able to hold on and sprint for second while an impressive Dideriksen claimed a podium at the event for the second year in a row, having previously won it in Doha. I doubt she’ll make it three here though! Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders throughout the afternoon.

The Route

A demanding day in the saddle that sees the riders take on three ascents of the Igls climb.

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They have to get there first though and the opening 60kms rolls before it flattens out. However, just after that marker the riders will face the Gnadenwald climb, the one that has been used in the men’s TT and the road races since. With its steep average gradient of over 9% for almost 3kms, it is tough enough that some riders can be dropped. In fact, throughout the races we have seen so far this is where an initial selection is made.

A plateau and a fast descent follows before the riders enter Innsbruck and begin the laps of the finish circuit.

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As you can see, the focal point of the course is the climb.

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A fairly consistent effort, albeit with some gradient changes between 4-7% at  times, the slope is less severe than the Gnadenwald climb the riders tackle earlier in the day. However, it is the length of the ascent and the three ascents of it that they have to do which will take its toll.

If you’ve watched any of the races so far, the descent off of the climb is arguably almost as important as the ascent.

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It is possible for a rider to lose a bit of time here if they are not as confident as their rivals. As you can see on the image above, it isn’t too technical of a descent but there are plenty of sweeping turns: it certainly is fast though. Saying that, there are some sharper turns through the town of Igls but nothing crazy. Nonetheless, being a good descender will be important.

Once the descent is finished there are just over 7kms of mostly flat roads through the streets of Innsbruck. There is a small kicker of around 500m at 5.5% that crests with just over 3.5km to go and it is the last launchpad for a rider to make a solo move. Well, unless of course they time an attack perfectly in those closing kilometres on the flat too!

Can anyone beat the Dutch?

I posed this question before the Euro road race and the answer to that question was: the Dutch.

On that day they rode strongly and in the closing 30kms always had riders on the attack off the front of the bunch, ultimately having one of their star riders, van der Breggen, in a small group. That group extended their advantage and looked like they would contend for the win but the Dutch team started to work on the front of the peloton. At the same time van der Breggen attacked from the break and only Longo Borghini could follow. The duo worked well together for a bit and still had a strong advantage but the Dutch rider eventually sat on in the closing kilometres, only for her team-mates not to win the bunch sprint behind. It was truly one of the weirdest races I’ve seen in terms of team tactics. Did the lack of race radios make a difference? AVDB wasn’t confident of sprinting to beat Rowe but surely she would have fancied her chances in a two-up gallop against Longo Borghini.

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Either way, the squad will hope for a much better result at this event. They arrive with the two pre-race favourites in van Vleuten and van der Breggen. Both were very strong in the TT on Tuesday and both will fancy their chances on this course. We saw at La Course that they are arguably the two strongest climbers in the women’s peloton, although arguments can be made for others and that riders were at different peak points. The team to support them is strong but not as strong as it could be. How long with they last into the day if the pace is on during the climbs? Theoretically it should be Brand and Ensing that are last support riders but the latter hasn’t been great this year – I think they will really miss Stultiens. It means that it will be hard for them to control the race late on, so I think they’ll adopt the old cliché: “attack is the best form of defense”

I would be very surprised to see both of the riders sit in the peloton until the final ascent, I think one will have to be used in a counter move before then. Who that is? No idea! Tactics will then be interesting in that front group, will those ahead want to work with either van der Breggen or van Vleuten knowing their pedigree? It really is a delicately poised race.

How do you beat the Dutch?

Step one is kind of laid out above, you need to isolate their leaders and hope to still have numbers in the front group. With that said, which nations can I see having numbers in a reduced/very reduced peloton going into the final few laps?

Dutch – van der Breggen, van Vleuten, Brand, van Dijk.

Australia – Spratt, Kennedy, Gillow.

Italy – Longo Borghini, Magnaldi.

USA – Hall, Guarnier, Winder, Wiles.

Spain – Merino, Garcia, Santesteban.

Canada – Kirchmann, Poidevin.

There might be a few other nations who have a couple of riders in there but those are teams that I think have the best chance of having most. Then of course there are the riders who will no doubt be there but will possibly be lacking any team support by that point such as Niewiadoma, Moolman and Uttrup.

So with step one complete and a reduced peloton, step two then involves you sending riders on the attack and forcing the Dutch to chase it down and tire out Brand/van Dijk. Of course this step can be countered by the Dutch getting involved in the attacks themselves.

Step 3 is then all about good race craft and luck. Let’s say a group of 6 get away with the majority of the “big” nations represented and with no organisation behind, they are set to stay out for the remainder of the race. The likelihood in that situation is that either van Vleuten or van der Breggen or both are there, meaning they are still in that race favourites position but now with less opposition. Maybe this plan isn’t going so well after all?

Anyway, this is where you have to be willing to lose the race.

Both willing to lose in terms of putting in an audacious attack to get rid/drop everyone before the climb, or on the foot slopes of it. Or, by sitting in and letting the Dutch rider(s) do all the work to chase any of those attacks down before you counter. Because let’s be honest, no one here is going to drop the “vans” any other way.

A Dangerous Duo

I’ve went through the two main favourites and how to possibly beat them, but who are those that have a chance? I’ll be keeping this sweet as I’ve already rambled enough so I’m limiting myself to two riders to watch. No jokers and super jokers here.

Ruth Winder.

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As alluded to above, the US have one of the best teams here in terms of strength in depths with several riders who could play a part in the day. I’ve been very impressed with Winder this season and her move across to race in Europe full-time with Sunweb. She’s picked up a win at the Giro Rosa and two stages in the recent Tour de l’Ardeche. A solid climber who might not be able to match the very best, if she is in a group of “lesser” riders, then she is a big threat. Packing a fast kick to the line, she will be happy to arrive with a group.

Amanda Spratt.

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Arguably one of the riders of the year, Spratt has been sensational this season as part of Mitchelton Scott’s climbing unit. Often working in the service of van Vleuten, she has still managed to take 5 wins this season, including a stage at the Giro Rosa where she came third overall. Now though she has to race against her team-mate so if there is anyone in the peloton who might know van Vleuten’s weaknesses, it will be Spratt. Like the US, Australia have a pretty solid climbing unit with them and I would expect Gillow and Kennedy to go deep into the race. A special shout out to the latter who after an incredibly up and down season as a first year pro arrives with something to prove. I hope we get to see Lucy set free on a climb for once this year!

The season-long prediction

Some of you may remember that back at the start of the year in my Strade Bianche blog I said one rider was going to win the Worlds this year. Who?

Katarzyna Niewiadoma

I still think she has a great chance and after her recent run of form she starts as the fourth favourite for the race according to the bookmakers. However the issue for her, and Moolman likewise, is that their team support coming into the final couple of laps will be minimal, if there is anyway. That will make it difficult for her to make the right move at the right time etc so she will need to get a little lucky. I’m not back tracking and discrediting her completely but it is harder than it would be if she was Dutch!

Prediction

I’ve led you on a merry dance only to say it has to be one of the Dutch superstars, doesn’t it? After the Euros debacle there is no way that they are losing this unless they completely mess it up again, it is just a case of choosing which “van”.

Van der Breggen proved her worth in the one-day spring classics this year and at La Course had the edge on the climbs. Whereas, van Vleuten has had an incredibly stellar season winning the Giro Rosa with ease and you could argue fatigue played a part in that slight crack in La Course.

Hmmmmmm.

I’ll go with van der Breggen.

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The Olympic champion to finally become World Champion.

Betting

Going wild, why not…

4pts WIN AVDB @ 11/4

1pt EW Spratt @ 14/1

1pt EW Winder @ 33/1

5pts Kirchmann to beat Sierra @ 6/4

I think the Canadian is in great form at the moment after the TT. She finished 17th on GC in the Giro this year so has shown to go okay on the climbs. I think Sierra is a little overrated for this race and isn’t suited to the longer ascents.

Thanks as always for reading, I hope we’re in for a great tactical race. Who do you think will win and why? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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Innsbruck 2018 World Championships – Women’s ITT Preview

Last year saw clear favourite for the day Annemiek van Vleuten take home the rainbow jersey for the first time in her career with a strong performance but one that might not have been as dominant as some expected. Nonetheless, she got the job done and returns this year once again as the rider to beat.

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Compatriot Anna van der Breggen won the silver medal while Australia’s Katrin Garfoot took home bronze in her last World Championships. Both came home within 20 seconds of Van Vleuten and van der Breggen will be desperate to finally get one over her this year. First though, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders throughout the afternoon.

The Route

A rolling course but how much it “rolls” depends on what resource you consult. According to the organisers there are 262m of total ascent over the 27.8km whereas with the Strava/Veloviewer profile I made has it at 396m. Bit of a discrepancy there!

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Given how much Strava over exaggerates some of the tiny little changes in altitude, I would have to agree that it will be closer to the official profile – maybe around 300m at most.

Either way, you can view the interactive VV profile here.

The route can really be split into two parts with the first 15km very straight forward aside from a couple of small bumps and rises before the more challenging second half.

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As witnessed in the men’s U23 this afternoon though, it isn’t that challenging compared to what it could have been, with the riders able to hold a lot of speed coming off of the descents. In fact, some riders hit 100km/h in sections so you can effectively nullify some of the rises by carrying enough speed. Therefore, having the right gearing will be important and it will be interesting to see what approaches the riders take.

Weather conditions look set to be similar-ish all day, although the wind might get slightly stronger later on, albeit by only 1km/h or so. That means over 3km of headwind before the crossing the river and turning left, with the majority of the rest of the course being aided by a slight cross/tail wind.

You can view the start list/times here.

Can anyone stop van Vleuten?

The reigning champion skipped the trade team event on Sunday so that she could be fully focussed and rested for tomorrow, and given her results in the individual events this year, who can blame her. In 2018 she has taken to the start for 4 TTs (not counting prologues or epilogues, see the TDU), with the Dutch woman winning 3 of them. In fact, the only race she didn’t win was her national championship where she finished 4th and behind the other three compatriots that are going to be here competing too.

In an interview with CyclingNews van Vleuten explains that she came into the season with three intended peaks. One smaller peak during the Spring Classics before a bigger peak for the Giro and then the Worlds. It is safe to say that the peak for the Giro was certainly “bigger”! She blew away the competition in that race and followed it up with my favourite finish to a race of the year, when she pipped van der Breggen in the closing 100m of La Course. I don’t think it is possible for her to be in even better shape than she was at the Giro, but if she arrives here in a similar vein of form then she is rightly the favourite.

The course tomorrow isn’t bad for her, but I think she would have preferred the climbs to be more challenging than they are, so she can really make a difference compared to some of the more traditional power TT riders.

Nonetheless, she has a big say in the outcome of the day and it will require her to be at less than 100% and for one of the other riders to be flying for her to lose.

It was all…Oranje?

We could feasibly see an all Dutch top 4 tomorrow.

Ellen van Dijk.

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The current and back-to-back European Champion will arrive here wanting to redeem herself after what was a disappointing 5th place in last year’s edition. The Sunweb rider is one of the most powerful in the women’s peloton and the mix of flat and rolling hills looks very good for her. She actually goes out quite early on in the day in what is a strong group of riders around that time. Guess that’s what happens when numerous nations have more than one person here!

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Said group of strong riders

Lucinda Brand.

The first Dutch rider down the ramp has the luxury of being the 5th rider out on the course. 2018 has been her best season to date and she has really developed as a rider, moving away from being just a strong one-day contender, into a much better climber. Her form doesn’t seem to be great at the moment though and I think she might struggle for a good result here: a top 10 would be solid.

Anna van der Breggen.

Arguably one of my favourite female cyclists so I am a bit biased but a lot has been made of her “poor season” in 2018. It says a lot that then considering she has won 5 races this year and numerous podium places. In the Spring she was untouchable and the only thing that stopped another Ardennes Triple happening was team tactics at Amstel. She has failed to win since Durango in May though and I think that has effected her a little bit. In TTs this season she has won 1 out of 4, finishing 2nd twice and third the other time. The course here looks great for her and she’s been slowly riding herself into form at the Boels Ladies Tour. If there is one rider who I think has a chance of beating van Vleuten, it is her.

Fight for the podium

If we’re to make the assumption that at least one, if not two of the podium spots will be secured by the Dutch, heck, even all three could as I’ve alluded to above, who is going to be the nearest challengers?

Amber Neben.

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A surprise winner of the 2016 edition, she was pretty atrocious by her lofty standards in 2017. A wax on wax off kind of rider though, she appears to be smashing it so far this year having won all 4 of the time trials she has entered. Maybe this is a wax on year?

Lisa Brennauer.

Disappointing in the European Championships, some of that can be attributed to her going deep on the track at the same competition. During the TTT event she looked to be the main driving force behind Wiggle’s strong time so there is definitely some form there. A bit hit or miss on road TTs, the 2014-champion can’t be ruled out on a rolling course.

Trixi Worrack.

Like her German compatriot, she seemed to be one of the main driving forces behind her teams sensational TTT win on Sunday. I’d have to say the course isn’t ideal for her but she did surprise and come third at the Euros so we could see something similar tomorrow.

Some outsiders to keep an eye on for finishing in or around the top 5 include; Thomas, Uttrup Ludwig and Cordon.

Prediction

For the TTTs I thought they were both two-horse races and in the end it was the third favourite who ended up winning. Tomorrow looks like a one-horse race but with a few riders who are ready to pounce. It will be incredibly tough to beat van Vleuten but I think it might actually happen and we’ll see van der Breggen take the win!

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I think she has timed her peak perfectly for this week and if she is at a similar level to her Spring campaign where she just rode away from everyone – the course will be a piece of cake for her.

Van Vleuten to come second with Neben rounding out the podium in third.

Betting

Another race that I can lose some money on!

Win only markets for the race and given that AVV is still the favourite, I don’t want to go wild with them.

1.5pt WIN AVDB @ 5/1 (Bet365/Ladbrokes)

Some H2H do entice me though.

4pts WIN van der Breggen to beat Van Dijk @ 3/4 (Unibet)

2pts WIN Neben to beat Van Dijk @ 7/2 (B365) – the price is just too big for a wax on year

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

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Women’s TTT World Championship 2018 Preview

In Bergen last year we were treated to somewhat of a shock with Sunweb taking home the title but looking at results throughout the year, it was a result that was certainly on the cards.

Cycling: 90th Road World Championships 2017 / TTT Women Elite

They had the advantage of arriving with a string of podium places in TTT events but with Boels Dolmans still the massive favourites after their successes in previous years. The Dutch outfit could only manage second though, coming home 12 seconds behind Sunweb, with Cervélo Bigla rounding out the podium.

Will Sunweb be able to double up in what is the last event for trade teams in the foreseeable future? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

The longest edition yet (at 54km) since the event’s reconception back in 2012, the organiser’s have somehow managed to make as much of a pan flat course as you can in this area.

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With only roughly 150m of elevation gain throughout the course, this one is all about pure power.

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There are a few roundabouts out on course which might disrupt the rhythm, nothing too crazy though. As you can see on the image above, there is a tight turn with around 1.6km to go but that is about it as tough as it gets all morning.

A two-horse race?

On paper the best teams here are Sunweb and Boels.

The former are obviously reigning champions and this is a discipline that they have focussed on a lot over the past year. In 2018 they’ve won three TTTs: at the Giro, Tour of Norway and the recent Madrid Challenge. They did however lose the longest TTT effort of the year though and the traditional World Champs warm-up, Crescent Vargarda, shipping 16 seconds to Boels. Yet, they can argue that they were missing their big TT powerhouse that day in Van Dijk. Is the inclusion of the Dutchwoman here enough for them to claw back that gap?

Boels were the traditional go-to TTT squad in recent times but lost they lost their crown last year. This season they have fallen a little flat again with the Healthy Ageing Tour and then the recent Vargarda their only wins in the discipline. The latter result there is the most important though as it is the course most like the Worlds and it was a race that they sent a carbon copy of their squad that they have at Innsbruck to. Can they regain the title and take the crown for one last time?

One interesting point to note for the two main teams is that they are both going to include their strong Dutch TT rider in their race squads. Given that the women’s individual event is only two days after on Tuesday, it might mess with their preparation for that event. Conversely though, it could be a good way to blow the cobwebs off and open up the legs.

The reason I mention it though is that ITT favourite van Vleuten is not riding the event for Mitchelton Scott, a big blow for the Aussie outfit but one that is kind of understandable. Back in the Giro Rosa I tipped them for a very good TTT effort and they just missed out to Sunweb by one second on that day. Consequently, they could have been the dark horses for tomorrow but with some more recent injuries plaguing the team, I think they will fall short.

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Canyon SRAM could be there or thereabouts in the fight for the podium and they bring a solid squad with them here, included in their midst is 4x TTT champion Worrack. The original TTT GOATs, can they rekindle that form? I’m not too sure, they are a pretty hit or miss team at times so who knows.

Wiggle High 5 will be riding their last event as a team and they bring arguably their strongest squad ever to Innsbruck. With a good mix of strong individual TT riders and rouleurs, they will have their sights set on a podium. They have struggled a lot this year in the discipline but a second place to Subweb’s “A-team” in Madrid is a sign that things might finally have clicked.

Prediction

A day with two different battles; one for the win and one for the final podium spot.

Given the results we have had so far this year it should be very close between Boels and Sunweb. The former obviously have the advantage of winning Vargarda by a 16 second margin but the latter have Van Dijk to add into the mix now. Will that equal enough of a turnaround? I don’t think so.

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Boels to win by a very small margin, maybe 5 seconds or so, with Sunweb trailing them home in second place.

The battle for third will be hotly contested by Mitchelton, Canyon and Wiggle but I actually fancy the team that is folding to pull one last result out of the bag, so Wiggle to come in third.

Coverage

The women’s event starts early on Sunday morning, with coverage on from 9:10 to 11:30 (UK Time). You should be able to watch it on your regular cycling provider or via the UCI Youtube channel.

Betting

For only the third time this season I get to curse my picks with actual money this time!

As it is so tight for the win I can’t be backing Boels at their current price although a double with the men’s TT winner might be a good idea. However, I do like the value you can get for a Wiggle podium so I’m going with that.

2pts Wiggle Top 3 at 9/2. (Bet365)

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win the two-horse race on Sunday? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

Women’s Road Race World Championships Preview – Bergen 2017

After some strong performances in the individual time trial on Tuesday, the rider’s focus now switches to the road race on Saturday afternoon.

Last year in Doha we had a large bunch sprint that was won rather surprisingly by Denmark’s Amalie Dideriksen.

Cycling: 89th Road World Championships 2016 / Women Elite

Pre-race favourite Wild could only manage second, with Finland’s Lepistö getting up for third. Two of those three are here this year, with Wild as a reserve for the Dutch team, will they be up at the pointy end come the finish tomorrow?

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

The Route

The women will face 8 laps of the circuit around Bergen, totalling 152.8km; which makes it one of the longer races the peloton will face all year.

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As for the circuit itself, it can be described as rolling with very little flat all day. Taken in isolation it is not too difficult but it can be made hard by some aggressive racing.

BergenRR Circuit

You can view my interactive profile for the circuit here.

The most challenging part of the route is of course “Salmon Hill”; I guess the sponsors wanted to get something out of the week! However, the road does ramp upwards before then and the climb can be taken as a 3.7km test.

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It’s not steep like the climb we had in the time trial, but it is long enough to cause some splits in the bunch. Will a rider try to take advantage of some of the sharp ramps to get an advantage?

With 10km to go from the crest, it could be tough for someone to stay away though. A small group definitely has a better chance.

Conversely, those final 10km allow for a chase to get organised and reel it in. “Organised” is the key word there though! In both the road races today, the chase was not coherent enough and the escapees held on for victory. Will something similar happen tomorrow? I’ll guess we’ll have to wait and see…

How will the race pan out – Dominant Dutch?

As is often the case when we arrive at World Championship’s the Dutch bring a formidable team. We saw this last year when they had a superstar squad in support of Kirsten Wild, but one that would be allowed to chase an opportunity if it arose. Unfortunately it didn’t work out last year so they’ll be hoping to bring another World title home this time.

I could feasibly make an argument for all of their starting 8 riders to win the race, although some would be more farfetched than others. Nonetheless, it just highlights their immense strength in-depth. I’m not sure they go into the race with an out-and-out leader; possibly Vos might be kept back for a bunch sprint. But then again, Blaak or Pieters could fill that role if the 3x-former champion is allowed to do what she wants. Van Vleuten and van der Breggen were exceptional in the time trial and both clearly are in great form. I imagine they will be the prime attackers, hoping to split the race up on Salmon Hill. Can anyone follow?

I think if we see a group escape in the closing laps that has 2 Dutch riders within it then that will be game over and the winner will come from there.

The one reason I say this is because no other team has an Ellen van Dijk. She is incredible and can bring back strong breakaways herself by setting a strong tempo at the head of the peloton.

There are a few teams who might hope for a 40-50 rider sprint, such as Denmark, USA and maybe Australia, but I don’t think anyone has the firepower to bring back a strong move on their own. They’ll need a lack of cohesion up ahead, and a lot of co-operation behind for that to happen.

The next to consider is that if the smaller group will come to the line and sprint it out, or if it will fragment and split again. That of course all depends on numbers and team representatives, but I think it will split into a smaller group which will battle it out for the win.

Possible Contenders

Aside from the Dutch team, there are plenty of riders who will love the route tomorrow but the following list won’t be excessive, so apologies if I have missed someone you were looking/hoping for.

Coryn Rivera.

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The US pocket rocket has had a great first year racing for a European team. She’s proven that she is much more than a fast sprinter though as her climbing has developed a lot. In the Ardennes she was able to follow the best until the very final stages of the race. I don’t think the US team will be banking on it coming back for a big bunch sprint tomorrow so both Rivera and Guarnier will be given license to attack. If the Sunweb rider does come to the line in a small group, she has to be the favourite.

Hannah Barnes.

The British team have one of the favourites in the shape of Deignan but her form is unknown just now after having her appendix removed. I think they’ll ride an aggressive race and hope to get two riders into any strong move that goes off the front. With everyone marking Deignan, then Barnes could make the final selection. She performed above expectations in the TT so she is in good shape. Not as strong a climber as some of the others, she won’t be too far off the pace but will hope that the final selection will have gone before Salmon Hill. With a fast sprint after a tough day, she is an outsider to keep an eye on!

Pauline Ferrand Prevot.

Former World Champion and arguably the rider with one of the best season’s of all time back in 2014/2015 when she held 3 separate World titles, the Frenchwoman has a good chance of going well again here. A pretty uneventful season due injury and illness; she’s only managed 8 race days so far; picked up again at Plouay where she finished second to Deignan. Since then she has went on to podium at the mountain bike Worlds and could really have challenged Neff for gold if it had not been for an untimely puncture. She can climb and with a fast sprint from a small group, she won’t be afraid to bring it to the line.

Shara Gillow.

A rider who I have grown fond of over this season (it has absolutely nothing to do with her being in my season long fantasy team, I promise), the Aussie can climb with some of the best in the world on her day. I expect their squad to be attacking all day and Gillow is certainly someone who can follow attacks on the climbs. She lacks any kind of sprint really, but she makes up for that by being a strong time trial rider. Something I’m sure Carlton will remind you of tomorrow! If we get a group out front and she times her attack perfectly, it might just stick. Look out for her and her now standard snood off the front!

Leah Kirchmann.

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Another one of those riders who is a solid climber but also packs a good sprint. She recorded a top 15 back at Liege in the Spring which highlights her ability on the short climbs. However, she might find it difficult to follow some of the strong climbers if they go crazy on Salmon Hill. Nonetheless, if she can remain close to the front and there is some type of regrouping then she is a danger in the sprint.

As I mentioned above, of course there are several riders who could contest but I’ve only cherry-picked a handful for the preview. It should be an open race but I don’t think the winner will be a “surprise”.

Prediction

The Dutch to have ‘too many cooks’ and with everyone expecting them to chase down every move as the strongest team; Pauline Ferrand Prevot to take advantage and win her second road title, signalling that her career is back on track!

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Van der Breggen to pick up her second second of the week, with Barnes coming home just behind them in third.

Betting

Three selections from me to cover a few options; PFP as my favourite, Barnes as an outsider, then Gillow as a solo arrival. I’ve already backed Barnes at 300/1 but that price is long gone. I think the 66/1 available is still worth a punt though.

1.5pt EW PFP @ 20/1 with Ladbrokes/Coral (would take 16s)

0.75pt EW Barnes @ 66/1 with SkyBet/PP/BF (would take 50s)

0.5pt WIN Gillow @ 150/1 with Bet365 (would take 100s)

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone outsmart the Dutch team? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Women’s Individual Time Trial World Championships Preview – Bergen 2017

After the somewhat of a shock win from Sunweb on Sunday in the team effort, our focus now turns to the individual race against the clock and riders are back to riding for their country, not trade teams!

The power course in 2016 saw Amber Neben of the USA take a surprise win, beating Van Dijk and Garfoot into the silver and bronze medal positions respectively.

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The 42 year-old is here to defend her title but there are plenty of others looking to take it from her. First though, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

The women will complete just one “long lap” around Bergen, which is quite disappointing if I’m honest. Especially when you consider that the U23 men completed a “long” and “short” lap for their event today!

Anyway, as per usual I’ve made a Strava/Veloviewer profile of the route that you can view here.

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A fairly flat and not overly technical opening 5.6km will allow the power riders in the peloton to open up the taps and hopefully get into a rhythm. However, after that they will then face the toughest part of the course where that “rhythm” might get thrown out of the window!

Rolling Section Women's TT

Lots of small drags and fast descents for the riders to tackle, the term “rollercoaster route” describes this section perfectly. Averaging 2.7% for the 4.4km it isn’t too tough and the more traditional TTers would hope not to lose too much. Well, that is until we get to the climb that has put to bed some of the contenders chances over the past few days of action.

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A short but very sharp climb, it is important to pace it and not go too deep. The lighter riders will hope to make up some time here but given its length, they won’t be able to make up much. If only the women finish on Mount Floyen too!

The reason pacing is important, is because the riders still have more than half of their ride to complete.

That closing 11kms actually average -1% so it can be a place for riders to gain a lot of time if they nail the descents and put the power down on the flat. We saw this in the women’s TTT with Sunweb gaining roughly 15 seconds on Boels over that section. Can Van Dijk do it again?!

Weather Watch

Over the past few days it has hardly rained. We had a smattering during the women’s junior TT earlier but in the city that is apparently one of the wettest in the world it has been a lot less than expected.

However, that might change tomorrow.

Saying that different forecasts have different outlooks. You can’t trust meteorologists these days!

So I’ll go off of Yr.no (A Norwegian site) which hopefully should be the most accurate*…

*famous last words.

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Source : YR.no

It seems that we’re in for another sprinkling of rain in the afternoon, which in theory should affect those late on in the order.

Speaking of which, Lauren Stephens is first down the ramp at 15:35 local time, with defending champion Neben off last at 16:54.

You can view the full start list and times here.

Contenders

I’m really not sure what to make of this race tomorrow. We have a whole host of riders who in theory could compete on this course, but it all depends on their form!

Lauren Stephens.

First down the ramp, the American will no doubt set the fastest time early on but it could be one that might stand a while. She’s been very impressive so far this season, taking 3 wins to her name, including two-time trials. Possibly benefiting from better weather, can the strong all-rounder shock the peloton?

Anna van der Breggen.

World Championships - Womens TT

The rider who could potentially knock Stephens off that early hot-seat, the Dutchwoman has had a great season; winning a famous Ardennes Triple. Her efforts against the clock have been solid, but she’s failed to win a TT. The course tomorrow suits her as a strong all-rounder but I think she might prefer a few more hills.

We’ll then have to wait a bit for riders to challenge the times of the two above. There will be some who might come close but I can’t see anyone beating them for almost another hour…

Annemiek van Vleuten.

The bookmaker’s favourite for this race “Vleuty” has been incredibly strong this season, bouncing back form her horror crash in Rio last year. Everything she’s touched recently has turned to gold pretty much, it has been a truly remarkable effort. She will arrive her full of confidence after beating Van Dijk in the recent Boels Rental Tour and she has every chance to do that again. My one doubt about her is that as she has been so strong for a large percentage of the year, is she starting to tire now, while others have managed their peaks a lot better?

Ellen Van Dijk.

The third Dutch rider/potential winner on the start list, she was instrumental in helping Sunweb to the TTT title on Sunday. A powerhouse on the bike, the course looks almost ideal for her. She is one of the last riders down the start ramp so she’ll be hoping any rain holds off until after she has finished, but she will be up there fighting either way. I imagine she will be satisfied with nothing less than Rainbow at the end of the day.

Amber Neben.

Last year’s somewhat of a shock winner, we could well be in for another surprise again. I personally don’t know much about her as I only started following the women’s side of the sport a few years ago, but she apparently can put out some serious watts. At 42 years old though, surely this is a step too far? Then again, winning your first Worlds at 41 kind of negates that a bit…

Olga Zabelinskaya.

10-08-2016 Giochi Olimpici Cronometro Elite Donne; 2016, Russia; Zabelinskaia, Olga; Rio De Janeiro;

A strong TT rider with a “dubious” racing history, she always seems to go fairly well at the big events. Her form this season has been poor though and she disappointed at the Euro Champs. However, given her ability to surprise then who knows what we’ll get from her tomorrow!

Katrin Garfoot.

Not too far off the pace last year, where she somewhat avoided the Haughey Curse and managed to take third; she will obviously be hoping to go better this time round. Like Van Dijk, this course looks great for the naturalised Aussie who can manage on the climbs but also put the power down on the flat. She has been slowly building some form and a third place during the Tour of Norway is promising. Watch out for her!

Others to look out for to be in and around the top 10 include Villumsen, Brennauer, and Duyck.

Prediction

Hmmm, I’m still really torn on this one.

The course suits a rider who can climb fairly well but is strong enough on the flat to put the power down. Before the Championships started I had this down as van Vleuten’s to win, but after watching the opening few days of racing I’m not so sure. In fact, I’ve changed my mind and I think Van Dijk has the best chance for the Dutch team.

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The European Champion to add a World title to her collection!

Watch out for Garfoot though, I think she could sneak a podium place and possibly even better…

Betting

The 7/2 available for Van Dijk to win is very tempting but I’m still not overly convinced. So to take out any “shocks” we might see, I think that the 2/1 to beat Van Vleuten offers some value.

I’m also tempted to back the Garfoot to beat Villumsen H2H at 5/4 as on this course I would have the Aussie as favourite.

I also think Garfoot is way overpriced as an outside podium contender at 22/1. As a rider who turned pro late (back in 2014) she’s since gone on and finished 11th/4th/3rd over the past three World TT competitions. Not bad. I think she’ll be close again tomorrow and has to be backed at the price.

So with all that said (including some of me talking through my logic) my punts are as follows –

3pts Van Dijk to beat van Vleuten @ 2/1 (would take 13/8)

5pts Garfoot to beat Villumsen @ 5/4 (would take at 10/11)

1pt EW Garfoot to win @ 22/1 (would back down to 14/1)

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? I think we’ll be in for an exciting and close afternoon of TT action. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Team Time Trial World Championships – Bergen 2017 Preview

Team Time Trial World Championships – Bergen 2017 Preview

We’re at that sad time of the year again where the World Championships begin and the season starts to draw to a close. The opening event as per usual, is the “art form” of the team time trial.

In 2016 we saw QuickStep (then Ettix) power their way around the pan-flat course in Doha amid some searing heat to beat BMC and Orica. A slight surprise given BMC’s dominance in the event throughout the year leading up to the World Champs.

As for the women, Boels continued their incredibly impressive season by blitzing the opposition, beating Canyon by 48 seconds and Cervelo by a shade under 2 minutes. Not bad!

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Will we see similar looking podiums this year? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Both the men and women will compete over the same course which is fantastic for me, as I don’t have to do double the work for nothing, or just pointlessly repeat myself which would bore you!

https://veloviewer.com/routes/10581357/embedAs is tradition nowadays, I’ve made my own profile for the route that you can hopefully see embedded above…

If not, you can view the interactive version here.

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“Appears flat-ish but surprisingly hilly” is how I would describe the route. There are no real severe gradients in the course apart from a few small climbs, but according to the Strava/Veloviewer data there is over 1100m of elevation gain.

I’m going to throw that slightly out of the window though as the app does get a bit confused when tracking through tunnels and over bridges etc, but it won’t be too far off. My estimate would be ~900m of elevation gain; which is still quite a lot for a TTT.

The first test the riders will face is a 1.2km climb at 4.8% that comes just after 3.5km into the day. Not ideal for “easing yourself into it”! The route then rises and falls constantly for the following 7kms as we head towards the second longest suspension bridge in Norway. A poor man’s Forth Road Bridge if you ask me…

Anyway, the first slightly anomaly on the profile comes just after that. The riders do go up a steep ramp, but it is not as sudden as it initially seems. Instead, it is more of a gradual rise through the tunnel, before flattening out.

Yet more undulating terrain follows before the riders face the toughest task of the day.

Averaging 5.4% for 2.2km isn’t crazy, but that includes the more shallow build up in the overall total. The main bulk of the climbing is actually done over 1.1km…

Paradis2

It’s a bit more difficult than the 1.4km at 7.2% that is suggested on the official profile.

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The steepness of the slopes could certainly ruin the cohesion in a team and potentially ruin their chances at they head into the final section of the race.

Once over the climb, the riders will have some more rolling roads to contend with but they are mainly in their favour now, with the parcours descending ever so slightly all the way into Bergen.

Men’s Race

The usual teams arrive here with strong aspirations in this event so let’s start with the reigning champions.

Quick Step.

They bring a very solid all round squad with them here and they’ll once again be challenging for the title. It will be interesting to see what order they rotate in and who they intend to drop as the race progresses. I imagine Vermote probably won’t be there at the finish line! With all that said, I just can’t see them winning it this year.

BMC. 

The dominant force in TTTs for so long, they’re undefeated this season. Yet, this route is arguably the least favourable that they will have faced all year. With them in Bergen they do have a lot of strong guys who are more than competent climbers such as van Garderen and Dennis, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did win. Yet, looking at their squad, you just don’t get the same “fear factor” that was there in previous years. They are beatable.

Sunweb.

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Somewhat of a surprise package that took third place at the Vuelta this year; they’ve made some steady progress throughout the season. In fact, I’d go as far to argue that they have been one of, if not, the best performing teams in 2017. I really like the look of their squad that they bring here and it is very well-balanced. Dumoulin will obviously be heavily relied on but their not exactly short of talent to back him up. Watch out for them!

Team Sky.

I wonder if Moscon can just drag the other 5 around with him? With the way he was riding in the last week of the Vuelta, it wouldn’t surprise me! Not exceptional in the discipline recently, Sky are more likely to be remembered for their exploding wheels at Tirreno this season compared to any of their on the bike TTT performances. However, their squad is stacked with strong riders who can handle this terrain. If there is ever a TTT WC Sky could win, this is it.

I can’t really see past any of those 4 squads winning. Orica should be fighting it out for a top 5 with Jumbo, with Movistar not too far behind.

Women’s Race.

Boels.

There you go, there’s your preview…

Joking aside, the Dutch outfit should have this one in the bag to make it back-to-back titles. They lost some of their TT prowess at the end of last year with Van Dijk moving to Sunweb and Stevens retiring. To replace them they did recruit van der Breggen and Pieters; not a bad swap! The rolling course could cause some difficulties but given everyone in their line-up is a solid climber, then it shouldn’t be too stressful for them. It will take some bad luck for them not to retain their crown, or a crazily strong ride from some opposition teams!

Cervelo.

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The up-and-coming TTT team in the women’s peloton, they are Boels’ nearest challengers in my opinion. At the recent Vargarda TTT they finished only 13 seconds behind the Dutch outfit over a similar distance. The route tomorrow is hillier, which probably doesn’t favour their squad as a whole. Nonetheless, with the likes of Ludwig, Moolman and Lepistö, they certainly have some firepower in their ranks!

Canyon.

The “old guard” of women’s TTT racing. In previous incarnations they were almost unstoppable in this event, but they have since lost their ways. The squad that they bring with them here gives me a similar feeling to QuickStep. They are strong, don’t get me wrong, but I just don’t see them having enough to challenge Boels and in fact, I think they’ll cede their silver place to Cervelo this year.

Sunweb and Veloconcept will be battling it out for 4th, hoping that another team has a bad day so that they can win a medal!

Fantasy Games

There are a couple of fantasy games for the World Champs that I’m going to plug.

First of all is the return of Cycling Picks/Rainbow Picks, which will be free to play this time around. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any prizes though, as the lovely people @handmadecyclist are offering one of their WC mugs for the winner!

Follow Jason (Cycling_Picks) to get involved, or simply enter your name on the spreadsheet that can be found here. All rules etc are viewable on the sheet etc, or if you’re still unsure how it works, get in contact with Jason!

Secondly, @InsidePeloton96 is going to be running a World Champs “Fantasy Fives” that I’m sure he’ll be releasing over the coming days which you should also get involved with. I say that, as I had to curate the price list for the women’s side of the game. You might find a few bargains hidden in there…

Prediction

Boels and Sky win. Simple!

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I wonder if we can parody Mr Blue Sky, a.k.a Mr Boels Sky?

Sunweb and BMC to make up the podium, with Cervelo and Canyon doing the same in the women’s race.

Betting

Nothing really excites me for the outright markets, so I’ve went for a H2H 5-fold for some entertainment over the afternoon.

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The odds have now shortened quite a bit since yesterday evening, but I’d still back it at the 9.45/1 available. 1.5pt WIN.

 

Thanks as always for reading the preview! Who do you think is going to win the TTTs? Will we see a shock result? The next preview I’ll be releasing is the Women’s ITT so please return for that. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Women’s Road Race World Championships – Doha 2016

Women’s Road Race World Championships – Doha 2016

On a very different course last year, we saw Lizzie Deignan (née Armitstead) win a a sprint from a group of strong climbers/one-day racers, after the race was blown to bits on the final lap. It was a great show of strength from the Brit!

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The 2016 edition however doesn’t seem to be one that will suit Deignan and it will see a different type of rider come to the fore.

Let’s have a look at the course.

The Route

A glorified criterium is the best way to describe it if I’m being honest. The riders will have roughly 28km to travel through the suburbs of Doha before reaching the Pearl Circuit that has been the focal point for these Championships.

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There’s not much to talk about here if you’ve managed to watch any of the races so far. The Pearl Circuit itself is fairly technical with a lot of roundabouts and sharp corners, and this technical nature will be more evident in the road race compared to the time trial as riders won’t have the time to pick their own lines around the corners.

Therefore, it is important to be relatively close to the front of the bunch. Herein lies the problem, as everyone will be fighting to be in that top 40 riders. Which could cause some crashes/splits like we saw in the U23 men’s race today!

Conversely to the technical nature of the course, the closing kilometre or so of the circuit is very open and this means riders are able to move up, and the peloton spreads across the road. This creates a very messy sprint, but being able to follow the right wheel or your own sprint train is key, but luck and bravery will also play a big part.

Around the 200m to go mark the road dips down before rising again to the finish.

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Screenshot of the U23 race, showing the final 100m.

As you can see above it’s not a severe hill and considering the speed at which the riders should be going at then it won’t cause too much difficulty. But it is certainly something to note and you don’t want to be opening up your sprint too early, that’s for sure!

It should end in a bunch sprint but there will be a a few teams who will want to roll the dice in a breakaway/late attack.

Weather Watch

The women seem to be striking lucky with the weather and they should be in for a relatively relaxing day.

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The wind isn’t that strong at all and it probably won’t affect the race. Although, there seems to have been barely any noticeable wind at all in Qatar so far. That was particularly evident when there were high winds predicted for today. Maybe high winds = low, and vice versa?!

Temperature wise, it’s what the riders would expect but it is forecast to be a few degrees lower than we’ve had in the past few days. I’m sure the peloton will be glad to hear that!

Contenders

For this, I’ll go through the major nations highlighting those with a chance followed by those from the smaller teams.

Where best to start than with defending champion Deignan and the Great Britain team. As I said in the introduction, this course is probably too easy for Deignan so she may not be the best option for them. Instead, I think they should turn to Hannah Barnes for the sprint. She put in a very solid TT (not her favourite discipline) on Tuesday so there is clearly some form there. With a fast finish she could challenge here but will probably need a bit of luck as I don’t think she is as fast compared to some of her competitors. Team GB may try and stir things up with a late attack, watch out for Dani King if that’s the case.

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The Queen of Qatar, Kirsten Wild, arrives her with an incredible Dutch team. Four time winner of the GC in the Tour of Qatar, she knows how to handle the wind and conditions here. Supporting her lead-out, she will have Chantal Blaak, Amy Pieters and Marianne Vos, not bad eh?! The one thing that concerns me is that everyone on the Dutch team could potentially win this race in varying situations. Put it this way, out of the top 15 favourites (by the bookmakers), 7 of them are Dutch! I’d be feeling left out if I was Roxane Knetemann. Will they put all their eggs in one basket and will they want to? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see on Saturday.

Another nation with a similar problem is the Italians. They’ve brought a team stacked with sprinting talent. Again, I’m not entirely sure who their lead rider will be, either; Bronzini, Bastianelli or Guarischi. All of them have their pros and cons, but I would narrow it down to Bronzini or Guarischi. Bronzini is the experienced and reliable rider but Guarischi is more of a “pure-sprinter” and she has beaten the other two most recently. In my opinion, I would have Guarischi as Plan A and Plan Bronzini. If Guarischi can be positioned well then she has a good chance of a podium!

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A team that has arrived with a plan is Australia. They’re all in for their sprinter Chloe Hosking. With a strong set of rouleurs and lead-out riders in the team, including TT Bronze medalist Garfoot, they should have the pulling power to position Hosking perfectly at the end of the day. It will then be over to the 26-year old to finish it off. Winning on her last start (GP Beghelli) she’ll be brimming with confidence and I think she might just do it.

Belgium will turn to their star sprinter Jolien d‘Hoore to take home the rainbow jersey. She doesn’t have the strongest of teams with her and the lead-out looks a bit scarce but that shouldn’t impede her too much. She’ll be disappointed with anything less than a podium.

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With the field being so stacked and the fact I’ve already rambled on a bit, the rest of this will be slightly shorter than intended!

Coryn Rivera will have the full backing of her US teammates. As a rider who’s came from crit-racing she’ll love this course and could certainly spring a surprise.

The French will turn to Roxane Fournier most likely, who took a big win at La Route de France earlier in the year. I’m not convinced she has the legs to win, but a top 5 would be a great result.

Canada have two sprint options in the form of Leah Kirchmann and Joëlle Numainville. Kirchmann is probably the faster of the two but again it will probably come down to who’s feeling best on the day.

Lisa Brennauer will most likely be the sprinter for Germany, but she probably would have preferred a slightly harder circuit.

Lepistö (Finland), Moberg (Norway), Majerus (Luxembourg), Bujak (Poland) and Dideriksen (Demark) will all be fighting for a top 10 placing which would a good result, with Lepistö the most likely to get any higher than that.

Prediction

I’ve had this rider in mind for a while and I may be slightly biased as she’s in my fantasy team, but I think this is Chloe Hosking‘s big chance to win the Rainbow Jersey. She might not be as fast as Wild and d’Hoore, but she is very close to them in that sense. Finishing 1st and 2nd at the Tour and Vuelta races respectively, highlights just how fast she is and will be confident from those results. Her main asset however, will be a dedicated lead-out. The rest of the team should be able to look after her throughout the day, making sure she makes as little effort as possible until that final sprint. Furthermore, they’ll be able to position her perfectly at the front with 150m to go, and Hosking will duly deliver!

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Betting

I’ve been wanting to back this for a while (and it’s a shame the male rider in question had a very strong Eneco Tour and his odds have shortened)…

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Sticking to my guns;

Hosking and Sagan double @34.75/1 with William Hill, 0.8pt EW. Also available at B365 @31.5/1. 

Other bookmakers will hopefully price up the women’s race soon and you might be able ot find better odds somewhere. Both of them should hopefully podium at least for some kind of return!

One rider that I do think is overpriced for the women’s race is:

Guarischi @ 80/1 with Bet365, 0.2pt EW on her.

 

Thanks again for reading! How do you think the race will play out? Will the sprinters have their day, and if so, who do you think will win? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.